Tuesday, June 26, 2012

UCI Writing Project

Over the next four weeks I am lucky enough to be participating as a Fellow in the UCI Writing Project Summer Institute.  Other than being a mouthful, the project is an opportunity for teachers K-12 to come together, share ideas, share stories, develop as writers and readers, collaborate, present lessons, and become incredibly close in a short amount of time.  So far it is only day two and I already know many of the 20 Fellows well.  I have also picked up a ton of great ideas and strategies that I would love to share.  I will use this space to document my journey through the experience and share the wealth of expertise I am fortunate enough to witness and actively participate in with this amazing group of passionate professionals.

Click on the different topics on the sidebar to see all the gems I've picked up :)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book Retriever

I just found a cool new app that I cannot wait to use in my classroom!  This app is exactly what I've been looking for.  The app is a simple way to not only organize and catalog your classroom library, but keep track of your books.  Last year was my first year with AR and my classroom library grew a TON.  My kids loved reading books in every spare moment in class, but also begged me to take them home to read again and share with their families.  How can I say no to that?  In the beginning, I tried desperately to keep track of every book coming in and out of the classroom, but it became overwhelming and too time consuming.  By the middle of the year, I just stopped keeping track and was lucky that I had great kids with great families and got back nearly every single book.  Next year I plan on being much more organized and I think this app will do the trick!  It is made for iPhones but works just fine on my iPad.  Once I created an account, all I had to do was scan the barcodes of my books to add them to my library.  Some are already in the system and the rest just needed a title and author.  I could also type in the AR level which was great.  Once I get a class list, I'll add each of my students and can check-in/out my books by simply scanning them!  It's like I have a real library!  I may even make library cards for my kiddos :)  99 cents well worth it!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Super Snake Mini-Unit

It's the last week of school and we are wrapping up all those loose ends.  I am so excited that this summer I will be participating as a Fellow in the UCI writing project.  I've already gone to one meeting (orientation) and left spinning with inspiration and ideas.  As a part of the project, each teacher presents a lesson to the other Fellows.  My area of specialty in the classroom is technology (or so I like to think), so I took this week and last to run through my lesson and collect work samples to present this summer.  It was the perfect time to do a lesson because everything I've been throwing at my kids all year is finally coming together.  This lesson was so much fun and I know my kids loved it too.

First, we had to access our prior knowledge.  I gave each student a half sheet of paper.  I asked them to write/draw anything they knew about snakes.  Most kids drew pictures, some wrote words, and one even drew a bubble map!  The creative juices were flowing so much, I had to reset the timer several times to extend their writing/drawing time.  I expected 5 minutes, but we spent more like 15-20!

After the drawings, we came together on the carpet and used a circle map as 2/3 of a KWL (on the SMART board of course).  I used a different color for before and after.

We also wrote any questions we had as we went.  (They came up with some good ones!)

Next, we went to tag galaxy (very cool website that complies pictures based on tags and creates a 3D moving universe to see them!), watched a video I found, and looked at a PowerPoint presentation another Kinder teacher made.  After each exposure, we pair/shared about what we learned and added to our circle map.  We also revisited the questions we wrote to answer any we could.

Then we filled out our a tree map together, while the students wrote on their own.  Theirs had less lines in each column, which I asked them to fill with their favorite facts.

The next day we reviewed the circle map, questions, and tree map.  We looked at the unanswered questions and talked about how we could find the answers.  We decided to use Google (which we have some experience with already).  Once we found the answers, we added information to our maps and were ready to write.

We used a simple formula along with the tree map to create sentences together.  I modeled the first two, then asked for volunteers to write more.  After a few, I sent the kiddos to their seats with a blank sheet of paper.  I told them they could use any kind of thinking map that wanted to, to organize their favorite facts about snakes.  Once they had some ideas down, they could get a lined paper and start writing.

The next step was publishing online.  Students who finished their work (quality work including an illustration), they could go online and create a voki that would narrate their sentences.  They LOVED it.  I later posted the voki avatars on our class website.

(Press Play)

The final step was a quiz with 10 questions about snakes.  The questions were based on vocabulary that we learned throughout the unit.  We used responders to take the quiz (another fun gadget they love) and everyone did very well.  With the instant feedback I get from the program, I was able to address any vocabulary that needed review.

So many things for just a few days!  I love coming up with a lesson from a last minute inspiration, throwing together a bunch of new ideas, and seeing instant results!