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|My Ed Tech World|
Towards the end of February, I was contacted by one of our elementary Reading Specialists asking if I would be willing to help them out with their Reading Month activities. They had decided on a theme of YouTube (as all the kids are OBSESSED with watching all sorts of videos) and called it "Be a YouTube Reading Star!". After meeting and brainstorming some ideas, one of our other elementary Reading Specialists from another building wanted to join in on the theme. The more the merrier! Together we came up with some activities, rewards, and fun things to work into the month. I thought I would share some of the videos and activities below!
Our two elementary schools created their own calendars of events for the month, but each tied back to the YouTube theme. Our K-2 building took some of the popular kinds of videos that kids like to watch and put their own reading spin on it to make some new videos. We had several students at the high school who were eager to help out and be part of the Reading Month activities, that we were able to have them help film our videos. It was great to have them do it, as several of them had younger siblings or cousins at that building, so it was a nice surprise when the teachers showed the videos and the little kids could see big kids they knew.
The YouTube challenges that the K-2 building put their own twist on was the Real vs. Fake Challenge and the Mystery Wheel Challenge. The students LOVED them and were so excited to see how the challenges played out. They also had a slime challenge and brick building day as rewards. The students were so excited to explore reading books that related back to these challenges and earning materials to use for the reward parties.
Our 3-5 building took on some different themes/challenges as they implemented their YouTube theme. They took on Unboxing, Product (Book) Recommendations, Slime, and Glow in the Dark. They also had a calendar of daily activities/events that students could do in their classrooms or at home that related back to the Reading Month theme or simply encouraging reading.
The first reward that was up for grabs was that of a Glow Party. After the first full week, the class in each grade level who collectively logged the most reading minutes earned a STEAM Glow Party. I hosted these parties for the three classes and it was so much fun watching them in a classroom transformation setting with a variety of STEAM activities for them to pick from and explore. Students could chose activities and move at any time during the party. Some students stayed and worked on the same activity for the whole time (the brick building station was a popular one for this!), while others hopped from one to another.
The second reward was that of a slime party. Like the Glow Party, this was awarded to the class in each grade level that had logged the most minutes reading for the week. This was a great way to incorporate some Math as part of STEAM for this activity. Students were each able to make their own batch of slime in which they had to measure out the ingredients, mix them togethers, and problem solve for when it might have been too sticky or too liquidy. They were each able to add two mix-ins to their slime and it was so fun to see their choices when they had freedom to design their slime however they wanted.
The last part of their festivities was doing an unboxing. Each classroom put together a wish list of some books and the Reading Specialist was able to purchase some books from their lists to do a special unboxing. We asked one teacher to do her unboxing where we recorded the whole thing so that we could show other classrooms what they look forward to with their unboxings. We tried to get each teacher doing their unboxings, but sometimes it was hard to coordinate schedules. Either way, the teachers and students thoroughly enjoyed their unboxings and the additions to their classroom libraries!
This was such a fun spin on Reading Month! At the end of the month as we were finishing up recording videos, we were already starting to talk about what we could do next year for Reading Month. We really tapped into something that was meaningful to students and tying their passions into their learning at school!
During the week leading up to Spring Break, one of the 4th grade classes I regularly work with was doing a "Camp Read-A-Lot" learning experience for students. She had lots of fun activities to celebrate Reading Month in an engaging way that centered around camping and being outdoors. She previously had worked as a camp counselor and so at the end of her Camp Read-A-Lot she likes to incorporate some fun camp-type activities to give students depth to their camp learning experience. She had previously created God's Eye weaving craft with her students, but wanted to incorporate some some options this year and asked if I wanted to help and share any camp-type craft. You bet!
Recently a donation had been made to one of our schools and someone passed along some yarn to me as I do a lot of STEAM activities with students. I hadn't found a use for it yet, but knew it would just be a matter of time - and this was the time! The teacher mentioned something about friendship bracelets and knitting, but we knew we wouldn't have a ton of time for them to work on them. I thought finger knitting would be a fun and easy for the students to be successful and learn some basic knitting skills. I found the video below with an easy to follow tutorial for finger knitting snakes and thought it was the perfect knitting project to appeal to all students. The only thing I did differently was I had them do 2-finger knitting for the length of the snake. If we had more time to practice, I would have had them try increasing the stitches for the head, but it worked great even with the 2-finger knit. And they were able to successfully complete their snakes (with tongues and eyes!) in the short time we had for camp crafts.
While I was working on the finger knitting on one side of the room, the classroom teacher was on the other side with a different group creating the God's eyes. I have seen these before and wish I had been able to see the students working on them. To make things go a little smoother for our allotted time frame, the teacher hot-glued the popsicle sticks in a cross shape and then took a piece of yarn and hot glued one end to the back of the cross. This way students could easily (and safely) get started with weaving their projects. They had a blast and created so many neat ones!
I wish I had a chance to take more pictures as the students were working on their crafts, but I was pretty busy with the groups doing the finger knitting. It was great though because once one student got the hang of it, they started helping one another. It was so awesome to watch them learn something new and challenging in a short period of time and then be able to help others problem solve. Our students are the best!
Over my teaching career, I have attended MACUL numerous times and presented several times as well. This year, my experience was a bit different as this time I was a featured presenter! This was something that I will honestly say I was extremely nervous about - something about having the word "featured" in front of presenter! Although my nerves got a workout, I have to say it was one of the most awesome experiences I have had presenting - something I highly recommend for all educators! And I know that I could not have done it without the support of so many friends that I have met and connected with across the state of Michigan and beyond. I have told several people that we all need a Mary Wever in our life - a person who pushes us beyond our comfort zones, believes in you, builds you up, tells you like it is, and seems to know everyone (we joke about this!) and how to connect people with other like minded people. My advice for everyone is to make sure you have your own Mary in your life!
One thing I enjoy doing during conferences (especially large conferences when there is a lot of people and things going on in the room) is to sketchnote the speaker and their presentation. This really helps me stay focused on the presentation, key phrases or ideas that I can take away, share with the person as a small thank you for them sharing, and a cool looking reminder of what I learned during that presentation. One thing I always share about sketchnoting is that it is a personal thing and just because you and someone else were sketchnoting the same presentation and captured different ideas and points does not make either one of them wrong. It is what is meaningful to you mixed with your own background knowledge - not about whose looks "prettier" or "better" than another. Everyone has their own style and comes from a different background, so they are bound to be different. Unless we give students a worksheet, we wouldn't expect every single student product to look exactly the same would we? Where is the creativity in that?!
For the MACUL conference, I gave two presentations - "Your Greatest Show" and "You CAN Do It - Visual Notetaking with Sketchnotes." Despite the intimidating size of the room, it was a very relaxed atmosphere. One thing I love about the MACUL conference is that it is encouraged to select sessions that fit your learning needs. If you get to a session and it is not quite what you need, feel free to leave and find another session that suits your needs. I personally am not offended when people leave because I have done so myself. For as many people that leave a session, there are always some that join later. The goal is to learn and you need to go to where you will learn best!
I had a great time presenting about sketchnotes and what makes your classroom and teaching your greatest show. I presented the two presentations a bit differently with the sketchnote presentation being more hands on (and walking away with a completed sketchnote!). Everyone who attended was great and I can't thank them enough for their participation and making the who experience awesome for everyone in the room (one of the benefits of interactive presentations - it takes the audience to make it successful!). I linked to my presentations below.
The fourth grade classes that I have been working with this year recently were wrapping up their unit on angles. They worked on defining and drawing acute, obtuse, right, and straight angles as well as using a protractor to measure angles. I thought this would be a great topic to work in a review activity with STEAM, but wasn't sure how I wanted to approach it...until I went to the Dollar Tree and saw the cutest little bunny mini erasers.
I can't remember who shared it on Instagram, but I remember seeing a STEAM activity using clothespins and popsicle sticks to build a tower. I knew the bunnies would be a great addition to the resources they could use! I know these fourth graders are always up for a challenge, so I knew I could switch up the activity by telling them what I would like them to do (build the tallest tower possible that holds the most bunnies) with the provided materials (popsicle sticks, clothespins, bunnies), but then not give them any materials to complete the task. The looks on their face were priceless! Hello confusion, please meet irritation. I then told them they would have to "buy" their supplies from me by completing some task cards that are worth "Bunny Bucks." The looks on their faces began to soften a little. :)
I told the students that they would each need to complete the task cards/Bunny Bucks individually, but the materials that they earned belonged to the group. Once they had earned their supplies, as a group they could then begin building their tower. I wanted to make sure that the students understood the content first, but also that their individual work contributed to the success of the whole group.
We started with the clothespin Bunny Bucks (I did each set of cards on a different color paper to help the students quickly know which material cards they still needed to complete) and then the popsicle stick Bunny Bucks, and finally the bunny Bunny Bucks. The students did AMAZING with managing their time and resources. I asked them to turn in each set of cards and collect their resources before moving on to the next set of cards. It worked out really well and the students did a great job of coaching one another when they were having some struggles instead of just sharing the answer with their neighbor (we reviewed this first!).
The creations that the students came up were awesome! It seemed that the groups all took a different approach and some were very secretive about their builds. I stressed with them that there is no "right" way to complete this task and they just needed to use their collective creative brains to find a solution. The bunny sandwich approach was highly entertaining, but obviously not the tallest tower!
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