Classroom Jobs in the Foreign Language Classroom


When I used to use Classcraft, I loved that I created a beginning routine to each class. For a variety of reasons (mostly because I didn’t want to kill its novelty) I had to find a way to copy that feeling into my other courses. I needed a way to begin class and build structures roles. Inspired by the work of Bryce Hedstrom, I investigated the power of classroom jobs.

I’ve done classroom jobs for two years now and I don’t see myself going back. With them, my class has a structured, quick beginning and predetermined classroom responsibilities. I tinker with the number of jobs and the different roles occasionally. Here is what I currently have:

Paper-passer-outer: this person is the busiest most weeks. This person passes out all materials and passes back any completed work I have. It’s nice to have a person I just hand things to so that I can focus on talking and engaging the students in our lesson objectives versus doing clerical work.

Attendance: this is not the official class attendance, as I still do that through our online system but I keep a binder in the back of the room with rosters. The attendance taker marks anyone who is absent and reports that info to me. It’s helpful and it keeps the students accountable for each other. We’re a small school, so many times kids know who is absent already because the student was missing in an earlier class. It’s faster to have them just tell me.

Pledge Leader: we begin each class with the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish. It’s routine and short and requires standing and speaking. I will never argue with those objectives. The pledge leader is instructed to say get the student’s attention and starting the pledge as soon as the bell rings. This gives me a quick minute to gather myself from greeting the students in the hallway to diving into our objective of the day.

Trash Person: often an underutilized person but I keep the job “just in case”. This person reorganizes desks and chairs and keeps the floor clear of debris.

Social Media Rep: sometimes I hand my phone or other device over to student (trust!) and give them access to our class social media accounts (double trust!). I really never worry; since I know who has it at what time, I know who I would punish if necessary. Some kids wish to document nothing. Some are clever and better at using social media to promote what we are doing better than me. I’d like to do even more with Instagram or Snapchat in the future. I have some ideas so stay tuned. (Check out my post on using social media in the classroom)

Timekeeper: paving my lessons is something I am working on. I’m often too fast and jam too much into a day. The timekeeper is a way to monitor myself. I review the agenda at the beginning of class and tell the timekeeper to “let me know when we have x minutes left” or “if we’re not doing this by ____o clock, stop me”. I noticed that even though I’ve always written our agenda on the board, the emergence of the timekeeper really makes the students aware of our daily activities. They usually check to see what we will be doing now. Also the timekeeper just helps remind me what time class ends. We have shortened classes on Wednesday and you think by know I would know what those times are, but you’d be wrong.

Cantaninja: I like the power of the Cantaninja. I like assigning it to a specific person too. Read more about the power of Cantaninja here.

Judge: this person is second in command. They make choices, lead others, run activities, etc. They are the “final answer” if the group has to decide anything. I like that this person isn’t always my best student; in fact it’s usually better when they are a student that typically doesn’t engage. The role requires engagement, so if you are assigned to that role, you have no choice but to be a part of the action.

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I use popsicle sticks with student’s names to mark who has which job. Every two weeks I rotate the sticks and add new ones in. The sticks are color coded with the classes.

I randomly rotate the jobs every two weeks. One week seemed too short and caused more chaos and confusion. Two weeks in a role feels good. At the end of two weeks, students get “paid”. I use a punch card reward system where students need to earn 10 punches to redeem a reward.

Some students are overly ambitious about their jobs and some are less so. The overall balance is good though. Sometimes the Cantaninja refuses to use their power (or the judge vetoes the use of their power) because they hate Cantaninja. The class deals with it. Sometimes the Cantaninja only plays “Soy Yo” for two straight weeks. The class deals with it.

Overall the jobs create an engaging environment that is different than most other high school classrooms. It helps build a community because different roles must, at a minimum, acknowledge others. It lessens my workload during class a bit and also keeps me efficient.

Read more about classroom jobs from Bryce Hedstrom.

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Dot Game Review


Screen Shot 2016-12-12 at 11.19.28 AM.pngI love working in familiar games to review and practice vocabulary. One simple game my kids get excited about is the Dot Game.

In the Dot Game, you have a grid of dots. Partners take turns drawing lines, connecting the dots. If you draw the fourth line completing a box, you score a point and put your initials in the box. The objective is to make more boxes than your partner.

So how to turn this into an activity?

I create a grid of dots. I choose a word from our Unit to be in the center of the boxes that will potentially be formed.

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Students take turns drawing lines and making boxes. Once a student has made a box, their partner must use that word in a sentence. Sometimes I just do this out loud as oral practice and sometimes I have them write sentences using the word. It just depends on our focus.

It’s a nice way to review vocabulary while staying in the target language. Today I wanted my students to prepare for tomorrow’s writing assessment (I’ll be using a variation of Martina Bex’s BINGO writing activity). For the assessment, students need to write a paragraph about television and movies using the target vocabulary in their BINGO card (using words correctly to form at least one BINGO).

After we played the Dot Game today, I had students make a list of the words in their partner’s boxes. Then, they had to use those words to write a paragraph about television and movies—essentially the same standard that I am grading tomorrow. Today was all about practice. How can I use this list of words into a paragraph? What do these words mean? How do I use them?

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Students in this class circled the words they needed to use on their vocabulary sheets; in other classes I just told them to write their list on their paper.

Today this worked great for me as a Monday activity. It’s largely student centered so my job was to just facilitate the activities. I also love getting them to review vocabulary while staying in the target language and not thinking just about the straight translations of everything. Today they were focused on how to use the words to express thoughts rather than just trying to be a dictionary of terms. I feel like it gave them some good practice for tomorrow’s final writing assessment.

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Kahoot!


Recently a tech colleague passed along a great free online resource to use for formative assessment and classroom activities.  I’ve done little quiz games or review games in the past using online resources like Socrative, but this one has a new twist.  The website is called Kahoot.

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Kahoot reminded my students a lot of the quiz games played in restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings.  A question is displayed on the front board and each student selects an answer to that question from their personal device.  (I’ve had students use computers, IPads, Kindles or phones for this activity).  If you get the question correct, you get points.  If you answer faster, you get more points.  After each question, the student sees their ranking on a leaderboard.  It’s a lot of fun and provides great motivation for the students.

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Teachers can create “Kahoots” from getkahoot.com.  It gives you the option of creating quizzes, discussions or surveys.  Right now I’m only using the quizzes.  The teacher creates multiple choice quizzes and has the option of adding in pictures and video in the questions too.  After a Kahoot is made, you are ready to share it with the students.

The students just go to kahoot.it.  From there they will type in a pin code that is assigned to the Kahoot the teacher is running.  The quiz is teacher paced, meaning that the questions only appear when the teacher is ready.  Once ready, the teacher shows the students the question on the board.  After 5 seconds, answer choices also appear on the board.  Each answer choice is color coded.  On the student’s individual device, they see the color coded choices but no words—they have to look up at the board for the question and the answer choices.  They select the color associated with the choice they think is correct.  Once all students have answered, they find out how many points they earned (if any) and what their ranking is in the leaderboard.  At the end of playing a Kahoot, the teacher can download the results, which gives you question by question analysis of how students did and you can easily see questions that were the most problematic.

We loved using Kahoot and now I’m just under pressure to create more Kahoots for us to do in class!

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SnapChatting Assignments


SnapChatI’m surrounded by students with smartphones.  Not every student, but it seems like the majority.  It’s a handheld, personal device that they have with them at almost all times.  I’m constantly looking for ways to combine our classroom objectives with the personal lives of my students.  I believe that when learning is made personally meaningful to the life of the learner, it’s truly transformative.

The was the main philosophy behind bringing SnapChat into my classroom assignment portfolio.  SnapChat is an application where users take photos using their handheld devices.  They can add text, annotate or draw on the picture and send that picture to another user.  The uniqueness about SnapChat is that the picture can only be viewed by the recipient for 10 seconds and then it ceases to exist.  Short shelf life, easy concept.

When introducing a new section of Spanish vocabulary, I often have my students do some type of immersion project: something that requires them to spend some time getting to know their vocabulary better.  I always include options in these types of projects.  Some students prefer to do more artsy things with their vocabulary words, some prefer typing or online gaming drills, others prefer writing projects, etc.  Giving options is important in letting the student create a unique learning experience for themselves.

One project option that I usually put out there is a photo labeling type of assignment.  Find words from our vocabulary list in the real world, take a picture (or find a picture on the internet), label that picture and assemble all your pictures in a slideshow for me.  My students usually made these on VoiceThread or by putting the pictures together in an IMovie.  I see the picture + they have the word labeled correctly = project completed.  They have met the objective to recognize and identify the vocabulary.

Giving the option to SnapChat this project seemed like a perfect fit.  The application (which the majority of the students were already using and familiar with) is the perfect way to capture a photo and label it.  In a matter of seconds, students can SnapChat their photos with Spanish vocabulary captions and “turn them in” by sending them to me.  Easy. Instant. Real life.

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I was extremely pleased with the results.  As with any project, I went back to reflect on weak spots or any potential problems for the future.

  • SnapChat is essentially social media and I think you have to be careful mixing with students in the social media world.  That’s why for this SnapChat assignment I created a neutral Spanish SnapChat account (espanoldhs) to make it “official”.  I feel like this established that you are sharing your photos with “Spanish Class”, not “Emily Huff”.  By not connecting the SnapChat to myself personally, I feel like it keeps a wall between me and the students.
  • Once it was established and understood by the students that this was an “official” school related SnapChat account, we discussed posting ethics.  Particularly that if anything inappropriate was shared, it would result in school consequences. (Equivalent of standing in front of the class and doing something inappropriate)
  • One potentially negative effect of SnapChatting the assignments is the short life span of the photos.  Ten seconds is enough time for me to view and assess the objectives (did the student label and identify a Spanish vocabulary word?).  The work can’t be saved and shared but I think I’m ok with that.  The purpose of these assignments is just to make sure my students have some time with our vocabulary.  I don’t really need for the project to exist after the objective has been met.  And I’ve seen enough students throw projects away immediately to know that isn’t a main concern for them either.
  • I don’t require this from students.  It is one way to complete one of the options they have for an assignment.  I don’t give special consideration for students that choose this option vs. any other option.  I grade the objectives only, not the method of delivery.

Getting Started with LanSchool


LanSchool is a program that we have at Denver Community Schools that allows teachers to monitor computer activity and control computer activity.  As we have all of our students 6-12 on Macbooks during the school day, it sounds like it would be a lifesaving and proactive dream program for teachers.  (see why it isn’t that simple below)

Before a teacher can begin controlling computer activity or even monitoring the students in individual classes, a teacher needs to create a class list of computers.  This way, the teacher is only looking at the monitors in his or her room and not everyone on the network.  Looking at the 20 monitors you care about vs. looking at 200 monitors of everyone.

See a tutorial video here.

All computers on our network can be found at Channel 0.  You need to be on Channel 0 for the first initial set-up of LanSchool.  After you have created your class lists, get off of Channel 0 and put in your own personal channel.  At Denver, your personal channel is your phone extension.

Your students need to be on their computer in your room in order for you to build your individual class lists.  This isn’t something you can prep at night and have ready for class the next day.

The tutorial above shows how you can build and save your class lists.

Problems:

As we’ve found with most monitoring software programs, LanSchool isn’t perfect.  The average “success” rate is about 80% – – meaning that if all of your students are on their computers, LanSchool will only be able to discover about 80% of them.  There are constant updates and things that we can do on our end to try and help that, but we need to accept that reality.  Silver lining: it’s better than nothing!  And it’s sometimes perfect.  I was using it for the first two weeks out of the year with 100% success everyday.  Then, not so much.  It’s just glitchy.

Nearpod: Mobile Learning + Interactive Presentation App


For classrooms that have 1:1 access with IPads, Nearpod would be one of those tools I would say absolutely had to be used in classroom instruction.  Mandatory use in instruction.  It combines presentation and lecture, quizzes, polling and formative assessment, video and hands on demonstrating.  There are two sides to Nearpod: the teacher side and the student side. From the teacher side, one can create interactive lessons by creating a presentation in Nearpod that is like a PowerPoint on steroids. There are six different types of features a teacher can add into a presentation.  The presentation can have multiple features, all one feature or a mixture of whatever the author wants.

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A few observations about the features:

  • If a teacher already has PowerPoints created and wants to incorporate those slides into a Nearpod presentation, it would be complete possible!  Just go to PowerPoint and save the PPT as images (this is an option in the File Menu).  Now each one of your slides is an image file that can be uploaded to Nearpod.  I think the whole “Save as Images” option is key in using Nearpod with materials you’ve already created.
  • The quizzes and Q&A make great formative assessment.  It’s a little bit tricky to do an open ended question or a question with multiple answers, but it is do-able.
  • “Draw it” is pretty awesome.  I tested it out in a math presentation at halfway through the presentation, the teacher included a “Draw it” slide where the students had to work through the problem.  The teacher sees all responses on his/her IPad.

The teacher creates an interactive, instructional presentation or lesson on the web.  When it’s time for the lesson, the teacher uses and IPad and logs in to the Nearpod app as a teacher.  The students type in a code assigned to that presentation and are immediately taken to the lesson.  It’s a teacher-paced presentation, so students are only able to see the part of the presentation the teacher wants.  When the teacher is ready to move on to the next screen of the presentation, the teacher swipes the screen and all student screens will go to the next feature.  It’s a great instructional app that allows the teacher to move through content while allowing students the opportunity to get involved and participate, all while collecting data on understanding.

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Nearpod is one of those progression instructional tools.  Content used to be delivered through lecture.  Then overhead.  Then PowerPoint presentations.  Now the presentation includes interactive elements and is right there in each student’s hands.  It’s best used in situations where there is 1 IPad for every 1 student involved (either a 1:1 environment or a small group setting).  I think that in the future of IPads in Education, Nearpod will be the instructional tool that all others are measured by.

Fun in Timbuktu


Timbuktu is a fun app for elementary students.  Think of it as a daily magazine for children, including reading stories that are graphically attractive and interactive.

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The content changes everyday.  Some features are premium and would cost something.  Timbuktu is 100% geared to be an interactive magazine for children so the features are all kid friendly and exciting.  There is a regular feature called “Ask Auntie Rita”, where children write “Dear Abby” type questions and get advice from kind Aunt Rita.  It’s interesting, relevant reading and hits on topics like getting along with an older brother, what to do about bullies, and how to get better grades in schools.  The reading features in Timbuktu are awesome.  The day I played with the app, there was a horror story to read.  But, instead of just reading it like a normal, students have to use their finger as a flashlight to read the story.  It’s reading and it’s interactive.  It’s fun!

You can also go back and access older content in Timbuktu.  They recently had a three part feature on Romeo and Juliet.  Students had to read about the story (in nice kid-language) and also got to interact with the story.  I put a mask on Romeo so he could go to the Capulet ball.  I helped Romeo find Juliet’s balcony.  It’s reading and it’s interactive.  It’s fun!

Timbuktu also has some activities and interactive features with pictures and videos.  They are all kid relevant and are created with education in mind.  Each activity is designed to pique the imaginations and creativity of young minds.  It’s interactive.  And it’s fun!

I really enjoyed my little tour through Timbuktu and think it would be a great addition to the Daily 5, center work or free time with the IPads.

 

 

Temple Run as a Teaching Tool


IPads and games go together better than almost anything.  And kids love it.  Teachers can harness that love and excitement by finding ways to use these games as teaching tools.  Almost any game that has scores, numbers and levels can be made into a math activity with a little bit of creativity.  I’ve seen examples of this using Angry Birds to study and practice vectors and velocity but I think something simple like Temple Run can be integrated into an elementary classroom with ease.

temple-run-trees-hurt-death-photo Each user or player runs through a course, picking up coins and attempting to travel as many meters as possible.  After each pass through the course (which could last a few seconds or a few minutes depending on the skill of the player), an end screen is shown with a list of statistics.  Anytime statistics and numbers are displayed, it makes for a great educational opportunity.

Here are some ideas for using Temple Run as a classroom activity:

  • Have students work in small groups, each taking a turn on the game.  After each player, record all the data on a chart:  Score, Distance, Coins and Reason the Run ended.  Compare data and/or make a chart with the numbers.
  • Play the game multiple times, recording the data after each run.  Figure out the average score, distance and coins.
  • Convert the distance traveled from meters into feet or miles.  Play until you reach 10 miles (forcing students to figure out how many meters would be necessary to reach 10 miles).
  • On the opening statistics page where high scores are stored.  Compare your individual scores to the high scores.
  • Create a class chart of the reasons each player’s game ends (tree, water, eaten by creatures, fire, etc.) and calculate percentages and fractions.
  • Test the score formula: (provided by Wikipedia)

Their score is determined by their distance, plus five times the number of coins collected, plus 600 times the ordinal number of the total number of coins divisible by 100. These three values are then added and multiplied. The value of the multiplier is 10 more than the number of objectives unlocked. The formula is s = (m)(d+5c+t); “s” being number of points; “m” number of objectives unlocked + 10; “d” being distance; “c” being number of coins; “t” being the coin multiplier of 600 times the whole number remaining of c/100.

  • Use it as a writing prompt.  What was your character doing in that temple?  Why were they running?  How did the run go and what did you see?  How did your run end?

Some upper level mathematical equations with Temple Run: http://www.mathematicalmischief.com/2012/06/its-calculator-time-temple-run/

IPad Integration: Apps with Multiple Classroom Options


Sometimes you find an app that will work great as either a small stand-alone activity or a game-changing classroom revolution – – all depending on how much you want to customize it and use it.  If you want to use the App as a filler activity, it could be.  If you wanted to make the App an individualized choice activity that students use to practice a concept, it could be.  If you wanted to use the App for specific students in enrichment and intervention activities, it could do that for you too.  If you wanted an App to totally revolutionize the way you gather data and build practice activities, it could do that.  The great things about these types of apps is that: 1) each student has a personal log-in so that each students experience on the app is personal, saved, customized and abled to be accessed again and again, 2) the teacher can include as much customization as he or she is comfortable with.

Edmodo  Free (App Store)

I’m a big fan of Edmodo as a classroom management portal.  It’s an easy way to send students links, files, notes, assignments and quizzes, and safely allows them to collaborate, write and share.  Students can log in and out of their individual Edmodo profile so that each individual user can access their individual Edmodo account.

Ideas for Edmodo Implementation in general:

  • Post a discussion prompt and have students respond to a question or share thoughts for everyone to see
  • Create an assignment in which students submit a private only-seen-by-the-teacher response
  • Post a class brainstorming session to generate writing ideas
  • Create formative assessments in the quiz module
  • “Exit Ticket” or “Elevator Speech” where students explain what they learned following a lesson or day
  • Post videos, notes or information for students that need extra review or were absent
  • Put links, documents or information there for students to easily access

Another great plus with Edmodo is its Apps (so, essentially, there are Apps within the App).  There are a lot of great ones – – some that you have to pay for and some free ones.  One really great literacy app is No Red Ink.  (Click here for a review on No Red Ink)  (There is also a internet site for No Red Ink that anyone can use through Safari).

ScootPad  Free (App Store)

I came across this App last week when a friend of mine was talking about how the students in her school can’t wait to use the IPads to review Math and Literacy games in order to earn coins and that their school earned more coins in the last two weeks than any other school in Iowa using the App.  Many parts of this looked intriguing, so I setup a teacher account on ScootPad posing as a 5th grade teacher.

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ScootPad has a teacher set-up page on the Internet at www.scootpad.com.  That is where I set-up my account, created a class and added my list of students.  I control the student usernames and passwords and can adjust and change them if needed.  I picked by grade level (5th grade) and then chose my standards.  ScootPad works with the Common Core and I chose to select all the Common Core standards for 5th grade.  These standards are now added to my class.

Option #1:  That’s the bare minimum of what is needed to work with ScootPad (setup a class, create student accounts, share account info with students).  At this point, your students can go to the ScootPad app on the IPad, log-in with their personal information and access grade level appropriate Math and Literacy practice activities.  These practice activities are randomly generated using the Common Core standards and over time also keep in mind the progress of the student, adjusting to their level of comprehension and understanding.  The students earn coins for each correct answer and bonus coins for 100% completion.  From what I can see, students can do as many practice activities as they want, whenever they want.

Option #2:  Teachers can log-in and monitor progress and student achievement.  Teachers can also assign practice activities to be completed.  These homework assignments can be assigned for every student or assigned to only those students in need of enrichment and intervention.  I like the results tracking feature in ScootPad because it breaks everything down by the standard.  The teacher can see the level of proficiency of their students in each standard area.  It’s a great tool for identification and intervention.

Option #3: The students have an individualized piggy bank that they store the coins that they earn for completing their activities.  Teachers (and parents!) can set-up classroom rewards that students can “purchase” with their coins.  You can also customized these and make them available for only a few students (for example, if you had a reward available only for those struggling students).  It’s a nice option and ScootPad is something parents can access also so that they can build rewards for their own students.

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Khan Academy  Internet

If you want your students to practice math problems by concept, there isn’t much of a comparison with Khan Academy.  It’s an internet based application that can be used through Safari on your IPad.  Students can practice the problems, get hints if they get stuck and watch tutorials and explanations if they need to.  If students created an account on Khan Academy and attach a teacher as a “coach”, the coach can see progress and get data.  But the activities still work well as review and practice activities even if they don’t log-in to an individual account.  But since that option is there, I include it here.

 

Choose Your Own Adventure in Google Forms


Google Forms: Branching Multiple Choice Questions
Google Forms: Branching Multiple Choice Questions

Remember Choose Your Own Adventure Books or Games?  A new feature in Google Forms now lets users branch multiple choice responses so that each response leads you to a different page.  There are many potential applications for this in the classroom, but branching allows someone to craft a Choose Your Own Adventure story.

When drafting a Google Form, the creator can write part of a story in the “Page Description” box.  Underneath that text block, the reader can be given selection of choices.  Each of these selections give the reader the option to choose what will happen next in the story.  By checking the option “Go to page based on answer”, the creator can decide where each possible answer leads.

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Because the Google Form makes the creation of a Choose Your Own Adventure Story very methodical, its necessary to plan out all of your options and where they might lead.  I attempted to try this by creating a CYOA activity associated with a movie that we watch in class called ‘El Norte’.  I thought that this activity might be a good thing to do before we watch the film.  Anyway, as I started to mind-map my story and all the possible options, it easily got out of hand and complicated.  These webs can get quite complex if you want them to.  I would suggest that beginners limit themselves to only a few layers of options.  My CYOA story required 25 pages in a Google Form and I tried to be conservative in the last few layers.

There are a lot of concluding activities that could accompany this type of activity: a discussion, written essays, going through it until you get a desirable outcome, etc.  I think the educational impact of this could be great:  making the student think about choices and consequences and what actions lead to different situations.  I saw a lot of this application in Social Studies but think that it could be stretched to any discipline.

One thing that excites me about the ease of the Google Doc format is the fact that students could be writers of their own CYOA story.  What a great activity!  Make students draft out a series of choices and possible outcomes and put together an activity they can share with classmates.  They could examine the choices made by Romeo & Juliet, or John Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, or a scientist working through a hypothesis.  Just as in a Choose Your Own Adventure story – – the possibilities are endless!

My Choose Your Own Adventure Activity: El Norte