Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Creating Culturally Aware Future Citizens

I created my first actual "lesson" on Skype in the classroom!  (YAY for reaching goals and checking off things on "TO DO" lists!)  Then I used Twitter and Skype classroom to promote my lesson, and actually found the classroom that we ended up connecting with, through Twitter. 

The lesson dealt with our culture here in Texas, as students researched the REAL reason behind the recognition of Cinco de mayo in Mexico and the United States.  They hear about it so much here, that I thought all of my students should know about it.  This assignment also brought up some great discussion.  To begin, we discussed what our culture here in Texas is like, and then I had the students think about WHY our culture is how it is.  We discussed our proximity to Mexico and Central and South America and students shared their thoughts and experiences of immigrants coming through Texas to get into the U.S.
To begin their research, they scanned a QR code and were linked to an edcanvas that was organized with a few different resources they could use to research the topic.  This activity engaged students through reading and writing and they focused on summarizing and determining important details.  When they presented the information, they were able to practice their speaking and communication skills, (which we have been honing in on a lot lately with Skype).  They learned about the history of cinco de mayo and how we celebrate it today.  They compared what most people "think" Cinco de Mayo is about "just some tacos and a margarita" as one of my students said, to the real reason.

It was great to watch my students research, because the population of my students is about half and half African American and Hispanic.   I love to see their minds open up as they learn about culture!  It was funny, because it seemed that some of my African American students were more interested in Cinco de mayo than my Hispanic students : ).  I even had a student show his Salsa moves during our class!  My Hispanic students were also dancing in their chairs when the Mariachi music played on YouTube and had smiles spread wide across their faces! 
Studying different cultures and gaining an understanding of each others' cultures gives my students a common ground to stand on together, and a stronger way to connect with each other.
The real magic happened though, when we were able to connect with a 7th grade class from Iowa and share with them what we had learned.  One of my students opened up with telling about all the different Spanish speaking countries that his classmates come from:  Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, etc.  He struggled through the pronunciation of the names of the countries, but the learning that happened, was beautiful : ) .  Our students presented the information they learned as the 7th graders listened intently.  We then asked their class about what their culture was like up in rural Iowa...
I will say, having done a few Mystery Skypes, that I almost liked this Skype better, as it was more relaxed and I saw my students act in a more comfortable, social way as they communicated with these students from Iowa, and I was very impressed by their curiousity.  Our conversation quickly moved from geography, to what their school was like, to what they were studying in school, to NFL football, and finally to the excitment my students show when they tell someone about their tablets! 
Some questions that were asked between the classes included:
What is middle school like?
What is the class and school size?
What is your school mascot?
What is your state bird? 
What sports do you like to play? 
What crops are grown there? 
What is your favorite field trip you've gone on?
How many of you have visited Mexico?
What is the temperature like there?
How did you do on your state tests?  (one of my faves!)
What is the food like there?
How many of you have lived in Mexico?
How many of you have visited Mexico?
What are your favorite things about Mexico?  (To which a student responded:  "I liked that I was able to walk everywhere and my parents just let me go anywhere on my own.")
This was such an eye-opening experience for all of the students involved, and I love watching (most of) my kids grow more and more confident in their communication skills and willingness to talk and connect with others each day...


Thursday, May 9, 2013

QR code QRaaaaaazy!

I have taken a dive into the sea of QR codes and I am drowning in them- (In a good way!!)  And along with nearly everything else technology-wise that I have tried this year, I LOVE them!  Since each student has their own device, I can connect them to any website (document, etc.) that will supplement my instruction and there is no easier way to do it than through QR codes! 

QR code creation is fast, easy, and free and my students LOVE scanning the code and pulling up the site on their tablets!  I have tried sharing the links with them through Edmodo, but QR codes are so much more appealing, (to me and to them), to prepare and access.  I include QR codes on my Activboard with learning targets and instructions for the students.  If I get a new idea or find a resource at the last minute, I can come into my room in the a.m. and quickly link the resource to a QR code and display it for my students. 

Below, I have included the link to the site that I used this year to create my codes.  I know there are a ton more out there and I plan to do a little more exploring for next year, but this site provided me what I needed this year; simplicity and quickness! 
 If you are just getting started with QR codes, I highly reccomend this site!! 
Click the link below, paste the link to the website you want to get your students to, and VOILA:  They give you a QR code.  You can have the code emailed to you, you can print it, etc, but what I mostly did this year, was snip the code, using Snipping Tool, then copy and paste it to my Activboard.

Here are a few examples of the ways I used QR codes this year:::::

I have used QR codes for special occasions such as to link Earth Day activities for the students to access when they finished an assignment during the week of Earth Day.  These codes took the students to National Geographic interactive lessons on climate change and global warming.  The great thing about these activities, is that they supplement our science curriculum.  So it's not like I was just giving my students some random activites to celebrate Earth Day, but I was taking advantage of engaging them in something that they would need anyways!

I linked my students to an edcanvas, which is an online resource that organizes many resources in one place for students to use.  They scanned the code and it took them to the edcanvas: Cinco de mayo, which they then used to research Cinco de mayo.  Students presented the information they researched about Cinco de mayo to the class and to a 7th grade class in Iowa, whom we connected to through a Skype call.

Before we started a lesson, students scanned a QR code that took them to edcanvas: Analogies that helped them to review a topic that we covered earlier in the year.  I gave them just a few minutes at the beginning of class to complete the edcanvas and I also posted some questions for them, that they would need to be able to answer after viewing the materials to discuss with the class.

I have linked students to YouTube videos that review a concept we have done earlier in the year before we discuss.  With the QR code, I included our learning target for the day and expectations of what they needed to get from the video in order to participate in the discussion afterwards.

Students were linked to a figurative language website where they investigated meanings and examples of poetry elements.


Students were linked to a Google Doc where they signed up for a presentation day and time.

Something that I have always struggled with as a teacher, is what to give my students who finish early to do, while my other students are still working.  I did not really like just telling them to read silently, yet I needed something that would keep them quiet.  At the same time, that something would need to serve a purpose by having a connection to our curriculum and supplementing what they were responsible for learning that year. 

 For this, I again turned to QR codes and came up with:  the QR Code Wall!!!!!
Problem SOLVED! 
Linked to the QR code wall are resources that my students can connect to in their spare time. 
These resources include mostly language arts resources such as: 
Other links on the wall include Edmodo and Mark Wood Explorer Homepage.

Finally, outside of my classroom, under my name plate, I have QR codes that link students, parents, and coworkers to my school webpage and my technology blog.

I will continue to use QR codes as a daily part of my classroom and work towards integrating them in new and different ways... I welcome your suggestions, comments, and ideas if you have any!