New Lessons from "Old Tools" - 9/8/19

If you have ever read my blog before, you know how much I love "new" ways to use "old tools." So it should come as no surprise that when I started seeing Shapegrams on Twitter by Tony Vincent, I was intrigued. Maybe part of it was me wanting to take his fall class, Classy Graphics, but knowing now was not the right time. I am not sure, but last Tuesday, I decided to take a risk and try something new with my third graders.

I know that initially, Tony Vincent used these activities with his fifth graders as bell ringers, but I decided that this activity was the perfect way to engage my students in a meaningful experience once they had finished their required assignment on Google classroom. I also wanted to use this activity to help students preview Google Drawings- knowing that we would be using it for our next activity in Technology.

It was amazing watching them- although most of my students had never used Google Drawings before, having Tony model the activity for them, really empowered them. I watched with wonder as many students revisited the video several times to help learn the new skill. Other students would work collaboratively to figure out how to accomplish some of the tasks. But after about 30 minutes as students "cleaned up," many asked- "Can we do this at home too?"

New Lessons...

After doing this lesson with my first class, I was excited to see if all my students would react the same way. So when my other third grade classes had the same reactions as the first one, I knew I was on to something.

So what was it about this activity that worked?

The first thing I noticed was how engaged my students were by the video. The combination of music, graphics and hands-on instruction was just right. This past summer, I took Tony Vincent's Classy Videos class so as I watched this video, I couldn't help but identify ways he had used the components of the class.

The second thing that struck me was how my students continued to be engaged as they worked on the task. It required many different skills from them and students chose different paths to help them accomplish these tasks. Some students rewatched the video, some students worked collaboratively to problem solve, while other students chose to ask me and other students' questions to solve this task. It was amazing to watch in each third grade class, the students were engaged. They were making connections to other programs that they had used like Wixie.

They were learning valuable skills as creators of content as they tried to replicate the Shapegrams' house. These skills would serve them well as we get ready to use Google Drawings to create our own Google Classroom banners.

So what lessons could I take away from this and add to my practice?

Many wonders arose and I was full of ideas that I wanted to try. It was as if I had discovered new uses for so many new tools. I understood that I couldn't try all of them at once. But what if, I just tried one and watched its impact. Here are just a few of my wonders:

1. Could I find a way to use video to engage my students as they began the next project, Google Classroom banners? Could I use this strategy to both empower and engage my students?

2. If my students learned all these design skills doing just one Shapegram, imagine how much they could learn if I added a Shapegram at the end of each session?

3. How could I use the design elements shared in Shapegrams to model risk taking and a growth mindset to my students?

4. What if before I had students do other apps or programs- I used a similar idea to scaffold how to use the program?

I can't wait to try one of these ideas this week. This activity inspired me beyond any expectations. A huge thank you to Tony Vincent for sharing this with the rest of us. We are all truly better together!

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