home learning, Maker Space, Teaching

Unplug Your Home Learning

Home Learning is every teacher’s dream! We have the opportunity to show the learner how to apply their knowledge to their everyday environment. Once the environment is incorporated into the learning on a continuous basis, students will start to practice this type of thinking even when the assignment is long gone.

  1. Use Maker in Your Curriculum– make the most of home learning by asking students to create with household recyclables and trash. ‘Making’ may seem like craft time, but there is research to prove that the process of creating helps the brain synthesize information.  Psychology Today notes the importance of this-

Physical acts are a way of working out our thoughts. Psychologists are now recognizing something that artists have intuitively always known, that we think with our hands as much as our brains.

Here are a few Maker activities that can align with your curriculum.

  •  Read a story aloud, stop after the problem, and then ask students to build something that solves the problem in the story using household trash and recyclables.
  • Write like a serial killer by cutting words out of packaging and creating a motto for the protagonist in the book you’re reading.
  • Symbolic thinking requires more brain power- find 5 things in your house that represent the downfall of the Nazis in WWII, explain your thinking for each.
  • Nonfiction articles about world events can be more meaningful when you have to create the solution to the problem in them. Use found objects to create a solution to a worldwide problem. Write a paper to give more information.
  • What’s the motivation for the villain? Make a vision board for the antagonist in your book or the bad guy in a history lesson using cuttings, scraps and drawings. 
  • Model it! Sometimes there’s a need to represent and manipulate events to understand them. Make a 3-D representation to create a better understanding.

2. Create a Comic Book about a history assignment. History can be hard to place all the actors, settings and main events. What better way to remember than to draw them all out and put them in order in a comic book?

3. Play Word Games using only the words on a household object- got a bottle of shampoo? Have students write the title of the object on their paper and challenge them to use the letters to create as many new words as possible. Working on a word family? Tell them to highlight these words in their list of created words and give themselves double points for every word family word.

4. Math is Everywhere– 

  • Find all the items that are squares in the house, then use them to build a castle!
  • Use the labels from packages to calculate the number of calories in the entire cupboard.  
  • Create a survey on any topic and ask family members to answer- noodles, bread, or dumplings, which is better?  
  • Decide which room in the house has less right angles- justify.
  • Where did all the time go- write out a daily schedule, then notate how long each activity took.  
  • Who’s the tallest in their family? Who’s the shortest? Measure everyone’s heights, then convert their heights to another unit. Add up their heights and draw a new family super hero who towers over others.  
  • How many Cheerios are in a box, measure 1 oz. and then estimate.   How many apples would it take to fill up your entire fridge, find the volume of your fridge and the “volume” of an apple, then estimate.

5. Write a Mystery– A home can have adventures in it waiting to happen. Mom is in the kitchen, Dad is in the living room, kids are in the bedroom…… there’s a crash by the front door. Who Done It? Investigate the whereabouts of all parties and give a mystery analysis Clue style.

6. Draw a New Reality– Students draw a picture of a room in their house, then imagine it in another landscape.  Add a desert to the middle of the kitchen or a rainforest, perhaps outer space would look good in the bedroom closet.  Imagine and draw.

7. Book Spine Poetry– use the books around your house to create poetry. Stack the books flat with the spines aligned. How can you rearrange the books to create a poem?

8. Sketchnote! This is a powerful visual notetaking process that engages the brain. Sketchnoting is different from just drawing a picture about the book at the end of the story. Sketchnoting asks the artist to constantly add to their drawing to show progression of learning. Read a few pages of a book, then draw a few pictures to show the concepts learned, repeat.  Here’s a quick video to show you this learning process. 

9. Create Art using inspiration from packaging. Students find elements of art in packaging around their house that they’ve studied, then use those elements to create their own art.

10. Create a Playlist for a character in a book. What songs best represent this character and why? Go old school and write it all down on paper.

Bonus– multiply by friendly numbers! Ask students to work with numbers they know. They write down their parent’s phone number, then multiply each number by the next= 134-678-9101 is 1x3=3x4=12x6=72 etc. Find out which is larger, the sum of their parent’s phone number or their friend’s. Then multiply those sums for some serious practice.

One of the most important things to remember is, Home Learning is not going to look the same as learning done in class.  We can work on the same standards and objectives, but the learning should take advantage of the environment. I’m not saying that all learning can be done this way, but certainly many lessons can.  The advantage of home learning is that the learning will be more authentic to the real world and will help students to connect their learning to everyday situations. Essentially, home learning makes it easier for teachers to connect learning outcomes with life, which is our real goal in education.

I would love to hear the ideas you come up with for connecting curriculum to unplugged learning at home. Tweet me @1hightechteach

“Think With Your Hands”. Psychology Today, 2020, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/connect-creativity/201408/think-your-hands.

Images.App.Goo.Gl, 2020, https://images.app.goo.gl/LYQR1BYzVz3GrjZv8.

“Image: Mini Sketchnotes Tutorial – Sketchnote Love”. Images.App.Goo.Gl, 2020, https://images.app.goo.gl/HkqqVuQsJmLCwXLV7.

Teaching, Technology Integration

10 Tips for Home Learning with Seesaw

Coronavirus, Snow Days, Monsoon season, rained out? Educators everywhere are trying to provide a quality education for their students. While nothing is as good as in person, we can make home learning meaningful by following a few tips while using Seesaw.

  1. Make it hands-on-  The need to manipulate, observe, and experiment don’t go away just because students are at home. They do hands on learning at home all the time through their natural world.  How can we, as educators, capitalize on their home environment to bring forth quality learning?
  2. Use the camera- Ask students to take pictures of their hands on learning. Use the SocialMediaLittleFox_17camera feature to inspire students to find connections to their learning in their environment at home. We know students need to practice their presentation skills, ask them to give their book report or biography through video.
  3. Involve the parents- Parents want to know what their students are learning. Asking parents to play a game with their student or build a terrarium allows students to learn with the most influential person in their lives.  Capitalize on their time with loved ones by assigning an interview, encourage them to share 5 fascinating facts about their relative.
  4. Relevancy- Studying multiplication facts? Learning about patterns? So many of the items in a household can be used for learning. Asking students to create groups of their favorite toys, take a picture, and then write a word problem about it will engage them more authentically than any worksheet.  Their own backyard holds Science lessons waiting to be discovered.
  5. Keep it simple- We all want to do the cool projects. What a great time to have students try that new app! No, this is NOT the time for new apps and cool tools! This is the time for consistency and routine.  Students should be using familiar technology so they can learn new content. If you introduce new technology and the student does poorly, you won’t know if it is because of the comprehension of the content or the ability to use the new tool. Not only could this be bad for comprehension, it may frustrate the parents at home who are helping their students learn.  Some parents are not tech savvy and do not understand new technology. 
  6. Multiple Page Documents- Are you uploading a multi-page document for student SocialMediaLittleFox_7work? Make it difficult for students to forget about the next page.  On each page, insert a text box or symbol that reminds them to go to the next page. A big box with NEXT PAGE—> should do the trick. Also, know there are limits to multi-page uploads. 10 pictures, 1 pdf (can be multipage), 1 Google slides/doc/sheets, or 1 video.
  7. Activities- Seesaw activities are amazing! Make sure that you, as the teacher, try any activity you assign. Some activities have directions that are not clear, you may wish to make an instructional video for these activities.  Also, if students have never used Seesaw activities, it may be difficult to obtain quality work. Teaching students routines when using Seesaw activities and the kind of quality you expect, may be something that is challenging for the first time remotely.
  8. Collaborate-  Encourage students to comment on each other’s work. Ask them to go SocialMediaLittleFox_29further than simple compliments. Providing sentence stems like, I see…, I think…, I wonder…, can assist students with quality feedback.  If you haven’t ever tried the copy/edit feature, this can also be a valuable way for students to learn from each other and extend on each others’ knowledge. Ask students to create a visual word problem using toys, money, the clock, etc. Then have another student copy/edit a peer’s word problem and solve.  What a great way for students to learn from each other and with each other.
  9. Reach out– There are Seesaw classrooms all over the world! Use the blog feature SocialMediaLittleFox_38for students to connect and learn from others, no matter the time zone. Find a classroom to blog with here.


10. Set a goal!- At home learning can be tricky! It is much harder for students to be focused at home (adults too).  Ask students to set a daily goal for their learning. Perhaps they aim to have all Math done before lunch time or they attempt to read over all their assignments for the day right after breakfast. Reminding students to set a goal for completion of work each day with help them create a routine.

Seesaw’s resource center is full of short, easy help videos. If you have a question, you can easily find an answer!

Maker Space, Teaching, Technology Integration

10 Ways to Use Spinners in the Classroom

spin11111111Ah, spinners. The newest toy designed to drive teachers mad.  Pokemon, hackey sacks, digipets, it’s an age-old problem for teachers.  The hot toy of the day makes it into the classroom.  Schools quickly ban the toy and kids create a black market to sneak it in. Why fight it? Embrace it!  Invite those spinners into class as a learning tool!

Here’s 10 easy ways to be the cool teacher:

  1. Review friction– students find different surfaces around the classroom to spin their spinner. Use timers or cell phones to time how long the spinner spins on various surfaces. Students can then enter their data in Google sheets, and even use the “insert chart” feature to make  a line graph of their data.
  2. Write a persuasive letter– students hate being told, “You’re not allowed”. Have students write a persuasive letter to the powers that be, enumerating all the reasons they should be allowed to have spinners in class.
  3. Practice vocabulary– (use this sheet) ask students to make small squares labeled 1,2 & 3. Have students tape each number to an arm of the spinner. Choose some vocabulary words. Students then spin their spinner and stick out their pointer finger towards their spinner. Whichever arm stops closest to their pointer finger, is the action from the sheet they will use with their first vocabulary word. Students repeat this process for each vocabulary word.
  4. Practice spelling– students use the same labels from above. Students then spin the spinner, whichever number their pointer finger points to, their partner has to write spelling sentences with multiples of the number that was spun. If I spun a 3, my partner would have to write sentences for spelling words #3, 6, 9, 12, 15, & 18. If they spin a 1, the partner writes spelling sentences for #1-8. Then switch, and have the partner do the same.
  5. Multiplication practice– Are your students studying 1×1 digit multiplication, 2×2, or maybe 3x?  Ask students to create three labels for their spinner. They can choose their own numbers, but they should correlate to the number of digits they are practicing. If you are studying 1×2 or 2×3, ask one partner to choose 2 digit numbers and the other partner to choose 3 digit numbers.  Tape the labels to each arm of the spinner.  Partners point at each other’s spinner.  They take each number that they spun and pair them together to practice multiplication.  Repeat.
  6. Division practice– students again choose their own labels for their spinner. Students can practice in small group, with one student making numbers for the divisor, and the rest making numbers for the divisor or quotient. Everyone spins at the same time. The group must use the divisor from the one student.  That student may choose which dividend they want to use. Everyone uses the divisor to solve for the number they spun. Once they have gone through all their numbers, have them switch spinners clockwise.
  7. Revise & redesign– Ask students, “Where will a spinner not spin?” Can students redesign a spinner to spin better? Ask students to design a better spinner. Have them draw up plans, diagram it, and even create an advertisement. Then, put their plans into action. Provide basic supplies: Popsicle sticks, jewel cases, old CD’s, aluminum foil, brads, paper clips, etc. Allow students to create their design and demonstrate at a “Spin-off”.
  8. Fraction comparison– students label their spinner with three labels, this time fractions. Students tape their labels to their spinners.  Students then go around the class, spinning their spinner and partnering up to compare their fractions.  They choose a new partner for each spin.  Students can even keep tally of the number of times their fraction was the largest.
  9. Random name generator– use word art to make a page with everyone’s name. Attach a paper arrow to one of the spinner’s arms.  Then place the spinner in the center of the circle and spin.  The class will love this new take on an old favorite.
  10. Reading with purpose– Find the history of the spinner here and its original purpose. Great article, but there are many ads. The article also mentions toys of the past.
Teaching, Technology Integration

QR Codes Can Do More Than You Think!

I had the privilege of attending a session with Peggy Reimers at TCEA2016.  She has done some fabulous things with QR codes.  The most important point, as with all ed tech, that the activity is more about the question than the tech tool.  Here are just a few of the ideas she shared:

Find your match– Generate QR Codes to play any matching game.  This could also be used for facts that are one-liners. Ex: Which part of the story is where the problem started?  Cut the QR codes in half, with the answer on one side and the question on the other.  When students find their match, they can scan the QR Code to see if they were right.  A prompt will appear if they are correct.  The great part, the QR Code says simple statements like, “Awesome” or “Good job!”  Making the QR Codes reusable for other activities.  Even better, Reimers created a template for this.  You could use this activity for almost anything.

Ideas for the little guys–  Learning to read?  Want those wiggly bodies to get up and move?  Reimer has a number of ideas here to use QR Codes in the K-2 classroom.  My favorite was a mix and match with a numeral on top and the word match on the bottom.  When you scan the QR Code, you get a picture that shows that number in real life use (eight cookies, twelve eggs, 5 basketball players).

Mapping-  Geography comes alive when you add QR Codes.  My World Cultures classes studied Africa through QR Codes.  Credit given to Carole Pattison for creating these.  I took blue tape and made a huge shape of Africa on the floor.  In each region the students needed to study, a QR Code was taped to the floor under clear packing tape.  Students were encouraged to discover Africa through these codes.  Some were videos, some were interactive websites, and some were news stories of current events.  Students took notes and made a S’more on the political, economic, geographic, or social aspects they found.

The BEST part-There’s an add-on for QR Codes.  If you are part of the Google world, Google Sheets has a great add-on, called Generating QR Codes.  What once took eons to create a bulk of QR Codes, now takes minutes.  Follow the directions listed here:

Steps to Create Multiple QR Codes
After installing the Add-On, QR Code Generator, to your Google Sheets. Follow steps 1-6. 
1. Go to your Google Drive
2. Create a Spreadsheet and LABEL it
3. Type your words in one column
4. From the menu, Add-Ons, select QR Code Generator and click on start (remember you needed to have added (get add-ons) 
5. Highlight your column
6. Choose your options
    Save as Document
    Include value (label each of your codes)
    Draw border (lines to help you cut out the codes)
    Save as a png (creates a folder with individual codes in case you want to make an    
    activity sheet)
For more marvelous resources, visit Reimers website for tons of ideas!
Maker Space

Quick Tips for Attending #TCEA2016


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It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  TCEA is here!  Before you go, here are a few tips to help you be prepared.


Take a backpack, not a purse– No fashion bags or briefcases here.  You are carrying lots of equipment while walking at least 10,000 steps. (Wear your fitbit!)


Bring comfort– water bottle, snacks, jacket, tennis shoes, and ibuprofen. You will be walking a lot, this is not a fashion show.  Leave the dress clothes to the presenters.


Cash & extra cash– cash is faster.  Extra cash for parking.


Charge, charge, baby– not only should you bring a fully charged device, but bring an extra portable charger for your cell phone.  Don’t forget your power cord.  It is hard to find an empty outlet at times, arrive to a session early and find the seat near the outlet- it’s a prized position.


Bring Google with you– Notes for Google Drive is a great extension to have loaded for this week.  The notes stay on your browser bar, to be accessed whenever needed. Note Anywhere is another great extension that allows you to add sticky notes to the website, not the desktop.  

Download the apps– the TCEA app and the Cap Metro app are handy to have.


Business cards for networking.


Hotspot– If your phone plan comes with this feature, figure it out before you come.  The wifi is often overwhelmed.
Join in the Twitter fun at #TCEA2016.  Share your learning and find networking events.

Technology Integration

A Venture into the Square Side of Education with Minecraft


Minecraft is becoming very popular among educators.  Teachers have begun to see the many possibilities Minecraft Edu (a version with teacher controls) has to offer.  I recently won a grant to install Minecraft Edu on 24 computers at my school.  As I begin to experiment with the possibilities of teaching and learning with Minecraft Edu in the classroom, I thought I would make some notes for those that might be considering a venture into the square side.

Setting Up

  • Minecraft Edu lives on hard drive of your computer, but networks all the computers with a teacher computer.
  • Teachers have controls that allow them to control the environment the students are in.  This includes being able to freeze them, mute them, teleport them, gift them with items and enable/disable them from building.
  • There are 3 types of worlds the teacher may choose from: Minecraft Edu, Creative, and Survival.

Minecraft Edu World Option

    • Students start with no inventory
    • Students have no way to gain inventory unless you give it to them
    • Students can craft in this option

I have only experimented with Minecraft Edu world option thus far, but I can see the benefits.  My latest lesson involved third graders using Minecraft Edu world option to practice their area/perimeter skills.  When students enter the world, they default to start with no inventory and there is nothing that can be found for students to add to their inventory.  This would seem very limiting, so why is this option attractive?

For my third graders, this was a great way for them to be introduced to Minecraft Edu.  They were given a task, create a structure with a perimeter of 12.  I gave them 20 Oak blocks.  Just enough for them to make a few mistakes as they learn.  I also gave them a sign to label the area and perimeter of their structure when done.  By being able to control inventory in mathematical learning situations, you can help students to think about the reasonableness of their answers.  It also stops most of them from being off task.  If they needed more blocks, I made them present me with a valid argument as to why.  

Another great reason for students to not have an inventory- you can offer to give pieces of inventory as incentives for hard work.  When students accomplished a task, or helped a neighbor, I gifted them with inventory pieces they desired, such as glass, gold ingot, doors, etc.

Most Importantly….

Even students who have played Minecraft at home, have probably not played it on a computer.  There will be a learning curve for most students.  Make sure your first assignment is something that gives the student enough space to learn and be creative, without them worrying too much about their grade for the day.  
More adventures from learning with Minecraft coming soon.

Technology Integration

Can I Offer You an Appy Meal?

Would you like to encourage your students to be adventurous with their use of technology?  All while encouraging them to be explorers, risk- takers, and to nurture their creative talents?  You can do all of this and still teach the standards you need.  This is an “Appy Meal”.

Copy of appymealrefined

Copy of 4cswithspinnerCopy of improvedsamrpic

Teachers can create this to be a stand alone technology center or a whole class activity.  Here is the box design and resources.  See below for instructions on how to use the Appy Meal with your class.

Explore: Use this page to find suggestions of “Apps” (this term is used throughout to include websites) students can use to explore topics.  The teacher can cut these out and fill the Appy Meal with them when it is time to engage students in new learning or have them research for deeper understanding.  These apps can also be substituted with your favorites.

Create:  Use this page to find suggestions of “Apps” students can use to create products.  The teacher can cut these out and fill the Appy Meal with them when it is time for students to synthesize their learning by creating something new.Copy of apps

Resources:  The SAMR image is thanks to Sylvia Duckworth.  I made the Hello name tag on Canva.com, but you could use a real name tag.  I suggest you use one side of the box to paste directions or a QR code that has directions recorded on a voice file that will play when students scan it. The 4 C’s image can be found here.  Credit to http://runteacherrunriley.blogspot.com/  I added an old spinner from a game of Life to this image.  You could also use a paperclip and a brad.

*Author’s Note-  For the use of this box, I would suggest the Critical Thinking piece be used for students to question something they’ve learned during exploring or edit their neighbor’s work while creating.  The activity already calls for creativity, so on the Creativity piece, students can create a question to ask another student about what they learned.

Center Work

The teacher can choose to put the box in a learning center.  The teacher would decide if the apps inside the box are “Explore” apps to explore a topic they are learning about or “Create” apps to create a product about something they have already learned.  There is a die in the box for students to decide who gets a turn to draw an app out of the box first.  The student rolls the die and then draws an app out of the box.  Students then spin the spinner on the “4 C’s” and make sure they incorporate one of the “C’s” into their center work.  By each student having the additional challenge of trying to figure out a new app while still needing to achieve an objective, students are learning to become risk-takers in an environment that is supportive.

Variations on Center Work:

  • Have 2 boxes (explore and create) in the center.  Students draw from each and “smash” their apps together.
  • When doing explore pieces, each group that comes to the center could add to the knowledge of the group before.  This could be digitally or on paper.
  • If creations are posted, students could list the positives and negatives of the app they used to aid others.

Whole Class

The teacher decides to put either explore apps or create apps into the box.  Then every student in the class chooses an app out of the box.  Once everyone draws out of the box, all students will have different apps, but the same intent.  For whole class, the teacher could choose one of the “4 C’s” for the whole class to do or each student could spin for a choice of one as they draw an app.  Think of this like speed dating an app for one class period.  Have students stick with the app they chose, even if they dislike it.*  The knowledge they gain from this experience can help themselves and others in the future, not to mention it builds tenacity.

Variations on the whole class:

  • While exploring, students can add their gained knowledge to a class poster or shared document.  Teachers can make the No Repeats rule if desired.
  • Students can spend half the class exploring.  Then the teacher can reload the box with create apps and students draw from the box again.  Students spend the other half the class creating with the knowledge they gained exploring.
  • SAMR Challenge: Once a student has created a product with their app, they pass their creation to the next student who is challenged to create a product on the same topic, but one level up on the SAMR model.  If redefinition was originally reached, then the challenged student tries to reach redefinition with a different app.

*Teachers should keep in mind the objective of the lesson when choosing the apps to put in the box so that the apps are related to the content when necessary.

The Appy Meal was created to offer the classroom teacher an easy way to integrate technology without a lot of prior planning.  There are many ways to adapt these ideas to fit your classroom.  Feel free to email me your idea at 1hightechteacher@gmail.com.  I would love to present this make and take technology PD to your staff.