Time To Call An Expert

In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn-Phil Collins

Under phylogenetic taxonomy, dinosaurs are usually defined as the group consisting of Triceratops, Neornithes [modern birds], their most recent common ancestor (MRCA), and all descendants.  It has also been suggested that Dinosauria be defined with respect to the MRCA of Megalosaurus and Iguanodon, because these were two of the three genera cited by Richard Owen when he recognized the Dinosauria.

IMG_0484Um…what?  I am no expert on dinosaurs. I know enough to get by, but I am completely unimpressive to Tre.  Tre is my in-class dino-phile.  He knows all, and I do mean all, about dinosaurs.  He has tried hard not to look at me condescendingly this week as we learn about these “terrible lizards”.  Tre has written about, talked about, read about, and drawn about dinosaurs this whole year.  You can imagine his bliss as we all focus on them this week.

IMG_0482While a lot of my students are knowledgeable about dinosaurs, there are a lot of misconceptions.  It is hard for them to comprehend that dinosaurs pre-existed humans. We are learning from our work and we are learning from each other.  As always, we have voice and choice in our learning.  Tre chose to write about dinosaurs (above) on paper.  Another student chose to make a Pic Collage (at right).  Others chose to make an Explain Everything.  (see bottom of page).

Dinosaurs are always a topic of great interest.  Using  surveys at the beginning of the school year is a good way to find out about your students’ areas of interest.  This makes them part of the curriculum planning process and part of the decision-making process in their learning.  In the learning community of this classroom, the students learn from me, I learn from them, and they learn from each other.  We all have expertise in something and by giving Tre the opportunity to shine this week, he is buoyed by the confidence of his classmates.  My students all know who to go to as the “Expert” of various things in our class.  This gives my students responsibility, buy-in, leadership and best of all…it forces them to work on solving their own problems rather than coming to me all the time.

I’ve said before that the Explain Everything app is awesome.  (Created by a fellow Apple Distinguished Educator). It really gives you a sense of what a child is thinking when they have to explain their thinking.  Here is Hope, explaining everything about dinosaurs. She is definitely one of my class experts on this app.

In what area(s) are you an expert?  Do your students know who the experts are in your classroom? Do student interests help drive your curriculum choices?  All of these are good questions to reflect on as many of us are ending the school year.

Today we will do exciting new things. Let’s get to it!

Hope Explains More

hom·o·phone : a word pronounced the same as another but differing in meaning, whether spelled the same way or not, as heir  and air.

kids laughingIf you want a sure-fire way to make a class of kindergarten students laugh you need only say “underwear”, “poop” or “naked”.  This will result in uncontrolled, hysterical whooping and laughing.  We recently added the sight word “but” to our list and that immediately created some wide eyes and giggling.  I had added a “bad word” to our list.  What was I thinking?

We immediately launched into a lesson on homophones. This is a complicated concept for my students because they don’t realize words can sound the same but be spelled differently and mean different things.  We came up with a few together on an anchor chart to help them visualize this.  We will add to this as we come across other words, hopefully not as scandalous as “but” and “butt”.

These class conversations combined with the anchor charts help them make concrete connections to otherwise nebulous concepts.  My students are not experts on homophones now, but they have been exposed to the concept and hopefully, with the creation of the anchor chart, it will cause them to stop and think when confronted with another word that is confusing.

In a recent post, I extolled the virtues of our Explain Everything app. One of my students, Hope, was very articulate in her explanation of her annotated illustration.  Hope was vexed by the whole “but” “butt” issue and wanted to Explain Everything about these words that was creating such consternation in our classroom.  Please allow Hope to explain more:

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Hope Explains Everything on iPad

Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Have you ever listened to a 5 year old tell about their work? Try listening to 25 of them.  Daily.  They have so much they want to tell and explain that I don’t have enough ears to listen to it all.  Their work is so detailed and there are like 40 bajillion things they absolutely must tell, and if you interrupt them even once, they must.  start.  over.



Thank goodness I have Explain Everything.  It is the perfect app for my kids to demonstrate their workflow, show me what they have learned and talk, talk, talk to their hearts content.  If they mess up, they just erase and start over.  My kids are learning about labeling and annotating their work.  Scientists label and good readers annotate for meaning.  When I showed them the app, someone said, “You mean I can just tell my iPad everything I want it to know?”  Yes…within 13.8 GB of reason.  So with full permission to illustrate, write, label, annotate AND talk, this lesson was a home run. There is an example from Hope, one of my students at the end of this post.

Ok…so a small caveat.  I have a slight obsession with neat and orderly and it’s hard for me to do messy.  (Yes, I realize I teach kindergarten.  Somehow it all works.)  This activity can get messy.  I had to get over my urge to tidy it up and put it all in a bento box and say that’s, that. You can’t have kids recording all over the classroom while other kids are talking and recording at the same time.  So, as kids finished their illustrations, labeling and annotations, I allowed 4 at a time to go out in the hall, spread themselves out, and tell their story.  I actually had to tell them it was ok to speak up so they could be heard by the recorder.

We will be using this approach with demonstrating mastery of math standards as well in the coming weeks.  Explain Everything is not free…There are other apps, like Show Me that does similar things that is free.

As my kids are working on many different kinds of fluencies, stretching their cognitive wings and needing to share what they’ve learned, having the iPad allows my kids to create, produce, redefine and transform all in one place.

Please allow Hope to Explain Everything:

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Workflow and iPads

Don’t mistake activity for achievement.-John Wooden

boys workingIn a recent post, I wrote about moving beyond apps and concentrating your focus on content. What are your students learning, why are they learning it and how will they know they’ve learned it? As I unpack the common core standards with my students, I am focusing heavily on these questions…not so that I can answer them, but so that they can answer them.  With these questions in place and iPads in hand, we need to look beyond apps and instead focus on workflow fluency.

If you look up the definition of workflow, you find:

  1. The flow or progress of work done by a company, industry, department, or person.
  2. The rate at which such flow or progress takes place.

The flow of progress…how can my students demonstrate the flow of progress?  Just because they are interacting with an app does not mean they are learning.  iPad activity should be purposeful and connected.  It should also be personalized to what that particular child needs.  

Workflow and iPads allow students to redefine their work.  The technology allows for the creation of new tasks previously inconceivable.  It is transformative.  After our recent thematic unit on penguins, my students created their own books in Book Creator. workflowThis started with their own illustrations in Doodle Buddy which were imported into their book in Book Creator.  The students wrote sentences to go with their own illustrations.  Taking this a little further, students took some of their individual illustrations and labeled them using Explain Everything. They were able to record themselves explaining their work.  While the apps I used in this are great, there are others that do similar things.  Some of them are free.  Pic Collage is another way to demonstrate workflow and it’s free. The take away here is that students are able to use the iPad to demonstrate what they’ve learned and can use apps to explain in their own words what they’ve learned.

As we are striving to make learning more personal, we should teach our students about workflow fluency. By using the iPad to demonstrate workflow, our students are engaged, thinking critically, and are using skills of a 21st century learner.  Even the youngest among us can do it.

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