When Did P.E. Become Fun Again?

Picture of students in Go Noodle

Mr. McCarty’s students participate with Go Noodle.

How do you use GoNoodle in your classroom?! For those who have not heard about this awesome program, you have now. GoNoodle and GoNoodle Plus activities are designed for interactive physical and participatory learning. Kids will follow fun and often catchy rhymes, dances, shakes, and repeat-after-mes.  

Once again, how do you use GoNoodle in your classroom?

Teachers are not just using GoNoodle for its fun indoor P.E. activities and lessons. Classrooms across the country are starting to turn their classrooms into CHAMPS. Registration is free, quick, and easy from the GoNoodle website, www.gonoodle.com. Once a teacher account has been created, teachers can project activities and lessons from their classroom projectors. Classrooms will be prompted to select a character for use. It takes about 40 activity videos for your character to ‘evolve in the GoNoodle Transmogrifier’. This will max out your character, allow you to print a completion certificate, and then select another character from the list of possible choices.

With the support of local sponsors, GoNoodle Plus has allowed for more videos to be created, partnerships with individual schools and classrooms, as well as give teachers access to printable lessons and worksheets that link to topics and standards that a video attempts to teach about.

How cool is that?!

Free graphic organizers, writing prompts, and lesson plans that teach physical fitness, strength training, nutrition, and goal setting skills that all students should know.

GoNoodle videos are shown every hour on the hour in Room 12. I have several alarms on my phone and the kids love hearing “Who Let The Dogs Out” (Woof..woof woof, woof woof)! Next, the students know that they have earned the right to quickly move around the room where they have room to participate. Like many of my own students, I do not like sitting down for too long, and these mini activities get the students up and out of their chair, socially participating, listening, moving and engaging with their classmates. Finally, it’s back to work! This Brain Break has allowed my 10-year-olds to get out their frustrations, be silly, have fun, burn calories, and get back to work with minimal effort.

Other opportunities to use GoNoodle in your classroom might include:

Whether you are an expert GoNoodler using CHAMPS every which way you can imagine, or a new teacher looking for classroom management strategies for your very first classroom, (or anywhere in between) GoNoodle is for you!

Feel free to watch the video linked here. My classroom was selected as GoNoodle’s Classroom of the Month in December of 2017.

Technology is Hard

Image of the wall of mistakes

The Wall of Mistakes, where students proudly displayed the work that was not up to their own standards!

Throughout my career I have heard people say, when talking about technology “it is easy for you, you teach technology.” It is true that I have always taught technology based classes. I have had students build underwater robots. I have had kids publish books. Kids in my classes have managed local P.R. campaigns. All of these were heavily reliant in technology, and my students were successful because they were not afraid to fail. They were eager to try stuff, failing meant they were closer “to figuring it out.” We even had a “Wall of Mistakes” where kids tried to find things wrong with their work so they could fix it and put it on the wall. They achieved success because they were not afraid to try, they were not afraid to fail.

I haven’t always had computers in my classroom. It was midway through my second or third year when a local trade association donated a few Apple Quadra computers. It was a big deal, several V.I.P.’s came out to see the “New Lab.” There was a whole crew of people installing the machines (I think they mostly wanted to be in the newspaper story about the lab.) When they were finished they asked if I had any questions.

“Yeah’” I answered, “Where do you turn them on?”  They chuckled and showed me.

“Anything else” they asked?

“Just one more question. What do they do?”

It was really my first exposure to these kinds of computers. I had no idea what these machines could do or how they did it. But I had to teach with them the next day. So I dove in. I had to. Times were changing, there was new technology taking over. My job was to prepare kids for the workplace. It was very serious. We teachers had 4 years to prepare these high school  freshmen to be employable. And everyone was watching. I had to dive in.

So I did. I clicked on stuff and saw what it did. I messed up a ton of things. I started over a lot. But I had to learn it. I asked myself If I didn’t know how to use a computer how in the world could I expect my students to be prepared for the world they were growing into. So I clicked stuff. A lot.

So here is my point: learning to use technology is hard. I get that, I do. But if you struggle with technology and give up, what kind of modeling are you giving to your students? If you are afraid of making mistakes on a computer in front of your class, what are you teaching your students about mistakes? Are you really modeling a growth mindset for your students? Are you teaching students to manage data, or are you having them organizing binders? Which of those things are going to help them prepare for college and career?

Here is my advice: use technology. Click stuff. Lots of stuff. Learn from your mistakes. Be fearless with technology. Isn’t that what we ask our students to do?

Where to Begin with Educational Technology

ammpic Ah, January! A new year full of hope and new beginnings. What better time to try something new? With so many fun and exciting widgets, programs, and gadgets in educational technology it can sometimes feel overwhelming trying to figure things out. Don’t fret, try something you haven’t done before. It will be a new adventure. There are many teachers learning something new for the first time. My advice? (Even if you didn’t ask for it) Try one new thing at a time. If you want to try something useful to you and your students, try Nearpod. Nearpod is a free teacher resource website that is compatible with Google Classroom, Remind, and social media (twitter, facebook, snapchat). There are free grade level lessons as well as lessons to purchase. You can even upload  and create your own. There are two modes for presenting, Live Lesson, or Student-Paced. You are in control of the slides displayed on student screens in Live Lesson mode. Nearpod also allows you (teacher view) to see which students are logged on and following the lesson. You can link your lessons to Google Classroom with a simple click. My favorite part about nearpod is virtual reality (VR) explorations. You don’t need a headset or Google Cardboard to take your students on a virtual field trip. All you need is your chromebook. Students can visit national landmarks, colleges, and explore the world with a 360 degree view. It’s easy to sign on with your Google account. Try it out today in three easy steps.

  1. Log on to www.nearpod.com
  2. Click on sign in with Google  
  3. Create Teacher Account

Add to your library by visiting Explore. Have fun and try something new!

 

Anne-Marie Mason

Data

Data may be a four-letter word, but that doesn’t mean we can’t grow to love using it. Throw in the G-Suite of applications, and using data has never been easier or more meaningful.

Data can be dull

Before going further, let me acknowledge that not everyone loves data. I admit to having been on the receiving end of some deadly dull data presentations. I’m sure you can relate: It’s early in the year and we’re asked to look at several slides of charts, tables and numbers. (We likely have a printed version in front of us as well.) We are then asked to note how one subgroup moved up in one area (applause) while another slipped in a different area (groans of concern). It is not as if we don’t want our school to improve — I certainly do — but somehow studying numbers up and down a page is nowhere near as inspiring as any scene from “Stand and Deliver.”

And let’s face it: Most of us got into teaching because of Jaime Escalante. Or John Keating. Or Erin Gruwell.

Like Gruwell, I want my students to become “freedom writers.” Like Keating, I want them to “find their own walk.” Like Escalante, I want them to discover the ganas to succeed.

Passionate teaching and data analysis can go hand in hand

Jaime Escalante may have put on a production every day for his AP Calculus students, but he was also mindful of the bottom line, especially pass rate and average score.

I have long taught AP English. Being passionate has never been difficult. Paying attention to the numbers has been more of a struggle.

I started focusing more on data after attending a Saturday AP seminar two years ago. That session made me face the reality that, although I loved teaching the class and many students seemed to enjoy it as well, the results needed to be better. When the goal is improvement, the first step is acknowledging the problem.

I decided I needed to do more than just give excerpts of released tests, only to forget the results the next day. I needed to record what I was doing, and I needed to record the progress of each student. How else could we establish a baseline and determine growth or lack of growth?

Using Google Sheets

All of my practice test data now gets recorded into one Google Sheets document. For those of you still using Excel, I urge you to shift to Google Sheets. This app includes almost all of the features you were using with Excel, including the same formulas, and it is much simpler. As with an Excel file, I create several sheets (which look like tabs at the bottom). The first is what you see below, a listing of the practice exam excerpts I have given, including a wealth of information about each: date administered, type of passage, number of questions, high/low score, average score/percentage, median score and number of students scoring 60 percent or higher.

8/22 Prose To the Lighthouse/Woolf (2012) 14 9 0 4.6 34.8% 4 2
9/6 Prose Life on the Mississippi/Twain (2012) 9 8 2 4.8 57.0% 5 7
9/21 Prose Portrait of a Lady (2013) – GROUP 11 11 4 7.8 71% 9 9
10/18 Prose “Pharmacy” (2013) – untimed/coaching 8 8 6 7 87.5% 7 14
12/6 Prose Northanger Abbey (2014) 12 11 3 5.7 47.8% 5 3
1/4 Poetry Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 60” (2013) 11 11 4 7.3 66.7% 7 8
2/10 Poetry Donne’s “Love” (2014) 11 11 2 5.6 46.6% 5.5 5
2/28 Poetry Pope’s Essay on Criticism (2014) 13 12 0 8 61.5% 8 10
4/18 Both Practice test (2016) 55 45 16 29.3 53.3% 29.5 6
Total, other than practice test 52.4%

After several months a table like this allows me to see the forest despite those pesky trees. Improvement becomes obvious, especially after the first test administration. What is especially impressive is the number of students scoring 60 percent or greater with each administration. A deeper analysis of that success also reveals the unfortunate reality that students near the bottom did not improve at the same rate as those near the top. This revelation helped me group students together, matching those who were more successful with multiple choice with those who struggled.

A more valuable sheet lists the progress of each student.

Name Avg 8/22 8/22 9/6 9/6 12/6 12/6 1/4 1/4 2/10 2/10 2/28 2/28 Avg PRAC
% PRO % PRO % PRO % POE % POE % POE % %
1 74.3 9 64.3 7 77.8 9 75.0 9 81.8 8 72.7 8 61.5 72.2 61.8 2
2 50 3 21.4 7 77.8 5 41.7 8 72.7 4 36.4 8 61.5 51.9 69.1 3
3 67.7 8 57.1 7 77.8 7 58.3 11 100 5 45.5 8 61.5 66.7 58.2 3
4 43.5 4 28.6 5 55.6 4 33.3 6 54.5 5 45.5 7 53.8 45.2 49.1 2
5 67.8 9 64.3 7 77.8 4 33.3 11 100 7 63.6 11 84.6 70.6 70.9 3
6 38.3 2 14.3 4 44.4 5 41.7 5 45.5 5 45.5 0 0.0 31.9 32.7 2
7 39.4 7 50.0 2 22.2 3 25.0 7 63.6 4 36.4 6 46.2 40.6 32.7 3
8 41.0 0 0.0 4 44.4 4 33.3 9 81.8 5 45.5 9 69.2 45.7 34.5 3
9 44.2 3 21.4 5 55.6 0.0 4 36.4 7 63.6 5 38.5 43.1 58.2 2
10 31.2 4 28.6 2 22.2 5 41.7 4 36.4 3 27.3 6 46.2 33.7 49.0 1
11 44.8 5 55.6 5 41.7 6 54.5 3 27.3 3 23.1 40.4 30.9 3
12 26.7 2 14.3 2 22.2 4 33.3 5 45.5 2 18.2 9 69.2 33.8 29.1 1
13 79.9 8 57.1 7 77.8 11 91.7 8 72.7 11 100 12 92.3 81.9 78.2 5
14 56.1 5 35.7 6 66.7 7 58.3 0.0 7 63.6 9 69.2 58.7 65.5 3
15 43.5 3 21.4 4 44.4 4 33.3 7 63.6 6 54.5 10 76.9 49.1 49.1 2
16 74.1 6 42.9 8 88.9 9 75.0 10 90.9 8 72.7 10 76.9 74.6 81.8 4
4.56 34.8 4.82 56.9 5.73 47.8 7.33 66.7 5.63 51.1 8 58.2 52.5 53.2

Data sparks discussion

You might be wondering at this point, “Isn’t this just a big dull table with numbers, much like what put you to sleep at the beginning of the year?”

Well, yes and no. Aesthetically, it’s not attractive, I’ll give you that. But these are my students. In my view I see names, not numbers, in that far left column, and I want every one of them to be progressing upward as we move to the right. I want to see the greens of improvement and the bolded numbers that indicate 60 percent or more. I share the story of growth (or stagnation) with each student, and we use the numbers to spur discussion: What is causing the improvement? Why do you do better on poetry than prose? Why are you continuing to struggle?

Without hard data staring us both in the face, it is easy to just generalize that “We are all improving.” In fact, some students need to try new strategies.

If you look to the far right you can see that not every student passed the test. (A score of 3 or better is considered passing.) But I can tell you, at least anecdotally, that all students took this process seriously because it was so systematic. Also, I am happy to report that this group of students from Stagg scored higher than the national average.

The data listed in this way also reveals surprises. Students 7, 8 and 11 all passed the test even though the practices leading up to the May exam would not have predicted that. (On the other hand, anyone would have expected Student 1 to have passed with flying colors, and yet somehow he did not.)

Since the numbers were so strong last year and the growth so dramatic, you can be sure I have used these numbers to motivate my students this year. Yes, data can motivate.

Process is simple

Creating this table is easy. Most of it is just inputting numbers next to student names. The formulas are basic, easy to learn and (best of all) easy to duplicate. For Student 1, for example, the formula needed to come up with his average is as follows:

=sum(D3+F3+H3+J3+L3+N3)/6.

To create the same formula for the other students, I follow these steps:

  1. Copy Student 1’s formula
  2. Highlight the entire column from Student 2 through Student 16
  3. Go to the pull down menu: Edit > Paste special > Paste formula only

Voilá. All of the student averages are now in place.

I have students keep their own data in their notebook, but what I keep in this Google Sheets document allows for greater analysis. Having so much raw data is like recording your weight daily — and doing it honestly. If you have a genuine desire to lose weight, then staring at the scale and recording that number everyday and then examining your long-term trends will cause you to reflect upon what you need to do to make the desired change. Similarly, if a teacher wants to make a difference with his or her students, recording data is an honest reminder of where they are and the extent of their progress. The ideal scenario, of course, is students who want to do better working together with a teacher who has the same ambition. Success may not be guaranteed in that scenario, but it is a lot more likely.

I have thousands of files in my Google Drive. And that is no exaggeration. Probably it’s many thousands. Only a few do I mark with a star, effectively bookmarking them (or designating them my “favorites”). My data file is one of those special few. I use it that often.

New year, new uses

Starting this year, I have expanded the use of this document. I now have sheets for essay scores, lit term quiz scores and writing conference comments. This document allows me to keep a comprehensive record of my students from the first week of school.

This is my 33rd year teaching, and I can assure you the passion is still here. I’ve been doing this so long that when I started teaching, the movies referenced at the beginning had not even come out yet. I admit to tearing up then, and still now, at the end of this movie.

Passion is great. It may even be the most important quality for a teacher to have. But if we want results, we need to do a bit more.

Google Sheets is a great way to start.

Duolingo

What does parent involvement look like for our non-English speaking parents in the 21st century? With technology increasingly incorporated into the educational system, how do we make sure we don’t leave parents behind? Our school site found a way.

Here’s our story…

In 2015, my school site started opening up our computer lab for parents 2 days a week to use technology. We gave guided support to create email accounts, access Google translate, Cyber Safety, review student grades, and lessons on parent controls on electronic devices and popular student apps and platforms. Parents were super excited to learn how to use technology. We celebrated our success.

As our program expanded, we found our parents really wanted English classes. We did not have the staff to offer a program. This is when we started telling parents about Duolingo.

Duolingo is a free language-learning website and app along with a crowd-sourced text translation platform and a language proficiency assessment. Duolingo is ad-free and offers all its language courses for free. We decided to share this free option with all of our families who wanted to learn English, or several languages, for that matter.

Parents would come to our open lab and log on to their personalized English course. They could even use their phones and access the site at home. Combining technology classes regarding technologies used to support their students at school with a web based English language learning option, has been key to engaging parents at our school site.

Check out Duolingo and let us know what you think…

The Importance of Typing Skills

20161031_123530I cannot stress the importance of typing enough.  As our district continues to move closer towards a digital classroom philosophy, teachers are also discovering the benefits that come with creating digital assignments for their students.  From word documents to online presentations, there are a number of valuable tools that teachers use to assess student learning.  One concern is that some teachers are not taking their student’s typing skills into consideration.  In my experience, those students who possess basic or fairly-advanced typing skills have a better advantage when it comes to not only finishing assignments, but completing their work accurately.  Typing.com is  great website I use, where students can log in and track their progress.  It is loaded with lessons, as well as games.  What I really like about this website is that it shows proper finger placement for each letter when struck, and even gets progressively more difficult as users progress through each lesson.  Here are 3 reasons why teachers should actively encourage their students to practice typing in the classroom:

  • Saves your students time

If any of your students doubt this is true, consider the average person can type around 40 words per minute (wpm) in comparison to someone who writes 10-15 wpm.  A simple classroom demonstration would also set their curiosities at ease.  Explaining to your students that you can cut the grunt work in half…or more, will usually be met with raised eyebrows and gasps around the room.  Once students are fully aware of this fact, the buy-in will be plentiful.  Students truly value their time, and if they can work independently in a more efficient manner, they will be able to accomplish much more than they originally could.     

  • Saves you time

I cannot count how many times I have had students interject during lecture, and request that I slow down my Prezi or Slideshare as they hand write their notes.  I became so tired of having my students slow down my instruction, that I now have my students take the majority of their notes online.  Google Docs has become a life-saver, and more importantly a time-saver.  My lessons run much more smoothly, and students spend less time copying notes, and more time discussing the given content collaboratively.       

  • College and Career Ready

Let’s face it, typing is not only preferred, it’s a necessity in the workforce.  Employers aren’t just looking for technical skills from their potential employees, it’s pretty much expected.  Good luck trying to turn in an application that is completely handwritten these days.  Students can also expect this to be the case when they move onto higher education.  Typing 5 paragraph essays is one thing in the 8th grade, wait until they have to type a 5 page essay in high school…or a 25 page term paper in college.  Communicating to your students how invaluable typing skills are is as important as telling them to get a good night’s rest before an exam…or, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.    

David Fiore

January 3rd, 2018

EdTech Cadre

Taft Elementary