The Latest with Kindergarten

Note: This year I am blogging weekly reflections at my school site (weskids.com) in order to provide more transparency in my teaching for parents, students, and the community (local and global). I will be cross-posting most of the entries here at Bit By Bit as well. You can see the original posts at the “Reflections by Mr. S” blog.

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It’s been a while since I’ve written about Kindergarten, so I’m dedicating this week’s reflection to let you know some of the great things happening with them in Computer.

To start, most classes have recently learned the “3 Before Me” rule. This class expectation has students trying to find at least 3 students to ask for help before they ask an adult. Usually, the student sitting right next to them knows the answer and so this helps teach students to “take control of their own learning.” Many students are already using this skill.

Last time I wrote about Kindergarten classes, we were spending time at the wonderful site, starfall.com. We returned to it for several weeks and will visit it again later in the year. Again, it’s an excellent resource for your student at home.

Hopefully you’ve all heard your scholar sing “The Primary Color” song (we have a really “silly” way to sing one of the parts of the song, and students love performing it). They learned this song during our Primary Color unit, which reinforced concepts that they were learning in Art. We used some great sites to figure out how to mix primary colors to make secondary colors (you can find these and other lessons on the weskids.com website).

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Students worked on “Counting,” or more specifically, recognizing groups of numbers. I am absolutely stunned by the expertise this group of Kindergarten students showed with this skill compared to years past. It clearly shows that the changes we’ve made as a school in our Math curriculum have given Kindergarten students a stronger foundation for number sense.

Students worked on a lesson that required them to “Follow Directions.” They worked with a game where they had to listen to a sequence of things they needed to click on in a specific order to uncover a “bug.” The site is called “Buggy Trail” at “Tina’s World.”

Students are currently working on “Number Sequence” by putting numbers in correct order.

As always, we end each class with a book and have continued to enjoy more Mo Willems (http://amzn.to/1fxFOQG) along with the Olivia series by Ian Falconer (http://amzn.to/1dQ7qK5).

 

Things to do at home with your student:

  • Go on weskids.com and ask him/her to show you the lessons that we’ve done.
  • When using the Counting games, challenge your scholar to see if she/he can also put the numbers in order by doing it “backwards” (for example, with the Laundry Shirt game, I asked them to also put the LARGEST number on first—on the RIGHT SIDE of the clothing line—and work their way backwards.
  • Ask them if they still remember what Primary Colors are combined to make Secondary Colors.

 

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Reporting Time

Note: This year I am blogging weekly reflections at my school site (weskids.com) in order to provide more transparency in my teaching for parents, students, and the community (local and global). I will be cross-posting most of the entries here at Bit By Bit as well. You can see the original posts at the “Reflections by Mr. S” blog.

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In a few weeks, Report Cards will be coming home. I wanted to remind you that your student will not be receiving a grade in Computer, but you will instead see a summary of the Standards & Skills that each grade level has been working on so far this year. Grades 1 to 4 will again be self-assessing (as they did in preparation for conferences) and will meet individually with me (over the coming weeks) to go over these self-assessments. I will check in with the skills that students have identified as “mastered,” as well as those that they don’t think they’ve met yet, and then sign off on their Assessment. A copy of this will then be sent home to you.

Since classes are all in different stages of learning (i.e., one 1st Grade class might be in Unit 9, while another is still working on Unit 8), the students’ Self Assessments will be coming home at different times, throughout the latter part of this month and February. It will take time for students to finish projects, complete their assessments, and also to meet with me. Chances are, most classes will be bringing their Assessments home after Report Cards come home, and I wanted to make you aware of this.

You can click on the .pdf files below for your student’s Self-Assessment that they will be bringing home, so you’ll know what to expect.

Also, all lessons are posted on www.weskids.com along with my weekly blog reflections, so you’ll be able to go over the work we’ve done so far with your student at home. If you’d like even more information, please don’t hesitate to set up a Student/Parent/Teacher conference in which your student can show you their work here at school.

Assessments:

Things you can do at home with your students:

  • Go over the assessments together (links above) prior to their filling them out at school and ask them if they think they’ve mastered a skill or not.
  • Ask them to show you some of the skills that they’ve mastered if you have a computer at home.
  • Review the lessons (on weskids.com “Lab Lessons”) with them and ask them what they remember learning during each Unit.
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4th Grade: Creators

Note: This year I am blogging weekly reflections at my school site (weskids.com) in order to provide more transparency in my teaching for parents, students, and the community (local and global). I will be cross-posting most of the entries here at Bit By Bit as well. You can see the original posts at the “Reflections by Mr. S” blog.

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It looks like a busy Movie/Publishing/Photography/Writing house in the Computer Lab these days for 4th graders. Many classes are entering the phase where they get to choose their medium for their final project for the “Many Ways to Tell a Story” Integrated CORE project. The three choices are as follows:

  • Work with a group and create a Movie Trailer that focuses on an aspect of what students did or learned during the project.
  • Add to a book where students take photos of the Masks they made for their projects, talk about what emotion they were trying to portray with their mask (and how they set about to do that), and what they did during the dancing to express that emotion with their bodies.
  • Take a photo of their Mask (or something else that captures the emotion that they were going for in their performance), digitally manipulate that photo and write a Cinquain Poem to accompany it.

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Some students are working in groups and some are working solo (depending on what project they’ve chosen). Everyone is highly invested and amazing ideas are being born. This is the first time I’ve offered 3 choices to students for presenting their final work. I was a bit nervous at first, but the groups are working hard and staying on task. Their work will be published at different times, depending on when groups finish.

This experience has reinforced the idea that if students have choices in how they display their learning, the more invested they will be. They continue to move into more independent learning, relying less on the teacher, and gaining more confidence in their skills.

Some students are getting so excited about the tools and skills they are learning that they are starting to ask where else in the curriculum these tools could be used for learning. For instance, one group is currently working with Ms. Calo in Physical Education to write some “commercials” about her curriculum and the learning that takes place in PE. Another group has already written letters to Mr. Spinney to ask how they can help use these tools to assist him in preparing for our CORE Values Assemblies.

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Things you can do at home with your student:

  • Ask your student which choice she/he has chosen for his/her final project and why.
  • Ask them to describe the new skills they’ve learned with the iPads.
  • Ask them what struggles and successes they are having in creating their projects.
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Grade 2 Review and the Importance of “COMMAND F”

Note: This year I am blogging weekly reflections at my school site (weskids.com) in order to provide more transparency in my teaching for parents, students, and the community (local and global). I will be cross-posting most of the entries here at Bit By Bit as well. You can see the original posts at the “Reflections by Mr. S” blog.

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2nd Grade students have been busy over the past month! They’ve finished their Internet Safety Poster and learned how to publish them to the web (you can see them HERE). In order to publish, they had to learn the skills of saving, naming the file correctly when saving, taking a screenshot to capture the image (you can see a Tutorial of how to that HERE), how to publish to the Padlet Wall on our website, and also how to delete the screenshot when they were finished.

Students have also been working on Keyboard Climber which helps them to become skilled in finding where the letters are on the keyboard. The correct way to play this game is to use both hands and make sure that any letters that appear on the left hand side of the screen are taken care of by the left hand, and any on the right hand side are typed with the right hand.

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Students continue to write poetry and read other students’ published poetry on our “WESKids Poetry Wall“. If you haven’t been there in a while, check it out! You’ll be amazed at how many great poems have been written. There are so many poems, that students needed to learn the all-important keyboard command, COMMAND F for FIND. This skill is essential when students have to sift through a webpage with lots of information on it. For instance, for a student to easily find his/her poem to share with you, he/she would have to use the COMMAND F command in order to quickly sort through all the other poems; otherwise, it would take forever.

An important part of our students’ learning as they go forward in life, is to be able to learn independently in a myriad of situations. One change that has already been happening with our older students, and will continue to increase, is that many learning experiences happen Online. I believe that by the time these 2nd graders get to high school, they will be taking at least one to two classes online, or at least certainly will be by the time they enter college. In preparation, I use some online tutorial sites where the student has to log in, listen carefully to the recorded instructor, understand how to get help from the online tools, and gain confidence in figuring things out independently. I use a site from PearsonSuccess to help accomplish this. 2nd graders are finishing a center where they’ve learned through online instruction on how to use and understand the parts of a website.

Students have continued working with the iPads in order to strengthen their “mental math” addition skills with a game called, Addition Number Top-It.

Lastly, students have been practicing their editing skills with a site where they have to recognize errors in a sentence (mostly spelling) and then correct it. The important thing that I stress with them is that recognizing that a word is spelled wrong is a very powerful skill — even if they don’t know how to spell it correctly (yet). Recognizing that a word is spelled wrong is the first step in solving “the problem.”

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Things you can do at home with your students:

  • Ask them to show you the lessons described above. They can continue to work on them at home.
  • Ask them why I gave them the chance to learn something from an online, recorded tutor rather than from direct instruction from me. Ask them if they liked this type of learning. Ask them if they believe that they’ll be taking courses online in the future.
  • Take them to a webpage that has tons of information and ask them to show you the power of COMMAND F!
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3rd and Multi 3/4 Grade Internet Safety Comic Posters

Note: This year I am blogging weekly reflections at my school site (weskids.com) in order to provide more transparency in my teaching for parents, students, and the community (local and global). I will be cross-posting most of the entries here at Bit By Bit as well. You can see the original posts at the “Reflections by Mr. S” blog.

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The 3rd and Multi 3/4 Grades are wrapping up their “Internet Safety Poster” projects that they’ve been working on for the past month. Created in a program called, “Comic Life,” (http://plasq.com/products/comiclife3/mac) they learned many technology skills, reinforced proper online safety rules, as well as received an introduction into copyright issues.
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Students were supported by direct instruction and then were able to revisit the main skills through video tutorials (http://weskids.com/tutorials/tag/comic-life/) if they needed to relearn major concepts. Among many of the technology skills learned were: how to copy and paste an image from one application to another; how to move easily from one application to another (using Keyboard Commands); how to create an attractive and “balanced” page layout; how to remember to constantly SAVE! (using the keyboard command: “CMD S”); how to change text, images, and other layout features by using “Styles;” how to EXPORT their files; and how to publish them on the web.

In using images in their projects, students were supplied with three image sites that give full permission for student usage of their images without needing attribution (students will learn the importance of how to cite a source at a later time). In providing these sites, we discussed how we don’t have the right to take an image from a website and republish it on the web without getting permission from the owner or creator. Many students were not aware of this prior to our lesson, and in recent workshops that I’ve conducted with adults, I found that many adults are also not aware of this important rule.

I will soon follow up with another lesson that examines Copyright issues with 3rd and 4th grade students.

You can start to check out Internet Safety Posters that are constantly being completed and published HERE (http://padlet.com/wall/comiclifeposters).

Things you can do at home with your students:

  • Ask students to explain to you what they learned about using images on the web and what they know about Copyright.
  • Ask students to tell you how using the medium of a Comic is a different way to tell a story than a song, or a movie, or a commercial.
  • Ask students how they were able to create a single poster in a small group setting.
  • Ask students to point out what makes their comic “professional” (once theirs is published).
  • Though I am always looking for FREE alternatives to software, you might consider purchasing a copy of Comic Life for an upcoming holiday gift. It is an excellent piece of software that provides a powerful motivator for students to write and create. Think of this: if your student wrote one Comic Life page everyday, at the end of the year, he/she would have a 365 page Graphic Novel that he/she could publish!
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Seedlings @ Bit By Bit Podcast: Show #134


Seedlings @ Bit by Bit Podcast: Show 134
November 27, 2013

We talk about the “Hour of Code!”

You can watch our Talking Heads on YouTube below, listen to the podcast, or subscribe to our Podcast Channel.


Links from the show:

“Geek of the Week” Links for 11/27/13

 

Music:

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Who’s In Control?

Note: This year I am blogging weekly reflections at my school site (weskids.com) in order to provide more transparency in my teaching for parents, students, and the community (local and global). I will be cross-posting most of the entries here at Bit By Bit as well. You can see the original posts at the “Reflections by Mr. S” blog.

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“Social media attention training requires understanding your goals and priorities (intentions), and involves asking yourself, at regular intervals, whether your current activity at any moment moves you closer to your goal or serves your higher priorities (attention)… [M]indful use of social media begins with noticing when your attention has wandered, and then gently bringing it back to focus on your highest priority.”

Rheingold, Howard; Weeks, Anthony (2012-02-24). Net Smart (p. 247). MIT Press. Kindle Edition.

You might have heard from your scholar that I’ve started introducing a “mindfulness bell” in classes. If your child has not been taught about the bell yet, don’t worry… they will get it soon.

The idea for the mindfulness bell came to me after reading Howard Rheingold’s outstanding book, Net Smart: How to Thrive Online (http://amzn.to/1bIOIGE). Rheingold is seen as a “Cyber Pioneer” and has studied, written about, and influenced life “online” since “life online” became a reality (the term “virtual community” is attributed to Rheingold and his book by the same title). In short, Rheingold’s been around for a long time and is undoubtedly, an expert on technology’s influences and impacts.

A major part of Net Smart examines an essential question: with all the distractions that computers and the Internet offer, who’s in control? In other words, are we running the computer, or is it running us?

Technology is ubiquitous and demands a lot of our attention. It is difficult to escape its distracting grasp to the degree that many adults I know have difficulty getting their work done because they’re always checking their Facebook stream, or their email, of their Twitter feed, etc. I myself am not immune to this dilemma, but after reading Rheingold’s book, I’ve taken an inventory in how much I use technology and have implemented routines to help keep its use in a healthy balance with the rest of my life.

In using the mindfulness bell, this is what I am trying to do for our students. The children in our school have never known a world without computers. Many of them come from parents who had childhoods without a computer or similar technology in their lives at such a young age. It wasn’t until later in life, for many of us, when the Tech Boom exploded and became a larger presence in our lives. No one taught us as children how to manage the inherent distractions that accompany technology.

Motivated by Rheingold’s book, I am attempting to help our students be in control of their technology use. When I ring the bell, all students stand and have many options to take a 2 minute break: stretching, breathing, closing their eyes, jogging in place, etc. Students must get out of their chair because one thing that they might not have been “mindful” of is their posture (when we use computers, we’re in our “head” and tend to forget about body posture unless we train ourselves to do so).

No matter what break choice the students end up picking, we ask for silence and I remind the students to be asking a question in their heads: “Am I in control or is the computer in control?” This question leads to more questions. For instance, “Have I been on the computer too long?” “Am I focused on the work that I’m supposed to be doing?” “Am I breathing?” (in Rheingold’s book he reports on a phenomenon where people actually stop breathing while they are reading an email! I’m hoping students are making sure they’re breathing when playing a difficult game!) “Am I sitting properly?” “Do my eyes need a break?” etc.

I hope in doing this at school at a young age, students will start to incorporate these strategies at home and throughout their lives. Technology is awesome, but balancing it with the rest of our world is essential.

Here are a few more interesting quotes from Rheingold’s book:

“[S]tart paying attention to the way you pay attention.”

Rheingold, Howard; Weeks, Anthony (2012-02-24). Net Smart (p. 36). MIT Press. Kindle Edition.

 

“When you are online, how often do you control your own focus— and how frequently do you allow it to be captured by peripheral stimuli?”

Rheingold, Howard; Weeks, Anthony (2012-02-24). Net Smart (p. 42). MIT Press. Kindle Edition.

And one that is especially worrisome in these days of technological distraction:

“University of Utah researchers found that drivers who talked on a cell phone— just talked, not texted— were as impaired in driving simulation tests as subjects with blood-alcohol levels close to the legal limit.”

Rheingold, Howard; Weeks, Anthony (2012-02-24). Net Smart (p. 45). MIT Press. Kindle Edition.

Mindfulness Bell
Mindfulness Bell

Things you can do at home with your students:

  • Ask them if they’ve had a class where I’ve introduced the mindfulness bell yet. What do they think of it?
  • Ask them to reflect on the amount of time they spend with technology. Do they think they have a good balance with other things in their lives?
  • If they (or you) think it’s not in balance, ask them what they think could be done to get it more in balance. Here’s a great article about “Screen Time” from commonsensemedia.org: http://bit.ly/lEibWJ
  • I believe that just as we talk to students about not smoking when they’re younger (so they don’t when they’re older), we should also be talking to students about the risks of texting (and cell phone distraction) while driving while they are still young (and listen to us!).

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References:
Rheingold, Howard. Net smart: how to thrive online. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012. Print.

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1st Grade and Multi 1/2 “Fall Festival Integrated Leaf Project”

Note: This year I am blogging weekly reflections at my school site (weskids.com) in order to provide more transparency in my teaching for parents, students, and the community (local and global). I will be cross-posting most of the entries here at Bit By Bit as well. You can see the original posts at the “Reflections by Mr. S” blog.

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You might remember that 1st and Multi 1/2 grade students took a lovely “Leaf Walk” back in October with the CORE team to collect leaves. Their collection of leaves is part of the “Fall Festival Integrated Unit,” shared between CORE classes and their own classrooms. You can see our Standards for the unit HERE: (http://bit.ly/1gNs7fS). For the past few Units, students have been working on Tallying and Bar Graphs with their classroom teachers as well as with me in Computer.

Tally Chart

We started the study in Computer by using a great lesson (free!) from Brain Pop Jr on “Tally Charts and Bar Graphs,” which can be found HERE (http://bit.ly/9Lk3XG). Then students brought in the tally charts they created in their classrooms and used the program, KidPix to represent their data in bar graph form.

Brain Pop Jr.

I made the template that you see below, but students had to type their own names in and use the “bucket” tool to create their key and graphs. When finished, students drew a picture to accompany the theme of the data collected.

As you can see by the examples below, there were two different templates students had to choose from. In one template, the numbers range from 1 to 12, and in the other template, the numbers count by 5′s in order to reach 60. Students had to decide which template would best fit their data. Those that had a large collection of leaves, for example, and had to choose the “60″ template, needed to not only count by “fives” but also decide whether to “round up” or “round down” their numbers.

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Things you can do at home with your students:

  • Over the next few weeks, you should see your student’s tally charts and bar graphs come home. Ask him/her the differences in how their data was represented with both forms. Which did they like better? Which one is easier for them to read?
  • What did their class find: were there more Maple, Birch, or Oak leaves collected on the walk?
  • Ask them to tell you what they did in the other CORE classes as well as their home room that connected with the Leaf Project.
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