Monthly Archives: February 2016

Gamification… “Leveling up” for EPIC learning!

I try to practice what I tell my students: I am always learning and looking to improve. This is why I get so excited when I leave them to learn new things to bring into our classroom. Last week I had the privilege of presenting at and attending the Ohio Educational Technology Conference. It is exciting to share the things my students do with others, but I always strive to leave with at least one new idea that I plan to put into practice right away.  This time it was “gamification” and digital badging.

I already have systems in place for choice and learning opportunities. However gamifying what we are already doing seemed like a fantastic direction to head. (1) it is motivating (2) kids connect to terms like “level up” and “unlock” and (3) the focus is on mastery of content and goals…not working to just get a grade.

And so after some work setting things up, I launched our “badge catalog” with 3rd graders on Thursday Feb. 18th.  The launch was filmed by our Innovative Instructional Coach, Susan Craig:

The excitement this has generated already is well worth the work it took to get it all set up. I am not sure who is more excited though… me or the children?

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Note taking: Determining Importance and Sketch Noting

I am always striving to teach my children skills for life. I also strive to continue being a learner myself and to share my passion for learning with them. Lately I have been working on the note taking skills in two ways. Determining importance and sketch noting.

With my 3rd graders, we have worked on closely reading for main ideas and supporting details. Highlighters make motivating tools and engage students with print texts, but too often they turn in to “coloring” tools as many children highlight almost everything. So I took a different approach. I started by helping my students eliminate words in texts to narrow down what was most important. Here’s how I modeled (link to lesson): Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 8.32.49 AM.png

Through this process we were extracting what was important in the text. The next step then is the note taking. Of course we can do this with digital tools too: Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 8.36.03 AM.png

For my 4th graders a new approach was explored. I had already been using a “sketch to stretch” strategy to help students process their thinking with poetry. It helps to make sense of text in smaller pieces with drawing. We find it especially helpful for working with figurative language as we process literal and non-literal meanings of words.

My 4th graders need extra challenges. They need to be pushed, stretched, and often frustrated because as gifted learners, they are used to learning coming easy for them. We are working with the theme of injustice and inequality; beginning with Martin Luther King, Jr. and extending into February for Black History Month. I have found that reading texts about these themes challenges thinking and helps my kids see connections across texts. So we started unpacking Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech. It is loaded.

The first day their eyes popped out and they were clearly confused. We quickly decided that the vocabulary was our biggest obstacle and so we started breaking down parts. As we did the “ah-ha’s” and smiles began. When time was up that first day, they were begging to take it home.  Here’s why… I let them incorporate drawing/sketching into their thinking to help them process. As they looked up the meanings of words and considered phrases, they constructed meaning:

It was a huge success. One student chose to write about the figurative language he discovered in his weekly response letter: Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 8.47.27 AM.png

I loved that he was processing the big thinking this text made him do!

Next I hope to move onto more true “sketch noting” as I follow the work of Tanny McGregor and do some of my own research with The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde.