Saturday, October 27, 2012

RCA--Non-Partisan Voting Video

I know I haven't yet blogged about my visit to the Ron Clark Academy.  I'm implementing some things that I learned from my visit and I'm trying to sort through all that I experienced so I can write about it succinctly; seriously, I could talk about RCA for hours...days even!  I just wanted to post this awesome video that was uploaded recently that shows Clark's students performing a song they wrote about the upcoming presidential election.  You may recall that his students created a voting song for the 2008 election called "Vote However You Like" to the tune of T.I.'s "Whatever You Like."  The children actually incorporated part of that song into this new song and I love it!  
Those students are confident, engaging, and have so much energy.  Another cool thing--during my visit to RCA, I had lunch with the little girl in the front row, 4th from the right.  I can't take my eyes off her when I view this; she looks like she's having a blast! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

R.E.D. Event with Taylor Swift

Today, my class enjoyed viewing a live, 30-minute Scholastic webcast with Taylor Swift.  Many of my girls are huge fans of hers, so they loved it!  This webcast was not about music or her success as a singer; she actually spoke about the power of literacy and encouraged the students to Read Every Day (RED).  Red, incidentally, is the name of her album that debuted two days ago. 

Anyway, she shared how literature inspired her writing and she encouraged the students to "read, write, and be creative."  At one point, she said, "Read all kinds of books so you know what interests you."  Loved that!  You know, I can tell my students to try reading different genres and explore various books to see what they like, but when Taylor Swift tells a 10-year-old these things, it means more.  She spent time answering questions from students all over the world.  We pinpointed on a map where the questions came from--New York, New Jersey, Texas, Michigan, Alabama, and even Singapore! 

It was really neat to hear her talk about middle school and offer tips on "surviving middle school" since this is my students' last year of elementary school.  To close, Swift performed a song from her new album and my students were thrilled!
The webcast was a lot of fun and very inspiring. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

iPad-Palooza: Even More Apps

Today I had the opportunity to take part in an iPad workshop for local educators.  It was so helpful and SO much fun.  I was able to go with my grade-level teaching partner and we learned about new apps as well as how to differentiate instruction using the iPad.  This training was very beneficial and I'm glad we were able to attend.  I wanted to share with you a few new apps I learned about:
  • Doc Scan (Free or you can upgrade for $3.99)--allows you to take a picture and then turn it into a PDF file...amazing!
  • WeWantApps! (Free)--Do you want to search for apps, but have no idea where to begin?  Use this app to type in your students' ages, favored category and price, and then click "search."  A results list will pop up that shows apps that relate to your request.  Neato!
  • AppsFire Deals (Free)--Another way to find apps.  The cool thing about this is that it shows you discounted or free apps from the app store.  You will have to search a little for quality educational apps, but it's definitely worth downloading.
  • Fluency Timer Pro ($0.99)--An app with an adjustable timer that automatically records students' fluency readings for playback and sharing. 
  • 7 Little Words (Free)--Great for word play!  This app contains 50 different puzzles, including a Spanish and French version.  Note:  More suited for upper elementary/middle school students.
  • BrainQuest (Free)--Just like the educational flashcards, this app poses a variety of questions for each grade level, 1st-5th (100 questions for each grade).
  • Rocket Math (Free)--Fun and challenging math app for all ages that ranges in difficulty to allow students to practice odd/even numbers, square roots, telling time, money, 3D shapes, and arithmetic.     
  • Common Core Standards (Free)--View all the standards in one place.  Very easy to find standards by subject, grade level, and subject category (domain/cluster).  This app includes math and language arts standards, K-12.
  • Songify (iPhone app, but will work on iPad) and AutoRap--More entertaining than educational; I've had a blast playing with these today.  Both of these apps transform ordinary speech into song (or rap!).  How can I use this for my auditory learners?  This app is definitely fun and engaging.  Here's a sample of me on AutoRap5th Grade is the Best.  I SPOKE the words, "5th grade is the best.  It's better than all the rest.  I love teaching 5th grade.  They're so awesome!"  Okay, so I did make my voice higher when I got to "awesome."  Isn't that just fun?!  I don't know why it just stops suddenly at the end.  Oh well.
Finally, my favorite app as of now (which I downloaded last week) is iMovie.  Oh my goodness!  I can make HD movies and trailers and edit them within minutes.  Those of you with Macs are probably already familiar with iMovie.  However, I'm a PC and just found out about this app recently.  The app costs $4.99 and it's the best one I've purchased so far.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

My classroom and The Four C's

In a previous post, I stated that I wanted to focus on The Four C's this year: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication.  Someone in my Twitter PLN posted a link to this video and it gave me some things to think about.  I wanted to pass it along to you:  The Four C's: Making 21st Century Education Happen

Ideas for my classroom:
  • Have students create exhibitions (to understand content better)
  • Get out of my classroom--observe coworkers and collaborate with them
  • Create assessments worth teaching to

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

ER Grammar Activity

At the end of September I had the incredible opportunity to visit the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, GA.  I was inspired by all the teachers at this school, especially Kim Bearden, who uses creative teaching methods to engage children.  During a workshop, she encouraged us to transform our classrooms into different kinds of learning environments in order to bring learning to life for our students.  I decided to follow in her footsteps and turn my classroom into an Operating Room for a grammar lesson; my students worked on "sick sentences" in an activity that reviewed parts of speech, synonyms/antonyms, appositives, analogies, types of sentences, and punctuation.  Everything the students did aligned with our Shurley Grammar curriculum. 
This type of activity took a great amount of preparation and planning, with each child getting his/her own, unique "patient" to work on, but it was so worth it!  The students were completely engaged and really seemed to enjoy this lesson. 
When I was in college, one of my professors explained that we, as teachers, should try to engage as many of the students' senses as we can during a lesson (this helps the brain learn, of course), so I tried to do that throughout this activity. I attempted to create a visually stimulating environment that actually looked like an operating room--I covered students' desks with white sheets, hung white curtains, had bags of fluid and "blood" hanging next to plastic tubing, and projected a picture of nurses and doctors working in an Operating Room. The students dressed the part of doctors/nurses by wearing gloves, surgical caps and masks, and disposable surgical coats. I even dressed in scrubs and donned a stethoscope around my neck. While the students prepared for "surgery," I played sounds from my Promethean board that one might hear in a hospital--phones ringing, doctors being called over an intercom, machines beeping, etc. During the "operation," I played the constant beating sound of a heart. Finally, to alert the students that they had 1 minute left to work, I played sounds from an EKG with a flat line alarming them in the last 10 seconds. I initially gave the students 20 minutes to operate, but ended up have to extend the time a little in order for everyone to finish.
 My young surgeons, getting ready to go into the OR:
 Since there were no written directions on the patients, I clearly explained beforehand what the students were to do once they arrived in their Operating Room.  They immediately got to work:
 I circulated while the students worked and asked if anyone needed assistance.  At times, I would hear a student yell, "Dr. Bowman, you are needed in Operating Room #2!" when help was needed.  I encouraged them not to yell since I was making my rounds.  Once I was able to assist, I, of course, responded with, "Yes, Dr. ____?"  They loved this and it was so much fun to see them in character; two of them began using a British accent...I'm not sure why but I just went with it. 
The students were allowed to name their patients if they wanted: 
 Mainly, cutting and pasting were involved in this activity.  However, I did have students highlight the nouns in several sentences.
 Here's one patient--Harry--and you can see how I created him.  I wish I could attach the documents and share with you, but each patient was different.  I used an 11x17 size copy paper and hand drew the patients.  In the head area, you can see that I created fill-in-the-blanks for vocabulary words and definitions.  On the left arm, I created basic sentences and had the students glue down the correct end marks.  On the right arm, I gave a couple of analogies and had the students identify the types.  The legs had sentences listed in which the students were required to highlight the nouns.  As you can see, this student messed up on Harry's leg, so he needed a Bandaid.  Finally, the feet had synonyms/antonyms listed and the students had to identify them. 
  You could use this any way you want (or for other subject areas!).  I just put information on the patients that lined up with what we are currently learning about in our Shurley Grammar program.  This activity was a huge hit and I think the students will remember it for a long time.
Note: I used clothing racks to hang the sheets and enlisted the help of parents in order to get all the supplies.  I did go around to local hospitals and doctor's offices and ask if they would be willing to donate materials.  While some places couldn't give me everything on my wish list, I always walked away with something, even if it was just a bag full of tongue depressors!  The community was very willing to help out my class.  As I said, though, the parents were the biggest contributors.  They let me borrow the racks, sthethoscope, etc.  One mom in my class is a nurse, another dad is a they were able to bring in lots of supplies to help make sure this activity was a success.  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

My Favorite Apps

Many of you probably teach in schools that are saturated with technology because of public funding.  I, on the other hand, teach at a private school that does not have as much technology as our public school counterparts.  However, this year, I was fortunate enough to get an iPad 2 for my classroom and I'm so thankful.  Some of you may have a 1:1 iPad program at your school and that's awesome, but I say ONE iPad in my classroom is better than none.  ;)

I received my iPad the second week of school and am still learning things about it.  I wanted to share in this post my favorite apps that I use as I work with my 5th grade students.  If you have any to recommend, I'd love to hear your suggestions!  Here's my list:
  • BrainPOP--Engaging educational videos for grades 3 and up.  The videos are usually 5 minutes long and include a 10 question quiz at the end. There are several options with this app.  You can stick to a free version that allows you to watch the featured video (it changes each day).  You could also upgrade to various paid versions.  I bought the full access subscription for $6.99/month.  It's a little expensive, but I get access to over 750 movies and quizzes.  It's been a great addition to my lessons and the students really enjoy it.  I've set up my account so that I can choose to not purchase it for a certain month. 
  • iHurricane HD--was a very helpful and FREE app I used at the beginning of the year when I had my students tracking hurricanes. 
  • Google Earth--FREE; great tool as we study geography
  • Atlas for iPad by Appventions--$1.99 (but right now there's a special offer and it's 60% off)  It has large political and physical world maps, regional maps, time zone maps, and various information on over 250 world entities.  There are pictures of flags, comparison tables, etc.  You can also get a lighter version for free.
  • NASA App HD--FREE app that will be helpful when we study space.  It includes thousands of images from NASA, news stories, and lots of information about the planets, stars, and galaxy.  There are videos as well.  This app is FULL of cool stuff!
  • GeoPop--$0.99; A fun geography game that has three levels of difficulty.  This game poses one question at a time and you must touch the correct answer (i.e. country/continent) before the time runs out.  One you touch, or "pop," the correct place, a new question appears.  Hints are available if you need them. 
  • Stack the States--$0.99; Another fun geography game that was voted "Best Kids App for iPad."  I started out with the free version and my students wanted more.  Hey, I've even found myself playing it in my spare time.  We all love this game and are learning more about the 50 states.
  • Stack the Countries--$1.99; How could I get Stack the States and not Stack the Countries?!  I do teach World Geography, don'tcha know.  It's just like the game above and again, I play it in my spare time. 
  • Lobster Diver--FREE math game dealing with number lines and fractions for upper elementary/middle school students.
  • Bookabi--FREE educational app that allows students to write and digitally illustrate their own stories.  You also have the ability to voice record and play back the reading of the story.
  • Drawing Box--FREE (There is also a $1.99 version) drawing, painting, sketching app.  I love the video replay of the illustrations because I get to watch how my students created their artwork.
Teacher Apps:
  • Groovy Grader--FREE app that replaces your paper E-Z Grader
  • QuickVoice Recorder--FREE app that I use to record spelling tests for students who are absent
  • Dragon Dictation--FREE app similar to Quick Voice; however, this converts voice recordings into text. 
  • ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard--FREE app that allows you to turn your iPad into a personal interactive whiteboard.  With this app, you have the ability to record voice-over tutorials and share them online.
I hope you find these helpful!  Again, feel free to share with me your favorite iPad apps. 

Oh, yes, one more thing...I love using my iPad as a document camera.  It's so easy to take a picture of something and then project it onto the Promethean board using AirServer.  AirServer cost me around $5-$7 (I can't quite remember) and is a mirroring receiver for Macs AND PC's (I'm a PC).