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…
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!
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!
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!
Having 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.
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!)
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.
Times Table Kids 12×12 app
X Tables app
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 Changeis 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 Labsis 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!
This 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!
Khan Academy Kids
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.)
IXL 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!
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.
This 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!
“One of the major advantages of project work is that it makes school more like real life. It’s an in-depth investigation of a real-world topic worthy of children’s attention and effort.”-Education researcher Sylvia Chard
I couldn’t agree more with the quote above, but I’d like to add that in Project-Based Learning (PBL), students have a chance to integrate all of the skills they learn in different content areas…reading, writing, math, science, technology, critical thinking, creativity, and communication. The projects I’m sharing with you in this post would be perfect for implementing in either a homeschool setting a remote/digital learning platform.
Passion Projects: Hands down, this is one of THE BEST projects that I have done with students! I first implemented it while working as a Gifted and Talented Facilitator at an elementary school. In one of the GT resources left for me in the cabinet, I found a page in a book that gave some ideas for doing something called “Passion Projects”. Immediately my interest was piqued and I began making plans to start this with all of my GT groups! Since a child, I have always been consumed with many passions…reading, history, learning, favorite TV shows/movies/music, family history, traveling, and photography. It dawned on me that I didn’t know what passions my students had and I set about finding out. I then put this project together as I went along. I have the entire unit, step by step, in a Teachers Pay Teachers product (ON SALE FOR THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE). Below is an outline of how I facilitated the project:
I first facilitated discussions on what “passion” actually meant and what THEY were passionate about. I then had students survey other teachers, staff members and students as to what they were passionate about.
Next, I helped them to narrow down their huge topics, (such as Basketball or Minecraft) into something more manageable by having them create an essential question…something they want to explore within that huge topic. Thus the project became an Inquiry Project.
Examples of Essential Questions (from my former students!)
How and when were dogs domesticated?
How can I create a remote-controlled model airplane that will actually fly?
How do I become a master Lego builder?
How do you use Redstone in Minecraft?
What are the different steps it takes to write and publish a book?
How is math used in video games?
What are the origins of hockey?
I had students seek out an expert on their topic so they could interview them…whether it was a friend of their parents, a book author (one author actually did a phone call with my student!), or someone we found online and contacted. With my help, we were able to find experts for every student!
Next came the research…students used their experts’ information, the internet, books, magazines, and online articles. I had them use a graphic organizer (copy in the product) to organize their research. I had to remind them to make sure the information they were collecting directly related to that Essential Question.
Once their research was done, they were given a choice of how they wanted to display their project…display board, Google Slideshow, video, self-made book, demonstrations, experiments, etc. I then set up a day where students were able to present their project to parents, school staff and other students. Even if your child is at home while schools are closed, it’s important they present, even if it’s via Facetime or Google Hangout to family, relatives, friends, classmates, their teacher, etc.
My 3rd-grade student and I read this Reading a-z leveled book together and she really connected with it because her family travels quite a bit. We began researching the beaches she read about and finding photos. She put all of her learnings from the book, new learning from her internet research, and photos into a Google Drive presentation. Not long after, her family traveled to Hawaii and she got to visit a black sand beach and brought back a bottle of black sand! She was so excited to show it to me!
Choose Your Own Adventure Project: Remember these books? They were SO popular back when I was teaching in the 90s! Now your kids can create their own with a Google Slides template! To begin the project, I had my student go through a sample CYA slideshow to get a feel for how this genre works. I then had my student come up with a story idea, plan out settings, characters, plot, and the resolution. For several of the plot points, I had him come up with four different choices that the reader could take. Next came the photos for the presentation. I had him use either Pixabay or Unsplash to find photos, as these are all open source and copyright free. With his story plan, choices and photos ready, he was ready to start on the slideshow template…and he REALLY enjoyed it! The hardest part was keeping all the slides straight so that when the reader clicks their choice, they are taken to the correct slide. Check out his finished version here and be careful making your choices!
National Monument Project: This project was created after my first EVER visit to Washington D.C. last spring. Being a teacher and a history fan, I was thrilled beyond belief to see our nation’s iconic buildings and monuments. Being the teacher I am, I started wondering how many kids know WHAT our National Monuments are and WHO they honor, so I created a Google Slideshow using my photos from my visit, and showed my students the monuments and had them try to identify them. Sadly, not many were able to identify them, no matter what grade they were in! So the slideshow turned into another Teachers Pay Teachers product…including the initial slideshow and a project involving reading, writing, research, technology, and creativity on famous Americans who also need to have a National Monument.
We explored ideas for famous Americans who should have a monument using the internet, articles and background knowledge. Once the student settled on a person, I gathered books, online articles, and videos together to help the student research. I had each create a thesis to help narrow down the research, just like the Essential Question in the Passion Project. Here are a few of their thesis statements:
Neil Armstong should have a monument because he was the first man to step on the moon and more.
Many famous Americans have national memorials, but one that is missing is Katherine Johnson, who inspired many girls and women throughout the world TO NEVER GIVE UP ON THEIR DREAMS! Here are the reasons that Katherine Johnson needs a national monument.
There are many monuments honoring famous Americans. There is one missing, female codebreakers from WWII. They broke drug and spy rings and helped the US military win WWII. Their work was the foundation for cybersecurity. Not many people know about their work. Women codebreakers definitely need a monument.
After using all forms of media for research, the students created a Google slideshow. I then helped them write narration. We downloaded the slideshow into Keynote (PowerPoint will work too!), had them add narration and export into a video.
I then had the student create a model of the research and let them choose the medium they wanted to use. One student chose to do a 3D virtual model using a website called 3D Slash, and two others chose to use modeling clay and paint. They first designed their monument on paper, then launched into their creations. You can see their final products
Finally, we downloaded the slideshow into Keynote (PowerPoint will work too!), had them add narration and export into a video.
Check out their finished versions with the links below and the slideshow of their project work.
I am so proud of these students and I know this would be perfect for your students while they are undertaking homeschooling or remote learning at home. The initial slideshow and all instructions and templates can be found in my Teachers Pay Teachers product, which just like the Passion Project, is ON SALE to help parents and teachers during this unprecedented time. Please let me know of any questions you have and how I can help in the comments below!