Finding the Pennies in your Lesson


Happy Monday everyone! Its the final week of school for me and while many are in the same boat and others are already ahead of the curb. It won’t be long before we are sitting down again trying to work new ideas into our lessons. Now, many of us know, that as teachers or educators when we find something that works, we usually keep using it, but we also know that after a while, a lesson or project might start to become outdated, but that’s not true. Several years ago, when I was working just after my undergraduate days from college. I worked in kitchens and of course just like in every kitchen, you had to clean up at the end of the day or when the main meals were complete. There was an old term called: “Finding Pennies”. This was based on an old kitchen cleaning trick to see who was doing well at their job. Basically, a crew leader or manager would take a handful of pennies and throw them in various areas where sweeping should be performed daily. If the manager came back the next day and found the pennies still where they were tossed, then the employee did not do a good job sweeping.

A few years ago, I did this same idea with a set of lessons that seemed to be a bit outdated with classrooms and started using it for a daily practice.

How it works is going over your lessons or projects and not just saying: “How can I do this differently” but instead saying: “What is still in this lesson that has never been found?” Being an instructional technologist, it has been my job to adapt or utilize technology for classrooms. Sometimes taking a classic concept such as: making classroom posters of your favorite hobbies and presenting them. In the old days, it was about clipping out magazine articles or pictures and gluing them to a poster board or something related. Now, you can make digital versions using Pic Collage, Google Slides, Pic Monkey, ect. without getting your desk dirty or your fingers sticky. Of course, now we have to worry about CC licensing and copyrights with our students more than when a magazine was clipped to show your favorite salads (I was in 4th grade).

Now, the problem is when you get “stuck” using the same resource, App, tool, ect over and over again to the point you could do something in your sleep. I know I have used Chatterpix Kid to make a living newsletter I can write a full script on the spot. However, there are many features in the App. You know you can change the filters, add in backgrounds and clip art? Yes, you can. I know I had a friend who loved using Chatterpix, but wished her characters would look more female or at least matched her voice without needing to decorate them up. I pointed out the various stickers in the App, and she was floored.

IMG_1023.PNGAnother example is my favorite App, Stick Around. Two years ago, I started using the puzzle App to make Thinking Maps. Since it had such great tools for full guidance and showing my thought process more than using a piece of paper and colored pencils or going full video mode like in Explain Everything. I now use it for various features and have even used it for my dissertation work on my interview structures. Speaking of Tony Vincent, a little over a year ago, I was watching one of his vidcasts on using QR Codes to play voice overs and his random HTML code use and then taught a set of my previous PK teachers how to use it. They were amazed they could use QR Codes that way. They just figured they use it for a quick link or image or get parents to just sign up for Remind. Soon, they were using them for centers and my current Kindergarten teachers are planning on using some of the cloning tools to play educational games like Kaboom! or use to redo their centers. They had figured that QR Codes were just a one trick pony and that was it.

This doesn’t just stop at Apps or basic technology resources. You can do the same with sidewalk chalk and several Teach like a Pirate lessons. In fact, using sidewalk chalk is in both Teach like and Learn Like a Pirate. Get your students outside, have them use sidewalk chalk to learn math, create posters, create treasure hunts and even be used for Breakout Edu. Speaking of Breakout Edu, I have been combing garage sales the last few weeks looking for old tool boxes, pencil cases and locks to use. You don’t have to find hard case lock boxes. You can set up using zip able pencil cases and add a small luggage coded padlock to them to use for Breakout Edu instead of spending a lot of money for full sets of cases. You can even use old shoeboxes and then add a piece of duct tape to both the inside and outside so that students or co workers don’t tear the lock off trying to open it.

Its all about finding those extra pennies in your lessons and projects, it doesn’t have to be a one time deal. You can find many ways to keep trying new ways on old lessons or projects. Or taking a resource and using it to its full or sometimes alternate potential. Try it with your students next school year.


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