Archive | November, 2012

Connections from Across the Sea

30 Nov

Yesterday my class was able to Skype with my sister, Lissa, and brother-in-law, Jeff, who are working at The American International School of Kuwait.  First we looked at pictures of Kuwait.  Some pictures were taken by Lissa and Jeff and others were just a few I found online.  I gave them a brief idea of what the area was like so they could come up with questions for Lissa and Jeff. Each student prepared a question for them.  The questions ranged from “how hot is it?” to “do you have doors on your room?”  I did not filter the questions because these were all things the students really wanted to know about.

When we Skyped, the whole class got to say hi.  Then each student got a chance to ask their question and hear the answer.  The answers that were given also lead to more questions and discussion. We had a few technical difficulties with internet connection on their part but we got it all worked out so every student had a chance to ask their question.  The students were so excited to talk to Lissa and Jeff that I had to keep reminding them they needed to sit on their bottom so everyone else could see.

When we stopped Skyping I pulled up some more pictures that Jeff and Lissa had taken of things that we had talked about like their cat and a camel. Both images were taken by Lissa and Jeff.

The response to this image was a collective awww!
This picture reminded them of Aladdin and the spitting camel.

iPad Stories

29 Nov

During our writing time over the past couple of weeks, we have been working on iPad stories.  There were two apps that we used.  The first was Sock Puppets.  This app was fun to play with because it changes your voice to make it higher or lower.  The disadvantage was that you could only record for 30 seconds.  The other app was PuppetPals HD.  This allowed the students to record for a longer amount of time.  This one also had a fairy tale theme.  You have to pay to get the other themes.

I introduced the stories by writing one as a class.  I introduced Sock Puppets first.  We picked our characters, scene, and any props we wanted.  After we chose those we stopped and made a plan.  I had my students make their plans in their draft books.  I told them they could write, draw, make a list, etc.  It was difficult not to make anyone upset by not using their ideas, so I tried to allow as many students as possible give their input.  Once we had our plan I drew names to see who would get to record their voice.  They loved this and were so excited every time I brought the iPad out.

I introduced PuppetPals on the second day.  We used the same process so they understood they had to have a plan.  They did not seem to prefer one over the other.  They just loved them both!
Since I only have three iPads in my room I had them work in pairs and only three pairs could go each day.

Here are two of my students working on a story together.

After our writing workshop time the three pairs would share their story with the class.  There was a lot of giggling!

Here is one example of a story my students wrote.

Something Borrowed, Something New

4 Nov

This week was a week for experiments. We tried something new during the transition periods and during read to self. Both seem to help my students learn better.

Transition times were a little rough. Students would be all over the place looking at things around the room or continuing to do the previous task. Tammy and I were constantly having to tell the students to stop what they were doing and get ready for the next lesson. We had a little timer laying around so we started using it. I tell the students what they need to put away, get out, and where they need to be sitting next. After they get all of the directions, I set the timer. We are not sure how long the timer actually is but I think it is somewhere between 1 and 2 minutes. We told them that if they are not where they are supposed to be and ready to learn by the time the timer goes off they get a color change on our behavior chart. It has worked really well! This whole week we only had to change three students’ colors because they were not sitting down yet. Now they are always asking to be timed when we are doing anything.

I have noticed the students stopping what they are doing a little quicker. Before I would have to ask them multiple times to put their crayons or pencil away or put their paper away. I still do have to remind them to move quickly because the timer is on. I remind them only for those few students that are moving at their own pace. Now that I have a cord to hook the iPad to the projector I might use a visual and audio timer. This might help my slower students who need that extra push.

We also started using lamps during read to self time. Tammy got the idea from the Café book and it took us a while to get enough lamps to do it. We have two floor lamps in the front of the room and three table lamps in the back of the room on our counter. This is one of our floor lamps.

We want more but we are just taking what we can get. We turn off the lights so the room is a little more calm during that time. The first day we tried it with the lights off and the lamps on, the students were like new kids. I had never seen them working so hard and so quietly. They all said how much they loved the lamps. I am just not 100 percent sure how much it affected the students after the first day because later in the week we had one of the loudest read to self times this year. I am not sure if the newness of the lamps was their reasoning for being so great. Another reason could be because two of the students that talk the most and sometimes make choices not to do their work were not there on the first day with the lamps. I am hoping we can continue to have some great read to self time in the future. We might have to do a little more experimenting with it though.

I really enjoyed trying new things this week. I am excited to see if a visual and audio timer will help my students at all. I want to continue to look at the read to self routine and see if there is anything that can make it better. I realized how easy it is to get into a routine and not try new things. Even if the routine is working it is still important to reflect on how things are going and see if there is anything that can make it better.