Posted in iLesson

Halloween Narratives with a Twist

With Halloween just around the corner, and the students starting to get hyped up, I strive to find engaging ways to tie the holiday into our instruction.  The challenge is to stay away from some of the routine pumpkin lessons and find a rigorous way of letting the kids expend some of their built up excitement.  We do this by writing Halloween narratives.

Instead of a generic “write me a spooky story” directive, we go at the narrative in a whole new way.  This is the first time our students have been exposed to narrative writing this year, so we begin with a quick day of introduction.  Using our interactive notebooks, students take notes on my side of the notebook.  We define narrative as a story that is usually fiction.  We also note that a narrative has several essentials.  It must have a plot (defined as beginning, middle, and end); characters (with several outlandish examples); and setting (not just where, but the time of day, season, weather, etc.).  As a class we then create a class Wordle (a word cloud) with all of the setting words that we can think of in a 10 minute period.  I print out our class Wordle and the kids paste it on their side of the interactive notebook.  Check out our Setting Words Wordle here!

We use the Unpleasantville Soundtrack to create the basis for our narrative.

The following day, our narrative assignment is explained.  Students are given a 10 minute period to listen to songs selected from a spooky soundtrack.  All of the songs are instrumental.  I use the Unpleasantville Soundtrack found at, but any spooky soundtrack will work.  As of the time of this blog post, that album is free.  Students must select one song from the given tracks.  Based on the title and the theme of that song, students must create a completely imaginary narrative that goes along with the music.  They must at some point in the piece address the title and tie it all together.  As students work on their narratives, they have free access to the iPods to listen to the music, so long as they continue to work.  The room is completely silent for several days as students work through the graphic organizer, rough draft, editing, and final draft phases of the writing process.  They are completely engaged in their work and instead of fighting to get a couple of paragraphs out of these budding writers, I’m getting pages!

We finish up the lesson by having students record themselves reading their own narratives on the Garageband software found on MacBooks.  Once they’ve recorded themselves, I lay down the track they chose behind their voices to create a spooky story.  We end up with a great way of publishing our writing – in an unconventional way.  Though, at this point, I’ll remind everyone to be careful of copyright rules.

I’ve attached a copy of the lesson plan and rubric I use for this narrative lesson.   Halloween Narrative Lesson

Posted in Apps

Remote Control Whiteboard

I love my interactive whiteboard.  I have a Smartboard that I use daily for any number of things from interactive lessons to the projection capabilities.  I teach a lot of small groups though, and one aggravation is having to stand up near the Smartboard to manipulate the screen when my small group is sitting at a kidney table.  Enter the app Splashtop.

Splashtop 2 – Remote Desktop is an app that allows you to control your computer remotely from your iPad.  The first time I saw this in use was at a conference where the presenter was using it to flip through her presentation while also switching from website to website to illustrate different points.  It mimics your desktop allowing you to manipulate anything that you normally access…including your Smartboard software.  Brilliant.

We used the Splashtop app to highlight the main idea and details in a Smartboard lesson.

I use this app by setting up my iPad on the table and connecting to my laptop remotely through our wireless connection.  From my laptop, I can now sit at the table with my small group of students and type or manipulate my Smartboard with the students.  This has been particularly useful when we are note-making.  The kids can generate ideas and I type them into the iPad at the table for the whole group to see.  All of the regular features of the Smartboard still work, so students can go up to the board and manipulate it.  The beauty is that I can remain where I can see my student’s independent work while still using the Smartboard effectively.

I’ve found it’s easiest to manipulate the small buttons using a stylus.  Typing is not problem, as the regular iPad keyboard comes up, it’s just easier to choose files using the precision of a stylus.  Keep in mind, your entire desktop is displayed on your iPad screen.   Additionally, while most of the apps I use are free, this is one of the few I’ve actually bought.  However, I find it well worth the money.