Saturday, September 5, 2015

ClassDojo Now Allows You To Share Your "Class Story"

In education, the discussion about the social media presence of the school, teachers and staff is a tough one to have. Student privacy is no joke, and pictures or information on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter can reach A LOT of people in a very short amount of time. It's wonderful to have an online presence, where parents and families can be constantly be updated about changes on the school calendar or be given a small glimpse into their child's classroom. The problem is that, with sharing and re-posting, tagging and hash-tagging, there is no way of knowing who else, besides school families, will see it.

This past week, ClassDojo released their big new update out into to the education world. This update included a major addition to their classroom management tool: Class Story. Operating like a simple hybrid of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (which doesn't really sound simple at all), teachers are able to post pictures and information for their class community to view. This community is made up of families that the teacher has invited to participate, passing out individual codes to students. Once families have joined the group, they can still see little Johnny's behavior details (as has always been the case), or send Johnny's teacher a message, but now they can see pictures from Writers Workshop, or from the field trip last week, or the guest reader from Friday. They can also see posts giving a link to the next online book order, with the due date. Anything that the teacher wants to share, the families can see, and "like" by clicking the little heart symbol in the corner.

I feel like I've seen this setup before...
Sound familiar? It should. It seems that ClassDojo tried to implement everything that people love from the Social Media Giants, while simplifying it (and safety-fying it) for the classroom. The best part is that Class Story can only be seen by the teacher, or the families that have the student codes. There is no sharing, there is no commenting, there is no tagging or hash-tagging. These missing components (which are not really missing...they just aren't an option) make Class Story a simpler and safer way to share classroom information with families. The pictures and information posted stay right in your class community, and can only be changed or added to by the teacher. Yes, screenshots can still be taken, but I'm not sure there is any way around that (I did notice that pictures can't be saved to the camera roll on your phone, but can be saved by right-clicking on the website). Overall, ClassDojo made Class Story as safe as they possibly could for classroom use (which shouldn't surprise anyone...they take it very seriously).

Something else that I valued: Class Story fits right in with the rest of ClassDojo. It operates seamlessly with every part of the app. I can go back and forth from Classroom Behaviors to Messages to Class Story with no problems at all, and I can post pictures or information without clicking a million other buttons to get there. The layout and colors are clean and simple as well, giving it a feeling of being fresh and new.

ClassDojo had a wonderful product that many teachers used faithfully in their classrooms. Now, they've just made that great product even better. I'm sure there will be updates and changes to come (as there are with anything new), but this new update makes ClassDojo a must have for schools and classrooms everywhere.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Letter Practice and Concentric Circles

I think that five and six-year-olds have a strange desire to destroy's the same desire that makes them want to tear paper into small pieces. As you know, taking things apart and tearing things apart can greatly help the development of a small child's fine motor skills.

As I watched my Pre-K daughter poke holes into a piece of cardboard I came up with an idea for a new kindergarten station for this past week. I returned home that night to cut several pieces of cardboard into manageable-sized pieces. I wrote my students' names on them, and then had them poke holes over the top of each letter in their name as practice for writing them with a capital letter first, followed by lowercase letters.

Poking a pencil into cardboard must provide the same feeling as tearing paper or breaking something (I mean, even I found it appealing), because my kids loved it. I wrote their first names only, twice, on the piece of cardboard. They carefully poked a pencil into the cardboard, tracing their names with small holes. Perfect practice for forming letters, writing names, and fine motor skills. I can't wait to use this practice method with sight words, too!

Kandinsky's original
"Concentric Circles" painting.
Also this week, my teaching partner and I (our kindergarten team at John Rex is phenomenal, by the way) worked together to create a massive piece of kindergarten art. Our classes were studying shapes, and we wanted to do a piece of artwork involving basic shapes, that was similar to a piece of classic artwork. We decided to do a John Rex Kindergarten version of Kandinsky's "Concentric Circles".

We gave each student an 8 1/2" x 8 1/2" piece of watercolor paper and watercolor paints. We showed them Kandinsky's piece, asking them to identify the shapes that they saw. We then asked them to paint one square of the painting, using any colors they wanted. They're five, so their circles weren't perfect, and their painting was messy, which made their individual paintings look so good. We then taped the squares together, making one huge piece (about 3' x 5'). The end result looked so good, and the kids were so proud of what they had created by working together.
"KINDERcentric Circles"

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Back In Business

Wow. It has been quite awhile. In kindergarten terms, it has been quite literally forever since my last blog post.

There is a reason, though.

I moved.

I could bore you with details of the transition itself, but I won't do that. I'll just tell you that I was given a wonderful opportunity to teach at a great new school, and I went for it. My family and I packed a U-Haul truck (could've packed for home and one for school) and we moved 12 hours away. Throughout the entire transition I decided not to post on here. I still had work to do at my old school and there was always a chance that something could go haywire in the transition process. But now here I am, a John Rex Rocket, starting another school year in kindergarten.

My new teaching home...John Rex Elementary,
nestled right in the middle of downtown OKC.
The first week was full of procedures and the kiddos getting used to me. This is a long process, with many kids wondering why they have the "boy teacher", but it's fun to see their little attitudes change when they see my personality and how much fun we can have.

Of course, they had to be introduced to my friends Dot & Dash (our robot friends from Wonder Workshop), and they were beyond excited to drive them around and get to know them. Seeing their excited little faces as they realize that they can actually operate robots never gets old. I actually used Dot & Dash on "Meet Your Teacher Night" as a kind of ice breaker. The kids loved them (and some of the parents enjoyed playing with them, too). It really helped calm the atmosphere a bit in my opinion. Of course, I may have been the only one in the room who felt like it was a little stressful in the first place.

We also worked on a few "About Me" projects. My kindergarten team wanted to measure the kids, marking their height with a rocket that they colored (since the school mascot is a rocket). I had a random, long, piece of white board that I dragged with me in the move. It was a leftover piece from when I had some custom white board cut, about five feet tall, and a couple of inches wide. I'm sure the guy at the hardware store thought I was crazy when I wanted to keep it (and I'm sure that Mrs. Kindergarten Guy was cursing me throughout the move for bringing it along, but she had plenty of her own teachery items...I'm sure we can call it even). We ended up turning this piece into our own custom "measuring device" (tip of the cap to one of my good friends at TES), using a dry erase marker to mark each unit. We used chart paper to list various non-standard forms of measurement: pencils, blocks, cups, plates, cakes...the usual. We settled on (with some expert guidance from yours truly) using markers as our unit of measurement. We then used our custom ruler to measure the kids heights on the dry-erase wall in the hallway. That's right...the walls are dry-erase...can't wait to see all the ways I can use that!

I'm looking forward to sharing all of the new, creative and fun things that we will be doing in kindergarten this year, so check back in.

I'm back in business.