Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thinking Towards 2011

As I begin to reflect on having iPods in my classroom this year, I believe we have made many significant gains. I told my teaching partner, Sarah, I believe the iPods are another tool just like their pencil. I am going to continue to focus on three goals: creativity, collaboration and communication with the iPods.Those 3 C's have really guided my thinking.  As I look ahead to 2011, I am always thinking about how can I continue to focus on the 3 C's as well as allow my students to become more involved with their iPods. Here are some of the BIG ideas for the upcoming year.  

First, I am going to have the students choose their favorite app and write about how they use the app in their learning. Also they will include one fun fact.  I am going to start a monthly feature on the blog in which the top two apps will be reviewed by the students. I am excited to learn about the apps from their perspectives. Also a few students have gone to the App Store and have made suggestions for different apps as well as songs they would like added to their iPods. Right now they are asking me to add some new songs that sing in their Spanish class which I plan on doing during the holidays.

Second I am going to have the students create another digital story but this time using an app called Storyrobe which is free.  This app allows the students to create a mobile digital story that includes images (both internet and photos that the students can take). This will be a new challenge because our iPods don't have a camera, so I am going to have them bring in photos and import them into their iPhoto Library on their iPod.  The students will be able to voice record their story which will be new because we have not recorded on their iPods yet.  Finally they will email their story to me and we will share them with the class as well as post them on our class web page so the parents can view them. 

Next along with a lot of support from Mark, our TST,  I am going to learn about google docs so that I can begin to explore digital learning beyond the classroom. I plan on implementing this through my Life Science unit that I will be starting in February.  The focus is on comparing ecosystems, identify how organisms change and are affected by the change, finally the transfer of energy in food chains and food webs. If you have any additional links, picture books  (thanks Karen @ Literate Lives) or ideas on this topic please leave me a comment.

Lastly Mark and I will be preparing to present at the Dublin Lit Conference on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 at Dublin Coffman High School. This year professional speakers include Kelly Gallagher, Patrick Allen, Troy Hicks,and Christian Long.  Children's authors include Brian Pinkney, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Wendy Mass and Loren Long.  Here is the link for the brochure.  

My school goes through Dec. 22 then I will be on holiday break through the New Year. I am going to enjoy having my family home for the holidays and take a blogging break until after the New Year. One of the things I am thankful for is the opportunity to be on this journey in the blogging world.  Thanks for reading and coming along with me on this adventure.  Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and an amazing New Year.  See you in 2011.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Author Party Celebration!

I believe pictures tell a story so here is our story as we celebrated the students becoming published authors this past Friday morning with their parents.  We celebrated by starting with their writer's noteobooks, the entire writing process and finally a published book!  And of course any celebration would not be complete without doughnuts and drinks!

Sitting on the floor at our round table.
Sitting on the floor sharing her book.              

This is one my favorite stories-my student wrote a story about when his little brother was born.  His mom brought his little brother so I could meet him-what a treasured book.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wonderful Word Wed. Games and Thoughtful New Book

Last Saturday, I spent my morning at my favorite bookstore, Fundamentals talking to Tammy.  I love when I go into her store because she always has some great book suggestions but this time she also told me about some new games.  I always try and purchase my class a new word game for the holidays since we are starting the long days of indoor recess in Ohio.

Her first choice is the award winning game Consensus (Junior Edition). This game has won numerous awards including Major Fun Award, Dr. Toy Winner Top 10, and 2009 Game of the Year Award. I am excited to wrap up this game because it reinforces parts of speech (nouns and verbs) as well as logical thinking.  It's also great for a classroom because up to 8 students can play the game.  The point of the game is lay out 10 noun cards on the game board and one adjective card. Each player chooses which noun is best described by the adjective secretly and places their vote-#1-10.  Which ever noun gets the most votes is the consensus and those students get to move their pawn ahead and the game ends with ten dots.

Tammy also suggested Pairs in Pears with a title like that how could I go wrong?  I was excited
to learn that it has four separate alphabets
that can be combined or used separately. I
love the idea of using this game in word
study to reinforce spelling patterns and allowing the students to have fun with words including practicing figurative language. Should be a huge hit for indoor recess this year.

Tammy also suggested a new book, because of mr. terupt,  that was just released in October by first time author Rob Buyea. Tammy was so excited to tell me that the story's setting is a fifth grade classroom and each chapter is written from the point of view of six students in Mr. Terupt's class.  There’s . . . Jessica, the new girl, smart and perceptive, who’s having a hard time fitting in; Alexia, a bully, your friend one second, your enemy the next;Peter, class prankster and troublemaker; Luke, the brain; Danielle, who never stands up for herself; shy Anna, whose home situation makes her an outcast; and Jeffrey, who hates school.  Mr. Terupt is in his first year of teaching and is a marvelous teacher because he learns about each of his students' home life and then handles many difficult situations with a sense of humor as well as many endearing conversations with the students both privately and within the class setting.  I actually am going to start the (dollar word) math game which Mr. Terupt used to hook his class into loving math after the holidays.  

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Published Authors on Story Kit

I have been working and "playing" on how to create links to share my students' Story Kit stories. If you hit the links for one and two and they don't work, sorry and I will try again.  Here is my best effort for story one and two. 

Story one is an amazing story because she is wonderful writer to start with but the iPod allowed her such creativity with the illustrations both hand drawn and copied off the internet.  When she talked about her story, she loved the connection with Sherlock Holmes and creativity of the pig. Her story had amazing connections with our class read aloud Donavan's Word Jar and connections with our Life Science unit.

Story two is a creative fantasy story, and the setting was perfect since it was Halloween.  Story two's author does not really enjoy writing, and I would have to say he is hesitant at best to write a story. However, the iPod has unlocked writing for him.  I allowed him to compose the entire story on his iPod that was a HUGE release for me, but I was anxious to see if it would make a difference and it certainly did.  The coolest part for me is the wide variety of figurative language.  He used similes, idioms, alliteration, and onomatopoeia all of which had been the focus in our word study and poetry Friday.  His choice of vocabulary was also impressive because he used the online thesaurus to help him with his choice of words.  When we had his final writing conference, he was happiest about how he took a regular fish and changed him into a frightening, freaky, fat scuba diver.  Sometimes as a teacher you just have to throw in your bait and see what you catch.  This time I got a whopper of a good story.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wonderful Word Wednesday: December Mentor Text

Yesterday I started my day with a Professional Development about Writing Workshop I was presenting along with a teammate.  One of the questions that comes up often is about mentor texts.  As we talked today about how important mentor texts are I realized that the message I need to continue to reinforce is that any text can be a mentor text depending on the focus of the mini lesson.  

I found this book while shopping on black Friday with my daughter (what would shopping be without a trip to the bookstore). This book was brand new to me and as I read it I fell in love with the story. I plan on using it today for our word study.  In December, one of the areas of focus is going to be on parts of speech.  After a quick review of nouns, verbs, and adjectives I am going to read this story aloud.  As I read it I am going to have students collect those different parts of speech. It will be a great text because not only are there simple parts of speech (bell, red, walk) there are higher levels (pack: which is a noun and a verb) The conversations will be interesting to see if the students pick up on how one word could be different parts of speech depending on usage which is the focus for my mini lesson.

Along with parts of speech, I could also use this book for
*predictable text for choral reading
*connection with the other There Was an Old Lady books
*predictions (not until the end of the book do you know why she is swallowing everything
   you will have to read the book to find out:  HO! HO! HO!)
*simple but wonderful word choice
*excellent and funny graphics that support the text

I plan on using this book many times in the month of December-check it out!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

New Math Apps

Prior to Thanksgiving, I spent the month of November reading blogs about some new apps that had come out lately.  I made a list of the apps and used my holiday break to check out some of them.  I have to admit I am most excited about the math apps because they are going to be perfect for my "out of the box thinkers" as my friend Joyce says.

Math Bingo costs .99 and is a bingo game that the students can practice all four basic facts at three different levels. The highest level was impossible to do without paper and pencil which I like because it is a timed game.  The fun part is that before they play they get to choose an Avatar to represent them.  As they get the correct answer, a bug is placed on the board and there is some strategy because at the lower levels, the answer is repeated, so choosing the correct answer is important because of the time element.  After each game, the players earn bugs to play Bingo Bug Bungee which is a fun eye hand coordinated game.  It kind of drove me crazy the but kids will love it.

Nine Gaps is addicting, fun and free!  It is an electronic Sodoku but much more fun.  You are given a set game board with missing digits.  Using the operations in the game, you place the numbers to make the columns and rows mathematically correct. It is fun because of the thinking involved to use the number already given and when you think you know the correct answer you just click and drag the number. There are 5 difficult levels, and it has unlimited puzzles.  The games are timed, and I love how each time you play a level it encourages the player to try the next level. I just finished Order of Operations and my class class is going to crazy with this app.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Many Thanks

Today I start my Thanksgiving vacation, and I am very thankful this year.
*I am excited that my family will be together now that our daughter is home from BGSU.
*I am lucky to work in a school that supports the integration of technology.
*I have found a new voice in my blog and enjoy reading the comments that keep me thinking.
*I will have time to explore the four new apps that I just purchased this week. Check back next week for an update.

I am going to take a blog break (I guess I am allowed to do that) even though I have only been up and blogging since August.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I hope you enjoy all of your blessings. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Newbery Club has Started!

My friend Bill from Literate Lives always had a dream to start a Newbery Club. When we used to team teach together, he always said that it would be neat if he along with the students would read the Newberry winner before it was announced. Well his dream came true Wednesday morning at 8:00 AM.  Bill asked me to help with organization of it as well as how to help the students be able to talk about the books through wikis/blogs. Wednesday morning we had 17 5th graders show up to begin discussing the Newberry books.  Bill posted before me so I am going to tag along with some extra details in case  you're interested in starting your own club.

In our school district, we have the availability to set up group blogs, so Bill sent a list of students who committed to the club to our tech coordinator, and he set the blog up for us.  The students have a password and it is linked through Bill's web page for the library.  This is the second best part of the club, I will tell you the best part later.  I love the fact that all 18 students call talk to each other, leave comments, ask questions as well as follow their friend's reading. Bill, Joyce (of Grand Discussion) and I also can talk to the kids. Just last night I talked to 7 different students, and this morning a boy in my class told me thanks for reading his comment.

The best part is that 18 students want to read and are in a group that will support their reading. I just sat back and listened at our first 8:00 meeting like Bill said all students had read one or two books. Today during study hall, two of the club members were discussing which book they would read next:  Countdown or Out of my Mind and how they could trade books if they finished in the same time line.  They are talking about books. I am excited to try and keep up with their reading-they are even pushing me!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wonderful Word Wednesday: Greek and Latin Prefix & Suffixes

For the past three weeks on Wonderful Word Wednesday, our class has teleported back in time to become Cryptokids. Cryptomania is one of the best mentor texts that I have ever used. It is student friendly and has amazing illustrations and excellent text examples that support the meanings. I have struggled for a long time on teaching Greek and Latin prefixes and suffixes.  I knew how to teach it but I never saw the transfer of the skills to my student's writing or vocabulary. Last year, our team ordered multiple copies of this book, so I was ready to have fun this year being teleported back in time.

Organized chaos while working on posters.
I introduced the book by setting the stage that our class was going to be teleported back to ancient Greece. This was very exciting for the kids as well as creating some curiosity about the time frame. The next thing I did was have each student adopt a Greek or Latin prefix or suffix by pulling a slip of paper out of the hat.  These corresponded to examples that would be found in the book. Each student spent a week of secrecy researching and learning about their new prefix or suffix. 

Working hard on their poster
The following Wednesday, we did the great reveal which was really fun because the students did not know that I had duplicated the slips of paper, so each student said their prefix/suffix I would hear "I have that one too."  After each student found their partner, we created a class rubric for designing their posters. This was interesting because they had such a wide variety of research that they wanted to include  much higher level
information than I thought of originally.

I love the pop up little book.
The following Wednesday the students finished their posters, and they presented them to the class.  This was exciting because this is when all the connections and light bulb moments happened during their presentations.

*Many of the prefixes and suffixes could be combined to make new words and until the students saw all the posters they did not realize this.
*Some of the students were able to create new words that they didn't think about prior to the presentations.
*As a class, the students decided they wanted to search for these prefix/suffixes in their JR books or even text books. I agreed to xerox the page and we would add the new words.  

This is where I think the connections will occur with the student's writing as well as expanding their vocabulary. Time to be teleported back to Ohio-it was a successful journey!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Going Beyond Story Kit

Using her iPod to add  figurative language to her story.

My big goals for second trimester will continue to focus on creativity and creating stories using iPods. After writing conferences this past week, I learned that many students are using Story Kit on their own going beyond what I taught them and extending the use of Story Kit. Here is a list of how students are using the app.

* building an enrichment book: Many times during the day when I am teaching I say if you want to learn more about this idea (for example the multiple meaning of collision) look it up tonight and teach us tomorrow. Students are researching on the internet, taking a snapshot and creating a page in their enrichment book all on their iPod (see example below)

*collecting figurative language from their Just Right book and typing it into notes to use later in their own writing

* researching non fiction and writing about different topics while recording new facts as well as taking snapshots of the topic

*writing a new story because they love the opportunity to draw their own illustrations as well as being able to produce the whole story on their iPod. 

I am so excited and I had no idea the students were doing all of these amazing activities on their iPod.  I am so proud of them!!
They have learned how to bookmark pages to use as research.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Questions and Answers

As a blogger, one of the main reasons I write is to reflect on my teaching as well as share my experiences especially about technology with my peers. One of my favorite parts is when I get to read the comments.  There was a wonderful comment with lots of questions, so I am going to try and answer them in this blog.  

I am learning so much from your experiences with iPods in the classroom. My class set just arrived today and I have spent the entire evening rereading your posts and exploring possible apps. My next question is...How do you introduce a new app? Do you have a way to show the entire class how the app works? What did you do to introduce the basics of how the iPod is operated at the very beginning? Also, do your students have email accounts so they can email each other or you? Boy do I agree that the learning curve is HUGE! Thanks for teaching us through your experiences.

Question 1) How do I introduce new apps?  

Answer:  I have introduced them in groups according to subjects.  For example I share a group of word study apps then I introduced math  apps etc.  I have found if I group the apps the students typically find one they like and continue to use that one.  On a side note, I also have found that time to play with the apps is imperative because the students need time to talk and share what they like/dislike about the apps as well as time for me to move around the room to help students.

Question 2) Do I have a way to show the entire class how the app works?

Answer:  This has been a challenge, but I am very lucky that I have a portable Elmo that hooks into my computer so I can show them on my dry erase board using my iPod.  This works pretty well not always clear but the students have the same app in front of them, so they just refer to the board as a reference

Question 3) What did I do to introduce the basics of how the iPod is operated in the beginning?

Opening screen on iPod.
Answer:  Leave plenty of time the first time the iPods are passed out. I left an entire afternoon which is about 2 hours, and we used every minute. I would suggest trying to have an extra adult with you just to help troubleshoot. The first thing Mark (our TST) and I did was to teach them how to turn them on and off.  Next we showed them how we labeled them as they turned on with a number-the same number they have assigned to  them in class. Because I teach 5th grade, I knew my students had experience with the internet so 
we played with Google Earth. I only had 5 apps loaded on them the first time they got their iPods.  The students found their homes by typing in their address, and then they found somewhere they went on summer vacation.  This was really fun for the students!! We then explored the app homonyms because that was our focus in writing at that time. After that I allowed, the students to take their iPod home that night and explore everything.  The next morning's conversation were amazing!!!

Question 4)  Do the students have email and can they email to me?

Answer:  This was a huge step for me because I chose to use the app Story Kit with my class because I love how the students can create their own story; however, I had to have them be able to email me their final story.  See Hooray Email Finally Works for Story Kit!  I am very excited now that I have email I believe that will open other apps for me to explore. The best part is that the students can only email me so it is locked and safe for them.  The down side is that I can not email them back, but for right now I am happy with one way email.

I am sure there are many more questions, and I still have a million myself but that is why I love being apart of the blogging world. Thanks for asking great questions!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Million Dollar Questions

I was lucky enough to have time this weekend to spend time getting caught up on some twitter accounts that I had bookmarked as well as some technology blogs that I follow.  I don't know about you but once school starts I am just trying to keep my head above water with building and implementing strong lesson plans, preparing for student conferences (which I love) and keeping up with the grading. Oh yes and don't forget time to reflect on the lessons that I have taught. But this weekend I watched TED videos  about creativity and play as well as an interview with Will Richardson, I am thankful for time.

I continue to think about iPods in my classroom. At this point in our district, we are almost finished with our first trimester.  I believe I have set the climate where iPods are part of the students' day just like their pencils, writer's notebook and JR book. The iPods are being used to extend their learning beyond school. A key component for me was when iPods became the regular routine and no longer a big deal to use them.  But now as I watched and learned more this weekend, I begin to think about what is next with iPods. To me these are the million dollar questions that I never will quite answer; however, I continue to ask and search for answers.

*How can I use iPods to continue collaboration beyond the blogging in our class? I know that I can have my students blog with other classes in the district, but I want to find experts out in the world-for example a scientist that could explain food chains or food webs. A great example would be from yesterday when I shared James Preller's blog about how revision is hard for him which was perfect because my class has been struggling with revision.

*How can students continue to be creative using their iPods beyond Story Kit?  I want iPods to be a tool for creating as well as collaboration.

*How can I continue to teach my students to be problem solvers and focus on critical thinking using their iPods?  

These are just some of my million dollar questions-if you have any ideas I would love for you to leave a comment.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Poetry Friday is Delicious!

Poetry Friday is like a super sundae with a cherry on top!  I am so excited for Fridays in our class.  Two weeks ago we finished our poetry conversations about how we talk about poems.  I shouldn't say we finished because actually we just opened the jar of cherries.  The students are ready to begin searching, practicing and even writing their own poetry.  

Last Friday was the first week the students spent the week looking through the poetry books in our classroom. This is a new idea this year that I am implementing. In past years, I have allowed 15-20 minutes every Friday for students to read and search for poems to share that specific Friday.  But with this class, I believe they need the time to search but more important time to practice their poems when sharing them aloud with the class. For today's Poetry Friday, I know I have four different groups ready to share because they asked me to make copies of their poems so they could practice at home-there is the cherry!

Another group checked a poetry book out of the library on Tuesday found their poem on Wednesday asked me to copy the poem, and they have been practicing it the rest of the week. I think that is the hot fudge and finally the ice cream is the group of boys who will be singing from the Sipping Spiders Through a Straw.  Poetry Friday is going to be delicious!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hooray! Email finally works for Story Kit

Yesterday was one of those days when I LOVED teaching and yes I am screaming!  The students were so excited as Mr. Mark, our TST, helped the students send me their Story Kit story.  It was so much fun to see their faces light up as I had my email account open on the Smartboard, and they saw their name come through with the story. Here are some of the comments you could here throughout the class.

-Hooray now I can write more stories because I can send them to Mrs. Caplin.
-I want to see my friends stories.
-Look at all the amazing titles.
-It was well worth the wait-but the wait about killed me.

As their stories loaded into my email, I opened them up so the students could see each others. That is where the amazing conversations started including some great questions

-How did you do that graphic?
-Look how Bobby used figurative language.
-How did you mix the art tool with imported graphic?
-I can visualize that in my mind from the BIG words.
-Can we add background color to all the slides?
-Look at the lead that Cindy wrote-I am hooked.
-I went to the same place on vacation I think I will write my own story.

I now have all their digital stories on my own laptop.  I will be able to assess them digitally and my goal is not to have to print them off.  Also the coolest part in my opinion is next week,  Mark is going to teach me how to download the stories to my district web page.  We are going to put them on a password protected link so all the students will be able to see each other stories.  What an amazing tool for them to see their friends stories as well as the parents will be able to read other students stories.  I am so excited that the entire writing process from start to finish was completed on their iPod--can you tell?? On a side note, I would love to share some of the stories with the blogging world so I will be working on learning that process-keep checking back.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dear Mrs. Caplin Letters

One of my favorite times of the year is when my students begin to write to me about their reading life both about their Just Right (JR) book and personal opinions about their book. That week quickly approaches with the first week of November. I call these student letters "Dear Mrs. Caplin letters"  This idea comes from the mentor text that I use called Dear Mrs. LaRue Letters from Obedience School. I have spent two weeks getting ready to launch my students into Mrs. Caplin letters. This year I believe I finally have come up with an organized system that really taught my students the importance of letter writing as a genre. 

I start the conversation with reading Dear Mrs. La Rue aloud to my class, and the students just listened. The huge connection this year came when I asked the students to write a letter as homework to Mrs.LaRue on suggestions on how to help Ike come back home after obedience school. We then discussed how the book is organized which starts with a newspaper article, then many letters from disgruntled Ike, and finally ends with another newspaper article. I have made overheads of many of the letters, so the students come up and underline what they like about the letter and these examples build our TREMENDOUS LETTER chart. Using this anchor chart, the light bulbs went off when the students used the same criteria to judge their own letter. This was a huge learning curve because most of the students did not have the criteria, so they worked hard on making their letter TREMENDOUS! What a great way for them to understand and practice the criteria that I will use to create a rubric to assess their DEAR letter.

From this point, I wrote the students a letter as a model as well as writing a letter to the parents explaining the DEAR letters. One important aspect for me as well as the students is that they get to pick their day on which the letter is due to me. Which means the week the letters are due,I will get letters turned in on every day but that works for me especially with spreading the reading of the letters out over the week.  They will write a letter about every three weeks. The key to success for DEAR letters is the conversation that I have with my students by writing back to them-actually I write all over their letters -questions, comments, suggestions, ideas about other books as well as a personalized conversation that I really value as a teacher.  For me DEAR letters are one of the key components in connecting my reading and writing in my class!  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bump in the Road

I knew it would happen at some point with technology. Honestly I would have thought it would have happened sooner than now. We have completed our Story Kit stories and the students are ready to submit them through email however, that is the problem.  Email is very difficult in my perspective with student iPods. I want them to be able to email me their projects, but I don't want them to be able to receive emails from anyone but me.  After much conversation and lots of support from Mark we thought we had it figured out.  The students tried to submit their final story this past Thursday and the email system did not work at my school.  The crazy thing is that the email addresses worked in other buildings in my district as well from Central Office.  How many times has that happened to you with technology?  Ask my friend, Bill at Literate Lives about our crazy technology glitches. The difference now is that I value the iPods as an integral part of our instruction in the classroom, the students ability to create a story on the iPod as well as the opportunity to use a new app.  I am frustrated but not ready to give up which is what I would have done five years ago. A HUGE thanks goes out to Mark and Mike for their help on this glitch! I know this glitch will get figured out for our class, so I can post their wonderful stories in a future blog.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Amazing Halloween Books

This week in class I started sharing some of my favorite Halloween books. My class suggested that I write a blog about the books, so I decided to do a quick book preview.  If you have not seen these books they are lots of fun for Poetry Friday, word study and figurative lanuage all rolled up into some amazing books.

 This is a great series of books that my students love on Poetry Friday.  The poems are written so two students can read the separate parts. I use these poems even to assess fluency with my readers who need additional practice. One of the favorite poems is "The Witch and the  Broomstick"  This year the students are even acting out the poem.

How can you go wrong with a title like this? First of all the curiousty of the title gets the students hooked on the book. Second the illustrations are really spooky and also support the text because there are some new words in in the poems. The next part that makes this book special is all of the poems are sing alongs.  My class loves to sing so this is perfect. Our  class favorite is "Blow, Blow, Blow Your Nose" to the tune of
"Row, Row, Row Your Boat."  Can you imagine the acting out of this song-watch out! 

I have to admit I bought this book for it's cover. I definatley judged this book for it's cover!  But when I opened it up I fell in love with the riddles and the beautiful illustrations that are similar to the cover.  I love using this book for context clues, illustrations that support the text as well as having fun with words.  The students love the first riddle:  What do you call two spiders that just got married?  (Newly webs)  Enjoy these new books in the month of October.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wonderful Word Wednesday

Our class continues to have fun with exploring BIG words.  After starting the year with our Hallmark bulletin board, we have now moved towards adding BIG words to our writing.  Some of my favorite books to start the year include the following.

 Max's Words by Kate Banks This is a very powerful book showing the importance of words.  First it is a great book to talk about student's collections Ie: baseball cards, etc. The idea that Max loves to collect words is wonderful. I enjoy it because the way the book builds from words, to sentences, to paragraphs. I also love how Max uses everyday items like a newspaper to collect his favorite words. My class starts their word study spiral with this idea, and the students go home and collect words and glue them on their first page of the spiral. They often refer back to this page in their own writing.

I also share Big Words For Little People by Jamie Lee Curtis with my class. I hesitate to share books written by actors however this book has been a huge jumping off point for my class. As I read aloud the book to my class, I have the students listen and collect the BIG words in their word study spiral.The students enjoy sharing the new words and then we connect these words to our figurative language simile bulletin board.  The students begin to use these words in their writing and that is my goal for any word work.

Finally I collect many books about words and keep then in a basket on one of my favorite spots in my classroom. I love how a round tables brings the students together as well as taking the legs off the table seemed to make it a perfect height for conversations.  I often observe students pulling out the word books and looking through them for fun as well as searching for new words for their own writing. I have to say my favorite day of the week is WONDERFUL WORD WEDNESDAY!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Writing Workhop with iPods

Just looking around my classroom this week during writing workshop was wonderful.  First of all to watch the students complete their entire publishing piece on iPods is amazing. Second to observe and listen to their conversations about writing was fun.  I heard ideas about word choice, writing stronger closing sentences, moving sentences around to support text better and best of all that writing is fun on iPods.  I sat down with a reluctant writer and asked him how iPods have changed his thinking about writing. He told me that writing on iPods is more fun because he felt like he had more freedom because he did not have to erase and use his color pencil for editing.  Also he loves the idea that next week he is going to add his own personal illustrations that he will draw. He said thinking about the illustrations made him add more details to his writing.  Lastly, he realized when we did our share at the end of workshop that he needed to add more details so he went back to his brainstorming and added details. Next week, I wil blog about their final pieces including how adding illustrations and importing photos support their writing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Simplemind and Time to Explore

I always knew that students need time to explore that includes the classroom the first week of school, the new books on the shelves, the writing workshop toolbox that I have in my classroom, and of course new apps on the iPods.  After adding five new apps this past week, all week I had students come to me and say, Mrs. Caplin did you know.......?  I love those moments.  It is even more fun when I observe the students teaching each other about the apps.

But this week, I was really impressed with some of my students.  We are getting ready to start Story Kit on Tuesday and they are in the middle of the writing process.  I had some students that wanted to use Simplemind app which is a mind mapping tool that is a brainstorming, idea collection and thought structuring device. I was really impressed with their map when they shared it with the class.  I was not sure how to show their web, but I took a snapshot of the map and saved it to my desktop. I then showed the webs on the Smartboard.  It was amazing to hear them explain how this app really helped them organize their writing.  First they liked the color options for putting similar ideas together.  Next they liked being able to move the ideas around and also duplicate ideas if it fit into two categories. The best part for me was that one of the students told me he worked on the app on the way to soccer and another worked on it at their brother's football game.  Learning is everywhere!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rethinking Final Assessments

Since getting the iPods and working towards my goals of allowing the tool to extend students learning as well as using iPods in productivity I have really struggled with
final products.  The teacher in me wants to have the piece of paper to assess and
attach to the final rubric, but my learning curve is pushing me towards allowing the tool to house the final product. This has been hard for me to let go of.

I tried this for the first time in word study/Poetry Friday.  Our focus has been on figurative language-defining, searching, describing and writing it.  We finished our unit, and I had the students take their final assessment in notebook on their iPods. They were so excited, and I was able to see quickly who got the concepts and who I needed to pull for some small group instruction.  I just looked at their iPods and used a check list to mark off each student-it was quick and easy in the process we saved a tree!  Here are  a few samples of the student's work.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Thinking Day with Christian Long

Saturday I had the opportunity through The Literacy Connection to listen to Christian Long speak. Christian speaks nationally and internationally on topics ranging from emerging trends in education to innovative school planning practices.  His research focus is on making connections between emerging technology, educational trends, and school design. As I sat for his introduction I was mesmerized, and I listened and wrote down several thought provoking ideas.

words are the chess game of language” 

the collision of kids learning is why we teach”  

everyone can fight not everyone can build” 

 “innovation and creativity are the goals

"let go of assumptions"

As I begin to think about these quotes within my classroom, I am now thinking differently on how to approach my teaching.  Probably one of the key points that hit home with me because of implementing the iPods this year is the idea that creativity is the goal. This is why I am so excited about launching Story Kit this week in my classroom.

The rest of our day was spent on activities that made us think differently and have us work with many different people in the group.  This was fun for me because I was able to reconnect with teachers from my district as well as see people I haven’t seen in a while. I was able to meet Mandy who writes the blog Enjoy and Embrace Learning, and also meet some new people from a district that is next to mine.  These exchanges are as valuable to me as the presentation.

I have to admit I was never quite sure what the next step was because he had us thinking, writing, and moving quickly.  This whole process was interesting, and I am still processing it.  However, the one thing Christian definitely solidified for me was the idea of choice in my classroom.  I am a huge believer in students’ choice however; I tended to still narrow their choices in writing.  Not so much as give them a topic, but I always had them lift something out of their writer’s notebook if they are going to publish. I now ask myself what is the purpose for the assignment? My answer is to go through the writing process while practicing the new vocabulary and writing skills that we have working on in class and finally publish their piece of writing using Story Kit. Therefore, if a child wants to start at the beginning of the writing process with a choice topic for publishing, then that is their choice.  I am still thinking about his presentation as I write this blog, but my thinking is different so I believe Christian would be happy.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Four New Math Apps

A few of my students asked me this week some great questions that made me stop and think.  One was, “Why don’t we have many math apps on our iPods?” Another was “Can we get some math review activities to help me with my basic facts?”  Both these questions made me stop and reflect.

First of all my passion is with literacy, so I spend most of my time reading literacy blogs and looking for literacy apps.  For some reason, when I think about math I think in terms of my units that I teach.  This year I also have a wider range of diversity in my math class, so I need apps for a wider range of skills We are starting our multiplication unit on Monday, so I have spent this week looking through many different apps.

In addition, our next Social Studies unit is economics, and I was looking for apps to support counting change, making change, even some shopping apps that would apply these concepts as well as a student friendly checkbook/savings account app.  I was not very successful in this search.  I guess I know what I can do when I retire-create apps for elementary economics. Here are four that I chose and a short reason why I got them. 

Basic Math:  I am starting with the free version; the next version is $3.99. This application is the four basic operations with a focus on fact review. The problems are presented and it is a multiple choice for the answers.  You can set the number of problems as well as be timed.The $3.99 version allows the students to type their answer in for the basic facts.

 Just Fractions:  This app cost .99 and I love it as an introduction for fractions.  This app goes from basic addition/subtracting with like denominators to multiplying and dividing mixed fractions.  Two reasons I like this app is it has a Show Me button that takes the students step by step in the process and it also has an excellent built in vocabulary seek button if the students don’t know the meaning of the a term.

Kids Math Fun-Fifth Grade: This app cost .99 and there are different ones at each grade starting at kindergarten and going up to sixth grade.  I am going to have my students use this and if it works well I am considering purchasing a grade above or below. This app is for higher learners it is based on fractions, decimal, and percents.  The students will need to know their facts to use this app.  This app has a time limit piece that I think will be a great challenge for higher thinking.

Counting Coins is a free app.  To be honest it is a little primary for my class, but I needed something for a review with coins.  The focus in on four areas:  counting coins, matching the value, making the total, and dragging coins to create a given value. 

 I am having the students leave their iPods at school this weekend (they will not be happy about that) so that the apps can get loaded to the iPods.  I am anxious to see if
they like these new apps especially for the students have been asking about math apps.