So, did you know that today is Global School Play Day? I didn’t either until about a week ago. Other teachers in my building approached our administrators about the day and it was decided that our school was going to participate (you can see more information here.) I wrote it down on my calendar and kept going knowing that I had to process what this would mean for my classroom for the day.
After a little reading on their web page, I learned the basic idea of the day is to provide children with the opportunity to have screen-free, unstructured play. In today’s society children don’t have as much opportunity to participate in child led, unstructured play. Something so simple, but so important to a child’s development.
With not much time to reflect on how this would look across the school, I concentrated on how to best implement it in my classroom and went to work.
And you want to know something? It was an amazing day!
Wait a minute? Why doesn’t this happen everyday? Well that’s simple, right? We can’t come into school everyday and just play! That’s ridiculous! But is it?
There was a lot of learning going on. Maybe not content area learning in all cases, but important life skills like problem solving, social interactions, following rules of games, turn taking, sharing,...and the list goes on. Is there a way for teachers to harness the spirit of the day and apply it to “regular” days of school? Is it possible that the excitement and energy that we felt throughout the building today could be felt more often? Can we make it so students pop up out of bed and tell their parents “We’re going to learn about telling time today!” like my son jumped out of bed this morning and said “We’re going to play all day today!” I think there is.
I found today rejuvenating as a teacher and saw evidence of similar feelings in the faces of other teachers and students in the building. I looked at my classroom from a different perspective and saw possibilities that had never occurred to me when I was looking through my detail oriented tunnel vision. We have a lot of things that we need to get done in a school year, I get it. We can’t have child led, unstructured play all day, every day at school. But I wonder what would happen if we added it to our days and weeks. I wonder what would happen if, as teachers, we move a little further outside our comfort zones to meet our students where they fit more naturally as busy, curious, active children.
If today is any indication, we all might enjoy school a little more, our students will be more engaged and invested in their learning, and we’ll be so tuckered out that we’ll sleep sounder at night.
How can you incorporate the spirit of Global School Play Day into your classroom? I know that is a question I will be asking myself regularly from now on.
A few weeks ago we were hit with an ice storm. The ice storm seemed to catch everyone off guard. Our neighborhood shares roads with a popular vacation spot, so the roads are usually pre-treated whenever there is a threat of weather. This time they were not.
The storm hit early on a Thursday morning and roads got bad quickly. Being so early in the season, most of the trees still had leaves so the added weight from the ice took out a lot of trees...and a lot of power lines. At 6:45 on Thursday evening we lost power and it wasn’t restored until Sunday afternoon. In my adult life, that was the longest I had been without power. We were blessed in so many ways. By midday on Friday the roads were clear enough to travel. Friends and family who had power opened their homes to us and we were able to stay warm and comfortable. To the kids it was an adventure that included long playdates and sleepovers with many of their good friends. As the weekend went on, I noticed something that I hadn’t expected. Even though they were having fun and their needs were being met, my kids were becoming irritable and cranky. By Sunday afternoon their behavior was rapidly declining.
My teacher brain started analyzing the situation. If all behavior is a form of communication, what was my children’s behavior saying? The answer I came up with was quite simple. Our routine had been disturbed. We hadn’t been home for 2 days. We had slept in a different place each night. The length of this adventure was uncertain: until the power came on, we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to sleep at home or if we would be spending another night out of the house. Even though they were having fun, were safe, had food in their bellies, a place to sleep, and were with their family and friends the structure, stability, and predictability of the most basic aspects of daily life had vanished. What was worse? They was no concrete end in site.
How many of the students coming into our classrooms experience unpredictability in their everyday lives? How many of our students are going through something that is turning their lives upside-down and we are clueless? I went to work that Monday discombobulated and tired from the events of the long weekend, but I knew that our normal was being reinstated. How many of our students’ parents are carrying heavy burdens that take priority over checking their child’s take home folder and sending back that form?.
I was reminded in a very tangible way that even if we think we know what is going on in the lives of those we see every day, there is so much we are unaware of. It is important to be kind to one another and to give the benefit of the doubt even if we think we shouldn’t. Instead of thinking “what is WRONG with them today?!” we should try “i wonder what is bothering them today.” See if we can convert that frustration into empathy and take the time to check in we might learn the “why” behind actions and behaviors and what we learn may just shift our perspective on the situation.
I've used Nearpod in class with students and I've created activities for families to do together at home to expand on what we're doing in class. This year, I am also going to use Nearpod for Back to School Night.
Back to School Night is a wonderful time to meet our new students, get information from parents, and let them know what to expect this school year. Most parents and students are able to make it, but there are always some that are out of town or unable to come for a variety of other reasons. A Nearpod activity is a great way to reach those parents who
With the beginning of the school year comes a lot of information gathering. There is a lot of information that we want from parents and other teachers as we prepare our classrooms and our brains for the year ahead. This usually means a lot of paperwork and a lot of emails.
As a teacher, I typically get parents to fill out these forms at Meet the Teacher Night or at a home visit. As a parent, I've gone to many Meet the Teacher Nights and have filled out forms for my children's teachers.
This year I am going to try something new; I'm going to use Google Forms. This isn't going to work for everything, but it will work for the information that I am collecting for my own records. Here are some ways that Google Forms could make the beginning of the school year a little easier:
To gather parent contact information.
As a parent, I have filled out multiple copies of this type of form for teachers. They want to know the best way to reach me and how I might be able to volunteer in the classroom. While, as a teacher, I haven't used this type of form I imagine organizing the information for a class of students is even more tedious than filling it out as a parent. Creating a Google Form for this can be faster for parents and help teachers organize the information more quickly, easily accessible in their Google Drive. It also cuts down on paper use.
To gather information about your students.
As teachers, we like to get as much information as we can about our incoming students. As a parent I've been asked about my thoughts on my child's strengths and weaknesses, their favorite subjects, their least favorite subjects, and what I hope for the school year for my child. Using Google Forms to gather this information allows teachers to quickly organize it in their Google Drive. It also takes out the guess work of reading unfamiliar handwriting. Using less paper is a nice benefit too.
Organizing Co-Teaching Schedules, etc
This is the time of year that we are working out schedules. Some teachers schedules include co-teaching with multiple teachers or pulling students for services. I know that the speech pathologist that I work with does her rounds walking to each teacher to find out the best times and then travels around again or sends emails to problem solve the scheduling conflicts. Creating a Google Form for gathering the initial information of best times, etc would allow therapists and teachers whose schedules are intertwined with the schedules of other teachers to get their scheduling done faster (while keeping the information organized nicely in their Google Drive).
All teachers have data collection needs. Many teachers also have other adults in their classrooms helping whether it be assistants, other teachers, student teachers, or parent volunteers. Google Forms can be used to collect data in an organized way. For example: Your student teacher is going to be assessing your students on their knowledge of shapes. Create a google form requesting information you would like for each student (don't forget the student name and the date for data collection purposes!), create a QR code labeled with the activity, and your student teacher can quickly and easily take data that is organized and ready for you in your Google Drive.
The beautiful thing about using Google Forms to help in this way is that no matter where you are, as long as you have access to the internet, you have access to this information. You're at an in-service and need to access information? You have it. You planned on going in to work on progress reports but your little one is sick? Don't worry, your data sheets are on your Google Drive. You also can't misplace it! I'm famous for wandering around the classroom with something and putting it down...and forgetting where I put it. This will definitely help me!
What are some other ways you use Google Forms to help you work smarter and not harder?
This morning I woke up with an idea: I think I can use Nearpod for morning sign in and lunch count.
This would be a great way for me to teach my students some of the basics of Nearpod and to get more comfortable with using it.
This would be a great way for me to have practice accessing my reports and using the results.
I made a beeline for my computer and started to play around. Like most things I do, I over thought it at first. Then, I realized that students are required to sign into a lesson to join it. Attendance, done! Now lunch count. My tinkering brought me to the conclusion that the 2 activities best suited for lunch count were poll and quiz. If I use quiz, then I'm counting how many people chose which answer. Poll has the information organized already meaning less work for me. Students get practice spelling and typing their name (good things to practice in elementary school!) and I will have a quick and easy way to see what my lunch count numbers will be. Win/win!
I'm excited about the possibilities! I hope that you play around a bit and give it a try too! Below is a screencast if you want to see exactly how I created it.
As you can see, I'm the proud owner of a new "badge." I found out today that I have been accepted as a Nearpod Certified Educator. Four months ago I didn't know what Nearpod was and 5 months ago I had never heard of it before, but now I am sold!
Nearpod is a free app that allows teachers to create interactive learning tools for students. There are also lessons that have already been created that teachers can browse through, edit (if needed) and use. With the free version some of these lessons are not free and some of the features are not accessible (like most free apps, there are in app purchase opportunities). With the paid version (check and see if your school or school division has an account!) there are so many features available and all of those lessons that you browse through are FREEEEEEE.
Now, I'm a preschool special education teacher. Most of those lessons are not appropriate for the developmental level of my students. BUT what Nearpod allows me to do is create some pretty awesome educational tools that ARE appropriate for my students. I am fortunate that my school division has purchased Nearpod for all teachers PK-12th grade. I have had so much fun exploring and finding ways to use this to benefit my students. My favorite features so far are the Draw feature, the 360 "field trip" pictures (this is hands down my students' favorite), and the ability to add audio to slides. With the Draw feature, you can upload a picture as the background for them to draw over--so far I've used this for tracing and finding and circling things in a picture. It has worked very well. You can choose to lead your lesson "live" so that you control the pace of the lesson or you can allow it to be student-paced. I like both features. I have used live when working with a large group of students and student paced when working with 1 or 2 students at a time.
There are so many possibilities for what you could use Nearpod for. I have mostly used it for letter, number, and counting practice. But, I had a thought earlier today that I will experiment with to use Nearpod to create social stories. I'll let you know how it turns out. Another amazing thing about this app is it is appropriate for preschool teachers and college professors to use. It could easily be used to get information to groups of adults as well. The possibilities are really endless.
I know you're itching to see what this actually might look like, so here's a link to see a lesson I created and used with my students.
What do you think? Are you using Nearpod? How do you use it? I'd love to hear!
I LOVE to do lists. Even though they can be quite frustrating (it seems like I'm adding to it more than I'm checking things off most of the time...) to see how much I have to do, the feeling I get when I can check something off of the list is amazing! I'm constantly trying to find more effective ways to help me remember what I need to do and what I'd like to get done.
I'm sure that many of you, like me, have many lists going at once. There's the one on my desk at school, the one in my planner, the notebook on my kitchen counter, the notes typed quickly into the memo app on my phone....and then there's always the occasional item or two scribbled on my "palm pilot" (read, the back of my hand).
In a course I am taking this summer, I learned about a google tool that I am excited to use and excited to tell you about it so you can check it out too! While logged into your google account, go to keep.google.com. The beauty of this is that where ever you are you can log into your account and see these notes you've written. You can even get an app for your android or iphone! These notes can be organized by color, you can add a picture to the top of it, you can create lists, or write down something that you need to remember. If you have written something that you would like to put into a document, you can do that with a couple clicks. If you'd like to share information or an idea with another person, you can do that. If you'd like to organize your notes and lists by category labels, you can do that too! It is such a flexible tool!
As you are getting ready for a new school year, check this tool out. I know I am! I'm looking forward to not having to keep track of my paper lists this year! Thank you Google! I might be able to see what color my desk is a little more often this year. :) ;)
I started using Seesaw in my classroom at the beginning of this school year. As an early childhood special education teacher, I wasn't entirely sure the best way for me to use it with my students.
At first I used it to show parents what their child was doing at school. I took pictures and captioned it with what they were doing. The parents loved being involved in class in this way. So many of them would love to volunteer in the classroom, but know that their child isn't ready for them to do that yet. More recently, I have branched out using the draw function in Seesaw to do letter traces and picture/recording activities where students get to pick their favorite (fill in the blank) and record over the picture to label it verbally.
This week I tried something I saw online and it has worked really well. A talking alphabet! It has been a hit so far and I think is going to become a more regular activity for us. I'm so excited!
This week we are talking about the letter "X." I cut out two strips of construction paper so students could use them to make the letter "X." I would have used my handwriting without tears materials, but I wanted some color to help make it more interesting.
Once they had made an "X" with the construction paper strips, we opened ChatterPix and took a picture. The student drew a mouth and then we started to record. Some of my students were able to practice a couple of times with me and then record "I am a X. I make the sound /ks/ /ks/." Some of my students needed me to prompt them while we were recording. Others needed prompts more along the line of:
Teacher: I am a
Teacher: I say
This can be adapted in so many ways! Once done recording, there are sticker options to decorate your picture. After the letter was decorated, I exported it to my camera roll and then uploaded it to the student's Seesaw folder so they can watch it at home and show their parents.
Everyone LOVED creating their talking letter and playing it back.
Click on the picture below to see the example I made for my students.
Have fun making your alphabet talk!! :)
Over the summer I got an email from my dad about this coding robot that had been developed for children ages 4-7 years old. It's called KIBO and it is made by KinderLab Robotics. It looked really cool and like something that would be a great adult led group activity for my preschoolers. So, I did some research.
Our school has 3 preschool classrooms. Two classrooms are similar to the Head Start program and one is an early childhood special education classroom. I came back to school in August and talked to my team and we decided that we wanted to try to get one or two of these KIBOs. With their blessing, I wrote a grant through our county and we were able to purchase one. Our PTA helped us buy another. So, now we have 2 KIBOs and are starting to brainstorm fun ways to introduce them to our preschoolers and use them in class.
One of the things we are talking about this week is the letter D and when you talk about the letter D you need to talk about dinosaurs too :), right? I set up one of our KIBOs and put the stage attachment on it, then I taped a toy dinosaur on top and we got started!
I explained to them that when we are telling KIBO what to do, we always need to start our block line with green for go and end our block line with red for stop. We took turns picking what we wanted KIBO to do and adding it to our block line. We scanned our block line with KIBO and then we watched our dinosaur dance!
The kids LOVED it! We had fun taking turns pressing the button to make the dinosaur dance.
Have you heard of Seesaw? It is a diverse app that is great to use in the classroom...or really for anyone who works with groups of children. I can see this being a very useful tool for coaches, babysitters, daycare centers, and even adult care facilities.
Seesaw has an Ambassador program that teachers can apply to be a part of. I have applied, completed training, and am now an Ambassador for Seesaw! I am so excited to be able to learn more about this app that I have enjoyed using in my classroom this year and to be able to share that knowledge with other teachers. Let me know if you would like to learn more about Seesaw or if you're already using it and have questions I'm glad to help!
Click HERE to access a referral link that will give you an additional 30 days (for a total 90 days) FREE trial of Seesaw Plus. You can use this link whether you are setting up a new Seesaw account or you already have one.