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 - 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

Monday, March 7, 2016

Google Chrome Extension for QR Codes

Google Chrome extensions have become a hot topic in our district...mainly because we have had some students using certain extensions to try and get around our servers :). We shut off access to the google web store for students but we are promoting the use for teachers. 

Quite possibly my favorite extension is the the URL Shortener. The extension becomes added to your Google Chrome task bar and when you click it you can immediately get a shortened URL and a QR code. It is quick and easy and makes making a QR code for a specific site so much easier. 

The two pictures above show what it looks like on your task bar (picture #1) and how to install it (picture #2).