How many of us are in desperate need of supplies for our classroom? Maybe you need iPads....perhaps you are looking to add some flexible seating....or you'd like to expand your classroom library? The only problem is where do we get all the money? As teachers we spend endless amounts of money setting up our classrooms to be just the right place for our kiddos to prosper. But sometimes we just don't have the money, and we know that school budgets are not very flexible. Well, I have the answer...
Donors Choose is the most AMAZING website where teachers can write grants for specific things they need in their classroom. For instance, last year I wrote a proposal for over $400 in robotics supplies for my younger students to learn how to code. Donors from all over the world can then donate and make your classroom wishes come true! The best part is the items arrive super fast! Donors Choose is my favorite way to help my classroom grow! Make sure to check on the web address above and check it out!
I have been blessed to attend and present at the NC Technology in Education Society Conference, in Raleigh, for the past few years. It is an amazing meeting of the minds where I am able to collaborate and learn from some of the most passionate people in the educational technology world. (Not to mention I get to rub elbows with some of my tech idols like Kevin Honeycutt, Brad Waid, Kathy Schrock, and Richard Byrne -- just to name a few.) This year, however, was different. It was the first time I have had the honor to bring some of my students to present at the Student Showcase. Let me just say, I was left speechless!
I took seven of my fifth grade students, who have been working on a Genius Hour project. In order to get to go to the conference, the kids had to submit proposals, just as I have to whenever I present. Those proposals were then scored using a rubric, by a committee of administrators, educators, and community members. I did this mainly to see who really WANTED it. Here are the seven!
We got to the conference early enough so that we could participate in a session or two, visit other Student Showcase presentations, and take part in the makerspace before our session started at 1. I wanted them to get the entire conference experience. They had a BLAST!
After all the morning activities, and a delicious lunch from Chick-fil-a, it was time to set up for the session. They quickly made their way to their table, got their devices up and running, laid out their "business cards" with QR codes linked to a Google Site that people could visit for more information on their projects, and they were off! I literally stood back and watched, in amazement, as my students did their thing!
The students spread themselves out across the hallway and spoke to anyone who would listen about Genius Hour! They were excited, engaged, polite and so well spoken! I was blown away at how well they handled themselves answering questions and responding to these educators from all over!
I have to say that this was by far the most rewarding NCTIES experience I have had! To see my students excel the way they did was enough to make my teacher heart burst! I had so many educators from our district, state, country, and even the NCTIES Board, come up to me and compliment my kids, asking to connect with us, take their picture with us, tweet us, and so much more! It was AMAZING! It was definitely an awesome reminder of why I do what I do! My kids were in awe as we left! They couldn't stop talking about their experience! It is definitely one that we will never forget! Check out more on my Twitter and Instagram!
To learn more about NCTIES and their annual conference, click the link below.
Visit my old blog, Trendy Tech Tips, for access to all of my older blog posts!
My technology lab is constantly changing. I am always on the lookout for new, inventive ways to, not only help my students become more productive, but to help them be comfortable in their learning environment. I want my students to WANT to be in my classroom. Probably the largest transformation that my lab has undergone is when I got rid of desktops and brought in Chromebooks. The lack of wires freed us up for incredible things!
It has taken my classroom from this.....
With no restriction from wires I was able to begin moving away from the static tables and chairs and move toward a more lounge like feel. I came across Kayla Delzer at Top Dog Teaching. Not only is she an AMAZING, INSPIRATIONAL educator, whom you should definitely follow, but she is a flexible seating guru with research to prove it! As soon as I read her Edutopia article on redesigning your classroom to meet student needs, I was hooked! I began moving out those boring old tables and chairs and replacing them with anything I could find...literally...that I thought a student may like to sit on or stand at!
My classroom is now a place of engaged, mobile learning, where the students choose where to sit. Their options include, but definitely aren't limited to stability balls, booth seats, crate seats, yoga mats, standing tables, the stage, and a comfy couch and chair that we lovingly call our "living room."
Having flexible seating allows me to put more power in the students' hands...and we all know with more power comes more responsibility! Flexible seating doesn't mean my classroom is a free for all! It's actually the exact opposite! My classroom is quite possibly more well managed than it may look from the outside! We spend the first few weeks trying out each type of seat, going over expectations, discussing what it means to be productive and figuring out how we can choose the best seat for ourselves that helps us to be productive. We have a lot of discussion on how it may not mean sitting beside your "BFF" but instead sitting somewhere where you will be the best you! It is amazing how quickly they catch on and begin finding their own little "niche!" Occasionally, we do refer back to our expectations and assess our seating choice, just to be sure we are all in a productive place. Our main rules:
It's amazing the transformation flexible seating has made on my classroom! My students are comfortable, engaged, and in control! Some walk into my room and think I'm crazy, because, let's be honest, you may see this.....
but what I see is two fifth grade boys actively engaged in what they are working on! (P.S. Who needs shoes when you're working so hard!?!)
I have, for the past few years, been a HUGE fan of Hope King, from the Ron Clark Academy, and her AMAZING room transformations! I decided that, this year, I was going to try it out myself.
So, in October I turned my room into a bat cave!
Let me just say, my students and I are IN LOVE with transforming the lab!
To create the cave, I completely covered my room with black plastic table cloths (97 cents at Walmart). I hung a really cool moon, that I bought from Target that lights up and shows the different phases, on my wall and I filled my room with the sound of bats using the SmartBoard. Throughout the week all of my grade levels completed lessons focused on bats. It was AMAZING! My students have never been more engaged! Because it was obviously very dark in the cave, I had a lantern that the kids could use if they were having trouble seeing. In hindsight, I believe that if I do this again I will get some cheap head lamps so that each kid will have one.
So I loved the bat cave so much that I decided to transform my room into the North Pole for the last two weeks before Christmas. This time I hung icicle lights all around the inside of my room and covered the walls with blue plastic table cloths....the lighting was BEAUTIFUL! Next I add some fluffy, white snow, some flocked tree limbs and snowflakes.....EVERYWHERE! (Let's just say I'm a fire marshall's nightmare...but it's all about the kids, right?) Because the back of my room is complete windows and I have blue, green, and pink curtains, the light shining through makes it look like the Northern Lights.
Both times I have done a transformation, I have made sure that all of my lessons are focused on and built around my room. In the bat cave all grade levels did some type of bat research or activity. As for the North Pole transformation our lessons were a little more whimsical. For example, the third graders have been hired as Santa's new Reindeer Caretakers and must complete a training course filled with research, close reading, and coding to get their first paycheck!
My lessons are really the same that I would do without the transformation, but working in another place just makes the lessons SO MUCH BETTER! The transformations can be as simple or as complex as you'd like and they make a huge difference! So what are you waiting for??
Raise your hand if you like worksheets....Ok, now if you raised your hand please leave. (Just kidding, please don't leave....you definitely need to hear this!)
"Worksheets" is a four letter word in my classroom. They are boring and serve, from what I have seen, absolutely no purpose other than to keep our students busy....or serve as a heating element if the power happens to go out.
But seriously, worksheets are the absolute opposite of engagement! So, my thoughts are, if we don't use worksheets to learn, why in the world would we use them to assess? I mean "HELLO?!"
So, I've gotten a handy, dandy little list of FREE tools you can use in a jiffy to assess your students with no paper or pencil required!
Here it goes:
This is one of my absolute favorites! It's an assessment tool that can be done on any device! (This is a good opportunity for those BYOD people who may not be too comfortable with the whole BYOD thing yet!) Kahoots can be created quickly using multiple choice questions. Students use a game pin to enter the game and can work individually or as a team, which can be fun! You are shown a graph after each question to discuss and there's a leaderboard, which the kids LOVE! Your kids can even create their own Kahoots, which means you can assess them on assessing others without them knowing it....WHAT?!
Besides being super fun to say, this site is very similar to Kahoot. These assessments can be done on any device. However, one difference is that students can work at their own pace with these. Instead of having to wait on everyone to answer the question and discuss, students can move on along and the discussion can wait until the end of the assessment.
This is another great tool with lots of different ways to assess. Teachers can send out quick T/F questions, multiple choice quizzes, polls or even a space race game, with the click of a button! It can be used as a fun exit ticket, where the teacher can see in real time what the students are answering!
So, now that you've seen some awesome alternatives to paper and pencil assessments, what are you waiting for? Get your students so engaged with this fun tools that they won't even know they are learning, let alone being assessed! (Queue evil teacher laugh....)