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What it is:  Hooda Math is a fantastic collection of math games that give students the opportunity for math fact practice while having fun. The games are based on other addicting games like Flappy Birds and 2048. Instead of just playing the games to see how far they can get, students also get some...

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Detox: the most important event of the school year

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Art, Character Education, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, education reform, Evaluate, Fun & Games, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 13-08-2013

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Anastasis is in the midst of gearing up for the start of a new school year.  It is year number 3!  In some ways, we are still very much a start-up (I think this will always be the case in some respect, it’s part of our philosophy to keep innovating!).  We are also beginning to establish some nice traditions and events that we look forward to each year at the start of school.

Each year, we take a few days to meet with each student individually to build a Learning Profile.  Teachers sit down with each student and  go through a survey that helps them better understand a student’s interests and passions as well as gain a glimpse at multiple intelligence strengths, learning style preferences, and brain dominance.  These Learning Profile days give students a chance to meet their new teacher in a safe space, help the teacher to learn about the student, and ultimately are used to help Team Anastasis individualize instruction for each learner.  I’ve played around with different ways to gather this information: Google forms that the teacher fills in during an interview, Bento for gathering information in one place, an interactive PDF.  This year I took a different approach, I am hopeful that it will be more fun for the students.  I created a set of cards to sort of gamify the process, giving students a tangible and visual way to think through each statement as it relates to them.  Teachers will record this process and then hand the data collected off to me for future planning.  I used my new favorite find http://thenounproject.com to help me illustrate these cards.  Fun fact: I have an ACTUAL artist working on the next version of these cards that I will be able to share with the world!  @mdusing is creating illustrations for each card to help students better understand what each card represents, some of the concepts can be pretty abstract (empathy is always a tough one for kids to connect with…even when they are VERY empathetic!).  This version will be available for all of you as a download; it will also be woven into The Learning Genome Project.

Learning Profile Interests/passion survey

Learning style preference cards

Multiple intelligence cards

Brain Dominance cards

Because our philosophy and model are so different, we start each year with a week of detox (fitting since our initials are AA) ;).  During this week, we help students “stand up again” in who they are as learners, as creators, as individuals.  We undo some of the messages they have learned about learning: that it happens in specific ways and at specific times, that the goal is answers, that the teacher knows it all, that a test is the only way to measure success, that they are bad at learning certain things, that they can’t be friends with kids who are a different age than they are, that only some people are creative…the list could go on and on!

Our detox week is a time for students to remember that they matter.  It is an opportunity for them to re-frame the ways that they think about learning.  It is a time for them to share their passions with each other.  It is a chance to realize the working together is more productive than competing in learning.  It is a safe time to explore creativity.  It is also the week that new students start to discover that the relationship with their teacher is different here.  That the goal of coming to school isn’t an “A” at the end of the semester.

I love this week!  We see kids who begin to come back to life.  The spark in their eye that can only come through discovering something new.  For some kids, this week is life changing.  Others are a little more hesitant, they don’t trust the freedom that we offer.  They wonder when the “real work” will start and they will settle back into mediocrity.  For these students, the detox week is a glimpse of things to come that they aren’t sure if they can trust.  It usually takes about a month to really settle in and see that we really do mean what we say.

Individual classes explore what it means to be vulnerable.  How to be proud of the individual talents and gifts that make up a class.  How to work together to do hard things.  We also bring the whole Anastasis community together for some activities.  Our first year, students worked together to create iPad styluses out of sponge and wire for less than 10 cents.  Last year we held an all-school day of play (highly recommend that!) and marshmallow/spaghetti tower challenge.  This year we have some fun group art projects and challenges planned.

At the end of second week, we will hold our third annual identity day.  This is an opportunity for students to share an area of passion with the school community.  Students can choose to share anything they want to in a way that they want to.  We hold a school-wide fair and invite families to attend.  The set up almost looks like a science fair when all is said and done.  We spend the day getting to know each other- apart from classroom constraints.  We take a moment to see the world from another point of view.  It is a spectacular day of honoring each child for who they are (teachers participate, too!).  After a half day of sharing ourselves, we spend the rest of the day building community at a local park where we go ice-blocking.  For those who have never had the privilege of ice-blocking, it involves purchasing a block of ice from a grocery store, finding a large grassy hill, sitting on the block of ice, and sledding down the hill in the sunshine.  We have a blast!  Parents, teachers, and students get involved in the fun.  Barriers are broken down, friendships forged and a community bound together for a year of life and learning together.

Our detox week may be the single most important week of the entire year.  It sets the tone, letting students know that this is a safe place to be who they are.  That this is a place where learning looks like life.  That the questions this year will be as important as the answers.  I’m not sure Anastasis would be the incredible place of learning it is without our detox week.

I collect ideas for inquiry units and our detox week on Pinterest.  If you are interested in hosting your own “detox,” check out the ideas saved here!

Of course, you can always follow all of my boards on Pinterest here.

Also random side note, I’m trying to convince Anastasis staff that it is a good idea for us to start an Extreme Combat Juggling team.  It’s a real thing, which is awesome.  Feel free to help me in this encouragement, on Twitter they are: @michellek107, @dweissmo, @bestmscott, @nancybabbitt, @matthewquigley, @lancefinkbeiner.  :)

 

First Day of School: Anastasis Academy #standagain

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Classroom Management | Posted on 22-08-2011

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Today was one for the books.  We did it! We opened a school with a radical new vision for what a school should look like in light of learning.  It was a truly great day!

Of course there were some bumps (that is to be expected with ANY first day of school) but I have to say, when you surround yourself with incredible people it is hard to go wrong.  When I say that we built a dream team it is not an exaggeration.  These are true teachers, masters at what they do because each of them is a linchpin.  They don’t wait around for someone to tell them what to do, they exude greatness and encourage the same in their students.

We started our day the way we will start every day at Anastasis Academy, with a community mile walk.  We call this a community walk because families are invited to do it with us.  Every family joined us today.  I know that won’t be the case every day but it was an incredible start to the year to see a whole community walk together.

After the walk, the community gathered for a blessing for the year from our Board Members.  These are people who have poured into us and mentored us in so many ways.  We couldn’t be where we are without our board and the people it represents.

Today there were discussions about community, what it means to properly manage freedom and how to be a friend.  The children are incredibly perceptive and these discussions led to some pretty profound insights from the students.  One fourth grader noted “Freedom requires a lot of responsibility.”  Students seemed to grasp that freedom doesn’t mean that we get to do whatever we want when we want to.  It requires something of us.  There were discussions about what this freedom looks like within our school community, what this freedom looks like in learning and what this freedom looks like in our technology use with the iPads.

The iPads are still a novelty for many of the students.  They wanted to do EVERYTHING on the iPads all at once because they could.  “Let’s play a game, listen to music, and have a video going all at once!!”  I suspect that the novelty will wear off as students come to realize that the iPad isn’t just a once-in-a-while privileged but something that they can learn with all the time.  One of my favorite moments of the day was when some eighth grade boys came up from lunch having an argument about which was bigger: a liter or a gallon.  Their first instinct wasn’t to use their iPads and Google the answer, but to ask an adult.  They are still in the mindset that adults hold all of the knowledge of the world.   It was a great time for us to shrug our shoulders and remind them that they had the whole world at their fingertips and could discover the answer themselves.

We had some fun whole-school activities built into the day.  Before school each teacher wrote 10 things about themselves.  Each item was printed out on a separate piece of paper.  These were spread out on the floor and students were to choose an item and match it to the teacher they thought it belonged to.  Each teacher stood in a different corner and the students set off trying to match talents, passions and fears to the correct teacher.  After they had correctly placed all of the items, each teacher took a moment to go through their stack, introducing themselves to the students.  The kids asked great follow-up questions and were excited that many of their own passions, interests and fears were reflected in those leading them in learning this year.  It was so much fun to see students faces light up when teachers said things like “I love Star Wars” or “I love to play basketball”.  They begged for proof when we shared secret talents “touching our tongue to our nose”.  They shared a special bond when they found out that even adults have fears. (Mine is taxidermy-true story.)

Because we are in a brand new building, we had to come up with a way of helping kids find things like bathrooms, drinking fountains, classrooms, playgrounds, lunchroom, etc.  I thought a scavenger hunt would be a fun way to do this.  Since I am a HUGE geek, I decided to do this techy style with QR codes.  Each team (classroom) got 10 QR codes that led them to clues with each student in charge of one clue.  Students downloaded the free Scan app and scanned the QR codes to receive a clue.  As a team, they worked together to solve the clue to find different areas in the building.  When they solved the clue they took a picture of the answer using the camera app.  At the end of the hunt, students added up their points.  All ages had fun with the hunt!

I deemed the day a success when, at the end of the day, I overheard siblings use their iPad to FaceTime with their dad.  He asked how the first day was and both answered, “great! We had fun!”.  The first grader went on to enthusiastically tell her dad about the scavenger hunt that she went on and the pictures that she took.  The seventh grader added some additional details about how the QR codes worked.  Both talked about relationships with teachers and students.  To have that on the first day of a new school is telling.  We have a great team.

Passwords may have been missing, permissions needed to be configured but all in all it was a fantastic success!  I can’t wait to see what the year brings.

Onward.

Image Chef

Posted by admin | Posted in Character Education, Fun & Games, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Spelling, web tools, Websites | Posted on 21-07-2009

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Image Chef

What it is: Image Chef is a great little web tool that takes words and transforms them into a graphical image.  Image Chef is similar in look to Wordle but works a little differently.  In Wordle, the size of the word changes based on how frequently the word was used in the text.  In Image Chef, the word size doesn’t change based on how frequently it is used in the text.  Image Chef takes the words typed in a text box, and displays them in a word mosaic.  Image Chef has a variety of shapes and symbols to choose from.  Any text entered will be displayed in the shape selected.  Registered users can also create their own shapes to display text graphically.  Image Chef has the added bonus of graphically displaying text inside letters.  The look of the image can be changed by adjusting font, text color, background color, and symbol or initial.  Individual words can be highlighted by changing the color and clicking on a word in the mosaic.  Word mosaics can be shared on blogs, emailed, printed, or saved on Image Chef.

How to integrate Image Chef into the classroom: Image Chef is a fun web tool for displaying words in new and interesting ways.  My favorite feature of Image Chef is the ability to create word mosaics inside letters.  This feature would be a good way for students to practice phonics.  For example, students could create a letter “a” word mosaic filled with short a words (see my example above).  Students could type blends inside of the blend letters, long and short vowel words, r-conrolled words, etc.  These word mosaics could be printed out and bound into a phonics booklet for students, or displayed on a word wall.  Image Chef mosaics would also be a great way for students to explore synonyms.  Students can type synonyms into the text box and find or create an appropriate symbol to represent the words.  Image Chef would make for a fun first week of school activity.  Students could type in their initials as the shape for the word mosaic.  In the text field, they can type in words that represent them.  Print these out and display on a bulletin board next to student pictures.  For older students, Image Chef could be used to create a large periodic table of elements.  Choose the initials that represent the element on the periodic table and type the name of the element in the text box to fill the initials.  Create a large periodic table for the classroom with the printed elements.

Tips: I learned about this awesome web tool from a tweet by @njtechteacher, definitely a teacher to follow this #teachertuesday!  When you click on the Image Chef Link you will be taken to the Image Chef homepage (the site contains much more than just the word mosaic)  To create a word mosaic click on “Word Mosaic” under “Create” in the left column of the website.

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Image Chef in your classroom.

Jigsaw Planet

Posted by admin | Posted in Foreign Language, Fun & Games, Geography, History, Interactive Whiteboard, Internet Safety, Language Arts, Math, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Spelling, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 20-08-2008

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Computer Lab Rules4 - online jigsaw puzzle - 9 pieces

What it is: Well, it is the first week of school which for me means that it is rules week.  Every teacher has to go over the rules at some point and it is usually met by major groans from students.  This year I approached rules week differently.  I used an awesome site called Jigsaw Planet to turn my rules into jigsaw puzzles.  Jigsaw Planet is a site that makes it simple to create custom jigsaw puzzles.  Just upload a jpeg image to the site, choose how many pieces you want, what shape you want the pieces to be and Jigsaw Planet does the rest.  You instantly have a custom interactive puzzle for your students to play!  The puzzles can be saved for your own account, shared with students via a url, or embedded into your classroom website for easy access.

How to integrate Jigsaw Planet into the classroom: Jigsaw Planet puzzles are AMAZING to use with an interactive whiteboard!  Each puzzle is timed as you put it together, split students into teams to see which team can complete the puzzle the fastest.  Instead of the typical PowerPoint type presentation to teach students facts, create a puzzle for them to put together and have them read the fact once the puzzle has been completed.  Turn your classroom rules into a series of jigsaw puzzles for students to put together.  Honor your star student of the week by creating a puzzle of that student, just take a picture of the student and upload to Jigsaw Planet. Put the puzzle of the student on your classroom website to honor them.  Students can use Jigsaw Planet to create their own puzzles.  This is a great place for them to study, they can upload spelling words, math facts, maps, etc.  Students will love creating their own jigsaw puzzles, if they have their own blog or website they can embed the puzzles right into their online space.  If you have a projector or an interactive whiteboard, have students create a puzzle all about them.  They can create a collage of things they like in a presentation program, take a screen shot of it, and upload the puzzle to Jigsaw Planet.  Students can put together each other’s puzzles and guess who the student is based on the pictures.  This would be a great getting to know you activity!

Tips: I split students into two teams.  Each team would complete a puzzle using our new Mimio interactive whiteboard, the fastest time was the winner of that round.  When the puzzle was completed, students would read the rule and we would discuss in depth.  This made rule day fun for the kids and much more enjoyable for me!

Jigsaw Planet Tech Rules/RUP
The beginning of the year is a time of new rules, policies, and procedures. Make it fun and memorable using interactive Jigsaw puzzles. This collection includes lesson plan (aligned to ISTE NETS), alternative lesson ideas, a Step-by-Step guide for creating interactive jigsaw puzzles, templates in both Keynote (09) and PowerPoint (97-2010), and a sample Responsible Use Policy. Grade Level: k-5 Requirements for lesson: *Internet Access *Computer with projector OR interactive whiteboard
Price: $.99

Leave a comment and share how you are using Jigsaw Planet in your classroom.