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.


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.

block change paper

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.

image 3

Focusing on the armadillo’s head


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.



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






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.


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:

Alphabet Alliterations

After reading a blog post by April Requard called Bring Literacy to Life with Technology! (A HUGE thanks to April for sharing this idea!). I thought this would be an excellent way to have our students create alliterations that could be shared with younger students.

We started with the book The Z Was Zapped, by Chris Van Allsburg. Most of the students had read the book before so we just went through a few pages, noting the art work used to aptly illustrate each letter.

We discussed alliterations and how to create a fun, light-hearted sentence that could be illustrated in the Drawing Box app (free and paid versions).

After drawing, the students pulled their picture into ChatterPix Kids (free) – a very easy app where a “mouth-line” is drawn that moves with the recorded narration. Stickers and more can be added to enhance the picture. Once the video is saved to the camera roll, it can be air dropped to the teacher iPad where I combined it into one video in iMovie.

The students enjoyed this “different” way to share learning.

Hint for recording: What we discovered when we combined some of the videos was that a few words were cut off when moving from one clip to the next. It’s important to tell students to wait a second after pressing record and when they finish talking, to again wait a second before tapping the stop recording button. We had to re-record a few and we still have some clips that run together but it’s better that it was!

Working on a Collaborative eBook

Jane Cooper, one of our second grade teachers signed up for a fantastic collaboration project that Kristen Wideen (a teacher in Winsor, Ontario) initiated. The Global Community iBook Project asks teachers from all over the world to contribute a couple of pages about their community.

The information is written in the Book Creator app for iPad and then uploaded to Kristen’s Dropbox account. She will then combine all the pages into one book.

Mrs. Cooper’s class has learned a LOT about Fort Worth but quickly discovered that it was really difficult to squeeze everything into two pages! After much brainstorming, they were able to choose just a few topics. On Tuesday, they worked together to begin the process of adding pictures and descriptions to their book.

Here is a brief look at the process:

There may be another book in the works – the students have so much information to share that they are seriously considering creating their own book about Fort Worth. We’ll see what transpires!


Write About This App and QR Codes

Write about thisOur second graders explored the Write About This app last week in the computer lab. The app offers visual writing prompts; students can write a story and record their narration (which saves as a QuickTime movie). There is a free version with limited prompts or, for $3.99, several prompts appear per category. For each visual there are 3 levels which allow for differentiation. Images can also be uploaded to create your own prompts.

I asked the students to go to the categories and look through them.

photo(1)Since I only have the students for 40 minutes, they had to choose a picture quickly. Once that was accomplished, the students started their writing.


Mrs. Cooper’s students writing their stories

In the classroom, I would expect students to spend more time with the writing process but this was a “quick write” due to time constraints. We did go over our allotted time, but the children were able to write, record, and email their Write About to me.

One of the second grade teachers, Mrs. Cooper, mentioned that she liked to have work on the bulletin board outside her classroom that parents could view on parent/teacher conference day. That started me thinking – could we upload the student’s narration somewhere and create a QR code so that parents could scan and listen to their child reading?

For me, the easiest way was to upload all Write Abouts to our FTP server. Once that was done, I used a QR code generator to create the code. The one I used this time was QR Stuff because I could also choose to shorten the URL at the same time the code was being generated. The codes were saved to a Word Document and labeled by child’s name. I printed them on a full-page label so all I had to do was cut them out and stick them onto the Write Abouts that had previously been printed.

photo(5)Since the Write About narrations are saved as a QuickTime movie, they could be uploaded to Vimeo or YouTube. QR codes could be created as above.

The students loved the Write About This app. We don’t recall hearing anyone say, “I can’t think of anything to write!”

By the way, the same people who created Write About This have just released the Tell About This app. Visual prompts are provided that encourage children to focus on their oral language skills as they tell stories. I can’t wait to work with the younger grades!

Let it Snow!

It doesn’t snow much in Texas – our last major blast of winter weather resulted in the worst ice storm this area has had in many years. Unfortunately, you can not build a snow man from ice!

Looks like snow but it was slick, solid ice!

Looks like snow but it was thick, slick, solid ice!

So, we did the next best thing – we “built” snowmen (and snow women) using Microsoft’s Paint program. The students drew their snow people by answering questions on a Snowman Glyph 2014. (This is adapted from a glyph I saw years ago. Unfortunately I don’t remember where it was found.)

What surprised me is that their were several students who had never built a real snowman! But, if you don’t travel to snowy places, you often have to wait several years before we have enough snow in Texas to build even a miniature snowman!

After the snow people were finished, I uploaded the illustrations to animoto. Enjoy the videos.

Second Grade Snow People:

Third Grade Snow People:

Fourth Grade Snow People:

Two of our second grade teachers wanted to take the project a step further by incorporating writing. They had their students write cinquain poems which they copied into the Book Creator app. (As a side note, this is an AWESOME app and super easy to use!).

Typing the Poem

Typing the Poem

Since the pictures had been drawn on computers, I had to upload them to my Picasa account so that the students could save the image to the iPad. They had no problems at all doing this.

Once the pictures and text were in the app, each student recorded their poem, then emailed it to me.



One of the best features of Book Creator is that books can be combined if they are created in the same format. We chose landscape for this project. All of the individual books were then easily combined into one book. I did have to delete some blank pages – quick and easy though.

Finally the books were uploaded to DropBox – ready to share. Directions for reading the books on your iOS device or through the Google Chrome browser are listed below.

Mrs. Shapard’s Snowmen and Snow Women Cinquain Poems

Mrs. Cooper’s Snow People Cinquain Poems

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.

Directions to read the ePub book on a computer:


From the Mouths (and Hearts) of First Graders

During the holiday season, we talk so much about what gifts WE want and we often neglect to think about others. So this year, I posted the following on the students’ class blog:

It’s the season of giving. What gift would you like to give someone? Who would receive this gift?

As the students reflected on the questions, I gave a bit more information:

  • The gift could be to anyone – parents, siblings, cousins, friends, grandparents, etc
  • It did not have to be something bought.

This was the first time the students had logged into their blog so we spent a bit of time just getting on. I explained that I had written the post and they were responding by writing a comment.

I asked if they knew how to spell every single word they might need and the response was a resounding NO! So, what would they do when they came across a word they couldn’t spell? A few said they would ask the teacher but I pointed out that there were only 2 teachers and 20 students so we might not be available when they needed a word spelled. The students concluded that the best thing to do was to sound it out.

Below are some of their responses (written in 1st grade spelling with “adult” spelling in parentheses if needed to make sense of the thought).

  • from Greyson: I am gowing to giv my mom a quite time love greyson.
  • from Riley: I Wud Like To Giv Mom a nis Worm Kise! (I would like to give Mom a nice warm kiss!)
  • from Ruthie: I would give a doll to one of my nextdoor neighbors. Her name is Charlotte.She is two years old.I would give her older sisster, Jainie a coloring book.She is four years old.
  • from Zoe: I would give to you Mrs Kee a vacation .
  • from Benton: i would give the gif of love and cinednis. (I would give the gift of love and kindness.)
  • from Mary Blair: what i wunt to give my mommy and daddy for crismas is a odamit to hang on the crismas tree and breckfist in bed. and to wish evreone to have a merry crismas. (What I want to give my mommy and daddy for Christmas is an ornament to hang on the Christmas tree and breakfast in bed. And to wish everyone a Merry  Christmas.)
  • from Toby: I wold give a present to my Granparets the present wold be a BIBLE .
  • from Ruby: I will give my mom a little puppy and I will give my dad a big kiss on the chek (cheek).

If you would like to read more responses, visit the class blogs listed below: