Blended Learning with Littles

A blended learning environment is one in which technology and “offline” teaching are seamlessly intertwined throughout the day. Blended learning environments allow for student agency, passions, and mastery to grow.

21st Century Learning

In the 21st Century Framework, students use digital tools, collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking (The 4 Cs), and other career readiness skills to curriculum standards. In the 21st Century Framework, teachers design lessons, and experiences that pull in multiple skills listed above. Teachers must model risk-taking and perseverance. Teachers must also look for ways to include a global perspective in their curriculum. A blended learning environment provides teachers with tools to use to teach the skills and perspectives outlined by the 21st Century Framework. In a blended learning environment, students can use devices to share their learning with the world through Twitter, Instagram, a Seesaw blog, or other tools. Students can complete work in a way that makes sense to them. They can use a digital tool like Seesaw, Flipgrid, or Google Classroom to collaborate and communicate with one another. They can use their creativity to respond to assignments or teacher prompts using tools like pic collage, Seesaw, Chatterpix, and more. Students can apply critical thinking by considering their digital footprint prior to sharing with the world, solving problems with a team, or deciding which digital tool works best for them when given a choice.img_0862default

The 4Cs

Blending technology into your lessons allows for opportunities for students to experience the 4Cs. Blended learning can consist of student choices in response to learning. Students need to think Critically (1) about the task at hand and the best way to Communicate (2) their learning with others. I have given students choices for Letterland phonics sorts to use either Seesaw or paper and pencil. My kindergarteners figured out which way worked best for them and stuck with that method. In my kindergarten and first grade classrooms, we use #BookSnaps to reflect on text reading. Students have a choice in how they respond to that text and are very Creative (3) in their text annotating using labels, drawing, and emojis to annotate the text. I encourage students to Collaborate (4) and work together on one device. You know the saying 2 heads are better than one. Well, it still holds true when kids are creating content using technology. They aren’t only sharing their learning but they are learning ways to work on a team. Because a blended learning environment encourages collaboration, we don’t need to be 1:1 with students to devices in order to have a blended environment. There are times in my classroom where we use 1:1 and times where only 4 devices get used and the kids work together.

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Access to multiple types of devices grows flexibility

I’ve heard people say they don’t like technology in the classroom because technology changes frequently and just when you get used to something there is something new out there. I love that technology changes all the time. It forces us to be flexible, a super important executive functioning skill. In my classroom (not by choice) I have 2 desktop computers, one laptop, 5 iPad 2s, 1 newer iPad, my teacher laptop, my old iPhone 6, and 2 of my personal devices I let kids use occasionally (a chromebook and an iPhone 8 plus), and because of BYOD we have various models of iPads and iPand minis. Soon, we are getting new chromebooks from the district. The variety of devices that my students have access too requires them to transfer skills to different types of operating systems and to problem solve when something doesn’t work. I have kids who prefer the desktop computers for one task, an iPad for another, and my old phone for another. We have that flexibility for them to find what works best for them.

Learning first Technology Second

It is important to remember that the learning always needs to come first. Technology should support the learning. It never comes first in my planning process. I start by looking at my standards and unpacking what that means for students. My next step is to decide how we will approach the standard and how it should break down for student learning. Sometimes technology fits in and amplifies the learning, other times it doesn’t. Sometimes my devices sit without being touched all day and sometimes we use them in every block. Sometimes I don’t plan for technology but my students find a way to amplify their own learning and voices during a lesson or learning experience using technology and clearly I have to allow it! Like I said at the top, a blended learning environment includes both technology AND “offline” learning. It is important to know your standards, know your kids, and plan appropriately.

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I didn’t even know, but I was doing #booksnaps

I’ve been doing this really cool thing for over 2 years and had no idea it was a thing until last year! Ever since I started using Seesaw in my classroom, I’ve had students posting about the books they read. It started with a picture of the cover of the book and recording as they read or taking a video of their reading. This task helped build fluency and understanding (RL.K.10).
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.a586b168-28cc-46cb-b579-d0d549f6f1ee&share_token=WR6lMaK_RhSXgJbfpTUuZg&mode=embed
Then we moved to a photo of the cover and retelling the story (RL.K.2). Eventually we began taking photos of the pages of the book and explaining how the picture supports the text (RL.K.7). And then it happened. I asked the students to identify the “expert words” in an informational book and one of my students used the label tool and labeled the expert words in the picture and then recorded to explain them (RI.K.4).
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.279af4b0-89a6-496b-bba9-7b326ff0127a&share_token=mAWp-IWLTqCdc7Bf_d-ogA&mode=embed

This changed everything! I realized how much more I know about his understanding of the text and that he is applying the minilessons to his independent practice. Annotating the picture gave me way more information than simply having students record to tell. This in-the-moment decision this little friend made changed everything for me! I realized that I needed to be doing more book responses this way. I began encouraging students to post their responses with labels and using the drawing tool to explain their thinking.
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.2d754895-473c-4ea3-8e50-562be180b87a&share_token=xOH0efHSRceJJctycZOWdw&mode=embed
And then I wend to my first edcamp, edcamp wake March, 18 2017. I went to a session on booksnaps because I had seen the idea floating around twitter and wasn’t quite sure what it was. Turns out this was one of the edcamp sessions where everyone turned up to learn something and no one really knew what it was or how to do it. After some on the spot collaborative research we were able to figure out that booksnaps were a way for students to share a reaction or their thinking on a specific section of a book using snapchat. And a light bulb went on in my head: “I do that! I just didn’t know it was a thing!” So I shared some of my students work and how we use Seesaw as a tool to share about the books we read. From this session I decided to be more intentional about students’ booksnaps and having them cite their source. I noticed that by the end of the school year, the more I asked them to include, the quality of showing what they know decreased.
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.92c28d55-89b0-4efe-8ffc-36dd1c134c5b&share_token=_jHL1-SqR4qGayV8BB-hqQ&mode=embed

This year, I was more intentional about introducing booksnaps to my students and created an anchor chart to make sure all the parts were included.

This year, our booksnaps have been a much higher quality including, labels, drawing, emojis, captions, and voice recordings. I have added to this chart since this picture to include retell, character strengths, comparing and contrasting, and tell 3 things. I will continue to add to this chart all year as we focus our booksnaps on different standards and question types.

Main idea (RI.1.2)

 https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.97c37c36-f4f1-4a4f-8908-97408402ecea&share_token=28dEW_iNTKKZXzPLciZ6xQ&mode=embed

Reaction (RL.1.7)
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.c8ec8582-2f7f-485b-a9f8-2c542142c0c9&share_token=oaflFyR5SKitPxgaQoI1kw&mode=embed

Compare and contrast characters (RL.1.9)
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.61e71d97-8466-4999-b4d9-3d77b35b83f5&share_token=eDZUfHKxR7m9EWw84TJPaA&mode=embed

Tell 3 things (RI.1.8)
https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.740635e6-db52-4571-9048-7440f8630722&share_token=1TXS8ZMASwuORlh1nOAcSw&mode=embed

Our next step with booksnaps is to explore different technology tools to use. We will try some with flipgrid and chatterpix next.

What is your favorite tool for booksnaps? How do you make booksnaps accessible to your littles?

5 Lessons Learned from BYOD with Littles

3 years ago my principal, Dr. Sandy Chambers challenged our staff to participate in a district pilot program in which students would bring devices to school from home (Bring Your Own Device – BYOD). This included a lot of push back, a lot of challenges, and a lot of awesomeness! I’m not gonna lie – I didn’t think it would work in kindergarten! They couldn’t keep track of their jacket! How would they keep track of a device!? It took a few years but I think I have learned some lessons that might help others get going on BYOD with littles!

Lesson #1

Set Expectations 

My school has a contract for each family participating in BYOD. If students don’t follow the guidelines they can lose the privilege of BYOD.  You will need to teach, model, and repeat these expectations with both parents and students frequently. Expectations include:

  • Use the device for learning.
  • Carry it with 2 hands.
  • Only the owner can use it.
  • Devices come to school charged.
  • How often the kid should bring their device.
  • Apps or settings kids need.
  • Digital Citizenship

Lesson #2

Procedures, Procedures, Procedures!

Procedures are what keeps your classroom running smoothly. Teachers have procedures for everything from going to the bathroom to solving student disagreements. BYOD needs its own set of specific procedures. You will need to teach, model, and repeat these procedures frequently. My procedures include:

  • Sign in devices daily so you know what is in your classroom. The sign in let’s me know what I have available each day.
  • Our devices are to stay in student bookbags until we need them.
  • I have a call out to check what students are doing. When I say, “device check!” Students immediately hold their device above their head facing in my direction. If they take a long time or you can see them tapping their devices they are most likely off task.
  • When instructing or giving directions I ask kids to put their devices in “listening mode.” This means they are upside down on their lap.
  • Kindness matters! When responding to other’s work digitally, be kind.

Lesson #3

Allow for students to become experts!

Pick a few apps you want students to have on their BYOD and use them frequently! Let the kids become experts. These apps should become second nature and a “go to” for responses and reflection. Try to pick open ended apps that can be used for creation. Here’s a list of my favorites:

  • Seesaw
  • Chatterpix,
  • Do ink green screen,
  • Felt board

I use and teach other apps too but these are the ones we use the most. I also use raz-kids/kids a-z daily, but it isn’t a creation app.

I also like to keep a running list of things I want to try. Here is my list of creative apps I want to try:

  • aurasma
  • book creator
  • sock puppet
  • coma coma

Lesson #4

Create!

Devices can add to your lessons in meaningful ways. A true blended classroom integrates technology seamlessly. Think creation and not just playing on apps. Use apps that are open ended and allow students to create: draw, photo, video, and write. Playing games and doing rote practice is not a sustainable way to integrate technology. Creation can be used for students to share their learning, respond to questions, or reflect on their learning. Allow students choice in how they share, respond, and reflect. Remember those favorite apps… They are all choices! Students choose them for different reasons depending on what they are trying to communicate.

Lesson #5

Try!

You will find things that work and things that don’t. Be flexible and take a chance. You’ll be surprised what littles can do with devices, they are digital natives after all! Modeling and involving them in the problem solving process is key to success in BYOD for littles.

Please reach out to me if you have any questions about BYOD and littles!

My Knowledge of Content Knowledge

Here I sit on an airplane on my way home for the holidays and all I can do is reflect on my teaching. It’s the end of December the universal time for reflection. It’s hard not to end the year and prepare for the next and not reflect on life in general. My professional resolution this year is momentum. I want to continue the momentum from #wonderwake and all that I learned and challenged myself to begin. I’m ending 2016 with a blog post and I’ll begin 2017 with another. 

This post was meant to be me reflecting on Standard 3 of the NC teacher evaluation standards. But, as I started to type it turned into my talking about a math lesson I taught in the hallway the last day before winter break and a track out. However I think this lesson I ramble about is a great example of how I meet this teaching standard. 

I started out on my plan to dissect standards :

Standard 3 -Teachers know the content they teach – align to standard course of study, content appropriate to teaching specialty, recognize interconnectedness of content areas, make instruction relevant 

My curriculum is based on the North Carolina Standard accursed of Study based on the Common Core State Standards. I am tasked with teaching 5 year olds to read and write, to understand how numbers work, basic science concepts (animals, weather, and properties), basic social studies concepts (citizenship, economics, cultural similarities and differences, and maps). I love that the standards I teach were written vertically. You can choose any strand and follow it all the way up through high school. I think this is so important for the students. It gives a purpose for every small piece I teach. Everything builds on the grades before and challenges students to learn more and think deeper. 

Here’s what I’ve learned about my curriculum- basic is not basic at all! Teaching a child to read and write in 9 short months is nothing short of a miracle! There are times I’m not even sure how it happened! Students in kindergarten come in with the widest range of background knowledge than any other grade level! (Here’s where the ramble begins) For example- my current unit in math is geometry. Yes geometry in kindergarten! We learn 2 D shapes, 3D shapes, Positional words, comparing and building shapes. I have students who have not had any experience with any shapes and others who know basic shapes (circle, square, triangle…), and others who know it all already! Here are 2 of my students explaining. How they are exploring shapes. My friend in green took the lead. My friend in red is a little embarrassed to be on camera! 😄


My job is to take what they know and teach them what they need to know. If they already know it I need to teach them a deeper understanding and how to use their knowledge to teach others. Tasking students with tutoring a peer who struggles is a great way to deepen their understanding. Teaching another student requires a child to think about it in a different way. 

This lesson took place in the main hall at my school. We are a year round school and on our track out days I end up with out a physical classroom and need to be creative and flexible about where and how I teach. This was a shape hunting lesson- look for shapes in your world around you. How do they make up real things? (eh hem – engineering) pretty things? (errr – art) etc. My challenge is to not only have students who don’t know shapes to find and identify them but for students who do know shapes to describe, compare, and teach them.

In the video above Green was peer tutoring Red in shapes. He learned so much from her in 10 minutes that would have taken me at least 2 small group sessions to teach him. As they hunted for shapes they took videos using Chatter Pix Kids and SeeSaw (2 of my favorite apps to smash – if you don’t know them you need to explore!) Here’s Red’s post on SeeSaw after Green helped him hunt for shapes.

What do you think? Was my lesson here relevant? Connected? Appropriate? Aligned to standards?