Saturday, January 29, 2011

January App of the Month will Link How to Steal A Dog

The best things in life are free and evernote is free!  This was proven as my students submitted their favorite app of the month and why.  Their #1 pick is evernote which is amazing to me for so many reasons but first let me tell you why they chose it.  

*a much faster way to connect with Mrs. Caplin than collecting our notebooks
*it is so much fun to do wonderopolois and evernote on my iPod I can go anywhere to do HW
*Mrs. Caplin can drop the directions into it and I can reread them if I don't remember
*it is a step towards more technology and less paper/pencil
*I like typing better than writing
*if I don't know how to spell a word it helps me with the spelling
*we can choose our own photos to support our thinking
*it's useful because my handwriting is messy and I don't have to worry about it
*I can work on evernote at home - all I need is my iPod (my book bag is lighter)

As a teacher, I first reflected on how evernote is an application that can be put on various platforms, mobile devices as well as computers and allows accessibility to notes anywhere.  There is no game element, no strong visuals, and no opportunity to win a prize at the end.  I found this amazing as I think about the wide variety of apps they could have chosen.  If I would have predicted what might have won, I would have chosen Tap Reef.  

I  already blogged about how I love evernote and we have just touched the surface on how to expand using it.  This week we are going to use it for our read aloud:  How to Steal A Dog which I am reading to support persuassive writing as well as point of view.  I can't imagine being able to read everyone's thoughts at the end of each day.  I use to maybe once a week collect 24 reader's notebooks and take them home, come in early or just stay after school to read their thinking.  Now all I need is my laptop :)  

On a literacy side note, let me tell you about this amazing book. My friend, Karen at Literate Lives told me about this book when it first came out.  Have you ever read a book and  fell in love with it and could not put it down?  The life lessons in this book are so important and through Barbara O'Connor's story, she does a beautiful job of helping the reader learn about homelessness which is topic that is not written about in many elementary books. One of my favorite lines in the book, "I guess bad times can make a person do bad things, huh?"

 Also I want to introduce my students to Barbara O'Connor who has written so many tremendous books for kids.

*Greetings from Nowhere (another HUGE favorite of mine)
*Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis
*Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gratitude for Being a Teacher!

I have been out of my classroom for the past two weeks due to family circumstances. Today when I stood in the hallway and so many of them gave me hugs and high fives I once again realize how lucky I am to be in this amazing profession.  We start our day with an hour math class that is a blocked time where students switch classes, so I don't have my own home room and then we go to specials.  Today was library with Mr. Prosser (Bill at Literate Lives)  which they love! So finally at 11:15 I get my homeroom and we sit down to talk about what I missed and what they want to share with me.  These are some of their comments:

"We missed you because you always have Wonderopolis up in the morning and that gets us thinking."
"I need help with prepositions because I just don't know what they are."
"Thanks for letting us eat double stuff OREOS during writing, it felt like you were here with us."
"Don't leave again-we didn't use our iPods enough."
"For our persuassive writing, I wanted to talk to you about how to grab the reader's attention with my lead."
"Have you read, Belle Teal, it is an amazing book I love the characters."

After a day like this-can I just say I LOVE teaching!!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wonderful Word Wednesday: another Snow Day

I fell in love with picture books at a very young age.  My mom and grandmother always were reading to me.  Some of the best memories were when I "thought" I was reading but I had just memorized the story because I had heard it so many times.  With that said,  I have purchased many picture books however over the years I have tried to decide how I could use the books in my classroom and not just have another tremendous picture book (although nothing is wrong with that either).  Most of my picture books are used with word study-after all a wonderful story obviously has marvelous vocabulary.

Today I am going to share Snow Day by Lynn Plourde. If you just looked at the cover of this book, I am not sure that most 5th grade teachers would not choose it. First of all I love this book for it's dedication: With love to Mom-thanks for making the magic of snow days last all year long!  I teach the students about how author's dedicate their books to someone.  This book is written in simple easy to read text which makes it another great mentor text for parts of speech, figurative language and sequencing events. The story is about a brother and sister and how how they spend their snow day.  Not once are computers, DS, XBox or television even mentioned.  Reading books, dreaming about being a princess or a pilot, enjoying three family meals together, cupboard carousing and of course playing out in the snow! I love the closing line: Snow day, melts to dreams. Keep dreaming about future show days!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Integrating evernote with Wonderopolis

I believe there are several keys to success in using technology in the classroom including:

#1  always keep dreaming not just thinking
#2  want to keep learning (most of my learning comes from conversations with colleagues, reading blogs, and following twitter)
#3  be willing to try new apps, websites etc. even if you're not quite sure what will happen some of the best lessons have come with students and teacher learning at the same time

With those above thoughts, last week my next dream came true. I had told Mr. Mark that I want to use iPods not only with Wonderopolis but I want to use it for taking notes especially for sharing notes with me. As I said in past blogs, email has been a thorn in my side although we figured it out for Storykit.  We have introduced the class to a free site called evernote. To me evernote is like a virtual notebook, the students use it during reading or writing workshop and record their thinking. When they are finished, they send me their thinking and I instantaneously have their thinking from that day's workshop. On a side note, evernote would work on any laptop it is not an app for just iPods and the students could send their thinking to your teacher computer. Evernote is powerful for so many reasons:

#1 instant feedback is powerful for the student to know that I will read their thinking that day as well as sharing their thoughts using my Smartboard 
#2 for my less motivated students, the fact that I am gonig to read their thinking pushed them to step up to the plate
#3 I am able to comment on their thinking however the notes are public to all students 
#4 iPods are being used not only for gaining information but also for recording their thinking (that was my dream!)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

New Apps for January

I recently read on twitter about a 5th grade teacher who wrote and developed an app about decimals. Have you ever heard of the phrase "a day late a dollar short." That describes me in November I searched and searched for an app to review rounding decimals over Christmas I found this app. Darn that could have been me writing and creating an app.  Oh well, I am sure glad I found it because it is really good!

I also got Tap Reef Fish for free. Honestly the educational value at this point I am not sure of.  I purchased it because I am going to start teaching Life Science next week and the graphics were beautiful and looked real. Here is the snippet about it: astonishing 3D social aquatic experience for iPod ! If you thought owning a virtual fish tank was awesome, just wait until you dive into your very own 3D REEF! Starting with a bare reef and a couple of Clownfish, you must cultivate a thriving community of sea species, from Blue Tang to Bottlenose Dolphins. I knew the students would like it and for right now it's the January pick of the month.  Check back in February to see if it wins app of the month.

Finally I made two huge purchases spending $4.99 on ILive Grammar Autumn.  I was on the search for parts of speech review at a higher level than Grammar Jammers.  I am up in the air on the app because I have found it very hard to figure out how it works.  I put it on the students iPods and told them to play "learn" around with it.  Some students have started to figure it out. I am still up in the air if it was worth the money.

I also purchased and LOVE as well as the students LOVE the Bill Nye videos.  "Bill, Bill, Bill."  Come on sing along with me-you know the words :)  These were the first videos that I have purchased for the iPods, and it is the best money that I have spent and they were only $1.99.  There are many reasons I would encourage you to purchase videos.

*extends learning beyond our classroom (mobile learning)
*students want to watch the video again and they watch it for a different purpose
*eventually I plan on having them watch the videos at home so I don't have to spend time in class watching the video-I can spend the time teaching from the video and reinforcing the concepts with watching clips from the videos
*I am considering giving the students questions to answer after watching the video to start their thinking about a new science topic.

Check these apps out and don't forget soon I will be blogging about the students favorite app for January I predict it might be one of these!!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wonderful Word Wednesday: Snow Sounds an Onomatopoeic Story

I love words, and it is an overall theme in my classroom as we talk about words, collect words, observe words, stretch our writing with words as well as read about wonderful words.  So when I read blogs about books that have fun with words I almost automatically click over to, click to order and send simultaneously.  Believe me-it's a dangerous thing!

When I found Snow Sounds, an Onomatopoeic Story,  I fell in love with this book and since then I have always shared this book during the dark cold days of winter. I am not sure if I love the illustrations or the story better. Let me tell you about the story, there are only one, two or even three words on a page. The limited text allows the reader to create a full story in their own mind with a setting, characters, plot etc. This is a great mentor text for visualization because the pictures truly tell the story.  David Johnson uses visual techniques to amplify word's meaning. The predawn "hush" in gray letters as well as "honk" printed in large red letters creates beautiful detailed illustrations,  I would suggest reading the story aloud the first time and not showing the pictures allow the students to draw their own illustrations as well as create the story in their own mind.  Then read it again allowing the students the time to enjoy the illustrations.  Finally discuss the way the book is written and organized. The story starts with
snore, purr
Crinkle, crinkle
woosh, slush, smoosh

Can you guess the illustrations on each page?  Check the book out and let me know if you were correct.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wonderopolis: Students Writing Questions

Last week I into introduced Wonderopolis to my class during our reading workshop time. For the first week, my goals included:
-nonfiction attributes on a web page
-connect reading book strategies with non fiction reading on the web 
-continue to focus on increasing vocabulary using inferences and context clues
-continue to predict and ask questions as a reader
-finally introduce 3 level of questions (Literal, Inferential, Evaluative) LIE

This week my goals continued however, I wanted to focus on the students writing literal and inferential questions. As a class we have worked on these two types of questions all year in our read aloud, JR reading, poetry Friday, Scholastic News articles etc. I have always written the questions, so I decided this week I would have my students write the questions. I hoped to challenge the students to read the article differently-searching for facts that would create a question.

Every Thursday, I have six students leave my room for the entire day for enrichment services. I decided to introduce this idea on Thursday for two reasons first smaller numbers make instruction easier. I wanted the students who were with me to take the lead and be able to "teach" the concept on Friday during reading. This idea has been very powerful in my class this year. 
Questions below my dry erase board
As you can see from the picture, there were four parts to the students writing the inferential questions. We posted their thinking below our dry erase board.

-preview sticky note on the left about which Wonderopolis article they chose
-white vocabulary word from the OAA list of Bloom's verbs
-sentence strip with their question
-finally the answer to the question is on a sticky note behind the verb card

This has been very successful and I plan to continue with higher blooms verbs including evaluative next week.  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wonderful Word Wednesday: Snowmen at Night

One of my favorite things to do in teaching is to have professional conversations with new teachers.  I am very lucky this year because there are three new teachers to our school, and we have been meeting to discuss word study. I enjoy our conversations for many reasons.

*I LOVE talking to them about how to integrate word study into their entire day. They happen to teach 2, 3, and 4th grade so I have enjoyed thinking about WS from a primary perspective as well as sharing my intermediate experience.

*It is fun to walk by their room and see a display that we discussed or better yet when one of the teachers comes back to my room to tell me how they changed the display to meet their own classroom needs.

*Another positive for me is how I learn many new ideas from them because two of them have just graduated as well as all three of them have lots of energy which is contagious!
One of them gave me Snowmen at Night for a Christmas present to thank me for working with her. This was a new book for me and as I read it over the holidays I realized what a marvelous mentor text it will be for our class in 2011.

*Starting with the title I automatically had questions because I never thought about showmen at nighttime which is exactly what Caralyn Buhemer the author wants you to do as a reader. We will record the questions and search for answers.  

*The perspective of this book is perfect for Writing Workshop because we are focusing on persuasive writing, so I will use this book to reinforce points of view of snowmen which will be very fun for the students.

*It will be a great text to reinforce parts of speech, and I will use it primarily for adjectives with all the changes that snowmen go through as well as the creativity of designing their own snowmen.  As I read Katie DiCesare's blog Creative Literacy I thought it might be fun to allow the students to design their own 3D snowman since we will be having many indoor recesses.  Thanks Katie for idea.

I found this You Tube video of Snowman at Night which my class will love watching as a culminating activity.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Wonderopolis is a Huge Hit!

My friend Andrea Smith who writes for Choice Literacy and is an amazing science teacher has really helped me this year with my thinking about Life Science.  After meeting with her in her classroom and discussing how to rearrange my classroom to support classroom pets,  how to change my morning routine, and more importantly to me how to connect writing, reading, science and technology.  She suggested this amazing site called Wonderopolis  On a side note, Mandy Robek wrote an interesting blog about having class pets which encouraged me also.

If you have been reading my blog lately you might have realized that I have been thinking intensely how to use the classroom time more efficiently as well as how can I combine my state indicators. This website and the integration with their iPods has been tremendous answer for me.

The first thing I did was show the students the website and explored Monday's topic: Why Do You Get Ice Cream Headaches? Then the students set up their iPod with a new hot button linked to the site. They were hooked at this point-what a great topic to introduce first. The only better thing would have been if I brought in ice cream for them to eat. Note to self remember that for next year :)

As the students enter our morning routine now starts with the Wonderopolis site up on my Smart board. The students read the question of the day and begin writing down their background knowledge (BK) about the daily topic as well as record any questions that they might have. This weeks topics included: Braille, Supernova, pasta,  and Bloodhounds. This is one of the reasons I love this site because of the wide variety of topics as well as the non fiction writing, videos and links that are provided to support the topic.  This week they wrote on notebook paper next week Mr. Mark and I are going to teach them to use evernote on their iPods.

When we start our reading workshop each day, we spend 5-10 minutes discussing the prior topic of the day. Their reading homework each night is to spend time reading the website, recording new facts, watching the video as well as exploring the new vocabulary words.  This conversation has been at a high level including focus on text support for their BK and questions.

Listening to the video and taking notes.
To conclude the week, I allowed the students to pick their favorite topic of the week and answer 4-6 questions which I wrote using the higher level Bloom's verbs. The students used their personal notes, iPods, and I xeroxed some packets of information from the website. Half of the students used their iPods and the rest chose the xeroxed packet and highlighted the notes while they answered the questions.

I am excited to see the topics this week as well as allowing the students to begin to use the Bloom's verbs to write their own questions for articles.  It is a full circle lesson that I believe will be very successful in our classroom.  Check back later for updates on our new classroom pets, evernote and higher level questions.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Mentor Texts + Technology = Persuasive Writing

Made with My Cool Signs.Net

First of all thanks to Karen at Talkworthy for using these creative scrabble letters in her post.I totally borrowed her idea. I am thinking differently about my next unit in writing which is focused on persuasive writing. I have been teaching this unit for a number of years however, this year I am focusing more on combining state indicators both from reading and writing to use my time more efficiently as well as how am I going to use technology within the unit.

Here are some of the ideas that I am not going to change from previous lessons.

*Using amazing picture books including: This School is Not White, Click Clack Moo, Earrings, I Wanna New Room which I learned about from Two Writing Teachers.

*My friend Frankie, at Literate Lives suggested these two titles: A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea and Should We Have Pets?

*Using our weekly Scholastic News as well as the ones that we have kept in our reader's NB all year to refer to the student debate section.

*Having the students begin to read the newspaper (paper or online version) and bring in an article that supports persuasive writing.

What I am going to change this year is the option on how to record their notes as well as the end product. I am going to give the students a menu to choose from for their final presentation.

*Using evernote to record their thinking instead of paper/pencil

*Using their iPod and the app Storyrobe which uses voice and pictures.

*Using flip videos to create their presentation which will be saved to their iPods

*Keynote which will be saved to their iPods for final presentation

This will be another HUGE learning curve for me because I have not used Storyrobe or flip videos in my class this year. I am excited but nervous about how the menu will work with my class. I am most excited about the students having choice on their final presentation. Check back on Wonderful Word Wednesday for another fun surprising picture book for persuasive writing.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Favorite Things List is Evolving in 2011

One of my favorite movies in the world is the Sound of Music, and my husband would tell you that I have watched it a 100 times at least, and he just might be correct. My favorite song is 

I thought of this song this week as I had some first time experiences in my class and most of them had to do with technology-the times are changing.

*Two of my students asked and received a kindle for the holidays. Both of the students asked me if they could use their kindle for their JR book and my answer was YES (and I was screaming) How cool is that?

*During status of the class which is a weekly check in with me about their JR book, both students told me their current book but could not tell me their page number. I didn't know it, but kindles don't have page numbers they have percentage completed, so I recorded 19% complete.  How cool is that?

*During status, one of my students told me she is reading a student bible?  How cool is that?

*As we discussed the holidays, I found out that half of my students' families got  a new technology tool which included iPods, iPads, laptops or kindles.  One of the parents emailed me and told me their daughter could not imagine leaving her iPod behind when she graduates from 5th grade, so that was #1 on her list.  How cool is that?

*Finally, as I started my reading conferences one of my students told me his favorite app is the Science Glossary and he spent the holiday season building his own science dictionary.  How cool is that?

Until this week, I have never had these conversations, and I have been teaching 21 years, bring on the new technology tools.  I am excited to learn and dream more about how to use them in my classroom.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wonderful Word Wednesday: Snow Day

Are you like me-do you have favorite pictures books that you know your students love to hear or you just want to share some great literature with them?. However, as time continues to be difficult to manage with all my required state standards,  I think to myself how can I integrate these favorite picture books into all areas of my teaching day?  

If there is one message that I have heard loud and clear in our school's Professional Development (PD) meetings is that as teachers we need to combine grade level indicators. The obvious place for me to start was in December with Wonderful Word Wednesday because focus lessons are based on the following indicators:  building and increasing vocabulary, spelling strategies, and transferring those skills to their writing. I will be reviewing a new picture book each Wed. in January about snow and how to use the book with word study.  

My first choice is Snow Day by Lester Laminack. I love this book for several reasons:

*First of all the title what student and teacher doesn't love a snow day? I will read this book our first Wednesday back and have students predict when they think our first snow day will be in 2011.  They will write their predictions on index cards, and we will tape them to our classroom door to see who will be correct?  I have a "winter" surprise for the winner.

*In December, we focused on all the attributes of nouns now we will move towards verbs. This book is wonderful for that part of speech as well as reviewing nouns. In addition, I will have the students collect the verbs as I read the story aloud and then work on spelling past, present and future tenses. We will then transfer the verbs to writer's workshop on Poetry Friday.

*I also love how Adam Gustavson's colorful and realistic illustrations provide snapshots that lead readers into believing they know how the book will turn out and the ending will surprise you which makes the book even better!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Students' Choice Award: Math Bingo

 Happy 2011 I hope you have an amazing year!  I want to wish my friends Franki and Mary Lee a  Happy 5th birthday both of you have encouraged me to explore the world of blogging. Thanks!

As I was Thinking Towards 2011 I decided I  am going to have the students choose their favorite app and write about how they use the app in their learning.  This is the first of monthly features with review comments by my students. I just added Math Bingo the first week of December, and it already won the top award from my class for the month of December below are their comments on why they like Math Bingo.

*This app took kids like me who don't like math and made practicing facts fun.
*On level three, it really stretches your thinking because I had to borrow and regroup.
*I don't like division facts, but I memorized my basic facts to 12 because I wanted to earn more bugs for Bingo Bungee.
*Playing Bingo Bungee helped me with my estimating.
*I was eager to practice math facts.
*The different levels helped me to extend my thinking.
*The time limit helped me to increase my speed with answers to basic facts because I wanted more bugs for the game.
*It improves my reflexes by making me think and then quickly tap the answer.
*This app really helped me with quick thinking for problem solving.
*I had to use mental math to help me answer more quickly.
*If I had to guess 6 times in a row, the app made me stop and change my level.
*What a fun way to review for math tests because I use math facts all the time.

Enough said, if you haven't purchased Math Bingo I would suggest it.