A Bittersweet Ending of a School Year and More Amazing Remote Teaching!

The school year is at an end, and I don’t think anyone who works in education will ever forget the 2019-2020 year! Once again, I have been in awe of all of I have seen school staff and teachers doing to make the end of the year as special and meaningful as they could, so here is Part 2 of my tribute to our amazing educators!

In my previous blog, I shared what some amazing teachers have been doing in remote teaching…and this one will spotlight examples of teachers going out of their way during the last few weeks of the school year!

Porch Visits and Virtual Science Projects

Tamara Engelhardt, a science teacher at Academy Charter School (Home School) in Douglas County School District in Colorado, did social distancing porch visits with her students! While staying a safe distance away, she was able to meet the students’ parents, siblings, and pets, as well as get some photos of them in their yard! Tamara also had her students do science experiments at home and send photos and videos to her….she received some amazing products…watch the wonderful video one student sent her!

More Virtual Science…

Every Spring, Jean Kirshner, a 1st-grade teacher at Mammoth Heights Elementary in Parker, Colorado, always has her students view the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly in her classroom. She wasn’t about to let the closing of the school to stop her from doing this once again! So, in her backyard, with her husband filming, she took her students through each step of the process…priceless! See her photos below!

 

Virtual Social Studies Projects

After their school closed, Ginny Stafford and her 6th-grade teammates (Ryan Swenson and Meghan Jacks) at Mammoth Heights Elementary in Parker, CO, created a step by step video to introduce their students and their parents to remote teaching and Google Hangouts. I love the photos they used for some of the slides!

Ginny teaches Social Studies and has always been an innovative teacher and able to readily adapt to new technologies and methods with ease…in fact, she is often in the forefront of bringing about change at her school! A pandemic did not stop her from facilitating remote projects for her classroom, including a study of a country in the world, then planning their trip there. This project encompassed geography, global awareness, and financial literacy! Below are screenshots from the project.

Annual Events Become Virtual!

Spirit Weeks, fundraisers, Teacher Appreciation Week, proms, continuations, graduations, and continuations have gone VIRTUAL!

Mammoth Heights 6th grade Virtual Continuation: Ginny and her teammates also had the monumental task of planning a virtual 6th-grade Continuation Ceremony. They arranged for a social distancing pick-up day of continuation supplies for their students and then hosted the ceremony on Google Hangouts with students, parents, grandparents, and other relatives around the country. participating. The ceremony included video speeches from the principal, the teachers, and students. The traditional baby photos of the 6th graders were also a part of the ceremony, and it ended with a virtual clap out!

Flat Teacher Project Update!

In the previous blog, I wrote about the Flat Teacher Project that Renee Hartwig-Ott, a first-grade teacher at Stony Creek Elementary in Littleton, Colorado was doing with her students. She mailed all of her students a “flat” version of herself and encouraged them to take photos of what they were doing and where they were taking her flat photo! Check out her wonderful photos (can you see her on the train?).

A Bittersweet Ending to the 2019-2020 School Year…

No one knows what the new school year will bring…it could be more remote/distance teaching, or school done a radically different way. But one thing I do know is that school administration, staff, and teachers will always persevere and find new and innovative ways to teach and connect our kids! I leave you with this quote from the Mammoth Heights 6th grade continuation ceremony…

2020 Virtual Continuation (1)

 

 

A Tribute to the Amazing Teachers During COVID-19! (Part 1)

If there’s a takeaway everyone else is learning about teachers right now, it’s this: there’s a reason they have a college degree. There’s a reason they strike when they are underpaid or mistreated. There’s a reason there is often a shortage of them. There’s a reason our kids miss them. – Trevor Muir on Twitter

Teacher Appreciation Week is over, but for me, teacher appreciation never ends. Yes, I am also a teacher…a retired public school and university teacher and a current teacher of tutoring students.  But it really does takes another teacher to truly appreciate everything that teachers do.

Since Spring Break, I have been even more in awe of our public school teachers. Within a week, school districts had to totally overhaul their education system to remote and distance learning. Teachers had to quickly learn new methods and resources in order to provide instruction. In spite of their own personal concerns, issues, and fears, they had to make sure their students were not just given the curriculum, but also their teacher’s love and support. This is one of the few times I regretted being retired; I would have enjoyed the challenge and have had the opportunity to use the many new resources and platforms I’ve learned about in the past three years since retiring. In addition, I want to feel that solidarity with the other teachers…that “We’re all in this together” feeling!

So the best I can do is showcase some of the amazing things my former colleagues and other teachers have been doing for the last several weeks. I bow down to them…they are working SO hard and making sure they connect with students in every way they can! Below are several examples of remote teaching and student connection at its finest!

Virtual Pre-School

Screen Shot 2020-05-05 at 11.37.16 AMRemote learning and teaching in PRE-SCHOOL??!! Yup…my former school district (Douglas County School District in Colorado) is requiring all pre-school teachers to do two live sessions a week with their students. My friend and former colleague, Leslie Schlag, sent me a video of her session; I watched Leslie cheerfully greet all of her students, lead them in the “A” and “B” songs, then do weather, calendar, and nursery rhymes…just like she would have in the classroom.  She is required to turn in a weekly plan with the state standards attached for the activities she will be using for literacy, speech, math, as well as social/emotional, fine and gross motor skills. She also virtually attends IEP meetings for some students and has started 1:1 sessions with her students as they were so excited to share all they were doing at home and that was hard with the full group online! Check out a snippet from her video below; I just love the joy she radiates to her students!

Virtual Elementary Intervention

Screen Shot 2020-05-08 at 6.23.15 PM (1)Another friend/former colleague, Kristin Gregory, works as an Intervention teacher in Cherry Creek School District in Colorado. Since this is one of the education jobs I once held at a few different elementary schools, I was curious as to how this could be done remotely. Here’s her description of her requirements:

  • Each interventionist was paired with a grade level, we were required to meet with that team every time they met, help them plan their lessons based on state standards, and provide differentiation. We were also there to step in if someone on the team got sick.

  • Recorded weekly lessons for small groups ( 3 different grade levels literacy and math) and those lessons were sent to students via the platform each grade level choose, could have been Google classroom, Google slides, email, or Seesaw. We were not allowed to do live lessons due to equity, students had to be able to access the lessons whenever they were able

  • One-on-one conferences with students to help with classroom work, provide accommodations, and continue to work on intervention skills.

  • Collaborated with teachers to provide modifications for specific students, providing alternative instruction at their level and modifying classroom slides to meet their needs.

  • Facilitated closing out Colorado READ Act plans for the end of the year.

  • Virtually attended weekly staff meetings, professional book club meetings, and principals accountability committee.

Check out Kristin’s virtual weekly lessons here…and below is her wonderful video read-aloud of I am Yoga!

Virtual Read Alouds

Abby Anttila, a 2nd-grade teacher in Lincoln, Nebraska,  sent me this lovely photo of her reading aloud to her kids on the first day of remote teaching! Abby also invites students to have lunch with her to keep in touch with her students in a more personal way. Abby’s experience with virtual teaching was different from other districts that had teachers come up with how and what to do with virtual teaching. Here’s how she describes her experience: “Our district does everything for us (lessons, worksheets, etc.). They have teachers record a minute-long intro video for each lesson… reading is Monday/Wednesday and math is Tuesday/Thursday, not on Fridays. So on Mondays, I get myself ready and record all videos for the following week. Then I have to post my video, the district video, and materials to Google Classroom for each lesson.” Abby says her district places an emphasis on equity and wants all kids to receive the same instruction.

Renee Hartwig-Ott, a first-grade teacher at Stony Creek Elementary in Littleton, Colorado, dressed up for virtual read-aloud of Junie B. Jones: Dumb Bunny…and made herself flat to introduce her “Flat Mrs. Ott” project, encouraging kids to take her flat self along with them around the house and outdoors and send photos back! Here’s a link with info if you’d like to try the “Flat Teacher” project!

And let’s not forget math…check out Ashley Hagarty’s photo of her demonstrating a math concept! Ashley Hagerty

Virtual First Grade

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Just as with pre-school, I can’t imagine virtually teaching first graders! But the first-grade team at Edmunds Elementary in Des Moines seems to have it all together…check out the Padlet they put together below! I love that there’s a section for each teacher, plus one with resources for keeping kids active and moving! Shelby Oelmann, a member of the team, shared her welcome video with me.

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Part 2 of AMAZING REMOTE TEACHING coming soon! Highlights include:

  • Teacher Social Distancing Porch Visits
  • Virtual Classroom Decor at Home
  • Virtual Science (including a virtual lesson from a teacher’s backyard with caterpillar to butterfly transformation!)
  • Virtual Social Studies
  • Virtual 6th-grade Continuation

Teachers! Share your photos and examples of the amazing remote teaching you’re doing down in the comments! I’d love to feature you!

Amazing Remote Teaching!

 

Distance and Home Learning: Writing Ideas and Resources

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So what’s a retired teacher to do when she is quarantined, can’t see her students in person, and only do a bit of virtual tutoring? She organizes her thousands of teaching, presenting, and tutoring photos in order to make it easier to share in these blogs and social media. In the process, she finds photos of the amazing writing activities her students have done over the years!

Right now, I am both grateful and NOT grateful to be retired from teaching. I wish I were out there with all of you figuring out how to do distance/remote teaching (and I’m gathering photos and info on all the amazing remote teaching from my teacher friends to share in an upcoming blog!). But, since I am temporarily a full-time caregiver for my Dad, who is 88, dealing with a painful knee injury AND at high risk for COVID-19, I am grateful to be available for him.

So here’s another blog with some writing resources that teachers can use for distance learning and parents can use for homeschooling!

Storyjumper

Story Jumper

I discovered Storyjumper while tutoring a few years ago. The student I worked with needed help with writing, both expository and narrative. We did plenty of essays using prompts given by her writing teacher, but to give her a break from essays, I had her use this wonderful website to create her own picture book. It was around Thanksgiving, so she created a book about a turkey invited to dinner with a farmer, who was a supplier of turkeys to grocery stores. The turkey was understandably nervous, but when she arrived, the farmer had a surprise, but welcome announcement…he would no longer be killing any turkeys! 🙂 Before I had her use this website, I created my own picture book so I would be able to guide her through hers. My book stars one of my cats, Princess Leia, and you can check it out HERE!

Rory’s Story Cubes

Love, love this app; I’ve been using it for years and it’s such a great way to launch a writing piece for kids! I first discovered it while working as a literacy specialist at Mammoth Heights Elementary in Parker, Colorado. Since I did not have a class of my own students, only pulling groups of kids literacy support, I was the go-to person to cover classes when a sub didn’t show up. THIS was my emergency tool. I would bring the app, put it under the document camera, and have a student come up to “shake” the cubes. Once they landed and were organized, we discussed what the image on each cube might mean; however, I stressed to the students that they did not have to use the consensus of the majority of the class, they could choose to interpret the cubes in any way they chose. Next, I had them create a writing piece (fiction or non-fiction) around the cubes. I eventually created a planning sheet for the students to plan out their pieces.

I have used this many times during tutoring. Sometimes it’s a quick begin or end of session challenge; we “shake” the cubes and they have to quickly come up with a paragraph using all the cube image ideas (see photo above on the left). Other times it’s a mini-project we work on; roll the cubes, have the student decide on the meaning, and then plan out a narrative story, fill out character profiles and find photos on the internet of what their characters might look like (see photo above on the right).  Here’s something I haven’t tried yet, but I want to: use the cubes with your students or own kids to develop oral storytelling skills. Shake the cubes, and create an oral story to tell!

You can buy the actual cubes from the link above, or on Amazon, or download the app on either Google Play or iTunes. If you’d like the Story Cube planning documents, comment below with your email address!

 Biblionasium

Book reviews

During this quarantine,  I know that many teachers and parents are having their students read, read, read…and that’s wonderful!  Once they finish a book, have them practice their expository writing skills by writing a book review on Biblionasium, a wonderful website where kids can write and read book reviews. The review can be a great tool for having them practice editing and revising skills when done!

KidPub

Kid PubHaving your students or your own kids write stories or poems? Or do they do this on their own…perhaps they are budding novelists or poets? Set up a free account on KidPub and have them share their writing with others and READ what other kids have written. There are categories for all types of genres, including fan fiction, and all submissions are vetted to make sure they are appropriate. I’ve had students find other kids’ stories to read, then review it tell me how they would revise it….a great critical thinking activity!

I will stop there for now…but if YOU have some great resources that work well for distance and home school learning, let me know in the comments below.

Be sure to check out my other blogs on resources for remote/distance/home learning:
Reading Resources
Project-Based Learning. Resources
Math Resources, Part 1
Math Resources Part 2

Remote Writing Resources

More Math Resources for Remote and Home Learning!

If I were in charge of education right now, I’d tell all parents and teachers who are struggling to teach their kids at home, that it’s okay if they don’t get a perfect learning experience each and every day. Their happiness and mental health is far more important right now…just do what you can! – Jan Anttila (me!)

This is the fourth post in a series of blogs to help both teachers and parents with resources for remote/digital/home learning. One blog wasn’t enough to contain all the math resources for both remote and homeschool learning…so here is Part 2! Oh, and check out my previous posts with resources for remote and homeschool learning!
Reading Resources for Homeschool and Remote Learning
Project-Based Learning for Homeschools and Remote Learning
Math Resources for Learning and Homeschools

More Apps and Websites!

Operation Math has been so popular with my students; they get to be a “James Bond” type of secret agent and solve computation problems to find the code that unlocks doors, defuses bombs, and defeats Dr. Odd.

Some apps for multiplication…Times Tables Kids 12×12 (photo on left) proved to be so engaging for one of my more challenging students that he told me he actually looked forward to coming to tutoring! He worked week after week on each table, unlocking more numbers and earning stars, which I translated to Class Dojo points. This app is FREE! For the same student, when we worked on homework, I had him use the Times Tables Interactive app (photo on the right) when working on word problems. My goal was to get him to learn all of his times tables, but in the meantime, this app was a huge help.

Keep the Change is a wonderful app for helping kids learn money math skills. It has several engaging activities at various levels. One of my tutoring students loved this so much that we started each session and kept track of her score for a five minute period, and she would earn Class Dojo badges for improvement.

Touch Math is a program that helps young kids and struggling math learners with computation by adding in “touchpoints” to each number; the number of touchpoints correlates with each number, i.e., the number 7 will have 7 touchpoints. This is an entire math program that schools and teachers can purchase, but I’ve managed to find free samples online, and they have several apps that are now free in order to help parents and teachers with remote and home learning.

Whiteboard app: My students love working their math problems on the free Whiteboard app, much more than on paper. I love it too! I’ve also used this app for vocabulary Pictionary and for practicing spelling and phonics.

Jeopardy Labs is a wonderful website with all kinds of math games for learning and reviewing math skills! You can make your own or just use one of the hundreds created by teachers…just browse for the math concept your child is working on!

I still didn’t share all of my math resources…but I want to get this published before another week of remote and home learning! Coming soon…my next post with the last of my favorite math resources!

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Math Resources for Remote Learning and Homeschools: Part 1

three-706895_1920This is the THIRD in my series of resources and ideas to help with this unprecedented time in education…online, remote, distance and homeschool learning for millions of students! This time…my focus is on math resources!

Websites

 

Khan Academy and Khan Academy Kids: I’m sure you all know about this website; I have my students use this and I use it when I need to brush up on long-forgotten math skills before helping the students (parents, you might need to do this too! :-). Tutorials, videos, and practice activities are all included and you can set your students up in order to track their activity and progress. To help all of us, they are offering sample schedules for all grades, as well as resources for parents and teachers! Khan Academy Kids is an app you can download; perfect for pre-school, kindergarten and first grade, as well as for struggling math learners in other grades. (Note: An app version is available as well.)

IXLIXL Learning: When my students need to review or practice the skills we are working on, I have them use this website. (also in app format!) No fun games or videos, but this type of practice is necessary mastering for basic skills. If your student(s) are struggling with a question, they can get hints, and if they get a question wrong, the right method/answer is explained to them. Both parents and teachers can set up accounts; it’s not free, but membership fees are fairly low.

Mr. Nussbaum online math games Oh my, this website is a treasure chest of SO many fun games and activities in ALL subject areas! I have mainly used his math ones as so many of the students I tutor need help in this area the most. There are games and contests for computation skills, decimals, fractions, geometry, probability and SO much more! His website is free and for even more resources, there is an upgraded site with even more resources, and during the Coronavirus crisis, he is offering 80% off for parents and teachers!

Apps

Here are two of my students’ all-time favorite apps! The first is Sushi Monster, a fun practice activity for addition and multiplication. My students love the different monsters and the sounds they make when they eat their “sushi” (the number needed for a product or sum). There are different levels for both addition and multiplication. The next one is Math Zombies, another fun one where students can practice all computation skills by turning approaching zombies back into human kids.

Number Line by MLC

Screen Shot 2020-03-28 at 5.04.49 PMThis wonderful app takes the old classroom wall number line and puts it to shame! Perfect for beginning and struggling math students, it helps students visually understand “jumping” forward for addition, and backward for subtraction. Students can also practice visually see how different strategies for multiplication and division work. The number line can be modified for different number intervals as well.

Mr. Nussbaum 46 Game Super App: This app has more than just math games, but there are a few math ones that are student favorites. One is the “Cash Out” game (top left) that helps students learn money math skills and how to count money and make change. You can customize the game to make it easier or harder. The other is Tony’s Fraction Pizza Shop where students can work on fraction skills: identifying, reducing and equivalency.

Number Frames: This wonderful resource can be used as an iPad app, a website activity, or a download. It has been extremely helpful for my students just to learn how to add and subtract; the visual support is so helpful (and they can change the dots into butterflies and other icons!) While my younger students are working on math games and activities, I have the iPad with Number Frames right by their side so they can use it for help.

Well, this post has gone on WAY too long already…I have many other math resources to share with both teachers and parents, but that will have to be in Part 2. In the meantime, please read these words of wisdom below that I found on social media. Hang in there, everyone!

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