On both Friday and Sunday, I blogged about some changes that I had planned for this week. Friday’s blog post discussed my plan for using Explain Everything with the students. At our recent PA Day staff meeting, we were encouraged to give this app a try, as our Grade 4-8 students will be using it as part of the Transforming Learning Everywhere initiative. Sunday’s blog post discussed another change. After a phone conversation with a parent, and my own reflections on math in the classroom, I decided to make some changes to my math program with the hope of giving students a deeper understanding of the concepts and skills.
Now that Monday’s come and gone, I’ve put both plans into place, and reflected some more. Here are my first thoughts:
Explain Everything Plan
- While I thought that the screenshots would help the students navigate through Explain Everything, I wish that I introduced them in a different way. When observing the students in action and listening back to some recordings, I noticed that the students wanted to investigate the tools on their own. They pressed the different buttons: they wanted to see what everything did. They problem solved along the way (e.g., “The writing isn’t erasing this way. Let’s try this instead.”) They accidentally found things out (e.g., by holding down on a button, they saw the different options that appeared), and then they wanted to teach each other how to use these features. While this learning may not be academic learning per se, it is still learning, and this exploration, problem solving, and sharing should be encouraged. I wish that I just had the students open the app and investigate it. They’re not going to break it, so why not let them see what they can do with it? Students need this “play time.” It’s how they learn. Then I could give them a specific activity, and show them the screenshots to help out when needed. Some students may not even need them. I think that this was a time that I went for “direct instruction” and “play-based learning” may have been the way to go.
- I had recording problems. When I tested out the app, I could pause the recording and record again to add to it. For some reason, when the students tried to do this, one recording kept on replacing the other one. Due to time, our last rotation was a short one, so very few groups had a detailed recording to share. All of the other work was also replaced, so students couldn’t go back and see what others shared. Does anyone know why this happens? How might I change this setting?
- I’m so glad that I showed students the drawing and writing options. I was thrilled with the number of Grade 1’s that added ideas in writing in addition to sharing orally. To help develop our writing skills, I’m really encouraging students to write more, and this was one time that I didn’t need to encourage them, but still had my most reluctant writers sharing lots.
- All students were very successful with the app. Since they had options for sharing orally, in writing, through drawings, or any combination of the above, everyone could find a way to participate. Having so many opportunities to share definitely helped the students out when we moved onto our Shared Writing activity about the seasons. I saw many more hands up than usual, and had many more ideas shared. Success!
- As such, I will be using Explain Everything again, but maybe I’ll start from the beginning, and give students some investigation time. I’ll let them see what they can do. Maybe I’ll give them a list of requirements (e.g., you must have a picture, you must include writing, you need to record your thinking), and let them problem solve to meet them. This way, when I give them a more specific task to do, they’ll have learned more about the tools in the app, had a chance to discuss how they work, and can then focus on the talk related to the task. What do you think? Any other suggestions?
- I liked how a Learning Goal helped focus our math discussion yesterday. Students also seemed to be talking more about math as they were investigating/exploring the different problems. I wonder if the Learning Goal helped with this as well.
- I found that the Learning Goal was more teacher-directed at this point, but the responses from the students seemed to indicate that this was their first time creating a Learning Goal. Hopefully as we use Learning Goals more, and students become more comfortable with the language, they can take more ownership in the creation process.
- I found that I needed to ask a lot of questions to get the students to focus on the math and explain more of their thinking. I wonder if this is because it’s the first time that they’ve done an activity like this. Maybe the need for these questions are normal, and as time goes on and students develop a better understanding of math, they’ll need less guidance. It’s almost like a gradual release of responsibility model.
- Based on my observations, I’m going to continue emphasizing the Learning Goal, having rich discussions about math, and using Success Criteria to further narrow the math focus. I’m also going to use more books and songs to get students to see “math” in the everyday. I found a great book about real world math on BookFlix (through our Virtual Library). A wonderful friend also sent me some math song books on “math in our world.” The visuals and the singing should definitely help students as they continue to develop their understanding of math. What are your thoughts on this plan? What else would you suggest?
I’m sure that the coming weeks will bring many more reflections and changes, and I’m excited to see where we go next. I always enjoy hearing your thoughts and ideas, and certainly welcome any suggestions as I continue to work with my students now and plan ahead for the future.
I had my grade 5/6 students model Explain Everything for a younger class last year. They worked collaboratively with their grade 1/2 buddies to create a video that included voices talking about our school community, a photo and a printed word about their topic. It worked really well to have the smaller students explore the app with the older, more experienced students to help trouble shoot. If your whole school is using this app, perhaps you could pair up classes or students? You could even have your class do some modelling for the older students!
Thanks for the idea, Shauna! I will definitely see if a class is interested. It’s a great idea to explore an app together. I’d like to give my students a little more experience with it first though, so that they have something to contribute as well as something to learn.