Sunday, May 18, 2014

Writer's Tea

Three of our 1st grade classrooms hosted our first ever Writer's Tea on Friday and I can tell you that it will definitely be an annual tradition for my classroom!!! 

We started by sending an invite home to parents about a month in advance and planned our celebration for the last hour of the day on a Friday in hopes that parents could make arrangements to get off of work or leave a little early. Grandparents were also invited as we wanted every student to have at least one person to come and celebrate with them. 
We served punch and cookies to make the event all the more special.

In the grand scheme of things, this was a relatively easy event to get ready for. I saved my kiddos' writing all year long... every single piece of writing! Let me tell you, it is eye opening how much writing we do in the course of a year when you have to find a place to store it all!  A few days before the event, I began passing back all of my kiddos' writing. It was fun to listen to them as they got certain pieces back and they would say things like, "I forgot about this one" or "Oh my gosh, I can't even read this" The latter comment was the best as they really were able to appreciate how far they have come as authors!

After getting our pieces back, we needed something large enough to hold all of our pieces as some of them were larger craftivites. I wanted something that would make it easier for them to tote their writing to a place in the room and that would also hopefully serve as a "one-stop storage spot" that would have special memories for them and their parents. I am hoping that parents won't just throw all of their child's hard work away. My solution was to fold a piece of tagboard in half and to glue students' 1st day of school pictures and a matching end of the year picture to this folder. (It was amazing to see how much some of them have changed over the course of the year!) Students then decorated their portfolio however they wished. They weren't overly fancy, but each student's was unique and they had a lot of fun designing them. It also gave them even more ownership of this event.

Finally, students filled out an About the Author paper to share with their visitors. This ended up being the very first piece in our portfolios that student's shared with their visitors. You can click the link above to download a free copy for yourself if you're interested. 

When the big day finally came, my kiddos were beyond excited! They asked all day long when the Writer's Tea was starting. It was fantastic to see how excited they were and to feel the energy in the room. Every student in my class, except one had at least one adult in attendance. Knowing ahead of time that this student, and a few others from the other 2 classes didn't have a visitor, we made arrangements with other staff members in our building (Assistant principal, reading specialist, LMS, etc) to come and be a special visitors for them so nobody was left out.

I have to say, the event was fantastic and went off without a hitch. The students were in charge and I was able to mull around the room, take pictures, chat with our visitors and sit back and watch as students were the teachers. Throughout the course of the hour, they shared all of the writing in their portfolios, shared the stories they had done digitally on their iPads, enjoyed a cookie and punch, and also shared a few projects in the hall, including our Global Art Project. I was shocked when we were 3 minutes from the dismissal bell ringing and I still had 3/4 of my class and their visitors in my room!! I told them all to enjoy and not be in a rush and many stayed even longer. All together, most of my students spent about 45 minutes to an hour with their visitors.

As I said above, this will definitely become an annual tradition for me. The only change I think I may need to make is to plan for a full hour next year. Three days later, I am still smiling about how well it went and the sheer joy that my students experienced getting to share all of their hard work!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Word Clouds

Have you tried the new app by ABCya called Word Clouds? It is currently free and is phenomenally easy to use! If you are not familiar with word clouds the idea is that you get a graphical representation of your text. Words that are used in higher frequency are represented larger. 
This app is phenomenally easy to use. My kiddos learned how to use it in about 5 minutes. The next day, they taught another first grade class how to use the app. If a first grader can teach someone how to use it, you know it's easy!
We used this app to create a word cloud for our moms as part of their Mother's Day gift. We did a bit of brainstorming together on chart paper to get the ideas flowing. Students were then asked to write the name they call their mom at the top of their paper (mom, momma, mommy, etc). They then numbered their paper from 1-10 and thought of 10 (or more if they could) words that would describe their mom.
When putting their words into the app, each student typed the word "mom" four times so that it would appear larger than the others and then proceeded to type in their other words. When they were done they were able to choose the font, color and directionality of their words.
These turned out wonderful and were a nice addition to our Mother's Day gifts.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Continent research

During our writer's workshop, we have again been working on informational (research-based) writing. During Spanish, we have been learning the names of the continents and their locations so it seemed only fitting to dig in a bit more to find out some special facts about each one. To do this, each child wrote down their top 3 choices of continents they'd like to learn more about. I then went through their requests and paired students up that had similar requests paying close attention to partnering my lower readers with a classmate that would be able to help them out. 

Students then read a book about their continent and took notes on post-its as they went (My class LOVES post-its!). I asked them to find at least 4 interesting facts about their continent. We used the Rookie Reader: Read About Geography series. The readability of these is great for end of the year 1st graders.

Students then worked with their partner(s) to write a paragraph which included a topic sentence, details (their facts) and a wrap up sentence about their continent using their information. 

We are now working to rewrite our pieces on paper shaped like the continent we researched. When we are done, we plan to hang them up in the hallway in the correct locations to create a gigantic map of the world. 

Update: Here are a few of the finished continents. I really love how they turned out and the kids did a fantastic job working together as a team. 

I have a student who is legally blind and is learning to read and write braille this year. This was a great project for him as well as his partners read the book out loud. He worked to take notes of his own using his brailler as you can see to the right. 
When his group wrote their paragraph, he wrote his sentence in braille and we glued it below the words from his sentence so everyone can experience it in braille as well. This little guy has done a tremendous job this year and it is inspiring to see him participate in all that we do with a few modifications.

Here is our completed project out in the hallway for all the read and enjoy!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

100th Day App Smash

I love appsmashing! This year for our 100th day of school we used 2 apps to help us publish our writing, Chatterpix and Aging Booth

We started by writing about what we would do when we are 100 years old. The ideas that the kids came up with were just adorable!! After we finished our writing, we took our pictures with the Aging Booth app which automatically aged us and saved them to the Camera Roll. The kids thought their pictures were hilarious! We had a lot of good laughs about how they turned out.

We then imported our pictures into the Chatterpix app. This app allows you to use any photo, then draw a line to make a mouth and then record your voice. You also have the option to add stickers, text, and frames to your photos as well as adding filtering effects (black and white, sepia, etc). I use the regular version of Chatterpix so that I have the option of sharing our projects via email. They also have a kids version, Chatterpix Kids, that does not have the sharing options. This is a very simple app to use and the kids were able to easily import their picture and record their story.

When we were finished with our project, we emailed them to our parents but also printed out our pictures from the Aging Booth app and displayed them in the hallway along with our writing for our parents and others to also enjoy during parent teacher conferences.

Monday, April 7, 2014

1:1 iPad organization

This is definitely not going to be the most glamorous post (information or pictures), but I often have other educators ask how I organize and store my class set of iPads so I thought I'd put together a quick post.

There are a lot of options out their for storing and charging iPads but many of them are too pricey for school districts/classrooms. I would love to have a cart, but it just wasn't in the budget so we had to get creative and to be honest, what I have works just as well. 

We simply bought a paper organizer (literature organizer). You can get these in a variety of sizes depending on your needs. I think mine is a 72 slot organizer. I only used every 3rd spot however which makes each space a bit larger not to mention I only needed 3 of the 4 vertical rows. I use the fourth row for storage of my styluses, wired keyboard, and any other extras.

Once I got the shelves placed how I wanted them, we drilled holes through the cardboard backing so we could feed the power cords through. You can see that on the picture below if you look carefully (sorry the picture quality isn't very good). We also put self stick cable clips in each spot. As you can see they ended up not being all that useful- maybe it's just first graders. Not sure if I would spend the money to get these again or not- probably leaning towards not. Each of my iPads is numbered so I needed a way for my students to know which slot to put their iPad in. Again, I wanted to find a cost effective solution so I bought black binder clips, put colored electrical tape on the end and then simply used a Sharpie to write my numbers. I then clipped them onto the edge and flipped the handles over. Viola- easy and only cost about $2.00.

Last but not least, I needed to be able to plug the iPads in to charge. Again, we wanted to be as cost-effective as possible but also keep things organized. Our solution to this was the Belkin 12 Outlet Pivot Plug Surge Protector with 8 foot cord. We bought two of these and mounted them to the back of the paper sorter. What I love most is that the outside outlets swivel out flat which meant that I could still get this pretty close to the wall. 

So, that's it. Our economical way around buying an expensive charging cart. I have now had this set up for 2 years and have had no issues with it at all. If you're looking for a cost-effective way to store and charge a class set of iPads I would highly recommend this method.