Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Acrostic Poems and Rebus Stories

In the computer lab this past month, my second grade classes published their November/Thankful acrostic poems. The teachers worked with the students in their classrooms to write the poem and then we used Microsoft Word to publish it. One teacher had the great suggestion of using a table in Word to help align the three parts of the poem: The large letter, the phrases and the pictures to go with it. The technical skills used were inserting a table of the correct dimensions, changing the font size and style, inserting clip art, removing the table borders and adding a page border. As you can see below, they turned out really nice!

One of my teaching goals this year to is have differentiated activities at the end of each unit so the students have something meaningful to do when they are done. I had two choices for students who finished their poem before others did. They could either make a new table and compose an acrostic poem of their own name, or they could write a story about a topic of their choice. I found that as long as I reviewed how to insert a table, many chose that option. Just as many chose to write a story of their own. 

A couple of second grade classes needed an extra day in the lab to finish all the student's poems, so I went one step further and taught the students how to create a rebus story. This used the tech skills of center and left alignment, changing the font size and style, insert and resizing clip art and copy/paste as we reused pictures in our story. Their results after just one class were terrific and shown below. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sharing Our Birds

Our first grade classes study all different categories of animals from birds to mammals, reptiles and fish. Many classes actually create their own animal to go along with their learning. Last year and again this year, I worked with one teacher to turn their collection into a movie.

Depending on time and resources, you can have the students take the picture or you can take them. I then put all the pictures into one Photo Story and had each student narrate information on their bird. It was challenging to have them say the word "ornithologist" and despite practice, many read right off their note sheet instead of talking in sentences, but they all enjoyed seeing their creations in a movie! This movie is posted on the teacher's website for parents to see. In fact, she left last year's movie online so this year's parents could get some ideas for helping their child create the bird at home. Enjoy!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Create Greeting Cards from Student Art

One day I was walking down the hallway in our school and saw the student's artwork on the wall. Nothing unusual about that - except this time their unique cupcake designs inspired me to action! At another school I had worked at, we took the student's artwork and created greeting cards. Since we had some fundraising money to spend, we gave the greeting cards to a local nursing home for their residents to use. Not having that same money this year, I instead came up with the idea of selling the cards for a nominal profit at our Holiday Extravaganza.

After explaining my idea to the art teacher, who enthusiastically agreed, we approached our PTO to see if they would be willing to pay for the initial printing. They were and suggested that our profits fund the art department. The art teacher and I picked the top ten creations, took a picture of each and then created greetings for the inside of the cards (saved as jpg images). After picking them up from the printer, I have been proudly showing off how professional our 7th grade artwork now looks!  If funding is an issue, an alternative is to print just a few sets and take orders from parents and staff using flyers and/or website announcements.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Animations in Power Point & Google Presentations

My students have always enjoyed creating animations with Microsoft Power Point. They have terrific curriculum applications as well such as  explaining science concepts like cells dividing, or in language arts recreating a scene or new ending to a story, and in social studies recreating history. When I started doing animations five years ago, my first lesson was to have them animate the phases of the moon and effect on tide patterns.

I happened to see an animation done with Google Presentation also that is pretty incredible and will be trying that with my 7th graders soon. When I share this idea with other teachers, they always ask for the directions. Below are the nitty gritty directions and student examples for three versions of animations.(And I just discovered that Power Point 2010 allows you to save these as WMV files if you go to the Send/Share option under the File tab.)

Clip Art Animations:
1. Open Power Point and change your layout to a blank slide.
2. Add clip art in their beginning position.  
3. Insert a duplicate slide. There are a few ways to do this: Insert Slide/Duplicate Slide; Right click on the slide from your slide list on the left side of the screen; Click on the slide from your slide list on the left side of the screen and use Control D; or add the icon to your Quick Access Toolbar at the top of the page by right clicking on that toolbar.
4. Move the clip art slightly, using the arrow keys is a good way to do this
8. Repeat 7 & 8 multiple times to tell your story.
9. Set transition timing: animations tab/advance slide/automatically after 00:00.3/apply to all
10. Watch your animation

One Page Animations
Here is a video explaining it: 

Stick Figure Animations
1.Create your stick figure(s) using autoshapes (insert/shapes) (You can copy and paste lines)
2. Create double jointed arms and legs by using two lines
3. Group all lines together (highlight all, right click on the face/group/group)
4. Add a background and send it to the back
5. Insert a duplicate slide (see directions above) and move your person
6. Then double click on piece of the body you want to move and move that part
7. Repeat instructions five and six over and over
8. Set your transition timing so that it plays on its own (00:00.1 or .3)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Authentic Internet Safety Lessons

Starting out the year with lessons on internet safety is usually a good thing. As we use the internet more and more in our classrooms, it is important to discuss how to stay safe, not be a cyberbully and what digital citizenship means. Last year I spent two class periods on this with my third grade students. They watched a video and created a poster. This year we actually practiced internet safety and cyberbullying in grades one, two and three for almost an entire month. This real life application is what cements learning, not a video and poster.

All five first grade classes set up blogs this year with Last year, only two teachers used them in the second half of the year and they were instrumental in bringing the entire first grade on board. We started by learning how to comment appropriately and substantively. We replied to a blog post from another classroom in another state and practiced being positive and writing something worthwhile. No more "Cool!" or "Good job dude!" comments were allowed as we stressed the importance of meaningful replies. They then commented on their teacher's post for individual practice. During the following weeks we learned how to write our own posts, comment on each others and finally add pictures from safe picture websites. I really like and Both have safe pictures for young students and fall under creative commons licenses. The blogs are currently set as private to only those who can log in (the students and teacher).

Our second graders took a big step in learning to use a Wiki as I wrote about in my last post. The internet safety skills learned included finding safe pictures from the internet, using an online account, not altering others work that is on the same page as theirs (they really wanted to correct things!) and not using full names on the internet. The wiki is set as private (a nice feature of so that we can learn in a safe environment.

Finally, our third graders learned to use email appropriately by sending one to their teacher and myself telling us what they learned about internet safety so far. They also learned to use an online account, our school Moodle account. In there, we practiced doing a forum, which is where the students answer my question, and then can comment on each others. This offered us the opportunity to learn substantive, positive comments that add value, along with discussing cyberbullying. They also posted a piece of writing and experienced the joy of sharing their work with each other. One of our lessons that provided additional comments even the next day, was showing them the internet site for the city of Mankato. A very real looking, but almost completely false, website. They couldn't believe it was fake and it provides a great lesson on not believing everything you see on the internet, helping you stay safe.

Looking at all the authentic experiences the students had to practice internet safety and digital citizenship this year, I feel they understand it much better than last year's video and poster. As they continue to use blogs, wikis and Moodle throughout the year, these lessons will be reinforced over and over again until they hopefully become habits. Wouldn't that be nice!

Digital Stories on the iPad

Yesterday I had the chance to work with our thrid grade students as they created a digital story about bats on their iPads. We used the app StoryKit to create our book and also used the FotoFarm app to find pictures. The students were able to spread out around the room and hallway as they used the iPads. Research on bats had been done prior to this time so that they were ready to create their stories. All students were happily engaged in creating a book about bats!

The Storykit app allows you to write text, draw pictures, add saved photographs and record your voice, all of which can be moved around the page in an endless number of combinations. The students had not used this app before, but were very quick in figuring it out and troubleshooting it. The only big problem we had was that some students created a new book instead of a new page when they were done with their first page, and we were not able to combine books so they had to start their pages over. Not once were they upset about losing their pages, instead they took it in stride and created a new one. In addition to being completely engaged in their task, I saw an endless variety of books - no two were the same.