A Lesson on Heat

Welcome to the next installment of our Guest Blogging Series!  This post comes from Nicole Konicke a teacher at Lawson Middle School.

Who would ever think that heat transfer could be funny? My 6th grade students were able to do just that in their heat transfer comic projects. Their projects were completed as a comic, using Comic Maker or Book Creator.  Technology has provided an outlet for my students to show their creativity.

The inquiry hook to our mini heat transfer unit was a convection lab. During the lab, students used hot water (heat source), a pan, and some food coloring to demonstrate a convection current. We followed up by watching Bill Nye Heat. Then, we began our project.

In this project, students were required to show their understanding of the three types of heat transfer: convection, conduction, and radiation through a day in the life of a molecule or a day in the life of a person as the character went through each type of heat transfer. They were responsible for including the type of heat transfer in action, how the heat transfer works, how the heat is being transferred, and where the heat was being transferred to. Students needed to have dialogue, represented through speech bubbles, between the characters.

We started our project by brainstorming the differences and similarities between the three types of heat transfer. I provided a list of scientific vocabulary that could be used throughout the comic. Then, we had a mini lesson on how to use book creator and comic maker. Students were given the freedom to explore the two apps for the rest of the class period. The final step before beginning the comic included story board completion. Students were to sketch and plan out their scenes prior to completing on the app.

My students did have some issues along the way, but they displayed their collaboration skills through the problem solving process. We all worked together to try to solve the issue and one student was able to come up with a quick solution. She was eager to airplay her iPad and share the solution with the class. The class was engaged throughout the entire project. I am continuously amazed at the work my students produce with their iPads.






Coding with Kindergarten

Welcome to the next installment of our Guest Blogging Series!  This post comes from Jenna Clarke a kindergarten teacher at Stocklmeir Elementary.

Why yes, you can have fun coding, even a kindergartener can code. Even I can teach kindergarteners to code, with help of course.  When I first heard about the “Hour of Code” I decided to step out of my comfort zone and give it a try.  After all, what is coding?  How does it work?  I asked our tech team for a volunteer to teach my class for the worldwide hour of code phenomenon that I had read about, and waited.  I was fortunate and Audrey Prouse – our Assistant Principal – offered to teach my class.  She came into our classroom and explained very well what coding was, it’s part of technology, and how it is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. One step, or one piece at a time.

In kindergarten, the first part of the technology piece is learning to use the mouse. We used the mouse to learn directions, left, right, up, and down. Then we used the mouse to navigate the internet browser to find the website code.org.  We were using technology to code by putting the puzzle pieces together and we were now part of the “hour of code” participants.

I was motivated to learn more, so when I received an email from a colleague about the hour of code seminar presented by Embark Labs, I signed up. I attended the seminar, dreamt of coding, and the next day took what I learned and presented it to my class. This is what coding beyond the hour of code looks like in a learner focused kindergarten classroom.

After presenting the 3×3 grid on our carpet, I explained the directions and the “one step at a time” concept.  After we defined the words position and orientation, I shared that the goal was to move the box to each X on the carpet to “light it up” with the least amount of steps. Students were called up to hold the box to determine if the directions called out were a change in position (moving forward out of the cell) or orientation (moving left or right within the cell.) The students were fully engaged and ready to code on their own.

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We used the arrows as symbols when recording the codes on white boards

After the students were clear on the position and orientation concepts of coding they were assigned to groups to write out their own codes to “light up the X.” In small groups they were given a whiteboard, marker, and small dice to help with determining the movement on grids they drew on the whiteboard. Working together the students used the arrow symbols to record each step of the code. Once they had written down the code, they checked their work on the main grid on the carpet.

This was a great learning tool in the classroom to help the students really understand the basics of coding. They were having fun and fully engaged the entire time.

On our next visit to the computer lab, the students were ready to go beyond the hour of code and try some more advanced coding.  At code.org we used our mouse to navigate to find the Lightbot application. Working together and independently the students moved the robot using the arrows that indicated right, left, move forward, and jump. When they had completed the steps they were able to self check to see if their robot was able to light up the cubes. When they completed the task successfully, they were really excited. “We are coding!”

Coding in Kindergarten, why yes, they can!  Watching my students go from learning how to use a mouse, start the computer, navigate google, finding the website, use the applications to code, and properly log out of the computer, was a wonderful experience.

Padlet and Thinglink

Check out this great example of combining Thinglink and Padlet to share student work!  Angie McCulloch is a sixth grade teacher at Cupertino Middle and had her students curate articles, pictures, videos, and information about Endangered Panthers.  Once students had enough information they worked in pairs to create their Thinglink.  Their final step is to embed their Thinglink onto a class Padlet wall.  Click the image below to see these great projects!

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Angie and her students also use Padlet with the stories they are reading in class.  Students are asked to post claims and examples/evidence of their opinion on the authors message.  This way students can see what their classmates are thinking and frame their class discussion based on various claims they read from the Padlet wall.

Talk about #eduawesome!

Who Wants More Time?

Okay I cannot make more hours in a day happen, but I can give you this awesome time saving tip.  Are you ready?

Step 1: Get out your iPad/iPhone

Step 2: Open the Google Drive App

Step 3: Open a brand new Doc

Step 4: No need to type anything!  You can press the microphone – next to the space bar – and begin to record your voice.

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Think about the time you will save by not having to type things like report card comments, descriptive feedback to students, directions for the days activities, rubrics, etc.  Once you have whatever you want written you can then copy and paste it into whatever platform you need it in.  One more thing, you will need to say your punctuation.


Do not forget about Siri, she/he/it can be your best friend!  Now that may sound like the movie description to Her, but just go with me on this.  Siri works on iPad 3 or higher, and iPhone 4S or higher.  Make sure Siri is enabled Settings > General > Siri.  Here are a few things Siri can do for you from your iPad

  • Send and read your emails
  • Create a calendar event
  • Remind you of your next staff meeting
  • Launch an app
  • Set reminders
  • Set an alarm
  • Set a timer
  • Send an iMessage
  • Find information on the web
  • Get directions
  • And my favorite – “Play Justin Timberlake”

News at YOUR Reading Level

NewsELA is a fantastic Common Core aligned website that houses news articles to help students build reading comprehension with nonfiction text.  The best part is that each article is written in five different Lexile levels so it can be accessible for all students.  Lexile levels range from 550 to over 1200, which could cover students in third to twelfth grade.  When you open an article, on the right side you can choose the Lexile level and begin to see the articles change as you move between levels.  First thing I want you to do is look at how awesome my image is below, then you can look at how the title changes.  The link of this iTunes article is at the very bottom of this post.

*This image was created with PicCollage check out our post about it by Clicking Here.

Photo Mar 13, 9 04 25 AM

Here is a lesson I did with fourth graders as their first experience with their Google Drive accounts.  I found an article on NewsELA about NASA Finding an Ancient Lake on Mars, and had them answer a few questions about the article.

There are huge benefits to having kids enroll with NewsELA as your students.  They can take quizzes, teachers can tracking progress, and even assign different articles.  Since I was a celebrity teacher – yes that is what I call myself – in this fourth grade classroom I didn’t want to have students create accounts and link it to me as their teacher.  My workaround was to provided the NewsELA article as a PDF and then link it to a View Only Google Doc.  I turned the View Only Google Doc into a tinyurl:  http://tinyurl.com/nsfxrhe and had students follow the directions.  Look at this great response

Lake on Mars

And my favorite of all…

Lake on Mars2

Some articles to consider

Using Thinglink to Link Things

I was introduced to Thinglink a few months back and was amazed at how great it was!  Then life happened and I forgot all about it.  It resurfaced when I noticed it has an iPad app.  Thinglink – yes it is really one word – lets you make your images interactive.  You start with an image and can link other images, text, youtube videos, and even videos from your iPad.  In reference to the infamous SAMR model, this thing (get it?) has redefinition written all over it!

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Students will need to create an account to start using ThingLink, but have no fear it allows you to sign in with your Google account.  Cue Pharrell’s Happy Song now!  I am honestly sold on anything that allows me to log into their services with my Google account.  Hint, hint to all you start up companies out there.

Yesterday I started to look at the Social Studies standards, because my default is math and I am trying to break out of my comfort zone.  Here is my creation of the fourth grade standard 4.1.5: Use maps, charts, and pictures to describe how communities in California vary in land use, vegetation, wildlife, climate, population density, architecture, services, and trans­portation.

Unfortunately I cannot embed the ThingLink,  but my work around is to have you click on the image below to see the real thing.

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How do you see this being used in your content area?

An Error Message?!

I want everyone to know that Google Forms has pushed out their data validations with text response questions, and it is fantastic!  In “Google Forms Part One” we talked about using forms as a Digital Turn-In Bin.  As promised here is part two, where we will address how you can use data validation in Forms.  Data validation will help you get the responses you really want from a Google Form.  If the kid response does not fit the required field you set, they will get an error message.  To get started, create a Google Form and select “Text” as your Question Type.

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You will see “Data validation” right below the “Their answer” box.  Right now there are only three types of data validations in Google Forms “Number,” “Text,” and “Regular Expression.”  Lets take a look at all three.


Numbers – think about all the possibilities!  I remember doing Google Forms in my math classroom and getting frustrated when I would ask for a numerical answer and my kiddos would respond with “five” instead of 5.  I’d then need to run a “replace this with that” in forms.  Now you can run a validation that will give kids an error message if they don’t fit within that required range, meaning they cannot spell out the number.

Text – all I need to say is EMAILS!  I always did a Google Form at my Back to School Night to get all of my parent emails and add them to my weekly email blast.  With this requirement you cannot just type in @gmail it will make you fully type in @gmail.com.  Now that isn’t to say  people will not misspell their email, but hey it is a start!  URL will require the response to have http:// www blah blah .com or .edu and so on.  This is great for collecting Google Doc links, Educreation Links and really any link.

Regular expression – could be used as a formative assessment check in.  You can type in the correct answer and use “matches.”  Then have students take the Google Form and if they type in the wrong answer they are prompted to go back and try again.  Can also use this if you are flipping your classroom.  You can ask questions about whatever video or article students were asked to do for homework.  Then students fill in the Google Form as a way for you to know who really is prepared.

Got more ideas on how to use this?  Let us know in the comment section.