Small Steps…Great Benefits

Today Contributor: Sophia Pellegrini
Sophia Pellegrini teaches 5th Grade Science at Padron Elementary in Austin, Texas. 

My name is Sophia Pellegrini, and I am a 5th grade science teacher at Padrón Elementary. This is my third year teaching 5th grade. First off, I love challenging myself to learn new things. So when BLEND came around, it was something I wanted to know more about, and I wanted to be able to use the platform with my students. I love using BLEND and other programs with my students. Giving them the opportunity to use tools like Google Docs and Forms helped my students become confident and gave them an introduction to real-world issues.

At the beginning of my first year in 5th, one of my goals was to just get them to sign in and out of their Portal and BLEND accounts. I felt that that was a good starting point, and if we could do that I considered it a success. I started by showing them how to log into the Portal and BLEND. I was able to walk them through step-by-step using the innovation station. Even if you don’t have this option, you could start in small groups (as part of centers). The biggest obstacle that I faced right off the bat, was making sure that all students new their birthdates and student id numbers. This required a lot of patience and repeating directions. (I like to have post-its for students to use as “flags” to post on the top corner of their screens so I knew who needed help.)

Once they knew these steps and systems, then getting to the Portal and accessing BLEND was easy. The next thing that I showed them how to change their profile in their BLEND account. They did some cross-curricular work by writing their biography within their profile. From there, I showed them how to access their BLEND course.  I made sure to have a mix of videos and resources within the course for students to use. I chose videos that enriched the subjects we were covering. I embedded documents that students could access and add their opinions and ideas too, through the use of Google Forms and surveys. I taught language arts my first year of fifth, and loved to use surveys for reading responses.  I also gave the students the opportunity to respond to others’ writings.  This was a great lesson in responsible journalism and respect for others that they worked with on projects.  The students loved being able to compliment or help others in their class.

It was definitely a year of trial and error. However, by the end of the year, I had students who could help others. Together, we added in Google Forms and Google Docs for literature and other projects and assessments.  I am so grateful for having a Tech Design Coach that answered all my questions and made time to come and help me bring some of my ideas to fruition. She came to the first class where I introduced BLEND and was a great help to students and myself. She checked in frequently and helped me plan out other ideas I had.   I am definitely more confident now helping students use Portal and BLEND and am looking forward to starting soon with my current class.

I advise any teacher to start with something small and build from there.  Your TDC is a great resource. I also got help from my librarian and other teachers who I knew were tech savvy.  Start with a project that you already do in class and pick one area where you might be able to add a BLEND or other technological components.  Good luck with the year!

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