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

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

 

Amazing Alphabetical Alliterations

“Alliteration is the repetition of the same sound or letter at the beginning of most of the words in a sentence.” (definition from Young Writers’ Free Poetry Glossary)

When I discovered that Mrs. Gramentine’s third graders write alliterations for their spelling words, I asked her if she would like to find a way for the students to share their work. She jumped at the chance and the decision was made to create an ABC book of alliterations.

After brainstorming a variety of apps, we chose Book Creator for this project for two reasons:

  • It is VERY easy to use!
  • The work can be exported as an ePub (for reading in iBooks) and as a video (useful for those that don’t have an iOS device).

The students were assigned a letter (or two) and went to work writing some amazing alliterations! There was quite a bit of research going on in search of words that began with specific letters. Just try coming up with a string of Q words!

alliterationThe next step was to draw a picture that went with their letter. Because the students are very familiar with the Microsoft Paint program and are used to creating incredible illustrations, we chose this over iPad apps. Yes, it would be much easier to use a drawing app because the illustrations are right there on the iPad and therefore, readily available for pulling into Book Creator. But, for us, drawing with a mouse seems to provide much more detail than can be achieved on an iPad. The only extra step involved is gathering the images and uploading to a site students can visit to save their picture. I use Picasa Web Albums.

8Moving on to Book Creator, each student created their “mini” book. Before emailing to me, they were to add their drawing, write their sentence, record the reading of the alliteration, and make their page look “good” (i.e. add a background page color, work with font). If you have an iPad that supports Air Drop, that’s definitely the way to go!

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Editing and recording

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Emailing

Finally, all pages were combined into one class ABC book. The finished product has been uploaded to Google Drive. Below is the link. Be sure to be on an iOS device when you open the link! When prompted, choose Download > Open in iBooks.

ABC Alliterations by Mrs. Gramentine’s Class

If you don’t have an iOS device, the book was also saved as a video.

This was a fun project and the children worked hard to create very clever alliterations. What a great way to learn some new vocabulary too!

Enjoy!

I Wish That I Had . . .

IWishThatIHadDuckFeetI’ve been celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday (March 2) for more years than I can remember (and I’ve taught for a LONG time!) so I’m always excited when our week-long celebration comes around.

This year I asked our third graders to turn on their imaginations as we discussed on of Dr. Seuss’ books. We read I Wish that I Had Duck Feet, a clever story about a boy who would like to have various animal appendages. He weighs the pros and cons of each part and finally decides that he’s better off just being himself. (Watch a video reading of the book.)

After reading, the students were asked to think of what they wish they had. What could that animal part help them do? What would they look like? What problems might they encounter if they had that part added to their body?

They were to do two things:

  • Answer the above questions in a new post on their blog.
  • Illustrate a picture in Microsoft’s Paint program and upload to their blog.

What they came up with was very clever! They seemed to have a great time deciding what animals they could morph into and then realizing that there just might be a downside to having those parts!

Here’s a sample post:

3rd Eli SeussThe students would love to have you take a look at their posts. And they would be even more thrilled to receive comments!

Mrs. Gramentine’s Blog
Mrs. Prescott’s Blog
Mrs. Weth’s Blog

Workflow and Book Creator: Sharing the Creations!

Recording in the Book Creator app

Recording in the Book Creator app

One of my very favorite apps is Book Creator. This app allows students and teachers to create interactive ePub books that can be shared with others. Hyperlinks, images, audio, and simple drawings can be added to a book. But, the best part is that it is extremely easy for students of any age to use which is why I use it for all kinds of curricular activities!

The app is available in the App Store ($4.99) as well as on Google Play ($2.49). Both offer a free version but that only allows the creation of one book. Try the free app first, but trust me, you will definitely want the paid version! As we have iPads in school, I don’t have experience with the Android version so the rest of this post will refer to sharing the books so they can be read in the iBooks app.

There are three ways to export a book made in Book Creator.

Book Creator saving options Export as Video – This is a good method to use when sharing with people who do NOT have an iOS device. I save in both the ePub and Video formats and share links with parents. Saving to the camera roll is an option with this method. What I do is save the video to Vimeo (YouTube also works) then embed it in a blog post. Students could use this choice, save to the camera roll, and upload to their blog.

Export as PDF – Any recordings will be lost in this format.

Export as ePub – This is the choice for reading in iBooks. However, the problem is that a person can only read this on the iPad on which the book was created.

The question is:  How do you share the book with others so it can be read on different iPads or iOS devices?

final workflow pic

Here’s what has worked for me:

  • While the book is open in Book Creator, tap on the share button and then choose to open in Dropbox or Google Drive (or whatever cloud storage you prefer).
Choose a cloud-based storage app

Choose a cloud-based storage app

  •  If you choose Drive, make sure in “Who has access?” that the Link Sharing is turned ON so anyone with the link can view it. Then tap on Get Link.
Link sharing on then get link

Link sharing on then get link

  •  The next step is to post this link to your blog. This can be done on either the Edublogs app on the iPad OR using a browser on a computer. Below is a sample of adding the link using the app.

    Adding the ePub link using the Edublogs app

    Adding the ePub link using the Edublogs app

  •  If you are working on your blog in a web browser, just select the word you want to hyperlink and add the link.
Adding hyperlink on blog using web browser

Adding hyperlink on blog using web browser

  • Once the link is posted on your blog, anyone can download the ePub book to their iOS device and open the eBook in iBooks by tapping on the download link. Although the look is different depending on which cloud storage you use, the procedure is the same. Remember – you must be on an iOS device to open the ePub book!
Screen shot of what downloading from Dropbox looks like

Screen shot of what downloading ePub book from Dropbox looks like

Screen shot when downloading ePub book from Drive

Screen shot of what downloading ePub book from Drive looks like

  •  Once the book has downloaded, it can be opened in iBooks or other apps including Book Creator (helpful if you are collaborating with others to create books).
Opening ePub book on iOS device

Opening ePub book on iOS device

Opening the book in other apps

Opening the book in other apps

Although there seems to be several steps to get the ePub link onto the blog, once you’ve done this a couple of times it becomes second nature and really doesn’t take very long! Parents absolutely LOVE to read books that their child either makes on their own or has created as a class.

Have fun posting links to your own books! I enjoy seeing what others create in Book Creator. If you have questions, let me know!

TIPS:

When I link to ePub books, I always add the following information so that visitors know how to download the eBook.

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.

As mentioned earlier in the post, I also save the Book Creator book as a video then upload it to Vimeo. I then embed the Vimeo video into the blog. That way, parents without iOS devices are still able to “read” the book!

If you chose to export the book created in Book Creator as a PDF, to upload it to Edublogs, you would click on the ADD MEDIA tab at the top of the post’s toolbar. The PDF would be hyperlinked as below:

Workflow for ePub books

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

Examining Pourquoi Tales

What is a pourquoi story? Ask Mrs. Garcia’s second graders and they’ll be able to tell you that it is a type of story that tells why something is the way it is. In fact, pourquoi means why in French. Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories is a classic work of this genre. One well-know tale is How the Camel Got His Hump. Many cultures have pourquoi tales that have been passed down through the ages.

In a collaborative effort with technology and art, Mrs. Garcia’s students explored some of these stories using the “making smaller circles” principle (zooming in on details).

Josh Waitzkin, an eight-time National Chess Champion in his youth, attributes his success to learning techniques he developed to bring his mind and body to peak performance. In The Art of Learning, Waitzkin reveals his self-study to define techniques to maximize student achievement. One of those techniques he calls “making smaller circles.”

photo(2)Mrs. Garcia introduced her students to the pourquoi genre by discussing the elements found in this type of tale. She shared the camel story from Rudyard Kipling, complete with a camel stuffed animal. As she talked, Mrs. Garcia asked the children to pretend they had a magnifying glass to use to zoom in on just the camel’s hump.

zooming in

Zooming in!

The students also played the “I Spy” game which is a fantastic reinforcement to understanding how to zoom in on details. In addition, the students wrote clues about an object to allow their classmates to guess. Each additional clue provided more details.

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What is my object? Guess my clues.

After looking at a variety of books, the students then decided on a pourquoi tale. They examined main characters, problems, outcomes, etc and wrote their rough draft.

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Determining Problem, Block/Change, and Outcome

At this point, the students were ready to begin their illustrations. Mrs. Black, our art teacher, worked with the children on how to look at the “big picture” then zoom in on the smaller details. Each child had a picture of their object and a black “window” that was used to helped focus in on a specific part. Oil pastels were used to create the colorful illustrations.

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Focusing on the armadillo’s head

chipmunk

How the chipmunk got its stripes

For the technology part of the project, I used the Book Creator app (available from the App Store and Google Play) to create an ePub book to share with parents. I love this app because it is extremely easy to use and it has a wealth of features!

Normally, I would have each student create a page in the app then email it to me where I would combine all into one class book. However, because we wanted the formatting to be the same throughout the book, I typed the students’ work and then we recorded each child.

Recording

Recording

After photographing the completed drawings and adding them to the corresponding page, I previewed the project with the students. I wanted to make sure each picture went with the correct story and that the drawings were inserted in the direction the child wanted. (We had to change a few!)

Checking for proper orientation of illustrations

Checking for proper orientation of illustrations

Below is the link to the finished book. While on an iOS device, click on the link to download then choose to open in iBooks. To read the book using the Google Chrome browser, click here for instructions. The file is large so it may take a few minutes to complete the download.

Pourquoi Stories: Making Smaller Circles by Mrs. Garcia’s Second Graders (ePub book)

New! The Book Creator app now allows the book to be exported as a video file. Here is a link to the book in the video version.

Video overview of the process

Extension ideas from Mrs. Garcia:

After the children completed the examination of their pourquoi stories, Mrs. Garcia asked them to create their own tales. They also worked as a class to write poetry.

Pourquoi tales from students

Pourquoi tales from students

Poetry

Poetry

 

 

 

Alliterations in Book Form

book creator newMy favorite app happens to be Book Creator – I absolutely love how easy it is for students of all ages to use! And, I am a HUGE believer in having kids write in all types of genres. Students are thrilled when their book is “published” for all to see.

Recently I worked with the 4th graders to create an Alphabet Alliteration video using the Drawing Box and ChatterPix Kids apps (see Alphabet Alliterations post for more details).

The videos are great but I thought that our younger children would love to read an interactive alphabet book at their own pace! So I pulled the ChatterPix videos into the Book Creator app. What a fun way this will be for the 4th graders to share their alliterations with the younger grades!

Click here (or on the picture) to download the book to your iOS device. Then choose to open in iBooks.

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Another Amazing Alphabet Alliteration!

Mrs. Malone’s fourth graders came to the lab for their music/art/computer rotation last week and they went all out on the alphabet alliteration creation! (see previous post describing the activity)

Here is their alliteration video created with the Drawing Box and ChatterPix Kids apps: