Adventures in class blogs

I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a class blog for a very long time. I’ve done blogs where my students did updates for our whole class every day and as a school we each have class pages that are basically like blogs and I have the students do updates once a week, but this year, since most of my students are able to use computers at home I thought I’d try out a class blog on KidBlog.org and see how it went. The other reason I decided to start this is that after the initial excitement with the year long learning projects the interest seemed to be waning and I wanted a way to get them going with their projects so I thought I’d try it out.

Yesterday morning I signed them up. I showed them a little bit about how to use the website in the afternoon, went over a few internet safety tips, let them know I would be moderating all entries and comments and let them go. I went on last night to see how it was going and I nearly cried with joy. It was so interesting and heart warming to see what they were writing to each other. They were writing encouraging comments on each others’ blogs and asking interesting questions. They were interacting in a respectful and fun way and getting excited about their projects again. What a great way to build a community. Today we talked about visiting other classes’ blogs and seeing what they do with theirs. We visited one in Argentina and I encouraged them to comment on other blogs as well.

We’re still only two days in, but I’m loving this so far. What they are writing is still very rudimentary for the most part but I think that it will improve. It’s authentic and they know that people are going to read it.

If you’re interested in visiting our blog and seeing how the students are doing on their projects, the website is here. Leave us a comment on something you see.

Awesome Math websites

This is my first year teaching math. Well, I taught math during my long term supply for 6 six weeks and during my practicum, and when I was a supply teacher, but this is my first time teaching math as a full time classroom teacher. I’ve very glad that I know the grade 5 Intensive French curriculum so well because, while planning for intensive French only takes a few minutes, planning for math is taking upwards of an hour or more. Math is taught very differently than it was in the past. Plus grade 5 is a provincial Math test year so I have to get my students ready for that. All in all, math is my biggest challenge this year. Luckily I have some amazing colleagues to help me and I’ve found some great websites.

A few years ago, a teacher told me about Timez Attack, which is a very cool game. 

It uses high quality graphics and interesting game play. Unfortunately, you have to pay to get the full version, but even the free version is fun. My students enjoy it. Sometimes we use it as a warm-up and if I had more computers I would use it as a centre. The only downside is that I have no idea how my students are doing when they use it either at school or at home. Which brings me to the next website.

Another teacher mentioned XtraMath early in the school year. I looked it up and was amazed at how user friendly and great it was. I signed up as a teacher (free) and signed up my whole class. It gave me login names and password sheets for all my students and information sheets for parents to send home. When I use it at school as a centre, after a student is done, it picks the next student so they can quietly go over and tell the student it’s their turn. I get weekly updates on how they’re doing and if they use it at home, their parents get updates as well. The downside, it’s not a game. It’s drill practice plain and simple. It starts students off practicing addition. Once they have mastered all their facts (with three second automatic recall) then they can move on to subtraction and then multiplication and finally division. When they master one operation I get sent a certificate that I can print off and give to them. The students enjoyed it at first and still like to do it at school, but they find it frustrating that they can’t move on past addition and it doesn’t keep their attention that well.

Which brings me to the final website, Manga High. I cam across this website by accident when I was looking for some math games to play with my class about estimation. I found this one called Ice Ice Maybe and started digging around on the site to find more. It turns out this website is based in Britain and it’s a combination of the awesome game play of Timez Attack plus the great features of knowing how my students are doing of XtraMath. The games on it are not just basic fact drills. It’s got everything from estimation to ordering decimals to trinomial factors and linear equations. The games are fun. I get reports on how they’re doing. And there’s a competitive factor as well. Schools can challenge each other to a “Fai-To” and see which school can get the most points during a week. We just challenged a school in Australia today. How cool is that? The other thing I love about it is that it differentiates. If you’re playing a game and you get a few questions wrong, it makes the questions easier and offers help. If you get a few right really quickly, it makes the questions harder. As with any game and website, there are glitches from time to time, but right now I’m loving that my students are practicing math so much at home, and having fun doing it. Can’t ask for more than that, right?

Do you have any amazing websites that you use with your classes?

(NB I am in no way affiliated or paid by any of these websites)