Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Technology Tuesday...

I think this week was my favorite technology lesson in awhile.  While we have been using technology all year and we have been focusing on creating with our iPads, this week allowed us to really focus on individuality.

We have been working on figurative language in our class and poetry was the best place to practice using similes, metaphors, idioms, personification, etc.  Last week we used the Where I'm From poem to really begin our study with figurative language, but this week students had to work in a more independent fashion with an I Am poem.

Normally, the I Am poems that I have seen have focused on the repetitive line of "I am..." But, I wanted to mix things up a bit.  One of my former students posted a beautiful example of an I am poem she wrote at her new school, so I decided to use her writing to spark my lessons.

Since Martin Luther King day was close, we read lots of books and watched video clips about MLK.  Students pulled out words that described MLK.  Many pulled out words such as minister, dreamer, etc. We then focused on diversity and how each student was a unique individual with traits that were valuable to our classroom.

Each student used the Notes app on our iPads and brainstormed words about themselves.  Some students listed words like sister, brother, daughter, son, adventurer, student, Legobuilder, writer, etc.

We then used the WordFoto app on our iPad to import our list of words over a photograph.
When you begin the app, you have the option of taking a photo with the camera feature or using a photo from your camera roll.

 Once the photo is chosen, tap the "T" at the bottom of the screen to add your word list. You are limited to 10 words in the list. Then tap the Back button to add them to your photo.

You do have a few minor editing features built in - text size, font, etc. that show at the bottom of the screen.

The final product of the photograph has blown me away!  I wish I could show you the photograph of the kids, but I can't hide their faces, so you are stuck with mine :)

After we created the list of words, students then chose one for the topic of their I Am poem.  The entire poem was focused on this one idea.  Students created multiple stanzas that stretched the idea of who they were.

We are in the middle of working on these, so I don't have finished products, but I love the photograph and wanted to show you this app immediately!

After all of the poems are finished, we will put the photographs and poems into Book Creator to publish!  Check out my post on Book Creator here.

I'm linking up for the first time with Technology Tailgate today!

Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Where I'm From...

We are wrapping up a short poetry unit we began last week.  Since it was a short week, I didn't really want to start a new unit, but wanted to do something substantial with my kids.

My absolute FAVORITE writing that I have every done with my kids is the Where I'm From poem.  I know many of you have done the same type of writing.  Normally, I do this as the first writing unit at the beginning of the year, but this year started with a ton of craziness, so we didn't start with it.  

I think this is one of the most powerful pieces of writing that my kids do throughout our time together.  

We began our unit by reading Marie Bradby's book Momma, Where Are You From?  If you don't have this book in your collection - get it now.  It is a beautiful illustrated book that digs deep into the nuances of where people are from.  Instead of simply stating geographical places, the main characters add experiences, dialogue, smells, and tastes that are indicative of the family culture that is created.

My students began with a guided imagery pre-write.  We chose a place that we really connected to first.  For some kids, that was not the home they lived in, but maybe grandmother's house, a favorite place that is visited every year, etc.  I had one kid that actually chose our classroom (their choices tell me the place they feel most safe sometimes). Then we closed our eyes and approached the house visualizing what we saw, what we heard, the smells, the tastes, the words that were spoken, etc.

After the guided imagery, we listened to George Ella Lyon's "Where I'm From" poem from her website.

Our mini-lessons focused on imagery, similes, metaphor, etc.  After the guided imagery, we then went back into our pre-write and chose words or phrases that needed to be expanded and added similes, metaphors, and other pieces of figurative language.

The poems were graded on voice and word choice using our state rubric.

Once students published their work, we then published it in BookCreator and added student voices to the mix.  I loved hearing the voices of my students read their own work.

Here are a few examples:

Where I'm From by:Mya
        I am from a place where The grass gleams with sunlight

 I am from a place where an old tree stump turned into a covered hill.
 I am from a place where squirrels run across the top of my fence.

 I am from Sallisha and Doug a caring couple that everyone loves.
      I am the pictures of my family on most of my tables.

          I am from the sweet smells of my Mom's perfume.
   I am from the smell of crunchy bacon sizzling on my stove top.
          I am from the smell of cookies baking in my oven.

    I am from the mashed potatoes and the too sweet of collards.
    I am from coffee in the morning to that sweet ole lemonade.
        I'm from "I love you","goodnight"to "get out!"
           I am from " Hi  MyMy ! "and  "See you later!"
                         This is where I'm from

Where  I'm From

I'm from where the birds chirp a sweet song in the morning lifting me out of bed. Sun piercing my eye. 
From a hot summer gaze into the sky scarring my eyes with shine. From where sweet tastes become wonderlands of joy.  
To Hot Chocolate with marshmallows like bundles of snow. 

      This is where I'm from.

From where the collards are as green as grass,and the tomatoes are fiery red. Where the carrots cut evenly while they simmer and crackle in a pot.

      This is where I'm from.

  I'm from where the pizza always wants to be in the oven, and where someone often wants to go to Jersey Mikes.

       This is where I'm from.

    I'm from where there's always excitement from every corner to cook whenever there needs to be help.
        This is where I'm from. 

 I'm from where there's a hoot or holler echoing off the walls into different directions until it comes to me to make my ears ring.

          This is where I'm from.

I AM FROM...    
by Tom

I am from a couch as brown as bark , from a mailbox as white as snow, a drum set as green as grass, a chandelier as gold as hair. I am from chatting as loud as a tuba, from the best pasta there is, from the softest cushion to the hardest floor, that is where I'm from.

I am from the bounciest trampoline, from grass as green as leafs, a garage as big as the 
White house. I am from a house with bricks as red as autumn leafs, from a floor withe the hardest wood, that is where I'm from.

I am from the tallest fort and the smallest driveway , from a teacher that teaches us, a sister that whines and "GET OUT OF MY ROOM". I am from "honey where's the toilet paper? From can we have a dog? That is where I'm from.

Love, Love, Love this unit!

I'm linking up with Amanda at Teaching Maddeness for Friday Flashback!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Friday Flashback...

Sometimes life gets in the way of the aspirations of blog writing.  I aspired to write on a regular basis in the New Year, but alas, life has interrupted that goal.

This week was one of the most amazing weeks in my classroom, but it was also one of the most stressful.  On Monday, I had a group of teachers come to watch an inquiry lesson in order to begin changing the way instruction is being taught in our county's science center.  I was excited, but it was a little overwhelming.  I expected 3 teachers, but 6 showed up in the room.  In the middle of the lesson, I received a new student.  I wasn't able to attend to that because I was in the middle of a lesson.

I'm accustomed to teachers coming in my room, but it was a little daunting to be scripted.  Every question I asked was written down and analyzed after the lesson.

On Wednesday, another group from the same organization came again.  Again, I expected 3, but I had 6 arrive.  Add to that my principal and assistant principal, and our curriculum coordinator.  I had a total of TEN people in the room, and my 24 kids.  My kiddos were amazing!  The learning that was coming out of their exploration was fantastic....but, I wasn't able to take the first picture!  Other people did, but I wasn't able to - disappointed.

But, I'm still linking up with Amanda over at Teaching Maddeness for Flashback Friday!

We've been working with our American Revolution unit this week.  The big event that we studied was the Boston Massacre.  In preparation for Common Core coming our way, I utilized as many primary sources that I could find that showed opposing viewpoints of this event.  We used Paul Revere's etching and 3 other artistic representations that were created to show different aspects of the Boston Massacre.  Then we read 2 eye witness accounts - one Patriot and one British.  Students then highlighted similarities and differences between the two accounts.  Groups then chose one viewpoint to represent in a tableaux.  

Students LOVED this series of lessons.  And, I have to say, my lowest achieving group did the best representation of the event.  I would have loved to utilize costuming for this because they did such a fantastic job of depicting the emotion and events.

This group mixed both viewpoints and decided to include Patriots and Loyalist in their Tableaux.

This group represented the Patriots point of view.

Another representation of both view points.

After this lesson, we began our new novel, Tolliver's Secret

So far, the kids are LOVING it.  I have divided my kids into Patriots and Loyalists for the duration of the unit. Points are awarded throughout the day for clean-up, creativity, problem solving, examples of friendship, helping, collaborating, etc.  We will see which side wins the war at the end of the unit.  

Link up with Amanda to share your flashback!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I Believe...

The negativity that is spewed regarding the state of the public school system is getting to the point where I am nauseous any time someone begins talking about the state of our nation's education system.

Teachers are working long hours, well after their committed time; loving on children who have no one else; increasing the rigor of their teaching due to Common Core; and figuring out how to assess in an authentic way, but one that reflects how students will be tested.

There are so many hoops to jump through and over and around, that I thought for sure I would have legs that would be envied by everyone.  I feel as if I am doing P90X's Plyo workout.  *Trust me, I've done that workout, and it is HARD*

However, someone has forgotten to mention all of the good that is present in our schools.  After the tragic events in Newtown, CT, I vowed to become more cognizant of the good that happens in my classroom every single day.

And lo and behold, one of my favorite bloggers - Krissy over at Venspired had the same idea.  She began a project called See the Good.  Each day educators take a picture using the idea list she has provided that focuses on the GOOD that surrounds you.

This has been the best thing for my mind and my heart!  Each day, I find something else that just makes me smile...it may have been the impromptu rap that I did yesterday in response to a child who was off task.  The result was a 5 minute laugh break that had tears streaming down many faces.  Or, it may have been the child who "discovered" parallel circuits because he was "exploring."  Or, it is the peace and quiet that comes at 6:30 in the morning before my kiddos arrive, the completely cluttered space that is the classroom after a full day of learning.

I believe there is good happening that just hasn't been mentioned.  And, it may just be in your classroom.

Thank you, Krissy for the inspiration :)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Beginnings of War...

This week we started one of my most favorite units to teach - The Road to the American Revolution.  Finally, 4th grade social studies is interesting to me.  After visiting Williamsburg, VA this summer, I was itching to teach this unit.  My students were just as excited to get to it as I was.  The fact that I get to teach these kids about how our country was founded is a great honor to me and I take it very seriously.

Before beginning a unit, I like to give kids the big picture.  So, since this week was only 3 days, we spent those 3 days looking at the big ideas that led up to the American Revolution.

The first time I taught 4th grade, I stumbled across Rhythm, Rhyme, Results -  a company that created rap songs for many content areas.  They have a YouTube channel that I would highly recommend subscribing to.  Anyway, I used their song "Redcoats vs. Rebels" to introduce the Revolution.  Instead of using their video, I used the one below because it was only text.

I played it once for students to listen and get the fun out before we began the assignment.  My kids are very musical and I received so much joy just watching their faces as this played.  

The 2nd time through, students were given a blank sheet of paper and sketched the "movie" that was playing through their minds.

I loved seeing the different images that students drew.  My room is not usually quiet, and I don't mind that at all because I believe that sometimes learning is loud, but during this assignment, there was NO talking at all.

After the drawing piece, students then moved to small groups and shared their ideas with one another.  At this point, students could add to their drawings if they chose.

Then, we met as a whole class and added our ideas to a class map of the Revolution.  My students have BEGGED to listen to this song every single day since this lesson.

The next day, we used our Social Studies book to discuss cause and effect of some of the events leading up to the revolution.  The beginning of our chapter had a brief overview of the taxes and acts that were passed during the time period and the colonists reaction.  

Students were given choice as to what app they wanted to use to show me the chain of events.  When I teach technology to my students, I give students power to choose which app on their ipads will best complete the task.  So, my students turned in a multitude of finished assignments.  Some used Popplet Lite (my favorite app) while some used Skitch, and even others used just the Notes application.

I can't wait to get back to school on Monday to dig deeper and challenge my students further.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Technology Tuesday - It's Back!

Technology Tuesday is making a come back.  My goal this year is to share more of what I do with technology in my classroom.  We do a lot, but I can't find the time to put it on the blog.  So, this year, I vow to be better.

This past quarter, my students worked extremely hard on a narrative piece about an explorer that we were studying.  This project became a bear because of time in our class.  We had MANY interruptions and honestly didn't get to do writing every day like I wanted.  I hate that writing was cut because it is one of my favorite subjects to teach.

Anyway, students researched and then compiled all of their research into a piece of writing that told the story of the explorer.  We tried to make them sound less encyclopedia and more 4th grade.  Some were successful and some were not.

But, the most exciting piece of this project was using Book Creator to publish the writing into a real ebook.  My students were thrilled to open their email one morning and have an ebook that was able to be downloaded onto their iBook shelf.

Book Creator is an amazing app that I would pay for again if I had to.  At the time I purchased it, it was $4.99.  But, with any app, that price may change at any moment.

When you open book creator to start a new project, these are your choices.

Your blank page

 When you click the i in the upper right corner, you have the options to change page colors and use grids to line up your features.

The music notes give you the ability to add sound - recorded or from your Itunes library.

Tap on the screen to add text.

 While in the text screen, tap the i at the top of the screen to get text options such as color, alignment, size.

Book Creator is simple to use.  You can type directly into the page, add photos, and even record voices (my favorite part).
 Once everything is in and set, you just tap the outgoing box at the top right of the screen and you can send it to different apps.  We chose to send it to ibooks.  From there, I sent the e-book through email to my students and parents.  Then they were able to open it in ibooks on their iPad, ipod, etc. and read our work.

Here is what your book looks like on the iBooks shelf.


Tap the book to begin reading.

Imagine the possibilities - have students create real examples of non-fiction books, use as a digital portfolio, the options are endless!

If you haven't tried it yet, try it soon!  You will not regret it!  We plan to use it the rest of the year to create class books to share.

I Don't Have the Answers...

It's taken me all weekend to begin to process what happened in Parkland, Florida.  I put it aside and compartmentalized it until I...