Saturday, 30 July 2016

FreshGrade Tips Made Easy



Have you heard of FreshGrade?  It's a set of personalized learning apps to help build communication between teachers, students, and parents.  Videos, audio, pictures and text can all be captured and communicated.

Full disclosure: I am part of the FreshGrade Champion program, meaning I am an advocate for them, however this post is full of 100% honest thoughts and opinions.

STEP 1: GET PERMISSION
 
I've been using FreshGrade for a full school year.  This year was really all about testing it out and getting familiar with all that they have to offer.   To start off, you'll want to send home a permission slip.  My admin and I felt that this went a little beyond the usual FOIPA paperwork we send home.  Also, because parents haven't heard of the app before, I wanted to provide them with some information of what they were signing up for.  Click here (or on the image) to get your own editable copy of the permission slip.  Click here to get the info from FreshGrade I copied on the backside.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0LLJPXjGKnZblNYc0FaczZzVjA/view?usp=sharing



STEP 2: DOWNLOAD APP
 


There are three apps, depending on your role with FreshGrade.  I love how they are colour coded.  There are some things I prefer to use the app for, like in the moment artifacts of pictures and videos.  It's also great for quick parent communication as it notifies me when they add something to a profile.  I prefer to use my computer for the gradebook, daily parent communication (I did this with a few students), and adding announcements.


This is what the main menu looks like on my cell phone.  The "Activity Feed" shows any new notifications you might have.

STEP 3: CREATE YOUR CLASS

At my school, we switch kids for math based on ability.  So, I had to set up two classes.  This was really simple.  I took a photo of each child for their profile.  Then, it was basically data entry of student name, parent name and email.  It didn't take very long at all.  To switch between classes, you simply use the tabs shown below.


STEP 4: START USING!

From this point, you're ready to start using FreshGrade!  So, what can you do?  Get comfy, come closer, and let me show you.

I write a weekly letter and love how FreshGrade has streamlined that for me.  Using the "Announcements" section I can see how many people have read the weekly letter, and exactly who those people are.  When you click on it, names show up in red if unread and green if read.

 

I used FreshGrade 100% for my gradebook this year.  I like the colour coding system they use.  It helps to see students progress really quickly.  You can add your outcomes, which isn't a piece I used often, but do like that it is available.  The little coloured dots you see are labels.  I used labels such as "term 1", "science", or "fractions".  You can sort your gradebook by those labels, which comes in really handy at report card time.

I got a lot of comments from parents about the gradebook additions to their child's portfolio.  For example, if I gave someone a 2/10 they would respond immediately with a "can they take this home to finish?".  I could respond with "I offered this, but your child declined".  The accountability for those students increased dramatically over the year.  Also, I'd get comments of "Wow! So proud of you honey." on a 10/10.  It might be a small assignment, that wouldn't necessarily make it home until the end of the year.  Parents can celebrate the small successes in the moment.


SOME REFLECTIONS

I am continuing FreshGrade next year.  The feedback I received from parents was all positive, and overwhelmingly so.  They loved being able to see a short video of their child at swimming lessons, or a photo of them working away on their math.  For those who needed daily communication with home, this was a surefire way for parents to receive that communication.

Next year, I want to go deeper.  I love the parent communication I had, but other than one or two students, they didn't really embrace using it.  I want them to reflect weekly on their learning and see the communication I'm having with their parents.  This year I tried using the 6 iPads I have in my classroom for this, but it didn't really work.  We couldn't do it all at the same time.  Logging out was forgotten which meant the next student saw your account.  I'm thinking next year that when we go to Library we'll make a stop at the computer lab next door and all students can sign in and check out their portfolios. 
 
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Monday, 18 July 2016

New BC Science Curriculum? I've Got You Covered.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/101753272809938474/

Are you feeling overwhelmed with the new BC curriculum? It can be a lot to transform your entire year of teaching.  I'm here to help you out!  This past year I worked with the new science curriculum in my classroom and a colleagues.  These units are all very hands-on and lab based.  By the end of any of these units your students will have an excellent understanding of the Scientific Method.

Grade 3

BC New Curriculum

A hands-on, lab based unit for grade 3.

At the end of this unit, students will make solar ovens and cook S'mores.  So much fun!  They were really delicious too.  If we did this again, I would like to make English muffin pizzas.

Thermal Energy Solar Oven

Grade 4

BC New Curriculum
 
A hands-on, lab based unit for grade 4.

This short unit covers all 10 energy kinetic and potential energy types and their transfer.  Kids love breaking down the process of energy transfer in the "Ball Bounce" lab.

A hands-on, lab based unit for grade 4.

This unit contains resources to teach all aspects of matter: molecules, kinetic energy, phase change, effect of temperature and more.  Be prepared to purchase several packages of balloons from the dollar store for this unit.  I used them A LOT.  They were great to show the effect of temperature on a gas as well as many other things.

This one one of my favourite lessons in the unit - physical and chemical change.  Students investigated 6 different white powders to determine what type of change they were.  They loved using pipettes to drop the mystery liquid on and watch what happened!  The oohs and aahs were hilarious!

One of the lessons in the grade 4 matter unit.Cut and paste sort.

 Grade 5

BC New Curriculum

A hands-on, lab based unit for grade 5.

I loved teaching this unit!  So many fun activities can be done with every day objects when teaching Simple Machines!  Again, this unit has everything: informational articles, interactive notebook foldables, detailed lesson plans, lab activities.... No need for any supplementary resources here!  Even a study sheet and test is included!

If you're just looking for something to supplement your Simple Machines unit, each of the lessons are sold separately too.  Just click on the image above and follow the links from there to the individual files. 

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/101753272809938474/https://www.pinterest.com/pin/101753272809938474/



 A hands-on, lab based unit for grade 5.

Concentration, pH, dissolving, and filtration: these are all concepts covered in the Solutions unit.  Students loved being able to use "real" science tools like litmus paper and use their problem solving skills to filter clean drinking water. 

Filtering WaterInteractive Notebooks

 

Grade 4/5 Split

The grade 4 and 5 units are both available in a bundle if you teach a grade 4/5 split as I did last year.  In these units you'll find everything you would if you purchased separately, as well as a combined unit study sheet and test.  They are both sold for 20% off of the price of buying individually.

A hands-on unit resource bundle for grade 4/5.A hands-on unit bundle for grades 4/5.

Grades 3 - 5

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Saturday, 9 July 2016

Kingdom of Oceana Book Giveaway


I was recently asked to review the novel “The Kingdom of Oceana” by Mitchell Charles.  Instantly, the orange sunset, the teal ocean, and tiki with glowing eyes on the cover caught my attention (I know, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover) and I agreed. 


www.kingdomofoceana.com


Five hundred years ago, on the Island now known as Hawaii, two royal brothers discover an ancient tiki mask and send a curse out upon their lands.  As 16-year-old Prince Ailani tries to right this wrong he encounters evil sorcerers, cursed sea creatures and sibling rivalry.  With the help of his spirit animal, and a beautiful princess, Ailani works to restore the peace.



This story has a bit of everything: adventure, fantasy, romance, and mystery.  I tend not to select stories for myself that fall into the fantasy genre.  Made up creatures, spirit animals, and sorcery don’t really appeal to me.  I’m more of a realistic fiction gal.  However, this story had my attention.  What I really thought was unique was the use of the Hawaiian language.  Throughout the story more than 30 Hawaiian words are introduced.  I liked the history and culture this brought to the novel.

The action and adventure kept up through the entire story.  From the first few pages to the end, something exciting was happening.  From surfing adventures to fight scenes, curses, ocean spirit animals, ancient mystery and romance this story has it all.

Because of the use of Hawaiian language and some other vocabulary I would say this story would be ideal for high level grade 4 students through to about grade 8.  However, students older than than looking for a faster read would enjoy it too.  I’ve a few students in mind that will love this book and once school begins again, I will be sure to pass it their way.  However, I would love to be able to offer a copy of the story to you too!  Use the Rafflecopter below to enter to win your choice of paperback or Kindle version.  The contest is open for one week.  I'll announce the winner here on the blog.

EDIT: The giveaway is closed.  Congratulations to Tracey Cameron!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of “The Kingdom of Oceana” in exchange for this review.  However, the thoughts in this post are 100% honest and my own.


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Saturday, 2 July 2016

Flexible Seating Task 4: Reflections

Take a look at the flexible seating options one 4th grade teacher added to her elementary classroom on a budget.  She shares some of her management tips too!
 
Read my first posts on this topic here:
Putting in all Together

I've been using flexible seating in my classroom for the last term of school: from spring break on.  Now that the desks are pushed aside, the carpet rolled, and the cushions are in my basement after a much needed wash, I thought this would be the ideal time to write down my reflections.

Here is what I had available for flexible seating:

- 4 trapezoid tables (put together to make 2 hexagons)
- 4 desks lowered to kneeling height
- 4 desks lowered to crate seat height
- 12 regular height desks, (1 group of 6, 1 group of 4, and 2 individual)
- 1 standing height table (fits 2, attached to the group of 4 desks)
- 4 crate seats
- two bath mats for kneeling
- one fit ball
- one wobble stool
- 4 wiggle cushions
- 1 bowl chair
- 3 big readers pillows
- 1 lumbar pillow (the kids called it a caterpillar)
- a class set of clipboards
- a class set of yoga mats
- one huge carpet space
- two plastic lap desks

I shared this photo on Instagram after day 1 with flexible seating.  Right from the start the kids loved it!  The freedom to choose their own working spot was much appreciated.  Due to having limited amounts of some items I started off with a sign up.  As students entered the room in the morning they would place their name magnet under their area of choice.  If that area was full, they'd have to select something else.  Signups occurred first thing in the morning, after recess and after lunch.  We did the signups for about two weeks.


Almost immediately, I noticed the volume in my room go up.  However, if I stopped to listen, there was a huge increase in collaborative talk.  So, despite preferring a quieter room I learned to embrace it.  The discussions became more high energy, with more questioning and deeper thinking.  Who am I to argue with that?  I've always sat my students in groups, so I am not sure why the increase.  Maybe just their comfort alone, or maybe the fact that they chose the people they were sitting with.

After a few weeks the signup went away and it was up to the students to manage their own seat selection.  This happened with very few problems.  I did have one who liked to eagle eye the prime spots and try to take them when someone would get up to grab something, but a reminder about how seat selection worked helped.  I did have friend groups who traveled together.  I didn't say too much about it unless they were off topic.  They would look at the schedule to see what was happening that day and discuss a best choice spot for them all which I thought was pretty neat. 


One of the expectations with flexible seating was that I had the right to move anyone at any time.  And I did move people.  Probably one per day.  Often it was repeat offenders who were having trouble selecting a spot best for their learning (which, at the end of the 3 months time was improving).  They did very well with this.  There was no aruging ever.

I often had students self select the individual desks, which I found interesting.  This happened more frequently for writing tasks.  I will be keeping at least two individual spots in my set up next year as well.

In my class, we already used community supplies.  So, students didn't really have a lot in their desks.  But, what they did have had to go somewhere.  I scored this mailbox in the boys change room (where furniture goes to die in my school).  A few girls gave it a good scrub and some labels and it was good to go.


It worked, but wasn't perfect. I didn't like how their folders hung out of it.  If they were reading more than one novel it didn't fit and had to be stored on top.  People said their pencils were stolen.  It ALWAYS looked messy.  I've ordered pencil boxes for next year to help contain the small items.  I'll also be using a larger mailbox system.  I wasn't really on top of the cleanliness of this mailbox.  Next year I'll have to be more strict.

What else will I be changing next year?  I'm moving to a new classroom and with that came some new furniture.  I'll be taking my trapezoid tables and some of the traditional desks.  I'll also be getting 4 collaborative desks at standing height and 4 at regular height.  I'll be adding a circular table to the mix as well.  I get to have 7 additional fit balls added, 6 wobble stools, and 6 wiggle seats.  I'm really excited for these additions as they were sought after items I just didn't have the budget to purchase myself.

 

A quick list of other thoughts on the topic:
- Be sure to have enough table tops spots for art, science labs, and lunch
- Be sure to have more spots than the number of students in your room (if it's the last seat available, it isn't really flexible seating, is it?)
- Traditional desks and chairs are okay.  There will be students who prefer them.  Don't take the concept too far and do away with the traditional items.  They still have their place.
- Some students may require a desk with their name on it and items inside - I had 3.  Allow them the opportunity to say they need this if they do.
- Check in with your students frequently.  Ask what's working and what isn't.  We had to adjust the desk height on the crate seat spots a few times to get it right for them.
- Offer as much variety as possible.  My fit balls will not all be the same size next year.

The best comment I heard from my students was when one said "Finally! A desk made for me!".  He is quite small for his age and feet never reached the floor in a traditional intermediate desk.  I'm so happy I've made the leap to flexible seating and I won't look back.

Take a look at the flexible seating options one 4th grade teacher added to her elementary classroom on a budget.  She shares some of her management tips too!

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