Monday, December 11, 2017

What would your ideal classroom look like?

I am taking a course and was asked to create my ideal classroom.

I came up with the above after losing my original creation by hitting the back button, but the idea is basically the same:

  • large tables in the middle of the room where students can work and have discussions
  • seating around the edges where students can break off and have options to work
  • the original design had whiteboards all around the room - this version has one whiteboard and screens on each wall (I'm not sure why I could only make one the second time.) Ideally, I would have whiteboards on every wall, and whiteboard tables/desktops
  • after going farther in the course module, I wonder if iPad stations might be a good idea, but a 1:1 classroom environment might make that moot unless I had the need for cameras (and there is always a use for a camera)

Where are the students situated? Are they working independently? Are they working in groups?
The students move around as required by the project. They work both independently and in groups depending on the situation. I would imagine working at the middle tables during discussion/lecture/whole-group activities, then have the option to "break out" to the edge of the classroom to work in pairs or small groups. Alternatively, students would be able to work at the large tables as well.

Where are you situated?
I don't think I need a desk, although this year teaching grade ones I have found that I do need one. I imagine the classroom I designed to be more upper elementary, and it would be a 1:1 environment. I would have a laptop so I would be able to access student work from anywhere and work from anywhere. It is my teaching style, when teaching elementary, to be with students at all times when they are in the classroom, so as long as the large tables could seat me comfortably, I'd be happy having the extra room and no teacher desk.

Where are the tools/technology located? Are these locked up? Are these accessible? Are they used as a reward? Are they taken away as punishment?
I imagine the tools would be just that - tools to get the job done so the students would always have them. I don't believe in taking away tech, but I have been tempted to do so and I have threatened to do so. If tech is used correctly in the classroom, I think you need it to get the job done, so taking it away would be taking away the only way to complete the assignment/project/task.

Is discussion only developing when students are prompted? Is discussion open and fluid? Are you leading the conversation?
The discussion would be open and fluid. Of course, there would be prompts from the teacher when necessary, but discussions and inquiry is based on the students driving it forward.

Are students able to discuss with others prior to answering? 
It depends on what the goal of the questions would be at the time. Is the teacher's goal formative assessment? Is it to see how well students are able to share time? Is it to have students find the correct answer? Is it to debate theories? In general though, yes, I would allow them to discuss prior to answering.

Are students asked to draw upon prior knowledge? Cultural background/demographic relative to them?
Right now, at 9:00 p.m., this seems like a silly question and my first thought is that all questions rely on a connection to prior knowledge. Or, I might not be thinking enough.

Do you provide real-life examples prior, during, or at the end of the lesson?
I do give "real" examples when I can and when it is relevant. That could be at any time.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What are you looking for?

"When I say go, do a 360 degree turn and count the number of blue objects you see", I ask my class of 19 First Graders. When everyone has reoriented to the front, I ask, "Without looking, how many yellow objects did you see?"

"You said blue Mr. Hammerlund!" they all yelled.

"Yes, but now I'm asking you about the yellow ones."

How to Be Awesome at Your Job: A Podcast for People who Love Learning Improvement Tools for Happier Work, Career & Achieving
 via @PodcastAddict

This year I have a challenging class. Period. There is not a night that I don't go home exhausted.
For the past few months I've been focused on looking for the bad - the negative; the bad behavior. All the while, I know I've been missing the good - good behavior, good learning, increasing skills, those students who are really trying. Those students I don't spend enough time with because of the others.

In the above podcast, Brenda Bailey-Hughes talks about looking for the positive, not the negative. She talks about looking for the positive and gives the exercise above as a way to hone in on the positive.

It is a fun exercise to do with a class and takes less than five minutes. I am going to try this with my students for a while to see how it improves their empathy and observation skills.

Using Book Creator to Convert a Paper Book to a Movie

*Another unfinished post I am just now publishing.

The Grade 1 teacher came to me with a project to digitize the books the students had written. Since our Grade 1 classes are on Seesaw, we decided it would be best to make them publishable to there. I have a natural inclination to movies vs books when it comes to student work, so Bookcreator was a natural fit because books can be exported as video files.

We did this project last year, so I knew it would be great. Last year I looked at this project through the lens of tech integration. This year, I was looking at it through the lens of the new ISTE Standards for Students. Specifically, under the standard for Creative Communicator, there is a substandard that reads:
Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

Book Creator is an easy way for students to narrate a video. It also gives them the option of different sizes for their books.

A photo posted by Thomas Hammerlund (@thomashammerlund) on

Students use Book Creator to make their books. When you publish them, you can publish directly to YouTube so the books become a video. Any voice annotations in the book will also be annotations in the video.