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.
Technology Integration

Classroom Management for a Tech Classroom

HELLO!Are you starting a new technology platform in your class? Perhaps you would like to use computers more in your class, but you just don’t know where to start. Maybe you just got handed a set of iPads and were told to get on the bandwagon. Remember when you began your teaching career?  One of the first things you had to learn was classroom management. Harry Wong was right when he said, “Effective teachers have to have a classroom management plan…”  While you need to start the year teaching your classroom management plan that you will use for daily routines, there are some things that specifically need to be taught in a class that uses technology.  Your teaching will be more effective and your classroom management will be more successful if you teach your students these ideals and skills early on:

Model how to get out and put away devices

Just like you have students practice how to line up in the hall and how to raise their hand, so too, should you have them practice the getting out and putting up of their assigned device. (Don’t forget to assign a device to each student to make tracking usage and maintenance easier.  This also builds a sense of responsibility.)  Do you want students to plug in the device after every use?  Where do ear buds go?  Stylus’?  How will students know what supplies they need that day?

Students are expected to help other students with tech needs

Sounds simple right? Wrong.  This takes training.  It takes training to wean students away from depending on the adult in the room for everything.  Students want help from the adult.  The students who can help, want approval first.  This has to all be explicitly taught.  These are the right times to help.  These are the wrong times to help.  I teach my students to help without “making a show” of it.  I also don’t reward them with anything other than thank you.  Helping someone should be its own reward.

Teach a man to fish…

It is very easy to reach over and push a button for someone.  It is far more powerful to teach the person how to do this for themselves so they never have to ask how to again.  I try to instill this in my students so they see the value in themselves as teachers, not just helpers.

Students are taught that “wandering” the internet is grounds for immediate loss of all tech privileges

It doesn’t have to be an inappropriate site.  If they were not instructed to be on that website, they have some serious explaining to do. The exception would be that there are times when students are given choice in research and presentation resources, then students are expected to be able to explain what they are doing if asked.

Students are encouraged to share what they learn about how a website or app works as they discover

My class tries new websites fairly often.  As we experience new websites or new equipment, students naturally oooooh and aaaahhh over certain features and question others.  “Why can’t I move the picture?”  “Why won’t the button click?”  “OH, look at what this does!”  I encourage my students to share both verbally and come up to the interactive board to share, so we all learn.  Give time for this discovery every time you introduce something new.  At least 5-10mn. depending on the complexity of the site.  If you are worried about this interrupting work flow, you can assign the new website as a “Tech Challenge” for early finishers or as extra credit.  Having some students in the crowd who have already experienced the new website will help facilitate the learning process.

Students are taught and reminded constantly about basic internet safety

We always watch a video on basic internet safety put out by our district in the beginning of the year.  Google has put together an assortment for teachers here:  In addition, anytime a website asks my students for their name, I quickly discuss whether it is safe to put their real name or whether they should use a fake name.  Students cannot differentiate the between websites that have safeguards like Google Classroom or Socrative with those that don’t.  I quickly point out to the student that when they were given a code by me to enter, that means it is an environment that I set up to protect them.  If the internet just asks them their name and I didn’t specifically give them a code to enter, they should NOT enter their real name.  We also talk about email and what we do with our pictures when we take them.

Students are taught how to react if they do encounter something on the internet that is inappropriate

As hard as we try to protect students, something will eventually get through firewalls that have been set-up.  I advise my students that if they see something that they feel is inappropriate, close the window immediately.  They are not to announce it to the rest of the class, they are not to make a big show of it to draw attention to something that does not need extra attention.  They are to quietly alert me so I can help them.

Students MUST self-advocate

There are always a few quiet ones.  I would not allow a student to stand up and start yelling, because this impedes learning.  Likewise, I do not allow others to sit quietly, not knowing what to do or not asking for help, as this impedes learning also.  I tell my students that there are many people in the room that can help them.  They are not allowed to sit idle and not ask for help.  This is considered misbehavior in my room.  I also constantly ask the class to “check on” their neighbors to see if they need help.

When technology does not go as planned: persevere, overcome, find another way to learn

When technology does not work, most students take this as an opportunity to become completely off task and often very loud.  This fact alone is what kept me away from using technology for a long time.  You can avoid this by engaging them in the problem solving process.  I have constant conversations with my students when technology problems arise.  I ask them to try different things to see what might fix the problem.  I involve the students in my process of solving the problem (even when I don’t know what I’m doing).  This makes students feel involved and empowered, instead of them checking out and becoming behavior problems.  When all else fails, I go to my back up plan.  Yes, there is always a back up plan.  I usually have a back up plan for the learning objective of the day and then I have a generic back up plan that would be good for anytime in that unit.

The best thing that technology has done for my classroom has shown me how amazing my students are as people.  My classroom uses technology most days of the week and experiences our ups and downs with it.  Using the ideals listed above, my students, all 135 of them, have become such an amazing family.  They overcome every technology obstacle we come up against, sometimes by discovering how to fix it for me.  The constant amount of support and collaboration that they offer each other is not something a teacher can teach.  I teach them new content and give them new ways to discover learning through technology.  What they give to each other is so much more.