From Yet to Yes…Lead4Ward Reflection

It’s the end of January in elementary schools all over the state of Texas and for many teachers in grades 3rd-5th, that means the stress level is rising because the reality of STAAR testing is looming. Many teachers turn to test prep and practice to prepare students for high stakes testing, but I beg those teachers to reconsider.

Last week I was able to attend a Lead4Ward PEP Rally in Plano with teachers and administrators across North Texas. From the beginning, the PEP Rally set the expectation that test prep is not the answer and good teaching is! PEP is a great reminder for what we should all be focused on instead of test prep and practice.

P – Prioritize the Standards
E – Engage the Learner
P – Practice w/o Penalty – (A risk-free environment)

I was able to spend the day with fellow administrators discussing review strategies that are focused around PEP! I am on a mission to convince teachers test-prep is not the answer. If we are going to ask teachers to stop the test prep and practice, we must give them ideas and strategies that will take their place. My goal is to share a few of the strategies that were shared with us, to better support teachers all year round and not just during testing season.

3-2-1 Summary
After a lesson students come up  with the following: 
Students write 3 big ideas or facts/details they learned (What did it say?) 
Students write 2 examples, applications or inferences about what they learned (What did it mean?)
Students write 1 question or draw 1 conclusion about what they learned  (what does it mean?) 
Love this review strategy as an exit ticket or a way to wrap up a learning target because it uses varied levels of thinking and incorporates summarizing, inferencing and drawing conclusions. 

Pick Up the Slip Up
Students are given 3 sticky notes and write A, B, C on them. Students are then presented with a question and students need to consider which answer would be incorrect. 
During their thinking time they “hover” over the answer they think is the slip up and when the teacher is ready, they place “cover” their answer, and then “pick up” their answer. A fun and engaging way to review material that requires thinking about things a different way. 
The most important part of integrating any of these strategies into review is the importance of stopping to teach along the way. “CLARIFY & VERIFY” If a student were to pick up the wrong answer, the teacher could stop and have students complete the following question stem…
“I thought it was……because……” 

We have to remember that often times students will find the right answer, but do not understand why it is the right answer. If you are familiar with the STAAR test, there are always answer choices you can refer to as “distractor”. Utilizing this strategy allows the students to eliminate the distractor factor. 

Brain Dump

Unlike the previous two strategies, this third one is used to activate prior knowledge. You begin by showing students a “stimulus”. This could be a word, an image, a drawing or anything that you may be working with or you know students may be exposed to. 

Students are given 30-60 seconds to analyze the stimulus.
Students need to describe 3-5 key terms that come to mind when the see the stimulus.
Students predict what their learning may be about, based on the stimulus and their 3-5 key terms.

As a teacher you can pull the accurate terms and have an understanding of what your students already know as well as have an idea of what key terms may have been left out. Once you discovered what was left out, you know what you need to focus on!

Triple Play

This rounds out my top 4 strategies that I enjoyed learning about. The final strategy is the “triple play”. For teachers that do not have classroom management under control, I would think twice about introducing this activity. 
This is a great activity for key terms that students have learned or have been learning. Students begin in a group of three and pick a key term. One of the students writes the key term on a piece of paper, the second student describes the key term or gives an example on a piece of paper and the final student sketches the key term. 
Once all three students have completed their part, you have a good ol’ fashioned snow ball fight. Students are able to throw their paper, pick up another, throw it and repeat two more times. Once they have picked up their final piece of paper, they must work together to create a triple play, matching the key term, with the description and the sketch. Of course, as needed, the teacher will “CLARIFY and VERIFY” to ensure students are demonstrating an understanding. 
Those were just my favorites and there are so many more! I hope more teachers begin to realize the power in review opportunities such as this, as opposed to drill and kill and test prep. Learning is supposed to be fun and these are much more engaging than bubbling in circles on an answer document. I hope you will try at least one.

For more review strategies, check out: 
PW: yet2yes

Toilet Paper Tech – Building an #Edtech Toolbag

Last summer I had the privilege of attending the North Texas Visioning Consortium 2014 Summer Conference. With thoughts of Makerspace still fresh in my head, there was a group of library media specialists in Mckinney ISD hosting a Learning Commons discussion that I chose to attend. One of the resources Melanie Burford, @MelanieBurford3 shared was called Toilet Paper Tech. I loved it! In fact, I have been using it since! Thank you for the inspiration Melanie!
This effective, yet simple resource has allowed me to share #edtech resources with our staff at Sigler Elementary throughout the year. While we are improving our understanding of instructional technology at Sigler Elementary, we have staff members ranging from “confident”  to “beginner” in regards to incorporating #edtech into their classrooms. 
Time is the commodity everyone wants more of, but cannot seem to create, I felt Toilet Paper Tech was a fun and easy way to expose teachers to #edtech tools without taking more time from their day. 
So, how do we introduce #edtech tools to teachers without taking time for their day? We do it by maximizing the time they have. Yes, even when they are in the bathroom!! By taking a photo of the Toilet Paper Tech Poster or scanning the QR code on the poster the teachers have access to a new tool each month for them to implement into their classrooms. 
As I mentioned, we have a wide range of technology learners on our campus so we started with the biggest Professional Learning Network in the world, Twitter.
Each month I keep my eye out for what teachers may already be using in their classrooms or tools that I may be able to incorporate into staff or leadership meetings that may be an #edtech tool to enchance the learning in classrooms throughout our campus. I am reminded by Matt Gomez, @mattBgomez that we do not teach technology, we teach children. He adds, “Make a great lesson – the best lesson you can for your students and then, add the technology that makes it even better, more accessible, more global.” 
While discussing #edtech with Alan November, @globalearner author of Who Owns the Learning, he puts it differently, “If you are using an activity that existed before the internet, stop using it.” 
Both men emphasize the importance of #edtech, which is why Toilet Paper Tech is a great resource for our staff and exposing teachers to #edtech tools so they can begin to fill their toolbag. 
Plickers – Fun to use with leadership teams, staff meetings and whole group/small groups of students

Remind – Teachers and Administrators can connect with parents to communicate 

Post-It Plus – Stop collecting sticky notes and capture the notes taken to sort them as needed

I was excited to share Post-it Plus with the staff as it came straight from one of our teachers, Mr. S, @Sschweikhard By no means, do I need to be the only one researching and exploring #edtech tools. I was so happy when Scott brought this to my attention, I wanted to share it with others! 

Friendly Competition assessing student knowledge. Be sure to use it with your staff as well! 

While February is still a couple of weeks away, I was able to get ahead of the game a little bit, so Kahoot is making an appearance early.

The world is full of #edtech tools, but we want to be able to share tools that can impact students positively and enhance their learning. We are not interested in showcasing technology, just for technology’s sake. 
So…what’s next? Here is where I need your help! What #edtech tools should we showcase next? Let us know by clicking here: Toilet Paper Tech – Building an #edtech Toolbag
Interested in implementing Toilet Paper Tech on your campus. What are you waiting for? 

How Our Space Became a Makerspace

It was the final week of school and we were all but finished with the 2013-2014 school year when I had a conversation with a colleague about something she kept referring to as a Makerspace. It was a term I had heard of while surfing the Twitterverse, but was relatively unfamiliar with what it actually was. After hearing more about it from her point of view, I felt I needed to do a little more research to familiarize myself with the potential of a Makerspace in an elementary school. After a simple search online, the Makerspace resources were plenty and I was in full research mode. The resources listed below were two of the best I found and after reading and reviewing, I was convinced our school needed a Makerspace.

The Makerspace Playbook

Edutopia – Designing a School Makerspace

In addition to the resources listed above, I also had to do some research on Twitter to see which members of my PLN were into the Makerspace Movement and determine who I could begin following on Twitter to learn from them about their Makerspace. The following members of my PLN were influential in jump starting our journey and ultimately the opening of our space.

Starting with folks in my own backyard:

@lorraineshimizu – The colleague who gave me the spark
@R_H_Steele – The Principal of the @ChristieCubs
@jess_malloy – Learning Commons/Makerspace Facilitator for the @ChristieCubs
@NancyWTech – Librarian turned Technology Specialist

Some folks a little farther from home:

@DianaLRendina – Check our her Makerspace Resource Page
@tinaberumen & @shawnaford1 – They shared this great resource with me – Make it @ Your Library

After several discussions online with the folks listed above we rolled up our sleeves and started to determine what steps we could take immediately and what steps we could take over time and ensure our space was done right. We decided we wanted to do some fundraising and write some grants so we spent the summer writing grants and setting up accounts on @DonorsChoose and @GoFundMe. Additional funding sources we are using include World Wear Project & Funding Factory because every little bit helps! If you want to learn more about how you can raise money to support your school, check out this post by @LindseyLipsky,  titled, Finding Funds for Your Classroom.

While we waited for funds to be generated online, we started collaborating with district leaders, sharing our vision and determining how we could take this space…

Before Pic of our Makerspace
Before Pic of our Makerspace

…and turn it into a Makerspace where collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking happened the moment you walked into the room.

The first step was creating space by eliminating book shelves, wooden cubbies and reshelving books. The Library Media Services group in our district and my amazing librarian (Head Maker) @j9dowdy played a huge roll in facilitating this process, which actually took months!

We have a lot of books and each one had to be moved! Once the space was created we could really begin to make some progress.

During the Transformation

The void you see between the tables and the wooden cubbies against the wall (what is called our tech bar) is where a 2nd row of cubbies used to be.

Its all about getting floor space. So the original bookshelves in the back of the library were emptied, books were reshelved and we began moving the shelves around to determine how we could maximize our space.

During the Transformation

Our goal from the beginning was to create a space that allowed for traditional library use, but also supported a Makerspace that could be used during library time or that teachers/students could access simultaneously during their instructional day. If you look at the picture above, you can even see a screen and projector that would need to be relocated. It was the small things, that took the longest amount of time. I told you, we wanted to do this right, so we were ok taking the time do get it right.

A More Intimate Library Setting 

Shelves were moved and books were reshelved which allowed our space to ultimately be inverted, leaving a large open space as you enter the library and the traditional library space was moved to the back of the library where bookshelves used to be. The projector was also moved back this space so traditional lessons and important things like “staff meetings” could still take place and utilize the projector.

The Creative Wheels are Turning

During our transformation, it was important that students begin to be exposed to the Maker Movement so with the support of several departments throughout the district, including the Multilingual Department, students were able to “make” with Legos and “create” settings, alternate endings and write their own stories using Lego Story Kits.

Now that we had the students attention and their interest was high, we started with our Lego Wall. I had spent some time researching Lego Walls and found this site to be the most helpful.

The First Base Plate

The Masonite went up first and the first base plate was glued to the wall. I read it was important to use the Legos as spacers when putting on the base plates so the next photos show us doing just that.

If You Build It, They Will Come

I will be the first to admit, the Lego Wall took a little bit longer than expected, but doesn’t every DIY project? We built it brick by brick or I guess base plate by base plate, but ultimately it was completed and we made sure everyone knew we were the Sigler “Super” Stars.

Our First Lego Wall Creation

As I mentioned above, we were waiting on funding…I can happily say, both of the projects posted on @DonorsChoose and @GoFundMe were funded. If you had a hand in funding either of those projects, I cannot thank you enough!!!

In addition, we applied for a grant through a local branch of the Awesome Foundation in Plano, TX @awesomefound which was funded and has been used to support the purchase of Lego Robotics Kits. I cannot wait until they arrive!

The good news kept coming as we also received word that a grant we had written through Lowe’s Toolbox for Education was funded. Each of these grants allow us to keep adding pieces to our Makerspace.

With the all of the great news about funding resources coming through and the progress we were making with creating space, our 2014 closed on a high note and we knew 2015 was going to be exceptional!

The staff returned from winter break on January 5, 2015, which is the day our Makerspace officially opened! Teachers were able to visit the Makerspace and explore the various stations the students would be working through the very next day!

Enjoy the photos of our teachers “exploring” the various stations

Build It – Zoob Challenge
Play Osmo – We have 3 separate Osmo Stations 

Play Osmo – Words
Play Osmo – Tangrams
Google Doodle Station 
Rainbow Loom – Bracelets – Bracelets are Donated to Our School Store for Students to Purchase 
Coding Corner w/ Chrome Books & Desktops
Lego Wall
Lego Wall at the End of the First Week w/ Students
What We Want Teachers and Students to do Upon Entering
We were very anxious to show this Makerspace to the teachers and students, but the overwhelming response we have received thus far has squashed any fear we may have had, because the students and teachers have LOVED the space! The ideas continue to flow for stations to be rotated in and out to continually challenge our students and in a couple of weeks, each station will have a problem that students must attempt to solve. 
The following stations are on our list to be rotated in:
  • Cardboard Creation Station
  • Book Blurbs
  • Record It
  • Bookmarks
  • Marble Challenge

What would you add? 
Thank you for visiting our space! I hope sharing the story of how our space became a Makerspace will inspire others to create a space of their own. 
Until then, keep creating, keep exploring, and keep making!