IB, IB Exhibition, Inquiry-Based, Student Choice, Student-Led Conferences

Student-Led Conferences during IB Exhibition

For the past two years, I’ve had students present their IB portfolios during our Exhibition time. This year, I included a full student-led conference to the portfolio reviews.

 

The students worked hard selecting the items for their portfolios, although some things– their summative assessments from each unit — were mandatory. They included a table of contents with each unit listed, things we had learned within the unit, and a self reflection/evaluation. We also included some data tracking sheets, and our Fall to Spring MAP scores.  I created this editable Google Doc which includes:

Portfolio Checklist
Day-of Checklist
Teacher & Self Reflection
Parent Goals
Student Goals

 

Students start these portfolios in kindergarten and add to them each year. It is really neat to see all of their work from the last five years. Since 4th grade is the end of PYP at my school, after Exhibition, the students get to take their portfolios home. They will get new ones next year for MYP.

 

In class, I created a Smart Notebook lesson that matches the Student-Led Conference Checklist. The students will practice with a friend today, and then walk through their portfolios with their parents tomorrow. We will watch this YouTube video before we practice. There are many other helpful videos about student-led conferences on YouTube.

Now, more about Exhibition. Students have been working hard to research a man-made system. From there, the researched communities or organizations that existed within that system. Then, they looked into problem that existed in that organization. Finally they took action in some way to help with this problem. (Find my other blogs about Exhibition below.) 

IMG_1827

I know parents might not know what to expect or what types of questions to answer. I created a few questions that they can pull out of a cup during Conferences and Exhibition if they get stuck. I also created this Agenda/What to Expect form for the parents and sent it out a few days prior. This year, it will be held on a half-day and the students dismiss at 11:00 am. I will update this post after tomorrow’s conferences!

 

Exhibition I         Exhibition II        Exhibition III 

Digital Teaching Resources, Flexible Content, Student Choice, Uncategorized

Managing Book Clubs in a Digital Classroom

I have been focusing on student choice this year. This was easiest for me to start with in reading. I have six IB units that I teach each year and always match a novel up to each of the units. This year, I started giving the students a choice between two novels. I was shocked when I did an initial survey, that the groups were almost dead even. I did this again for my second novel, and then I got all crazy and let them choose from three novels. Again, the groups were about 1/3 of the class. I had to move one or two students but I made sure to give them their second choice if they did not get their first choice. (I attached a brief description of the novels in Google Classroom and then sent them a Google Form letting them tell me their preference.)

book club

We have been using the College of William and Mary’s GT book Patterns of Change to teach literature and language arts this year. I am using their literature web, and change matrix along with the normal plot maps, character traits, predictions, and connections (text-to-self, text-to-text, text-to-world) that most teachers would use when doing a novel study. My students have worked on these in smaller chunks all year, and I would not give this entire packet without working on each of these elements previously. (I am typing this blog in March, and only now do I feel like my students are ready.) You can find my digital resource for Book Clubs here. I share the slideshow with one member of each club, who in turn, shares the file with his/her group with editing rights.

Rules of Book Club:

  • Four students to a “club”.
  • Students choose their roles.
    (A coin flip may be used to settle disputes, but the results are final.)
  • Students create the schedule.
    (For our first book club, I assigned them five chapters of their novel a week, but I’ve seen other teachers give their students the end date of the entire novel and is up to the students to get it completed.)
  • Students are still responsible for their own comprehension questions.
  • Groups meet as often or as little as they want.
    (Some groups in my class like to read the novel together and then come up with predictions, theme, etc together (ie one chapter a day). Other groups preferred to do the reading at home, and come together during class for deeper discussions about the novel. I am okay with either set-up.)
  • Each member of the group is responsible for typing on their slides only.
    (The answers to the questions, though, should be discussed collaboratively.)
  • Students will assess their peers at the end of each week.

So far, this has gone well. The majority of groups got straight to work, and if they assigned themselves chapters to read at home, everyone came back prepared. Time management has been an issue for my class all year. I am hoping by chunking this (five chapters a week…ie one chapter a day), the students will stay on track. If it continues going well, I will use the clubs again with my last novel study (Civil War) in about a month. I also made these simple book marks so the kids could keep track of their “job” and take notes while reading.

Digital Citizenship, Digital Teaching Resources, Flexible Content, Flipped Classroom, Math Rotations, Personalized Learning, Uncategorized

Flipped Classroom

I have been intrigued with the Flipped Classroom for a while. (The general idea is the reverse of the traditional learning environment: delivering instructional content like videos, primary source documents, reading assignments– outside of the classroom. It moves activities, including those that may have traditionally been considered homework, like discussion questions, projects, and activities based on the readings for school.) This video is a great overview.

IMG_4114

At the beginning of the year, I promised my kids and parents that I wouldn’t assign homework. I was nervous to try flipping my classroom because I was afraid there would be backlash when I started sending work home. I think I will fully embrace the flipped classroom next year, but for now I’m experimenting with the “in-class flip.”

It was easiest for me to start thinking about flipping my reading and math lessons. I created this choice board with different activities for the students to work on (their choice) while I pulled small groups for differentiated instruction. My students all went straight for the games, and not much else.

Version Two: This math choice board works so much better! There are three choices in dark blue. The students must complete two days in the dark boxes, before moving to the lighter boxes. They spend two days in the medium blue boxes (or they can go back to dark blue). Finally, they can choose the game on Friday or any of the previous activities. I made a similar version for reading but is a little more flexible.

This took a bit of time…I had to link up the videos, Padlet boards, skill sheets, etc., but once they are created, I’ll have them for years. Another issue is that YouTube is blocked at my school. I had to link up BrainPop! videos (students have passwords for this site), and explained that the other videos can be watched at home.  While it’s not a full “Flip” it is definitely a start. Here are the links to my Padlets. It’s so easy to make your own.

  • Padlet Examples:

          Social Studies
          Science
         Reading
          Math

Here are some additional resources that have helped me or that I have created to help others in my building.

Late Work, Missing Work

Maximizing Efficiency for Collecting Late or Missing Work

I found myself giving the students a mini-lecture on time management and turning things in on time, for the umpteenth time this year. I stated, “I WILL NOT be hunting you down for missing assignments at the end of this quarter.” A hand shot up. “Mrs. Biggs, you say that every quarter. Maybe you should write it down somewhere so you’ll remember.”

And with that, I knew I had to get more organized with keeping track of late and missing assignments. What this sweet, unassuming student had said, stung. It was the truth, and I knew it.

A note about my organization: If you’ve seen my classroom, you will know I have sticky notes all over my desk; to-do lists, reminders, usernames and passwords (I know, I know, not the smartest idea!) But ever since my daughter was born, my brain has literally turned to mush. And when I lost my calendar/planner last month, I knew things had to change. (I buy the same calendar every year because I like the monthly view.) That thing has every important date, phone number, field trip contact, children’s dentist appointments, and yes, a handful of sticky notes in there, so I was desperate when it was gone. It was time to get organized and maximize efficiency.

 

One other thing you should know…I love binders. I have a binder for absent students to check with all their missing work inside for when they return. I have a binder for checking out books from my class library. I have a binder for each student neatly organized at the beginning of the year. This has streamlined my procedures. There is no more “Did I miss anything?” obnoxious questions when a student returns to school after an absence. I just point to the binder. There is no “I swear I didn’t check out that book,” when it turns up missing mid-year. The binder doesn’t lie. So, when I thought about all the missing work, I immediately thought, “How can I make a binder?”

IMG_8220

I had watched a movie recently about a person getting fired, so I came up with the idea of a pink slip. I mentioned in a previous blog that I use Instagram to follow some amazing teachers to get ideas from them. Ya’ll know I like to borrow and steal. I happened upon Fantastically Fourth Grade‘s Insta post “Teacher Tip Thursday” about her easy way to communicate when you’re sending work home to complete.

IMG_8206

Since I told the students and parents at the beginning of the year that I do not actually assign homework, I had heard from parents that their children were refusing to do missing assignments at home because, “Mrs. Biggs said we don’t have homework.” While that is partially true, (I do not send home an arbitrary math or spelling worksheet), I do expect some assignments, especially missing and late assignments to be completed at home.

Screen Shot 2018-01-17 at 8.30.52 PM

In comes the Pink Slip Binder. I created my own version of the slip posted by FFG. I wanted a place for the student’s name and assignment to be written down, as well as the check boxes for whether it was a digital or paper and pencil assignment. At the end of each day, I look for missing work on Google Classroom. I hand the student a pink slip, then write their name, the date, and the assignment in the binder log. I told the class, I will put a zero in the grade book and that will only change when they turn in the missing assignment AND the pink slip signed by an adult. We had several snow days last week and only three actual days of school. But by the end of that short week, I only handed out two pink slips (and one was for an absent student.) Previously, I would have had six-ten missing assignments (usually from the same two or three students). PINK SLIP PDF

I am excited to see if I can keep up with this in the long run, but I feel like I will not be making the “missing assignment” speech any time soon. (Here is the background for the pink slip.)

Flexible Seating, Student Choice

Flexible Seating: Year 3

What a difference a year makes! My group last year adapted to flexible seating after maybe two weeks. They all used the furniture appropriately and I never had any issues. Fast forward a year, and it’s mid-November and I’m pulling my hair out. My new group is extremely inquisitive, yet they are struggling with all the choices. They literally push/steal each others seating when they get up to sharpen a pencil (true story), fall off stools daily, and are choosing seats next to their friends repeatedly… which drives me nuts. I refused to pull out the spooner boards and bike pedals for all of September and half of October, but realized maybe this group needs more movement.

While it has taken a while, I finally am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had to set some parameters because the class is boy heavy (17 boys and 11 girls). Last year the rule was two boys and two girls at every table and they had to sit diagonally across from each other. This year I had to get creative: there must be at least one girl at every table, and no more than two girls. I even had to have students select their seats in the afternoon for the following day to cut down on fighting over seats. Students with good behavior got first choice.

IMG_0356

Some of you may have followed my journey with flexible seating. I first dabbled with varying tables. Then I added yoga balls (and hated it)! I went back to stools, and added stationary bike pedals, a standing table, and bean bag chairs. Finally, I added crate seats, spooner boards, and now IKEA Snille ($6) seating with lap desks. Here’s what is working well and what I will adjust for next year:

Standing Tables – This is a popular choice. It has taken a while to get the students to understand the expectations for this table. There is no spinning or ‘surfing’ across the room on the spooner boards. They are only for rocking back and forth. I have stools under the table in case the kids get tired of standing.

Lowered seating – My crate seats are hugely popular. For about $100 I made eight seats. The only complaint is the kids would like some back support like a pillow.

Lap Desks – These have held up for a few years and I’m happy with them. The kids love them too because of the cup holder, etc. These have not held up as well and I will not be purchasing them again.

Foam Squares – These are so simple, yet so effective. While I did “steal” a giant rug from an empty classroom, these foam squares are used when kids have to work on the floor. Students love these and I got them for free on a mom-swap website but are similar to these.

Stationary Bikes – I think these are the most effective for wiggly students. The kids are calm from the waist up, but are peddling away underneath. The only problem is that most are broken after only two years of daily use. I’ll be ordering these again but maybe a different brand for more durability.

What’s working well in your room? Anything you absolutely hate?

Digital Citizenship, Personalized Learning

Accountability & Collaboration in Upper Elemantary

I often plan stations or rotations where I am at one station, and the students have group, pair, or independent work at the others. Students were (almost) always on task for me, but were often chatty, off-task, or goofing off during the others. I have worked for the past few years on getting the students to be both accountable for quality work during these times, but also truly collaborative. Here’s what I’ve been doing recently.

Exit tickets– These are an oldie but goodie. I downloaded this free template from TpT and edit it to fit my needs. I can quickly see which students get a concept, and which do not.

IMG_5986

Organized rotations – I recently came up with this simple Doc to help with rotations. (Here’s a second version). Each color square also has a poster in the room, where students know exactly where to go. The Doc tells them the instructions, and how to turn in their work (often in a bin in the room, or on Seesaw). No one bothers me during small-group-instruction because I left them detailed directions.

Accountability forms – In math, the students fill out a tracking sheet each day, where they tell me which standard they’re working on, and where I can find evidence of this work. Even if I don’t check it daily, (or even weekly), they think that I can. In reading, I split my class in half, and we read two novels. While I’m reading with one group, I had been giving the other group comprehension questions but some students were waiting until the last minute, and having to re-read the entire book. I was given a similar version of this Independent Reading form, which I love. There are specific tasks for each day of the week and may-do lists after the daily must-do is completed. Many of the activities go along with the William and Mary Teaching models for IB and GT.

Collaboration – My class this year is a stubborn bunch. I’ve stressed time and time again about making good seating choices, yet they still gravitate towards friends. Finally, I implemented a two girls/two boys per table rule, and they have to be sitting diagonally, therefore when we do elbow-partner work, they have to work with someone of the opposite gender. Collaboration is hard, as one 4th grader usually takes the lead, and the other the backseat. Or two strong-headed personalities can’t figure out how to divide up the work. I’ve been loving the “commenting” feature on the Google Suite for Education, and encourage the teams to “talk” on there instead of out loud. After a few weeks (eek) of them typing “Hello” and other off-topic, random junk, they are starting to see that that wastes time.

comment

 

 

Digital Teaching Resources, Inquiry-Based, Simulations, Uncategorized

Turning Paper Simulations into Digital Content

Ask any former student what their favorite thing about my class is, and most will say, “Simulation.” Simulation is something another teacher showed me from Scholastic that comes in a PDF form or you can purchase the physical packet for about a dollar more.  I have purchased all the ones below and they are well worth the $8!

Explorer Simulation
Revolutionary War Simulation
Bill Becomes Law Simulation
Oregon Trail Simulation
Civil War Simulation

First, I divide the class into smaller groups. I like six groups, which makes about 4-5 students in a group. I use this electronic group generator that is a Smart Notebook file so there are no complaints about who is in which group (although you can shuffle it as many times as needed). I do this before showing the students their groups.

These simulations are very much like the Oregon Trail computer game we played as kids, or the choose-your-own-ending novels. I read a passage, the small groups make a joint decision, and they listen to the consequences. During the Explorer’s Simulation, for example, the small groups make a decision whether to take the deal offered by King Ferdinand or Isabella for a fleet, or try their luck with the King of Portugal, Manuel I. Other times, the students have to spin on spinner board (paper clip and pencil) to see what their consequences are.

For a few years, I was printing each student a “Simulation Packet” where the kids would keep track of their data and write their journal entries. Then I decided to create them on Google Docs and share on Google Classroom. The reading passages are posted in PDF form, and the students keep track of their journal electronically. While it takes a long time for us to sit and wait for entire groups to spin on the electronic spinner (also available on a Smart Notebook file), it actually builds excitement as the other groups root for, and cheer on, their classmates. As part of most simulations (not the Bill Becomes a Law one), students whose health dips below a five, actually ‘die’. I’ve had entire wagon companies in the Oregon Trail simulation perish before reaching Oregon.


These simulations are great for many reasons. One, they put the students into the shoes of an actual person of the time period. I can teach them about famous Revolutionary War heroes, but when they are making decisions as if they were a soldier, they are soaking in the history and making it relatable. Two, the simulations foster those 21st century skills like communication and collaboration. Three, the Oregon Trail simulation includes a lot of math– the students keep track of how much money they have with them and the pounds of food and supplies they can carry. Interdisciplinary lessons kill two birds with one stone.

I’ve learned that a lot of those old worksheets or printable packets teachers love to share can be converted quickly and easily into electronic files. I loved Simulation but always hated printing the huge packets (even front and they back they could be like 6-10 pages per kid). I’m saving trees and still using the content the kids love. I just started our first simulation (the Explorer’s one) and already had kids thanking me and telling me how much fun they were having. Learning doesn’t have to look like textbooks and worksheets, people!