Yes They Can! Primary Students Can USE Technology!

Four years ago this district started a one to one laptop program. Teachers have to apply to get the cart. At the time I was teaching Kindergarten. I don't think very many people expected me to get the cart. But I did! I am teaching first grade now and every day they prove what I felt: Primary students CAN use technology!

Then came all the concerns:
    They can't use a trackpad
    They can't log in themselves, this districts uses a password that requires numbers and letters (at least one uppercase)
    They will drop them
    They will color, write, draw, etc... on them
    They can't do it

I will share how I addressed these concerns in my classroom.  I should also add, my school is high poverty, they don't have computers at home. It is also high ELL, with over 75% being dual language learners. 

Let's start with getting a laptop each day. They are stored on a cart and have to be plugged in to charge each night.

   This is key to the laptop use. I give my students a number, 1-18, and put it on their name tag. Each laptop has the number on the top, in a nice paint pen or chalk pen. The trays in the charging cart also have a number. My students use the same computer every day. They know where to find and where to put the laptop away. Bonus: The network will cache the profile meaning the daily login goes a little faster.  

The laptops stay on the desks. I have 4 desks pushed together, so the laptops go in the middle; leaving plenty of room to work. The students get their own laptop from the cart each morning. In the afternoon, the helpers for the day put the laptops away. It is less crowded around the cart. fewer students in one spot = less chaos.  

They know the plug isn't in all the way if the charging light doesn't come on. It is a great visual clue for them, and something they would pick up themselves. They are already learning to troubleshoot technology problems. 

How to Have a Snow Day in Florida

I live in South Florida where the winter temperatures can range from a low around 60° to a high of 80° plus. We will get the occasional cold front and might see lows in the 40s. Rarely does it freeze in the area.

How do you teach about snow to children who rarely experience winter temperatures, let alone see snow?

Of course the first step is to read books, fiction and nonfiction books about Snow. Some of my favorites include:
Snowballs by Lois Ehlert,  The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, and The Biggest, Best Snowman by Margery Cuyler.

I use YouTube videos as well. My favorite are time lapse videos that show accumulation.

     Four Feet of Snow Time Lapse (43 seconds) 

    Snowfall time lapse and clean up (3:42)  This one give them a good visuals of shoveling, cars making tracks and snow covering the tracks.

We can't see snow videos without seeing some snowplows.

     Kids Truck Video- Snow Plow (2:49)

Finally, we have to watch kids play in the snow.

     The kids playing in the snow (3:47)

I want the students to get a feel for snow. I also like quick, easy, and cheap recipes. I cannot say where I found the idea for shaving cream and baking soda, but it is my favorite recipe for snow. At the right consistency, the students can build a snowman. It is also cold to the touch. My students always comment on that when they touch it for the first time.

Here is my simple recipe:
    1 can Barbasol shaving cream
    32 oz of baking soda
    Dispense all the shaving cream into a plastic container with a lid. Slowly add baking soda until the mix is not running and holds a ball shape. You just have to eyeball this. Let the mixture sit for at least an hour before the students explore.

   This amount makes divides into 4 nice piles of snow for the students to explore. I let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes between groups. As you play in the snow, the heat from your hands will 'use' up the shaving cream. Letting it sit helps the mixture become fluffy again.

I put out shapes and toys for the students to make tracks and designs. Most want to build a snowman. The kids enjoy getting to play in the 'snow' and I feel like they get a realistic feel for snow without having to leave south Florida.

This is what the mixture will look like when it is ready to use. 



Using Google Classroom to Celebrate the 100th Day of School

The 100th day of school is fast approaching. Teachers love to use this day to add a little fun to their day while exploring all things 100.

We are going to do some traditional activities:
    Count 100 objects
    Do 100 exercises
    Read 100 pages

I wanted to do some of the other activities digitally this year. Enter Google Classroom, Google Sheets,  Google Slides, and away we go. Here is a quick preview of the activities in action.

First up is a Hidden Picture Google Sheets activity using a 100s Chart or 120 Chart. Assign the Sheet via Classroom or share via Drive, whatever method you use. It will look like any other 100s chart. The PDF directions include the number to call out.

Students will click on the cell of the number, then click the Fill Tool and click a color to fill the cell. Always use the proper terms for tools so you add a digital literacy piece to the activity with no extra work.

The next Google Sheets activity is simple as well. Again a traditional 100s or 120 chart will open. Students will click in the empty cells and type the missing number. If you have taught them how to change the color of a font, that could be an added step.
Both activities are available in a PDF version if you prefer to print them.

Last up is a Google Slides Presentation. The students work on these in edit mode, they see the slides on the left and know to click the next one they need to work on. This Presentation has the students search for images of current items and the 100 year old version of the item. Then they will use the handles to resize the image and move it to the correct box. 

Google has made improvements to the image search that make it easier for first graders to use. The search box opens on the right of the slide. Students can look at the word on the slide to type them into the search box.

As the students are doing the image search, I talk about how to judge the images in the search. With this activity I will ask them if the current item looks like one they have seen recently. I know my first graders, they love to scroll through the search. This gives me plenty of opportunity to talk about how to choose the most appropriate image. More digital literacy practice embedded in the work.

This slides presentation also ties into Then & Now Social Studies standards. The students will get a better sense of how items have changed over 100 years. 

 Enjoy the 100th day of school, however you celebrate the occasion. Click the picture to find my Google Resources to add a digital element to your day.