Note this is one of the posts I will be bringing over from my previous blog. This was originally posted on September 12, 2012.
Every school year is a new beginning for both teachers and students. This year is no different, in fact it is a year full of even more new beginnings. This is the first year that our district has re-aligned to three elementary schools instead of four. Due to declining enrollment and budgetary issues the district determined that it was necessary to eliminate an elementary school. The students and much of the staff were relocated to the remaining three elementary schools. In my homeroom class of 21 fifth graders 9 of the students are new to our elementary school. This number includes both students who are new to the district and ones who attended fourth grade in the building that closed.
Last school year we had three sections of fifth and sixth grade. Two were fifth grade classes with approximately 15 students in each class. The third was a single sixth grade class with 24 students. This year we have two fifth grades of 21 students and two sixth grades of approximately 18 students. This realignment of the schools will allow me to work with more students. It has also allowed us to truly departmentalize once again with a separate teacher for each of ELA, social studies, science and math. Now instead of teaching three sections of social studies, a section of ELA and a section of reading, I am teaching four social studies sections and a single reading section.
Throughout the course of my teaching and especially last year, when I added the use of iPods to my classroom, I developed and borrowed/stole a lot of ways to use technology with ELA. Some of the ways I used technology in my ELA class can be recycled and used in similar ways for social studies and reading.
Last year I had 19 iPod Touches to use in my classroom. This made it possible to reach students 1:1 in my two fifth grade classes, however with 24 sixth graders I was unable to reach the 1:1 ratio. We were able to use the iPods, but the students were divided into small groups. This year my original 19 iPods would not be enough for either of the fifth grade classes. Since I knew this before the end of last school year I was able to gain access to 4 more iPods allowing me to have enough for 1:1 access for all of my classes.
Just as I did last year before we start using the iPod Touches in the classroom a Parent and Student agreement has to be sent home and signed by the student and parent. (So far I have had about 90% of the agreements returned.) Until I have them all, I won’t begin any projects that involve using the iPods. The agreement is a way to make sure parents and students are aware that iPod usage falls under the same technology usage agreement they have already agreed to follow. It also makes sure students know they are responsible to immediately report any damage to me. Additionally, it is a slight “scare-tactic” letting the students know that they may be responsible to replace iPods that are broken due to misbehavior/foolishness.
Even though we haven’t started using the iPods, daily technology use is still a part of my classroom. The first thing that we did in my classroom after going over the classroom and school rules/guidelines was to go over the rules when using the SmartBoard. The rules are a simple, but necessary, step to ensure the SmartBoard can be used throughout the year and into the future. Most days while I am teaching I feel more like a “game show host” than a teacher since I am constantly calling students to the front of the room to reveal notes, answer questions or do other things using the SmartBoard. My goal is to allow the students to use the SmartBoard as much or more than I do.
I am looking forward to diving into technology even more this year, while using the technology to help teach to the new common core standards. Technology in education should not be used just as bells and whistles. Technology can be a hook to get a child’s attention, but it needs to add to the lesson and learning. I feel that using technology to add to lessons and education is one of my strengths, due in part to my graduate studies.
As the year continues I will share some of the successful and less than successful ways I have integrated technology into the curriculum and classroom.