Thursday, January 15, 2015

Educating Little Ones

Teachers will understand the panic that sets in toward the end of the summer break, as we realise that we only have two more weeks to go! For people in other occupations, who are glad for what little holidays they get, I'm sure we seem ungrateful. As it is, we teachers are grateful for our holidays, but also know that once the school year starts, we will be flat out until Easter. So after a leisurely month of gardening, sleeping in, reading books etc. I've been trying to get back into gear, starting with my little guy.

I find it hard to believe, but my little guy will be in Pre-Kindergarten this year. I don't like to think of myself as a pushy parent, but I do want to give him the best chances I can in terms of his education. As a teacher, I don't think it's fair to fail to provide the best education I can manage - some of this happens at home, and some in his educational settings. So what does that look like to me?

Reading, reading and reading some more. We go to the library regularly to borrow old favourites and find new favourites. When a book becomes too much of a favourite that we are constantly renewing it, we buy it! We buy books frequently, usually on sale at Aldi, Costco or Big W. When there is a book fair at school, we buy a book. We give books as rewards. "Read to Mummy or Daddy" is worth 50 cents on the little guy's pocket money chart, making it a little bit more worth his effort. These holidays we seem to have hit the sweet spot, and he is now reading happily, taking on the roles of Gerald or Piggie when we read Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie books. We are playing some of my favourite Kindergarten word recognition games using the words from these books.

Numbers All Around Us. Maths is a big part of our daily lives. We talk about prices when shopping, and discuss whether things are on sale etc. We talk about speed limits when driving - reinforcing numbers that are multiples of 10. My little guy loves to count and to see how far he can get. We play games with dice to improve his recognition of amounts in the form of dot patterns. We cook together, measuring out the ingredients. We talk about doubling, and counting in twos. We discuss the many ways we can make up numbers eg. 4 and 1 is 5, and so is 2 and 3.

Non-stop chatter. Our little guy wants to know everything. And if he doesn't know something, he asks. So there is rarely a moment of quiet. While it gets tiring, we have been impressed by the things he has learnt from discussing things with us. When he asks, "Why?" we encourage him to share his thoughts, particularly when there is more than one possible answer. We find that we are often thinking out loud around him, so he is learning our thought process when going about daily events. As a result, we have seen him doing this also, and he is usually able to explain what he was thinking in a given situation. I particularly liked hearing his self-talk - "be brave" - when riding his bike at a tricky bit the other day.

Out and About. We try to get out and about often. As well as using the car, we catch the bus or train, ride bikes and take the dog for a walk. We climb mountains, visit museums, swim at the pool, play at parks and all the usual things kids do. All the while, talking about the experiences!

Obviously there are other things that happen too, like the free time playing games, and the visits with friends, a bit of music and art here and there. But my focus, in the last little while before getting my head back into Year 3, has been on digging out some of my old Kindergarten favourite games and activities to begin doing with my little guy. I polished a couple of these up a bit and added them to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store this week. Of course, when my little guy saw what I was doing, he wanted his own drawings used for the clip art, so I've ended up making two versions - one for him and one for my store! Ahhh. The things we do! If you're interested in checking it out further, it's called Partitioning Numbers to 20 Math Center Activities and the activities could be just as easily used at home as at school.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

What NOT to do with your iPhone 6, and then how to go about fixing it...

My husband spoilt me by getting me the iPhone 6, just after it was released, and went to great lengths to do so as he was interstate at the time, and I was preoccupied with all things reports. It was an awesome feeling to be finally finished the reports and able to crack into my new iPhone, delivered to me by my mother in-law. I loved it at once, and ignored all the bad feedback it was getting about bending in people's pockets. 

My little guy got my iPhone 5 as a hand-me-down and he too was on cloud nine, enjoying all the new possibilities. Life was sweet until... it fell out of my pocket and landed in ... the 'sink'. Ok. So it was the toilet. How can anyone be so careless with something they claim to love so much? I don't know, but what I do know is that in situations such as these, there is no time to pause and contemplate how stupid it was. And so, for those of you who make the same stupid mistake, you have no time to lose. 

Here's what to do:

Step 1: Get the phone out of the toilet. Yes, it's gross, but you have to do it at some point, so just do it.

Step 2: Turn it off. You don't need to watch it die. For me, even though only seconds had passed, the screen was already glitchy, and turning off was easier said than done. Remember that you need to slide along the top of the screen after holding down the power button.

Step 3: If it's in a case, remove it from the case, and wipe it down with toilet paper.

Step 4: Put your phone in a bag of uncooked rice. I put about a cup in a zip lock bag - enough to cover my phone completely.

Step 5: Leave it in the bag to dry out. This is the hardest step. 
Not just a bag of rice!

The results:
After 1 day it had a glitchy screen with white, grey, and black lines and was completely unreadable. I tried to turn it off again and put it back in the bag.
After 2 days the phone needed charging. At first it looked like it was all good, but there was a dark patch in one section, and the text became blurry within a few minutes.
After 4 days, the sceen was great, and functionality was restored, but the sound when holding the phone to the ear, was not. I tried using compressed air to clean the speaker but to no avail. I decided to start using it again anyway, relying on speaker phone when making calls. 

Over the next week, the ear piece went through a stage of buzzing, finally becoming clear and functional. Hooray!

After a quick look at Apple's support website, it appeared that they would be able to fix the problem outside of warranty for just under $400 in Australia. I was seriously considering this option at day 2, but am obviously glad to have been able to wait it out and save the money.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Using Sketch Book Pro and iMovie to Retell a Narrative

As part of our literacy rotations, I have been working with groups to retell a narrative. The activity runs over three 1.5 hour sessions with some overlap of the activities due to student progression.

In the first session we read the narrative as a group. Students then read it to themselves. We discuss the main events and the language used. Students then write the story in their own words in their literacy book and edit this.

In the second session students use Sketchbook Pro on iPads to draw images for the story. Students are equipped with styluses and I demonstrate how to use zoom to improve the quality of illustrations. I explain how to duplicate the page (by clicking on the ++ icon) so that students can modify their previous pages rather than starting from scratch each time.

Once students have illustrated the key events in the story, they import the images to the Photo Library (using the flower/arrow icon). Students then open a new project in iMovie, using the 'Simple' template. They drag the photos into the storyboard in the correct order. I demonstrate how to modify the start and end positions of each image. Students make an audio recording of themselves reading the retell they wrote in the first session. They then modify the length of time each image is displayed to fit with the audio recording. Finally they add titles and share their work with the group using AirPlay.

In the third session all groups present what they have created in the first two sessions.

The second session is very ICT heavy, with a long explanation about the process at the start (with demonstration). Students are engaged in the task and work hard to complete it. For many, this is the first time they have used a stylus with an iPad and they are adjusting to writing/drawing in this format. The resulting movies look quite professional and students are proud of their efforts. I found that if I put more effort into my demonstration, showing how to draw, add colour etc, then students put more effort into their drawings also. I have included my basic demonstration images and video (the story is incomplete).


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Coaching Others - Aurasma App for Maths

In recent weeks I have been sharing my journey as I explore the use of Aurasma in the classroom. This week I share about a Maths rotation activity a co-teacher and I created. This is the infamous co-teacher who introduced me to Aurasma in the first place and encouraged me to explore it further. Together we designed a Maths rotation activity for students to use with word problems involving sharing money.

Our idea
We wanted to use Aurasma as a self-check method for students on completion of some word problems. The aim of this was for us to practise using the Aurasma App to deliver content.

Our plan
Students visit displayed posters and try to work out the answers using their own strategies. Once they feel they have accurately answered the question, they use Aurasma to scan the poster and see a video of our explanation.

We made images with Sketchbook Pro and printed these to make posters, along with the word problem students were to solve. In this case the word problems were about sharing money between a group of students. We used an iPad to create a video overlay of our explanation, and created our trigger image by taking a photo of the poster. We saved all auras to a public channel for students to access.

In the Classroom
Four groups of students rotated through this activity. A lot of time in the first session was spent getting the iPads sorted and "following" my co-teacher. We then explained that students would use the toy notes and coins available to help them to find the answers to the questions. They could then check their answers using the iPad video explanation.

Unfortunately, I learnt a hard lesson about the need to use unique images for the trigger images. As I had reused my characters and just added to the slides when creating the images, students found that the wrong overlay popped up when scanned. We then had to do the second set of rotations without the Aurasma element.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Exploring Aurasma Studio with Maths

One of my coworkers has been trying to get me to look at Aurasma for quite some time, so I finally decided to take the plunge. After a little experimentation I decided to design a Maths lesson with it for our Maths rotation activities. My idea required greater functionality than the Aurasma app could provide so I went to Aurasma Studio instead. For more information on the basics of Aurasma, click here.

My idea
I wanted my lesson to involve problem solving with multiplication and division - possibly including money as a bonus. Our rotation groups are based on ability, so I wanted to embed different levels within the task so students could experience the task at their own level.

My plan
I wanted to use pictures from grocery store catalogues as triggers for pop-up questions, with secret bonus questions (as extension) to be revealed with an action. I visited the grocery store and got a group set of catalogues.

Triggers - I used my iPad to photograph images of the catalogue items and uploaded these to my iMac.
Overlays - I used Sketchbook Pro to write up question cards which I saved as images, also uploaded to my iMac. I made some 'special bonus question cards' and uploaded these to my Flickr account - as they needed to be located at a URL in order to make the task work.
In Aurasma Studio I uploaded a trigger image - one of the catalogue items. I then added multiple question cards as overlays (one a multiplication question, one a division question). Finally I added an invisible overlay over the item price which, when clicked, took the user to my Flickr image where an extension question was displayed.

In the Classroom
Four groups rotated through these activities. The first group was the extension Maths group, and while we took some time to get everyone loaded up and following my channel, they still managed to have a pretty good go at working through the questions and recording their answers in their maths workbook. I wrote the 'shopping list' on the board so that students knew which items to look for. Those students who made it through all the questions explored the 'secret bonus questions' as well. Students worked through at their own pace.
The two mid-range groups worked through the questions at varying degrees and without the need to get the iPads set up to begin with. For the support group, I asked that they begin with only the multiplication questions, returning to the division if they had time after that.
All students seemed to enjoy the activity, even with the technical complications with wifi, location services and 'following'. Some groups found it useful to capture a screenshot to refer to so that they wouldn't have to hold the iPad still the whole time. In order to mark the work with students it helped to have a copy of screenshots of all the questions.