1st Grade Publishes Research

During the month of May, first graders begin a research project where they find interesting facts about a chosen animal.  Some of the teachers ask me to find websites that are on kid level and I post those to their classroom websites.  This saves some time for students so they aren’t Googling for hours trying to find information.  They are still completing the assigned research and meeting the established goals as they are comparing information and facts among a few websites rather than the entire Internet.

After finding their facts students write a short informational story about their animal.  I was then able to help Mrs. Brockus’ class publish their stories by typing their stories in Word, choosing a font and size for their text, and inserting an image of their animal onto their report.  The students were quite excited to see their final pieces, printed and showcased in the hallway for all to see.

Digital Book Trailers

During the last few weeks I had the opportunity to teach with two MS teachers, Mrs. Musselman and Mrs. England as they worked with their students to create digital book trailers.  (A digital book trailer is similar to a movie trailer except in this case students are creating a digital movie to entice you to read a particular book.)  The project began with a planning meeting to review learning objectives and student goals.  We also discussed  possible technology options available to the students in order to create the book trailers.

Jordan Sonnenblick checks out the MS Library's...

It was decided that students would work cooperatively and the book and digital tool that were used for the project would be up to the students.  The group had to agree on the book title and create a storyboard to map it out.  Next, they decided if they would be using pictures and/or video, ultimately leading them to which software program they would use – Photo Story or Movie Maker.  Finally students had to decide if they were doing their own acting, finding video clips to edit, and/or using the green screen with their acting.  With each group having a different path, each class period was full of excitement and we were busy trying to stay up to date with the needs of each group.

Ultimately each group from the three classes finished their project however the overall timeline took a little longer than expected.  Both teachers and students went through many learning experiences outside the goals of the project.  Various technology skills were learned by teachers and students as each day brought forward different challenges.  Both teachers are looking forward to implementing this activity again next year along with a few others that were brainstormed because of challenges that were encountered during this project.

That means success in my book.

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Post It Boards – Lino

After reading a discussion on my listserv about “flipping” faculty meetings as a way to get rid of the “daily chores” and leave more time for professional growth, I would like to share the site called “lino” or “linoit”, www.linoit.com.  This site can be used by anyone but rather than just share it with teachers I thought it would be better shown through example, so I’m sharing it here in hopes it will spark and idea and someone will try it out.

This site is a post it note site that can be shared with others via a link (or embedded on a website).  You post your notes, agenda items, reminders, links, pictures, video, etc. and teachers would review this site before the meeting.  Teachers (or others) can also post notes to the board if they need to with any questions/comments.

You can post the meeting topic or assignment to staff if you will: you post a video link or article link that would be reviewed before the meeting and have staff post their thoughts about that information.  This allows your actual meeting time to be devoted to conversation about the “learning topic” and how it can be implemented in the classroom, i.e. more time for professional growth rather than “daily chores” that always need discussed.

Here is an example of a board about Flipped Classrooms.  See it embedded below.


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3rd Grade Bloggers

KidBlogMs. Crooks’ class has recently started blogging using the easy and exciting program called KidBlog.  This simple blogging platform allows the teacher to setup a classroom blog that can be seen by all of her students and parents.  She then created individual student blog accounts for each student in the class.  Did I mention it is also free and protected from outside visitors?  Those are two bonuses that provide
a feeling of comfort to the students so they don’t have to worry about who might comment on their blogs; this is a closed site, just for  classmates.
Our first day of logging on #kidblog
Blogging allows all kids to share with each other their ideas and thoughts about a given topic or just what is happening in their life.  Students don’t realize it but they are using those writing and grammar skills, that you the teacher stresses in English class.  Their writing now has meaning and purpose and they have pride in their pen, wanting to show it off.  They begin to write more and to their surprise enjoy their writing efforts.  Students could hardly wait for their classmates to post a comment back to a blog post; which honestly made Ms. Crooks a little nervous as she was quickly trying to read and approve all their postings.

Are you interested in seeing this excitement from your students?  Take a chance and visit Kidblog.  Try it out.  Feel free to give me a call and we can set it up together and even roll it out together in the classroom with your students.

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Writing Tools for Higher Level Writers

story toolz logoDo you find that some students still need some motivation to get them to free write? Or do you find yourself getting stuck coming up with the next writing prompt to encourage creative writing from your students?  Check out “Story Toolz“, an online authors resource site.  This site includes a story generator, random conflict creator, and even a title generator – all tools to get students engaged and writing.  The story generator will provide 3 random conflicts that the students must intertwine to create their story.  If they do not like the conflicts presented they can click the button to generate new conflicts and go on from there.  Once they are satisfied with the given conflicts, they can begin their writing either in a notebook or online in a blog they have set up for your class.  Encourage your students to share their writings online so they gain a larger audience and gain a desire to improve their writing style.

Students can light a spark in their writing pen by using the random conflict creator.  The random conflict creator will give students several conflicts to choose from.  At that point they choose a conflict that sparks their interest and begin their writing.  Anything that sparks their motivation and gets them writing takes the push away from you and puts the learning on them.

This site also includes a word count meter (and links to others), a readability tool – to analyze writings, and a cliche remover tool.  Check it out and send your students over too.

Classroom Integration:

Share this tool with your students as a means of enrichment.  Encourage them to keep a journal and remind them that the only way to improve something is to do more of it; to be a better writer we continually write and grow from our mistakes.  Students can use this site to spark their creativity and write a weekly post inside their Moodle journal in your course.  They could easily see their growth throughout the year.

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Unlock Your Creative Pen….Scholastic Story Starters

story starters logoMost famous student response when it comes to writing… “I don’t know what to write about.”  Well the answer to this famous problem has arrived for FREE and no work on your part – Scholastic Story Starters.  This virtual, writers slot machine allows students in kindergarten through sixth grade the opportunity to make a few choices and then receive a writing prompt in return.  They can choose from adventure, fantasy, science-fiction or even the scrambler.  Students begin by making a decision about the theme and then enter their first name and grade level.  Next they are ready to “pull the lever” and see their “winnings”.   Hey, if they don’t “win” on the first shot, they can pull the lever again.  My first try I was given, “Write a post-card from an old police officer who ignores orchestras.”  Students can also modify their response by just spinning part of the machine such as changing the character or the maybe the character and the problem.  I changed my character from police officer to rock star.  What an adventure my story will take, hmm?

After students are satisfied with their prompt, they click next and then decide what format their story will be written in: notebook, letter, newspaper, or post card.  Students also get to decide if they will add a drawing to their story to help provide some visual literacy into their writing.  From there they can actually “write” or type their story online in the provided format and then print it or download/save it as a PDF format.  This saved file can then be included in a student portfolio or published on a class blog.

Classroom Integration:

This resource can be incorporated into a daily writing prompt, writing center, or even journal writing.  You can show the “slot machine” on the board using your projector and have the entire class write about the same prompt.  Allow students the opportunity to share their writings out loud or even in small groups; compare/contrast how the same prompt gave such different stories.  You could also choose a writing prompt and put a spin on it to turn it into a persuasive piece rather than just a narrative.

image from story starters website from scholastic

Once the students see the image on the screen their engagement for writing will soar without much discussion or instruction needed from you.  Who knew we could inspire kids to write without teacher motivation?  Check out the image and see what you think?



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Inspiring Students to Write

I just learned of a blog called – Writing Prompts; a blog created by a teacher that includes daily writing prompts some even with common core standards listed.  The writing prompts go across the curriculum and aren’t necessarily just for the English department.  Some of the prompts are strictly text however many of them are actually visual prompts incorporating visual literacy.  Try them out with your students as a start to class or even an ongoing journal activity.

With all students having a google account (the nbpanthers account – which teachers also have), students can create a blogger account, operated by google, using their nbpanthers email account.  They could use the blog to post their responses to the writing prompt on a daily basis or weekly basis and have it viewed by classmates and other community members for feedback; we all know that outsiders are more important to please than our teachers, not sure why.  It is amazing how important grammar, punctuation, and capitalization become when someone else might read what they wrote.

The writing prompts can be used within Moodle.  Create a forum post for the students to respond to as a simple discussion forum or a “create your own topic” discussion forum.  The visual writing prompts can be included in the forum post just like the text.  You can also create an ongoing journal activity for students to write on a weekly basis based on a given prompt or writing activity.

Here is an example from the site:

visual writing prompt - She ran after him!

Check out her work…it may just save you some time to spend on another task!

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