We just made the cutest book reviews in first grade. Mrs. Huelskoetter, the librarian, Mrs. Dixon, the first grade teacher, and I worked together on this project. Here's a link to the book review lesson plan. We used the Do Ink Green Screen app to create the videos. It was so easy to use, I think the older kids (grades 3+) can probably make them on their own. You don't need an elaborate setup, just a small green screen is enough (the app can get rid of any solid background color, not just green).
Here are some reasons students should create book reviews:
The Do Ink Green Screen app is so easy to use, I can hardly wait to adapt this lesson to other curriculum areas. For example, students can talk about a planet for science with a backdrop of their planet or they can talk about a food group with a backdrop of the proper department at the grocery store. It could be a lot of fun to use for foreign language projects too. The possibilities are endless!
The third grade is currently playing the Encyclopedia game and enjoying it (see previous blog entry on the details). Mrs. Sadler wanted the students to practice their note taking skills, so she provided them with some guidelines and a notebook. The students especially enjoy exploring the DK Find Out site. What a great site, the kids love it and can't get enough of it. You can tell they are enthusiastic by all the sharing they are doing with their friends. That's what learning should look like all the time. The DK Find Out site is currently in Beta and has limited topics, but is extremely well done I hope they continue to expand it. Below are some videos of the kids using the site:
I recently read an article from Edutopia called "Curiosity: The Force Within a Hungry Mind". The article describes how curiosity is the heart of lifelong learning. Psychologists view curiosity as a life force, vital to happiness, intellectual growth, and well being. According to the article research shows:
This year, the first grade class started off the year with the same activity (curated videos, activities). I was thrilled to see how engaged and excited the students were as they watched the videos. After recently reading the Edutopia article, I started to ponder why our fifth graders struggled with "curiosity", while the first graders did not. Perhaps we needed to be spending more time fostering curiosity in the younger years, so the students don't lose that ability. I talked to Mrs. Dixon and we restructured the "I'm curious about" project so it would last for more than a single week. Earlier this week I asked the students what they were curious about and was surprised how quickly they answered. Then I had them draw a picture on the iPad using Explain Everything. I created a blog page for each student with their drawing in the header and curated videos on what they were curious about. I will ask them to click on the comments section after watching the videos and tell me one thing they learned and what else they are curious about. They can do this any time - in school or at home. Each time they make a comment, it will alert me by email to the fact they need new videos. I've recently set everything up and we'll introduce this project next week. I'm very excited and hopeful that this will be a fun and engaging activity for the students.
I also talked to the 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Sadler, about doing the Encyclopedia Game with her class. We'll start off by watching the first part of the TED video. We'll use the DK Find Out! site as our visual encyclopedia. I'll make sure they know how to copy and paste URLs into a Word document (to track their steps in the game). I'll also ask them to add a sentence to the document on what they are curious about in each step. Then the following week they will play the game. I'll monitor their progress and enthusiasm to determine how long we keep the activity going. The DK Find Out! site is extremely engaging and I'm hopeful the students will enjoy this activity.
I don't usually write about things that I haven't done yet and have no evidence of success, but I am very excited and hopeful about these activities. I'll try and remember to write a follow-up blog entry to reflect on our experience and lessons learned. I am optimistic that if we foster our students' natural curiosity in the younger grades, our older students will be naturally curious and we can build lifelong learners.
I spend a lot of time curating online activities for teachers and students to use. Today, I created my first online math activity and I'm very excited to share it with you. It teaches students how to "add time". In this activity students need to figure out how long a song is. The number on the left of the status bar shows the elapsed time (that's the amount of time the song has already played). The number on the right hand side shows the time left to play of the song. Add them together and you have the full length of the song. Students can click on the album cover to see if they got the right answer. You can click here to see the full Adding Time activity. Here's an example:
Every Monday morning I get to spend time with the FIrst Grade class for iPad Mondays. I work with groups of 7 students at a time and we do activities based on their word study words, math, or other subject. Recently the first grade teacher, Mrs. Dixon, suggested we do something related to Ancient Egypt, a topic they were covering in social studies.
The first week, I showed students on a map, using 360 Cities, the location of our school. Then I zoomed out and showed them the location of the school in relation to Virginia and then the United States. Then I showed them Africa and finally zoomed down to Egypt. I pointed out the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Nile River, and deserts. Then I showed them how to use 360 Cities to explore panoramic photos of the Pyramids of Giza.
Last week students tried their hand at using a hieroglyphics typewriter. They typed in a word (either an Egyptian vocabulary word that was supplied to them or their first name), then they gave their iPad to someone else to decode the message. The kids enjoyed it so much, we're going to do it again next week.
In the coming weeks we'll make cartouches to hang on their cubbies for their Ancient Egyptian day celebration, they'll play Senet, an Ancient Egyptian game, and take a virtual field trip to Egypt using Google Earth. We even put together a page for the kids if they wanted to learn more about Ancient Egypt at home.
When I left the tech industry to start teaching primary school students over 4 years ago, I was curious what "digital natives" had already learned about technology outside of school. I found that most students still needed to learn basic skills like how to hold a mouse properly and how to edit a document. I was surprised to see students delete half a paragraph to fix a typo or put "enters" at the end of every line to double space. So just like in other subjects such as reading, it is important for us to teach students the basics. As I watched them, I developed a series of fun projects (fun is all relative) to help in each area. Here are some of them:
I just read an interesting article from Mind/Shift called "Studying With Quizzes Helps Make Sure the Material Sticks". The article talks about research being done by Roddy Roediger, a psychology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, who runs the school’s Memory Lab. His studies show if you test yourself on an idea or concept, it will help you remember it better. In other words you have to practice "retrieving" information, not just acquiring it in order to slow forgetting and help you remember. That got me thinking about my study skills from when I was a kid. I remember making lots of flashcards. I would make flashcards with vocabulary words, states and capitals, etc.
Now there are a plethora of online flashcard apps. Many make the same flashcards available on the web, iOS, and Android devices, so kids can study on any device they choose.
At Grymes, we typically make the online flashcards for the younger students, but teach our upper school students (grades 5 - 8) how to make their own. One tip - before making flashcards, see if someone has already created the cards you're looking for.
Here is an article from Tech & Learning that lists 15 sites for creating flashcards. I really like Quizlet because it supports audio, images, and Spanish (characters and audio). Besides providing students with standard flashcards, the site also provide other tools - with "Speller", it reads the word to test your spelling; with "Learn", it shows you one side of the flashcard and you have to type the answer; with "Test", it gives you written, match, and multiple choice questions. The students really enjoy the fun games and the fact you can access the flashcards from a PC, iPhone/iPad, or android device.
I used Quizlet to create 3rd grade vocabulary flashcards (Vocabulary in Action Level D). Here's an example of a set of Spanish flashcards I created as a test.
You can make flashcards for spelling words, but many of our teachers use Spelling City. It's easy to set up and use, and the kids really enjoy it. The service is free, but some teachers pay extra, so they can track the students progress online. Before we started using Spelling City, kids would have to wait for their parents (or others) to read them the words to practice their spelling. Now they can go online and practice on their own. They really enjoy the variety of ways they can practice - especially playing the games.
Another way for students to quiz themselves (practice) is with online activities. There are great online activities for every subject imaginable. For example, there are an endless number of math activities. I would recommend you should start with your math curriculum site. We use Investigations in Numbers, Data, and Space. They provided us with two great applications - Shapes for grades K-2 and LogoPaths for grades 3-5. They also provided a list of recommended free online math activities.
At our school, we curate online activities and keep them on this website. We make specific activities available to students at the appropriate time. Here's a link to our online math activities pages. If you want to track your students' progress, you can pay for a service like Arcademics. Their games are free (you only pay if you want administrative reporting) and the students love playing them. They can practice on their own or compete with their friends and others from around the world.
I've decided to try blogging. The old Home Page is now renamed Interesting Stuff.