Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What Type of Movement Culture Does Your Technology Classroom Have?

You've Got To Move It, Move It

Inspired by Marcia Tate many years ago, movement has become an important part of my classroom environment. Not only do I provide opportunities for students to move regularly but I try to instill in the students the importance of moving so they can self regulate. 

I think this is will become more and more important the more sedentary activities might become with the increased use of technology in classrooms. 

Small Movement Breaks

In my class, students are encourage to recognize when their body needs a break. Throughout the year I do direct teaching of small movement breaks during writing, typing or art activities. However, by the end of the year the goal is students are aware of the need for them. Small breaks might include:
  • "spider" - students put their fingers together but leave their palms apart. Then they pump their palms in and out giving their fingers a stretch
  • wrist circles
  • neck stretches
  • shoulder rolls
  • body twists

Big Movement Breaks

If students are sitting for more than 15 - 10 minutes for an activity, I try to remember to incorporate a movement break into the activity. When using technology this might include:
  • encouraging students to get up and get a drink of water
  • stand up and stretch behind where you are working
  • a "shake, shake, shake" break where students stand up and shake their bodies
  • a whole class movement break*
* I put a list of whole class movement breaks at the bottom of this post.

Frustrated? Change the Mood

Often working with technology can lead to frustration (for you and/or the students). Stopping and doing a fun movement break can change the energy and mood of a classroom. Want to get students smiling? Try:
  • Handshake #2 Brain Break
  • Button Factory (to get kids laughing, I usually make the last "button" they have to push use their tongue, then they have to say the whole thing "hello my name is Joe..." with their tongue sticking out).

Some Whole Class Movement Break Ideas

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Getting Started With Grade Ones and Google Apps

A grade one colleague shared with me her grade one's first Google Presentation. It is a super simple, yet motivating, first activity. The students really enjoyed the project.

It was successful because:

  • it was a culminating activity, so students were knowledgeable on the topic.
  • older buddies helped.
  • the template the teacher created made it simple for her new-to-Google students to feel successful.
  • she had access to the document her students were working on and could monitor their progress.
What she did:
  1. She created a Google Doc and made a slide for each of her students. Each slide had 'by' and the student's name. 
  2. She shared the document with her students.
  3. With their buddies, the students had to find the slide with their name, type their sentences and add pictures.
  4. When everyone was finished, each student got to come up and read his/her slide to the class.
Below is a copy of the final presentation. I have removed students names and just left the first initial.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Butterflies - Excitement, Empathy and Drama

 Animal Life Cycles Grade 3 Science

As part of the Grade 3 science unit, Animal Life Cycles, students are to observe and describe the growth and development of at least one living animal, as the animal develops from early to more advanced stages.  This is the story of how one class used a forum to record observations and share experiences. 

Last spring my grade three students were very engaged in our butterfly project. 

There was drama, empathy and excitement as students shared their experiences and recorded the development of their butterfly larvae on our class forum.  

Each student received three Painted Lady Butterfly larvae and were required to journal their observations on a forum. Students recorded their observations, responded to each other and shared pictures as the larvae developed. 

Here are some of the excerpts from our butterfly forum on 123 LearnNet. You will get a sense of the connection and learning that happened.

This is Hawk's post telling about the day his butterflies emerged from the chrysalis.

Here is Eva's hopeful post:

And Hawk's encouragement:

In the end things took a surprise turn for Hawk. This was an email I received: 

"It was an emotional release of the flying beauties. 2 flew away into the blue while one only had moments of freedom before it was a blue jays lunch .So sad but that's a butterfly s life. We have enjoyed this experience so much that we plan on raising more butterfly s in the future. Thank you for this project." 

And Eva's butterfly did finally emerge and fly away.  However the thought of a hungry Blue Jay was not far from her mind. 

The following Google presentation shows the development of one student's butterfly larva through each stage to the day he released them.  Take note of the last two slides they are delightful!  

This particular forum was on 'Moodle',  the LMS (Learning Management System)  we use to deliver online courses at our school.  

If I were to do this activity in a classroom setting, I might consider sending the larvae home with the students.  This would give them incentive to record and share their individual observations on a class blog or through a Google Presentation. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Paper or Netbook? The Student Decides.

What Normally Happens In The Morning For Bell Work

My students get a package on Monday that they can work on at their own pace in the mornings and that we review the answers for throughout the week. A paper-pencil activity is convenient for bell work in the morning. Typically they have an acrostic poem to complete as well, but I removed that from this experiment.

Choice Experiment

I decided to do a two week long experiment with my morning work routine. For three out five days I gave my students a choice. They could do their morning work on paper or on a netbook. I was curious if this would be time effective. We use netbooks quite often in my class, so my students are very proficient with getting the netbooks out, getting logged on and then returning the netbooks at the end. Each activity is no more than 20 minutes, some only 15 minutes or less. My students were also proficient with the online activities that they had to choose from.

Monday - New Words

They write their new spelling words into their agenda and get their choices for the week.

Tuesday - Practice Words

Paper choice - Look-Say-Cover-Write-Check
Netbook choice - Spelling City "Test Me" (I have a free Spelling City account)

Wednesday - Sentences

Paper choice - Five sentences on lined paper
Netbook choice - Five sentences on Google Docs

Thursday - Fill In The Blanks

All do this on paper due to going to music in the morning. 

Friday - Fun With Words

Paper choice - word search
Netbook choice - Spelling City or Spellodrome activities


  • I was surprised by the number of students who chose paper activities. Out of 17 students, each day there were 3-5 students who chose the paper activities both weeks. 
  • Using technology for these short tasks did not add on as much time to the activities as I thought they might. Both groups (paper and netbook) finished their activities at about the same time.

What Next?

Going forward I am going to continue to give my students a choice for the sentence work on Wednesdays. On Fridays, I may try having students do their weekly poem using technology and early finishers can review their words online.