For the last few years, I’ve been using musicals by Bad Wolf Press. They produce a wide variety of standards-based musical plays for grades K-8. Putting on the shows is a lot of work, but the kids never forget the lyrics nor the experience. A couple of 20 year old siblings were singing along as my students performed California Missions and More. Two years ago we performed a musical on the US Constitution. In May, the kids will perform US Geography for the student body and a night performance for parents and friends. Producing a show like this has several benefits including building class community, connecting the students with the community, and integrating the arts into our busy days.
Would 4th and 5th graders be able to hold their own student-driven, student-centered EdCamp? We gave it a shot this last Friday in room 32 at Wildomar Elementary School. Students signed up all week long to run the sessions. The “poster” was a shared Google Spreadsheet. We held four 15-minute sessions with a 20-minute break in the middle and at the end for reflection. The kids LOVED it as I’m sure you will be able to tell in this 4-minute highlight video of the event. Presentation topics included horses, One Direction band, Scratch game programming, dance, gymnastics, iPad settings, baseball, and Minecraft.
Assessment of the Day
It was a bit messy at times, but overall, the kids were thoroughly engaged and will never forget it. Areas to improve: greater guidance on “voting with your feet,” brainstorm topics before giving the kids access to the sign-up board, encourage deeper topics, and having more time for follow-up discussion and/or reflection journaling at the end. Victories: the presenters took it very seriously, one girl had a ton of research ready to go, one very shy girl totally blossomed and showed amazing communication and leadership skills, 29 of my 30 students present were engaged and learning, no one seemed to be too hurt by participants leaving their session, very little wasted time, took students to a new level of maturity and love of learning.
What about teaching the standards? None of the sessions were standards-based. I’m not sure if this is important, and if I did try to steer the event in that direction, if it would still be this engaging and successful in the eyes of the students. Students were definitely learning habits of mind, 21st century skills, and were totally engaged. Is there a way to run such an event that is standards-based without losing the magic? That remains to be seen. I plan to try it again in a month and include one or two other 4th/5th grade classes.
In this first episode of The Bedley Bros., Tim and Scott Bedley chat about the research communities in Scott’s 5th grade classroom in Irvine, California. Scott and Tim will be presenting on the topic at the 2013 CUE Conference in Palm Springs. Take a listen!
Here’s a fun game to engage your friends and family during your Super Bowl party. Have everyone fill in the form before the game starts. Post one master form somewhere to record the “right” answers as they occur during the game. Offer a prize to the person with the most points. You can even play this with friends online who aren’t in the same room, city, or country as you. It’s a great way to get non-football fans interested in the game.
*Showboating: This is where a player does a dance or some sort of exaggerated movement to spark the emotion of the fans.
Click on the link below to see a printable version of the form.
In this 2-minute video, I show how I am currently using Google Drive with my 4th/5th grade class to enhance my writing instruction. My learning environment is BYOD with iPads. I set up an account through Google Apps for Education. I gave each student an account (and one for me.) The students work in groups with a shared document. They also share the document with me. This allows me to monitor each group’s progress right from my iPad. We use the Google Drive App on our iPads.
Many teachers have a D.E.A.R. Day on occasion. Drop Everything And Read. Here are 11 keys to D.E.A.R. Day success in the elementary school classroom.
Schedule the day. Break the day up into 15-20 minute segments. Doing what? Read on.
Rotate types of activities. Yes, it’s an ALL reading day, but that doesn’t mean you want little kids trying to read by themselves all day long. That is a recipe for disaster. Four possible activities include reading to self (silent reading), teacher read aloud, book talks, and read with a friend.
Discipline using an on/off switch. Are the kids allowed to talk or not? Make that perfectly clear and enforce it to a T! If voices are off, not a single student is allowed to say one single word. If it’s time to share, let ’em loose. Don’t tolerate a middle ground, occasional chatting when it’s supposed to be silent.
Maintain your classroom rules. The atmosphere should be relaxed but don’t throw your standards out the window.
Allow soft stuff. Encourage your students to wear their jammies, bring their giant pillows, and cuddle with their favorite stuffed animals. It’s a special day!
Move the furniture. Open up the room so the kids can lounge around on the floor. Join them on the floor (with professional discretion.)
Don’t allow movement. When it’s time to read silently, find a place and stay there until the timer goes off.
Read with the kids. Pull out your favorite book and read it while the kids read silently.
Get the kids talking about their reading. At the end of each silent reading block, ask the students to turn and talk about what they just read. Listen into their conversations.
Take pictures. Pictures send this message to your kids: What you are doing is newsworthy. Reading is a big deal.
Don’t ruin the fun. Stay away from quizzing the kids or giving them “assignments.” Make the day all about the love of reading.
I have been assigning slide presentations to my elementary students for many years. I found myself repeating the same critiques to group after group. Now, I don’t leave “PowerPoint” style to chance. Here are a few of the tips I give my students.
Use VERY small amount of text. A few words that give the main idea for each slide is good. The big NO-NO: Reading your slides to your audience.
Choose one font style for the main points and one for the sub-points. Use these styles throughout your entire presentation. This includes font name, color, and size.
Be careful with overlap. Text that is barely touching a photo is awkward. Text that sits right next to the edge of the slide is awkward.
Dark text on light background or light text on dark background. Contrast! Make it POP!
No bullet points. Duplicate your slides and put your sub-points on separate slides.
Try to fill your slide with one large image.
Faces are better. We all like to see closeups of the human face.
Be careful not to distort your pictures. Grab the photo in the corner, not the edge, to change the size.
Be careful with image size. If you use a small image and resize it to make it large, the image gets very blurry.
Photos are better than clipart. Better yet, make your own pictures by taking photos or drawing pictures.
Cite your source. Always give credit for the images you use.
Overall Design Tips
Avoid using templates. They are cheesy and show little creativity.
Avoid slide transitions. You want your audience focused on the slides, not the switching between slides. NO transition is wonderful!
Simple! Keep your slides clutter free. A nice big clear picture with 3 words to focus the audience is great!
Avoid creating a “The End” slide. If you have a conclusion, great. Otherwise, just make a main topic slide as your last slide. Don’t make a slide that says, “Thanks for watching,” or something similar.
Advanced Tip: Use the rule of thirds. Draw a tic-tac-toe board on your slide. Place items where the lines cross. It’s a bit more complicated than this, but the main thing: try to avoid centering things on the slide.
Note: These tips definitely limit creativity, but my purpose is to teach my students to first create a good clean slide show. Once that is accomplished, then I encourage the students to break the rules…with purpose. It’s similar to learning a new instrument. We first need to learn our scales and copy the masters. Later, we develop our own style and can artfully break the rules.
Screencast Instructional Video: 12 PowerPoint Tips for Kids
If you’re like me, you love creating QR codes but find it very frustrating to keep track of them because all your QR codes look basically the same. One solution is to use the iPad app PhotoString. The app is designed for making photo montages with text, but I’m using it to label my QR codes. Of course, sometimes you want your QR codes to remain a mystery before they are scanned, but when you don’t, here’s how to label them.