Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Must Read Monday- Earthquake Terror by Peggy Kehret

Must-Read Monday Linky

I am extremely excited to find Must-Read Monday hosted by Teaching Madness. Finding new book recommendations by other teachers is always great and now finding them each week is so exciting.

One of my students' Battle of the Books this year is Earthquake Terror by Peggy Kehret. To learn more about Battle of the Books you can read my post here: http://technicallylibrarian.blogspot.com/2014/02/battle-of-books.html.

Click the image to see the book on Amazon

This book is great for a read-aloud, reading groups, or an whole class read.  Students with all kinds of interest will find something that appeals to them in this Realistic Fiction Adventure book. 

The story is about a family,  Jonathan, his parents, his disabled sister Abby, and their dog Moose, who go camping on Magpie Island.  Jonathan's mother fell broke her ankle so his parents left him charge of Abby and Moose while they go to the hospital. Unfortunately for Jonathan, the ground starts to rumble and he, Abby, and Moose find themselves in the middle of a natural disaster, an earthquake.  Jonathan must save Abby and Moose form the damaged island and pouring rain and find their parents. 

It is a great book for teaching many different elements of reading: setting, character, mood, cause and effect, problem and solution, inferring... I can go on and on.   The students are truly enjoying this book as did I.  It has promoted sustained reading as this is a long complex book.  

If you google "Earthquake Terror lesson plans" there is a plethora of resources out there to assist in teaching with this book.   One I found to be very detailed is by Peanut Butter Published on readbymyside.com: http://www.readsidebyside.com/media/earthquake.pdf

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


A few years ago I had second graders write Valentines from inanimate object to inanimate object.  It was a huge hit.  The last few years I did not do this project and I missed it immensely so I brought it back!

Students walk into this picture on the SMART Board.

Then, I read aloud, Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane de Groat.  We discussed how Valentines Day was all about telling people how much you like them.  It did not have to be lovey dovey but it was about kind words.

I find that books by Diane de Groat are great on many levels.  The students are always interested in the story.  The characters are relatable, the images are large and interesting, and the while the story gives a lesson it is not so blunt that the students are bored; each lesson is carefully worked into the story so the students are well aware they are learning something but still get to laugh enjoy the story. She is always funny!

(Her books about Gilbert remind a bit of the Little Critter series by Mercer Mayer.  When I was little I loved these books.  I knew they were teaching me a lesson but I didn't care. Diane de Groat's Gilbert series seems a bit more interesting, but it is 2014.)

Students then helped me write a valentine.  I told them I was going to be a foot writing to a sock and I really wanted to tell the sock how much I needed it.  I always start them with... Dear Sock, I wanted to tell you how much I love you on this Valentine's Day.
One class came out like this:
Dear Sock, 
I wanted to tell you how much I love you on this Valentine's Day.
You are really comfortable on me and prevent me from getting blisters.
When you are one me I feel warm on cold floors.
When I kick a ball, you help the shoe stay on me.

Then we brainstormed things that go together.  (Yes that last one says "Mom and Candy Crush")

Students then worked on their own to write their own valentines to and from inanimate objects (mostly). Their template is below.

Then we learned from Microsoft Word skills, typed them up and added a picture.  Here are some examples. 
The student below has been in our school about 3 months.  She came in knowing little to no English.  I wrote her rough draft after she verbally told me what to say and she typed it all on her own.  Such progress!

This one is so creative for a second grader. I love it!

I was really happy to see one of the boys venture out into their own world instead of using one of our brainstorm ideas.

Of course, I had to include the Candy Crush one. :p The last reason is GREAT!

Students printed and brought these home this week.  Years ago I made a game out of it.  They didn't sign the letters and instead the class guessed who the letters were from.  Since I only see my classes once a week, it takes 3 weeks to complete this and I learned it is way to hard for second graders to keep a secret for 3 weeks so this year they signed them. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Digital Citizenship (Tried It Tuesday and Techie Tuesday Link-up)

This year to teach Digital Citizenship I needed something new.  After looking at a variety of different sites I landed on Digital Passport by Common Sense Media.  This site grabbed my attention for a variety of reasons:

1. Students have their own login so I can track their progress
2. It has interactive games so the students are interested and have to make decisions
3. It can be used at school and at home
4. It covers a variety of topics
5. As a teacher I can group students by class
6. Even their lesson plans are great

As an educator you need to sign-up.  It is free and simple.  Once logged in you create your class(es) by typing students names in or uploading a simple .csv file. This is the screen you see when you first log-in.

As the educator you can download Educator Materials, these are the lesson plans which I find to be written well and very useful.  They are to the point, interesting, and a great introduction activity that help students grasp what they are about to learn. On this screen you can also Get Trained, find answer to some FAQs, learn about Mobile use on the iPads, or Preview the Games. I found the Educator Materials and Preview Games tabs to be the most helpful.

Here is a beginning of the Share Jumper Lesson Plan:

Here you can also change settings and view reports for your class(es).   By clicking on the class' tab at the top you can add more students, manage which activities they can play, and view their scores/reports.

So now it is the students turn to login.  (When I create student accounts at the elementary age I give them all the same password.  This makes my life easier in future weeks when students do not know their passwords.)   Students see this screen to login:

At their first log-in students are asked to choose an avatar and learn how to create a safe a password.  I learned that this is a test on following directions as much as it is on learning to create a good password.  Then they are brought to the following screen where they can choose their activities:

My students had mostly positive things to say so far.  I started with Share Jumper and I used Digital Passports opening activity.  They loved the game feel, their scores were good, and when we closed students retained information from the video, game, and scenarios played out for them.  While I will not do all 5 lessons this year, I will keep using Digital Passport and build on them each year.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Digital Storytelling

I absolutely adore Digital Storytelling.  Since I started teaching Computers 5 years ago, I have taught digital storytelling every year.  Most years, I have even run a digital storytelling after-school club.

There are many ways to teaching students to create a digital story.  Since I usually teach it to first graders I provide the students with a planning sheet for Beginning, Middle, and End.  Students usually have complete freedom of characters, setting, and plot as long as: the beginning introduces the story, the middle shows a problem, and the end solves the problem.  If I taught it to older grades, there were more requirements. Students drew their pictures in a drawing program on the computer and combined it with their recorded voices in GarageBand.

This year, I did I did it differently and if I must say, it was awesome.

First I started the students out with the app Story Wheel of the iPad. There is a free and a paid version of this app.  The free version gives students one theme to choose from, Story Teller, and the paid version provides Story Teller plus Space, Pirates, and Knights and Princesses.

Students work alone, in pairs, or in groups to create a story.  First, they spin the wheel and land on an
image.  They have 30 seconds to record a part of the story.  If they make a mistake they can rerecord.  Next, thye pass the iPad for the next person in their group to spin the wheel and do the same.  Students are supposed to build on each others recordings to build a story.  Once complete, the story is played back with the animated images.  It can be exported and shared as an ibook.  I do not like that the students cannot pause when recording or go back and change a recording after they have clicked Next Player.

First, I put students into pairs, or groups of three.  I showed them how to use the app and gave them freedom of theme since we have the paid version.  Groups who struggled to keep a single story going were told to repeat something their partner said while recording their own 30 seconds.  The first graders had so much fun they asked to make second stories when they finished their first.  They wanted to share all their stories with me.  The next week, they saw the iPads and asked right away if we were using Story Wheel again. I think this app is great for storytelling, group work, creativity, and much more.

If you have iBooks your your iPad, iPhone, or computer, here are some samples I exported:
Story 1 Link
Story 2 Link
To learn more about Story Wheel, head to their website: http://www.storywheelapp.com/

Never wanting to dissapoint, the second week I introduced the students to a new app, Puppet Pals.  In heterogenous groups students worked together to choose characters and write a story.  First they created a storyboard in which  I emphasized the use of adjectives to help keep their stories interesting.  Students then used the app Puppet Pals HD to create their stories.

Puppet Pals is another app that has both a free version and a paid version.  This is one of my all time
favorite apps for elementary age students.  The free version comes with one theme, Wild West.  Each theme has different characters and backdrops.  The paid version, or the Director's Pass, has many more themes such as: Pirates, Fairy Tales, Zombies, Political, Talk Show, etc.

This app is great for storytelling, speaking, character writing, listening, and so much more.  Students will select their characters, their backdrops, and then record their voices while moving the characters around.  Characters can be resized, rotated, and can change directions.  Unlike Story Wheel, students can pause and continue recording.  If you are savvy in Movie Maker or iMovie you can export multiple parts and combine them.  This allows students to record at different times.  (This is also great if you only  have a few or even 1 iPad to share with your class.)

Here are some sample stories from my first graders:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Battle of the Books

Every year my students participate in Battle of the Books.  As a member of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians, I have access to a list of age appropriate books and questions written great local SLMS.  The students get excited each year as do the teachers, and of course I do.   This year I had a fourth graders walk into the library and say, "Battle is my life!'

Battle of the Books last about 4 1/2 to 5 months.  Students work in teams to read 15 books.  Here, I require each student to read at least 5 books to be apart of the Battle.  After reading a book, a student must complete a memory jogger.  Each memory jogger requires the students to identify the title, author, characters, setting, problem, resolution, and beginning, middle, and end.  Memory joggers must then be checked and signed by their teacher.

After the 4 1/2 or so months, we BATTLE.  Teams compete in 10 rounds to answer questions about the books.  Each questions starts with "In which book..." and all answers are in the format of the title of the book and author.  Teams have 30 seconds respond and if they respond correctly they get 5 points for knowing the title of the books and a bonus 3 points if they know the author. If the team does not know the answer the question dies, there is no stealing, so I always encourage teams to guess no matter what.

Class teams compete against each and then we have a grade level battle.  As a small district we do not have other schools to compete against, but we are lucky enough to have 2 districts nearby that also participate in Battle of the Books.  Our winning teams come together and we have a Regional Battle of the Books. The students always become quite competitive against other towns.

To start things off I usually pick a theme to get the students excited.  Two years ago it was jousting, last year it was Battleship, and this year I chose Angry Birds.  I introduce or remind students what Battle of the Books is and how it plays out.

With each title I read a short excerpt or show them a book trailer I find on TeacherTube, Youtube, or www.booktrailersforreaders.com.  No surprising the books that have trailers the students are always the most excited to read.

The third graders really enjoyed the Book Trailers, I think I'm going to have them make some next project.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Family Reading Night

(Better late than never)
Back on November14th , yes THREE months ago, my school held Family Reading Night.  Students and their families return to school for 2 hours of fun!
Each family was separated into one of four color coded groups and provided a schedule.  Each family attended the following events:

Meet the author:

This year we had author Wendy Pfeffer come speak with the families.  Ms. Pfeffer is the award winning author of over 48 children's books.  When looking for authors, I asked Wendy Pfeffer to come to help inspire students to read more non-fiction, Common Core related books. In Kindergarten the students all read "Sounds All Around" and "From Seed to Pumpkin" during their curriculum.  This year, second grade added her beautiful book, "Life In the Coral Reef" to their curriculum after learning about her visit.

Her visit was full of stories about how she writes, specific stories about her inspiration, and so much more.  Wendy Pfeffer was homely and listening to her speak was like listening to a family member tell a story that you are personally connected too.  Parents and students both loved hearing her speak and many had books signed at the end.  She hand wrote little notes to each child.  It was very nice of her.

Family Reading:

During the night, parents and students stop in the library to read together.  This is a great opportunity for students to show their parents our beautiful library and read their favorite books.  As a "reward" for coming, families are able to check out an additional library book beyond their usual circulation allowance.

Music and Storytelling:
One stop is in the music room.  This year our music teacher stayed and sang songs with the students and their families.  It is fun to go down to the music room and see the students excited to sing along with students of different grade levels.  This year the students sang and looked at pictures for an eye-spy interactive adventure.

Art Room:
Every year our art teacher develops an art project that relates to the visiting authors books.  Students love to stop in the art room and go home with something they created that night.