Monday, December 6, 2010

Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling has been a very engaging endeavor for my kids, and a very challenging experience for me! Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the PD on the digital storytelling, and so I have tried to figure it out alone at the expense of many of my hours. However, it has all paid off ten-fold in the excitement of my kids faces. (It also helped when Kelly told me that it wasn't me, but a faulty microphone!)
For our fifth grade music program, the theme is winter, so every year we have a poetry contest for the students to submit their own creative poetry. This year, we decided that the students who were selected as winners would use Photo Story to publish their poetry, and then these would be shown throughout their music program for their parents. The response we got from the students has been extraordinary! More students submitted poetry, many of whom wrote the poems on their own time at home. The next test will be to make sure that we can get everything hooked up and working during the program! I'm continually amazed at exactly how motivating using technology is for students!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Monstruosly Fun Writing

Jenny Chamberlain and I just wrapped up our collaborative writing project. As she explained, each of our students drew a monster and then used descriptive vocabulary to write about it so that another student could draw it for comparison to the original. While that was the stated purpose of the lesson, it turned into something else even better. I was hoping that the students would use the drawings to see where they could add more detail to their writing. I think they were happy with the final drawings and considered their writings final. I'm okay with that because this lesson really was about their journey to organize their writing, revise, and publish their work.

They got really excited about sharing with another class and they did multiple drafts without a single complaint in the hopes of sharing their writing in a clear and precise way with the first graders. I saw them take on kind of a protective role when they were creating feedback for the first graders and they really worked together to come up with some constructive criticism that would help the younger students hone their writing while encouraging them to build on what they had already done.

The part of the Colorado Model Content Standard 2 that they really got into was writing for a specific purpose and audience. At first, when writing, they jumped all over the place describing the eyes, then the feet, then back to the mouth and adding the body or some other part as an afterthought. When I explained that this might be confusing to younger readers they worked really hard to organize their descriptions by body area using colors, shapes, and specific words. They read their writing to each other and I overheard some of them saying "pretend you are a first grader and listen to my description". They ended up getting many rehearsals (drafts) before publishing.

I think next steps for our class is to have them revisit their writing in the spring and reflect on how they have grown since they first published this. I think they might enjoy doing another project using Voicethread which could make giving the feedback a little easier for emerging writers.

Monster Exchange: 1st and 2nd Grade Writing Collaboration!

For our collaborative lesson, Mr. Fisher and I decided to motivate, inspire, and support our students in their writing. Writing is a challenge for many, if not all, students at any grade level. One of the biggest challenges I have seen over the years for first graders, is that they are not excited or invested in their writing and therefore have limited writing skills. I was hoping to use technology and some great ideas for blogging from Mr. Fisher to engage my students while also increasing the quantity AND quality of their writing. I decided that my wiki site on wetpaint would be a great place to post and share student writing. So Mr. Fisher and I embarked on the Monster Exchange!!
It began with each of our classes designing and drawing a monster. Then we used the Writing Process to write sentences describing our monsters. Our next step was to record each student reading their monster sentences and post them on my wiki. Each class read the other's writing and tried to draw each students' monster. Once each class had read about and drawn the monsters, we posted the pictures on the wiki. Our final step truly created a valuable and effective teaching moment when students saw the drawings of their monsters and commented on eachother's writing! For my students, they were amazed by how much detail the second graders used and how it helped them draw the monsters. They were instantly eager to try their own writing again and add juicy words and descriptions like the second graders did! I was able to take this energy and explain how good writers can truly create a picture in the reader's mind by using descriptive and clear sentences.
Commenting on eachother's writing also introduced blogging to my students. I had groups of students discuss one student's writing and then share their comments with me. I typed them onto our blog and then had the students read their comments on the wiki. They LOVED this! It gave them a voice in so many ways! I also loved how their comments made them reflect on their own writing and what makes writing "good".
I will definitely do another blog and collaboration like this again. It will be great to let students have another try with descriptive sentences and see what they come up with! Then we can compare and see all the progress in our writing!
A HUGE thanks to Mr. Fisher's class for sharing with us and inspiring us to be great writers!!

Please visit my wiki: and go to the Writing section and then Monster Exchange to see our writing and blogging!
Here is an example of one of my students reading his monster sentences.

Storytown Powerpoints on Atomic Learning For Primary!

One of the most valuable things I have learned from the past few months as a Global Learner is just how profound the impact technology can have on both student engagement and achievement. As a first grade teacher it can be a struggle to engage and support students in learning all the complexities of reading in English. Phonics and sight words can become a very mundane activity that overwhelms students. However, I have created interactive powerpoints that my students LOVE and are truly increasing their reading skills. I designed each powerpoint using the Storytown curriculum. For every lesson there is one powerpoint show that has all of the spelling (phonics) words and sight words. Each letter of each spelling word comes up when clicked and students learn to decode and blend with interactive words! I also include funny pictures to support ELLs and engage the students. They really look forward to seeing what new pictures I have every week! The sight words fly into the screen and also have funny pictures!! Last, there are sight word slides without pictures to remove the scaffold and challenge students to recall the words without the support of the pictures.
These powerpoints are available on Atomic Learning. So far I have completed Lessons 1-12. I will have the remaining lessons completed and posted by the end of this year. I hope this helps other first grade teachers using Storytown!!

Student Film Project

My students are in the midst of finishing a student film project. They wrote creative stories and illustrated them. We took digital photographs of their illustrations and uploaded them to Photo Story 3 for windows. Then students told their stories on the film by narrating their photographs in the program. We created films and so did Deb Welner's fifth grade class. We scheduled a film fest to share and celebrate our films for this month. Students will be applying their summarizing and note-taking skills as they attend the film fest.

This project was fun and motivating for students to complete. It is taking much longer to complete than anticipated or planned for. So we just take it one day at a time! When students have free time and are finished with their other work then they can work on their film projects. Slowly but surely the will be finished and some might even get submitted to the film festival.
Visit our classroom blog for examples! They will be posted as they are completed:

Time For Kids

I don't know if anyone else uses TFK Magazine, but even if you don't subscribe to it in your classroom, the online version is really useful (and free). You can access current events stories, printable worksheets, graphic organizers, and quizzes. It's appropriate for grades 1-6 with magazines for each level. It also offers a kids' site and a teacher site. What I'd like to start doing is having the kids read the cover articles then blog about it. I did this last year and it was an effective way to help the students better remember what they're reading about, and it also increases engagement and comprehension. You can see past examples of this on my blog. You can access TFK online here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Earth Science Lessons

This week, I updated my class wiki: with some Earth Science lessons that integrated UnitedStreaming, CPS Clickers, and digital images to help me facilitate my Science Foss Kit on Landforms. The lessons seem to really help the students stay engaged and comprehend the concepts. Landforms can be difficult for students to understand, as most of the landforms we study are nowhere to be physically seen or explored near the school. Also, the demographics of these students are such that most have not seen the different types of landforms in person, and possible experiments are limited. I've found using technology (videos, images, interactive groupwork, etc.) have helped students to learn these concepts more easily and successfully.

Advantages of Technology in the Elementary Classroom

I recently came across a few excellent websites advocating for increased technology use in the elementary classroom. One, called Advantages of Technology in the Elementary Classroom, states a range of advantages: better engagement, higher motivation, more quality instructional material, communication and interaction, and application of real world skills. The article states that the "more students are motivated, the more likely they will be successful and engaged in their learnings." As the current push toward student engagement takes off, it seems logical that technology can be a great tool to assist teachers in this challenge. Also, technology gives educators the opportunity to expand their available instructional materials "beyond a teacher's wildest dreams." The wealth of great tools, research articles, applications, interactive activities, etc. available on the web can seem limitless, and most of it is free! I can't even imagine what a teacher 20, 30 years ago would think of the amount and availability of these. A third advantage to integrating technology is communication and collaboration. As this blog and individual school and classroom blogs show, the ability for students, teachers, administrators, parents, etc. to read, comment on, evaluate, and store schoolwork makes the learning process quick, easy, engaging, and cooperative. Lastly, the article states the technology help students become proficient in much-needed technology skills. The National Educational Technology Standards state the students must "live, learn, and work successfully in an increasingly complex and information-rich society, students must be able to use technology effectively." The workforce these students will enter will be much different than any we have seen yet. This rapidly-changing world presents a new set of skills that must be mastered to achieve success. It seems that more and more, schools, researchers, and all involved in the education process are starting to realize the importance and benefits of integrating technology into the classroom.


For the first time ever, I introduced my class (and myself) to blogging. We commented on blog's posted by another 5th grade class, and then my students were told they would be the next one's adding their own writing for the other class to comment on. My students loved reading the other students writing, and it was super powerful showing them that other 5th graders in the district were working on the same writing project as them. Once they were done commenting, they were busy at work trying to write the very best winter poems they could to post for the other class. The level of enthusiam and the quality of writing sky-rocketed since they knew their writing would be read by their peers. Now, every day they come in excited and ready to blog! What a great experience! As with the other technology I have experimented with, it was also extremely easy for me to implement in my classroom! Definately a win-win!

Summative Assessments

My 3rd grade class finished their summative assessments right before Thanksgiving break. They had to demonstrate that they understood: through technology, ocean exploration leads to discovery. They had the choice to create a book, poster, brochure, or PowerPoint. Most of them chose to make a PowerPoint. Overall, they turned out pretty good. They did fill out a graphic organizer to help guide their process. For only the second time using PowerPoint I was very happy with their success! Check out their presentations on my class blog:

Final Projects

At the end of December the students will be creating their 3rd project of the semester. They have become very good at using Photo Story, Publisher, and Power point. The students love making these projects and have begun to ask almost every day, “Are we using computers?” I believe the project tie all the content together and hopefully will help them remember the material better.

This project includes setting up proportions to find actual distance between 2 places on a map. They will map out a road trip where they stop at 5 different places. First they must measure in cm the distance between 2 cities. Then they will set up a proportion based on the scale given to them to find the distance in miles. After that they will research one city and write a paragraph on their research. Finally they will use proportions to find out how long their road trip will take them. The final goal is to make a project on the computers describing their road trip.

top 100 educational blogs

Hey all. Came across this the other day. Might be worth your while to check it out. The blog entry can be accessed by clicking here .

Thanks, Doug