Friday, April 29, 2011

Poetry Friday: State Testing & Idioms

In my school district, we start our state testing next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  I have blogged and voiced my concerns about the state tests.  I was thinking about state testing and for some reason idioms came to mind.  My apologies for not a typical poem but thought it might be fun to share.

I throw my hat into the wind as testing starts next week.
I had a major chip on my shoulder however I know this test is a drop in the bucket when I reflect on my students' learning this year.
My hope would be that my parent community realizes a picture paints a thousand words and their child's picture has been a work of art since September and will continue to be painted through the end of May. 
I hope my students hit the hay early and don't get up on the wrong side of the bed the morning of the tests.
I predict  my students will  break a leg and go the extra mile on their 2 and 4 pt. responses. They need to go for broke as well and use their loaf
By the way I will enjoy testing when pigs fly

Best of luck to all students who are taking states tests next week and congratulations to all the teachers who have gone above and beyond in preparing their classes!!

Check out Poetry Friday @ The Opposite of Indifference. Thanks for hosting Tabatha.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Connecting Wonderopolis to Content Areas

I have been asked to write about how I would use Wonderopolis in my classroom beyond my reading and writing workshop. This is an interesting question for me because it has become so automatic for me that I had to stop and reflect how I started using Wonderopolis.  I would suggest starting with the exploration of the site from that point I started using the links on the right to try and integrate the wonders that have already been written.  Another great feature of the site is the the search feature in the right hand corner of the site.  If you type in "plants", you would get the following links to wonders.

As you can see there are many options, I then preview them and decide which wonder will best support my Life Science indicators.  Often I use the videos to introduce or hook my students and then use parts of the text to support their learning.  I do the same thing with Social Studies for example if I search "maps."

The other amazing part of using wonderopolis is the learning can connect at home with the students' parents. Often I encourage the students to share the wonder of the day with their parents and even leave a comment if they want too.  I would encourage you to WONDER around the site and try to incorporate it into your classroom.  

Friday, April 22, 2011

Peaking into Our Classroom

Our class is in the middle of creating their wonder pages (an example page above). Sometimes it's fun just to sit back and observe. They are amazing in helping each other problem solve tech issues.  Most of the time they solve it before I can figure it out! Today I took several photos to allow you a peak into our room-enjoy!
The students got excited and share their video links.

I allowed the students the choice on how they wanted to
organize their research:  file folder, sticky notes,
xerox notes, index cards and rubric.

This was fun to see the open file folder with notes and
laptop along with using their iPod. If you look
closely you can see the start of a koala wonder page.

One of the students found a graph to support their
research and earn some extra credit. Their word
list is  above the graph on the right.

A teacher's reflection:  As I look back on these photos and think about how far I have come in allowing my students to have choice in their topic as well as their final  presentations. They are thinking and writing at a higher level because they wrote focused research questions with Bloom's verbs which pushed their research beyond the standard list of facts and finally the integration of 21st Century skills.  I am very proud of their hard work and effort.  I can't wait to share them with you in a few weeks. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wonder Rubric 2nd Try

Once again Mr. Mark is my hero and once again I have learned something new!  There is a lesson for all of us in my frustration-technology is ever changing and we have to learn right along with our students. Keep asking questions my friends.  For explanation of this rubric refer to this blog entry.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Still Learning....

I have tried three times to put my rubrics on my blog, and I guess I still don't have it figured out. It has me stumped. UGH got to love computers. Some times they are there for example last night when I posted them however  this morning I see little blue boxes with question marks.  I tried to take a snapshot of them in pages and copy them to the blog-guess that isn't working. Oh well once again  I have lots to learn. I will work with Mr. Mark and figure it out and try again to post them.  Sorry-

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Traveling Down an Unknown Road- Creating Wonder Pages

I have a dark hidden secret that I finally have to let you know about- I am not always sure what the final end product is going to be when I start a new writing unit especially research.  In the past I  have had them create ABC books, a take off on the Magic School House books, and posters with flip cards. Once again this year, I am going down a road that I have never traveled, but we are all very excited about our journey. Have you ever traveled down an unknown road?

The first thing I had to do once I committed to wonder pages
for their final project was to talk to Mr. Mark.  I typically have these HUGE ideas and then I tell Mark what I want to do and he tells me the tool that we can use.  Again, the lesson/objectives/indicators were chosen first and the the technology tool to support the writing was chosen second. I presented Mark with these goals:

*model after the Wonderopolis pages (similar layout)
*integrate new technology:  adding videos and creating links
*force the students to choose the most important research that they have learned-not use it all
*intertwine vocabulary throughout every page
*import graphics that support the text

Finally Mark suggested iWeb which a new tool for me-so I spent the past two weeks playing (oh I mean learning) about it.  I like the ease of it-students get to choose their own design (there are about 15) and the pages are set up for them to basically just drop and drag.  I LOVE this part of it.

My next step was to create a rubric so the expectations will be clear for the students. They will  have to do their thinking at home ie: rough draft their wonder pages.  One negative for iWeb is the students can not work on them at home I am not sure if that is gong to be a big drawback or not. Here is a copy of my rubric so you will be able to see the requirements that I have outlined for my class. The * represent where the students will be filling in their choice vocabulary and links. In addition, I offered some "extra credit" to students to push them just a little bit further.  PS: All the credit for the name goes to Mark: Baileyopolis! LOVE that too.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Celebrating Wonderopolis!

Today we celebrated  poem in our pocket day with Mr. Fine's class in Montana. In addition, we celebrated starting our wonder projects with passing out wonder t-shirts!  It is hard to see but on the smart board is the first wonder #1: Why are flamingos pink? which is the logo on the shirts. Thanks wonderopolis for a wonderful day!

Another first= Skyping a Poem in Your Pocket

I personally have never skyped although everyone is talking about it.  I have been excited about trying it becuase I love how it extends our classroom walls all the way to Montana. This is one of the big ideas of the 21st Century skills, so I made it a goal prior to the start of school. I presented with Jon at the NCFL conference and we are going to connect our classes today celebrating poem in your pocket Can you imagine how much fun our class will have today sharing their poems with kindergartners in MT?

We started on Monday discussing our audience, 5-6 year olds, and how important theme and vocabulary would be in choosing a poem.  It was fun to watch them search our class poetry section.  Some of the students brought in poems from younger brothers/sisters, went to the library and checked out a book, and a few even wrote some original poems.  By Tuesday, we were practicing, discussing and having lots of fun with the poems.  After all of our testing prep lately, it was fun to watch the students laugh and enjoy some great poems.

Here is an original poem "Books" created by Torey and Marie:

Books are fun to read and share.
You can find them anywhere.
Books are like TVs in your head but you get to read it instead
Reading gives you imagination because nothing is better than this creation!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Modeling Wonder Pages for Research

Modeling lessons this year has been one of the most important changes that I have made in my teaching.  My modeling of lessons is not only in reading and writing workshop but also science/social studies. The students will begin today organizing their research onto their own WONDER page modeled after Wonderopolis.  I was showing my class this example and  how you can take 2 different points of view and weave them into a page that allows the reader to think about the question: Analyze which is better for pandas: zoos or their own ecosystem?  Many students commented that this helped them present their research in a different way.  Not just a list of facts, a written paragraph or bullet points-all of these are ways that my class in the past has presented their research. One important goal is to not only present the research/facts but also their thinking that supports the higher level bloom's verbs.  In addition to the wonder pages they are creating the students will be adding video links (San Diego Zoo) graphics, pictures etc. to support the text.  I am excited to see how their wonder pages turn out-more importantly how they use WONDEROPOLIS to model their own pages.  It is going to be exciting two weeks in our class.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

March App of the Month: Just Fractions

the ? means the student can tap that button
to get a definition
I am so happy that a math app won for March because I typically focus on literacy.  This app gives students fraction problems to solve involving all four operations. They also get to reduce fractions to lowest terms. In addition, they will need to find the least common denominator if needed for addition or subtraction.  There is a "show me" button that will give step by step details to help if needed. I like this part of it especially since the students get to choose the "show me" button only if they want to otherwise they will solve the problem on their own.  

Student comments:
*helped me with reviewing fraction vocabulary
*it is fun to create your own fractions and write a problem then solve it
*I learned some new vocabulary that I did not learn in class.
*tests are fun to practice against always trying to get a better score

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wonderful Word Wednesday: Check out Wonderopolis

IT is the first thing I should do when I finish teaching  a lesson.  IT is the first thing I should do when I complete a unit, and I am ready to put it away for the year.  IT is one of the most important parts of thinking that teachers should do but IT is the first thing to go when we are too busy, overwhelmed or just need  five minutes to breathe.  I am sure you have figured IT out by now -- IT is reflection.   

So after I arrived home from the NCFL conference, I spent some time reflecting on one particular question that I was asked in our presentation.  How do you use Wonderopolis to help your ESL students?  As I answered this question, I realized that I have never blogged about how important the list of words can be in word study.  I am going to model a lesson with Wonder #152 How Does a Species Become Endangered ?  The list of words include:
*  species
*  endangered
*  unite
*  extinction
*  predator
*  range
*  conserve
* preserve
*  status
*  estimate
*  political
*  funding
*  influence
*  biodiversity

 If I was going to use this Wonder I would choose 3-5 words from the list for my ESL students.  I would choose species, endangered, estimate and range.  I am sure you might be wondering why I chose those words.  I will give you a few reasons for each word.

species:  I always try to chose 1 word in the title to help with understanding and predicting for the article.  I would define the word as a synonym for animals.  In addition I could teach singular/plural nouns.

endangered:  Again it is in the title.  I would teach about the base word (danger) prefix (en) and (ed) ending for verbs.  

range:   I would choose this word because of multiple meanings (math, synonym for stove,
driving range) This would be a great word for context clues practice.

estimate:  I LOVE this word because of the math connection that I can teach as well as the connection with the article.

The other idea that I always consider is if the words could form their own sentence for example: I estimate that some species are endangered.   

Finally I suggested to xerox the article and lift out the sentences with the focus vocabulary, so as I instruct the class the students needing limited vocabulary will only focus on their own words.  As I finish this blog entry, I  realize  these focus lessons on vocabulary could benefit any student if additional help was needed with word development.  Let me know if you try any of these strategies.  Enjoy Wonderful Word Wednesday I know we will!

Monday, April 4, 2011

It is Wonderopolis to Make New Friends

Sunday started off  WONDERful when I arrived at the wonderopolis booth in the convention center. I met many of the creators of Wonderopolis, and they are ALL amazing and very helpful to an inexperienced presenter like myself.  My class will be so excited to know that I talked to the creators of the posts.  I enjoyed learning how the site is organized and how the topics are chosen.  I feel like I understand the inner workings of Wonderopolis.

I enjoyed finally meeting my new friends that I have been emailing and tweeting for the past few months.  Like Mr. Fines (who I now know as Jon), Mwedwards  (who I now know as Melissa) and dbates (who I now know as  Dorene) We had some great conversations about integrating technology into the classroom.  It was really interesting because even though we are states apart-many of the success stories and concerns were very similar. These are some of the WONDERful ideas:

*Allow students the opportunity to learn about many different technology tools, programs and apps.
*When they use the tools, the focus is about the learning and the application to the class work.
*The technology tool should be used as easily as a pencil-not a big event when using the tool.

Today I had the opportunity to hear Bruce Feiler speak about his life as well as his new book: The Council of Dads.  I could not type quick enough with all of his insightful life strategies.  Here are just some of them,  I was given his book as a gift thanks to Wonderopolis and I can't wait to begin reading it.

*Be a traveler in life not a tourist
*Families can scare away monsters in your child's dream
*Design the road map for your life dreams
*See the world in color not black and white
*Harvest your dreams
*Everybody will die but not everybody lives.

I will ponder these quotes long after the NCFL convention as well as reflect on our presentation for Wonderopolis.  Today I did two things I have never done before:  presented at a national conference and had my makeup done for a videotaping.  My whole convention has been WONDERopolis!!!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Collaboration and Stretching Beyond Literal Research

I want my students to be able to collaborate with their friends about their research topic, so I set up a class Wiki site for the students to post their topic as well as their 3 reasons why they chose their topic.  One of the important parts was teaching the students to write strong comments to each other.  I was looking for more than "I like koala bears too." After lots of modeling, I am pleased with their comments to each other.  Here is a sampling from a koala bear wiki. 

Did you know that koalas sleep for 22 hours of the day? The rest of the time they eat but I am not sure what they eat?

Yesterday at 11:51 AM

I liked how you connected your reason with Wonderopolis and you put figurative language in your 3 reasons why.

Yesterday at 11:53 AM

I would like to know if they were endangered too. Who would want to endanger these animals? Also, did you know that in some places you can hold Koalas? 

Yesterday at 11:53 AM

That's cool have you ever been to the Columbus Zoo and seen their koala bears? Maybe you can learn some more at the zoo if you have a chance to go. Also my dad has a friend at the zoo so maybe i could give you his email or address.  
(this student did get an address from their friend)

Yesterday at 11:55 AM

This may answer your question: Koalas eat eucalyptus leaves (pronounced: U-ka-lip-tus)
(I like how this comment flowed from the top comment)

Examples of higher level questions

In addition to the Wiki, the students are working on their research based on the six questions/statements that they wrote using the different level of bloom's verbsI believe this will shift their thinking about research instead of just reading for facts they are reading for a purpose to answer their statement. Here are a few examples of statements as well as the different organizational tools.

I love the higher thinking with statement #1.

On a side note, I will be presenting at the National Conference of Family Literacy  next week on how I  use Wonderopolis in my classroom within my reading and writing workshop.  I am excited and nervous all rolled up into one.  Check back later for an update.