Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mentor Text Linky - Social Studies

School is about to start! We begin our year with geographyskills, so I thought this book and activity would be perfect for this week's linky with Collaboration Cuties!

I will be the first to admit, I am directionally challenged! This is the book for me! 
Thank goodness for GPS in my car!
"Maps and globes can take you anywhere -- to the top of the tallest mountain on earth or the bottom of the deepest ocean. Maps tell you about the world: where various countries are located, where the jungles and deserts are, even how to find your way around your own hometown. If you take a fancy to any place on earth, you can go there today and still be home in time for dinner. So open a map, spin a globe. The wide world awaits you." Amazon
At the fifth grade level, in geography, one of our standard is to apply geographic tools, including grid systems, legends, symbols, scales and compass roses to construct maps. 

This is usually one of our first few weeks of school activities...

Their task is to create an island that includes the various things we have been studying... compass rose, map key, landforms, and scale. Their island must have a theme based on something they like to do, eat or read. I leave the theme pretty open, as long as it has a connection to the student. (I must approve all island themes!)

Click on either one of the grid maps to download a free copy of the "Design an Island" sheet. 
I love to see all the islands that are created! Their personalities really shine through in their design.  

As students are working on their island, I have them start thinking about the story behind their island. How and when was it discovered?
What is the climate like on the island?
What kind of plant/animal life will be find on the island?
Once students are finished with their map, I have students create a newspaper article about their new discovery. Using, students can create a newspaper article using the generator. (I think I've shared this site before.) Students can write as little or as much as they would like for their article.
Print the article and hang with the map...makes for a fabulous bulletin board!

I hold on to their finished products so we can revisit the maps for creating questions related to ordered pairs using the coordinate grid.

Before I head off to check out all the other mentor texts . . . a little something for Amanda!
Happy Birthday!

Have a wonderful Sunday! Head over and check out all the other social studies mentor texts!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Building Relationships with Parents

As a parent, there is nothing more frustrating than asking your child, "How was your day?" and getting the response, "Fine/Good/OK/Fun."
About 5 years ago, I attended a professional development session, honestly, I don't remember what it was about... what I do remember is that the presenter said that question was a conversation killer. You need to ask your child, 
"What did you see today?"
"What did you hear today?"

Brilliant! Perfect! My child is in kinder, I soooo need this!

That worked up until about 2nd grade. Then, I got "Mooooom!" 
Then, it became, "Seriously?"

Question...What did I want as a parent?
If only I knew what to say to my daughter to jump start the conversation, which I did, sort of, through newsletters, but kinda didn't.  And, I'm and educator! Newsletters didn't really help me start an engaging conversation with my daughter and my daughter is a talker. I just didn't know how to ask the right questions! A huge long multi-paragraph newsletter doesn't work for me. I'll skim reader it.

Introducing...Our Week in Review-Quick Phrases! Instead of a newsletter!
This was our very first week of school. 
My objective was to create short phrases that highlighted things done during our week. They were starting points for parents. A way for parents to start a conversation or a way to ask questions.
"Tell me about Gotcha!"
"What 2 truths and a Whooper did you share?"
"Wow, metacognition is a big word! What does it mean?"

I tried to include every subject area and event. That week, we ran our news center and went on a field trip. 
I'd like to say I was consistent in doing this, but shamefully, I was not. Huge regret, due to the parent response.

During "Meet the Teacher" while students are roaming around the room,  I have parents fill out this form. It's a bit of quick information before the first day of school! Click on the graphic if you would like a copy. Sorry, it doesn't have the cute border in Google Docs. 
Building relationships continues with Remind 101. I highly recommend! It's FREE!!!

Another huge parent communication resource!
This was also went home during "Meet the Teacher" so parents could set up the quick communication tool.
I used it for reminders such as...field trips, tests, reports due, progress reports, sign a permission slip, and my favorite...
"Ask your child about..." or "We got a compliment from the sub/another teacher today!"
The weekend before school, I sent a "Looking forward to a great year!" text to all that had completed the information.
Click on the Remind 101 letter if you would like a copy. You will have to hand write in the information.

Finally, I send parents a link to a Google Form. Parents that don't have Internet, get a hard copy! I LOVE Google Forms! Side note: Did you know you can now add graphics to Google Forms?!!! Once I have all the information, I download the spreadsheet and add it to my "Student Info" binder.
I hope you find these things useful for building relationships with parents. Would love to hear some of the things that you do to build relationships with parents at the beginning of the year.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Several weeks ago, I attended a technology "unconference" that was so fabulous! 
The sponsors  had some unbelievable prizes! 
3 out of the 4 of us that attended, won a prize! I was fortunate to win a site license for the website...

I was super excited! I have used several of their free videos to motivate my students. 

There are a wide variety of video topics. 

The class favorite..."Five Elements of a Story."
You have to watch it! Completely gets stuck in your head, which is what we want for our students, a concept to get stuck in their head!

With each video, there are a variety of resources. The science and math look a bit different than the language arts resources.

Unfortunately, this site is not free. There are several free videos, you just need to search for them.
There is a free trial for 14 days. You can check the pricing and planning on the site. This is a great resource that is motivating and engaging. Check around for a grant that might help fund the site for your school.

P.S. You might be curious about the other 2 teacher won a premium educational subscription to Glogster - super cool! Love this site! They do have an educational free version.

The other teacher won an educational subscription to Voki for one year. Super fun!

We were one lucky group!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Science Mentor Text, Loupes and ProScopes

Happy Sunday everyone! Sunday means Stacia and Amanda over at Collaboration Cuties are having their fabulous mentor text linky. This time... science! (This is my day of crazy pinning of all the great books that teachers share!)

There are so many great books for science, but this one is perfect for the beginning of the school year to introduce science tools. It is also great for a conversation about making observations.

This book is full of detailed photographs of common objects. It introduces the concept of perspective and scale. Each object is photographed in unbelievable color from 3 different perspectives. On picture is of a leaves on a tree against the sky; next to that is a closer view of one leafy branch; opposite is a big, full page microscopic view of a small piece of a leaf. 16 fairly common objects are enlarged twice to show details that cannot be seen by the naked eye.
Friendly warning: Proceed with caution when using the phrase, "naked eye" with your students. They will probably not hear anything you will have said from that point on, except the fact that you just said naked! Hee-hee!

This is a great book to use when introducing science tools. I ask students how the author was able to capture these pictures.  The discussion begins!

I put together tubs of various items. We start off exploring with one tool at a time.
Day 1: Using a magnifying glass

Day 2: Using loupes/Private Eyes. Loupes are the tool jewelers use when analyzing gem stones. We talk about the correct way to use them and then cleaning the loupes after we are finished.

 Day 3: ProScopes! Students love these! They are attached to the computer through a USB plug. Our team wrote a grant for a several ProScopes. I'm so excited to see that they are now wireless and can be used with iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches.

The first thing student use the ProScope for is to see their skin....then, their hair...and finally, if they have a willing participant, inside the ear! It really is kind of disgusting, but cool!

Once students are comfortable using the tools, I use the book and tools as one of our literacy station. 
I set out a tub of new items and have students complete the observation sheet. 
The great thing about the ProScopes, is that it has video capability as well as the capability to capture a picture. I have had my students create a Guess the Object-2 slide presentation with PowerPoint. 
(Picture of the up close item, some descriptive words and finally the answer on the next slide.) 
I combine all the slides for one presentation.

 Here is a picture of the sheet that I put at the station. It really helps if you draw an example so students can see what is expected in the circle.

I revived it a bit and created these sheets to go with the book. 
You are more than welcome to download it. Click on the picture for a free copy.

Found this cute site that will allow you to guess the mystery picture. Click on the picture to take you to the link.

Head over to Collaboration Cuties to check out all the other fabulous mentor texts related to science!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tune into Technology - Class Websites

This week at Tune into Technology with Learning to the Core and iTeach 1:1 is all about classroom pages. This is kind of a bitter sweet post! As I move from a classroom teacher to an instructional technology specialist, my class website will disappear or hopefully at least be hidden. This has been years in the making.

My district provides a website for the teachers.  I use (used) it for everything!
QR code on the main page introducing students to our class page (As soon as class lists go out, parents head to the teacher's class page!)
Before school starts activities (digital sticky note question, Stickman, FAQs)
Homework for the week
Websites for the week
Student products
Frequently Asked Questions
Project directions/rubrics
Google Forms for spelling assignments

Welcome to the...
Just some random information about what you see on my page...
Students created an avatar that wold be be the main character for a story students wrote. I posted tons of great sites on our class page for creating an avatar.
Google docs data input - apple properties

I also use Portaportal (My students called it portapotty.) for learning links. I have been collecting sites for yeeeeeaaaaaars! I even have my 3rd grade links still on the site. You are more than welcome to visit my portapotty...oops, I mean portaportal! Guest Access: cdolat
It is not as cute as Draggo, but does the job! 

Most of our class website if for posting student work.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

No Part 2 AR post yet...Instagram with a 10 year old

I mentioned that I would post part 2 of Augmented Reality, but I didn't get around to it.

  • Reason #1: 3 miles on the treadmill at an incline of 11! Not bad!
  • Reason #2: Tutored
  • Reason #3: Met with my fabulous (sniff-sniff, drop a tear or several) former grade level for lunch. Love that group!
  • Reason #4: Shopping for the numerous things my daughter needs for her "Week long...first contact with her mother... know she's going to have a great time...Girl Scout camp!" (Insert, my only child!)
  • Reason #5: "Mom, I want to start an Instagram account."


The inner struggle in me starts...the educator vs. the mom!

Mother:  Do you understand the responsibility that comes with this account?
Daughter: All my friends have an account.
Mother:  If all your friends jumped off a bridge would you do that too? Ok, I didn't say that!
Mother: I understand, but with this, comes a great deal of responsibility.
Daughter: I know mom! (insert eye roll) (Did she really just do that?)
Mother: Ok, but we are going to talk "house rules" of Instagram!

  • You are not to use your full name! ( I helped her set up her account.) 
  • Your profile picture is not to be an actual picture of yourself.
  • You must have the account locked down! (Helped her do this.) You must accept requests from followers and you MUST know who they are through a text or phone call! NO random requests!
  • Do not give out personal information. 
Daughter: Why mom if it is locked? (Ok, good question I must admit but darn-it...I watch enough Criminal Minds!)

Mother: (Deep breath...we've had this talk before!) There are REALLY bad people out there called pedophiles (Yes, I threw that word out there!). They do VERY bad things to kids. They act like they are your friend. If someone asks for your address, phone number, school name or anything personal, you will say, "I'm sorry that is personal information! If you know me, you will already know that information!"
Daughter: Ok, mom.

Rules continue...
  • Do not mention/post pictures of where you are at a specific time...only after the fact. (No photo map allowed.)
  • You must accept your mother as a follower!

Daughter: Ok, mom.
Mother: Have you heard of a digital footprint?
Daughter: No.
Mother: No matter what you post, picture or words, it is forever out in the world even if you delete it.
Daughter: Huh?
Mother: Remember, when the counselor did a lesson about saying things that sometimes we regret? She used the toothpaste as an example for words we say. Once you say it (post words/pictures) no matter how hard you try, the toothpaste won't go back in the tube? Same with the Internet...once out there...forever out there! It's called your digital footprint.
Daughter: Oh, I remember.

From that point on, we went to work on her account.

When my daughter wakes up in the morning she is going to sign this contract. The lines out to the side are for her initials.
I'm going to insert the fact that there is no mention of talking/posting negatively about others on this contract. You have to understand, this contract is made for my daughter, who happens to still love American Girl dolls, puppies and rainbows. She cries when there is conflict among her friends and tries to be the peace keeper. She will not use the word hate and gets upset when people use the "c" word...crap. Sheltered? Maybe...and I'm ok with that!

You are more than welcome to a copy of the contract.
Click on the contract for a copy.

Further discovery...Instagram states that it is not for children 13 and under. At no time, did it ask her age! Did I miss something?

All of this leads me to...Digital Citizenship! 
What does your school do for digital citizenship? Do you have a curriculum that you follow? 

Common Sense and just found Socially Active for info on Instagram.

Did I help my daughter add some really fun apps that I use for Instagram? Yep!
In about 10 minutes did she become more creative than her mother with photos? Yep!

What tonight really was about was having an open discussion with my child. The fact that she came to me first before creating her own account. It was about open dialogue between the 2 of us.

Will I follow up in the morning? Yep. Will I monitor her account? Yep. Not because I don't trust her, but because she is 10.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

An UNconference and Augmented Reality Part 1

Not the most enticing title to make you want to read, but I promise, it is worth it!
Yesterday, I attended a technology "UNconference" called Edcampsa. This was right up there with attending ISTE! Only, all in one day! Tons of ideas and fabulous networking with other educators.
An UNconference is where you show up with no sessions planned! Crazy, right? It is a facilitated, participant driven conference centered on a theme. This theme being - technology. The participants plan the whole thing, with the help of the hosts. It was amazing to watch the whole conference develop before our eyes. You can click on this link for a great video about an UNconference. Many thanks to Dr. Roland Rios from Cyber Cafe and Miguel Guhlin from Around the Corner for helping pull this whole thing together, as well as the other hosts. Fabulous prizes by fabulous sponsors! Soon, I'll post on my win!

Augmented reality was my sticky note. I was so glad others were interested in learning more about augmented reality. I had only dabbled with it, never really dove into learning about AR in the classroom.

Here is what the final schedule looked like after some tweaking. Guess what was the first session?!!

What is augmented reality? Does it sound strange and difficult? Sorta, but it is so much fun
It is a technology that overlays digital information on top of real-world surroundings viewed through a smart phone or handheld device. Ok, so maybe the definition sounds a bit much. I promise it's not.

First, is the super cool, ZooBurst
ZooBust is a digital storytelling site that allows you to create 3-D books. They will even float around on your screen! Yes, I said, float around on your screen! Super fun!

Free: Access to their clipart gallery, upload your own jpg or png, hyperlink, embed book in websites, support for non English character sets...
Downside-only able to create 10 books.

iPad app available. With the ZooBurst iPad app you can also “scan” for special “Story Codes” that let you easily attach a ZooBurst book onto any physical item, such as a class bulletin board, parent newsletter or a printed textbook.

Premium Account: $49 for a year and 250 student accounts, access to audio, and create "story codes" that let you attach your books to physical objects and view them on your iPad or computer. (I might have bought this! In my new position, I'm thinking that I might use these as teacher give-aways!)

I showed my daughter, she's 10 years old, and let her explore the site.  Here is the book she created! Cool part, it is password protected! Click on the book and then type in hawk5 to see the book. Spin the book, click on the graphics to see what she wrote, tilt the book, and enjoy!
It is pretty simple to use. The only thing I showed my daughter was how to create the hyperlink.

Here is the really coooooool part!!!!!!

If you have an iPad, you will need to download the app, go to the story, click on camera and hold the iPad up to the ZB code below. Watch the story float around on your screen!!!

You can even print this ZB code, post it somewhere in your classroom and allow students to scan it. 
You can also print the code and hold it up to a desktop camera. Unfortunately, the ZB code comes with the premium account.

Should look like this!
Yep, that's the book floating around on my iPad!

Ways to use Zooburst...
  • describe a math process
  • how I spent my summer vacation story
  • all about me story
  • pictures of the classroom
  • book trailer
  • describe the scientific method
  • science safety
  • cause and effect scenarios
The ideas are limitless!

I found a very informative You Tube video that walks you through creating a Zooburst 3-D story!

Happy creating!
Check back tomorrow for another way to create augmented reality with your students.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Fly on the Ceiling ~~ Math Mentor Text

 (I know...not one word!)
 The theme for this week is math. Stacia and Amanda over at Collaboration Cuties host this great linky each week. I get so many great ideas and books from this linky that sometimes it's overwhelming. In a good way! Pinterest, is my best friend, for keeping all these ideas and books organized in a central location.

 It was hard to pick just one math mentor text! I finally decided on, The Fly on the Ceiling.

Amazon~ "Recognized as the father of analytic geometry, René Descartes was a French mathematician and philosopher. Kids will love this funny and very accessible tale - based on one of math's greatest myths - about the man who popularized the Cartesian system of coordinates.  
This is a story about how the very messy French philosopher, Renâe Descartes, invented an ingenious way to keep track of his possessions"

This is a great book to introduce the attributes of the coordinate plane and graphing ordered pairs. 
It is a cute story about the messy philosopher and how he solves his messy problem.
(At the end of the book, the author does say that the story is more than likely not true, but Renae did solve a problem and create the Cartesian system of coordinates.)

After I read the book and we talk vocabulary. We start our treasure hunt. I give students a map of an island. We work through the PowerPoint reading scenarios and finding various treasures located in specific coordinates. Sometimes, there is not a treasure! Students use a compass rose to help navigate.  
The whole slideshow is set up as a story of intrigue and adventure.

Then, I have students get in groups of about 3. Their job is to create a story of adventure and a map using a coordinate grid. I have huge rolls of grid paper! Love it!!!
Students create a story and then a map of the setting. Students have the option to create a multimedia presentation or just a handwritten one.
Here is a part of an adventure my students created. 
This was a large group due to the fact that several students left during this time.

Check back to see the other fabulous math mentor texts. I did some serious pinning!