Friday, January 28, 2011

A Busy Week

It's been a whirlwind of activity around here. There's lots of good stuff going on and here's some things I've been meaning to share:

    • We got an email this week from Kate Klise, the author of the book we're reading aloud for our online book club. She wanted to say hi to all the classes and thank us for reading and enjoying her book. I thought this was pretty awesome, to say the least. One of the teachers that's participating met Klise when she visited their school in Texas. So she sent her an email to tell her about us and maybe we'll even be able to Skype with her or something like that. Pretty cool.
    • In other online book club news, there's lots happening on Edmodo...please encourage your child to log on this weekend and add to the discussion.
    • Finally, we put together a podcast this week making predictions about the book. Have a listen:
I saw something this week and decided that we absolutely had to write poems about it...

Not sure if you can tell or not, but that's a hat. On the roof of our school. So our poetry challenge this Wednesday was to write a poem from the point of view of the hat. In other words, the poem should tell the hat's story in the hat's voice.

I think this makes for quite a challenge but then I did something to make it even more difficult...students have to write at least 6 different drafts of their poem. We're practicing revision so I want them to really think about how to change and improve their poem. They'll turn in those as well as a seventh and final draft to me next week. This is due Friday, February 4.

We worked on these in school today, but some students may need to finish them up at home this weekend. 

I've posted these again, but it might help to post them again:

    • Critique of the Week is due Monday. This will be the last Critique of the Week for a little while. We'll be starting a new technology & writing project in February and that will become the weekly writing homework for the next few weeks. Stay tuned for details.
    • Milestone 3 is due Thursday, February 17. For this milestone their INTEREST PROJECT must be completed. You decide what form it will take, but their needs to be visual aids involved. Choices include PowerPoint (like last time, although I won't be working on it during school now that they know how to make one on Google Docs), poster, tri-fold board, etc. I'll definitely send more home about this in the next week or so.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Why I Love Teaching Technology

Because somewhere down the line I want my students to be able to produce something like this, which was created by an 18-year-old high school senior from Beaverton, Oregon:

I'm a little late in sharing this, but no matter what day of the year, a few minutes spent remembering Dr. King and all that he did for our country are minutes well spent.

Writing a paper about Dr. King is one thing, but when you use the tools available in the 21st century, I think the learning becomes much more valuable. I hope that by using technology, I'm enriching the learning of students and helping prepare them for lives as 21st century learners and 21st century leaders.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Backchanneling Experiment

We tried something new today, using a "backchannel." A backchannel is an online discussion room that is set up as a meeting place so that students can have a discussion while something is being presented to them. In this case, we set up a backchannel while we watched a biographical documentary about the photographer Charles Moore. Moore was a photographer during the civil rights movement and his photos of Dr. King, the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, and more. His photos helped to sway public opinion, especially in the North, in favor of Dr. King.

So while we watched the movie, we discussed it in a chat room. Our conversation and the movie were happening simultaneously. It looked like this:

For a first try, I'd say it went really well. I helped drive the discussion while we went along by posting my own messages to the chat room and by pausing the video at a couple spots so everyone could catch up. There's certainly room for improvement. But this was a good activity for raising the level of our discussions and increasing critical thinking skills, and one we'll probably try again at various times throughout this year and next.

If you'd like to see a transcript of our discussion, click HERE.

And if you'd like to check out the movie about Charles Moore, you can find it at the bottom of this post. Hopefully you and your family are able to reflect upon the life of Dr. King this weekend. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Math Tutorial Videos

I guess I'm kind of "video happy" this week, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The videos you see below will help with classwork and homework tonight and in the future.

In math we are working on multiplication of larger numbers (examples: 23 x 8 and 39 x 67). We are learning a new method of solving these problems, one you probably didn't learn when you were a kid. It's called Partial Products Multiplication and it involves breaking down the numbers into their parts and then multiplying those parts. Then you combine the parts back together to get your final answer.

Reading about it doesn't do much good, probably, so here's two videos that demonstrate the steps of the process:

Glogster Help

As I mentioned earlier this week, students will be creating a "Glog," a virtual poster about their Book Club in a Bag books.

If you read that earlier post, you will find the instructions and paperwork for the project. Today, I made an instructional video for creating a glog. Here it is:  (If you're viewing this in an email, you may have to go to the blog in order to see it)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Our 2011 Resolutions

We've been talking about resolutions for the coming year. In our Morning Meetings last week, we talked about resolutions we might set for our home lives. Then we made signs to show our resolutions for school life. The signs are hanging in the classroom, but I also made this nifty video to share our goals with the world:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Homework Alerts

Yet another New Year's Resolution of mine is to send more Homework Alerts to you.

One is coming home today with ALL students. Please sign it and return it tomorrow. Thank you!

Book-Club-in-a-Bag Books Chosen

We chose new book club books today. Looks like we'll have 4 groups this time around.

Stay tuned this week for reading assignments. They'll have a good chunk of pages to have read by next week.

And since I'm on the topic, now is a good time to remind you that Scholastic Book Club order forms are due Thursday. Remember, the more you order, the more new books we get for the classroom and for our book clubs! THANKS!

Book Club Movie Poster Project

As promised, here is the paperwork for our Book Club project:


We'll be starting it in school this week and it is due January 31. Students are able to access their Glogster account from anywhere using their unique nickname and password. They can find their nicknames and passwords in Google Docs--the document is called "Glogster Log-In."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Reminders & A Poem

Some friendly reminders:

  • "Things to Do" poems due Monday (can be posted to edmodo)
  • Critique of the Week due Monday (can be posted to edmodo)
  • MAP testing 11:00-12:00 Monday through Wednesday
  • Milestone 1 due Wednesday (form went home Friday)
  • Scholastic Book Club order form & money due Thursday (click Links on blog homepage to order online)
  • NO SCHOOL Friday or Monday, January 17
And a New Year's Resolution I forgot to mention is to share more poetry that we read through this blog...we haven't read this one, but we will be soon;

The Drum
By Nikki Giovanni

daddy says the world is
a drum tight and hard
and i told him
i'm gonna beat out
my own rhythm

Book Club in a Bag Project

You had to know that our "Book Club in a Bag" activity would not be just some friends sitting around chatting about books and munching on donated snacks. There will be much more work than that. Which leads me to announce our first project...Make a Movie Poster for Your Book Club Book! (Book reports are so 2010, don't you think?)

Students will use Glogster (which we used to make our Ben Franklin posters) to create a "movie poster" that advertises their book. They will have some time to work on these at school, but if they really want them to be good, they'll work on them from home, too.

I'll be reviewing Glogster with them this week in school: reminding them of their usernames & passwords, demonstrating the steps (stay tuned for a movie of this), providing them with handouts and instruction sheets, and giving them time to get started.

The instruction sheets will have step-by-step directions AND the list of requirements. I will be giving out hard copies and posting them here to the blog.

The due date for this will be...January 31, although they'll probably finish before then. Since I don't want them relaxing on their reading at home, I'll also be having them choose new books and setting the reading assignments. I will share that info with you, too.

Here's a link to a sample poster I made (it took less than an hour) for our recent book The Maze of Bones:

Even though we've only read one book, I think the Book Club in a Bag concept is a success so far. Kids do a great job when we have our meetings--they direct most of the conversations themselves. And they've been keeping up on their reading assignments much more than when we did Book in a Bag.

Stay tuned for all the promised project info.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Introducing the Critique of the Week

As mentioned in the note that went home yesterday, Slice of Life stories are no longer required...they have been replaced by the...wait for it...Critique of the Week. Each Monday, students must turn in a critique of something--a restaurant, a game, a CD, a movie, a TV show, a book, etc.

They are required to turn in a final draft, just like with the Slice of Life stories. If they don't want to turn in a written copy, they can post their final draft to Edmodo.

I taught them how to write one today using an outline form. Here is a copy of it:

Critique Planner

I also wrote one of my own and posted it to Edmodo. I think reading it and using it as a guide will help them (and you) a lot.

I'm looking forward to reading their first critiques on Monday!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Online Book Club Resumes Monday!

Our last read-aloud novel, The Maze of Bozes, was not only a great book, but it was even more fun discussing it with other classes from around the country. Along the way, we also created some cool art and learned how to make Glogs.

Because it was so successful, we're continuing it again this month. Mrs. Temske and her class in Roswell, Georgia have chosen the book Regarding by Fountain by Kate Klise. It's new to me, but it looks terrific. Also, we've got some new classrooms joining in from Texas and Alabama.

We'll do some projects of various sizes along the way and will again be using Edmodo for most of the discussions. Hopefully, we'll also find a way to use Skype again...and maybe even some new technology tools, too!

Speaking of Skype, here are some pictures from our videoconference session with Mrs. Temske's class last month:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

January Academic Update

So we kick off 2011 on the right foot, here's an academic update to keep you informed of our work...

We are starting unit five. It deals with multiplication, estimation, and large numbers. Students will be exploring ways of multiplying multi-digit numbers. We'll have a math assessment on February 3. Problems of the Week will continue to be due on Fridays (except next week, when they'll be due on Thursday).

We'll continue to work with the reading and writing of poetry. I'm going to try to get back into the swing of things and read at least 3 poems and write at least 1 per week with students. Our next writing project will be Biographies. This month and next, students will be learning the elements of Biography and then writing one of their own about a historical figure to commemorate African American History Month. As for writing homework, Slice of Life will be replaced by "Critique of the Week." Students will have to write a critique of a restaurant, movie, television show, CD, etc. each week. The first one will be due Monday. I'll be teaching them how to write one during writing class this week. I'll be giving them a form to make it easier. I'll post this to the blog before the weekend.

Students will be studying Energy for the next 6 weeks. There are many hands-on laboratory activities that go along with this. It should be lots of fun.

We wrapped up our Geography unit prior to break. Students created an interactive Google Map of the NorthEast United States. They turned out really well. I'll figure out a way of sharing these with you soon.

More general info will be coming home tomorrow with students in a printed memo. Thanks for reading and have a happy new year!