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. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wonderful Word Wednesday New iPod Apps

Excerpt from part of a story
I have added two more apps this week for Wonderful Word Wednesday. I was searching for support with the introduction to parts of speech and an app that would allow students to create their own story.

MAD LIBS:  I remember when I was young, and I loved the paper version of Mad Libs.  Now the students get to practice their parts of speech and create a funny crazy story that they share with their friends. What a great reinforcement for parts of speech.

First page of the model story-some simple hand drawn illustration
STORY KIT:  This is my #1 FAVORITE app and it's FREE! I love it for so many reasons.
*the students create their own personal digital electronic story  
*students can put their original text on the pages
*students can draw original illustrations-what fun for them :)
*students can download pictures from the internet and add them
*sounds can be recorded to support the story
*students can move pages around/edit/revise their story
*to print the stories the students will email their final version to me
Another page of the story but pictures are downloaded from the internet.
on a class email list 
*I will print them for a final assessment

I have high hopes for STORY KIT.  Once I introduce the app I plan on having the students use it for content areas.  They could create a story about European Explorers or the steps of the Scientific Method.  I really believe STORY KIT has endless possibilities. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Using Audiobooks for the First Time

We, Sarah and I, had the opportunity to cross something off our bucket list this past Thursday night.  We were asked by our retired principal to come and talk about how state standards, benchmarks and indicators flow in lesson planning to a graduate class at Ashland University. After we were done with our presentation, we sat and listened to Phil's opening lecture which connected our lesson with the students' next assignment.  As I sat and listened, he reminded me of an important concept that I had forgotten. Always take time to reflect on the lessons that I have taught as well as where I am headed with future lessons.  Reflection is crucial in our busy teacher world and for me that is usually the step that I leave out if I am pushed for time.

  I began to reflect about  iPods and how I have used them in Language Arts.  Next week, I am excited to branch into audiobooks on iPods in reading.  I love the story Frindle by Andrew Clements for many reasons. First of all Mrs. Granger is one of the best word study teachers.  I love the introduction of Andrew Clements as an author because he has so many other books that my students could choose from when we are finished. Also it is perfect for the start of the year with a lively discussion about a class clown, named Nick.  I am extremely curious about how purchasing this audiobook will enhance the reading instruction; however, I have several  questions.

-Will the students choose to listen instead of read the book?  Is that important?
-Will they listen ahead of where where we are in class?  Does that matter?
-Will I save class time and have the students read/listen at home so we can spend class time on the focused lesson?  This is my goal and why I decided to purchase the $9.95 book.  For those of you who have been reading my blog-you know that was a huge decision to spend that much money.

What do you think?  Have you ever used books on tape or audiobooks for a whole class book novel?
Let me know your thoughts?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


One of the reasons I became so interested in technology last year was because of the positive effect that Wikis had on my students as well as me.  When I started using Wikis last year, I was not even sure how they worked, but I knew the ability to communicate with my students from my home was extremely important to me.  In addition, the students reading and writing about their friend’s writing was another positive benefit of Wikis.

As I mentioned in the post Gotta Keep Reading, I introduced the class to our Caplin Wiki/Blog page.  I knew the students loved the video so that was my hook and since Sunday night I have had many students comment on the video.  I also added a Constitution video and asked the students to write at least 3 new facts they learned using the keyboard on the iPods. This was also well received, and it was fun to read the students were sharing videos with their parents and siblings.

Now that we have iPods the whole idea of Wiki/Blogs is like a snowball rolling down a mountain. The ideas are endless, and we have just started.  The first idea is to continue downloading videos to their iPods.  This will save class time because the students can watch the videos at home and take notes then the next day we can start with a conversation about the video. I plan on showing focused clips of video to reinforce important concepts.   A second idea is to post inquiry questions about our current content areas for example in geography, “How does climate and land features impact the economy in Canada?”  The students can type their answers as well as add pictures to support their answers.  They are able to find pictures on the Internet take a snapshot and then add them to the Wiki. With both these ideas,  the fact that we can carry on conversations outside of class time will start a whole new level of conversations as well as higher level learning that I am very excited about this year.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gotta Keep Reading

Ocoee Middle School Gotta Keep Reading from Michael Cardwell on Vimeo.

If I have learned one thing about my class this year, they love music and enjoy singing and dancing. I learned this on the first Poetry Friday. Let me be the first to tell you I can NOT carry a tune, but I still love to sing with the students.  Luckily my teaching partner, Sarah, has a beautiful voice and when we open the wall for Social Studies every day our two classes sing, "It's the most wonderful time of the day as we open the wall and the kids have a ball as we learn (insert content name here) it's the most wonderful time."

With this being said, I began searching for a video that went viral last year, “Gotta Keep Reading.” I decided to use this video to start talking about books.  I printed the words of the song from this link and we started singing and dancing.  Then I had the students underline all the reading vocabulary words in the lyrics. We created a class chart and  had wonderful conversations.  The students begged me to put the video on their iPods and this has been a HUGE project and without Mark, our TST, I NEVER would have been able to it.  There are millions (maybe not a million but many)  steps to convert videos so it will load on an iPod, but he figured it out. Thanks Mark!!

My point being learn to ask for help when you have a new technology tool because you are going to need it.  But more important, once you have someone who has taught you how to do the task then you have to learn the new skill by practicing and sometimes it takes a lot of practice/learning.  It was good for my class to see Mark come in many times to help me learn how to put videos on iPods.  My students saw me get frustrated and then finally be successful. My class is so excited to finally get “Gotta Keep Reading.” on their own iPod.  They took their iPods home this past weekend to share with their families.  More later on how the Wiki/Blog can be an amazing communication tool-stay tune.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Watch Out Huge Hill Ahead!

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with technology, and I am starting to feel that way as I begin to think about my next step with iPods.  I am lucky that I have lots of support to help me in my district including our district Coordinator of Technology and my TST (technology support teacher) who is in my building 2 ½ days a week.  I also have friends to talk to but even with all that support, I know the final decisions are mine. Here are some of my thoughts this past week:  Which apps to purchase and how to incorporate into my lesson plans? How to use the programs that come loaded on the iPods?  How to continue to use iPods for instruction not just review skill?

My goal continues to be to implement iPods within the classroom during instructional time, and we have used them in Word Study and Geography.  Now I want to begin to use them more with Writing and Reading.  Math will be a bit more of a challenge for me since we switch students for math however; I think I will tackle math at a later time.

The first hill on the Millennium.
I guess this blog is a reflection of where I am right now.... a little overwhelmed.  I have come to realize my long summer days have slipped away when I had the time to sit and research apps.  Can I already be missing summer or is this my first major hill on the roller coaster? Look out Millennium here I come!  

Monday, September 13, 2010

Follow up to Poetry Friday

First page of student's Notes.
This past  Friday, we sang “Stinky Stinky Diaper Change” again from last week. I have colored overheads of the poems and  I show the poem on our whiteboard. After we reviewed synonyms and antonyms, I had the students work in pairs to find as many synonyms and antonyms as they could in the poem.  For example: the word clean was in the poem so they typed clean and added their own synonym.  They did the same thing for antonyms; the word now was in the poem so they typed then. The students had 10 minutes to work together. See the student's example of their Notes.

We then gathered together and discussed the different words they found. They used key vocabulary to tell me where to circle. For example,  "It is the second stanza third line etc.  I circled the words in the poem and wrote the synonyms on the left and the antonyms on the right.  It was interesting for the students to see how the same word could be both a synonym and antonym both in red and black on the overhead below.  Notice the word scent which was another

Second page of student Notes.

In the past, I would have xeroxed my overhead and given the students a copy of the words, but this connected the lesson with technology and now they have a permanent synonym/antonym dictionary to use in their everyday writing. When they were finished, one of the students said, “Now I have my own personal synonym and antonym dictionary on my iPod."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Using Notes app in Poetry Friday

10 year olds sometimes change the most thought out lesson plans on paper.  I love when that happens in my classroom.  I was unsure how to use Notes which comes loaded on the iPod in my classroom but knew I wanted them to begin to work on their keyboarding skills.  My goals were to have the students continue to have fun with words on Poetry Friday, begin to discuss figurative language and find specific examples in the poems, but what came next was exciting.

I always start the year with singing poetry-the kids love it and really can’t believe that it is “real” poetry.  One of my favorites is Take Me Out of the Bathtub and other silly dilly songs by Alan Katz.  This year the kids enjoy:  ITCHY (tune of B-I-N-G-O) and Stinky, Stinky  Diaper Change (tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Start)

After we sing, we discuss the poem and started looking for figurative language including synonyms and antonyms.  On a side note, one student had been playing with the homonym app and recognized some of them in the poem and that started the homonym conversation. While we were having this conversation because it was so rich with so many examples, I decided to use Notes and began building a Poetry Friday dictionary of key terms with examples from the poems.  Using Notes has been interesting because now the students are looking all week for more examples and add them into their iPod then we share the new examples the following Friday.   Many times the best learning in the class comes in unexpected ways.

This is a snapshot of my iPod so you can see the notes as well as the keyboard.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Our Class Writes about iPods

I have been wondering and thinking about how to gather data to support my grant.  I want to begin to gather information as well as data to begin to monitor how the iPods effect the student’s education.  Honestly I am not sure if this is possible.  I have thought of two different ways.  The first one is creating a google doc survey about their reading.  This survey could be taken every trimester, and I will be able to analyze that data because it creates charts and organizes the data. 

Yesterday,  I asked my class to write about their iPods and how they are using them this year so far.  I learned many interesting facts from the students.  Once again, as a teacher just ask them and they will tell you-out of the mouth of babes.  Here are some of their comments.

- fun to play because I make new words and then I can use them in my writer’s notebook
-very educational I forget that I am learning new words
-learning BIG words helps me in my writing
-surprisingly I have learned new words
-I learned a new work like “rig” and it gave me the definition

Notes during Poetry Friday
-makes poetry really fun when I am on the hunt for words
-I now care more about the poems
-I like typing it helps me remember and the notes save automatically so I can’t lose them

General Comments
-it’s nice not to have to leave the room to go to the computer lab
-it’s with me all the time at school and I can take it home (this was written many times)
-it’s fun to take screen shots for enrichment activities to show my friends
-Google Earth is so COOL!
-it’s fun to access our class homepage and use the links from school
-it’s nice that the whole class can look at the same thing at the same time
-Pop Geo is a huge hit with helping me learn my states for our test and it’s fun

On a side note, I told the kids to write down any songs or apps that they may want added to the iPods.  I got 7 song titles and 3 apps that I will be researching and perhaps adding to the iPods.  I love how they are beginning to take ownership in their iPods. 

Finally two of my favorite quotes.

“The iPods are a fun educational tool.  Who knew the educational world could combine with the electronic/technology world?”  “Not me!”

“It teaches us 21st Century skills for my life.”

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Watch out TORNADO approaching!

Every year our class has a tornado come through!  Every year in the middle of the tornado I think I will never do it again.  Every year at the end of the tornado I think “WOW” the students learn so much about our class library. So I do it again…………

The tornado begins during specials and I spread all the books over the floor.  The students come in and are shocked to see the floor.  Each student has a sheet on a clipboard to record any books that they might want to read.  I give each student an empty container and they start to walk around the room looking for books that may be similar.  (Hint: the day before we brainstorm all the ways that libraries are organized and we create a list)  The talk in the classroom is amazing-everyone helps everyone. They discuss favorite books, books they want to read, and better yet books they have never seen before so now they are curious.  Better yet they know where to find all those books because they set up the library!

The next step is to decorate a white index card for their tub which is fun and the students tend to take their tub personally because typically they are designing a tub that has one of their favorite books in it.

Original name cards for tubs

Finally the students organize our class library and decide how to group the tubs.  This year we have six sections:  author, series, genres, poetry, picture books, and topics.
Our author bookshelf.

This is one of those activities when the day is done I am exhausted but thrilled that the students were able to see all the books and be excited about reading. PRICELESS!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wonderful Word Wednesday Apps

For word study this week, we are going to continue to have fun with words by using our iPods.  I am going to introduce the class to two new apps although some of the students already learned how to use them this past weekend.

Bookworm was an app that I purchased for my students to create words.  The students’ link letters from left, right, up and down to build new words.  Once the words are made some of them are hidden in the Bookworm’s library and the goal is to find all the words within a book. The longer the word the more points the student earns; however if the students don’t build words quickly enough then the burning letters could spell disaster! This has been one of my favorite apps because it will help students to think about words differently especially using blends, plurals etc. After Monday's conversation, it was voted the most fun app!

Another app that I purchased was Word Fu.  I saw a great video on this app this summer and it looked amazing. First the students get to flick dice to choose any letters they want, and they only have 15 seconds to choose their letters.  This alone teaches students about how important blends, a wide variety of vowels and the letter “s” can really help with building new words.  Once the students have their letters they spell as many words as they can before the clock runs out. Occasionally the letters catch on fire (which is not good) or turn colors (which is good for bonus points). Once the students have learned how to play Word Fu they will be able to play their friends because our school is wireless and will work towards earning Word Fu Belts and become a true Word Fu Grand Master.

Once they have practiced with these apps I am sure the competitions will start in my room to see who can open the most books or win the most Word Fu belts.