One of the lovely traditions at my school is called the Treasury. Each year, students contribute pieces of writing to their treasury folders, and on their last days of 8th grade, their folder is presented to them. Families sit around tables in our cafeteria looking at pieces of work from kindergarten to 8th grade. I've been wishing for the last three years that there were a way to capture the digital work I do with students in a similar fashion (our art teachers use a great site called Art Sinfonia), especially because I am often recording voices, and I think it would be lovely to share that with parents as kids get older.
A few weeks ago, as I was browsing ISTE conference sessions, I came across a description for Seesaw, a "digital portfolio." Intrigued, I signed up (it's free). It is perfect.
It's rare that I get gushy and excited about an app, but this one is a keeper. I've been able to create free accounts for every kid in kindergarten, second and third grades (though I did hit a limit with my first "class" and had to create a second). Within Seesaw, I can share links, videos, and images in each child's private folder, which their parents then access at home. They can even leave comments!
Seesaw was quick to set up, intuitive, and it opens up a whole new way of communicating with parents. I'm so excited to share this app with my colleagues next year and to really encourage families to sign up. Even better, they are good about student privacy - I don't need to supply any information other than a name for kids, parents can only access their child's account, and the representative I've emailed with told me that they will periodically check in that I still want accounts open if they've been inactive for awhile.
I've only just begun experimenting with it, but it's going to be a goal of mine next year to really push this app out. I can really see this working across the curriculum, and as a great tool for our SPED teachers to demonstrate student progress over time.
One of the most rewarding collaborative relationships I've developed has been with my elementary art teacher. This year, we debuted a new, interdisciplinary project for 1st grade students that incorporated research, art, design and engineering - creating a zoo. Since students learn about animal classification in their classrooms, this seemed like a wonderful extension project.
We began by talking about habitats in library and identifying what we knew about them already, and then students picked their habitat choices. The following week, they began by watching BrainPop videos to build background knowledge and learn facts about their habitat. Students then used books (yes, books!) from the non-fiction collection to draw images of their habitats, then used PebbleGo and Facts4Me to figure out what animals lived in their habitat.
The project then transitioned to art, where they began to learn about the layout of zoos and talk about how habitats in zoos resemble, but are also different from, habitats in the wild. They constructed the bases of their habitats in art, but most of the art lessons focused on the design process.
Finally, it was time to get to work! We moved into the engineering room, and over the course of an intense 90 minutes, students worked in small groups (2-3 kids) to construct their zoo habitats out of recycled materials. With some adult help for hot glue, paint, and creativity, egg cartons, toilet paper tubes, tissue paper, pipe cleaners, and other simple materials were transformed. It was definitely chaotic, but it was a blast.
We finished off by having an open house the following morning for parents and siblings. Students were SO excited to share what they had learned about their habitats with their families, and many excitedly talked about why they'd made particular design choices.
It was an enormous success, and I cannot wait to do it again next year.
My name is Ms. Bery. I am a PK-8 library media specialist in the Boston area. In addition to being a certified school librarian, I am also certified in instructional technology, and have a strong interest in exploring and integrating technology in new and exciting ways in the classroom.
I am also a 2016 PBS LearningMedia Local Digital Innovator, and a 2015 recipient of the Massachusetts School Library Association's President's Award.
Check out the Sandbox for apps and websites I've found useful in supporting student learning and creativity. I also (very occasionally) review children's and young adult literature on my book reviews page.
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