Tuesday, December 27, 2016

GoNoodle Saves the Day

Do your students need brain breaks throughout the day? Are you left trying to figure out how to get in those PE minutes when it's raining or there's bad air quality?

Never fear - GoNoodle is here!!

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GoNoodle is a wonderful, FREE site, filled with exciting guided dance videos, yoga, stretching, and fitness videos. When you sign up, you create a class with their grade level. Then you get to select a champ who will level up as you participate more.

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Image result for gonoodle

I have used this in my classroom from 4th - 6th graders. Sure it takes some time for kids to get into it, but soon enough the ones that are "too cool" are the ones feeling left out because they're the only ones not participating.  If a student still does not want to participate because they are "too cool" I tell them if they do not participate, then one of my other lively dancing students will come dance by them.  Now please take this with a grain of salt, as I said I only do this with students who are "too cool", I never single out my shy students. Slowly my shy students start to feel more comfortable and start having fun with the videos and activities.

Living in Southern California, we get a lot of bad air quality days so GoNoodle has been a lifesaver to get in PE minutes when we can't go outside.

Here are some student recommended videos:
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Image result for gonoodle blazer fresh  Image result for gonoodle moose tube

Doing GoNoodle indoors does require some transition with students needing room to move around. This has just become part of our daily routines and procedures. My students know that if they do not transition quickly enough that they will not have a lot of time on GoNoodle.  Sometimes I use it as a reward where certain students will get to select the videos and lead the class. I cannot sing the praises of GoNoodle enough. It has brought smiles and joy into my classroom and always brightens up the atmosphere. Be sure to check out GoNoodle and try it out with your kids!

PS: They also have an app and a website if you want to sign up and use it at home with your own kids. My nieces and nephew love it!
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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

11/29 Techie Tuesday

The newest edition of Techie Tuesday is out!

This week we take a look at using Google Drawings to create graphic organizers. People are always amazed when I share digitized graphic organizers. Even more amazement comes when I tell them my students made my templates. I made a few of these graphic organizers that required more time and details, such as the writing graphic organizers, but the others, including more I don’t have listed, were student made. I’m all about crowdsourcing. Why spend precious lesson planning time creating graphic organizers on the computer when you can ask your students to create their own? I always put a nice spin on it. I tell them that the one who has the nicest and most effective graphic organizer will get it saved on My Drive and then shared out as a template with the rest of the class.  Once you put that spin, they take their time and produce some amazing work trying their hardest to be selected.

The Techie Tip is about using the revision history in the Google Suite. This has been a lifesaver for me personally because my cat likes to walk across my keyboard at home when I step away. Instead of clicking undo a crazy amount of times I simply access the revision history and go back to the version of my document BEFORE I stepped away from the computer.

Revision history also comes in handy with my students. With groups you get to see who has contributed, what they have done, and how long they spent on it. Individually you get to see when the student first began working on it and when they last accessed it. This has come in handy because I’ve had students brag about getting their work done late at night, so I look up their document, show it to the class and reveal the revision history which shows they hadn’t even started working on it until late at night. We then have a long talk as a class about being responsible and getting work done in a timely fashion. During class, I can also see who’s doing what on their documents and when. So when I get reports that someone is playing around, I can look up their revision history and see what they have been doing.

Finally, we tie it all up with talking about Hour of Code which begins next week! This is huge and is such a great program to expose kids to the amazing world of coding. Hour of Code puts it all in a fun perspective and shows real-world application of math. I love that they include fun and recognizable characters that the students love. If you haven’t tried it with your class, you totally should! It’s a lot of fun, even I do it with my class. Thanks to +Rae Fearing  for sharing your Hyperdoc on Twitter!

Techie Tuesday- November 29.jpg

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Monday, November 28, 2016

It’s Easy for You, You’re ______

It’s Easy for You, You’re (techie/creative/smart/crafty/insert whatever you’re good at)

Have you ever had these words said to you? It is one of the worst phrases anyone could say to a teacher or any professional in that matter.
I had the pleasure of seeing the amazing Dave Burgess at Fall CUE on October 28th, 2016. When he shared how much this phrase upset him and how it totally was set to destroy him, I wanted to jump up out of my chair and shout a couple of “Amens” as if I were in church. It was a point that completely hit home with me.
Being a tech teacher I hear this phrase A LOT!
It gets exhausting after a while and for some, just SOME it becomes an excuse for them not following through or not doing the work themselves. As Dave Burgess stated, “This completely dismisses all of the hard work I have done to get where I am and what I do in my classroom.”
“It’s easy for you, you’re techie.” “It’s easy for you, you have the smart kids” “It’s easy for you, your class is well behaved.” You want to ask them, how do you think I got there? How do you think I push my kids to perform their best? How do you think my class got their behavior under control?  It’s all because I worked hard, did research, and found things that worked in my classroom. It just didn’t hit me in the middle of the night and everything changed.
I love Dave Burgess's example of the “Blinding Light” syndrome where we just walk around and get hit by flashes of lights with good ideas or naturally graced with technology know how . That’s not how it works, we work hard to come up with our ideas and see them through to the end. It takes a lot of our time, lunch periods, staying after school, taking work home, until we come up with (what we think) is the perfect plan. Sometimes these ideas rock, other times they blow up and “break the class” (love Doug Robertson’s phrasing of that).
Do I have random ideas? Yes I do, sometimes. Do they all come this way? No, the majority of them I have to work for and go over the content, standards, materials, and see how I can get creative with integrating technology, PBL, go cross-curricular, etc. It takes a lot of time and work! Regardless of who you are, if you have a family or if you’re single, it takes a lot of work and this phrases just kind of dismisses all of it as if you had this great idea and then it magically left your brain and transformed into your unit, activity, or experience you are providing to your students.
People tell me I must be naturally good at using technology. They are always surprised when I tell them no. There is no way to be naturally good at something that is constantly changing and transforming. I’ve seen tech transformed from my days in elementary school playing Oregon Trail in the computer lab to our touchscreen tables, VR, AR, and robotics. There is no way anyone is just naturally good at that (unless you’re a super genius… which I am not…) What I am good at is pushing all the buttons and googling answers, and within all of that I start learning new things about technology. Just recently, I have been trying to fix some software on my computer and one of the fixes was to go into the command prompt and enter commands in the script. I was like woah… slow down… you want me to do what? Then I just went for it.
Is everyone at that comfort level? Of course not, but what they do need to realize and acknowledge is that whatever you are good at isn’t something that came naturally and easy. It took time to get where you are now and it still takes time to flesh out a good idea (even if it breaks the class). People need to just go for it and push all the buttons or take a new risk in their class.
Please… no longer use the phrase “It’s easy for you, you’re (creative, techy, smart, crafty, etc). Instead of using that phrase ask that person what tips they would have to get started on the journey.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Techie Tuesday - October 25th

Welcome to my second edition of Techie Tuesday!

The featured website in this week's edition is Class Dojo

Class Dojo is a fantastic site that is a new take on classroom management. Students earn and lose points based on skills/behaviors that you can select. It has basic behaviors to begin with, but then you are able to edit them or add new behaviors with point values. I really love this site because students can earn points back after they lose them. It's all about second chances and positive reinforcement.

One trick I have learned over the years, is to create a fake student. I have a student in my class named Whacky Wilbur. He serves as my warning when I am about to take away points. Typically all I have to do is give Whacky Wilbur a few negative points, the students hearing the sound and straighten up. It has been a lifesaver for those times when it's more than a couple students being disruptive.

Ghostly Goals

Goals are extremely beneficial to students, especially when students intentionally set them. There's no more "I'm going to get Honor Roll this quarter" generic goals. Now they have to explain the steps they are going to take in order to earn Honor Roll. Short term and long term goals are both equally important. I have students who need those shorter ones that help keep them on track for the larger goals, and then I have students who are always thinking big picture and looking further down the road. 

In the Hyperdoc above I included links to what my 5th and 6th grade goal sheets look like, as well as a link to a very simple SMART goal that can be used both long and short term. At my school we are fortunate enough to have planners, and that is where my students write their SMART goals.

Techie Tip of the week

A very useful trick in Google Drive is starring items. There are documents I use on a daily basis, ranging from my morning directions to my Math and ELA pacing guides. Instead of searching for them every single morning, I use the "Add Star" option.

When you come across a file or folder you would like quick access to, right click on it then select "Add Star". After that your file or folder will appear in the "Starred" section on the left hand side of your Google Drive. Isn't that handy?

Is there anything you'd like to see featured in Techie Tuesday? Any techie tips for using Google Drive you'd like to share? 
Post below in the comments!

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Joys of Flexible Seating

I have had a lot of questions about my classroom arrangement, seating, and management so I thought I'd write a blog post to share with everyone about it.
Okay everyone take a deep breath, I am about to say something crazy....ready?... I do not have a seating chart or assigned seating. BREATHE! It's okay. I haven't always been this way. I am now in my 10th year of teaching and up until 4 years ago my students had assigned seating, they stayed in their seats to work quietly, and there was a very rigid structure to it. I typically would assign partners for them to work with and groups for group projects. Then one summer I spent time reading other teacher blogs and articles about flexible seating and allowing students to move around more.

I will be totally honest with you. I was scared! I had to give up some of my control?! Are you serious?! Then I decided to just go for it. The outcome was amazing!!
In the four years I have had flexible seating I have only had one student who just couldn't focus. He got his own seat and each day I would ask him if he felt like he could work with a group. Some days he would say yes, other days he would say no. I still gave him the option and didn't keep him from having the opportunity. 
I like to look at my classroom now as organized, creative chaos. Ask my students what they like about my classroom and they will tell you that it's all the choices they get.
Instead of desks I have 8 tables and have acquired some big comfortable chairs from rooms being cleaned out on campus. I like to rearrange my classroom randomly because I get bored of the way it looks. At first, I wondered if this was too much for the students, but they always get excited when I rearrange things.
Most recently I received 4 bean bags, 2 camping chairs, 4 wobble cushions, and 2 fun teen chairs from a project that was funded through We have two black coffee tables to go with them. I then lowered one of my tables down to the lowest level, so that the students had more seating options. It's so much fun to come into class where it is a comfortable teaching and learning environment.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Techie Tuesday

Today I started my first Techie Tuesday. As the C5 Technology Teacher at my school, we are trying different ways to have professional development. Traditional PD is so yesterday with meeting after school, so it's on to something new and exciting!

Our district has a subscription to Renaissance Place for AR and STAR benchmark tests. With parent conferences coming up next week I thought it was important to share some new ways to share the testing data with the parents. The diagnostic report will show parents the grade level equivalent that their student tests at as well as the areas where they struggled on the test.

Being a GAFE district, we have been trying to get all our teachers logged in and using the different apps. The first step is to get the teachers logged in and using Google Drive. I remember learning about color coding the folders and it blew my mind! I wanted to share this with my teachers to show them a small step in getting organized with Drive.

At my school, the teachers can be very reserved about sharing their successes. I'm not quite sure why it is, but I LOVE hearing about successes in integrating technology, no matter how small! I created a Padlet where teachers can go and share their wins with the rest of the staff.

If you haven't checked out, now is the time! They just released this amazing new dance called "Dance Party".  Students create an account at home, create their own champ, and then link it to your classroom account. In class, you select "Dance Party" and their champs will show up in your class dance! The kids get the biggest kick out of it!

So far this has been a hit with my staff, I have received a lot of positive feedback. For me, it was hard to keep it this size. I get excited about sharing things and sometimes go overboard, but when you are first starting something smaller and more direct is better. :) You don't want to overwhelm anyone.

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