Thursday, November 20, 2014

After Reading Balloons Over Broadway, Students Design Their Own Macy's Thanksgiving Parade Balloons!

This week, students have been designing their own Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons after learning more about the origin of the parade!  Our journey began with the artistically illustrated Caldecott Honor book entitled Balloons Over Broadway, The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet.  In her book, Ms. Sweet shares the true story of Tony Sarg, the inventor of the huge balloons that we have come to expect each year in the parade!  Students were fascinated to learn how Tony Sarg's work as a puppeteer helped him to slowly consider and come up with the idea of filling the balloons with helium!  Tony Sarg's evolution of ideas leading to his invention is consistent with an earlier lesson we studied this year on how good ideas are born.  To read more about that lesson check out an earlier blog post at

Students Publish Their Own Thankful eBook Using The SketchbookX App, Google Presentations & FlipSnack!

Students loved reading Todd Parr's book entitled The Thankful Book!  It is colorful, funny and thoughtful. After reading the book, we began to wonder if we could make our own Thankful Book using the digital tools that we have?

1st Graders Celebrate Thanksgiving With Books & The ScrapPad Thanksgiving iPad App!!

This month, 1st graders have been reading a collection of books about Fall, November and Thanksgiving! With all the books about being thankful, students wanted to share what they were thankful for!  I was the scribe for students so they could share and brainstorm.  Together we came up with a list!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Students Begin Computer Science Lessons With Help From!

This week students began using to learn computer science with drag and drop programming!  This isn't the first time for most of my students. We participated in the Hour of Code challenge last year.  But since the last time we looked in on, they created an elementary self-paced course that teaches repeat-loops, conditionals and basic algorithms involved in coding!  These lessons take students into greater depth than we covered last year!  I am so excited for them to get started!

What makes the lessons so exciting is how much fun students have learning at their own pace! The new course has a teacher dashboard that gives me the opportunity to follow student progress. Creating classses and student accounts is also really easy!  Each student is given two secret words that they use to get into their lessons.  

Thanks to for the inspiration and this quality educational tool!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mustache Baby!! Just In Time For Movember! Using Single Use iPad Apps To Connect With Children's Literature!

Most of my 1st grade students don't really know about Movember, an annual event that takes it's name from the combination of the words Mustache and November, encouraging men to grow mustaches to raise awareness of men's health issues.  I really didn't have Movember in mind when I planned this lesson for 1st graders! It was a happy coincidence, but a few of my 1st graders made the connection!  It is always fun when our lessons connect to the world outside of school!

When I first found the book Mustache Baby, by Bridget Heos, I was instantly drawn to it! I am married to a man who gets a lifetime achievement award every time there is a mustache growing contest.  His mustache has been called "epic", and I have often thought he must have been born with a mustache! So I was "all in" when I read this delightfully funny book! Whether there is a personal connection to mustaches or not, this book is a joy!  The rich use of word play makes it engaging and clever! Students laughed, adults around the library laughed, everybody laughed!

After we read the book, we were in a mustache mood, so we turned to our iPads to make a little mustache magic!  Believe it or not, there is an app for that!  BoothStache!  I don't typically choose single use apps with students, but sometimes they are a perfect fit for extending lessons! This was the first time for my 1st graders to take selfies with a mobile device.  The app was perfect because it provided an outline to help students aim for the center of screen!  The outline helped remind them to look straight at the device with their arms outstretched, not from their laps, a common mistake for our young digital photographers! It will take a few more attempts for all of them to figure out how to look at the camera.  They often look at themselves which makes their eyes look closed in the photo. They will get it with practice!

After they took their selfies, students added mustaches to their faces! The app gave them a choice of several mustache styles!

1st graders with mustaches - such great fun!!  Just like the baby in Mustache Baby, all they had left to do was decide if their mustache would be a good-guy mustache, or a bad-guy mustache!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Rediscovering MyOn eBooks! Such A Great Resource For Students!!

Last year, elementary students in District 194 were given an wonderful opportunity! Students were offered the opportunity to read ebooks from Captsone's MyOn Digital Literacy Program! To learn more, check out their website at!  District 194 parents interested in their child reading at home can find their child's login information in the parent portal!!

This week I have been reintroducing MyOn to students with surprising results! When we first began the program in the Spring of 2012, there were around 4000 eBooks for students to choose from.  Now that number has almost doubled, with 7,673 ebooks.  The additional options are really noticeable! Also, MyOn has been very responsive to the needs of students and teachers!  They have made a few subtle changes that have made the program even more personalized for students. Students really love reading the huge variety of books, especially the fantastic nonfiction! They can read books using the browser on their computer, the browser on the iPad and/or the MyOn app!

If I am being honest, I have never been a huge fan of reading incentive programs. Many of them attempt to level books to help students find reading materials that are educationally valuable for their growth. While this is certainly an admirable goal, it can result in limiting reading options for students. I am a librarian at heart.  I want students to find and select the books they are interested in!  I want them to discover a passion for reading, which is often sacrificed with reading incentive programs. After all, a well stocked library is the ultimate in personalized learning for students! 

So with that said, I am surprised at how excited I am by the MyOn program! I am excited to expand the choices we can give to students! I am excited to be able to offer them digital books as well as a well stocked library! Yes, there are the short comprehension tests and lexile levelings that are a part of every reading program, but these do not impose themselves on the experience.  Students spend the bulk of their time sifting through all of their great options (which is so good for them to discover what they like!) and reading, reading, reading! Great job MyOn!!

Celebrating Fall, Pumpkins, Halloween, Books & Augmented Reality!!!

Last week was a busy week in the library!  We celebrated great seasonal ebooks & hard copy books along with a little augmented reality!  After reading some favorites from our library, we took a look at some of our MyOn ebooks! Students had so many great options to pick from and connect with! 

As a grand finale, students went wild for augmented reality pumpkins!  Augmented reality (AR) is when something from the real world is augmented or supplemented by computer generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. (Thanks Wikipedia for the formal definition!   Students used the free ColAR Mix app and pumpkin coloring pages from their website to experience augmented reality! This example of augmented reality is super fun, but it gave us the opportunity to discuss other options for augmented reality in our world.  

Take a look at a little video and pictures to get the idea!  You can see why students love ColAR for augmenting their coloring pages!