Sunday, December 13, 2015

Hour of Code 2015

This was my third year to participate in Hour of Code, and it was definitely the best one. This past summer I had an opportunity to get trained as a code.org affiliate. I was inspired by people at code.org and their passions to spread computer science education all over the world. I held a few workshops to train local educators to teach k5 computer science curriculum this fall. I have been teaching the same curriculum to my own first grade students this year. It was also exciting to see the district level involvement to the Hour of Code this year.

Here is how our week went.


So much fun and excitement!
I'm looking forward to extending their learning rest of the school year.

Do you want to dig deeper into computer science curriculum? You can get certified to teach code.org curriculum! Find a workshop near you by clicking HERE.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Global Read Aloud

Another year of great learning success during the Global Read Aloud! This was my third year of participating in Global Read Aloud. I would like to thank Pernille Ripp for her dedication to organize this global event. My students and I absolutely loved the experiences!

My class participated in Amy Krouse Rosenthal author study. Her books are very simple, yet have powerful messages that are easy for my first graders to understand. My students could not wait to read her book each week.

I also had a blast collaborating with wonderful teachers and their students from all over the United States & Canada. Thanks to my Twitter PLN, finding collaborating teachers was not too difficult:) Some of us participated in GRA last year together, so this year all it took was... "Do you want to do it again?" It was great to see some new faces in our group as well.

Here are some of highlights from our #GRA15 learning!

Week1: Chopsticks
We had a class discussion on what we like to do with our best friends and what we can do independently.

We also learned how to use chopsticks form the seventh & eighth graders in Melvina Kurashige's class. They made incredible "how to use chopsticks" videos. They did a great job teaching us!

Week 2 : Duck! Rabbit!
This was a great book to discuss difference in perception & opinion. Many classes shared what they thought about the creature here. 

I also created a survey, and here is the result.



And this is what Amy responded...

My students were beyond excited to her back from Amy herself:) (and I was, too!)


Week 3 : It's Not Fair!
Our class enjoyed sharing their personal connections to the story. We all have said, "It's not fair!" plenty of times before. Then we played a Kahoot created by Jennifer Sloop... this was a great way to have a discussion on fairness.
We also enjoyed reading the story readers' theater style with Terry Stofer's second grade class. Thanks to Terry for writing a great script as well!

Week 4 : Exclamation Mark
My students got to really practice punctuations this week. Thanks to Karen Lirenman's wonderful idea! We played a little punctuation game with Traci Wood's first grade class. Our students wrote a sentence, read it to each other via Google Hangout and guessed which punctuation should be used. What a great way to practice both reading and writing!




Week 5 : The OK Book
This week we discussed what we were great at and OK at. It is OK to be OK at something:) Terry Stoufer had a great idea for a collaboration project. Our students interviewed each other about what they are great & ok at. They wrote about their partner and told "It is OK." We are currently completing the book, but here is one of the pages...

Week 6 : Book of our choice
Terry Stoufer, Michelle Flicek and I each read a book via Google Hangout. We also voted for our favorite book using Kahoot! 




WOW! is all I can say. What a wonderful opportunity for us to enjoy books and expand our learning beyond our classroom walls! I can't thank you enough, Pernille! I hope you will continue to host & organize this great project. I also would like to thank the author, Amy Krouse Rosenthal for not only writing inspiring stories, but also taking time to write, check, like, and respond to tweets! It meant a lot to us! 



Saturday, November 14, 2015

Spirit Hour Kick Off

FINALLY!!! 

Yes, finally I'm blogging again about finally starting what I have always dreamed & brainstormed so long:)

I introduced "Spirit Hour" to my first graders on Thursday.  What is Spirit Hour? It is a maker space, genius hour, passion based, project oriented, student centered learning hour. It sounds like a lot, doesn't it? To me it does:) Maybe that's why it took me a while to jump in. Well, I finally told myself that I had to start somewhere. Here is how I started.

I started the introduction by talking about passion. I wanted to tap into what my students really enjoy whether or not it will lead to a project. I gave my students a heart map to fill out. 





Some students' passions were very specific (ex. Legos, dinosaurs, Mine Craft, etc.) while others were very vague (ex. spending time with family...aww<3), but it was ok. I wanted my students to feel how exciting it was to just think & chat about what they really enjoy.

My vision for Spirit Hour later in the year is to see students picking a topic, planning the purpose for the project (creating, demonstrating, informing, instructing, persuading, etc.), deciding what they will make & ho, problem solving throughout the process, and sharing their product at the end.

I know that it will take us a while to get there, so I have decided to take a more guided approach by giving them a challenge. Inspired by Karen Lirenman's Lego challenge (@KLirenman #LegoChallenge) and how she started her challenge, the first challenge for Spirit Hour was a name challenge. The task was simple. Design/build your name:) We brainstormed the tools that they could use for this challenge. I stressed the importance of visualizing/planning how their product would look like and choosing an appropriate material.  We also talked about problem solving; not to jump from one tool to another when they came to a problem. Then it was time to let them go! As soon as I said, "go create!" The students knew exactly where to start.





During the sharing time, each student told the class what they liked about their project & problem solving that was involved.
Here are a few projects.

 Keegan ran out of markers so he used erasers to finish the project.

 At first Collin used a smaller board and ran out of space. He then discovered how to change size of the board and was able to complete the task.

Alyssa could not figure out how to make the letter S. She wanted to switch to drawing but persevered through it.

The students all took a picture of their product and posted on their blog HERE

As we were cleaning up, I heard this boy loud and clear so I had to ask him to repeat for me:) 
Well, this sums all up, doesn't it?

I can't wait for next week's Spirit Hour! 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Welcome to #mtgr1

#mtgr1 (math talks grade 1) community welcomes you and your students to participate in a weekly math slow chat. Here is how it works.
  1. Every Sunday night starting September 6, I will Tweet an open-ended math problem of the week. Please follow me at @lekadegroot
  2. Please retweet to share the question with your PLN.
  3. Your students will share their thinking during the following week through Monday to Friday. Make sure their Tweets include the hashtag #mtgr1 so that everyone in the #mtgr1 community can view your students' responses.
  4. I encourage you to visit Tweets from other classes to discuss different ways to solve a problem or view math.
  5. Respond or leave a comment to other classes' ideas. 
  6. Follow classes that are participating to build your students' learning community.
Pretty simple, right? You can just make it fit into your schedule, but here is my #mtgr1 routine.
  • On Mondays during our math instruction time, we read a question of the week.
  • I give my students to moments to think/observe (if there is an image) by themselves.
  • Then I prompt them to "turn & talk" with their classmates. 
  • After the turn & talk, we talk about what we saw and thought as a large group.
  • We then brainstorm how to show their thinking. Do you need tools such as number cubes or connecting cubes? Are you going to draw on a white board? Do you choose to draw on a piece of paper or on the iPad?  Here are the examples of different tools my students used for the same question.




  • I typically let my students choose whether to work alone or with friends, but they usually wanted to work alone to share their own idea.
  • Once students have their idea down, they use an iPad or iPod to get their Tweets ready.
  • Before they click "Tweet" they need to show it to me for an approval.
While students work on the problem, my job is to go around and listen to their explanation. If a student gets stuck, I let him/her ask a friend to help. There are times when a student makes mistakes. Do I let him/her know that the answer is wrong? No. I encourage them to look over the answer, but if they are confident I go ahead and give a permission to share. Why? It will give other classes a great learning opportunity! See?


#mtgr1 takes up most of our math instruction time on Monday. During the week, I check other classes' Tweets.  I am mindful when I pick a few Tweets to share with my students on Friday (I take only 10-15 minutes). Will my students learn something new from this Tweet? Would this Tweet reinforce what they already know? Would this Tweet challenge my students to extend their math knowledge?  Here are some examples of what I did with my students.
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I loved these three tweets. They gave us a perfect opportunity to talk about multiplication. No, multiplication is not in our CCSS, but why not?
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How about this one for subitizing? We talked about where we thought Gabriella saw 10 eggs and 8 eggs in the image.
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We also talked about patterning being a big part of math. Math is not just numbers!
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What I love about open-ended questions is differentiated opportunities they would bring to the students. Students can showcase their BEST work. For some students they may show below grade level expectations and for others above and beyond. However, no matter what their academic level was, every week I saw my students pushing their math knowledge a little bit further to challenge themselves. I believe that they wanted to show their best work to their global audience. 

I would like to thank all the classes who participated in #mtgr1 last year for giving my students such great learning experiences. 

So, are you ready to join this great learning opportunity? There is no sign up needed, however, I would love to see where you are from. Let me know by leaving your name and location HERE.

If you teach second grade/grade 2, my friend Terry Stoufer @FirstAtBat will be hosting #mtgr2. You can visit her blog post HERE



Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Power of Student-Led Morning Meeting

I always had a calendar time in the morning ever since I started teaching. A student came up in front of the class and completed all the tasks such as inserting a date card on a pocket chart calendar then reading the date, adding a straw to bundles to count days in school, adding a penny to a pocket chart to much today's number, etc. They were not bad activities, but I was seeing some problems.  There were some students who had no clue of what to do when they came up to the front of the class despite of going through the calendar routine everyday. They were clearly not learning just by watching their classmates(duh?!). It was frustrating for me, and it was devastating for those students who needed so much help from me in front of their classmates. Then I decided to have everyone fill out an individual copy of calendar chart. It kept all students occupied but the task got just repetitive with no real engagement, and I was starting to doubt if the calendar time was really worth of our time at all.

Then two summers ago I read a book called "Number Sense Routines: Building Numerical Literacy Every Day in Grades K-3" by Jessica F. Shumway.
This is a great resource to really understand what number sense is and how children develop such sense. There are many examples of activities that we can easily incorporate during our day. After reading this book, I reflected on my calendar routine and redefined my purpose and goals for the routine. So... here are what I came up with:
  • I didn't want the calendar routine to be just a series of tasks that one student had to "perform."
  • I wanted the calendar time to be more authentic.
  • I wanted to create a community where students talk and discuss numbers and math related to real life.
  • I wanted my students to take ownership for their learning.
Then I came up with our new routine for the morning meeting.
  1. Morning message from me to the class on the SMART board --- It's a short message to greet my students every day. I may include a special event of the day or birthday wish for one of the students. Some times I leave a blank space for high frequency word so that one of the students can come up and fill in the blank. Towards the end of last school year I decided to include a joke of the day. (Thanks to my Twitter PLN, but I'm sorry I cannot remember whose idea to have a joke of the day:( ) It was a great way to start the day with a little giggle or well, just silent stare... 
  2. Calendar --- I use large real calendars on the board. At the beginning of each month we fill out important dates such as birthdays, holidays and special events just like we would with our personal calendar. At the beginning of school year we discuss why we use a calendar. Students usually make a connection with the calendar at home and why and how their parents may use the calendar.  Each day a pair of students worked on writing the date, code date and came up with a question about the calendar.
  3. Days in School --- We keep track of how many days we have been in school by making tallies, finding the matching number on a 180 chart, adding the number on number strips, and adding a dot on a ten frame. A pair of students lead the class to skip count and ask a question related to the number of the day.
  4. Weather & Temperature Data Collection --- A pair of students check the weather and discuss temperature then record on the graphs. (We talk about differences between hot and warm, chilly and cold a lot.)  After sharing their findings they ask a question about collected data. Click HERE to download the graphs. 
  5. Sorting --- A pair of students sorted Attrilinks/Pattern Blocks/3D figures into groups and project up on the SMART board using a document camera. Students were to guess their sorting pattern. Late in the year we switch to using a Venn Diagram to sort the shapes.
I have to say that I love how my morning meetings work now. Here are some great things happening during the meetings.
  • A pair of students work together on one task, talk, discuss and decide what question to ask.  
  • Questions are more authentic and related to their life. "How many days until ___'s birthday?" "How many more days until the 100th day of school?" "How many snowy days have we had?"
  • There are many ways to practice number sense. "What color would 56 be?" "What is 20 more than __?" "Can you skip count by 2's starting __?"
  • Students are leading the meeting. They are the ones in front while I sit back with other students. Helpers ask a question, wait and call on others to share the answer. 
  • Students are expected to explain their answers. Helpers always follow up the answers with "How did you figure it out?" "Did anyone figure out in a different way?" 
  • Students are allowed to disagree. Students are given chances to fix their mistakes. It takes a collaborative effort to keep moving forward as a class. I am not the only one who decides if the given information is right or wrong. 
  • Students are highly engaged since they want to be called on by their friends. 
  • Less confident students have support from their partners.
  • Some students take initiatives to take on a task. For example, one student researched a holiday that was on our calendar and shared it with the class. Several students wrote down jokes on a piece of paper at home so that I could use them on a morning message.
  • I never know where the morning meeting conversations lead us to from day to day, but wherever we end up there is always rich learning in the process.
  • The morning meeting serves as a math warm up since we do math right after the meeting. 
I see such pride in every student when they are the helpers and leading the class. At the beginning of school year I take about two weeks to model all tasks so that students will be exposed to various follow-up questions. Once they take over, the rest is a smooth sailing. I am always amazed with my students' leadership and ownership to their jobs. I also get a compliment from substitute teachers how independent my class is. 

One more routine... we actually start the day with Yoga with Cosmic Kids before the morning meeting. I love how we can all get our mind and body ready to learn and focus in such a fun way. Here is a link to my Symbaloo if you are interested.

I am currently reading two books that support my thinking of student-led classroom and the importance of engaging students in deeper thinking. 


I would like to give my students more opportunities to lead in the future. They may be young, but when we give them opportunities they are capable of leading, teaching and inspiring others. Do you have a student-led classroom? I would love to hear your story! 








Friday, July 3, 2015

The Power of Twitter

I started using Twitter (@lekadegroot) to form a professional learning network (PLN) about five years ago. I learned so much from my PLN and have grown as an educator. I met many inspiring, willing teachers to collaborate and connected our classrooms via Skype, Google Hangouts, and student blogs. Three years ago with an encouragement from my PLN, I opened up a new Twitter account for my classroom (@mrsdegrootclass). I have to be honest. At first I really didn't know how things would go and was even a little skeptical about introducing my first graders into the Twitter world. Soon that uneasy feeling disappeared as I saw excitement in my students' eyes and most of all great learning opportunities that came along.

Here are some different ways we use our class Twitter;
  1. Share what is happening in our classroom.

      2. Ask questions about other classes' Tweets.



    3. Communicate with children's book authors... and sometimes they respond back!



  4. Ask an expert.  
  5. We share and end up inspiring others! My students were thrilled to know they had good influence on other first graders.

But the best learning comes when we develop learning communities for our students by creating unique hashtags. Students are able to share their thinking and teach each other via Twitter.

For example, I started a hashtag for math talks = #mtgr1 (math talks grade 1) where I post a weekly open ended question. Students share their answers and ideas at #mtgr1. Later in each week my class and I go over the tweets from other classes and discuss what they learned. You can read more about #mtgr1 HERE.





Another community that I created was #1bc15 (1st grade book club 2015) where participating classes read a book called "My Father's Dragons" and shared their thoughts and learning using #1bc15. You can read about how it was set up HERE.  Tweets from other classes were simply amazing. Children were visualizing, making predictions, making connections, retelling stories, identifying character traits, learning new vocabulary and a lot more. If I was reading this book with just my class, it was impossible to cover all the elements of reading. However when you are learning with 20+ first grade classes, it is possible! We enjoyed checking #1bc15 Twitter feed every day.

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participating classes 

There are many more hashtags that teachers create to share learning opportunities with other classes. We all know that learning is so much more powerful when we have authentic purpose and audience. After three years of integrating Twitter into my classroom, I can simply say class Twitter is one of the best tech tools that we use. Are you new to Twitter or thinking about starting class Twitter? Here are more resources on using Twitter in the classroom form two rockstar educators!


Friday, March 20, 2015

"My Father's Dragon" Book Club 2015




Here is a schedule for the second year of "My Father's Dragon" Twitter book club! This year we are starting a little early so that we will have enough time to read all three books in My Father's Dragon series.

Book 1 "My Father's Dragon" starts on Wednesday, March 25. Read a chapter a day.
Book 2 "Elmer and the Dragon" starts on Monday, April 13. Read a chapter a day.
Book 3 "The Dragons of Blueland" starts on Wednesday, April 29. Read a chapter a day.

You do not have to read all three.  If you are new to this event and want to try just one book, that is perfectly fine. After reading each chapter, students or your class will tweet thoughts and learning at #1bc15.

Here are some examples of learning that were shared last year during the book club and last year's book club blog post.

  • prediction
  • visualization 
  • math connections
  • text-to-self connections
  • vocabulary words
  • favorite part of the story
Thanks to Mike Ross (@1stGradeRoss) for sharing some teaching resources on the first book.
This is a picture slide show that Shawn Reed (@swkreed) created. It has a lot of great visual images to go along with the first book.

Also here is a vocabulary bulletin board. Please add the words that you will focus while reading each chapter!

If you would like to join the book club, please click HERE to register!

Here are the classes that have signed up so far!

View My Father's Dragon Book Club in a full screen map






Using Kahoot! to Collect Data

Teachers that I meet through Twitter PLN #1stchat continue to inspire me to try something new in my classroom. A few weeks ago a group of first grade teachers connected their classes via Google Hangout and played Kahoot! together! I believe 7 classes were all on the hangout together. Good for them!
So... one of the most amazing #1stchat teachers, Michelle Flicek (@mrflicek1)and I cooked up some plans. We wanted to make this learning experience as student-centered and interactive as possible. Each class wrote three survey questions with four answer choices ahead of time. Michelle created a Kahoot for us. Right before we connected via Google Hangout, she shared the game pin with us so that my class can join the Kahoot.  During the Hangout, Michelle shared her computer screen with us so that we could see the question and answer choices.
After voting for each question, the results appear in a bar graph format. The students studied the graph for a while and came up a couple of questions to ask about the data. The examples of questions were "Which one had most/fewest votes?" "How many more ____ than ____?" "How many votes in all?" The students did a great job listening and answering the questions.

The activity was very engaging! The students were anxious to see the results. Some even cheered when their choice had the most votes:) I loved it since this was such an authentic way to practice data collecting and interpreting data!





Saturday, January 31, 2015

Book Club Bingo

Have you heard about ConnectED Bingo Event? (Read about the event HERE.) What a fantastic idea! I was very excited to provide another opportunity for my students to connect with students from other schools. Even though I liked many of the activities that were listed on the bingo board, I wanted a little simpler tasks for my first graders. So, I have decided to BORROW the idea and create a new bingo board. A wonderful teacher from my Twitter PLN, Michael Ross and I brainstormed ideas for the activities, and here is what we have come up with.

View the Kid President pep talk (QR code in the middle) before you start! 

You can play this bingo as a class or let students work with a partner or individually. Whatever works for you! Creation can be made using iPad apps, paper & pencil, or dry erase board.  Just take a screen shot or picture of their creations and post them at #bcbingo15 (Book Club Bingo 2015).  We have the whole month of February to play this event. Your students can post a picture of the bingo board once they get Bingo (5 activities in a row)! 

Prizes for getting Bingo? How about fun that they had connecting with students from other schools via Twitter? 

Here are some graphic organizers for some activities if you prefer to use them.

Also here is an example of movie trailer that Michael's class created using iMovie app. 


Please contact me if you have any questions!