Thursday, August 8, 2013

Social Gaming in the Classroom

This was written for an assignment in the technology class that I am currently taking, but I wanted to share it will all my teacher friends outside of the class as well!



English Language Learners and Social Gaming

by Brooke Carlyle
Summer 2013

For quite a while (as long as I have been teaching, or a student myself), teachers have used games with an academic focus to interest and engage kids in their learning. In my classroom, my students have played math games that help them think critically about order of operations, multiplication and division fact fluency games, word games to boost spelling and vocabulary, and have even created their own games focused in several content areas. As a teacher, I also implement more traditional board games that still help support specific skills that I want my students to master. Some of these games include Boggle, Scrabble, Pictionary, and Bananagrams.

Today, I would be willing to bet that some of these games are being played more than they ever have before, both by children and adults. Why? Because of Web 2.0. These games have turned into social networking obsessions and are more commonly referred to as Words With Friends (a Scrabble variation), Scramble With Friends (a Boggle variation), and Draw Something (a Pictionary variation). These games, which are already incredibly popular with upper elementary and older students (and their parents!) can greatly benefit ELL students as they work to develop their English vocabulary. However, as with most technology, there are possible barriers that could make using these games in an educational way, difficult for those students. With planning and foresight, those barriers are easily avoided.

Logistics and Benefits for ELLs
Barriers and Solutions
Words With Friends
Words With Friends (WWF) is a game based on Scrabble by the company Zynga Games. It became incredibly popular over the last few years in a wide variety of age groups. WWF can be downloaded and played on iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches, Android, and Windows phones/tablets, Kindle Fire, and Nook Tablet (many schools have access to some or one of these technologies.
The idea of WWF is to take turns arranging all or some of your 7 letter tiles to form words on a “game board.” Points are based on the value of the letters in the word, and where they are placed related to bonus squares on the board. Play continues as both players build off the words already on the board.
This is a great way for students to work on their spelling and vocabulary. A dictionary is allowed when there is a dispute about a word (or its spelling) and that could provide the opportunity for students to learn new words. I would also encourage my students to challenge themselves by giving a definition or synonym for the word they are using.  WWF can be played with two people on the same device, or two people can play against each other using separate devices.
This is a game I would use in 5th grade and higher classrooms.
The use of technology often requires specific directions. I wouldn’t expect a student (ELL or not) to just pick up a classroom iPad and know exactly how to navigate through the programs, find WWF, and use the game exactly as I intended them to. Their knowledge of this is also highly dependent on their schema with technology and these games. Maybe their parents play WWF on their iPhones all the time, or maybe they’ve never held an iPhone or iPad in their life.
To overcome this, I would provide direct instruction to my students as I use the device and show them how the game is played. You could also play traditional Scrabble at some point before introducing WWF. That way you are not focused on navigating the technology, but more so the rules of the game.
Also partnering students strategically, with one having more knowledge of how the game works, could be a helpful strategy as well.
Scramble With Friends
Scramble With Friends (SWF) is another game produced by Zynga Games and it plays off the traditional board game Boggle. Players are shown a 4 by 4 grid of letters (16 letters total) and slide their finger to connect letters to form words. Words can as small as 2 letters, but points are earned based on length of the word. Words can be formed vertically, horizontally, and even diagonally.
Even when I play this game I notice TONS of easily formed sight words, making this game more appropriate for younger students (as Boggle generally is).
This is a game I could see used in primary classrooms, along with intermediate and higher. The beauty of this game is that it is as hard as you make it. It does an excellent job of meeting children at their level.
Just as with WWF, anytime you are introducing new technology or instructions on who to play a game, students (especially those who are not native English speakers) may struggle. This struggle would be benefitted by direct instruction from the teacher on how to access and play this game and actually playing Boggle in the classroom beforehand.
Draw Something
Draw Something was created by a company called OMGPOP. It is a game that is based on the classic game of Pictionary. Draw something can be played on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android devices. Just like in Pictionary, each player is given a word and they must draw a visual representation of that word to help the other player guess what it is. Draw Something is great because players are given a choice of 3 words that they would like to draw (easy, middle, and hard). This is built in differentiation! I love this game for ELLs because one of the most effective techniques to use when supporting language acquisition is to provide visual representation of vocabulary. That is exactly what this game does!
I could see this game being used in primary grades with support from an adult or older student. I would not hesitate to use this game with my 6th graders and older students.
Similar barriers exist for ELL and any student when using this game. Students must be specifically taught how to use the device on which they are playing AND the rules of the actual game.
Again, this can be helped with direct instruction, and playing the non-technology version of the game as a whole or small group in the classroom.
If younger students are playing Draw Something, it could be helpful to have an adult or older student there for support.

More information about these games and more can be found at:

Monday, August 5, 2013

Pins for the Win: Art Edition

I have a mental list happening of the final posts for my "Pins for the Win" theme happening here on my blog. I know I want to do writing, management, motivation/quote posters, and art. Art seemed the most fun out of all of those options, and it's one of those days where my motivation is quite low to do anything productive (as I hear my fiancĂ© upstairs deep cleaning the master bed and bath *oops*), so I need something fun to write about! Here are my top art pins from over the last year or so. Again, some I have done, and some I haven't!

I have done this project with both my 6th graders and kids at the summer camp I used to run (ages 6-11). It's super easy, and they look so cool when finished. The 6th graders and I hung up all of our finished hand drawings on a wall in our classroom, and they looked great together, even though they were all a little different!
I also did this with my 6th graders this past Christmas. I used a large canvas I got on sale at a craft store and had each one of my kiddos put a handprint. I helped them with the layout of their handprints so it looked like a Christmas tree. After their handprints dried, I stenciled colored circles that looked like ornaments and wrote my students names on them with black Sharpie (2 names on each). On the bottom I wrote "Ms.Carlyle's Class 2012." I'll definitely do it again this year!
I really like the look of this art project. The mix of patterns and color is really interesting to the eye. I pinned this quite a while ago but have not done it with my class. It looks pretty tricky and I'll need to go back to the website linked to the pin to get better directions. This is definitely a project that I would want to do alone first before introducing it to the kids! The one awesome thing about finding things on Pinterest is that it's great to have a visual example. I'm a new-ish teacher, so I don't always have examples of everything I want to do stored away!
I did this project just the other day actually! This is what I call an "all-inclusive" pin. You don't have to mess with following the link to the website, because it has step by step pictures right here. This was super easy but did take some time to make it nice and neat. I will definitely be doing this with my 6th graders this year. One thing I like is that they can choose which color(s) to complete the picture with (I did pink and white!)
I told you this was low-motivation Monday, so that is all I have in me for this blog post. I definitely do have more art projects on my Teacher, Teacher Pinterest board if you're interested!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Pins for the Win: Classroom Organization

I am a strange breed of teacher. I have extreme anxiety (anyone who knows me knows this is no secret) and get myself incredibly worked up when things "feel" messy or cluttered. What makes that strange? I bring it upon myself with my lack of organization skills. I'm not like, hoarder status, but I just don't take the time to do things right (put those papers where they need to go, file that lesson, etc) and it comes back to bite me in the butt. When you walk into my classroom it doesn't seem messy. Because I am more likely to just throw clutter away (most likely losing valuable papers and such) than sort through it like I should. I'm starting out the school year in a new classroom, and am hoping to use that as a clean slate/fresh start to staying on top of everything. Today I am going to pin things that I found related to keeping that classroom clean and organized, and didn't seem too overwhelming. I don't have many...because like I said, I am no organization maven, but it's better than nothing!

This is a picture of my room that I actually uploaded to Pinterest last year. I only copy things week-by-week. I know some teachers do whole months or even semesters at a time, but I work best just doing it week by week. I keep my copies for the week in these manilla folders. One huge benefit to this, is if I am unexpectedly absent one day, it makes it that much easier to write sub-plans and explain where things are. In the very back, I usually keep extra worksheets for kids who are done, or if I do have a sub and they need something for the kids to do.

Wow. Would I want this in my room? Yes. Do I think it will ever happen? No.

This year, in my new classroom, I have a whiteboard like this at the back of the room behind my desk. It's obviously not going to be a very effective teaching space, so I like the idea of using as a big calendar like this. I can mark off the lines with tape (I found painters or masking tape works best, NOT duct tape) and adjust the calendar each much by adding velcro backed laminated numbers, or even just writing the days in. It's a great way to share with the kids upcoming events, due dates, and changes in school schedules.

This is something that I actually took a picture of in my classroom and uploaded to pinterest. My room is a portable, so I'm always bringing papers and what have you to and from the main building. I realized that I was losing track of things on my desk, so I stapled a few manilla folders to the wall, near my other important documents (calendar, pacing guides, etc). It worked out really well for me!

This is not a new concept, but it's one that I have never tried. I get nervous doing things with student numbers, because I have a high rate of turnover in my classroom (in our school). This year, I want to modify this idea a bit and use it in my room. Instead of a bin with individual numbers, I think I'll use an absent folder. If a student is absent, a folder will be placed on their desk by me or a student helper. Throughout the day, any worksheets or whatnot that are passed out can be put in that folder. This avoids lost worksheets, the usual "but I didn't get that one" a week later when something is due, and a messy desk covered in papers.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pins for the Win: Math Edition

I am a 6th grade teacher, but it's important to know that I pin math concepts, anchor charts, activities, etc that are not just 6th grade level. Is every child in my class working at grade level? No. And in my mind, that's OK, as long as I am supporting those working below level to help them meet standard, and as long as I am enriching and challenging those above level to keep going and going. That's my take on it. So without further ado, here are some awesome math pins that I have collected over the last year or so (again, some I have used, and others I have intention of using!)

I DO use this method. It takes so much mystery out of ordering fractions and saves time (instead of finding common denominators, multiplying top and bottom, blah blah blah. I also love how organized and clear this math notebook is. It inspired me to keep several different colored pens near my teaching station when I am modeling in my math notebook.

There are parts of this pin I have used, and parts that I want to use. My students and I will include several representations of a concept in our math notebooks. We usually show the concept in words and math (shown above) but also pictorially if possible. I like how it touches on several learning styles. This coming year, I would like to experiment with the "interactive" notebook, as shown above with the flaps. I worry it will be more of a distraction/management piece than helpful!

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of this anchor chart. Would you believe it if I told you that over half of the points my students miss are not caused by an inability to perform the operation, but by SILLY MISTAKES. If anything, this anchor chart serves as a reminder to go back and check work!! I will definitely be using this in my room this year.

Oh division man, you crack me up. No, I have never used division man, but I do use the mnemonic DMSB: dad, mom, sister, brother. You'd be surprised at how many of my 6th graders struggle with long division, and there are times that we see this skill in our 6th grade curriculum (especially with decimals, which trips them up even more!). I am entertaining the idea of inviting division man into the classroom this year, it'll depend on how "cool" my students are. Although, I do a lot of things that they don't think are very "cool"...and I just get the standard, "Ms.Carlyle, that is not cool." haha
I'd by lying if I said I could always remember these how can I expect my 6th graders to? I LOVE this graphic. We don't specifically cover these skills and concepts in the 6th grade curriculum, but there are definitely times when we come across a word problem involving this type of conversion (which is assumed to be background knowledge) and my kids are stumped! I absolutely LOVE this graphic, and think it belongs on every general ed or math classroom wall.
I chose to share this pin because it showcases something I currently do, and something I'd like to do. Each day my students and I write down our learning target for that lesson. It goes at the very top of the page of our notes and classwork that day. At the end of the lesson, we have a quick discussion on if we feel great, so-so, or not great at all about meeting our goal. I use that as a very informal assessment on how my students are doing (along with many other things). As I mentioned earlier, I would like our math notebooks to be more interactive, as this one above is. That can be as easy as cutting out shapes and gluing them in.
Finally, this is something I have seen in primary classrooms and intermediate both. It goes back to that phenomenon where students KNOW the skill, but they make a silly mistake. Often times, that silly mistake involves performing the wrong basic operation. There are so many words and phrases to signify each operation (add, subtract, multiply, and divide), so this anchor chart is a great reference to support students who are unsure of their first step, or to reassure them if they think they know the correct operation.

That's it for math pins today! There are definitely more to be found on my "Teacher, Teacher" board and I am literally pinning more and more every day!! I wish I could get paid for has to be some kind of professional development right? Be on the look out for my Pins for the Win writing, art, organization, and management editions!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pins for the Win: Reading Edition

Let me just start out by giving you access to my Teaching Pinterest board:

OK, now that that's out of the way, I'd like to take some time to share with you my faaaavorite READING teaching pins that I have collected over the last year or so. Some I have used, most I haven't...but I promise I have every intention to (that's what they all say, right?).  Be on the look out for my favorite writing, math, management, organization, and art pins!

Non-Fiction Response
Non-Fiction Response sheet
67 books to read to your kids before they turn 10
This link gives a list of books every child should read (or have read to them) by 10 years old
Great for D5/CAFE board too!!
Questioning Anchor Chart:
Do your students need extra support and practice with fiction or non-fiction comprehension?This product was created for students who take home ...
List of comprehension questions to make cards out of. Students can do this independently both at home and school.
Text Features Printable
I'm always looking for examples when introducing text features, especially in non-fiction
For introducing a new story...Have them fill it in as they read.
Introducing a new story worksheet

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Goal #2: Student Bloggers

Last week when I was researching blogs created by teachers and blogs created for teachers, I stumbled upon the idea of using blogs in the classroom in a different way.
Let the kids blog!
I instantly knew this was something I wanted to do with my 6th graders. I think 6th grade is the perfect age for this because they are incredibly digitally savvy, are obsessed with social networking, and are often just plain sick of writing....with paper and pencil, that is.
I immediately began researching websites that I could use to allow my students to have a blog in a safe and secure environment....that I could control :) I decided I really liked the looks of the website
Kid blog reminded me of other teacher-led websites that I have used like IXL and That Quiz. I think it is really important when kids are using the web, that the teacher has some control over the sites they are on, and MOST importantly, has a way to track their work and progress.
So, how do I see this being used in my classroom? My kids write A LOT! They write about their reading, they write about their math, they write about their lives, they write stories and essays....they are writing, writing, writing, every day! Throughout the year, their complaints about writing increase, and really, can I blame them? I think incorporating a blog will give them a new, exciting, and fresh way to share their thinking. I am also hoping that this will provide a platform for students to discuss their classmates thinking and have meaningful and engaging discussions (much like the ones I have with my classmates during my masters work).
I'm going to do more exploring on KidBlog this summer and fine-tune exactly how I see it incorporated into my English Language Arts curriculum. I will keep you updated on how it goes!! 

Monday, July 15, 2013

School's Out for Summer!....Except for Summer School....

I wanted to take some time to share about an awesome program that I have the opportunity to be apart of at my school. During the school year I tutor for the C-21 program. This is an after school program that focuses on students who qualify for free and reduce lunch. C-21 is funded by the Washington Alliance for Better Schools and there are about 10 schools in my district who are apart of this enriching experience.Basically, it is a grant that funds after school tutoring with a focus on reading and math interventions for grades 3-6.

During the summer, we have the opportunity to work with these kiddos on their reading and math interventions for 4 weeks. We call it "summer school" although this is not what you typically would think of as summer school, where students did not meet the needed requirements during the school year and needed to make up the time. The four weeks I get to spend with these kiddos is really beneficial to both them and me. It's a time for us to be more casual, get to know each other, have fun, and get learning done. These kids are bored out of their minds at home throughout the summer and they literally show up earlier and earlier each day to start our sessions!

Here is an example of what my half-day schedule looks like and the goals that I have focused on with my kiddos (per their next year's teacher's request).

9:00-9:45 Ms. Carlyle Planning
9:45-11:10 5th Grade Reading
11:10-11:20 Recess! (It wouldn't be school without a little recess!)
11:20-12:05 3rd Grade Math (3rd graders are a stretch for me, but they keep me on my toes!)
12:05-12:50 4th Grade Math
12:50-1:15 Lunch (provided by the free lunch program) and recess :)

5th Grade Reading Goals
-Independent reading stamina (20 minutes)
-Comprehension Skills (summarizing, identifying literary elements, questioning)

To reach our goals, we spend time with me doing a read aloud (My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Coville). Then my students complete 20 minutes of independent reading with their "just right" novels. When finished I ask 3 comprehension questions that relate to the previously mentioned reading skills, the students write their answers in a reading journal where we also keep track of the minutes they read to help them complete the principal's summer reading challenge. I model how to answer the questions based on My Teacher is an Alien, and they write based on the story they are reading. Finally, we finish up our time reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. We do this as a group read, where I will read a few paragraphs, then ask for volunteers or select a specific student to read to the group. We write a one paragraph summary each day on that reading as well.

3rd Grade Math Goals
-Master addition facts
-Master subtraction fact
-Multiple digit addition and subtraction with regrouping
-Using clocks and calendars

4th Grade Math Goals
-Master multiplication facts (0-10)
-Master division facts (0-10)
-Multi digit multiplication
-Area and perimeter of quadrilaterals

For the math goals, many of the students have had the basics in these areas during the school year. I focus on one skill each week. I do direct instruction of the skill at the beginning of each day, then we do skill practice with worksheets or whiteboards. I adore the website Super Teacher Worksheets. I swear I am not a teacher that is ALWAYS handing out worksheets, but this website has a lot of great resources (puzzles, games, basic practice problems, challenge problems, etc) based on any elementary math skill!