Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Creating deeper meaning with BookTrack

I would highly recommend

This is a free website which allows reading/creation of books to selected music/sounds.

I have started using this with one class and now it's spread like wildfire throughout the school.

I was working with one year 3/4 class that had already created their own class story together and so we copied and pasted it into Booktrack and just had to add sounds.  We are yet to finish adding all the sound effects to this story, but I thought I would give you a snippet.

What I really like about this is it gets children thinking about the composition of the story.  In this attached brief example of a start of a story, you will see the children had to really think about what the personality of the characters they had created were like and choose which music best fit their characters.  It really brought the characters alive for them.  It will be interesting to see how through music the characters develop as the story goes on.

I have now created a competition amongst classes, with a specific voting criteria.  After reading a book you can vote on how many stars.  The book with the highest score will go on our school website.  Looking forward to seeing the result.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Worksheets vs Student Led in Maths today

Today I had the privilege of having to step into a classroom (year 3) to cover a for a teacher who had had to leave for an emergency.   The teacher had left some maths worksheets behind.

I must admit the thought of giving out these maths worksheets to the children made me cringe.  Boring was the only word that came to mind!

It was a Friday and I knew this class were a challenge. So I decided to take a risk and do something more student driven .

The results were incredible, so I wanted to share:

First of all I talked about how we were going to do student led maths today which meant they were going to drive the maths.  This captured their curiousity immediately.

I asked the class to come up with some maths problems.  After talking with their neighbour quickly, they started sharing some of the problems they came up with (see photo below).

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Then I explained that were were going to use a dice today and we needed to come up with six different ways they liked to solve problems.

They initially came up with these:

1.  Draw a picture
2.  Talk the solution through
3. Write the solving process in a book
4. Using maths equipment (no calcs)

I asked them to think about how could we use the Chromebooks and iPads we had in the classroom and the following were added to the list:
5. Video solving the problem iPad/create a Google Presentation on Chromebooks
6. Multi choice select from 1-5

I asked them how long they thought it would take to solve each problem, and we settled on a 5 minute time frame for each problem.

We talked about how many we should have in a group to work these problems out and the students felt it was better to have two in a group, otherwise anymore then there's always one person who doesn't do anything.

So they grouped themselves into pairs and selected one of the problems from the board they wanted to start with (they could complete them in the order they chose).  Armed with a dice they rolled the dice and then had to solve this problem using the method corresponding to the dice number.  So a 1 would be "draw a picture" etc.

I encouraged the children to capture their learning by photos or video if they were using materials or drawing a picture.

So after an hour of maths, what did I learn about this class:

I learnt
- this class were clearly used to working with Word problems because they could articulate word problems so quickly
- from the word problems they came up with I learnt that two thirds of the class loved collecting rocks
- they particularly enjoyed videoing and seeing it played back
- every single student was completely engaged
- the more difficult students were completely on task and well behaved
- they preferred working in pairs to larger groups
- they loved sharing the way they solved their problems with the class
- they loved having choice
- they had so much fun
- students were empowered to learn

Now I wonder if I would have learnt so much about the class if I'd given them a worksheet and I wonder how engaged these students would have been?

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Tinkering at the Mind Lab with a bit of MLE and Reverse thinking thrown in

Today at the Mind Lab we were introduced to tinkering.

First of all we created Wobble Bots and then Scribble Bots.  Watch the video to find out how!

Wouldn't this make fantastic procedural writing!

Children should engage in tinkering and making because they are powerful ways to learn.
( A must read here is the book Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Clasroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary S. Stager

Essential learning goes beyond books and theoretical "what ifs." When students design, build, iterate, and revise their creations, they learn important life lessons about empathy, creativity, grit, failure, and success.  

Piaget’s constructivist theory talks about knowledge being a consequence of experience. As teachers we all know that children learn best by doing. Seymour Papert added to Piagets constructivist theory and took it a step further towards action. He defined this theory as constructionism and is considered the founder of the maker movement. Papert extended Piagets constructivist theory adding manipulative materials to the idea that learning is most effective when part of an activity the learner experiences is constructing a meaningful product. This theory is really at the heart of the maker space movement and in understanding the potential for learning through a maker space. Although the learning happens inside the learner's head, it happens most reliably when the learner is engaged in a personally meaningful activity that makes the learning real and shareable. Construction that may be shared could be as simple as a poem or a game created. John Dewey was an advocate for hands on learning, however it is important to note though that constructionism is more than just about hand’s on learning. The most meaningful part is about the questions asked as part of the process. The resultant product might stem from such a question like ‘how can we make this product go faster?” Constructionism empowers learners to connect with everything they know, feel, and wonder, stretching themselves into learning new things.

Reverse Thinking

After our tinkering we talked about Modern Learning Environments and brainstormed traditional environments compared to MLE's.  Chris Clay then introduced the concept of Reverse thinking and we had to choose one component from the MLE brainstorm and then think about it in reverse.  Reverse thinking helped us to clarify exactly what a MLE is.  I tried this in the classroom when I took a group of children who were creating an e-book.  We tried reverse thinking to brainstorm what an e-book was NOT and this really did help clarify what an e-book was.  Try it!