Week Nine How can I use Pearltrees to differentiate content in the classroom?

So I am with Lori on this.  At first I was not really excited about yet another account to a site I needed to try to explore and maintain.  Time is of the essence in my life and I was not sure if I could devote the right amount to this new thing.  Then I stared exploring.  Needless to say I’ve had to force myself to log off my computer late at night and sleep instead of continuing to explore .  Pearltrees is awesome for searching up resources as well as cataloging  your own.  I have yet to add pearls to my own tree as I am still trying to look through everything I have found.  I simply put in third grade into the search bar and spent some time looking at what others have posted.  I have a better idea of the types of things I would like to add to my own tree and how I can use this to keep track of differentiation for my class.  The only thing I worry about is keeping track of all of the places I have put my resources.  I understand that this class is helping us to develop a better network of colleagues with which to collaborate as well as finding ways to find and store resource materials as articles.  I just worry that I will misplace something somewhere.  In some ways I look forward to this summer so I can really sit down and review everything I have been exposed to and to really explore it in preparation for next year.    

Through Pearltrees I found a couple of really great sites for math I can use right away in my class.  There are some math sites for both myself and the students to use with games and great resources for teaching the concepts.  There was also this pearl for spelling that gave me an idea for putting our spelling activities on my own tree.  Also I think this would be the best place to put some resources for our social studies curriculum for the Mat-Su Borough School District.  We have some thing available that were made by local teachers, but some resources for student activities as well as additional resources would be very helpful.  

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Week Eight How might video games enhance my students’ learning?

I use computer games in my class on a regular basis.  I have three computers available for the students to use during both the math and reading period.  During a typical math lesson period I rotate the students through the computers using a math practice site xtramath.com for them to practice their math facts.  Since my class has 25 students in it we do not always get through the entire class each day.  I try to have the students on their fact practice at least 2-3 times each week during the lesson time.  On Thursdays the class spends the first part of the period in our school computer lab where they complete their fact practice, and then have games from three different sites available to them to practice other math skills.  The sites I set up for their fun practice are math-play.com, ixl.com, and sheppardsoftware.com.  Each of the sites provides a large variety of games and I can give the students a specific game to play that aligns with the weeks lessons or concepts covered in class.  The other really nice thing about all of the sites available are that they can be used by multiple grade levels from K-8.  This allows the teacher to tailor lesson extensions or interventions to the student.  My students really enjoy accessing all of the sites and in for any reason we cannot use the computers they are really bummed.  If I have any new games that I want them to try I will do a whole class introduction using the Promethean board.  This usually gets them so jazzed to play that we plan for the next day.

I talked regularly with my teaching partner about the sites that both he and I access for our students.  I also talk with the teachers both below and above my grade level to get their input on   great math sites for students to use.  

Overall I think computer games are a great tool for teachers to use in their classroom to help students who need or would benefit from either intervention or extension activities.  They allow for a wider range of differentiation activities and possibilities for all students.   

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Week Seven Essential Question

What tool did you learn this week to assist you in differentiating the learning process for students?

The tool I have been using most frequently the past few weeks is xtramath.com.  The site is free and available to both parents and students from school as well as at home.  I set up the account, added all of the students in my class and had them all take an initial placement test.  Students can be started out with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and/or division.  Once students have mastered an operation they are automatically moved to the next operation.  I receive weekly update emails with the students progress as well as information on whether they are accessing the site from home.   I can assign practice time as homework or just use class time for their practice.  The students really enjoy the practice as if we are unable to get to the computer lab they will ask to use the classroom computers.  I have begun planning my lessons with xtramath practice time for the class.  I will have a small group rotating through the computers while another group is working of the day’s lesson material.  It seems to be working right now and the students have begun showing improvement in the fact fluency and time.

Another site I have used in the past that I really like is Class Dojo.  I know of a couple of other teachers also using the site and we have all agreed it is a great site.  Students and their parents can access the site from home to see how they are meeting expectations for behavior and also see where they can make improvements.   

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Week Six What does it mean to differentiate the process (content, strategies for instruction) in the classroom?

I was really excited to see all the tools for differentiation that I didn’t know about before.  I think it is a process that many people do not understand and can struggle with doing well in their classrooms.  Differentiation is hard to do in some ways but easier in others.  One of the best things a teacher can have to help with differentiation is collaboration with their teaching partner as well as any other resources personal in the school (literacy coach, reading specialist, math interventionist).  Now to put a plan into action we must first have one. 

For me, differentiation can mean to slow down the pace when needed, speed up the pace when needed, replace content when needed, and add activities when needed.  Differentiation helps with intervention to plug holes in understanding and extension for those fast learners.  All students have to be able to learn at their own speed and may need either extra practice or to move on to the next concept.  Varying the processes that students go through to learn the content, teaching them a variety of ways of solving, and different strategies for understanding are all ways to differentiate. Instruction can be one on one, small group, partner work, large group and independent.  There can be a mix of all of those or just a couple.  Differentiation has to fit the subject and the students’ needs.   

Using program such as ALEKS http://www.aleks.com/ in your school is one way to differentiate in math.  The program can be used for intervention with students who are behind in their math understanding or as extension for those students who need to move at a faster pace.  The students work at their own pace and can be assessed weekly to determine their level of understanding.  Another program that is similar, but for reading is Lexia http://www.lexialearning.com/ .  Lexia is a great program for students who need help in reading and phonics instruction.  Both of these programs can be used on an independent level for students with quick small group mini lessons as needed with the students. 

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Week Five Essential Question

What are your overall take-aways from the methods/tools that you might use to differentiate the classroom environment (for teacher productivity and student progression)?

            To address the first question I needed to look back at all of the resources I researched over the past five weeks.  I am always looking at resources for my classroom with the grade level in mind.  I teach third grade so when I look at resources I tend to skip past ones for middle and high school as well as those listed for college.  I find that I must make myself look at those resources with the same open-mindedness as those meant for upper elementary.  The goal is not to stay within my comfort zone but to branch out and increase my comfort zone. I also tend to get stuck on how this class is helping with increasing my math knowledge and proficiency in teaching math to my third graders.  I know that my students are probably more computer savvy than I am even at 8-9 years of age.  This is because they have grown up with computers where as I was not exposed to them until high school and college.  I am fascinated with the amount of technology that is available for teachers to use and somewhat overwhelmed at learning and understanding all of it.  I was very lucky when completing my internship to be a part of a school that was piloting a Promethean Board and the Active Inspire Software Program.  I have been using one ever since and cannot imagine teaching my lessons without it.  Through researching the various articles these past weeks I have found I really like to following tools the most.

  • Survey Monkey
  • Edmodo
  • Drop Box
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Drive

These tools would definitely help to differentiate my classroom environment.  We currently use our classroom computers for student’s extension activities in both math and reading.  My students practice math fluency through a couple of different websites and programs which can be accessed both at school and at home.  Students in intervention groups for reading have access before school and during class to practice using Lexia and Read Naturally.  Both of these programs are used throughout the district for student progress in reading fluency.  I think it would be exciting to have my students be able to do more of their learning using technology throughout the school year.  Not that I wouldn’t teach, on the contrary there would still be direct instruction when needed.  Independent and individualized work would be done using other means.   

Which of these may you use in your classroom in the future?

            Of the tools listed above I will definitely be trying out Survey Monkey.  Surveys for interest levels in subject areas can be done on paper, but in today’s age completing the survey online is more interesting and fun.  Those are two things we as teachers need to look at for all of our lessons.  Interesting and fun lessons result in more engagement by students.  I myself use Google Calendar to keep track of my own life, but can see how it may also work for my students.  The trick will be selling it to the parents.  Not all parents are interested in having their child use the computer for their education.  I also would really like to try the Edmodo.  Creating a group through Edmodo that my students can use to engage in dialogue with their peers about their learning would be really interesting. 

In addition, I looked at the resources posted by Lee for this week.  I was very interested in the articles from Wired Campus on E-Books, Educational Leadership on Students Tracking their Progress, and The National Teacher Training Institute on Managing Students Computers.  The article from Wired Campus discusses the new E-Books that are becoming available for college students.  Not only can students read, highlight, and take notes, but their professors can track how much they read, what they highlight, and how many notes they take.  This information is then put into a student engagement record for the professor.  As a college student I’m thinking first, that one less book I have to purchase as they are extremely expensive, and two, wow talk about accountability on the part of the student.  We cannot complain that the information was not there or that the test or assignment was too hard if we do not read the required text.  Being accountable for one’s education is something that we as adult should have. 

Now how to apply this to my classroom?   Our district provides a login and password for our students for both our reading program and math program.  They can login in and re-read the weekly story, complete assignments, and take tests, all from their home computer.  I as the teacher cannot see if the students read the book at home, but I can see if they complete the assignment or completed the test I assigned.    I understand that I could use the information about whether my students actually login and complete assignments for tracking engagement, but not for giving grades unless I provide my students with the opportunity to complete those assignments and test at school.

The article from Educational Leadership on Students tracking their progress was excellent.  I found the information very interesting and informative.  Students who are involved in creating their own learning goals and tracking their progress achieved higher success, than those who did not.  The importance of involving students is sometimes lost to teachers.  We feel we need to teach, teach, teach, then assess, assess, and assess again.  We take the data, analyze the data, and then tell the students they need to work harder, read more, and compute faster.  This means less to students than if they analyze the data themselves, reassess their goals and keep track of their progress.  I really like the idea of using rubrics rather than points to track progress on assessments.  Rubrics can be created in kid-friendly language so they know exactly what they are being assessed on.    Also the idea of using a variety of assessments lends itself to different types and styles of learning.  We will get a better picture of student achievement then just the traditional paper-pencil test.

Lastly the article on managing student computers from the National Teacher Training Institute was wonderful.  Even though I only have three classroom computers I understand the need for educating students in how to use them.  Many students have access to computers at home, but not necessarily the programs used at school. We want students to be able to write papers, create presentations, and collect and analyze data.  The programs used for those things are not using part of student’s education, unless specifically taught.  The article explains how information about programs can be taught to students using whole-group instruction, using teams to complete projects, and individual projects.  It also addresses using a computer lab as well as classroom computers.      





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Using tools to manage and deliver feedback to students

I was just recently introduced to drop box through this class, but I was very interested in reading more information about it.  I like the idea of being able to assign work to my students they can work on at home and turn in easily over the computer.  This would enable students who cannot come to school due to illness or vacations to still stay with the class and up to date with their academics.  Again I have to look at these items and ideas and realize that my 3rd graders may not be the right venue for introducing the technology, but I do think there are definite application possibilities in both middle school and high school.  Upper elementary (4-5) could be using DropBox in their classes for some assignments, but not all.  I also found the website on SchoolCircut to be really interesting.  I have always felt that there is a better system out there than what we are currently using.  The SchoolMax system was great in the beginning, but with new standards based reporting the system does not like to play well together.  I also understand that the middle and high schools drive the system and we will only change if they have problems and want to change.  My biggest complaint is that we need a system that works for all of education K-12 as well as parents.  I do like the idea of being able to give feedback to my students on their progress in a variety of subjects and think that technology will only help that feedback to be easier to both give and manage.





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Tools to manage and track differentiation with my students

I like the idea of using Google calendars in schools to help students keep track of assignments and progress.  Teaching students to manage their work and stay organized is essential to success in school as well as life.  The other things I like is the fact that as a parent I can stay connected to my child’s schooling and help them stay engaged in their learning.  With this math program we have been able to connect through Edmodo.  Before starting this program I had only heard about Edmodo through my high school students teachers.  I had no idea it could be used for elementary students until our 5th grade team set up a group last year.  Now we have yet another way to stay connected in our student’s education and are helping them develop their own PLN.  I also really enjoyed the link to free technology for teachers.  Many times teachers have to hunt and peck for ways to assist their students in their learning.  Having an idea of a variety of ways to help students take some of the guess work out of it.  I am one who strives to be organized yet never feels completely organized.  I always say it is a work in progress.  Many of these tools are helpful to differentiate instruction of students and allows teachers track students achievement in their assigned tasks.  Students are more engaged in their learning and find success in their achievements.    Students do not have to feel like they have to struggle to keep up if they do not understand and can work at their own pace.  The teacher can track student work and assist as needed.  One of my goals with this class is to learn more about how I can use technology to help my students.  With these links and articles I feel I am on my way to understanding more.   




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