Rocket Fuel!

A couple weeks ago, I was invited to visit a science class as students experimented with the various ratios of vinegar and baking soda to create “rocket fuel.” Students were to measure the materials and combine in a clear plastic film canister. The lid had to be popped on quickly in order for the ingredients to mix and send the “rocket” into the air.

There was so much excitement in the room. However, the best part was to watch “failure” occur. NO ONE became angry even when they had repeated failures. Most involved not being able to snap the lid in place quickly enough. What a learning experience!

The students always reflect on their experiments but I thought we’d take it a step further. The children were asked to blog and write a reflection of their experience.

  • What combinations of baking soda and vinegar did their group try?
  • What were the challenges?
  • What worked?
  • What didn’t work?

These were some of the best posts I’ve had from these students in a long time!

Here are some samples. To read more, click here then click on a fourth grade teacher’s name.

I really like the next one because it’s obvious this group suffered failures. After visiting with the girls, they also showed resilience!

Lesson learned –> Make SURE the blog topic is something that is exciting to the students!

Blogging with a Twist

img_6687Although our students have been blogging since first grade, I always like to have the fourth graders start off with a paper blogging activity. After working with this age over a number of years, I’ve discovered that many become lax in their posts and comments; submitting writing that isn’t their best!

The paper blogging idea is not my own but comes from a post entitled, Workshop Activity: Paper Blogs, by Leonard Low. He used it with teachers to show that blogging is a “powerful strategy for empowering and engaging learners.”

Usually, the paper blogging takes two 40-minute sessions but I only had the students for one 30 minute class so it was a challenge to fit everything in, but we did it! We began with a quick review of what is okay to share and what should be kept private.

From the time we began blogging in first grade, I’ve discussed penny vs dollar comments/posts so the children can quickly tell me that just as a penny is worth hardly anything, penny writing is just as worthless. A penny comment might be only one word. Or it could be something like “great” or “wow” – words that don’t really tell anything to the writer. Penny posts lack detail or don’t make sense. Dollar posts paint a picture for the reader; adding details that help the reader make connections. Dollar comments ask questions, make specific compliments, keep the conversation going.

Using the food idea from Mr. Low’s post, I asked the students to think about their favorite food. What was it? Where was the best place to get it (home, restaurant)? What made it so special? I gave them 10 minutes to write and most were able to finish.

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We then discussed tags. Everyone could tag this as “food” and then they could add additional tags.

The next step was commenting. Each student had 3 sticky notes. They were to move around the room till I told them to stop. Once at that spot, they were to read the post then write a comment on the sticky note.

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Normally, we’d have time for 4 or 5 comments but with our shortened class period, two was the limit. The third sticky note was for each student to return to their post to respond to one of their comments.

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An important part of the lesson is to discuss the quality of comments. I asked for volunteers to share what they considered to be “dollar” comments. And, there were many! We then moved on to “penny” comments with the rule that no names should be shared. As this was discussed, we also brainstormed how to transform a penny comment to a dollar one.

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I’m eager to see if the quality seen in the paper blogging transfers to our online blogs next week!

Save

Save

Sharing What We Learn: Biographies

Mrs. Shapard’s second graders have been studying biographies. She wanted to find a way that students could share what they learned with others. We decided to use the Book Creator app because of its user-friendly interface.

Because we didn’t want this project to drag on, I did a couple of tasks to help with the workflow. First, I set up the books for the students. That took no longer that twenty minutes or so. Next, I collected photos from the public domain for the children. Finding copyright-friendly images is very time consuming for students, especially the younger ones. These were posted to my Picasa albums so they could be saved to their iPad. I gave an age-appropriate explanation of copyright so students would understand it’s not okay to use any image they find on the web!

In the classroom, students collected information and drew a picture of the person they were studying. They brought this to the lab so it could be added to their book.

Because we want the students to post the information to their blog, the books were saved as videos. One thing we learned is that the students tend to forget to delete a recording if they decide to re-record. What happens when saved as a video is that ALL recordings are heard! We had to go back and fix a few – a good learning experience . . .

We’re eager for next week when we’ll post videos to our blogs.

Here is one of the videos:

Checking for Comments

First graders were thrilled to check their blog for comments after posting their ChatterPix Kids noun video. (see previous post)

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We had some amazing writing going on as the children read what parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even our 4th graders wrote.

blog response

Thanks to thoughtful comments from relatives and other students, these first graders are so excited to be sharing their work with an authentic audience!

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.

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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

 

Summer Technology Challenge

TVS teachers – this is just for you!

This is a summer where you can’t go up to school so, here is a challenge for you should you decide to work from home. Have some fun exploring new technologies or spend time learning even more about ones you already know. Below are ideas to help you get started.

kidblogKidblog (free app although we have the upgraded subscription) – Use our TVS Lower School blog to start posting and/or commenting on others’ posts. You are able to use Kidblog from a computer as well as an iPad. On an iPad, you’ll need to set up the class. Open the app and tap on settings. Choose Add a Class then Login to Kidblog. The Class URL is TVSLowerSchool. Once you’ve typed that, your username will show up at the bottom of the screen. Click Kidblog setup on app for directions.

This would be a great place to post what you are learning about this summer, vacations, favorite books, or anything else you would like to share! If you create anything with apps, post that to your blog! Remember, if you can save to photos, you can post it on a blog! Click What can be posted? for samples.

book creatorBook Creator ($4.99) – In addition to saving as ePub books (to read in iBooks), did you know that Book Creator now allows exporting content as videos? This is great for sharing with families who don’t have iOS devices.

Create a book about you to share with your new students. Export as a video and upload to Vimeo. (Email me if you need the log in information.) Or, create an ePub book about a topic you want your students to learn. Make the book interactive by adding hyperlinks (Hint: This is accomplished in the Add Text section. Tap and select word then choose link.)

To learn more about Book Creator’s features, click here. Follow Book Creator on Pinterest for lots of ideas!

coding appsCoding Apps – I grouped these together because they are all excellent for computational thinking. Programming teaches children to problem-solve and think creatively. For more background on the reasons to learn to program, read this article, It’s Time for Every Students to Learn to code.

  • Kodable (app and web-based; free; paid school version allows deeper exploration) – coding curriculum for elementary ages
  • Lightbot and Lightbot Jr  (average cost per app $2.99; Jr for ages 4-8; Lightbot for ages 9+) Teaches programming logic through puzzles.
  • Scratch Jr (free) ages 5-7 – drag and drop coding blocks where students can program interactive stories and games

draw and tellDraw and Tell HD ($1.99) – So much more than a drawing app, Draw & Tell allows children to illustrate something, record their voice telling about it (orally share their thinking), and then share with others. Our students typically share to their blog. The app was created for ages 5 and younger but first and second graders would enjoy the app and find it very easy to use.

How would you incorporate the Draw & Tell app? What topics could students share? Would this be something you could use for students to show their understanding of a concept?

EEExplain Everything ($2.99) – This my favorite screen casting app for ages 8+! Yes, it has a learning curve but it is extremely powerful and there is SO much you can do with it. The app developer’s web site has excellent video tutorials for you to view.

Play around with the various tools in the app. Practice recording and drawing at the same time. Since Explain Everything isn’t as intuitive as other screen casting apps, students will need some practice but I’ll be glad to help with that.

Click here to see how Mrs. Wideen uses EE in her class. How could you use this with your children?

Adobe VoiceAdobe Voice (free) – “Show Your Story” is how this app is described. The user adds photos and narration and produces a short video that can be shared. To use with children under age 13, the teacher must create either a class account or individual accounts (By law, students under age 13 can not create their own account).

This is a quick and easy way for students to “tell” their story, save to photos, and share to their blog. Create your own story and post it this summer!

Adobe slateAdobe Slate (free) – Create a story with a magazine-type layout. Add images and text. You’ll need a class account (see Adobe Voice). This app doesn’t have recording but it can be a great writing activity.

mycreate appMy Create ($4.99) – Students capture a series of photos then create a stop-motion video. Audio can also be recorded.

Think about all that you can do with this! I’ve used it for Lego building but what about keeping track of a plant’s growth? Or, chick eggs waiting to hatch? Or, take photos of trees as they go from bare to covered with full-sized leaves.poppletPopplet (lite is free; full version $4.99) – A visual mindmap for students, Popplet is easy to use. Students can add images and facts to help organize information. Work in groups and have each member add their own facts. Export as JPEG and upload to the blog. Try the free version and let me know if you would use this in your classroom.

App Smashing – combining two or more apps to create a product. Read Unleashing Creativity: Greg Kulowiec App Smashing for a wealth of information. Since he coined the phrase, he truly is the guru of this!

Try your hand at app smashing.

  • Make videos using Adobe Voice and My Create. Save to photos. Join these together in iMovie and upload to the blog. If it’s too large, upload to Vimeo (refer to my email for log in info) and either provide the link on your blog or embed the video. (Note: When embedding a video on the blog, I always find it easier to work on a desktop to that I can choose the HTML option from the New Post window. Then I just paste the embed code.)
  • Make a book in Book Creator. Export as a video. Create a screen cast using either Draw & Tell or Explain Everything related to the book. Pull all together in iMovie. You can even make an introduction in one of the screen casting apps. In iMovie, just split the Book Creator clip, delete the cover that you had previously made in that app, and insert the new introduction.
  • Create a written story in Adobe Slate. Bring that into Adobe Voice to provide narration.
  • Make a collage with the Pic Collage app (Did you know that there is a new Pic Collage Kids?) and import that into Adobe Voice for adding narration.

More Resources:

Something to Think About:

At some point you’ll need to upload student work to a cloud storage space. Check out Google Drive – 15 GB free storage. Create folders for work that is uploaded. Make the file free, get a link, share with parents.

Web-Based Programs to Explore:

  • Unite For Literacy – free storybooks for primary grades
  • Wonderopolis – view a “Wonder of the Day” each day; students can research within the web site

I gave you lots of information with enough details to make your head spin! The best way to learn is just jump in and explore. Use your experiences over the summer to create anything you want. It doesn’t have to relate to school! I’m eager to see your creations!

Enjoy!

Have fun!!

Where Can We Find Shapes?

Everywhere, as the first graders discovered!

On a chilly, blustery day we took our iPads out for a shape hunt. To correlate with their math unit the children were searching for circles, ovals, squares, rectangles, triangles, pentagons, hexagons, and octagons. Students could also photograph solid shapes if they wanted.

After two quick reviews – one over shapes and one about taking quality photos, we picked up our iPads and started the search.

IMG_2398FullSizeRender(1)After searching for a bit, we returned to the lab where the students used the Pic Collage app to insert and label their photos.

IMG_2384Next, the students uploaded their collages to their blog. They were asked to reflect on the shape hunt.

  • Was it hard to find all the shapes?
  • Were you surprised at where you found shapes?

FullSizeRender(2)FullSizeRender(3)The students enjoyed their search and were surprised at some of the places where they found shapes!IMG_2434

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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

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

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!