Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Flip Cameras

Last year, other staff members and I wrote grants for technology tools that we were interested in experimenting with and using in the classroom. I wrote a grant for flip cameras and have been asked to think back and document how kids and staff have used these in the classroom to document learning, share learning and create using technology.

I started to collect data this week from staff on ways flip cameras have been used throughout the building this year. Here's what I am finding...
  • 4th and 5th grade students created free verse poems using the spines from books in the Library. I recorded the students performing their poems, put them into iMovie, burned them on a disk, and gave them to their classroom teachers (our librarian)
    • Some of my students used the flip cameras to record modeling of appropriate social behaviors for video social stories. They turned out so cool! ( Special Education Teacher)

    • We used the flip cameras in MANY ways this year. Here are a few:
    • 1. Tour of the school to help create a map and then share with pen pals (both video and map)
    • 2. Buddy Interviews
    • 3. Commercials for our Vail Stone City "businesses" to demonstrate our understanding of economics
    • 4. Share our poetry with an audience
    • 5. Post to wiki to share our culture with students in Romania (3rd grade)

    • In 4th grade science, we used them to film our science experiment. The experiment was to watch how water erodes earth material. Each student was able to film what happens when water is poured in different ways into earth material over a period of 5 minutes. Afterwards, they explored imovie to put the clips together. (disclaimer: imovie was really challenging!) We also used flip cameras for filming book reviews and we took flip cameras to the metro park during a field trip!

      • I used the cameras in Kindergarten. The kids shared stories they wrote and gave book reviews to their classmates.I captured some of their math and science (nature walks) thinking as well. I am also planning to use the cameras to video the kindergarten timeline we will create later this week.

      In second grade, the kids used the flip cameras to explore wonders which led us into questioning, research and writing information in our own words. They had opportunities to briefly review their clips, to try flip-share software to add a title, choose background music and add credits. They have also wanted to play with this technology and I provided opportunities during math choice and science where kids could document their authentic observations and creations. This week we even had some kids interested in uploading their movies to our blog.

      This is our first year to explore and play with ways that this tool can enhance and impact student learning. I am in awe of the teachers in our school community. There is always something to reflect about after trying something new. Anxious to see what teachers will change, build on or try with these next year...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Green Line by Polly Farquharson

After immersing with my students in wondering (heart wondering, inspired by A Place to Wonder, second grade wonders) about the world around them, I just can't help opening new picture books to see how they might inspire kids to wonder. The book, The Green Line, has become my new favorite book for storytelling wonders. It tells the story of a young girl's wonderings with her mother as they walk through the park. It is filled with gorgeous photographs of wonders that the little girl experiences along her way with a simple green line that mimics her play and movement throughout the stroll.

There is so much I love about this book:

1. Lots of picture reading (you know that deeper reading of the pictures in text that gives the reader more understanding about the story) with the way the author decides to use the line as a character layer on top of the photographs.

2. It is a narrative that is inviting and interactive. I sometimes think the personal narrative gets stale in primary classrooms and I am always looking for ways to connect it to authentic experiences we share together so I can scaffold. I can envision kids grabbing their cameras and heading out for a walk around the (in or out) school next year. This book would be a great mentor text for narratives told through photography.

3. As I read the book, I thought about how the pages could easily be slides in a voice thread. The green line would be easy to imitate using the line option (like in Jack's Bike Ride Voice Thread) after uploading pictures.

Other reviews are here. Check it out!

Friday, May 14, 2010

End of the Year Ideas

Well, the last few weeks are wrapping up. I wrote earlier this week about how the kids and I read The Three Questions and were inspired to reflect about what we have learned from each other. I have a few snippets to share of their quick thoughts. Each day a new comment surprises me, inspires me or makes me giggle inside. I have encouraged them to be as specific as they can with their thoughts. So many pieces of learning are evident from their reflections: kids helping others play games at recess, guiding each other with ideas for writing, collaboration about how to find or use something in the classroom and kids realizing that others have influenced their thinking.

Sharing a Favorite Book
Friday, I asked the kids to start thinking about some of their favorite books, books they have loved this year and really want others to know about. Before I sent them off, I told them about how I have my reading log on-line at goodreads.com (really I have been horrible about adding books I love but I figure I will catch up this summer). I talked with them about what I love about it...I can log what I have read, write my thoughts about a book, rate it, find out what my friends are reading and then read what they thought of a book. I asked them to think about why it is so great to share books and thoughts about books. They came up with this list of ideas that I wrote as they thought. Many of their thoughts were what I expected... it is great to share books because we learn, it is fun. The last thought was pretty powerful for second grader: so that when they give it back (after you've let them borrow it) they will tell me a new thing about the book. Wow!

Next week, we will begin using our favorite books to help us write book reviews for each other on the blog. I then hope by reading each other's reviews this may be a small start to their summer reading lists.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Reading and Writing Made Up Words

Have you ever created a word, maybe a nickname? In our family, we have many made- up nicknames for our kids for various reasons. Our first son, Joey quickly became Joe Joe when he was a little guy simply because the alliteration of the two names was appealing. My young nieces Vivian and Audrey have shortened versions of their names as nick names: Vivy and DiDi. It seems we have a tendency in my family to end or shorten names so they have the long e sound. Why is that? I called my own sons Matty and Jackie when they were little.

A few of my primary writers have experimented with creating their own words to represent a feeling or an action. I remember Monasia creating a poem about the snow writing about how it "swizzled to the ground." My first grade son recently wrote about a family trip to Florida. He ended his piece with..."I felt gatoriffic!"

Ralph Fletcher has a new book that explores play with language and words. His book Pyrotechnics on the Page: Playful Craft that Sparks Writing has me thinking about words these days and the creativity we can encourage with word play during writing workshop.

Today I found a flap book great for primary kiddos that features examples of some playful craft. Animal Soup by Todd H. Doodler features portmanteaus (two words mashed together to create a new word that has attributes of both the previous words). I found in the toddler-preschool area in the bookstore but it will definitely appeal to primary kids. Todd uses question- answer format in the text featuring zoo animals ( He is also the author of The Zoo I Drew). Each two page spread begins with animal picture and question on the left (What would I be if I had wings to Fly...) followed on the right with an animal picture and "but" statement (but walked very slowly instead?) The picture on the right is also a flap that lifts to show the answer :

Bird + Turtle = Birdle (and a picture of a bird mixed with a turtle attributes)

I imagine kids engaging in the thinking, predicting and plain fun this book has to offer being read aloud and then fought over during choice time. Then, using the book to demonstrate how writers create and play with words.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

This is the woman who has formed me into the woman that I am.

She has taught me how to change diapers, how to speak with my heart, and how to listen even when I think I don't have the time . I learned how to take care of others.

She taught me (at a young age) to pack my own lunch, the importance of exercise and how to find comfort in words of poets. I learned how to take care of myself.

She has taught me to find something good in another even when I didn't want to. I learned what it means to accept and grow.

She has taught me how to bake, how to pretend and how to find hobbies I love. I learned to create.

She has taught me how much enjoyment comes from reading and that there is always room for improvement. She taught me how joyful and tough it can be to learn.

This is the woman who has loved me unconditionally. Each day I am learning how to share this love.

Thank you Mom. I love you.

Happy Mother's Day.

This is the woman who taught me to learn and want to know more.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Planting Seeds

Appreciating is something I always feel like I could do more of. Often it seems as if there is never enough time to really thank, help and listen to all the people in my life who need support. I feel overwhelmed somedays remembering who I need to get a thank you card to or a quick return email. Somedays it is easier to forget.

This week, as I was chatting with my hairdresser ( that I've known for 11 years) about how I can be bad about remembering others, she reminded me how important it is to touch base and check-in with others. Whether it is to let someone know you are thinking of them through a quick email, call, note or text, she suggested that I act instead of forget. She so gently planted that seed in our conversation. I always seem to walk away with some personal insight and goals for being a better person after talking with her.

In my classroom today, we read the book The Three Questions by John J Muth. The book is about a boy searching for answers to wonder questions that he eventually finds meaning to with the help of his friends . My favorite line from the book reads:

"Remember that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one that you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in the world. That is why we are here."

I had to write this quote down after reading it aloud to my kids. I began thinking about how the message of appreciation and remembering had been a huge part of my thinking this week. After lunch, I decided to share its importance with my students (knowing that we have been living and learning side by side for two years).

The quote inspired us. We decided to make sure we remember each other by taking time each day over the next few weeks by writing a quick post-it about what each one of us has done to help or teach each other. I set up a schedule on the calendar with the name of a student (or two) each day. Before math, we took time to reflect and share how B and J have helped us grow (I had B and J hop on the computer with headphones while we reflected so we could also surprise each other with our thoughts at the end of the year). I used one student's quick reflection to model and then their individual thoughts came pouring onto post-its. Ideas like ...B helped me learn math games, J helped me learn the monkey bars and J helped me figure out the flip camera filled the classroom. Kids thought about how others had helped their learning. I was remembering Samantha Bennett's quote: We are smarter together.

I honestly don't know what I am going to do next with all these thoughtful post-its (maybe compile into a book) but I knew I had to respond to the quote and the notion of appreciation. It has followed me in conversations and encounters all week long. It was my turn to plant the seed in others.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Volcano Wakes Up! by Lisa Westberg Peters

Have you had students talking with you about the volcanic ash that has cancelled many flights from Europe and surrounding countries? One of my students waited for 5-7 extra days for a parent to return from France because of this eruption. When book shopping this weekend, a friend reminded me about how Volcano Wakes Up would be a great way to read about the wonders of volcanos and tie into current events.

In this book of poetry, many viewpoints are explored by different life that inhabit a group of volcanos. The lava crickets (1 and 2) have a conversation (in texting form) about their experiences within the cracks eating "loads of toastd & roastd bugs." The sun and the moon speak to each other in acrostics and the ferns narrate what happens as the "fire-makers awake." The volcanos also call attention to themselves with poetic language throughout the book. My favorite was a poem called :
Look at me!
I can fling cinders
and ash into the sky. I can
huff and chuff and pour rivers of
lava down my side. Rain, you can't douse my
fire. Wind, you can't blow it out. Fog, you can't hide it.

The last two pages of the book are filled with information about volcanos specifically the volcanos on the Hawaiian islands. The author explains the hapu 'u pulu (or ferns) pop up very quickly in the volcanos moist cracks. She also teaches about the lava flow crickets, the road signs that warn visitors they are traveling on active grounds and one of the best times to watch volcano action: when the lava and ocean water meet. I am sure this read will create more questions and wonders about volcanos. Looking forward to sharing and talking with them about it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

This Weekend with That Workshop Book Author

Samantha Bennett opened our 2 day Literacy Connection Workshop with her foundational beliefs about our work as educators. Her thoughts are worth reading...
-whoever is doing the reading, writing and talking ( in the classroom) is doing the thinking. Learning is a consequence of thinking.

-teaching is personal, but not private

-teachers matter most to student learning (what we do, what we ask them to do, what we say, how we allow them to talk to each other, how we listen, how we structure time, how we structure curriculum, how we acknowledge students, how we give feedback, how we ask them to think about themselves and their own learning, teachers determine the weather, you have to trust yourself and feel trusted to help students learn. Teachers matter most to student learning.

-teaching is an incredibly complex endeavor. No one has nailed it. There are always ways to get better for students

-everyone does the best they can until they know better; then they do better.

-We are smarter together.

Some other big, smart ideas she repeated that I came away with are:

It is not about what we uncover--it is about what they uncover.

No more blaming.

Student resistance= Students won't when
- they don't care
-there's no purpose
or they don't know how

My personal "aha":
I need to be a better planner. Samantha helped me see how importance of big picture planning ( determining what you will teach and why it matters using learning targets, determine what students will create to demonstrate their understanding, put the planning and final product date on the calendar). I have lots to think about how I efficiently, purposefully and effectively plan for next year.

She taught me a ton!!!!!!!!!!!!!!