Friday, December 27, 2013

Updated Big 6 Resources

When we get back to school after Winter break, I'll be reviewing the Big 6 research process with 4& 5th graders and introducing it to 3rd.

In the past, I've gone through a PowerPoint presentation and talked the kids through the process, but I really wanted to speed up that introduction.  To help with that, I made a PowToon video that keeps the intro to under 4 minutes.  Find the video [here].

I've also spent some time revising the Project Planner I use with the kids to provide them with some structure in considering the Big 6 steps.  The PowToon actually provides a demonstration for how to use the project planner.  You can find the planner [here].  I will likely the pause the video occasionally to add information and provide more of an explanation or to answer questions.

When kids are actually doing their research, I have a standard set of graphic organizers for them to use that requires them to record all of the source information.  This helps to keep them organized, and the organizers are designed to include the same vocabulary and formatting as what Microsoft Word uses for the References tab, which allows students to easily build a Works Cited page.  Click on the titles below for links to those pages:
The organizers all look the same, so often teachers in my building will copy the handouts on different colored paper - or will write in large letters the type of source on the top of the page.  That seems to help reduce some of the confusion for which handout kids should be using.

What are your favorite research methods and strategies you use with your students?

Monday, December 23, 2013

2nd Grade Centers - First Round

I just recently introduced a new round of centers with my second graders.  I'm trying to use more technology with them, along with some basics that I picked up from some great sources.  We're using six centers.  Each student is assigned to a table, and tables rotate to a different center weekly.  I have each table letter attached to a clip, and move the clips weekly.  This way it's easy for the kids to see which center they'll be working with, and it's easy for me to keep track of things.
Center Signs

For the first two weeks, I've only given the kids about 20 minutes in centers, and have reserved 25 minutes for a direct lesson.  I'm not entirely sure that the 20 minutes has been sufficient to tackle some of the bigger things we're doing, and may make some modifications.

Links to center directions and websites that I used to help create the centers are all in brackets below.


For the [Computer Center], students are practicing shelving books using Mrs. Lodge's Shelve It Game, which you can find [here].  The kids are loving this game, and find it easy to access and manipulate.  If you haven't been on Mrs. Lodge's site, you should spend some time there!  She has some wonderful ideas for centers.  Check out her website [here] and follow her on Twitter @MrsLodge [here].


In the [Explore Center], 2nd graders are practicing using QR codes with the iPads.  They are using [Wonderopolis] to learn about about the Wonder of the Day.  I like this site because students can watch a video, read about a topic or use the "Listen" feature to have the text read to them.  Some of the topics have been a little advanced for 2nd graders, but so far the kids have seemed completely engaged in the content.


Students in the[Read Center] choose their books and then spend time enjoying independent reading.  They always have the option to choose to read a magazine from our subscriptions, and many of them do choose that.


The [Retell Center] is one that is taking a bit of time.  The kids are using a QR code and QR Code reader to go directly to our FollettShelf shelf page.  They are practicing logging into FollettShelf with their usernames and passwords and are selecting a book to read and retell to each other.

I attached the center directions to a legal size, expandable folder. For QR Code generators, I like to create them with Kaywa, which is linked [here] and the students are primarily using I-nigma, for the QR Reader, which you can find [here].

Writing Center

Observation form
Currently, I think this is my favorite [center].  Students are practicing writing animal observations.  The center requires the use of two iPads.  Students watch one of the animal web cams on the [San Diego Zoo] website a record [animal observations] using a Google form, which I embedded on our library website.  I like to use the Google form because I can keep track of the observations that they record; however, I think I got a little overzealous in the information I wanted the kids to record.   It's a bit time consuming for them to both access an animal cam and record the types of information.  I find that I really have to be a little more hands on with the center, but the kids are so amazed to know that they can watch the animals live, it's been pretty exciting for them.  I may try to keep this as a center for the next round because kids will already be familiar with the process. 

If you choose to re-create this center, I would suggest taking some time in considering the kind of info you would collect on your own form.  I may revise it to leave off the date and time, because the form automatically includes that information, but the kids like to enter the date and time - it make it seem more official.

Words Center

Words Center
For the [Words Center] I was inspired by Boggle Words, found in the [Library Centers Starter Kit] created collaboratively by [Jessica Lodge], [Carolyn Vibbert] and [Carrie Young].  From reading around about creating magnetic poetry, I discovered that you can actually print on magnetic paper.  Because the paper, which I found at Staples for about $2 a sheet, is a bit expensive, I decided to make my own [magnet letters] template so that I could fit more letters on a sheet.  I have two sets of magnet letters, each stored in a sandwich box.  The kids use cookie sheets, that I for real found at the dollar store, to create words. For 2nd grade, the kids keep score using a super easy point system.



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tuesday Teacher Tips Office 365 & Your Students, Pete the Cat Saves Christmas & Intro to Genius Hour

Office 365 & Your Students

Last week I talked about using Office 365, which is a suite of web-based Microsoft products, including email, Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and SkyDrive’s cloud based storage con­nected through your school email.  The suite of products are also available to your students through their email accounts.
In our district, ALL students (K-12) have access now to their email accounts and the Microsoft Web applications hosted there.  If you choose to use those services with primary stu­dents, it might be a good idea to share information with par­ents about it.
Encouraging your students to create documents and store them in the “Cloud” provides many benefits for students.  Cloud based storage means no more broken or lost jump drives, no more searching through network folders and no more concern that students are saving to the “wrong” location and at risk of losing their work forever.  Additionally, encour­aging students to actually CREATE their documents through the web version of Word, PowerPoint and Excel, which can be found under the SkyDrive link, will mean that students only have to go to one location and it will auto save their work for them.  In addition, they will be able to access and work on their documents from any device that has an Internet connection—including tablets.
To get your students started using Office 365 for creating doc­uments, check out this one page student guide [here] or copy and this URL into your browser
As students begin using the different features of Office 365, it is extremely  important that you discuss good Digital Citizen­ship with them, and explain that when they are on their stu­dent accounts and any features within Office 365, they should be acting in a “professional” capacity.  It’s a good idea to re­mind them to THINK: before the post or create—is it True, Helpful, Inspiring, Needed and Kind.  If it’s not, then they shouldn't post or create.
To help students working with Office 365 from a mobile de­vice, like a tablet, you can find directions [here] or copy and this URL into your browser

Christmas Read Aloud with Pete the Cat

Who does Santa call when he’s sick in bed and unable to deliver presents to all the boys and girls? Why, Pete the Cat of course!
In Eric Litwin and James Dean’s Pete the Cat Saves Christmas, Pete is faced with the challenge of his life. And, although Pete is small, he knows that if he gives it his all, he can help Santa and save Christmas for all the children.
The book, with it’s excellent Pete the Cat illustrations, is a fun way to talk about the ways that even the youngest people can lend a helping hand to those in need of  a little help.
Check out the video record­ing of the song [here]

Genius Hour: Something to Dig Into Over Winter Break

Genius Hour is a movement in education that is based on the 20% release time construct that Google uses to help spark creativity in it’s employees. Using release time, employees can en­gage in learning anything that interests them, provided that it could have an impact on the Google business later.  Through this set up, Google employees have come up with many inno­vative concepts.
In Genius Hour in schools, students are given an hour of class time a week to pursue their own interests and passions, with the idea that allowing students to engage in their own interests will help to improve student productivity and intrinsic motivation.  A good genius hour includes these things: a strong research question that requires real digging and work to under­stand, research and a project that is shared with the world.  Projects could be short and confined to that 1 hour, or they could be long-term lasting over several weeks.  You also may find it beneficial to ask students to relate their projects in some way to the content you’re study­ing in class.
Check out this video [here], by Chris Kesler for a 3 minute introduction to the concept. 
Follow Chris, on Twitter [here] @iamkesler.  If you have some time, you also may want to take a look at  Kesler’s archived presentation of Genius Hour [here] for a lot more information on the subject.   Kesler also gives some great advice for find­ing time to do Genius Hour—check that out [here.
For even more information about how to get started with it, try this Livebinder by Joy Kirr [here] (follow her on Twitter [here].
If all of this information is too overwhelming, I would suggest starting small, and participating in a #GeniusHour chat, which occurs the first Thursday of each month, or search the #20Time hashtag for more information on Twitter.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tuesday Teacher Tips December 10 - Intro to Office 365, URL Shorteners & Minecraft Ideas

Recently, the state of Kentucky launched Office 365 for both teachers and students.  Through our email accounts we have access to 25 gb of storage in SkyDrive Pro, and Microsoft web apps that will give teachers and students the ability to create basic document types from any device, as long as they have an Internet connection.

Office 365—Creating and Managing Documents in the Cloud

Since our Power Lunch over SkyDrive and Office 365 was cancelled, thanks to an awesome snow day, I thought I better spend some time going over what you can start doing right away with Office 365.  (Have no fear, for people who want to see this in action, I’ll reschedule for another time).

Microsoft’s Office 365 is a subscription based service that we, the state of Kentucky, have access to through our email accounts.  It utilizes “Cloud” based storage, which means that as long as we have an Internet connection, and are logged in to our email accounts, we can access Microsoft products like Word, Excel and PowerPoint to create, manage and share documents.  If you are at all familiar with Google Docs, you will see some strong parallels.

That means, you are no longer tied to your desk to make all your awesome PowerPoints for your lectures—you can use Office 365 on your mobile device, including your iPad or Surface.

To get started with Office 365, all you need to do is log in to your school email account from either your desktop workstation or your mobile device.  Click [here] to see directions on basic Office 365 functions, including logging in to your webmail, accessing SkyDrive, and creating and sharing documents .  If the link doesn’t work, try copying and pasting this shortened URL into our browser . (I did indeed use Office 365 to share this with you)

Do you want to use Office 365 on your mobile device/tablet?  Click [here].  When using Office 365 on your mobile device you have do have to switch to pc view, which can be a little tricky—these directions will walk you through how to do that.  If the link doesn’t work, try this shortened URL:

Spend some time playing around with this. One of the nice features about using this is now you can easily share your documents with your students, and students, who also have access to the same things through their student email, can also easily share their work with you.

Want a challenge?  Share a document with a student or colleague and practice collaborating using comments—or try creating a quick assessment for your students using Excel Survey—send them a link and have them respond.  Their responses will be autosaved in an Excel doc on your SkyDrive.

What do you want to know more about? Let me know, I’ll send follow ups in future Tuesday Teacher Tips.

URL Shorteners

As you start to use SkyDrive to share documents with others, especially students, it may become necessary to use a URL shortner if you don’t have access to QR code readers, to simplify some of those lengthy URLs that are generated when you share your documents.

Popular URL shorteners include Bitly—click [here] to see it, and Google’s URL shortner—click  [here].

A simple web search for “URL Shortner” will yield other results, if you want to look around to see what’s available.

I personally use Google’s shortner the most often.  To use it, simply copy and paste the URL you want to shorten into the URL box on the screen, Click 

Shorten URL, then fill in the box for the Captcha, and it will generate your new, shortened URL, which you can copy by pressing CTRL+C and then paste into your document.

It’s always a good idea to test those URLs before sending it out.

Minecraft—Capitalize on the Craze in your Classroom

I’m not kidding when I say that there are loads of kids out there completely obsessed with Minecraft. Minecraft is a video game that allows users to construct settings out of cubes in a 3D world.  Kids can play in survival or creative mode, and it’s the creative mode that teachers can really capitalize on.

There are many teachers capitalizing on the excitement and using Minecraft for student created projects.  Doing book projects? Have students construct the setting in Minecraft, create a screencast of it, and share it with the class.  Learning about habitats? Allow students to create the habitat in Minecraft, take screen shots of it, and print out those screen shots to turn in.  Learning about a place or time period in social studies? Let students recreate that place in Minecraft instead of doing that diorama, and let them share what they created on their personal device. 

Students are already using Minecraft at home, why not give them the chance to share their excitement by giving them project options that include Minecraft.  Check out some ideas [here] at Edutopia.

If you design a project for students to do at home with Minecraft, the biggest piece to take into consideration is how they will share what the did.  For students using Minecraft on their PCs they could use Screencast-o-matic, [here] to make a video recording a presentation of their creation.  On the ipad/tablet, they could take a series of screen shots and piece those together in a document or on a poster that they turn in and share—or if they’re allowed, they might just bring the tablet in and share with their class.

If you really think you could get serious about Minecraft in your class, check out MinecraftEdu [here] or this 40 minute introductory video about it [here].

Do you think you’d be interested in using it, but want some additional support our help, just let me know!

Tuesday Teacher Tips - Seymour Simon, Science Apps and Nonfiction Text Features

These were tips I sent out on December 3 - focusing on science.  If you haven't had a chance to check out Seymour Simon's website, it's a must for science lovers.

Spotlight on Seymour Simon

If you want to get your students connected and excited about science, you should check out Seymour Simon.

Seymour Simon has written over 250 science books for kids.  He has written on nearly every topic from Wolves, to Mars to Guts, and you’ll find many of his books right here in our library.

In addition to his immense collection of science books, you’ll also find an incredible resource in his website, which you can find [here].  The website includes links to    a Science Dictionary, Science Riddles and Jokes, information about his many books, and a link to the Seymour Simon Science Blog which you can find [here].  The blog includes short articles about many different science related topics and could be a nice discussion starter in class.
Search through the blog for specific topics by clicking on tags on the left side of the screen.  One in particular you would want to check out is Writing Wednesday, which can be found [here].  Writing Wednesday posts vary in content, but you’ll find discussions of writing technique with examples and writing prompts that may inspire your students to learn more.

Seymour Simon is incredibly active when it comes to exploring science topics with students and educators.  You can request a Skype visit with him [here], and be sure to follow him on Twitter, by clicking [here].

Are you doing something incredible in your science classes?  Share it with Seymour Simon [here], and it might get featured on his blog!  

Science Apps to Checkout

Jon Samuelson (find him [here] @ipadsammy on Twitter) has a great list of 5 Great Apps for Future Scientists that you should check out [here] at Getting Smart.  They range in content, and are all kid-approved.

Matt Gomez (find him [here] on Twitter) uses the InstaWeatherPro app ($1.99) to help his kindergarten kids learn about weather.  Find out how he uses it on his blog [here].

Nonfiction Text Features  - video to introduce or review

Students can use nonfiction text features like bold text, captions, photos, headings and subheadings, table of contents and the glossary to efficiently locate important information.  Often, however, the connection between the text features and how we can use them to be more efficient isn’t always clear.  Students need to be able to use the text features, not just identify them.

The instructional video from eSpark Learning “Using Nonfiction Text Features” really drives home the connection that is so often missed.  See the video [here].

eSpark doesn’t just stop with text features, they have a whole series of videos tied to the CCSS, check them out [here].

Informational Texts - Pinterest Board

Need more ideas for how to use Nonfiction texts? Check out my Pinterest board. There are tons of resources I have found helpful, including graphic organizers and lesson ideas. Find it [here].