Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Biography Lesson with Lego - Part Two

A Thing of BEAUTY!

We have two Grade 6 classes so were able to incorporate Lego into our notability ranking exercise for this Grade 6 lesson.

This time Mrs. Jones have assigned each person a colour. This meant we could stack our Lego Bricks to show who we thought was most and least notable. Yesterday were students silently reflected and then discussed as a group, which means they might have changed their mind during the discussion or not really made any solid decisions at the start. Using Lego meant that we could see that all students were on task and it also aided easy comparison. I think students were much more likely to stick to the original opinion, instead of just going with the opinions of the rest of the class, though many changed their order after discussion. This method actually promoted some really good discussion and students started to think about why people would have chosen different answers and they also noticed patterns.

This afternoon both grade 6 classes will be presenting a coding app or website in Design class. At the end of the class we will vote on our favourite apps and websites using the brick technique!

Here's a quick video with more explanation and some other ideas for using THE POWERFUL LEGO STACK! You could try it with getting students to vote, show their personal preference, create timelines from scrambled events or even help them put things into a logic order, for everything from numbers to development stages of a frog!

[Note: I have 'dog hair' today]

Oh and just for balance...here are some of their incredible Gandhi biography scenes!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Computerless Coding with Lego

I am in a privileged position as I teach students in an iPad 1:1 school, so have always been able to teach coding using our iPads. However I know there are a wealth of fantastic computerless coding lessons and wanted to explore these, to see if students would gain a better understanding of coding!

Students were thrilled when they arrived to my Design class. I had set up base plates, with 5 bricks, papers and pens. We briefly talked about coding, communicating with machines and went over the vocabulary we had already covered, including algorithms, coding and commands.
Todays lesson had students writing an algorithm to get robots to stack lego bricks in a certain way - our robots were students! My students worked in small groups and had one student playing the part of the robot. The robots went to the back of my room and spent some time coding while the programmers wrote code for their robots.  I gave the student the first pattern I wanted them to code, then let them fill in my grid worksheet to choose their own. We had already decided on some simple commands, which were a set of six arrows, four for direction, one for picking up and one for putting down bricks!

Later on in the lesson we moved onto loops! Students were given a choice of extension tasks and could write a function to get the robot to return to the first place, to recognise colours or they could try and code complicated patterns, (most worked on getting their robots to stack bricks!).

I used some Conversation Cards to get students to reflect on the lesson and to check they understood the different concepts.

I also created this 'I Can Code' form for students to show off their new vocabulary!

You can get all the resources for this lesson, including the PowerPoint, all worksheets and more here

I am super impressed with my grade 6s at the moment - they are getting through so much work! In one class we discussed the many skills of coding, watched a TEDx video from 10 year old app developer Jonathan Buchanan, all investigated a coding app/website (I gave them one each), coded Flappy Bird as a class and every student created a game using Touch Develop's Hour of Code! Very happy to teach such an enthusiastic bunch!

Biography Lesson with Lego

The students were so excited when they came to the class and realised they will be working with Lego! They were almost trying to break the door down to get in!

I just spent a fantastic English lesson with Mrs. Jones and our grade 6s. They are working on a biography unit and are about to start a big research project with Humanities, English and the Library. Today's lesson focussed on listening skills, note taking and telling stories. I love going to Mrs. Jones' classes and not only pick up some good teaching techniques, but I always learn a ton too!

Mrs. Jones started off the lesson by introducing the students to the word Notable. We then looked at some notable people and the students silently decided who they thought was the least and most notable!

We then had a class discussion and students put them into order as a group. It was really interesting to see the students view points, especially as we have an international set of students. All of them but Nelson Mandela as number one. Next time we do a similar activity we will assign each notable person a colour, so students can stack their Lego bricks to show the order of notability visually too. You can also do this with favourite things, putting events in the right order, class votes, etc.

Mrs. Jones then focussed on listening skills. Students were told she would read a short piece of information out about Gandhi and then would give them 30-60seconds to take notes. She would do this several times, relaying information about some of the most important parts of Gandhi's life. She spoke about different note taking methods and also about different ways to listen.

She used the HEAR technique each time!
Halt - iPad screens down, stop fiddling with your lanyards, put anything distracting away.
Engage - Show the speaker that you are listening by looking at them.
Anticipate - Get ready for the speaker to begin and anticipate what they might say.
Replay - Note taking!

Students were very engaged, though some found it hard to Halt, as they wanted to continue writing notes. This is a skill I wish I had learnt early on in life, as I am still a constant fidget! I also know for me the act of taking notes helps me remember them, but I rarely look back through notes, (I am getting better at this and find digital note taking helps me here).

After students had taken down notes about several key events of Gandhi's life, it was time to play with Lego! We only got through a few early events, as we had only one period, but students had to select one, using their notes, to recreate with Lego Bricks.  Students were told they would be given a base plate, two mini-figures and a selection of bricks. They nearly all chose to recreate Gandhi's first lesson in non-violence, where he stole gold from his brother, but then admit it, realising the potential of truth telling and being principled.

Here are some of the fantastic creations students made:

I was so impressed with the scenes they recreated and it shows how incredible their imaginations are!

Mrs. Jones spent some time interviewing the students about their scenes and also how they felt working with Lego. My favourite response was "Lego made the lesson and learning more fun...not that it isn't fun already."
This was a really fast paced lesson and the students got through way more than normal! They were all engaged and every student participated in the activity and class discussion. They were also all able to succeed!
In their next lesson students will pick three key scenes from Gandhi's life and will create models of them.They will photograph them and put them onto a presentation in Google Slides or Keynote and will present them to the class. We will also get them to record themselves talking about the scenes!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Lego Learning Project

I am very lucky to work in a school where we are not judged on short lesson observations, but on a long term research project. Last year I took part in a research project using Google Forms which you can read about here and here. This year I will be taking part in a project with one of my colleagues Mrs Jones (Michelle) using one of our favourite things...LEGO!

Lego has always been an incredibly popular toy and was very important in my life growing up...as it was in my mum's, dad's, brothers', friends'.... There is nothing that could make more excited as a child than getting a new Lego set, like my favourite Lego Castle. As an adult I don't think I have matured much as I still get as excited when I treat myself to Lego, (most recently a trip to Legoland, a Lego Calendar and a Lego City fireman set). As a teacher we are constantly trying to engage our students by making them excited about learning, so what better tool to use than Lego!

I used Lego a little bit last year, and have large storage Bricks and a Lego head full of Lego Bricks in my classroom. I've done a few small lessons, where I've set mini creation challenges or have had students playing team building games using Lego. However - it is now time to get serious!

I've collected Lego resources in this Pinterest folder and here on Google Drive. However we really want to focus on creating our own resources. Most of the resources available online are aimed at very young children, so we want to make resources suitable for secondary schools. We also will use some of the educational kits created by Lego, including the wonderful StoryStarter Kit. However, we may not use the educational kits in the way they are intended to be used - I assume Lego have some pressure on them to create educational kits which come with full teaching resources, but this can sometimes be restrictive, and don't always show the full potential of the kits. Often the kits aimed at older students are Mindstorms/Technics, but I want to mostly focus on using the traditional bricks in my teaching.

Michelle has some incredible ideas already and we are doing some work this week with our grade 6 students. They are doing a biography unit in English and Humanities and this week will be looking at the life of Gandhi. We will be using the StoryStarter Kits to show significant parts of his life - students will photograph several scenes and then they will present them to the class!

Last week, with the same grade, I also completed a few coding classes without computers. They loved the lesson and were so engaged. I am doing a town planning  unit later with an older grade and went to design a town, using different coloured and shaped Lego Bricks to symbolise different types of town. I'm doing another unit where students are designing a theme park, and we will be using LegoLand as a case study. I have purposefully planned only four units for each grade this year, so that I have a few weeks spare to throw in a mini unit - I want to use this to really focus on different approaches to learning, with a heavy influence on research - here I will get some students to complete research records about the history of Lego - I may also get another grade to work towards a debate with the motion "This house believes Lego shouldn't have introduced Lego Friends". (Michelle is also planning a gender unit next year, and I am trying to get her to talk about Lego advertising, Lego Friends and even Lego MiniFigures becoming gendered).

Our reading list so far:

I bought this already - Michelle is basically already doing everything in this book!

This book is great and gave me wonderful ideas for my little Lego challenges last year.

and finally...we may need

You will see lots of updates here! I am hoping to connect with other educators to share resources and ideas - if you are a teacher who uses Lego, please get in touch with me through Google+ or Twitter.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Contextos Globales

A colleague has sent me some translations for our Global Context posters, so now we have Spanish versions!

Posters with blank space, (to write subject/unit specific details)

Google Classroom Teacher and Student View

A quick video we made in the summer holidays. I will update it soon and will include some feedback from both my peers and students. It's funny how much you learn just by using something-this video was pretty much shot in the dark, but will hopefully give you some useful information about Google Classroom.

Google Classroom Issue

I came back las night after a busy and tiring school residential, feeling sickly and worn out. As the wifi at our centre was broken I was unable to look at a piece of homework my grade 8s had done. Eagerly I went onto Google Classroom, only to see this:

 0 students had completed their homework - I was devastated!
  Actually I assumed it was an upload problem, as a few students were having issues with this, as you have to text search Google Drive for a folder you want to upload, you can search for it, by going into folders!
I immediately emailed students reminding them to upload it.

Straight away one of my grade 8s emailed me this:

I went straight into my 'Classroom' folder in Google Drive to find that my wonderful grade 8s had not failed me, but that everyone of them had done their work!

We are some of the first people to try Google Classroom and we often discuss ways we would improve it. As a teacher I also share my 'teacher view' through screen shots, or on my Apple TV and also have them share theirs. Students know that Google Classroom is new and developing, which not only gives them more patience when something goes wrong, but excites them, as they feel it is quite a privilege to be one of the first guinea pigs!

Also Google Classroom is not perfect yet, but we can see what it will be able to do and are very excited about it.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Pretty Google Forms + Reading Survey

I am so happy Google have bought out new templates! I hope that they will do this for Slides too, as they are all dated/naff, (I usually upload my own background images, so it looks a bit nicer)

Here is a copy of a reading survey I have made for my students. I intend on sending it out next week. What other questions should I include?

So pretty!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Next Chapter MYP Global Context

The International Baccalaureate is changing! We have moved into the MYP next chapter. One of the main changes that has happened is that we are dropping the old Areas of Interaction in favour of 'Global Context'. We use these Global Context as a way to approach everything we teach and choose one to focus on for every unit. Students also use these for their Personal Project.

My fancy-pants graphic designer boyfriend Rob has created some fantastic posters for our school!

We have created two versions - one with a description of the Global Context and another with a blank space for teachers to fill in themselves. You can download them here and here.