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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Minecraft Pi Gold Detector hyperdoc lesson

I created this hyperdoc for a 4th grade class using lessons from MagPi's Minecraft Essentials edition and Craig Richardson's Learn to Program with Minecraft book. It was meant to be part of a cross-curricular unit on the gold rush.

Unfortunately, we didn't get through the entire lesson in the time we had for the project, but I decided to share the hyperdoc anyway, in case someone else wants to try it with their class. If you do give this resource a go, I'd love feedback on how it can be improved!

Minecraft Gold Rush Hyperdoc

Monday, May 8, 2017

Speaking Math, part 2: Improving math performance in 4th grade by focusing on language

Recently I partnered with a 4th grade teacher to co-plan & co-teach a fractions unit. The purpose of this partnership was two-fold: I would get some much needed classroom time to experiment with teaching strategies to support our students performing below grade level, and she'd have another teacher in the room to work with groups of students while she worked on implementing a couple of new instructional models that she wanted to get up and running.

Our work together was framed by 3 major goals:
  • Improving language support in math & language acquisition for students
  • Develop strategies for differentiation (through the lens of UDL & by integrating blended learning models)
  • Improve confidence, grit, and independent problem solving skills in students
Language in mathematics has been a struggle for not just our English language learners, but for all of our learners. This year, I've worked with a handful of teachers on using explicit language instruction in math lessons to help improve math performance. 

Small group work
Has our work been successful? Well, in just 4 weeks, about 50% of 4th graders (many of whom were performing 2 grades or more below grade level) showed growth in the Numbers & Base Ten math strand (based on iReady data) and, as reported by the classroom teacher, students' language has improved immensely as they not only continue to use their math vocabulary more confidently during math time (including students who didn't used to participate in the past, but now feel safer to do so during Number Talks), but also in other content areas and situations, as they make connections related to the math language they've learned.

How'd we do it?

Instructional Practices Reimagined :
Started implementing number talks regularly as lesson opener--
  • This mental math activity is a natural opportunity for students to practice academic language as they're required to explain their thinking and defend their responses orally (Math Practice Standard 3)
  • We also wanted students to practice accountable talk & listening skills, so we started every number talk with a 2 minute review of sentence stems that students could choose to use when speaking, as well as sign language they could use to agree or disagree silently while others were sharing
  • Students needed to practice multiplication skills, so rather then assign more flashcards or fact practice websites, our number talks were around multiplication equations, with a focus on helping students develop stronger conceptual understanding, number sense (flexibility with numbers), and place value understanding
  • We also used this time to work with students on thinking creatively in math and determining strategies for solving problems
Living word wall
Language supports built into lessons daily--
  • During number talks and mini-lessons on new content, we embedded explicit instruction in key math vocabulary for the day. 
  • Each mini-lesson started with a review of the day's learning target, which included vocabulary analysis 
  • Our goal was to teach to multiple modalities, so vocabulary instruction included:
    • Visuals
    • Choral reading
    • Total Physical Response (TPR)
    • Hands-on, realia and/or modeling of definition
    • Sentence stems/frames & vocab card reviews
    • Word wall prominently displayed and referenced during number talks and lessons
Begin Implementation of Blended Instruction--
Flipped lessons
  • Teacher used EdPuzzle to flip instruction with interactive videos (shared to students via Google Classroom)
  • Reflex Math and Zearn were also thrown into the mix from time to time
  • Students were grouped into heterogenous groupings based on data from a unit pre-assessment (custom built around 2-3 essential standards using Illuminate)
    • Teacher worked through practice problems with small groups
    • Others worked independently on their flipped lesson and were encouraged to ask groupmates questions first to keep teacher table time uninterrupted
Multiple Means of Representation (UDL)--
  • Transfer of learning occurs when students are able to make connections among and between concepts; stronger connections are made when multiple representations are presented or accessed
  • Content was regularly presented in visual, auditory and kinesthetic formats
  • Seesaw was also implemented as a tool for: 
    • Allowing students to share their thinking in a variety of formats (text, video, audio, drawing, etc.)... and as a way for the teacher to collect daily formative assessment data that could be quickly analyzed and used to guide planning of the next day's lesson
    • Giving more timid students, or those unsure of their language skills, a safe place to share their thinking instead of having to speak up in front of the whole class (when Seesaw was used during number talks in lieu of whole class discussion, student participation went from about 25% to 100%)

Outcomes & Successes

  • Number Talks & Fraction Talks
    • Students loved the number talks and looked forward to them each day
    • Often these number talks turned into teachable moments and mini-lessons, and served as a great form of formative assessment
    • LOVE hearing students use the accountable talk already
    • Students who don't normally participate in math & participating and excited
  • Hands-on math
  • Using fraction strips & vocab cards
    • Students performed better on math problems when given opportunities to touch, move, manipulate physical items (in our case, fraction strips)
  • Students are slowly becoming more confident problem solvers
    • We trained the students to use the lesson input charts, number talk posters and flipped lesson videos as resources when they get stuck during independent work time
    • They also use the word wall to help themselves read instructions that previously they would get stuck on
  • Seesaw
    • Students LOVE Seesaw & were motivated to participate in math when using the tool
    • Quiet students felt more comfortable sharing their ideas when recorded into Seesaw
    • Daily exit tickets were easy to manage and quickly assess when posted in Seesaw
  • Students' attitudes about math improved!
    • And as attitudes improved, perseverance improved
    • Comments overheard during our revamped unit:
      • "I love math!"
      • "I almost gave up on myself, but I didn't and then I figured it out!"
      • "That started out hard today, but then I got it and it was actually kind of easy!"

Next Steps

  • Differentiate Flipped Content
    • Now that students are used to the blended routine, it would be great to move from all students receiving the same content to pushing out differentiated content to the different level groups 
  • Integrate Collaborative Work and/or Hands-on Exploration into Blended Work
    • In order to train students on the blended model, and to ensure that teacher table time was uninterrupted, students mainly worked quietly on digital tasks during this first iteration of blended instruction
    • Important next steps would be to integrate opportunities for math talk and hands-on learning into collaborative/independent work time away from teacher table
  • Build in Student Choice
    • Student choice is one of the three principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and refers to the practice of giving students choice in how they express their learning; students get to "show what they know" in a way that's most comfortable for them
    • Guided choice (in the form of choice menus or similar) can be used in the beginning to help students figure out what format they are most comfortable using

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Intro to RaspberryPi Physical Computing Task Cards

A couple of week's ago my district hosted our 3rd Annual STEAM Showcase-- a festival of student STEM, music and art presentations, as well as hands-on learning and activities led by students, teachers and community partners.

I setup a hands-on Pi-Top station in our coding playground and wanted students and parents to be able to experience an introduction to physical computing with the Raspberry Pi, so I created self-guided "Physical Computing with Scratch" task cards and set up the breadboards ahead of time. Families had so much fun programming LEDs, buttons and PiCameras in Scratch that the last attendees didn't leave until almost an hour after the event!

Below is a link to the cards I created, including the Python version. Enjoy! And check back later, as I I plan to update the task cards in the coming months with a couple more activities. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Culture, Relationships & Innovation-- Reflecting on CUE17

Culture, relationships and innovation were three of the prevailing themes at this year's CUE conference, and the ones that resonated most with me during my time in Palm Springs.

From design thinking to personalized learning, digital storytelling to STEM, UDL to the arts, the common thread running through most presentations this year was that relationships and culture are the backbone of innovation in our educational systems. 

I think Thomas Murray wrapped it up best in his session on the last day of CUE-- "Innovation cannot happen in a toxic culture."

Toxicity is non-issue at CUE events, and as such, the innovation & ideas seem to endlessly flow over the course of our 4 days at CUE National. Surrounding myself with positive, passionate, like-minded people always seems to unleash my creativity.

On a similar note, Taylor Mali compared CUE National to the Blind Melon music video, "No Rain"-- "When I'm with teachers, I feel like I've found my community of bee people."

People and relationships are indeed my favorite experience at a CUE conference-- being around my bee people or, (as Jon Corippo likes to call us) my fellow lone nuts, had me re-energized and inspired by week's end. Whether it was participating in the inaugural TOSA Playground, or the impromptu Raspberry Jam that my #Picademy friends and I were able to arrange on the fly, being with my tribe always reminds me why I do what I do.

So how, then, does that all translate back to my school sites and district? 

For me, I think that's where empathy comes in. Both Jo Boaler and George Couros centered their keynotes around innovation via empathy. As a Teacher on Special Assignment (or ToSA), developing relationships with the teachers I support is key, and being able to empathize is a major part of the work that I do for, and alongside, my teachers.

This, however, is not the same as succumbing to the naysaying and negativity that can sometimes run rampant in staff rooms. On the contrary, this means empathizing with how others might be feeling and using that information to shift the conversations and emotions in the room. As we talk about innovating education, we have to think first about the culture at our sites and in our district. Thomas Murray reminded us that it's everyone's responsibility to set the culture of a classroom, site and school district. It is a culture of creativity, problem-solving, and support that will breed innovation.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Future Meteorologists-- Building & Programming Digital Weather Stations in 5th Grade

Recently a 5th grade teacher asked if we could use the Raspberry Pi to have students build something for their weather unit in science. With all of the weather happening in California this year-- and damage due to flooding, mudslides, potholes, collapsing roads, and more-- weather is very much a relevant topic for us right now.

Using SH pinout map to connect
Excited about the idea of connecting our project to current issues in our community, I thought a digital weather station would be appropriate, built around the essential question, "Why is it helpful for a community to be able to predict coming weather?"

I worked with a small group of students who, after some whole group exposure to programming with Raspberry Pi, were some of the students most interested in doing more coding & physical computing work. We used the Sense HAT with its built in, and easy to program, sensors so it was just a matter of helping the 5th graders program the HAT to collect some atmospheric data, share that data on the LED matrix and then decide what other features to include.

At the start of our project, we hit one major set back-- trying to figure out how to connect the Sense HAT to the Pi without, 1-- sliding it directly onto the GPIOs (the heat of the Pi itself interferes with the temperature sensors on the Sense HAT) and 2-- without using up all of the GPIO pins (the students were using a really nice Raspberry Pi touch screen display, that needs two pins for power). I decided to have students use individual jumper cables to connect their Sense HAT to the Pi, but it took me a long time to figure out how to do this properly, and that set us back a week or so. Once I finally figured out how to set this up, I created a pinout map for the students to use and we were on our way again!

Students planning their LED pictures
I played around with the idea of having certain weather pictures show up on the LED matrix depending on the current air pressure-- a sort of weather prediction (not the most accurate, but we used the average San Jose air pressure as a benchmark and had certain pictures show up based on higher or lower air pressure readings). The students liked that idea, so we moved forward. To help students understand the way the LED matrix works, I created a planning doc that students used on their own time to "draw" their pictures ahead of time, plan their variables and record RGB codes so they were ready to write those into their code with me.

Students also wanted to include the Sense HAT joystick into their project somehow, to make it a bit more interactive, so we added a line of code to make a joystick press the event that would run the program (actually, this is only partially working the way that we want, so it's still a work in progress).

This being their 3rd Raspberry Pi/coding in Python project, I wanted students to be able to work more independently this time, with their teacher and I acting more as coaches. I put together a hyperdoc that students could use to try and walk through the project themselves, including both science resources about weather concepts (science images & media courtesy PBS & PBS LearningMedia site) and step-by-step directions for writing the code.

Next steps for this project-- we made sure to have all collected data print in the shell window in addition to the LED matrix so that students could collect the data at the end of each day in order to
organize, analyze and graph the information.

Their classroom teacher also wanted to make sure that students focused not just on their final project, but also on the learning process and reflecting on failures that finally led to their success. We asked students to keep track of the challenges they met along the way (which were numerous) and I included independent reflection opportunities within the hyperdoc.

As always, it was great to see the kids so excited about their completed project, once we got everything up and running. Next steps are preparing students to share their work and process at our district's upcoming STEAM showcase!

If you want to try this project with your students, below is a link to the hyperdoc that we used. Feel free to make a copy and edit it to meet your own needs.

(click link above to view/make copy of original document)