Saturday, February 28, 2009

Make Way For Ducklings - A Year Later

What a difference a year makes! Last year, I found a Make Way for Ducklings Google Earth Tour at the Google Lit Trips web site. I used it with the first grade students during our modified class schedule during Terra Nova testing week. I've given the lesson an upgrade.

New Year/ New Tools
This year, I have an Activboard, Activotes, and Discovery Streaming thanks to the CDWG/ Discovery Win a Wireless Lab sweepstakes. Enter NOW! Go ahead, I'll wait. You can enter once per day from January 3 to May 1, 2009.

I decided that for our modified schedule, I'll like to find something interactive for all the grades. I'm going to try this lesson with Kindergarten to third grade. Since I couldn't find anything at Promethean Planet, I decided to write my own flip chart. It's a great experience. I have one photo that I am waiting to receive permission to use and then I'll upload these charts as a resource.

Discovery Streaming
I signed on to Discovery Streaming and typed Make Way for Ducklings. I was happily surprised to find a 1969 movie version of the book. This is going to be a big improvement on last year's class when I had a student hold the book while I read from a copy.

As are most streaming clips, this eleven minute movie is broken into four smaller segments. I downloaded them to the hard drive. I don't want to have buffering issues and I don't want to have a failed lesson because the Internet is unavailable as it was after a wind storm a few weeks ago.

Activstudio/ Activotes
Next, I wanted to build a set of Activote questions that would lead us into the story, the movie clips, and the Google Earth tour. I've exported the flip charts into PowerPoint slides which I've placed on Slideshare. I'll link to the flip charts on Promethean Planet when I place them there.

I have questions asking about the use of Google Earth at home, the Caldecott symbol on the cover of the book, and which part of the Earth the students believe they would find Boston.

I have slides to introduce each video clip. Those slides are followed by a few comprehension questions about the story, and then a slide to transition to Google Earth.

Part 1 of the presentation:

Part 2 of the presentation:

To Be Presented
I will be working with these flip charts next week. I only have 30 minutes with the students. Some of the students have not used the Activotes yet. As I have more insight into how the project idea works, I'll report it back on this blog.

Image Citation:
"Make Way for Ducklings." Mr. Ducke's photostream. 2008 Jan 6. 2009 Feb 28.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Middle School 1001 Flat Tales

Last year, I tried the Middle School 1001 Flat Tales wiki with my seventh grade students and the help of our English teacher. I received a message from Jeff Whipple asking if I'd be interested in helping out with the project again this year. This post is intended to give you some background. Perhaps you'd be interested in joining us this year.

1001 Flat Tales
The project was originally envisioned by Clay Burrell. There is an elementary, middle school, and high school version of the project. On the wiki, the background frame for the story is as follows:
Tell the aliens a good tale from earth, or face your country's annihilation.... (excerpt from the 1001 Flat World Tales): "Look at them..the human race is so uninteresting. They are stupid, they are ignorant, and most of all, they are hopelessly boring. They are not worthy of this planet called Earth. Let's destroy them, so we can take their land and use the humans for 'human-testing'," Chief Zen suggested.
"No, Chief Zen, give them a chance. The human race is famous for storytelling. Let them entertain us before we act too harshly," Zero replied.
"Fine, Zero. But if the story doesn't please me--we destroy the storyteller and his/her country," Chief Zen said.

"Great idea, Chief. Bring forth your storytellers, humans...."
2008 Flat Tales
The project was interesting. My seventh grade English teacher had the students write their stories in class.
My students worked in groups of two and three to write the stories. They came to my lab to paste it into the wiki. They were asked to tell an interesting tale and they had some problems coming up with story ideas.

We were partnered up with one school in Canada and another in Australia. The students first made some word choice suggestions in their partner's stories. Next they helped fix the partner student's grammar. At the end of the project, they were asked:
1. Think of plot—is it original? (If an adaptation, is it creative or interesting to you?)
2. Think about problems that the characters face. Are there complications that add enough suspense, tension, or interest? Is there a climax that satisfies you? Is the resolution satisfying? What could be added or changed?
3. Think of characterization—are the characters life-like? Are characters likable and enjoyable? Do we get a good sense of character from many of these: description, dialogue, narrator's opinion, discussion from other characters, the character’s own actions?
4. Think of imagery and details. Do they help you see and hear and experience the story?
5. What areas of the story need the most improvement?
We did not end up weaving the stories together in the manner of 1001 Arabian Nights. I would like to see that happen this year.

2009 Flat Tales
I spoke with Jeff today and we discussed methods to make the project work more smoothly. One change is the addition of writing prompts. Hopefully, this will give the students an idea.

During the writing phase, the students will have the opportunity to make word choice and grammar suggestions for their partner. As the students write, they will be be required to think about plot, character, images, details, and share their observations in the discussion tab.

At the end of the writing phase, the students will read their partner's finished story to determine if it was worthy of the alien's attention.

Teacher Tab on the Wiki
We have writing prompt tab for the teachers. I added one prompt today, hopefully this will grow. Once the participating schools are finalized, we will create a partner table and begin work.

If you are interested in giving the project a try, go to the appropriate grade level wiki from the links above and click on the Add Your School link.

The project should take about six weeks from start to finish. We anticipate matching the participants with partners towards the third week of March. The writing and partner commentary will proceed over the course of approximately four weeks. The fifth and sixth week will be dedicated to choosing the stories that the alien King finds worthy and a reflective piece by the students on the writing process.

I'm looking forward to some interesting stories in 2009.

Image Citation:
Rhode, Katiya. "Arabian night." Katiya Rhode-Singh's photostream. 2007 Dec 8. 2009 Feb 24.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Saying "Thank You" for Images

I am helping my fourth grade students improve their research skills by taking a simple topic and asking them to find seven facts about birds. Of those seven facts, they are to choose the thing they think is most important.

What To Do Next
We had just finished using PowerPoint for the first time to create a math shapes presentation. I decided to have them place the information they gathered in PowerPoint. Part of my goal with all students is to have them focus on telling their story with images and using the n
otes section for all their text.

Getting Started

The students wrote their seven facts on a sheet of paper and put a star next to the most important fact. On the server, I placed a template for each student in their own folder. Once the research was complete, each student typed the word Birds in the title of slide one. They typed their name, class (4A/ 4B), and February 2009 for the subtitle.

On slide two they typed "The important thing about birds is ..." and they filled in what they thought was most important. On slide three through eight, they added a sentence such as "Birds have feathers" or "Birds have wings".

This took most students a whole 42 minutes of work.

Citations or Saying "Thank You"
In the next class period, I demonstrated how to use to locate bird p
hotos. I explained that any time you create something, you deserve to have someone say "thank you" for using your work.

In school work, this is called a bibliography. I pointed out how Pics4Learning makes this very simple by including the proper way to say thank you at the bottom of the image.

The Hard Part
Surprisingly, the hard part was helping the students resize their images. Pics4Learning images slid onto the PowerPoint slide as very large images. This is great because students often use the little thumb nail size photos. I went around the room and individually showed the students how to change the viewing size of the slide so they could see the whole image and resize so it fit on the slide.

This will take us two if not three full classes. I'm looking forward to seeing the final presentations.

The Fun Surprise for Me
When I was looking at one of my fourth grade student's pages, her citation pointed to Andrea Hernandez in FL. Who would have guessed, I actually knew the photographer. A neat bonus for me!

Image Citation:
Hernandez, Andrea. p1010121.jpg. summer 2008. Pics4Learning. 22 Feb 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

"The Important Book" and Research

I was reading Brian Crosby's blog, Learning is Messy, the other day and came across an idea that sparked a project in my computer lab. He was using a book by Margaret Wise Brown called The Important Book. She is a favorite author of mine since my now eighth grader was a few months old. We went through two board book editions of Good Night Moon within a couple of years.

My Research Focus
I was just writing about my intended focus on helping students with their research skills. I am looking for more ways to help students understand how to read to find information. Brian outlined how the book helped him to help his students take some first steps in their process by following the pattern used in The Important Book. You should read his post. I li
ked the idea so much, I ran out to Barnes and Noble last weekend to purchase a copy.

When I get a new idea, I'll often introduce it to several grades at the same time. In the following years, I try to keep coming back to the same general idea with a different focus. I am going to use The Important Book and the following lesson in the fourth, fifth, and perhaps sixth grade this year.

My Introduction to the Students
I started with the fourth and fifth grade this week. I scanned three pages from the book and placed them in my Activstudio software. My document camera is not working, or I would have used that instead. It could just have easily been imported into PowerPoint.

The first screen was just an image of spoons. I read the description to the class. We talked about the pattern in the wording. It tells the important fact about the spoon, several supporting facts, and repeats the important fact.

I brought the next screen up at 10% of actual size and told the class the next description was about daisies. I asked them to predict what the important fact would be. I changed the screen to show the page at 100% and then read the description. Next, we counted up the number of facts she listed.

I wanted the students to realize that they had equally good ideas about what the important thing was about daisies. I also wanted them to realize that they could have written an entirely different entry with just the ideas they generated as a group.

I finished up by reading one more entry about grass.

Next Steps
I had the fifth grade students focus on amphibians and the fourth grade studen
ts focus on birds. There isn't a particular reason that I chose those categories. Generally, I felt I wanted the younger students to have a very easy topic. I want to give them practice with reading a web page for information.

I have baskets with yellow pads and pencils next to the computers this year. I wanted the students to use the pad to list those the facts as they found them. I didn't want them to worry about switching between Word and the Internet. They could have, but I wanted their focus on the facts, not the technology.

I bookmarked a Yahoo Kids page about birds and amphibians. The students access those links from our school delicious account.

I did a quick survey of the room. Most students had not heard of or used Yahoo Kids. I believe every student had used Google. I took a few minutes to explain that Yahoo Kids was written in a way that students in the third through sixth grade could more easily understand. One student said they use I asked if they typed and they said yes. I told them to just type kids instead of www and they would be able to get to the website at home very easily.

Off to the Computer
They had very little time to work on the computer independently. They quickly got onto Firefox, accessed their class link though delicious, and started finding facts. I explained to them that they just needed to find seven facts. After they found those facts, they should put a star next to the fact that they thought was most important.

Class Two
The next part of the project was to continue today with more research. Unfortunately, the Internet was down all day. With any luck, it will be back on Tuesday.

My plan is to have the fifth grade type the information into Word and find an image to support the words. I want to start showing them how to use Pics4Learning to find images that are free to use for school work. They have an extensive set of amphibian images. Their classroom teacher had asked me to review placing and moving images in Word, so I have a dual purpose.

The fourth grade has just finished their first PowerPoint presentation. In our first lesson, we learn to use the drawing tools to draw a page of rectangles, circles, triangles, a test of all shapes, and a face they make with the shape parts. The lesson is intended to get them over potential stage fright. They enjoy learning how to create drawn objects, change their color, and play with the fill tool.

I will have the fourth grade students use PowerPoint. They will have one slide for each fact. They will choose one image for each slide. They will write their sentence in the notes section. This will become the basis for all PowerPoint presentations. I want their notes to become the bedrock of their presentation with the images as support for their words in all grades through the eighth grade.

Further Research
Once we complete these preliminary steps, I will want to have the fifth grade students do another research project. In the next project, I will expect them to build on the idea of gather seven facts to creating a more substantial and less formulaic paragraph in Word.

Thanks for the idea Brian!

Image Citation:
Levers, Andreas. "Spoons." 96dpi's photostream. 13 Feb 2009. 12 Mar 2008.

Mac with baskets - my image.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

PB Wiki and the Seventh Grade Animations

The seventh grade has been using The Gimp to create animated aquariums. I've worked on this exercise with past classes. This year, we've been talking about copyright, Creative Commons, and the public domain. It's now time from them to select a license for their work.

PB Wiki
Over the summer, I became a certified PB Wiki educator by completing their online Summer Camp in 2008. You can pre-register here now. It was fairly easy and really had great tutorials to learn the ins and outs of PB Wiki. Like all other things, I created the wiki, but have really relied on what I know - WIkispaces.

By completing the course, I was given a Gold account. I knew that it would come in useful because it has a large amount of online storage and different kinds of security features. Over the summer I planned a lesson to create animated GIFs. This account would be the perfect place to hold the files.

Some Things Are the Same
The basics of wiki editing are very much the same in both PB Wiki and Wikispaces. The both have a WYSIWYG editor. I use the same type of file naming conventions in both spaces. I can import files, use embed codes, and display any type of content I can imagine.

Some Things Are Different
It took me a bit of time to remember how to import files, set up students without email by creating classroom accounts, and create and use templates from the summer course. PB Wiki's help manual is great. I easily found all these items by searching their help manual.

What I Really Like
When I learned about folders in the summer course, I wasn't sure why I would want to use them. Wiki files pile up pretty quickly. It was so easy to create a folder called Commons. Now each of the files related to this project are all in one neat folder making it easier to grab the page I need.

Coming Soon - Aquariums
Over the week of February 9th, the seventh grade will be uploading their aquariums. Mine is at the top of this post. They will look at my page to see how their Creative Commons, public domain, or full copyright citations should appear. Some of the students have made some really nice animations. I am looking forward to seeing what type of license they choose and reading their explanation of why they made that choice.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Winter Wonderland and Third Grade Research

Back in December, Kevin Jarrett over at Welcome to NCS-Tech! wrote a post about research skills called On searching, web literacy, and the ubiquitous "animal report". I've been giving that topic thought since becoming a teacher seven years ago.

Personal Experience
My two sons are no better and no worse than the average student at our school in their research skills. We've given them a lot of attention at home to try and help them learn what they do not seem to understand from thei
r classroom lessons. In the computer class, we have completed mini projects and learned various search skills. I have come to the same conclusion as Kevin, online search skills really must be follow book based skills. I hope I paraphrased you correctly, Kevin.

Winter Wonderland January Project
I have had some trouble getting the January Winter Wonderland project off the ground in Kindergarten and first grade. I wasn't able to find a project I wanted to use
with Kindergarten and the first grade is working on Dance Mat Typing. I've really been working hard with the third grade, although it wouldn't be apparent from my student's wiki page.

The Penguin Glyph
I really liked the Penguin Glyph project. Amber Coggin put the files together. They are under the January heading on the activities page. We start using PowerPoint in the fourth grade. For the third grade, this glyph is a gr
eat introduction to the PowerPoint screen and the idea of glyphs in general. Her PDF file explains what the various colors represent (such as orange feet would mean a boy created the penguin).

I wanted to do more and I thought this would work well as a research project as a group activity over several classes. The big question was: How?

The Big Six

I did some research on teaching basic skills and came up with several Big Six resources. I found that for younger students they call it the Super Three. One of the most obvious points is to come up with a focused question to ask the students. I decided something simple would be to ask: How is a penguin different and similar to our state bird. We've been picking at the question a little every week.

First Focus: The Eastern Goldfinch
Our state bird is the Eastern Goldfinch. I found a n
ice printable sheet on the American Goldfinch on the Little Explorer's website. Before giving the student's the sheet, I asked some questions using the Promethean Activotes.

Without prior discussion: 1 child clicked A) Emperor Penguin, 6 children clicked B) Eastern Goldfinch, and 3 children clicked E) American Robin.

Two children chose B) Hair and eight children chose F) Tails.

Three children chose A) Seeds and seven children chose B) Nectar. We had an interesting discussion about what type of birds eat nectar and what type of beak shape they require.

One student chose A) in pine trees, two students chose B) in weedy grasslands, 1 child chose C) in a building, 4 students chose D) at the edge of a pond, and one student clicked E by mistake.

This question also prompted some interesting size discussions as one child chose A) four inches, one child chose B) twelve inches, 2 children chose C) four feet, and six children selected D) one-half inch.

Drawing in Kid Pix
Armed with these images and the discussion, I gave the students a printout from Enchanted Learning. It has a black and white outline of the American Goldfinch. I asked the students to do their best job to sketch the bird in Kid Pix. I projected some photographs on the screen from Flickr so the students could try to match the bird's coloring. The student's images are really turning out quite well.

Next Steps
In an upcoming post, I will talk about how we practiced reading for information while integrating the Activotes. We will also be using the Activotes to look at scanned images from a book about penguins and read to find information.

These are some good first steps to leading my students to find information in print in the third grade. Your thoughts and insights are welcome to help me extend the lesson.