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.