Monday, October 31, 2016

Math on the Move (Solving for a Determined Variable)

For the past 8 or 9 years, I have spent my time after hours helping students prepare the math section of the ACT.  Each year I analyze the released tests and update my prep workbook to reflect questions most frequently asked.  I LoVe doing this!  To me, working math problems and seeing trends is so much fun, but it dawned on me that not everyone feels the same:) After talking with a non-math Discovery Educator friend who was hired to teach a prep class with no resource materials, I realized that there is a definite need for ready-to-go lessons.  So, I am in the process of developing all of my tutoring materials into content that can be used during the school day in a traditional classroom.  Since my natural inclination as an educator is to get students up and out of their desks while working, I thought that an ACT Prep Class should be no exception.  Here is a quick 5 question check for solving for a determined variable (Interactive ClassFlow Version) involving combining like terms and distributing...basic stuff for sure, but perfect for older students that may have forgotten over time.  Print out the handouts and place them around the classroom. Students will complete a gallery walk and solve each problem on notebook paper.  After all of the questions are finished, students may check their answers with the key provided.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Augment Your Review Stations with Aurasma

Last week, I tried Augmenting Algebra with Aurasma and it went just...okay. On several occasions, we found that the wrong answer popped up on the screen when the review cards were scanned.  We could remove the card and try again and most of the time that resolved the issue; however the bigger problem stemmed from the way that the cards were created.  I had made all of the question cards using the same font, identical backgrounds, and very similar layouts.  The only variation on the review cards were the actual questions themselves.  The difference was so slight, that the Aurasma app had a difficulty in distinguishing between the cards. Determined to make this work, I came home and revised the activity by adding variety to each card using shapes at different points along the border.

I uploaded the new images to Aurasma and we tried it again.  Problem solved!  Now, when the review cards are scanned the correct answer shows up every time!  Since these are perfect for self-checking stations and the kids loved it, I will definitely do it again.  To make it easier, I saved blank cards with the new border art as a template.  Now, all I need to do is add the questions.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Engaging Readers and Building Vocabulary Through Augmented Reality

One of my greatest desires is to help students make sense of unfamiliar text and vocabulary. So, it only makes sense to couple augmented and virtual reality resources with an upcoming unit on informational text to serve as a hook on which to hang new information.  Just recently, our ELA Coordinator found an article on Gentle Giants from Readworks and that was all I needed to have a jumping off point for AR/VR integration.  I pulled Discovery's 360 video on the whale shark, the featured figure in the article, and paired the video with our VR Viewmasters to create an immersive experience.  (Note: The 360 feature only works when viewed through the YouTube app, but a VR viewer is not necessary to see the 360 effects.)  I ran the article through LessonWriter to get vocabulary and literacy activities to use in the writing activities and created three stickers for a small group station (two of the whale shark and one of a hammerhead).  I augmented the stickers using Giphy and Aurasma and used them to help students better understand the passage.

The augmented pictures are amazingly cool! First time viewers always look under the iPad to try to determine what is happening:) However, the best part for me was previewing the images with a second grader.  I asked if he knew what a hammerhead shark was...of course, he knew. "What about a whale shark?"  Well, yes to that too!  Realizing that I was dealing with an advanced friend, I asked him if he knew what zooplankton was (a word which appeared in the Readworks article). Finally, I had stumped him!

We scanned the sticker showing a whale shark eating.  (You can view the augmented content by creating an Aurasma account and scanning the QR Code pictured on the left.)  When the short video had finished, I asked him if he had any idea what zooplankton were now.  His response, "I think that zooplankton are tiny creatures that whale sharks eat."  Yes! Bingo! You got it!!!  Now, while I cannot swear that the video I attached to the feeding whale shark gif shows zooplakton (sorry,  if they are not), the idea was to translate unfamiliar vocabulary into a pictorial representation that my young friends would understand and worked!  The complete lesson includes vocabulary, reflection questions and small group activities. For student notebooks, I reduced the size of a QuiverVision coloring sheet of a great white shark to fit 4 on a page and asked the students to research and compare the whale shark with the great white and hammerhead by using a Venn Diagram.

 Here is a link to the printables and the complete lesson plan

Monday, October 24, 2016

Giddy Over Giphy

Do you ever stumble upon something that is probably old, but to you it is brand new...never before dreamed or imagined...and you go nuts over just thinking about how your students will react?  Well, that was definitely me last night.  In fact, I woke up this morning realizing that I had dreamed about sharing my new find with the kiddos.  If you have read this blog for any length of time, you already know that I am infatuated with augmenting my world.  Seeing an inanimate object come to life through the use of an app is so fascinating to me and witnessing this used with students brings me great joy every time.
I was playing around with an idea for a new virtual field trip and exploring possibilities for augmented writing prompts when I found Giphy, a website where you can find and create animated images.  Paired with Aurasma, you have an image that can be placed in a student's writing journal to serve as a writing prompt.  When the student scans the picture with the Aurasma app, the animated image created with Giphy comes to life on the screen!
So, here is how it works:
Step 1: On Giphy, select create.

Step 2: Find a video that you would like to transform into an animated image and paste the URL of into the prompt on Giphy.

Step 3: Choose the start and end time for your animation.

Step 4: Scroll down and select create gif.

Step 5: Download your animated gif by clicking the advanced tab and choosing download.  I used the downloaded file as the animation for an Aurasma trigger for our interactive student notebooks (I'll post details soon).

Here is my gif...ready to pair with an article from Readworks on these Gentle Giants.  

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Augmenting Algebra

I am so excited to have the opportunity to create math experiences again for the first time in 2 years. For the past 4 weeks, I have worked with a group of students on mastering Algebra I content for the (Texas) STAAR EOC.  Each weekend I spend an afternoon, sitting on the couch cranking out new lessons for these awesome kiddos and hoping that I find an approach to help them understand and remember the content.  Once a week tutoring is tough and many struggle to recall my name, much less the math that we covered, so I find myself spiraling the activities to highlight the topics from past weeks.  This weekend was no exception.  Tomorrow I will try something new to me and hopefully something the students will think is cool...self-checking math stations using Aurasma (inspired by Heidi Samuelson at SwampFrogsFirst). Aurasma has been around a while, but I have honestly never tried it for something like this.

To view this creation, download the free app, Aurasma, and create an account (no's free!)

Scan the QR code to follow my channel.

Now, you are ready to see my augmented content.  Here is a card from my complete lesson that is available at no cost on TpT and ClassFlow.  I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Growing Better Writers Through Blogging

Today, we picked up on a project that we started last year...blogging.  I am thrilled to say that as I watched the lesson unfold, I saw real learning happening for our sixth grade students.  According to last year's teacher, the hardest part of blogging for our young writers was providing quality comments.  So, where did we start today?  You guessed it, with commenting.

Our Grade 6 teacher, Mrs. Downs, created her own post using only a graphic image and invited the students to share their thoughts.  No guidelines were stipulated regarding the length of the post nor were reminders given about sentence structure.  The directions...look at the image and comment.

The students' writing began to flood the screen.  From short posts to creative rhymes, student personalities began to shine through with each entry made.

The most beautiful part however, was that students provided the material for the day's lesson on grammar, syntax, and quality writing.  Take, for example, these 3 comments to one student's response:

"Do the comments make sense grammatically?  Is punctuation missing?  Should sentences begin with a capital letter?"  As Mrs. Downs, asked probing questions while reviewing the students' first attempt, we could see light bulbs coming on across the room, as well as, the strong desire to correct mistakes made.  After Mrs. Downs invited the young writers to edit and revise, the students' comments became more thoughtful...more conversational...more grammatically correct!

Are they perfect?  No, but we are not looking for perfection; we are looking for growth.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Engaging Learners in Virtual Tours with ClassFlow

I am not sure why I am so enamored with virtual tours, but I have been hooked since Google's visit last year when they came to share Google Expeditions with our 5th and 6th grade students. Maybe it is because it is so easy to get the students engaged in a virtual tour...maybe it is because the students can explore places they have never been...maybe it is because virtual tours not only provide learners with a visual experience, but also an auditory and kinesthetic one, as well.  Based upon my one day experience with Google Expeditions, I can tell you that I am so excited about their recent release for iOS devices.  With their teaching notes, question prompts, and gyroscope compatible pictures for students, it is so easy to integrate Expeditions into the curriculum.  In fact, I invested in 25 ViewMasters and an equal number of iPods in early summer, because I am convinced that this type of learning activity is a game changer for our student population who have limited experiences outside of their own neighborhoods. I feel that if I can take students around the world through interactive pictures, a wealth of opportunities will be unlocked for our students to associate mental pictures with words they read and hear, thus expanding their background knowledge, but not every location is available through Expeditions.

Enter ClassFlow.  About a month ago, I started using ClassFlow, a free online presentation system kind of like an interactive whiteboard, but with built-in assessments, assignment creator, badging, and interactivity tools.  In ClassFlow, there are 2 slide decks available, one on the teacher side (the things that will show up in the front of the room through the projector) and one on the student side (the things that will show up on the students' devices). The 2 slide decks do not have to match and therefore allow for the creation of the customized virtual tour complete with teacher notes and talking points!!!  By embedding links to 360 degree videos and photos on the student side, virtual tours can be built with images with which students can interact.  By including teacher notes or questions on the teacher side of the slide deck, lessons aligned to content standards can be developed with questions or facts designed to keep class discussions on topic.

I shared my first tour, Regions of Texas, with 4th grade students last week.  It was so rewarding as a teacher to hear the students oohs and aahs as they saw the different pictures appear on their devices and honestly, in my 16 years of teaching, I have never introduced something to students that resulted in a similar response.  They were so excited to share what they were seeing with classmates as they moved the images around on their screen that on more than one occasion the teacher turned to apologize to me for the noise.  I assured her, no apologies were needed.  I love to hear engaged students excitedly talking about content!  Next stop...the White House.