Today’s Contributor: Stacey Shapiro. Zilker Elementary, 1st Grade Teacher
This is my 20th year teaching in AISD, and second year as our Campus Innovation Coach, and each year I’ve focused on technology in my classroom with my early childhood learners. I am also a BrainPOP Certified Educator, and I plan on applying to be a Seesaw Ambassador in the Spring.
I have always been interested in finding an easy-to-use, preferably free, online portfolio for my students. I had attended several sessions at conferences in the past, but had not found exactly what I was looking for. I wanted something that was easy for my six- and seven-year-olds to post to and for parents to be able to access. I wanted my students to be able to see their growth throughout the year as well as be able to give themselves feedback.
I wanted to find something where my students could have a voice when they share their work. For example, giving science grades is hard in the primary grades, because I don’t want to grade my students on their writing ability. In the past if I just looked at observations they had recorded with drawings and or words, I might be missing out on what they are really thinking and understanding. I had used iPods for my special education students to record their thinking with a note-taking app, but nothing class-wide.
Then, toward the end of last year I learned about Seesaw. Seesaw is a student-driven digital portfolio that empowers students to independently document what they are learning at school. I thought this was exactly what I was looking for! I didn’t want to begin something at the end of the year, so I started preparing over the summer to implement in the fall. I took their “PD in your PJ’s” sessions on various topics such as “Brand New to Seesaw Part 1 and Part 2” and “What Can My Students Add to Seesaw?” Each one was anywhere from 10-40 minutes.
My ultimate goal was to have each student post something once a week throughout the entire year. I didn’t tell anyone at first until I realized my goal was obtainable. I wanted to start out small: just them filming themselves explaining something or taking a picture and then reading or explaining it. I decided once a month they could take a picture of their favorite prompt writing journal entry from that month and read it, and choose a book (chapter, or page) they had been working on during guided reading and read it for fluency. I’d start small.
I joined a couple of Seesaw Facebook groups (one specifically for first grade teachers and another for all teachers), and ideas came pouring in! I started with a task card that someone created to celebrate International Dot Day. This was using the drawing tools in Seesaw. Until now, I had only had my students upload finished work. My students followed the task card and loved it!
Then, I found an idea to use with our Big Buddies (5th graders). Students used the text tool and after taking a selfie with their buddy, they wrote down how they were the same and how they were different as they got to know each other. It was a live Venn Diagram. The 5th graders showed me how to use emojis and change the fonts, and I taught them how to do a few things too!
In these Facebook groups teachers were sharing so many other ideas! Many ideas went right along with what I was teaching in class (practicing sight words, story problems, properties of matter), and so much more! Lots of teachers were talking about App smashing. One was with TextingStory.com. Using the app TextingStory.com my students were able to practice their weekly spelling words by creating a story, and then a video of their story and upload it to Seesaw. Here’s what one group did.
Other teachers showed how easy it was to create differentiated story problems for the students to solve, or how the students can create their own problems. I thought I would love to make my own activities, but I’ll wait until next semester. Then I realized I could just try to use what I have. It didn’t take long once I got the hang of it! I made on-level, challenge, and challenge multi-step problems. My students not only solve the problems, but explain their thinking while solving the problems.
I am hooked! I have received so much wonderful feedback from families. Eighteen out of twenty of my students’ families are connected and follow their child’s portfolio. One family asked if the child’s grandparents could follow. Of course! Many parents comment on their child’s work.
I am also able to review their work. It provides a deeper understanding, and enables each student to have a voice, my ultimate goal! I am looking forward to learning more, collaborating with others, and building upon what I’ve already tried. Let me know if you would like to share ideas, or if you’d like to see the task cards I’ve created!