Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Testing Trap for Teachers



I am definitely not an advocate for all the testing our students endure each year.  I am a firm believer that testing does not reflect a student's true ability or what they are learning.  Maybe that is because I was never great at test taking.  I would truly shine if I had the opportunity to show my learning through other means besides a multiple choice test.

Initially, when I started to write this post I was going to focus on the huge gains my students made on the MAP testing they took. I have the privilege of being a 1:1 classroom where I have the opportunity to individualize and differentiate instruction using technology as a learning tool.  I am sure this is one of the factors that  made a significant difference. Then day two of testing rolled around and I opened my eyes to what was happening in my classroom.

Test scores weigh heavily for our students more than ever.  It often determines whether they are high ability learners or need special services in math and reading or in any other area.  As teachers, we know our learners best. I try to instill in each of my students that they are a genius and have a gift to share with the world.  Most importantly they have a PASSION for school and learning. Then test day rolls around and it all changes! Not only for my students, but for me as their teacher!

Our students are setting goals on specific learning areas from the MAP test so their scores improve.  So fall came and my 4th graders took the MAP Test.  I printed off their goal sheets and even did it on my color printer so students could really visualize the improvements they needed to make.  

Winter testing came upon our classroom quickly.  Yes, I was actually a little nervous, which is not like me when it comes to testing.  I know my students more than any test they take. Day one of testing was reading and today they took the math test. On the first day of  testing my fourth graders came in the room, and when they saw MAP testing with a huge smiley face on the marker board, moaning and groaning broke out from around the classroom.  I just smiled, and told them they love taking tests and will do awesome.  I had them get out their goal sheets to review what they have been working on and the score they are striving to achieve.  

As a team we came up with a MAP chant, and my fourth graders decided they would do Miraculous on the Test, they would Achieve, and they would Persevere!  We moved, we stretched and woke up both sides of our brains.  Our team also brought healthy snacks to enjoy during the testing, okay we actually have snacks every day in our classroom! 

Then, complete silence feel upon the classroom.  As I watched, I wish I could say they looked happy and excited about the testing, but what I saw was a lot of anxious, nervous,  and stressed fourth graders.  The passion they have each day for school vanished.  I saw my students fidgeting, looking around the room, and a few almost in tears. Yes, it broke my heart!

Several students finished quickly, most took a lot of time to complete the test.  As each student finished, they got out their goal setting sheet to record their scores and set new goals.  Believe me I couldn't be prouder of each and every one of them.  

Students beamed with pride and celebrated the growth they made on their test.  Most of them met their goal and many exceeded.  Some missed by a few points,  and a couple didn't meet their goal, which as a teacher I knew why.  Others viewing the scores of my students don't always realize that I know my students best.  

Yes, I plotted scores as well as skills that were mastered, which I have never done to the extent as I did this year. I emailed parents of successes and also emailed parents whose children were extremely disappointed.  Yes, ten of my students already met their end of the year MAP goal in math, and eleven met it in reading.

What does this actually mean and prove?  Absolutely Nothing! I realized that I fell into the Testing Trap!



 It broke my heart for the few who didn't meet the magical number on their goal sheet. As I looked at their faces and body posture,  it changed completely.  Yes, I did see tears too. One student tried to hide them.  She were disappointed in herself.  The ones who didn't meet their goal looked around the room and watched their classmates beam with pride. As their teacher, I know it is my fault! I congratulated the students who achieved their goals and consoled and encouraged the ones who didn't. 

To be honest, I am not sure why I am writing this post!  Maybe it is because I am sad for the few students in my class who feel like they failed even though I know they didn't.  I know my feelings on testing, and yes, I know my students best.  The sad truth is every time the testing period rolls around, I feel an added pressure, and I know my students do as well with all the expectations put upon us.

So, do I feel like I let some of my student down -YES!

Peter Reynolds


Yes, we had a GoNoodle Party after our "high-stake tests"! My fourth graders did decide that I should bring donuts in the morning to celebrate!  Most of them wanted chocolate with sprinkles! Not the healthiest, but they are excited to get back to our normal routine until our next "big" test comes upon us, which will be sooner than later.


As for tomorrow, I can't wait! Donuts and Dancing to Begin a New Day of Learning!




Peter Reynolds sums it up perfectly!



Friday, December 5, 2014

Free Apps to Showcase Students Learning in Math

Students Show their Learning
There are a lot of apps to showcase student learning.  Below is a list of free apps and sites that students can use to demonstrate their knowledge through screencasts, drawings, posters, sketches, video recordings, and audio recordings. I have also included some apps and sites that check for students understanding of the concepts being taught. A perfect way to individualize and differentiate math instruction.

Students can create diagrams of math concepts and then label and annotate their work. They can also share their work to their camera roll and create a movie showing their knowledge of the concept being taught.

Tutorial for Skitch


Brie app smashed Geoboard with Skitch and then created an iMovie





Students can create, explain, and share demonstrations in math.  They can create videos showing the concepts they are learning.

Doceri is an interactive whiteboard for the iPad.  It is great way to evaluate students' understanding  of math concepts.  Students share their knowledge of our district essential objectives and math concepts. They can then send their presentations to iMovie.








Another great app that students can use to create and show what they know! 30Hands is a story telling app, and students can create presentations in any subject area.
Shadow Puppet is a free app that my students love to use.  It is a digital story telling app.  One way my fourth graders have been using it during math is for the tested math concepts.  They also use it to explain and give examples of our math vocabulary. 
Share Student Work

Lainey

Eme app smashed and used Geoboard with PuppetEDU


Canva

Canva is an app we have just started to use.  It has so many possibilities to use in all curricular areas.  We have been using the presentation feature of Canva.


Natalie saved her presentation in her camera roll and then sent it to iMovie.



Doodle Buddy

                                                                                                   Hayden's Work
Using Doodle Buddy allows students create drawings and paintings. There is variety of drawing tools, as well as a full palette to colors. Students have the ability to select a size and there is a built in sound feature. There are a variety of backgrounds for students to choose from and you can add images and backgrounds from the internet. Students can add their images to their camera roll and then create a video of the math concept that was taught. 






Educreations


Educreations is a recordable whiteboard where students can create lessons and explain math concepts. Students are able to create and share what they know! 
Educreations       

We are using Geoboard with our geometry unit.  It is great because it helps students visualize and create the concepts we are learning about.  Many students used this app when showing their knowledge of the skills being taught in our geometry unit.  



It is great to use for individualized and differentiation of math instruction. My high ability students find Khan Academy very challenging. Teachers can assign students specific content to work on that ties in directly with district curriculum.  My students love to use it at home too! 
Tutorial for Khan Academy
Student Reports


Front Row  My students use Front Row on their iPads throughout the week.  Not only does it differentiate instruction, but it ties in with our district curriculum, and is aligned with Common Core. Students can use it at home. 


Individual Student Reports

 This is a free and easy app to use to assess math skills.  They can review math skills and vocabulary through flashcards.  They can take a quiz or play a matching game.  Easy for teachers  to set up quizzes or reviews.  Students are engaged while they are learning. I recently upgraded to the paid version.  Tutorial on Quizlet 



My students LOVE Kahoot and it can be used in all curricular areas.  We have used it to review for each Topic in Math and our Benchmark Tests in math.  Students simple go to Kahoot.it and type in the  game pin and the fun and learning begins.  After each question it shows what students selected as the correct answer.  You can look back at the question and answer choices to discuss the problem. It keeps students on their toes as it keeps track of the top 5 students on the screen.  Creating quizzes is easy, and you can also search for public ones.  
YouTube Tutorials for Kahoot





























Sunday, November 23, 2014

EPIC - Thousands of eBooks at your Fingertips


EPIC! is a great app for kids to use at home or school.  We have just started using it in all curricular areas.  What is even better is that EPIC! is free for educators.

Students have access to thousands of free eBooks.  Many of the books are bestsellers, classics, and from some of the best publishers. Some of the publishers include Simon and Schuster, HarperCollins, and National Geographic Kids.  Also, there is an amazing collection of nonfiction books. The books stream immediately, and they do not need to be downloaded. There is also the option of reading the book offline. Students also have the opportunity to rate the book after reading.

Books Stream Immediately


You can browse for books and there is also a search option. Another feature that I really like is the ability to add books to favorites. 


Learning about Electricity in Science
All Formats and Ages















EPIC has a bookshelf that sorts books according to genres, recent reads, recommended for you, read to me,  recently added, and popular on EPIC! The genres include Fiction, Nonfiction, Living Things, Humorous, Daily Life, Science and Nature, World, Mysteries, History, Fantasy, Sports, and Assorted Topics.  Selections can also be filtered by age-related recommendations too. 

Books are added Daily
Most Popular Books 

Teachers are encouraged to share the App with parents so it continues to be free for educators. Parents have a free trial period of a month, and then it is just $9.99 a month.  The books available are at reading and interest levels of up to 12 years old.  





Recently we were learning about verbs during language. All students had the book To Root, to Toot, Parachute opened on their iPad while I airplayed the book and we read it together.  Definitely an App we are using during Daily 5 and language arts. I have found a lot of books that tie in with our science and social studies curriculum.  There are so many possibilities for using EPIC!  











Tuesday, November 18, 2014

4th Graders Share the Importance of Blogging

As I reflect upon my teaching, often it is other teachers' blogs that I turn to for ideas and inspiration. My one year anniversary for my blog is this December, and I am still not 100% comfortable posting, and yes, I still get nervous when I push the button to publish.  I am so proud of my students because they are definitely the complete opposite and LOVE to publish their posts.

In this post, I decided to turn it over to my fourth graders.  We have all read a lot of posts about the importance of student blogging from an educator's point of view, so I decided to put a twist on it.  I shared a Google Doc with my students and had them write their top five reasons they like to blog.  It did not take them long to share their ideas and comments.  As a team, they had so many reasons that we decided it would be best to work together and narrow it down to ten that they all agreed upon.

Jerry Blumengarten


I have also included many of the quotes they created on Glogster and Canva about blogging. Their quotes are a true inspiration.  

I went back and reread what each student wrote prior to posting this and LOVED something one of my student's shared. So to start their post here a quote from Eme.
Eme S. - "I like to blog because it's the next best thing to writing a best-selling book."



Here are the fourth graders thoughts and 
rationales about the importance of blogging. 
Lessons Learned about Blogging

Teaching Others
When we blog, we teach others about what we are learning, and we may even teach them new information. What we write might inspire someone else.  Our writing can give other student's ideas. We also learn a lot from reading other kids' blog posts. 


Global Connections
Blogging is fun because we get to blog with kids from all around the world.  We are creating global connections, and we learn from each other.  Last year, our class had the opportunity to blog with author Ms. Jena Ball.  This year, we have made friends with classrooms throughout the United States, from Shekou, China, and Canada. We develop friendships with others from around the world when we blog.

Here is a comment one of my students received from China. 
Personal connections are made when student's blog.




Worthy of the Web
Blogging is important because it makes us a better writer.  Our class always talk about keeping it  "Worthy of the Web".  We are able to show our writing skills with others.  Also, we become better writers when we read other kid's blogs. Since we know lots of people will read our post, we have to proofread and check over our writing carefully before we publish.  Sometimes my friend's in my classroom check over my post before I share it.  We love how other people read our work besides just our teacher or parents.





Student Voice
When blogging we get to express our ideas, thoughts, and feelings. We have our own voice when we write. It is great that we get to share our voice with the world! Everyone can share their own voice.  Also, we love sharing our creativity! 






Questioning
You get to talk with people from all over the world and ask questions about their blogs. We can also ask questions about where they live.  When you ask others questions, you are really learning. A lot of people ask questions about our blogs and what we are learning about.



No Right or Wrong Answer
Blogging is great because there are no right or wrong answers.  I can share my ideas and feelings with the world, and I am proud to write.  


Commenting
We love to have people comment on our blog posts.  It tells us different people love our writing and care about what we have to say.  We always write back to the person who comments.  Getting comments is one of our favorite things and we are always checking our blog posts.  Sometimes we get suggestions on things we need to improve in our writing.  There are a lot of things we learned about commenting.  You need to write something positive about the person's blog.  We can also share a personal connection.  You always want to try to ask a question. Remember to sign your first name to the comment you are done.

Sharing our Passion
We can share what we love with others. We make people happy by letting them read our blogs.  I get to share my stories and what is important to me.  




Blogging Buddies
We make friends with other classrooms by blogging. This year we participated in the Global Read Aloud. We are blogging buddies with a class from California. We have been sharing our ideas and thoughts about the book our class read together.  We are able to comment on each other's blogs. This year, we not only have blogging buddies from the United States, but also from Shekou, China and Canada.

Classroom Curriculum
Our class loves creating presentations to put in our blog posts. It gives others a better understanding of what we are learning and writing about.  We can app smash when using Kidblog.  We like to add videos and what we wrote in Pages. We write in all subject areas.  Each week we have a different writing genre.  We always post our final draft to Kidblog. 



Powerful quote by Fourth Grader Natalie M. to sum up the Importance of Student Blogging

A thought turns into an idea, an idea turns into a sentence, a sentence turns into a blog, and the blog grows and turns into success, as does the brain of the author. 




Thank You Fourth Graders
We would love comments on our Blogs!

Student Video on Blogging

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fourth Graders Thank Our Veterans

Happy Veteran's Day - November 11th, 2014

On November 11th, Veteran's Day is celebrated throughout our country.  It is a day to honor and recognize the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces.  Living in Bellevue, Nebraska by Offutt Air Force Base many of the families in our community are currently serving or have served in the military.  



In honor of Veterans Day, my fourth graders wanted to thank our Veterans on this special day. Many of my students been affected personally by having family members in the Armed Forces.  



Each student came up with a creative way to share their 
gratitude and appreciation for our Veterans. 

By Angelique
In honor of her Father who is currently in the Air Force with over 18 years of service.





By Natalie
Dedicated to her Great Uncle who Fought in World War 11


By Tia
Dedicated to her Nana, Papa, and Grandpa who Served in the Armed Forces



By Aidan
In honor of his Grandpa who Fought in WWII and was a Bomber Pilot




Brie
Dedicated to her Uncle Seth and Papa Jake




Kenzie
In honor of all Veterans




By Kaitlyn
In honor of her Uncle Jason who is Currently serving in the Army




Eme
Dedicated to her Grandpa who was a veteran and was also buried on Veterans Day




By Lainey
In honor of her grandpa who was a Pilot in the Military




Kidblog Entry written by Jaxon
In honor of his friend's father-Thank you Mr. George
Jaxon's Kidblog- Thank You Mr. George

By Hayden
Thank You Veteran's



By Sian
Dedicated to her Father who Served



By Ava 
Dedicated to her Brother Drew who currently Serving in the Air Force




By Gavyn
In honor of his mother who recently retired.





By Sean
His video is Dedicated to many Family Member who have Served




Madison's Kidblog explaining the importance of Veteran's Day
In honor of her Mother and Father
Madison's Kidblog - Dedicated to her Mom and Dad



By Beau
Dedicated to all Veterans



By Caitlyn
Thank You Veterans



By Olivia
In Honor of all Veterans



Thanks to Peyton for creating a Stick Around Puzzle in Honor of Veterans Day



Thank you Fourth Graders for your 
amazing tribute to our Veterans