Author Archive

Going Places Safely!

With all the bad stuff that’s on the internet, it’s important to give children tools to help them make wise decisions when they go online.

Commonsense Media has excellent lessons for all ages that cover digital safety and literacy. With our first graders, I used Going Places Safely designed for grades K-2. We talked about going places around town – Do you get permission? When you are shopping with your parents, do they allow you to run off and go wherever you want? Do you talk to strangers? What do you do if a stranger asks your name or where you live? We compared this to being safe while online; that we have to follow similar rules.

Next, I told the children that we were going on digital field trips. That got their attention! We searched for the locations on a globe. One little girl asked, “Are we really going there today?” I chose three websites to share with the students:

For about 15 minutes or so, the students explored the sites. They were truly fascinated with the animal videos from the San Diego Zoo. The fact that they were watching in real time was baffling as well as exciting! I wasn’t sure what they would think of the other two sites but they enjoyed those, too. Both were virtual tours and the children spent a lot of time moving the arrows to discover new paths or exhibits.

After exploring the websites, students were given a worksheet that’s included in the lesson. They chose their favorite place that was visited and illustrated that. We then discussed their favorites and why they chose what they did. Before leaving, we also discussed the importance of following some rules to keep safe while on the internet:

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

Advice from First Graders

Recently, Aaron Reynolds visited our school. What a fantastic presentation from this fun author! I sat in on the kinder/1st grade talk where Aaron shared his hilarious book, Creepy Pair of Underwear

Based on the book, the first graders had decorated paper underwear to make it a bit creepy and had written advice to Jasper (the book’s character) on how he could get rid of his very strange and creepy underwear! Mrs. Kee asked if we could do something digitally with what the students had created. So, we used the ChatterPix Kids app to upload the picture of their paper underwear and the students recorded their advice.

The children uploaded their video to Seesaw and I pulled all the videos, along with photos of the students working, into iMovie. I loved listening to the suggestions of how to get rid of creepy underwear!

A Work in Progress: Transforming a Computer Lab into a Maker/Design Space

A few years ago, while attending the Building Learning Communities Conference, I listened to Alan November describe the importance of integrating technology within the curriculum rather than teaching it as a stand-alone subject. A participant raised her hand and asked, “What does that do to the computer lab teacher?” Alan chuckled and replied, “They become consultants like me!”

Well, I wasn’t interested in becoming a consultant (working with children is my passion), but I did understand what Alan was saying. If we continue to teach technology as a separate subject, we are truly doing a disservice to our students. In this day and age, with information literally a click or tap away, we should be guiding children to learn how to:

  • research effectively.
  • find solutions to problems.
  • create content to share understanding.
  • communicate and collaborate effectively.
  • practice computational thinking.
  • take an active role in their learning. 

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App-Smashing with Adobe Spark Post

The Adobe Spark family of tools are my new favorites! There is SO much you can do with them! I’ve used Spark Video for awhile and certainly enjoy how quick and easy it is to create great movies. Spark Page, I’ve found, is a fabulous way to create a “newsletter” for teachers and parents since links, images, videos, and more can be added. Recently, though, I’ve had lots of fun creating posters, book covers, and title pages with Spark Post. Here’s an excellent tutorial by Blake Lipthratt.

We create lots of class books with Book Creator and I’ve always used their built-in selection of colors and fonts to make the cover. However, after playing around with Spark Post, I am loving this for book covers! It definitely opens up new options! (more…)

Kodable + First Graders = EXCITEMENT!

The new Kodable updates are a definite WIN! This week the first graders were introduced to the program. WOW! Were they excited!! Kodable is extremely engaging (it’s the one app kids don’t want to close when it’s time to leave). More than that, though, it is an excellent tool for learning computational thinking.

Using the great lessons offered by Kodable, we began with a vocabulary discussion:

Next, we practiced following commands written as symbols.

After a couple of practices where I pointed to the symbol code as students performed it, I challenged them to follow a string of symbols on their own. They worked at their own pace with eyes glued to the whiteboard. They were EXTREMELY focused and it was really cute to watch. 

After that, we went into Kodable and worked through the first puzzle  together and then they were off! I loved watching them work through each level, talking it out, helping each other.

When class was over, NO ONE wanted to close Kodable. Thankfully, Kodable now has the ability to link school and home accounts. Click here for instructions.

Thank you, Kodable, for an engaging way to learn computational thinking and the basics of programming!

“Just Right” Sites for Kinder

Our little ones visited the lab for the first time this week so we started with learning about “just right” sites.

Using a combination of two Commonsense Media lessons, Going Places Safely and Staying Safe Online. Looking at websites was compared to a traffic signal so I drew that on the board and used my large red, yellow, and green magnets as the “lights.”

  • RED – Stop! Red sites contain information that isn’t right for younger children. It may be inappropriate or it might just be a site geared toward adult or older students with language that’s too advanced for little ones.
  • YELLOW – Caution! Be sure to ask an adult before going on yellow sites. These sites may ask for personal information and may be more difficult for this age group.
  • GREEN – “Just right” sites that are perfect for kindergarteners. These sites have appropriate words and fun activities for their age. Green sites don’t ask for personal information.

The sites I used for students to explore were posted on TVS TechnoWizards, my website for our students.

The children explored the websites for a few minutes then we came together to discuss why these were GREEN sites.

Then we used the traffic signal worksheet that comes with the Staying Safe Online lesson. I’d wanted to play the Red Light, Green Light game in the lesson but we just ran out of time.

Commonsense Media has excellent resources for teachers. What lessons have you used with your students?

“It Could Have Been Worse. . .” – Making Predictions

I absolutely LOVE combining literature and technology when students visit the lab! One of my favorite books is, It Could Have Been Worse, by A.H. Benjamin. It is a one of the best books for making predictions! The book is about a little mouse who is on his way home when he encounters some difficulties. Little does he know that he is being followed by other creatures such as a cat, snake, fish, and more. Mouse ends up falling into holes, sliding down hills, getting a few bumps and bruises along the way. What he doesn’t know is what happens to those animals trying to catch him!

I read the book and stopped just as an animal was about to catch the mouse. The goal was to have the first graders illustrate their what they thought would happen next, write a sentence about their prediction, and record their voice telling what their prediction. Then, I would make a class book for the students.

There are many ways to do this but my go-to app is Book Creator. I air-dropped a template to each iPad (I’m loving the new backgrounds and borders Book Creator has added). With only 40 minutes with each class, I do as much as I can before students arrive!

our template

When the students arrived, we set up the book by adding their names. I was amazed at how much the students remembered from using the app last year so set up went quickly.

As I started reading, the children began drawing. When I reached the stopping point (different for each class), the students really got busy!

The directions were:

  1. Illustrate
  2. Type sentence
  3. Record
  4. Air drop to Mrs. Arrington

As students completed the steps, they became helpers – showing classmates what to do. The homeroom teachers were invaluable helpers as well!

I enjoy taking photos of the process which are made into a short video and added to the end of the books. The children (and parents) really enjoy that!

Here are our finished books:

Mrs. Crumley’s Class

What Happened to the Fox_Mrs. Crumley’s Class Predictions

Mrs. Hutchinson’s Class

What Happened to the Snake_Mrs. Hutchinson’s Class Predictions

Mrs. Kee’s Class

What Happened to the Fish_Mrs. Kee’s Class Predictons

Technology is NOT the Focus!

Technology is every changing. Just think back when you were growing up:  what you used as the newest and greatest “thing” back then. How much of what you had is still used today?

As teachers, we want our students to succeed in a world that will look completely different than now. If we help students develop skills such as collaboration, problem solving, communication, critical thinking, perseverance, inquisitiveness, they will have the tools to make it in areas of work that we can’t even imagine!

I love this video by John Spencer about changes over time: 

Read more about how quickly technology changes and the importance of preparing our students for an unknown workforce in Mr. Spencer’s article, Ten Old-School Tech Skills Your Students Never Had to Deal With.

What Can You Do With a Squiggle?

More than you think! I drew a squiggle in the Book Creator app, added an “About the Illustrator” page and airdropped the book template to each student iPad. When finished with their creations, the children airdropped their books back to me so that I could combine them into class books.

The directions were simple:  Look at your squiggle. What could it become? You can rotate it and copy it if you want. Make something recognizable from your squiggle.

The students provided so many interesting and creative interpretations of their squiggle! I love this one from Jack, a 4th grader, who used what he had learned in art to create an illustration based on an artist named Mary Casssett from the 1800s who painted mothers and children. (To hear his narration, listen to Mrs. Wright’s class book.)

Click on the links to view the class books.

Mrs. Gramentine’s Scribble Challenge

 

Mr. Reinhold’s Scribble Challenge

 

Mrs. Weth’ Scribble Challenge

 

Mr. d’Auteuil’s Squiggle Book

 

Mrs. Malone’s Class Squiggle

 

Mrs. Wright’s Class Squiggle

Tips:

  • For the 4th graders, I told them they could resize and rotate their squiggle. A few children made the squiggle so tiny that it is barely recognizable! I made the mistake of not telling students to make sure the original squiggle could be seen. In several of the 4th grade illustrations, it’s very hard to tell what and/or where the squiggle was.
  • As a result, I changed the directions for the 3rd graders. They could rotate the design but they couldn’t resize. I also told students to make sure the squiggle could be identified.
  • Some of the designs were created from making copies of the squiggle. Those turned out really well!
  • I asked that the squiggle be seen in the picture. Some did that but others covered it up with another color.
  • It’s helpful to lock the squiggle once it’s decided where it will be on the page.

I used to do this all the time when I was little (on paper, of course!). It’s fun to watch the students create digitally!

Writing Fairy Tales

Mrs. Garcia’s class has done an in-depth study of Fairy Tales. They have created a latch to keep Goldilocks out of the 3 Bears’ House, written blog posts, compared and contrasted numerous fairy tales, and learned the elements of these fun stories.

Taking what they have learned, the students worked in groups to write and illustrate a spin-off of a well-known fairy tale. To better share these, we decided on using the Book Creator app. The students used paper and crayons for the illustrations, took photos of each, then added them to the app. Because our school year finishes Thursday, instead of typing their stories into the app, the students recorded narration to match the illustrations.

Individual books were combined into one class book. Enjoy their stories!

Once Upon a Time

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