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.
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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
    Size
    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!
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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.

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Maker Space

5 Things You Can Do When Your Tech Lesson Crashes

goblins

I often joke with my class that there must be technology goblins that exist in my classroom.  All systems seem to be working fine and then out of nowhere, nothing will work the way it should.  These sudden episodes in the middle of a lesson can completely destroy all learning and create a chaotic atmosphere.  In order to be better prepared for when the technology goblins come for your computer or whatever technology mishap might come your way, here are some tips for any teacher:

Always have a plan B

B is for back-up plan, but this doesn’t mean a basic plan or a generic plan.  When planning lessons, ask yourself, “What will I do if my technology lesson does not succeed?”  Another website may be the answer you need, but I advise always having something that will work without technology.  You need to have something that will teach the same standards you originally planned for, so a minimal amount of learning time is lost.  An activity or worksheet over the same subject or teaching the same skill should be written into the lesson plan as a safety net.

I usually have a plan C too, this is a more generic lesson that focuses on a recurring standard.  A cache of dry erase boards and strategic use of graphic organizers can always come in handy here.

Keep a list of a few websites that serve a general function instead of a specific purpose-

When your original website goes down, use a website that can serve a basic purpose so you can quickly adjust your lesson and the learning can continue.  Here is a short list:

  • http://www.voki.com/– Inspire kids to write those reports by letting them design their own character to give the report when they are done.
  • https://www.smore.com/app/dashboard– Make virtual posters that can be as simple or complex as you want.
  • https://padlet.com/– A virtual corkboard where everyone can post their messages for everyone else to see.
  • https://popplet.com/– Graphic organizers your students create and share.
  • https://www.thinglink.com/– A picture is worth a thousand words- use this site to have students create visually interesting reports.
  • http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/– This site makes short comic strips.
  • Google Docs- Like Microsoft Word, but SO much better.
  • Google Slides- Like Microsoft Power Point, but SO much better.
  • Google Draw- Import pictures, label them, draw, and write.
  • Google Maps- Not just for geography, if it happens on Earth you can use this website.

Ask students how they would like to represent their learning

When the technology goblins visit you in the middle of a lesson, you may be left with few resources at your disposal.  It is at times like this that you can try something truly original: ask your students to decide for themselves how they would like to represent their learning.  They may surprise you with a skit, informational trading cards or a new creation all their own.

Ask students what they can learn from the technology problem that is happening

When you take the technology problem happening in your class and relate it to the outside world, students can easily see why it is important to learn how to correctly handle these situations.  What if all the traffic lights went out at the same time? What if your plane was about to leave, but you were stuck behind all the traffic lights?  Resourcefulness, patience, perseverance, and ingenuity can all be taught with hypothetical situations like these during this time.

Ask students if they know how to fix the technology problem

More students teach me how to fix my tech problems, than I have ever solved by myself.  Do not discount their knowledge, instead, challenge them to be the first one to figure out the solution!

The main point is, technology integration is not a science.  It is a daring art.  You must dare to try new programs and new situations with students who may be new to technology or as a teacher who may be uncomfortable with technology.  Random events will happen that you cannot explain, control, or fix.  Students are amazingly adaptable to every situation.  If they see that the teacher takes setbacks with a grain of salt, they too, will learn to breath easy when technology does not go right.  One of the most valuable lessons you can teach is to be calm in a stressful situation.  Teaching students perseverance in the face of adversity is worth a few visits by the technology goblins.

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Teaching, Technology Integration

The Mindset You Need for Tech Integration

Using technology in the classroom is a little bit about skill, and a lot about being a daring tight rope walker on a high wire.  It has incredible thrills and engagement for all, when it works. But when it doesn’t……. your fall from on high can resemble falling off the high wire and into elephant poo.  Most of using technology in the classroom is planned out and prepared for during instructional preparation.  For this reason, technology use should not be a risky proposition.  However, we all know too well that computers are unpredictable.  Screens freeze, the internet goes down, servers become overwhelmed, and let’s face it- something I can only call tiny computer goblins often take over.  For all of these reasons, your regular type A plan-everything personality, may find many situations in a technology classroom unsettling.  In order for technology integration to work, you must adopt a certain mindset.  The thinking goes something like this:

  • Something will go wrong everyday and it will be ok
  • From each failure will come an instance of learning for you and your students
  • Each day will come with unexpected rewards in tiny ways
  • You didn’t become a teacher just to teach content
  • Good teaching can happen no matter what or where
  • You are NOT the most knowledgeable thing in the classroom, you are a talented education facilitator
  • Student collaboration is essential to the environment
  • If you must choose between believing if it was student error or computer error, give your student the benefit of the doubt
  • Your students may be able to fix your tech problem

Your mindset is always an integral part of your classroom.  You are adding an unpredictable element, technology, to your classroom upon which your instruction and your students’ learning relies.  The way you mentally approach technology integration in your classroom will make it or break it for you and for your students.  Remember: the learning process should be enjoyable for all with or without technology.  I truly hope your daring tight rope walk is an incredible success enjoyed by all.

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Teaching

If you can’t beat em……


I can’t compete with TV and video game systems, so I don’t!  The old saying, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, seems highly applicable in this day and age of teaching.

Students receive most of their information from digital sources.  They are colorful, inviting, and do a much better job of informing that any one single person can probably do.  What I can only explain to my students with a few pictures and my limited knowledge, the internet can paint a picture, sing a song and do a dance.  So why try to compete with this?

Teachers should use media sources to inspire students to become inquirers.  Too long has the adult in the classroom been the sole information provider.  Instead, the teacher should be the crafter of a trail of learning that focuses on leading the learner down an orchestrated path of ever greater rigor whilst constantly being engaged.

Once teachers get past being threatened by mass media as a classroom tool, they can begin to see how much it has to offer.  I know of a teacher who still says,” Well in your class they get to watch movies, but in my class they actually have to read.  That’s why students aren’t doing as well in my class.”  This is a teacher who has not yet realized how to capitalize on the digital world.

An example might best illustrate my point:

Do NOT teach students first!  If you truly want their interest, show them a video clip of the subject matter for the day first.  A science concept, a book trailer, colonization of Central America by Spain, something just long enough to make the students have questions.  Don’t answer any questions.  When they are done watching, tell them the most amazing part is yet to come.  Hand them a one to two page article over the same topic, but with more information.  Inform students they will need to know the details of what they are reading about for an activity they are doing afterward.  You can offer them highlighters, post-its, or put the article in a Google Doc and have them take notes online.  When finished reading, mix students into groups so they can share the information they gathered from their reading.  This ensures there are no holes in their learning due to their reading ability.  If you feel compelled to clear up misconceptions, do this after groups have shared with one another.  Now they use any number of digital resources to synthesize their learning.  Here are a few of my favorite that have to do with video since that is the focus of this post:

  • annotate.net lets teachers explain and see students explain by drawing on their computers with voice over actions
  • animoto will string photos and video clips together into something that looks like art
  • screen-cast-o-matic will record a student’s voice over whatever is on the computer screen, have students do some research and present in this unique way
  • goanimate.com  students create a talking cartoon to show what they learned
  • video camera from any device- students create paper cut outs of main ideas and slide them under the video camera as they explain each part

Offer other links in case students would like to find more information for their project.  You would be surprised how many will be moved to inquire further.

Follow my blog to learn about other helpful classroom tools and ideas on how to implement them.

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