Grandparents’ Day Arrives!

And the second graders finally have the chance to share their Heritage projects! (If you want to read more about the children creating a touching look at their family history, click here.)

We had a “dress rehearsal” this week – just to make sure the students knew how to access their video or ePub book created in the Book Creator app.

dress rehearsal for GP dayFinally, the big day arrived! The children led their special visitors into their classrooms, retrieved their iPads, plugged in the headsets, and shared their project. They knew exactly what to do!

Watching the expressions of the grandparents is priceless! Listening to the sweet voices of their grandchildren tell about their family history is such a special moment.

Here’s a very quick look at the children sharing.

Card Towers

What can you do with fourth graders, a deck of cards, and the Hyperlapse app? Build and record the process…

The task:

  • See how high you can build a card tower by working together.
  • One person is the videographer and will use the Hyperlapse time-lapse app to record the process.

What Happened:

The students were divided into groups of four with most working quite well together. What was funny to me is that few children seemed to have used playing cards for building! That was something I did often as a child. There were a lot of starts, collapses, and restarts. Some groups build really long structures because they weren’t able to go up without a collapse. Others decided that bending the cards would be helpful; and that did seem provide a sturdier base. The tallest structure was about 11 1/2 inches with the next one coming in at about 9 inches.

The App:

Hyperlapse is a super easy app to use. However, the hardest thing for a 9 or 10 year old to do is stay still while videoing the process so all of the recordings have scenes ranging from the actual building to selfies to everyone else in the room! Next time, a few more instructions . . .

Here’s a brief look at how the process progressed.

We Can Code! was introduced to our first graders last week. As kindergarteners, most of the children had used Kodable (and we’ll be using that again as well).

We started with the “unplugged” Happy Maps and Move It, Move It activities from the course 1 curriculum.

First, the vocabulary was introduced:

  • Algorithma list of steps that you can follow to complete a task
  • Programan algorithm that has been coded into something that can be run like a machine.

Instead of having the students work individually on paper, I drew a grid on the board and asked them to how they would move Flurb (yes, that’s its name!) to reach the apple.

IMG_4029This was really interesting with the first class. Two different students came up to the board and each took a very long way to reach the apple.


After discussing how there are almost always several ways to solve a problem, we talked about taking lots of steps versus taking fewer steps. Then the students realized that Flurb just needed to hop down one space to make it faster.


I think what confused the students is that there was no square between Flurb and the apple. Once they realized that it was okay to hop to another square, they understood that the move was fine.

The next challenge was to guide Flurb to the flower pot. However, some of the squares were blocked off.



By this time, the students were quickly rattling off how Flurb could move. They GOT it!

We moved to the computer, had the students log into with their secret picture and off they went. Or, at least some of them – for whatever reason, we had a really difficult time accessing the site. Don’t know if the problem was on our end or theirs?? We’ll try again, though.

I know that we have an eager group of little coders ready to practice algorithms and programs!

3rd Graders App Smashing on International Dot Day

On International Dot Day, as we discussed how students could “make their mark” (both artistically and by helping others), the 3rd graders were asked to draw a dot using the Drawing Pad app. They could make their dot any way they chose. The next step was to brainstorm what they could do to help someone else; whether it be a family member, a teacher, a classmate, etc.

The children then pulled their drawing into the ChatterPix Kids app. This is a super-easy app that allows the user to record short narration, add text/stickers, and save to the camera roll. The students drew a “mouth” on their dot and recorded how they would help others. Each video was air dropped to the teacher iPad where all were combined to create a class video in iMovie.

FullSizeRender(4)Here are a couple of student samples:

This was a fun way to help the students practice their creativity on International Dot Day!

Links to the Class Videos:

“Just Right” Websites

The Common Sense Media Education website has a wealth of information for teachers in several areas. I am very impressed with their resources for teaching digital citizenship.

Our first graders recently discussed Going Places Safely on the Internet. The lesson includes a short video designed for grades K-2 along with a detailed lesson plan.

When the students arrived, I asked them what they would do if they wanted to go some place. “We would ask our parents or our teacher!”  I next asked what would they do if they wanted to go on the internet. The majority said they would need to ask permission to do that. We watched the video then I told the students we would be taking a “field trip” to visit some online places far away from our school.

The websites I had for the students were:

The children were asked to explore the sites for a few minutes. Then they would be deciding what their favorite “field trip” was so that they could illustrate that. The students enjoyed visiting the faraway places but the takeaway was the importance of always being safe online.

Kee_safe websites (2)Safety Rules to Follow When Going Online:

  • Always ask your parent or teacher first.
  • Only talk to people you know.
  • Stick to places that are just right for you!

Sharing Our Heritage

Each fall our second graders create a Heritage project to share with grandparents and other relatives. They bring in photos of family members, sometimes from several generations back! Over the years I’ve tried a variety of online applications to make the final product but it’s always been more of a teacher-created project. Parents would email photos or send them on a CD. I would upload them to the student’s home directory. There was a lot of behind-the-scenes work that needed to be done before the child could even begin to record their heritage story!

This year we decided to use the Book Creator app, an easy-to-use ePub book maker that allows the user to import pictures and record narration. Besides saving as an eBook, the finished product can also be exported as a video.

We asked the parents to send actual photos. The students really giggled when I said they were going to take photos of their photos! After a photography lesson, the children scattered around the room in search of the perfect place to take their picture. They watched for glare from the lights, checked for blurriness, learned how to crop.

IMG_3872IMG_3862Next step was to insert the pictures into the Book Creator app.

IMG_3851The following week we worked on the cover of the book. What child can resist taking a selfie?

IMG_3887The students also added page colors and chose a font style and color.

IMG_3883The children are in the process of recording their heritage narrations. Then I’ll be uploading the finished ePub books and videos to the web so that their fantastic, student-created work can be shared with family and friends!

Welcome to the Web: A Webquest for Learning How to Navigate the Internet

Welcome to the Web” is a webquest designed by Mark Warner to teach students about the internet. Here is the description from the Teaching Ideas website:

The resources are split into seven sections:

  1. The Beginning – explains how to use the site.
  2. Getting Started Online – teaches children about the basic concepts involved in the Internet (World Wide Web, Hyperlinks, Back button etc). This introductory lesson also gives valuable practice in visiting and navigating around web sites.
  3. Staying Safe – encourages pupils to keep themselves safe online by following the SMART rules. Also tests their understanding usign interactive activities and fun quizzes.
  4. Using Your Browser – helps people to learn more about their web browsers… what are the different features and how are they used?
  5. Searching Online – teaches children how to search effectively, and keep themselves safe when doing so. Also identifies search engines which are particularly suitable for children to use.
  6. Trying Top Tricks – finding information on the net is great, but it is also important to know how that information can be used. This section explains about printing, using the Find tool to locate specific information within web pages, copying and pasting text, and saving images from the web. Also includes information about copyright and why it is important to credit others when you use their work.
  7. The Welcome to the Web Challenge – When the children have completed all of the sections of Welcome to the Web, they can complete this exciting challenge. It requires them to use all of the skills which they have learnt to catch the creator of a destructive computer virus!

Our fourth graders work in pairs to explore the webquest. I always enjoy watching their interactions with each other and how secretive they become when they figure out who the computer virus culprit is! Much is learned through this fun and informative quest.


Paper Blogging

With each grade level, we always discuss quality blog posts and comments. By the time students reach 4th grade, there is a tendency to “let up” a bit with their on-line writing. Paper blogging is a fun way to review the importance of quality writing!

A few years ago, I found a post by Leonard Low called Workshop Activity: Paper Blogging. He came up with this idea to demonstrate to teachers what blogs are and how they can be a powerful tool for engaging students. This was one of those, “Wow! Why didn’t I think of that!” moments.

Knowing that students who enter a lab want to use technology and if they don’t, feel short-changed; I decided to endure their disappointment and give it a try. After doing this for several years, there has not been ONE complaint from the children! They love this activity!

Before writing begins, we brainstorm what makes a quality post. Students come us with ideas such as: details, interesting sentences, good spelling, proper punctuation and capitalization. Since most of the children have been blogging since first grade, they know my favorite question is:

  • “Is this a penny post (or comment) or is this a dollar one?”

We all know a penny can’t buy anything so we’re looking for more valuable writing. The students are quick to say that a $20 post is even better!

We start with the food topic (Perfect topic for hungry students ready for their after school snack!). The students are asked to name their blog, add a title, write about their favorite food (what is it, where do they get it, . . .), add a tag, and illustrate the food. This generally takes one 40 minute class period.


Writing the post

The next step is commenting with sticky notes. I randomly send students to different “blog spots” where they stop to read the post then write a comment.

The comment rotation

The comment rotation

Once finished, they are sent to another spot where they must read the post and the comment. They can choose to respond to the post by placing the sticky note on the side of the paper blog OR they can respond to the comment by adding the note to the bottom of the actual comment.

Adding comments

Adding comments

We do this type of rotation four times. Then I ask the children to return to their blog post, read the comments and choose to respond to one.

The final step in the lesson is to debrief. Without sharing names, students gave examples of penny and dollar comments and why they categorized them as they did. We talked about anonymous comments and how perplexing those can be. (We all like to know who the author is!!) This was an excellent discussion and I’m eager to see their thoughts and ideas transferred to their on-line blogs!

Paper Blog Example

Paper Blog Example


Responding to Literature Through Drawing

Dark at the Top of the StairsAs a way to demonstrate to teachers how students could use drawing on the iPad to respond to literature, I decided to read The Dark at the Top of the Stairs by Sam Bratney. It’s a fun book about three little mice who want to see what is really at the top of the cellar stairs. And, it’s the perfect book for making predictions!

I introduced the Drawing Pad app ($1.99) to the first graders and let them explore the tools for awhile, drawing anything they chose. We learned how to save to the camera roll too.

Next, I gathered everyone and discussed the title of the book. “What might it be about? What clues do you get from the title?” I told the students that they would be making a prediction when I reached a stopping point in the book. While we read, they were encouraged to draw one or more of the characters. At the point where the mice just reached the top of the stairs, I stopped and asked the children to predict and draw what might be behind the closed door. They worked furiously to create their predictions! Every once in awhile I’d ask if they were ready to find out what the author chose as the “dark at the top of the stairs.” I’d immediately hear a chorus of “No, not yet!!”

Eventually, everyone finished their wonderfully detailed illustrations. We read the rest of the story and discussed their predictions. The students were eager to show off their drawings so we took lots of group photos!

For this activity, the purpose was for students and teachers to become familiar with the app and share an example of how to use it with literature. Next time, we’ll pull the drawing into other apps such as Book Creator or Draw and Tell. Then students can record their voice telling about their prediction.