Skyping For Math Strategies!

As I said in my last blog post, my kids continue to struggle with some of their multiplication facts, which causes problems as we move on to higher levels of math.  So it was timely that my Principal mentioned a finger calculator another teacher was instructing her kids to use at a neighboring elementary school.  He had heard about it at his weekly Principal’s meeting and immediately called the teacher to see if our classes could Skype with each other!

Following several emails and discussions about borrowing a webcam on their end, Mrs. T’s class and my class Skyped.  They were able to teach us about this wonderful tool they were using to ease the problem of memorizing the difficult multiplication facts, those pesky 6’s, 7’s, and 8’s.

My kids were thrilled!  First to “see” and share ideas with other kids from across the county, and second to add another tool to their multiplication toolbox!  Mrs. T’s kids were great!  After showing us the basic concept (she had even written the numbers on her fingers for us!), Mrs. T let her kids solve problems, holding up their hands in front of the camera, that my kids called out as being difficult.  It was a wonderful interaction!  And, what a great tool; one that you will always have with you in a jam (or on the NC End of Grade tests).

Directly after the Skype session my kids had to take our county’s quarterly math assessment.  It was fantastic to see them applying the skills the other class had just shared!  Many of them talked to me at break time a while later about how it had helped them right away.  As Mrs. T stated in our Skype session, the finger calculator is not meant to replace memorization, but as the kids use it more and more, hopefully they will just begin to remember the correct answers.

I created a visual with the finger calculator rules to post on the Math Wall in our room, so my kids will always remember how to use it.  Below you can see what they taught us!  We’ve also decided to Skype with each other throughout the year on other topics!  Isn’t collaborating in the digital age fun?!

[caption id="attachment_480" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Using Your Finger Calculator"][/caption]

Cross Blogged at Ignite!Learning

Zooburst in Math!

I don’t know about your kids, but my 5th graders still struggle with many of their multiplication facts!  Yes, they have strategies to figure them out, mainly repetitive adding (using their fingers, no doubt), but that takes a long time!  And when you are working on a long division problem strategies like that could take hours, say nothing about the additional pressure if you’re working on a timed standardized test!

The kids have had some success with catchy songs they learned in the lower grades, but still continue to struggle, especially with those tricky 6, 7, and 8’s!  Remembering the old proverb that when you teach you learn, I decided to have the kids make up their own multiplication mastery tool.

Sometimes a web tool comes along, and I think, “Oh that is adorable!  How could I use this to help my kids master a part of the curriculum or motivate their love of learning in a meaningful way?”  Zooburst was one of those tools.  Zooburst is a wonderful web application that allows you to create unique digital 3D pop-up books.  So I decided to have my kids create catchy rhyming poems using their most troubling multiplication fact group, and turn them into digital pop-up books.

I learned several things during this process.  One is that many of my kids didn’t understand rhyme patterns, and how to create them.  I started the project by creating my own poem using the 3’s.  The kids were told they had to follow the same pattern I had throughout their own poems.  For example, each line had to start with the fact and end with a rhyming image.  Like, “3 x 2 is 6, go pick up those sticks!”  After we read through my entire poem so they could get the hang of the pattern rule, I showed them a 3D book I had started in Zooburst to go with my poem.  By doing this they would see the end product they were aiming for.  They would better understand that while creating their poem, they would need to be thinking about how they could display the content using objects in the book.

Well, their interest was certainly piqued!  Their first step was to create their poem using Microsoft Word.  They then saved their poems into their Math Home folders on our school’s server (just in case!) and transferred them to my computer using our new Smart Sync software.  Smooth as silk!  I was able to review their poems almost immediately and send a personal message to their computer screen (using Sync) that they were good to go, or that they needed to make a few changes first.  Several were asked to come to my table so we could work together on the rhymes.  I just took for granted that 5th graders knew how to rhyme!  Who knew?

Following the poem “go ahead”, they were free to create wonderful 3D books of their poems.  The free version of Zooburst allows you to create 10 books (simultaneously) per account.  So, because I have 20 students, I created several accounts using our class Gmail account.  After seeing how wonderfully Zooburst works (absolutely no gliches or losses of data), we might just invest in their Premium version which allows teachers to manage entire classes of kids.

Some of the books are hysterically clever!  I am hoping that because they had to write the poem and then choose characters and objects to “act out” the phrases in their books, they might just picture their nutty creation next time they get stuck on 8 x 7 or 7 x 6!  We’ll see!  Zooburst also allows you to share (email or embed, or add to the Zooburst gallery) your books when you’re finished, so you can check out all the kids’ books which have been completed and embedded on our wiki!  Lots of fun!

[caption id="attachment_477" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="From Ciara's Book "Ciara Sevens""][/caption]

First Experience with School Fusion Blog

This year our entire county is using School Fusion for our school and teacher websites.  Although I still love my wiki and will continue to use it as the starting point inside my classroom every day, I am really beginning to like our new School Fusion site.

One of the things we tried for the very first time this week was the Discussion Post.  All of my students are members of my site and are able to comment on discussion posts that I create (parents will be able to register and become members soon as well).  Students are provided a color animal code name to protect their identities.

The really neat thing about School Fusion's program is that I can award students certain medals for their comments.  For example I can award a lightbulb to a student who has left an insightful comment, or a hammer to a student who has built onto the conversation and been constructive.  Anyone who visits the blog can see the awards I've given each comment, and the awards are tallied in the student's membership page.  I think this will be a great way to have the students learn about being positive member of digital conversations!

I've decided I will post a new discussion each week, and the kids will have a week to interact on the site about it.  This week, since we are studying landforms, erosion, and weathering, I chose a picture of a cliff dwelling to spark the conversation.  Taking a GREAT idea from my Twitter PLN (sorry, I can't remember who it was!) I asked the kids to include in their comments on the post, 2 inferences, 2 questions, and 2 predictions they had as they analyzed the picture.  What a treasure chest of comments I've received this week.  I'm smiling just thinking about it!  Please check it out and visit often to see the neat ideas and discussion these kids come up with!

Sites From Today's Surfing! (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Year 2 Day 29 Minor Change

It's funny how I can never be totally satisfied with the way the classroom is running.  I guess this is true of most educators.  We are constantly tweaking things here and there to make the day run a little more smoothly.  One minor change that I made starting today was to flip my math and language arts blocks.

I had always held language arts first thing in the morning, but continually ran into the math block to finish things we needed to get accomplished.  I don't know if it is because the activities I plan for language arts take more thinking time, creating time, or if the kids just take their time, but it wasn't working!

Especially because we take break with the other fifth grade classes for socialization purposes, the first block is shorter. So today we completed our math activities during that time, and had a nice long block to work on reading and integrated science.  Much better!

Today's challenge was again related to my much-lamented irritation that the kids are not yet independent problem solvers.  One of their tasks today was to use their Smart Notebook SE software to create a vocabulary activity that could be shared with the class later in the week.  We began by looking at many of the Smart Notebook Activity Toolkit options (of which there are many cool ones!) and talking about how we would choose only those that would be good to help us practice our new landforms vocabulary. Then it was create time.  Well, within 2 minutes of "trying" hands were flying up and groaning could be heard.  They wanted me to spoon feed them the software rather than trying to get it on their own.

This is not going to happen. We talk all the time in my room about becoming independent problem solvers, and how important it is to work things out the best we can without having to continually ask for help.

I guess we'll need to keep working on this skill....

[caption id="attachment_471" align="alignnone" width="225" caption="Questions, Questions!"][/caption]

Photo Credit:

Sites From Today's Surfing! (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Jumping off the Dock!

This summer, as I spent WAY too many days reading every minute's new posts from my PLN on Twitter, attending WAY too many online conferences, and dreaming, hoping, planning for the upcoming school year, I made a vow to myself they I would try to blog every day when school started.  Even if it was just a little tidbit about an encounter I had or revelation of one of my students.  Even if it didn't pertain to our 1:1 laptop program, or web 2.0 tool, or something Earth-shattering!

Well, here I sit, 5 weeks into the first quarter, drowning in guilt! How could I go 5 weeks with my wonderful class of 5th graders (whom I adore, so I begged to move up with them), 20 laptops working almost non-stop throughout the day, a classroom cottage set up in the best  arrangement I can remember in the past 20 years of teaching, and not have blogged ONCE?!  Not ONCE!

Not only that, I was asked to join the Ignite!Learning Blog team over the summer, a wonderfully exciting opportunity, and still here I sit, posting my first blog.  So I figure my therapy will be to lay out all the excuses so I can get over them, rid myself of the guilt, and move forward on that vow.

Excuse #1 - I did move from 4th grade to 5th grade, so although I taught 5th grade for 7 years 5 years ago, I am having to refresh my understanding of the NC curriculum.  And as all educators know, that takes some time!

Excuse #2 - We are in our second pilot year of carrying out the 1:1 netbook initiative, and although I have the same students I had last year, finding resources, rethinking how to teach, and planning takes TIME!  Lots of time!

Excuse #3 - Assessment in the digital age is different!  With my students creating content, as opposed to completing stacks of worksheets, which can, quite honestly, be graded while watching my sons' baseball games, assessing take more time!  A LOT more time!

Excuse #4 - My 3 sons!  Okay, so my oldest graduated last year, so I don't have his ballgames to watch anymore (sigh!), I do have two other year-round baseball nuts!  With practices, games, and the other "running around" and laundry that goes with teenaged boys, I have LESS TIME.  A LOT less time!

Excuse #5 - Oh yeah, and I have a wonderful husband.  And although he is very patient, I'm sure he is beginning to think that my netbook is attached to my fingers.  Not always a productive way to grow a strong marriage!

Whew!  I'm feeling better already.  The excuses are laid out, and as you all know there are about a hundred more that could fill this post.  So, my new plan? Hmmm, what's the new plan?  Well, to be honest, I'm going to try to blog as soon as I get back to my classroom from taking the kids to the bus at 2:30.  Everything from the day will still be fresh, and ALL those other "things" will just have to wait.  I feel better when I blog.  It gives me a chance to reflect, share, and refocus on how I can make tomorrow's lessons even better.

So, thank you for reading my rant.  My kids have done some fantastic things the past 5 weeks, so I will be blogging about each week's adventures.  Luckily, I have been working very hard to keep our Collazo Cove wiki, which guides our daily journey together, updated and full of the links we've been using.  So until I can post what we've been up to the last 5 weeks at the Cove, you can always peek at the wiki!

Feels good to be back!

Photo Credit:

Sites From Today's Surfing! (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sites From Today's Surfing! (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sites From Today's Surfing! (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sites From Today's Surfing! (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sites From Today's Surfing! (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sites From Today's Surfing! (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sites From Today's Surfing! 07/23/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sites From Today's Surfing! 07/22/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Points of Interest While Reading Kohn

The second book I devoured this summer was Alfie Kohn's The Schools Our Children Deserve. It really challenged my thinking.  Although I had always thought of myself as a moderate constructivist, this book gave me pause to think about a lot of the things I still do with my students!

Here are my "sticky-note" sections:

  • A preoccupation with achievement is not only different from, but often detrimental to, a focus on learning. (21)

  • Meaningful learning does not proceed along a single dimension in such a way that we can nail down the extent of improvement.  Measurable outcomes may be the least significant results of learning. (75)

  • At best, high test scores for a given school or district are probably meaningless; at worst, they're actually bad news because of the kind of teaching that was done to produce those scores. (91)

  • A serious disservice is done to students when they are led to become so preoccupied with how well they're doing that they end up becoming less engaged with what they're doing. (123)

  • The evidence suggests that, all things being equal, students in a school that uses no letters or numbers to rate them will be more likely to think deeply, love learning, and tackle more challenging tasks. (189)

  • The best way to judge schools is by visiting them and looking for evidence of learning and interest in learning.

  • A relatively short period of introducing students to the content and format of the tests may be sufficient to produce scores equivalent to those obtained by students who have spent the entire year in a test-prep curriculum.

I love the way Alfie Kohn gives permission for readers to copy and hand out chapter 4 "Getting Evaluation Wrong: The Case Against Standardized Testing".

Wonder if I'd still have my job in August?

[caption id="attachment_361" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Photo via"]Photo via[/caption]

Favorite Parts of Disrupting Class

The first summer read I picked up was Disrupting Class by Clayton M. Christensen.

[caption id="attachment_356" align="aligncenter" width="205" caption="Disrupting Class by Christensen"]Disrupting Class by Christensen[/caption]

Here are some of my favorite "sticky note" ideas from the book (pages I just had to put a sticky note on - a strategy my students use to share their favorite parts of books during the school year):

  • "Motivation is the catalyzing ingredient for every successful innovation.  The same is true for learning." p. 7

  • "The students who succeed in schools do so largely because their intelligence happens to match the dominant paradigm in use in a particular classroom - or somehow they have found ways to adapt to it." p. 35

  • How might schools start down the path toward "student-centric classrooms?  Computer-based learning! "Student-centric learning opens the door for students to learn in ways that match their intelligence types in the places and at the paces the prefer by combining content in customized sequences." p. 38

  • "Larry Cuban...reports that in early-grade elementary school classrooms, computers serve to sustain the traditional early childhood school model.  Computers have become just another activity center for children that they can opt to use in the course of the day."  He then goes on to talk about the popular drill and practice games that are often played during this computer time commenting that, "As such, computers add cost while failing to revolutionize the classroom experience." pgs. 81/82

  • Interesting view, although I'm not sure I agree: "Because student-centric technology allows for far more personalized attention from a teacher, we can do something counterintuitive in education - increase the number of students per live teacher.  Facilitatating this disruption of instruction has the potential to break the expensive trade-offs in which  school districts have been trapped so that individual teachers can do a better job and give individual attention to more students.  As a result, there potentially will be more funds to pay teachers better." p. 107

  • In discussing how the age of high-stakes assessment (like the evolution of inspection in industry) has changed a teacher's job, Christensen states that " least 80% of the typical teacher's time is now spent in monolithic activity - preparing to teach, actually teaching, and testing an entire class.  Far less than 20% is available to help students individually." However when we teach through student-centric online technology, whole group, end of unit exams are not necessary.  "...assessment and individualized assistance can be interactively and interdependently woven into the content-delivery stage, rather than tacked on as a test at then end of the process." p. 111

  • After mentioning how powerful teachers unions and textbook companies often squash school reform efforts, Christensen states, "...when disruptive innovators begin forming user networks through which professionals and amateurs - students, parents, and teachers - circumvent the existing value chain and instead market their products directly to each other... the balance of power in education will shift." p. 142

Great read, energizing and vindicating!

Summer Recharge

My husband calls it a teaching addiction. I refer to it as a learning addiction! Why is it, after looking forward to summer break for two (sometimes more!) straight months, we can't stop thinking about our classrooms and our students!

My friends and family think I'm nuts, but I (as well as many other educators) get recharged over the summer by attending workshops, conferences, and reading those most-talked-about books that we just didn't get to read during the school year. I'm not talking about the newest Jodi Picoult or Nicholas Sparks. I ran straight to the public library and checked out Christensen's Disrupting Class, Kohn's The Schools Our Children Deserve, and Covey's The Leader in Me. Yes, I am feeling the recharge coming on!

[caption id="attachment_352" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Kohn\'s book about moving beyond traditional classrooms"]Kohn's book about moving beyond traditional classrooms[/caption]

Day 2 of Laura Candler: Dynamic Duo Math

Another great day with Laura Candler. Today we learned about how the Mastery Learning Model and Cooperative Problem Solving can really make a difference in how children understand and master math concepts. Here are my notes using Cover It Live:


The Dynamic Duo - Putting the Punch in Math Instruction


Math Part 2

Innovative Approaches to Literacy by Laura Candler

Click here to view my Cover It Live notes from today's Literacy Workshop with Laura Candler:

Innovative Approaches to Literacy Instruction

Put the Experts in Charge

The evening of June 7th 2010 was wonderful! The Cove Kids and I had decided to put on our 1st Annual Technology Showcase in the school's media center. Weeks earlier we sent out invitations to parents, school board members, central office staff, community business leaders, the newspaper, and other people with a stake in our 1:1 pilot project.

Technology Showcase Invitation

The kids were so excited! They had each chosen a web 2.0 tool they had used throughout the year to enhance their learning. We decided to set up the showcase so visitors could sit down a few minutes with each of the Cove Kids and watch a quick demo of their favorite app. The kids practiced what they would say while we were in the classroom that week, including making sure the visitors knew how "other teachers" could use this in their classrooms. My kids are all about spreading the project to other classrooms and have really become great advocates!

We had a practice run through the morning of the 7th. Another 4th grade class took time out of their day to visit our "dress rehearsal" in the media center. Everything went great and we had many requests for a listing of the sites we were sharing. That group, coincidentally, had computer lab time that afternoon and spent it trying out some of our shared sites!

The evening came, and the kids looked great! They all wore their nicest clothes and sat down at their laptops to proudly present their work. Wow, it was energizing! We had many guests including parents, grandparents, friends, teachers from various grade levels around the district, our Superintendent and Director of Technology, and the local paper sent a reporter and photographer (the next day we made the front page!).

The kids were fantastic! They shared, demonstrated, answered questions, provided opportunities for the guests to "give it a try", and impressed the heck out of all of us! I was so proud. I think the thing that caught my attention the most was the fact that my kids were so confident in themselves. Many guests mentioned this as well. They knew that they knew what they knew!

Definitely have to take them on the road next year and turn them loose at a conference or two! Check out this video which documents the joy of sharing that occurred that night!

1st Annual Cove Technology Showcase

"I can't wait 'till the EOG's!"

Something happened today that has never happened to me in the 19 years I've been teaching. And, after organizing our classroom into what we've called, "The Six Week Scramble", I think that is the very reason! On three different occasions today, without hearing each other, three of my students made a statement about how ready he/she feels for the End of Grade tests. For those of you not from North Carolina, these are the holy grail assessments of our state. Kids, teachers, and administrators live and die by these assessments every May.

Needless to say, I was overwhelmed and thrilled! Much of the research I've read supports the idea that half the battle in getting kids to be successful is in helping them feel positive about their academic abilities. Well, if nothing else, our "Six Week Scramble" has helped with this. Today I heard, "Mrs. C. I can't wait to take the EOG's!", "Mrs. C., I'm so smart I think the EOG's will be easy!", and "Mrs. C. I wish the EOG was tomorrow!" I'm serious!

As I wrote in an earlier post, in an effort to continue using our netbooks as a tool to accomplish what we need to in our learning, I restructured our schedule and routine into 20 minute reefs (centers). Not only has this made our review activities less monotonous and boring, it supports current brain research. Our language arts reefs have included many things! One constant is our literature circle reef. We have had such fun reading books in small groups! We start the reef every day with the kids taking a 5 question quick quiz using Quia on their netbooks, which they LOVE! I also love it because it only takes me a few minutes to throw a quiz together and then Quia grades it for me! Hooray! If you haven't tried Quia, you need to!! The other reefs include activities out of various EOG review booklets (but hey, 20 minutes at a time is manageable). We also use Classscape, Pearsonsuccessnet, Spellingcity, and other great sites to learn and review many reading, grammar, and spelling concepts. The kids have also used Wordle, our Blog, and PowerPoint to create projects associated with our review. It's been very fun to plan, and the kids LOVE the change every 20 minutes. Math has been very similar! You can check out what our days have looked like by visiting the "Today's Jobs" section of our website!

I was worried at first that the kids would rush to finish things in the 20 minutes just to get done. So I made a laminated poster for each of them with their name on it. Every time they score a 100 on any of our activities (and there are 8 opportunities each day in reading and math combined), they get to put a sticker on their poster. We dole out stickers every 3 days or so. Those kids with 30 or more stickers at the end of the scramble will be invited to a pizza party. Yes, I know, there are mixed feelings about this type of "extrinsic reward", but practicing for a high stakes, multiple choice test is not fun, and if it motivates them to work hard, I'll do it. Think of the things we do for the scanty bonuses (or in our world "stipends") offered! Since adding this component to our scramble, the kids have worked harder, are understanding more, and scores are continually rising! Hence, the unbelievable amount of self-confidence I've seen this week, our 4th week of the scramble!

Each day our daily schedule also includes 1/2 hour of whole group time in reading and math. During these times we go over "most missed" problems on yesterday's "jobs" and have great discussions about the vocabulary of the tests. This has been a vital part of our review, and the amount of questions from missed problems is decreasing. Now, whether this will translate into higher test scores I don't know, but it has been worth all of the evening grading just to have my kids feel smart and on top of the material!

Never thought I'd say this but, I can't wait 'till the EOG's!

[caption id="attachment_335" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Comfort in Learning!"]Comfort in Learning![/caption]

Day 91 Trying Out Reading Plus

Our literacy coach sent out an email recently asking for volunteers to try out a new web based silent reading program designed to help students develop better fluency and comprehension skills. Several of my kids immediately came to mind, and since we have the netbooks, I saw this as a great opportunity for the Cove! I submitted 5 names for the trial study, and Mrs. Evans quickly got them set up and registered.

The program is called Reading Plus, and is the only subscription based program we have used this year. We are part of the pilot, as our county is considering a purchase for next year. At first my kids were a bit hesitant. However by day 3 of using it, they are hooked! The program is very engaging. After logging in with a unique password, the kids "warm up" by participating in some tracking activities in which they must count digits and letters which flash on the screen in a left to right sequence. Another activity involves having them read a story which appears line by line in a rectangular box across the middle of the screen. A blue bar slides automatically from left to right covering the words as they go. The kids are then given comprehension questions pertaining to the story. The better they do, the faster the blue bar slides on the next story. The program lets them know how quickly (wpm) they are reading and how accurately they are comprehending the material. They LOVE it! It is fast paced with short stories and motivational feedback. They are often given the message, "You're doing great! Keep up the good work!" There are also audio components to the program which is always motivating to my kids. Since we are able to take our netbooks home now, the kids can have fun learning to be better readers at home as well! These five dedicated kids will be working with this program for 20-30 minutes a day, and we are hoping to see great improvement in their reading abilities. I'll let you know the results!

[caption id="attachment_331" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Reading Plus Program"]Reading Plus Program[/caption]

Day 92 Heading for the Reefs to Help the Rubber Meet the Road

A couple months ago I met with my Principal to talk about how the 1:1 program was going. I shared many of the really cool Web 2.0 things my kids had been doing, their wiki, their animated comic books, their blog posts, and lots of others that are linked on our site. He was very pleased and complimentary. But, as always happens in the offices of educators in North Carolina, the topic of the End of Grade tests came up. Now, my Principal is extremely supportive of all we are doing, but is wise enough to know that funding for expanding and continuing this wonderful world of 1:1 relies on the revered test scores. There are many blog posts which accurately describe the hatred teachers have for standardized testing and the negative impact it is having on education today, but as my Principal so accurately shared with me, it continues to be "where the rubber meets the road"; like it or not.

So, in an effort to "prepare" my kids as well as possible without boring them to death, I've decided to go full force with our Reefs. Basically this is Cove talk for centers. At each reef the kids will spend 20 minutes engaged in an activity which will help them review the content we have studied this year, practice the testing vocabulary, and get them ready for the big days in May. Each of our tables will function as a reef. As every good teacher knows, half the battle of using centers in the classroom lies in the transitions! So today we practiced moving from reef to reef. This can be a little trickier when you are taking your netbook with you safely! But as Ron Clark shares in his books, practicing the routines for anything you want to go smoothly with kids is essential. So we spent 15 minutes at the end of our day today hearing the timer ding, picking up our materials, and moving to the next reef without noise. Practice went well, we'll see if reality follows.

We also had a wonderful PBS (Positive Behavior Support) speaker come in and talk to our staff this week. He stressed the importance of including visual cues in your classroom to assist students in knowing what to do throughout the day. I have created lots of posters which describe the reefs, and also included lots of opportunities for good behavior support which will hopefully encourage on task behavior. We'll see how it all works out starting Monday!

[caption id="attachment_325" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Heading to the Reefs"]Heading to the Reefs[/caption]
Picture Credit -

Day 48 A Smile and A Laugh

After studying the vocabulary words from Jack and the Beanstalk, and using many of them (without being asked, by the way) in our virtual comic strips, it was time to make sure we had mastered them! I am really loving Google Forms for simple quizzes! I created our vocab test using the drop down option so the kids could read the definition and had to choose from four choices on the drop down menu. I embedded the form right on our website on Today's Jobs. The kids worked at their own pace through the quiz and then clicked "submit" and viola, their answers appeared in my spreadsheet. From there it was easy to pick out the incorrect answers and record the grades. Since there weren't many incorrect answers (yippie!) I will probably "share" this spreadsheet and the kids can go check out their grade using our class Google account.

Most of the students have now finished their virtual "comics" using the template planning sheet for Jack and the Beanstalk. They are adorable! Yes, some are better than others, but the cleverness is in the details! Make sure you stop by The Cove Bookshelf on our website where we house books and stories we've written, you won't be disappointed! If you don't have much time, make sure you click on these in particular! Jack and the Beanstalk meets 21st century digital native: Calvin's Part 1 and 2, Jamie's, Calizia's, Jasmine L's, Brandon's Part 1 and 2, or Whitney's. You'll get a chuckle, I guarantee!
[caption id="attachment_319" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Baby give me my harp."]Baby give me my harp.[/caption]

Day 46 Did You Know You Had A Refresh Button?

Today was another one of those days that I beg my Principal to allow me to loop to 5th grade with these kids! (Seriously, I sent him an email begging - again!)
So we were beginning our math class and I had decided we needed another good dose of review working with two digit by two digit multiplication. As I handed out the five problems I wanted the kids to complete as a warm-up, and we were talking about how we'd have to dig way back in our memory banks to remember how to complete them, I hear from Joey, "Yeah, Mrs. C., it's like pressing the refresh button in our brain!"
Wow! Loving my Digital Natives!
[caption id="attachment_311" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="\"...the refresh button in our brain!\""]"...the refresh button in our brain!"[/caption]
Photo Credit: Bulubula's Photostream via Flickr

Day 45 When Did Jack Do THAT?!

Today we continued our reading/listening/planning activities with Jack and the Beanstalk. To model what I thought were some of the important events in the story without coming right out and telling them, "I think you should include this...", I decided to create a PowerPoint slide with the numbers 1-8 down the left side and 8 events on the right side. I created each event in its own textbox so the kids would be able to drag and drop each one into a new position, and of course, mixed them up well before sending it to them.
When they went to Today's Jobs, they were told a new assignment awaited them in their Edmodo account. Here's what they saw when they got there:
[caption id="attachment_306" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Day 45 Edmodo Directions"]Day 45 Edmodo Directions[/caption]
I love Edmodo's Assignment tool because once the kids complete the activity, all they have to do is click "Turn In" under the assignment and submit their work to me. When I click "Turned In" as the teacher, it displays all my kids on one page and the words "NOT TURNED IN" or "NOT GRADED" (which turns to "GRADED" once I assess it) so I know exactly what each child has completed. This feature also sends a message to the child with the grade I've given on the assignment! So Cool!
After completing this sequencing activity the kids continued the work they have begun using one of the neatest tools we've "played with" yet! Story Creator is a wonderful free site that allows you to register your school (unless you want to save all your kids' work in your personal account - a pain because you continually have to enter your password for them to access their work) and your kids can create myth and legend comic strips. The site is jam-packed with backgrounds, objects, characters, speech/thought bubbles, animations, and really neat editing tools. The kids are using their main event templates to create what Story Creator calls "Chapters". Oh my goodness...the creativity that is emerging gives me chills! Please check back on my next post and I will provide a link where you can see what they've done with Jack and the Beanstalk. Magic Beans for sure!
[caption id="attachment_307" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="Magic at the Cove!"]Magic at the Cove![/caption]
Photo Credit: Munkin's Photostream via Flickr

Day 44 An Oldy, But Goody

My kids struggle with the idea of summarizing a story. They have a lot of trouble picking out the main ideas or events that occur in narratives they read. After coming upon the oldy, but goody "Jack and the Beanstalk" on an audio book website called Light Up Your Brain, I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to practice this skill while continuing our adventure using online audio books.
The kids had all heard the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, but the original story which we were about to read was full of wonderful, rich vocabulary. I created a list of 18 of words I thought my kids would struggle with and linked that document on "Today's Jobs". I had them all pull that list up on their laptops and we went over them together, discussing if we'd seen them before and using them to predict what might happen in this version of the story.
I also created a very simple template for the kids to fill out (with their pencils) as they read/listened to the story. It basically had 4 large boxes on each page where the kids were to write only the important things that Jack does throughout the story. They were given three of these sheets, so they had to limit the important events to 12 at the most! (I linked the template on our Today's Jobs page as well, just in case someone "messed up" and needed another, they could take the initiative to solve the problem and print a new one. Wireless is wonderful!) The kids were told we would be using these very important planning sheets to develop virtual comic strips tomorrow. Oh, boy! That piqued their interest!
There was silence for the rest of the morning! Engagement, reading, listening, pausing, thinking, deciding, writing, planning....
[caption id="attachment_302" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="The Magic of the Beanstalk!"]The Magic of the Beanstalk![/caption]
Picture Credit: Spysgrandson via Flickr

Day 42 Online Reading vs The Book!

So the other day I had the kids visit a new link on our class website called the Cove Online Library. This is a place I have begun to collect free online stories and books for kids. They had to choose a story (at the time, all of the stories had audio capabilities so the kids could choose to have the story read to them as they followed along) and take notes of main events and words they thought would make great vocabulary words. They really seemed to enjoy this and were captivated. They were actually SO captivated that when I Skyped with a room of teachers downtown being trained to start our additional 1:1 program at the middle school level, half of my kids were unaware! I actually turned the camera so my videoconferencing colleagues could see the magic in action!
I decided for today's jobs to have the kids digest their new information in three ways. They were asked to address our newest classroom blog post which asked them to tell all about the story they read! Please check some of these summaries out and tell me SOME of these kids are not improving their literacy! Whitney, one of my young ladies made my whole week when she said (after working for 60 minutes straight), "Mrs. C. I really learn a lot of grammar when I am blogging!" Yes!! Never heard that when we were copying sentences out of the grammar book....
Their second extension of the online story activity was to take the vocabulary words they had collected (choose your favorite 5), look up the definitions (I gave them a link to an online kid's dictionary), and add them to our new Vocabulary Wall (also embedded on our class website). I used Wallwisher for this, and it worked out wonderfully! The kids loved adding the virtual sticky notes to our wall, and now we have a wonderful collection of challenging words to learn! Make sure you check out our collection HERE.
And finally, I really wanted to get an idea of how the kids felt reading on the computer versus holding a paper book. So I created a quick survey on SurveyMonkey and linked it on our Job List for today. Here are some of the results:
1. 77% of my kids would rather read a book on their computer.
2. When given the choice 53% would like to follow along as the computer reads the story (more details below), followed by 41% wishing to read with a partner, and in last place reading a book to myself (only 4 of my 19 kids).
3. When asked, "What did you like about reading an online story?" some of the interesting responses were:
"I learned more about the story than I would if I read."
"It read it to you and you could pause it and play it."
"I liked I experienced something different that day."
"I like reading on line because I don't like to read a lot."
4. When asked, "Is there anything you did not like about reading an online story?" most of the responses were "nothing", but here are a few others:
"I didn't like how they read it needed more insperation and excitement."
"I didn't like how long it was but other then that no."

I feel good today! I think we're heading in the right direction!
[caption id="attachment_298" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The New Way to Read"]The New Way to Read[/caption]
Picture Credit: Real Ink vs. E-Ink via Flickr

Day 39 Document Sharing without Google

Today was a great day back from vacation. The kids were ready to get back to work and so was I!
Although we have been learning how to comment on our classroom blog (more like addressing a writing prompt, really), I introduced the kids to their Gaggle Blog capabilities. I plan to allow them to blog about whatever topics they find interesting. I think they need that individual creative outlet as opposed to always being told what to write about.
They loved it! They learned how to find each other in our county's Gaggle directory (we have our subscription set to county only for safety at this point), and immediately started commenting on each other's posts! Wonderful!
Also tried out Primary Pad today in both a goal setting activity and a science mini research activity. In language arts each group was provided a link to "their" pad. They were to add goals they have set for themselves for the coming year. The nice thing about Primary Pad is that users don't have to register to collaborate on a document (no email required!). I set the pads up so that they only had to know our class password to be able to add their ideas to it!
Primary Pad also has other fantastic features. Each child chooses a color and types his/her name next to it. Then whatever he/she adds to the pad is highlighted in his/her color, and other group member can see in real time what their peers are typing. Up to 30 different kids can be editing the same document at the exact same time! Another cool feature is the "Timeliner" tab which allows you to view all the changes that have been made to the pad over time, as well as the authors of those changes. This worked out to be a great alternative to going the Google Docs route with my kids who are under 13 (would require special parental permission).
We used Primary Pad again in Science as I had the kids conduct a little Internet research concerning rocks and minerals. Dr. Same and Dr. Different each had a link to their own pad. The kids were to research whether rocks and minerals are the same thing or different things. Following that research they were to add facts to the pad of the Dr. whom they supported. Here is a screenshot of some of the results! You can get a closer look at the pad here. Lots of learning... lots of fun!
[caption id="attachment_294" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Additions to Dr. Different\'s Pad"]Additions to Dr. Different's Pad[/caption]