Day 8 - Poetry Slammin' on the Clams

A few weeks ago, at the bottom of a vocabulary activity that came from our basal series, my students were asked to use several of their vocab words in a poem. Although I wasn't surprised they couldn't construct a poem very well, I was amazed at their inability to remember ever reading or hearing poems. I'm sure they did in the earlier grades, but it obviously hadn't made much of an impression.

Today we read a few poems about basketball from our basal. They were written by Charles R. Smith, Jr. and they contain lots of color, various sized fonts, and the placement of the words on the page stress the rhythms of the poems. After talking about how the poems made us feel, just looking at the word on the page, we took turns reading them out loud. The first few kids read with monotone voices, as if they were the most boring words they'd ever encountered! I then told them what a poetry slam was. They looked at me with raised eyebrows and a few snickers. So I took the plunge and read one of the poems in the funkiest, hip-hop, basketball-playin' style I could! They LOVED it! My only regret is that I didn't start the video camera rolling right then! Every hand in the room went up. They wanted to give a shot at slamming the poems! We laughed and clapped - it was great!

So, to incorporate our Clams, while the excitement was palpable in the room, we brainstormed things we thought we could write neat poems about. The kids brainstormed and sketched out their ideas the old fashioned way (with paper and pencil), and then opened up Smart Notebook on their Clams. I thought this application would be the easiest tool to use because you can write in many different colors and sizes, AND easily make your word boxes slanted, vertical, or flow in any other direction. It would also allow the kids to draw an image or insert a photograph to accompany their poetry.

What occurred over the next hour was amazing! Splashes of color, words in caps for emphasis, shapes made out of words, hand-drawn pictures, and even some photos (which we learned how to properly credit) filled their screens! Tomorrow we'll finish them and I'll post a link so you can be as amazed as I am!

Who knew poetry could be such fun?! Maybe we'll even hold a Cove Poetry Slam and post our video! Stay tuned!
[caption id="attachment_240" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Poetry Slam at the Cove!"]Poetry Slam at the Cove![/caption]
Photo Credit: Jefferson College Library's photostream via Flickr

Day 7 Ignoring the Inner Critic

Any teacher reading this blog knows what I mean when I say I am constantly feeling inadequate in what I'm doing in my classroom. We tend to read blogs of great teachers doing great things and think, "man, and what have my kids done this week?".

I have especially felt this way over the past week and a half. Although we have the laptops now, we have had to take up several HOURS completing quarterly multiple choice assessments in math and reading, as well as a pencil and paper "on-demand" writing assessment (which, by the way, we will have to assess and file on our own time).

Anyway, I kept thinking, wow, my kids and I haven't accomplished very much since we've gotten the laptops. But then, as I watched them working today I began to make a list of the foundational skills they have learned. Although these skills by themselves don't produce a wonderful, awe-inspiring project, they are necessary as the foundation of what we will be doing over the next 3 quarters.

Here's my list. My kids can now:
1. Open and create a document in Microsoft Word
2. Open and create a presentation in Microsoft PowerPoint
3. Open and create a product using Microsoft Publisher
4. Login to their school email
5. Send an email to someone in our district contact list
6. Attach a document to an email
7. Save to the common folder on our server
8. Save to their Home folder on our server
9. Open something I've saved to the common folder
10. Effectively use our class wiki to find today's jobs, homework assignments, and today's blog post
11. Comment on a blog post
12. Comment on someone else's comment on the blog post
13. Login to Google Docs
14. Submit a form using Google Docs
15. Use the Cove Studies links on our class wiki to spend free time wisely
16. Print documents to our classroom printer (which is not set as the default printer at this time)
17. Toggle between two or more open tabs to complete an assignment
18. Attain their certificate in Internet safety and print it for our wall of fame

That's 18 different skills they didn't know seven days ago, so I guess that's pretty good! I realized how impressive they're really working when 10 teachers came to my room today for an RSS workshop. Yikes! We teachers don't learn half as fast as our kids! Love ya, teachers!
kids sign
Photo Credit: KingdomCatHearts' photostream via Flickr

Day 5 - Biggest Lesson Learned So Far

Time is the enemy! There are so many things I'd like the kids to do using our laptops, but I've got to pull back a little. It takes them much longer to complete tasks than I plan. Much of this is getting used to the technology and using it various ways. For example today they were to complete their grammar exercises in a Word document and attach it to an email to me. Well, in getting it ready as an attachment, they had to first save it to their "Home Folder" (my documents). Yes, there were easier ways to do this (including using google docs which could have just been shared with me or saving to the common folder where I could get their assignment), but I wanted them to practice creating an attachment to an email. So.... what would normally be a brief exercise turned into a major accomplishment when completed.
I have to really work on the time factor when planning my activities!
time running out
Photo Credit: Ben Sutherland's photostream via Flickr

Day 4 - Recess vs Name Tags

Technology not motivational? Yeah, right!
Because I will be registering my students on many Web 2.0 sites this year, I asked them to each make up a "Cove Name". This is a made up user name they will use on these sites to add one more bit of protection. They all chose a name (unfortunately "Playboy Bunny" and "Kurt Busch" had to pick again! Oi!) Well, two of my motivated students thought that many of their classmates might forget their Cove names, so name badges should be created! These two entrepreneurs asked to stay in from recess to create the badges. By the time I came in with the others, they had them created, printed, and cut up "to be laminated"! The story doesn't end here. This weekend I got an email from one of them through our new Gaggle email accounts. This what he wrote:

"Mrs.Collazo we do need clips or anyting we can attach the id's.That would be god.Follow up and thats it."

[caption id="attachment_226" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Name Badges at the Cove? Cool idea!"]Name Badges at the Cove? Cool idea![/caption]
Photo Credit: jjreade's photostream via Flickr

How Quickly Things Change!

Today's funny story came when I announced to the kids that we would have to put our Clams aside and take the county's quarterly reading assessment. This assessment basically is made up of a lengthy booklet of reading passages with multiple choice questions, and a bubble sheet. So I told the kids to clear everything but their pencils from the table. An audible GASP was heard, and one brave student complained, "You mean we have to use our pencils?" How quickly they make the transition. One bit of good news is that our county has given us permission to pilot the state-wide writing test on our laptops! Should be interesting!

I've come to realize that early societal training has our kids very dependent on having the teacher spoon-feed them everything. And God forbid they actually read directions to figure something out! For some I think it is a long-entrenched fear of being wrong (sad). For others it's pure laziness (maybe not politically correct to say, but often true). I told the kids one of our main goals this year is for each of them to become independent learners/problem solvers - to own their own learning.

So today I had the kids use a sign template in Microsoft Publisher. They were told they were being hired by a new zoo to create signs for the exhibits of "wild creatures" coming to the zoo. The "wild creatures" of course, were the ones they created yesterday at the Build Your Wild Self site. The only directions (you can see them here under the Oct. 21st Science section) were provided for them on a half sheet of paper (step by painstaking step, might I add!).

I made a huge deal about being so excited to see who could figure out this job on their own, or by asking those around them to help them out. By golly (as my Grandpa used to say) they did it! They worked together (after some initial whining that it was too hard) to help each other figure it out! The only assistance I would give was to tell them which step they should refocus on. Before we knew it, it was time for specials and the time spent saving to the common folder was half of what it was yesterday! They are quick learners! Stay tuned for the link to visit our zoo! And might I warn you, keep your fingers out of the cages!
[caption id="attachment_222" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Yikes!"]Yikes![/caption]
Photo Credit: ingelisesoerensen' s photostream via Flickr

Day 2 Where the Wild Things Are!

Today was another building block day (and a day to work out a few more glitches)! We started the day learning about blogs and what it means to comment on someone's blog post. Every morning to get us settled, the kids will be replying to a post on our class blog. Today's was about the field trip we took yesterday. Although you wouldn't know it from the spelling in their comments, they actually asked for dictionaries! (Hey, I was just impressed that they asked!) Tomorrow we'll look at the rubric I will use to assess the comments (mainly looking for addressing the prompt, including detail, and using capitalization, punctuation, and other grammar items we're working on). We'll also take a look at some of the comments and talk about them together! The kids really enjoyed this!

Then we looked at "Today's Jobs" - a new section I've added to our wiki mainly to keep ME organized! It includes all of our activities for the day including any links we'll be using (hopefully a time-saver).

We spent the majority of our language arts time visiting Disney's Surf Swell Island to begin to learn and apply Internet safety. The kids kept some hand written notes as they traveled through the site for an activity we'll do tomorrow as a follow-up.

Math time went very well again. We spent most of our time working together at the Smartboard reviewing telling time (which they continue to struggle with - can't the world just go with digital clocks?!). They enjoyed the interactive practice and then really loved opening their Clams to try some independent practice at two cool sites!

Finally, our day finished on a very fun note! Thanks to a tweet from my PLN last night, I found out about the New York Zoos and Aquarium's "Build Yourself Wild" site! Although ultra fun, it also goes right along with our unit (and field trip) on animal adaptations. The kids created themselves as unique wild critters. The really cool part will come tomorrow. At the bottom of their picture, the site provides facts about the body parts they chose and what adaptation they are used for in "real life". We will use the pictures and facts as a springboard for a narrative writing assignment.

By the looks of things, we're a pretty wild group!
[caption id="attachment_218" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="The asked for dictionaries?"]The asked for dictionaries?[/caption]

Day 1: Like they were born with them in their hands!

Well, today was our first day with our Clams! The kids were so excited and I have to admit, I was a bit nervous.

We began with the basics like how to carry them, how to open them, how to start them up, and then... it was like a rocket took off! I don't know why I thought they might have trouble with the smaller screen size, or why I thought they'd struggle with the mouse pad with divided mouse buttons! It was as if they had held these little gems in their hands all their lives!
[caption id="attachment_212" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Happy with Clams!"]Happy with Clams![/caption]

Remembering all the advice of my PLN, I just let them PLAY! They tried out Google Earth to see how it would look on their little screens. "Cool - look there's my house!" They took an AR test sitting at their own seat - wow what a luxury (not something I would have picked during "play" time, but who am I to say what's fun?!). They got on Funbrain and headed straight for Poptropica (Great mouse pad practice I tried to convince myself!). Some went straight to their Home folders on the school server to work more on a Powerpoint they had started in computer lab. "Awesome, we can work on it here when we have extra time!"
[caption id="attachment_213" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Filling in a Google Form Quiz"]Filling in a Google Form Quiz[/caption]

A whole new world opened up! Then, my happiest moment! We tried our first Google Form! We had just finished reading Sign of the Beaver last Friday, and I decided to create a Google form with some open response assessment questions. I embedded the "test" on our class website, showed them where it was, and they were off! They typed and typed and typed! I had to finally put a time limit on the task, or they'd still be here adding more! And then, gasp!, when I told them that when they hit the "submit" button their answers would go straight to my computer? "Cool, Mrs. C! Wait until you read my answers!" Not something I typically heard when they were finishing up paper and pencil assessments.
[caption id="attachment_214" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Don\'t want to stop!"]Don't want to stop![/caption]

Math class was wonderful! I had created a Smartboard lesson (on our website in the math section) to introduce and go over the coordinate grid and ordered pairs. The kids had fun coming up to move "Little Sally" around the grid, naming the coordinates as we went. Then, without a second of delay, they opened their Clams, went to our class site (which will be the hub of all of our activities) and practiced using their new coordinate grid knowledge to play "Whack the Mole", and "Billy Bug and his Grub". Was it fun? You bet! Were they learning? Absolutely! Did they know it was math class? I doubt it!

The Clams Are HERE!

Hard to believe, THE DREAM, my hope for a 1:1 initiative actually comes true tomorrow! The Clams are in my room charging as I type. No, Clam is not some fancy acronym. Since my students, parents, and I refer to my classroom as Collazo Cove, I figured calling them clams would be appropriate. I mean, after all, they open like one, right? Plus it will be fun for the kids to use that term when referring to their brand-spanking new HP 1101 netbooks!
[caption id="attachment_205" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="HP 1101 Mini"]HP 1101 Mini[/caption]

I would be remiss if I didn't thank Mr. Moore, my principal, for allowing me to come back home to Ingram and his faith in my dream; Mrs. Johnson, our county technology director, for her continued support as I've begged for this project over the past 6 years; my superintendent, Dr. Moss, for meeting with me to hear my ideas and then making the plan work; and finally to my great friend and colleague, Danita Russell (one of the best Instructional Tech Facilitators you'll ever meet) for taking my phone calls at all hours and continually keeping me grounded! Here's to proving what kids can do when you give them the tools!

So, the adventure starts tomorrow! My goal is to blog (at least a few sentences) every day about what we are doing in our room as we incorporate our netbooks into our learning. Hope you'll join us often for the ride!