Student Content Creation – Flowboard

Using Flowboard in Math Class

Using Flowboard in Math Class

This year my math students have been creating and publishing math content.  Most of the creation has taken place on iPads through different presentation apps.  While finishing up our math comic strips I came across the app Flowboard.  At the time of this writing Flowboard is a free presentation app that gives users 200mb of space. My first thought was that students could potentially create a project and use Flowboard as the medium.  After experimenting a bit with the platform, I concluded that the class could create a presentation that would include different templates, images, text, videos and links.  I found that the links can be part of the presentation or send the viewer to an external site.  This is huge because students could potentially create a table of contents and the viewer could view parts of the site that they prefer. Or possibly, students could add links to a different Flowboard or external site for more information about a particular topic.


Different options

As I introduced the app, students were given time to get accustomed to the features and create a brief sample.  I used one classroom account for this project and students all entered the account at once.  After everyone had a chance to play and create something, the class looked over the mastery objectives for the next unit.  From the list, students were given an opportunity to pick one objective that would eventually tie into their Flowboard presentation. After all the objectives were chosen, students helped create the rubric.  I gave a baseline and then asked students to add to the rubric.  Some of the suggestions were stellar, others not so much.  The class decided to make a minimum requirement for many of the different criteria. The class eventually came to a consensus and the rubric was set and available for students.  The process of picking topics and creating the rubric took about 40 minutes.

Editable Rubric

Click for Rubric

Looking back, this was time well spent as the expectations seemed to be clear from the beginning.  From there, students were given time to research.  Textbooks, iPads, manipulatives, and computers were all used during this research time period.  I felt like my role was to help guide students towards resources that might be helpful.  Throughout this process and other content creation opportunities, I’m finding that students are taking more initiative in seeking out the resources that are needed.  This independent thinking is encouraged in elementary classrooms. For an elementary classroom this is a big #eduwin.  Students filled out a graphic organizer to compile their thoughts on what the presentation would look like. Students were then given three 30 minute sessions over the next few weeks to create and publish their presentation.  During that time I set up check in times to see the progress of the presentations and ask questions.  I soon found out that my students needed more than the 200mb of space to fit all their projects in one account.  I called up the company and was able to get extra space for my classroom.


45 students used this much space

Around 50 students used this much space to complete their project


Students finished the projects and uploaded their link to the app Showbie.  From Showbie I’m able to add the links directly to the student eportfolio sites. After students finish they are scheduled to present their presentation to the class.  I also embed the presentation online for parents of the community to see.  This is a brief sample that I created to show students.  The student projects are MUCH better since they all picked different templates, added their own pictures/videos, and added links to complete their presentations.


Twitter in the Elementary Classroom


Using Twitter in the Clasroom

Using Twitter in the Classroom

A few years ago I was encouraged to set up my classroom Twitter account.  Shortly after looking at a few different examples and researching possibilities, I decided to create a class account.  During my school’s back to school night I mentioned to the community that they could follow the class on Twitter.  I was excited as a few parents followed the class account that evening.  Throughout the rest of that year I Tweeted out different happenings of the class.  More community members, including those with students not in my class started following our classroom account.  The feedback that I was receiving seemed positive so I decided to continue to use the class account for another year.

This year I had a conversation with parents about our classroom Twitter account during back to school night.  I also increased the visibility of the school account with specific hashtags and added video components.  So, now that there’s only about two months of school left I’m reflecting on what to keep for next year.  Here’s my review:

Students are now writing down their tweets and I’m sending them out

I started this activity back in November.  Every week I ask assigned students to create a Tweet that explains what we’ve learned.  Students can also mention activities or events that occur.  Students write out their Tweet on a separate sheet of paper and I send it out.  I find some students find it challenging to write down their thoughts in limited characters. This is a classroom job that students look forward to and I feel like it’s also empowering.

We are using a specific hashtag to track our Tweets

In order to better track our classroom happenings, I decided to create a tag for just our particular class.  My school doesn’t have a Twitter tag so the class decided to use #sllearns. For the past few months the class has used that tag to document our learning and activities. The tag also comes in handy to compile Tweets and pictures before school events.

Students now video record themselves and others using the Vine app.  

Using the Vine app, students record themselves in different activities in the classroom.  This is another assigned job that the students perform.  I find video to be a powerful tool in communicating different activities in the class.  This has been especially helpful when showing math manipulatives and student presentations.  You could also use Instagram for this job.

Post newsletters or calendar events

This was how I originally started using my classroom Twitter account.  I Tweeted out school calendar events and classroom links.  My school account still does this, just not as often as last year.

Connect to and follow other elementary classrooms

It’s been great to be able to connect with other classrooms through Twitter.  Our class has connected with other elementary and middle school classes this year.  Mystery and Number Skypes have been possible by connecting with other classes through Twitter.  Periodically, my class will review happenings of other classroom accounts.  I’m hoping to expand this and somehow collaborate with other classrooms on some type of project in the future.

Answer questions or redirect

Eventually I’d like to be able to use my classroom Twitter account to answer questions from members of the community.  I don’t necessarily think that Twitter should be a one way communication method.  This is a work in progress, but I’m hoping to use this more next year.

Embed the Twitter stream on the class website

In an effort to increase the visibility of our class Twitter account and to show the value I decided to embed the Twitter stream into my class webpage.  This has been beneficial as photos, videos and Tweets can all be viewed directly on the website.  The community visits my website so this is an easier way to reach the class Twitter stream.  Also, when students write up a Tweet or record a video for the class, they can easily access their production on my class website.

Twitter Thread


photo credit: ~Ilse via photopin cc

How do you use Twitter in your classroom?

Math and Augmented Reality

Photo Apr 04, 9 10 38 AM

Many second grade classrooms at my school are finishing up their unit on geometry.  The classrooms have been reviewing math vocabulary in preparation for an upcoming math task activity.   While looking for ways to review math terms I came across the word augmented reality (AR).  For a few months I’ve heard the term AR being used sparingly at Edcamps and through different Twitter chats.  I decided to do a bit of research and thought it might be useful to use in the classroom.  I’m finding that students are becoming more familiar with using QR codes, so I thought this might be an extension to that concept.  While taking a look at my Tweetdeck columns I came across a few different Tweets by Erin and Todd.  Erin and Todd’s Tweets about AR peaked my interest. It seems that both were using AR in their own elementary classrooms and having success. Erin used the app Aurasma in her own classroom and has some great resources (1)(2) for AR beginners.

After reviewing a few of of Erin’s resources I decided to create an Aurasma account.  It took a bit of practice, but I ended up creating a few different Auras.  A colleague and I started to think of different methods to combine the geometry unit and AR.  I ended up using the app Tellagami to record videos with different characters.  Each character represented a specific geometric shape and guided students to the next shape.  The shape cards were placed all over the classroom.

Augmented Math

Students scanned the shape cards and worked in groups to find the next shape.  All the auras are public so feel free to use them for your own classroom by clicking here. You will need to register and follow sl math replacement (the icon is a cube) to access the auras. You can follow my channel by scanning the QR code below.

Scan to follow classroom account

Scan to follow classroom account


You can preview the auras by just scanning the image right from your computer screen.  If it works for you, print out each card and then place them around your classroom.  The entire activity took about 40 minutes and it seemed to be a worthwhile learning activity.  It was great to see students describing the next shape by using the words sides, faces, edges, closed figure, vertices and polygon.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Afterwards, students started asking questions about how they could use AR in other content areas.  I’m thinking of even having the students create their own for a school open house occasion.

How do you use AR in the classroom?

Planning Better Learning Experiences

Photo Mar 25, 9 36 35 AM

Spring break is now here and many schools are still bustling.  There’s not as much student laughter inside the school, but the parking lot is still busy.  A fresh batch of snow has covered the local area and vehicle tire tracks have carved their way into the teacher section of the school parking lot.  Many of the teachers inside and those at home are planning for the last few remaining months of the school year.  My plan book for each class is now starting to fill up.  Regardless of how I plan, student understanding of a particular concept doesn’t always align with my 3-inch plan book squares.  Specific curriculum and lessons can be planned to a tee, but it doesn’t guarantee an ideal learning experience for the students. This break has given me time to think of how educators plan their instruction.

Before break I was able to have a conversation with my classes about learning.  We discussed metacognition and analyzed how we learn best.  The class had a conversation about what math concepts will be introduced in April.  The conversation transitioned to what math activities are on the schedule for the months of April and May.

While discussing this I emphasized the words learning experiences instead of referring to the objectives that were posted to the board.  I find that students can easily see written objectives on the board.  Writing the objectives on the board is required, but I don’t believe many students actually internalize the meaning or they need more information to do so.  The objectives may say something specific and some benefit from reviewing them, but I want students to be able to understand that they are participating in intentional learning experiences that will give them opportunities to question, make connections, and become better math communicators.

Many of my students and parents are aware of the implications of the PARCC assessments and CCSS.  Common Core aligned material is everywhere.  Marketing and advertisers are consistently promoting the newest aligned Common Core material.  Many districts are in the process or have already purchased content that matches the CCSS and PARCC.  Regardless of what district adopted curriculum is purchased, learning experiences that meet students’ needs should be high on the priority list.  My colleagues and I are finding that there are many ways to follow the CCSS and still create engaging student learning experiences and activities.  This year I’ve modified and used different learning tasks that were created by members of my PLN.  Fawn, Dan, Julie and the MTBOS community have been generous in sharing their thoughts and resources.  These experiences don’t have to be scripted word-for-word (like the first curriculum that I was given) and many supplement the curriculum that the district provides. These student learning experiences are what will create beneficial memories that students can use going forward.  In addition, they will drive students to ask questions, make connections and develop math reasoning skills that will help them in the future.

Student Content Creators: Math Comics

Math and Comics

One of my classroom themes this year involves having students create digital content.  Sticking with that theme, I’ve been exploring different avenues in which students can create digital content that can be shared with authentic audiences.  Throughout the year my students have created different presentations with a variety of apps and have shared them with their parents and the world.  I find that students become much more engaged and empowered when given a chance to create.

Our latest project involves math comics.  I continue to find benefits of using comics in the math classroom.  After using them to introduce a variety of concepts this year, I came across the Strip Design app.  I thought that this app might be helpful to introduce and expand student understanding of content area specific vocabulary.  Students would also have an opportunity to create digital content by completing this project.  Specifically, I thought that students could create a math comic strip starring themselves.  At the beginning of the math unit in late February, students were given a list of key math vocabulary words.  Students  were given an opportunity to choose a specific vocabulary word from the unit.  Students were asked to create a comic strip starring themselves and a classmate showcasing an understanding of the vocabulary word.  As a class, we created a rubric which allowed students opportunities to showcase their understanding and share it with others.

Click for Excel Template

Click for rubric template

Students took pictures of themselves and created a script and scenario.  Students checked in on their progress after each session.  I had a brief conference with each student during the project and they filled out the rubric above to make sure that they met the guidelines. After completion, the student comic strips were uploaded to Showbie and eventually placed in their portfolio pages.  Next week the class will be sharing our math comics with other grade levels in the school.

Standards-based Grading Strategies in Second Grade

Second Grade

Yesterday, students in my second grade class took a unit assessment on fractions.  Generally after the assessment students review their results and reflect on progress made.  I graded the tests last night and the scores were across the board, as some did extremely well while others floundered.  The point values were placed on the top of each test to be reviewed by the students and parents.  I don’t put a grade on the test, but instead add bits of feedback for questions missed.  I’ve used similar strategies with homework for the past few years.  No one had a perfect score, but I definitely wanted the students to check their results before we move on to the geometry unit.  I think reflecting on achievement can lead to personal goal setting.  

There are many ways in which I could facilitate the reflection process.  The class could review the test together, question by question.  Students could ask questions to determine misunderstandings. Or I could have the students work in partners to review questions missed.  Or possibly even have the students fill out a reflection sheet.  I feel like these strategies provide value, but the results vary and aren’t individualized, except for the reflection sheet.  All of the strategies tend to be missing a student ownership/accountability piece.

Regardless of the grade/score I want students to be able to focus on the learning, not necessarily the grade. This is a focus in all my classes.  This emphasis as well as participating in #sblchat has led me to embrace more standards-based grading strategies.  Even at the second grade level I feel that it’s valuable to set a growth-mindset tone.  I’m becoming more comfortable in using standards-based strategies in the classroom and am starting to see the benefits as the school year continues.   

Instead of using a strategy that I’ve used before, I decided to try something different.  I spent about 10 minutes reteaching misconceptions that I found while grading.  Some of the major themes were retaught in this mini lesson.  I then gave all the students an opportunity to retake the test questions that were missed.  I gave students a blank test and highlighted specific questions that were missed.  I met with students as they finished their retake. The student and I reviewed the assessment results and the retake opportunity. Students were given  about 3-5 minutes to meet with me to review the retake.  I’d like to spend more time with each student but time was definitely a constraint. I feel like the conferences were helpful as I was able to confer with students about their thinking, retake and test. I added any second attempt points to the original total.

Even though this was a time-consuming activity I feel like it was time well spent.  I even had a few students ask if we we’re going to do this after every assessment.  I’m not sure about that, but I may use this strategy again in the future.

Math and Mystery Number Skypes

Mystery Number Skype

Mystery Number Skype

During the month of March many primary classes in my school are emphasizing whole number characteristics. Second grade was and continues to focus on place value, even/odd numbers and patterns.  Students used base ten blocks last Monday and played Name that Number with their peers. Teachers in the upper grades in my district have experimented with Mystery Skypes over the past few years, so I thought there might be value in using them in math class.  Last year my class had a Skype session with a school in New York.  Remembering the experience, I thought it might be a good idea to research this further.  While looking through my Twitter feed I was able to connect with @vjohnsonsdb, a second grade teacher.  Val was looking for another class to have a Mystery Number Skype with.  We agreed to have a session last Thursday.

Before the class began I reviewed a few different sites (1, 2, 3) related to the nature of number Skypes.  The students came up with a few questions before the Skype and roles were assigned.  Here are a few questions that were part of our brainstorming session:

  • Is the number even or odd?
  • Is the number between 1 – 25?
  • Is there a 5 or more in the tens place?
  • Is there a thousands place?
  • Do all the digits added together equal 10 or more?

Students were assigned roles as a questioner, ambassadors and researchers.  After we found each class’ mystery number, students were given an opportunity to ask questions about the other class. Afterwards, we researched the other class’ location.  We reflected on the experience and are looking forward to our next Mystery Skype.