Grade 4 and 5 Passion Projects 2018

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It takes a village! At St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School, the collaboration between the media specialist, @baileypalm, the STEM coach, @robbinsimons, innovation coaches, @jennyd28 and @StacyLopezEDU, and myself, @ingewassmann, creates a time on our schedule where we can work with students in grades four and five on Passion Projects. Since January, we met once every six days for Innovation Time.

We used Design Thinking with our students to emphasize the learning experience, not the product. Each mentor took on five students in each class to guide them through the process. That didn’t mean we didn’t help out others who could benefit from our expertise. Students were free to explore what they wanted to learn about, thus giving them an opportunity to direct their own learning.

Yesterday, was our showcase with a real audience. Students spoke and presented with poise to parents, faculty, and fellow students to explain their purpose and takeaways. Watch the video to find out what these young students were able to do!



5.29.18 Tuesday Tips for Educators

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The school year is coming to an end and at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School our teachers use constant innovative lessons and units that are in line with our strategic plan and vision, never forgetting the whole child and importance of nurturing relationships. Creating a culture of trust and innovation is at the heart of it all.

Tip #1 What’s going on in your child’s brain when you read them a story?

In a media-rich society what are the effects of auditory only, animation, and imagery and voice storytelling? The author uses the Goldilocks effect to classify each one. One is too cold, one is too hot, one is just right. Which one do you think it is?

Tip #2 Strong Conferencing Practices Help Kindergarteners Learn to Advocate for Themselves

Michayla Bell, Kindergarten teacher,  shares her experience with conferencing. What stood out for me were her following words: “Regardless of the purpose of the conference, in order to be effective, trust is key, so I need to build a strong relationship with all of my students and be aware of their strengths and weaknesses. That sets me up to make sure my time with each child positively impacts their learning.”

Tip #3 6 Ways to Build a Culture of Empathy

Trevor Bryan and Rich Czyz from Four O’Clock Faculty  came up with another great visual sharing ways to build a culture of empathy, either in the classroom or in school as a general. It is all about relationships!

Tip #4 Classroomscreen

Customize your screen with needs for the classroom! Quickly get a timer, textarea, drawing tool, name picker, work symbols and more. Completely free!


2.27.2018 Tuesday Tip

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Tip #1 Loneliness in the Workplace is like Smoking 15 Cigarettes a Day 

So many of you enjoyed Dr. Robert Brooks‘ Keynote during ShiftinEdu. Here is a touching article on loneliness. He discusses the importance of connections, showing empathy, and helping others, not only for our students but for ourselves in the workplace. 

Tip #2  Create If-Then Adventures with Google Slides

If-Then stories are a fun way for students to think creatively and strategically. They can brainstorm different ways readers might interact with a story. Below is just one part of the course to show you how easy this can be done! Of course, you are welcome to go through the whole unit!

Tip #3  Create your Own Animated Virtual Reality

Patches is a free online tool to create your own drawn animated virtual reality scenes. Students could use this VR tool to create fiction stories. In Math, this tool can be used to sharpen geometry concepts.

Tip #4  Who’s That Cat in the Hat? – Seesaw Activity 

Kristen Brooks created this easy and fun activity for Seesaw and it’s ready for you to use. You can use the hashtag #DrSeussWeek and #ReadAcrossAmerica.

1.30.2018 Tuesday Tips

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Tip #1 Emphasize Words in a Google Document’s Comments 

When I met Tony Vincent, some odd years ago, I quickly realized that with Tony you will always learn something new. Follow Tony’s Learning in Hand on Instagram

George Couros addresses the importance of classroom culture and gives helpful tips on how to improve yours! It is never too late to introduce some of these strategies that can mean the world to our students.

Tip #3  50 Ways to use Book Creator in your Classroom

The Book Creator team shared a free new resource for teachers created, of course, in the Book Creator App. There are ideas for every subject, every grade!

John Spencer shares his insights on the benefits of Project-Based Learning in a colorful way. The video below explains one of the 10 benefits: Learners discover how to engage in meaningful collaboration. John talks about students, and I took the liberty to change the word student to learners. Collaboration should happen through all constituencies in a school and we are all learners!


Tip #5  The KidLit Show – A podcast you have to listen to!  

Olivia van Ledtje (@thelivbits) interviews Adam Gidwitz, author of A Tale Dark and Grimm. Adam remakes the classic Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Olivia and Adam explore the world of fairy tales and a folklore. Very entertaining!

1.23.2018 Tuesday Tips

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Tip #1              AutoDraw – Fast Drawing for Everyone 

Want to draw something fast, but you are not really an artist? Artificial intelligence will help you! Google AutoDraw to the rescue!

Tip #2                                     Google Drive Tips  

8 Useful tips for teachers on how to search in Google Drive. Some I use all the time, others a little less. Looking forward to bettering my searching skills in Drive!

Tip #3         12 Apps & Websites for World Read Aloud Day  

On her website Class Tech Tips,  Dr. Monica Burns compiled these read-aloud websites. No excuse not to take part in this event on February 1, 2018!

Tip #4                             Global Math Task

Connect and share learning through these Global Math Tasks. With your Class Twitter account, you can participate! Use the hashtag #gmttc

New Tuesday Tips for Teachers

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January 16, 2018

This Apowersoft Screenshot App for Mac iOS makes it easy to annotate a screenshot. My colleague, Dr. Ashley Cross, uses this all the time when she wants to highlight a particular point in a screenshot. Timesaver! Watch the video below on how to use it.

Insertlearning, Newseumed, and Autodraw are on my list to explore. Check out Jennifer’s article to learn more about her favorite apps in education right now.

This could be an innovative way, to help students with reading comprehension. Simple and effective. New and better!

This will help anyone who is looking to grow their Professional Learning Network. Twitter chats, using Participate, are an easy way to connect with those who share your same interests and passions in education. 

Why Grades Don’t Work

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“I think I deserve better than ‘meet expectations,” commented the STEAM assistant in a follow-up meeting after her review for the year. We were asked to fill out an assistant teacher evaluation for our STEAM assistant in the preschool. This position was new this year got defined as the year progressed. We have two PreK 3 and two PreK 4 classes with a teacher and teacher assistant in each room. The STEAM assistant works with the four teachers, the STEM coach, the math coach, the preschool science teacher, and the innovation team to come up with centers that integrate all these subjects for our preschoolers. Now the year is drawing to an end, and all of us were asked to complete an evaluation. Not a big deal, right? Well…

The innovation team met, we came up with a ‘rating’ system and presented the form to our team member. That’s when it was evident that our rating system did not work. The STEAM assistant is a person who is motivated to grow and learn. She likes to take the initiative and is reliable. We all know there is always room to improve and technologies are changing fast. We went with ‘meet expectations’ because it was her first year and she is learning different tools she can use to incorporate during the STEAM activities. The format was wrong. Together we came up with a goal sheet for next year with measurable and attainable objectives for the next year. That encouraged her. Ding, ding, ding, ding! That’s when it dawned on me what a disservice we are doing our children with grading them. They feel the same way!

Yes, we want to hold our students accountable. Yes, we want to motivate and empower them. Maybe we are going about it in the wrong way. The goal is for students to become happy, self-reliant, confident, and responsible learners who love the process and know how and where to go for resources. There is always room for improvement, right? I think of myself as a lifelong learner. Does an A encourage me, or does it tell me I mastered it and there is no deeper learning possible or necessary? Perhaps short-term goals and narratives would create a lot more lifelong learners. I would love to hear your opinion.

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School takes part in the global #HourofCode movement

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The Hour of Code takes place each year during Computer Science Education Week, December 5-11, 2016. The Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. For the past three years, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School took part in this campaign. This year the Innovation Team stepped up the effort, and we witnessed incredible engagement.
Computational thinking is a fundamental skill, made up of both concepts and approaches in which students learn to think analytically. Equipped with computing devices, students can find solutions that otherwise would not be possible. According to Carnegie Mellon Professor Jeannette Wing, “<Computational Thinking> complements and combines mathematical and engineering thinking” (2006). These computational concepts help how we approach and solve problems, manage our daily lives, and communicate and interact with other people. It helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic,
and creativity. By starting early, students internalize skills for success in a world where exponential growth of technology is happening.
The following video is a snippet of what took place at St. Stephen’s. The goal is to make learning happen with these activities during the regular school year woven throughout our curriculum. This year we used unplugged activities, BeeBots, Ozobots, LED Circuitry, LittleBits circuitry, Dash & Dot Robots, and throughout the week.
Please enjoy the video! Pre-K and JK are not included in the video but partook in the Hour of Code with unplugged activities in Pre-K and BeeBots in JK.

Wing, J. M. (2006). Computational Thinking (Vol. 49, pp. 33-35).

And It’s Only the 11th Day of School with Seesaw…

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It’s the beginning of a new school year! All teachers are getting their rooms and plans for the year ready. Excitement, disbelief summer is over, new ideas, and plans are the buzz on campus. Our little school by the bay looks more amazing than ever. The flexible learning spaces outside of our classrooms, the new butterfly pathway, and the preschool outdoor hangout spot not only amplify the beauty of our school but enhance the mission we set out to live. “We believe that each child is created in the image of God, we exist to educate and inspire our students to lead by example and become forces of good in the world.” Children need to feel safe, be comfortable exploring and wondering, as well as be encouraged to ask questions.

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School is ready to carry out our mission and vision for 2021. Teacher work week set the tone for this journey. Our school chaplain opened with a talk about community, teamwork, and how we all are part of one body. The faculty shared in team building and mindfulness exercises to consider everyone’s genius to create goals. Angela Maiers, through her message of Choose2Matter and Liberating Your Genius, coached our faculty and staff on the importance of listening, getting to know one another, and finding out what matters to you. These exercises will find a way into the classrooms this year. One can only imagine what this is going to look like for St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School. We experienced comradery, emotion, common goals and interests, and more importantly the invaluable experience of listening loudly. It set the tone for the rest of this coming school year.

Besides liberating our genius, we launched Seesaw for Schools. In the summer, our innovation coach, Jenny Diaz, set up our school account. Faculty received the PD webinars offered by Seesaw in the summer and two sessions the innovation team scheduled during our work week. The innovation team is helping to sign parents up during our Back to School Coffees. What a success it is so far! It’s only the eleventh day of school and teachers posted 715 items, and we have 255 comments, 1290 likes, and 505 parent visits in the first week alone.

The Eleventh Day of School

 The initiative promises to be a real world experience, as we encourage our parents to comment on posts to their students’ journals. The ease with which this has gone so far is a contribution to the detailed launching plan by Seesaw. The Seesaw Plan for Success lays out a schedule for how and when to send, plan, or implement different aspects of the program.

Our community will use the commenting feature to give real-time feedback on posts. Students will learn to decide what to post to their journal, be it a picture, movie, drawings, notes, or a link. More importantly, they will experience others interest in their post. They learn that questions or comments might lead to further exploration of a topic. Some people argue we are not providing a real world platform for our students. My opinion is that even though students do not use a real world platform, they learn how to create posts, receive feedback and learn from it, reflect, and see that sharing is caring in this world. They learn how to become digital citizens who know how to synthesize this knowledge in the future

We made a few changes to the way we set up Seesaw. Our special area teachers are co-teachers on the homeroom teachers blogs, and they post items in a folder with their subject area.

In grades four and five we ran into a problem with homeroom blogs. The homeroom teachers in fourth and fifth grade teach either social studies or English to both classes. Also, math and science group their students differently, they are not by homeroom. The way we solved this for this year is that we combined the two different classes to one grade-level blog. Hopefully, this will make the Seesaw experience for all a smooth one.

A delightful anecdote. Our parents are part of our Seesaw community. We invited all parents to sign on at our Back To School Coffees. Parents are extremely excited to have a window into the learning that happens at school on a daily basis. On a Monday morning, a Kindergarten student walked into the classroom, and she was a little bit sad. She mentioned to the teacher that she had not seen her mom a lot over the weekend because she was working. We posted a message on Seesaw, a picture with a voice message. Within 30 minutes Mom replied with a voice message how she loved seeing what her daughter was doing in school, how much she loved her, and how they would see each other later that night. Now the little girl has a BIG smile on her face, and she was a much happier child for the rest of the day! What a magnificent example of how connecting is meaningful.

The purpose of Seesaw is to document learning, for students to reflect on their attempts and accomplishments, and to witness the growth that happens over time. Real-time feedback is significant, and we are looking forward to connecting with others around the world to comment on each other’s blogs.