Creating Passionate Learners and Teaching Like a Pirate

I was lucky enough to attend Google Fest this week in Lansing – thank you to my district for sending me! The keynote speaker was Pernille Ripp, and I was so energized to try some new things in my classroom after hearing her speak. (You should definitely check out her website for some great ideas on how to create passionate learners.) One of the many things that resonated with me was that as teachers, we need to hold ourselves accountable for the things we ask our students to do. That means that if I am expecting my students to take a 5 question quiz after every book they read, then I also need to take a quiz after each book that I read. (Yuck!) If they have to complete worksheets, guess what? I do, too! (Double yuck!) So I have decided to give this a shot in my classroom so that I can better understand what I am asking of my students. My goals with this are:

  1. To model being an avid reader and writer for my students.
  2. To experience how engaging the activities I plan truly are.
  3. To have a better understanding of how much work I am expecting out of a 9 or 10 year old.

One goal that I have with my students this year is that they begin blogging. Each week, I am asking them to blog about what they are reading at home or at school. So in an effort to “practice what I preach,” I will be writing about a book that I am currently reading. In our reading binders, all students have a copy of this Reader Response Prompt Sheet. They are to choose one of the prompts each week and respond based on what they are reading.

I am currently reading Teach Like a Pirate:Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator by Dave Burgess. I stumbled upon this book when I kept seeing the hashtag #tlap pop up on my Twitter feed.

The prompt that I am choosing to respond to this week is:

“Select a quotation from your reading that you liked. What made you pick it? How did it make you feel?”

I selected a quote from the introduction, “Pirates are daring, adventurous, and willing to set forth into uncharted territories with no guarantee of success.” I chose this quote because I think it captures some of the things that I am trying this year with my students. I want to give my students a larger voice in their education. I want to teach them that they have the power to make decisions in our classroom. I want them to feel comfortable enough to tell me when my way of teaching isn’t helping them learn so that I can try and find a way that does. I want to give my students more choice in how they show evidence of their learning so that they can feel empowered to share what they create with an audience.

I want to teach them that they are so much more than a score that they get on a test, more than a grade on a report card. They are more than the choices they make when they are having a bad day. I want them to know that failure is okay, and that no matter how many times you fall flat on your face, it is getting up and trying again that matters the most.

How does this quote make me feel? Well, two things come to mind. First, I feel energized and excited. Although we have had some struggles this year, we have also had some great conversations in our classroom. I am excited about the possibilities this year has for us and where I think we will go. The second thing I feel is fear. Fear that I won’t have the courage to continue fighting for my students’ voices when testing time gets closer. Fear that my test scores won’t be high enough and that I will feel pressured to go back to worksheets and teacher-driven instruction.

So I share this with my students because I need them to know that if they want this to be successful, if they want us to be successful, that I can’t do this alone. I need their help. That they will need to work hard this year to show others that learning comes in many different forms and it may not look the same way that it looked when their teachers or parents were in school. I need my students to prove to the world that they should have a voice in their learning, that they can learn in ways that might be different from the ways we have done in the past, and that we can be pirates together on this adventure in learning!

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Ending the Year with Measurement Fun!

 It can be so difficult to keep students on task at the end of the school year, so I like to incorporate some fun projects to practice skills we have learned and improve our teamwork skills. This year, one of our projects was to create a game for our measurement unit in math. 


The students worked together to create their games from the ground up – they decided what type of game to make, the materials they needed, and the directions for how to play. I started by sharing this rubric with them so they knew what was expected. Then they had a chance to explore some of the indoor recess and math games we have in our classrooms to come up with ideas. We ended up mostly with board games and one memory/concentration game. I love these types of projects because the students are mostly on task and engaged, and they seem to be having fun!

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Android Tablets in 2nd Grade – Augmented Reality Book Reviews with Aurasma

I was introduced to Aurasma last winter at edCamp Lansing when I attended a session by Erin Klein, the author of the website Kleinspiration. If you are ever looking for great ideas for integrating technology, I highly recommend checking out her website! She put together a great post with information on how to use Aurasma and some classroom examples and even has a free document on TPT with step-by-step directions for how to make an Aurasma Augmented Reality video.

I didn’t have access to much technology last school year, so I didn’t do anything with Aurasma last year. Luckily, a coworker attended MACUL in March and refreshed my memory. I decided to try it out right away with our math word wall with vocabulary from our unit on plane and 3-D shapes. Ever since then, they have been bugging me to use it again.

Our next trip into AR is with mini book reviews. Each student had to read a fiction picture book from our classroom library and then they wrote a 5 sentence review. I created a graphic organizer to help them get started with question prompts for each of the five sentences to include in their reviews. Then they worked with a buddy to practice reading the script for their videos. I had classroom volunteers record the videos in the hallway to minimize the background noise. I helped them attach the video to their trigger images in the app, but I am sure they can figure it out on their own with just a little more practice. We had some hiccups with the Android tablets when trying to create the auras, so I did end up having to do most of it on my iPhone – definitely a drawback for the devise. Finally, we printed out some Aurasma icons to put on the books with auras so that others will know there is a video to watch. We just placed the icons on the cover of the book and use clear tape to secure it. Wouldn’t it be great to have a classroom full of books with mini reviews that other students can watch just by scanning the cover? I only wish I started this earlier in the year!

We will be working on adding more to our classroom library during the final weeks of the school year.


Reflections on edcamp GISD

I had the opportunity to attend the first ever edcamp sponsored by the Genesee County Intermediate School District today. It was a great opportunity to meet other educators in the area who are passionate about technology and innovation. It wasn’t a huge turnout, but it was a great size to allow us to get to know each other and share ideas. 

My favorite session was on Maker Spaces. None of us had much experience with this, but we had a full room of people wanting to learn more. I just recently began exploring maker education, and wasn’t quite sure yet how this could fit into my classroom, but left the session with a few ideas and a lot of excitement. 

Overall, the most valuable thing I got out of the day was the networking. We had great conversations about tech integration, allowing students the chance to have a voice in their learning, augmented reality, blogging with our students, PBL and more! I am excited about learning from the people I met and we already have plans to see each other again at edcamp Detroit! 

Thank you GISD for bringing edcamp to the Flint area. I am looking forward to watching this event grow in coming years for other area teachers! 

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Android Tablets in 2nd Grade – Character Traits with ChromVille

Last week, I stumbled upon this blog post while searching for new ways to try augmented reality in my classroom. Since my class is working on character descriptions/traits, I thought this would be a perfect way to add some fun into one of our assignments.

The resources I used for the lesson are this free character traits graphic organizer from Teachers Pay Teachers and the Chromville app which is available for both Apple and Android devices.

We read The Art Lesson by Tomie Depaola and I modeled choosing character traits for the main character, Tommy, and using examples from the book to explain why I chose each trait. Then during our Read to Self time, the students chose a character from a fiction book that they were reading to complete their own character traits activity. Once I had a chance to look it over and make sure they put the right amount of effort into the assignment, they were given their Chromville character sheet. We used this one, which is supposed to be a snow person named “Snowup”, but we got creative and made it into our characters. I was hoping to use our Asus tablets to bring the characters to life, but it was a little buggy, so I ended up letting the students use my iPhone to check out their virtual characters and take a picture. I’m not sure if it was the size of the tablet or the app itself, so I would love to hear anyone else who has tried it out to see what others have experienced.

Here are some examples of characters that my students created:

Gerald from the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems


Alexander from Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse by Leo Lionni


Wemberly from Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes


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Android Tablets in 2nd Grade – Pear Deck

I am always looking for new ways to use formative assessment in my classroom, so I was excited when I was introduced to Pear Deck by another person in my district. Pear deck allows you to create interactive presentations with built-in assessment options. It has the standard question options, like multiple-choice, free text (both short and long), and number response, but my favorite part of this app is the drawing option.

We used Pear Deck when reviewing our science unit on land forms, and I was able to insert a question where the students had to draw an example of a land form, and in real-time, I was able to see what they drew and share some of their responses with the class. We also used this feature when we were learning about different plane shapes and they had to draw examples of quadrilaterals, pentagons, and others. It was an engaging way to give all of my students a chance to show what they know and a great resource as a teacher for me to evaluate what I needed to work on with my students as a whole class, in small group, or individually.

Pear Deck is easy to use, and I was able to put together a new deck in just a few minutes. Deck is the term they use for their presentations. I currently use the free version, but they do also have a paid version where you have some additional question types and other features. The video below gives a quick overview for how to create a deck and shows my favorite features, the drawing option mentioned above. This is a great option for classrooms that have touch-screen devices.

Another reason that I love Pear Deck is its integration with Google Drive. This makes it easy to share files that I have created with others. You can check out my land forms deck here or the coins deck from the video here.

Have any suggestions to share for how to use Pear Deck or another formative assessment tool in a creative way? I would love to hear ideas in the comments!


Android Apps in 2nd Grade – Google Earth and Animoto

Last week, we learned about human and natural characteristics of the earth in our social studies lesson. This was a great lesson for us to explore Google Earth. We had used the app earlier in the year when we explored land forms in science, so the students were already familiar with it and they were excited to use it again.

Their job was to explore different parts of our community, state, country, and the world to find examples of human and natural characteristics. Then, they needed to find images of these characteristics and save them to a shared Google Drive folder. This would allow the students to share images when making their videos. Finally, we went into Animoto and added images and captions to create our movies. Here is one of our creations:

You can download Animoto for Android or iPad.
You can download Google Earth for Android or iPad.

You can check out more of our work by going to our Kidblog account, Garcia’s 2nd Graders.

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