Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New Position - How Will I Integrate Technology?

Unfortunately as with many districts, mine has eliminated my position as a K-8 Technology Teacher and Coach. Fortunately, I had the foresight to see that this was coming and returned to school to get my 1-8 Teaching License. My school was therefore able to move me into a middle school social studies position for next year. I am very excited about this opportunity for growth. I am also apprehensive because now it is time to "put my money where my mouth is" and incorporate technology into my class the way I have been demonstrating to our teachers.

How will I do this? First, a little background information on our school. We are going into our 4th year as a 1:1 school from 5th-8th grade. Our 6th (soon-to-be-7th) graders have Chromebooks, and if all goes well, next year's 6th graders will also, allowing for 1:1 in the 4th grade as well. This is awesome, when technology works. Our middle school students are starting to get tired of being required to use the technology that is not as fast as they would like, nor as reliable. Thus said, I am not going to require they use it 100% of the time. Instead, I plan on giving them lots of choices, including paper and pencil. 

My goal for myself is to use the technology for teaching, all the neat Web 2.0 sites and other websites I have been collecting. My soon-to-be-developed website will have all my resources that we use in class so that students can see examples of how I use technology with the hopes that they may want to try some of them out when given the choice. During class group work, I have some activities like backchanneling that will require technology, while others will not. The menu of choices I offer them will not require a particular product, but will give them the choice of how they want to demonstrate their learning. The key here is I am motivated to use technology, find it intriguing and want to challenge myself to use it. If the kids feel likewise fine, otherwise it will be their choice.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I found the following video and really liked it because it did a good job explaining how to "read" an analogy by determining the relationship between the sets of words. 

Here is the YouTube link.  

Additionally, I found some great poems written from analogies by a fifth grade class. Below are some analogy examples. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Research with Varied Reading Levels

Yesterday I received an email from a listserv that I belong to regarding the use of Slideshare for research. This email reminded me of some good advice I found reading through the Buck Institute's book PBL in the Elementary Grades. The book suggested using Power Points found online as resources for lower level readers. Of course you would want to preview these to be certain the information is correct and appropriate, but there are really a lot of good Power Points on the web to choose from. I did a quick search for Wisconsin invasive species in Slideshare and found one that was done by a UW Madison scientist which would have been an excellent resource for our third graders when they did their Invasive Species PBL last year. 

Some other ways to find websites that are easier to read include using the Advanced Search feature on Google. When doing a Google search, on the bottom, left side you can find "More Search Tools". When you click on that, you can select reading level. Sweet Search 4 Me is a search engine geared specifically for elementary students with every web site evaluated by their research experts.Twurdy is another search engine that rates its articles by reading level.Teaching students to "read" pictures can also provide them with some of the information they need.

In Wisconsin, your local library card will gain you access to Badgerlink, which includes the Elementary version of Encyclopedia Britannica. The articles in this encyclopedia are easier to read and also allow the viewer to listen to them. Some schools have direct access to Badgerlink when at school. Finally, check with your school's librarian to see what resources are available through your library catalog. Ours lets us search for both books and online material by reading level. Hopefully at least one of the above suggestions will help you support all reading levels in your classroom.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Choose Your Ending Story

Currently, I am working with a class of first graders to create a story that allows the reader to choose their own ending. We are beginning by creating a simple web of our story, something we have done before. The students need to web the beginning, middle and two possible endings to their story. Creating two endings to their story has caused many to stop and think. They are very capable of creating an ending, but creating two possibilities is a challenge which is why I started with the graphic organizer.

Once they finish their web correctly, they will open a Power Point I sent to them with the mechanics of the story already created (the links to each page) as it did not work as smoothly as I had anticipated. Detailed instructions for the Power Point can be found here.  My pre-made Power Point and a sample story can be found here. After we are finished, we will do a gallery walk so all the students can share their stories and pick their endings!

Collaborative Story Writing

In discussing our upcoming lesson plans, one of our first grade teachers had an idea for a collaborative story where each child wrote a page for a story and they were all combined to create the entire story. After discussing the best way to do this so that she could print it if she wanted to and also send it home to parents, we decided to use Power Point and Flipsnack. She emailed the students a three page Power Point that had the title page, beginning of the story and then a blank page. The students wrote and illustrated their page and saved it.

After all the students finished their page, she copied them all into one large Power Point. We have the ability to pull documents from student files, but if you did not, you could have the student email it back to you, or save it on a flash drive as you walk around the room. If your school has access to Google Docs, a single presentation could be created for all to create their page on.

Her original idea was to have the students rearrange the pages so the story made sense, but in this case she was able to leave them in random order. She only picked one page to precede the ending, which she created. For older students who may write more on a page, allowing them to go through the entire story and rearrange the pages to make sense would be a wonderful exercise. Once the story was completed, we saved it as a PDF and uploaded it to to look like a real book. The PDF could be printed as she wished, and the Flipsnack book link could be emailed home to parents. I was really impressed with how it turned out! You can view it here.

Fractured Fairy Tales

As we are working through our Fairy Tales Extension unit, some students are ready to move on and will be writing their own fractured fairy tale. A trip to our school library netted me quite a few examples of fractured fairy tales and here is the lesson the students will complete. Here are some student examples that I was able to find online.

As I was preparing my lesson, I realized that it would be difficult for the students to understand the different point of view change. This lesson that I found will help them prepare to think about points of view. I remember my own children writing some very creative fractured tales and I am looking forward to reading the stories my students write.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Creative Writing Prompts

Technology allows us to find so many creative writing prompts that we were previously unable to access. I especially love the ones that allow for student customization. One of our first grade teachers used just such a site yesterday by having his students make themselves into dancing leprechauns with this website. After creating their leprechaun, he showed them how to do a screen print, insert it into Word and then crop it. Each student then wrote about themselves as a leprechaun. What an engaging activity!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Fairy Tale Extension Project

As I work with our third grade team during our Response to Intervention time, I develop extension projects for the universal students. Currently, we are working on a Fairy Tale extension project. After showing a video of Little Red Riding Hood, the students used this website to read through and pick their favorite fairy tale that they would like to use for this project.
Once they pick a fairy tale that they like, they work through a list of activities at their own pace. While we are using computers, these activities could easily be done on paper depending on your access to technology. While I have a couple of collaborative activities, peer feedback can be included in almost all the activities.

Depending on time, I may add to this project and have them create their own fractured fairy tale as our last extension project had them writing a story about a character, their problem and solution. Writing fratured fairy tales would connect the two projects nicely.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Which One Appeals to You Most?

For our Digital Learning Day challenge to try something new, I decided to have my 8th grade students create a Voki and then share them with a high school Social Media class in another city whose teacher I had connected with through our Business Education List-serv. To create a little excitement, I offered it out as a contest to my students explaining that the high school class would pick the Voki that met the requirements and appealed to them the most.

We were just beginning our unit on Photo Editing and I like to begin that unit with a discussion on the ethics of editing a photo that results in altering the truth. In the past, I would have my students write an email to a co-worker explaining the possible outcomes and consequences of altering the truth through photo editing, and persuading them not to do it. Using a Voki to communicate this message seemed like an engaging, yet still practical way to accomplish the same purpose. 

The students had a great time using Voki. Although they were all over thirteen, could create their own account, and I had notified all the parents we were using this website, I found out that we did not need to have an account to create a Voki (although they still need to be over thirteen). Once the Vokis were created, I sent all the links to the other teacher. He did a great job of using a Google Form to have his students answer questions about the effectiveness of the Voki, and then choose their favorite. I did all my grading prior to receiving these comments as I only wanted the high schoolers to provide authentic feedback to my students - an opinion other than mine as to the effectiveness of their message. Additionally, I hoped that the topic we covered added to the high school student's awareness of the ethics involved with photo editing. 

My students were eager to find out what the high school students thought of their Vokis and who the winner was. It was a neat experience for me to connect with another teacher and bounce ideas off of him, and we ended up being able to share some great resources on ethics with each other. In the end, both classes of students and both teachers gained from this experience. 

What to do When You are Done

No matter what subject you teach, you will always have some students who finish before others. If they finish with only a short amount of time left in class, I usually have a filler activity, such as typing practice for younger and older students, and reading a book or finishing other homework for my middle school classes. However, there are times when a student will finish a whole class period before the rest of the class, and most importantly, they have met the quality requirements for the project. In this case, I want them to spend the next class period on something worthwhile that challenges them and is not just a filler. 

While discussing this with my administrators during my ILP meeting, I remembered an example of a Bingo card I had seen in another teacher's classroom. Since my ILP is about differentiation in my classroom, I committed myself to creating a choice card for my students to use when they complete a project early. Looking at my plans for the month, my second grade lesson would offer the opportunity for me to try this choice card out. I came up with sixteen choices of things to do based on what we had already learned throughout the year or things I felt they could do independently. Here is my example.

As I predicted, I had students finish a whole class period before the others and it was a great feeling for me to be able to have something meaningful for them to work on. At the same time, they were thrilled to be able to have the opportunity to chose something to do in class. While some of the tasks were a little easy for my third graders, I was able to use the same choice card with them. Overall, it was a win-win situation!

Our Elf Exchange

While this post is a bit late for talking about elves, the concept can be used with many other topics so I felt it still worthwhile to share. One of my first grade teachers wanted to do a collaborative, descriptive writing project similar to the Monster Exchange, but on a smaller scale. As it was the end of November, together we came up with the idea for doing an Elf Exchange during December. I contacted @shannonmmiller at Van Meter School in Iowa, who was very excited to be a part of this exchange and invited @mrshureads from Brook Forrest School in Illinois to participate as well.

The general idea was for each student to try and redraw another student's elf using their written description. We ended up with both  first grade and second grade classes participating in this project. It was a great lesson in descriptive writing as the students couldn't just tell us about their elf, but had to describe what the elf looked like. Beforehand, the teachers did a min-lesson in descriptive writing  to help the students know what to write. After posting their descriptions, the students were very excited to find out what the other student's posted on the Wiki, and at the end were very surprised to see what the original elves looked like! This was a very authentic and engaging lesson to teach the importance of accurate, descriptive writing.
We used a Wiki to organize our elves - each pair of students had their own page. The steps we followed were as follows: 
1. Draw your elf.
2. Looking at your drawing, write a detailed description of the elf.
3. Post only the description on your Wiki page.
4. After all schools had a chance to do #1-4, the student's returned to their wiki page.
5. Using the other student's description, draw their elf and post it on the Wiki.
6. After all schools had a chance to do #5, the students posted their original elves for comparison.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

Creating eBooks

One of my second grade teachers would like to have her students create eBooks to publish their country studies learning. She would also like to have them record themselves reading the story as they so enjoy using the website Tumblebooks where they can listen while they read. We brainstormed a bit and came up with the following ideas for both recording and not recording voice. Additionally, I showed her the options in this website which include having the students create a real eBook that can be read on portable reading devices. I hope this spurs some ideas in your classroom.

Create eBooks
1.       Use Power Point (our students are secure in this software)
a.       Show them different page layouts
b.      Clip art has many good pictures of both the country and general pictures
2.       From here, to create an eBook that you can listen to, see #3. To create an eBook that you just read, see #4
3.       Add voice
a.       Save the Power Point slides as .jpgs
b.      Insert them in Photo Story
c.       Have the students record themselves reading it (parent volunteer?)
d.      Save them as a wmv file
e.      Combine all the wmv files into Movie Maker to make one movie (or you can make multiple smaller ones)
f.        Upload this movie to the internet
4.       Without Voice
a.       Save the Power Point slides as .pdfs
b.      Upload them to Flipsnack
                                                               i.      You can keep them each separate and have 20 books
                                                             ii.      You can upload three at a time to create one Flipsnack, so that would be about seven for your class
                                                            iii.      Use a website to combine all of them into one .pdf to create one book

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Using Excel in Your Literacy Block

As I was discussing teaching our third graders graphing in Excel, one of the teachers mentioned that it is hard to fit it in the curriculum without contriving a situation since we are such a literacy based school. This got me thinking, and I came up with a few situations in which we could incorporate Excel meaningfully in our literacy blocks as a whole class and/or on an individual basis.

Good readers ask questions. As such, it would be fairly easy to collect data that we could graph around these questions. For example, if you are modeling a particular question during a group read aloud, students could brainstorm some possible answers. Once five or six answers are written down on the board or a flip chart, a quick survey could be done on the answers and summed up in Excel. The survey can either be done by hand, or if it is a question asked after reading, could be put into a Google Form and during independent reading time, students could come up to the computer and submit their answer.
The graph can be displayed once everyone has submitted their response and could continue to be displayed the next day at group read aloud time before reading as discussion, or during reading to see what the answer turns out to be. This would engage the students even further as they look at the graph, remember their choice and then pay attention during the reading to see what happens in the book. Depending on the age of the students, each day a different student or group of students can be in charge of creating the graph from the information provided.

Other examples include students voting for their favorite character, then discussing why a certain character won. Comprehension questions work well here, as do analysis questions that require students to brainstorm ideas/solutions. I found an excellent list of questions that are organized by Blooms Taxonomy and many of them would work well with a graph.

Ideas for Integrating Technology in Grades 1-3

For the past two years, I have worked with grades 1-3 as their Technology Teacher, but also helping the teachers integrate technology into their classrooms. Here is a list of some of these ideas that I hope spark some interest in your classroom!

Digital Learning Day 2012

Our school participated in Digital Learning Day this year to promote the integration of technology in the classroom. Two other teachers and myself began by developing a list of ideas as a springboard for the day.

We then created a Google Form where teachers could share the activities they did on this day, with a reflection of how it went and where it could be used again. I was very impressed with all the new ideas our teachers had!  A copy of the flyer and what we did can be found here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Strategies for Developing Independent Learners

If one were to Google "Developing Independent Learners", 2,450,000 results appear today, with the potential for even more in the future. Obviously this is an important topic in education and a goal of many schools. Since I teach computer classes, where the possible scenarios of what can happen on a computer are endless, I have found a couple of main areas that help my students become independent learners. One of our first grade teachers implements two of these strategies in his classroom and they are by far my most independent learners.

The first strategy is when a student asks a question, to respond back with "What have you already tried?" This strategy requires the student to problem solve as you are no longer going to quickly give them an answer. The second strategy is asking the students "Where can you find that answer?" By putting the responsibility back on them to find the answer, you have removed the cycle of the student always relying on the teacher for their learning. However, as a teacher, you need to make sure you have provided the students with the resources needed to find the answer. Possibilities include books, posters on the wall, directions on a piece of paper or the computer and other students. While I don't like to encourage too much reliance on other students as this shifts the responsibility off the student, it has been a proven resource. Diligent monitoring of the student's habits and timely intervention helps curb too much reliance on others. 

As a teacher, I also need to have routines in place so that students know what to do in certain situations (when they are done, when they are waiting for me) so that they stay focused on what they are doing.These strategies work in any grade. In my 8th grade class, the students don't like it, but I always ask them if they have read the directions when they ask me how to do something. If they have and are still confused, I follow up with "What have you tried so far?" and they we walk through it together. When they are done, I ask them what they should do and redirect them if needed. There are many other well-thought strategies to developing independent learners, but these are some of my go-tos.

Work at Your Own Pace

My middle school classes are structured so that I see them once every four days. Keeping every student synchronized on the same activity is a challenge. Since I don't mind students working on different things at the same time, I decided to reread a website and book that really opened my eyes to doing things differently in the classroom, Layered Curriculum, by Kathie Nunley and implement some of her ideas. I had worked with this concept years ago on some selected activities, but now I decided to apply it to an entire unit.

My lessons always begin with the basic information and skills needed for our topic. From there, I assessed what the students really needed to know and then added activities and projects that worked their way up the Bloom's Taxonomy scale. Once I had done that, I looked over all the components again to determine what I felt all students needed to complete, which was everything except a final project. Additionally, if some students complete that before the rest of the class finishes the basic assignments, I am prepared for them to develop an independent course of study. 
 The entire unit is posted on Moodle so that as students complete one item, they move right on to the next. Each morning, I go through my log sheet and meet with small groups of students to instruct them on what they need for that day, having three to four groups come up. I am able to provide smaller, more individualized instruction and the students are more focused because they know this is their task for the day. I make sure that I stay on top of my grading so that they receive timely feedback, and can look in their online gradebook to see what assignment they should be working on next. If needed, I will also have students redo assignments that were below average.

For the final project, the students will have a choice of an "A grade" project, a "B grade" project and a "C grade" project. If they don't have enough time in class to finish the "A grade" they may still do it, but as homework. This is still a work in progress, and it is taking some adjustment for the students to pay attention to where they are at on their own instead of me telling them what to do. However, I feel like I am meeting the needs of the students better to reach them where they are at now, instead of treating them as one large group.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Flipping a 6th Grade Math Class

My student teaching experience was an excellent experience for me as it afforded me the opportunity to work with a great teacher @jgbluedevil as we strived to provide the best possible learning opportunities for a group of struggling math learners. From the beginning, we collaborated on ideas to help the students and from there we laid the framework for a flipped classroom. The concept behind a flipped classroom is that the students watch an instructional video for homework and class time is spent on what would be traditionally considered homework. This allows for the teacher to spend class time working with the students instead of doing whole group instruction. This website is a great resource for information on teaching with a flipped classroom.

To begin with, we quit demonstrating problems from the workbook as the students would tend to tune us out and continue with other workbook problems, and we switched to notetaking. This is a process you need to teach the students, both how to take notes (write down steps with examples, not just random math problems all over your page) and then how to use the notes (leave them open on your desk as you do your math workbook). Using, I created a website where I posted these notes  along with links to online manipulatives, videos and also surveys for formative assessment. That way, if a student forgot to bring their notebook home or didn't understand their notes, they could access them at home. Additionally, the online manipulatives and videos provided extra reinforcement for the day's lesson.

Once we had established a routine of notetaking and helped the students become secure in using the notes, I created a screencast for one lesson. To scaffold the experience of a flipped classroom, we began on a day the students took a quiz. As they finished the quiz, they were to go to the website and watch the screencast video, then do two pages of their workbook. The video I created was also scaffolded to help them with the experience as I talked them through how to learn from a video. I told them when to stop and write something down and when to stop and do a practice problem. Students worked on this in class and then continued it at home. 

The next day, we corrected homework and all students who scored 80% or above on their homework worked independently to complete the remaining workbook pages in the lesson. The other students met with me for re-teaching. It turned out that over half of the students I met with were secure in the day's lesson, but had forgotten to simplify their fractions. The other half needed anywhere from five to fifteen minutes of individual teaching to become secure in the lesson. As they became secure, they independently worked on the remainder of their homework.

About a week after this experience, I surveyed the students about notetaking, notes posted on the website and the video lesson. The majority of the students felt it beneficial to have the notes posted online and half felt the video lesson was preferable to a lecture. Unfortunately, our school technology systems did not support the continuation of the flipped lesson. We had many difficulties finding a way to host the video in a manner that the students could consistently view it without errors occurring. Despite those problems, which we continue to work through, the students and I felt the lesson a success and one I would definitely continue to use.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Technology Curriculum Map

When asked about my curriculum for K-3, and 7th/8th tech classes, I guess I do a month by month pacing guide. Last year for my K-3 classes, I listed all my possible units and then tried to put them in a logical order for the year. For example, September starts with internet safety/navigation/email. Then October is graphic organizers which leads into November's word processing. We then work with pictures in December, slide shows in January, spreadsheets in February (fits in with the 100th day of school), desktop publishing in March, digital stories in April and then May is "use your toolbox" choices. Every grade does that same unit, but I add more difficulty as we move up the grades. This allows us to bring in different tools, for example the younger grades focus heavily on Microsoft Office, but higher grades could add in different software and Web 2.0 if possible. I am loosely following this pattern this year, but some of the order is changing as I work more closely with what the teachers want to do in their classrooms.

Here you can find our district guidelines, aligned with the ISTE standards. I currently teach K-3 according to the spiraling plan I mentioned in my comments above and that is the document titled Primary Tech Plan.  I also teach 7th and 8th grade, and we are focusing a lot on self creation in these areas rather than always relying on using the internet for pictures.

I have not included the specific projects because they change year to year depending on the teacher's requests. On this blog, I am trying to post as many projects as I can which will hopefully spark ideas in your classroom. 

For more great ideas, here, here, and here are plans from other school districts, and here is a great Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) illustrating technology integration to enhance learning.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Vote with Your Feet

 How often do we offer students choices? When I plan a lesson, there are some things the students "need to know" and then there are areas where I am very comfortable offering choices. Today I read a great blog post about letting students vote with their feet. Often we feel like we have come up with some really great ideas, when in reality, the students have no interest in them. 

While I have almost always offered some individualization of products in my class, and I am getting much better at offering different ways at obtaining the content (the process part of differentiation), I am still working on offering choices in content. I have no trouble with different students working on different things at the same time, so my next goal is to differentiate the content a little bit more and when possible, letting them choose which content they would like to learn more about. In the meantime, I will continue to try to hold true to letting the student's voice be an integral part of my classroom.

Create a Story with QR Codes

During my 8th grade advertising unit, I wanted to incorporate QR codes. Always trying to avoid a lecture, and also always trying to include hands-on application, I created the following lesson with the end product being a story using QR codes. Here is my story, with details on the lesson at the end of this post. 

The students really enjoyed pulling out their phones and iPods (We are a BYOD school) to read QR codes that they found online and that they made. Of course they started out making silly ones, but then they also created some unique stories. The first limitation we had was that the more common QR code generators like Kaywa limit you to 250 characters, about two sentences per code. Then I found Delivr which allows 1500 characters. 

Our art teacher had the students use Delivr to do their author biographies and our gym teacher is planning on using QR codes to post instructional videos at each station. There are many curricular uses including creating notes and links to study for a science test, explaining how to solve a math problem and assembling a timeline for an event in history using text, links to pictures and links to videos. Since they are essentially a picture that can be saved, they can be posted in blogs, on Edmodo and Moodle, and as I did shared via many Web 2.0 tools. 

I tend to follow Bloom's Taxonomy when creating a lesson, so I began this lesson with the students doing individual research, replying to these questions with details in their own words: 

1. What is a QR Code?
2. Where are they found?
3. How are they used in advertising?
4. Compare/contrast them to a regular magazine ad or posted sign
5. Convince our principals that there are many helpful ways they can be used in the classroom (by students and teachers)
6. With a partner, learn how to create a QR code and use them to create a story. The story needs to have ten QR codes, seven with text and three of them being links to pictures. I also offered the option to work alone and only create seven codes, two of which were pictures.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Using SmartNotebook Software

If you have a SMART Board in your school, you should be able to download the SMART Notebook software to all your school computers. This software offers some really neat opportunities for students to create a variety of products. It is a very versatile tool for integrating technology in the classroom. Our middle school students routinely use the software to create review games in Science and Spanish classes. With the linking feature, it is possible to make Jeopardy games and board games.

As I mentioned in a prior post, our first graders created their own Gingerbread Man stories with it. In another post, I discussed how they created new endings to a comic book. This year, they will take that a step further to create comic strips. When the SMART Notebook file is printed out horizontally in handout form it looks just like a comic strip. 

Since the SMART Notebook file can be exported as a JPEGs, students can use the tool bar to help explain math problems, language arts concepts and science theories, export the page and post them to their blog. Here is a great math challenge file for first graders. We talked about all the different tools that students can use in this software to help them solve the problems, then gave each student their own copy of the file to work on independently.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Making Trading Cards in Power Point

Finding new uses for everyday technology is really exciting to me. One day I thought of using Power Point to create trading cards. Each student would create on slide in Power Point about a concept they were learning in class. This concept could be anything from a math problem to their science curriculum. As long as each student in the class creates a slide with different information, any curricular content area will work. The student duplicates the slide until there are six slides which are then printed in handout form.
Finally each student cuts up their slides and starts trading. The object is to come away with six different slides that can be used to reinforce learning in that area. I am currently working with our third grade teachers to create trading cards about the inventions in America around the turn of the century. The twist is that their six cards will represent the six layers of Bloom's Taxonomy. Students will still cut them up and trade them, but they will now be exposed to a wide variety of thoughts surrounding theses inventions.  Here is our outline.

Teaching Cardinal Directions Using Power Point

Usually, when I work with teachers and mention Power Point, they immediately think of creating a presentation slide show about something. They think final product, instead of thinking tool. So I was really happy to help my second grade teachers use Power Point as a tool to help teach cardinal directions. The students were charged with writing steps to decorate a Christmas tree. The twist was that they had to give directional instructions, such as place the bell southeast of the red ornament. Of course we threw in the fun aspects of Power Point (animations and backgrounds) which is always engaging for students. 

I sent them the first two pages, and they duplicated the second slide each time they added a decoration. Another variation on this activity that is not holiday related is to give directions describing where things are on the playground.  Both files can be downloaded here.

Worksheet Alternative to Teaching Character Traits

One of our third grade classes was working on Character Traits. Each student was given a few traits and were to find the definition. To reinforce learning, and learn the tech skill of saving pictures from the internet, the students had to locate pictures that helped describe their trait. Using the safe image websites of and, the students proceeded to find and save pictures, and then insert them in a Word document with explanatory sentences.

They soon found out that not all traits are easily described by a picture, and it took some imaginative thinking to find a picture to match. This activity really supported some higher level thinking that helped build mastery learning, more so than a worksheet would have.

Gingerbread Man - Fractured Fairy Tale

For two years now, I have worked with our first grade students to create a fractured fairy tale of the Gingerbread Man story. After reading a few versions of the Gingerbread Man, the students pick one of the three gingerbread men I send them and decorate him/her with clothes in Kidspiration. Then they find three characters to chase him again using the clip art in Kidspiration. Finally, the use SmartNotebook to create their story. 

With a title page, narrative text, unique characters and hand drawn scenery, the students create a wonderful masterpiece! This project offers so much creativity, freedom of choice and personalization that they thoroughly enjoy it and are excited to work on it every day.