The last day with students is the perfect time to push refresh and to start dreaming about an awesome new school year. Every year I ask my students to take a survey about our class content and delivery. Google Forms is my favorite simple tool for student surveys because it works well on mobile devices. Adding their names was optional, so I felt like their responses were honest. The things they really liked that I will keep the same: Flocabulary Week in Rap, Newsela, Kahoot, Quizlet, and Zondle. Some minor changes might enhance Current Events, like mapping the stories through Google Maps. I did this for the Latin America story set with a collection of Newsela articles and students really enjoyed it. For weeks I do not show Flocabulary when it is brand new, I could map the stories and add accompanying Newsela articles. It would be relatively simple using Mapping Sheet Add-On for Google Spreadsheet. However, I like the formatting better adding pins by hand for Google Maps; it just takes longer.
The wisdom of my students was fascinating. In their survey they pointed out that some lesson components could not be changed because it was part of the curriculum, but not as exciting as other parts. I do take their suggestions seriously when feasible. Many students wanted the class practice ISN to be more tech friendly and to provide options. We have a summer curriculum day to do this. Earlier this year I started to brainstorm ways to modify it because I had the same idea as the students; I have post-it notes on every page with ideas.
Everything we create can be printed for students who work better with paper and pencil. However, next year the sixth grade will be 1:1 iPads, so I will work with the students and build up their confidence to work more efficiently on technology. My goal is to be paperless by the end of each school year. Most of the classwork will be through Google Docs. So we need a management solution to distribute/collect/grade the work efficiently. There are share options on documents. I have had some success by creating a consistent short URL (bit.ly/Geo6HMS) that leads to the ‘Document of the Day’ for students to make a copy of, but they still had to remember to share it back with me
so I could grade it. Which still left the challenge of naming conventions and organization. I found two solutions: Doctopus and Google Classroom. Both solutions distribute a document (or an individualized copy of a document) to a list of students while storing them in a central location for the teacher’s sanity. It is even better that they are friends and play very well together. I think these will make life so much easier since we are already a GAFE school, so I created a Grading with Google presentation with instructions and details I learned by playing around with both. Students and teachers already have access to Google Classroom with their GAFE login (or us @hershey.k12.pa.us). It works seamlessly with the GAFE series of tools. Google Classroom and Doctopus have another close friend: Goobric, which is a Chrome Extension. Goobric was a game changer for the final writing assignment of the year. Next year I will use Goobric from the beginning. Goobric lets you grade writing assignments based on a digital rubric, then it attaches the rubric and any comments back on to the student copy of the document.
While I’m on a Google tangent, another Google Spreadsheet Add-On I plan on utilizing is Flubaroo. You can grade a Google Form (which I already love) like a quiz. In the past, I coded each column for quizzes, but I had to verbally communicate the scores to the students because there was no way to share digitally their results with them. For Flubaroo, I just take the quiz and set my response as the answer key. For short response you can accept more than one answer by including %or between answers. After the quizzes are graded, you have the option to email responses with a note. I added more specific step-by-step details in the Grading with Google presentation.
Another suggestion from the student survey was to have more projects. Students liked creating. They also remembered more of the content in the long term from the units with projects. The inspiration came from the #sschat on Twitter, which transformed into an idea for a collaborative project for Social Studies and Science involving thematic maps, watersheds, spread of diseases, and developing countries. The end goal will be to raise money for H2o for Life Schools, which partners k12 schools in Developed countries with k12 schools in Developing countries that have projects related to clean water. We would select a school in Latin America to connect with the final unit in Social Studies. We already talked about the scarcity of clean/drinkable water in Latin America. I shared a video about the water challenges in Mexico City (skip to 31 seconds) and the students were fascinated. Instead of waiting until the end of the year, I can introduce it with thematic maps.
We already talk about the original thematic map from Dr. John Snow, mapping the Cholera Outbreak due to a contaminated water source in London. This is still an issue over 150 years later in developing countries with poor water quality. The science teacher suggested adding a simulation activity before the map, to get them to see the value in mapping data to find solutions. Dawn had done an activity from Rivanna-Stormwater on this exact topic. We have not figured out the details, but this would be a memorable start to the project to raise money for H2O for Life. The World Health Organization provides statistics and maps on current countries and areas with cholera (and other preventable) disease outbreaks. There are multiple Latin American countries that still struggle with diseases transmitted through water.
The last reflective and prospective change for next year is parent/student communication. Our daily Team Blog with homework was successful for communication, it had 24.8 thousand views during the school year. I do not want to change this. But school is not about homework; I want to be able to communicate all the great things the students are doing. So I am going to use Remind with the students and parents. This year I only used it with Student Council. If students want to do more projects, I want to share them with a wider audience than just the classroom. The project links can be tweeted out to parents to see. I also plan on creating digital badges to share with students through Remind, so their parents can see their accomplishments too (some possible examples are below).
Overall, this year was awesome, but I think next year can be better. Now that I have reflected, it’s time to take a break from thinking about school and to just think selfishly about myself. Happy Summer Teacher Friends! Even if we don’t really get the mythical 3 months off, may you still find time to relax and refresh.