Tuesday, November 24, 2015

K-1's POP with BrainPOP!

My very favorite educational resource has been BrainPOP.com since I began teaching in 2001. It started as a great site for showing quick videos to students that were always more interesting to them than listening to me. We used the quizzes to check comprehension from the movie and talk more about the topic. As the years passed BrainPOP improved their website to include games, a concept mapping tool, a tool teachers can use to create their own quizzes and an amazing sorting game called Sortify that has challenged both students and teachers more than once. Students can submit their work using the BrainPOP tools to their teachers through My BrainPOP. Teachers can assess student learning using spreadsheets, screenshots and authentic work submitted by their students. The options BrainPOP provides their teachers for differentiation and assessment are limitless.

I have spent the last year working closely with the BrainPOP  team to learn more about their website, how to use it effectively and all the work that goes in to producing it. I was lucky enough to help in their booth at the MEA/MFT teacher's confernce in Missoula in 2014. Then they invited me to be a part of a Professional Development Advisory Panel in New York City in 2015. That led to a collaboration with two amazing BrainPOP pros Cathie Gilner and Nili Bartly. We created training materials over the summer for BrainPOP to teach educators about how to use their tools for assessment. I even got to record a webinar using the materials we created. This fall I joined an online course so I could officially become BrainPOP cerified. While I was a CBE in my heart all along it feels good to carry legitimate credentials now. All of these experiences helped me to explore and use the webiste at a higher level. Each tool has been carefully developed by a team of experts aligned to standards and tested by teachers and students all over the world. I trust the BrainPOP site more than any other for quality content and creative approaches to instruction.

With all the love I have for the website, sadly I have not been able to use all of these features in my classroom because we have iPads and BrainPOP's flash heavy site could not load. This fall I have been sneaking across the hall to the second and third grade room to teach those students to use the site on the school's new Chromebooks. I would leave the room so excited about how the kids worked within the site creating concept maps and snap thoughts. While it was incredible to work with older kids and to be with my former students playing with tech just like old times,  I couldn't wait to do the same things with my own class.

My wishes came true this weekend when the new mobile friendly BrainPOP site went live!
Now subscribers can access the full BrainPOP site using ANY mobile device or computer. This was big news for me and my students. I cheered out loud on Sunday when I got the news.

We didn't waste any time getting our iPads set up to use the new BrainPOP. I got the first graders going with their usernames and passwords to MyBarinPOP. We began by taking a quiz I created using the quiz mixer about Thanksgiving. My smartie pants first graders even figured out how to use the speak selection tool on their iPads to have the quiz questions read to them. After the quiz they went right to the movie about Thanksgiving laughing out loud at Moby's beeps and Tim's jokes. They took another quiz and then began playing with the Make A Map tool. They needed very little instruction from me on this. I simply said, "this is like Popplet. Use these keywords and images to share what you have learned today." They went to town! Time was up before many of them could finish but they submitted their work and ran to recess telling each other how much they love the "new BrainPOP."  After recess we started our weekly Genius Hour. I showed them how they could search the BrainPOP site for videos about their topics. The room began to sing with Moby's beeps and Tim's voice. Every once in a while someone would look up and say, "Mrs. V, can I take a quiz?" "Mrs. V can I make a map?" It was just what I had been waiting for!

The most exciting part of our day yesterday was when one boy showed me his concept map about snakes. I noticed he had worked quietly and persistently on this map for most of our Genius Hour. He had several snake images on the screen and had begun labling nodes below the images with sentences about snakes. I was blown away by his stamina as he worked on the concept map. I was even more impressed by the sentences he had attempted to type on the screen. It really, truly brought tears to my eyes. This was a boy who does not typically verbalize his learning. Reading and writing has been challenging for him and yet using these tools he was able to start to share his learning. He was so proud of his work and read me his sentences. I am so blown away by the power of these BrainPOP tools after just one day of using them on our iPads. I can not wait to see what we will do next!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

NCCE Conference in Seattle February 2016

I am proud to report that I will be presenting at the NCCE conference in Seattle this February!

Here is the description of my session!

Kinders Can And So Can You!

Session: WA30 | BYOD Workshop
WED, February 24 | 10:15 AM - 12:15 PM
Room: 400
Nikki Vradenburg | K-1 Teacher | LaMotte School, Bozeman, MT
Blogging, screencasting, concept map building, researching, collaborating and sharing with social media....in Kindergarten? First grade? It can be done! Come learn how one primary teacher uses a variety of technology including web tools and iPad apps to meet Common Core standards in Math and English Language Arts. Bring your favorite device and come ready to play!
Grades PreK-2
Grades 3-5
Teacher Librarians
IT Specialists
Expertise: All Levels
Strand: Tool showcase, Mobile Learning 1:1, Promising Practices
Software for BYOD: 
iPad apps: Explain Everything, Skitch, KidBlog, Popplet, Venn Diagram. Pic Collage, Brushes, SoundCloud, Voice Recorder Pro
Presenter Background: 
Nikki Vradenburg is a K-1 teacher at LaMotte School in Bozeman, Montana. She is a National Board Certified teacher, a PBS Digital Innovator and a member of the BrainPop PD Advisory Panel. Nikki has been teaching in the classroom since 2001, mostly in the primary grades. She also delivers Professional Development to teachers around the state of Montana in Gifted Education and Technology Integration. She serves on the board for the Montana Association for Gifted Education as the Technology chair and co-facilitates a support group for parents of gifted students for SENG, Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted. Nikki lives in Belgrade, Montana with her husband and her two children.

 Click HERE to learn more about the NCCE conference.

Monday, March 30, 2015

My New Favorite Tech Tool for Writer's Workshop

Finding new technology tools to improve my classroom practice has become my new favorite past time. Nothing gets me more energized about teaching than implementing a new tool that makes my job as a K-1 teacher easier and more fun. This school year I have found a number of new tools and resources through my PLN on Twitter that have enhanced my classroom practice on so many ways from the way I teach to the way I assess. The newest of those tools is BrightLoop a digital conferring notebook for K-12 teachers to store their student observations and anecdotal records in a safe, secure environment. I instantly began using BrightLoop during writer’s workshop and was thrilled with the results!

I have used Lucy Calkin’s Units of Study in writing curriculum since the fall of 2013. I instantly fell in love with teaching writing in the writer’s workshop structure. My students began to write with confidence and stamina. It was wonderful to hear my students talking about their writing together in partnerships. It was even better to have the time to work with each of them one on one to talk about and plan their writing. These conferring sessions quickly became my favorite part of the writing workshop. I loved listening to my students read their writing and recording their strengths and growth areas. What I didn’t love, however, was the organization of my conferring notes--or should I say lack of organization? I tried using everything from sticky notes all over my desk to a large binder full of anecdotal notes that was very difficult to carry around the room from table to table. My notes were so disorganized they weren’t helping me plan my instruction or properly assess my students. I couldn’t find what I had written when I needed it.  I often had sticky notes stuck to the bottoms of my shoes as well. I had almost given up on recording notes from my writing conferences with students until I found BrightLoop. I was participating in a Twitter chat when a teacher posted a link to learn more about a tool teachers could use for recording student progress. I clicked on this link out of curiosity and was relieved to see what I had found. BrightLoop is a free, online, digital conferring notebook that is tablet friendly and easy to use. With BrightLoop on my iPad I easily walk from student to student and type my notes in a few simple screen touches. I can assign Common Core State Standards to my notes, write my lesson plans and even take photos of student work to save as a digital record of their progress.

I was hooked on BrightLoop from the beginning because it was so easy to use in the classroom. It complimented my conferring style perfectly. I was even more excited about it after I finished the first progress reports of the school year.  I got a call that my daughter was sick the day before progress reports were due. In a hurry to pick her up I scooped up the blank reports and rushed out the door thinking I would get them done while my daughter napped. Once I got her settled and she was napping I realized that it was going to be hard to do progress reports from home without any of my student work samples nearby. Then I remembered BrightLoop! I was able to access my conferring notebook on my home computer and get the progress reports done while my daughter napped beside me on the couch. Progress reports were complete and ready to go home with students the next day. I was so grateful that a digital copy of my notes was so accessible to me when I needed it. Since then, BrightLoop has expanded their mobile capabilities by developing an app for the iPhone as well! Now my notes are with me wherever I go! This comes in handy when a thought about one of my students’s writing comes to me while I am standing in line at the grocery store or waiting to get the oil changed in my car. Teachers never stop thinking about their students, right?

Now that I have BrightLoop conferring with my students and recording their progress during writer’s workshop is my favorite part of the day. It is such a relief to have a desk, and the bottoms of my shoes, empty of random post it notes and large binders that take to much space. I love that I can check my notes from wherever I happen to be when I need them. Have you used BrightLoop yet?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Storyboards on PBS Learning Media

I will be working with three phonics strategy groups this week in my classroom. I created storyboards with videos for theses three groups to watch during their iPad time in the Daily 5.

Group 1 is working on soft c and soft g words. I will be using these resources from PBS Learning Media to instruct them.

Two Sounds of C Interactive 
Keith's Word Across Worksheet

Two Sounds of G Interactive
Paul's Poster Puzzle Worksheet

When this group is not meeting with me they will use iPads to scan a QR code that takes them to a storyboard I created with six videos that teach them about the two sounds of c and g.

Soft C and G Storyboard

Group 2 is working on rhyming words and recognizing word families. I will use these resources on the Promethean Board from the Super Why website. They can be found on the PBS Learnig Media site as well.

Rhyme and Roll Game
Wonder Red Bingo

When this group is not working with me they will use iPads to scan a QR code that takes them to a story board with six videos that teach them more about rhyming words and word families.

Rhyming Words Storyboard

Group 3 is working on letter indentification. We will work together to practice visual phonics and go through some flash cards. When they are not working with me they will use iPads to scan a QR code that takes them to a storyboard with six videos that will expose them to alphabet letters and their sounds.

Letter Sounds Storyboard

They will also visit storyboards with videos about vowels, and songs about reading to keep them motivated to learn their letters.

Learn to Read Storyboard
Vowels Storyboard

I use www.qrstuff.com to create the QR codes. I insert these codes into a Google Doc and print it. Each student gets a copy of their code to scan when they work with iPads during Daily 5.