Monthly Archives: January 2014

Too cold for school…Warm up your brain at home!

I miss the kids!  So I thought…why not collaborate digitally?!

1)  Nowcomment.com allows me to create private discussion pages for our use!  I’ve sent out invites to all families in my email group. If you want in and did not get the invite let me know! Currently I have two short articles up for discussion: A Brain Boosting Video Game and At the South Pole

2) Ask 3 app is a recordable whiteboard where we can put up a topic for discussion. I have a board/code for me to put up a topic for all to comment on and then separate boards/codes for each class so students can create their own topics.  I emailed these codes; let me know if you need them.

Ask 3

Finally, for those attached to tablets…why not be an “app evaluator”?  This is the form we use in the classroom: App evaluator

Of course the children can always work on passion projects, homework letters, or just relax and read!  Have a WARM day!

Passion projects due soon

First let me say RELAX!  I hope to have the children wrap up passion projects in the next two weeks, but am not rigid on a set due date.  Let me review my goals for these projects:

  1. These are not full-on research projects. As an eager learner, I find something that sparks my interest (or speaks to my “passion”) and I search and hunt down information about it because I am intrigued and want to simply know more.  It is like a hunt to quench my need to know.  That is what I want this to be about.  I want the children to seek out information on something they are interested in.  We do research all the time as adults sometimes out of necessity, sometimes out of desire.
  2. There will be plenty of assigned, structured projects for the children to do (some are already now.)  Passion projects are all about choice.  In the process, I have exposed the children to some research protocols and tips but I have not required they follow them.  It goes back to #1 and the fact that I have 62 students with a wide range of interests and “intelligence” strengths.
  3. Sharing of what they learn should be fun and exciting. We learned about multiple intelligences so I hope the children play to their strengths and find a creative outlet for it!
  4. We will not be having official presentations.  I only get the kids for 1 hour and still have tons of curriculum goals to meet.  I will let the kids use the iPads or video camera to record each other sharing. Then I would like to create a virtual museum of all of their efforts.  If they choose some type of display, then we record them sharing it.  If they choose to use an  app to create a presentation, then we share that.  If they write a report, then they read it for us.  Honestly I have no idea what to expect and know that they will surpass any expectations I might have if I leave it wide open for interpretation!  NOTE:  NO last names on finished projects!  If our goal is a virtual museum we will want to post it online and for security reasons, we only want to use first names!

In order to give any help that may be needed, I will devote Feb. 5th, 6th, and 7th class time to let them work on their final project sharing/presentation.  Hopefully everyone will be finished by then…if not, we are FLEXIBLE and will work it out!

Learning Language with Lyrics

Ebony and Ivory code

Music is a powerful learning tool.  We’ve learned about how the lyrics to songs are poetry and last week we did some listening activities to practice how to “fish for facts” and gain “illuminating insights” with a blast from the past.  I played the song “Ebony and Ivory” for the children without any explanation other than just listen and write down any info that you catch (the “fishing” part of notetaking).  After playing the song, I had them turn and talk with each other to see if they came up with any “illuminating insights” (things they hadn’t thought of, connections they had, questions, ideas from others.)  Eventually the discussion led to the meaning and message of the song.  Then after they got it, I showed them a video clip so they could get the full impact.   I thought it was a pretty good tie in to why we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  (Scan the QR code to see the video!)

4th graders also listened to We didn’t start the fire by Billy Joel.  It was amazing how much they caught after listening closely and discussing with peers.  The main idea with using this song was to point out that all of the words and phrases were references to news headlines between 1949 and 1989. Eventually I would like to follow this up with having the children track some of the headlines from their “time”.

In any event, using lyrics to learn is a powerful tool.  There are so many skills we can build and address and have a FUN time doing it!

Loving Language with Lyrics

Why we have in-service

While I missed spending the day with my young people, I still had an opportunity to do what I love: teach and learn.  Today it was with my colleagues.  Teacher in-service day is so important to us and we are grateful for the opportunity to come together and collaborate because like our students, we are still learning and growing.  Today’s in service was centered around technology. And I was thrilled to share the role technology plays in our classroom with other teachers: Tech sharing from the GREEN ROOM

Kimberly Pietsch Miller, our Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, summed up the purpose of technology use in schools and reiterated what I strongly believe:  technology should transform learning.  I often ramble on about this tech tool or that and seek out every opportunity I can to get devices into our classroom. Sure I think using technology is motivating and efficient, but I also think that technology helps me get my students to move beyond just remembering and understanding something to applying, analyzing, and evaluating. Our room is a testimony to the power of questioning, answering, collaborating, and exploring.

And so why do we have teacher in-service days?  So teachers can practice what they preach…never stop learning and growing!

Nonfiction focus

After FINALLY getting to come back to school, we took a few days to get everyone set up on code.org, work on passion projects, and become familiar with QR codes.  (Currently I “revised” our vocabulary station so that instead of selecting an index card for a word with a definition, the children scan a code to get a word and its definition.  They are still applying the word into a sentence, but the scanning introduces them to the technology, and well, let’s face it…makes it WAY more fun!  It was THE station to go to on Friday.)

The other use of QR codes right now was in our Newsstand which was combined with the Metacognition station. In addition to print articles and Time for Kids and Muse magazines on the iPads, the children can scan one of the codes that I set up to take them to an online news article.  Since my emphasis is on nonfiction texts, periodicals are great tools.  Funny how once I figured out how to put them on a screen, they became hugely popular!  In any event, the newsstand will serve to help us meet RIT 1 Learning goals and RIT 2 Learning goals.

For Talk about Text, I have been creating “Curiosity Cases” which are themed collections of informational text on a common topic.  The children will select a topic and prepare to discuss next week. Curiosity Cases TaT

Of course the QR code integration and improved “newsstand” could not have been possible without the addition of 2 more iPad minis and 2 iPod touches thanks to Donors Choose project fulfillment!  MANY thanks to those who donated and to our “coders” for providing and helping us earn the funds to bring these tools to help transform our learning!

Green couch

Coding help for tricky stages

A few students have been very persistent but have not been able to get through this tricky puzzle!  It took me a great deal of experimenting to find a solution (and I was eventually able to shorten it later.)  So…if you are REALLY stuck, check this video out.

(But make sure you try first on your own!)

Once you solve puzzle 8, you will be able to use the solution in puzzle 9!

Here’s another helpful slide show for Stage 11 puzzle 7.  This help is intended to teach you  how and why…not just to give you an answer!