Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dublin LIterature Conference 2011

I look forward to the Dublin Literature Conference every year.  This year was another wonderful opportunity for learning as I sat and listened to Kelly Gallagher and his opening keynote speech.  Here are some BIG ideas that I took away from his talk.

   *fill classrooms with a rich literature collection
   *don't let go of independent reading time in our classrooms
   *find the SWEET SPOT of education-not too heavy and not too light
   *importance of building "framework" around the lessons we teach
   *if we teach students to read and write well, then they will do well on state tests

Honestly that last point was exactly what I needed to hear as I am struggling with how to integrate testing into my workshop time.

This year I took the plunge again and presented with Mr. Mark, our TST, and I have to admit it was fun to present again.  Our focus was on Integrating iPods into the classroom. I hope our bigger message was about how important it is to consider using any technology tools in the classroom.  Here is our opening video that Mark created enjoy watching it!

If you are interested in some of the apps that I mentioned during the presentation, here are some of the links for you.  Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any questions. 
Math Apps
Word Study Apps
Reading Apps
Science Apps
evernote and higher level thinking:  Wonderopolis

I ended my day listening to Troy Hick's discuss how to integrate technology into the classroom.  This was a full circle moment for me because of reading his book The Digital Writing Workshop. I took the plunge into technology.  I hung on to every word and have so many new ideas to process that I will be coming back to my notes many times I am sure.  Here is proof that I got to meet him.  Thanks Franki for having your camera!

He was autographing my book!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sonic Pics a HUGE Hit!

We finished our Sonic Pic commercials last week, and I am extremely pleased with them.  All of the goals that I had set were met!  I am very excited about the higher level reading that occurred when the students had to choose the MOST important facts.  In addition, most of the students found graphs, charts and data that supported their HOT topic.  Finally a few students did create their own graphics to support the text and that was impressive because they figured that out on their own.  I have included a few examples for you to view.  Let me know what you think.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Does State Testing Really Fit in the Workshop Model?

Pardon me as I take a break from technology and reflect on OAA state testing.  At my grade level, I will be giving three state tests in May:  Reading, Math and Science.  I have learned this year how important it is to use my data to guide my instruction; however the part I am struggling with is how to use my data within my workshop model.  I have heard, and I am slowly "buying" into the idea of a testing genre.

I have been trying to wrap my mind around the idea of reading and writing about OAA test questions as a form of study in my workshop.  I  know my fifth grade scores are tied directly to my school's state report card therefore I will be starting my testing genre next week.  Through professional development at my school, I have read many articles that reinforce important ideas for me to consider as I begin my unit. I need to

*expose my students to different types of OAA reading samples (fiction, non fiction and poetry)
*increase stamina by increasing the amount of time my students are working on practice tests
*teach my students to read passages more than one time
*model for them how to answer 2 and 4 point questions based on the passage
*allow plenty of time so that my students can become comfortable with this genre

When I implement this list at school this week I think my workshop will look something like this:

Mini Lesson: Let's share a story (poem) today about ..... Focusing on a specific skill....... creating an anchor chart with key points
Practice:  Here is another story I would like you to go and practice on your own
Small group:  From my data, I would pull a small group of students who need reinforcement before working on their own
Release the small group to do some of the work on their own so I can have conferences
Share Time:  Review the focus skill answers and ask students to reflect on what they have learned about themselves as test takers? 

I guess I can do this but it just doesn't feel very comfortable for me.......any thoughts?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Classroom Pets and All That!

Our barn and pond at my house.
For those of you who don't me I am country kid who goes to the city to teach!  I live out in the country on 22 acres and we (my husband, son and daughter) have raised horses, cows, pigs, cats, and dogs. Our kids participated for  10 years in 4H, and we enjoyed every minute. Alright not every minute but most of it.

So when my 5th grade team decided to rotate for science this year I volunteered eagerly for the Life Science rotation.  I had already had a class pet, a turtle named Franklin,  before so I was ready to start again! Our 5th grade indicators focus on the process of photosynthesis, food chains, food webs, ecosystems and how animals adapt as well as carrying capacity and the positive and negative impacts that can occur in an ecosystem.

When I starting thinking about my unit, I visited my friend Andrea Smith and fell in love with her classroom and all of her class pets. She does an amazing job of linking all of the pets throughout her day and then intertwining technology and non fiction reading. After talking to her, I decided to purchase a leopard gecko and two mice.  I chose these animals for a few different reasons. First they both live in different ecosystems and second most parents would not allow their children to have these as pets at least the mice.  I then proceeded to apply for the free grant called Pets in the Classroom which I learned about from Mandy Robek @ Enjoy and Embrace Learning. I would encourage you to read her article about pets in the classroom because I can't say it any better!

Our pets are now named and loved!  In order to be in the contest to name the pets the students had to research and find out about their environment including food, shelter and adaptations.  Drumroll please, I would like to introduce Munch and Crunch the mice and Spot the gecko.  I would encourage all Life Science teachers to apply for the Pets in the Classroom grant. I received $150 free money which was a wonderful start to our classroom pets.  Next on the list is an aquatic habitat, perhaps some fire belly toads?

Sound asleep after a fun day at school!

Can I come out to visit?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sonic Pics- Persuasive Commercials

Helping each other choose the MOST important points.

The students started working yesterday on their Persuasive Sonic Pic presentations;  however it was not the lesson that I planned over the weekend.  I have to admit I totally through my lesson plan out the window and allowed the class to redirect the lesson.  As I was introducing the idea yesterday, one of the boys said, "Mrs. Caplin if we think about the Super Bowl commercials as persuasive and how they try to make us purchase the product, why can't we create our own commercials with the HOT topics?"  I took my plans and through them in the trash just like any smart teacher would have done.  

From that point on we discussed and created a new rubric for what they believed would make a strong commercial.  Here is our class determined criteria:

*At least five slides with visuals that must include graphics/ charts/ and one created picture
*Each verbal text must connect to the visual and be at least 10-20 seconds long. At that point one of the students showed the class how the iPods have built in stop watches to practice timing their words as they read them aloud.
*Overall flow of the presentation including visual and words along with persuasive qualities
*We took a large index card divided into five equal groups: label the first slide (lead/hook) the next three support and finally the fifth slide (strong closing). This is where they started to record the MOST important facts from their writing.

This lesson turned out much better than I had planned, and they were so excited because it was their idea to create persuasive commercials.  Helpful hint of the day: Sometimes you have to throw your plans in the trash and allow the students the power to create new ones!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pushing Wonderopolis to the Next Level of Blooms

As I mentioned in earlier blogs, I have incorporated Wonderopolis into my reading plans, my goal for February will be to push my students to a higher level of thinking. The students have enjoyed reading the articles and their predictions and use of key vocabulary have increased. 

This month I am changing their end product. The students are still going to have to read the site, watch the videos and reflect on the vocabulary however, instead of recording 5 new facts each student is going to post a question on evernote from the article using their iPods. I am going to pass out a Bloom's Verb chart and assign different levels for the questions that they will be required to write.  The next day I will randomly choose a few student's evernote questions, and I will have the students answer the questions in their wonderopolis folder. I think this will be powerful for several reasons:

#1  All students will know there is a chance to have their question used so it will be important for each student to write a strong question.
#2 The students will have a different purpose for reading the article

#3 To answer the question, the students will use their iPods. Then I will randomly ask students to come up to the Smartboard and show in the article where they found the answer or what text they used for their inference.

As always I am pushing towards higher level thinking so my big goal will be by the end of the month that the students will be writing higher level questions, thinking and responding on a higher level and eventually all questions will be answered on evernote.  I am anxious to see how this process works this month.
Check back later in February to see how it is going.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sonic Pics-Digital Story Telling

Our class was successful with our first round of digital story telling with Story Kit.  After much "play" time Mr. Mark and I have chosen Sonic Pics which costs $2.99.  One of the important parts for me is that I continue to reinforce the writing process either on paper or with their iPods. Our class will be competing their Persuasive writing Tuesday and then they are going to create a digit story with their hot topics.

So let me start from the beginning, after sharing numerous mentor texts and examples of different Persuasive Writing, the students had to choose one HOT topic and their position on the topic:

1)  Should the driving age change to 18?
2)  Should there be required reading for 30 minutes 5 nights a week?.
3)  Why do teachers assign homework?
4)  Playing outside the first 15 min. then eat lunch (this would switch our current schedule)

After the students made their final decision, we charted their decisions so they could help each other.  Next we focused on writing strong leads.  This I have to admit blew my lesson plans out of the water for two days, I had to do extensive re-teaching but now they finally got it!  We then focused on the body of the writing introducing: simple, compound, and complex sentences.  Finally we worked and discussed strong closings.

Goals for  Sonic Pics:

1)  This one I believe is the most important having the students choose the MOST important support from their topic.  I believe this will be a difficult lesson for my students because they will have to focus on reading differently. Honestly at this point, most of my students believe every sentence is important but I am going to ask them to discern which ones are THE most important.

2) After the students have chosen their key points, they will type them into Sonic Pics and will add pictures, graphs, data to support their statements.

3)  Finally the students will do a voice over and present their digit story to the class.

Check back later to see how our journey into Digital Storytelling we go again and I am excited!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My Bucket is Running Over! Good or Bad Thing?

How is your bucket today?  Mine is overflowing with so many ideas, thoughts and dreams. This is a wonderful thing however this is a challenge for me. I realize that it is important as teachers/parents/curriculum leaders to take time to prioritize. 

When I jumped into the world of technology, I was scared and very hesitant; however, I now have those feelings under control.  What has been interesting to me are my shifts in my professional  learning.  Before iPods in my classroom, I  always kept up with Bill and Karen at Literate Lives, Andrea at Our Learning Community, Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning with their book recommendations and wonderful website reviews with connections to their class.  Oh don't get me wrong, I still continue my own reader's notebook with all the amazing titles, but I just haven't "created" as much  time except for the exciting Newbery race that we just completed.  Which brings me to my bucket........

Learning looks different this year!
As a teacher, I am thrilled that I have integrated technology into my classroom.  I personally believe this is my goal to help my students prepare for the 21st Century.  My lesson plans have changed substantially this year because of the integration of technology.  I spend my time searching for websites, videos, audio books etc. to support my units.  I am reading but reading differently especially on twitter although I am not tweeting very much I am following all the latest conversations. I follow technology blogs and updates from iTunes regularly again I am reading but it is different. I have made connections with many different people all over the country, and my learning has expanded beyond my school district. This has been a unexpected present to me. Actually I am planning on doing skype with a 5th grade class in Iowa in March :) Their teacher found my blog and  contacted me.  I get excited when my followers increase and someone leaves me a comment.  So I may not be reading as many chapter books, but there are still awesome endings to my stories.

PS:  Thanks to Bill in our library he does an amazing job for keeping my students up to date on all the new books-THANKS Bill I need that support right now!