Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Last week of school

Today was the last day of school. I can’t believe it’s been a week since I last blogged. Sorry all, I dropped the ball and left ya hangin. I did miss my entries. I’m sure you know how hectic the last few days can be. We made it worse on ourselves by adding to the week. We added an awards ceremony and trip to the park. Oh and I’m moving so my things need to be out of the classroom. Grades are due, too. I’ve barely stopped long enough to take care of myself let alone blog.

I’m not complaining just thinking out loud, well in writing. It has been a wonderful week, and the kids have enjoyed it.

Last week we worked a lot on our planet projects. The kids were studying a planet (or the sun) and had to use their research to sell us on a trip to the planet. Believe it or not the hardest part was them “pretending” we could go to that distant planet or sun. It really stumped them, but opened up the teachable moment that at one time most of the things around us was not possible. We made it to the moon, before that people thought it might be impossible. We routinely ride in airplanes, so many planes we see them all the time, crazy idea long ago. We worked through it and they were getting really creative. Monday we presented to various students around our school. Hectic day would be an understatement; we played games in between presentations. Thanks to whole brain teaching, easy to set up and keep academic. Mind Soccer is my new favorite, but also super speed, and I threw in some logic puzzles for them.

Tuesday we did a little review work and finished our certificates. Everyone in my class works hard not only academically but also at becoming a better person, so I have the class decide what everyone worked hardest on or demonstrated and we handed out character counts certificates. They always impress me on how hard they are on each other. I might not completely agree with their choices but their reasoning makes since. Then we did the ceremony and toasted with sparkling cider to celebrate finishing the year. Of course no celebration is complete without a trip to the water park, complete with some fun in the water (a fancy sprinkler set up by the park, they are all over in AZ).

Today we finished off the year by writing some letters. One to the 6th grade teachers, and one to the fifth graders coming in. We did a bit of cleaning, some remember when, and handed out report cards. I’ve never had tears but this year I did. In fact I had a bunch of students crying. Some repeat hugs, and more hugs. Some really surprised me; I just didn’t expect it from a few of them. That’s the best part of working with kids, they are amazing!!!

Not much about WBT except that it permeates into every aspect of my teaching. It just comes naturally that building a positive class builds relationships too.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Low cost document camera

Technology is another thing I love. Using it in my class equals instant engagement and that is totally a WBT philosophy. Plus I think we all should be able to use and get technology easily and for a reasonable price. I’m sure my school has figured out that if they don’t have technology I will acquire it myself, it’s that important to me.

If you have a computer and projector hook up in your class and you are dying for a document camera I have successfully got one set up without getting an official document camera (too much money if you ask me). You will need a standalone web cam. I mean one that attaches to you computer not that cheap one that comes built in. I picked up my camera a while ago because my built in web cam was bad. I like things being mult-talented, technology is expensive I like to be able to use it a lot.

1.) Get a webcam get one you would use for other purposes besides a document camera. Later I will post a list of ideas for doc cams and web cams. Don’t set yourself up to need a different camera later to do other things. I waited until a nice one was on sale at Best Buy. Consider an HD or high resolution cam to make it easier to read words on paper.
2.) Get a tripod. At least a table top one. Target has options between 15-40 dollars. Some are table top and some extend farther. It needs to be about 10-20 inches from the table top depending on the camera’s zoom abilities and resolution. Personally I would get one I can set on the table, I have visions of my students tripping on the tripod legs.
3.) Install software that came with your camera. You can probably use any software but I find the basic software works fine.
4.) Turn it all on. Once the camera is on it will show you in real time whatever is in front of the lens. It will not save unless you record or take a picture.
5.) You will need to have the camera on in order to find the best arrangement. If possible get the camera and tripod to the side or behind the paper location. I truly believe that students will be careful but I wouldn’t want to constantly rearrange the setup. You might want to have the kids write while under the camera, it should be useable.

Love, luck, and lollipops

P.S. I’m also working on an interactive whiteboard for less than $100. Let me get it working and then I’ll post all the details.

changing up class-yes

I keep using the brain toys, although I can’t say I’m using a bunch of them. Even though it’s the end of the year I just can’t overload them. We all have seen the overwhelmed looks on their faces when to many new things are in their brains. Officially I only have 7 more days left and we are still covering new material, thanks to WBT. I know we wouldn’t be covering anything if I was using any other management style. WBT just rocks like that. I do see kids getting more and more antsy but we keep having fun. I do want to introduce Mind Soccer, an excuse to use all that energy. It seems like the perfect time. We watched the video online, all the kids are excited to try.

Today however, I did introduce the idea of using team instead of class for the class-yes. Totally helped my lag time in the class-yes. I had noticed that the kids weren’t responding quickly enough. Team was a different word to hear. I introduced it as being used when we were being a great team so the students can track how they are doing. Thank goodness I kept forgetting all day. Luckily I forgot and they weren’t being the best team. It helped them make small corrections to their attitude to build a team. They all want to know what’s next after team. One kid said she thought it would be family, which I like but don’t know if I’ll use. I was planning on using Biffle’s idea; class, team, winners, champions’ but, I might work panthers (our school mascot) or Vinnie (our class rabbit) into it too since it builds our team as well.

Love, luck, and lollipops ; )

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rules Story

I had a sixth grader in my room today. He walked by the rules and went through the hand gestures to see if he could remember. I couldn't even figure out what he was doing at first. He was just going through the rules. I thought that was so sweet and it just made me feel great that he liked the stuff we did that much.

classroom rules

The thing I noticed most about my field trip was that something as simple as having the kids say the rules made a big difference in our day.  Part of whole brain teaching is that if the kids are not following a rule and we repeat it complete with hand gestures.  Instead of the kids getting in trouble we can remind them what is expected of them and let them make the changes necessary.  That way we’re taking a very positive approach nothing gets dragged down, no yelling happens.  The kids know the rules and they know the expectations, by this point there’s no doubt in my mind.  So instead of being the grumpy teacher, they do the reminding for me by repeating the rule what the hand gestures.  In effect, they expected of themselves.

Now the kids did not start out understanding the rules.  We all know that and it didn’t start out knowing our expectations.  They did have a good idea.  So the first few weeks of school and periodically throughout the year we discuss them and practice them.  At the beginning of the year we break the rules and then practice them the way they should look.  Yes, I said break the rules everyone loves to break the rules.  We giggle we shall its silly and they truly know what I expect them not to do.  But then we go through what I expected to look like.  It’s a lighthearted way to make sure my point is absolutely clear.  We also discussed the hand gestures and procedures for saying the rules.  The students definitely repeat the rules every morning after the pledge of allegiance.  And then anytime throughout the day that they are in train a new atmosphere they made me to say the rules.  Throughout the day when there are behavior problems we repeat the necessary rule associated with that behavior problem.


OK, so yesterday we had a field trip, the entire class roaming a college campus.  For the most part they did wonderfully, that is, until you’re tired.  Like any kid eventually the hot sun, Arizona’s 94°, and a whole lot of walking added up to some grumpy kids.  Let’s face it all that added up to a grumpy teacher too.  Being outside and calling for attention didn’t always mean a class that heard or responded.

This called for a timeout; we all took a break in the shade.  Some of us ended up with muddy pants after finding a wet patch in the grass.  Of course they found it the hard way.  This timeout was a chance for us to recuperate and get back to having fun.  We all gave each other some high fives, went over the rules, and rethought our choices in behaviors.  It made for a much better trip.

You know visiting a college campus means a lot of walking and a lot of looking.  Even though we discussed this before the trip I’m not entirely sure that they realized how much walking it meant.  Really if you’ve never been to a college campus though, how can you know what kind of walking or activities are planned until you’re there.
By regrouping and getting everyone on a positive note we were able to end our day and a trip in a positive way.  By time we got on the bus I was a lot less worried about behavior or even those in a kid.  I always get really stressed out what this field trip because it’s so wide open and there’s so many things that a kid could get into and get away from a group.  The kids are so used repeating the rules now that we know when we need to repeat the rules some changes really need to be made.