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Scribble Stones: A Read Aloud Response

One thing that hasn't stopped since we have gone on lockdown is my daily read aloud.  Each day, whether it be live on Zoom or prerecorded using QuickTime and posted to my Google Classroom, I choose a picture book and read it to my students.  
Usually, I just read the book.   Nothing more, nothing less.  But at times, there are picture books I read to my students that lend themselves very well to a fun, quick, and easy response.  One such book is Scribble Stones by Diane Alber.  This is a sweet story about how a little rock gains a little color and spreads happiness because of it.  

On the inside dust cover of the book, and a page in the back, it tells how everyone can make their own scribble stone as well.  This got me to thinking.  Making a scribble stone is something fun that my students can do from home during this school closure.  So here is what I did.

I read the book to the students during a Zoom meeting.  I then asked them to go outside to their backyard and find a stone, any stone would do (and if they didn't have a stone, they could use a piece of paper and draw it).  Using crayons, colored pencils, markers, paints, stickers, ANYTHING, the students were to create their own scribble stone.  

On Google Classroom, I posted a blank slide.  Once the scribble stones were finished, the students used the camera tool on Google Slides to insert a picture of what they created.  I asked them to write about why the design was chosen as well.  


And that was it!  The kids got to be creative, have a little fun, and still be connected to our class.

If you want to do this too, here is the slide I gave each of the students to show off their scribble stones.

DIGITAL Angles, Polygons, and Attributes....OH MY!

Before we officially closed, one of the math standards we had yet to cover was shape attributes.  Now, I am in no way trying to make my life harder by attempting to cover a concept the kids have no idea about so, instead, I am trying to make things easier for everyone by assigning work incrementally so that the kids are using skills they know while still applying it to new knowledge.  
I started by introducing the concept of angles to the kids.  Over Zoom, I showed them how to form the different angles (right, acute, and obtuse) with their bodies, what they were called, etc.  I showed them examples using the objects around me.  For example, I showed them how the corner of their math book formed a right angle.  We went over the math book pages that showed examples of the different type of angles.  It was a quick lesson on basically identifying the three different types of angles we are learning in third grade.  There was nothing about it, other than being on Zoom, that I did any differently than if we were in the classroom together.  

Then, I wanted the kids to take that knowledge and apply it in a simple way.  I asked them to go outside and take pictures of themselves creating the angles (like we did together in the lesson) and then find a real life example.  They used their Chromebooks to take the pictures.  Again, this was a simple exercise in identifying the angles.

I WISH I could show you the finished products (but the kids are in them) because they are SO SO SO creative.  One kid took a stapler he had at home, opened it up and formed an obtuse angle.  Another used her lounge chair outside to form the same angle.  Kids were making them out of wood, or finding the hinges on their door frames and forming angles.  It was quite spectacular.  Here is the digital slide I assigned the kids.
The next two days, we came back together to learn about putting these angles together to make polygons and then, more specifically, quadrilaterals.  Using the chart paper I had at home, we made an anchor chart for both together over Zoom.  I asked the kids to help me with the chart by raising their hand, I unmuted them on Zoom, and they helped me to construct the charts. 

We then set off to put this altogether.  I asked them to use the shape tools in Google Slides to create their own "polygon person".  They could use the shapes in any way they wanted, but they needed to include every one of the polygons and angles we learned about.  It was a fun, creative way to get some "art" in, work on our computer skills, and identify the polygons.
After the "people" were done, the kids needed to then list the attributes of each of the shapes included in their design.  We talked about why circles were not included (they didn't have the same attributes as a polygon--ie:  no straight lines) and what made certain shapes different.  We learned that polygons are defined by their sides and angles, and the kids were off listing the various attributes of their polygon person.  Here is a copy of the digital slides I gave the students.  

This was a quick, easy way to get the kids implementing their tech skills, creating a product, and using the new knowledge that they were acquiring.  Next, we are going to take that polygon person and use it as an avatar to create a stop motion film.....but that is a blog post for another day ;) 

Distance Learning: How I Am Managing.....SO FAR

One teacher's routine for distance learning.Now that we are on Week 3 of this new normal of distance learning, I thought I would share what is working for me, just in case it might work for you too.

To be 100% honest, I am NO expert at this.  I am probably the farthest from an expert there is.   I have had my fair share of meltdowns and setbacks.  But what I have done this past week really helped me to reign in that feeling of disorder and chaos that was haunting me.  

To begin the week, I was working at my dining room table.  The same one as my own three children.  The same one where so much other chaos was going on.  I did my very first lesson on Zoom and it was just a nightmare for me.  I was looking around for things, standing up and sitting down to get to my wall to write on the chart paper I had put there, showing books in my makeshift doc camera....it was a literal mess.  I was a mess.  Everything was a mess.  I left that first meeting feeling like I would NEVER EVER teach anyone anything because it was just a mess.
So I regrouped that night.  I remembered that I had an easel, intended for my niece, that I never returned from Christmas.  I put it together, set up a small space in my living room and created a complete space that was just mine to teach from. 

This was a GAME CHANGER.

Once I had my own space, I felt like I could breathe.  I felt like I had more control.  I felt like less of a mess.

I then decided to break my Zoom lessons up.  I dedicated TWO 30 minute blocks a day to the tech.  One for language arts and one for math.  Each block I had set up on my Google Classroom with the code for the kids to access.  I put the codes up at the top of the Classwork tab with a heading so the kids always know where to access them. 

During my lessons, I have been doing short, to the point teaching.  This week, I focused on cause and effect and polygons.  We had a short lesson, I assigned them something to do (either in their book or on a template I made for something) and they were off.    Doing lessons this way has made both the kids and I feel productive.  I am actually teaching something and they are actually learning something.  It isn't as indepth as we might find in the classroom, but it honestly isn't that far off.  The lessons are just more focused, sharp, and to the point.  No fluff.  No filler.  Just content.

Some things I have done during language arts:
Paragraph of the Week (you can get a free week here.  This is different than the free ones here!)
Read on Epic (they are offering free access for teachers and students now)
Read Aloud
Work on Cause and Effect (I will blog about that next so you can get those digital files if you need them)

Some things I have done during math:
Spiral math review (you can pick up some free digital weeks for 3rd, 4th, and 5th)
Go over math pages in our book
Angle Search (I will blog about that soon)
Create a Polygon Person (I will blog about that soon too)

Breaking up the language arts and the math has been so so so good for me too.  Again, things are short and to the point.  Nothing drags out.  I get to see the kids twice and they really are coming back for both lessons.  They use the time in between to work on things and take breaks.  It seemingly has made this distance school seem more like real school for them.  

After each lesson, I write down what we did and who was missing, just to keep track of it all.  Here is the form I am using for now.  I'm sure it will change over time, but it is working for me.  

Then, throughout the day, I check in on them working.  I have stopped checking to see if it is done though.  That was driving me crazy.  The lack of control I have over whether they actual do it was maddening.  So I have learned to let that go and just help them with what they do have.  I give feedback where they are and have stopped expecting immediate completeness.  The work is getting done.  Not necessarily on MY timeline, but it is getting finished on some sort of timeline.  The assignments are basically the same daily, so that has helped us all keep organized too.  

OK.  So that is what is working for me RIGHT NOW.  This will probably change as distance learning evolves.  But for now, I am a million times less stressed than I was earlier in this process.

How are things going for you?  What is working for you right now?

Recording Read Alouds

How to record basic read aloud stories for the students during our remote learning.Now, admittedly, I am not expert when it comes to video recording.  Generally, I take small snippets of my classroom or whatever on Instagram and am done with it all.  But with this "distance learning" thing upon us, and in my efforts to keep the love of reading alive for my students, I have been forced to learn how to use some basic video recording technology.
Daily, I read a book aloud to my students.  There have been many authors who have given permission during this shut down to read books aloud to students via video as long as those read alouds are locked down to some extent (meaning, not just free and clear on youtube for anyone to see.)  So each day, I choose a book that I know has been cleared.

Then, I sit down with my computer and open QuickTime.  This application was already loaded on my Mac when I bought it.  It is a super easy video recording method.  I press "New Movie Recording" and the little box pops up.  I press record and I am off to the races.

Now, I am sure there are editing apps I can use (I do know that you can trim your video in QuickTime itself, as I have done that to cut off unnecessary stuff on the end) but I really haven't ventured that far.  Mostly, I press record, read the book, press end record and I am done.  Easy peezy.  


Now, originally, I was just uploading these directly to Google Classroom (which is the platform I am using to keep my students organized and connected to their work through this shut down) but the videos stopped processing for some reason.  So I needed a backup plan.  I set up a private YouTube channel that no one can access.  When I upload videos there, they are locked down so only I can see them.

Next, I take the url of the video I uploaded to that private channel, and place it in Safe YouTube.  Thank you to Kristen at Ladybug's Teacher Files for this tip!  This site makes my video accessible to my class through a secure link.  What is great about it, too, is that once I get the secure link, the kids ONLY can watch the video.  No adds or "next video" pops up.  (you can see the side bar of the video I uploaded in the picture.  There are no adds or anything.)   It keeps everything kid-friendly for them and makes sure that they are only seeing what I want them to see.

After the secure link is generated, I paste that onto my Google Classroom feed and the kids are able to watch the video.  


This has worked out well for us so far.  I know that there are video services out there that offer more in the way of editing and stuff, but for the purposes of reading a story aloud to my kids, QuickTime is working just fine.....and it is free and already available on my Mac.  

What video services have you use to video yourself for the kids during this time of distance learning?

Preparing for At Home Student Learning

If you had asked me one month ago if I thought I would have to be preparing for my students to spend 2 or more weeks at home learning their lessons instead of being in the classroom with me, I would have thought you were crazy.   It just seems so surreal that something like this could happen.

Yet, here we are.

I was told three days ago that I would need to come up with a plan for 2 weeks of learning that my students would be able to do independently (read: without a teacher) and still further their education.  Instantly, I was stressed out.  This was uncharted territory and I was just unsure what to even do.

And I figured if *I* didn't know what to do, *YOU* probably didn't either.   Below is a list of all of the resources that I came up with to use with my students (and a few more too ;)  )  

To begin with, I created this calendar that I thought would be useful to my students and their parents to keep all of the learning organized.  It is a basic checklist of all the things that the kids need to do while they are away from school.  This calendar includes a mix of paper and digital resources for my kids.  

You can get an editable version of it here.  Just plug in what works best for you students.  I sent a hard copy of this with my students (since I knew we were going to be closing down) and a digital copy to their parents. 

I created a digital Book Summary Log for my kids.  Now, usually I am not a book log kinda gal. I just find them to be less useful for my own instruction.  However, with the kids being away, I can't discuss the books with them.  So I made a very simple, easy to use Book Log.  You can get a copy for yourself here.

Wonderopolis.org is also a wonderful site that I am assigning my kids.  There are articles on interesting and timely topics for the students to choose from.  They will write a summary and make an inference on each article that they read.

There are also many resources that are free on Scholastic.com due to the school closures.  

The kids will also be doing some SBAC practice on LumosLearning.com  It is free and SO helpful to get the kids thinking about THE TEST (because, like it or not, the kids test almost immediately after we get back from the closure)

For writing, I am assigning two of my digital Paragraph of the Week files for the kids.  Since you are here on my blog, you probably need writing resources too.  So here is Week 1 and Week 2 I am sending to the kids (if you would like the entire digital file for year round use, you can get that here.)  Each of these weeks are formatted the same way that the kids use on paper.  The only difference is that it is digital.  

Each day for homework, my students complete a spiral math page.  I wanted to keep that continuity for them, so I converted two weeks to digital.  If you teach 3rd grade, you can find it here.  Your students should be able to do all of the skills here, as we are nearing the end of the year anyway.  You can get 5th grade here (4th is on its way)

In math, my kids are using xtramath.org (fact practice that is always free and always super useful!)   My kids also LOVE Prodigy and Zearn.  Both are free for students to use.
For science, I assigned the kids several of the Mystery Science lessons.  Mystery Science has put many of their lessons out for free because of these school closures.  They are the same, exact lesson that you would get in the paid membership, which are amazing!  Doug leads the kids through the science so they should have no problem learning the lessons and concepts.

BrainPop has also set their service free for the duration of the school closures.  It is a MUST USE site for all things social studies and math.  You can sign up your class with this link here.  

Those are the things that I am assigning my students while they are away from school.  A few others things (like our math book and Benchmark Advanced) are paper textbooks that I did not include in this list.  My hope is that this list of things we are doing above sparks some ideas for you and makes this time a bit less stressful.


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