Sunday, December 28, 2014

Giggles, Gaffaws, Ooo's, 'n Ahhh's- Looking Forward To 2015

Photo Credit: alibash via Compfight cc
I'm lucky! Not only do I get a traditional Winter Break, but I also get an additional 3-wk break because of being off-track in a year-round school.  I need the time! I know that the days will disappear quickly. I have a long list of "to-do's".  But I'm longing for the time to let all that I'm learning- all the ideas spinning in my head- to incubate.  That's how my brain works. I get an idea and then I let it sit.  As I go about my business, ideas (sometimes really crazy ones), start popping in my head.

This year so far has been like a roller coaster- full of ups and downs and plenty of twists. I've tried many new "things" (hate that word) with varying degrees of success.  [Definition of success could be another whole new post.] We're mid-year. I've accomplished so much! I have so much further to go still.

What am I looking forward to for the next half of the school year?


Sphero/Makeymakey/Coding: During the next few weeks, I'm planning to work with our district tech person to get the iPads, iPods, laptops all updated and ready to go.  [No one will really understand my excitement unless you've had to deal with the Apple Configurator, and district tech people that are overwhelmed and over scheduled.]  I'm excited to have the Sphero apps and to plan some time for kids to engage in some hands-on learning! I really want to do the chariot races (something I saw on Youtube), but haven't had time to really investigate the alternative activities.  I'm looking forward to seeing SMILES, ENTHUSIASM, and COLLABORATION! My kids will love this! I'm also looking forward to students learning more about coding--especially my girls.  I have a few girls that are really having fun learning and I want to encourage them to keep pursuing their interests.

Mystery Skype: I have connected with the most wonderful teachers in the world and many of them are 5th grade teachers.  They've been having MS (mystery skype) sessions together and I've been missing out! This is a MUST DO! I'm glad that I have January to test and figure things out.  I'm depending on my PLN's expertise to help me.  I can't wait!

Moving Kids to more Meaningful Blogging: I don't want to discount what my students have already accomplished on their blogs. But, my goal is to get them to a point where they really feel ownership and are motivated to make a meaningful change in the world.  I've given them quite a bit of freedom as we've learned using Kidblog. I'm ready to give them a wider audience than just our classroom/family members.  I'm hoping that it'll make a difference.  I'm hoping that I've taught them enough about being a good digital citizen that the experience will be safe, fun, and an authentic learning experience.  Having the kids practice communicating and connecting with peers around the world via Edmodo  prepared my kids and I'm confident that it'll be a positive experience.

Science (or more specifically teaching Matter/Chemistry): When I return to school in January, we'll be studying more about Magnetism/Electricity.  It's a lot of fun! There are so many fun experiments for us to do! But, my real love is teaching about matter/chemistry!  There's just something innately engaging about mixing "stuff" and seeing explosions (even little ones from baking soda/vinegar) that makes it fun to learn.  I'm not supposed to do certain experiments in an elementary classroom (because we don't have an official science lab), but I do them anyway.  I teach safety. I demonstrate a lot. But, if it's just a matter of mixing pretty harmless chemicals (unless ingested), I let the kids do it.  It's fun!

Civil War Simulation:  We have a lot of learning to do before we'll study the Civil War. I love teaching American History! I love Social Studies in general. But, after teaching the American Revolution, teaching about the Civil War is a close second in my book.  I've been using simulations since my first year of teaching (28 yrs. ago) and have never looked back.  As far as I'm concerned, it's the only way to teach history to young students.  I STILL have students come back to see me and talk about their memories of our simulations.  The Civil War simulation is truly something that I can't wait to do!

Seeing The Students/Class Community Grow:  The next few months are great for learning!  Students are in routines, they know how to use various tech tools, they know each other well, the big holidays have passed, and sunny days are not distracting- especially to me. :) This is where I start to see the pay-offs of a lot of work.  All of the extra effort to do team building activities, build relationships, conference, and build a classroom community come into play.  I always get a little nervous about the curriculum and "not covering" the curriculum in the prescribed time frame. But after years of experience, I know better than to rush and cover! I know what's important and that taking the time to build the foundation of relationships and community will pay off.  The learning speeds up and not only do we "cover" but we "dive deep" into understanding.

Gamifying Math:  I wish that I had the talent and know-how that some of my friends have in their pinky finger when it comes to gamifying their class.  It's a future journey that I definitely want to take!  Their websites, story lines, management, etc. is AMAZING!  But, I'm pretty proud of what I've learned so far.  I REALLY want to implement Classcraft, but their site has changed a little since last spring when I was learning.  I need to catch up during the next few weeks so that I can have it ready! I think gamifying (at least math) will help my kids be motivated to take some ownership of their own learning.  I also think that I can use Classcraft along with flipping my class. I'm experimenting with in-class flipping.  It's challenging with little/no tech available to me on a regular basis.

As far as my classroom is concerned, those are the activities that I'm most looking forward to doing during the second half of the year. However, there's another list spinning around in my head. The second list are the things that I'm looking forward to as part of my personal and professional growth. Hey, another blog post idea! Part 2 is coming!

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