Did you survive the Blood Moon? Did you know that Mercury is in Retrograde (whatever that means…)? It’s that time of year for things to start getting spooooooky! Thankfully ::knockonwood:: my students have been great, and we haven’t had any catastrophes during Week 6! Below, I share some highlights of the week:
1. Bullying Awareness – October is Bullying Awareness month. On Monday the 6th, we had a ‘Blue Out’ to bring awareness. We also had a PBIS lesson in which we watched this video and discussed the impact of our actions (positive and negative). Our students have signed a pledge to stop bullying, and the pledges have completely covered our walls in positivity and inspiration!
2. Contest Winners – This week, our Guess the Reader Winners received their self-selected book prizes. Oh the looks on their faces (which you can’t see), when I handed them a brand new book to keep! They were very happy campers 🙂
3. Google Doc Editing – Something I am doing this year that I simply LOVE is using Google Docs for student writing assignments. They simply share it with me, and we can edit it as we go. No more waiting to hand it in and get feedback – the students get feedback right away while they are in the writing process. This also cuts down on saving, emailing, and creating new files – who needs all that? The students love this and it’s so fantastic. I could just kiss these iPads! (But I won’t. Ew, germs).
4. Fall Colors – My husband is a pilot, and we spent our Sunday morning flying around Southeast Wisconsin to enjoy the beautiful fall colors. They are not quite at their peak yet, but it was so enjoyable nonetheless.
5. What I’m Reading – I’m almost done with Birthmarked, and I’ve already got the next book, Prized, in my queue ready to go. Hopelessly addicted! All I can say is that it’s all about the suspense – I feel so left in the dark, and I’m so curious to figure out what’s going on here. Great series!
On an unrelated, entirely personal note, I’ve started running to prepare for the Hot Chocolate 15K in Chicago on November 9th (one month away, ack!). I’m so anxious about this and I am training very hard. At my current pace, it will take me 2.5 hours to finish the 15K; I don’t really care, as long as I actually finish. With my new shoes I just purchased, I can run 4 miles without feeling too terrible. I hope I can build up enough endurance and stamina by then!
Things have been going so very well with the iPads. In my classroom, we use them every – single – day. We do so much typing, it’s ridiculous. And frankly, if you’ve ever had to type for a significant amount of time on an iPad, you know what a pain in the rear this can be. Those tiny buttons, the tiny screen – iPads are great for consuming information, but no so great for production.
To help alleviate this strain on our students, my district did some hands-on research and picked out a quality bluetooth keyboard to offer to our students. They purchased them in bulk, then offer them for individual purchase in the office. They would up being only $13, what a steal for such an invaluable piece of equipment! The students quickly snatched them up, and I see many of them in use in my classroom already. They require 2 AAA batteries, and I am sure we will need to purchase those and have them on hand as well.
I purchased a keyboard for myself, too, since I know this will be a great tool for traveling, staff meetings, etc. And I’ll have one on hand to lend to a student when needed. I even thought – wow, for $13, these would make great Christmas gifts!
Bottom line: If you plan to use an iPad in the classroom, I feel that a bluetooth keyboard is ESSENTIAL, a non-negotiable. I just wish we had figured this out earlier in the school year and had these available sooner, but as they say – live and learn!
Let’s be real – when you give a 13-year-old an iPad, they are going to download and play games. Lots of them. During Homebase (Homeroom) time, I look over shoulders and I see a lot of Minecraft and other silly, pointless games. My response is, “you have 17 other hours of the day to waste your brain. I’m not going to allow that during school time!”
My colleagues and I got together and created this handout for our students – 35 Teacher Approved Apps. As it says on the first page of the handout, these are apps that can be used AFTER all other homework is completed and you’ve done your daily required 20 minutes of independent reading. We have vetted these apps and determined that they have (at least some) academic value for our 8th grade students. Feel free to download the hand out here: Teacher Approved Apps KD
This week is our first chance to go to the Library. I make a point of bringing my 8th graders to the Library every Monday. This year, however, I knew things would be a little different with the iPads. For starters, our Library is now offering ebooks on loan. For some ebooks, we have only a few licenses, meaning only a few students can ‘check out’ the ebook at a time, and for other ebooks we have unlimited licenses. The students can download the ebook from our Library app (Destiny), ‘rent’ it for a couple of weeks, and then on the due date, **poof** it disappears! This means you can check out a book without ever stepping a foot into the library! This is great for kids who are absent a lot, who go on vacation, or who devour books at a breakneck pace.
To better utilize the iPads for reading purposes, I created this handout to help my students discover new and exciting digital reading materials. There are also some fantastic tips for finding your next great reading book. You can download the entire 3-page PDF file here: How To Find a Great Book KD. Enjoy!
Well, we’ve made it through our first full week with the iPads. It’s amazing how different things are. And by different, I mean… more interesting, more engaging, more efficient, more work, more planning, more troubleshooting, and more patience needed. The students are really doing an amazing job with this. We continue to work out the bugs and get every student up to speed (get everyone on the network, equipped with all of our required paid apps, set up with email, Google drive, Infinite Campus, ebackpack, etc.). Despite a few glitches here and there, the kids are working like pros, picking things up very easily. Here they are working in my classroom on a journal entry at the beginning of class.
Each day, at least 1 student forgot their iPad, or forgot to charge it. I think once they experience a day of going without their technology, they will not be doing that again! We do have some extra charging cables and extra iPads that they can check out of the library for the day, but they see how inconvenient this is – the rented iPad doesn’t have any of their ‘stuff’ and settings on it.
As the students are becoming more accustomed to their iPads, they are having a lot of fun playing. They explore new apps, find new games, and have something new to share each day. At the start of each class, I have to remind students to exit their game apps and prepare for learning. Currently, we are working on making a list of ‘Teacher Approved Apps’ or apps that can be used when all possible homework is done, and the student has done their independent reading for the day.
So what have we been doing on the iPads all week? Each day, we start class by adding a journal entry to a document that they started in Pages. As we have been reading our first book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey, students are also taking notes on their iPads. I love that we can find images on the internet to accompany their notes, which allows them to think creatively, build connections, and construct a deeper understanding of the book. And let’s not forget that we have the world of knowledge at our fingertips – we can stop and search for any information we may need, use http://www.dictionary.com , research real people who exemplify the 7 Habits, and create Educreations videos to jigsaw the reading.
During Homeroom time, students use their iPads to keep up on their academic responsibilities. They are given 10 minutes at the end of each day to:
* check Google Calendars – all teachers keep a calendar of their daily activities and homework
* sync their Google Calendars with Calenmob – an app that makes their calendars available offline
* download their homework from ebackpack
* check and respond to any emails – I’ve sent each of my students an email this week to test
* check Infinite Campus (our online gradebook) to make sure they are current on their assignments – nothing missing or late
With the iPads, students are really in the driver’s seat when it comes to their education. There are no obstacles, no excuses. Even being absent isn’t a problem anymore – everything you need is online!
Things appear to be going great so far this year. Students are looking ahead in Google Calendars to see what we will be doing in class that day, emailing me questions and comments, and doing all of their homework paperlessly. I am so proud of them, and I can’t wait to see what else this year has in store for us!