Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tech Tips Tuesday

Pair Programming

I have been further dabbling with code and programming in my classroom using Scratch. My students got on board and are enjoying trying it out and creating new things. They've taken to it quickly and have found ways to add complexity to their designs.

This week I wanted to have my students working with a partner on their programming. This was in part for the benefits of learning together, and in part due to the limited number of computers. I found this amazing video about Pair Programming at Code.org, that explains the process so well, and in terms the students can understand. We watched it through before I gave my students their task.

Their task in this lesson was to create an animated greeting card for Christmas. I admit, my idea for this was not entirely unique, but rather inspired by the Ted Talk by Mitch Resnick: Let's teach kids to code. Mitch Resnick went looking for a Mother's Day card for his mum on Scratch and found a whole collection students had created. I thought I would carry that across to Christmas.

Students enjoyed working in this way to solve problems and create something new. They changed "drivers" often, allowing each to have an opportunity to work the mouse for some parts of the process. It was great to see the collaboration, and watch the knowledge spread across the class between pairs. Someone would call out in frustration "Ugh! I can't get my penguin to talk!" and within moments someone from another pair was helping them out. They learn together.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tech Tips Tuesday

Kids Can Coach

I've discovered a method to help teachers integrate ICT in the classroom, that takes some of the heat off the teachers themselves. I'm calling it "Kids Can Coach".

Here's how it works:

Planning: Teacher 1 and Teacher 2 (and even Teacher 3) agree on something that they would like students to learn to do with ICT - this might be new skills in a familiar app, or a brand new app.

Preparation: Teacher 1 learns to do this themselves, and has a practice.

Lesson 1: Teacher 1 teaches Class 1 with a demonstration and then supports students as they learn the new skills. Teacher 1 and Class 1 are now experts, and become the coaches for the next lesson.

Preparation: Explain to Class 1 what coaching looks like, and what is expected of coaches. Coaches are told "explain, don't do" and provided with a guide (success criteria) to ensure they cover all task requirements.

Lesson 2: The lesson is repeated with Class 2/3. Teacher 1 gives the instructions and demonstration, and Class 1 students are paired with Class 2/3 student/s to coach.

Results: All students have exposure to the new skills, and students from Class 1 have become experts. In future lesson series, the coaching class should be varied in order to allow all students to experience being the coach/expert.


  • Teachers 2/3 could also join in during Lesson 2 and learn alongside students.
  • Cycle could be more along the lines of: Teacher 1 teaches Class 1, then Teacher 1 teaches Teacher 2 and Class 2 with Class 1 coaches, then Teacher 2 teaches Class 3 with Class 2 coaches.

Here's an example of how my Year 3 teaching team did this:

Planning: We decided we wanted students to learn how to retell a familiar story (with innovations) in a multimedia presentation using a drawing app (Sketchbook pro) and iMovie. I taught a similar lesson to groups last year, so this was an extension of this idea. I was "Teacher 1" and my class was "Class 1" for this example.

Preparation: I created a Storyboard worksheet for students to use to plan out their story and images. I introduced the project and told students we would be retelling the story of the Three Little Pigs. (We did extensive work with innovating this story earlier in the year). Students did the written part of their Storyboard.

I demonstrated drawing and colouring in Sketchbook Pro
Lesson 1: I demonstrated how to draw with Sketchbook Pro, including how to "crop" so that parts can be reused for additional pictures. Students got started with their images. As students started to get close to the iMovie stage, I stopped the class and brought them back together to explain how to export the images to Photo Library and then import to iMovie. I explained the key steps I wanted them to take when editing the video and adding audio. Students produced their movies with my support.

I demonstrated how to crop pictures to add to another picture.
 (See how the pigs are the same.)
Preparation: I talked to my class about the coaching process, and made it very clear that when we coach with ICT we try to keep our hands back. This is because the other person will learn so much more by doing it themselves than by watching someone do it for them. I listed the success criteria for the finished movie and displayed it on the IWB in the room for Lesson 2 so that students could refer to it when determining if there movie was complete.

Lesson 2: We gathered together with the other two Year 3 classes. I demonstrated the basic steps and tips for the project and then students were let loose to create. I moved around the room and monitored how groups were going. Students were engaged in the task and I was pleased to see that the coaches were allowing the others to do the work. I think it helped that they had had the chance to work through the whole creative process themselves in the previous lesson. They could then appreciate that this was not their personal creative work, so they felt free to provide support instead.

Results: Not all students completed in the lesson time, however they were able to work on these further during consolidation time. Students were very excited to share their movies in the special Movie Session we had the following week. All students developed the skills for using the programs and teachers gained some of these skills as they saw the process and assisted students.

Students worked in a group of three, with one coach.

This coach is trying REALLY hard not to touch the iPad!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Calculating the Cost of a Simple Summer Wardrobe

After our lesson Maths Fun - Exploring Real Data with Excel students were eager to have a play with Excel themselves. We were reading Onion Tears by Diana Kidd, and had read about how the main character Nam-Huong had arrived by boat with only the clothes she was wearing. We undertook an investigation to find out how much it would cost to get a simple summer wardrobe for Nam-Huong.

We began by considering the items of clothing that Nam-Huong would need and made a list on the board. After much discussion, and a last minute addition of a dress, we were ready to move on!

I put my students into small groups and each was given an iPad and access to a desktop computer (because we didn't have a spreadsheet app on the iPads). They were also allocated a shop to use for their pricing. We used Target, Kmart, Big W, David Jones and Myer. Students found the online catalogue for their store and searched through to find the price of the required items. They then added these to their spreadsheet.

Once they had all their totals, they used the formula =PRODUCT(B3:C3) and filled down the column. Once they had all totals they used the formula =SUM(D3:D12) to calculate the grand total.

Once everyone had finished, groups shared their results with the class and we were able to compare the grand total of each store. As always, when using real data the "answer" is never straightforward and this led to some great discussion. For example, one store didn't have all the required items in the catalogue and even when they searched the store online they were unable to find the price for a pair of socks. Another group had trouble finding a hat, and ended up settling for a Santa's elf hat. And one group was paying $25 per pair of underpants - severely impacting on their total cost. When asked, they said quite innocently, "They were frilly." I'm sure they were exactly what Nam-Huong needed when she arrived in Australia...along with her Santa elf hat! I'm not going to tell you who came in cheapest - you'll have to investigate that yourself. ;)

Further discussion arose about the need to monitor your online presence as a business to succeed in the market place. We talked about how many people now shop online, making it essential to have a website that helps people to find and purchase what they need. From our experiences there are some stores better positioned in this marketplace.

We had a lot of fun with this maths investigation and students rose to the challenge and learnt new computer skills. The following week we set a homework task where students could collect and represent their own data. One of my students decided to calculate cost and labour for a new pergola using Excel!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Motivation for Writing

I have been reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Old School by Jeff Kinney with my class of Year 3 boys and they have been LOVING it! I noticed a few copies making their way in to class early in the term, so jumped on iBooks and got a copy to display on the IWB. As we read together as a class the boys follow along on the screen, and some read their own personal copies. Sometimes I do the reading, other times the boys take turns.

Today we read the part where Greg forgets to put the lid on the toothpaste. One thing leads to another, and before the day is done Greg has manoeuvred the family car into a ditch! We loved reading this episode, and on completing we bounced off into our own writing. I paired students up with this free worksheet from MrsCroak at Teachers Pay Teachers.

After showing them how the Old School episode would sit on the worksheet, I got students to create their own storyline, starting from something simple and unproblematic. The buzz in the room was magic, and I was quietly pleased that they took to it so well at 2:30pm on a Thursday afternoon in the second last week of term! My students are typing them up in Google Docs and will use Sketchbook Pro on the iPads to add their own pictures in the style of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Signing out of Google Docs on iPad

My students share iPads with other students across the school, so it's really important for them to log off Google Docs/Drive at the end of a session so that others cannot access their account. I struggled at first to find an easy way to do this, so here's a quick step by step explanation. You could put this up on the IWB for students to follow:

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Step 6

I hope this helps your students to learn the process and keep their work secure.

A Twist on Christmas Craft

This year I decided to try something a little different for Christmas craft. As my students have been learning how to write procedures, I thought I would give them a chance to find an appealing Christmas craft and write up the procedure for their classmates to follow. The instructions I gave, can be seen here.

Students used books, iPads and classroom computers to research Christmas crafts and find one that they wanted to make. Some worked independently, others in pairs. They then wrote up the procedure for their craft using Google Docs. This was their first time using Google Docs so I was really pleased with how well they took to it. The pairs shared the document so both could add to it at the same time.

At the end of the first session students worked out which materials they would need in order to make a sample. Some sourced these from home or the art room, others gave a list to me. The following lesson we brought together the resources and students made a sample, taking photos as they did so and adding these to their original document.

As always, the trick was then getting the file to a printer. So I set up a folder on our shared drive for students. They jumped on a desktop computer, opened their Google Drive and downloaded the document as a Word document which they saved to the shared drive. Moving to the computers also gave greater flexibility in terms of resizing images, and moving to word allowed for further wrap options with images. I was then able to send the contents of this folder to the printer for printing.

I shared this idea with the other Year 3 classes and we now have a great assortment of Christmas crafts to try. Next week we will set up rotations across all three Year 3 classes so that students can move around trying the different crafts and following the procedures.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Maths Fun - Exploring Real Data with Excel

This term my Year 3 class is learning to collect, organise and represent data. I feel strongly about giving students opportunities to work in real world contexts and using available tools, so try to plan Maths lessons to achieve this. Early in the term students conducted mini surveys to find out about class preferences, recording the results in tally form. They then input their results using Excel and created graphs to show what they found.

This week we worked as a class on a project using the school lost property basket. We wanted to sort through what was there and find the total value of the items in lost property. On arrival at the basket, we found additional ways to sort the items. Within the basket were lunch boxes and containers, non-school uniform clothing items, and school uniform clothing items. For the sake of our task, we decided to work only with the clothing. We carried it all to an outside space where we could sort it.

Uniform items were set out in a physical graph.
Students sorted through the clothing, initially separating the uniform from non-uniform items. Uniform items were then sorted according to type and set out to form a physical graph. We put sticky labels on items that were named, so that we could also record this data, and possibly return the items at the end of our task.

Non-uniform items were separated.
One student was responsible for being our photographer and another wrote down our findings in tally form. We counted the number of non-school uniform items, but didn't sort these, as it would be harder to determine the value of these.

On return to class we used Excel to organise our results. To begin with, we wrote out all the items and the total number we found of each item. I introduced the formula aspect of Excel, demonstrating how to calculate the total number of items with =SUM(B1:B14). We then used the uniform price list to find the cost of each item, and entered it into the spreadsheet. We used another formula =PRODUCT(B2:C2) to find the total cost for each item in column D. I demonstrated how to fill down for the rest of the items. Finally we filled right from B15 to get the total cost. Students were blown away by the total value of the lost property. It was much more than they had expected.

Working more with the data we had collected, we made a table to show what we found about labelling. We copied and pasted the first two columns from our previous table, and then added a column for the number of labeled items. We tried to make a graph with this information, but it wasn't representing what we wanted to show, so we had to consider other options. We then tried to find a formula for subtracting, and eventually discovered that we just needed to type =(B2-C2) in D2 and then fill down in order to get a column for Unlabelled. We were then able to hide column B in order to graph the results to show the total amount of each item with labeled and unlabelled displayed.

We then made one more quick graph to show the comparison of Uniform to Non-Uniform items.

We sent our findings to the Head of School and Junior School Director, as something that might be mentioned at the SRC meeting as a reminder for students to write their name on their clothing, check the lost property and take greater responsibility for their property.

The task took about 90 minutes from start to finish, and involved a lot of modelling in the classroom rather than students having a chance to work it all through for themselves on the computers. Many are now keen to have a go with Excel to create their own spreadsheets and use formulas. My plan is to try this next week, with students calculating the value of a simple summer wardrobe.

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.