Monthly Archives: March 2014

Virtual Field Trips

As promised, I am giving the children a needed stress reliever with an engaging unit…we are taking virtual field trips! Using some wonderful apps, I am able to have the children explore museums or specific destinations while learning along the way.  This unit is packed, meeting reading informational text standards, most writing standards, technology standards, and even many gifted standards. (see standards in the unit info pack: Virtual Field Trip)

Why?  I am teaching the children about reading to learn.  It is important for our children to know how to read non-fiction text features such as captions, labels, diagrams, use images and photographs, maps, glossaries, and more.  I also want to help students learn to take notes from what they read.  As an added bonus, using our iPads, the students can learn about these features and how to navigate hyperlinks as well as use embedded content with animations, video/audio clips, and more.  During their reading, they will be collecting 10 content specific words to define. (Thus a “word wizard” specific to this unit.)

Why group work? Working and collaborating with others is an important life skill, and one that many gifted students find frustrating and challenging.  I am doing this ON PURPOSE…I want to be there to help them problem solve and model how to handle the frustration.  I feel that often high achieving students find themselves the leaders in groups, end up carrying the burden of the work, or feel that they would rather just ‘do it on their own’.  I have structured this to put them into these situations and practice those discourse rules we established at the beginning of the year. (Hence the gifted learning goals.)

Writing? Well, they are taking notes and I expect them to write 2 “postcards” condensing what they are learning.  I also want them to practice “persuasive” writing as they create advertisements and infomercials for others.  They will also write a script for a “tour guide” to read as they lead someone else through their virtual trip.

Now the technology…of course it makes the experience motivating and engaging, but there is an underlying purpose to the integration.  I want to teach the children how to utilize many of the tools and platforms they have available to them. I also want to make sure that I teach them how to be RESPONSIBLE digital citizens!  Therefore, they will be taking what they have learned and synthesized to create an ad; a poster or brochure.  Then they will type the script they develop.  Next they will use what they have learned to produce an “infomercial” to both persuade and inform others with audio/visual tools.

Culmination: a webpage.  I decided to do this to help the children apply what we are learning about non-fiction text features.  A well laid out webpage successfully informs us about a topic.  In creating a webpage, the children will need to analyze and evaluate the best way to present information for their audiences.  By using Weebly, I can teach the children how to use text features to enhance their message and communicate their learning.  Then as a final step, we will create a “QR” code to direct others to the webpage.  I will teach them how to do all of this at school…no prerequisite skills needed.

They are pretty excited and so am I!  We dove in and completed “day 1”.  Now we are moving on to taking notes.

I have created my own “information” show to model how I have gone through one of the apps, taking notes and recording my insights:

Then I modeled how I created a postcard:

This should be a fantastic learning experience!

Week in Review

March 3-7 did not turn out to be the “back to normal” week that I had hoped for…  Still with a great deal of “odds and ends” we were productive.

March 3rd brought us a snow day… so we did our “Blizzard Bag“.  The digital discussion is still open…I will not “close” this learning experience until the 2 week deadline for blizzard bags expires to be fair to those who need to participate “unplugged”.

March 4th gave me an opportunity to get the blizzard bag info out and explained to everyone (many of the children had questions about various things).  The rest of our time together was spent focusing on at least one quality station.

March 5th was marked by the visit of a fantastic author to our building: Alan Katz.  Due to the assemblies (which I sadly didn’t get to join), I saw 1/2 of the AM 3rd graders, 7 out of 20 AM 4th graders and all of the PM 4th graders for only 15 minutes.  So we spent our time reviewing peer Passion Projects on our virtual museumScreen Shot 2014-03-09 at 9.18.31 AM

March 6th we did a daily dive in and had Curiosity Case discussions. March 7th we focused exclusively on Curiosity Case topics and brought together the “big ideas” in each topic.

I did get Tiger Time on the 5th with the 3rd graders and we did a timeline/question activity on Dr. Seuss.  Tiger Time for 4th graders was extra special.  We went back to “learning language with lyrics“.  I came across a particularly powerful song called “Rachel Delevoryas” by Randy Stonehill.  The underlying theme connects to bullying. Then we listened to “Man in the Mirror”. These two songs are the anchors for lessons I plan to do on being responsible digital citizens.  I’ll share more about that when I get everything framed out.

Blizzard Bag

Hard to believe that we are having a snow day in MARCH, only a few short weeks away from spring break, but…

Since the “now comment” digital discussions went so well on previous snow days, I set up our “blizzard bag” to take advantage of the capability.  Two new discussions are now open: “A Night at the Penguin Rodeo” and “The Energy of an Internet Search”.  The collaboration of the online discussion promotes the most powerful learning so it is why I hope as many children as possible will be able to participate.  Online discussion participation is NOT mandatory; students can still read the articles and comment “unplugged”, but I look forward to the discourse we can have using the website. If you need an “invite” into our discussions, email me at

Blizzard bags  A Night at the Penguin Rodeo | TIME For Kids  The Energy of an Internet Search