Enjoying Book Talks

The first graders visited the lab yesterday to listen to book talks from their third grade reading buddies. The third graders had posted their videos to their blogs. (Click here to read about the process of making the videos.)

The students logged into their KidBlog account, clicked on the third grade blog link, then found their buddy. They were to listen to the book talk then leave a comment. I won’t say the process went smoothly – I guess when you try to watch 22 videos at one time, things won’t proceed without hiccups. But we survived and all first graders were able to hear at least one book talk and leave a comment for their buddies.

Prior to turning them loose, we discussed what they could say after listening to the video. I introduced the terms “penny” and “dollar” comments and we brainstormed examples of each. (Penny comments are not worth much; they don’t provide good information to the author. Dollar comments give details, compliments, share information.) The students had some very sweet comments – it was obvious that they adore their older buddies!

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Besides connecting with their reading buddies in class, blogging is a fabulous way for students to share with each other!

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Paper Blogging: Learning About Quality Posts and Comments

This is not my original idea but it is a powerful way to review the blogging process!

The following resources introduced me to paper blogging.

What always amazes me is how involved the students become with paper blogging! Not one person asks about getting on the computers! Our students have blogged since first grade but I always like to include this activity – just to make sure students refocus on the intent of our blogs: To share their learning in a positive and meaningful way.

Taking the food idea from Leonard Low’s Workshop Activity: Paper Blogs, I asked students to raise their hand if they liked to eat. Of course, that brought an enthusiastic response! I told them that they would be writing a blog post on paper and the following day would be spent writing comments using sticky notes.

The instructions were to write about a favorite food – it could be from a restaurant or something made by parents, relatives, or anyone else. They needed to write something that would paint a picture for the reader – use details! Pictures always spruce up a post so illustrations were strongly encouraged.

The paper was distributed and we worked together to include the basics of a post:

  • First name at the top (good place to talk about keeping personal information private; no last names)
  • Tags – This was a good review for students. What is your post about? Everyone could add “food” as a tag. As you write, you’ll think of other tags to add that would help readers find all posts about specific subjects . . .
  • Title – every post needs a title!

Then the students scattered in the small room to find a space to write. At first there were murmurings about their topic and how delicious their chosen food was (and how hungry they were becoming just thinking about it . . .), but soon all you could hear were pencils and pens scratching across the paper.

photo 4The next day, students came in to find four sticky notes on top of their post. We discussed penny comments versus dollar (and up) comments. There were some puzzled looks when I mentioned a penny comment but I asked how much they could buy with a penny. “Nothing” was the general consensus. We compared that to a “nothing” comment – a word or two that didn’t add anything to the conversation. But a dollar comment would include details, ask questions, make connections. Of course, the competitive nature of children meant that each wanted to beat a dollar comment – $5, $10, and up were certainly better than just $1!

I had the students stand at their seats with a pencil in hand. Instructions were to read the post and write a comment, including their first name. I had them count four chairs clockwise. At that point they stopped, read the post and wrote a comment. When finished we repeated the process. This time they could comment on the blog OR respond to the comment. We did this a total of four times, going clockwise or counter-clockwise (just to keep everyone guessing!).

photo 2

photo 2After the last round, the students returned to their seats to read their comments. We then discussed the following, sharing examples:

  • Anonymous comments – it was decided that we prefer to know who the writer is
  • Irrelevant comments – those that had nothing to do with the post
  • Penny comments – Students offered to read what they thought were penny comments without giving the author. The funny thing was that, even though the reader gave no clues as to who the author was, the student in question generally confessed, “That was me. I know I should have written more.” (Yea! They are getting it!)
  • Dollar comments – Lots of hands went up to share. We really had some strong, quality comments – possibly because the children wanted to impress each other.

I had one student who, shall we say, is not always into the lessons. He surprised me by writing some amazing comments and was always the one we were waiting on to finish the comments! When we debriefed, his name came up several times when we shared the dollar comments.

I can’t wait to read their online blogs!

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Celebrating Picture Book Month!

Did you know that November is Picture Book Month? Mrs. Murphy and Mrs. Hebert, our librarians, issued a challenge to the Lower School to read picture books in an effort to beat last year’s goal of 4,370.

For the past several weeks, we’ve been discussing blogging when the students come to the lab. To correlate with blogging and the library’s challenge, I asked the third graders to bring a picture book to the lab. They were to produce a book talk and upload it to their blog.

We started class by taking a picture of their book cover.

0 book cover photo

The next step was to read the book.

6 readingWriting isn’t always a favored part of a third grader’s life but the students did understand that this step is important to organizing thoughts and really makes the recording go much more smoothly.

10 writing book reviewThe next step was to choose an app. I gave the option of Tellagami (free; available on App Store and Google Play) and ChatterPix Kids (free from App Store). Both have a limit of 30 seconds so students needed to be concise in what they said. Both also allow the user to import photos from the camera roll. With Tellagami, the students created an avatar that “spoke” their recorded message. With ChatterPix, a “mouth” line is drawn and that moves to the narration. The students enjoyed creating a mouth on their book cover.Tellagami and chatterpixThe students recorded, made sure they were satisfied with the sound, saved to photos, then emailed the video to me. Once students completed the process, I put them to work helping others.

recording and saving

Finally, the children uploaded their video to the KidBlog app. Next week their first grade buddies will be listening to the book talks and making comments on their buddies’ posts. I also posted all the book talks on TVS TechnoWizards.

Class Blogs:

Below is a visual of the apps we used for the project.

app smashing with book talks

 

 

 

 

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Celebrating Gump Day 2014

What is Gump Day? Another name for Halloween! Years ago, we had a teacher at TVS who loved to dress up. Our Halloween celebration was named after her and the Gump Day tradition began. It is a BIG deal at our school with teachers and students alike dressing up. (There is fierce competition amongst teachers in the costume contest!)

Here is a glimpse of our celebration:

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Meet Mrs. Weth’s Wonderful Workers!

Every year I have the students draw a self-portrait using Microsoft’s Paint program. These have a variety of uses: avatars for blogs, printed for bulletin boards, “All About the Author” pages, and so on.

Mrs. Weth, one of our third grade teachers, likes to have her students use the portraits to create a video for our Grandparents’ Day. Her students write an “I Am” poem then record it with their portrait as the backdrop.

Last year she used Explain Everything for the project. This year, we chose Book Creator due to their new feature allowing users to export the book as a video.  By going with this app, we were able to save the book in two formats: ePub book and video. This gives our families options on how they want to view the students’ work.

For the ePub book, choose download while on an iOS device and open in iBooks (make sure that app is installed on your device).

Mrs. Weth’s ePub book link

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Making Predictions with First Graders

could have been worseAn important skill for students to develop as they read is learning how to make predictions. One way I like to practice this is through children’s literature. A perfect book for making predictions is It Could Have Been Worse by A. H. Benjamin. The book is about a mouse on his way home from visiting his town cousin. Mouse runs into all kinds of difficulty as he heads home – slipping, sliding, landing in thorns, . . . After each little episode, Mouse laments that his day isn’t going well at all. However, there is much more going on in the background that Mouse doesn’t know about. As it turns out, several creatures come very close to having Mouse for lunch. Because of Mouse’s “terrible” day, he manages to escape the dangers around him!

I start by reading the first few pages of the book. The students listen as Mouse loses his balance, falls to the ground, and declares, “This isn’t my lucky day.” In the background, the children can see that Cat is just about to pounce on Mouse but misses him as the mouse falls. Cat ends up in a bed of thorns as the narrative reads, “But it could have been worse!” I read the next page but stop before finding out what will happen to Mouse this time.

We talk about what a prediction is and how to use picture clues to help decide what will happen next. Then I tell the students that they will write down their prediction in the Book Creator app and will illustrate that using Drawing Pad. (Book Creator has a drawing feature within the app that is easy to use. For this activity I wanted the teachers to see an app-smashing example that they could use within their own classroom.)

Writing a prediction in the Book Creator app

Writing a prediction in the Book Creator app

The prediction activity took about two 40 minute sessions. Part of the time was spent introducing the drawing features in the Drawing Pad app and showing how to develop their page in Book Creator  (add illustration, write sentence, record narration) – the next time the teachers (or I) use the apps, the students will be able to work more independently.

Illustrating their predictions using the Drawing Pad app

Illustrating their predictions using the Drawing Pad app

As students finished recording, they came to me for guidance in emailing their Book Creator page to me. The pages are then compiled into class books for students to read on their iOS devices. In addition, I also exported the book as a video to offer another way to view the books.

Here are the apps we used:

App Smashing with First Graders

App Smashing with First Graders

Links to the ePub Books and the videos:

  • What will happen to Mouse and Snake?  Mrs. Hutchinson’s Class ePub Book and Video
  • What will happen to Mouse and Fox?  Mrs. Kee’s Class ePub Book and Video
  • What will happen to Mouse and Fish?  Mrs. Orehek’s Class ePub Book and Video

Directions to download books to your iOS device (iPad, iPhone, etc):

  • You will need the iBooks app (free) installed on your iOS device.
  • Click on the book link above (while on your iOS device).
  • Tap on the download button.
  • Choose Open in . . . and then choose Open in iBooks
  • The book is now in iBooks on your iOS device.
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Beginning Coding

Last year we participated in Hour of Code (and we’ll be joining in again this year). But one day of coding is NOT enough. This year we are starting early.

The first graders came to the lab this week and I asked them to raise their hand if they knew some Spanish and Chinese (they take both in Lower School). I then asked if anyone knew other languages. Several raised their hands. Next, I asked if they had ever heard of computer language. By the look on their faces, I could tell they had not! We discussed how computer games, programs, and apps require someone to “program” them or to write computer language so that the computer knows what to do.

I was excited to discover that Code.org has recently launched Code Studio – excellent lessons designed specifically for elementary ages. This is what I chose to introduce coding to our first graders. There are three courses for students along with a “Fun for Everybody” section that includes Play Lab, Flappy Code, and Artist. The free account allows teachers to set up classes and determine log in by use of a secret picture (perfect for younger students) or  word. As students move through the levels, they snap blocks together to run each program.

The students has a blast with this site. They start out by doing some easy moves – dragging images, snapping puzzles together. The second section begins with Angry Birds and of course, that was a huge hit! I demonstrated the first Angry Birds activity so that the children could view the “computer language” or code (JavaScript) that was written.

photo(4)The students are eager to continue working in Code Studio at their own pace!

Besides Code Studio, our younger students will be using the following apps throughout the year:

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International Dot Day Celebrations!

the dotI love International Dot Day! September 15ish is the day to celebrate Peter H. Reynold’s wonderful book, The Dot. In the book, Vashti is asked to draw a picture in art class but can’t think of anything to illustrate. Her teacher encourages her to “just make a mark and see where it takes you.” Vashti jabs the paper with her pencil to create a tiny dot but the next time she comes to class, she discovers her teacher has framed it. From there, Vashti determines that she really can make better dots! At the end of the book, Vashti pays forward what her teacher has done for her by encouraging a little boy who believes he can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. This book has two wonderful themes:

  1. Every person is creative in their own special way.
  2. Each of us can find a way to “make our mark” by helping and encouraging others.

This year, celebrating Dot Day was a bit difficult for me. I worked part-time till Sept. 15 due to back surgery over the summer. But I had a wonderful sub, Jane Cooper, who worked tirelessly with many classes to  start our Dot Day celebrations. I returned full-time on September 15 to continue the activities – by the end of the day I was completely exhausted but it was a fantastic day to return! Below are descriptions of how our teachers and students “made our mark.”

Kindergarten

Our kinder teachers gave each student a dot and a “swirly gold framed” paper. The students created a picture from their dot.

photo 2(1)Click here for more pictures from kindergarten.

First Grade

The first graders had a two-part lesson. Mrs. Cooper introduced the students to making their creative mark by reading The Dot. The children were then given the dot coloring sheet for use with the ColAR app (free in the App Store and Google Play). Lots of colorful illustrations were made as the students were told that the following week they would see something magic happen to their dots. When the first graders returned to the lab, I showed them how to use the ColAR app. Amazed “oohs” and “aahs” were heard as my dot became 3-dimensional! The students were thrilled to see their own dots come to life.

IMG_1060View Animoto videos of each class:

Second Grade

Mrs. Cooper worked with the second graders to create a dot using the Drawing Box app. She explained to the students that, just as people are unique, their dots would be different from their classmates. But, when joined together, they would create a tapestry of colors. The children discussed how they were individuals but each unique person was needed to make a successful group – just as each dot they drew was important to the overall tapestry.

Third Grade

I asked the third graders to combine their creativity and a desire to “make a mark” on others by illustrating a picture in Microsoft’s Paint program. The students were asked to think about how they could make a difference  – in a person’s life (a classmate, family member, friend . . .), by doing a task to help their community, or thinking about something they could do in the future. The students wrote a short description then illustrated their idea. I combined their thoughts and drawings in Animoto videos

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Fourth Grade

Because of time constraints, I was only able to work with two of our three fourth grade classes (the third class participated in Dot Day in Spanish).

In one class, I asked the students to create a PowerPoint slide that included their name written in Braille and clip art that represented some of their interests. The students used the Braille Bug website to convert their name to Braille. They then used the shape tool and duplicate shortcut to create dots to form their Braille name. After adding clip art, I asked the students to save their slide as a jpeg (at this point I hadn’t decided how we would share their work). I ended up creating one slideshow with their images.

For another class, I thought I would give coding dots a try. The students had been learning JavaScript with our headmaster, Gary Krahn (see post) so they already had some practice. I asked them to use the ellipse code to create dot pictures. They eagerly set to work and programmed some absolutely amazing images! I loved watching them problem-solve with each other as they worked on placing their dots. When finished, they took screen shots of their work and I combined them into a slideshow.

Co-Curricular Classes
Of course, Dot Day wouldn’t be complete without music, art, and Spanish and those teachers led some very creative activities!
Mrs. Holloway had her music classes practicing musical note writing as they composed Dot songs.
photo 2First graders in Mrs. Black’s art classes used watercolors to beautifully decorate coffee filters.
photo 2(1)
Click here to view more art and music pictures.
Our Spanish teachers were busy with a variety of activities. Sra. Ross’s first graders learned the Mexican Hat Dance (a circle dance). Her second graders designed Mexican mirrors. Sra. Nedrelow’s third graders created colorful Aztec calendars while her fourth graders constructed Costa Rican Ox Carts. (See more detailed descriptions of the mirrors and ox carts by clicking here.)
Spanish classesClick here to view more images from our Spanish classes.
We are proud to be part of International Dot Day 2014 but our creativity doesn’t stop in September. We will continue to make our mark all year!
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