Prospecting For Treasure

Always prospecting for the next treasure of an idea.

Focus

I finished reading the book, Focus:  Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning, by Mike Schmoker. It was given to each of the teachers in my building, by our principal for summer reading.

Schmoker advocates Simplicity, Clarity and Priority.  By this he means we need to simplify our curriculum by cutting the number of standards down, selecting only the most important, and then teaching them thoroughly, using recognized good consistent teaching.  I don’t agree with everything he has to say, but there are definitely some things I will take from this book.  I talked about it in my last post, and shared my plans for writing about the books we are reading here.

Please visit my other blog, Day In the Classroom, and read my review.

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July 26, 2011 Posted by | Reading | , | 1 Comment

Making Our First Glogs

One of my goals for this school year was to learn how to make a Glog. I had heard about them, and seen a few, from others on Twitter, which is where I get most of my technology ideas. It took me a while to get around to doing it, though. I have been gradually working my way through the new Being a Writer materials. This is our first year with these materials. In March we began a new unit on writing non-fiction. The first project was to research and write about countries around the world. This seemed like the perfect place to try out the Glogs.

If you aren’t familiar with a Glog, it is an on-line poster. You create a Glog on the GlogsterEdu website. They can be embedded into wikis and blogs. As I read about GlogsterEdu from others in my PLN, I was very intrigued. With advice from others, I watched a couple YouTube videos to learn how to do this, and I created a sample poster to show to my students. I had the kids partner up to get things started, but ultimately each student made their own glog.

We started out with pencil and paper. We did our research by reading library books to learn about other countries. Students were able to choose whatever country they wanted, and several chose the same country. I created a organizational web so students could collect and organize their information before we moved to the computers.

When I began to look at the developing Glogs, I realized that some kids were into adding lots of unrelated animated graphics, but were not including much content. At this point I created a Making a Glog poster with my expectations and a checklist for students to use as they edited their work. Later, I used this checklist as a rubric to evaluate our finished Glogs.  Check out my file cabinet for PDFs of these documents.

This turned out to be a really wonderful project, and I was very impressed to see what the kids did with it. Their Glogs were way better than mine. They figured out how to find and embed photos and links in their Glogs. To make it easier for people to see our work, I created a wiki for this project and embedded all the Glogs. I also embedded the Glogs on each student’s Kidblog.

We had Core Knowledge Night, which is an open house type event, on May 5th. One of the problems with on-line projects is being able to display them for visitors to see. I set up three laptops with display boards. I also talked to the class about showing their work to their parents and other visitors. We had lots of people that took the time to see our work.

I will definitely be using Glogs in the future. The kids really enjoyed making them. It was a great way to demonstrate their learning. I also found that several students who often struggle academically really excelled with this project.

May 22, 2011 Posted by | Education, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

The Kids Present Their StoryJumper Stories

Each student presented and read their StoryJumper story to the class.

Tuesday was our last full day of school, so that was the day for the kids to present and read their StoryJumper stories to the class.  I wrote about writing with StoryJumper in an earlier post.  I wasn’t sure how this was going to turn out.  Everyone had been very excited and interested in creating these books, but there was also a lot of talking, which isn’t surprising during the last three weeks of school.  In fact, there was so much talking, that when I had checked on their progress about a week before, I was disappointed to see that most weren’t very far along.

Each person presented and read their StoryJumper book out loud to the class using the digital presenter. By the time the first three kids had presented their book, I was on the phone calling my principal to see if she had time to come up to see what they had done.  She is in our rooms frequently throughout the day, so she had been checking on their progress throughout the writing process.

Many of the kids were not finished, which is okay, because they can continue working on their books during the summer.  Even so, they had pages of writing, with illustrations to enhance their story.  My little authors really knocked my socks off.  Their stories were interesting, with good plot lines.  In fact they were interesting enough to hold the attention of the class while all 24 people presented.  Our Special Ed teacher, with whom I collaborate, pointed out that if we had asked the kids to write a five  hundred word story, they would have had a fit, but that’s really what they did, and they had a ball doing it.

We decided that next year we will devote some time to letting the class explore the mechanics of creating illustrations using the backgrounds and props, before they actually begin their books.  Creating their illustrations took much longer than I anticipated.  At the risk of thwarting their creativity, we may also talk about how to select backgrounds and font size so that the pages can be more easily read.

I always do a lot of writing with my students, but this year we have definitely surpassed anything I have done before, and that is largely because of the technology that we have explored and utilized.  We’ve written comments on our class wiki.  We’ve used Wallwisher, Storybird, KidBlogs, and now StoryJumper.  It has particularly made a difference for my struggling writers.  Using the computer removes any roadblocks caused by the physical act of writing.  It also makes reading their work so much easier.  This was apparent when every single student, including those with writing IEPs were able to read their StoryJumper book aloud to the class.  Is their writing perfect?  Is every sentence capitalized and punctuated correctly? Are all words spelled right?   No.  But they are writing, and I couldn’t be more please with their progress.  We are definitely going to do this and more next year.  I will be introducing blogging and digital story writing much earlier in the school year.  Imagine what we can accomplish if we have all year to explore and grow!

June 12, 2010 Posted by | Education, Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

My First Year of Teaching With Technology: Where Do We Go From Here?

It is the last week of school, and this is a great time for reflecting on and evaluating the new things I have tried in my fourth grade classroom this year .  It is also a  time for making plans for next year.  I am amazed by how much my teaching and personal life have been transformed by my venture into using technology in my classroom.  It all started last summer with an on-line technology class, Using the Internet in the Classroom, and has continued throughout the year with my continuing professional development via Twitter.  At the beginning of the year I was trying something new almost every week, to the point of exhaustion.  Since January I have continued to explore new resources and new ideas, but at a slightly slower pace. 
 
By far the best thing we have done this year is the blogging, which is interesting since that is where I began.  The way I’m utilizing blogs has changed greatly since last April when I set up my classroom blog, Ms. Day’s Fourth Grade.  Our very first blog post was last May, following our annual field trip to Living History Farms.  Keep in mind that prior to that, I did not know what a blog was, and I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach classroom blogging, but my goal has always been to keep the kids writing.  I started out by writing a question and having the kids respond through a comment.  This worked ok, but it didn’t keep my students’ writing at the forefront, and they had little flexibility in deciding what to write and therefore, little ownership.   At the beginning of second semester,  I began having the kids write as the  “Guest Blogger” on our class blog.  We were working on opinion pieces so they were to write on a topic they felt strongly about.  This worked for some kids, but not for others. 
 
Then I learned about Kidblog.org   and after spring break, every child began to have their own personal blog.  I have seen real improvement in their writing since we began this latest venture.  It has also been very gratifying to receive the feedback and support that we have, from their third grade teachers, parents, our principal, and members of my Twitter PLN.   The kids have been excited about their blogs, but I was really hoping,  that more kids would go on-line from home to write on their blogs, or that they would write additional posts when they had free time at the computer center.  I have had only two students do that. 
 
I know how I feel about the things we have done, but I’m not always sure how the kids really feel, so I decided to have the class complete a survey about the technology we have used this year.  I created it on a Googleform and embedded it in our ReadtheWeb Class Wiki.  That is something else I learned this year, and I blogged about it in my post, Using Google Docs to Create and Embed an On-line Quiz.   As I was getting ready to analyze the data, I clicked on summary, and accidentally learned it was already done for me.  I often learn by hit or miss.  I am so glad I decided to survey the class, because I have really enjoyed seeing what the kids have to say.

Students were asked to rate each website on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1=I didn't like it and 5=I loved it.

They have really liked the Kidblogs, Storybird, and StoryJumper.  When asked what was their favorite thing that we did involving technology this year, one student wrote, “I liked the StoryJumper the best, because I love to write and the StoryJumper brought out my best story yet.”  How could a teacher not love a statement like that. 
 

No doubt about it, they love our class wiki with all the links to games and other resources.

Our ReadtheWeb class wiki is very popular.  Our wiki has pages for different subject areas.  With the help of teachers on Twitter, I have collected links for math and language websites here.  When students do not have a specific assignment at the computer center, they may use the wiki to play games, which build reading and language skills.  We have a link to the wiki on our class website, so students can also go on from home.  Someone said, “I like the ReadtheWeb wiki, because I got to play fun games, and learn at the same time.”  
 
When asked “What did you learn this year about computers and/or the internet, that you didn’t know before?  One of my students said, “I learned that there are kids’ blogs.  I only knew about websites for adults only.” 
 

Our webquests were not nearly as popular.

Not nearly as popular were the webquests we did.  The kids have better memories of “Mountain Trek” which was our first technology experience, than they do of the American Revolution webquest.  One of the things I liked about a webquest was that it controlled where the kids went on the internet.  I felt that it kept them more accademically focused.    I asked the kids if they felt 4th graders were old enough to do their own research and find their own websites, because this is a direction that I think I will be going next year.  I am very interested in learning about Glogs, and having kids collaborate on Googledocs.  I have seen examples of these from other teachers on Twitter, some from kids younger than mine.   I am thinking about having kids take more control of their research. 
 
One student responded with, “Yes, because there are some things that we cannot find on the websites you give us.”  Another said, “Yes, because if they do that they will not be bored, plus they will learn more, also.”  
 
Next year I want to do more in the way of  teaching actual computer skills;  helping kids to learn how to use search engines, upload photos, and add links to their blog posts.  I think all these things will make the things we do more personal and meaningful.  I think their Kidblogs could become a personal portfolio for each student.  It would be great to have kids present their work to parents at parent teacher conferences. 
 
When I asked the kids about what they have learned this year, someone said, “I learned how annoying technology can be sometimes.  But it can also be fun, if it works correctly.” 
 
Boy, isn’t that the truth!  We have three aging Dell desktops, an ancient Dell laptop, and five — year old HP laptops for 24 kids.  Next year I will have 29 students.  I am concerned about how to make this work with five more kids. One of the laptops is designated for a special needs child who will be in 5th grade next year, so there will be one less computer.   This cart of laptops is actually for the entire school, but they have been housed  in my room most of the time, since only one other teacher has shown any interest in using technology.  While I keep sharing the things I am learning with my colleagues, I also worry what will happen if anyone else on staff gets the technology bug.
 
My school has just aquired ten new IPads.  One of my projects this summer will be learning how to use them.  We can have a lot of fun with those.   But I’m wondering if any of the other teachers will be interested.  It would be fun having someone to share ideas with face to face, but with such limited resources, it would be hard to do the things I have done this year if I had less access to the equipment.  
While equipment concerns are sometimes frustrating, I have learned that once you start on this technology trail, there’s no turning back.  For me personally, incorporating these new ideas into my classroom has revitalized my teaching.  I am excited about the things we are doing and learning, and I know I communicate that enthusiasm to my students.  So many times this year I have begun lessons with the words “I want to show you something  I just learned.  It’s really cool . .”   So no matter how many kids we have, and how little equipment, somehow I’ll make it work.  There’s no stopping now!
 
 
 

June 6, 2010 Posted by | Education, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Creative Writing With StoryJumper

After bringing our Medieval History unit to a close, and following our big celebration of Core Knowledge Night, I needed to do something to excite and hold the interest of my students during the remaining four weeks of school.  Earlier this year we wrote digital books on StoryBird.com and they had a ball!  It’s a great website, but I was less than satisfied with the quality of my students’ writing.  They loved dragging the photos into place, but their stories seemed to be a matter of drag a picture, write a sentence, drag a picture, write a sentence.  I wanted their books to be more story centered, and less illustration centered.  After blogging about our experience with Storybird,  Blake Williams, one of the co-founders of StoryJumper, contacted me and told me about StoryJumper.com.  StoryJumper.com  is a creative writing and book publishing website for kids.  It allows anyone to create and publish a kid’s book, both online and also in hardcover.
 

The StoryStarter Workbook can be printed off or downloaded to your computer as a PDF file.

One of the things I really like about StoryJumper is that there is a complete downloadable lesson plan for 7 step story creation.  This first time, I stuck pretty close to the lesson plan.  There were lots of chuckles from the class as I revealed the lists of possibilities for character building, setting, and plot structure ideas. I can see lots of opportunities to use this 7 step plan with the class.  After they have learned how it works, we could build on the original plan and brainstorm possibilities of our own to get everyone thinking.

 
I also like the prewriting that is involved with this website, before we ever get to the computers.  This seems to work better with my class, not only because the quality of their writing is improved, but we also have only nine computers to work with.  This way I can rotate my authors through the computer centers, while others are still working on their first drafts at their desks.
 
StoryJumper lets you set up an on-line class and assigns screen names to the students, which adds to security.  The teacher can decide whether to permit home access to the stories.  If you choose home access, you can print off a note to go home with each student, that provides information about accessing the website, as well as a password for the child to use from home.  All the teacher has to do is print off these notes.  It is already done for you.  To me, that is a really big plus.
 
After we had our writing under way, the website also provides step-by-step directions on how to build their story on the website.  There is a video available, but we had trouble getting that to work.  This may be due to the weak wireless internet in our building.  Our wireless internet was down on Thursday, and we struggled with it again on Friday.
 
Once the students are working on line, they select backgrounds, props, and use text boxes to add in their writing.  They can resize, rotate or flip scenes, props, and text boxes. They create a cover, dedication page, and can easily add and move between pages.  Your own photos can be uploaded and used as scenes or props. We aren’t doing this at this time, but that opens up a lot of possibilities for future projects. 
 
We are now six and a half days away from the end of the school year, and my class is totally engaged in this project.  I think that’s saying a lot.  Most of the problems we’ve encountered are due to the limitations of our aging equipment.  We’ve had some problems with writing showing up in places we didn’t want it, but kids are helping kids, and the project is going well.  I’m hoping we will have most of the story creation finished by the end of this week.  I want each child to have time to present their StoryJumper book to the class during that last two and a half days of school. 
 
Once the project is done you can decide who to share the book with.  It can be kept private, shared with friends and family, or submitted to be included in the StoryJumper public library.  For a reasonable fee, you or parents can also choose to have a hardcover book published.   This is a great website for the upper elementary student!

May 31, 2010 Posted by | Education, Uncategorized | , , , | 5 Comments

Core Knowledge Night: Wrapping Up Our Study of Medieval History

Our classroom was full of castles of every shape and size.

Thursday, May 6th was Core Knowledge Night.  This is the time when we show families all the projects we’ve been working on.  For fourth grade we displayed things we had done for the American Revolution and the Middle Ages.  We had our Giant Medieval Paper Dolls and their letters on display in the hall.  I wrote about this project in an earlier post.

 
After reading The Door In the Wall, each person designed their own coat of arms.  There are several resources that have good information about heraldry.  I like to use Medieval Times from Teacher Created Materials, Inc.  Page 27 has a key to some of the symbols that were used in heraldry.  You will find a pattern to use for your shield on page 28.   The size of the shield we make is usually dependent on the supplies I have on hand. This year I just ran the shield pattern onto cardstock, and we have displayed them on our lockers.  Other years I make them larger, and students trace a pattern onto larger posterboard or cardboard.
 

Each person created their own coat of arms, and we used them to decorate our lockers.

Our castles were due on Wednesday, May 5th, and they were incredible!  Every child completed the project with two making posters, and the rest building models.  We had castles made with cardboard, wood, sticks, sugar cubes held together with frosting, and styrofoam.  They were very impressive. 
 

A Motte and Bailey Castle

One of the girls made a motte and bailey castle.  These were the earliest castles built, and they resembled our early American forts.  The keep was built on a hill (this was the motte) that was often made with the dirt that was dug from the moat.  The castle and bailey (the yard) were surrounded by a wooden fence.  The drawback was that attackers used to burn the castles down, which is why they began building them from stone.
 

Visitors from other classes come to check out our castles.

We had lots of visitors in to see the castles on Wednesday and Thursday.  All the kids were able to explain the construction of their projects.  Each student presented their castle to the class.  We interviewed them and asked questions about the materials used, who helped, what they were proudest of, and how their castle is like a real castle from the middle ages.  I always take lots of pictures, and this year I experimented with a Flip Camera that was just acquired by our school.
 
On Thursday we wrote a fairy tale about our castle using the following story starter:
 
  • It was the day of the Core Knowledge celebration, and room 205 was full of castles.  Ms. Day’s 4th graders entered the classroom, but Ms. Day was nowhere to be found.  Instead, there was a very strange looking substitute sitting behind the desk.  Instead of a school bag, she carried a cauldron.  Instead of a Phillips sweatshirt, she wore a long black gown and cape .  Instead of a pencil, she carried a wand.  Her name was Miss Magica.  Miss Magica put that wand to use, just as soon as the class began talking.  There was a crash and a bright flash of light.  It started with a tingling from your fingertips all the way to your toes, and before you knew it you found yourself shrinking so small that you could fit inside your castle.  There was another flash and crash, and the wind began to blow.  Your castle with you inside, had been transformed into real stone and wood, and was spinning through the air, back in time to a land far far away.  Write about your adventure!
 
We worked all this week to  finish writing and post our fairy tales on our Kidblogs. We have also included a photo of each person’s castle.  You can read their fairy tales and see more of their fantastic castles  by visiting http://kidblog.org/msdaysclass/.  We welcome your comments.
 
It’s been a very successful unit.  The kids have learned a lot, and they have been enthusiastic, but I think we’re all ready to move onto something new.
 
 

May 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Our New Student Blogs

We just finished a very stressful week filled with daily test-taking.  It was our week for Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. This is how Iowa schools are judged as successful or failing, so much rides on these tests.  The actual testing was the culmination of several weeks of “test preparation.”  We actually took less of the test this year, but I felt more stressed than ever, and went home exhausted each night.  Our school has been one of the few in our part of town that has managed to stay off of the “watched schools” list, and hopefully we will be able to accomplish that again this year.
 
It was a regular school day the the rest of the time, and my students spent time reading each other’s new blogs.  Everyone now has their very own blog at Kidblog.org.  I introduced the new blogs when we came back from spring break on March 22nd.  We spent that week writing, editing, and posting, so it wasn’t until last week that the kids could really see their published work.  Now that the kids are seeing their own blogs, and reading and commenting on other student’s blogs, they are getting excited about this project. 
 
The Kidblog website is really easy to use.  I introduced the project using the list of Ten Blogging Ideas from A Geeky Momma’s  Blog.  I set up our blogs so they are public, but all posts and comments must be approved by me.  Mine is not a paperless classroom.  We started with our initial draft written on paper, and we did our first edit on paper. Then students began to post on the computer.  I like the fact that there is a button to “Submit for Review”.  At this point I printed a copy of the blog, so that students could edit once again before posting on line.  
 
I was feeling pretty frustrated.  The content of the posts was good, but my students are not using correct capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.  I don’t know where you stand on this, but I do believe that if I continue to edit their work, it is no longer their work, so mistakes or not, at this point we posted.   
 
I sent out a link to their blogs, so that others in our building could see what they are doing.  The website is very well organized so that you can access all our class blogs from one page.  It is also easy for the kids to sign in.  All they have to do is find their name in the drop down menu, and sign in with their password.  Our blogs are grouped as Ms. Day’s Class
 
The other teachers in my building have been great about writing comments on the kids’ blogs.  I like the fact that the comments show up on the right side of the screen, next to the students post.  This way the kids can easily see that people are responding to their writing. 
 
The third grade teachers are impressed with how much their writing has improved.  I felt reassured by this, but even more important, one of my students got on line from home at seven in the morning, and wrote a second blog post.  She also wrote very nice comments on other students blogs.  This student has been a reluctant writer in the past.  Now I’m excited!  I hope some of the other kids feel as motivated by the response to their work, and will continue writing on their own. 
 
In the meantime, we are using a Daily Oral Language approach, to work on our editing skills.  It can’t hurt, and it just might help!

April 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

March Reflections

I just completed two days of parent-teacher conferences.  I’m happy to say I had the opportunity to speak with all of the families of my students.  We are lucky to have great parent support in our school, so this is not unusual.  As I prepare to visit with the families, I can’t help but reflect, not only on how the kids are doing, but also on how I am doing in teaching in the most meaningful way possible.  This is even more important this year, since I have tried so many new approaches, mostly through technology.  While it’s nice to feel I am being more  innovative, it’s imperative to be sure that I am meeting my academic goals, and not just providing a lot of electronic fluff.

We just completed a project using Storybird.com.  The kids had a ball creating digital books on Storybird.  They worked in partners, with some students teaching others how to use the website.  They select a picture to use, drag it onto the page, and then write.  It’s a great website, but I was disappointed by the quality of the writing.

Even though I modeled a book for them, and talked with the kids about writing a real story, most wrote one sentence per page.  Some were funny, but I didn’t see that they were really telling a story, and I certainly didn’t feel that they were doing anything to improve their writing.  I want them to be writing much more developed stories by the second half of fourth grade. I am also frustrated that they are still not self editing, even with the simplest things like capitalization and ending punctuation. 

I had some frustrations with the website itself, as well.   Some of the kids were working on stories that, for some reason or other, would not save.  We could never figure out why.  This was frustrating, because there were many instances of lost work.  Sometimes we were able to resolve the problem, but other times we just had to abandon that digital book.  This website also has some very tight standards as to acceptable content.  We had two digital books that were not accepted, and I’m still not sure why.

I have a couple of ideas which I hope will help solve some of these problems.  I set up student blogs through KidBlog.org, which the students will begin using after spring break.  I got this idea from Lee Kolbert (@teachakidd on Twitter).  She has some great ideas on her GeekyMomma’s Blog.  I think we will do some work with the old Daily Oral Language approach.  I’m also thinking of printing off some of their blog posts and having them proofread and edit.  Anybody out there have better ideas?  How do I get them to recognize and correct their own errors?

Later in the year we will make another try with digital storytelling by using the website Storyjumper.com.  This website has lesson plans to spur character and plot development.  I hope that by developing and writing a story first, the kids will do some better quality writing.

For now though, I have the next ten days off!   I will go into school sometime during this time, and now that the snow has mostly melted there will definitely be yard work on the agenda.  Mostly I’m going to enjoy spending some time at home.

March 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

An Update On Our American Revolution Webquest

After completing our research, students wrote persuasive letters.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the webquest we are working on:  A Revolution is Coming!  Which Side Will You Be On?  We finished our webquest last Friday.  This week I have been looking at everyone’s work.  This includes their webquest notes, graphic organizer, and letter.  The kids did a great job reading on-line information and taking notes about the causes and events that led to the beginning of the American Revolution. 

 
It is important for students to understand that support for separating from England was far from unanimous.  We talked about how the war divided families, pitting father against son, brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor.  After taking notes, we formed teams, and students drew slips of paper to determine if they were going to write their letter from the viewpoint of a patriot or a loyalist. 
 

The art work was done by my son, Michael Day and his friend, Brandon Archer, when they were in fifth grade. They are now 22.

This is where we began to have problems,  The half of the class that were to argue from the perspective of the loyalist were very upset.  They all wanted to be patriots.  We also found that information for the loyalist perspective was much more sketchy, since historians have done better record keeping for those who supported the revolution. 
 
We also ran into problems as teams began to use the Read, Write and Think Persuasion Map    I could not find a way of saving their work, so they had to complete the entire task in one sitting, which our schedule did not permit.  I solved this problem by printing off a copy of the final organizer, and having teams work on it with pencil and paper.  
 
 Overall, it has been a good project.  It just needs some modification.  Next year I think I will model and write the letter from the viewpoint of the loyalists.  then the students can all be patriots.  To encourage them to give more details, they can write to their cousins in England describing the events taking place in the colonies, and explaining why they are patriots, and wish to fight for independence.
 

February 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 2 Comments

Learning With Storybird and Edmodo

I have a really good student teacher, who is now teaching most of the day.  During the next two weeks, he will be teaching full time, and then he moves on to a different grade level, in a different school,  in a different town.  It occurred to me earlier this week, as he was teaching a social studies lesson, and I was working with a small group in the hall, that having two people in the classroom, is just about the only way to accomplish all the interventions, small group support, and individual attention that a teacher needs to provide each day.  While he has been teaching, I have been able to make up work with students who have been absent, run small groups to share writing, and meet more frequently with students who need the extra support.  It also gives me extra time to just connect and have fun with kids.

This extra time meant I was able to explore the website Storybird with a group of students.  Storybird is a digital story telling website.  The website is very easy to use.  The first time we visited the website we spent time just reading other people’s published “Storybirds.”  The next time we got together we looked at the tutorial, and then we plunged right in.  My students are collaborating, and their first task was to agree on a picture to use for their first page.  As soon as they made that choice, they were provided with a large selection of other artwork by that same artist.  From there on, it was simple.  Just drag the picture you  want to use onto the page.  Then write about it.

I do have one caution.  When you go to the Storybird Homepage it says “Start a Storybird Now”.  Be sure to log in or register first.  Don’t make the mistake I did, and just begin the story.  We saved our work, but because we were not logged in, we lost it.  Fortunately, the kids had such a good time, that they have forgiven me for that one.

Students carry on a book discussion using Edmodo.

I have another group working on Edmodo.  This group is made up of some very strong readers, some of whom are at least 2 years above grade level.  Edmodo is a closed social networking site, that looks similar to Facebook.  In fact, when we returned from our winter break in early January, I discovered that some of the kids had been on it over vacation, and were using it like Facebook.  Students access the website with a unique code, which keeps the discussion private.  Edmodo is a very cool website and the kids love getting on there.  We have been using it to discuss a book we are reading. When we started the book, I was able to introduce them to the author and build background knowledge by providing them with links to websites.  There is a component for making assignments and grading, as well as conducting a poll.  I think it would be an even better platform for reading and discussing non-fiction topics. 

We started out strong with some thoughtful discussions, and students soon figured out that they could shape our conversation  by posing their own questions and thoughts for discussion.  We have had several talks about courtesy to one another, and the importance of staying focused on our reading discussion.  The problem that I have been having is that one or two students are being very thoughtful in their comments, while others are being silly with comments like “Yeah, what she said.”  “Me too!”  or “Ditto”.  This week my student teacher and I told them, if they weren’t going to use Edmodo responsibly, we would go back to paper and pencil.  It has improved some, but I am looking for ideas on how to use this great website, and keep our time productive. 

Please tell me what has worked for you.  How have you used Edmodo?  What other websites do you recommend for small group work?

February 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 4 Comments