Students constructing their own understanding

How could we use questions or problems to assist in helping students construct their own understanding?
"Education research has shown that an effective technique for developing problem-solving and critical-thinking skills is to expose students early and often to “ill-defined” problems in their field. An ill-defined problem is one that addresses complex issues and thus cannot easily be described in a concise, complete manner. However educators are also required to have specific objectives and outcomes for students to reach. Often students stray from or miss the path you would like like them to take to reach your objectives and outcomes. How would you facilitate and guide students, during a project, who are “lost or off track” to help them reach the stated course objectives and outcomes?"

My homework for Week 4 is to consider the above.  It goes perfectly with what I found from last spring, when organizing photos from a recent trip: a video of students working in groups to answer a complicated math problem.  

I interviewed the students as they were busily using and creating representation of items in the problem. The question involved how many given items would be divided equally into 3 baskets. There were many different ways to solve the problem, especially since 2nd graders had limited exposure to formal lessons on division.  I interviewed a boy who had flat checked out, and was designing a basket with blocks.  It was interesting listening to myself try to get him back on track.  His partner had solved the problem without him, and he didn't care.  I think if he had seen himself in the video, he would have paid more attention in the next opportunity to shine mathematically.

Others had divided the problem evenly into tasks, having no idea how to mentally solve it without concrete objects.  So they were all super busy, but they took so long creating the visuals that they ran out of time.

Another table had self-divided into two groups who were attacking the challenge differently.  One GT student quickly mentally calculated and colored in a graphic, then back tracked to show a more hands on explanation.  The others used blocks instead of laborious other means of creating manipulatives.  They also discussed and paid strict attention to the tally marks.  This table was entirely successful.

All of the students in the class were successful in some way.  Was the teacher successful?  I think the follow through was missing.  I wished I had highlighted the successful and unsucessful efforts through showing the video, and asking the students to evaluate and propose suggestions for each group.

What is needed for my future problem-solving and critical-thinking opportunities is time.  I need time for the set-up, the exploration of a solution, the solving and explaining, and then the sharing and evaluating with a relevant audience.  

coLAR Mix and International Dot Day

Just had to share about a great activity that happened during the Digital Storytelling ACE program.  After we read Ish by Peter Reynolds and talked about International Dot Day, the students partnered to decorate a dot provided by the coLAR Mix app.  They opened the app on the iPad and hovered over their dots.  The dots came to life!  Spiraling spheres of various sizes entertained the students with music coming on and off.  That app is enthralling!

I'm trying to print the bird coloring page for the app as that looks even cooler.  

Building Rapport with the Distance Learner

Building rapport in distance education sounds a lot like building a physical classroom community and atmosphere, just with technology.  This reminds me of the SAMR model with the substitution enhancement.

Instead of sitting on the floor together in community circle, we could either type an introduction, share through a Google hangout or post an avatar with description.  

In watching my son take distance classes years ago in high school, this community building was not done.  It was very difficult to communicate with the teacher, so I also know how important viewing the teacher as approachable is.

Timely feedback, encouraging words, an understanding online countenance, and willingness to bend for emergencies are all vital in running a distance course.

Assignment for week 2 of How To Teach Online

First 2nd Saturday Showcase

Today I attended a great professional development led by my friends Annie and Jeanette!

 They started with talking about the SAMR model with this video:

 We considered how to redefine, modify, augment or substitute stations with technology for the tradition pen and paper stations. Here are some suggestions.

 Encourage students to write and submit reviews and poetry to

 Have a website that is easily found outside of school. Annie uses the NHE campus website and her page is easily found by searching for Ms. Mitchell's website NHE

Sign up the class for SumDog
In playing the games I've discovered some of it will be over the 2nd grader's math levels.  Sometimes I clicked on games and got the message that I didn't have access.  I am not very sure on this one.

For student created books, try
This looked very exciting for publishing and consuming ebooks!

For allowing students to show what they know:


And my new friend, Sydnie, at Valley Oaks, suggested this for Singapore Math practice:
While there is no Primary 2, there is Primary 3. 

So, thanks for a fun Saturday morning!

Flipped Classroom

So Theresa Trevino is credited with giving me that push to join her in crediting flipped classroom lessons.
Here is the link to her Rummel Creek team blog: 2nd Rummel Creek Elementary

I love how she shared her behind the scenes preparations this summer.  Flip Take 2

I am consuming all the info out there about flipped learning.  I plan to join a MOOC to help me understand and design online lessons.  How to Teach Online by Greg Walker
I want to create those white board with black markers type videos.  That would eliminate my photos!  I wish I had been a teacher in the 1980s when I was a 20 something year old, but I guess the whole internet thing wasn't happening yet, anyway. 

Here is a great "How To" video on flipping the classroom: I Flip You Flip We All Flip
 Something he emphasized was having a green screen to aid in creating interesting backgrounds.  Last year I experimented with green screens made from butcher paper.  Perhaps it was too dark a green, or the iPad wasn't the greatest choice of cameras, but the backgrounds were all sketchy and blotchy.  I will experiment with better cameras.

So I'm trying to keep up with Theresa, which is impossible, but I might just be able to contribute in my own way.  I can see a pitfall in showing some of her videos to my class is that my school might not have the same manipulatives.  I noticed students are expected to have individual sets of  ten frame "dominoes".  We just have one class set, but I could combine sets for a small group activity, or I could make paper sets. I just need to be prepared.

I also could change subjects and create lessons for language arts.

Thanks for the Back to School Help!

One more week until the little lovelies enter the classroom for a full day!  I have had help in preparing for them from some new sources for me: has great reading response sheets and a pretty goal sheet for the teacher.  She shared her personal goals and they sounded like mine!  I think I will be a better teacher if I manage to exercise more, become more organized up front, and teach more intentionally in language arts. has intrigued me with her pencil management system.  Each child receives a prepared, labeled bag with 8 pencils for the week.  At the end of the week, a student pencil manager picks up all the bags.  If the pencils are returned for sharpening, a surprise and "I am a friend of pencils" card is given.  Otherwise, an "oops" card is attached.  I shall try this! shares often and is a bright, pick-me-up type connection.  I love seeing updates on her daughter who arrived 6 months ago from the Congo!  Mrs. Lemons has given me the modeling of including basic words in Spanish to be more inclusive of our population.  I don't know where I'll post them, but I like the idea.

I am thankful for these energetic bloggers.

Apps for Writing Encouragement

At ISTE in June, I focused on how to encourage students in writing with digital storytelling.  Here are two apps I plan to use with 2nd graders:
30hands Mobile is a free app that allows teachers and students to write about and record impressions from photos.

The other is Write About This Free, which also uses photos to jumpstart writing.  We can use a photo with accompanying sentence stem to write about, or take our own photo and start from scratch.  The sentence stems can also be read aloud to the students.And the prompts can be differentiated!

I can't wait to use these.

Now I just need more iPads!  And kids!

Do You Love Fun Fonts?

Way back when, I had to make huge poster sized hand lettered fonts for graphics design class.  It was so peaceful to work for days on drawing letters...and now it is so unnecessary.

I get lost admiring different fonts, and here Google has just what we need.  When looking through fonts, we can sort by trending fonts or date added, etc.  I love that!

About Google Fonts

Google Fonts makes it quick and easy for everyone to use web fonts, including professional designers and developers. We believe that everyone should be able to bring quality typography to their web pages and applications.
Our goal is to create a directory of web fonts for the world to use. Our API service makes it easy to add Google Fonts to a website in seconds. The service runs on Google's servers which are fast, reliable and tested. Google provides this service free of charge.

Resource for Teachers

I enjoy receiving free resources and ideas from educators around the world. While I have increasingly used less paper, sometimes it just works best to make some copies.  Cute graphics and fresh presentation can be just the thing to motivate students to continue to learn in May.

Classroom 2.0 LIVE show

I participated in an online seminar through Classroom 2.0.  Since receiving the assignment of participating in online chats, my eyes have been opened to how many chats there are.  The value is the "come as you are" approach, and the negatives, for me, include weeding through the extraneous activity and remembering to show up at just the right time, as the many time zones to confuse me. There are some technical glitches from every direction, but with both visual chatting going on as well as the audio activity, the gist of the topic can be covered.

The chat today highlighted new teachers, but then spun off into links for other chats and resources, and further explanation of how records of chats are preserved and found.  As I participate more, I'll become better at choosing and showing up for the chats most valuable to me.

Personal Learning Network

35 Ways

In my quest to expand my online resources, I am testing out Classroom 2.0 and Google+.
This is a great article that explains a PLN.

“The fact that these platforms let you categorize and talk about what your challenges are and sort of reach out to experts anywhere in the country who will be able to give you examples of what works with that type of student, it’s really breaking down that isolation in a really strong way,” 
~Bill Gates.

Another helpful article is: 
5 Reasons Teachers Should Create a PLN now!

Discussion Group

Our team met for breakfast to discuss ways to integrate the curriculum: poetry, ESL, and technology.  Using  Poetry: Powerful Thoughts in Tiny Packages by Lucy Calkins and Stephanie Parsons, my colleague, Laura, had created magic in her classroom.  We stood in her classroom as the Lava Lamp bounced and we read the class poem about it.

She set up a class "poetry museum"and the result was enchanting.  We kept imagining how wonderful the poems would be if published with some technology and we thought of many different ways to showcase students' creativity.

Together we collected so many resources.  (Storybird, Haiku Deck, Nanoogo, Inspire, Open Office, to name a few)  Our poetry units will be different, but they will all be inspired by our collaboration.

Personal Learning Network

Writing on my patio with these new blooms.
In thinking about my PLN, I am remembering starting my teaching in public school in January 2005.  I was newly hired teacher for the overflow classes, and the only room for my 2nd grade class was in 4th grade.  I had no SBISD mentor, and no textbooks for a while.  There was not the curriculum support so valuable today.  I didn't even know enough to ask for roadmaps.

So how did I survive?  I had a fabulous personal learning network!  Teachers from around the world supported me via the internet with fabulous lessons and ideas.  We joined others on blogs showcasing classroom poetry, had pen pals, joined a Butterfly Project, and participated in many "Stuffed Buddy" traveling logs.  I am so grateful to those teachers, many of whom have since retired.  I am a member of a Ning community for 2nd grade teachers.

Now I have so much interaction and inspiration from those in our district, as well as those from afar. I started following other trainers' blogs such as A Scoop of Technology.  I am so impressed!
My team is digitally active, and recently participated in Google docs with the Frayer Model, where we simultaneously wrote about heroes one morning.  It was so successful, we are planning to make it a weekly habit.  I can see inviting others to join our school.  I am also inspired by the middle school and high school teachers in SBISD, particularly Memorial Middle School and Stratford.  I tutor students in upper grades and therefore read the highly detailed instructions for using technology for homework.  Wow...we have very talented teachers who are skilled to giving complicated, sequential directions for  blogging, etc.!!

In Edmodo, I receive great suggestions from Edmodo Apps and Computer Technology.  Questions are asked and answered all day.  Our own *Karen's Kollections shares great links.

Diigo sends me links and suggestions daily.  Here is a recent find:Teachers who use technology
I think these will be excellent for ESL students and vocabulary help.

In Pinterest I love looking for anchor charts.

On Twitter, I receive great educational ideas from Mark Brumley, tech in ed, and edutopia.

And my PLN is stabilized by my son who brings solutions to my frequent questions.