Category Archives: Student Response

ScratchJr

UPDATE 11/13/14: Here is a link to a post about Scratch Jr tutorials for primary students that you might find helpful.

I have been eagerly waiting the release of the ScratchJr app for the iPad this summer.  It became available on Tuesday, and I spent part of Wednesday playing around with it.

ScratchJr is a free iPad app that is designed to introduce programming to kids ages 5-7.  It is, of course, intended to acquaint students with the Scratch programming language – a block type programming that was developed by M.I.T. and is available for free at this link. (You can use it online or download the software.)

As school hasn’t started for me yet, I haven’t been able to put this app in the hands of students to see their reaction.  I am curious to watch my younger students who have not been exposed to Scratch explore the app.  Many of them have used Hopscotch, Daisy the DinosaurKodable, and Robot Turtles, so the concept of programming won’t be completely foreign to them.  However, my plan is to give them as little information as possible to see what they discover on their own.

The interface seems fairly simple.  The question mark allows you to find sample projects and watch an introductory video.  In my opinion, the intro video should be broken into parts.  Even though it’s less than 4 minutes, I think young students will find it too overwhelming to watch the entire video in one sitting – particularly if they have never done any type of block programming.

Clicking on the house icon will take you to the project screen, where you can add new projects or edit others you have saved.  The book icon (back on the home screen) gives you information about the program, including guides to the different icons in the program.

ScratchJr screen shot

For more information, you can visit the ScratchJr website.  There are a few materials available for teachers at the moment, and I’m sure more will be added as the project gains momentum.

So far, there does not seem to be a way to share projects created in ScratchJr with an online community as there is with Scratch and Hopscotch.  However, projects can be viewed full screen, and I am sure that you can project them if you have AirPlay or other means of iPad projection in your classroom.

If you are new to programming, I highly recommend the tutorials on the Hour of Code website.  However, do not let your lack of knowledge keep you from bringing it into the classroom.  I promise you that I know very little, and that is actually a benefit.  It keeps me from helping my students too quickly, and they learn from struggling and solving problems on their own.

Also, even if programming is not in your curriculum, apps like ScratchJr are great as a creation tool.  Students can use it to tell stories, explain math problems, etc…  Not every student will embrace ScratchJr, but once you have introduced it to your class, it could be one of many choices for assessment that allows them to use their creativity.

Here are some more resources for Programming for Kids if you are interested.

Tried and True – Global Cardboard Challenge

The Cardboard Theater created by one of my 3rd Grade students for the 2013 Global Cardboard Challenge
The Cardboard Theater created by one of my 3rd Grade students for the 2013 Global Cardboard Challenge

On this blog, I tend to post about a lot of ideas that I find, and some readers don’t always get a chance to know if I ever tried them – or if they were complete flops.  This week, I want to feature a few past ideas that I did try and that were successful – and that I definitely want to do again.

In 2013 I stumbled across the Global Cardboard Challenge, and decided to see what my GT students could do with it.  I had great hopes for it – and I was not disappointed.  Here is one of the posts that I did while we were in the midst of the project.  My GT students in 1st through 5th grade all participated.  You can see some of their creations here.

When I say that I have never been so completely useless as a teacher in my life (except when I administer standardized testing), I am not exaggerating.  Why was I useless?  Because once the students got to work, they were completely engaged for hours at a time – and they really did not want my help or suggestions.  I stood around and made cuts in boxes and distributed packing tape.

I am planning to expand the Challenge this year to include not only my GT students, but also students in a Maker Club that I am going to be sponsoring after school.  We also have a fundraiser in the works where the students will display their final products at a local business and the community will be invited to play the cardboard games for a small donation to a charity that my students will determine.

This year’s Global Cardboard Challenge is scheduled for October 11, 2014.  But you do not have to actually create on that date!  Go to the site for the details and resources, and think about what works for your community of creative kids.  And, if you or your students have not seen Caine’s Arcade, the amazing video that inspired this event, make sure you watch it!

What Would Socrates Do?

socrates-education

In past posts, I’ve mentioned using “Socratic Dialogue” with my students.  Sometimes this is referred to as “Socratic Method”, “Socratic Seminar”, or “Socratic Circles.”  You can learn more about this teaching technique here and in my post on “Socratic Questions.”

I recently ran across an excellent post on the Langwitches blog called, “Socratic Seminar and the Backchannel.”  The article gives a detailed description of teacher Shannon Hancock using the fishbowl method of an inner circle and outer circle with her 8th grade students to discuss The Alchemist. What distinguishes Shannon’s lesson from others of its kind is that she allowed her students to use Today’s Meet as a backchannel to comment during the discussion.  Normally, the outer circle of students remain fairly passive, but her technique makes the discussion much more interactive and collaborative for all who are involved.  I must confess that I have used a backchannel in my class before (Socrative and Google Docs are other great alternatives to Today’s Meet), but this particular use never occurred to me.

Even if you do not have enough digital devices to exactly replicate Shannon’s lesson, I encourage you to take a look at the article, which includes a wonderful video of the class in action, as well as examples of comments made on the backchannel.  I love the way Shannon introduces the lesson, as well as her encouragement of the students to collaborate by having a short discussion with partners at the half-way mark.

Watching Shannon Hancock inspires me to work harder to make our classroom Socratic Circles more meaningful and deep, whether we use technology or not.

Take Your Pick with Plickers

Sample screen shot of Plickers app in action
Sample screen shot of Plickers app in action

I love getting informal feedback from my students during lessons, and usually use the Socrative app for this in my classroom.  Socrative is wonderful, and works on practically any device, but it certainly works better if you have more than one device in your classroom.  Obviously, not everyone has this luxury.  So, I was very intrigued when I ran across a post about a student response system that works quite simply with just one piece of electronic equipment required – Plickers.

I read about Plickers on a “Who’s Who and Who’s New” post by Debbie.  She does an awesome job of detailing the use of the app, so please head over to her post if this brief summary piques your interest.

Basically, you set up a free account with Plickers (either online or in the app; the app is Android or iOS), and then set up a class.  You can set up multiple classes if you choose.  Then, you give each of your students in the current class a card with a barcode.  You can print your own from their site, or order a set from Amazon. The barcodes are numbered, so you can be sure that the same student always receives the same one.  If you look carefully at each card, you will see that each side of the barcode has a letter: A, B, C, or D.  When you ask the students a question, they hold the card in front of them with the letter of their choice on top.  Using the app, the teacher scans the room, and the app records the responses on a graph.  The scanning takes seconds, and the teacher can see with a glance who understands the concept or feels a certain way about any multiple choice question.

For a free service, this is a pretty slick little app. It does not have all of the options that you will find in Socrative, but it certainly beats having your students do the old “thumbs up, thumbs down” response to help you get a feel for their understanding of a topic.  And, it requires only one piece of technology. (Unless you want to count the printer used for the bar codes and the laminator you will probably want to utilize if you plan to use these on a regular basis.)

I tried this with my 4th grade class yesterday, and they loved it!  Some of them are already planning to incorporate it into their Genius Hour presentations – along with the Free Game Show Soundboard app that I threw in just to make things even more exciting.

I’m not a big fan of using multiple choice questions frequently, but Plickers doesn’t have to be used just to quiz students on facts.  You can have the students rate their feelings about something or vote quickly with their cards, too.  Plickers are a great, inexpensive way to give students another alternative for showing what they know.

Sample Plickers Card
Sample Plickers Card

When Was the Last Time You Saw a Mountain Lion on YOUR Playground?

image from Alba on flickr.com
image from Alba on flickr.com

One of the sessions I attended at TCEA 2014 in Austin last week was called, “Global Collaboration in Elementary.”  It was presented by Matt Gomez (@mattBgomez), and largely featured Twitter interactions his kindergarten students had experienced with other classes around the world.

That’s right – Kindergarten.

I work with gifted students in K-5, and I have to say that it would not have occurred to me to try using Twitter with my Kinders.  But, then again, I didn’t see a use for Twitter for myself until about nine months ago.

Matt did an outstanding presentation on the value of social media tools like Twitter for students.  (Here is the link to his presentation handout.) By using a private account, and choosing other like-minded educators to follow and be followed on Twitter, Matt connects his students to children in very diverse regions.  Through regular Tweets, the students have learned about their differences and similarities.  For example, one thing that many schools have in common is recess.  And, sometimes children may suffer the crushing disappointment of being forced to endure indoor recess.  But indoor recess in Texas is generally not the result of a mountain lion being loose on the playground, as a class in Montana tweeted to Matt’s students.  Surprising tweets like these have generated interesting conversations.  The experience has promoted tolerance, geographic awareness, and research skills.

Another unexpected side-effect of the Twitter project, as Matt explained, was the development of empathy in the students.  They care about their “Twitter friends”, and are more aware of global events and their effects.  Matt’s school is in Dallas, and they received Tweets from their partners inquiring about their safety, recently, when Dallas was reported to have several tornadoes.

Matt’s class has also connected with experts through Twitter, such as astronaut Chris Hadfield and local weather reporters.  These experiences have also given the students some inside knowledge about careers that they probably would not find in library books.

The nice thing about Twitter is being able to view a stream of responses, as opposed to using e-mail or other written communication.  Also, it does not have to be “real-time”, as Skype or other types of video chats need to be.  You can set aside a time each day to check out the stream as a class and discuss the comments and questions the students may have.  It’s also a good way to summarize your day before the school day ends.

As a result of Matt’s session, I’ve decided that I definitely would like to try this with my first grade class.  In this class, my students are researching different countries, and I would love to have them connect with classes around the world.  If you are a classroom teacher reading this, are interested in joining our classes on Twitter, and live outside of the USA, please contact me at engagetheirminds@gmail.com or @terrieichholz on Twitter to see if we can connect!

UPDATE:  Here is a link from Drew Frank (@ugafrank) with over 270 classes who are active on Twitter and interested in connecting.  You can also fill out the form on this page to add your class to the list!

UPDATE 2:  Here is another link from Kathy Cassidy (via @MattBGomez) of Primary classes that tweet.  For more Twitter resources, check out her page here.

Use Socrative as a Back Channel for Genius Hour

http://www.socrative.com/
http://www.socrative.com/

A few years ago, I was introduced to the concept of the “Back Channel” during a technology conference.  For those of you who have not used this before, it’s basically an online account where audiences can post questions and comments during a presentation instead of interrupting the speaker.  Every once in awhile, the speaker can refer to the back channel, and speak to the points brought up by the audience.

Today’s Meet is a common web application used for this purpose.  When I tried it a few years ago, it was blocked by my district.  There are others (some people use Twitter, Edmodo, or Google Drive)  that I’ve tried since then, but I gave up for awhile, frustrated with technical issues I kept encountering.  Plus, I don’t really lecture a lot, so it seemed unnecessary.

We had a parent visit my 5th grade GT class the other day to present Google Glass.  He had come to the 4th grade class a few weeks before, and the students seemed to have a hard time giving him a chance to speak.  So, I thought about trying the “Back Channel” concept one more time.

This time, I decided to use Socrative.  Socrative has been a free student response tool that I’ve used for several years, and it never lets me down.  There are apps available for the teacher and student, but you can also use the web-based version.  I generally use Socrative for exit tickets or quick quizzes ( the students absolutely LOVE the Space Race option!).  But there is also a Single Question, Short Answer option that I decided to try out as a Back Channel.

Before the Google Glass presentation, I explained to the students that we would be using Socrative for their questions and comments, and that we would periodically pause to hear our guest’s responses.

I loved how this worked.  With a few scheduled pauses, we could glance at the list of questions, and see which ones had already been answered, which ones were common or unique, and address any misconceptions.  The only thing I didn’t like was that one student got silly with her comments (and subsequently got her iPad taken away).

I’m planning to start using this for Genius Hour presentations.  It seems counterintuitive to have the kids typing while someone is speaking, but it actually appears to keep them more engaged, as most of them are genuinely interested in coming up with good questions and comments.  It’s also nice that Socrative allows you to download or e-mail yourself a record of the responses.  Copies could be given to the presenters to help them with a reflection about their project.

Socrative has a new 2.0 beta version, which is much more visually appealing here.  (I used it when it first came out, but there were a couple of glitches.  They have probably been resolved since then, but I haven’t had a chance to test it out recently.

If you plan to try Socrative for the first time, here are a few “housekeeping” tips:

  • Sign up for an account here.
  • Either download the student app or add a desktop shortcut to the web app on each student device.
  • Show the students how to access the student page, and to input the room number.  Younger students may need help figuring out how to get to the numbers on the keyboard!
  • Have your students enter just first names or initials when prompted.
  • If you are doing a Single Question, Short Answer activity for a Back Channel, be sure to choose unlimited Student Responses, and request their names (this provides accountability).
  • Make sure students log out when the activity is finished, so students who use the device the next time don’t get confused.

Of course, not every classroom has one to one devices.  You can have them pair up, pass a device around at tables, or have recorders who type in questions or comments that students have written down.  (This way, all questions/comments can be in the same document, instead of various pieces of paper.)  If you are really low on tech, Jared Stevenson (@eduk8r_Jared) mentioned during the #txed Twitter chat last night that he once saw a teacher who used a special spot in the room for students to post their questions.

The point, as always, is to give students a meaningful voice.  Socrative is just one way to do this that I’ve found to be very efficient and to enhance our learning.

Genius Hour – Don’t Forget to Reflect

selfreflection

Update:  *As of 1/2/14, you can now download all of my current Genius Hour resources in a bundle on Teachers Pay Teachers for $5.  Or, you can still download them separately (for free) by clicking on the Genius Hour Resource Page

While discussing Genius Hour with some colleagues last week, we all agreed on the value of reflection at the end of each Genius Hour period.  It is vital to guide the students through an evaluation of their work during that time, and to discuss any obstacles  or room for improvement.  It is also important to make goals for the next Genius Hour.

This can get tedious if you don’t “mix it up.”  I offered a Genius Hour reflection page that I plan to incorporate this year, called, “Genius Hour Mission Log,” in my recent post, “Blast off to Genius Hour.”  But, I would not recommend that you use the entire page after every session – otherwise your mission may have a mutiny.

My colleagues and I brainstormed some other ways to do the reflection piece – and these, of course, could be used for many other activities besides Genius Hour.  Some are:

  • Choose One – The students choose one (or a combination of a few) of the statements for response.
  • Turn and Talk (also known as “Think, Pair, Share”)
  • Socrative – Use Socrative, Padlet (formerly Wallwisher), or another student response system as an Exit Ticket.
  • Twitter – Have students compose a tweet (whether real or “faux”) about Genius Hour.
  • Blog Post – The class, or select students, could compose a short blog post about progress made during the hour.

I did some more thinking about it,  and thought of some other possibilities:

  • E-portfolio – If you are using eduClip or Blendspace (formerly known as Edcanvas), then you can have the students select something to represent their work to put in their portfolios.
  • Photo Discussion – If you are taking pics during Genius Hour, then you could go through a slide show of the pics afterward (or Instagram account), and ask the students in each pic if they can talk about what was happening at that time.
  • Mind Map/Sketch – Have students do a mind map or sketch that shows their activity/learning during Genius Hour time.
  • Do a “4 Corners” activity – Ask students to go to different corners in the room that represent their learning, difficulty, engagement, or surprises encountered on a scale of 1-4.  Have them briefly discuss in their corners.

And don’t forget to model.  No, you don’t have to walk down a runway with your fancy clothes on 🙂  – unless you want to.  But, make sure you also give students examples of yourself doing a reflection – perhaps on some learning that you are doing outside of school.  Maybe you’ve been teaching yourself how to refinish a chair, or how to use Google Drive.  Let them hear you talk about problems you encountered or things you realized you could improve.  If you have a group like mine, then it runs the gamut from students who think their work is always perfect to students who think their work is never good enough.  Hearing you do your own, well-balanced reflection can help the kids on those extreme ends to learn what it’s all about.

If you really want to blow their minds, then try reflecting on their reflections some time.  You know, with all of that extra time you have during the school day…

from: freshnessmag.com
from: freshnessmag.com