Thursday, June 26, 2014

Word Clouds -Technology Thursday

It is the last week of school. My students have been antsy for 3 weeks. Thanks to the snowy winter we are just going too late this year.  I needed a simple activity that was fun, still educational, and would not lose their interest.  A word cloud.  My first year, 6 years ago, was the last time I made world clouds with students. Why... while fun there a bit too simple. I love word clouds I just never create them with students, I always... go "bigger".

This year I had the perfect project.  I'm always looking for a way to keep students MOVING in the computer lab.  YES MOVING.

First, we opened up Wordle, (but you can easily use Tagxedo, and I had the students type their name THREE times.  This means when we create the cloud their name will be bigger than anything else in the cloud.

Next, we began to move around the room.  We moved one seat at a time and students looked at the name on the top of the screen.  They thought about what they know about the person and wrote an adjective. (I walked around the room and fixed spelling)

In the end students rotated back to the seats and were so excited to read all the words their classmates had written about them.  We pressed GO and began customizing their world cloud.

Each student printed and was able to take home a word cloud all about what their classmates thought about them. It was such a nice end of year activity and gift.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What I'm Loving Wednesday

This will be my first What I'm Loving Wednesday hosted by Covered in Glittered and Glue. Normally my blog is all about what is going on in the computer lab and library but today is a good day so I'm getting more personal... kind of.

TWO MORE 1/2 Days of school left.  Yes, I'm still in school. I feel like I'm the last one. 

Something educational:
This website is a new find for me and is a great resource for lessons.  Each lesson is standard aligned and organized by subject, grade, and then topic.  There are videos, games, texts, worksheets, and questions.  Each lesson can be edited so it is customized to your teaching and they say each lesson is vetted by teachers. The videos are on YouTube so if your school blocks it you'll need to find another way to get to the video (keepvid from home) or have another similar resource. 

I cannot thank the teachers on Instagram using the hashtag #healthyteachers enough.  They are truly an inspiration.  I'm determined to lose some weight I put on and just looking at all the teachers that teach full-time and still find time to run, get to gym, and cook/eat healthy food has got me going.  Two days I walked/jogged for the first time in over 10 years.  Yesterday I biked and I'm SORE. Everyday I'm wearing my FitBit and plan to walk at least 10,000 steps.

Yes, Let's- An Adventure Picture Book

"Yes, Let's" by Galen Goodwin Longstreth is a picture books about a family that spends the day adventuring in the woods by a river/lake.

 (Click the cover to head)

I don't think I have come across a picture book that tells a story of a family adventuring out on a hike like this one does. It is fun with its rhymes and while it looks simple it is far from it.  As I read the students were able to relate to one of not many characters in the story; they could even connect their own family members to characters in the book, including the dog.  There is family affection as they do things such as play a game of cards or take build a moat and even hidden details if you look close such as squirrel thievery or the trail mix with a lot of chocolate chips. 

The comic styles illustrations by Marie Wicks help make this book what it is.   The little details on each page help encourage students to keep reading and reread.   I adore books that encourage students to reread and learn and discover new things each time.   Take a look at the picture on the camera screen, a minor detail that my students wanted to look at.

The images are from near the beginning of the book and near the end of the book.

This is the middle and the only page with no words.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Students in second grade study dinosaurs in their classroom.  Each student chooses one dinosaur to research and create a diorama.  This is one of my favorite projects because I love looking at all the dioramas and hearing the students pass me in the hall or find me in the library and tell me a fact about the dinosaur they researched.

Here are some of this year's dioramas:

With school running so late this year the students are just done.  I wanted to keep some sort of routine the last two weeks so I decided to incorporate this project into their learning during Media Time.  Using the app Chatterpix, the students created a talking dinosaur full of facts about the dinosaur they had researched. ChatterPix is free in the App Store.  

1. Students used Google Image to find a image and save it to the camera roll
2. Open ChatterPix
3. Select Take A Picture and choose the image from your camera roll on the bottom left
4. Move the image around and zoom in and out until the image is where you want it placed
5. Touch Next
6. Draw the mouth, the part of the image that will open and close when talking, by dragging your finger and creating a line (You can do this as many times as you want)
7. Touch the microphone- It will countdown from 3
8. Speak about your topic for up to 30 seconds
9. Touch Next
10. Add filters, stamps, borders, and/or text to your video
11. Add your image to the gallery by touching next, and/or download it to your Camera Roll using the bottom right button

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer Reading- Reading Bingo

I'm connecting with another Maniac Monday At Classroom Freebies:
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

I am a true believer that students should choose what they want to read, they will enjoy reading more.  For summer reading students choose a goal of how many books they will read over the summer and then they read books of their choosing.  In years past I've provided a list of books at each grade level for students to reference but this year I wanted to do something different.

In the library I'm always encouring students to choose a variety of books.  We color code in the library in second grade and at the circulation counter I ask students if they are interested in changing their books to have a variety of a books.  So this summer I created "RINGO" or Reading Bingo.  This will help students select and read a variety of books.  They record the information on the RINGO sheet and also keep track of it on their Reading Log.

Download our entire summer reading packet here.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Completed Genius Hour Projects

Genius Hour with the fourth graders go a bit crazy. I posted awhile ago about starting Genius Hour projects with all fourth grade student in a modified version.  Genius hour is based on Google's 20% in which you give students the freedom to learn about any topic they are interested in.

Since I only see students once a week for 45 minutes I needed to give some guidelines and continue to teach some lesson or months would go by.  We started with a "What are you interested in?" sheet and students picked a topic and developed an inquiry question.  This was hard! Their classroom teachers and I did not let them get away with "thin", "skinny", "simple" questions.

Then we rehashed evaluating websites and the students were on their own.  This proved to be too much for some students; they needed a worksheet, a set of questions to answer.  Others really took off .  Students worked their way through the Big 6 Research Model and as a class we developed a timeline to help them along. (Of course testing and unforeseen absences prevented us from sticking to that timeline.)

Students continue to research as I introduced different ways they could present their information.  Being the Technology specialist, all presentations had to incorporate technology.  Students could come up with their own way to present but I offered: PowerPoint, Glogster, BrainyBox, Tellagami, GreenScreen, Live Video, and StopMotion Animation.

Check out some of their presentations.




Videos: (There were a few students with green screen screen videos which were great but I cannot share sudent's faces)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Almost Summer Book Reccomendation

My school may be one of the last to get out.  June 26th! Yep, there are still 4 days and 3 half days of still left but who is counting?  Thanks to 10+ mom volunteers this morning my library looks amazing and is ready for next school year already. NO ONE can touch the shelves... just kidding...kind of.

While scrolling through Instagram I came across Ramona Recommends' IG page and she had this great idea for Linky party. Since school is still in session, I'm not traveling, but I am on the hunt for a good book to read to get the students excited for summer and of course, summer reading.  I decided to hit up my library and find something new, something we did not have in our school library and I found "Beach" by Elisha Cooper.  This will be on my purchase list for next year. It is also a great book for Mrs. Jump's We Love Books linky.

The beautiful watercolors in this book help tell a great story of a day at the beach.  Anyone who has spent time at the beach can easily relate to this book.  A reader who hasn't spent time at this beach can quickly get the feeling of being there with the clouds, waves, and sand; its like you can almost feel the breeze in your face.  Throughout the book you read and see events that occur throughout the day such as sandcastle building or playing in the waves.  The book ends with the day ending and everyone having to go home.

I cannot wait to start reading it to the students and share beach stories. Our summer reading theme is summer is Rock, Roll, and Read.  Hopefully this will help get them excited.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book Trailers (updated)

Third grade students have been working on book trailers.  When I introduced Battle of the Books (post here) I showed some book trailers and they really enjoyed them so I thought, let's create some.

Each student had freedom to choose any book that was at their reading level.  They wrote a little bit about the book first.

(click the image to download the guide)

Then used Photopin ( to find pictures to show what they are going to discuss. Photopin is a great site for finding photos. Photopin uses Flickr to search Creative Commons photos so I know we can use all the photos the students find.  I had the "Let's be mature" conversation with the students in the beginning but we had NO incidents. If they couldn't find what they were looking for, they could use other sites I had collected:

After I had students edit at least one to to fit into their project.  Many students add character names but other got really creative.  We used the site BeFunky, . The website allows you to do basic editing, exposure, brightness, resizing, etc, but it also had fun filters, borders, and allows you to add cool text features.  There is an undo and redo button which is convenient for these elementary age students.

Before and  after

Students then took all their photos and put them in iMovie.  We added a title sequence, sound effects OR a song, and transitions.  They turned out awesome.

Here are 4 examples:

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


It is nearing the end of the school year and schedules are crazy.  For a variety of reasons I wasn't going to spend a lot of time with my Kindergartners so I wanted to have interesting lessons that would keep their attention.  For two weeks we discussed the job of an illustrator.

First we read some Pigeon books by Mo Willems and developed our own, "Don't Let the Pigeon ____" sentences.  Students then used instructed drawings from Heidi Butkus, here, to draw our Pigeons in Tux Paint.  The students loved it. They thought it was cool that Mo Willems drew the pictures and wrote the story.

The next week to watched and listened to Pete the Cat . We reviewed why some books are more fun to "watch" from our units on ebooks.  Then we draw Heidi Butkus' instructed drawings for Pete the Cat, here, and wrote the sentence "Pete the Cat is ______".

The students loved listening to the other books while they worked and compared who hard it was to draw Pete vs Pigeon.  I loved that each class asked if that was why there was a different author and illustrator for the Pete the Cat books unlike the Pigeon books.

These were great quick lessons that the students definitely enjoyed. They picked up on so many little lessons here and there throughout the two weeks that is definitely something I would do again.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Mother Reader's 48Hour Book Challenge

This year I wanted to be a part of Mother Reader's 48Hour Book Challenge.  The theme, diversity is really what inspired me to read this weekend.  So often I find books that I read, purchase for the library, and recommend for my students have mainly white characters.   This was the perfect opportunity to get some multicultural reading in and many of the books I read this weekend were already on my "to-read" list.

Unfortunately, life also happens and recently I've made sure to know what my priorities are.  This weekend my brother, sister-in-law, and 4-year old nephew were in from out of town.  They took top priority.  My health has required extra sleep recently and today I slept until 11am! The third and last thing that kept me from reading, my better half.  We had some yard work to do with this beautiful weather and he wanted to watch Orange is the New Black season 2 released on Netflix this weekend.  I did find a good balance.

In the end I read mostly middle grade books as I teach in a K-4 school.  I read:
7 books
1,555 pages
Since I read sporadically here and there it was hard to keep track of times but I read about 20 hours.

Not what I would have wanted if I read all weekend but family and health comes first.

Inside Out and Back Again
Thanhha Lai

 This was probably my favorite read this weekend.  This book written in verse and told from the heart was so moving.  The chronologically told story was easy to follow and and easy to connect to the character.  While it is a story of the immigration from Thailand it is truly a story of the struggles of immigration of any young student to a new country.

Saint Louis Armstrong Beach
Brenda Woods

This story is about an 11 year old boy, Saint, and the neighborhood dog, Shadow,  who live in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.  The story builds a nice relationship with Saint, an all-around good kid and good musician who loves the dog.  When the Hurricane comes Saint makes some bad decisions and story becomes a bit... underwhelming.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Sherman Alexie

The hype around this book is well deserved.  Not for the "inappropriate issues" it brings ups but for the way the character is written.  The ability for the reader to understand the tragedy, emotions, and loss that the character is going through alongside the moments of true happiness.
(This is the one of the books I read this weekend that I cannot add to my school library but I've been wanting to read it for awhile and I'm glad I did.)

One Crazy Summer 
Rita Williams Garcia

The main character Delphine is far beyond her years here.  She is strong black female character who is smart, brave, and acts older than her 11 year old self.  The non-traditional/bad mother and not so perfect happy ending are and important part of the book.   While I loved the main character and her relationship with the sisters, I wasn't enthralled with the book overall.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Grace Lin

In the library I'm always recommending Grace Lin to the students.  This books has been on my to-read list since it came out and I can't believe it took me so long to read it.  The Chinese folklore stories within the story of Minli and her Ma and Ba were so enjoyable to read this was my second favorite read of the weekend and easily a competitor for the first.

American Born Chinese
Gene Luen Yang

This graphic novel read like a novel.  It addresses identity issues and racism as well as friendship. The three stories, the Monkey King, Danny, and Jing Wang all flow nicely together in the end to teach a lesson.

When You Reach Me
Rebecca Stead

This was a great read.  The story unravels so well as Miranda ventures through her New York City neighborhood, deals with her best friend, or lack their-of, helps her mom prepare for a game show, and much more.

Along the multicultural theme, Mind/Shift, published yesterday "25 Books That Diversify Kids' Reading Lists This Summer"