Monday, August 30, 2010

5 Top Apps to Start the School Year

I passed out the iPods last week at it was like Christmas in August.  The smiles and the questions and the FUN-oh did they have fun.  After I passed them out and went over all the information, I allowed the students time to explore which was really important.  Here are a few of the amazing things they discovered in the first 20 minutes without any teacher direction.
Notice the ear plugs-each iPod came with one set.

On Google Earth, many students found their homes and showed their new classmates where they live.  Another student found where they went on summer vacation.  I was excited that the students started using this app because we start geography today and will be using the app to extend the unit as well as apply the state indicators which includes knowing mountain ranges, rivers, and Great Lakes. Also with Pop Geo USA the students will be able to label states, capitals, cities, and national parks. 

On Whiteboard, they figured out how to write words and send them to a friend in class. I didn’t even know how to do that.  It was crazy to watch them “talk” to each other and send their message to a friend across the room. This was confusing in the beginning because each iPod is assigned an ID so the message came with ID and then the message. But the students figured out who was who and loved this application.

On Number Line, students began to put fractions, decimals and percents in order on a number line from least to greatest. This is a more advanced app because some of the fractions need to be reduced so there is higher-level thinking with this app.

On Homonyms, students were choosing the correct homonym to fill in the blank in a sentence. Some of the students referred to this app during Poetry Friday. It was exciting to see how the new app could be used with our new poem, "Book bags Weigh a Ton." 

Sharing new ways to use the Apps.
These are five of the apps that I chose to start this school year.  I purchased  Homonyms and Pop Geo and the other three were free.  They had fun exploring and they took their iPods home this weekend, so I am sure they will have a lot to share today during our weekend share time.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Parent Letter

First of all thanks to everyone who is reading the blog!   In Monday's blog in the comment section I was asked to share my parent letter.  I was not able to figure out how to make a link, so I decided to just cut and paste the letter here in the blog.

August 26, 2010

Dear Parents,

Your child has a unique opportunity this school year to use iPod Touches within the school setting and at home.  I wrote and received a technology grant from (insert school district)  for a class set of iPod Touches for the 2010-2011 school year.  We will be using these iPods in many different ways. 

One way will be through research the students will be using the Internet, and will be able to set their own personal bookmarks to help with their research.  Students will use their iPod to write stories and use their own creativity for illustrations. A third way will be through collaboration in which students will share their new knowledge of the iPod to help all of us grow.  The last use will be a review for academic skills, which will be interactive and fun.

As with any technology, there will be a few guidelines.  First the iPods will be treated, as the school computers, which means (insert school district name)l code of technology, will be followed.  The students are responsible for any damage that results from the misuse of the iPods.  Most accidents are covered by the warranties, but damage caused by misuse would cause us to buy a new iPod for $199.  If a student breaks any rules, there will be a consequence starting with the loss of their iPod, and you will be notified if this would occur. 

The iPods will be able to be used at home, and the students are encouraged to use it for their homework. They should not download or add any applications to their iPod.  I would appreciate your support at home with this as well as helping your child take care of it.

In addition, I will be taking photos and videos of the students using their iPod and would like your permission to post these photos and our videos. Our class will also be observed during the school year so that other teachers can observe and learn how to implement the iPods into their own classroom.

Thanks for your support and I look forward to implementing the iPods so they will extend your child’s learning.

Mrs. Caplin

Cc:  (principal's name)

This is a second page that will be attached for signatures, and I will collect this page and file them.

Please sign the terms of use of the iPod and use of photos/videos.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me.

Your child’s name  _____________________________________

1.  We agree to the terms of use for the iPod for our child.

Parent Signature ____________________________________
Date _______________________

2.  We agree to allow Mrs. Caplin to use images and videos.

Parent Signature ______________________________
Date ________________________

Feel free to use all or parts of the letter-hope it helps you with your thinking with iPods!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wonderful Word Wednesday

In my classroom, Word study always begins with analyzing the students first name the first week of school.  I got this idea from Max Brand's  book called Word Savvy.  I am lucky enough to work in the district with Max and have heard him speak numerous times.  I bought into his book hook line and sinker when I read this introduction.

Tired of assigning weekly spelling lists that your students memorize for the test only to have them misspell the words in their daily writing? Then join Max Brand in his fifth-grade classroom where word learning is integrated fully into literacy workshops.

First of all I absolutely agree with Max about weekly spelling tests.  I abandoned them about six years ago, and we create personal spelling dictionaries as well as focusing on specific spelling patterns that are determined through a beginning of the year spelling assessment as well as looking at each students' writing.  Next, I teach 5th grade so it was a perfect fit for me.  His second chapter is called Planning for First Eight Weeks and honestly I followed that in the beginning and now I have made my lessons my own.  Lastly because of time, I have to incorporate word study into my whole day every day.  Every Wednesday I introduce a new mini lesson in word study based on my students' needs that I observe in their writing as well as implementing my state indicators.

I always have my students create their name card the first few days of school on a white index card. I have mine made to show them a model of what I expect.  I encourage them to use large block letters and decorate the card with their favorite colors and items on them. When they are finished, they put a magnet on the back and we use these cards for word study and for lunch count every day.

I believe strongly that Open and Closed sorts are important even though sorting is typically a primary concept.  Closed sorts are when you give students a rule to follow and they put the cards in the correct group.  For example: first names with Long vowels sounds.  Open sorts are when the students sort the cards and then someone has to figure out their rule. 

 We start the year with closed sorting observing the students' names:
*Counting consonants and vowels
*Reviewing long and short vowel patterns
*Review of ABC order (which is fun with three names starting with J)
*Counting syllables: I have found this to be a difficult skill in the past

With each of these mini lessons, we build class anchor charts that will be posted in the classroom for the rest of the year.  Building on these principles will develop a strong foundation for working on spelling and increasing vocabulary.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Setting up iPods in Classroom

I have been busy getting ready to share the iPods with my class this Thursday.  The first part was unpacking them and getting them all labeled.  Luckily I have a TST (Technical Support Teacher) and Mark helped me with this long process. Part of my grant included the iPod cart that is where the iPods are kept so that I can charge and sync them.

I have thought about how to introduce the iPods to my class, and I have decided to pass them out to my students on Thursday. I chose this day because I want to wait a few days to develop some rapport with my new class, and I have parent curriculum night that night so parents will be able to see them at school before the students take them home.

These are some of the guidelines I am going to use for introducing them to my class.

*Read and discuss the letter that I have written to the parents which explains guidelines and how we will use the iPods this year in our classroom
*Have students sign the letter and write the ID number on the letter so that I will be able to track each iPod to a specific student
*Set up guidelines for use including security guidelines (which I have preset on all of them)
*Allow students time to “explore” their new iPod

Thursday night is my curriculum night; I am going to have the students leave their iPods so the parents will be able to see them and I can go over the parent letter that night with them.  After the parents have signed the letter, the students will begin to use them both at home and school.  I know they will be excited to have their new iPods over the weekend, and I can’t wait to start using them with my class.  Let the learning and exploration begin!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Poetry Friday

When I read Karen’s post I called her and told her that I had just purchased the same poetry book, and she suggested that we both blog on the same book today.  Bill calls this simublog not sure if this is a real word but I like it!

When I was at  Fundamentals Tami suggested that I look at this new poetry book.  The first thing I noticed about the book is the beautiful cover.  Tami shared with me that the illustrator is Chris Soentpiet, and she showed me where he drew himself, his wife and two sons on the cover. He is above the American Flag and his wife is in the purple shirt holding their youngest son. His son is holding the flag.  I have been a huge fan since he came to my son’s school when he was in fifth grade and he came so excited about meeting a real life illustrator.

I opened the book and loved how the poems were so diversified and the illustrations felt like they took me to the setting of the poem.  I am always looking for books that expand the views of my students.  The first poem
Miss Stone by Nikki Grimes caught my attention because our first day of school is this Monday.

My wishes gathered like ants.
I wished there was no recess.
I wished there was no first day.
I wished somebody, anybody
Would come over and ask me to play.

Then you said, “Excuse me.
Would you keep my company?
I’m feeling all alone.”

Remember Mrs. Stone?

I loved you that day.
You made my unhappy thoughts
Scamper away.

As I read this poem, I think about my new students who are starting school on Monday and how important it is to take the time to not only listen to them but also read their faces especially on  playground duty.  I hope you all have a wonderful first day as you begin to look into your students'
Amazing Faces.

Laura has Poetry Friday round up at Teach Poetry K-12.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wonderful Word Wednesday

 I remember at a very young age learning about words.  I always anticipated going to my grandmother's house and walking down into her basement to choose my next Thornton Burgess book to read. She would always tell me just a little bit about the book to get me excited. I think my favorite one was The Adventures of Poor Mrs. Quack.  On a side note, it is now available in eBook and Google books  but I loved knowing that I held her book from when she was a little girl.  Now her books are on my bookshelf at my house, and I have shared them with my own children.  My grandmother is 94 and we still talk about books-I am very lucky.

In our classroom, we will celebrate words every day of the week but on Wednesdays we will start our day with a word activity. As I look back over my 20 years of teaching, I noticed a few common traits about my students' writing.  First of all students enjoy writing more when they have a choice. That was easy for me I believe strongly that students need many choice throughout the school day.  Even if the choice is sitting on pillows, on the floor instead of their chair, on our bench by the window, or working at the lowered round table.

Second students use the words they know in their writing. This is when I challenged myself to make learning about words fun so the students will want to use them.  I decided to start by using the space in my classroom differently.  Everyone was using word walls, and I started using our wall space for pushing students knowledge of new words.  I had success with collecting greeting cards that played on words.  For example: the card in the upper right corner of the photo above with the little boy in his jeans holding on to his father's fingers says inside: Thanks dad for a great pair of genes. I bought this card around Father's day.  I will share new cards every Wednesday and typically the students will begin to bring in cards that they find in stores to also share with our class. One of the highlights of last year was when a mother told me her son wanted to go to the Hallmark store to look at greeting cards. PRICELESS!

Lastly, we bury boring words in the month of October every year. When the school year starts, we start with creating a list of boring, worn out words. We collect these boring words as the students share during writing workshop.  In October, each student chooses a word they want to bury and write it on a ghost in chalk then on the sun they have to find at least three new words to use instead of the buried word.  Then we will hang the cards on the cabinets, and the students will have a visual thesaurus to use all year in their writing

On a personal note, another reason I started my blog was because of a conversation that I was lucky enough to have with James Preller about the importance of word choice in writing when he visited my school in April 2009. He encouraged me to start a blog and wrote about it on his blog James Preller's Blog.  Thanks James for the your encouragement I finally got the courage.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Reading Workshop and iPods-Can they work together?

Favorite reading spot in the summer on my dock.
When I heard I was getting a class set of iPods, one of my biggest concerns was how to use them in Language Arts.  I was able to visualize using them in Social Studies, Science and Math however reading and writing had me stumped.  I went back to my 6-box grid and knew that I started the year in reading with a focus on Our Lives as Readers.  Wednesday''s blog will be about word study and writing.

In reading, I wanted to stay true to my reader’s workshop and begin to use iPods within that setting.  Our fifth grade teams have the students bring in a photo of their favorite place to read at home the first week of school, so that will be the conversation starter.  I thought the first way I could use the iPods was to create a survey using Google docs and ask some questions about their reading lives. The students could take the survey on their iPod and it would gather the data for our class and we could look for patterns to learn about our class as readers.  My long time goal is to repeat the survey at the trimester break as well at the end of the year to see how the students have changed as readers.  Check back in June ☺

Moving from paper to iPods.
I have decided to start the year using Notes which comes loaded on the iPod.  It reminds me of a yellow legal pad, and  I chose this because I think it will a fun way for the students to keep an electronic reading log.  Plus my students will begin the year learning how to use the iPod keyboard and practice their typing.  I am sure they will do better than me because it took me most of the summer to learn how to use the small keyboard. Experience would tell me that 11 year olds typically learn technology quicker than most adults.  One of my roles with implementing  iPods into our classroom this year is to expose the students to the tools that come loaded on them and then allow them the time to explore.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Poetry Friday

A few years ago when Karen from Literate Lives was teaching 5th grade with me, we had numerous conversations about Language Arts, but I really changed my poetry instruction after our conversations.  I began to implement Poetry Friday.  Poetry Friday for my class is when the students have at least 15-20 minutes to explore our class poetry books. The students are able to sign up to share the poem aloud to the class while standing on  “potty stools.”  After the students share, I then lead the class in a mini lesson starting the year with looking at different types of figurative language using the poems that the students just shared.

This year I will start Poetry Friday with a newly published book that I bought at my favorite teacher’s bookstore called Fundamentals in Delaware, OH.  The owner, Tami, is extremely knowledgeable about children’s books.  Her store reminds me of the small independent bookstore in the movie You’ve Got Mail. There is nothing better than going there to just hang out to discuss and read some great books.

 I purchased There’s No Place Like School: Classroom Poems are selected by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Jane Manning. I already have many Jack Prelutsky books so I will love adding it to his tub.  I chose this book for several reasons.

First of all I love the colorful illustrations, which are bright, funny, and the character’s facial  expressions are wonderful.  You could use the book later for a mentor text for inferences by having the students look into the character’s eyes and use the text to support their inference.

Next, the titles are amazing and really caught my attention

     *Not Fair (perfect for 5th graders)
    *Why the Class Frog is Purple (and it really is)
     *When the Teacher Isn’t Looking (you can only imagine)

Lastly,  I am extremely excited to introduce my new class to a new book and start with some funny poems.  I think I will start with " The Drinking Fountain"  by Kenn Nesbitt which starts with these opening lines:

The drinking fountain squirted me.
It shot right up my nose.
It felt as if I’d stuck my nostril on the garden hose.

Perhaps this poem will lead to some funny summer stories-you never know in the classroom.  That is the fun part of being there!

** For more Poetry Friday fun, check out Szofia at the Stenhouse blog this week.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

To Buy or Not to Buy That is the Question

How do you decide which apps to purchase? The first thing I did was look back at last year’s lesson plans and created a 6 box grid with the topics that I teach. You should know that I teach all subjects in fifth grade, so I had a wide variety of app choices. For example, I start with North America Geography so I looked for apps that supported locating the 50 states.

I considered the following questions when I was choosing apps.

*How will the app extend the students learning?
*How can the app help students create something new?
*How will the app help students review a skill?
*Would this app increase a student’s motivation for a difficult skill?
*Does the app have different levels of learning for all students?

Obviously not every app is going to meet every criteria and the process has been interesting for me. I thought I had found what I considered a great app after previewing the write up and then I purchased it. Some apps had boring graphics, poor sound quality, and were too confusing. The biggest lesson I learned about apps is that they do not come with directions. As a teacher, I love directions and for most apps you just have to play with them to figure them out. This became frustrating for me; however, I have found some wonderful apps to start the school year with in a few weeks.

Drum roll please, the app that made the cut for geography was PopGeo USA Geography I like it because it has the students place the 50 states (5 at a time) it extends the learning because the students can learn the capitals, famous cities as well as national parks. I can't wait to introduce the class to this app.
Turning the iPod sideways helps to play most apps.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Little Late for 10 at 10???

 My friend Karen at Literate Lives invited me to be a part of this exciting blogging event: 10 for 10.  I however with just starting my blog this week and was not sure if I could pull all my books together so I admit it. I have cheated and read everyone's blogs today go here to see all the links.  I hope Mandy and Cathy can forgive me. So 8 of 10 comes from the joy of reading everyone blogs today-a big THANKS to everyone for making my want to read list really long. I did add my own original 2 at the end of the list.   As my 7th grade English teacher said, "Always cite your sources so here I go."

I chose this book because I love Melanie Watt and I love how she writes with such detail and description.  I just purchased Chester's Masterpiece which might be my first read aloud of the year in Writer's Workshop.

From Katie at Creative Literacy: 

From Franki and Mary Lee at A Year of Reading: I had to choose these 3 books because I have never read them and now I am curious about them.  I love when I get new titles to add my reading journal!

From Karen and Bill at Literate Lives I chose these 4 books for four very different reasons.

I had to choose this one because I teach upstairs and I heard the students in the library laughing hysterically.

This is one of my favorites and Karen and I found this book when our good friend, Sarah, shared it with us.  I echo all of Karen's comments.
I forgot about this book until I saw it on Karen's post-thanks for reminding me of such a beautifully written book.
I also have my copy of Frederick from the summer reading club. I can remember waiting for my new book to arrive at my house monthly and sitting down and reading it with my mom!  

Finally my own two favorite books that I always read on the first day of school. 

I love this book because of the creativity of the story as well as it kicks off our first day discussion about what makes a GREAT team.

 I won't ruin the ending but the surprise is wonderful and the students love it!!  

Thanks for letting me participate-it was an amazing day of reading blogs!!


Monday, August 9, 2010

Learning Curves are Huge

As Bill at Literate Lives wrote in his post, I was definitely not into technology but through student observations, conversations with colleagues and continued reading of professional books/blogs I now believe strongly that technology has to be a part of every classroom. That foundation tossed me into a huge learning curve similar to those on a roller coaster. Before I tell you about my learning curve, I want you to know that I started with very limited knowledge of iPods so I plan on writing about every step-even the small ones.

My learning curve started this summer as I begin to explore my new iPod and honestly getting it out of the plastic box was a challenge. I began to explore the apps that came loaded on an iPod, and I automatically started searching for new apps. I had been creating a list of apps that I thought I might like since I got my grant last spring. I will blog later about my favorite apps that I am starting the year with. I had no idea how to purchase apps so I really had to start with the basics.

1. Open your iTunes and set up a new account (I set up a separate account from my personal one)

2. Locate the App Store tab and start with looking at free apps-doesn’t hurt to try them ☺

3. Before you purchase an app consider the following; looking at the preview slides of the app, consider the customer ratings, and reading the reviews

4. Look at the final section found at the bottom called Customers Also Bought

It takes some time researching and considering how to use the app in the classroom setting, but I have found that extended time is well worth it. One great thing about getting free apps is if they don't meet your needs you can just delete them from your iTunes account.  Work in Progress: Favorite iPod apps to start the year with in 5th grade.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

And so it all begins

Well I have finally decided to jump into the world of blogging and I am very nervous yet excited about my new adventure.  First let me tell you a little bit about myself.

I have taught for 21 years, and I started in special education in a self-contained resource room in Missouri.  When my family moved back to OH, I started teaching in Dublin.  I met Bill from Literate Lives and we started team teaching, which lasted 9 years including 7 years in fifth grade that is where I currently am teaching.  I have been friends with Bill and Karen, Franki and Mary Lee at A Year of Reading  and that is where I learned about blogs.  Without their encouragement and persistence I am sure that I would not have leapt into the world of blogging.

As far as technology, for many years, I was the last one to try anything new with technology.  Actually I avoided the whole idea of technology after my tech specialist told me the fans on the roof interfered with my wireless signal. However, technology became a part of my school day last year because I was curious when I heard so many of my students talking about WIKIS, photo booth, I movies, GarageBand, and I Tunes etc.

My journey started last September with WIKIS and continued with joining a professional book club in the winter focusing on Troy Hicks' book The Digital Writing Workshop. After reading this book and listening to the discussions, I decided I wanted to really push my technology learning and I started to investigate iPod Touches.  Last spring, I wrote a Dublin City Schools grant for a class set of iPod Touches and got 25 iPods for my class to use this fall. Every student in my class will have access to their own iPod to use at school and home.

This summer I have explored and researched how to begin to use iPods in my classroom. I plan on writing about my journey with iPods including the good, the bad and the ugly.