Friday, November 29, 2013

Fall Digital Stories

One of our writing projects this trimester was to create a story with a Fall theme.  To being, my class started brainstorming their ideas on a handy graphic organizer that my teammate made.

On Step 1, the students had to come up with the plot of their story.  We had them stick to a few requirements so that their stories didn't become too elaborate!  This step was done on the first day in addition to brainstorming some of the ideas that they could write. 

On Step 2, the students had to plot out their story.  We talked about deciding on a proper place to end their pages and about what illustrations that they'd like to later add.  This step did not happen until after the students had edited and revised their rough drafts.

After the organizer was finished, it was time to go into digital publishing mode.  My first idea was to use Book Creator for iPad, but with only 4 iPads in the classroom and 27 students, my head started to spin.  My next thought was to do something with Google since all of my students have a Google Drive.  Originally, I was set on Google Drawing (which is similar to Publisher).  I liked the ease at which my students could move their text and illustrations around.  Insert Problem: Google Drawing only allows you to create one page at a time.  So....we moved onto Plan B, Google Presentation.  This still allowed my students the ease of moving their text and illustrations which is what I originally wanted. only got better from there!  By using Google Presentation, my students were able to animate their page turns and images.  They loved it!

Once we were in the publishing stage, I told my students that they need to have illustrations.  Half of their illustrations came from the Google search engine within the program and the other half were illustrated by themselves.  I ended up snapping picture of their images (with my iPad) and uploading them to their Google Drive (way easier then I ever thought).  

After all of our hard work, we had Digital Story Hour on Monday and Tuesday.  It was AMAZING!  I've never seen my kiddos so excited to share their stories. Best of all, we used the LCD projector in our classroom to display the stories and my students love it.  When the students finished sharing, the audience had to ask the author two questions.  The number one question that was asked was, "what inspired you to write this story?"  Their answers were priceless and I was able to learn so much about my writers with this question and project!

Here's a few samples of how some of our stories came out:


Saturday, November 16, 2013

When Thanksgiving meets Hanukkah you get...THANKSGIVUKKAH!

This week, my team decided to use a nonfiction article for our Shared Reading lesson.  We selected an article from the website, Newsela.  This website is a great resource to use when you want current nonfiction articles for your students or to use in the classroom.

Newsela also offers:
  • The ability to build close reading and critical thinking skills.  
  • Quizzes to test reading comprehension.
  • Articles that are appropriate for a variety of reading levels.  Best of all, you can offer the same article to your class at four different levels. 
  • The ability for teachers to assign articles to students that are specific to their needs.

For our lesson, we decided to do something related to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.  Using Newsela, we came across this article...

How perfect to use with 4th and 5th graders.  Thanksgivukkah is the celebration of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah that will be occurring on the same day this year.  This will not occur again for nearly another 80,000 years.  After reading the article, my students had the chance to write a response as to why they believe that Thanksgivukkah is a once in a lifetime experience.  From the menurkey (turkey menorah) to the discussion of the true date of celebration, this article was packed with excitement that my students loved!

Be sure to check out Newsela and read more about Thanksgivukkah!


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Math Fact Fluency: XtraMath

It's been a while since my last blog post, but as you can guess, life has been pretty busy both at school and at home.  However, today I wanted to share a new idea that I'm trying out in my math class.  Twice a week, my students complete paper facts test on various mathematical functions.  Each student starts the year out on addition and when they score three 95% or higher (not in a row), they can progress to the next function.  Well,  I thought that this year, I would make a change and try to include something different.


What is XtraMath?  XtraMath is a free website that allow students to master fact fluency in just a few short minutes.  Students can access the website at school or at home to practice their facts.  In addition, teachers can get emailed updates that shows the progress of their class.  Trust me, I hate overloading my email with junk, but this is one email that I don't mind getting.  

So now what does math class look like now?  Well, twice a week, I have half of my class using a technology device to practice their math facts in as little as five minutes or less.  This has been way better and more exciting than a paper version for both the teacher and the student!  

Be sure to check it out!