Blogging for Peer Feedback

Mrs. Wright, our fourth grade Language Arts teacher, asked how we could incorporate technology into a writing lesson. (Oh, SO many ideas!!)

The students are beginning their pre-writing for a personal narrative. They were to bring in a photo of a special event in their lives. In the past, the children have worked in table groups to give feedback to each other – hearing from only three other students. To maximize the responses, we decided to have the students blog about their topic and then get feedback in the comments section.

Here’s the process:

Using the iPads, each child took a photo of their photo (much easier and quicker than scanning). The students opened the Kidblog app and uploaded their image to a new post.

Taking photos to upload to blog

Taking photos to upload to blog

Because the students were going to write a lot on the blog, and since we had easy access to computers, we moved to the PCs to finish blogging and commenting. Of course, the entire process could be done on the iPad; it was just more practical for our purposes to move to the computers.

The students added a sentence or two that described their picture that would be the basis of their personal narrative. As these were submitted, I quickly approved them so that the commenting could begin!

Mrs. Wright instructed the children to ask three questions after reading a post. They were to leave comments on the blogs of their table mates’ first, then they could ask questions of their other classmates.

Asking questions

Asking questions

The comments flew in faster than we could keep up with approving them! Very thoughtful questions were asked. These will be used to help write the narratives. Knowing some of the questions a reader might ask will help students be more precise and descriptive with their writing.

Here are the links to the blogs:

Mr. d’Auteuil’s Class Blog

Mrs. Malone’s Class Blog

Mrs. Wright’s Class Blog

Print Friendly

Hour of Code 2014

The Hour of Code is over for this year but our coding has just begun! We have first and second graders who started Kodable last week and they have gone through almost all the levels! I had fun watching students “walk out” the coding steps as they decided which direction the arrow commands should turn. Our fourth graders were presented with a challenge by Dr. Krahn, our headmaster who teaches JavaScript to them twice a week, and they worked so well together to meet it. Their reward was having their names called out for morning announcements! And, wow! They love being mentioned that way!

Enjoy a short video showing the excitement of coding!

Print Friendly

Hour of Code Begins!

The second annual Hour of Code is here – celebrated the week of December 8 – 12! Last year, 15 million students around the world learned an hour of code.

What is Hour of Code? “A one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anyone can learn the basics.” (From Hour of Code FAQs)

Our school will be doing a variety of activities for Hour of Code. On Wednesday, the upper school students will be demonstrating coding during lunch for all K-12 children. K-3 students will be in the computer lab with me exploring the following:

  • Kodable:  K – 2 classes will log in to the Kodable app to learn sequence, conditions, and loops by dragging and dropping commands to program a fuzzy character. The app is free with in-app purchases. A school account was purchased for our younger students so their progress is saved.
  • LightBot: The LightBot app ($2.99) is designed for ages 9 – 12. However, I’ve used it with younger children and it’s always a hit. Students move the character to light a square by dragging and dropping commands. There is also a LightBot, Jr. for the younger children.
  • CodeStudio Course 2: The third graders will begin CodeStudio’s Course 2, a free introduction to coding for elementary students. The course teaches the user to snap blocks together (it starts out with Angry Birds) and shows the lines of written code. The students have a picture log in and they are welcome to progress through the course at their own pace. The link to their class account can be found on the coding page of TVS TechnoWizards. (All K-4 students are enrolled in one of the 3 courses for elementary ages. We will work on the courses throughout the year.)
  • Khan Academy: The fourth graders will continue working with Dr. Krahn in Khan Academy; writing JavaScript code.

appsThese activities are just a few of the many resources available to help students of all ages experiment with coding. Since I work with elementary children, I’ll focus on those designed for this age.

Apps:

  • Daisy the Dinosaur: Snap blogs together to learn coding basics (ages 6-8; free)
  • Bee-Bot: Move Bee-Bot through a series of directional movements (ages 5-8; free)
  • Hopscotch: Snap blogs together to program characters to do tasks (ages 9-11; free)
  • Scratch Jr: Students program interactive stories and games (ages 6-8; free)
  • Move the Turtle: Solve tasks while learning to code (ages 9-11; $)

Online Activities:

  • CodeStudio: Besides the courses available, there are special Hour of Code activities including Frozen, Play Lab, and Flappy Code.
  • Hour of Code with Khan Academy: Practice drawing with JavaScript (for older children).
  • Scratch Programming: Snap blocks together to create games, interactive stories, and more.
  • Tynker Hour of Code: Similar to Scratch with the snap blocks; Tynker also has an iOS app.
  • Blockly Games: A series of games designed to practice coding (Use Safari, Firefox, or Google Chrome).
  • Holiday Lights: Light up the White House Christmas tree by snapping coding blocks together (Use Safari, Firefox, or Google Chrome).

As you can see, there are numerous resources available to learn coding. Learning coding helps students develop computational skills and problem solving. Coding is difficult but the students LOVE the challenge! Give it a try – your children will enjoy guiding you through what they know!

An article to ponder:
Why Every Child Should Learn to Code
from the Guardian

Print Friendly

Gifts from the Heart . . .

from the mouths of first graders!

Last week I asked the first graders to think about what gift they would give family members if they were able to give any gift in the world. We talked about presents that they would have to buy and gifts they could give that didn’t cost a thing. Then I asked if they knew what a “gift from the heart” was. These little children get it! They described all kinds of scenarios for a gift from the heart – but it all boiled down to something that they felt would be very special to the recipient.

Here are a few examples:

Tappan_keeSydney_Orehek
Olivia_KeeJonathan_Kee

Haley_Kee

Cole_Orehek
Blake_KeeTo read more, visit the first graders’ class blogs:

Mrs. Kee’s Class Blog

Mrs. Hutchinson’s Class Blog

Mrs. Orehek’s Class Blog

Print Friendly

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!

20141120-084713.jpg

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

Print Friendly

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!

Print Friendly

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

 

 

 

 

Print Friendly

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:

Print Friendly