Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Fourth Grade Teacher/Student Program

My husband oddly enough brought this to my attention. Apparently there is a White House initiative to get all four graders and their families (including 4th grade teachers) to experience federal public lands. It began September 1, 2015 and runs until the end of August 2016. It looks like this is the first year so I am not sure if it is being offered this coming September 1st.

There seems to be an educator package that I thought would be good to look at with four activity guides. In my neck of the woods the activity guides would be good for after state testing as a way of introducing the program for summer fun (even though it seems good for the entire year).

So if you are a fourth grade teacher, or have a fourth grader at home, you might want to check it out!

Here is what is on the website:

"To help engage and create our next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates, the White House, in partnership with the Federal Land Management agencies, launched the Every Kid in a Park initiative. The immediate goal is to provide an opportunity for each and every 4th grade student across the country to experience their federal public lands and waters in person throughout the 2015-2016 school year.
Beginning September 1st all kids in the fourth grade have access to their own Every Kid in a Park pass at www.everykidinapark.gov. This pass provides free access to national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and more!
The Every Kid in a Park pass is good for the 2015-2016 school year, until August 31, 2016. Information on obtaining the pass is available by visiting www.everykidinapark.gov."

Monday, May 23, 2016

Google Forms - Choose Your Own Adventure - My First Attempt

I just created my first Choose Your Own Adventure style story using Google Forms. As a tech coach that deals primarily with elementary school students I would definitely put this in a Gifted and Talented category...at the end of the year...as enrichment (it was kind of hard!).

I found the video above the best as far as instructions go on YouTube. I didn't have to watch the whole thing...I got the general gist by the 8 minute mark.

I liked her flow chart and used the Smart Art Hierarchy Tool to make mine (the teacher in this video used Google Drawings). I thought the Smart Art tool would be easier (since it provides a template) but I'm not sure it is (I would need to try it). Student might find that step too much and might be better off sketching their story out on paper or using numbered index cards. The teacher in the video had 16 levels to her story...I had 17 (if you count the ending...it is 18). That was a lot!

My flow chart was sketch of story and how it would flow from decision point to decision point..knowing I would add to it when I actually got down to the final writing in Google Forms. I am not sure students could handle that (I ran out of space in my boxes for anything other then a rough outline). It did keep me super organized though. Students definitely can't go straight into making the form without some kind of guide (I tried at first and started getting confused at the decision points). 

I used a common story as my starting point (Cinderella). I modified it to fit my 17 levels (so no shoe left behind or fairy godmother in my story). That was still tricky...trying to fit in a story in basically 5 levels.

I kept mine blissfully short for my first trial and added clip art to make the levels more engaging. 

I definitely think this might be a solid week project with students...as in the last week of school??? I plan to share it next year but with the note that it might not be for everyone. 

Here is a link to my first try at a Choose Your Own Adventure story.  

Sunday, May 8, 2016

End of Year Videos - Music Selections

I am helping several teachers put together videos to show at end-of-year award ceremonies. I thought I would share some of my favorite music to use.

- Meghan Trainor "Better When I'm Dancing"
- Ice Age 4 "We are Family"
- Brother Bear "On my Way"
- Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole "Somethere Over the Rainbow"
- Jack Johnson "Upside Down"
- Kids Bob "Make Some Noise"
- Hans Zimmer "You're So Cool" (instrumental and my "go to" for LOTS of video projects)

What we do is upload the final video to YouTube (as an unlisted video...so you have to have the link in order to find it) and then we create a customized URL using TinyURL. The link is then shared with parents via newsletter, email, or text. This is a lot easier then burning CD's for the entire class and then parents can download the video on their own, if they wish, to keep it or share the link with extended family.

I'm curious to read what music other teachers use. Please let me know in the comment section below.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

iPad Adaptations Project - Keynote


I was working with a second grade class the other day using the Google Pages app (we used/modified the visual report template within Pages to create an animal report) . I was telling the teacher about the "magic move" feature in the Keynote app (free) and how it could be used to create a cute adaptations video.

I created the above sample project to show her and also to test if I thought her second graders could handle it (there is no sound). Her second graders could definitely do it. I think the problems would come up with research and writing.

Students would have to find 5-10 adaptations to highlight (I think I only came up with seven or eight for the penguin in this video). Second graders researching and reading skills are a bit all over the board, which is why I thought this step might need to be differentiated (high readers can pick their own animals, middle readers can choose from a list of animals and you can give them links to find the adaptations,emerging readers have the same option as the middle readers but would work with the teacher to find their animal adaptations within the text). I also find that second graders can write but their sentence structure is still pretty limited. As I was working on the project I saw how easy it was to use the same sentence starter in each slide and I had to conscientiously avoid it. I would definitely recommend using the project to teach students how to choose different sentence starters to vary the structure for readers.

If she goes for the project, I will post some student samples.

On a side note...one of the things I don't like about Keynote and the Magic Move feature is that when you upload it to Google Drive or Google Classroom you lose the animations (darn!). It would need to be graded as is with the student either presenting to you or the classroom.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Choose Your Own Adventure Stories - Using Google Forms

My newest obsession is having students use Google forms to create "choose your own adventure" stories.

The idea was brought up by another tech coach in the department and we had a fifth grade teacher try it with her class. Here is a link to the start of one story a student started. The teacher started with the kids trying to write their own stories but they weren't making much sense so she switched gears and had them choose common stories or fairy tales to turn into "choose your own adventure" stories and that seemed to go much better.

My goal is to try one on my own this summer to showcase to teachers who want to try it. There are several "how to" videos on YouTube that I will be using to get started. I embedded one above which I thought provided a nice quick overview.  

Monday, March 28, 2016

Blackout Poetry for National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month. I use to love teaching about poetry but like most teachers I typically covered the same types of poems all the time. A few years ago I ran into a "new" (to me) type of poetry called Blackout Poetry created by Austin Kleon (there are several videos of him creating poems on YouTube) and I wanted to give it a try.

The idea is to "find" words within other peoples writing and create a poem using the words that are already on the paper (and blacking out the words you don't need). If you do a Google search most people use newspapers (and we did too). 

As a class we had created "found" poems using cut outs from magazines so I thought this would be a nice, and different, extension of that activity. I was wrong. :)

It didn't go as planned.  In hindsight what I thought was going to be easy was a little to abstract for children (fourth graders). On the plus side they took the project to mean summarize the main points of the article so it wasn't a completely wasted lesson (and the technique can certainly be used to summarize an article).

My problem was my enthusiasm was there but I didn't really give a good explanation...nor did I create a gradual release model (I was more like... "Look how fun this is! Lets try it!"). I also found that the newspaper print was too small and the text too complex.

I'm trying to get some of my teacher friends to give it a try (because it is still cool!) and came across this BLOG POST from a teacher who did it with 2nd graders. I also came across this PRESENTATION that goes over the five basic rules of how to get started. The 2nd grade teacher wisely used larger print text and she tied it into their study of animals. She included pictures of the process.

Of course as a technology coach I was thinking that teachers can give students their text via Edmodo or Google Classroom and then students could use their Notability app to do the circling and blacking out. Teachers can get the text from kid friendly sites and blow up the font before sharing (or printing) with students. 

In the sample below I took an article about jellyfish from the Newsela site and copied and pasted it to a Word document (on the site I changed the lexile range to a second grade level to make it less wordy). I saved it as a PDF and uploaded it to Edmodo. I opened it on my iPad in Notability and started to comb through the words until I found something I liked. 

If you have tried Blackout Poetry with elementary students let me know how it went!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Quizlet - New Game

Quizlet is beta testing a new game feature called Quizlet Live. For those unfamiliar with quizlet it is a free website that allows you to create word decks that you can turn into flashcards and then play with them in various game modes. You can search for existing word decks or create your own.

Quizlet Live (their newest game) is an in-class, team-based learning game based on any Quizlet study set. Students are randomly paired into teams of 3-4 students to race against other teams. Each team must work together to clear their boards, but wrong answers reset progress to zero. the first team to match all 12 terms correctly in a row wins.

I have used this in several classrooms and different training environments and everyone (students and teachers) have enjoyed the group gaming element and folks get really competitive. 

Since it is in beta testing mode you have to request access by emailing - beta@quizlet.com. You need to indicate what your quizlet username is so they can give you access.

My only suggestion is I wish you could adjust the number of terms. I used a 5th grade WWII set I had created with 24 words but only 12 terms were used during the game. It would have been nice to use the whole set.  

To read more about this new feature - CLICK HERE