Then this weekend I had an epiphany. Why did it have to be a large VHS case. If we put over the ear earbuds (from Dollar Tree) in the cases, they could be a lot smaller. That was when I noticed a sale on plastic storage at a craft store and decided to see what I could find. There it was, staring me in the face, 5x7 photo and craft keepers. They were compact, easy to organize, and fit the items perfectly. They just needed a good label. Enter my go to for creating signs, posters, etc. Canva. I was trying to decide what I wanted to do and started out with several attempts that included different techie looking backgrounds but none of them were right. The layouts were just not helping, until I looked at the CD cover layouts. One of them was black with goldenrod piano keys. I was stuck at how much that resembled the colors of a Micro:Bit so I started fiddling with it. I flipped and stretched, erased white keys and added black lines. A few circles and some numbers had it coming together so I had an interesting label. In the end I ended up constructing two images, one for the front and one for the back that included a space to write a student name with vis-a-vis so they would know which case contains their programs. I love when things come out so much better than I plan.
So that brings us back to how this "Mega Bundle" saved my sanity. The bundle, includes over 40 different levels of 4th grade (and into 5th grade) Common Core concepts. Each level includes around 24 different problems with QR codes to check answers. What I am doing with them in a bit different. Each day students have a certain time in their rotations that is assigned as the task list I already mentioned. During that time, they are required to start with the QR task cards. I have made 3 copies and split them up into 4 packs (1-6, 7-12, 13-18, and 19-24). They grab a pack of six cards and on the accompanying worksheet they record their answers to the questions. They then give their pack and worksheet to another student in their group that worked on a different set of cards. The second student uses the pack and a QR reader (we are currently using iPads but hope to find a simple reader for the chromebooks) to check the answers for correctness. This second student marks what is wrong and gives it back to the first student. Three or more wrong answers means that students lose the choice of what to do with the rest of their time and have to do review or scripted lesson programs. Two or less wrong means that they have more freedom to choose what they do, including during independent practice time if they have finished early. Part of the reasoning for my rules about others checking their work and the number correct has to do with keeping students honest about finishing their work and about not rushing just to get it done. By having a reward, they are more likely to take the work seriously. On Friday, if they have a certain number of problems correct through the week they get to make choices during task list, while those who got too many wrong have to go back through and redo the problems they had incorrect the first time around. This adds another layer of practice for those who need it. I have also seen a side benefit with the early finisher students that when they come to tell me they are done and ask what they should do, it is really simple to ask what they got on their QRs and allow them rewards or work based on that. Lastly, as tempting as it to have the students working on QRs that go with what we are currently learning, that isn't really the purpose of spiral learning so I try to focus on concepts that have already been taught. For instance we are currently working on fractions during our math lessons so last week I had them doing place value QR tasks. Now that we are working on simplest form, I notice division facts could be more solid so their QR's this week are division with remainders, a similar concept to what they need but not the same.
They have everyone excited to see what is next and more importantly, who will get to go.
Using the pocket microscopes suggested by fellow STEM sister Ashley and slices of tree branches cut by my dad in his woodshop, students are able to visually and kinesthetically experience a small part of what this STEM professional does. They were in awe that close up, wood has fibers in it and deep down has a shiny crystal-like appearance. They were allowed to trade in their slices to look at others and quickly began to choose the ones with the burr holes and dirt. Some even investigated the bark. Afterwards, they explored the Cabinet and encouraged their friends to watch certain ones. This is always one of my favorites and now with the addition of the pocket microscopes, I think it is also one of the students' favorites as well.
So I've talked about how excited I am to have received a grant from our local Community Foundation for a 30 student Google Expedition (Virtual Reality) Kit but the excitement is even greater today as the kit officially arrived from Best Buy Education. The current pictures can't begin to show just how amazing this kit is. The case, which has handles and wheels for transporting it around our two story building, is close to the same size as a chromebook cart. As you can see the whole top level is full of viewers (love the cyan color☺) and each viewer already contains what I can only describe as the Google version of an iPod. It's not a phone but smaller than a tablet and although its set up to run Google Expedition and Cardboard right from the start screen, it also has all the Google apps that we use at school making them very versatile. Already a few of the staff members and I have gone with cardboard to the arctic to fly with seagulls and see whales as well as a quick demo of Expedition that included getting up close and personal with chimpanzees and flying over the Eiffel Tower. Once all of the devices are connected to the network we will be able to go as a class to some amazing places. I'm already looking at my plans for next week to see just what of the hundreds of adventures might fit in with the content to be our first virtual field trip of the year. I can't wait to say to my students, "Let's get ready to go exploring together."
That's Elementary Explains is a teacher with almost 2 decades of teaching experience and a technology degree who is still trying to figure out the new and unexplained.