Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tried It Tuesday: Kodable

Fourth Grade Flipper

A few weeks ago coding was mentioned at a technology staff development.  I wasn't 100% sure what it was, but I was pretty sure it wasn't for my first graders. But it kept popping up on blogs, twitter feeds- everywhere!- so I decided to look a little closer.  I discovered that it really is something my first graders can do!

Many of the apps and programs I've explored remind me of Logo.  Logo is an educational programming language designed by Seymour Papert and others.  It used a small cursor, called a turtle, that was given commands for drawing and movement to create line drawings.

(When I first moved to Texas in the early 80's, I worked part-time for Texas Instruments.  They had just released their first home computer. With every purchase, the buyer got 4 free lessons on how to use these crazy new machines.  I was hired to teach these lessons.  I knew next to nothing about computers, but they hired me anyway!  The major objective of the kids' lessons was to teach them Logo.)

OK, leaving the 80's behind and back to today!  Once I made the connection with Logo, I knew my firsties could do this.  I downloaded a free app onto our class iPad called Kodable.  The children  help adorable little creatures called Fuzzes explore their new world .  While doing this, they are learning to use logic as they give the computer commands.

I first demonstrated the app yesterday using the Smartboard, and then I put it out as a math station today. The 2 girls who were the first to try it independently were absolutely precious!  They were giggling and giving each other suggestions the whole time. Even when they didn't get the program right the first time, they kept trying and were still having fun. When our math time ended today, the whole class was buzzing about who would be going to that station tomorrow!

Now if I could just get my hands on more iPads!

Edited to add:
I've also linked up with Technology Tailgate for Techie Tuesday.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014


I was doing some purging this week, and I came across some books that, although I hadn't seen them for awhile, still brought back fond memories of the huge impact they had on my teaching.
For the first 5 or 6 years of my teaching career, my idea of a "professional" book was a book of ditto masters purchased at the teacher supply store. (Ah, I miss the smell of a freshly run ditto!)  I read the required texts for my graduate courses and the occasional article handed out during staff development, but that was about it.
Then the whole language craze of the 80's and 90's hit.  (If you don't remember that craze, be glad- it got UGLY folks!)  During one of the many workshops I attended on the subject, I was browsing the book vendor tables and came across this book:

To this day I don't really know what led me to purchase it, but I can honestly say it changed my life as a teacher!  I eagerly read every word Regie wrote, thinking all the while- "Yes, THIS is what teaching reading is supposed to be like!"  I called my friend Elizabeth, and by the time school started we were both ready to revolutionize our teaching.  We were so excited about Regie's work that we  preordered her next book, Invitations.   And that was the beginning of my obsession with professional books!

There have been many books since then that have shaped my teaching. Books by Lucy Calkins, Fountas and Pinnell and my recent passion, math books like Laney Sammons Guided Math currently line my shelves.  Others were interesting at the time but quickly forgotten. But Transitions and Invitations will stay with me forever as they remind me that teaching is a craft, and to perfect your craft, you must constantly study and refine your practices.
What books have had a profound effect on your teaching?

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Renewing My Spirit

I am hanging my head in shame right now because I have not blogged since OCTOBER!  I could make all kinds of excuses and bore you with the details of my life, but instead I will just say I am committed to at least blogging once a week until I get my groove back! I've recently started doing daily yoga to renew my spirit -now I'll use blogging to renew my commitment to teaching
For me, this is the time of year when things get a little stale in my classroom.  Posters and anchor charts are looking a little shabby, the kids are kind of bored with some of the materials in work stations and I don't have the energy I had in August.  We are having some big discussions on my campus right now about incorporating new ideas into our instruction so I feel like this is a perfect time to reflect on my teaching practice.  I'm going to use this blog to help me stay accountable as I try to add a spark to the rest of the year.
Step one is going to be some housecleaning.  This is my desk right now!  Thankfully it is kind of hidden behind my file cabinet, but something needs to be done before the Risk Management department declares it a health hazard!

Step 2 will be reorganizing for Daily 5 and guided reading.  My kids have grown so much as readers this year so I need to grow with them and provide some fresh materials for word work and work on writing, as well as more higher level activities for reading groups.
Step 3 is sprucing up guided math.  Our principal has just sent a campus-wide reminder about the importance of guided math, and I hope to be able to share some of my ideas with others.  I'm going to revisit some book studies I've participated in for inspiration.  If you are looking for guided math help, here's the link to discussions of Laney Sammons Guided Math and Building Mathematical Comprehension books.
I look forward to becoming part of the blogging world again!

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