Last Week in Lab: Week Ending 03/30/12

Posted on Apr 1, 2012 by kjarrett 2 Comments

This post is part of my continuing series of weekly lesson summaries. My goal is to give parents & caregivers in our school community the resources needed to extend student learning at home, and to share my professional practice with teacher colleagues around the world in the interest of improving my craft.

Week ending 03/30/12

"E-mail," by my Kindergarten students
Kindergarten

What we covered / did / explored:

  • We warmed up with ABCYA’s Number Order activity, which is a great little application for practicing number sequences up to 100. It can get a little wonky, with numbers hiding behind others, and there is no way apparently to move an incorrectly placed number, which is regrettable, and I need to contact the site author to find out what’s up.
  • This lesson was based on the excellent Common Sense Media activity, “Cyberspace in School.” We began by brainstorming ways we could get messages to Mrs. Hess in the elementary office. Their responses were mostly what you’d expect but one suggested (though they needed help with the exact phrase) ‘carrier pigeon.’ (Didn’t see THAT one coming!) We watched a quick BrainPop movie about email that the kids really enjoyed, then we moved on to the main activity – a live email demo!
  • I asked each Kindergarten teacher to go back to their room and wait for a message from me. As a class we composed a simple message to each teacher with the proper “ingredients” and then pressed “send.”
  • While we waited for a reply, we reviewed Twitter messages from all over the world that were sent to me earlier in the day via the hashtag #ncskdg. Here’s the collection of tweets (which I reviewed before showing). We used Google Earth to travel to NCS, then to many of the places mentioned. The kids loved it!
  • Finally, the students went back to their seats and created an image of how email worked using Tux Paint. Here are some of their creations. I am in awe.

What I learned / observed / inferred:

  • It’s the little things. Kindergarteners were enthralled by this lesson. It was way more lecture/whole group than I ever do, but it worked. The different media, the correspondence with the teachers, the Google Earth activity and finally the Tux Paint drawing all combined into (what I am surprised to say is) one of my most fun and effective lessons all year.
  • It’s human nature to, upon seeing Google Earth, immediately become fixated on seeing one’s house. :)

What students can do at home:

  • Set up an email account for your child. You will use it together. Many Internet Service Providers (e.g., Comcast) offer features-rich email ideal for such situations (parental controls are built-in). Work with your child to understand how email operates and how it should be used. Correspond with family and your child’s trusted friends (via their parents doing the same thing.) You will do more to help your child develop 21st century communication skills than any lesson I’ll deliver in 42 minutes, that’s for sure.
  • Ask your child to draw a picture representing how email works, then have them explain it to you. Sit back and marvel at your child’s view of the world!

First Grade

What we covered / did / explored:

  • From time to time, depending on the way lesson “days” fall in my rotation, assemblies, absences, in-services, natural disasters and other interruptions to my teaching rhythm, I make a mistake when planning. Such was the case this past Friday when I was to start my new content with first graders. Minutes before class, I realized I’d already taught the lesson the week before (it was the one on Internet Advertising). As the students scampered into my lab, I decided to let them choose an activity for the day. (It was the last class on a Friday afternoon, so giving the kids what amounted to free time was a win on many fronts.)

What I learned / observed / inferred:

  • It is amazing how many students gravitate to learning games. HoodaMath is a school-wide favorite. Their Logic Games collection is impressive; Factory Balls isn’t as hot as it once was but many students were playing it. Their Physics Games collection is also terrific and many were enjoying Red Remover, probably the single most popular activity we see in the lab.
  • Inspired by this, I asked if anyone wanted to come up to the SMART Board and try to solve some Crayon Physics puzzles. A small group of students gathered. They played for most of the class period; they made excellent progress and exhibited (mostly) good teamwork skills. They had a BLAST determining cause & effect, trying different theories, seeing what worked, and what did not. They literally played until the end of the class period.
  • Some students created original artwork using Kerpoof. I saw several sibling birthday cards and some get-well-soon notes.
  • Others designed intricate sand art sculptures using ThisIsSand.com (a.k.a., “The Sand Game.”)
  • At least one student was using Storyline Online, which I know they use in the classroom.
  • And of course, several students found their way to Monster Milktruck. Play it and you’ll see why.

What students can do at home:

  • Actually, all of the above. Every activity listed is Internet-based. Let them explore and tell you why they enjoy playing (and learning!)

Second Grade

What we covered / did / explored:

  • The title of this lesson is “Where’d ya get that photo?” (I apologize for the incorrect grammar…) We started the lesson with a discussion by asking students if they often create art or music, and what kind. (It should come as no surprise that there are many budding artists and musicians in second grade.) We discussed the concept of ownership and intellectual property (properly scaffolded, of course). We all agreed we would feel angry and/or sad if someone took our work and represented it as their own. We then had the students create a Word document and use The Weather Underground’s excellent collection of images to create a single page poster of our favorite season, with attribution at the end. (These are second graders; in later grades we introduce more detailed citing/referencing techniques.)

What I learned / observed / inferred:

  • Students genuinely seemed to care about this lesson and its messages. I firmly believe elementary school is the best possible time to reach kids and teach them good habits early.
  • Keyboarding skills are strong thanks to our emphasis on keyboarding practice. Most kids easily navigate Microsoft Word, as well.

What students can do at home:

  • The project we did above is actually easy to replicate at home. A simple search of The Weather Underground’s photos will yield multiple subject photos which can be copied and pasted into documents. The key is to add the credit statement at the bottom!
  • Practice keyboarding with Typing Pal. Celebrate with them when they achieve “0 errors” because accuracy is more important than speed. Speed comes as their finger muscles mature!

Third Grade

What we covered / did / explored:

  • We warmed up with Typing Pal, recognizing members of the “Zero to Hero Club” for getting no mistakes on their practice lessons.
  • This week, Third Grade students went to Atlantic County Park for a field trip. (This trip, sponsored by the NCS PTO, is always a huge highlight every year.) We had the students explore the park virtually using Google Earth. (Most were able to do this BEFORE seeing the park, but some did it afterwards.) Students were tasked with locating and labeling various landmarks (Nature Center, Veteran’s Cemetery, Playground, Gazebo, Trails, etc.)

What I learned / observed / inferred:

  • This lesson would be substantially more powerful if we had the students do the activity along with research about the park and create a “tour” in Google Earth. Next year, perhaps…
  • It’s easy for students to lose their bearings in Google Earth if they are not sure what they are looking for!
  • Ground-level view isn’t much help if there isn’t a lot of variety in the topography or if there are no 3D buildings rendered at the location.

What students can do at home:

  • Practice keyboarding with Typing Pal. Celebrate with them when they achieve “0 errors” because accuracy is more important than speed. Speed comes as their finger muscles mature!
  • Google Earth is a free download and should be on every student’s home computer.

Fourth Grade

What we covered / did / explored:

  • We warmed up with Typing Pal, recognizing members of the “Zero to Hero Club” for getting no mistakes on their practice lessons.
  • This was the Fourth graders’ week to work with Voki. Students came prepared with research (various projects) and wrote scripts in Microsoft Word. They then used Voki to create animated characters that brought their words to life.

What I learned / observed / inferred:

  • Great user interfaces, like Voki’s, don’t require a lot of explanation. Students learn them quickly. I gave essentially no direct instruction on the tool; kids figured out the details on their own.
  • I would love to have a school subscription to this site. $29.95 for the year isn’t much. It’s just that these expenses add up quickly when you’re paying your own way…

What students can do at home:

  • Use Voki to make research projects or homework more exciting. Have students create Voki‘s that share knowledge. It’s a lot more fun than working in PowerPoint!
  • Practice keyboarding with Typing Pal. Celebrate with them when they achieve “0 errors” because accuracy is more important than speed. Speed comes as their finger muscles mature!

 

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