#DigiCon16 Presentation: Coding in the Primary Classroom

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 9.47.16 PMThis year I presented a couple of sessions at #DigiCon16, DLTV‘s annual conference.

One of the sessions I presented was Coding in the Primary Classroom: An Inquiry Into Gaming with Tamryn Kingsley. We took participants through the process of a unit we taught together with our grade 2 classes. The unit was an inquiry where students made their own games using the platform Scratch.

We have been contacted a few times since the conference to share the resources we used, so I thought I would collate them all here. All the slides and links to the resources we used are below. We would love to hear from you if you are creating your own gaming unit!

Introductory video of what scratch can do https://vimeo.com/65583694

Cheat sheets – guides for learning the basic skills of Scratch https://goo.gl/7PGfZU

Challenges – short tasks using Scratch designed to help learn basic Scratch functions  (We used About me, 10 blocks, It’s alive, Music video). http://goo.gl/CgOiO1IMG_4262

Blocks – printable Scratch blocks http://scratched.gse.harvard.edu/resources/vector-scratch-blocks

 

Classic Games

Pong http://www.ponggame.org/

Pacman http://www.playpacmanonline.net/

Tetris http://tetris.com/play-tetris-flash/

Supermario Bros. http://www.ozmogames.com/games/super-mario/mario-mushrooms.play

Space invaders http://www.pacxon4u.com/space-invaders/

Angry birds  http://freeangrybirdsgame.org/play/angry_birds_online.html

 

Scratch Games

Quiz https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/86004996/?fromexplore=true

Platform Scroll https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/1775702/

Punkin Chunkin https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/1445936/

Bridy https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/87143678/?fromexplore=true

Arc https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/2422227/

Maze https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/10128431/

Race https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/13042816/

 

Inspiration

Mel Cashen Festival of Gaming blog post http://melcashen.com/?p=955

Darrel Branson Game Making at Mildura West www.goo.gl/BeWDbt

Google Slides for Collaborative Literature Circles

unnamedScreen Shot 2016-07-15 at 11.02.30 AMMy students are participating in Literature Circles this term. This has been introduced in response to a need – it is a way for students to analyse and discuss texts with the support of others, and to encourage accountability for deep comprehension and critical thinking about literature.

The focus is not on the book, but on the reader’s response to the book, and the strategies being developed.

Read more about Literature Circles here.

In our literature circles, students meet in non-levelled groups that are formed by book choice.  The students take on a role for their group which rotates every week. They meet in their literature circles every Friday to engage in discussion about the book and set a “read up to here” goal for the following week. The roles (based on current student needs and which will be added to and changed over time) are:

  • Discussion Director – writes and facilitates discussion around questions they have come up with. We use Anthony Speranza’s complex question matrix to develop these questions. They also manage the discussion and make sure every member of the group contributes equally. IMG_6990
  • Passage Picker – notes and questions passages of text that are interesting, confusing, funny, emotive etc.
  • Word Wizard – notes and  defines interesting or unfamiliar words. They share them with the group and each person adds these to their personal dictionary/word collection.
  • Super Summariser – writes a brief and interesting summary of the key points of the text, to share and consolidate with the group.

In my class, these roles have been initially tasked to one student, but over time I intend for each student to take on all these roles (and others!) as they read, share, question and strengthen their understandings with their group.

The roles will develop where needed. For example, if I find that students are struggling with making text connections, we will introduce a new role. If they are lacking in the use of punctuation to build understanding or phrasing, we will introduce the Punctuation Pal (or something less lame that the kids will come up with!).

The use of a shared Google Slide for each group is critical in providing a collaborative space for students to note their thinking and to share their ideas with their circle. They are each in charge of their own role-related page and spend the week collecting evidence and ideas to share with their team. I can easily see their thinking and track how each student is progressing. It provides a simple way for me to ascertain which students need support in which strategy, and informs my strategy groups.

Google Slides allows team members to add ideas to other’s pages. For examples, this week’s Word Wizard would primarily focus on noticing and collecting interesting words, but might come across a mind-blowing paragraph that they just can’t forget, so they add it to the Passage Picker slide.

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A Passage Picker will use interesting passages and phrases as a discussion prompt to build understanding of the text.

The slides I use are here – I encourage you to create your own for you specific needs.

Google Translate: Removing EAL Barriers

unnamedI have a student in my class for three weeks. She lives in China but has come to Melbourne for a short time. Naturally she has had some trouble being able to communicate because English is not her first language. Off their own bat, two girls in my class decided to help her out by using Google Translate to convey the instructions in her language, then to continue communicating with her so she could participate in their group. Three students who did not speak each other’s languages worked together on making a film today. I am in awe of the powerful combination of kids and technology. Anyone who says tech does not belong in the classroom is wrong.

Campfires in Cyberspace: Creating Classroom Spaces for Learners

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Having moved this year from a modern open plan, flexible learning area school, to a classroom in an old red brick building built in 1922, I have had some new challenges with learning spaces.

I have been considering and implementing the notion of ‘Campfires in Cyberspace’, a term coined by David D. Thornburg The Campfires in Cyberspace theory considers the ways humans have interacted and learned since the dawn of time and applies them to classrooms to suggests ways teachers can create learning spaces that cater to a range of needs – mainly the campfire, the watering hole and the cave. The original paper discusses how we can use these learning spaces on a digital level, but often classrooms don’t even cater to these spaces at the physical level.

Kath Murdoch, in The Power of Inquiry (2015), says that “We send clear messages to students, parents and the wider community about what we value through how we choose to use our learning spaces… The agreements we make about the use of physical environments also impact on student learning.” She goes on to provide the example that if we force students to sit at their own table and that they must do so for all tasks, we remove many opportunities for flexible groupings, collaboration and choice… the message being that we need to be thoughtful and purposeful about the way we arrange our classrooms and allow students a large degree of input into these decisions.

 

campfire

The campfire…

The campfire is about storytelling – a place for a community of learners to sit together and listen to each other and learn from experts and storytellers. This may or may not be the teacher. The campfire encourages whole group discussion.

I believe this idea of a campfire as a place for storytelling puts a lot of onus on the teacher to provide engaging and thought-provoking stories, questions and teaching. It means teachers are not there to dispense information like a vending machine but to create a narrative for learning both old and new ideas.

In a classroom, a campfire will often be the place everyone usually meets, in front of a board or screen. However, it is important to challenge this; a campfire should be regarded as a meeting of the whole group in which to listen and share, so in my classroom this often looks like a fishbowl around a table or a circle on the floor. Classes might also have online spaces that act as a campfire where the whole class views ideas and responds in a shared space, like a Padlet wall or on Edmodo.

A campfire - this is often also in circle form to make it less teacher-centric

A campfire – this is often also in circle form to make it less teacher-centric.

 

drop-of-water-545377_1920The watering hole…

The watering hole is a place for learning from peers. It is less formal than a campfire and in it people gather in smaller groups to share ideas at their point of need.

In the classroom this might physically look like a group of tables where students work together,  a nook filled with cushions or simply the spare bit of carpet no other group has taken yet. A watering hole might also occur in digital contexts such as shared Google Docs where teams of students work in the same space.

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Waterholes in action

caveThe cave… 

The cave is simply an area to be alone and to reflect or work independently, without interruption or distraction from others. It provides isolation, something that can often be difficult to obtain in a classroom. I have seen one teacher who draped a brown piece of fabric over a couple of chairs, added a couple of plants out the front and made a beautiful dark little cave for students to retreat into. Sometimes caves are this elaborate, sometimes they are simply a comfy chair or a corner where a student sits alone. What is important is that students have, and know they have, the option to be alone to think, work or reflect.

A student working in a ‘cave’ which is really out bag area, but is a perfect space for working alone and tucking away.

 

When I started discussing Campfires in Cyberspace with my students they had ideas about other ways we physically organise ourselves in the classroom. They thought we needed some more names for these spaces. It is so important to allow students to take ownership over the way we run and organise the classroom, so I encouraged them to develop their own ideas and the results were the following additions to the spaces.


watts-1012402_1920The swamp… 

Students talked about how sometimes we need a group with the teacher when we get stuck on a task or concept. From here they decided that you can get stuck in a swamp and you need someone to help you out of it. The swamp is now the official name for a teacher group of students who want some more guidance and don’t feel ready to work independently on a task. They “get in the swamp” and we “squelch around with some learning”  until they are ready to get out and get going on their own.

Since this started it has evolved to include small groups of students supporting each other when they need help. It’s not uncommon to hear phrases like “I just swamped with Dave and now I get the maths” or “Can anyone make a swamp with me about using rhetorical questions?”.

Student-led swamp

Student-led swamp

 

plainsThe plains… 

We talked about needing a name for when everyone is working independently, spread out wherever they need to be, not bothering anyone else and working on their own thing. This was dubbed “The Plains”. Students thought that this is like a Savannah where you might see a zebra here, a lion there, a giraffe over yonder, but all the animals are just doing their thing, relaxing in the sun or munching on some grass and sticking to themselves. This is such a calm and lovely metaphor. It takes away the teacher-controlled notion of ‘silent work’ and replaces it with independent purpose.

The plains - students are spread out and working independently without distraction

The plains – students are spread out and working independently without distraction

 

It is important to both provide these spaces and have your students know where they are, what they are for and how they can use them most effectively. In my classroom we have discussed learning spaces at length and negotiated different ways we can use the spaces and respect peers in these spaces. Student ownership of the concept is key.

To do


Further Reading and References 

Teaching Measurement using Google Maps

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Just a simple activity using a tech tools to enhance student understandings.

This week I have been working on area and perimeter with my 4/5s. This has included a lot of estimation. It became clear early on that students were unsure how to estimate common units for measuring length (i.e. mm, cm, m km). To provide a reference point for estimation, I asked students to create a poster for themselves to be able to remember the sizes of these measurements, with the intention that this would make it easier for them to estimate with a visual cue.  Most chose to use the app Pic Collage to display their work.

For example, to remember the size of 1 millimetre, some students took a photo of the thickness of a fingernail. For 1 metre, they referred to the length of a classroom table.

Kilometres proved to be difficult as it is a difficult distance to visualise. So we used Google Maps to experiment with distances and see a visual representation of exactly how far 1 kilometre is. Students found a familiar local point on Google Maps and used the directions function to map the journey to another familiar location that was 1km away (for example, the local Coles or skate park).

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Gender in the Classroom: Books about Girls

Often when I read a picture story book to my students they will identify characters as male, regardless of the character’s gender. They will use ‘he’ and ‘him’ to describe a character that has just been called ‘she’ or ‘her’ only seconds before when I read aloud from the book. I thought this was a strange phenomenon. My students correctly used pronouns in other situations but for some reason, so often girls would become boys when we discussed the characters in a book.

A commentary on a study by the University of Central Florida noted that the study found that out of children’s books published each year in the US only 31% have lead female characters, while 57% have male lead characters. That’s almost twice the amount of males to females at the forefront of the stories children read. There were many more alarming statistics in a similar vein that all highlight the same problem: We are telling children that boys and girls are not equal, that boys are normal and girls are secondary.

51HoHYJv6TL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_I was reading an article recently that used the popular book The Day the Crayons Quit to illustrate this problem perfectly. It said that in this book “not a single crayon is identified with a female pronoun. Just about everything and everyone in the books – from five of the crayons to a paper clip to a sock to Pablo Picasso to the crayons’ owner, Duncan, to his father to his little brother – is male, or not assigned a gender. The exceptions are a female teacher and Duncan’s little sister, who uses the otherwise under-employed pink crayon. To colour in a picture of a princess. And is praised for staying in the lines.”

Polygraph recently released an analysis breaking down the dialogue spoken in 2000 screenplays by gender. If we look at the sample of 30 Disney films analysed, we find that 22 of them have a males accounting for majority of the dialogue. 22 out of 30! This is hideously unequal! Movies like the The Jungle Book  and Monsters, Inc. have almost all dialogue spoken by male characters (98% in The Jungle Book), while the extremely short list of four movies with a majority of dialogue spoken by females only had them contributing a little over 60% of the dialogue (Alice in Wonderland, Inside Out, Maleficent, Sleeping Beauty).

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                                                         Image from Polygraph study

 

How will girls learn that they have value and are equal members of society if the literature we provide them does not value being female? We are teaching girls (and boys!) that females come second, that girls are lesser, that they are not as interesting and not worth being read about or watched.

It needs to become normal for animals in the farm book to be females, rather than for males to be the standard and females the deviation.

It needs to become normal for superhero teams to have a majority of female members, instead of five boys and one token scantily-clad girl.

It needs to become normal for there to be no default gender.

So what do we do?

It is imperative for teachers – as well as parents, carers, friends, everyone of influence – to model, speak about and encourage the importance of females in an equal society.

In our classrooms we can start with books. We can read books with female lead characters. We can read books with heaps of female characters. We can challenge our boys to read books about girls (since most girls will read books about boys without hesitation). We can discuss female characters. We can discuss the fact that the gender of the character often makes no difference. We can stop students assigning genders to genderless animals, objects and people. We can analyse films with females in the lead role. We can read books about girls that are not about ‘girl stuff’ but just about ‘stuff’. We can encourage them to write stories about girls. And we can keep going until gender is no longer an issue we need to deal with.

Which books or texts do you use for reducing the gap between girls and boys in literature?

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Some resources:

  • A Mighty Girl has a huge list of picture books and novels that feature girls as main characters.
  • For children’s movies that pass the Bechdel Test (a test that requires a film to have at least two named female characters to have a conversation about something other than a man) check out this article.

Sources: 

Term 2 Goals

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Term 1 was massive for me. Being at a new school and a completely new year level has had me completely floored.

I feel like I have spent the entire term in a whirlwind of not really knowing or understanding what’s going in, which has been completely different to my previous experience of understanding most things and leading a lot of it.Things have not been bad, just unfamiliar. I think I have been so used to working in certain ways and expecting particular things to happen around me that being in a new environment has had me upside down. For the most part I have just spent time feeling guilty that I have not been making a great contribution to my team this term while I’ve been finding my feet.

Now that I’m starting to get my head around my new school and how it works, I am refreshed and ready to do more.

I have three goals for the Term to keep me focused on improving my practise and extending my skills.

  • Stay connected. Twitter is blocked on my school network and I am so used to checking in and stalking my eduheroes during the day for inspiration that without this frequent connection I have been dry as the desert. #vicpln I’m coming for you.
  • Blog more.  When I get into the habit of blogging often, I start to push myself to try new things so I can share it. This can only be a good thing so expect to see more here in the coming weeks.
  • Reconnect with my passion: tech. Out of all the things I do in my job, I find that learning about, teaching with, and using technology to improve learning to be the easiest and most interesting to me. I intend to find myself a niche in the school where I can run with this and try some new things.

Big things happening here – wish me luck!

Showbie and Evernote: Digital Tools for Assessment

I am sitting here in the middle of writing my final reports for the year, and am just SO IMPRESSED with my assessment and collection of student work samples and evidence of learning. I need to share two amazing apps that I use for assessment throughout the year. Using them provides me with a working record of learning that I refer to for planning (through my anecdotal notes and students’ samples of work) and also provides some beautiful summative assessment for when report time rolls around.

Showbie

Showbie is an app that allows students to share their work with me. It is designed as a tool that provides teachers with a digital space to set assignments for their classes and for students to submit their work. It is especially helpful if you find that work disappears when students use iPads.

In my classroom, I use it at a very basic level most of the time; I have really only used it to collect work in an organised (and digital) way.

To do this, I create a folder (or ‘assignment’) for the task we are doing, which is created inside the folder for my class, and my students use their own log in details to upload their work for that task in that folder. For example, I create a folder named ‘Information Report iMovies’ and all students upload their movie in that folder under their name. That way I have every student’s work from that task, and since it is stored online, their work doesn’t take up space on my hard drive and their books don’t take up space on the backseat of my car.

There’s so much more you can use it for than what I have been doing so far… Showbie is simple for kids to use and has lots of options depending on the task. You can upload photos and videos, you can leave comments on each student’s work, or send voice memos. You can also annotate a photo of their work and have them view it. A handy trick I figured out just as I was writing the last report (!) is that you can view work by assignment or by student.

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Assignments View

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A student’s submitted task and comment area between student and teacher

 

Evernote

Evernote is an note-taking app. It allows you to create notebooks (folders) and organise your notes. The notes can include text, pictures, video, voice recordings, inserted documents, tables and more. A great tool in Evernote is the ability to annotate your notes and pictures within the app. It also allows for sharing folders with other users and has a chat function, although I haven’t used those much yet.

For my class notes, I start by making a notebook stack (a folder full of folders) for my grade. Each student then has a notebook with their name attached, and inside that notebook I create a note for each subject area I take notes in, e.g. reading conferences, writing conferences, group work.

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My notebook stack for my class: 2D. It contains a folder, or notebook, for each student in the class.

The below is an example of the reading conference notes I take, with a photo of the running record (or voice recording) taken for that student. As you can see, it is a great source of ongoing, organised information about this student, and I have all the information I need at my fingertips when it comes to planning, conferencing or writing reports.

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This is brilliant for writing conferences! I take a photo of each student’s writing and insert it into their Evernote folder, then I have absolutely NO BOOKS to lug home at report time. I once taught Visual Arts for a short time and used Evernote to collect photos of their artworks and wrote notes on their skills beside the picture as they worked.

My previous school had students from grades 3-6 using Evernote as a learning journal (or digital portfolio) where each student shared a note with their teacher (and their parents) so that work could be submitted and tracked digitally.

If you are looking for a handy way to keep your notes organised, Evernote is it!

Any cool digital tools you use for assessment? Let me know! 

 

Class Blogs for Reflection

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Seeing those numbers drop?

Lots of us start off a class blog with great intentions! We start strong, with heaps of posts and lots of time allocated to reading and writing comments, but it somehow trails off, snowed under by all the other new and exciting things that inevitably appear throughout the year.  Sound familiar to anyone?

I’ve had the same problem this year. The blog became a bit unloved for a while, and if it is not an integral part of the classroom, and does not serve a useful purpose, why have it at all?

In a push to improve learning by making my class blog more meaningful and integrated into what we do, I’ve been trying out using blogging as a very quick reflection tool. Usually for the reflection on a lesson I will pose some questions (usually related to our learning intention and success criteria) for students to answer, in order for both them and myself to be able to gauge their learning in the session. I am trying out using the class blog to supplement the reflection time. I have been finishing tasks just a couple of minutes earlier than usual, and then asking the same questions I normally would, but noting down responses as a blog post. Students will add knowledge, information and skills they think are important to what we have just worked on until we have a blog post with fully formed ideas and a cohesive explanation of our learning.

The benefits of this:

  1. Students need to be able to articulate what they have learnt to a level that can be published for others to read.
  2. The blog becomes a holder of information that students can go back to and use as a reference.
  3. Families have an opportunity to see frequent updates about learning, which opens up both online and face-to-face dialogue about learning and invites parents and others into the learning experience.
  4. It provides me with a very clear indication of class understanding of a concept or skill.

Here are some examples from my class blog that the grade has written recently:

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Growing Good Digital Citizens

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For anyone trying (like me) to get their head around the DigiTech curriculum, hopefully this can help get you. I plan on sharing some of the things I do in my school that address this proposed curriculum at a grade 2 level.

 

My school’s Digital Learning Team has identified the area of “Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility” as one of the areas for improvement after a staff survey on the ISTE standards showed that this was the areas where staff felt unconfident and had less knowledge than others.

As a result, all students have downloaded an eBook (Common Sense Media’s Digital Literacy and Citizenship curriculum and workbook) that provides a lesson-by-lesson curriculum for teachers to implement with their students. I’m finding it to have some good resources but mostly it is a little dry.

I feel a little more confident about this area than just following a text book, so I wanted to share a lesson I did with my Grade 2s about being a responsible digital citizen.

 

We had a discussion about the term “Good digital citizen” and what it meant. Two of my students are Digital Leaders in the school and were able to lead this discussion quite capably. Students put forward their ideas on what this might look like.

We watched this video to hear some other ideas on what good digital citizens are like. The song “Pause and think online” is catchy and the kids got a lot out of it!

The song basically associates actions and body parts with responsible use of technology. For example “listen to your gut” for things that don’t seem right, and “balance with your arms” to balance your time between using technology and giving your mind and body a break from it.

 

After this my students used the Thinglink app to create an interactive image that would explain their interpretation of how to pause and think online. They took pictures of themselves and inserted “nubbins” (this word is too creepy for me!) which were either text or video to explain how they would use a certain body part as a good digital citizen. Here are a couple of examples and here is the class blog on this lesson, if you want to see more.

 


The Thinglinks went on our class blog for others to read and learn about how they can be a good digital citizen.