Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Voicethread and Social Learning

This Voicethread was created to assist my students in creating a mural about our community.  This is a lesson I do each year to get my students thinking in groups of ways to create ONE big picture that everyone in the class gets to paint.  It's always a hit, but usually lacking on the technology side.  With this thread, my students can begin brainstorming with their groups, then at home or during a computer lab time, they can look back over the murals we studied and leave notes, comments, or suggestions for each other.  Each class completes a mural (and while I'd love for it to actually be on the wall, we use a huge piece of paper so it can hang instead of covering the previous class' murals each year) and each group decides what part of the community is needed to be represented.  I try to keep myself as removed from the project as possible outside of helping them get the initial organization together for placement of paper to be sure everyone has room to work at the same time.

I felt this lesson really fit into the niche of cooperative learning since my students work for very little time on their own besides getting their thoughts together.  Then they do some planning as a group to think of important aspects and places in our community, and we have a organization discussion as a class to plan where each piece of the mural will go on the paper.  Luckily, I can use the ActivBoard for that process this year and students can group together pieces to move around on the mural during the planning process instead of me drawing and erasing tons of marker lines!  Then students get right to work on some sketches, decide which to use, who is strongest at drawing or painting, or leading and they begin their initial sketches on the paper.  When sketches are complete, painting begins.  I usually have time for half the class to paint at a time, so we switch every other class until it is complete!  At this time, I am unable to get any lab time with the 3rd graders,  but in the future, I would also like to take the groups in the computer lab to find pictures of places around the community to assist in their sketches - sometimes the factory near our school or a local mascot comes out looking a little off, and I think the visual aides would help groups in their decision-making process as well.

I feel social learning is so important, and we do it here every week at Walden!  Our blogs and discussion boards are helping us create a network of teachers with which we can collaborate, gain insights, and provide feedback.  So much of our society now is on-the-go, but people want to keep up their social connections even if their job requires them to move across the country.  I know many of my 4th and 5th graders now have  Facebook pages where they keep up with each other, and it's a familiar environment to them.  Why not bring some aspects of social networking into the classroom (safely and monitored of course!)?

According to an article on Education World, cooperative learning should allow:

  • students set goals and decide how to meet them
  • students decide who does what parts of the goals
  • students learn how to negotiate through social skills
  • students learn each person on the team has a different set of strengths and weaknesses and how they apply to reaching their goal
I usually find that one student tends to naturally gravitate toward the leader role, and try to step in to remind them of how important their job is to keep the group positive and on task.  In this lesson, usually a particularly gifted artist steps up to plan and record the group's ideas efficiently.  Occasionally there are problems, but again, I try to keep my nose out of their business as long as it's just a debate, so we can then discuss what problems each group ran into later in the lesson and how to overcome those issues, or how to work it out for the good of the group.  Collaboration skills are needed in almost every career path my students may choose, so it is imperative I include social learning in my classroom.

Bafile, C. (2011, August 16). Lets cooperate teachers share tips for cooperative learning.  Retrieved from

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Project-based learning

As I began to study Constructionism this week, I was excited.  Finally I would get to discuss a classroom model that I use everyday with success in my art and music classroom!  Even though I knew what constructionism included, I was a bit disheartened to see the highlighted instructional strategy for the week was "Generating and Testing Hypotheses".  Science?  Surely that wasn't all we were going to be limited to in this week of studying a great hands-on method of learning.

Fortunately, my disappointment wasn't necessary, as further study showed that generating and testing hypotheses is simply guess and check (well, with a little thought behind the guessing part).  Matt Kuhn posted on the McREL blog about a music teacher who had her students create a song as generating and testing hypothesis (2009).  This is the kind of lesson I prefer, and I believe it leaves a lasting impression on my students because they are able to become physically involved in their projects and make informed decisions about them.

This week in music class, I decided to do a cross-curricular lesson involving art, music, and science.  This year, my third grade students have studied simple machines in class.  While looking through one of our music books, I noticed a song about a toy, had a Rube Goldberg invention next to it.  We learned the song, and looked at how Rube Goldberg's design used everyday items in strange ways to come up with a specific outcome.

We also watched this cute Japanese video:

My students were given the task of creating a plan that involved at least 8 separate steps to make an instrument create a sound.  After they finished the drawing, they had to label the steps just like Rube Goldberg did, and present their contraptions on the document camera so everyone could see.  I was amazed at the creativity as well as the realism the students put into their contraptions as well as the huge range of instruments chosen.  After our presentations were finished, one of my students asked me how our project was related to music.  I told him that they all proved to me they knew how a variety of instruments worked without their human counterparts to play them, and some students invented a new kind of instrument altogether!

Kuhn, M. (2009, June 22). Generating and testing hypothesis is not just for science. [Blog message]. Retrieved from

To top it all off...without generating and testing a hypothesis, we wouldn't have these!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cognitivism Correlation

This week, I took a closer look at the cognitivist approach to learning.  This model treats the brain much like a filing system in a computer where information is received, understood, stored, and later is used (Lever-Duffy & McDonald, 2008).  The emphasis here is the mental processes are found inward and are unique to the learner, much like you don't see much behind a computer "thinking" apart from a blinking hard drive light.  If you take the computer analogy another step, limitless applications are at your disposal for data manipulation, much like the workings of the human mind.

Now, if you consider the brain to be like a computer, it follows to find a direct correlation between cognitive theories and using tools such as graphic organizers, concept maps, spreadsheets, and virtual tours to enhance the learning experience.  Each tool can help students better sort, file, and organize their thoughts to make a deeper connection so the information is easier to retrieve later when it is needed.  Concept maps or "webs" are often used at the elementary level to help students organize their thoughts before writing.  Graphic organizers are helpful to sort information into necessary groups, so the brain can connect the information to similar ideas or concepts for storage.  Virtual field trips and simulations can help make a visual connection for students when they can't visit the actual place themselves.  I personally use a virtual tour for my art class to visit the paleolithic cave Lascaux in France, which is now off-limits to all but a few for preservation (not like we could actually get a field trip to France, but one can always hope!)

Aujuolat, N. (N.D.) Lascaux a visit to the cave. Retrieved from
Mayer, R. (N.D.) Cognitive theory of multimedia learning. Retrieved from
Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Study on Behaviorism

This week I read two chapters in the text Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works about reinforcement and practice (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007).  I found that sometimes, students aren't aware that it's important to give your best effort in classes of use excuses form outside contributors as reasons to be a potential failure.  As an educator, it's important to me that my students succeed.  If they come to class with an attitude that they've already failed, it will be much harder for them to give their best effort on class projects.  Even though my art and music classes run on a constructivism/constructionism combination of educational theories, there are aspects of behaviorism I did not consider that can be used to encourage my students to succeed.

If you take a quick look at my previous post, you fill find the new classroom management scale that I found through some blog searching, and I am implementing in my classroom next week.  This chart is designed with a behaviorist strategy in mind rewarding students for positive behavior, but still warning students with consequences for their actions.  After watching Dr. Orey's video (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011) this week and his discussion on how his son's classroom used a "clip chart" to manage behavior, I realized how much more important it is to reinforce the positive behaviors, which is exactly what the new chart has in place.  There are consequences, but I believe students need to know the realism of consequences for their actions for their real-world application.

Behaviorism can also be found in drills and practices for homework purposes or remediation.  Tutorials are also considered to fall into this category, and an excellent online tutorial that can be used in the elementary art classroom comes from Eric Carle's website showing how he makes his artwork.  This tutorial is doubly useful at my school as students read a story by Eric Carle in their regular education classrooms in second grade, so I can reinforce what they are learning in my art classes at that time as we create his style of artwork.

For music, drills are a traditional way to practice.  There are some excellent iPad apps to do just this, and one is Musicroom: Music Theory for Beginners which can be found on the app store for $2.99.  It provides students with quick lessons followed by quizzes over that skill, but it throws in cute and colorful music and characters that keeps students more engaged than many books I have tried.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program four: Behaviorist learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction 
that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Classroom Management - Art Adaptation

Thanks to wonderful Pinterest, I was introduced to an amazing site, which then led me to more amazing sites! Today I'd like to share the wonder of the Clip Chart with you!

I actually stumbled upon this from a blog called the Clutter-Free Classroom, and if you haven't seen it, you should check it out.  I then learned that this teacher had actually adapted the lesson from Rick Morris who has a classroom management page for it on his site at New Management. There, you can download a .pdf file with all the specifics, but the greatest thing about it?  It's adaptable!  I love the color, simplicity, and rewards from this system.  No more bribing, check charts, or crazy managements needed.  Kids work for the reward of being appreciated!  I can't wait to adapt and use this method in my own classroom, and I encourage everyone else, no matter what subject you teach to check this system out!