Give Yourself Grace and the “Okay” To Play

Fighting for Grace – As a Child of God, As a Daughter, As a Wife, As a Parent, As an Educator….you name it.

I seriously have fears that my daughter is growing up missing out on something (not really sure what, but something) because I am an educator/parent-AKA “teacher mom” and she a “teacher’s kid.”

I felt so relieved when I read this great article,  7 Ways to Survive the Teacher Mom Guilt because it hit me that there are others that feel this way too! I am not alone. Recently I started reading For the Love by Jen Hatmaker.  She uses humor and just plain realness to urge us to give ourselves grace in this unattainable Pinterest life world of impossible standards. It’s like she is encouraging us Teacher Moms to UNITE and stop this ridiculous guilt we place on ourselves. 🙂

It’s not only just the Teacher Mom Guilt.  There is the dreaded technology time battle.  I’m just going to be real y’all. Sometimes she wants to do something on it and I instantly answer, “You need to do something else.”  It doesn’t matter if she hasn’t even been on it that day!  #truth  I have no reason other than my fictitious belief that a “good mom” is supposed to tell her child not to get on her device and do something outside.  Right?  Isn’t that how we grew up?  😉 You hear that voice in your head too.

  • It takes away family time.  
  • We played games outside growing up.
  • Too much screen time these days.
  • It isolates them. 
  • They aren’t using their brain.  

Then the other day something happened.  I decided to say  you know what, I can fluff the laundry one more time and just “play” with her what she was playing on her device.

Two things happened:

1.) What I judged as a mindless activity, was actually igniting her creativity.  She was using her creativity in ways I am not sure I could have done, and quite honestly barely understood!   This also led to me see a passion she had for something I didn’t know about. 🙂

2.) I got to see this when I stopped and gave myself grace to just “play” with her, like Jen talks about in her book.

Which leads me to the biggest realization that day, and that is that I realized our children are living in a different time.  A different world.  That is just the truth.  Accept it or not, but it is not necessarily always a bad, evil thing.

Before you mumble under your breath, this lady is crazy suggesting technology time whenever…..please know that I am not advocating for kids to be on their devices all the time.

I am a big believer of everything in moderation, but this was the “quality time” that my child was wanting from me.  That was it.  Times have changed where quality time CAN happen using devices, and it does way more often than we imagine if we open our minds to it.  Think of all the amazing things that come from YouTube creations, and lately the musical.ly videos that all kids are completely loving!

Here is the beauty of the lesson I learned.  We were doing something she loved and saw as quality time instead of spending quality time only doing things that I felt met the “criteria.” What criteria, you ask?  Oh, just the expectations I felt I had to meet that were not mine! Thanks Jen for giving me that okay to give myself grace to do it our way without feeling like a bad mom!

We had more fun in those moments together than any of the ones I had created this summer on our list!  She made the comment about how much she has wanted me to play that with her.   That hit me pretty hard.  I “play” things with her, but I never realized how many of them are things I encourage because of my own agenda. (Have to multi-task while I play, want her to learn things and create, use critical thinking, practice her talents, want her to read or write, math, etc….teacher mom problems). There go those impossible standards again.

Quality time is not seen as quality time to our children if they do not connect with it, and if they do not view this time together as happy and fun does it really become a precious memory? Maybe.  Maybe not.

Times have changed. What some children enjoy and can do for hours is like nothing we could have possibly imagined.  Yet, if we open our minds to stop and “play” we might discover just how passionate and creative they are being.

All they want is TIME doing the things THEY love WITH us.  Making moments.  The moments that will carry us on and become precious memories. These moments might look different than we know from our childhood, but different is good. I know my goal is to embrace it and give myself grace!

Innovation: Sharing Is Caring

Last week was the best educational experience ever!  I was fortunate enough to get to attend TCEA for the entire week.  After spending Thursday learning from George Couros, or as someone said, “Day of Couros,” the concept of innovation had many thoughts swirling in my head. Then, when I read his blog yesterday it stirred up even more in me!

Just recently, a principal friend, Matthew Arend mentioned in his blog, how during one session George took the concept of using a Google Doc to curate many inspirational videos. In both blogs, the mindset of innovation is discussed. The idea of using a Google doc was not a new concept to me at all.  In fact, this past week at TCEA many of us had one that we were all adding to while attending as many different sessions as we could so we could divide and conquer.  And boy did we!

In The Innovator’s Mindset, George defines the notion of innovation as a way of thinking to create something new and better.

We have collaborated on Google docs in our faculty meetings, with our students, and each other.  What made this innovative in my eyes was the “new and better” part of it. When George crowdsourced this document to gather even more ideas, THAT was “new” to me.  I never thought of sending it out to people who are not part of the making of it, and can I tell you how much “better” this one thing made this experience!  First, so many people responded with quality videos that now it has saved me hours of searching for the perfect video. Second, do you even know how many people have circulated this document and how many people it has helped!?  THIS is creating new and better with something that we already use. I am not writing to discuss this experience, but how this experience has led me to thinking about something else.

What if the document stopped there? What if someone saw it and thought, that’s great, but I am not going to use someone else’s list of videos.  If not applied, does it truly make the idea better? In short, yes and no.  Yes, for those who take this idea and use it to enrich the learning experiences for their students.  No, for those that hear the idea and then go back to doing it the way they always do it for whatever reason.

Take the above example and substitute curated videos with teaching strategies, classroom management strategies, technology lesson ideas, classroom climate/culture suggestions…you name it.  Unfortunately, I think so many teachers are hesitant to use things like this because they are afraid it is “stealing or copying.” Or they feel like if it isn’t something they came up with themselves, then they are frauds. Maybe that is a little dramatic, but the point is…this is a huge misunderstanding out there with teachers that needs to stop!

For many years people have said, “Why reinvent the wheel?” Now I hear, “We are better together.  The best idea is a lot of ideas.”  I wholeheartedly believe the latter one. We are better when we work together. Every person you meet has something to teach you.  We all have different backgrounds, experiences, and thoughts.  Why wouldn’t we capitalize on this for the sake of the children we teach?  If our mindset is in the thinking that “sharing is caring” then it is a win-win situation!  🙂  Who wouldn’t want that?

  • We need to let go of the thought that as teachers we have to do everything ourselves.
  • We need to let go of the thought that innovation is some huge thing and involves the best and latest technology.
  • We need to let go of the thought that we have all the answers.

We don’t.  We can’t.  We need to turn to other awesome educators out there and be better together. How can you use the power of your PLN to make this happen today?

What I Learned About Internet Safety

Once again, I find myself torn as an educator parent living in this world of technology.  I want to allow my child freedom to learn about all that interests her using technology and trust her actions, but I do not want to have certain discussions with an 8-year old.

Long story short – after much debating, researching, and long term thinking….we surprised our daughter with her own Chromebook!  It is white, so she calls it Snow White. 🙂 So precious.

Very quickly I realized I needed make sure our knowledge of internet safety was the same!  Here is what is so very hard for me.  As an educator,  I preach (and I really have, to many other parents and teachers) that we cannot shelter our kids from this.  It is not going away.  We must teach them how to search responsibly and how to act, not react, when they do stumble across an ad that isn’t so nice. We need to TEACH them these things from the very beginning.

I feel safe search sites are set up to do their job.  I feel kids who know what to do and how to act responsibly will know how to properly use the internet.  I feel kids deserve our trust in them.  We cannot control their every move in real life when they are not with us.  Right?! I have followed this philosophy with my kids in class and we have never had a problem! Really. So, I will keep on preaching.

Then it happened!

When your child is searching what her name means on a kid safe search engine site, you would not think urban dictionary would pop up as a top site choice, but it did…and she chose it. As we all went about cleaning up the kitchen, unaware of this, she began reading aloud what other names meant.  I then realized, it was time to have a deeper lesson on the topics of internet searching, safety, media literacy, and all of the above.  And quite honestly, it scares me as a MOM, not an educator.  I had to find a way to protect my little girl as much as I can, while educating her on how to search effectively, while also allowing her freedom to search topics of interest without choices that are inappropriate showing up.  Is that too much to ask?  😉 We already have a house rule of using computer/iPad in same room as grown up, but when she is on a kid safe site….you just don’t think twice. Until now.

So, here is what I solidified in this lesson:
1.  You cannot be there all the time to hold their hand and protect them from everything, but you can teach them how to respond in situations. I use www.commonsensemedia.org regularly for lessons and tips.

2.  You cannot control everything, BUT you can monitor closely!  I stumbled across this great resource. http://www.omgchrome.com/a-parents-guide-to-supervised-users/

Call this control or whatever you want,  but I call it smart and the perfect answer for this mom of an 8 year old baby girl who likes to research because she is curious about life! It allows me to monitor her searching, restrict certain sites if needed, while letting her have the freedom of searching and growing as a responsible digital citizen.

I plan to hold tight to my beliefs on the importance of:
1. being present with students as they are learning how to search the worldwide web effectively.
2. teaching students how to act responsibly when things do pop up.
3. educating students how to be media literate and how to evaluate sites and resources.

My Aha Moment On Blogging

You know sometimes you have those moments when it takes a little longer for something very obvious to click, but when it hits you….it HITS you?!  Not to offend anyone, for me personally they are called blonde moments. 🙂

That was me last night in one of my favorite Twitter chats that I participate in on Sunday nights. #iaedchat  Okay, if I am being honest, it really HIT me in the early hours of this morning.

The question posed was about Digital Portfolios.  I instantly thought about how students submit work for their own portfolio, and joined the tweets with this perspective.  What I neglected to think about in that moment was blogging as a digital portfolio. I’m not sure why! I have read George Couros’s blog on this concept and discussed it with other Twitter friends out there.  Like I said, blonde moment!

As a teacher, my students blogged and looked back at their blogs to reread things and learn from people who responded.  As a parent, I went through a time where my daughter and I were establishing her blog presence in a way we both agreed upon. 🙂  You see, what a 3rd grader wants to freely blog about and what her mother feels is okay are sometimes different.  I realized I needed to teach this digital understanding before just letting her go!

Why in the world did I not think about my own blog as my Digital Portfolio? 

Not a clue! I guess I have always thought of blogging as showing student learning or reflecting my thoughts – not my learning or work. I have actually referenced this blog to show examples of digital projects I did with certain age groups to someone else so they could try them.  Isn’t that one reason we, as teachers, would have a portfolio? To keep track of our learning and share with others.  

Why do we, teachers, not think WE need to have a Digital Portfolio?

It’s a new kind of thinking!  Maybe we just need to change the way we think about our purpose of blogging?

How do we shift from using blogs to show the things our students can do to using them for our reflection, growth, and our digital portfolio? Or can they be the same?

If we are consciously thinking of this, maybe just this shift in thinking is what it will take. Some teachers I know think of blogging as reflecting on their learning, but many teachers think blogging is a way to document and show what they are doing with their students for the parents. My first few years blogging, this is exactly why I blogged.  But wait..can’t you blog to reflect on learning, use as your digital portfolio, and show what your students are doing?

Now that I am thinking more about my blog not just as a reflecting spot for my learning, but as my digital portfolio, I can blog with the perspective that I will continually refer back to these entries to share with others and to see how much I have grown.  Like an anchor chart! Funny thing is, I have used it this way!  Just like we hope for our students when they blog, when others comment and question my entries it makes me rethink and question my thoughts. This deepens the learning for all of us!  How awesome is that? It doesn’t mean if I blog it can only be geared one way.

It just means this…..

I am growing!  I am putting my learning process out there so that I can refer back to it whenever I need to.  I have found a new love for writing through blogging. How is that?  It forces me to reflect on my learning experiences which leads to even more growth by reflection.   That is all I can ask for!

I guess I can say my blonde or Aha moment created an awesome reflecting and growing opportunity for me!  🙂



Connect & Empower – Reflection on Part II

What a great weekend of reading and reflecting I have been able to enjoy!  Reading through Part 2 of The Innovator’s Mindset, I felt like in my mind I kept saying, “Amen.  Exactly. That’s right!”

The reality is I can agree with these ideas all day, but my learning cannot stop there. After all, we all know that reflecting is necessary for true learning.  After agreeing with every page and holding back from going on Amazon to purchase sets of this book to share with everyone I know, I asked myself what I always do when I reflect and learn.

“So what? What does this mean for me?  How can I take this to make what I do for my students better? What is my action going to be?”

Overall Thoughts:

1. RELATIONSHIPS MATTER!  
“We have to make a connection to the heart before we can make a connection to the mind.” This statement from the book has always been at the heart of what I do every day.  It does matter.

The 8 Things To Look For In Today’s Classroom sums it all up!

1. Empower students to use their VOICE effectively.  Teach them how or they will struggle with this.
2. Give students CHOICE in how & what they learn.
3. Even in our busy world, time for REFLECTION is necessary to truly learn. Make time.
4. Create opportunities for INNOVATION through passion work chosen by students. Make it something that is the norm, not just a one-time event.
5. Teach students to be CRITICAL THINKERS and question ideas to move forward.  So much info is out there, we must teach them how to sift through what is needed.
6. Empower students to make an impact on the world and be PROBLEM FINDERS/SOLVERS.  Look for ways to make our world better.
7. Teach students to understand how to SELF-ASSESS and reflect on their growth and learning.
8. CONNECT! CONNECT! CONNECT LEARNING! Connecting with experts in the field of content you are teaching will hands-down create a deeper understanding with your students.  Imagine the possibilities!

If we start thinking of how our classrooms can have these things going on, we will see our students feel empowered and start to see themselves as learners in a world where they create their own learning and it is not done for them.

My Action: 
Always connect with the hearts of my students at the beginning of our lessons, even if I only have 30 quick minutes with them.  It will be worth every minute in the long run.

Always make sure what I am doing with them is relevant by making sure the above 8 things are happening in my classroom through self-evaluations and reflections.

Keep my focus on empowering my students! This is so much more important than having a compliant student.

Continue leading by example.  Be the change. 🙂

Reflecting on The Innovator’s Mindset – Part 1

This quote pretty much sums up why I blog, and it is worth mentioning because as I read through George Couros’s book, The Innovator’s Mindset, I will write about what sticks out to me and how I am connecting to his book. I write to deepen and secure my own learning. I write to clear my mind. I write so that I won’t forget.

I pretty much was like a kid on Christmas morning when I knew my book was delivered!  I was able to sit down and read only a little bit before it was time to run to a kid Halloween party, and then deal with The Dramatic Costume Crisis of 2015. (Just a little embarrassed to say it was my costume crisis, not my child’s!)   Fortunately, I was able to dive into it the next day, and read Part I: Innovation in Education.

In an attempt to follow the advice in the book, I am going to put myself out there and take a risk by choosing to publicly write my reflections/responses to one question from the chapters. Yikes! These questions are only a tiny look at the reflecting George encourages you to do at the end of the chapter. I LOVE his idea of having these at the end of the chapter.  It is through these reflection questions that we can have discussions and take action to create opportunities for innovation. These are from his book and I have quoted exact statements, so I hope if George is to read this one day, he is okay with me sharing. 🙂 I will assume so since they are out there on his blog and will be discussed in #PISDbkclub come January.

Ch.1

  • What has changed in our world today that not only makes innovation easier to do, but is also necessary for our students?
  • I am amazed at the opportunities to connect with others that have opened up for educators and students in the recent years.  Where in the past we may have had ideas to make things better, they just stayed in our room with us behind closed doors. We might have told a friend, if we had time.  Now, you can ask a question on a blog, Twitter, FB, email, Skype, Hangout….and within minutes you have a list of different ways to implement this from people who have done it and worked out the kinks.  Why would we NOT use this to our advantage?  I also think that innovation (defined by George as a way of thinking that creates something new and better) naturally happens when we think about our students!  Why not ask them for feedback on how to make a lesson better?  This idea of making the learning relevant for our students is what is necessary. They need to be able to THINK and CREATE.  They are our future. I can’t think of any better reason than that. Just a little pressure to develop the innovator’s mindset, that’s all!
Ch.2
  • How do we take what we currently have to create a better education system for our entire community?
  • I was recently discussing this idea with some fellow educators.  Some will say that in education all we do is try one thing, throw it out for the next thing that comes along until it doesn’t work and then try something else.  This is not about trying something else.  The book clearly shares how it’s about always asking ourselves, “Is there a better way?”  It all starts with empathy.  If we put ourselves in our students’ shoes, I bet we would look for ways to make things better every day. And friends…this is not a bad thing!  I hope to always ask, “Is there a better way of teaching this that is more empowering, more exciting, and so meaningful to their life it will stick with all learners?” until my teaching days are over.  Hold on…don’t worry, I probably will still ask these questions when I am retired.  🙂 easily connected this to my own daughter.  She is a third grader now.  This is THE YEAR!  You know it..testing starts and all teachers feel additional stress, which really saddens me, and every other teacher and parent you know.  This is when teachers start to feel the need to use teaching strategies that produce the scores and not necessarily create innovative cultures or empower students. (Please understand, this is a very generic blanket statement I know and it is not to be viewed as judgemental. I have never taught a testing grade, thank goodness, and so I am simply stating my thoughts from discussions with these teachers.)   We need to share the innovator’s mindset with our policymakers, voters, parents, teachers, students, and everyone!  Spreading the knowledge of our education approaches and developing this mindset will create a better education system because we will all understand the importance and urgency of this shift for our future.  (Alright, soapbox over.)    
Ch.3
  • How do you exhibit the innovator’s mindset in the learning and work that you do currently?
  • Here is the illustration from George’s blog that explains the innovator’s mindset so well.  I am sure many of you have seen it. I have these characteristics as a board in my room so my students can look at these daily and we can discuss the vocabulary word, examples of these characteristics, and even discuss which ones we aim to have.
This was MY FAVORITE part of the first section, so I have to share my key thoughts from each section!
  • Empathetic – Always ask, “Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom.” This makes it real.  Who are we really doing this for?
  • Problem Finders – It’s crucial to not give the problem to kids, but teach them to look for this and be self-starters.
  • Risk Takers – “Risk is necessary to ensure we are meeting the needs of each unique student.”  Perfectly stated, Mr. Couros. 🙂 Another soapbox of mine.  It comes down to our kids deserve it!
  • Networked – The book talks about surrounding yourself with people who actively share ideas because it makes everyone smarter. I also think it makes us take more risks because we feel supported. Cannot say enough this is why I love my Digital Divas group! 
  • Observant – Love the idea that “sometimes the most valuable thing you get from your network isn’t the idea, but the courage to try something new.”  So true for me.  
  • Creators – The part in the book that discusses creating something helps make a personal connection and deepen learning is SPOT on!  Who doesn’t grasp something better when we use our hands to write, sing a rap to remember some facts, or create a picture to remember a concept?! 
  • Resilient – This was my HEART of the chapter.  “As you push the edges of the norm with your innovative ideas, hold on to your conviction and passion.  If you don’t believe in your ideas, why would anyone else?”  I want to engrave this on something and hang it in my classroom!  
  • Reflective – LOVE the idea of Drop Everything and Reflect.  How often we neglect this, but how important it is for learning and growth!  
This is just the first part, and I could have written even more than I have in this novel.  I always try to walk away from a learning experience with a plan of action.  My plan of action from this first part is this:
I will continue to ask myself daily, “Is this what is best for this learner?”  
I will make sure my students love being in my class because I have reflected on, “Would I want to be in this class?”
I will hold on to my conviction and passion.  I solidly stand by my ideas and know I am doing what is best for kids
I will not let one answer of “no” knock me down to the point of not getting up to try something else to make it work.  
I will continue to surround myself around the people who share new ideas and try new things.

WHY?   Our Kids Deserve It!!
I can only imagine the next section is even better!  If you haven’t gotten this book yet, or read about it from the hype on Twitter or Amazon…you are missing out.  Go get it! 





 

First, Digital Divas -> Next, Twitter ->Then, Personal Growth -> Last, CHANGE!

There is a lot of talk about “The Twitter” these days in education.  It almost has turned into a buzzword, and if you are “doing it” at your campus then you are a rockstar and the most tech savy, knowledgeable teacher out there.  Don’t be fooled.  If you are tweeting with no reflection or process, chances are you are not really reflecting, which leads to growing!  If you have never used Twitter or professional purposes, I urge you to connect, but Twitter isn’t the only way to connect.

In this AMAZING book by three amazing educators I connected with on Twitter they elaborate on the idea of connecting through many outlets. These are people I have never met, but I liked what they stood for from participating in a chat session and followed them.  They are so kind and genuine in wanting to connect and help educators.  

As I met with my P2LN the other evening, I connected this to the book I am reading and began to think of what I do differently since becoming connected with them. (Not sure what P2LN is?  The P to the power of 2 stands for Personal and ProfessionalI wasn’t either until I read the book below.  It is a MUST read.  So many amazing ideas and examples.  An ideal campus book club selection!  It will change your life.  .

Here are 2 huge factors that played a role in my connected educational journey, so far!

First, is a group a dear friend and my fellow late night collaborating colleague, Erin Gerdes, started among educators with like minds to meet and discuss the digital changing we were going through. We meet every single month, even through the summers to collaborate, share ideas, learn, and grow.  This turned into our classrooms of students collaborating through Skype and other things across schools in our district.  We are the DIGITAL DIVAS! This is my Professional Learning Network that has turned into my Personal Learning Network of peeps, but now also my dearest friends.  This is what happens so often.

Second, I began “lurking” on Twitter educationally about 3 years ago when I was accepted as a Digital Classroom Teacher.  I finally jumped in and began joining the Chat Groups that interested me.  It was like 2 at first, but what matters is that I began connecting with more people in my district and out in the social media world. (Confession: Along the way, I did delete my Twitter account because I honestly couldn’t figure out what the point was and why only 140 characters! I opened another later on.)

Fast forward to this past summer….my world changed and I was lit on fire by attending iPadpalooza in Austin, Texas!  It honestly had nothing to do with iPads and technology, as much as it did the spirit, passion, and energy from the Keynote Speakers I heard and from the people I met there!  I wholeheartedly mean it.  There is this crazy intoxicating energy you get when you are around people like this at an amazing conference! Check out the youtube channel from iPadpalooza of the mini keynotes.  This is one of those moments when I will look back and say my professional focus shifted at that moment and I am on fire!

I made the decision right then that instead of just randomly posting a pic of my class on Wear Your Favorite Socks day or a Here is what we did in Math kind of pic, I began reaching out to random people because of their thinking.  That’s crazy a thought, right?!  😉

Here’s the thing: The most unbelievable thing happened…they reached back!  Without even knowing who I was!  I thought that was the most bizarre thing since pre-iPadpalooza I would do “research” on someone and their thinking before even considering following them!  So within a short time frame of one “unconference” I had extended my professional learning network a ton with some AMAZING people!  This was only the beginning.

Here is what started happening over Twitter:

  •  I began exchanging awesome ideas and Best Practices for the classroom or school with others.
  •  I began reading inspiring quotes and articles people tweeted to build others up.
  •  I began reflecting and seeking out different perspectives in order to grow.
  •  I began sharing GREAT things happening in our school.
  •  I began sharing GREAT things happening in other schools with our school.
  •  I began taking more risks.
  •  I helped connect others for global projects. 
  •  I was having conversations with people I had just met because of a belief AND they TRULY wanted to HELP you!!   
Are you ready for the top reason why you need to build your P2LN?  
IT WILL CHANGE YOU! (There’s no way it can’t, if you are doing it right!)  🙂
Here is what it does for me:
  • Keeps me on FIRE and loving this ever-changing profession!
  • Gives me the easiest and best way to seek out new best practices! You have round the clock access to brilliant minds. Have a question? – Tweet it out!  
  • Provides 24/7 Professional Development!  
  • Sometimes we can’t fly to Chicago for that awesome conference you are dying to go to, but you can follow their #hashtag and still learn so much.
  • It challenges me and stretches my thinking!!  Big time!  Why? The people on Twitter bring such a wide variety of experiences and knowledge and when you connect and gain their perspective, you can’t help but rethink how you are doing things.  
  • There is SERIOUS reflection going!

Don’t underestimate the power of people. If you want to know outstanding people to follow, go to my Twitter @OCTVisser and look at who I follow.  See what they stand for, and if you like that give them a follo.   Build your P2LN and remember…..

STEM Cup Tower Challenge

The Cup Tower Building STEM Challenge was the one that forced the kids to think deeper on why did that not work?  How can we improve this?  Some of them used their background experiences to help them make changes.  It was definitely the noisiest challenge so far, but it also challenged them more than any other on using teamwork and communication!

They had only 20 minutes to get the tower up and keep it up before I measured the height of each one.  It was the “keeping it up” that was the most challenging.  Their little hands just couldn’t resist adding one more cup, which in turn would make it all fall and they would have to start all over again!  With less time!  Lots of problem solving going on here.

Of course, we have to have a little crazy fun!  After the first round, we wadded up paper and on the count of 3 knocked down our own towers!

STEM Challenge Fun

“What’s the challenge today, Mrs. Visser?  Why can’t we do it right now?” is what I hear first thing in the morning.

The goals of the last few weeks of school are to enjoy each other and continue learning amidst the crazy end of year feelings.  We are definitely doing that and more by doing STEM Challenges each day.  I have found that when we spend our days researching, designing, building, testing, and improving things that interest us we are doing more than just having fun.  We are learning how to collaborate with others, communicate, use critical thinking and problem solving skills.  Much of what is needed on a daily basis in this global-technology-centered world.

The Lego Boat Challenge was fun to observe because the kids worked together so well!  They would test the boat and look for ways to improve the boat so that it would float.  Not to mention, it tied very nicely into the theme of our little world with all this rain!

Using YouTube Kids to see lego design to help us plan. Creating our own designs.

It was really cute when I asked a student if they had planned out their design to hear, “Actually, we are building it as we design and making changes as we go.”  Isn’t that what we do sometimes?  

The time to test has come!  The winning boat was small, solid, and rectangular without any extra decorative items.   

21st Century Writing in Google Docs – with 1st graders!

So, I will begin by saying I am very blessed with an amazing student intern right now!  As we began our fairytale writing unit, we had our plan of how the gradual release would happen.  As they wrapped up their partner fairytale writing last Friday she said, “Hey, why don’t I take these home and type each of them up in Google docs and you can share them out to each of them.  We can do the edit and revise process through Docs and each kid can change up the story how they want.  They will probably even come out with different stories.”  I thought, oh that is awesome!  I have done this thing in 2nd grade, but this is 1st grade and they are still learning this process, but hey…..if you know me, I am up for anything challenging! Give them something and just see what they can do with it. Plus, isn’t this what we do when we write?

Sidenote: For these little ones, having to write an entire story (which can take multiple days), go back to edit and revise at a first grade level (once again, multiple days), THEN have to rewrite the final so that it is readable and presentable….well, it takes every ounce of the love of writing out as well as makes for some irritable children!  This experience opened eyes to new things!  It almost seemed that for once, they were engaged in the writing process because it meant something to them.  Not that this was the first time we had done this, but because it was on the IPAD!  Amazing, right?  This is an example of 21st century collaborating skills at their finest!  I cannot tell you how much more creative their stories turned out, as well as the language they used from taking the time to change words!  Friday afternoon we printed the story and began the illustrations.  I will post pictures of them when we read to our Kinder friends next week!  They are SOOO proud! I am glad Ms. Osen suggested it and I went for it.  Teamwork! 

That Monday, when the kids opened up their typed story I shared to their Google Drive, they went crazy! From that day on, every spare moment they wanted to change their stories and work on them.  It was hilarious to see their faces while they were working on it and Ms. Osen and I would pop in to see what they were doing or help them.  They would see our flashing cursor because we were also in the document.  They said, “This is just like Minecraft!  We are in the same world!”  Who knew, writing and Minecraft were alike?!

Here is a picture of them working on changing overused verbs and making them vivid verbs after a mini lesson we had. They wanted to use the resources, but no one wanted to take them and go so they pulled up a chair and working like a “movie theater” they said!  HA!  These kids crack me up!

More work in progress happening here.  They were reading and rereading, changing words to be more exciting, deleting phrases, and paying attention to what they were writing!