Monday, June 20, 2011

WoW! Cool! Holy Cow!

WoW~ I am so excited. I found out tonight that I won a free license for Camtasia Studio from Kleinspiration's Tech-Tastic Give-away ~a $299 value!

Camtasia is a Screen Recording and Video Editing Software that is super easy to use. My mind is already swimming with ways that I can incorporate this into my teaching and curriculum this fall. Do any of you use this software? If so, how have you used it in your classroom? I'd love to hear your ideas!

A BIG thank you again to Erin from Kleinspration for this tech-tastic opportunity!!

QR codes

Have you ever heard of QR codes? If your like many of the people I've talked to lately, probably not, but I’ll bet you’ve probably seen them. 

 QR codes or  Quick Response Codes are two-dimensional barcodes, readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera, and smartphones. When you scan the image with your mobile device, it instantly gives you the information contained in that code. They work similar to a barcode, but you can encode a variety of information including web url's, text, phone numbers, etc.

To create a QR code try  This is the site that I've been using and it is super easy to use! Click on the link above, or scan the QR code on the left to go to the site.

So I've been doing a lot of thinking on how I can use QR codes as part of my model technology classroom next year as I will have 2 iPads with cameras as well as my personal 4th gen iPod touch. I want to give my class a little taste of tech on the first day that won't require a lot of thought or effort on their part sooooo... I've decided to do our beginning of the year school tour using QR codes.

Since I have a dog theme I'm going to have a dog give us our clues. I'll generate a QR code for each clue and place it in a speech bubble. I'm hoping to laminate these so I can use them from year to year. I have to try that out to make sure the QR reader will still work with the laminating film. I suspect it will, but would hate to do all of them only to find out that it doesn't.
I am also going to put a number on each dog and then make a master clue list with each number and what the clue is so that I will be able to easily remember where each dog takes us without having to scan each dog as I put it up around the building. I think this will be a fun and unique way for us to do our tour and will give my class a taste of tech. My intent is to have enough clues for each child in my class to be able to scan at least one dog.

I also found this site with several other ideas. I really like idea #2.

Interactive Back to School Night: Post QR codes throughout the classroom, with titles about various student work. QR codes could access student videos, projects, blogs, and many other ideas only teachers can envision. Hand out devices (iPod Touches, for instance) to parents who don’t have a mobile device and show them how to read the QR code and access the materials

My only concern is, how do I manage the iPads so that they don't walk off. Open House and/or parent-teacher conferences are always so crazy. Hmmm.. something to ponder. Any ideas?

Have you seen this video on 21st Century Education?

This is an awesome video from the New Brunswick Department of Education which our technology director showed to us at one of our committee meetings recently. It really hit home for me and makes me all the more excited to be one of the model technology classrooms for our district.

I'd love to know your thoughts after you view the video.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Packing and Pitching and Purging, Oh My!

Our school year has come to an end~ the kiddos have gone home, the college kids have started their cleaning and I am sitting amongst PILES of stuff as I am in the process of moving my classroom from one end of the building to the other. We're only 3 days into vacation and a small part of me is  feeling the anxiety of being ready for next year already- not because time is flying by, but rather because of the long list of things that is in front of me (moving rooms wasn't originally on that long list but has moved up to the #1 spot) Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining as it is going to make me go through (hopefully) all of my stuff and decide what I really don't use or want anymore. We have 2 new teachers joining our team so hopefully they will be able to benefit at the same time. I keep reminding myself to take it one day at a time... get everything moved to the new room and let it sit for a few weeks, then when my boys go to summer school for 2 weeks in July, hit it hard to unpack and organize it all in the new room.
On a more exciting and positive note, my iPads have arrived for my model classroom (yep, that's one of the things on my long list for this summer) and I was able to check one out to bring home and play with over the summer- another reason I want to get everything moved- so I have some iPad play time.
well, back to work.... I'm ironing my seat sacks which I brought home to wash for next year.  Cross one more little thing off my "To do" list.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Animal Research Project

I finally found the time to upload my pics and write this post!
I have start by saying thank you to Mrs. M from Mrs. M's Blog for helping me to put the final touches on this project. I had been pondering it for about a month when she blogged about her experience and even shared her organizer! It was just what I needed to put the finishing touches on what I had been mulling around in my head.

I used this project as a culminating activity to our end of the year Organisms unit. It was a perfect fit and really a perfect time of year to do it as well. We started by choosing which animal we wanted to research. I picked about 10 animals ahead of time based on the books I had in the classroom. I wanted each group to have several resources available to them at a variety of reading levels so that all children in my class could be successful. My topics included: ants, bees, grasshoppers, wolves, bears, butterflies, frogs, and spiders. 

Day 1 -I put out each stack of books in various locations in the room and had students travel to each stack. They spent about 5 minutes at each area exploring and perusing the books.

Day 2 -We finished our exploring and then I had each student write their top 3 choices on a post-it.  I then paired students together based on their choices. Most kiddos got their 1st or 2nd choice so it worked out really well. I also tried to put high and low readers together so they could support each other.

Day 3 -I went through the organizer with the kiddos and then began to model reading for information and how to use the organizer, you can find a copy of Mrs. M's organizer here, by starting my own research on monkeys. We discussed/reviewed various nonfiction conventions such as the table of contents page, labels, captions, and diagrams and how these would be helpful in their research.
Day 4 -I again modeled reading for information and how to go about marking information in their books with post-its and writing their facts on their organizers. Partners then began working on the first section of the organizer- What does it look like?

Day 5 and 6- Students continue to work together with their partners to read and locate information pertaining to their animal. I started each day with a mini lesson related to what I noticed the kiddos were struggling with.

Day 6- We got the netbooks out and did some internet research. I set up a sqworl site ahead of time with several sites that were kid appropriate. We mainly used National Geographic Kids which had fantastic information, videos, sound clips, and maps for all of the animals we were studying. The kids did a fantastic job reading, listening, and watching the info on the site. Besides hearing the sounds of frogs and wolves, and the on-topic conversations of partner groups, you could hear a pin drop. Everyone in the class was totally engrossed in what they were doing!
After digging in for a few minutes, partners were each given a slip of paper to record a fact or two from their internet research. I was amazed at the information they gathered and the connections they made. The group that was studying honeybees saw a map of where bees live and were able to figure out that bees live everywhere except where it is really cold.

Over the course of the next few days, students took all of their information and turned their facts into a nonfiction book on their animal. You can find a copy of the writing paper here, which I also got from Mrs. M. The chapter titles were simply the titles from our organizer. The facts were written in sentence format and they added illustrations to each page. The quality of their illustrations was phenomenal. I was amazed to see how they incorporated so many of the nonfiction conventions that we have discussed throughout the year including insets, labels, enlargements, captions, etc.

This student wanted to enlarge a tadpole so she drew a magnifiying glass
 and then drew one larger than the rest. Clever!!

This student used an inset as she wanted to be able
to show the butterfly's 6 legs but wasn't able
 to do that from the perspective of her original picture.
Our covers turned out awesome as well. My special education co-teacher had done a lesson revolving around colors and feelings and then did a very cool project involving shaving cream and paint with the kids. We then used these as the covers for our project by giving each child a 5x7 piece of paper to put their information on. They had to have a title, list the author and illustrator and design a cover illustration. They then glued their 5x7 piece on to their projects.

On the last day of school we invited one of the 2nd grade classes to come over and enjoy our research. My kiddos were so proud of themselves!!! It was an awesome moment to watch as they were the experts this time which made them feel so good!

Next year I'd like to use Glogster as part of this project as well as adding a table of contents page. This year we just ran out of time as we were still putting the final touches on our booklets on the last day of school. I am beyond amazed and impressed with what my class did considering this was a "let's see what they can do" project in addition to the fact that I had a very challenging class.... I will DEFINATELY be doing this project again next year. Hopefully we'll be able to start it a few weeks sooner so we aren't rushing at the end. I'd also like it to be a culminating project that we could possibly use for an author's tea and invite our parents in to enjoy our hard work.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Animal Research

I have been working with my class for the past 2 weeks on animal research as a culminating project to our Organisms unit. I am beyond thrilled with the results and how well my kiddos, ALL my kiddos did with this project which also included internet research. I will post more details and pics in the coming days. This was by far the best project we did all year!