Day 13: @DJ_NeckTie is on the Twitter

Day 13: Name the top edtech tools that you use on a consistent basis in the classroom, and rank them in terms of their perceived (by you) effectiveness.

Being so lucky to be part of a 1:1 iPad school, I would think my edtech tools would have changed from when I didn't teach at a 1:1 iPad school. They're actually all the same.

The Twitter.

I found this bad boy way back during my first year of teaching. It was the best PD I had ever had and I was connected to so many educators and resources -- I didn't have time to sift through them all. Today, I'm not as Twitter-savvy as I used to be, but this year I am using it more than I have in the past and I can't believe that I have neglected it for so long. It is ripe with teachers sharing their successes and struggles, their lessons and philosophies, their classrooms and their students and so much more. If you are not on the Twitter, I highly suggest you get an account, or give me permission to create one for you. (@DJ_NeckTie)

Google Apps for Education.

I was so happy when my district moved to GAFE a few years ago. I had used the regular Google Apps my first few years teaching, and it streamlined almost everything I needed to do. There was a time where Evernote was competing for some of my cloud-based word processing and file organization, but now with the updated versions of Drive, Docs and Sheets (not to mention the newly released Google Classroom), I am quite pleased that I stuck it out with Google. Everything I need is in one place, or can be linked to one place, and the search feature has saved my butt so many times. If you are still creating things in Word or Excel and want to share it with a bunch of other people, you probably should just start it in Google Drive. Saves me some serious copy-paste conversion time.


True, so this tool was definitely not on my list before the 1:1 iPad revolution, but it's been so great to have. I've used it tons when I taught science and social studies. It was great for sketching flow charts, taking notes, labeling models and drafting posters. Then I found out that my math students loved showing their calculations in the paper app too. Worked as a quick and easy whiteboard for fluency practice. Plus, everyone's handwriting just looks 10x more beautiful in the Paper53 app.

Other things that are probably running in the background on my devices: EvernoteNotability & FreshGrade.

Comment Guide, revised

Last year, I posted the comment guide that we would use with my students when we blog. Looking back on it, I think it's pretty good, but we'll add a few things to improve upon it.

Before we start doing that, we will have to revisit our expectations for leaving a comment. Hopefully they will recall our classroom discussions around leaving comments. We talked a lot about how sometimes our comments are the only way we are known on a blog or on the internet. We need to think about what kind of impression we are making when we leave comments.

Commenting Guide

Pertinent It should connect to the original post, or original comment.
Positive You want to encourage the author.
Purposeful Only leave a comment when you have something to say.
Professional Use your best writing conventions - capitalization, punctuation, spelling, etc.


In addition to this, I've added another point:
Personal Greet your blogger! "Dear Mr. Arakaki," or "Dear Billy Bob".

My original post drew ideas from Mrs. Yollis' Classroom Blog: How to Compose a Quality Comment.


We've started blogs this week. I posted this to my Monroe5A blog, the blog which I am using to model for my students this year.

First Day of Blogs

The students were so excited to sign up for their blogs today! It's been a few weeks in the making, but we finally did it. Everyone who came to school today was able to register their blogs!

During our Computer time today, I went with the class to help them log into their Google Apps for Education accounts and activate their Blogger services. Everyone was able to name their blog (appropriately, of course) and select an address for their blog.

In the next few days, we'll be experimenting with layouts, publishing drafts and preparing to launch our blogs to be shared. Watch this space for more information.

First Posts

The students are raging with excitement because today they were able to start drafting their first posts to their blogs! They were asked to introduce themselves to their readers and welcome them to their blog. We encouraged conversations and guided students to close their posts with questions.

A few students were able to finish drafting their posts and publish them. Take a look at them and leave them a comment if you could.

Dominik's Blog
Kamden's Blog

The remaining days this week we will start to post some of our writing ideas and start sharing links to each others' blogs.

Kickin' off with paper blogs

Online blogs have been something I have done with my class every year that I've been a teacher, and it's something I believe really motivates my students to write, type and think.

Last year, our building went through Write Tools training, and I really liked the explicit format of teaching certain styles of writing. We only received the basic training, and I am very interested in learning more about their genre-specific workshops.

Anyway, this year, I want our blogs to drive our writing block, under the structure of the Write Tools program, using Being A Writer to navigate the various styles of writing.

Today, we started our Paper Blogs activity. This will be my first time introducing fifth graders to online blogs. Last year, my fifth graders moved up with me from fourth grade, where they first met blogs. I'm wondering what difference it will make having fifth graders starting to blog as opposed to fourth graders.

I do have a few ideas already. I noticed one of my twentyfive students could not decided on a topic to write about. I intro'd the task by asking them to think of topics that they could write about for more than five minutes and here is the list our class made:


I gave him some time to think about it, while the rest of the class got busy writing, which always impresses me. They were fairly silent, with a whisper here and there about spelling. Just write - worry about gnilleps later! Anyway, I checked in with him to see how he was doing and to make sure he understood the task. He surely did, just couldn't decide on what to write about.

After fifteen minutes (I had originally told the class we'd write for five minutes, but before I knew it, fifteen had passed) we stopped the class and he still hadn't written anything. After a bunch of other kids stood on their chairs to share, I found out what the issue was.

He secretly wanted to write about hunting guns, but was unsure if he could or not. I got the feeling that in the past he was told he couldn't write about hunting guns. Maybe he was never given the choice, or perhaps he was asked to write about something other than guns.

Could just one more year of a bad experience with writing be enough to bring a student to the place where they are afraid to write?

Social Studies Extension + Computer

Once a week, my 5th graders go to the Computer Lab for an hour. I'm so very lucky to have a Tech Facilitator that is super cooperative, flexible and willing to let me direct some of my kids' weekly computer time.

At this point in the year, there are a few things that my class is required to do when they get to the lab:
- A Fasttmath lesson
- Any outstanding AR tests (at their own motivation)
- Check their blogs to approve and reply to comments (to maintain good PR with their visitors)

Occasionally they may have an additional assignment from myself or the tech facilitator, but often they are isolated tasks simply directed at practicing skills in keyboarding, word processing, etc. It is rare (and exciting) when I'm able to extend a few classroom units/projects into the lab, which the students can independently complete.

Yesterday was one of those instances where my Social Studies Unit had a built-in extension with a website, where information on the excavation of the Jamestown settlement is available. I posted the assignment on my blog, and prepped my kids for two minutes about their task.

They were to visit my blog to find the assignment, follow the directions, and submit what they learned. They had two options to turn in their work: leave a comment or share a Google Doc.

What Happened

- Fifteen students left comments on the blog post
- Eight students worked through Google Docs and shared them with me
- One student was emailed the assignment since he was sick (still waiting for him to complete)
- All students in class completed the task without me there
- Variety of responses from students

Need to Tweak

- Students who chose to respond with a comment were able to instantly view their classmates' responses on the blog
- Do I want conversation between students in the comment section of the blog post?
- Students who submitted their learning through Google Docs received an embedded feedback from me in their Google Docs
- Do I want to provide individual feedback to all students? Is it necessary for this activity?


I'd love to do something like this again. Luckily, the website was provided to me by my resources and it was completely student appropriate. Finding the right site to direct students to, and also have it pertain to our classroom learning will most likely be the obstacle that would prevent me from doing this type of computer lab activity soon.

Jeopardy Labs

This is... not PowerPoint! (I totally lifted that from the site)

Found a potentially great resource for my classroom, which I've already shared with the other teachers in my building, that creates interactive Jeopardy templates.

JeopardyLabs features free template creation, and automatic sharing once the template is saved. You can search for existing templates, and also share yours. Each template you create is password protected, so you have the opportunity to go back and edit it later.

One of the things that drew me to this tool was the fact that it lends itself perfectly to my Promethean Board. It also features a scoreboard for teams where you can keep track of points.

It's free to create templates, but there is a donation required for signing up and getting an account, which features an easy way to view all of your created templates in one place and a "fancy template manager" as well. I think it's a great cause and it's by donation, so you can give anywhere between $1 and $20.

I'm considering making a donation as I'll be using this to help a few of my students practice for their Battle of the Books competition coming up in April. We'll see how this shakes out.

Polygon Scavenger Hunt: Student Edition

Today for math we spent the first twenty minutes review the different types of polygons. We spent some extra time distinguishing between types of triangles (isosceles, scalene and equilateral), quadrilaterals (trapezoids, parallelograms, rhombuses and squares) and also reviewing angle size and side length.

After some good review time and identifying shapes on the Promethean Board, I set up the activity that would take up the next twenty minutes of class. I said they got to go on a scavenger hunt around the building. Their task was to find as many polygons in the school as they could and provide reasons why those shapes were indeed what they said they were.

We have building-wide hallway expectations, so I reminded the kids about that which encompassed respectful behavior and voice level. I also had one HUGE rule. If there were students in a room, they could not enter it. If the room was student-free, they needed permission from the adult in there. And lastly, if no one was in the room, it needed to stay that way and they had to move on.

They'd be equipped with their notebooks and their teams of five. I told them they didn't need pencils. That was kind of fun, to see their reaction.

We'd use FlipVideo cameras to document their findings. Then I whipped out my example video from yesterday, and showed it to them. I pointed out the things I was looking for in a good explanation during my video example. We talked for a very short time about what was good about the example and what could be improved. Short as in 55 seconds short.

Then we split into teams, kickball style and went off. I stood at one of the hallway intersections of my school so that I could monitor teams wandering around. Then I started to think about some things...

Things I Didn't Consider

- How was I going to make sure they all came back in twenty minutes? Some teams I didn't even see in the hall where I was standing.
- Some kids will have poor videographing skills. I hope they don't stand too far, or zoom in too close.
- Super quiet ones who don't speak loud enough for the camera to hear.
- Should I have given a list? Like at least one of the following polygons: rhombus, square, parallelogram, octagon, etc.

And with five minutes left, I signaled (to the teams that I did see) to make their way back to class.

When it was all over, they turned in their cameras and I told them we'd review all the clips tomorrow and we talked about what went well and what didn't.

Things That Went Well

- Using the FlipVideo cameras was fun
- Taking turns speaking and recording
- Working quietly in the hallways
- Coming back to class on time

Things That Could Be Improved

- Not enough time
- Wanted more turns recording

Overall, I think it was a good first time lesson. I asked the students what did they need to know in order to do this game.

"We needed to know the different ways we name polygons and what makes it that way. Like how a regular quadrilateral is a square because all of its sides are equal and so are the angles."

Here's the video montage of all the clips from the kids that I'm going to show today. There was one clip where the person completely named a shape wrong. It was obvious enough that I know most of the class would pick up on it, so I didn't include it in the collection. I don't know if this is good or not, but I'm going to talk the person about the segment they recorded - maybe rerecord it with them today and then throw it in for a version 2.0 or something. I still really haven't figured that one out yet.

I'd like to incorporate more FlipVideo activities because I saw that all the kids were intensely engaged and were applying mathematical vocabulary (sometimes not as accurately as I'd hoped) to these tasks.

If you have an idea to make this better or a question about something I most likely skipped over and didn't explain, leave a comment.

Maths Lesson, FlipVideo Style

Considering I've had the past two days off, I got to catch up on a lot of my Google Reader subscriptions and feeds. I came across this great site full of Flip Camera resources by means of a Tweet from a friend and I actually had time to check out the link.

There were a few PDFs on that site, and one of them was a Scavenger Hunt guide. So I clicked on through it and found some good lists dealing with Math and Language Arts.

When we weren't having snow ice days, our math group was just getting the hang of naming special polygons and understanding the differences between them. With the four FlipVideo cameras in my room, plus an extra one in the building, I wanted to try this tomorrow.

Since I've got five Flips, I can have five groups with about four/five kids in each one. Have them bring their notebooks with the descriptors of each polygon we've studied and send them out with the task. Find as many polygons and document them on the FlipVideo camera in fifteen minutes around the school.

And then it hit me. I could just see some kids shooting for two seconds at a rhombus painted on the wall and then onto the next shape. I wanted them to discover and support their findings while they were there and capture that on the video.

I needed an example. Well, since we didn't have school today, I couldn't pull a random kid to stand in for my demo, so I had my roommate film me and I did one.

I'll let you know how it goes. And I'll probably upload the student vids to the school website when they're complete.