09-10 Reflections: 5th Grade

My 5th grade class this year was small and most of them are pretty good typists already and they will be spending quite a bit of time on typing in 6th grade so typing was something they didn’t do much of this year. There were lessons on Internet Safety because most of the 5th grade students are online on Facebook already even though they are all definitely under 13. I find that while some of the 5th grade act like they know it all about Internet Safety, they seemed to enjoy the activities in the Cyber Cafe and they did learn some new things too. I am exploring other digital citizenship options for next year too. 5th Grade also created artwork for Thanksgiving and participated in World Math Day and filled out surveys created by 7th grade and viewed and voted on their favorite Internet Safety videos created by 8th Grade but most of their time this year was spent on one project.

Online Collaborations

Just like last year much of the year was spent on the Time Zone Experiences project however unlike last year, the students enjoyed the project and they truly felt it was a collaboration with another class. There were really only two classes participating this year and Ann Oro and I tried to make it feel more collaborative this year by having the students Skype with one another as the project began. My students loved this and were disappointed we didn’t have the opportunity to do it again at the end of the year. We also encouraged our students to comment on the projects posted by the others and to read and reply to comments posted by the other school. I personally felt much less frustrated with the project this year but do wonder if it’s worth the time that it takes? The students learned how to write scripts and created animations using Xtranormal or Domo Animate which they really enjoyed and they all created podcasts which included original music made at MyBytes. They worked in pairs or teams and were fairly successful in this. They learned about editing wikis including uploading files. I’m still debating if this is the collaborative project I want to do with 5th Grade next year and if it is how I shorten the time that it takes to complete.

Lessons I Learned

  • Everything really does take longer than I think it will. Last year I was sure it was something that had gone wrong that had the Time Zone Experiences project drag on and on but I think it’s just the nature of that project. There has to be front end time to have the students learn about time zones, there has to be time to write scripts and record them in some way, there has to be time to teach students about posting to wikis, etc.
  • Many of our 5th Graders are on Facebook. Just as I am concerned about 4th grade being on Facebook, I have the same concerns with 5th Grade. Many of  them have our Middle School students or graduates from our school who are in High School as friends. I know what Middle School and High School students post on their walls at time – even the ones that don’t post anything inappropriate can have friends that do. I often wonder if our parents really realize what’s happening on Facebook. Most of the students tell me that their parents set up their accounts for them. I definitely want to do some kind of parent education about social networking next year.

Things I’ll Definitely Repeat Next Year

  • Internet Safety Lessons including some new lessons on information literacy
  • Some kind of collaborative project – maybe Time Zone Experiences and maybe not.

What technology rich projects or activities do your 5th Grade students do? Is there an engaging online collaborative project that you have found for this age group?

Always Have a “Plan B”

More and more I rely on the Internet and the resources that can be found there but that can sometimes be a problem when the Internet isn’t available for some reason. This week is World Math Day and so I had planned to practice on the site with three of my classes today. You’ll notice that says planned – when I got to school today I was told that the Internet wasn’t available. Okay, we sometimes have problems that just require a reset of some things but that wasn’t the case today. Today, there just was no access from the cable. I’m still not sure what was wrong and hope it’s fixed tomorrow but I’ll have a Plan B ready just in case it’s not!

So what were my plans and what did we actually end up doing?

2nd Grade:

The Plan was to have them log in to the World Math Day site and customize their avatar and play the game so they knew how it worked. I don’t see 2nd Grade on Tuesday or Wednesday (the actual World Math Day) so I wanted to get them excited about using the site so they could play at home. Plan B was Jumpstart 2nd Grade! We don’t have the latest and greatest version of this game (and couldn’t install it if we did because of disk space issues) but even the older versions have good grade level activities and the students love it. I did send home the letter I had crafted at home that said we tried out the World Math Day site and encouraged parents to have their child participate in World Math Day from home. I just added a hand written note that we didn’t actually get to have our practice due to Internet issues. Note to self: Don’t just email these things to yourself, put them on a flash drive you bring in too!

3rd Grade:

The Plan for most of the 3rd Graders was the same as 2nd Grade – we were going to try out the World Math Day site. I also don’t see 3rd Grade on Tuesday or Wednesday so this was going to be the day that I could show them how this worked so they could actually participate from home. I did send home the letter but we didn’t get to practice. Plan B was installing the software program, Jumpstart 3rd Grade, and working in that – most of them anyway. A few were finishing up something in Microsoft Word. They’ve been asking about using this all year so this gave me the chance to get it installed and to review how to handle CDs and install software with them.

6th Grade:

The Plan for 6th Grade didn’t involve World Math Day – whew, right? Well, yes and no, 6th Grade was going to continue their Keyboarding Lessons. These typically start with a 2-minute timed test and guess where those are? If you said, on the Internet, you win! Luckily I had brought a timer to the lab a week or so ago so Plan B was to create my own timed test. The students typed the alphabet as many times in Microsoft Word as they could during a 2 minute period. Then they examined what they typed for errors and counted how many of those they had. They then used the Word Count function in Word to see how many characters they had typed. They subtracted their errors from that and then divided by 5 to get the number of words they had typed – typing programs typically count a word as 5 characters. Then, they divided that result by 2 to get the number of words they had typed in one minute. Yes, they could have divided by 10 but I wanted them to see the steps and to know that 5 typed characters equals one word. They really enjoyed typing the alphabet for their speed test! Each Keyboarding Class ends with 10 minutes of some keyboarding game that is typically on the Internet. Instead of going to the Internet, they spent their game time playing the games in Mavis Beacon instead.

4th Grade:

The Plan for 4th Grade was again World Math Day since I don’t see 4th Grade on Tuesday or Wednesday. So, on to Plan B, and like 6th Grade, 4th Grade continued their Keyboarding lessons. I had to make the same modifications to the Keyboarding lesson that we usually do but all went smoothly and they enjoyed the games in Mavis Beacon. I also sent home my letter about World Math Day along with their logins and they were excited to play at home to try to help set a new world record. I hope they’re able to do so.

And, now I’m working on my Plan B for the rest of the week … just in case. There’s a current discussion on the Elementary Tech Teachers Ning about what to do when the Internet is down. If you are technology teacher in Elementary School (or even Middle School), this is a great Ning with loads of ideas and help. Join it!

So, what do you do in the computer lab when the Internet is down?