“Can’t Do Without” Resources

Just wanted to let you know about two fabulous resources!

The first is ICT Magic. This is a wiki created by a teacher in England who has obviously spent hours and hours collecting educational resources for use in the classroom.  He has categorized all of the links by subject – common subjects such as math and science and other categories such as games and web tools. This is one of the most comprehensive sites I’ve seen!


 The other site that has an abundance of excellent information is the Langwitches blog, written by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano. I was able to attend a workshop presented by Silvia at the Building Learning Communities conference in Boston in July. She is an absolute wealth of information. Plus, she shares everything that she does on her blog in great detail with the goal of guiding other teachers. Click on the image below to reach Silvia’s wiki, which is also filled with numerous resources and tips.


Username Challenge

Our first graders visited the lab for the first time today. What a fun group but, wow, they keep us moving! In kindergarten, a student’s username was his/her first name. In 1st grade, this changes to “last name + first initial.” Oh, what chaos this causes! I carefully explained what their usernames were, how they were different from last year, and that all they had to do was to look on the back of their name cards to see what the new username was. Suddenly several hands went up. “You didn’t spell my last name right. There’s no a at the end!” For some it took quite a bit of convincing that, “Yes, everything really is okay. That letter at the end of your last name is the first letter in your first name.” Very confusing for a young first grader! But everyone was able to log on and have time to do some math activities. In a couple of weeks, they’ll be little experts!

Blogging pt. 2

Today 2nd graders had another lesson on blogging. This time we focused on creating a quality post. I really want to avoid the “social” blogging that the students did last year; where a post might be, “I’m bored. Who is on the blog?” We discussed some guidelines dealing with netiquette, safety, proofreading but we also talked about how we want the use the blog to help students AND teachers grow in their learning. Some of the children were truly surprised that teachers could learn from what they post so that led to a lively discussion! It is so important that students see their teachers as learners; just like they are.

This age is fun to work with. They are very excited about sharing their knowledge and the teachers are finding all kinds of ways to incorporate blogging into their curriculum.

Blogging with Second Graders

I work with some terrific teachers who are eager and willing to try anything. This morning I introduced making “quality comments” to our 2nd graders.

We’re using KidBlog which is a simple blogging platform for younger students. Although KidBlog doesn’t have the capabilities of other blogs, it’s very easy for students (and teachers) to use. The teachers are excited about using the blogs in their classroom to encourage writing as well as to share what’s happening at school with parents.

Although our 1st – 4th graders blogged last year, I didn’t do a good job of guiding students to create quality posts and comments and I was determined to do better this year. I discovered some excellent blog resources from Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s Langwitches blog. Silvia has created a fabulous “Guide to Blogging in K-8.”

First, the students watched a video about quality comments created by third graders in Mrs. Yollis’ class. What makes this so effective is that the students are giving tips on leaving better comments – teachers can say the same thing but kids listen to their peers! The 5 tips were:

  1. Compliment the writer in a specific way.
  2. Add new information.
  3. Make a connection.
  4. End with a question.
  5. Proofread your comment.

Then we talked about some sample comments to determine which ones would be appropriate. Finally, we let the students give comments on a post about some stories they had read in class. For a first try, and with not a lot of time to write, we felt like the children did a good job. One of the teachers even went back and responded to each comment! Feel free to read Mrs. Cooper’s blog.

Everything worked well for 2 classes. However, by the time the 3rd class came in, the internet was not cooperating! A few of the students in this class were able to submit comments but with an unreliable connection, too many didn’t have time to do anything. I must say, though, this was a very patient group of students! Hopefully, we’ll be more successful next week.

“Welcome to the Web” Webquest

For the past three years I’ve started the year with our fourth graders working through the “Welcome to the Web” webquest. The webquest is designed by Mark Warner who has done a phenomenal job creating an interactive tool for students to learn about navigating the World Wide Web in a safe manner.

Mark has divided the information into 7 sections. In addition, he has worksheets for students to fill in as they work through the various parts. What makes this so much fun for the students is that they are earning secret codes as they navigate through each step. The codes are vital in “The Challenge” as the students try to catch the culprit who is trying to infect the town’s computers with a nasty virus.

The webquest takes about 5 days to complete (I see the students for 40 minutes every day). But the kids don’t care – no one has ever complained about it. They are ALL eagerly engaged in the activity. In fact, I always have at least a couple of students who work on this during recess or complete it at home!

This year, as the students finished the webquest, I had them blog about what they had learned and also had them complete a survey.


A Little Vacation Time

After the BLC conference, we took a few days to travel around southern Maine and the Cape Ann area before heading back to the real world. Our first two nights were in a gorgeous Victorian bed and breakfast called Angel of the Berwicks. We’ve stayed in several B&B’s over the years but this is by far the best we’ve ever come across. Ben and Sally have a true gift – making everyone feel like a part of their family. Breakfast was scrumptious; we’ve never had a 3-course breakfast before: homemade muffins, fresh fruit, hot entree – with a different menu every morning! If you ever have a chance to visit North Berwick, Maine, we highly recommend the Angel of the Berwicks. It’s a short drive from Kennebunkport, Portland, and other beautiful areas.

BLC11 Day 3

The final day of BLC and my brain is exhausted! BLC is one of the best conferences offered and I’m thankful I’ve been able to attend 3 times. Now I just need time to process everything! Here are the conference strands (sorry, should have posted this earlier!):

  • Designing Rigorous and Motivating Assignments Across the Curriculum
  • Nurturing Creativity, Curiosity, Empathy and Courage
  • Teaching Global Communication Skills
  • Contributing to Professional Learning Communities
  • Crafting Vision and Managing Change

Today’s keynote speaker was Rob Evans, a clinical psychologist from Wellesley, MA. He presented a very interesting talk about adults in schools grappling with change. He pointed out that schools are good at helping students change but they don’t do such a good job with helping the adults. In a very humorous way, Dr. Evans described how school boards and administrators are eager to help their schools change but are amazed at the resistance encountered from some of the faculty. He talked about what people react to about change is not the event, it’s the meaning of the event. When asked to make changes, people experience:

  1. loss (what I believe in is devalued)
  2. confusion (not sure what is expected; why there must be a change)
  3. conflict (changing from one mode to another begets conflict; the “I’m right but you’re wrong” thought process)

Dr. Evans pointed out that teachers do their best to avoid conflict. This is excellent for working with students but not always the best for dealing with adults. The difference between the corporate workplace and schools was mentioned often. In schools, everything tends to be personal; educators don’t tend to be able to separate work from personal. The corporate world is able to do this.We should be able to say, “There may be a better way of doing this,” without the other person taking it personally. Dr. Evans pointed out that if we are able to disagree in a compatible way and have these direct conversations, we have a much better chance to move forward with change. He said that when there is change, people have a right to know why they need to change, what needs to be done, and how it will impact them.

He ended by telling us to “lighten up” – don’t try to do everything we learned at the conference! Now, if I can just remember those words of wisdom . . .

BLC11 Day 2

Thank goodness for peanut butter crackers! There was no time for lunch today-too many good sessions to attend! First session was about iPad apps and I got a few new ideas:

  • Spel It Rite
  • StoryBuilder
  • SentenceBuilder
  • iThoughtsHD (mindmapping)
  • Corkulous (idea board for collecting, organizing, and sharing ideas)
  • ShowMe (interactive whiteboard – record voice-over tutorials and share them online)

Another session was presented by a second grade teacher who talked about students as teachers. His students used flip cameras to teach their classmates a skill. The recording was completed at home, then shared with the class. The tutorials can be found on his Globetrotters wiki page. Think of all the skills occurring as the students created the videos: sequencing, fluency, presentation, planning, vocabulary, and much more. I think something similar would be equally as successful with our students.

Dr. Stephen Wolfram presented the afternoon keynote. He demonstrated Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha (mobile app is available). What he showed was absolutely incredible! I know that some of our upper school students use Wolfram Alpha but I really think it could benefit our Lower School.

BLC11 Day 1

What a fantastic day! Thank goodness the hotel is selling something quick for lunch because there are too many good sessions to take time out to actually sit down somewhere and eat something decent! We started with Eric Mazur, professor of physics at Harvard University. He talked about what happens in a lecture (or rather what doesn’t happen). Lectures transfer information from the instructor to the student but how much does the student really retain. Not much! Students learn to parrot back information and there is a definite lack of retention. Professor Mazur has changed his way of teaching to what he calls peer instruction 2. The steps are:

  • Speak (he gives some information)
  • question
  • poll (done on a website he and others have created; driven by data collection)
  • discuss
  • repoll
  • explain

He had us do a physics problem about thermal expansion following the above method. What I noticed with me is that while he was “lecturing” (giving us background knowledge), I had to struggle to keep my mind from wandering. I kept pulling myself back because I knew we were going to discuss our answer with our neighbor. We were told to try to convince another person that our answer was correct. There was a lot of thinking and collaboration going on. When you have to “prove” something to someone else, you do try harder. Wonderful implications for the classroom!

Every session I attended today was excellent. I need time now to start going through all the information I’ve gathered. I was interested in one session where we discussed the SAMR model; something that I was introduced to at the American School in London.

Can’t wait to see what tomorrow’s sessions bring!