Saturday, 24 June 2017

Getting kids hyped about blogging: an update

A few weeks ago we looked at our blog stats and our global audiences.  Since then, my learners have become more interested in sharing their learning on their blogs. I really wanted to capture and keep their enthusiasm, so I have made a display for the room. 

1000 club

My kids were really excited to see their blog views as well as the countries. I decided to encourage this attitude, as well as a little competition.  I started off with just the '1000 club' - for students who have 1000 blog views or more. Since some of my students have only just got blogs, I decided to also include a '500 club'. I want my learners to feel proud of their blog views and celebrate their global audience.  

Top bloggers

I also wanted to encourage my learners to regularly post high quality blog posts.  I decided to run a weekly competition, using a tally system.  Every time a student posts a high quality blog post, they get one point.  The top blogger of the week gets a prize.  I have enlisted the help of 3 students to check the blog posts and record the points. My helpers check that the blog post clearly explains their learning, how they went and what they can do to improve. My helpers also check that the blog posts make sense. It has also been helpful to have helpers, as it can be hard to check every blog post before it is posted.


At the bottom of the display I have included the students infographics about their global audience.

How it's going

Even though I have just started using this blog display, my learners are already so keen to get sharing their learning. In fact, after explaining how the top bloggers competition works, something crazy happened.  The bell went for morning tea, and no one moved.  Every student stayed and completed their blog posts. And it kept happening throughout the week.  Personally, I think a little extrinsic motivation can work wonders. When students write a blog post they are summarising, evaluating and reflecting on their learning. Even if they are motivated by the idea of a prize, they are still summarising, evaluating and reflecting on their learning, which I think is awesome. 

Next steps

I am hoping that my students enthusiasm towards blogging will continue.  It is important that I continue to stress the importance of quality blog posts, where students summarise, evaluate and reflect. I would like my learners to write more detail in their blog posts that is more than "I need to try harder".   I would like my learners to be more specific as this will help them to understand their next steps in learning.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Getting real about meanness

Over the last couple of weeks I had noticed a change in some of my students behaviour. There has been some unkind comments towards other classmates and bad sportsmanship happening. While this change in behaviour was in its beginning stages, I decided to do something about it ASAP before it got worse. Here is what happened!

Wordcloud of 'mean' words

Word cloud created on Tagul
I know my learners are awesome and good kids, so I wanted to shock them and make them reflect on their words and actions. First up, I displayed a word cloud on the SMART board.  I got them to have a long, hard look at the words. Then, I asked if any of the words could be used to describe themselves. A lot of them said yes. We talked about the fact that these were mean and negative words. Then I told them that I actually created the word cloud based on what I was seeing in the classroom. My students looked a mixture of shock and guilt. I asked them whether they felt proud of those words, obviously nobody was.  I also reinforced the point that I believed my students were good, kind kids and that it was important that they understood how their actions and words affect others.

Creating a not-so-pretty picture

Next up, we had a look at the mean things that were being said in our classroom. Sticky-notes and felts were handed out. I asked the class to write down all the 'mean' things that have been said about them. For this one instance, I allowed them to also record swears, except with asterisks instead. I understand that it may be controversial to do so, but I felt it was needed as I wanted to be real with the kids and I wanted them to see all the mean things on paper.

I was surprised by how open my students were when it came to writing and sharing their sticky notes. Some students were okay with putting their own up, while others preferred me to come around and take them. My whiteboard quickly filled up with sticky notes. It did not paint a pretty picture. Again, the students reflected on what was up on the whiteboard. I read most of them outloud, which shocked the class. Then I asked them to put their hand up if someone in our class had said some of the mean things to them. All but one student put their hand up.

Consequences of meanness

Next, we used AnswerGarden to answer the question How does it feel when people say mean things?  AnswerGarden was a great tool to use for this particular activity because we could see common thoughts/feelings the class feel as a result of meanness. Again, we talked a lot about the ideas shared on the sticky notes and the direct consequences they had on our classmates. I reiterated that sometimes people don't mean to hurt other people, but it is important to realise how words and actions can affect people. I also reminded them that I knew that they are better than this, and that knowing effect of words/actions will help them to make better choices.

Stepping up and taking action

Following all the heavy stuff, I wanted to turn the mood around. I chose to talk about being a bystander vs stepping up and looking out for our classmates. I chose to use this particular YouTube clip because it had a few powerful messages, as well as an array of famous people that the students would know. My class was able to take away the key messages that were in the clip. While they understood the power of their negative words, they also realised the power they had to help someone in need of a friend.

Lastly we used Mentimeter to so share our ideas about what we could do to ensure we are being kind. I decided to make a connection to my initial  'mean' wordcloud, by asking my learners to share how they want to be remembered/described. Next students came up with ideas in response to the question: What can you do to make sure you are being a kind person. The class came up with heaps of ideas (64 to be exact) and we had a discussion about most of them. The mood had changed and the class was positive. I could really tell that they were thinking carefully about what they could do to be a kind person. Lastsly, students shared their ideas about why it is important to be kind.  They used what they had learnt from the lesson to come up with some serious ideas. 

Summing it up

I was very pleased with how this lesson went because it did have the potential to go wrong.  My students showed maturity, empathy and understanding throughout the lesson. I was relieved that my class was open and willing to participate in the lesson.  I understand that it took courage to share the mean things being said, as well as how it affects them. But it also meant that the learning was more powerful, as everyone was serious and honest. Talking about mean words and the effect it has on people seemed to strike a chord with class.  It was important to use a lot of wait time, as I wanted to make sure my learners were thinking about the seriousness of our lesson. It was equally important for me to turn it around into positives, by reminding them that I knew they were good kids and that it was up to them to make it right.  

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Student blogging: getting kids hyped about their global audience

I have been thinking about ways to encourage and motivate my learners to share their learning on their blogs.  This is something that is expected in Manaiakalani, however I feel that my learners are not really interested in it.  We have learnt about what to include in a blog post as well as writing blog comments. Now I have turned my focus on helping my learners to want to share their learning on their blogs (rather than me telling them).

Click here to view the Google Drawing that was used for this lesson

The motivator

A student at another Manaiakalani school received a comment from a famous author.
Before we started looking at our blog statistics we discussed the idea of a 'global audience'.  To motivate my learners, I shared with them a blog post from an ex-student from another school.  In her blog, she wrote about a recipe that was inspired from a book she had read. The author actually found her blog post and commented on it! This was a powerful way to illustrate that sharing your learning online can be exciting and gives you a global audience. We also discussed the importance of sharing enough detail in your blog post and using labels, as this helps people to discover posts.

Looking at our stats

First, we all had a look at our statistics. I had my own blogger dashboard up on the SMART board, and asked students to figure out where they could find out how many blog views they have. I was surprised with how pleased they were with how many views they had. We discussed that the more we shared, the more views we would get, as well as reiterating the importance of quality blog posts with labels.

Next, I asked them to see if they could figure out where to find out which countries the viewers were from.  After some investigating, learners hopped onto the Audience section and were surprised with the results. The students exclaimed over the countries. Some had visitors from more than 6 different countries.

Infographic time

Now that the learners were feeling motivated and proud of their blog statistics, it was time to share it on their blog. I decided to introduce the class to creating Infographics.  When we learnt about Infographics in the MDTA, I had created one about my global audience (read about it here). I used my infographic as a model of how they could present their statistics. My learners loved the look of the infographic and were eager to begin creating their own.  We used Canva, as I have found it to be easy to use and very effective. I also like how you can upload your own images for free on Canva, which is something that you can't do on other infographic creators.

Angel's blog post

Sione's infographic

Summing it up

I was a little nervous to introduce a new way to create a DLO, however this was the perfect opportunity.  The students loved using Canva, and some grasped the concept of using less text and symbols better than others.  This is something I can continue to work on. The class was really engaged in this lesson and they loved seeing their statistics. I do think they felt pretty empowered and motivated. I am hoping this will motivate them to want to share their learning (instead of me always telling them to). Stay tuned!

I also decided to create an updated infographic about my global audience, enjoy!

Using YouTube & Google Docs to Teach Recount Writing

For writing this term, our main focus is on Recounts.  I am trying to make my lessons more engaging and meaningful for my learners.  After using YouTube for poetry & learning about acceptance, I decided to use videos as inspiration for recount writing.

We have covered the language features used in recounts and we have learnt the acronym TREE to remember the structure of a recount. So this week we have narrowed our focus to the first paragraph of a recount - the 'Reveal' paragraph.

I chose to break my teaching down like this as I have found that the majority of my class struggles with writing. My thinking is that breaking down a recount into more manageable chunks will allow them to have a deeper understanding of each section. I also choose to break up my class into two groups.   This is because I want to make sure everyone is participating in the sessions.  Oftentimes, certain learners will share and contribute while others will remain quiet.

This week we used Google Docs and YouTube to learn more about the 'Reveal' Paragraph.  To start with we discussed the key components of a reveal paragraph - a hook to grab the reader's attention and the 5ws. Then we had a go at identifying the Ws and the hook in an exemplar paragraph.

First up, a vlog!

click here go to group 1's collaborative Google Doc
Then, we turned to the interesting bit! We used Google Docs as an online form of a modelling book.  Each student had their Chromebook and editing rights.  First we had a go at writing a reveal paragraph as a class.  I chose to use a vlog about her first bungy jumping experience.  We watched the first minute and discussed what we saw. We brainstormed as many answers to the 5ws as we could.  Then, we worked together to write our paragraph. Lastly, we added our 'hook'. After sharing each other's 'hooks' we combined the best ones and added to the beginning of our paragraph.

click here go to group 2's collaborative Google Doc

The Present: pair paragraphs

Next the students worked in pairs to write another 'Reveal' paragraph. I chose to use The Present. I felt that the students would find it easier to write about The Present because we have already used The Present to learn about acceptance (& more). Since we were only focussing on a 'Reveal' paragraph, we only used the first 30 seconds. Again, the pairs brainstormed 5ws and then began writing their paragraphs. I decided to get my students to choose the Ws that they felt was important with setting the scene.  I have found that sometimes recounts can get a little boring, as there is too much focus on addressing all the Ws (ie On the 21st of June on a cold afternoon, I was playing PlayStation... boring!). Instead, we chose fewer Ws and also elaborated on some of  ideas.

Going it alone

Lastly, students had a go at writing their own Reveal paragraphs. I was able to get up to this with G1 but am planning on finishing this lesson with G2 next week.  I was pleased with the quality of the paragraphs.  Students were also adding in interesting hooks, which helped to grab the reader's attention.

Pair/individual follow up task

The follow up task was Revealing Paragraphs. This involved a number of steps.  First, students had to unpack a reveal paragraph by identifying the Ws. Next, they added in an interesting title.  Lastly they found ways to improve the paragraphs by making them more interesting by adding in a hook and some extra description.

Summing it up

Overall I am pleased with how this went.  Both groups were able to create some interesting reveal paragraphs.  I think using YouTube really helped, especially with my lower writers. It was also important that the students planned out the Ws before writing their paragraphs.

Using Google Docs was useful as all students could collaborate on the same document during our guided writing session.  I had the Doc projected up on the SMART board, so was able to discuss the paragraphs as well as address any errors. It will also be something that we will be able to return to, unlike writing on whiteboards that will disappear after the lesson.

I did notice that my class struggles with correctly using dialogue.  I will work on this next week before I continue onto teaching the 'Events' section of a recount.

Wherever possible, I will definitely be using Google Docs as a form of modelling books as well as using YouTube to help students in writing.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Life Lessons with Short Films & Nearpod

Last term I did an awesome lesson which used two of my favourite apps - Youtube and Nearpod.  As the term was coming to an end, I felt that my students needed to be reminded of the importance of acceptance, kindness, non-judgement and tolerance.  I was talking to one of my workmates, not sure of what to do on a Friday. She said that she often used YouTube as a starting point for writing.  She uses CGI short film animations.  This got me thinking about how I could use film to help teach some concepts that I felt my learners were forgetting.  Then I remembered The Present.

The Clip

The Present is a very powerful clip that my kids loved! We watched it twice before beginning our Nearpod. I chose to let it run through without stopping or asking questions because I wanted them to take in the film as a whole.


My first activity on Nearpod was using 'Collaborate' where students had to retell the most important bits of the film.  I was impressed by the level of engagement.  As always, I use their ideas as a starting point for further discussion/elaboration.


The next activity was an 'Open Ended Question'. This was an inference question, which asked students to think about why the mum wanted to give his son a present. The next activity was a 'Collaborate' asking Why did the boy get so angry when he noticed what was wrong with the dog? The students were able to come up with some insightful ideas for both questions.


Next, students shared their opinions on the boys reaction to dog, and whether it was right or wrong.

Author's Purpose

Lastly, students shared their ideas about what the message was that the author/creator was trying to tell their audience.

Creating a DLO

After all the discussion that was drawn from the Nearpod activity, my learners created DLOs to share their learning.  I let them create anything they wanted. They created Comics, Google Drawings, wrote poems, recounts and wrote explanation pieces.

Summing it up

Overall I was pretty pleased with how this lesson went.  My learners were really engaged and it created a great opportunity to discuss being grateful, kind and non-judgemental. They loved the film and Nearpod helped them to feel eager to share their ideas with the class.  Creating a DLO was a great way for me to see what they took away from the lesson. It was cool to see the broad range of DLOs created. 

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Creating Our Own Quizzes!

My learners love of Nearpod

I have been using Nearpod as a way of engaging my learners and building on their knowledge of stormwater pollution. They absolutely love it.  Whenever we use Nearpod the students are so much more engaged and eager to participate in the learning.  We have done a lot of learning so far about stormwater pollution and our local river - Omaru River.  I wanted to come up with an exciting way for my learners to show me what they have learnt so far.   

Since they love taking part in quiz-type presentations like Nearpod, I decided that they could create their own quizzes to show me what they have learnt.

My learners loved this idea and immediately began creating their own tasks.  Since Nearpod is actually created for educators, I gave students two platforms to choose from:Kahoot! and Socrative.  All students ended up choosing Kahoot! because it is very user friendly.

Creating Quizzes

It was interesting to see the types of questions and answers my learners were creating.  I think creating a quiz added an extra element of difficulty. Not only did they have to come up with a question and an answer, but also other plausible but incorrect answers too. My learners seemed to enjoy the challenge though!  When some students became stuck I modelled a couple of example questions on the board.  This helped to make a connection between what they had learnt and how they could use it in a question/answer form for the quiz.

Quiz time

After looking through the quizzes, I am pretty pleased with how they turned out.  They show that my learners have actually learnt a lot about stormwater pollution and our river.  The next part of the activity is to have a go at eachothers quizzes.  Stay tuned to see how the learners respond to having a go at eachothers quizzes!

Monday, 6 March 2017

Digital Tools my Learners are Loving

I can't quite believe I am almost half-way through my first term of teaching in my own classroom!  It feels like time has flown by, but it also feels like yesterday that I met my classroom for the first time.  However, the students have grown to be a lot more confident using digital tools - which is very different to how they came into my classroom.

I was super excited to begin teaching my learners in a way they hadn't learnt before.  Luckily, my learners really took to using digital tools - so much so, that they get pretty thrown when we do anything on paper.

Here are my top three tools/sites that my learners are loving.


I've wrote about it before, and I am still a massive fan of Nearpod.  My learners absolutely love using it.  They go from reluctant, shy learners to confident collaborators.  So far I have used Nearpod to gauge students Prior Knowledge of explanations, as well as inquiry lessons about stormwater pollution and the health of rivers.  I have been using a range of its features, such as polls, quizzes, open-ended questions and collaborate (like Padlet and LinoIt).  What is so great about Nearpod is that you can add as many slides and activities as you want.  I often have slide with an image to start conversation, followed by a poll or quiz, and then an open-ended question or collaborate. Another cool feature that my learners love is the ability to 'like' posts on collaborative activities.

One day I discovered I accidentally erased the student's contributions to a Nearpod.  Instead, I got my learners to participate in a quick bus stop rotation, where they had to share their ideas about a photograph to do with stormwater pollution and rivers.  The content of the lesson was basically the same as what would have been done with Nearpod.  However, the students level of engagement was completely different.  It was interesting that as soon as we got back to using digital tools (Mentimeter this time) the students perked up and were engaged once again.  This shows the power that tools like Nearpod and Mentimeter have on my learners. They are are highly engaging and my learners love them!


This was suggested by Ashley during Summer School and I wrote about it in a previous blog post. 5 weeks down and my learners are still loving Answergarden.  I have used Answergarden when creating a class contract, getting prior knowledge, during writing lessons and 40 character summaries in inquiry.

I think this tool works for a number of reasons.  Firstly, it encourages students to summarise and be succinct.  It is a great way to see the ideas that are common amongst a group or class.  Learner's also find it much easier to share their ideas on Answergarden instead of verbally.  While it's easier for them to share, learners are still sharing their ideas with their peers before they post, so they still are sharing their ideas verbally.


I discovered Prodigy from a Facebook post on the NZ Teachers (Primary) page. It is a maths site where students are wizards and battle pets and other characters. In order to attack, students must correctly answer a maths question.  Teachers can assign certain topics and decide how long the topic will run for.  You also can track your students achievements and the topics that they are struggling with.

Assign topics or strands for your students to work on

Check students achievements and gaps

I was so surprised with how much my learners loved using this site - so much so, that they were using it during their 'free time' at Tech (at Tamaki College).  One afternoon, with a change of plans I suddenly had the last block free.  I decided to let the students pick between finishing three tasks - Hour of Code, an all about me activity or Prodigy.  All but two students choose to go on Prodigy. Further, learners stayed on the site the whole block! No cheeky changes of tabs or going on other sites.

Summing it up

I use Nearpod as a way to expand on my students ideas.  It serves as a conversation starter and allows for my learners to confidently share their ideas. They love seeing the poll and quiz results, as well as watching their ideas on collaborate get 'likes'.

Answergarden is an awesome way to identify common thoughts/ideas around a topic.  It is also a useful tool to help learners to summarise and be succinct.

Prodigy has added some extra excitement to my mathematics rotation. The 'game-like' features have hooked my learners in.  The 'Reporting' section helps me to see where gaps are in my learners knowledge.

All in all, I'm really enjoying using digital tools to help engage learners and encourage collaboration. I will definitely continue to hunt for new and exciting tools to try in my classroom.