Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August 10 for 10: Picture Book "Must Haves"

This post is part of the August 10 for 10: Picture Book "Must Haves" being hosted by Mandy of Enjoy and Embrace Learning and Cathy of Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community.  

My name is Mary and I am a picture book addict. I am not kidding about this.  When I recently had to bring my own children's book collection home for a year and store it in our basement I was teased that I had enough books to open my own children's book store or library.  So when I had to narrow down all the wonderful children's books out there in the world down to 10 I had a little trouble.  I tried very hard to represent lots of different styles of writing and purposes for using these texts in my first grade classroom.  Here we go.....and in no particular order.....

The Great Fuzz Frenzy by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel

Helping young readers be able to develop the ability to create mental images while reading is a wonderful way to assist them in comprehending what they are reading.  I use this book when helping students learn this strategy.  I cover the outside of this book before reading it so they can't see the big tennis ball in the picture on the cover.  While listening to the story students are asked to draw what they think is happening in the story.  Not once in the text is it revealed to the students that the big fuzz is a tennis ball.  In the story the tennis ball is thrown down into the prairie dogs' burrow and "fuzzy foolishness" ensues.  It is always interesting to see what the students draw to show what they believe the fuzz to be.  Later in the day I reread the story and show the students the pictures and they are amazed to find out the fuzz was a tennis ball.    

The Deep Blue Sea Story by Audrey Wood  Illustrations by Bruce Wood

The colorful illustrations with this story pop off the page with vibrant colors and really support the text on the page.  Audrey and her son, Bruce, have done a superb job of creating a cumulative text story that builds starting with the deep blue sea.  Young students love that the color words appear in the color they are. They also love that the text builds upon itself and it helps them with their stamina of reading longer passages with familiar words.   Also, the purple parrot drawing is a riot to look at!  

A Fine, Fine School by Sharon Creech

I read this book aloud sometime during the first week of the school to help start the conversation of what students define as a "fine, fine school".  In the story the principal becomes overzealous in what he expects of his students and staff because of his pride in the school.  School on weekends, holidays and all summer long is what he would like.  The main character Tillie takes it upon herself to remind him there is more to learn in life than just school, for example how to climb trees.  I love this book because it reminds me that my students are children and need to learn more than just academics.  They need to learn how to solve puzzles, how to create things with their imagination and how to live in the world with one another. 

Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola

Strega Nona has been a favorite picture book of mine since I was a little girl.  As a reader I find it to be a fascinating tale full of magic and mischief.  My students love to listen to the tale as I stumble through the few italian words and use different voices for the characters of Strega Nona and Big Anthony.  They love to join in the short, repetitive song that gets the pot to boil pasta and the one to stop the pasta.  They are astonished when Big Anthony gets the magic pot to boil pasta but can't get it to stop and it fills the town until Strega Nona comes to the rescue.  Secretly the reason I love it so much - the never ending pasta pot.  I am a lover of spaghetti and was always jealous of Strega's ability to make pasta in such a cool way. 

Too Loud Lily by Sofie Laguna

Lily is a hippo with a loud mouth problem she can't help.  Everyone around her keeps reminding her that she is too loud.  One day a new teacher comes to town, Miss Loopiola, who recognizes Lily's unique gift. My students love this story for how over the top Lily is as a character. I love it because it reminds me (and the students) that each person in this world has a unique quality to offer.  

How I Became A Pirate by Melinda Long

September 19th is National Talk Like a Pirate Day and for some silly reason I love it!  My students make pirate hats when they get to school and we wear them all day and try to write and talk like pirates.  To get us in the mood I read aloud this tale of a small boy who gets roped into helping some pirates bury their treasure.  At first he loves the pirate life, but then he slowly realizes what he misses at home and leads the pirates to his backyard to bury their treasure.  

Welcome Comfort by Patricia Polacco
      The link will take you to the author's site where you can watch and listen to her read the first part of the story. 

Any book by Patricia Polacco could have made it on this list but I had to choose only one so I picked my favorite of all...Welcome Comfort.  This is a story of a little boy, Welcome Comfort, who didn't have much to believe in or look forward to and the friendship he develops with the school custodian, Quintin Hamp.  Through the years their friendship deepens and Welcome follows in Quintin's footsteps.  This story is full of all the wonder and magic that comes with the holiday season and of course the kids eat it up.  You have to read it to find out the special surprise! 

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester

When it comes to hysterical characters that can get kids giggling Tacky the Penguin is one of the best out there!  Tacky seems to always be trying his best but his is just odd enough that he is a little off of what he should be doing.  Nevertheless, Tacky always comes through and saves the day for the other penguins with his comic relief. 

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff

Students seem to really enjoy the collections of books by Laura Numeroff that follow a writing theme of giving an animal a treat which leads them down a path of requesting various items and then circles back to the original item.  These are great mentor texts for students use when writing.  A few years ago a class of mine decided to write a class version where each child was responsible for contributing a page.  The result was a hilarious book of "If You Take Miss Suchy To Hawaii".  I was the lead character and wish the story was based on fact! 

Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox
  The link will take you to the author's website and you can hear her read this story aloud.  Highly recommend it! 

The wonderful Mem Fox put together a fabulous tale for young readers to be able to read with strong picture support, repetitive text and lots of sight words.  The students love to jump in on the repetitive text of "But where is the green sheep?".  At the end of course you find the green sheep, but when reading this text aloud it demands you to be dramatic in changing the volume of your voice for the grand finale.

There you have it everyone!  My 10 picture books I couldn't live without on August 10th.  

Feel free to post in the comment section a few of you "can't live without" picture books so then I have an excuse to go book shopping!   

Monday, July 12, 2010

Classroom Space Design

Last year I had a wonderful opportunity to depart from classroom teaching and become a Technology Support Teacher for my district.  The job was to assist teachers in technology professional development, assist teachers in infusing technology into the classroom, come into classrooms and lead or co-teach instruction using technology and to do some minor "troubleshooting".  I had a great year, but I missed the daily interaction with the kids tremendously so I am heading back into the classroom!

So this summer I have spent a great deal of time pondering the set up of my classroom.  I have actually gone into my new classroom and just sat on a chair in the middle of the room thinking.  Admittedly, I have also snuck into other teacher's classrooms whom I admire for some inspiration.   I am really struggling with what I want the layout of the space to be.

There are certain spaces I want in my classroom.  For example, I have 4 student computers so there will be a space for those to be grouped together.  I will have a SmartBoard next year so a space will need to be carved out for interaction with it.  The rocking chair my mother rocked me in as a baby will need a space to.

I want my classroom to flow seamlessly and to have a logical, practical layout.  I want it to be "user friendly" with student items down low so they can reach them (they are only in first grade so they are small!).  I want my students to feel as if they have space and are not crowded on top of each other.

There is a book I have been wanting to read titled The Third Teacher which addresses the link between school environment and student learning.  I do feel strongly that there is a correlation between the two.  A few teachers have read this and have talked to me about how it is impacting the way they are designing the layout of their classroom for the upcoming school year.

How is your classroom designed?  Are there certain spaces you have in your classroom that you would recommend?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Teaching and Learning at Tech Camp

Schools out for Summer!  Well, for most people in our district it was on Tuesday, but for about 70 teachers they were just embarking on an amazing 2 day journey through Tech Camp.

Our district offered for the 1st time a 2 day free Tech Camp to teachers in the district that were interested in learning more about how to infuse technology into their classrooms.  Day One was centered around teachers being able to attend 4 different sessions of their choice.  We are a Mac district and sessions ranged from learning software (like Keynote and iMovie) to web-based options (like Moodle and Wikis/Blogs).  During the sessions teachers were shown lots of examples of how to use technology with their students and then quick tutorials in how to get started.  Day Two was an opportunity for teachers to collaborate with one another and start using the tools they learned the day before with "live" support right there from the previous day's instructors if they needed it.

It was a simply amazing experience to be a part of it as an instructor, and as a learner!  To see teachers get inspired and to hear them start thinking of the endless possibilities for integrating technology into their students' learning was wonderful.  Teachers were already starting to develop lessons and projects for the students next year using what they had learned during the Tech Camp.  You could tell that the participants were embracing the idea of using technology during the learning process and not just as an end of unit project.  You could also tell that the participants were becoming more comfortable with using a variety of technology options and were branching out beyond their comfort level.

Teachers were also shown a district wiki that was created titled "Technopedia".  This wiki consists of ideas for integrating technology into the classroom and tutorials for teachers to use to learn technology tools.  It's like an online "Tech Camp" that's available when they are available to learn more! All staff members have the ability to view the wiki content and add to the content to help populate this wiki with more resources.  I think this is going to be a wonderful, powerful resource for our staff as we continue to learn and grow in educational technology!  

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Letting Students Shine

Tomorrow is the first gathering of our new stop motion video club which has now been named Scotty Dog Productions.  I must say I am full of excitement and nerves as I have never actually made one myself but have seen plenty of examples, read blogs about and discussed them with others.  Word surfaced at school of a 5th grader who has developed a passion for stop motion videos and it was suggested to approach him as a support person for this journey. Tony (over at Learn Me Sumthin') and I agreed we would approach him with the idea of being a mentor to kids in the group.

The art teacher had shown me one of the movies this student had created and I was very impressed by it.  He had created a scene that could have taken place during an Indiana Jones movies.  He used a toy car, an Indiana Jones figure and then a "bad guy" figure.  The gist of the scene is that the "bad guy" is in the car and Indiana Jones throws him out and takes over the car.

I called this student's mother to run the idea by her and I could tell in her voice that the idea of her child taking on a mentoring role would mean a lot to this student.  He hasn't had much of a chance to come forward as a leader and this would be a wonderful opportunity to highlight one of his strengths.  When I pulled him out of class and asked him if he would be willing to share his videos with the group and help us guide them through the process of creating videos of their own you could actually see the excitement start radiating from him.  I feel like we have given this student a chance to shine in a leadership role that might not have occurred without this group being formed.  

Here's to hoping tomorrow's first gathering of Scotty Dog Productions goes well!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

If You Give A Teacher Technology

Have you ever had the chance to read books written by Laura Numeroff?  One of her bestsellers is If You Give A Mouse A Cookie and it follows a wonderful pattern.  If you give the mouse a cookie they are going to want milk.  If you give them the milk they are going to want a straw and so on.  Today I had the pleasure of sitting down with one of the teachers in my building and showing her our district's Wiki/Blog.  Our conversation reminded me of the pattern of this book!

We started off the conversation with clarifying the difference between the two web tools.  Wikis being a collaborative space for multiple users to have input and Blogs typically being an individual's work where others can comment.  As I showed her some examples of how these tools were being utilized in other classrooms I could see the wheels turning and her thoughts running wild.

So I had her back up and tell me what she was thinking about doing before we had started chatting and exploring and she had shared that she was going to have kids post a sentence or two about what they had learned that day.  But she shared that with seeing all the possibilities of what other students had produced using these tools, and through our discussion, she felt like there were so many different directions she could go and she needed to rethink how to use Wikis and Blogs.

So we are scheduled to sit down again on Friday and continue our conversation.  I am so excited to see how her thinking has evolved and where she is going to take her students (and me!) on this journey in using Web 2.0 tools!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Growing and Learning (Slice of Life Day Thirty-One)

Whoo Hoo!  I made it!  31 Slice of Life posts in 31 days!

I am sitting here in my dining room with the sun streaming in the open windows with a breeze gently flowing in while I reflect on this writing challenge and how it has helped me grow and learn.

There is a wonderful picture book by Edith Pattou titled Mrs. Spritzer's Garden.  In the book a teacher plants and cares for a group of seeds (symbolizing students) over the year by caring for them and giving them what they need to succeed.  I feel that at the beginning of this experience I was a bit like a new seed - tossed into the ground without really knowing how the journey was going to go.  With a bit of watering and tending from my writing community's words of encouragement, I stretched my writing skills and grew out of my seed casing into a wee flower.  Thinking back to my posts some days I grew rapidly by really focusing in on one slice of my day and carefully crafting my writing with choice words.  Other days I didn't grow as much through hastily thrown together posts or distracted writing.  At the conclusion of this daily writing challenge I feel like an early spring flower - just sprouting out of the ground with the hope of someday growing into a blossoming, colorful flower.  

Thank you to the "master gardeners" Stacey and Ruth for inspiring us to write about slices of our lives!   Thank you to all the "gardeners" of the Slice of Life challenge!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bring On The Grocery Shopping (Slice of Life Day Thirty)

Today was one of those days where a trip to the grocery store was necessary due to the complete lack of food in our home.  I prepared for the trip like a Girl Scout troop preparing for a camping trip.  I took stock of what was in the pantry and refrigerator.  A game plan for upcoming meals was mapped out.  The coupon organizer was poured through and assisted in the creation of the seemingly never-ending list that was developing.  After a quick check in with my husband to make sure I had what he needed written on the list, I grabbed my keys, reusable bags, the bag of coupons and the checklist and headed out the door.

I love going grocery shopping in the middle of a weekday because there is less people to try and maneuver around in the aisles.  I try my best to organize my list in order of how the store is mapped out so I don't forget anything, but in evidently I always have to double back for something I missed.  With the quickness and concentration of a Jedi I moved through the aisles plucking items off shelves and tossing them into the cart.  With a sense of accomplishment I crossed things off the list with gusto.  At last I approached the checkout lane and proceeded to load up the conveyor belt with all my purchases.

Now comes the best moment - how much did I save in coupons?  Each time I grocery shop like this I feel like it is a challenge to myself to save as much as possible with coupons from the Sunday paper.  With great satisfaction today's total savings just from coupons was $14!  

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring Cleaning Mission Monday (Slice of Life Day Twenty-Nine)

Nick over at thenerdyteacher posted on his blog a Mission Monday challenge to those who wish to accept it.  Traditionally during the season of spring people engage in spring cleaning of their homes.  In his post he proposes that people also take the time to do some digital cleaning of their home and/or school computers.

I tend to be one of the those people that like to hold onto various items for memories, or to possibly be used later in life or with the hope that it will inspire me to try something new.  I am not a hoarder however!    When my husband and I moved into our house late last fall and we were packing our apartment up I got over saving some things really fast and let go of them either through pitching them or donating them.  Today as I move through cleaning our new house I need to keep this in mind to help me weed through things that really need to be kept or things that can be removed from our house.

I also need to repeat that practice and go through my laptop files, RSS feeds and bookmarks.  I am certain I will find some files that could be deleted and others that could be saved for the future.  My bookmarks definitely need reorganized and I have played with the idea of moving them over to a social bookmarking site like Delicious.  Maybe now is the time!  Also, my RSS feeds need to be weeded through so I can make some decisions of which I should keep, if I need to delete any or if there are any I need to add to my Google Reader.

So now that I have said I am going to do all of this I need to get moving on it all!    

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Love My Parents (Slice of Life Day Twenty-Eight)

Quite simply put - I love my parents!

Today my husband and I are going on a date adventure.  We won tickets to go to the Cleveland Cavaliers game today and we decided to make a day trip out of it and visit some friends as well.  We have a dog and since we would be gone most of the day we needed someone to either come to our house and let her out a few times or someone be willing to adopt her for the day.  Parents to the rescue!  They kindly volunteered to have her come to their house for a "sleepover" with them and their dogs.  So now we don't have to rush back to get her this evening before my parents head to bed!  Yeah Mom and Dad!

Also, this morning my husband had to attend a work meeting before we could leave town.  So I dropped him off at the meeting and then headed to my parents house to drop off the dog.  Bless my mother for greeting me at the door with a "Do you need a cup of coffee?"  Yes!  So as I settled into their couch to drink it my father so kindly offered to make me breakfast.  Yes again!  I felt like I was back home visiting from college as he whipped up eggs, bacon and toast for me.  Nothing tastes better than a home-cooked meal that you didn't have to prepare or clean up! 

So now I am sitting at a Panera (with a pleasantly full belly) down the street from my husband's work waiting patiently to get the call to go pick him so we can head off on our date day! 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Stop Motion Video Club (Slice of Life Day Twenty-Seven)

After hearing about, reading about and thinking about stop motion videos this year my friend Tony over at Learn Me Sumthin' and I are plunging into this world with a group of 3rd and 4th graders.  We decided to start small this year focusing on two grade levels and then next year possibly branch into more grade levels.  The group will meet once a week for 5 weeks for an hour after school.  We sent out the forms this past week and I was not quite sure what the response would be.

The response was awesome!  We have 38 students who brought back forms expressing interest in joining the "club".   So now we have to start laying some foundations for this to get off the ground successfully.  We are crafting an agreement for the students to sign laying out the expectations for group members.  Anyone have ideas of what we could include?

A big thank you to Kevin at Kevin's Meandering Mind for inspiring this journey!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lenten Friday (Slice of Life Day Twenty-Six)

Fridays during Lent season are always a difficult time for a catholic girl like me.  I take pride in practicing in the abstinence of meat and poultry on Fridays during Lent.  There are a few things working against me though during this time.

I am an Irish lady who enjoys her "meat and potatoes" at meal times.  I admire vegetarians from afar and their ability to create amazing meals that exclude all types of meat. Me?  I come up pretty short in that department. When I think of meal planning it all starts with the meat.  Will the meal be all about chicken, red meat or pork?  Unless I start with the idea of pasta, but then it turns into what type of meat will be in the pasta dish......

Also, I have unfortunate genetic makeup of having food allergies.  I am talking MAJOR food allergies!  I bet when you first starting reading this post you thought I would have fish on Fridays like most catholics.  Wrong!  I am allergic to all fresh fish.  Maybe you thought I could eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches during Lent.  Wrong again!  I am allergic to all nuts.  Add legumes to the list of things I am allergic too as well.  I also have the raw deal of being allergic to chocolate!

So you see....Fridays during Lent center around food choices like cheese pizza, noodles with mariana sauce and cheese quesadillas for me.  Heres to one more Friday this season!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Salon Time (Slice of Life Day of Twenty-Five)

I have been going to the same hair dresser now for 10 years.  I have known her longer than I have known my husband!  I love going to the salon she co-owns because it always feels like stopping by a friends house for a visit.  If you have seen the movie Steel Magnolias it is exactly like Trudy's salon.  You come in the back door, announce your arrival and grab a cup of coffee or tea.  You settle in to "catching-up" conversation about what's new, how the family is doing and the local news.  Depending on the time of day it's either daytime soaps, news or Jeopardy on the TV in the corner.  You also can always count on the salon being decorated to reflect the current holiday or season.  Today I had the pleasure of stopping by, sipping a cup of coffee, chatting and getting my hair done!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Teacher and Student Connections (Slice of Life Day Twenty-Four)

Today I had the really awesome experience of bring a teacher to her students even though she was at home recovering from a surgery.  Yesterday she had contacted me with the idea of using a video chat tool to be able to connect with her students.  She wanted to reassure them that she was recovering well, hear about what was going on with them and just overall check in.  We worked on getting her home computer set up with a video chat service (iChat) and scheduled a time that I would go into her classroom and we would "call" her.

You should have seen the faces light up when her face popped up on the screen and the kids realized they could see and talk to her!   And not only the students faces lit up, but hers as well!

The kids took turns asking questions about how her surgery went and what she was up to at home.  A few of the kids took the opportunity to share some tidbits about what was going on in their lives outside of school with her.  It was really interesting to see the connection between the teacher and the students and how much the opportunity to touch base meant to both sides.

Later on in the day the teacher contacted me again through video chat and shared how she wished we had thought earlier about this idea and how she may have been able to read aloud the story for the day.  How cool would that have been?!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Peaceful Quiet (Slice of Life Day Twenty-Three)

Tonight was one of those rare occasions where the husband had to work tonight, there were no meetings to attend, no dinner plans with friends and no pressing housekeeping to be done.  Nick over at TheNerdyTeacher posted a "Mission Monday" blog about taking the time for educators to do something nice for themselves.  So I snapped up the opportunity to have a "Mary Night". 

I decided to turn off the cell phone ringer while I accomplished 3 things I have been wanting to do uninterrupted and in almost silence for awhile.  I felt giddy as I changed my settings from "normal" to "silent"!  I did feel a twinge of guilt at the thought of maybe missing my mother call, or an important work call, but quickly quieted that thought with "So let them leave a voicemail!"

I then proceed to complete a 30 minute session of yoga on Wii Fit Plus and focused on my desire to get better at making working out a priority for me.  I did turn the sound down to as soft as I could get it but still being able to hear the instructor.  It took a lot of work though to get my brain focused on yoga and not on other things.  I had to tell myself to be quiet!

After that I prepared my favorite thing to eat - noodles!  Nothing fancy here people, just buttered noodles with some parmesan cheese.  I did not turn on the TV or iPod.  I did not check email, Twitter or my Google Reader.  I did not make the most of my time and try to squeeze in a housekeeping chore like unloading the dishwasher.  I stood there and watched the water boil and listen to the sounds outside.

As I ate my yummy noodles I opened a new book that I have been wanting to start for a few days and started reading with a vengeance.  The silence of the house enveloped me and I got lost in the world of the story.  Little did I know but 30 minutes had passed when I noticed it getting a little bit harder to see the pages because of the lack of light in the room.

Thanks Nick for encouraging me to take time for me!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Perseverance of a Student (Slice of Life Day Twenty-Two)

Today a student was thinking with more innovation than I was and this led to some perseverance on his part and some learning on my part.  I loved every second of it!

This student had been diligently working on a project about the Titanic displaying all the knowledge he had gained through reading books and researching on the web.  He had artfully created colored text boxes, sharp looking topic headings in each box and had imported eye catching pictures of the Titanic to support his text.

But was he satisfied with his final project? No!

Was he going to settle with just these items on his final product like everyone else?  No!  

He posed the question, "Can I find a video about the Titanic and put it on my project?"  Sure! Why not!

He and I tried every which way we could think of to get a video from the web onto his Pages document.  We tried clicking and dragging like you can do with an image.  Nope, didn't work.  We tried using the embedding code.  Nope, that didn't work either.  Then we came to the thought of trying to create a live link to the video on the web.  Bingo!  That worked!

Because of this student's creativity, and his perseverance in wanting this video on his project, it pushed me to not give up on trying solutions to fulfill his wishes.  I appreciate him having patience, and maybe some faith, in me and my abilities!  It was wonderful to see his eyes light up with excitement when we got the link to work!  

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Grandma's Magical Quilt (Slice of Life Day Twenty-One)

I truly believe I have the best quilt in the world and it holds magical powers. My beautiful quilt was handmade by my Grandma in 1983 just for me. It has bright sunny yellow, crisp green and vibrant red colors throughout the fabric she used for my quilt. I remember when I got it and was told I could use it when I got older. It sat for years in my closet inside a pillowcase to keep it clean. I would be allowed to get it out every once in awhile to admire it, but it always returned to its pillowcase for safe-keeping. I yearned for the day that I could use the quilt for what it was intended for!

Finally, when I reached college age, it was decided I was old enough/responsible enough to use the quilt. During college it resided on my bed and then later on in life it turned into my "couch quilt". I always have it spread across my lap when I am sitting on the couch or I have it wrapped around me like a cocoon if I am laying on the couch napping or watching TV.

I know this quilt has magical powers from my Grandma. Whenever I am sad or sick the quilt makes me feel better by surrounding me with her warmth. Whenever I am exhausted it helps make me comfortable enough to sleep soundly. Being wrapped up in my quilt it is like being wrapped up in my Grandma's wonderful arms!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Family times (Slice of Life Day Twenty)

So I am sitting here surrounded by family at Cincinnati's Hofbrauhaus. We are here to celebrate my father's and brother's birthdays. It occured to me I had to get a post in to keep up with my slice of life writing challenge. My brother so kindly slid across the table his iPhone for me to use for this post. Got to love family and have to love technology!

Friday, March 19, 2010

So Proud! (Slice of Life Day Nineteen)

Today our district held it's 3rd annual Dodgeball Tournament with an elementary 5th grade bracket, a middle school bracket, a high school bracket and an adult league bracket. This was the first year for the fifth grade bracket to be included and after tonight's events I am so glad they did!

The gymnasium was packed, the crowd was loud and the games were lightening quick to watch. My school's fifth grade team was absolutely amazing to watch. They had actual skill and strategy to their games. They exhibited such teamwork and showed support and encouragement towards one another my heart swelled with pride. It was so awesome to watch because in those fifth grade boys I could see the little versions of themselves from long ago when I had them in second grade. I screamed my head off for each of their three games and now I am home drinking water trying to sooth my scratchy throat. But it was well worth it to be a part of cheering them on to the championship round where they won!!!!!!

Technology and Primary Learners

At times it seems that in primary grades teachers are hesitant to introduce or utilize technology tools with their young learners. Maybe it is because they are thinking it is too hard for the students. Maybe it is because the teacher does not feel like an expert or feel comfortable with some of the technology tools that are available. Maybe the feeling is there is so much to teach these young learners there isn't "time" to use technology.

In my experience in the past and this year I have seen a different viewpoint. I feel that primary learners are the perfect people to use technology with because their rate of learning and understanding of new concepts is exponential! They are Digital Natives and us educators are Digital Immigrants.  These students know only of the digital age and expect to interact with technology, not just be passive intakers of information. Also, these younger learners are not afraid to explore something new and figure out what it does with no fear of deleting work or messing things up. I have watched countless young children push various buttons just to see what it did.  In addition, by using technology tools students can learn academic content, practice academic content and show their understanding of academic content and isn't that what we are trying to accomplish in the first place?

Here's a video of ways a teacher in a primary grade in Canada has been tapping into technology tools.  I hope it helps others start thinking of ways they can include our primary learners in the world of technology.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Time Flies! (Slice of Life Day Eighteen)

5 years ago today my life changed forever.

I went on my first date with the amazing man who later became my husband.  That day seems so long ago sometimes, but other times it feels like it was yesterday.

I remember walking out to his car to leave on our journey and thinking how exciting it was and how nervous I was for this date.  The conversation in the car on the way to the restaurant was general getting-to-know you stuff,  but it seemed to come easy to us.  Throughout dinner the conversation continued to flow naturally and it was so comfortable to be around him.  After dinner ended we agreed to go to another establishment to check in on March Madness scores and to keep talking.  We ended up deciding to go see the movie "Hitch" with Will Smith to extend our time together.  If you have ever seen that movie you might agree it may not have been the best choice for a first date movie, but we didn't know!  When I finally was dropped off that evening I felt like I was on cloud nine and I had found someone special.

I guess my hunch was right that night as he is still by my side after 5 years!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Imagination (Slice of Life Story Day Seventeen)

I love when St. Patrick's Day rolls around in an elementary school, especially in the primary grades where imagination still runs rampant.

In one of the schools I teach in some teachers pretend that a leprechaun visits the classroom and does "silly" things like tipping chairs over, leaving books opened on desks, writing notes on whiteboards and spilling green confetti to make a mess.  The little ones go crazy for this stuff! Their imaginations go into hyper-drive and dream up things you never thought possible.  All of a sudden kids are screeching they saw the leprechaun run across the room or they hear tiny footsteps on the ceiling.  The kids end up spending part of the day trying to find and catch the leprechaun.  It's always great fun to watch!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

LOD = Learning On Demand

Currently I am taking a class offered by my school district where the focus is on using technology in the classroom.  There was a discussion about how POD stands for "play on demand".  So that got me thinking about an idea - LOD or "learning on demand".

Picture this:
Teachers and students collaborating and creating items such as documents, slideshows, videos and audio files and then posting them on a website. They then could access these resources at any point in time via the web and/or by downloading them onto a computer or iPod. A teacher could access it to share with another colleague or to reflect on a lesson. Students could access these resources to review a concept, study for an assessment or to learn content that was covered during an absence.

By creating this type of environment it would invite the concept of accessing resources to "learn on demand"!

Spring Smells and Sounds (Slice of Life Day Sixteen)

Spring Smells and Sounds

Crisp Air

Basketballs Bouncing

Squeaky Bikes

Musty Mulch

Runners Feet

Dogs Barking

Mesquite Grills

Birds Chirping

Children Laughing

Monday, March 15, 2010

Energy Zapped (Slice of Life Day Fifteen)

Do you ever have a day where it feels like someone forgot to charge your batteries the night before and then all of a sudden your battery dies?  Do you ever feel like all the energy has been drained out of your body and no amount of pop, coffee or candy is going to kick start you into gear? Do you ever feel like the pep in your step has been zapped?

I do.

Here's to having a difficult adjustment to the time change!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Irish With An Attitude (Slice of Life Story Day Fourteen)

 I had to go into school today to take care of a few things and there was a huge surprise waiting for me on my desk.  I had actually won for the first time ever a basket in the theme basket raffle that was held during Springtacular (school's spring carnival)!!  The theme basket I won was "Irish With An Attitude", which is how I think some people might describe me!

It is filled with all sorts of goodies.  I scored a gift card to Jeni's Ice Cream which makes such delicacies as Salty Caramel Ice Cream.  I got a few more gift cards to different restaurants and speciality shops in my hometown.  Also in the basket were a t-shirt and umbrella baring the "Irish Is An Attitude" logo.  There was a beautiful shamrock lanyard which was awesome because I was thinking about buying a lanyard this week.  There is a great wall hanging I am thinking of using to decorate our downstairs bathroom with since it is bare right now!  

One of the neatest things in this basket was a traditional Irish worry stone.  It is made of connemara marble which is a green marble found in West Ireland.  It is crafted to usually be round with a slight indentation in the middle for you to rub your thumb on.  Legend is that by rubbing a piece of connemara marble you will relieve your worries and bring good luck.  There is a saying that goes with the worry stone:

There are only two things to worry about: either you are well or you are sick. If you are well, then there is nothing to worry about, but if you are sick there are two things for you to worry about: either you get well or you will die. If you get well, then there is nothing to worry about. If you die, then there are two things to worry about: either you go up or you go down. If you go up, then there is nothing to worry about. But if you go down, you will be so busy shaking hands with old friends you won't have time to worry.

Here's a snapshot of the basket before my husband tore into it to find out all the goodies I had won:

Here's a picture of the shamrock lanyard and Irish Worry Stone:

3 days and counting until St. Patrick's Day!

Shrieks and Squeals of Excitement

Friday afternoon I had the craziest, funniest hour ever with a bunch of first graders.  They came bounding into the computer lab with such energy I was taken aback for a moment.  I need to let you in on a few things about what I believe led to this buzz of excitement.  It was the day of our school's Springtacular (spring carnival) and at lunch there was a tootsie roll raffle where they kids buy tootsie rolls by the handful to try and win a prize.  So these kids were hyped up on sugar and overflowing with bottled up anxiousness for the evening event.  And...it was their first time coming to the computer lab.

We started off by learning how to log onto the computer using their student account information.  Boring stuff, but necessary.  Then we got to the good part.  Exploring!  The students and I discussed what it meant to explore.  "Try it out" and "Find new things" were some of their answers.  So I set them loose to explore the application we were working with, Pixie.

You should have heard their shrieks and squeals when they discovered what different buttons could do!  You would hear someone scream "Oh Wow Cool!" and then about 5 kids would jump out of their seats and race over to the kid that shouted it out to see what they had discovered.  Then those 5 kids would speed back to their computer and try to recreate what they had seen.  This level of screeching, cheering and running around went on for about 20 minutes.  Then I gave the students an opportunity to share with everyone what they have uncovered during their exploration time.

This is what I love about my job.  Students excitement about using technology!  Yes, it got loud.  VERY LOUD!  But, I didn't mind because I knew it was because they were engaged in what we were doing!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dreaming of Housekeeping Magic (Slice of Life Story Day Thirteen)

I sit here in my house looking around at what all needs to be done and thinking to myself "How in the world does this always seem to pile up?"  Cluttered kitchen countertops with piles of mail, magazines and other random items.  Laundry that needs washed, dried, folded and put away.  Carpets that need vacuumed and floors that need swept and mopped.  And the list goes on.....

Sometimes my mind starts churning at the thought of magic housekeeping helpers that could help make all my dreams come true.  Here are the key characters that keep popping up in my head:

Dish Fairy:  She appears each night in my kitchen to clean up the remnants of the day and put all dishes, left out containers and pots and pans away squeaky clean.

Gain Laundry Detergent Lady (from commercial):  She appears once a week to take care of all our laundry needs from start to finish. 

Mr. Clean (from commercial):  He arrives once a week to take care of sweeping floors, mopping floors, and scrubbing bathrooms to a sparkly finish.

Rachel Ray or Ina Garten or Guy Fieri (Food Network Stars):  Honestly, I think they would have to live with us to keep up with the duties I dream up for them.  Or I guess they could alternate in some way.  They would cheerily shop for and make us all our meals and serve them up with gusto!

Doby (from Harry Potter):  Now I don't want to "own" him but I really like the idea of having someone pick up the house and keep it in order.  I would like for him to live with us as well!

Isn't it so nice to dream?!

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Past Comes Back (Slice of Life Story Day Twelve)

This evening was our school's annual Spingtacular (think Spring Carnival) and as always this event never ceases to amaze on so many levels.  I am fortunate to work in a building that has a wonderful PTO who organizes this event.  It is the PTO's biggest fundraiser because of the MASSIVE turnout it has due to the great support of our families.

It's great to be at this event and see current students with their families enjoying quality time together.  Interacting with them outside the school day is a wonderful way to connect with a student and see a different side of them.  But this isn't my favorite part of Springtacular...

I love visiting with the students that come back after having left our school for middle school to attend this event!  When they walk up to me with a huge grin and a "Hey Mrs. B!" it fills me with happiness to see who they have become.  They share with me how school is going, what extracurricular activities they are involved in, how their families are and their favorite memories of our year together.   It lets me know that I played a part in their development and that they knew I cared for them as a student.

So when this time of year rolls around I am always excited to attend Springtacular and reconnect with my past students!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Coffee Fail (Slice of Life Story Day Eleven)

Every morning I wake up and think of that beautiful first cup of coffee in the morning.  My coffee pot is pretty sweet because it has the function where you can set it the night before and schedule what time you want it to start brewing in the morning for you so when you walk to the coffee pot in the morning it's sitting there waiting for you like a warm, comfy blanket.

So this morning I walk into the kitchen almost tasting the first sip upon my lips when I see the empty coffee pot before me.  Apparently I had put new grounds in the night before but totally forgot the step of adding water into the reservoir.  Disappointment washed over me.

Coffee Fail!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Melody Can Bring Back A Memory (Slice of Life Story Day Ten)

There's a country song by Clint Black titled "State of Mind" that has a beautiful phrase in it.

"Ain't it funny how a melody can bring back a memory
Take you to another place in time
Completely change your state of mind"

I believe this to be so very true because if I hear certain songs it is as if I am transported back in time through some sort of machine and I experience a moment all over again.

"God Bless the Broken Road" by Rascal Flatts takes me to the moment where I stepped into my husband's arms for our first dance on our wedding day.

"Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba transforms me to my freshman year of college.  I feel as if I am standing on the front porch of my sorority house for the first time meeting my sorority sisters.

"Midnight Train to Georgia" covered by the Indigo Girls puts me in the car with my best friend Sam when we drove hours together to go see our friend Mary Ellen.

And......I can't believe I am going to say this......

"Hangin Tough" by New Kids on the Block makes me feel like a kid again fascinated with my first boy band.

What melodies trigger memories for you?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Interactive Timelines via Keynote

In history books across our world students have learned information through viewing timelines printed on the pages.  Students have passively read the information moving from left to right and taking in all the facts laid out for them.  Not any longer!  4th grade students have been taking their knowledge of Ohio history events and turning them into an interactive timeline!

Students first created a slide with a traditional looking timeline of events from Ohio's history.  Then they created hyperlinks on that timeline that link to additional slides describing each event in detail with a visual support of that event.  By doing this students have created an interactive timeline that viewers can pick and choose which events they want to click on and learn more about.

Through creating an Ohio history interactive timeline students utilized many skills simultaneously.  They needed to access their knowledge of Ohio history events and their details in order to create the slides depicting the individual events.  Students needed to show their understanding of intervals on a timeline accurately on the initial slide with their timeline.  Also, students worked on using a slideshow format to demonstrate their understanding Ohio history events.   This was a great way to integrate many skills together!

Slow Motion Noooooooo! (Slice of Life Story Day Nine)

So this morning I was quickly trying to do four things at once: drink the first cup of coffee of the day, eat breakfast, prep slow cooker dinner and make my lunch.  I should have known better than to try to juggle it all at the same time rather than do one thing at a time at that hour of the day!

The kitchen island countertop was cluttered with all the items I was trying to use at the same time.  Pork chops, cream of mushroom soup, coffee mug, bowl of oatmeal, lunch meat and the new jar of mayonnaise which would soon become my enemy of the day.

We all know that a new jar of mayonnaise is sealed for freshness and protection from other elements getting in.  We all know that at times that seal is sealed TIGHT and it seems like it would take an army to get the seal off.  This particular jar's seal over the opening of the jar must have been superglued to the rim for the broken nail I earned while trying to peel it off.  The next step was to get a knife and puncture the top to create a way in.  So I put my fingers in and starting to lift the paper seal off.  Then my fingers slipped and the paper started to snap back.

In slow motion this is what my eyes saw -
A huge white blob of mayonnaise leave the surface of the paper seal and start traveling towards my clean, cute brown sweater through the air.

In slow motion this is what my mind thought -

Sure enough it landed right smack in the middle of my sweater.  No worries, I wiped it off and all was well.

I guess I should have had the cup of coffee BEFORE trying to tackle everything at the same time!

Monday, March 8, 2010

In The Neighborhood (Slice of Life Story Day Eight)

With the sun finally shining on us my husband and I took the advantage to get outside and take a walk.  This wasn't any walk though.  It was our first walk in our new neighborhood!  We moved into our first house the last weekend of November and since then the weather hasn't been fit for walking outside.  I couldn't help but think of Mister Roger's song as we stepped out for our walk.

We noticed some things on our walk that could be called "uncovered treasures" popping up from beneath the melting snow.  It was kind of funny to see random things lying around waiting to be discovered by the proper owners that have been covered for a long time under that thick blanket of snow.

Here's a taste of what we saw:
1.  Holiday decorations on lawns
2.  School project about Sharks
3.  Skateboard
4.  Upside down recycling bin (with lots of snow still around it so we now it was not newly placed there)
5.  a few beverage cans

So check your lawns people and see if there is anything out there waiting for you to discover after the snow has melted!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Up Wins- Hooray! (Slice of Life Story Day Seven)

Tonight while watching the Annual Academy Awards I was very excited to watch Up win the Animated Feature Film Oscar!  I absolutely loved this movie and all of the great lessons it brought with it.  I have to admit I cried several times throughout this movie because of sadness and joy.  

The lesson of grieving after losing a loved one:  I could feel the sense of loss Carl felt when his wife, Ellie, passed on.  I wept openly for his feeling of loneliness that followed.  My heart felt pain for him when he "closed himself off" to others for awhile.  

The lesson of going on adventures:  From Carl and Ellie's adventures to the big adventure Carl and Russell go on through the movie, I appreciated the message to try new things even if they made you push your comfort level.  Carl always seemed a little hesitant at first in these adventures but in the end enjoyed himself. 

The lesson of friendship can span across ages:  I enjoyed how the story brought Carl and Russell together as friends even though the difference in their age.  I think young people can gain a lot from a friendship with an older person.  They can learn from them, and also have them as someone to turn to for support.  I also believe that older people benefit from a friendship with a young person.  They enjoy sharing their stories with others and also it helps keep them "young at heart".   

Kuddos to you, Up, for capturing all of these great lessons for young and old to hear!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What did you just say?! (Slice of Life Story Day Six)

I really debated about sharing this moment but felt it was something many women (and maybe men) could relate to.

So yesterday morning I felt like a kid again being with my mom and brother.  Well, by mid-afternoon that feeling drastically changed.  I felt old.  I am talking tired, frumpy old.

Here's what happened.  I was laying around the house being lazy and so was my husband.  I could feel him staring at me so I inquired what the staring was all about.  And in the most gracious, gentle voice came the terrifying words, "All your gray hairs."


Now, the way he said was incredibly as sweet as could be.  I was in no way mad at him for speaking the awful truth.  Also, I know about these pesky, gray hairs.  I have noticed them tremendously multiple over this year as if they were horrible weeds in a beautiful garden. But it did make me stop for a moment and think.  Do I run to the nearest drugstore, buy a coloring kit and fix this?  Or, do I graciously let my gray go and hope that it looks dignified?

The jury is still out on this one....

Friday, March 5, 2010

Like A Kid Again (Slice of Life Story Day Five)

Yesterday my brother had corrective eye surgery so I volunteered to spend time with him today to try and entertain him.  We agreed that we would start the day off with breakfast together.  When I arrived to pick him up he let me know he had called our mother and invited her along for breakfast too.  It would be the first time in a VERY long time (at least that I can remember) that it was just us kids and mom.  No husband, no wife, no Dad and no tag-along friends.  I was excited at the thought!

When we all arrived at the cafe we picked it was as if my brother and I slipped right back into childhood.  Mom asking a million questions so she could know what was going on in our lives.  My brother and I picking on one another one minute and laughing together the next. The food was yummy.  The coffee was excellent.  The conversation was great.  And the feeling of love for one another and the gift of time together was immense!

What a great way to start off a 3 day weekend!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Welcome back old friend! (Slice of Life Story Day Four)

At the end of the day as I walked towards the door I could see a glimpse of the outside.  Were my eyes deceiving me? Was it true?

There it was......THE SUN!!!!

I opened the door and stepped into the sunshine.  I stopped for a moment on the sidewalk and basked in the glory of the almighty star.  It felt so warm on my face and in my head I thought, "Welcome back old friend!  Thank you for finally coming back!"  I could feel the big, huge smile stretch across my face! 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Cry of Help! (Slice of Life Story Day Three)

The other day I was bustling about a second grade classroom assisting them in finishing up their Keynote presentations on a famous American they had chosen to research about.  In this classroom there happens to be one particular student, let's call him H, that is very tech savvy for his age.  H was sitting on one side of the room zapping along swimmingly on his slideshow.  I was on the other side of the room working with another student.

Below is the conversation that transpired between H and I across the room.

H:  Mrs. B!

Me:  Yes H?  What's up?

H:  I deleted it!!!!  Help!!

Me:  What did you delete?

H:  The picture.  You know?  The box that we put the picture in?  (In second grade words this means the picture placeholder)

Me:  It's ok!  Just click on the picture you want from your picture folder and drag it anywhere on the white space.  Then you can move it around and change the size if you want.

H:  ......... (silence, picture an adorable, little boy staring at you with a very blank look)

Me:  H?  Do you understand what I am saying?

H:  I...have...no idea...what...you are...talking about!  (imagine big dramatic pauses in between the words)

Me (trying not to laugh at the dramatics):  It's ok!  I am on my way over to you H!

Lesson to all:  You might think they are tech savvy.  You might think they will know what you mean.  Be prepared for that blank look and the cry of "Help"!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Team Work Makes the Dream Work (Slice of Life Story Day 2)

"Team Work Makes the Dream Work!" my husband jokingly said the other night while we were watching TV.  On the show we were watching there was a sign hanging in the background that promoted teamwork.  I laughed out loud at the saying as I honestly have never heard it before.

But isn't it true?  Doesn't teamwork make the dream work?

I believe so!  Every day there is a team of people that work together to make learning happen in our schools.   From teachers to administrators, bus drivers to custodians and parents to students it takes a community working together for learning to occur.

I, for one, would be lost without my team supporting me!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Undercover Education Administrator

Over the past few weeks I have been watching Undercover Boss on CBS with great interest.  The concept of the show is that top CEOs of major corporations go "undercover" in their companies to gain a better understanding of the day-to-day operations and how they can improve their companies overall.  I was skeptical at first at the thought of this concept.  Would the CEOs really notice anything, own up to problems in their companies or make significant changes?

Not only did these CEOs complete their "undercover" tasks, but they all stepped up to the plate to address what they witnessed and experienced.  All of them have made adjustments to the operations of the companies and most of them have added programs/ opportunities for employees to benefit from.

So this got me thinking......what about the idea of Undercover Education Administrator?  I know, the title doesn't sound as smooth.  But, the concept is an interesting idea.  I wonder what administrators would see, or become aware of, that they wouldn't normally in their role.

Just a thought.....

Day 1 of Slice Of Life Challenge

Some of you may have heard about the fabulous Slice of Life month long writing challenge that has been put forth by two amazing teachers over at Two Writing Teachers.  I encourage you to jump on board and give it a try like I am!

Day 1 of Slice of Life Challenge

I woke up this morning feeling a little sad that I was back from a trip to visit my Grandma.  It was great to see her, spend time with her and help my family out also.  But, it was difficult in the same breath.  My Grandma suffers from Alzheimer's Disease and talking with her gets harder and harder for me and more frustrating for her.  The wonderful thing though is that so far (knock on wood) she's retaining memories from long ago.  So when we visit we usually fall back on those beloved, treasured moments she does remember.

One of my fondest memories of visiting my Grandma when I was little was when we got to go to Eat N Park for dinner.  At the end of the meal I would be allowed to get the FAMOUS Smiley Cookie. I'm talking amazing stuff here people!  Of course, I would always ask for the purple icing because purple is my favorite color.

On this most recent trip I wanted to honor this memory and have something that could bring this memory to the forefront of my mind.  I bought a  Smiley Face Cookie travel mug.  So after waking up a little sad I poured the happy nectar of coffee into my travel mug and a smile stretched across my face of those happy memories of times with Grandma.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Innocence

I had a moment today that is just too cute to not share with everyone!  Hope you don't mind!

A group of kindergarten students came into our computer lab for the first time this year.  Our system is set up that each student has an account to use to log into our computers.  So, the teacher had made an index card for each student with their first name, last name and password.  She explained to them that they needed this to log into the computer so they could use them.

They all came tromping into the computer lab this afternoon with glowing faces clutching proudly in their little hands their index cards.  And then I see out of the corner of my eye........

one of the kids inserting his index card into the CD/DVD slot!

I asked him what he was trying to do by putting the card in and his response was "We need to put it in to use the computer".  He looked at me like I was crazy!  We then had a nice chat about how he would need to type the information on the card on the computer  Needless to say, he was a little deflated about how much more work that was going to be rather than just sticking his card in!  If only it could be that easy!

Ahhhh, the innocence of young children!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Digital Storytelling with Kindergarten friends

Earlier in the year I created a post about Kindergarten students learning how to use Pixie through allowing them time to explore and play. Taking that time paid off BIG time recently when I had the chance to work with them again using Pixie to create stories.

As we all know little Kindergarten friends don't quite have the handwriting capabilities yet to write out stories. But...boy, do they have some stories to share! I heard stories about everything from pizza to Indiana Jones to playing tag with friends.

These little friends are just starting to learn about the craft of storytelling. The first session we worked together students were creating a drawing and then their story was something like “This is a picture of a cave.” The teacher and I chatted later that day and we discussed the importance of starting to talk to them about basic elements of a story: characters, setting, beginning, middle and ending. The second session we focused on having a quick class discussion to remind everyone of the elements and then made sure to have each student practice telling their story before recording it. At times it was helpful to guide students storytelling with some simple leading questions like:

Who was there?
Where were you?
What happened next?

Now, these stories are still on the basic level, but we could tell they got the idea of the difference between telling about the picture and telling a small story.

Here are a few examples to listen to and enjoy!

Snowman by Sarah from Mary Brothers on Vimeo.

New Clothes from Mary Brothers on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cheering for Creativity!

Have you ever gotten tired of seeing the same thing over and over and over again? Have you ever thought to yourself, "I can't listen to or watch another presentation today because they are all identical?" I have been there with you!

In years past our second graders have made Keynote presentations on what they have learned about a famous american they have studied. Our state standards require students to learn about certain historical figures, scientists and inventors. Second grade approached this by tying it into non-fiction reading and writing through research on these individuals. Students were then asked to create Keynote presentations on their findings.

Sounds great, right?

Sure, it was at the beginning when it was all fresh and new. We had created a slideshow template for the students to follow. So, all the text was in the same spot. All the pictures were in the same spot. It was the same presentation over and over and over again but just about different people. There was zero creativity in putting together their presentations.

This year I have read and thought about 21st Century Learning Skills and how to bring them to the forefront of what we are doing as teachers. One of these skills is creativity. So, I approached the second grade team with an idea. Why don't we let students have some choice in where the pictures and text go on their slides? Why don't we let them explore different layouts, font styles and font sizes?

At first they were hesitant because there wasn't a comfort in having the template laid out where the students just plugged in their information. Students would have to learn how to select an appropriate slide layout or create their own. I asked them to go on this journey with their students and it would be a learning adventure together.

We just started working on these before "the big snow" hit us so we haven't gotten very far. But...I have been super impressed with how quickly the students picked up on how to select a slide layout, change sizing of text and pictures and changing the size of text. Students that picked up on these skills quickly jumped up and helped others naturally. It was awesome to watch it all get started!

Now I can't wait to get back to work with these students and watch them create their presentations to showcase their knowledge of their famous americans.

Stay tuned for final results!

Sunday, January 24, 2010



That word instills fear in some, excitement in some and both for others. Change can be difficult, but I believe it is all in the way of how you approach it.

There are those that the word change makes their knees start shaking. They are like Chicken Little running around and screaming "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" They get all flustered at the slightest change and need lots of reassurance that things will be okay. They look to others for help without looking at what they themselves are capable of first.

There are those that embrace change. They are the ones that have no fear in trying something new and appear to be very accepting when things come their way. When change does fall in their lap, they persevere ahead and do not let it drag them down. It's like they don't even miss a beat!

Personally, I am someone who feels both. I tend to look change in the face and say "Come on and get me!", while in the pit of my stomach are butterflies fluttering about and banging into each other. On the eve of a change in our district technology this is exactly how I am feeling.

How do you approach change? Any tips to quiet the butterflies?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Little People Fear Nothing

I give all the credit in the world to the kindergarten teachers of the world! I spent one hour with two different kindergarten classes today and my eyes were open to a whole new light.

I was in the computer lab awaiting their arrival and trying my best not to worry about all these little persons coming in and scampering about. And then I heard it.... "Oh my goodness! There are COMPUTERS!!!" Those little ones were so overcome with excitement how could one not get pumped to be with them?!

The kindergarten teacher and I got them each settled at a computer with each child clutching in their hands a card with their first name, last name and student ID number, like it was the golden ticket to Willy Wonka's factory. The way our network is currently set up is that students can sign on to an individual account using this information. Well, let me tell you, this was a feat in itself just getting them logged in. Once we all got our names spelled right and the right ID numbers typed in we were good to go!

I keep coming back to the idea of play in technology to see what kids can figure out by exploring on their own. So first we talked about what it meant to explore something. The kids decided that it meant: look around and see what you can find out. So I let them loose to explore Pixie2. There truly are so many Possibilities with Pixie.

After they got over the shock of being asked to "just explore" it was not long until you heard the sounds of little voices full of joy and wonder. It seemed so natural to them to shout out "Look what I did!" and then the students around them look over and then exclaim "Cool! How did you do it?" And then the best thing happened - they started teaching each other what they had figured out through exploring. After awhile we came back together as a class and I had students take turns showing what they had learned to everyone.

These little people had NO FEAR in clicking buttons to see what would happen. In just a few minutes time they had figured out everything that probably would have taken me 30 minutes to talk about and show and they probably wouldn't remember. There is something to be said in setting them free and letting them guide you in what they need help with.

So....let the little people in our schools at that technology and sit back in amazement at what they can do!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Idea of Playing

Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of attending the first gathering of a small group of colleagues interested in discussing The Digital Writing Workshop by Troy Hicks. We were only supposed to meet for an hour but the conversation was flowing so well when we looked at the clock we were of course over that!

An interesting topic of conversation that was raised was the idea of play in using technology. Some educational philosophers share the idea that children learn new concepts through play. Some academic programs are based around the concept of learning through play at the primary level. I say - Yes! - learning through play is a great idea!

When I was teaching first and second grades it was always powerful to allow students time to explore new tools before getting down to "the real work" we were going to do with them. It never failed that the students would start driving the instruction and learning through the discoveries they made while exploring.

I, and others, are finding this same concept of learning through play holding true with students learning new technology tools. By allowing students time to explore/play with a new tool they end up learning the features of that tool. Students end up sharing with one another what they have figured out and this leads to them engaging in conversations. And always, I mean always, they end up figuring out something I didn't even know yet!

What do you think about the idea of play using technology? Is it powerful? Do students learn from it? Feel free to share your thoughts!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Wonderful Wallwisher Possibilities

I have a confession....

I am amazed at Kevin's Meandering Mind! I have learned so much from this member of my PLN and have been inspired by him. I am very excited to learn from him live at the Dublin Literacy Conference in February!

Wallwisher is a web-based tool I became aware of from him recently through his blog. Kevin posed a question and then opened up the opportunity for his PLN to answer through using Wallwisher. It was so interesting to see such a variety of educator's answers from across the U.S. It demonstrated the power of global learning!

I want to share about Wallwisher to my colleagues and also demonstrate the use of a PLN at the same time. Here's where you can help!

Please go to my Wallwisher and comment on an idea of how teachers and/or students could utilize Wallwisher in their learning experiences. I will be sharing this with colleagues throughout the next couple of weeks.

Thanks in advance for your contributions!