Saturday, December 20, 2014

It's Been a Great Year and Some Wishes for 2015

We are now on winter break. As a look back at 2014 I am really excited about the thinking and learning my students displayed.
--Last spring many of them completed all the challenges in Hour of Code, something I'm pretty sure I couldn't do easily.
--They are listening to each other and building on others' thoughts and comments and we are using apps such as the Collabrify suite to accomplish this
--Students have provided specific feedback to Osmo, TeachMe/Math games, and a few other app developers, which has really empowered how they view themselves as a user of technology
--They are able to choose an app that best meets the needs of a given task and they love the ability to personalize their work
--Showing work in math is not quite the chore it was previously as students build stamina for demonstrating their thought process. I don't hear "I just know" as much any more.
--Just about everyone is willing to tap and swipe and explore to learn more about apps, especially after updates change what an app can do and they are great about seeking advice from each other
--I have 1:1 iPads which allows my students the time they need to re-work and revise assignments because no timer goes off telling them their turn is done
--Students are suggesting activities to me
--Students who don't normally want to pick up a book are enjoying reading in Epic! and sharing ratings in Bookopolis
--Typing speed is increasing

My wishes for 2015 are
--for the curiosity to continue
--for the excitement and growth mindset to flourish
--for our learning management system to work better because right now Lightspeed is driving me crazy. I have apps that randomly disappear from 1 iPad even though the system says the app is installed, I have 1 iPad that has been "being fixed" since the beginning of October because it locked, I have 1 Ipad that will install all the apps I want except 8 even though those 8 are on the other iPads and the system says the 8 are on the iPad in question and there is space, and the email password keeps being bumped off all the iPads so I have spent literally hours re-entering the password and re-sending student work. I have not spoken to either Apple or Lightspeed about this issue, but those in my IT department who have say that they blame each other. I hope in 2015 they get along and solve these glitches!

Finding Shapes in a Scene

To review geometric shapes, students created a scene on their iPads. Most chose either My PlayHome, My PlayHome Stores, or Farmyard, but a few drew a scene of their own or picked a photo from WriteAboutThis.

They took a screenshot of the scene and used Skitch to circle and label 3 shapes.

Farmyard App for Creating Word Problems

We reviewed several math concepts this week (missing addend, adding 4 numbers, geometry, fractions, place value). One open-ended activity was for each student to create a story problem using the Farmyard app. However, they kept the question to themselves. They brought the scene into Skitch and annotated by adding the solution to their problem.

Next, students exchanged iPads and looked at the Skitch their partner created. They brought that into My Story or Educreations and wrote/spoke what they thought the word problem was that their partner was solving as well as what math topic it addressed. They traded iPads back to see if their partner was able to correctly determine the word problem based only on the work shown as the solution and the scene.

For example, in the scene below, the original question was, "How many animals are on the farm?" and the skill was adding 4 numbers.

Group Reader Response in WeWrite+

Rather than have individual students complete a reader response to a read-aloud, this week I asked small groups to work together. Groups of 3-4 students collaborated on a single WeWrite+ document. They were also offered the option of using WeKWL, but all groups chose WeWrite+. When I asked why they said they liked the open format better and also they have used it less.

I read the first few pages of The Talking Eggs by Robert San Souci and then asked students to write questions they had. I instructed them not to answer their peers' questions, even if they had an answer--I wanted the time focused on questioning. I read a few more pages and again stopped for students to write additional questions.  After finishing the story I have students time to go back and answer questions on their document as well as add any additional questions they had.

I then opened it up to an oral whole class discussion to answer any unanswered questions and to discuss why there were some questions that the author may have specifically chosen not to answer (the square footage of the cabin, for example). This provided a great discussion about how author's choose what to include and exclude from their writing.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Story Map Poems for Weslandia by Paul Fleischman

Last week I read aloud Weslandia by Paul Fleischman. As a change from story mapping and comprehension questions I asked students to create a story map poem in an app of their choice. PicCollage was a popular choice.

Thinking About Heifer International Donation

The 2nd grade classes at my school are collecting change for the months of December and January.

We've read several books, including Beatrice's Goat by Page McBrier, 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy, and Armando and the Blue Tarp School by Edith Hope Fine, that are about giving and helping those less fortunate.

Students spent some time looking through the Heifer International catalog in pairs. They discussed what items they thought would be most helpful and why. Then they independently had to decide what they would donate for exactly $200 and why. Most students chose My Story app for their presentation.

We will put these aside until the end of January when students count the money collected and we have to determine what we will really do with the funds.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Responding to Literacy Shed Videos

This week I showed my students 2 videos from The Literacy Shed ( First they watched "The Book of Butterflies" and wrote why a butterfly book would be terrific but a lion book would cause problems.  I left app choice up to them but most students chose StripDesign, My Story, or Tellagami.

Next, they watched "The Bridge". We tied this in with several of our Project Cornerstone lessons. I had them interview each other using the camera app (so no samples shown) to determine why the smaller animals were successful in crossing the bridge while the larger animals were not.

Using Apps to Summarize Non-fiction Articles

Every other week or so my students read a non-fiction article. These come from a variety of sources, including Wonderopolis, TweenTribune Jr., and After reading they identify text features using Skitch (which I've written about previously) and then either answer comprehension questions or write a 1-2 sentence summary. For the comprehension questions I usually have them answer on lined paper  (to practice handwriting) but I've been letting them choose an app for their summary. Popular choices are Chatterpix Kids, Tellagami (both with an article photo in the background), and My Story. I steer them away from Toontastic because while that app is fantastic, my students usually want to create a longer project in it and the summary results have not been very good--more like retells with a lot of sound effects.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Comparing Importance of Light in Holiday Celebrations

We spent a lot of time researching holidays this week and that will continue for the next 2 weeks. The focus this week was about the isignificance of light as part of different holidays. Student read books, looked at websites I had linked on Symbaloo, and shared their own experiences.

Pairs then created either a Popplet or WeMap of 10 holidays that use some type of light (lantern, candle, etc.) Each bubble was supposed to name the country, holiday and source of light. While we could have created a venn diagram comparing 2 of the holidays (or 3) I really wanted then to focus on the common theme of light. A discussion about why light would be used in so many celebrations was also part of the week's activities.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Measuring and Creating a Line Plot

We are wrapping up our unit about measuring in inches and centimeters. Pairs of students were asked to measure 10 items in the classroom that were less than 1 foot (good estimating practice because before they could start they needed to create a list of what they planned to measure). Once their list was created they measured the items and recorded their length. If an item was greater than a foot they needed to find an alternate object to measure. After all the measuring was complete the pair created a line plot on an app of their choice (most used Drawing Pad or My Story) showing the length of their objects. Finally, pairs shared their line plots with each other and made statements about their findings.

Writing Expanded/Super Sentences with Stuffed Animals

Students brought stuffed animals to school today. They had a chance to write an expanded/super sentence about what their stuffed animal was doing in our classroom. We are also practicing using interesting verbs.

Writing 2 Expanded/Super Sentences to Show How Descriptive Words Make a Difference

We continue to talk about adding detail to sentences using adjectives, adverbs (-ly words), and other details such as explaining when, where, and why.

I started each student with the sentence "Musicians played." They needed to choose 2 types of music that musicians could play (we brainstormed together). Using an app of their choice they wrote 2 sentences, one about each type of music, that would demonstrate their understanding of an appropriate situation for that type of music and how to convey that information to the reader.

Identifying Food Groups

We have finished studying foods in the 5 foods groups and are now moving on to mixed foods and balanced meals. To assess student understanding of food groups I had them use 2 apps. First, students used the YummyPlate app. After completing the game they took a screenshot of their plate and imported it to Skitch. They swapped iPads with a partner and their partner labeled the food group for each of the 4 foods.

Next, pairs of students read story in the app VeggieBottoms. They selected 5 pages and took a screenshot. They imported those 5 screenshots into PicCollage and labelled the food groups.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Collaborative Writing About Pilgrims and Wampanoags

We are continuing our study of Pilgrims and Wampanoags, this week using information from the Scholastic website and letters sent by Scholastic. To review information from these resources as well as from the books we read previously I asked students to share pieces of information with several different partners.

Once I knew students had a solid grasp of different facts we moved to recording our knowledge. To do so we tried the new WeWrite+ for the first time. Of the 11 pairs working on this, 9 met with success. Two groups were having some formatting difficulties so I asked them to switch to WeMap. This way all students were able to work on their iPads independently (no wasted time while a partner typed and they merely watched) while at the same time sharing and discussing.

Review of 2D Shapes and Relating to 3D Faces

This week I asked students to create 3 2D shapes from those we have studied that are also the face of a 3D shape (square, rectangle, triangle). They created each of the shapes using the Geoboard app and named and added 1 attribute for each shape (in the Skitch app). They used this background in Tellagami and then told about the 3D shape(s) that had this type of face (no videos included here).

Next time I would also ask students to include infomration in their Tellagami about why I didn't ask them to make a circle on the geoboard. I would also have them list more attributes--I had thought the screen would get too crowded but that didn't seem to be an issue.

"How to" Directions for a Math Activity

In the Houghton Mifflin anthology students read directions about how to complete a tangram activity. After a brief discussion about how to write a "how to", pairs of students wrote directions on how to complete a Suduko puzzle, how to complete a pattern block activity, or how to make a growing pattern. Most groups chose the Strip Design app but a few used 30Hands.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Math Analogies

About a month ago pairs of students worked together using the Little Solvers analogies app. This week I students used the Math Analogies level 1 app. I asked each of them to work for a 5 minute period to solve as many analogies as possible. When their timer went off they took a screenshot of their final analogy.

More Number Talks

We continue to solve number talks about once a week or once every other week. This week for the first time I asked students to label the 2 strategies they used to reach their solution.

Next Round of Our Bridge Inquiry/Design Thinking Activity

This week we returned to our bridge building unit.

Groups of students looked back at photos of the bridge they built a few weeks ago using books, Lego, toothpicks, index cards, and tape. They had a mandatory 5 minute talking time in which they were not allowed to access any supplies, including pencils and paper. I really wanted it to be time for group reflection about what went well with their initial bridge, what needed improvement, and what changes they wanted to implement.

Following the discussion, students were given the same supplies as before and they got to work. After the building period we tested each bridge against the listed criteria (length, height, and what it had to support). Students were excited that all bridges past the test this time. As a group they had a mandatory 3 minute talking time to reflect about why their bridge was more successful. Finally, each student completed an individual reflection, answering 3 sentence stems. They could do this reflection on paper or any app of their choice.

Understanding the 5 Food Groups

We are again working on our nutrition unit from the Dairy Council. Each year I've been changing-up the iPad projects a little bit. This year after completing our workbook pages about the 5 food groups I asked student to read more about them. I am really loving the Epic app. Students reading at or above grade level read books about each food group from that app as well as paper books. The books in Epic that have information about the food groups were a little advanced for some of my lower readers, so they read several paper books. Epic does have books for younger students (probably pre-school/K) about the food groups but they are really just picture books without much other information.

After reading with partners, students were paired with a different partner to create a food group book using My Story. Each page in the book focused on 1 food group and gave some examples (words and pictures), why the food group is nutritionally beneficial, and how many servings kids should have each day. Finally, pairs of students shared their book with a different pair. They read to each other and checked for accuracy, discussing any points of disagreement and referring back to the text for evidence when necessary.

We will continue this unit with the a snack Popplet, balance meal creation, and some of the other activites done in the last few years.

3D Shapes Quick Video

As I have done the last couple years when we finished our 3D shape unit pairs of students created a poster listing attributes for 3 shapes of their choice (sphere, cube, cone, rectangular prism, pyramid, and cylinder).

This year I added an additional independent assessment a few days later. I asked students to create an audio presentation describing the attributes of the 3 shapes they did not include on their poster. Given the audio component most students used Tellagami, but a few also chose Chatterpis Kids, the video app native to the iPad, and Educreations.

Tellagami 3D Shapes

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Beginning a Bridge Design Thinking Project

This week my students began a design thinking project that will last for a good part of the year. I plan to come back to the topic every 2-3 weeks. We started this week with reading a variety of books about bridges and looking at pictures from famous bridges around the world. The goal was not really to learn about the specific bridges but to look at all the different bridge styles and forms. Some of the books talked about why engineers use different types of bridges in different locations but this was not our focus for the week. The point was to have a general understanding of bridges. After students build and experiment and gain some hands-on experience we will come back to a more thoughtful conversation.

Next up was a review of the design thinking cycle and how we would use that for our bridge projects throughout the year.

Finally, I gave students a very simple challenge--build a bridge at least 14" long in unsupported sections and at least 2" off the carpet that will support 4 Matchbox cars. Their supplies were 6 books, 2 feet of tape, 25 Lego bricks, 4 toothpicks, and 3 index cards. In my mind I had an exact idea of how this bridge "should" be built with the supplies provided. Of the 7 groups, only 1 built in the format I had anticipated. None of the bridges met all 3 of the requirements in the initial go around (5 min to plan, 20 min to build) after testing.

That was fine as I had hoped this would be the case. We discussed each bridge's strengths and weaknesses as a class. Finally, students answered 4 reflection questions in a format of their choice. Some choice to record themselves talking, some chose to type in a variety of apps, and some wrote on paper.

WeMap and a Shared Understanding of a Short Article

Today student read and shared understanding of a Wonderopolis article. I gave students a choice from any of the Wonderopolis articles from this week. They read their article of choice independently and then discussed it with a partner. Then we created one WeMap for each article. All students who read a given article wrote one thing they learned. It could have been what they thought was most interesting, surprising, or important. Finally, students found a different partner who read the same article and explained to that person why they chose to write the fact.

What We Know About Listening

This week I paired students and asked them to create skits demonstrating listening and not listening. We had a detailed conversation about how a person could tell if someone was listening to them or not and how others might use these same cues to decide if they were being listened to. We videotaped the skits and then students commented on the actions that demonstrated listening or not listening. Due to privacy those videos are not linked.  Students then formed groups of 3 with classmates that they did not create a skit with and created an Educreations about listening skills.

listening skills

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Report about Plants

In addition to growing brassica, students have read about plants from several sources, including the Tween Tribune Junior website, the Wonderopolis website, FOSS book, and Look Again series about plant parts and life cycles.

This week they created a presentation about each of the 6 plant parts. For each plant part they needed to illustrate it, explain one or more ways it helped the plant, and an example of a food people can eat that comes from this part of the plant.

Haiku Deck would be a great app for this activity, but for technical reasons we used My Story and it also worked well.

Reflecting on a Design Thinking Project

We are reading a lot of fairy tales at the moment. With the iPads I am able to have all students read a fairy tale, such as The Three Little Pigs, but I can easily differentiate by having different versions of the story with different levels of vocabulary difficulty. Students can also listen if necessary.

Following The Three Little Pigs reading groups of 3-4 students were given either strip of paper (straw), straws (sticks), or unifix cubes (bricks) and asked to create a house for the pigs. As part of the process I asked each student to use the My Story app to reflect about 2 ways they helped their group and 1 way they could improve in the future.

Identifying Nouns and Verbs with Write About This and My Story

I love the Write About This app. There are so many fantastic photos and I really appreciate the 3 different questions for each of them. It makes it easy for me to differentiate or for my students to differentiate for themselves.

This week we used the photos to review parts of speech. Students took a screenshot of a photo of their choosing and brought it into the My Story app. On one page they listed 5 nouns from the photo and on a second page they listed 5 verbs.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

WeMap Reasons for Actions

One topic we discuss for almost every book we read is why do characters do what they do? What is the cause/effect relationship? To help students think about actions and different causes for them, we used WeMap this week. Pairs of students worked on the same map. Each person created a bubble with an action. Their partner then thought of 3 different reasons the person could be doing that action.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Reflection on Being a Good Classmate

We continue to review, practice, and reflect on what it means to "be a good classmate". As a quick reflection after a partner activity (read and answer comprehension questions) I asked each student to write about 2 specific actions they did during the activity to be a good partner.

Finding Text Features

Students looked at the most recent issue of Scholastic News magazine in the app. They took screenshots and using Skitch, identified different text features such as bold words, diagram, heading, etc.

Using 5 Senses to Describe a Food

Students chose a food they like to eat and drew it (or imported a picture) using either My Story or Popplet. For each of the 5 senses they wrote an adjective that describes the food. This was an introductory lesson to adjectives that we will build on throughout the year.

Pairs of students met. Each student read their list of 5 senses and their partner had to infer what food was being described. This led to a further conversation about using specific adjectives, and a lot of them, helps with inference.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Design a Chair

Last year some students from the Stanford d.School worked with me to give a design thinking presentation using Nearpod. I really liked the whole design thinking concept and plan to incorporate it frequently this year.

We started off with a chair design activity. First we looked at photos and around the classroom for different types of chairs. We talked about basic parts of all the chairs and how/why they differed. I gave small groups 3 pieces of paper and 1 foot of tape and asked them to design a chair for a specific person (a baby, an elderly person, an astronaut, a very tall person, and a person with a sore back). I saw a similar activity on the Internet somewhere, although I can't recall now where, so this was not my invention.

Students created a chair and then shared with another group. They gave each other positive feedback and suggestions for improvement. Students created a second chair with the same set of supplies (3 new pieces of paper and another foot of tape).

We shared whole class and then I asked each students to reflect in iDiary about how they helped their group in a specific way and how 1 other person in their group was helpful.