Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tech Tips Tuesday

This guest article was written by Adrienne Carlson, who regularly writes on the topic of online degrees . Adrienne welcomes your comments and questions at her email address: adrienne.carlson83@yahoo.com

Using Web Resources to Make Learning Fun

When you’re a child, learning becomes more interesting only when it’s fun. So as a teacher who is involved in getting young kids to show an interest in education, you’re responsible for making kids smarter even while they enjoy their lessons and can’t get enough of them. Your skills as a teacher come to the fore only when you make learning fun for your young wards. The Internet is a great tool if you’re looking to make learning interactive and get your students involved, and here’s how you can incorporate it into your lessons:

Teach your students online search skills: There is a ton of information on the Internet, but if you don’t know how to search for what you want, none of this information is useful. So teach kids to search for what they’re looking for, and also instruct them on sorting through the huge amounts of data that is returned. If they’re very young, it’s best to get them to the site yourself and ask them to just read and click buttons on local pages. But if they’re above a certain age, knowing how to search for information is a surefire way to get them more involved in the subject.

Help them work out online math problems: It’s a subject that most people detest, simply because they do not understand the basics. Online math quizzes offer easy ways to remember formulae and are also great when it comes to testing your memory and concentration powers, two skills that come in handy when you’re trying to solve math problems. Children learn how to solve problems without the use of pencil and paper, without making mistakes.

Use the web to improve English: There are a plethora of options to learn English on the web. From online dictionaries and thesauruses to sites that allow you to write articles and contribute poetry, you can pretty much go the whole hog when you’re trying to improve your English. Encourage your students to download e-books that are free to read in their spare time and get them to send in their essays and poetry to online competitions.

Let them play educational games: When I was a child, “Where In The World Is Carmen SanDiego” was one of my favorite computer games. Back then, we had only the DOS operating system, so our choices were limited. This game was fun and interesting because it combined mystery and geography. We basically had to chase a thief who flies across the globe based on country and location specific clues that he would leave behind. Educational games help improve subject-specific knowledge and broaden students’ general knowledge as well.

Above all, if your students are on the web with limited or no supervision, you must teach them to use the Internet safely and wisely so that they are protected from con artists and viruses.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tech Tips Tuesday

This Week's Tip - Strengths Spreadsheets

I am in the process of conducting a study about enrichment at my school. We are due to write a school policy statement about how students are identified as being gifted and talented and how they are supported. We believe that all students have strengths that need to be identified and nourished.

For this phase of the study I have been focusing on the students in Year 4 to determine what students' strengths are and whether they are accessing the programs we currently run to develop their skills. The Strengths Analysis has been a very lengthy process and to manage all the data I created a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet has helped me to see the information and sort it in different ways. I can now identify students' areas of strength and see which programs they have accessed in the past year.

While I don't think that all teachers need to do such an in-depth analysis of their students, I DO think that teachers need to determine students' strengths early in the year. While we quickly notice the students who are performing below their peers and put actions in place to assist them, I don't know that we do as good a job on the top end.

It is important to determine students' areas of strength in order to provide them with experiences to extend them throughout the year. This can be done with a simple spreadsheet using data from the previous year:
  • Put your class list in the first column (with surname first to allow an easy sort by name)
  • Put students previous grades in additional columns under subject headings
  • Copy and past the data into additional sheets - one per subject
  • Select the data on each page (including names) and sort by grades in the subject
If you want to do a more detailed analysis, you could ask students to identify their areas of strength with a quick survey. You could also draw on results from state or national testing.

So then what? Firstly, keep this data in mind as you plan and teach - make sure that you are giving these students opportunities to develop their strengths and interests in class. Then, find out what enrichment/extension programs are available in your school to meet students' needs in these areas and recommend that your students join these programs. If there are no programs, bring it up in a staff meeting and see if anyone has any ideas.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Friday Fun - 18/9/09

We've almost made it to the end of the term and with holidays just around the corner, we've been madly trying to finish all the things we've started. As a result, there wasn't a lot of new learning taking place, but rather refining and completing. We did, however, have an exciting excursion to the CSIRO Green Machine...

Fun This Week
We joined in one of the great programs offered at the CSIRO. Students learnt some background information about colour and then explored the colours that are used to make a black marker:

They then created T-shirts using permanent markers and ethanol to spread the colours:
The kids had a lot of fun and proudly wore their new creations. Some thought they should be adopted as part of school uniform!

Before we left the CSIRO, our teacher showed us this awesome experiment using ethanol:

We then walked to the Botanic Gardens for lunch on nice green lawn in the shade of big trees. We took a walk through the 'rainforest' and saw some lizards down by the loos, before hopping back on the bus and returning to school.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tech Tips Tuesday

This Week's Tip: Making Animations with Movie Maker

Over the past couple of weeks I have been dabbling with animations with my students. As this is a first time for me, I have been doing a lot of learning alongside the kids. As a result, it's probably been a longer than usual process as we trouble-shoot and work things out together. Today I want to break it down a little so that you can save some time if you give it a try.

WARNING: This explanation assumes some basic knowledge of Windows Movie Maker, and is a starting point for amateur animations.
Creating Characters and Setting
  • Provide a variety of resources for students to use in creating their characters and setting - playdough, lego, stuffed toys, paper, whiteboards etc.
  • Have students plan out and rehearse the way they would like to move these objects.

Taking Photos
  • Explain to students that everything they see in the frame will be in the movie. It sounds basic, but I had a number of photos that included walls, tables, power cords etc - they imagined they could get rid of all this later.
  • Make sure the camera battery is charged (and recharged) and that you have enough time to take all the shots for the sequence.
  • Be aware of the light in the room as changes will be evident in the photos.
  • Use a tripod if possible to limit the movement of the camera.
  • For a 15-30 second promo we used about 80 photographs, but our movements were a bit jumpy.

Writing Scripts
  • Support students with finding the words to get their message across most effectively
  • Encourage them to rehearse their script and time it to see how long it will need to be

Recording Audio
  • This can be done in Windows Movie Maker as students watch their completed movie in the preview frame. This allows them to time the two as much as possible.
  • If pushed for time, you can begin recording the script in Audacity prior to movie production in Windows Movie Maker. This also allows students to edit the audio and cut out errors. Export it as a WAV and then you simply import the audio at a later time.

Storing Pictures
  • Before you start using Movie Maker, it is important to upload photos to a place where you will be able to easily find them and access them throughout the project. DO NOT MOVE THESE FILES ONCE YOU START. If you move the pictures, the program will not be able to find them and they will show up as a red X on your storyboard.

Importing Pictures
  • If your camera has captured large images (in terms of mb) you will want to resize them so that Movie Maker doesn't strain under the size. I do this in Windows Photo Gallery so that I can resize the whole group at once. (I'm not sure how else you might do a bulk resize. Any suggestions?)
  • Click on Import Pictures and select the pictures you would like to use.

Moving Pictures onto the storyboard/timeline
  • BEFORE you begin slotting images onto your storyboard, you will want to change the settings for the length of time these will play. This is a BIG time-saver! If you fail to do this, you will be shortening each picture individually (a HUGE time-waster) 1. Click on Tools/Options, 2. Click on the Advanced tab, 3. Select your desired picture duration and transition duration
  • To change the length of individual slides, select the Timeline view, click on the image you want to change and drag one of the sides
  • If students want to have a repeated action, they will need to repeat the action slides (basic I know, but they still needed to be told!)
  • SAVE, SAVE, SAVE - I can't say it enough - we've had SO many Movie Maker crashes and it is very disheartening if students lose their work because they didn't take a moment to save it regularly.
Editing the Movie
  • Add in the audio and make sure it is well timed with the animation
  • Add in any desired titles/effects
Save as a Movie!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Friday Fun - 11/9/09

Fun This Week

ABC3 Promos
We made more progress with our promos this week and we have two finished and ready to go. Most have the video/pictures recorded and are now manipulating the timings and adding audio with Movie Maker. It's a LOT of hard work to juggle all the stages with sixty students and limited equipment (with batteries running out) and limited time, but I still think we'll get there - with at least half of them!

Learning Journey
Parents came for the learning journey and had the opportunity to see their child's work and find out more about the things they have been learning. It was well attended and the students were very excited to be able to have some special time with their parents.

Alkira Projects
This week we took our tie-dyed material and added felt stick-ons, buttons, pom-poms and fabric flowers as desired. I was impressed to see the creativity of one student who created a caterpillar using a series of pom-poms. These will go on sale at our Alkira Art Show in a couple of weeks.

For Friday Sport I joined the circus group this week. The kids in this group are exposed to a number of circus skills including juggling, acrobatics, plate spinning and hoola-hoop. I enjoyed practicing juggling - firstly with scarves and then with balls.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tech Tips Tuesday

This Week's Tip: Book Reviews and The Quality Teaching Model

Today I found a great site for teaching English in middle to upper primary and secondary classes. Writing with Writers takes you step by step through the process of writing a book review. Rodman Philbrick shares a book review that he has written that can be used as a model for students' own writing. He then gives a series of writing tips to guide students and reminds them of a few challenges to keep in mind. Philbrick provides some guidelines for revising work upon completion and suggests a site where students can publish the final draft of their book review.

I found this site really useful as everything was explained so clearly and could be displayed on my Interactive Whiteboard for students to return to as they wrote. While my students haven't completed and published it yet, I can see the value of having a real purpose and audience for their writing.

This resource has great potential for implementing two dimensions of the Quality Teaching Model. (For summarised explanation of the elements of QTM click here.) These are the connections that I can readily see, but you may see other connections as well:

Intellectual Quality
Deep Knowledge - This tool can be used to give detailed explanation of how to write a book review.
Deep Understanding - Students demonstrate a deep understanding of the book they read
Problematic Knowledge - Students recognise that people have different opinions about books and come to value the opinions of others
Higher-Order Thinking - Students are involved in analysis and synthesis and evaluation as they reflect on their book and the author's style.
Metalanguage - Philbrick uses language that students can understand and explains terms like 'genre'.
Substantive Communication - Teachers could use Philbrick's example to create discussion about what makes it effective. Discussion could take place in small groups which then share key thoughts with the whole group.

Quality Learning Environment
Explicit Quality Criteria - Philbrick's model and tips provide explicit quality criteria that students can revisit as they write.
High Expectations - The section on reviewing work challenges students to revisit their ideas and improve their initial drafts.
Students' Self-Regulation - The writing task is purposeful and students can continually monitor their own work using the tips.

Ideally, I'd teach this lesson using an Interactive Whiteboard and a classroom full of student computers or laptops. The explanation and discussion could take place with the Whiteboard, and then students could type their reviews in a word processor, referring to the website as they typed. Once completed, the text could be revised and then copy/pasted into the review page. What a great integration of ICT!

Monday, September 7, 2009

9th Teaching K-6 Carnival

Welcome to the September edition of Teaching K-6 carnival. As readers in the Northern Hemisphere head into the new school year there are many bloggers sharing their advice on how to make the most of this important time of year. For those of us slogging away in third term, there are also a number of lists of useful resources for integrating technology in the classroom. Whether you're heading toward Fall or bounding toward Spring and the warmer weather, I hope you find something beneficial here this month.

Starting the New School Year

Mathew Needleman presents Back to School Week: Resources and shares his thoughts on Back to School Week: It’s a Marathon Not a Sprint posted at Creating Lifelong Learners.This timely reminder encourages us to spend time getting to know our students and looking for the gems of personality that make each person unique. He reminds us that it takes longer than a week to see the depth to the people who make up our classrooms.

Meaghan Montrose presents Study Tips and Learning Strategies for the New School Year and Back to School Tips to be Successful in Class posted at TutorFi.com. You might like to share some of these tips with your students or add them to your class website.

I also came across Back to School Overload by dobrien of Lifelong Learning about managing stress as school starts back. She shares her reflection of the adjustment period when returning to school after the summer break.

Wesley Fryer shared a video in his post Believe in Me at Moving at the Speed of Creativity. This video helps us to think of the big picture and to consider the preferences and futures of the children with whom we work.

Michaele Sommerville presents What This Teacher Thinks About Early Starts to Kindergarten posted at Kindergarten's 3 R's: Respect, Resources and Rants.

Brain Strain

At SharpBrains: Your Window into the Brain Fitness Revolution, Dr David Rabiner writes about experimental research Comparing Working Memory Training & Medication Treatment for ADHD. Results from this study indicate that working memory training yields greater benefits in WM for children with ADHD than are provided by stimulant medication treatment. Furthermore, memory gains following training persist for a significant period.

Gary Andrew focuses on memory this month with his 10 Tips to Improve Your Memory posted at best online graduate degree, as does Justin Ontong with 7 Tips to Improve Your Memory and Study Power posted at phd degree.

In the News

Melissa Hedding presents Kids love Justice posted at Finds For Families. She says that when kids feel safe in the classroom, they're free to learn. She encourages us to use our authority to promote kindness and stop teasing in our classrooms today.

Wesley Fryer of Moving at the Speed of Creativity wrote about the inspiring story of Damon Weaver, student reporter, who achieved his dream of interviewing President Obama.

Madeleine Begun Kane presents Republicans Bring "Classiness" To the Classroom posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness. Will Richardson also shares his thoughts on the Obama Speech at Weblogg-ed.

Innovate - Beyond the Slate

Thinking about starting up a dramatic play space in your Early Childhood classroom? This month Kelly Rockey shares 25 Incredible Kid’s Costume Ideas and Resources for Parents posted at Star Costumes Blog. Dressing up is so much fun for kids and with these links you will be able to build your dress-up box, providing new opportunities for imaginative play.

Katie Glennon reminds us to get outdoors and explore learning through real experiences in Using Nature Study to Study all Areas of Science posted at Katie's Homeschool Cottage. Katie points out how you can study science the natural way through nature, including areas of biology, physics, and chemistry, and without a textbook.

I was recently asked about which digital media students should become familiar with in Years K-6. This month Margaret Garcia presents an overwhelming list of 100 Essential Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers posted at Online Degree. She also shares 100 Awesome iPhone Apps to Organize Your School Life posted at Online Bible Colleges.

For those of you wanting to pretty-up your websites or blogs, Alisha Harmann presents Top 50 Web Design Education Blogs posted at Designer City, USA. It looks like you could spend a good day working your way through the links here and picking up tips. In 13 Enlightening Case Studies of Social Media in the Classroom posted at Best Online Universities.com Alisha shares what is happening with social media in a number of schools (predominantly universities, but you may still find ideas that can be translated to a K-6 setting).

Still on the topic of social media, Allison Johanson presents 25 Excellent Social Media Sites for Teachers posted at Top Online University Reviews. She separates sites into those to share with students and those for teachers only. These suggestions are great for connecting with other teachers and students for collaboration and networking.

This month I share Tech Tips Tuesday from my own blog where I give examples of how you can use an Interactive Whiteboard to take the roll and monitor early finishers.

Look No Further

Hannah Watson has some great links to share with parents in 100 Best Websites for Free Homework Help posted at Online Courses.org. You may even find some useful for personalising learning in the classroom.

Barbara Williams presents 25 Surprising Facts About China’s Education System posted at Teaching Tips. This makes for an interesting read, but as with all facts you read online, I recommend checking the sources rather than blindly accepting these representations.

Kakie at Bur Bur & Friends: Community Park shares some books with GREAT ideas to get kids moving in all areas of the curriculum. "Here are some fun ways to incorporate learning different things and physical activity. Early education is the key to promoting a healthy lifestyle. What a way to create memories in your classroom!"

One Family presents List of Elementary School Textbooks – ISBNs, Used and List Prices – Teachers and Home School Editions posted at One Family's Blog. This is a listing of elementary school teacher's and homeschool edition textbooks used in the USA.

Anne Simone presents 100 Terrific Twitter Feeds for Teaching Advice posted at Online Universities.com, 100 Useful Resources for Teachers and Students of Open Source posted at Online School and 50 Eye-Opening Unschooling Blogs posted at Online Best Colleges.com.

Kate Hopkins presents 10 Lessons Every Student Can Learn From Einstein posted at Online College.org and 15 Predictions for the Library of Tomorrow posted at Online Degree Programs.org.

Karen Schweitzer presents 25 Places to Find Free Printables, Worksheets, and Lesson Plans Online at I Want to Teach Forever and 20 Free Learning Technology Resources at Teaching Challenges.

Emma Taylor presents 100 Best Blogs for Teachers of the Future posted at Clear View Education Blog. Teaching Challenges didn't make the cut, but there are a number of my favourites that did, so the list is definately worth checking out. She also presents 100 Most Educational iPhone Apps posted at AccreditedOnlineColleges.org.

Christopher Dawson promotes Variquest in Variquest proves it’s OK to use paper sometimes posted at Education IT.

Why not submit your post for the next carnival?

The Teaching K-6 Carnival is posted monthly on the 7th, however will be on hiatus for the month of October. I will be collecting submissions throughout the next two months, looking in particular for posts that discuss and exemplify innovative teaching and the integration of technology in the K-6 classroom. I also invite some discussion around education related news articles and a few "brain strains" to keep our minds alert and challenged. Please submit only articles of which you are the author and refrain from using this merely as a sales pitch. For full details, please read my call for submissions.

If you have a relevant post that you would like to submit to the next edition of teaching k-6 carnival use our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Support this Carnival

If you enjoyed this edition of the carnival, you can support its continuation by sharing it with others. Link to us, add us to a tweet, stumble or digg us. Thanks!

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Friday Fun - 4/9/09

This week we've done so many great things, but I don't want to get too wordy, so I'm setting myself a challenge: No more than three sentences per item. Hopefully this will help me to use my words wisely!

Fun this week

Change the Viewpoint
In Literacy we read a segment of Hating Alison Ashley by Robin Klein. As we read we jotted down Erica's feelings and viewpoint as outlined in the text, and considered Alison Ashley's feelings and viewpoint during the same events. Students then repeated this task with a scene from the books they are currently reading for Cooperative Reading Groups.

Dancing with Footsteps
We had a free trial lesson with Footsteps Dance Company to consider their possible use for further dance sessions early next year. Students learnt a Kung Fu Panda dance and absolutely LOVED it! The dance instructor, Rachel, confidently managed the group and taught about 120 students at once - very impressive.

Treasure Seekers
My iPhone alerted me to the fact that there was a geocaching adventure just waiting to happen right near our school. I gathered up my class and let them in on the secret life of geocaching and off we went in search of our treasure. On location (and with the help of some additional hints) we found our prize and traded some school magnets for a balloon to hang in our classroom. (Photo by: JC)

Progress with Promos
Students have now completed the planning phase of their ABC3 Promos and are well underway with making backgrounds, characters and scripts. I'm a little nervous as to how we are going to pull it all together by the 18th September, but hopefully we'll find a way! We plan to dedicate some decent time to the recording side of things next Friday.

Tie-Dying Delights
The students from my home group began their Alkira projects this week with the support of some instructions on KinderArt. Students used rubber bands to create their desired effects and dyed the material up to three colours. Next week we will begin stitching on some additional items to complete our Spring Designs.

Fife and Drum Combined Practice
On Thursday Mr Tucker took the Year 4 Fife and Drum Band to another school for a Combined Band Practice and Performance. They practiced about six songs together and then performed for the students of the host school. It was another great opportunity for our musical talents to be developed and shared.

Maths Coaches
On Thursday I paired up students from Mr Tucker's maths class with students from my maths class and got them to work together on solving some word problems involving money. The coaches really took their roles seriously and gave an appropriate amount of support. They then ordered the prices on some photos of grocery items and rounded the prices to the closest 5c.

Seedlings Sprout
In a few weeks time we will be opening our school's new environment facility - The Sunlight Centre. Students have planted some seedlings that will be on sale at the opening function. It is exciting to watch them grow (but hard to remember to bring them all in at the end of the day!)

The Year 4 students hosted this week's assembly and shared their completed homework projects for our Textiles and Design unit. The students from the Fife and Drum band were the presenters and our newly named "Showboating Showoffs" (previously Non-Fife-and-Drummers) performed dances they created themselves. The Year 4 Indonesian Dance group also performed, demonstrating how talented our Year 4s are when it comes to dancing.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Why I run...

This is just a quick one today. It was an icy cold morning, but I decided I had to run anyway. And so glad I did...

How does running help me as a teacher? It puts me in the right frame of mind as I enter the day.
Sorry for the quality of the photos. They were taken with my iPhone.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tech Tips Tuesday

This Week's Tip: Integrate ICT into Staff PD

Does anyone else see the hypocrisy in expecting teachers to integrate ICT in their teaching, but failing to integrate ICT into staff meetings and staff PD?

Last week I pulled some strings to have the staff meeting in my classroom so that we could use the Smart Board. As part of my Microsoft Peer Coaching role I created some Interactive Whiteboard pages that teachers can use in day-to-day teaching. I also wanted to show teachers how they can access our My Classes Peer Coaching page.

On Wednesday I ran the Junior Professional Learning Team (PLT) meeting in the computer lab. I wanted team members to reflect on their learning from our recent First Steps Writing PD and determine where to take it next. We started with a public pad in EtherPad, where staff could write their comments on what they found beneficial in the PD. I had wanted to use Wall Wisher, but the lab computers didn't have the necessary requirements in web browser.

It was a fun introductory activity, but it wasn't long before discussion got off track! That always happens the first time you introduce something. EtherPad was a great tool to use because I didn't need to sign up for an account or anything. It was ready to go and easy to export to Word when we were finished. My only pointer with it would be to create a custom tiny url for your page so that you can give something easy to people to type into the URL bar.

Teachers then reflected on their current practice when teaching writing and considered how they will implement the ideas from the First Steps Writing PD. They filled out this form that I created. Under the heading "What's Hot?" teachers wrote the things they are currently doing that they are happy with and that tie in with the philosophy of First Steps. Under the heading "What's Not?" teachers wrote the things they are currently doing that they are not happy with or that don't tie in with the philosophy of First Steps. Under the heading "What's Next?" teachers wrote the things they would like to try doing next as they implement First Steps. And in the big arrow, they wrote the steps they need to take in order to do the things in "What's Next?"

When it was time for team members to report back to the group, I used the Random Name Generator tool from Super Teacher Tools. Prior to the session I created a class list with team members' names and then used this list in the session to choose who would contribute their ideas. Teachers seemed to enjoy using this and jotted down the details to use with their own classes.

The session went well and I enjoyed being able to expose teachers to new ICT strategies whilst fulfilling the other requirements of my role as the team leader.