Did it end with a bang?

On Friday we ended the first quarter of Second Grade. As I reflected with my students, I could not believe how quickly the first 45 days of school flew by. I then started to think about an ideal world and the celebrations that should have happened to mark this important event in our second grade timeline. Instead we completed our first quarter assessments and cross checked that all students had been given each assessments.

My county plans our pacing guide and the objectives to be taught each quarter. Each objective is assigned as either a 3 assessments or 1 assessment objective. We then assess each student through different assessment types: pencil and paper, objective task, observation, classwork, independent project, group project, etc. At the end of the quarter I grade each assessment, enter the standard based grades and start the new quarter.

Each time I struggle with the importance of the assessments and the information I learn from my students. I have already had many informal formative opportunities with my students during small group instruction, conferences, whole group lessons and interventions. I do not need 3 assessments to help me “grade” my students. I also reflect on the amount of time we spend completing these tasks.

As I start the second quarter I want to ensure that the assessments I give my students are going to be informative to both myself and the growth of my students. The article The Bridge Between Today’s Lesson and Tomorrow’s discusses a formative assessment as an exchange between the students and the teacher. The formative assessment is an aid in the student’s growth. I want my students to understand why we have assessments and then find a way to grow after receiving feedback from the assessment.

I started to think about the role of assessments in the classroom and the growth my students can make if quality assessments are given. I asked the question on twitter and am anxiously waiting to see if I receive any advice or response.

I then decided to look at assessments in a second grade classroom. After searching for quality assessments I opened up the article – Designing Learning That Matters. After reading the article I started to think about the assessments in my class and if the assessments matter to my students. Do they understand assessments as part of showing what they know? Or is it another paper that they finish as soon as possible. Not one assessment this year has been authentic or been an activity my students were excited about. I was then led to the idea of student choice in formative assessments.

I came across the Creative DNA (Device Neutral Apps) Assessments Document

I have used many of these apps in my classroom and my students have enjoyed the activities.  For example they ask for more padlets to answer questions. I am going to look into the other apps to see if they are a possibility to use as formative assessments. If my students are excited about the technology I need to give them options to show what they have learned with these tools.

I also came across a Tic-Tac-Toe choice board for assessments. This could be a great resource for me to use with my Multiple Intelligences Professional Development.

I want my students to understand that assessments are part of the learning process and as an exchange between what they know and what they have learned. I am meeting with my team this week and I look forward to creating some choice assessments. I will keep you updated on our growth in choice assessments.

How do you assess your students?

Do you use choice boards for formative/ summative assessments?

Where do you find your assessments?

What advice do you have when creating assessments?


It begins with a question

For the past 2 weeks I have started to implement Passion Projects into my classroom. My students are very excited about the projects and have been engaged in every part this far.

Here is a quick overview of the past two weeks.

  1. I realized that we have many websites that my students will need to visit for the project. I created a symbaloo for my students to use to find the websites for our projects.


2. I then realized that the symbaloo address was way too long for each student to memorize, so I created a Bitly for my students to remember. (bitly.com/littlefuller). While introducing these tools to my students, I explained the background and reason for using the tools. Many of my students were interested and wanted to ask more questions about tools on the internet

3. I then introduced my students to KidBlog and I was very impressed. We learned how to find the website, log in, explore the dashboard. We then learned how to find and read a post.

KidBlog Welcome

I wanted my students to choose an avatar on the screen, but the accounts needed to be upgraded so I could not follow through with that plan. I am going to work with the students to create an avatar on a site (similar to paint) and then we can upload their pictures. If you have any recommendations, please let me know.

4. Next we looked at how to comment on the post. I asked the students to write hi, hey, or hello and post the comment. I then showed the students how their posts would go to my account and I would have to approve the comments before it would post to the KidBlog. I wanted my students to think about how big the internet is and the safety need when going on different websites.

5. We stopped to have a discussion about internet safety and asking permission for websites. My students are very responsible about using the internet at school, but I cannot speak for my students at home. I want to provide my students with learning opportunities that are safe and teach them how to use the internet in a safe way.

6. We then learned how to write a post. I asked the students to write about themselves to experiment with the keyboard. This is the first time that my students have blogged and I wanted them to try out writing in this way. ALL students were engaged in the activity and sat in silence for 30 minutes typing away. Some students were using 2 hands when typing, students were asking for help with capitalizing letters. I have to remind some students to look at the screen to check that their sentence was not in all capital letters.

Here are some examples from my students:
Intro 1      Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 8.38.18 AM
Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 8.39.12 AM Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 8.38.01 AM

The students were very excited to share some information about themselves.

7. The next day we went back to the Computer Lab to start our projects. I introduced the idea of Passion Projects and had my students review some research videos on Discovery Education. I assigned the videos to the students as an introduction to our research questions creation.

Discovery Education Assignments

8. After the students watched the videos, I presented the questions that I wanted them to blog about. I let my students know that they questions were there to start their thinking, but they did not have to answer all the questions. I wanted them to write questions that they wanted to research.

PP Questions

Here are some examples from their blog posts:

PP Questions Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 8.51.05 AM Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 8.52.50 AM Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 8.51.23 AM Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 8.53.37 AM Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 8.53.02 AM Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 8.51.57 AM Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 8.52.06 AM Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 8.54.10 AMScreen Shot 2015-10-17 at 9.02.44 AM

This is where we stopped our project for the week. I am going to let the students comment on each other’s posts next week during centers and see if more ideas/ questions spark from reading and commenting on other student’s work.

I am excited about the process so far, but still have many questions about spelling, word choice, readable posts.

Do you have any suggestions on improving student’s posts?

What are some guidelines for younger students and publishing on the internet?

Do you work on a “perfect” sentence or let them sound out the words themselves?

What do you want to learn?

Do you ever get that feeling of excitement when you start planning a new initiative in your classroom? That feeling of excitement, more excitement than your students have when you introduce your initiative. Well that is how I am feeling at this moment. After our hurricane research day (see prior blog post) I was reflecting on my students engagement and excitement about the topic. I then started to think about ways to incorporate this learning opportunity into the classroom frequently.

I stumbled upon a Kid President video and some information about Genius Hour. Then the fun began.

I started to learn about classrooms and teachers that have a block of time for students to engage in personal research projects. Teachers set aside 1 hour or more during the week for students to work on these projects, individually or in groups. They call this time Genius Hour, Passion Projects or Wonder time.

Here are some videos to introduce you to the concept:

This concept has been around for a while and the students are actively engaged in nonfiction texts. This might be the answer to exposing my students to more nonfiction text. My students have used technology consistently this year and I can notice who they are chaining their mindset on the use of technology. We have been engaged in using the technology to showcase information as well as find new information.

My second graders have so many questions about our classroom topics as well as individual topics that they want to learn more about. I then started to think about what this will look like in my room. I found Genius Hour project examples in all grade levels, how the project is structured differed based on the age of the students.

I work at a Magnet School and our instructional time is shortened by 40 minutes to allow for our Magnet Electives in our schedule. Fortunately on Fridays we get back that 40 minutes of instructional time. I want to use my Daily 5 time (50 minutes) and Elective Down time (40 minutes) to implement Genius Hour. I am going to name this time “Passion Project Time”. We also have our morning work time 3 days a week for about 20 minutes and I am going to have students work their projects during that time (I am always looking for more engaging activities during morning work).

I wondered what this could look like in my classroom and where to start. I stumbled upon Genius Hour/ 20% Time LiveBinder and felt like I won the weekend lottery. This LiveBinder has information that I wanted and needed to know.

Rhoni McFarlane (@rhonimcfarlane) created a Genius Hour Overview and I  think structure is what my classroom needs for our Passion Project. I then started to think about where my students are going to keep this new knowledge and how are we going to learn from one another. We are engaged in a monthly book study at school and I am reading So Each May Learn by Harvey Silver and Matthew J. Perini. We are discussing the multiple intelligences each month and I want to incorporate each learning style into the project.

My final excitement about the project is the Kidblog that I created for my students. I was somewhat lost on what to do with the blog and how to make it a worthwhile experience for my students. Since we are going to have different Passion Projects in the classroom I want my students to keep updating the blog with what they have learned about their project. I then will teach the students how to comment on each other’s learning throughout the year. It is not going to be possible to have every child update us every week, but this is an opportunity for the students to have an audience during their learning process.

I am very excited to implement this new initiative and I will keep you posted on the progress.

  • Have you implemented a Passion Project?
  • Do your students seek out independent research time?
  • What do you think about Genius Hour?

Rain, Rain, Go Away

This week we spent the majority of our recess time indoors. Each morning as I was going over the schedule with my children, a child would ask “Are we going to have indoor recess?”. Needless to say it was pouring as the question was asked. Finally on Friday our morning discussion led to asking the question “Why is it raining so much?”. We looked at some videos on The Weather Channel, but I could see that some children did not understand the role of the hurricane in our weather system and thought the rain was going to bring the worst. Other children were able to input information about Hurricane Joaquin, but then the questions began.

  • What is a hurricane?
  • Where does the rain come from?
  • Why it is raining so much?
  • When will the rain stop?
  • What is the hurricane doing?
  • How big is the hurricane?

Since our Friday schedule is pretty open, I decided to put the daily plans on hold and our classroom became a hurricane research center.

I first learned about Wonderopolis from twitter and have been using it in my classroom for background knowledge and to find more information. The site is very user-friendly and I searched hurricanes on the front page.

Wonderopolis - Hurricanes

We started our research with three texts – What is a Hurricane?, Where is the Eye of a Hurricane? and How Do Hurricanes Get Their Names?. I used the read aloud function for the first text, but read the second text aloud. It was easier for the children to follow along and I noticed that I was stopping to explain the vocabulary and then give more background information.

As I read the text I could see the children were thinking more about the hurricane and wanting to ask more questions. After reading the two texts, we started to list some questions that we wanted to answer based on what we had already learned.

  1. What is the eye and eye wall?
  2. How does a hurricane start/ form?
  3. How does a hurricane stop/ disappear?
  4. How big can a hurricane get?
  5. How does a hurricane get a name?
  6. What is some hurricane vocabulary?
  7. What can a hurricane do on land and/ or water?

I then let the children choose the question that they were most interested in researching. I provided the 3 texts, a highlighter and an iPad. We also looked at Big Universe for more hurricane texts.

This year I am trying to encourage my children to make choices about what they want to learn. As second graders I feel that they are ready to be engaged in tasks of choice and choice of final projects. Since this project was spontaneous and I did not have a required outcome, we discussed some options to present their answers. The children came up with ideas to use whiteboards to write information, present information in a video, write information on a paper and take a photograph, draw a diagram to represent the information. All the children wanted to input their information on a padlet. I created our Hurricanes Padlet and the children went to research.

Nearly every student was engaged in this activity throughout the day. I noticed that most students are learning how to work with others and were excited to engaged in a choose activity. We tried to input the information on the padlet, but we experienced some technical difficulties. All children research, created a product and video/ photographed their work. I tried to input the information on the padlet and will continue to try next week (iPads have to be left at school). I want my children to share their work with an authentic audience.

I was very impressed with their engagement and excitement around the project. Look for my next post on how I am going to incorporate this model into my classroom weekly.

Do you have opportunities for your students to research choice topics? How do you structure your independent research time?