lesson planning

Minecraft & the Ideal School, Day 2

When you let your imagination run free, you’re sure to come up with some amazing ideas. That’s exactly what some of my students are doing with the Ideal School project.

Day 2 began with students picking up where they left off. Many of them had completed half of the work with the 3 different Padlets. They spent some time today working on their School Design questions, which many enjoyed, and of course, some got distracted with all of their ideas. There was definitely some great discussion between students about the facilities they would offer, and how they would design their schools.

Once work was completed on all 3 Padlets, students were able to begin Task 4- Sketching their School Design. Prior to the class meeting, I had modified this section of my original lesson plan. I wanted students to be able to messy sketch and just get an idea of what would be in their schools and where it would be located. I didn’t want them to have to worry about carefully plotting the design layout just yet. I had made my own samples of a messy sketch and a good sketch to share with them in Google Classroom. My samples only show a small section of a school building.

This is where many students ended class. They were laying out the messy sketch designs. Some will have a school with multiple floors, and others will have a single level school. I even had some students want to come down during dismissal time to continue working on their sketches. This is perfectly fine by me, and I love that they are eager to keep working outside of class time. Students will be able to move on to the second sketch when they show me their completed messy sketch and I make sure that the requirements for the school are met. They will not get to the end of the project, only to be told they are missing something.

Overall, day 2 went well, but I think that was mostly because I spent time before the class tweaking the lesson plan again so that it was more specific, and really got students to put some thought into their work. Originally I just had them graphing their sketch with all measurements and such, but I realized that this was not a good idea because they would have had no idea how the overall sketch of the school should look. I felt that this could lead to mistakes and frustration. I also added into the lesson that the messy sketch needed my approval before the good sketch so that I could make sure that all required pieces were included.

This revision led to me creating my own examples of both the good sketch and the messy sketch. I wanted students to see a model so that it would be clearer to them, and many did appreciate it. I am really hoping that the graph version turns out well, because I have so many students who struggle with this when it comes to Minecraft. They have trouble creating their design on graph paper so that it transfers easily into Minecraft.

I am certain that my changes to Day 2’s part of the lesson made the difference in how the activity proceeded. Day 3 is meant to be a continuation of Day 2, and I expect most students to finish the messy sketch and be working on their good graph copy. Below, you can see the work from Day 2 from some of the students:

Very much looking forward to Day 3 next week. I am looking forward to seeing what the students come up with for their ideal schools!

Update + Alien Encounter Basic Computer Knowledge Lessons

Summer break has hit, and I’ve slacked on doing much work educationally so far, as I’ve been attempting to catch up on other things that I’ve cast aside during the school year. I’ve worked on my guitar some more, cleaned the apartment, spent time with my favorite daycare kids, and started trying to learn Python. I’ve also taken the time to up my workout routine. Now that it’s July, it’s time to begin letting my mind ease back into what I want to accomplish during the rest of the summer before I head back to work.

I’m going to soon begin working on my presentation materials for the West Virginia Statewide Technology Conference. I have two sessions to present, one of them being educational blogging. I need to also work on my technology resource wiki, and add more resources, as well as revamp some of the sections of the wiki itself.

Since I’ve been slacking, I’m going to share the links to some lesson plans I did using the GRASPs method. These 3 lessons are meant for K-2 and can be used in yearly succession for basic computer skills, or modified to be used on their own. All materials are included. Please give credit if you use!

Alien Encounter I (Kindergarten): http://tinyurl.com/pzk29sr

Alien Encounter II (1st Grade): http://tinyurl.com/o4gm2bz

Alien Encounter III (2nd Grade): http://tinyurl.com/o8gs6sj

GRASPS & Technology Planning

It’s been a little bit since I’ve updated, and testing has been a big part of that. I’ve not been able to do much of anything in classrooms, nor have teachers asked for me because so many are focused on either staying focused for the test or testing. I’ve been working on some things for the end of the year inventory, as well as monitoring testing and assisting teachers with that. However, I use the bits of free time that I do end up with to begin working on things for next year.

In particular, I’m trying to prepare a bit of a technology curriculum for the elementary school. My first task in completing this was to break down the technology standards for each grade band into a checklist. The idea is that every student will be given a checklist where I can record where they’ve demonstrated competency in the standards. Each year they get a new checklist that is added to their file. I am also creating digital portfolios
for each student, so I may put the check list in there instead. I’m not entirely sure yet. My biggest takeaway from doing this was the realization of how out of date West Virginia’s technology standards are. They were originally filed in November 2006 and went into effect July 2008. The standards focus heavily on desktop publishing skills, with some focus on basic computer skills and digital citizenship. There is no mention of anything relating to computer science. The standards still mention diskettes, which shows how dated they are.

Even though the standards are a bit outdated, I still find many of them to be applicable today. Students still need basic computer knowledge, and they also need basic desktop publishing skills. Elementary school students tend to not be taught these things, and when they get to middle school, they are unfamiliar with the programming when it comes time to use these programs for projects. This is based on my own observations of students
in my area, so other areas may be different. I’ve watched over time though, and things have not changed. Teachers have not taught these skills, and some have confessed to me that they aren’t very confident in their own abilities when it comes to these skills.

With all of that said, even with outdated standards, I still need a bit of a curriculum to use with students next year. My plan is to teach a lab class once a week when I am at the elementary school. Of course, that doesn’t give me too many weeks in the school year to use. I already know that when it comes to teaching digital citizenship, I will be using the Common Sense Media curriculum. I will also throw in lessons from the Netsmartz.org
curriculum as I see fit. With both of these, I’m set for teaching the digital citizenship portion.

The area that is troublesome, however, is basic computer skills, and potentially desktop publishing. I have searched for lessons on basic computer skills, only to come up empty handed. I have not searched for desktop publishing items, as I plan to create projects based around that. Since my research was empty handed on the basic skills, I decided to develop my own lesson plans instead. I researched a few thing, and decided to take a
performance task approach using the GRASPS method (Wiggins & McTighe). This method helps one to develop the task using the acronym:

Goal

Role

Audience

Situation

Product/Performance

Standards & Criteria for Success

It’s all part of understanding by design. One actively works backwards with the standards and objectives first before deciding any type of lesson activities. It helps cut down on unnecessary components to the lesson. I have to confess that I’ve never really planned this way before. Either the curriculum was given to me, or I took a topic and came up with an activity first, then added the standards around it. I realize the approach isn’t the
correct one to take, but when I had to plan out lessons for all subjects, it was the one that was the least time consuming week to week.

I chose instead to do things differently this time. Not only did I want to create lessons for myself, but I also decided to share what I created online. I worked to design a template first that would encompass all I wanted to include for both myself and anyone using the template online. I planned to keep the same template throughout my work. The next step was to look at the standards and develop my lesson. I wanted to start the year with basic
computer skills and so I located the standards that worked around that topic.

From there, I developed my GRASPS form. I decided that the students would be computer experts working at Computers ‘R Us. Aliens would land in front of their store one night, and want to know about Earth’s computer systems. Students would be called into a meeting by their manager so he or she could review the equipment and rules of care. Students would create posters that showed care rules for the aliens to take back home, and their final project would be to create a class video that explained each piece of equipment
and its proper care so that the aliens could take it back home to their planet with them.

It definitely wasn’t easy. I’m known to get sidetracked at work, but I spent a good many hours working on and tweaking the lesson. I decided that I still needed to cover basic skills in 1st and 2nd grade as well, and am currently in the process of developing Alien Encounter II and Alien Encounter III. Ideally, they follow most of the same standards. However, the students have different performance tasks to complete that allows me to review the same concepts, but in a different way. For example, they were computer experts in the first task. In the second task they will be retail salespeople. In the last task, they’ve gotten out of the computer business, and became a children’s book author and illustrator instead. All three tasks still deal with the aliens, though the last task deals with the school children on
the alien planet instead.

Part of me can see why I didn’t really plan like this in the classroom. It does take a lot of time, and if I had done this for every lesson, I would never be finished with my lesson plans. Being out of the classroom now allows me a little more time during my work day to plan so I’m taking advantage of that. I’m also sharing my work as I complete it. If I needed a lesson plan for it, chances are someone else may as well.

I’ve still got a long way to go, but at least I know how I want to tackle things!