Friday, April 7, 2017

First Graders Research Animals With Help From MyOn, Kids Infobits, National Geographic Kids and Our Own OHE Library!

First Grade teachers recently asked for my help with finding digital tools for their students to do research. They wanted their students to answer questions about their chosen animal. We used our "go to" tools for digital research, MyOn, Kids Infobits and National Geographic for Kids! When added with our age appropriate nonfiction library books on animals, students had many options for finding their animal facts. Both MyOn and Infobits gives students the opportunity to listen to text if they are not able to read it themselves. This is perfect as first graders are still learning to read.

The first day I was scheduled to help, I walked into a chaotic but clearly self directed research project. Mrs. Johnson had her students brainstorm a list of animals that they would like to find out about. Students were on fire reading these books!

Then, using QR codes that we projected in the front of the room, students used their iPad QR code reader app to open Kids Infobits and National Geographic Kids and search for more information about their chosen animals. 


Once students were done finding out information about their animals, their teacher gathered students in a circle to share with each other their findings. This was the best part.  Having students teach each other seemed to elevate their research and make it seem more important to them.  Plus, it was really fun to listen in on their learning!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Students Use Cooperative Learning and Glogster to Teach Each Other About Ancient Egypt!

Recently, Mrs. Pettis came to me and asked if I had a suggestion for a digital tool that students could use to share their learning about Ancient Egypt with each other.  She planned to use the jigsaw cooperative learning strategy that gives students the opportunity to help each other to learn and comprehend. Each student was researching a different aspect of Ancient Egypt, and when they were done they had the responsibility of teaching the rest of the class. Students were familiar with slideshows and iMovie, so Mrs. Pettis wanted them to learn a new digital presentation tool that would be easy and quick. I decided the perfect fit would be Glogster. I have a class subscription for one class to use Glogster at a time, but that has served us well.  

Students found that Glogster was an intuitive digital tool. Unlike other similar tools, it allows users to create a digital posters with embedded video, images and text.  It is kind of like a slideshow where the contents are all on one page! Students began by adding their choice of background. They could choose from Glogster options or choose an image of their choice.

Once students had chosen their background, they began to add text, images and videos. This provided the perfect moment to discuss responsible use of our technology. We had a great discussion about the privileges and responsibilities that come with having access to digital devices!

Their final projects were fabulous, leaving them with a dynamic visual for their lesson for the class!  Here are just a few screenshot examples!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How To Catch A Leprechan? Third Graders Design A Rube Goldberg Trap!

I'm a little behind on my blogging, so I apologize for the delay in posting about a recent third grade lesson from St. Patrick's Day!  Third grade teachers wanted to take a few minutes for a fun St. Patrick's Day activity, so they asked for my help to provide a digital option. I began the lesson with a class read-aloud of the fabulous new picture book, How to Catch a Leprechaun written by Adam Wallace and illustrated by Andy Elkerton.

This book, with it's rhyming plot and delightfully naughty little leprechaun is a perfect class read-aloud!  But my favorite part of this picture book is the ending.  Readers are invited to design their own leprechaun trap for next year!

This created the perfect segue for students to design their own leprechaun trap using the design elements from Rube Goldberg's machines! You may be wondering, What is a Rube Goldberg machine?  Rube Goldberg was a a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist who was trained as an engineer. He create many cartoons and became most famous for his zany cartoons of complex machines with chain reactions designed to do simple tasks!   

Here is a prime example and one of his most famous machines was the Self Operating Napkin...


Once I shared the story of Rube Goldberg, I shared my favorite example of a Rube Goldberg machine in action! This is a great example because it demonstrates an elementary child (someone our students can relate to) enthusiastically testing his Rube Goldberg machine.

Once students had an idea of what a Rube Goldberg machine was, I gave them the task of designing their own Rube Goldberg Leprechaun Trap with at least 5 chain reactions!  Side Note: Our fabulous STEAM teacher, Mrs. Yoemans, will be having students build a Rube Goldberg Machine in 5th Grade, so this lesson should create a nice stepping stone from the design phase to building one of their own!  I created an example Leprechaun Trap! It was a blast and really required some design I knew students would need to have some "think time" to plan their chain reactions. I discussed the fact that I "worked backward". A concept that required some explanation, but did seem to help students as they were designing.

We used YouDoodle, our "go to" free drawing iPad app as the drawing tool for designing. It has helpful grid line that help the user manage the drawing space.  I also gave students a stylus to help them control their lines. Their products demonstrated their creative planning! Students shared their leprechaun traps, explaining their chain reactions and thoughtful designs. All of us throughly enjoyed seeing the results! Maybe next year, one of our students will catch a leprechaun!

Monday, April 3, 2017

OHE Students Prepare To Teach Bloxels!

This year I have been gathering maker tools for our school's makerspace. As each new tool has arrived, I have tried them out to prepare for student use! The robots, Ozobots, Makey Makeys and LittleBits have been no trouble for me learn. The one tool that I have struggled to teach myself was Bloxels. I knew roughly how it worked, but I found that I was struggling a bit because I have no gaming experience myself...unless PacMan counts...which reveals a little too much about my age! Happily I knew that I did have experts in gaming! Most of our 3rd - 5th graders are avid gamers, so I called upon a few 5th graders who volunteered to figure out how Bloxels works, teach me and more importantly, teach their fellow students! 

Once these students took on the task of learning how to use Bloxels, they LOVE, LOVE, LOVED it! (And frankly they continue to beg me to come back and continue their work/play!) Their background with video games did help them intuitively figure out how to use Bloxels.  They learned it quickly and confidently. The best part is that they were creating and designing their own game!  I am happy to say that I followed their lead and have now designed my own video game in Bloxels!

We determined after beginning that students would be able to design a game with the free iPad app even if they didn't have the cubes and board. They did, however, like having the cube and board to build their own game avatar/character. I am really excited for these students to share with other students so that gamers and non-gamers alike can share in this experience!

Friday, March 24, 2017

3rd Graders Practice Using Adjectives With The ABCya Word Cloud Web App!

Third graders are in love with adjectives, especially if they can use them to describe themselves! These third graders turned their study of adjectives into a fun opportunity to build their self esteem! (MN Benchmark - ELEM.ELA.  Explain the functions of adjectives & other parts of speech... MN Benchmark - ELEM.ELA.  Form and use comparative and superlative adjectives...)

Students began by using adjectives to describe themselves. Once they had a sufficient list, they typed the adjectives into the word cloud creation web tool at ABCya

 They typed their name twice to make sure it was bigger than the other words in their cloud. The ABCya tool allows them to choose their font, style, and color.  Once they were finished, they were able to add their word clouds into their Google Drive which was easy to navigate because they were already logged into their Google account on their Chromebooks. They were also able to share their work with their teacher using the share options in Google. This engaging activity with adjectives built their vocabulary and their knowledge of describing words!  The finished product, if they were printed on paper, made perfect locker signs for this colorful classroom of 3rd graders!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

3rd Graders Gather Inferential Clues From Amanda Noll's Book, I Need My Monster

Recently, 3rd Grade teacher, Mrs. McCollough, and I began collaborating on a lesson that would give students an opportunity to practice a skill they had been working on...inference. Students were ready for some fun practice. So we began the lesson with one of my absolute favorite websites, Storyline Online. I first mentioned this website two years ago in a blog post, Storyline Online: Such a Fantastic Resource For Students and Teachers!  It is a "must have" tool for every elementary teacher's digital toolbox! The site is a collection of picture books being read by well known actors and actresses. Each book comes with a helpful activity guide with suggestions for teachers. 

One of my favorite read aloud books is read by actress Rita Moreno.  She reads Amanda Noll's book, I Need My Monster! Rita Moreno's reading of the marvelous book is sooo comical!  I laugh out loud every time I see it!  I noticed that Storyline Online recently added the sequel Hey, That's My Monster! read by Lily Tomlin.

I Need My Monster is about a boy, Ethan, who has a monster under his bed named Gabe. One night his monster goes fishing, so the boy auditions four new monsters to be his substitute monster. Throughout the auditions, the reader gets inferential clues about Gabe. 

As students watched, they were asked to write down what information was revealed about the monster Gabe. Many inferential clues about Gabe could be gathered as Ethan interviewed each of the four monsters.

-  Monster One - "do you have long teeth and scratchy claws?"
-  Monster Two - "I was hoping to see a horrible shaggy arm with sharp, ragged nails"
-  Monster Three - "I definitely need a boy monster."
-  Monster Four - "Do you have a long tail?"

We stopped the story right before Gabe's appearance was revealed. Students shared their inferential clues about Gabe. Then, they demonstrated their understanding by drawing a picture of Gabe using the iPad app YouDoodle. Even though each student's version of Gabe was unique, they had the common elements - scary jagged claws, long teeth, shaggy fur, long tail, and not to be forgotten, he was a boy.

Finally, students had a blast watching the end of the read aloud.  They were able to compare their version of Gabe with the book's illustrator.  What a fun way for student to learn about inference! 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

March Madness Tournament of Books 2017! Enthusiasm is Running High!

It’s the beginning of March and so our minds turn to our annual March Madness Tournament of Books – 2017! This will be our fourth year hosting this tournament at Oak Hills.  This week, Oak Hills students are completing their 2017 March Madness Tournament of Books brackets! This book tournament has been so popular that our students begin asking me for it in January!  I love their enthusiasm and the discussions they have around their favorite books.

To select the original list of sixteen books, I surveyed a few classes for an initial list of favorites. Then I cross-referenced the list with our checkout records in Destiny, our library database, to find the fiction books that have been checked out the most.  I always try to choose books that are already popular among the students. This will provide students with more evidence to make their predictions.

This year, there were a few books on the list that I didn’t consider “the best of the best”, but I wanted to be true to student choice. Library is one of the few places where elementary students get to make their own choices, and I really want to honor their choices even if the books aren’t my favorites. Each week during March we vote using a Google Form to determine the Elite 8, Final 4, Finals and Winner. Students with the highest point total will win a book from the BOGO Scholastic Book Fair in May! Stay tuned to see the results!

This year I have added a few new features. I have collected book trailers for all but one book and put them in a Padlet so students and teachers can see a little bit about each book. I am hoping this will hook a few students to read books in the bracket that they haven't yet read.  It might also help them make predictions.

Made with Padlet

Another addition this year... Our 2nd grade teachers decided to participate, so I created a Primary Book March Madness Tournament of Books.  Each 2nd Grader filled out the bracket, which I made smaller so they wouldn’t get overwhelmed.  I was able to give the teachers a copy of each book so they could read them before they vote for the Supreme Six, Terrific Two, and the winning book! I am excited to see how this goes this year. Understanding how a bracket works can be a challenge for 2nd graders, but our fabulous 2nd Grade teachers did a wonderful job of helping their students through the process!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fresh Digital Tools For February!

In my still somewhat new role at Digital Literacy Specialist, I have been trying to supply and support our staff with a steady stream of options to keep student digital learning fresh and interesting. Overusing one tool can cause students to become less engaged. They like to learn using a variety of tools and content! My February Newsletter will hopefully spark some ideas for students and teachers!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Small Changes Bring Big Results - Finding New Ways to Enhance Our OHE Library!

Like most librarians, I am always looking for ways to improve our library. I genrified the fiction a little over a year ago, so I feel like the collection is arranged to help students find what they want to read. But I also want our library to be a place where students not only find books, but also discover their love of reading. (Nothing beats finding a place to curl up with the book!) In keeping with trends in library spaces, I would also like students to find the space appealing for other discoveries as well...a place for group collaboration, a place to spread out and work on projects, a place to create, and a place where students and teachers can find inspiration.  Slowly, as my small budget has allowed, I have begun to find ways to update and improve the space. My inspiration has come from a multitude of sources.

Several of my colleagues were inspired to make iPad catalog search stations. They look cool and modern, while also not taking up much floor space! I already had the iPads, all I needed were the iPad stands! After several failed orders that didn't yield quite the right thing, I finally found the perfect stands...low enough for my students (my first attempt wasn't height adjustable) and ones that allow me to easily take the iPads in and out for charging.  I don't have a source of power close enough to the stands to charge them. The new stands are perfect!

For years I have wanted to create an alternate seating area to inspire students to get comfortable and read. Little did I know that I had what I needed already in the form of lounging cushions I bought when I opened the building 18 years ago. For years I kept moving them around, stacking them in out of the way places because they were more of a nuisance than anything else.  It took our district's newest Digital Learning Specialist, Hilary Moorlach, to bring a fresh approach and create the perfect cozy space using the cushions she had in her library. So I purchased an inexpensive throw rug, pushed around a few tables, and voila - new flexible seating area! Students and teachers love love love it! My only disappointment is that I didn't do it sooner!

Finally, I wanted to give students and teachers additional opportunities for learning in the library. Earlier this year I went to our PTO for funding for a new "MakerSpace". For those who aren't acquainted with the term, a makerspace is a collaborative work space for making, learning, exploring and sharing. Our OHE PTO graciously gave me $1000 to begin.  Despite my excitement and appreciation for the funding, I knew I would have to be very judicious to stretch the dollars as far as they would go. Rather than buy enough for a whole class maker activity, I decided to go with a plan to buy 5 of each makerspace tool so that students would have a choice of projects. I also wanted a variety of high and low tech options for students. I decided to purchase Makedo Tools (for cardboard construction), Robot Mice (coding), Ozobots (robots), Straws & Connectors (inexpensive design & construction), and Bloxels (video game designing).  This is only the beginning as there are several more tools that will help me expand our options for students, but these make a great beginning!

Monday, February 13, 2017

3rd Graders Create Digital Timelines With Google Drawing!

February is such a great month for students to learn about our country's history!  Among the celebrations are Black History Month & President's Day. In an effort to bring these topics to life, Mrs. McCollough wanted her students to create a timeline of the major events in Abraham Lincoln's life. She asked for my help in finding the right digital tool for her students to use. (MN Benchmark: SS. Create timelines of important events... & SS. Examine historical records, maps and artifacts to answer basic questions about times and events in history)

After a great deal of digging, I found quite a few options. I settled on the web app Google Drawings. I used several criteria in choosing this one.  First, I wanted students to be able to add images to their timeline. Images from this time period are so interesting as it was the early years of photography. It also gave students a chance to use historical records and artifacts from the period. Several of the online timeline creators don't allow images to be included in the timeline, so they didn't seem right for this job. In addition, students are used to using Google tools. Having them use the drawing app would add to their knowledge of using a digital drawing app and enhance their knowledge of the options within Google. Finally, when students inserted an image from within Google Drawings, they were able to search the web without having to leave the app. Since classroom time is always limited, I saw this as a real advantage. The search tool within Google Drawing offered up images that were public domain, thus giving us an opportunity to discuss copyright. (Always a plus!)

In addition to learning about Abraham Lincoln's life and contributions to our nation, students learned to use the line tool (with & without arrows), change line weight, text boxes, font size,  and image sizing (pulling from the corners not the sides). They enthusiastically shared their timelines with each other and with their teacher! A fun way to learn about history!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

OHE Students Are Excited To Share Their Creative Stories With Storybird!

All over our school, students are excited to share their creative writing because of the fantastic web app, Storybird.

Students are often given time in school to write. They write paragraphs and essays to answer questions, they write nonfiction reports, and they write to evaluate their reading. These opportunities to write are vital for our students to become good readers and writers. Unfortunately, students are given less time to make up their own stories. Storybird has been inspiring our students to explore their creativity and the results are amazing!

Storybird helps students resolve the age old question - What should I write about? Within the web app, students are given a huge library of original digital art to select for their stories. This artwork not only serves as illustrations for their stories, but also the spark for their creativity! One of my favorite features in Storybird is the teacher management. It allows the teacher to create and manage student writing as well as create assignments to help guide student writing.

Once students have published their stories, their eBook can be shared with others by simply sharing the link. Students can even co-author stories if they want to collaborate with a classmate. Each published eBook also has an embed code so students can add their eBook to their blog!

Check out these two examples!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Third Graders Research Chinese New Year With GALE Kids Infobits

Chinese New Year 2017, the year of the Rooster, begins on January 28th and Mrs. McCollough's third graders wanted to know more about it! With our new Chromebooks, it is easier for student to research the holiday and share their findings! Mrs. McCollough saw this as an excellent chance for her students to conduct a short research project - ELA and gather information from a digital source and take notes - ELA 

Rather than have students simply "Google" the topic, I recommended that we begin our research with an outstanding resource, Gale Kids Infobits.

Kids Infobits is a fantastic digital resource that the state of Minnesota funds so it is free for educational institutions! (On behalf of our students, thank you so much Minnesota!) It is perfect for our elementary students! Each topic has articles written in a variety of lengths and complexity levels to address student reading levels.  Students are given access to book articles, pictures, magazine and new articles for each topic.

Once students have successfully navigated to an article on the topic that is a good fit for their reading level, there are additional tools to help them with their research.  In Mrs. McCollough's class, some students used the "Listen" feature allowing them to hear the article read to them. We also had a student who translated the article into another language and then listened to it, combining these two features and making this task more accessible! 

Once students had gathered their facts about Chinese New Year, they combined them into a paragraph using our LMS, Schoology.  This gave students an easy way to share their new knowledge with their teacher and each other!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Lakeville Elementary Unconference! A Great Day of Collaboration and Learning!

This year, our elementary teachers got together for our second ever unconference.  For those who may not know what an unconference is - It is a conference organized and led by the people attending it. Instead of passive listening, all of the teachers are participants in choosing what they want to learn and sharing their expertise! It is the best in personalized learning for teachers.

I created a video to celebrate the day, and a digital newsletter to share during a session. It was an energizing day of collaboration and learning!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

4th Graders Go On A Virtual Field Trip With Google Tour Builder!

Mrs. McKinley's 4th grade class is studying the Southwest. Students have been focused on the elements for each region of the United States - Land & Water, Climate, Products & Natural Resources, Culture and Landmarks.  This year they are tying it all together with the help of Google Tour Builder. Tour Builder gives students the opportunity to gather the digital information that they are discovering and put it together to build a tour.  As students add placemarks along their journey, that can also add text, photos, videos and hyperlinks to supporting websites. 

If students use pegman in the map view, they can zoom into street view to get an up close 360 degree view of the area. 

Students loved traveling to the Grand Canyon and even seeing inside the Carlsbad Canyons!