Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Media Frenzy!

The newest assignment in the 30 Day Teacher Blog Challenge is adding different media to your blog. Although I am new to the blogging scene, I have often inserted different media types into my classroom website. Items ranging from student created VoiceThreads and Xtranormal Videos, homemade Youtube Videos and Animoto and PhotoPeach Slide Shows have become regular visitors to our classroom website. (By clicking on the links you will see how these sites have been used in a fourth grade class.)

I'm sure that many people have embedded the media mentioned above. So I decided I would try to find something different to embed. Recently I discovered Blabberize . I also decided that I would try it in combination with my Avatar assignment. The 'Welcome Message' at the beginning of my blog was created using Blabberize and Build Your Wild Self. (Sometimes it takes a while for Blabberize to load - I was having trouble replaying my creation - hope it works for you.)

Also, via the Techie Lab Teacher Blog Post I was introduced to this site and have decided I'd like to try this with my class as a way to get feedback on certain topics. So I thought before I use it with my students perhaps you could answer this question for me with Answer Garden : What is your favorite media type to embed in your blog?

What is your favorite media type to embed?... at

Since posting this last night - I decided to try and find some different media...thinking about easy Web2.0 tools my students could use. I found this: Dvolver Moviemaker....its very simple and not real looking, but it's easy to use. I made this in about 3 minutes with some prompting.  (I have removed my Dvolver. I found that it would play as soon as the page was opened up.  There was no pause button or no way to stop it from playing.  I felt this conflicted with the embedded Blabber at the top).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Copyright - Shmopyright?

Coypright-Shmopyright? Not really so!

Since I’m a teacher, I've mostly assumed that I don’t have to worry about ‘Copyright'. Burying my head in the sand doesn’t excuse me from the law and rather perpetuates the problem of copyright issues.

In one of my graduate classes I was first (and formerly) introduced to the issues of copyright and fair use. It made me realize that we all need to be cognizant and aware of the Copyright protections as well as the Fair Use rules in education (and elsewhere).

While using images and multimedia in the classroom is key to helping my students make connections to what they are learning (please see Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age by David Rose & Anne Meyer), I still need to be responsible and make sure that I am abiding by the rules. No longer can I bury my head in the sand as before.

A great site that explains copyright is from University of Maryland University College . A great site for Best Practices and Fair Use for Media Literacy in Education is from American University Center for Social Media. This site from Temple University - School of Communications and Theater provides a Powerpoint slide show and other resources.

After reading about Copyright in the 30 Day Teacher Challenge I realized that I need to change how I’m using images, not only in my blogs, but in my teaching as well. As an educator, I need to set a good example for my students.

So here is my goal: I will start posting images and making them part of the Public Domain. In this small way, perhaps I will be helping others when it comes time to worrying about Copyright and Fair Use!

On a side note: I played around with the second part of the challenge which was to take an image and remake....Loved it....I used BeFunky.

Here are some of the pics I made from a photo I titled: Stopping by the Woods (from my favorite Robert Frost poem). The very top one is my favorite.

Friday, January 21, 2011

No School - All Schools!

"No School - All Schools - Boston"
"No School - All Schools - Canton"
"No School - All Schools - Walpole"

Yippee! That's the one! I remember sitting in front of the television or listening to the radio with my brothers and sisters waiting for the No School - All School announcement! Living in the "W" town our anticipation kept building and building after each letter of the alphabet. Often times there would be several commercial breaks which would produce loud groans of "Oh No" and "Not again!"

There is something magical about a Snow Day off from School - UNLESS you are a parent. Today, with so many parents working it's a scramble to find someone to be with the kids. Superintendents often cancel schools early (even before the snow falls) in an effort to help parents make arrangements for the day.

That being said - there are many parents that are home with the kids and they may be wondering "what can we do today"? If you are looking for something to do on a 'snow day' with the kids, perhaps these resources can help you.

SNOWDAY: This site shares "25 things to do" Some ideas that could have been included:

#26: 'Break out the photo album and share stories of when you were a child (or share the stories of what was happening when you took the pictures of your kids.)
#27 'Put on a show'. My children used to use stuffed animals and do puppet shows.
#28: 'Take a Nature Walk' - You can walk through your yard and look for animal tracks and figure out who made them. We would wonder at how the squirrels seemed to make all kinds of designs.

40 THINGS TO DO ON A SNOW DAY: This site offers '40 things to do' with links or directions. These seem to be activities to do INSIDE. My favorites are:

#2: 'Make homemade Playdough' What child can not resist using play dough!
#26 'Color some Free Printable Coloring Pages' Coloring is such a relaxing activitiy Read this blog on the BENEFITS OF COLORING.
#29 'Make toys and Models from Paper'. Download these paper models from Canon. Some seem very involved but fun. Remember to be careful when using scissors.

WINTER SNOWMAN CRAFTS & RECIPES: This site offers several ideas for crafts and recipes. Some are more involved than others. One of my favorite crafts is a to make a No-sew SOCK SNOWFOLK. This article suggests using a tube sock and rice. I have done this with my class using toilet paper (body), plastic bags (head) and tube sock covering (not cutting the sock). The kids love it!

Let me know of other sites or ideas that could be added to this list!

And most of all - Enjoy your SNOW DAY!!!!!

*snow tracks provided by: (wylio)

photo © 2008 Arthur Kho Caayon | more in

Sunday, January 16, 2011

They're Reading-Now What? Activating Prior Knowledge-Part 2

They're Reading - Now What? What are the strategies that you employ while your students are reading? Is there a way to incorporate technology as a way to help students with their comprehension?

Focusing on making connections and activating prior knowledge DURING reading is just as important as tapping into the prior knowledge BEFORE reading. Check out these 'during reading' ideas at All America Reads. You probably already utilize many of these tactics.

Using graphic organizers helps our students solidify their understanding through pictorial or structural designs. They aid our student's comprehension. One way to add a new twist to graphic organizers is to pair these time-tested tools with technology.

Excel Spreadsheet: An Excel spreadsheet, for example could be created and filled in while reading. The example I have created below is about the characters in our reading story. Students can complete the charts individually, with a partner or whole group. (Brush up on your Excel basics at Internet4Classrooms).

Digital Post it Notes: I LOVE sticky notes....I have my students use Sticky notes while they are reading to record any thoughts or questions relating to the story. Why not have the students post their sticky notes on a free site like Wallwisher. Students will enjoy reading each other's stickies . Check out our Marven Wallwisher. (The picture at the top of this post was created in Wallwisher).

Another site where you can create and post stickies (and then embed them into your website) is Students can create a word splash that show an understanding of the story or as a class create a Post-it.

TIMELINES: Sequencing activities also strengthen comprehension while students are reading. Using a timeline will help children make connections and put them in a logical, sequential order.

There are many sites that offer free timelines. Some are more involved than others. For elementary students I suggest using the ReadWriteThink timeline. These timelines can be organized by date, time, event, or other and can be printed vertically or horizontally. Another timeline suitable for elementary students is from TeAch-nology. It's simple and easy to use (although you are limited in your description of events.)

These activities during reading can be paper and pencil tasks, but what if we were able to create these organizers digitally? Would our students be more engaged and therefore more motivated? Would it effect their comprehension in a positive way? I think the answer is yes. Why not find out for yourself!

(Part 3 of the series will deal with Activating Prior Knowledge AFTER reading).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bloggin' Kickin' Dreamin'

Back in November or December I had read about the "30 Day Kick Start Your Blogging" Challenge. I thought that it might be nice to start blogging, but quite honestly I was afraid to take the Challenge in the event I couldn't do the entire 30 days. So I decided I would try to create my own blog on my own. That was the beginning of my blog, Teaching is Elementary, which is a professional blog. Not really sure the direction it would take, but it was my intention to share some stories, some experiences and some resources.

Why did you join the Teacher Challenge’s 30 Days to Kick Starting your Blogging?

Just yesterday I got an email from a friend of mine (thanks Cheryl) asking me to try the challenge. So, I here I am trying my hand with the hopes that I'll be able to keep up with everyone. I am always advising my students to take a risk in the classroom and I guess I'm taking my own advice.

Why do you want to learn more about blogging?

I wonder: Am I being full of myself? Do I really have anything to say that would be useful/interesting to others? And if I do, how can I get the word out? These are the questions that I'm hoping this Challenge will help me answer.

What aspects of blogging have you struggled with?

Hmmm....mostly I struggle with far it has been my family and friends reading and responding. My intention that this blog be a 'professional' blog so I'm struggling with HOW to get my blog read? I welcome all ideas. Also, technically wondering how to add a caption to a photo (as I meant to give credit to the last photo I used.).

So, here I am bloggin', kickin' and dreamin'!

*word cloud created with ABCya!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Activating Prior Knowledge Part 1

Do you remember “Back to the Future?” with Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd? The unusual time machine Doc Brown rigged up was a Delorean car! It was just on T.V. last week.
Why didn’t I think to use a clip from that movie as a way to activate my students' prior knowledge about time traveling? Or use a clip with Phineas and Ferb? Or share a clip from the Magic School Bus Goes Back in Time? These clips would have certainly engaged my students and had them really thinking about our next reading story instead of me asking them: “Do you know anything about time machines?”

Activating Prior-Knowledge or Building Background Knowledge is a ‘must’ and just good teaching practice for building comprehension. It can be done before, during and after reading in any content area. According to Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmermann It has been known for some time that one of the most effective ways to improve comprehension is to "activate mental files" before reading. (from Mosaic of Thought, 1997, p.51)

Using Digital Media and online resources allows more students access while actively engaging them in these activities. Try the following strategies as BEFORE reading activators.

ANTICIPATION GUIDES: Use an Anticipation Guide to peak students’ curiosity about a topic. Visit this site for more information and templates: Reading Rockets. A technology twist on this technique could be to create your Anticipation guide using a free online survey tool such as Survey Monkey or Polldaddy. Students love ‘guessing’ before reading and using technology will totally grab their attention. Once the survey is complete you can share the results with the students. Take the survey again AFTER reading and compare the results as a quick assessment.

KWL CHARTS: The KWL chart has long been used as an effective strategy to find out what students KNOW about a topic, WANT to know or what they have LEARNED. Typically, we use 3 columns and write down the information. Why not have students create (either individually, with a partner or even as a whole class) a Word Cloud, which is a fun way to show words that go beyond listing, as a way to generate their K-W-L. Free online sites like ABCya and Wordle provide kids with a way to visually represent their ideas in an attractive and unique way.

VIDEOS & IMAGES: Using videos and other images can really help students relate to topics and ideas. Often they help activate knowledge to those students who do not have first-hand experience with a subject. Many schools subscribe to Discovery Education, which has videos and stills for every area of the curriculum. One free online video resource can be found at: Teachers’Domain, which has libraries featuring media from NOVA, Frontline, American Experience and other PBS sources. There are many sites that allow teachers and others to use photos without worry of violating copyright. Public domain photos can be found at PD Photo and Public Domain Pictures.

Good teachers are constantly activating prior knowledge to help their students learn. Modeling the above strategies and accessing the knowledge before students begin their reading will build their comprehension.

(Part 2 of this series will deal with the strategies to use During Reading!)

Top Photo:
photo credit: JD Hancock via photo pin cc