Thursday, January 18, 2018

Video Tutorial: Using an Animated Gif as a Sprite in Scratch (AppSmash with Scratch and Piskel)

I loooove animated gifs. I'm also falling in love with coding. What's more fun than combining two things you love?!

Did you know you can use an animated gif as a sprite in Scratch? Yup! I appsmash with Piskel and Scratch to do this, and I've made a video to show you how!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Behavior Management - Student and Teacher Reflection


The beginning of the second half of school (January to May/June) is a wonderful time of year to review and revamp your classroom rules and procedures. All teachers struggle with behavior management from time to time; managing humans is a tough job. One of my favorite (and tried-and-true) methods of behavior management is a behavior reflection form.

Ultimately, the goal of educators in managing behavior is not to punish, but to create the ideal circumstances for cooperation, consideration, and learning. I don't like to punish students. I don't like being punished or penalized, and I loathed it as a student. We can all think back to one or two times in elementary-high school wherein we received a punishment. And, most of the time we feel it was unmerited and/or too severe. The fact that we reflect on the unfairness of punishment lets me know it isn't an effective tool for long-term behavior changes. It's a fear tactic. Educators can't build circumstances for cooperation, consideration, and learning using fear. 

Incentives and positive methods of behavior management are the most powerful tools a teacher has for classroom management. Having said that, sometimes a consequence is needed. 

Consequences have more meaning than punishment. 

For instance, if a parent scolds a child for walking around barefoot, the child understands s/he gets scolded for going barefoot. But, if a parent explains the consequences of walking barefoot -hurting your feet- a child understands walking barefoot is potentially dangerous. If a child walks barefoot and cuts his or her foot, s/he has a profound understanding of the consequences of walking barefoot. 

Consequences > punishment. 

I firmly believe any rule should have an accompanying consequence for rule-breaking; students need concrete boundaries. If a rule cannot have a consequence, then why is it a rule? Perhaps, it should be a procedure or an expectation. . . 

There is often a disconnect between in-class student consequences and guardian understanding of student in-class behavior and consequences. Phone calls can't/don't always happen when the student behavior happens, and sometimes there is a lapse of days between the student behavior and guardian-teacher communication (it's not ideal, but it does happen). Early in my teaching career, I dealt with this disconnect one too many times. I decided to devise a system wherein there is more direct communication about student behavior. 

When a student displays a rule-breaking behavior, I ask him/her to fill out a "Student Behavior Reflection" form. On the front side, the form asks students to reflect on their poor choice, what led up to the poor choice, what choice they will make next time, and what they think the consequence of their behavior should be. On the back side, the form asks the teacher to describe his/her observations leading up to the student behavior, the actions s/he took, reflect on the consequences selected by the student and/or list the teacher assigned consequence, list the number of times the student has completed the form previously in the term, and outline the overall impact (if any) on the student's grade. 

The reflection is powerful because the student is able to reflect on his/her behavior in real-time, and it provides for teacher notes and actions. When the reflection goes home (via student, email, or fax), the guardian has a well-rounded idea of what happened and can see any immediate issues between teacher and student accounts. Finally, it also prevents the student from changing/developing a different story about what happened in the time between the incidence of the behavior and guardian-parent communication. 

Here is a copy of my Behavior Reflection Form. You can download a free PDF copy by clicking here. 



Monday, January 1, 2018

Visual Art, Science, & Math Integration: The Bear Snores On


The districts in my county spent the last year determining which new English Language Arts curriculum they wish to adopt. Ultimately, the districts split between two different curricula, each with their own pros and cons. It was exciting to me to witness this process.  As a teacher, I've always assumed that such adoptions were done with little teacher input and/or little examination. I think that speaks to the not-so-unusual teacher frustration with district-level-decisions. In this process, however, so many factors were examined and each district picked the curriculum they feel best suits the students and learning goals in their district.

Another thrilling aspect of this curriculum adoption is two part: 1) the readings are aligned to other subject standards, and 2) at least half of the readings come from popular picture-books and chapter books. When I was in grade school, it seemed each subject was its own stand-alone entity. What we read during ELA time didn't seem to have a lot of connection to what we were doing in Science etc. Now, what students read during ELA time is reflective of what they are learning across the curriculum. This type of thoughtful integration, coming all the way from a curriculum publishing company to the teacher, is so important. It lends deeper relevance and meaning to what students do.

Furthermore, incorporating popular children's books is so ah-mazing. I know you remember how dull those text-book readings could be when you were an elementary student. I swear, back in the day, it was like textbooks found the most sub-par, yet vocabulary inclusive readings (ugh. boring!!)!  I frequently use the new ELA curriculum texts as inspiration for my next Visual Art lesson plan. And, it is so much fun to see authors like Eric Carle, Roald Dahl, Mark Twain, Jean Craighead George (to name a few), and stories like The Princess and the Pea, The Three Little Pigs, and Jack and the Beanstalk represented.

Some of the books are new to me (I don't have children of my own and am sometimes out of the loop when it comes to picture books), and I get to "discover" amazing new texts! A few exceptional Kindergarten teachers turned me on to the book The Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson last year, and I am delighted to see it included in one of the newly adopted curricula.

I set about designing a visual-art integrated lesson for general education teachers inspired by hibernation and The Bear Snores On. This project is designed for pre-Kindergarten - 2nd grade students, and includes connections to Science, Math, and Visual Arts.

Generalized Visual Arts Standards
Artistic Perception
- Identify the elements of art in objects in nature, in the environment, and in works of art, emphasizing line, color, shape/form, and texture
- Name and describe objects by color and relative size

Creative Expression
- Use elements and principles to create artworks
- Make a collage using cut or torn paper shapes/forms
- Use geometric shapes/forms in a work of art
- Plan and use variations in line, shape/form, color, and texture to communicate ideas or feelings in an artwork

Aesthetic Valuing
- Describe how and why they made a selected artwork, focusing on the media and technique

California Common Core Reading Literature Standards
- Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate
understanding of their central message or lesson
- Describe the story with prompts of who, what, when, where, why, and how
- Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its
characters, setting, events

Next Generation Science Standards
- K-LS1-1 Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals need to survive
- K-ESS3-1 Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants or animals and the places they live

Math Standards
- Identify and describe shapes
- Analyze, compare, create, and compose shapes
- Reason with shapes and their attributes

Book Link

Book Link





More about Visual Thinking Strategies





Hibernation Interactive Game Link to Download

Hibernation Interactive Game Link to Download

Hibernation Interactive Game Link to Download

Hibernation Interactive Game Link to Download

Hibernation Interactive Game Link to Download

Hibernation Interactive Game Link to Download

Hibernation Interactive Game Link to Download

Pusheen Hibernating Bear

Shape Song Link


































Roylco Decorative Papers (you can always have students make their own, too!)











































Link to Non Reader Rubric

Please enjoy the free share. Do not re-create this project for sale or for publication. An honest attempt was made to credit sources used to design this project; if you believe a source is missing, please let me know.