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.