Sunday, January 30, 2011

Got rhythm?

Here's one of the best parts about having a blog... networking!!! Thank you to all who have been reading and leaving comments. It's awesome to hear from others that embed technology into their curriculum.
All of the comments have really made me reflect all the more on the use of technology on the learning of our little ones. Research out there states that our digital natives learn in a much different way than when I was a kid and that their visual cortex is larger than ours as well. This alone has made me rethink how I approach certain topics/subject areas. I think our new generation of kids has moved beyond the "boob tube" and needs to be powered on and engaged in new ways.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=941e6RnP4EQ
As I think about some of our secure goals in first grade I know that the simplest of tasks such as knowing the days of the week can really be a struggle for some. Repetition may be a part of that learning, but how we bring about that repetition may be a big key. I had about 1/2 my class who struggled with this target. I found several YouTube clips to help bring a little fun, funk, and rhythm to our learning. I embedded these videos right into my SMARTboard calendar routine. I even play them at the end of the day on occasion as an extra dose while we are packing up. The kids love it and sing along. At this time all but 1 of my students knows their days of the week.
Now obviously there are a lot of variables on what or if this is what brought about their learning, however, interestingly enough, my son is one who also struggled with the days of the week. He is not in my class but he comes to my room everyday after school. He's heard the songs as well and loves the one above with the train. Funny thing is, when we were practicing the other day, he started singing the days of the week train song that he's heard in my room. As a mom and a teacher, I'm thinking there's something to this phenomenon.
That being said, THANK YOU Mrs. Adcock for the recommendation of the YouTube video, Coins In My Hand. This will be a fun and funky motivator for my few that are still struggling with coin identification.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUlWyJihbOI

My new best friend

Have you ever had that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you've deleted something you've spent hours creating?! Well that is exactly what happened to me tonight as I went to update my lesson plan template only to find that I must have accidentally deleted it!!! In my crazed state, I remembered that I had emailed a copy to myself at school so that I could print them off there if I needed to as well. The only problem was that it was in PDF format as I wanted to maintain the fonts that I use from my home computer that we do not have installed at school. Well, I now have a new best friend!! I googled "pdf to word converter" and came up with several hits. I tried this site http://www.pdftoword.com/ which made the process super easy. I simply uploaded my file, picked the file type I wanted and then put in my email address. Less than 3 minutes later, my PDF file was sent to me as an editable word doc!!! What a life saver!!! The format was maintained as was all of the text. I did lose a couple of images and some of the fonts did not transfer through but the time it will take me to change those few things FAR outweighs the time it would have taken me to recreate the entire document. I especially liked this site as no download was required!!! Hmmm.. knowing how easy it is, I'll be curious to see what else I can do with this site. In the meantime, I am one VERY happy camper as I can spend my extra time creating rather than redoing!!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

iPod touches rock!

I can only wish at this point that I had a class set or even 4 or 5 iPod Touches for my classroom but in the meantime, I am loving using my own touch and am finding so many great uses. I've downloaded the Robert Munsch collection of books from Tumblebooks that my kids are using during Listen to Reading time. They absolutely love them... although I'm sure part of it is just that they are using Mrs. Malchow's touch... oohhhh.... ahhhhhh...as we have many books on tape and books on CD available in our room.

Today as I was listening to one of my students read I on a whim decided to record her so she could hear herself and have some accountability into how she sounded as she was reading so I pulled out my touch and used the Voice Record app to quickly record her and then played it back to her so she could hear for herself how choppy she sounded. We then practiced reading fluently and I rerecorded her again. She was proud as a peach when she was able to actually hear the difference. :-) What an eye opening moment for this child. So often the kids are so tuned in to their decoding and the story itself that they totally lose sight of what they sound like. This was a a great way for this particular student to self evaluate herself.

I've also found several great apps for my 1st grade son, which I have also implemented into my classroom for individuals with various struggles.The biggest thing is remembering which app was good for which skill and being able to get it into kids' hands quickly without wasting precious learning time. Again, it goes back to my philosophy of having an intended purpose rather than using it for the sake of using it or just for the coolness of it. This summer, I'd like to take screen shots of the various apps and then list what skill(s) each is good for so I can easily access the app and the target skill. Off hand I can't remember the name of the app, but there is one that has been helpful for my kids that struggle with counting by 5s and 2s.
One of my all time faves is Teach Me 1st grade (there is also a Teach Me Kindergarten). I like it because: it covers several skills, I can adjust the settings for what I want my kids to work on, I can set it up for 4 different children, and it will track their progress.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Yes!

Ah yes, the dreaded blue screen! It seems like everytime I take my class into the lab at least one computer has "the dreaded blue screen" and the child sitting at that computer is almost instantaneously raising their hand saying their computer isn't working. Obviously this takes time out of our lab time as I am running around helping kids to login sooooo.... I finally had enough. I am proud to say that all my first graders today learned how to navigate through "the blue screens"!!! I put together a bulletin board on one of the lab walls last week and used it today to actually teach them how to do ctrl+alt+delete and then how to type in the generic username and password that our district uses for K-1 students. It was awesome!! All but 5 got it on their first attempt and the 5 that didn't get it the first time just needed to remember that the capital I wasn't a lowercase L and they were all in on their  2nd attempt. I am still pumped about how well they did and how quickly they did it. We have computer again tomorrow and I'm excited to have them all log out (something else they learned today) so they can do it again tomorrow for practice!!! Sometimes it really is the little things in life that make your day wonderful!!

Digital Storytelling Tools

Wow! What a great find by accident tonight. This site http://only2clicks.com/pages/joycevalenza/331334 which stems off of Springfield Township's Virtual Library is great. This page is filled with quite a variety of digital storytelling tools. I'm looking forward to digging into these when I get some free time. I've heard of several including Blabberize, Comic Creator, and Mixbook and have even used a few such as Animoto. If you have an interest in digital storytelling, check this site out. It sure appears to have something for everybody. While you're at it, check out the main site as well. It is phenomenal and has a wealth of information

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ongoing ponders...

When does one integrate technology on a regular basis with first graders when the technology isn't easily accessible? My district is very open in regards to technology and what we are allowed to access. It's wonderful, but at the same time it makes a person want to just dig in all the time. Don't get me wrong, I want to dig in, and I'm trying to dig in...my students are definitely interested and more engaged when we dig in as well but it's difficult at this level to really do some of the things I want in the time frame that we have available. I know the key is to embed the technology into our current curriculum versus doing something just for the sake of doing it, but boy it's just not that easy. I'm hoping that it will become easier as I am in the grade level longer and know the curriculum better as this is my first year in 1st grade and that alone brings its own set of challenges. When I taught 2nd the kids were just so much more capable and we WERE digging in. I'm convinced that a year can't make THAT much of a difference and so I am bound and determined to make my 2 passions (1st grade and technology) mesh together more seemlessly. It's happening with my SMARTboard as I can honestly say that I can't imagine teaching without it and 2 years ago and coudn't imagine teaching with it on a regular daily basis. My how times have changed- I'm even ready to completely say goodbye, adios, and au revoir, to my "that's so yesterday" overhead- although I want to keep the cart (storage is always a postive). Ok, I'm rambling with this post, but I'm hoping that as I come back to this post in 6 months, a year, or even two, that I will giggle and wonder why I was having such a difficult time. All good things come in due time right? Bring on the integration!

Edited: Interestingly enough, I found this article which ties in nicely with my philosophy of technology in education. It still doesn't answer my question, but does reaffirm what I know about technology, kids and engagement.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

fridge magnets

Remember those colorful fridge magnets that scratch up your fridge, fall off and get lost but are sooo much fun? Well now you can play with fridge magnets on the computer....no more lost pieces, no more scratched refridgerator doors but still all the fun! The best part is, as children move the letters around, it will also say the letter name to them.  I love this site!!  For those of us who have SMARTboards,  a version of fridge magnets is in the gallery, but I like this one sooo much better as the letter names are said as the letters are touched or moved.
We will be using this on the SMARTboard during our spelling practice time in the mornings and on the netbooks during our Daily 5 word work time. I will also be introducing it to one of my children who has trouble with letter identification. Using it on the SMARTboard this child will be able to work independently but I will also be able to easily keep an eye on his work. 
I also like the fact that students can print their creations when they are done or save them.
The link is: http://abcya.com/alphabet_number_magnets.htm

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Smilebox

Looking for an EASY, fun, and creative way to share classroom pictures with your students' parents or for students to share their pictures from a project? Hallmark's Smilebox might be what you are looking for.

Smilebox offers tons of different templates to upload your pictures into, everything from slideshows which will hold as many as 400 pictures, to invitations and Newspaper Articles which only hold 2-4 photos.
Click on this link, Smilebox examples ,to see examples from my classroom blog.

Smilebox also offers a Teacher's Toolbox which will get you some additional features for free. Personally, the biggest advantage of being a member is that I can email and blog my creations full screen without ads. Creations can be emailed, posted to a school blog or website, burned to DVD or photo frame, or printed for bulletin boards,etc. Follow this link for more information on how to register for the Teacher's Toolbox. http://media.smilebox.com/teachers/welcome.

Monday, January 10, 2011

teacher resource

Many of you who are already following this blog probably won't need to read this post as you arrived here because of this site...
One of my favorite FREE teacher resource sites is www.proteacher.net. ProTeacher is  professional community and web directory for elementary school teachers in grades PreK-8. It uses a message board format and is organized by grade level and content area. There are even groups set up for specific topics/issues such as Daily 5, Units of Study, and student teachers, etc. If you've not been here, you're missing out on some great resources and a wonderful network of educators. The best part is you can easily just lurk and grab great ideas or become a contributor of ideas.
Just to give you an idea of what you might find on a visit, here is a screen shot of the first grade board and the topics that are being discussed right now.
If you venture over, be prepared to get hooked. It's amazing how quickly you go from a lurker to a poster looking for answers to your own questions, to a contributor sharing your ideas with other.
Hope to see you there!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Need a primary level Wordle-type site?? Here it is...

I was jumping for joy when I found this site earlier this year. I've used Wordle in the past with 2nd graders and although they did a great job there were a lot of choices for them in regards to color, style, etc that seemed to take some of them far too long to decide on their final product. There was also the possibility of coming across inappropriate Wordle's in the gallery which was something I was a bit uncomfortable with. Well... fear not- there is a solution and it's ABCya! Word Clouds.

Just to give you an example of what an ABCya! word cloud looks like, I pasted the paragraph above into the word cloud generator and here's what my creation ended up looking like. It doesn't take out as many of the insignificant words as Wordle does, but to me, that far outweighs the other issues.
Once students have typed or cut and pasted their text into the generator they are able to change the font, the color scheme (only 8 to choose from), and change the format (only 3 layouts available). ABCya's Word Clouds also give you the option to print your creation or save it, something that Wordle made difficult for 1st/2nd graders to do.

This would be great for students to use with a short story or a poem. I personally have used it for students' poems for our May baskets as well as for cloze-sentence projects. It just gives it a little different flair and really appeals to our digital native learners.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

ABCya!

I came upon this site, http://www.abcya.com/ ,last year when I was teaching 2nd grade. The site is laid out with educational computer games and activities, but the best part is... it's organized by grade level. 

 All of the educational computer activities were created or approved by certified school teachers and all educational games are free and are modeled from primary grade lessons and enhanced to provide an interactive way for children to learn. The grade level lessons incorporate areas such as math and language arts while introducing basic computer skills. Many of the kindergarten and first grade activities are equipped with sound to enhance understanding.


My 2nd graders last year loved this site and my first graders this year are no different. The boys, my son included, love the Create a Car (make a toy car) game. This is also an app that can be downloaded for the iPod Touch. It seems so very simple and almost too game like but a great tool for teaching clicking and dragging while having fun.

I have heard some say that they go up a grade level as well for a bit more challenging content for their kids.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

You Tube

Who would have thought that YouTube would be such a wonderful resource for your primary classroom. I've come across several videos purely by accident which has sent me on a search for other great videos. I've found great videos for Days of the Week, Months of the Year and the one below called, "Numbers in the Teens, they start with a 1" It's got a great rap beat to engage kids. I've taken several of these videos and linked them to my calendar routine on the SMARTboard so with the touch off the screen we're off and singing.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Spelling City

Spellingcity.com , which I mentioned in my last post, is a great FREE site to help students learn their weekly spelling words. Students can enter their spelling words and then practice them through the use of various online games. Teachers can even upload their spelling lists one week at a time or for an entire year. This is something that I haven't tried as I use an individualized spelling program in my class.
HangMouse, which happens to be my class' favorite, is a fun version of Hangman. With each incorrect guess, the cat gets wakes up a little bit more putting the mouse in jeopardy. Students get 7 guesses to figure out their word.

To find out a bit more about the site, you can watch the 2 minute video below.

Spelling

Teaching first grade has its own set of challenges but for a tech geek, it can be painful. Having taught 2nd grade for the past 5 years I 've been spoiled by what my kids can do. Not to say first graders can't, but it sure takes a lot longer to get them comfortable with the keyboard and how to navigate around. I'm sure as technology begins to infiltrate our lives more and more, this divide if you will, will lessen. I am constantly amazed at what my own first grader and my 4 year old can do, especially on my iPod touch. That being said, I took my class of 1st graders onto a great site called, http://www.spellingcity.com/ the other day. It was our first time on the site and they did a fantastic job typing in the full address and getting their words typed in in a timely fashion. I was so excited as we still had 10 minutes left of our computer time. Well, that's when things went downhill. Once clicking on the game button, nothing would load. Now if you know 1st graders, you know that they are not overly patient but despite that pitfall my class held it together. In the end, we didn't get to play the game with our words but after talking to our LMS, we got the problem figured out, at least for now, and they will get a 2nd chance to try it out today. I'm excited to hear what they and she thought of it as I wasn't able to be part of the group today as we had our team planning time. Nonetheless, the kids proved to me that they are more than capable of doing more than KidPix and that they can follow multistep directions fairly well once they've been shown what to do. I'm excited to see what we can do next and how I can continue to embed technology into our curriculum in a 1st grade appropriate way.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A new adventure

Here starts another adventure that I have been wanting to undertake for quite some time. I have been inspired by so many others, their blogs, and the wealth of information that they freely share. I often feel as though I don't have anything to share but alas it is amazing to me at times how people come to me and say, "Hey, do you know of a site for...?"  I love to surf the web and although I absolutely LOVE my job as a 1st grade teacher, there is a small part of me that would love to venture down the path of being a tech integration specialist or a google certified teacher. Who knows, maybe someday I'll cross one of those things off my "someday/something to consider" list.
In the meantime, I love to share the knowledge that I have with others and am I'm hoping to use this blog to not only share sites that I find and use in my classroom, but to also reflect upon my teaching both with and without technology. I truly believe that reflection is one of the strongest characteristics of an excellent teacher.
With that being said, here begins a new adventure and a new chapter in a quest to be the best teacher that I can be and to hopefully give back to those that have shared with me and inspire others along the way.