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, Google Sites, IB, Uncategorized

End-of-Year Lifesavers

If you are like me, those last few days of school are a struggle. The students have finished their end-of-year exams, they know grades are finished, but you’re not quite ready to pop in the movie just yet. I found a  few lifesavers that helped me keep my sanity this week.

  1. Rock on to 5th Grade – Interactive Google Slides
    This is a take on the old paper booklets where students write about their year. I made an electronic version, posted it to Google Classroom (with the option that each student got their own copy) and set a due date. Students had to write about everything from how my future class could succeed in my room, to their summer plans. I even included alphabet pages, where students wrote one thing we learned this year for each letter.
  2. End-of-Year Brain Maps
    I saw this article on Eduptopia and copied the directions in a Google Doc to post on Google Classroom. I gave each table (four students) a large piece of butcher paper, some markers, and they were off to the races. I saw many students using my class Google Site to think back about what we’ve learned this year. A short presentation followed.
  3. IB Exhibition (Part I, II, and III). 
    While “Exhibition” is unique to IB schools, any inquiry based, research project could be completed at the end of the year. Students started by researching man-made systems. They interviewed someone in the field or went on a community visit, then researched a real-world problem that exists within that system. Finally the students had to “take action” in some way to help with the real-world problem. Some students made lesson plans for lower grades, others passed out fliers in their community, and some even started their own farmers market.

 

Summer is almost here! Enjoy!

Digital Teaching Resources, IB

IB Exhibition: Part II

My students have been working on Exhibition for a few weeks now. (See previous post on how we got started, our Unit of Inquiry, and “Finding Out”.)

After researching man-made systems, my students moved on to “Sorting Out” and “Going Further.” The students chose three key concepts to start brainstorming questions to go along with their unit.

Key Concepts PYP

I then had students think of real-world problems that are occurring with the system they chose. I created a google slide show where each student was responsible for filling in one slide with the problems associated with their system. Make a copy for yourself here.

exhib_2

Students then reached out the the community for interviews. We had responses from around the city. I had students interviewing local chefs and farmers about the “farm-to-table” movement, two members of the Charleston Ports Authority and Boarder Patrol came to hand-deliver their interview questions to one group, and still other students went to local software companies to discuss computer coding and hacking. We were overwhelmed with the positive support form both teachers in the building who had local contacts and the responses from around our city who had no affiliation with our school.

This will then move into our “Taking Action” portion of exhibition. Students will take action in some way to address the real-world issue researched above. See my future post on “Taking Action.”

Digital Teaching Resources, IB, Uncategorized

IB Exhibition: Part I

What is IB Exhibition?

In IB terms: The exhibition represents a unique and significant opportunity for students to exhibit the attributes of the IB learner profile developed throughout their engagement with the PYP. It also provides teachers with a powerful and authentic process for assessing student understanding.
In educator terms: Students in 4th grade  engage in inquiry-based, collaborative, research project. Students identify, and offer solutions to real life issues or problems they discover through their research.
In kid terms: Students use their IB attributes, apply knowledge from previous years, and take action as a result of learning.

This Exhibition project is unique to International Baccalaureate schools, but could really be used for any student-centered research project. Here is the presentation I use with my class.

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Going Digital with Exhibition:

Last year was my first year working with my students on Exhibition. We definitely winged some of it, but borrowed a lot from teachers who had done it before. I was happy with the research my students had done but knew I could improve.

(The students should be using the IB Inquiry Cycle during this project, as well as the IB attributes that they’ve learned about since Kindergarten. I reference both of these through the entire Exhibition process.)

I started with a pre-survey on Google Forms to see what they know and remember about our IB units. (Students in an IB school get six units each year, each with the same broad title/theme, although the content varies greatly). My class has only had five units this year, because Exhibition is the 6th.

The unit we are doing is called “How We Organize Ourselves” and is described as, “An inquiry into the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities; the structure and function of organizations; societal decision-making; economic activities and their impact on humankind and the environment.” That’s a mouthful! We tend to focus on the first part to make it easier for 4th graders to understand (human-made systems and communities).

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I created both a digital journal and a digital sources list for the students. These are shared on Google Classroom, so each student gets their own copy. Students are responsible for keeping up with their journal throughout this process. I usually ask our IB coordinator to come talk to the kids about Inquiry and to do a provocation at the beginning:

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I created a Google Doc with the list of man-made systems to build on. I can’t wait to see the length of this list after a few more years of Exhibition.

Finally, I sent a “Seeking Mentors” flier and a Google Form to the parents of my class asking for volunteers. There is no way I can help all of my students with their research, community visit, and ideas for taking action. I depend on these mentors to help with answering questions and facilitating the visits. People in the community, as well as in the school building, have also been helpful mentors! Mentors who respond will receive this form about their responsibilities and later a checklist.

So far, we have only “tuned in” and done some “finding out.” I will write another post as we we move toward “sorting out” and “going further.” The inquiry cycle isn’t linear, and students should never be “done” with one of the stages, but it is helpful to keep track and follow a natural progression.

 

 

Digital Teaching Resources, Google Sites

Game Changer: Google Sites

As I was showing a colleague some of the negatives of Google Classroom (things tend to get lost at the bottom of my stream, I keep posting notes after each class and kids can’t find them, etc) when she asked me if I was going to use Google Sites next year to solve these problems. Light bulb! I was immediately transported back to my first IB Conference where the keynote speaker was Alan November. He is an international leader in education technology and part of his address was about providing students with all the resources before the class even begins. College professors have been doing this for years, but it hadn’t been done in elementary classrooms yet.

Even my husband asked if there was a way to lock the pages so kids wouldn’t get ahead. But why shouldn’t they go ahead? The more material they know or learn before I cover it in class, the more time we have to spend going in-depth or doing real world, inquiry based projects. I immediately took over his laptop and created my first Google Site.

You can view my site here: https://sites.google.com/charleston.k12.sc.us/elizbiggs/home

My home page has links to my Open House presentations and brochure. The Genius Hour page has all my links (mentioned in previous posts…but all in one place.) My favorite sub-page is for Notes. I have a page for each subject and then a sub-page for each standard. (This is still a work in progress.) Students can click on the notes which will open in Google Slides before, during, or after we talk about them in class. I also provide relevant links like to NASA and Brain Pop so students can explore these topics at their convenience. My Links page has all the links my class frequents (ALEKS, Quizlet, Renaissance Learning) all on one page. Finally, my IB page has information about all six of my IB units and a link to their summative assessment project.

ib

I previewed it with my class yesterday, and they were so excited. They loved the idea of having all this information in one place, (and were a little annoyed that I hadn’t thought of it sooner.) Thanks, Lisa Stewart, for your suggestion about Google Sites. You are always pushing me to be a better, more efficient, educator.