Thursday, December 17, 2015

Patterns, Patterns, everywhere!

We've been prepping for weeks now to get to get ready to work on our chapter for the global iBook project, TWIMA3, which will be all about patterns. The outcome of this book will be stunning I'm sure as it is being put together by one of my fellow Apple Distinguished Educators, Mr. Jon Smith (@theipodteacher) from Ohio. You can check out his blog here. When the book is done it will be available free on iTunes. I know my students will be ecstatic to see all of their hard work come together in a book that they will be able to share with others and enjoy for years to come!

So, back to the project- Over the course of the past few months we've talked about patterns, found patterns, and analyzed patterns in all sorts of places around our school. We've found them even when we haven't been looking for them!  Currently we've mainly focused on repeating patterns but as we work into our unit on patterns in math in the coming weeks, we'll also learn about growing patterns. Unfortunately the deadline for submission is prior to that so our submissions will just focus on repeating patterns.

Today each students were given the task of:
  1. Finding something in our room that had a pattern and take a picture of it
  2. Using hands-on materials of their choice from around the room to build their own pattern
  3. If they had time- they were also able to create a pattern on the iPad using an app of their choice. Kiddos chose apps such as Magnetic Alphabet,  Pattern Blocks, and Drawing Pad to create their masterpieces.
I was pleasantly surprised by their choice of apps as I wouldn't have thought to use some of the ones that they chose. NEVER underestimate the power of a first grader and their thought process! The collaboration, creativity and critical thinking skills that were used as we worked through the tasks was phenomenal! Many students began with basic color or shape patterns but as they worked through each task, their ideas and creations became more and more elaborate. As I conferenced with students I encouraged them to think differently to dig deep and to stretch their imaginations.

As we continue on with this project we analyze the patterns we found and created and work to explain and describe them to others by either writing about them or recording information about them. We will again be using a variety of apps depending on their personal preferences. Apps may include PicCollage or Explain Everything. We'll see what others they feel will work the job. I'm excited to watch and learn from this great group of kiddos. They never cease to amaze me!
I'll be sure to update this site as we complete our submissions and also add a link to the book once it is published in the iTunes store.

On a side note, I apologize for not posting here as regularly as I have in the past. I am a member of a new 12 person team in my district that is working to help our district teachers embed technology into their teaching. This, along with full-time teaching and family life has really eaten into my blogging time. I encourage you to also follow our classroom blog, The Dog Blog to see what we are doing on a more regular basis. You will get an overview of projects that we are doing to enhance our learning just not with as much detail.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Kids Teaching Teachers

Last week Monday started out a little different than any other. 
We participated in a Google Hangout with Mrs. White in Indiana again, but this time we didn't chat with her students, we chatted with about 20 of her colleagues from various grade levels. Mrs. White had asked if our class would be willing to join their professional development day and talk with them about the Hangouts that we have done. We thought it was pretty special that we, as kids could teach teachers about using Google Hangouts! 

We have started a new ongoing project using the BookCreator app. We are using the app to create a digital learning journal of our Google Hangout experiences. With each connection, students are documenting something they learned or found interesting as well as inserting a map and locating our state and the state of each classroom. This will be a great way for us to practice our map skills in an authentic way in addition to creating an informational text that others can read and enjoy. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Authentic Assessment with SeeSaw app

Our school utilizes the PBIS (Positive Behavioral and Interventions and Supports) system. As part of this system, we focus on teaching positive social behaviors.  The way we have our system set up, students are able to earn "Knightly Notes" or tickets for expected behaviors. They are then able to cash their tickets in for classroom rewards (such as sitting at the teacher's desk for the day, lunch in the classroom, choosing something from the prize box, and oh so much more).

Each week when we count our tickets, we put them into piles of 10s and 1s. This has been a great reinforcement of the place value concepts that we are continually working on in math. After putting their tickets in piles, I've been having the kiddos take a picture of their piles using the app, SeeSaw . Once they have their picture, they then use the drawing tool and write the numbers for their piles on their picture to show how many tickets they have. They also record themselves counting their tickets and then send their learning to their parents through the app. This has been a great way for me to authentically evaluate my students' 10s and 1s knowledge and for them to also practice writing 2 digit numbers. You can view a sample of what this looks and sounds like by clicking here

Parents are also loving this as they are getting a glimpse of what we are doing in the classroom in addition to being able to leave written or audio comments for their children.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Reflections from #EdcampGB

Professional development on a Saturday? You bet! I attended my first ever Edcamp yesterday and I'm still so excited about all that I was able to do and experience. If you've never heard of an Edcamp, they are "unconferences" that are participant-driven. Best of all, Edcamps are typically free and most often breakfast and lunch are included in your day thanks to the generosity of sponsors. You can find out more about Edcamps here.

We had over 100 educators from the local area and from around the state join us for a day of learning. We started our morning in the auditorium and pitched our session ideas. Sessions did not have to be technology related, although many were. As sessions were pitched, those ideas were put on post-it notes and then arranged and rearranged on the Smartboard where the session schedule began to take shape.

It wasn't long and we were off! It was hard to choose which sessions to go to as there were so many that were pertinent to my interests and my grade level. The beauty of the Edcamp format though is that if "you're not feeling it" in the session you attend, there are no hard feelings about getting up and moving to a new session. Our organizers also did a fantastic job of setting up a shared doc in which we could take notes in each session as well. I've already taken time to go in and read the notes from the sessions I wasn't able to attend and even added information and resources for others as well. If you're interested in checking out the sessions that were offered and taking a peek at the notes you can click on the picture or on this link- #edcampGB GoogleDoc.

I attended sessions on coding in the elementary level, using the app SeeSaw for digital portfolios (I'm currently using this and will be blogging about it soon- it is absolutely PHENOMENAL!!), using tech in Reader's Workshop, and more. Most importantly, I not only learned FROM others but was able to share my expertise WITH others as well. It was the kind of day that we as teachers are always saying that we want and need- time to talk, share, and network with others. Other bonuses to the day? I was able to help several participants get started on Twitter, was able to answer a boatload of questions about SeeSaw (and saw many already getting their classes set up so they could start using the app this week) and was able to meet a whole bunch of people that I follow on Twitter. (My tech geek side came out with that- meeting Twitter friends face to face is amazing!)

I truly can't say enough about the day. It flew by faster than I thought it would or could and as I said above, I am still pondering, sharing, and reading tweets from #EdcampGB. The learning didn't stop yesterday! 

I'm already wondering when I'll be able to attend another Edcamp and have even checked the official Edcamp calendar in hopes of finding one within a few hours of my home on a weekend that I don't have other obligations. 

If you don't have any Edcamps in your area or if you aren't able to attend, find out what the hashtag is and follow along on Twitter. You will be amazed at what you will learn, even from afar!!!

If you're interested in reading yesterday's #EdcampGB tweets, check out my Storify below.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Mystery Walker Techified

With the beginning of the school year literally right around the corner, I've been combing through my Pinterest boards for a little beginning of the year inspiration. As I was scrolling through my PBIS board, I came across a pin about using a Mystery Walker. Ironically, one of my colleagues had mentioned this idea at our beginning of the year meeting as well and I thought about trying the idea again. If you're not familiar with Mystery Walker you can read about it here on What Happens in First Grade's blog.  I've had varied success with the idea but my biggest issues are:
  • remembering to pulling a chip, 
  • remembering where I set it down, 
  • or worse... leaving it in my pocket only to find it in the lint trap of my dryer on the weekend and then having to remember to bring it back to school. Ugh! 
I like the idea, but the management for me is just one more thing to keep track of. 

Then it dawned on me... I have an app that would work perfectly- Decide Now I downloaded this a couple of years ago just for fun but had since deleted it off my phone but VIOLA it's the perfect fit for this idea so I re-downloaded it. The app is basically a large Wheel of Fortune wheel complete with sound effects. 

All I had to do was give my newly created wheel a title and insert my students' names. To pick a student I just need to touch or spin the wheel. You can also share your wheel via email or Twitter. I thought this would be a great motivator for my students as well. If they are the Mystery Walker and earn the bragging rights of having done a great job, they can tweet out the wheel with a message to their parents!

You could easily use this to randomly pick students for other things as well or program it with rewards or bonus points if you use Class DoJo. The ideas or limitless. Best part though... I don't usually make it a habit to put my iPhone through the wash, so no more chips in the lint trap!!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Technology for Standards-Based Literacy

Utilizing technology during the literacy block can be a very rewarding venture. I have been and continue to work to find ways to bring technology into our reading and writing while still maintaining good pedagogical practices. I don't believe that technology should be used for the sake of using technology. There needs to be a purpose and it needs to in some way enhance traditional practice. 

The presentation above is one that I am giving at SITA15 on using technology to enhance standards-based literacy instruction. Tools discussed will be Padlet, PicCollage and use of interactive whiteboard apps such as Explain Everything and DoodlecastPro. As with any presentation, the face to face presentation gives participants much more information so please don't hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any questions after viewing the slides. My contact info is on the last slide of the presentation.
You can also find more examples of many of the tools discussed right here on my blog. Check the "Oodles of Topics" area for links.

If you have any wonderful ways in which you've used technology to enhance your literacy instruction, I'd love for you to share it in the comments area below. In our connected world, it is wonderful when we can all share and learn from each other!

Social Media in the Elementary Classroom

Click on image to access the presentation slides

Above is the presentation that I  am giving on using Twitter in the Elementary Classroom. The session description was as follows:
This session will help you explore ways in which you and your class can utilize Twitter to share your learning and become globally connected.  Time will be spent discussing Twitter lingo and management for newbies. Multiple resources will be shared for connecting and collaborating and time will be given to begin putting together your class' PLN in addition to exploring the various resources. You'll leave ready to try Twitter with your class this fall!
If you are looking to start using or increasing your Twitter usage with your class there are many great projects listed with coordinating hashtags and links (when available) for more information. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me. 
Of course, I'd love to have you come and join the learning happening on Twitter with us too! Our classroom account is @Malchow1stgrade

Monday, July 27, 2015

Twitter in the Classroom

Twitter has opened the door of possibilities for my 1st grade classroom over the past year and a half. My students have had the chance to learn from students all over the United States and Canada. We have shared our passion for learning by tweeting and sharing pictures about what we are doing in our classroom. Others have commented on our tweets and asked deeper questions which has given my students the opportunity to share even more. Having an authentic audience has inspired my students to work harder and to continually ask if they can share out what they are learning and creating. The possibilities for using Twitter in the classroom are only limited by your imagination. This year, my class took part in International Dot Day, a collaborative book chat (#1bc15), weekly math challenges (#1mtgr), a Lucky Charms graphing project (read about it here), and even a pumpkin seed counting activity via Twitter with a class in Oshawa, Canada. You can read about that experience in this post

Although Twitter was the starting point for all of these collaborations so much more came out of these experiences. In many cases, my class also met the other classes face to face through Skype or a Google Hangout. We even participated in a collaborative Kahoot quiz at the end of the year with 3 other classes all from different states. 

As technology brings the world closer together, we as teachers also need to get on board and bring our classes together. We have so much to learn from each other! I work in a small, somewhat rural area with very little diversity. Many of my students are not fortunate enough to travel and realize the diversity that lies outside of our area. By giving my students these opportunities they are are beginning to realize that the world is a much bigger place and that kids around the world are really not any different than they are. They are learning similar things in school, they love to play on the playground, they have brothers, sisters, and pets, and they all seem to love eating pizza.  I feel that by providing my students these opportunities, I am also in some small way helping to break down stereotypes and fears and helping them to become accepting of all people no matter their background, location, etc.

We live in a time that if you're not connected, you're missing out on so much the world has to offer you. If you haven't used Twitter with your class, I highly encourage you to take the leap of faith and give it a try this year with your students. 

If you're ready to take the leap, please add your class Twitter information to this shared document,  The document is broken down by grade level so you can better find classes to collaborate with.

If you're still on the fence and want some more information, feel free to reach out to me via Twitter, @smalchow, or send me an email (my contact info is in the sidebar)-  I'd be happy to chat with you.  I'm also doing a presentation on Twitter in the Classroom next week and will be posting my presentation here if you're interested.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

ISTE 2015, I mean, #notatISTE2015

ISTE2015 is going on right now in Philadelphia and as much as I wish I could be there, I just couldn't swing it- financially or time-wise, so I am participating virtually from the comfort of my own home through the #notatiste15 Google+ community that Jen Wagner has started. This has been a great way to collaborate and have a little fun at the same time. Jen has put together an ISTE challenge which includes things such as creating your own #NotatISTE badge complete with ribbons, ISTE bingo, Photobombing the keynote, participating via Twitter and so much more... there are even door prizes. 
I learned about a new app called Periscope which has allowed me to watch, either live or after the fact, the various Ignite sessions from ISTE. I'm already starting to ponder how this app can be useful in my own classroom- maybe live broadcasts of student presentations? I also now have a Voxer account. Still trying to figure that out. One night there was even a Karoke event via Voxer for those of us not able to attend ISTE. Who says the Philadelphia nightlife can't still be a part of virtual PD? Needless to say, I chickened out on the Karoke. Love to sing, but not sure if others would love to hear me sing.
With a busy schedule, 2 little boys wrestling on my living room floor and all things mom related that need to take place despite the fact that it is ISTE time, I am doing my best to read tweets, watch presentations and participate in some of the challenges. To my benefit though- I can continue to benefit from all of the learning via the Google+ community long after the conference draws to a close.
Thanks Jen for all of the hard work you have put into making the #notatISTE community such a great place for PD and Fun!!!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Binders, binders and more binders

Ok, call me crazy, but I think the older I get, the more OCD I am becoming or maybe it's just that I like things to match and look nice. I take a lot of pride in my classroom and strive to make it comfortable and homey. 

So, binders don't exactly make my room homey and comfortable, but every time I sit down at my desk to start lesson planning and I see my random colored binders with an eclectic variety of inserts I can't stand it!! It always looks so disorganized and messy! So this summer I decided I was going to invest in all new MATCHING, BLACK binders (my boys have been teasing me about how everything I've bought for my classroom the past 2 years is black- but everything goes with black, right?!) I also decided that I was going to make matching binder covers and spines to match my dog-themed room as well. 
Look how nice they all look together? They're going to look fantastic on my bookshelf. They make me smile every time I look at them... it doesn't take much to make me happy! Hmmm... looking at the pic made my OCD kick back in, I think I'll have to put them in alphabetical order on my shelf as well. LOL
Now I just need to find some time to get into my room and redo my files. After umpteen years of teaching, many are getting pretty ratty and dog-eared. To my benefit, the file cabinet effectively hides them~ Out of sight, out of mind! I hate to hope for a rainy day, but I think that's what it's going to take to go in and tackle that job.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Summer Book Study

Interested in a taking part in a powerful, professional development opportunity from the comfort of your own home this summer? Our #1stchat PLN from Twitter will be hosting a summer book chat on the book, What Connected Educators Do Differently

The chats will take place on Sunday nights at 8 pm EST beginning Sunday, July 26th.

The chat schedule is as follows:

Sunday, 7/26- Key Connector 1 &2- moderated by author Jeffrey Zoul @Jeff_Zoul

Sunday, 8/2 - Key Connector 3 & 4- moderated by author Jimmy Casas @casas_jimmy

Sunday, 8/9- Key Connector 5 & 6- moderated by Sara Malchow @smalchow

Sunday, 8/16- Key Connector 7 & 8- moderated by Val Ruckes @valruckes and Leka DeGroot @lekadegroot

Chats will be archived in case you can't make it and ALL are welcome!! Here's the info on the Official #1stchat Blog 

I started reading the book 2 days ago and am impressed with what I've read so far. The authors define connected educators as being: 
"ones that are actively and constantly seeking new opportunities and resources to grow as professionals."
They discuss Personal and Professional Learning Networks (P2LN) and investing with a purpose. I've been a Twitter user for a number of years now, but many of the points they discuss struck a chord with me. To be honest, I feel that I've just started feeling the total power of Twitter in the past 2 years and that has come from the connectedness that has taken place in that time. Taking part in weekly chats such as #1st chat, #adschat, and #adechat have helped me to not only grow professionally but to connect with others on topics that I am passionate about. For those that are not into Twitter or haven't realized it's potential, the authors give some great information on finding the value and investing with a purpose. At the end of every chapter they have a section called "Follow 5, Find 5, Take 5" in which they tie it all together by:
  • Follow 5- listing 5 educators that are models in the particular ares
  • Find 5- giving 5 online resources/tools that you can use to develop further
  • Take 5- Sharing 5 action steps you can take to get started
The book is an easy read with lots of great info!  By no means is the book solely dedicated to Twitter... it just happens that the sections I've read so far have talked quite a bit about it. 
I hope that you'll consider joining our Twitter chats beginning the end of July to discuss this book. Joining us would give you a great opportunity to communicate with a purpose, become more connected and grow your PLN all at the same time.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Reflections of an ADE- Part 2

An organized, late night picture of tech central
 (minus my glass of wine)
...4 questions, yup, that's all, except there were limits on how many characters you could use for each answer. How in the world do you share, succinctly and creatively, how technology has transformed and innovated your teaching when it's been a 5 year journey? I think writer's block took over before I even started! I walked around for about 2 weeks pondering that question and the other 3 before I could sit down long enough to begin penning my responses. Once I did though, the reflective journey kept me up many a late night (sometimes with a glass of wine to get me through) and always with my computer, my iPad and iPhone, and a pack of post-its for old times sake to jot ideas as I went. My kitchen table turned into tech central.

In addition to the 4 questions, I also had to bring my story to life by creating a 2 minute video showcasing my learning environment and how Apple technologies has transformed teaching and learning. 
This was my entry...

All in all, I spent about 50+ hours putting my application together and to be honest, there were a few times that I almost said, "I'm done, forget it" as it took so much of my family time away. We even cancelled a trip up to our cabin as my wonderful husband knew I'd get more accomplished at home on the WiFi than at the cabin. In the end, I'm so glad that I persevered. Reflecting made me realize just how deep my passion runs and how far I've come since those early days. 

Waiting for the video to upload so I can hit SUBMIT!
March 1st was the deadline, and I used every last minute to fine tune both my video and reflection questions. It was quite a celebration when I finally uploaded my answers and video and hit submit. Yup, even had to take a picture! Whew! Done! I slept better that night than I had in weeks! Let the wait begin!!! 

On the night of April 21st I started seeing people tweeting that they had gotten in. My heart sunk as I didn't hear anything but after a few hours, began to realize that all of these people were alumni that had applied and were being accepted. At this point, the wait was excruciating! When would we find out? 
The next night at around 9:30pm, I again saw people tweeting that they had been accepted. I remember telling my husband it was happening and the 2 of us sat on our computers and iPads constantly checking my Twitter feed and email. Still nothing... the anticipation of just not knowing was the worst. Funny story with this though... we were watching my Twitter feed, school email and my iTunes email address and hitting refresh literally about every 30 seconds. After about an hour and a half we decided to just go to bed with the thought that I didn't get in. I'm terrible about email so I checked one last time and then also checked my personal email quick, and there it was... an email from the ADE Program from about 30 minutes prior!! All that waiting and worry and it was there waiting for me the whole time! I'll be honest, I was scared to open it though. I wanted to know what the answer was, but at the same time, I didn't. 
Needless to say, We opened it and I was speechless, and for those that know me, you know that doesn't happen very often. It was official, I was selected to join the Apple Distinguished Educator Class of 2015!!

I am beyond humbled, excited, and thrilled to be on this journey. I have made so many new connections already and am excited to be able to learn from others with the same passion and desire that I have. I am excited to see where this path may lead and what opportunities lie ahead. I am still in disbelief and probably will be until I get on the plane to head to Institute,  I get off the plane in Florida, I actually walk in, somebody hands me my registration materials and pinches me! Yup, I think it's going to take somebody pinching me as it all still seems like a dream--- a dream come true!!!
Image credit: Apple

Monday, June 8, 2015

Reflections of an ADE- Part 1

And so another year has come and gone. Hard to believe that it was just 180 days ago that a new batch of 1st graders came to my classroom with various interpretations of what 1st grade would be like... some excited, some shy, some nervous and some who, well, were ready to just move in and get started the minute I met them. All 17 of these kiddos in their own ways amazed me this year! We had a phenomenal year of learning together along with many ups and downs along the way- learning is always messy and never comes in a neat little package.

As I mentioned in a post awhile back (yes, it's been awhile~ sorry about that! Time has gotten away from me with the various commitments I made this year) some major things have happened in the past few months- some disappointing and some fabulous!  In my classroom we always ask for the bad news first so we can end with the good, so I'll do the same here and not dwell on the negative for more than a paragraph. 

As a district, we've had a vision for technology integration for quite some time. We've been chipping away at making this vision come to fruition by adding devices to classrooms, providing professional development for staff, and educating our parents and community members. We were at a point that funding was a big hindrance to the vision and so we brought our proposal to referendum. This was the 3rd time in 5 years that we've done this, but every other time, other items were attached to the referendum and it failed each and every time. Sounds like the next sentence will be positive right? but remember, start with the bad before the good. Well, needless to say after many planning meetings, share shops to answer questions and present the information to our stakeholders, and much blood, sweat, tears and passion... our referendum, with technology only, also failed. It's been a very disheartening blow, especially after putting 5 years passion into this. I walked around for a few days afterwards just numb, literally numb of all emotion. I taught, I put on a happy face for my students and my colleagues and said, we'd find a way, but in my heart, I was just numb. Nothing, nada, zip, zero, zilch- devoid of emotion. It was sad and I didn't have words to explain my disappointment. I am still frustrated by the outcome of that vote, but as I said above, you can't dwell on the negative and so I've moved on and continue to implement what I know is good for student learning. The answers are coming, but the timeline will be much longer than planned. But that's a post for another time as that's my paragraph, and a long one at that.

On with the good... in November of 2014 I finally met Sue Gorman face to face at a conference. I have followed her on Twitter and connected a little here and there over the past couple of years. We spoke only briefly as she was presenting but she encouraged me to apply to be an Apple Distinguished Educator. I have admired those that have attained this title. I follow many "of them" on Twitter as well as their blogs. I have networked "with them" and collaborated "with them" on projects all with star-struck eyes; but when Sue told me to apply, I kept telling myself, I wasn't of that caliber. Not me. I just teach 1st grade. What's so innovative about what I am doing? I will say, it has been a dream of mine for a few years, but I just didn't think I was at the level needed to make a run for it. I looked into it, but applications were not being taken at the time and so I put it on the back burner with the intent of checking into it again at some point. On February 3rd, I received an email from Sue simply stating, "Please apply kind friend! The ADE Application is live."  That email sent me into a tailspin. I clicked on the link she had sent and logged in with my Apple account to see what would be involved in applying. The application process consisted of 4 questions and a 2 minute video and was due by March 1st. Ok, 4 weeks to get it all together, seemed doable. Once I read the questions though, I quickly realized that this was going to be quite a reflective journey, and reflective it was. 
Part 2 coming soon.... 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Poetry Month, Bubbles and Word Clouds

April is National 
Poetry Month!

We've been working on learning a little bit more about poetry this month and what better way than to blow bubbles! Well, actually we blew bubbles to experience the different colors, sounds, and feel of bubbles which in turn gave us background knowledge for our poems.
We used a template for our poems which had us thinking about adjectives to describe our bubbles, action words and similes. 
After writing our poems we used ABCya's Word Cloud app to showcase our poems in a different format. We're planning to print our poetry in both "normal" format and word cloud format for all to enjoy at our upcoming Writer's Tea.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

iTunes U- Math Integration

I have been a follower of Karen Lirenman for quite some time. For those of you who don't know, Karen is a K-2 teacher in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. She is an Apple Distinguished Educator and is a phenomenal advocate of integrating technology into the early primary classroom. You can check out her blog, Learning and Sharing with Ms. Lirenman or follow her on Twitter at @KLirenman

I was BEYOND thrilled a few months back when Karen contacted me to ask if she could include some of my math integration ideas into an iTunes U course that she was creating. Of course I said yes and am happy to report that her course, Using an iPad to Enhance a K-3 Numeracy Program is now available in the iTunes U store. This is a fantastic resource and has many examples that you can easily implement into your own classroom. I highly recommend checking it out. Best of all, it's FREE!
You can access this course via an iPad by clicking on the link above or the image to the right. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Informational Research and Book Creator

We have been working on the genre of informational writing over the past month and just finished up a piece on coyotes. I have a 6 pack and matching big book about coyotes that is at a 1st grade level that works wonderfully for this writing project. 

I started by introducing the big book in whole group. We then read the 1st several pages together and took notes about things that we found interesting or that was new information for us. After modeling this format for a couple of days, I passed out the small book versions and partnered students up to continue reading and taking their own notes. 
After groups finished reading, they took their post-it notes and sorted them based on like topics. From their they created their plan sheet like the one to the right. Students had to have 3 details (yellows) and 3 elaborations to accompany their details along with a topic sentence and conclusion/wrap-up sentence. I've taught my kiddos to just write "blurbs" on their plan sheets or just enough info to remember their main idea. This has really helped to eliminate copying the authors words verbatim. As students finished their plan sheet they then used it to write their informative piece. 

After writing their piece, editing for capitals and periods, reading it to a friend and then checking in with me, they were able to publish their piece using the Book Creator app. This is the 1st time we used this app (last year we used Doodlecast Pro to publish) I created a checklist for students to follow to give them a little more direction while working independently. The checklist was helpful for most and I'll definitely use it again.We had a few small glitches along the way, nothing earth shattering, but we all learned together and I'll make a few tweaks for next year. 
Students had their choice on each page of either creating their own picture or going to Pics4Learning or Photos for Class to chose real life images. Many chose to go onto the sites to get actual images but we still had a good handful of kiddos also create their own pictures. As we have been talking about nonfiction text features over the past months, I added the box on the right of the checklist to challenge my kiddos to add some of these features as appropriate to their book.Obviously photographs and drawings were already embedded. I did have some kiddos add labels to their drawings and also some captions.
For those students who had the extra time, I included a bonus page in which they could do an "About the Author" page and include a selfie. I had a template for them to follow as we have not talked much about this type of page previously. The template basically had them write their name, how old they are, what grade they are in and 2 things they like to do. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Picture It Project 2015

We are once again participating in a Projects by Jen online project. This time we are participating in Jen's Picture It Project. The project is set up to be a collaborative project with 23 other classrooms around the world to create a collaborative piece of artwork. This years' project has us creating a quilt. Each class is responsible for creating a 7" x 7" quilt square in whatever fashion they choose. We will also be filling out an "All about Us" sheet that will be sent along with our artwork. 

I chose to embed some of our "About the Class" info directly into our quilt pattern and then turned our project into a color-by-number to reinforce turn-around facts and symmetry. 

In hindsight, I wish I would have let the kids pick their own 3 colors for their code so that each of the quilt squares would have had their own look and feel. Live and learn. Seeing as each piece will be going to a different school, so will be part of it's own unique quilt, it won't be a big deal. That's what happens when you try to save time during a busy time of year and not let the creative juices fully flow. Our piece will be similar to the one seen here. This is my digital master of our finished square.

As our pieces come in from the other schools we will locate the states/countries on our map using clues such as, "This state is in the northwest corner of the US" or  This state is north of Florida". This has been an authentic and engaging way for my students to practice and reinforce their map skills. Once things get going they always look forward to finding out if we received any mail. After we locate the states we will place each piece in the hall, along with the information that each class sends us, to create our quilt. I'll post an updated picture as our quilt begins to take shape.

If you've never participated in one of these projects, I highly encourage you to look at the various projects that Jen offers. There are many and they span multiple grade levels. They are very engaging, collaborative, cover multiple standards and are a great way to embed technology into your curriculum.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tracking Reading Groups

I sent this out to my #1st chat group on Twitter awhile ago but totally forgot to throw it out on the blog. I've been using the Popplet Lite app for awhile now but always with my students. Earlier this year as I was revamping my reading groups for the umpteenth time it dawned on my that using Popplet would be SOOOO much easier as I could move kiddos around with the touch of a finger in addition to being able to color code their groups (I'm a visual learner and color makes me happy) 
Popplet Lite only allows you to create one popple at a time which has always been sufficient for my students as we simply take a screenshot when we are done and then clear our popple for the next time. Personally though, I wanted to be able to create, save, and go back to my popples so I invested in the full version. This has been a wonderful way for me to track my reading groups as my groups are very fluid and change as children's needs change. This has also been a handy tool when attending grade level meetings to discuss student needs.
Seem simple? Yup, it was and I highly recommend giving it a try.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Mystery number Skype

We had a great time participating in our 1st mystery number Skype with our buddies in Canada. We've been planning this for awhile but have had various technology glitches that have pushed the date back. Yes, technology glitches happen in my room too. You have to learn to roll with the punches and always have a back-up plan.
Mrs. Draper made this wonderful Mystery Number anchor chart to help our students. This proved to be a great visual for us as we practiced playing the game.

Each class then picked their mystery number. We were only able to play one game on this particular day due to our tech glitches eating up half of our time. We let Mrs. Draper's class go first so they worked to try and guess our number. They had some fantastic questions and as they worked to guess our number, my class used a 100 grid on their iPads to x out the numbers that their clues used. 

You can see a small clip of one of the questions below. This is definitely an activity that I will do again as it ties in very nicely with so many of our math skills- place value, odd/even, number grid patterns, etc. in addition to promoting collaboration with an authentic audience!
Thanks Mrs. Draper and class! We love when we are able to get together to learn with each other!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lucky Charms Graphing

Another wonderful year of participating in the St. Patrick's Day LUcky Charms graphing project hosted by Projects by Jen.

We worked hard to find out how many marshmallows were in a box of Lucky Charms. We made predictions and shared them with a Mrs. DeGroot's class (@mrsdegrootclass) class in Iowa via our Twitter feed. We then began sorting, counting, and graphing our results. When we finished we added up the total for each of the marshmallow shapes and were quite surprised by our results. Our original job was to find out if there were more hats (clovers) than any other marshmallow in the box. We not only found that to be true, but were surprised at how few we had of some of the other shapes that were in a our box. (We had an XL Sam's Club sized box)

These were our results from our box
of Lucky Charms
Later in the afternoon, we participated in a Google Hangout with Mrs. DeGroot's class to share and compare our results with theirs. Mrs. DeGroot was not able to find the same size box as we had so she bought 2 small boxes to equal the same size as our box. Would you believe that they had more marshmallows in almost every single category and that they had 200 more marshmallows all together?? We had a pretty interesting discussion after our Google Hangout about why this might be. 

We also thought we should write to General Mills to tell them about our results and ask them why the same size boxes (technically) would have such a discrepency in the number of marshmallows. My class decided that they want to buy their Lucky Charms in Iowa from now on. 
Mrs. DeGroot tweeted about our
Google Hangout call on Twitter

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Padlet Boards and Guided Reading- Easy Peasy

Sorry I have been missing for a few weeks, tons of things going on here that have kept me away from blogging. I'll write more about that another time though.

Last year, I wrote about the website Padlet  (for those old enough to remember, Padlet is the old Wallwisher site) and how we utilized this site during our study of organisms (you can read the post here). Since then I've branched out and utilized this wonderful tool in many different ways, both in the classroom and professionally.
This site can easily and seamlessly embed into so many facets of your curriculum. Currently I am using it with my higher guided reading groups as a way to monitor understanding through questioning. My kiddos are loving it! I find that it empowers my kiddos as it gives each of them a chance to express themselves.

Padlet is EXTREMELY easy to use and you can easily have a board up and running within 10 minutes the first time you try. (I've use it enough now that I can easily get a board up and running with minutes) If you've never used Padlet before, I have a Padlet board with tutorials, tips, and classroom ideas located here. Feel free to check it out. I'll be blogging in more detail about it soon, but this will get you started.

QR code in front cover of books
Back to Padlet and guided reading groups. So here's how I am using it and managing it with my groups. Once your board is created, Padlet gives you a url (which you can customize) as well embed codes and even a QR code. I simply printed off the QR codes and taped them to the inside cover of my books so I can use it year after year (you can clear the sticky notes off your Padlet board without having to recreate the board) I also added the url in case families don't have a QR reader. To give parents another option I also added the url to my classroom blog on my reading groups page (great way to get families to the blog as well as empowering my kiddos once again to navigate on their own- they handle all of these way independently. Amazing! If you'd like check it our for yourself, click here

Student adding his question to our Padlet
When our group meets, my kiddos bring along their iPads and either scan the QR code or access it through our classroom blog which have saved as an icon on our iPads (again, easy access!) This literally takes them 30 seconds or less. We start our group time by looking at the Padlet and talking about any new questions that were posted or any information that I have added. We then read and discuss 2-4 pages of the next chapter together and also add any questions that they have. After our group time, they have the option to go and find a quiet spot to continue reading and posting their questions if they'd like, otherwise, their homework is to finish the chapter(s) at home and if it's ok with mom and dad, to add their questions to the Padlet from home. I sent a note to parents about the site, how we were using it and directions on how to access it ahead of time. I also told parents that if they were not comfortable having their child access from home, that I totally understood (I mean, we are 1st graders) and that their child would not be penalized. They still have opportunity to use it with me here at school. 
Our current Padlet board for Mummies in the Morning
Here's the BEST PART though... as they post their questions, I can post examples of vocab that they are unsure of or leave them with another thought to ponder. In the example above, one of my boys was wondering what hieroglyphs were so I was able to embed a picture to show him. In or previous book, they wondered what a whinny was. Again, I was able to go out and find an audio clip and post it to the board so they could experience it first hand. This was so much more valuable than me simply saying it's a sound that a horse makes. Horses make lots of different sounds... which one would be in their mind? On that note, it is great for ELL students as it gives them direct experiences, visual and auditory, with vocabulary and concepts.

Using Padlet has really brought this group to life. In a typical group situation we still would have talked and shared our questions, but some kiddos wouldn't have had the opportunity to share due to time limitations, shyness or other group members monopolizing the time. ;-)  Using Padlet has empowered all my students to share and has given them the voice that they possibly didn't have before. I has been a wonderful tool!  Another perk... this past week I was gone on a tech visit to Minnesota. My students were really bummed but when I told them that their group would still meet and that I would be checking in from MN they were totally WOWed. I was able to read their questions and post my own responses. 

Whew! That was a long post! Congrats if you've made it this far! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.  Have some other ways that YOU'VE used Padlet in your class? Please post below so we can all learn from each other.