Google Hangouts for Lunchtime PD

The Literacy Coach and I put our deviously creative hats on to come up with a new form of Professional Development.  We developed a semi-monthly, 30-minute session that repeats three times during lunch from 11:00 – 12:30.  So far there have been five dates, and the fifth one which occurred today, was the most successful by far.

The Technology

Photo: roe17.org

Photo: roe17.org

We chose Google Hangouts for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s on everyone’s classroom computer.  It’s also an amazingly simple tool to use, and one that I think the staff could really use, considering we have seven buildings (8 if you count the District Office).  However, it’s a hard concept to demonstrate and fully understand the potential without actually participating.  And goodness knows I already make enough videos that they don’t watch.

The Content

Google Hangouts provides the framework, but the content had to come from elsewhere, and where better to look than other district-wide initiatives.  The Literacy Coach in our district is amazing: 30+ years of elementary teaching experience in all grades, not to mention a growth mindset like nobody has every seen.  She was always trying new styles, techniques, and ideas while in the classroom and hasn’t stopped.  She and I brainstormed about what teachers still weren’t ‘getting’ when it came to Daily 5/CAFE implementation, and also what they might like to learn with PARCC (our annual Common Core Standardized Test) on the horizon.

  • GHO #1 – Classroom Innovation
  • GHO #2 – Vocabulary Instruction
  • GHO #3 – Citing Evidence
  • GHO #4 – Paired Texts
  • GHO #5 – Constructed Responses on PARCC

The Details

Ms. Witkus and I created a Google Doc in advance, and developed an agenda, complete with questions and resources that we could share out through the Chat feature.

We wanted a safe topic for our first one, since we realized people were really going to be learning how to use GHO.  We added Vocab Instruction because a mutual pet peeve is the use of DOL (Daily Oral Language) by the many of the reading teachers, and the fact that some of the vocabulary lists that students learn every week contain words for no apparent reason (but I digress…).

The next three topics cover Common Core skills that seem to be difficult to teach.  Citing evidence correctly at the secondary level is easy, because your school follows a specific format, like MLA or APA.  However, at the elementary level, where citation is introduced, can be more tricky:  how do you know what proper citation for a 3rd grader is compared to a 5th, for example? Paired texts seems easy to accomplish with such websites as ReadWorks, but I think many teachers have a fear of, or don’t like to, create their own material.  Therefore, we thought it beneficial to introduce some online resources for Paired Texts.

Finally, helping kids write Constructed Responses for the PARCC is huge.  As I assist teachers in the computer labs as their practice PARCC with their kiddos, MANY students get to that question, and then write a two- or three-sentence response. Not cool. So, Ms. Witkus shared some lesson ideas to get kids writing daily, especially with responses to informational text (say in science or social studies) that kids finish in 30 – 40 minutes. I then jumped in with a plan to help students actually complete a constructed response, the crux or which was for them to use the scratch paper explicitly allowed in the directions to make an outline at the very least, and an outline with textual evidence source as better yet.

The Reflection

The first two GHOs were held for an hour after school.  I suggested an hour, because Twitter chats generally last that long, and I have been in several that FLY by.  However, attendance seemed low to us, and feedback indicated that many teachers would like to join, but had family obligations after school.  Therefore, we decided to move it to the lunch.  Better, but still not where we would like it.

It seems best if we divide and conquer, too.  If we are in different buildings, and can drum up business in each of THOSE buildings, we have better attendance.

Topics with immediate relevance seem to elicit better attendance as well.

The Future

With every session, more people have experienced GHOs.  At the end of the year, Ms. Witkus and I will look at attendance stats and determine if the Return on Investment was really worth the effort.

Have you ever used Google Hangouts for PD?  I would enjoy reading about your experience.

Visualization Activity with First Grade and iPads

MeTeaching Fridays at 10.  It’s my standing appointment with a first grade class to work on one of their weekly skills using a new app every week.  We’ve done Screen Chomp, Educreations, and more to work with skills like fluency and sequencing.  Last week, their skill was visualization, so we used the Doodle Buddy app on our iPads, and some books from the library.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.7: Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.

“When students listen to or read text, they can create pictures in their mind or make a mind movie. When readers visualize what is happening in the story, they remember more of what they read or hear. ” (The Daily 5 CAFE)

NatalieDoodleBuddyBefore class, I went to the school library and found 5 books I figured they had never read (my sole criteria for determining this was that they looked OLD, and had those uniformly beige hardcovers).  I made a makeshift book cover out of orange construction paper, so they couldn’t see any part of the book.  I then read a page or two from a story, then gave them about three or four minutes to draw what they were visualizing.  At the end of the time, they held them up for me to see, then had another minute to show each other.  Finally, I took off the orange construction paper and showed them how the illustrator had visualized it.

We started with an edition of The Princess and the Pea where the characters were illustrated as animals (all the kids’ illustrations were stick people), read a couple pages of The Goggles by Ezra Jack Keats (the kids all drew their goggles in black, while Keats did his in yellow), and the first two pages of Big Al by Andrew Clements Yoshi (describing a very nice but scary-looking fish named Al).  We finished with the beautifully illustrated book called Crossing by Philip Booth.  In this book of rhyming train terms, our suburban kids had no idea what any of it meant without seeing pictures.  I started in the middle:

“Fifty-nine, sixty, / hoppers of coke, / Anaconda copper, / hotbox smoke.”

cars on roadThe results on the iPads were the best of the day.  There was more variety than with any other story, and the fact that they all drew automobiles rather than trains led to a discussion (well, a pointing out – this is first grade after all) that they drew auto cars because that’s what they know (the teacher even used the word ‘schema’!).  In reflection, the classroom teacher and I decided that the more nonsensical the text, the more imaginative the visualizations.

I would suggest everyone try this 45-minute activity with some of your lit picks, and let us know how it goes!

 

Making Audio Books with QR Codes

Recently, our district decided to unify our reading instruction practices by implementing The Daily 5 and CAFE by 2015-16.  The five parts of The Daily 5 include Writing, Word Work, Read to Someone, Read to Self, and Listen to Reading.  As teachers started assessing where they were, and how they could best implement Daily 5, they noticed that there was a dearth of audio books available for Listen to Reading.  The premise behind Listen to Reading is not only to listen to stories, but to follow along in the text.  Hence, it’s necessary to have an extensive library of audio books AND the accompanying texts.

ImageTo solve this problem, I enlisted the help of the National Junior Honors Society.  These students are constantly in need of community service hours, and besides, who doesn’t love to read children’s books?  Classroom teachers gave me books from their classroom libraries. I took them to after school sessions at the Junior High, and the students there used iPads and the Voice Record Pro app to record the stories.  Files were converted to MP3 versions (the app recorded them in MP4), renamed, and uploaded to Google Drive (here are the recording directions I made for the students).  Once in Drive, QR Codes were made and uploaded to Drive.  All parts were then added to a Google Doc (Title, Author, Illustrator, audio file link, and QR Code).  Finally, QR Codes were printed and affixed to the front of the books with packing tape.  By sharing the Google Doc Master List, teachers can search (using that handy CNTRL + F feature) for books they have in their library which already have a QR Code available.  Primary students then scan the codes and listen!

It takes a bit of behind-the-scenes work, but I believe this to be a low-cost (as in just about FREE!) way to increase your classroom audio book libraries.