Monday, December 28, 2009

Gearing Up for 2010 Monsters

I'm gearing up to work with drawing monsters with my second grade students on the wiki Anna Baralt and I started a few years ago. At the end of the project last year, I put together a Voicethread to find out what we can do better. I am making some adjustments that reflect those comments. I hope it continues to be a great experience for all involved.

The Voicethread
I set up a Voicethread and gave the URL to only those teachers involved in the project. I wanted the information to be restricted t
o those teacher who participated or will participate with a class. As a result, I'm sharing the questions, the changes I am making, and paraphrased comments - but not the actual link to the Voicethread.

The Changes for 2010

Anna and I created a Google doc to help the teachers share their contact information. They now have access to this document. I have added a spot for the teacher to note extended school closings and the start of summer break. Finally, I have added anchors to the wiki so that the teachers can quickly jump within the main page to the row containing their class information.

To Create a Wikispace Anchor

I edited the page. The screen already has text with the class number 1, 2, 3, and so on. I clicked next to the number 1 and chose the "Insert Link" icon.

Next I chose the tab labeled Anchor.

I chose an anchor name, e.g., class1, class2, and on to class52, and then click the "Add link" button. You will see a little anchor symbol where the anchor was added.

Now the teacher can go directly to their class. I will bookmark the following link to get directly to my classes:

The Actual Questions
1. Approximately when did you start working with your students? Do you feel you had enough time to work on the project to your satisfaction?

I've learned that we should have a method for the partners to communicate their breaks and when school ends.

2. Was there enough information on the main teacher page to help you keep track of where you and your partner school were on the project? What can we do to improve it next year?

Again, the ability to communicate breaks and the end of school year dates is something I will make sure to include in this year's project.

3. Did you find the email, Wikispaces mail, and discussion tabs useful in communicating with your partner? Do you have suggestions for next year?

It seems like communication overall went very well.

4. Did you use RSS feeds to a reader to keep up with the changes on the wiki? Was it useful, overwhelming, or did you find another method that worked well for you?

Two suggestions were to use email from specific pages and to subscribe to all discussions via RSS, but only subscribe to the main partner page updates.

5. How did you prepare students for the project? What did you do that others may want to try next year?

A photo of a word web created in one classrrom will be uploaded to the wiki.

6. Lessons Learned: What would you do differently to prepare the students to draw the monster? What worked well?

One teacher brought up a description that matched the monster and one that was not very complete from a previous year. They tried to draw the monsters from the description. A lot of students seemed to get it after doing that as a class. It was done at the end of the project, and will be done by this teacher at the start of the project this year.

7. Please share what you learned as your students tried to describe the monster. What did you wish you did? What went really well?

If a teacher only sees a class once per week, it is helpful to have the classroom teacher help get the writing completed in class.

Another point made is to set a base expectation for the descriptive writing. For example, if your student says the head is a red circle is it a red outline with a red fill or is it a red outline with a white fill. This does become confusing rather quickly. Last year I had students specifically write: a circle with a green outline filled with white.

8. How did they day of the drawing go?

Some students tried to draw the original with too much detail.

If the student finds there are details missing, it's important to tell the student to make a choice on their own. If the description does not say what color something is, they should choose a color of their own.

9. What surprised the students about the process? Did they enjoy it? How did you go about comparing the monsters with the students?

Overall, even the students who wrote in great detail enjoyed finding the differences. It was mentioned that a Skype call between the classes at the end of the project would be a great culminating activity.

10. What would you tell someone who had never worked on this project before? What were the difficulties and unexpected benefits?

It's a great project that teaches the students to work on adjectives. It is a great project to get your feet wet if you have not used a wiki as a teacher.

Image Citation:

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lessons Learned - Evening Skype Call

We had a great Skype call Wednesday evening. About half of my seventh grade students returned to the school at 6:30pm to speak to a combined first and second grade class in Australia. We are going to try to send a geocoin from New Jersey, USA to Victoria, Australia via geocaches.

Lessons Learned - Ideas to Keep
I sent a permission slip home the Friday b
efore our Wednesday evening call. I asked that the form be returned Monday morning. The form gave all the particulars about the call: who we were talking with, why we were calling, where we were meeting, when we were meeting, how to get in touch with me. I requested the student's name, the name of the person dropping the student off and picking the student up, and a contact phone number for that person.

When school was finished for the day, I made sure I placed all t
he items required for the Skype call right at my desk. This included a working Ethernet cable, headset microphone, digital still camera, digital video camera, cart with projector and speakers, the geocache box, the geocoin we would be sending, and the permission forms.

I arrived at the school about 20 minutes before the students. I turned on, connected, and tested all the equipment, set up the Promethean board with some pre-work, had a printout of questions with answers that were discussed in class earlier that day, set the video camera on a tripod and checked that it would record, placed freshly charged batteries in the two cameras, and set the chairs in a semi-circle in the room.

Five minutes before students were to arrive, I went to the meeting place which was the outside door closest to the room and began greeting students. The first students to arrive were told to go to the room and answer the questions on the Promethean board.

When approximately half of the expected students arrived, I we
nt back to my room and gave one student the task of reading the "script" for the call. I asked them to decide who would be responsible for each question during the call. One student chose to run the video camera to record the pre-meeting. I returned to the back door, greeted the remaining students and explained what was already happening in the room.

Ten Minutes Before the Call
I checked with the students to get agreement on who was responsible for each question on the script. I asked if there were any students who did not want to speak. I found out who was using Skype at home and gave a rundown of the Skype program to the rest of the students in the room.

There was an excited buzz in the air. One student asked what would happen if the othe class forgot. I assured the students that the teacher and I communicated via email earlier in the day and we were both ready!

The Call
The students had a great time asking questions, getting answers, and answering questions from the first and second grade students. We showed them the geocoin.

I think a Skype call is a huge step in forging a relationship and interest in an electronic project. The students become "real" to each other.

The call lasted about forty minutes.

Lessons Learned - Ideas to Improve Upon
At the end of the call, there was still time available before parents would return to pick up their children. I asked the students to help me learn what was good about the call and what was bad or needed to be improved.

They were all excited and felt it was a great reason to return to school at the end of the day. They want to do it again.

The first major improvement I learned was that I need to electronically post the details for the evening in the event of lost forms. One student went to my Schoolnotes page and was disappointed that I did not have times and locations listed for the call. This makes so much sense. I don't know why I didn't think of it myself. I'm always misplacing school forms at home for my sons.

The second major improvement is that I placed a sign on the back door to call up to the open window in my room to be let into the building. The student wasn't sure which window was mine. We decided I should hang a banner out the window so it was easy to find. They all agreed that it was hard to tell which room was which from the outside.

It was a great experience. Now to find out how long it will really take that coin to travel over 10,000 miles!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Edublog Awards

A short post to nominate some worthy entries for the EduBlog Awards. These are people I learn with and from every day.

Best educational use of a social networking service
I learn every day at the Elementary Tech Teachers ning. It was started and is hosted by Nedra Isenberg. Even though it was started as a gathering place for elementary technology teachers, there are many classroom teachers and middle school teach teachers sharing resources daily. I am amazed at Nedra's ability to welcome every member with a personal note. The group has grown from a handful of educators to almost 900 as of this post.

Best individual tweeter
Hands down, I enjoy learning everyday with Alec Couros (@courosa). He is a professor of educational technology & media at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina. He shares his classroom with the world, moments from his life, and interesting bits and pieces he finds around the web.

Best individual blog
I really enjoy Chris Harbeck's Making it Interesting. Chris shares his thoughts on bringing students an understanding of math in many interesting ways. I taught middle school math and even though I no longer have my own math classroom, I still appreciate seeing how he teaches concepts and engages his students along the way.

Best resource sharing blog
Kevin Jarrett's Welcome to NCS-Tech! blog is a staple in my reader. He has a great collection of free resouces that he devines from Twitter, reader feeds, the blogosphere, and beyond. He helps me find resources that I would not necessarily find on my own and gives a great recap on the benefits and potential drawbacks of various tools. Thanks to Kevin for his ability to be well rested on a few hours of sleep and blogging for those of us in search of quality tools.

Thank you everyone near and far who help me on a daily basis.

"Excellence." totalAldo's photostream. 2008 May 10. 2009 December 7.

Third Grade Presentation Skills

Last year I created some new lessons for third grade. I want to practice research skills earlier in the K-8 computer curriculum. I used birds and penguins as the starting point. This year, I'm going to continue to develop the bird project. A big thanks again to Amber Coggin at the Winter Wonderland wiki for the glyph!

2009-2010 Pre-Work
This year, I started the project with a short word processing exercise. I started a document titled Birds and saved it in each student directory on the file server. This ensures the location of the document when students go to retrieve it in the future.

We reviewed basic word processing rules: one space between words, no space typed before the period or comma, one space after the period or comma, and press return only at the end of the paragraph.

The students were to type five facts they know about birds in a paragraph. Initially, I wanted to review their word processing skills.

Use of the Penguin Glyph
Today, we used the same penguin glyph that I used with last year's third grade. I was dissatisfied with simply having the third grade students create the glyph last year. It was the first time I had used PowerPoint below fourth grade, though, so I used the penguin glyph and moved on.

This year, I have more of a plan in place. Today, I introduced the concept of copying and pasting words. It follows a Kid Pix lesson from earlier in the year in which we copy and paste a portion of an image using Kid Pix. I demonstrated opening the Bird document in Word. I highlighted the five sentences and chose Edit - Copy. I demonstrated closing Word and opening the penguin glyph. Next I pointed out the penguin slide and the notes section below the slide. I used Edit - Paste to paste the five sentences copied from the document into the notes section.

We used the glyph legend to tell about our knowledge of reading penguin books and seeing live penguins, our preference for seafood and weather, and the gender of the person creating the glyph.

Finally, I asked the students to tell a little about their glyph choices in the notes section. If they read a penguin book or saw a live penguin, they were to tell more about it. Otherwise, they were to write that they hadn't seen a live penguin or hadn't read a book about penguins. They wrote about the type of seafood they enjoy or that they did not enjoy seafood. The wrote about their gender and weather preference.

I explained to the students that next week they would come up to the front of the class and read their notes from a printout while showing us their slide.

Follow Up in the Coming Weeks
I will again have the students use the Activotes to tell what they know about our state bird and compare the state bird with the penguin. We will add the drawing of the Eastern Goldfinch from Kid Pix to a PowerPoint slide and type facts in the notes section. We will again use Kidspiration to compare the state bird and penguin, but this year we will include the chart in PowerPoint and add notes.

By the end of this project, they will have created their own images, completed some research, and created and presented using PowerPoint.

Claire's Penguin Notes (From the Image Above)
I know that birds can be small. Birds have wings and can fly. They can have colorful wings and can be beautiful. Some of them eat worms. Birds can be cute.My penguin has a round head because I read a book about penguins in first grade. My penguin has a blue eye because I have seen a live penguin. My penguin has a yellow beak because I like cold weather. My has a body has a heart on its body because I like to eat crab My penguin has yellow feet because I am a girl.

I'm looking forward to developing this idea even further.