Sunday, August 31, 2008

An invitation to join my classroom blog + classroom domain

Hello fellow Globaler's. I'd like to send an invitation to you to join my google enterprise account (domain) and blog(s) which are presently being used for my 09 chemistry and AP biology classes.

My AP students are already members of the domain and the blog. They will be considering the arguments for and against the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research and (hopefully) be posting their comments/opinions on the blog in the next few days. This will be their first interactive assignment via the blog.

Now that the new HS students (i.e. 9th grade) have their email accounts, I will be inviting them to join the domain and blog this week. I want to be able to do some international school to school interactions throught the myp IB forum(s) at .

Anyway, I am and will be interested in your constructive criticism of my google sites and blog(s) as they evolve throughout this year.

The AP blog is at: and the google sites are at but you need to email me at to become a user of the sites or an author of the blog.

Thanks for your time, Doug

(update 9/2/8... those darn HS English teachers are using the library just about everyday for something called "blogging" ... looks like my 09 chem kids will get into the library in about 2 weeks :] )

Saturday, August 30, 2008


(Picture Credit: Wesley Bedrosian)
I find myself starting off a little slower this year than last. I am trying to be careful how I set up expectations with my fourth graders on blogging, using Twitter and general internet safety. In addition to that, a Global Learner recently expressed frustration in students' blog comments. "There are so many mistakes that they are not postable." It is making me think about the importance of high quality work and helping my students be successful with the integration of web2.0 tools in our classrooms.

I read an article in the latest Edutopia magazine. It addresses the importance of teaching "Netiquette" to our students. But in a larger sense, it talks about how students can be safe on the web, and how to help our students make their writing appropriate for online viewing. Will Richardson is quoted in the article:
"A lot of schools are beginning to put in Internet-safety and Internet-etiquette units, but they're not systemic in any way, and they really need to be."
It is also acknowledged that we need to incorporate netiquette into everyday education. Rather than, "Let's go down to the lab to learn about Internet matters."

So, what is netiquette and how do we incorporate into everyday education? And, how do I set expectations for computer/internet use at the beginning of the year, just like I set expectations for all behaviors in my classroom and make it systemic? I see there being three different categories:

1. Behavior
Netiquette rules are going to vary depending on grade level of course. My fourth graders don't know much about instant messaging yet, so we don't need to have the conversation about IM-speak not being appropriate in other online (or offline) settings. Our rules center more around the golden rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated:
  • Blog comments on others' work should be constructive and also say something positive about the work.
  • Blog posts and comments cannot be anonymous.
There are many other suggesions in the article in a sidebar entitled, "Don't Even Think About It".

2. Quality of Work
Again, this conversation is different in elementary than it is in secondary, but I am always having a conversation with my students about the quality of their work. Their work on our blog or twitter should be no different. This takes patience. Students don't necessarily know how to do this upon entering the classroom. They are also anxious to push the boundaries with their new teacher to find out where the boundaries are.
  • Set High Expectations: I set high expectations for all the work in my classroom (I try anyway), but am having the conversation with my students about the importance of publishing high quality work on our blog, considering the number of people that could be reading it. All the work on the blog needs to be revised and edited before it is published. By fourth grade, there should be no errors in caps, punctuation or spelling. If there is a mistake after publishing, you need to go back and fix it. If, after fixing it, there are still minor errors with grammar or layout, or trouble with spelling a complex word, I will let it go. Students could be turned off to the whole process if I insist on perfection and have a student go over the same post over and over. On Twitter, my expectation is perfection, considering it is only 140 characters. Updates should have some substance. What did you learn during math, not what you "did". Ask a question to encourage a response.
  • Represent Yourself Positively: This is a standard conversation I have had with students on our way out the door to any field trip. You are not only representing yourself, but you are representing Alsup, Adams 14 and Commerce City. Act accordingly. The same could be said about how you represent yourself on our blog. Take pride in yourself, our classroom, school, community when you are writing about it.
  • Work Together: Students work in pairs when updating on Twitter and will often work in pairs when they first publish to our blog. I am already finding "experts" in my room that are eager to get started and want to help their classmates.
3. Safety
Students are well aware of the online boogieman, ready to pounce and steal your identity. One way to keep students safe is to stick to a more student-friendly blog site like edublogs or blogmeister. Epals, gaggle and have their own as well that are part of a suite that includes their email service. But I really have been pleased with Blogger and the way that it allows my students to reach a larger audience and we had no problems with safety during our first year of blogging. I do feel obligated to go over safety with my students, especially after last years' group was so eager to reach out to people outside of our school. I found this internet safety document online that I have revised and will go over with my students this week. I will add a signature at the bottom and send it home. I did this last year as well, but only after we had been blogging for several months. I realize these are not legal documents, but I am making an effort to better document my expectations and make my students accountable before there is an issue.

Two other resources from the article. A sample acceptable use policy from Bud Hunt. The other is an email safety pdf for students that was created by the Modesto city schools, which might be useful to students at the high school.

These are just my thoughts. How are you addressing these issues in your classroom? What kinds of behaviors do you encounter in your classroom that keep your students from accessing these tools efficiently?

Organizing student data in Excel

Since our district has adopted DIBELS as a literacy measure I would like to share how I use Excel to help me organize and analyse my student data. The Dynamic Indicators of Early Literacy Success tests has an online feature that is helpful but I like to keep student data in a format that allows me to group students more meaningfully.

First I create a spreadsheet with the DIBELS Benchmark measures. I add a column for nonsense words recoded. Then I add columns for data from the core phonics survey.

I select each column and then apply conditional formatting to populate the cell with a specific color based on a number range to indicate if the student skill is considered benchmark, strategic, or intensive. I use the DIBELS ranges for the DIBELs measures but I have my own set of cut-off ranges for Core Phonics data.

I then sort the data by Nonsense Word Fluency and NWF words recoded. Letter Naming Fluency is also a good indicator of reading ability for first graders (though sometimes not a good measure for ELL students). This gives me a general layout that allows me to make general groupings. I use the more specific Core Phonics data to fine tune my groups.

Finally, I set up additional worksheets within the Excel document for progress monitoring and for Winter and Spring Benchmark data. I add a worksheet that details what letter sounds and letter names have not been mastered for each student so that I can differentiate my instruction at the individual level. I add district writing scores and CELA scores so that I can have a very robust data set at a glance.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Here We Go!

Well, here is my first blog of the 2008-2009 school year. This year has started out so differently than last and I look forward to reflecting on my teaching and comparing last year to this year. I'm implementing monitoring notes in my daily instruction and while it's very new, I can't imagine how I survived last year without them. I have a much better sense of where my students are academically based on these notes. No more blind leading the blind!

I find myself using my white boards less and less; which is a good thing considering I'm a Global Learner and encouraged to use the technology I've been given. I use my laptop every second; whether it's to display prompts, Mug Shots, or highlighting text to scaffold the elements in narrative writing. While I am comfortable with the laptop and projector, I am scared to death of the SmartBoard. It's not that I don't want to use it, it's the challenge of trying to figure out how it works on my own. Not that I don't have people to help me. I'm more of a do-it-yourself type of gal. My goal for next week is to play around with it and use it for my Mug Shots during my Communications classes.I'm eager to get comfortable with my SmartBoard and google docs and watch my students' comprehension and application improve.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bilingual babies...

Hey GL's! Sorry, that it's taken so long for me to add a blog. But I came across this video clip about bilingual children and how language development occurs!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fifth Grade Class Website and Blog

I've created a classroom website that my class of 5th graders will be using to post assignment, run a blog, and communicate with parents/other classes with. This website is separate from my Global Learners website, and I'm sure my kids would be ecstatic to see other teachers commenting on their posts. I'd love to hear suggestions or comments about what we have done so far.

Also, I've posted my Global Learner's video done last year. It's a technology-infused measurement lesson done in a bilingual 1st grade classroom.

Much more will be posted soon:

Mr. Palmer's 5th Grade

Internet resources for Block style handwriting

My school has anounced that we have chosen to move from D'Nealian manuscript to Block style letters for elementary handwriting. Since I think this was a district-wide decision I thought I'd share a few resources for those teachers scrambling to get practice writing sheets together. I found a couple of nice websites with handwriting sheets to print as well as some websites that allow you to input the text you want to print. I downloaded some for printing as well as for using on the Smart Board:

Handwriting for Kids has a feature helpful for Spanish accent marks and special characters.

Kid Zone has a page that allows you to make custom tracer pages as well.

Also check out the Amazing Incredible Handwriting Worksheet Maker by Tampareads.
I cross-posted this on my personal blog:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Data collection

Statistics is one of the first topics covered in many math classes at the high school this term. After talking to a colleague during a meeting today about the Olympics and the physique of an Olympic runner and swimmer, we discussed collecting data on student's heights, arm spans, foot length, hand spans, and arm length (in cm). We are going to ask other teachers in our building to collect this data from their classes and compile the data in a collaborative spreadsheet (probably using Google docs spreadsheet). It would be awesome if we could collect more data on this from different schools and beyond, so if anyone is interested in this would you please give me your e-mail so I can invite you to share the Google doc. My e-mail is Thanks!

Friday, August 15, 2008

6 word memoirs (a story in 6 words)

6 word memoirs is from a project where people would combine a 6 word "twitter" entry with an image from fllickr to create a story .Lots of classroom possibilities in this!


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Plants in your classroom

I'd like to put plants in my classroom this year and wondered if anyone already does this. I want to make environmentally-conscious thinkers out of my students, and thought I'd start with greening up my classroom. Any ideas on what would be good plants for my room that won't require too much work? I do have some natural light in my room, but I'm not sure where to go from there. Any ideas would be great. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Multi-lingual math glossary

Hi everyone... I came upon this great multilingual math glossary that I think could be useful for some of our parents in assisting our students with math and math homework.

Monday, August 11, 2008

My blog addy

I don't know if I posted it before or not, but if I haven't, I do have a professional blog that I started at the end of this past school year. The link to it is right here. Feel free to leave comments, questions, etc. :-)

Re:Smart Board as center

I am a mentee, but last year I had a SB in my classroom for a few months. I used it daily as a center for literacy, writing, and sometimes math and science. It is a wonderful tool and allows the students more opportunities to become proficient using the technology and to work together to solve problems as they arise. I would definitely recommend trying the Smart Board out as a center.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sunday, August 3, 2008


So last week or so, Google announced a new web authoring tool called a Knol (short for Knowledge)... the idea is that it's a way of publishing more authoritative articles than a blog... similar to a wiki, but with more control over who edits it as well as more control over copyrights. Here are the links to it:

This new tool definitely has some interesting implications, both for us as professionals and for our students. I've already been thinking about possibilities for articles, and I think it could be really interesting to use with our students. I think this could bear at least a brief discussion on the 11th if there is time. :)

a couple of cool sites and a request to share others ...

Hi all. Here are a couple of cool science related websites you might want to check out.

animation (3 min) "the inner life of a cell"

A great visual representation of the inner workings of a cell.

ted talk...(the inner life of a cell) by David Bolinski

The discussion "ted talk" about the animation.

A great website for measurement conversions "converting boring things to real life objects as you type".

For example a 210 lb person weighs the equivalent of 19 average domestic cats or 5.3 microwaves!

I am hoping that we can (as a group) begin to email (better yet post to this blog!) each other links to "cool sites".

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Doug Abshire