Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hack the Classroom: An Inspiring Event

Yesterday was one of those incredible days that I'll remember for a long time.  I was inspired.  Excited. Energized.  Motivated.  Proud.  Empowered.  Being invited to be part of Microsoft's Hack the Classroom was awesome! 

I was invited to this education event to share the story of how my students are learning to code.  Microsoft in Education filmed this video featuring our class and it was shared during the event.

I also had the privilege to be in the studio to hear messages from a group of passionate presenters, including Dale Dougherty, Rafranz Davis and Hadi Partovi.  We were also joined by fellow educator, Jeff Kash, whose classroom was also featured at the event.  

Hadi Partovi is the founder of and he spoke about the need for schools to teach computer science.  An increasing number of jobs require people trained in computer science, but very few schools prepare students to enter post-secondary programs in this area.  Hadi shared about the growing Hour of Code movement and the need for us to teach coding as a basic skill.   Listening to his message live at #hacktheclassroom was SO inspiring and being invited on stage with him was a huge honour for me!

Dale Dougherty is founder and Executive Chairman of Maker Media, Inc. which launched Make: magazine and Maker Faire. He shared his passion for the maker movement and encouraged everyone to discover the joyful process of making.  Maker Faires are hosted all over the world and many schools have created a makerspace for students.  Education resources are available at

Rafranz Davis is passionate about the power of Minecraft in education. She works as the Executive Director of Professional and Digital Learning for Lufkin School District. She shared examples of how schools can hack the classroom and overcome obstacles to using Minecraft in schools.  One of my favourite parts of her message was when she explained how STUDENTS taught teachers how to use Minecraft as part of their district PD!!  I'm signing up for Minecraft tutoring with one of my grade 1 students ASAP :)
Jeff Kash is a middle years teacher who is using OneNote Class Notebooks in his classroom.  Using this tool, Jeff has made a shift to grading for mastery and has helped his students become more organized.  

If you didn't catch the live event, you can still sign up and watch on-demand here:

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Hack the Classroom: Microsoft headquarters & Rehearsal

 I was fortunate to have some time to explore before heading to the Microsoft headquarters on Friday morning.  It was green and rainy and beautiful as I strolled around Redmond.   Near the end of my walk, I discovered the nearby Sammamish River trail. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see much of it as I had to get ready for my day at the Microsoft headquarters.  
The Microsoft “campus” is like a small city.  Along with the many offices and work areas, there are shops, services and restaurants.  The place is so vast that they run a company shuttle service for on-demand transportation.   Our shuttle got Jeff and I to our first stop very efficiently and we began our tour shortly after.  It was exciting to meet people from a variety of the Microsoft teams.  There seemed to be a really positive energy in each building we toured and it was fascinating to see the variety of workspaces and amenities available for employees.  We visited the Commons Mixer to eat some lunch before meeting with a member of the OneNote team. 

Next, we rehearsed in the studio so we knew where to sit, when to move and how the event would run.  It was pretty neat to see all of the people contributing to this webcast.  It was interesting to witness all of the details involved in a rehearsal for an event like this – I’m not even sure I can explain the process.  Speakers and production team members went over order of events, movements on and off the stage, polling questions, panel questions, microphone levels, camera angles, media to share and so much more.
 After rehearsal, I had enough daylight time left to further explore the river trail I discovered this morning.  The sunshine had even appeared, which made my evening hike even more beautiful! Hiking trail adventures plus walking all over Microsoft headquarters made for a big step day (yes, I’m a FitBit fanatic)… 22,000 steps wasn’t quite enough to win my workweek step challenge, but I suppose it was good for me anyways… 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Hack the Classroom: Arriving in Redmond

I've been fortunate to have a number of extraordinary professional learning opportunities as a Microsoft Expert Educator.  Currently, I'm in Redmond, Washington for Microsoft's Hack the Classroom event.  I'll be sharing about coding in the classroom and there is a great line up of speakers for the event!  You can still register here and stream live on January 30th or watch the recorded event at a later date.

After I arrived in Redmond yesterday, I was fortunate to visit a school in the area, accompanied by Microsoft team member Sonja Delafosse.  I visited teacher-librarian and fellow Microsoft Expert Educator Julie Hembree at Cougar Ridge Elementary School in Bellevue, WA.  Julie and I met at the Microsoft Global Forum in Prague, Czech Republic in 2012 and saw each other again at the 2014 Global Forum in Barcelona, Spain.  Although we follow each other on social media, it was really nice to reconnect in person.  Julie started an amazing project with her students, Books to Africa, and they had just completed a coin drive to pay for postage for their next shipment of books. They were tallying up their funds and celebrating that they raised over $1000!

Check out the beautiful library Mrs. Hembree works in!
It was exciting to visit another school.  It is interesting that, as educators, we often don't have the chance see other teachers and classrooms during school hours, so this was a special opportunity for me.  I enjoyed sitting in on Julie's library class with one of her Grade 3 classes, who were working on researching weather in different locations.  I enjoyed interacting with some of her students and watching them work on their assignment.  I was also able to do a school walkthrough and visit a few other classrooms and classes.  The staff are really positive and welcoming and their school building is very bright, beautiful and open.  They even have a rock climbing wall in their gym since that is a common activity in this area!

Before we headed back to Redmond, we stopped to see the picturesque Snoqualmie Falls. The view was absolutely breathtaking.  

During supper, I met the other educator presenting for Hack the Classroom, Jeff Kash from Kindle the Passion Academy at Maddison Middle School in North Hollywood, California.  Jeff’s classroom is being featured to share his use of OneNote class notebooks. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Poetry: Why?

We have been reading and writing poetry in grade 1.  Today, for a shared writing activity, we wrote our own question poem.  We tried to make it rhyme, just like our model poem.  We had a lot of fun (and giggles) putting this together:

By Mrs. Obach's Smart Grade 1s

Why can't I be a farmer?
Why do knights wear armor?

Why can't I stay up late?
Why can't my name be Taite?

Why can't I soar in the sky?
Why did my turtle have to die?

Why can't I fly?
Why is the ground not up high?

Why can't I be older?
Why can't I reach Mr. Zilkey's shoulder?

Why can't I have nine lives?
Why do bees build hives?

Why can't I go with you?
Where is Ariah's shoe?

Why can't I be a cat?
Why should I wear a hat?

Why can't I be a dog?
Why can't I have my own blog?

Why can't I be a cow?
Why can't I have a big WOW?

Why can't I walk upside down?
Why can't I wear the crown?
Why does my cow always frown?

Why can't I be an insect?
What kinds of things could I collect?

Why can't I be a fire-breathing dragon?
Why do I have to pull the wagon?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Kids Who Code:Starting a Coding Club

Back in 2014, I started working on the Kids Who Code project with fellow educators Mrs. Devon Caldwell and Mrs. Connie Lowe.  After successfully introducing coding in the classroom and hosting our first Kids Who Code Code-a-thon last school year, I was excited to start coding with my new class of Grade 1s again this year.  But I also had a bigger goal in mind -- to introduce all of the students in our school to coding.   I'd heard of coding clubs being run in other schools and decided to give it a try at Hamiota Elementary.  Back in November, I invited Grades 2-5 students to sign up (with parental permission) and I'm pleased to report we've been going strong (or coding strong) since!  I haven't blogged about the experience yet, but I'm working on a series of posts now, as I reflect on our first several weeks.

For others running coding club or interested in getting started, here's what worked for us:

Set Up & Planning:
  • All Grades 2-5 students received information about the Coding Club with the sign up form
  • Once students had signed up (over 60!) I booked the only space large enough to hold all of us (the gym) for one noon hour per week
  • Next, I started my prep work
    • I looked for the perfect "kickoff" video and finally settled on this one from

    • Next, I debated over which coding tool to start with and finally decided on Scratch Jr. Scratch Jr. was my students' favourite tool last year and they have great printable instructions for beginner coders in their teacher resources.
    • I asked to borrow every iPad in the school and then I worried about how 60 kids would share 15 devices... Then I came up with multi-age teams of 4 students who would work together during our first club meetings.
    • I printed out 3-4 copies of the 9 different Scratch Jr. activities plus made copies of the instructions that my class wrote last year.  I numbered the activities 1-10 so teams could easily keep track of which one they were working on. Teams and challenges were listed on posters that students could use to check off completed activities and find their device. 
    • I developed attendance sheets by grade so I could keep track of who was in attendance at club meetings 
Kickoff Day: 
Kids flooded into the gym with their lunches and gathered in small groups to chat and eat.  I used my harmonica (PAX quiet signal) to get everyone's attention and we started our first official coding club meeting!  Our lunch hour is short (45 minutes) so we got right down to it:
  • watched introductory video
  • goal setting and rules - Students told me why they'd joined the club and what their goals were.  Students also shared what they thought the rules should be.  I recorded their ideas on large poster paper and we keep them posted for all meetings.  

  • Scratch Jr. challenge - I called out teams and had students pick up a device and a challenge.  They got right to work on following the instructions for their activities... then the bell rang shortly after, bringing our first meeting to a close.  Although we didn't get in a lot of coding time, I felt the time we spent on introductory activities was well worth it. 

During the weekly meetings that followed, students became more independent with using the posters to find their device and challenge instructions.  The multi-age teams worked very well, with students working together and taking turns to be the one actually touching the screen.  Having 10 different activities available allowed teams to work at different paces - they just checked off their completed challenge (usually after showing me) and then moved on to another one.  I moved around the gym checking in on teams and answering questions. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Celebrations and Traditions

We have been learning about celebrations and traditions. Here is our Sway which shows our celebrations and traditions. Scroll down to see all of our ideas.  We would still like more ideas if you want to answer the question "What are your celebrations and traditions?"

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Celebrations and Traditions

We are learning about belonging.  We brainstormed different groups we can belong to and illustrated some of the groups we each belong to.  We also wrote about special family members and shared some stories about things we like to do with our families. Now we are learning about celebrations and traditions.  Can you help us by answering this question:

What are your celebrations and traditions?

For example, do you celebrate Easter, Christmas, St. Patrick's Day, Halloween, Hanukkah, Groundhog's Day, Valentine's Day, New Years, Canada Day or other holidays?  How do you celebrate?  Do you have a tradition that happens every year with your family or friends?

Comment below or Tweet us @Mrsobachsclass  Pictures and writing are welcome!  We will create a special Sway presentation to share all of our ideas.  We hope to get answers from people all over the world!