Flipping a second grade classroom

One of the assignments for this class was to create either a podcast or a flipped classroom lesson. Since I had chosen second grade science, I thought about the different ways in which I could flip the class. While many teachers like to have their students watch a lecture at home, I was wary about doing that with a second grade class. It’s not that I do not think they could handle it – most definitely, I think they could. In fact, I think that watching a video and responding to a question for homework would be fun for many students. My caution came at the idea of losing out on a opportunity to have extra reading time with my students.

Therefore, I decided to flip my classroom using a podcast. My students would listen to a recording of me reading a book while they followed along with the actual book, pausing to interject questions, remind them to flip pages, or point out something in the pictures. They would then complete an online form associated with the book. I thought this approach would be very helpful, especially, for the students who need a little extra time having someone read to them. Further, this could be easily differentiated as different forms could be created for different students, and even different recordings allowing for different levels of scaffolding could be done as well.

The book I read was Wetlands by Lynn M. Stone. The online form I created can be viewed here:


Stone, L.M. Wetlands: Biomes of North America. Vero Beach, FL: Rourke Publishing, Inc.

Mind Maps: mind blowing or mind numbing?

One of the things we had to do for class was to create a mind map as a graphic organizer.  Since I have only really created flow charts and outlines previously, I was excited to try creating my very first graphic organizer. Our assignment was to use a new-to-me way to create our mind maps. At first I tried to create one using Exploratree. From looking at the options, I figured that it would work really well for me and could be very helpful in the future. After trying to create a mind map, however, I was wrong. The auto format was a bear for me to use and I could not keep my map from keeping normal text or staying viewable.

As an alternative, I decided to try using SmartArt in good ol’ fashioned Microsoft Word. Technically, I had not tried to use it, as any flowcharts or outlines I had made previously were ones that I had specially built using shapes, lines, and arrows, so I was very hopeful that this would be easy peasy. It wasn’t. I had the same exact problem with SmartArt that I did with Exploratree. I kept wanting to make additional levels of text, which made the bubbles smaller and the text unreadable. I will admit my frustration with the programs, but I will admit that in using them I was unaware of how detailed I could (or couldn’t) get. Finally, I decided to simplify the bubble and make something that outlined the two lessons I was working on. Here’s what I finally came up with:

Mind Map 1

Using these two programs and having the same difficulty with each brought me to the conclusion that clearly I am not adept at this and need much more practice. I can definitely see the utility in making these other graphic organizers for my students, and so I will continue to try using these when I can and hopefully one day I will get the hang of how much information I can put in before it starts to get wonky. I think that either SmartArt or Exploratree are both good starting points for those who have not had to create graphic organizers previously and even though I had trouble with them, I would still recommend using them.

Technology: Student v. Schools

For class this week, I read the article “Schools and Students Class Over Use of Technology” by Kristina Schwartz of Mindshift. The article addressed the issue of hesitant schools and their students who want to use technology and their own devices for learning. This article discussed how students and their parent are worried that they will not get the technological skills needed for their futures, while the schools are worried about the appropriateness of using devices in learning.

I thought this was a very good article that addressed a very real issue that schools are facing today regarding technology. As much as I am a supporter of the use of technology in schools, I also agree that technology needs to be used appropriately. The article stated that most people use their mobile devices to access the internet and social media. While this may be, I ask that if 21st Century skills include technological skills, then isn’t it the responsibility of schools to educate student on proper use and wide application of technology? And isn’t it the responsibility of the schools to come up with user guidelines and decide protocol for when rules are broken?

plugged in world

I know that change can be scary, and I agree that allowing students to bring devices into class that could potentially distract them even more can feel very risky, but if technological skills are needed for our students to be successful as adults, then I am absolutely supportive of having technology in my classroom, providing my students follow the rules established for proper use. I feel these technological skills are not only important hard skills for success, but I also believe that learning how to communicate via technology will be a very important soft skill needed for future success.

Image from: http://www.chinleusd.k12.az.us/mve/technology/

Visual History

One of my new favorite uses of YouTube is to show historical concepts chronologically in video. That’s why when I saw the TED Talk given by David Christian on the History of our World in 18 Minutes as an option in the list of TED Talks to check out, I just had to watch it. Though the discussion was very interesting, I found it humorous that the entire video was not even 18 full minutes and that the introduction was a little over three. So, in reality, the title probably could have been The History of Our World in 14 minutes.

Ted Logo

After the introduction, the discussion of the history of our world actually went all the way back to the big boom and through the history of the universe as well. Because there was an accompanying timeline playing, following the discussion, I was so excited that the discussion would be broken up according to periods and would spend the appropriate amount of time for each period in history, thus showing exactly how much of a blip we are in history.

Alas, that was not how the presentation went in the end, and there was more time spent on mammals and humans than I had initially thought there would be. Aside from my disappointment in that, however, the talk was overall pretty great. Rather than just follow the timeline, the discussion and visuals cut to other diagrams and pictures, including a heat map that showed tiny changes in temperatures that had significant influences on how our universe formed. Further, I enjoyed the explanation about the increasing complexities of the universe throughout its history. This TED Talk was detailed enough for me to learn something, and short enough that I did not get distracted by things going on around me. I very much enjoyed this TED Talk.

Lastly, this discussion reminded me about the universe song from Animaniacs. Here’s the link. Enjoy!


Now What?

Over the last few weeks we have learned various applications and websites to use to bring technology into the classroom. As part of our assignments for this class we will be creating lesson plans that integrate technology. Essentially, we have come to the Now What? part of the semester, where we start showing that we can appropriately integrate technology as aid in our students’ learning.

A few weeks ago, I had chosen the second grade science standard about erosion. At first I did have some ideas, but that was before all the options we had learned since! Needless to say, tonight I was feeling a bit like this:

Frazzled Katie

But after asking my professor my questions and speaking with him about my concerns, I remembered the overarching theme I have seen throughout all the articles I have read and videos I have watched: the technology we use needs to be appropriate to what we are teaching. It is meant as an aid to enhance our lessons, and it is supposed to fit in naturally. Remembering this helped me focus on just the applications that made sense to what I am planning to teach. And that made all the difference!

Consequently, I left class feeling much more like this:

Calmed Katie

Peer Instruction – Flipping the idea of flipped classrooms on its head

So in my last post, I mentioned the “simple” explanation for a flipped classroom, the lecture is done through video and the applications are done in class. After listening to a podcast on Peer Instruction on Ed Reach, I have realized just how simple my explanation was.

According to Dr. Julie Schell, their featured guest, peer instruction is also a form of a flipped classroom. Though it might not require students to watch videos at home, or do homework or projects in class, the students are required to pre-learn some material before class and be ready to discuss it during class. According to the interview, Peer Instruction requires the following six steps:

1. Brief Presentation – Dr. Schell does not think that lecture has to be completely omitted from a flipped classroom environment, and instead, thinks it has its place.

2. Pose a question that requires application. – Dr. Schell recommends that this question be meaningful so that the students care about it.

3. Students “vote” or respond to the question.

4. Students pair off with another student in the class who has an opposing opinion, and convince the other person of his point of view.

5. Go back together and talk about it as a group.

6. Closure – Dr. Schell emphasizes the importance of this so that the learning is continued after the activity. This can be a post-presentation created by students, but again, the question and topic need to be meaningful enough for the students to want to follow-up.

After looking at this format, it does seem like it fits the bill for the flipped classroom, and is simply another method of in-class application of material. Dr. Schell also expressed the importance of making sure the methods fit the material. This makes perfect sense to me. After all, teaching methods, regardless of what they are, are tools for helping students learn. If the method is not appropriate to the material, then it is probably not the best method to choose. Dr. Schell stressed this, and I agree, incorporating diverse teaching methods keeps the classroom interesting and forces students to learn in different ways. I certainly felt this podcast was helpful to me, and highly recommend listening to it.

Click here to listen to the podcast referenced above.

After listening to this podcast, I am unsure that I would give just a traditional audio podcast to my students. I found myself getting easily distracted with only just listening when at home, and I feel like just giving a podcast will create barriers for visual learners. As I am planning to teach elementary school, however, I might to use one as a way build listening skills. Or I might use one as part of a treasure hunt.

Flip it…flip it good!

This week we looked at the flipped classroom – the new method of teaching that, simply put, has the students watch the lectures at home and do application of problems and projects in class with the teacher.

Flipped Classroom

As part of our assignment to explore the different styles of the flipped classroom through our assignment on TED ED, I explored the blog, User Generated Education and more specifically, the post, A Flipped Classroom Model: A Full Picture. The post takes the reader through the theories behind the flipped classroom and explains how it fits in educational theorists like John Dewey and allows for higher level thinking, as outlined in Bloom’s Taxonomy. According to the blog’s author, Dr. Jackie Gerstein, though it is coined “flipped classroom” the actual method “is really a cycle of learning model.” She adds that it is the fear of teachers teaching in the unknown and knowing how to make it work effectively keeps the flipped classroom from becoming the new norm. And to keep it from becoming another fad, she emphasizes the effective part and the need to make it fit into the larger educational picture, like the philosophies of education and learning which we follow from Dewey and Bloom.

In addition to adding an interesting perspective to the idea of the flipped classroom, this post was chuck-full of links to so many other sources that I couldn’t read my browser tabs anymore. (Okay, so I did have a few others open for other things as well, but still there was a lot of information offered.) Rather than simply describe the method, Gerstein shows us resources that can help us apply these methods to our own classroom. Overall, I thought this was a very helpful blog for better understanding not just the idea of a flipped classroom, but also the application of a flipped classroom.

The use of Twitter

As promised…an update on Twitter.

Twitter_Logo_VoltWhen I first started using Twitter I was very apprehensive. I had not previously seen the utility in it for me, but decided to try it out for class as part of my creating a Personal Learning Network. The first week or so was a little awkward. Despite my professor’s suggestions, I was unsure who to follow. There were some suggestions from Twitter, but at the same time they seemed vast and narrow. I felt very lost.

I decided to go with the suggestions I was given to get started and started following a few of the suggested users, along with a few of Twitter Snipmy classmates. Then I added a few organizations that I had wanted to follow, and then some more. Then I found myself adding authors of articles I had read because I enjoyed the article and the resources they suggested and I wanted to have access to more of what they found helpful.


Though I am only following 36 users and have only 8 followers myself, it feels like I have done a 180 in how I feel about it. I am not sure what I was expecting, but the best resource that I have found in Twitter is people. Just everyday people, educators, sharing ideas. To me, this resource so much greater than any technological find I could grab from Twitter (though I did find a cool tool that a classmate is using called Vizify, an online all about me tool, but more about that in a bit). Through these people, I can find articles dealing with all sorts of education issues. To me, that is very exciting, and I am quickly learning how easily I can find a trail of new information to follow.



One of the cool new tools that I have found through Twitter is Vizify. It was one of the resources that we were given as a choice to look into in our technology class, but I had not checked out. I finally noticed it through my Twitter feed. One of my classmates tried it out and Tweeted the link. I checked out what he had done and found it a pretty neat tool. It is like an online All About Me tool. From what I can tell, it is set up kind of like a story web with you at the center, using your social media to help fill in the blanks. My classmate chose to do pages for career, school, and personal. From what I have seen, it is a creative way to visually tell about yourself. This is not something I am sure I will use, but it was certainly an interesting find.

Other Resources

Besides people and some new tools, I have also found certain organizations to be great resources. In my Twittering pursuits, I decided to follow educational and even environmental organizations like PBS and PBS Kids, Smithsonian Channel, Discovery Education, National Geographic, and Wildlife Conservation Society. For me, as a future elementary school teacher, these are great resources for enriching my class and keeping information up-to-date and relevant for my students, and I know that I will use these resources regularly.

Follow Me!

Overall, I am very happy that I chose to try Twitter, and though I am off to a slow start, I can now see its usefulness to me as an educator. I look forward to growing my Personal Learning Network through Twitter and to becoming an active user. If you are an educator, either just starting out or trying to expand your Personal Learning Network and exposure to technology for the classroom, I wholeheartedly recommend giving Twitter a chance. I am so happy that I did. Click here to see my Twitter profile!

Oh the possibilities!

This week we were tasked with trying one of the visualization resources we discussed in our previous class. I decided to give Wordle a try. I had seen products of Wordle before and really liked them, but never knew the tool that created them. I really like that the program pulls out the most often used words and displays them artistically. I think that Wordle will be something I will use often in my classroom.

Below is a visual representation of my last post using Wordle. Here is the link to my Wordle.

Wordle - Blog Post


Additionally, I think this could be a great tool for visually showing writers words that they might overuse, and it could even be used with a thesaurus to help expand vocabulary. For example, if I ended up teaching sixth grade, I would have my students run their essays through Wordle to see which words they used most often. After identifying those words, they can either think of other words with similar meanings or use a thesaurus for additional help. By learning to vary word use, they can then learn to vary sentence structure.

Other uses for Wordle could be to find common themes in speeches or other writing. For instance, the speeches made by Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. could easily be compared using Wordle. The visual representations created by Wordle make it so easy and saves so much time, allowing the class to focus on the theme, rather than the act of sorting out and matching the common words.

I am excited to use Wordle more in the future!

Teachers learn too!

Each day that we have class, I find myself continually inspired by what we discuss and read. This week we read the article, “The Nuts and Bolts of 21st Century Teaching”. Suffice it to say, the author Shelley Wright truly amazed me; not simply because she decided to change her teaching approach for a particular assignment, but because of how she let herself be challenged to try something new and in doing so found an amazing new teaching strategy.

Ms. Wright decided to take a new approach to teaching her students about the Holocaust. Rather than teach them through lecture like she had previously done, she decided to give them a hands-on, inquiry learning experience and had her students research and curate an exhibit on the Holocaust. Instead of giving instructions on steps to take, Ms. Wright simply gave a timeline of where she wanted her students to be, and then let them take the lead. She helped them come up with the focus by having them write ideas on sticky notes and then had her class group the ideas together into like topics. This gave them a starting point to break into groups for researching, but the rest was up to her students.

When they got stuck, she intervened very little and instead guided them to find the answer. And when they needed inspiration to get them over the transition from researching to composition, she showed them a video to inspire them. I found the following statement from the article very poignant, “Inquiry learning is not a familiar experience for them. Instead, by grade 10, my students have learned that if they wait long enough, they will be rescued. Not anymore.” I actually found this to be the crux of her entire lesson and one of the most important skills she taught them – that no one is going to hold their hand through life.

Some of the technology she used in her class were applications we have looked at like Delicious and Google Docs. She showed easy applications of these programs in her classroom. I particularly liked that she introduced them naturally and in a way that fit with what the needs of the assignment were. This was very fitting to her goal of making the assignment something that was relevant and timely for her students.

Though the story of her students working their way through this assignment was inspiring on its own, what got me most was her story. Through this journey, Ms. Wright found herself more engaged and excited about this project because her students were. She had started a brand new project unsure of where it would lead, and ended up learning alongside her students. To me, that is at the heart of teaching, and that is most inspiring about this whole story. I ended up following Ms. Wright on Twitter (@wrightsroom), and in her feed found a tweet with two very amazing videos that gave me chills. Here is the link.


I am going to keep this article in mind so that when I am a teacher I can be reminded to take chances in trying new approaches with my students.