Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Students on Pixie

Today was the second time my class has had a chance to explore Pixie this year. Knowing they have had a previous year's experience, I decided to ask them to practice two skills
(taking a picture with the camera feature and creating a text box with their name) and then give them time to experiment with tools of their choice as they created a label for their own book bin. I tried to begin our time with a mini lesson (using the camera button to take a photo, using the text box to type a name) then give independent time to experiment as they created their labels.

As they worked independently, I had one say "my computer is broken" when he was stuck. I chuckled to myself remembering feeling the same way back when I started understanding technology in college. Most kids asked each other questions (and me) when they were at a standstill but MANY of them naturally dove into trying buttons and features on their own. I was completely impressed with their problem solving.

At the end of workshop, we gathered to talk about new "tricks" they had learned. One boy showed the class how to use the paint brush to created 3-dimensional colors in the background. Another girl, showed us how to choose a shape around our face before taking a picture. The kids were dying to get up and share a new tool.

These labels (really, I just printed their creations as half- sheet) turned out to be such an expression of who the kids are. From the creative poses they used as they captured their images to the fonts they choose for their names, the kids were able to express themselves using technology.

I was surprised to hear one student ask if we would ever have a chance to just play when we visit the lab or pull out the laptops. In my mind, I thought I had given them time to play?? I answered "oh yes" but had to think about what didn't feel like play? Is he associating play with more competitive "video" games? Does he need to play with less boundaries on Pixie? His his question is really big for understanding how to balance learning and exploration. I need to ask him what he means (and I will tomorrow) For now, you'll have to imagine their expressive labels. I have attached mine but it is not nearly as creative as theirs.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stop It!

Today I had one of those days. One of those days when you realize out of the blue that your kids are growing up way to fast.

My oldest son is becoming quite the comedian. He loves to laugh and try to make others laugh. He uses sarcasm with me often to lighten tension and sometimes when I am not wanting the tension lightened.

Today, I thought I would give him a taste of his own medicine. Except for that it kinda backfired. Well, I don't know if it backfired but the humor I had intended (without warning) turned into a more sentimental moment.

"Joey!" I yelled across the kitchen. "Come over here and stand in front of me." I said in a stern voice out of the blue. He walked over and stood long haired, taller than I remember and a bit taken back by my command. "You know you need to stop it!" He stood before me with a blank stare trying to figure out what he did. He couldn't even speak he was so confused. "You need to stop growing up." I started to say with a laugh that turned into a cry and started blubbering about how adorable he was as a baby and how fast he was growing and how good God has made him. And then he realized that I was trying to do. He smiled. I held his face and then hugged him. I didn't really want him to go.

Today I had one of those days. One of those days when my heart takes the wheel. I am so glad it did.

p.s. I also played more on pixie and created this family page. Too fun!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Playing on Pixie

One of the goals I shared with my parents during curriculum night earlier this month was my interest in learning and helping kids learn about Pixie. Tonight, I decided to get started. I dug through my resources about pixie and visited tech4learning.com where I watched a few of many tutorials that would help me first explore it. I then (because I don't have the program on my personal laptop) downloaded a 30 day trial program. With some big ideas we have been reading about, discussing and creating (our class promise), I created this single page representing those ideas about leadership. I learned how to use the paint tools to create boxes on a page and then the paint can to fill the backgrounds of specific areas. I played with the text box tools and the font size. I figured out how to import pictures from iphoto and place stickers on the page. Last, I searched for a picture on the Internet, saved it to desktop (big al) and finally placed it on the page. Oh yea, then I learned how to save the slide as a jpg so that I could post it to my blog. Whew!!

You wouldn't believe how much more there is to learn about this software. I want to learn to add sound, add music to slides, create slide shows and use the many tools for colors, fonts and effects.

My students have played on Pixie once this year and a few times last year. The time that we spent was truly exploring. I want to make sure that this year, that we set up our time on the lab or with the laptops with a bit of a workshop approach. This week, I modeled using new tools for a mini lesson and sent the kids off independently but we didn't debrief to share and learn from one another. I want to also think about how knowing certain features of Pixie will allow us to create and share a piece with a message in mind. For now, we'll keep exploring!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dog and Bear are back!!!

Laura Seeger has made us laugh once again with her newest Dog and Bear book called: Dog and Bear Three to Get Ready! Laura Seeger has written many books that I love including One Boy and First the Egg. She has recently written the third in what I call "picture book series books." The Dog and Bear books are each written with three very short stories within one picture book. I read her newest aloud today and it was enjoyed by all!

The first story is called Uh-oh. Uh-oh because Bear's head is stuck in a bucket. Dog fearlessly and cleverly tries to help bear out of trouble but ends up with the bucket on top of his own head. When reading Ooops, the second short story out of the three, I noticed the most laughter. I think it was Dog's comments as he realized that bouncing on a bed felt like flying. Near the end of his bouncing adventures he yells, " I'm King of the World!" and then lands in a pillow pile created by his good friends bear. The final short story in three is called Alphabetical Order (boy, we had great conversation about what this is...). In this last story, Bear helps tidy up a messy room by boxing Dog's toys in containers by alphabetical order BUT not typical alphabetical order. Bear's creative organization inspired my kids to predict and figure out Bear's thinking behind the sorting.

The Dog and Bear books are loved in our room and we keep them in our dog and cat basket. Reading this newest title was yet another reminder of all our favorite dog books. I love how one new book can inspire lots of reading.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mentor Texts for Personal Narrative

I have been reading many stories aloud so that my kids are exposed to different types of personal narratives. It seemed like the most natural start for my writers during workshop as they have started back into the routine of workshop. Many of them are writing what they know and remembering stories from home. I have struggled with the personal narrative feeling so manufactured. Working from the angle of craft and noticing what other authors do has helped me feel like my kids have creative options.

I found that Night of the Veggie Monster has allowed my kids to notice how writers like George McClements use word bubbles, font and punctuation (the ellipses) to enhance or craft a personal story.

Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino worked well as kids noticed that brief dialogue, extra information (they called it) or details and using a memory can help when writing a personal narrative.

I also used When I was Little and When I was Five, both texts that helped us notice that repetition and patterning ( alternating past memories with present recollections) is a option for organizing a story.

We also found that poems are another option for telling a personal story. A poem called Bedtime in When Gorilla Goes Walking and Bouncing in Days Like This helped us see how writers focus in on a moment.

Finally, Letter to the Lake, a beautiful story of a little girl's memory of her summer days by the lake, allowed us to experience that personal stories can be letters written to someone or something (not even human! ). This book also helped us think about how narratives can have different points of view as we listened to the little girl address the lake throughout the story.

I have been encouraging my students to use all of these noticings (that we have charted on paper) and try using a new craft in their narratives. My hope is that the over written personal narrative will come alive. Knowing that there are choices and options for writing a piece, I think excites writers. Having 14 boys in my class I also know that choice and humor are big right now. I am trying angle my instruction so that I am working from their interests. I am also noticing quite a few student also mentoring graphic novels in parts of their narratives. Next, how to make our share/celebration purposeful and unique?!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Katie Loves the Kittens by John Himmelman

I read this book briefly last year ( not really remembering it) and it wasn't until a student and a friend suggested I read it aloud. Wow! This adorable story is about a dog, Katie, who is anxious to get to know three new kittens her owner Sara Ann brings home. Katie welcomes the kittens with her usual "AROOOO," thinking her way of saying "hello" might welcome them. She realizes later realize that her howling and loving enthusiasm for the kittens has only frightened them. Katie falls asleep and then wakes up to the kittens sleeping upon her back. This time she remembers to be patient and the kittens stay.

I love this book for primary readers and writers because it is an enjoyable read aloud ( you were right Franki)! It easily fits into the hands of many readers who will have independent success with it in my room. It is a great mentor text for kids writing a personal narrative. I know I will use this text to think about the importance of layering ideas. The pictures are adorable (especially the last page...try to find the white kitten) and it provided us with an easy text for practicing that readers think as they read. A student today shared a prediction. Another made a connection between Katie and Big Al ( by Andrew Clements) comparing their eagerness to make friends and their patience with discovering how. This book has so many possibilities!!
I hope you love Katie as much as we did!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Trying something new

My 8 year old son decided about a month ago that he would enter a golf tournament at a public course after being encouraged by a kiddo he golfed alongside one day this summer. It was my son's second time playing through the course with his grandparents (Pa Jim and Grandma). I was at first taken back by his longing to play in this one day 9 hole tournament. He, quite frankly, is not much of a risk taker and has little experience on the golf course. Knowing this though, I excitedly encouraged him and supported him in his decision to give the tournament a try ( hoping he would grow from it).

The actual tournament was this past Saturday. I was anxious that he might back out or change his mind but he didn't. He showered and dressed, packed his golf bag and set off with my husband for the golf course. We also had our youngest playing his first soccer game and I was not going to be able to watch the golf tournament. As I was leaving for soccer, I heard him yell, "MOM!" with a tear in his eye and needing a hug before his big day. I ran back to comfort him and tell him I would be texting Daddy and praying that he would have fun. He calmed down and was off.

Of course, I was a wreck texting and waiting for replies all afternoon. Turns out he had a ball. He played great (6th place in his age group) and learned how it feels to try something brand new! He was proud and so were we.

What does this teach me, my students, you? Be brave, there is much to gain by trying something new. Peer encouragement is huge (I attribute his desire to try this to another 8 year telling him he was should)! Thank goodness for texting!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Books and Messages for the First Week of School

At the end of the day and often end of the school week I am often thinking about what worked and how I can take what worked and find the next connector for my readers and writers. Thinking back to the first two weeks of school, I found myself making sure to send the message that readers find books that they love.

Jan Thomas' books were a huge success for shared reading!! Titles like, The Doghouse, Rhyming Dust Bunnies and her newest: Can You Make a Scary Face? were all big hits. Her latest book is completely interactive and invites kids to verbally, mentally and physically participate by standing up, sitting down and even performing the chicken dance. It was by far the favorite this week.

Other baskets of books that were popular (where I know all my readers would be successful choosing something they could read independently) were baskets like Elephant and Piggie Books, Song Books, Rhyming Books and some of our Fairy Tales.

This week we plan to think about how our book bins can help us plan, keep track and organize our reading. Hope you have a great week!