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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!
This past October, I attended and did graphic recording for the ISTE No Fear Coding Lab. It was an amazing experience doing graphic recording, but was also re-energizing for ways that Computer Science and Coding can be integrated into content to help students be critical thinkers and problem solvers. It got me thinking about how I can refocus some of the activities I do with teachers and students to focus on the elements of computational thinking - decomposition (breaking down a problem into smaller parts), pattern recognition (identifying similarities, differences, and patterns), abstraction (identify important information and filtering out unnecessary information), and algorithm design (identify and organize steps to solve a problem) (Source: Exploring Computational Thinking via the Backpack Redesign Challenge). So, why not code? There are so many great reasons to teach students coding!
Set the Stage to Engage
One of the teachers I work with on a weekly basis for STEAM activities had shared that her students had found code.org on her website and she was teaching them how to access and use resources on her site and they loved it. I think I had this in the back of my mind after I returned from the ISTE conference and knew that I had to do something - the stars were aligned too perfectly!
As I had determined Wall-E would be the theme for the day (other than the big word of ALGORITHM, which we said computers understand algorithms, not directions), why not have fun with a little room transformation? Some black lights, laser lights, rope lights, and other decor can quickly and easily change the look of the classroom for a dramatic effect. Plus, I found a cute little stuffed Wall-E and Eve on Amazon that I just couldn't resist! I always second guess myself if a classroom transformation is worth the time, energy, and potential distractions from students. This was simple with pretty much just additional lights (2 black lights, a small laser light, and 1 rope light string), but it is amazing the effect that it has on students. Don't get me wrong, there definitely is a few minutes of the wow-factor and exploration (even with just lights!), but it definitely sets the mood for the day, activities, and learning.
Computers Need Directions
To start off the day, I wanted the students to really understand that computers NEED directions to do anything. Even though it might seem like we are typing letters and numbers on the keyboard, we are actually giving a computer directions to make a letter or number display on the screen. Each click and button pressed corresponds to a set of directions that tell the computer what to do. To really drive this point home on following directions, I asked the students to write directions about how to brush their teeth. At first they were a little confused because they thought we were doing a hands-on activity and not doing writing. They played along with me and then the teacher selected a student to read his directions to the district nurse who came by to see what they were doing (she helped me get toothbrushes and toothpaste for the activity) and she did an AWESOME job acting like a robot and carrying out his directions in front of the whole class. The students quickly realized that they needed detailed instructions and started adding more steps to their own directions even before the demonstration was done. Then we had the students read their directions to their partner and carry out the directions. This was pretty entertaining to watch! Students had a blast and I heard from several students that they never thought they would be brushing their teeth at school that day and how funny that was to them. Talk about an activity that will tell a story when they leave the building!
Enough can't be said for the amazing people who made this activity happen!
Once we had established that computers need directions and only follow the ones they are given, we talked about the language that computers understand and read when they are given those directions. <sarcasm> I know that the world of binary is very riveting, so talking about ones and zeros would get students super excited. </sarcasm> I thought that if I was able to help teach them that each character is read as a binary number, they would understand that even small words end up having long code behind them (once the computer interprets the code).
To help them understand how a code for a word might appear to a computer, we coded our names. Students had to identify the letters of their name, find the corresponding binary code, and then determine how many ones and zeros were in each binary letter string. Once they figured how many ones and zeros were needed for their name, they could begin assembling their binary name necklace. At first I think they seemed a little overwhelmed by the worksheet, but quickly realized that they could quickly build their code and do the necessary math to find out how many beads they would need. They were so proud of their necklaces and were excited to share what they did with their families.
Prior to our day of code, I put my feelers out there for anyone who works with coding and would be interested in sharing what they do with 4th graders. Marc Petz was highly-recommended from other EdTechs in my county (as he teaches 3D Animation and Game Design at our county Tech Center). The kids were totally captivated by what he had to share (he hooked them with Epic Games and Fortnite - what 4th grader wouldn't be hooked?!) about how he uses coding as well as projects he is doing with his own students (their autism app looks amazing!). Marc was awesome in how he shared and engaged with the kids and was even so kind to share some 3D printed sharks and coins that he and his students had printed. Students had never thought that there was coding that was necessary to 3D print something! I am so grateful for my PLN and their suggestions! Having Marc as a guest speaker was an AMAZING part of our day and gave students a fresh face with fresh ideas for how coding is embedded in the world around them. Thank you, Marc!
Code a Path
Out of all the activities for the day, this one was probably the most challenging and tested their grit level to the extreme. The teacher shared some of the math concepts they were reviewing, so I created task cards with a variety of those types of problems. Students had to first solve the problem and then find the corresponding correct answer from a multiple choice list on their task card. Then (based on their answer), they placed a green start circle and a red end circle on their coordinate graphing grid. This set up where they would have to begin their coding. At the top of each coordinate graphing grid, there were instructions to place other pieces on the grid. These represented the roadblocks that coders encounter as they are working on a problem. They then had to code their way from the start circle to the end circle using 3D printed coding pieces. I knew that this activity had a lot of steps and would challenge them, but I wanted to incorporate their math content into an activity to show them that coding is not always separate from everything else that they do. The struggle was definitely real, but once some groups (of two) picked up on how this activity worked, they started making some progress forward. The part about being able to code around the pieces was the incentive to help them persevere through the math problems.
Run the Red Carpet
After a couple of activities, I knew we would be ready for a little break. I found a perfect video on GoNoodle that would fit perfectly with our coding theme - Run the Red Carpet! The kids loved it, loved getting up and moving around, and as teachers, I think we needed the brain break as much as the students!
Code the Red Carpet with Ozobots
Our Day of Code ended up being many unplgugged activities due to testing that was going on in the building. I am so glad so many unplugged coding activities in my back pocket that would really help students understand the basics of computational thinking and coding. Our semi-plugged activity that we did was using Ozobots to "Code the Red Carpet." The last activity we had completed was our "Run the Red Carpet" brain break, so now it was time to introduce the robots and let them "Code the Red Carpet!" The kiddos were SO EXCITED about this! We gave them some scrap paper to play around with the different Ozobot codes before moving their big code to a long piece of paper. They worked really well as a group to come up with a code and were so excited to see what other groups had created. At one point, a student placed their groups' Ozobot on another groups' red carpet while they were demonstrating and their minds were blown that multiple Ozobots could work on the same line of code at the same time. It was a great moment as a teacher to see when their ideas come together into something even bigger and better than their individual thoughts and ideas.
Code a Dance Party
This was the final activity that I planned for the day, but time got away from us and we never actually were able to code a dance party. I thought I would still share the resources I had prepped in case anyone else would find them useful! For this activity, I was simply going to have them create a "code" for a partner that started with "START" and "ended" with "LOOP." The teacher would play a song and the students would have to dance out the code. Then the students would switch positions and the coder would dance and the dancer would code. This activity was going to be the final activity that really demonstrated the executing of an ALGORITHM and how computers do what they are told, which is where coding comes into play!
The students noticed right away that I was wearing a coding shirt and thought it was so cool because it looked like the coding that they had done on code.org. They loved the hand stamp even more because it looked just like my shirt and I used my grape smelling stamp pad. I would consider our Day of Code/Hour of Code to be a success!
I would just like to preface this post with the fact that this was not my original idea. I have been fortunate enough to be connected with some AMAZING educators who are happy and willing to share their ideas and a glimpse into some of their classroom activities. I recently read the book, The Wild Card by Hope and Wade King, and it was incredibly inspirational and helped me to think about things at school from a different perspective. We all have the opportunity to "Set the Stage to Engage" and "Be the Wild Card" in whatever way we feel comfortable with and choose to do so in our classrooms. I do not have my own classroom, but rather an amazing opportunity to work with all teachers K-12 in my district to primarily implement technology and STEAM. I feel classroom transformations complement both those areas and provide an awesome avenue for unique learning experiences. (Note: If you have not heard of "classroom transformations," I highly recommend reading The Wild Card or watch Ep 1 of the Set the Stage to Engage series where Wade King describes what a room transformation is and shows an implementation.)
Below I will share a bit of the "Highlight Reel" (is it really a "Highlight Reel" if it is a long post?) from my first Glow Day as well as links to all the resources we used. Sharing is caring, right? :) If you want to skip the overview and jump into the nitty gritty of things, you can click the button below to see all of my individual blog posts about the events of the day.
But first, I would like to give a HUGE shoutout to the amazing educators who inspired me and shared what they have done for their own Glow Games!
For this day, I worked with our 7th grade ELA and Social Studies teachers (rockstars!). They initially contacted me about doing something fun at the end of the year that could possibly be done as competition. After some thought and throwing some ideas around, I proposed the idea of a Glow Day with them. They were excited and ready to start planning. I had the resources, they had the content - a perfect pair!
I have worked with these teachers before and when we do things, we don't just kind of do them, we REALLY do them! For example, a couple of years ago we created a Breakout EDU game (well, actually two) that completed the book they were reading in ELA (The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond) with what they were learning about in Social Studies (types of governments). We designed the games so that they complemented each other and students had two days to participate in two different games for an engaging end to a thematic unit.
Anyways, I digress...so the teachers started putting together review questions from material they had covered throughout the year and I started putting together the resources. We invited people in the building, administration, and others to drop by and see how their students were wrapping up the school year.
Above is the invite we sent out - I am including a link below to a template if you would like to use something similar in your own classroom.
As our glow day took place the day after Memorial Day, we were unable to put signs up in the classroom the day before encouraging students to wear neon or white. I created a sign that the teachers could put up in their rooms on Thursday and Friday before though, and hoped the students would remember over the long weekend! I spoke with one of the teachers after she posted the sign first hour and she said the signs had created quite the buzz and the kids were wondering why they should wear neon or white, talking about what they could wear that day, and if they could color themselves with highlighter. Mission accomplished!
I created flyers for the different days of the week and one for "tomorrow" in case anyone would like to use them in their classrooms. Simply click on the button below!
The day began for the students by being greeted at the door not only with their reminder sign for what to wear for the day, but also a fun door sign. I was looking to build the anticipation even more before entering the room. The students had never had a glow day before so I am sure they had no idea what to expect when they walked into their ELA and Social Studies rooms.
We decided to have one classroom hold the content games and one classroom hold the STEAM activities. So when the students had their regular ELA class period, they would play the Glow Games and when they had their regular Social Studies class period, they would play the Glow STEAM activities. Use the links below to check out my blog posts about the Glow Games we played as well as the Glow STEAM activities.
Glow Games/Glow STEAM Gallery
Last, but not least, I took my first adventure in actually designing my first "thing" to be 3D printed - a Glow Games coin! I printed 5 of the coins for the top five finishers of the day. I thought it might be a nice to have something to walk away with at the end of the day and would be cool to share at home. I created a Google Sheet that we shared among the ELA teacher, Social Studies teacher, and myself so that we could track the students throughout the day and in different classrooms. The Google Sheet had a worksheet for ELA, one for Social Studies, and then one for the Totals for both. We had the students use a handout to track their progress during the hour and then they turned it in to the teacher at the end of the hour. We wanted the focus to be on the games and activities and not having them worry about inputting their scores.
If you have access to a 3D printer and would like to 3D print your own Glow Games coins, I added the print file to Thingiverse - click the button below to head over there!
These Glow Games were games that I was inspired by through many different educators. What I love about the Glow Games is that there is so much flexibility in how it is structured and implemented. The Glow Games were designed and adapted to give students a chance to push their collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creative innovation, and confidence skills while building upon the content. We set the room up in stations and students spent about 8.5 minutes at a station before rotating to the next (we have 50 minute class periods). Students had to start with a content question, come to a consensus on the answer, and then play the game. This was intentional as we wanted the students working together to not only review the content, but give everyone a chance to play the game.
*Note* The resources listed below are for the 7th grade ELA/Social Studies Glow Games and the content cards were designed as an end of the year review.
Glow Games in Action
These are some of the images I was able to capture from the Glow Games. With the darkness and quick movements, none of my ring toss or bowling images came out. :( I guess that goes to show how much fun they had with those games - they weren't messing around and were out to win it!
At the end of each hour, we asked students to reflect on their Glow Games experience and how it fit in with the 6C Learner Profile that our district has adopted (from the authors of the book, Becoming Brilliant by Roberta Michnick Golinkoff PhD and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek PhD). We ran out of our neon sticky notes before the end of the day, but it was interesting to see how students rated their experience and areas that they felt we could use some improvement in to push them to higher levels.
Glow STEAM in Action
At the end of the hour, we asked students to clean up their stations and reset the classroom for the next class. Some classes were able to do this quickly and we invited them to use a highlighter to write what they loved about the day. You can tell some students were completely worn out from the fun (and heat!), but they had some great things to share.
As I was preparing for my first Glow Day, I was looking to all sorts of things and came Sturdy for Common Things post on "Glowing Books for the Black Light Booth." I had been previously thinking about a specific grade level I was going to do a Glow Day with first (7th grade), but got me thinking about some of the other grades I will potentially be doing a Glow Day with and thought the books might be a good fit, so I ordered a couple of books from Amazon.
The Day-Glo Brothers
The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors by Chris Barton is an amazing story of how two very different brothers came together after a personal tragedy to create something amazing and help people around the world in different ways. This would be a great text to read for elementary students to kick off a Glow Day, a way to connect World War II, science concoctions, and so many other topics!
Out of the three books I tested, Unplugged by Steve Anthony did not have the wow factor under the blacklight, but the story was beautiful! I think it would be an absolute favorite for kicking off a glow day with elementary students and sharing about how you can discover and see things right in front of you that you might not have otherwise if you were stuck behind a screen. Sometimes we all need a little bit of time to unplug and take in the world around us and simply be in the moment. And Blip is such a cute little bot!
I gave my resources a glow rating with a green, yellow, or red star.
I recently learned about these and I was not disappointed! They are an awesome building resource and the glow in the dark Qubits are AWESOME under the black light. The bright colored ones are awesome on their own, but do glow under the black light.
The Brain Flakes did okay under the blacklight, with the yellows, oranges, and greens doing the best. I was a little disappointed the white didn't really glow, but could be used if four colors are needed.
LEGOs (Classic Colors)
I really didn't anticipate the LEGOs glowing much, and what I saw was about what I pictured. Out of all the colors, the oranges did the best.
Much like the Brain Flakes, I thought the Creation Cubes would perform a little better. Out of all the colors, the oranges glowed the best.
I had two different kinds of bingo chips/counters to try out - one was solid plastic and the other was transparent. Of the colors I had for the solid plastic, the white was the winner and the purple (showed up pink) and yellow a close second. The neon pink transparent ones were great though!
I found these at my local novelty store, but they can also be ordered online. They had a light glow when viewed while they were laying down, but had a great glow when the light was directly facing them. I think if I were to purchase more of these, I would buy just the glow in the dark kind.
I found these buckets at my local Dollar Tree store. They were fun and glitterly and thought they had potential for some glow in the dark fun. I was a bit disappointed in most of them, but the green glowed fantastically!
These are similar to KEVA planks, but a different brand. The plain wood ones are unfinished and the colored ones have a bit of a smooth finish. They were not as fun as I had hoped as the green and yellow are actually pretty bright.
I did not anticipate the colors to be as bright as these were! I was so happy as Straw Builders are guaranteed engagement with students. They will be a great addition to a Glow Day!
I love Squigz and I have some of the mini and regular sized ones. The orange and red ones stood out the most out of all of the colors. If I were to use these, I would definitely go for the glow in the dark ones.
These are in primary colors, but did not expect them to react as they did. The orange, yellow, and red ones definitely popped out!
In my container of Plus Plus pieces, I have a mix of primary colors and neon colors. Without a doubt, all the neon colors stood out and could definitely be used for a Glow Day!
Wooden Shape Blocks
As with my wooden planks, I didn't expect much from these. Fun building resources but not so fun on the glow factor.
Wooden Pattern Blocks
Much like the wooden planks and wooden shapes, these wooden pattern blocks also did not provide much of a glow factor.
These are from my random collection of pipe cleaners. The yellow, white, and orange ones definitely stood out. I was surprised to see that the green did not really glow.
Another no-glow in the wooden resource department. I think if I were to use any wooden resources as part of a glow day, I would spray paint them with glow or neon paint or use neon tape on them.
Much like the pipe cleaners, there were certain colors that stood out more than others. The white, yellow, and pink were the winning glow colors.
Recycled Milk Gallons (Transparent)
These Strawbee connector pieces were punched from recycled milk gallons. I believe this is a case of, "where did they go?". Yes, they are there. No, they did not glow. At all.
I also picked these neon pom poms up from my local Dollar Tree store. The yellows and oranges provided some great glow, but the others were not as spectacular.
This handful of beads was from my bag of mixed pony beads. I had some regular colors as well as glow in the dark ones. Clearly the glow in the dark pony beads were the winners here.
Playground & Treehouse Set
These are from Learning Resources and are great building tools. I was a little disappointed that they didn't glow (other than the purple) as they are a great addition to my Learning Landscapes EDU project.
As I anticipated (with pretty much anything white), these dice were great under blacklight!
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