I’ve found Thanksgiving to be the perfect season for…persuasive writing. This year’s writing prompt involved point of view and persuasive techniques. Students wrote from the perspective of the turkey with the task of convincing me not to chop off their head and eat them for Thanksgiving dinner.
Our initial writing used the OREO graphic organizer for persuasive writing. I found the idea and graphic organizers on Our Cool School. The premise is simple: each paragraph has an Opinion, Reason, Explanation, Opinion. We of course Double Stuf or Triple Stuf our Oreos to create multi-paragraph essays!
I motivated my students to finish this writing quickly by giving the kids two options for publishing. They could either publish using the iFunFace app or Mad Lips. iFunFace creates a talking head using whatever image the user uploads. Mad Lips asks the user to record their own lips on an image. Both of the apps allow the student to record themselves reading their work. Below I’ve uploaded the video we spliced together of each students’ work. Their persuasive reasoning was hysterical. From turkeys who stink because they wash gym shorts daily to turkeys who are diseased from running around without shoes, this writing was the best example of voice I’ve gotten from these kids all year. I loved being able to hear their expression as they read aloud their written work.
In the last post, I gave you a great free app to get you started on augmented reality. Are you ready for the next step? This was my first big iLesson that incorporated AR and the kids LOVED it. This began as a plain old writing lesson, inspired by a picture I found on Pinterest. It morphed (as good teaching usually does) mid-lesson into an iLesson.
Students were given the task of beginning a story from this picture from Headproduct on Tumblr. I found the image on Pinterest and had saved it for a writing prompt. Students had to begin the story from the point where they saw the dragon in their hand. It had to incorporate narrative writing characteristics and had to ultimately tell the reader what happened to the dragon. Otherwise, there were no constraints to the task.
After students edited their rough draft, they published the piece in Word, with a twist. I used the washed out picture settings in Microsoft Word and loaded a lighter version of the image as the background for the written piece. Creative publishing is always an easy way to hook writers. As if that weren’t enough, I decided to have my first go with adding augmented reality to the kids’ writing.
We gave augmented reality a try using the app Aurasma. It was ridiculously easy to use! Students created a trigger image by taking a photo of their published dragon narrative. We then selected a dragon Aura from the images provided by the app. Some came up as just images, but other belched fire or flew across the screen. After saving our auras, we were done. It was just that simple. Now, using the Aurasma app, viewers could scan the students’ written work and watch it come to life. Literally!
The work I got from my students was some of the best writing I’ve seen this year. But, the best part about this entire assignment? It was finished in two days. By two days, I mean two writing classes. By finished, I mean from rough draft, to edited, to published, to augmented. Two class periods. That was it. A writing task like this easily takes us five days. Because my students couldn’t wait to add their auras, they whizzed through the assignment (and the typing) faster than they’ve ever worked. That is just another reason why technology is such a great tool. In this lesson, it served solely as the ‘hook’. It was the aspect of the project that kids most wanted to get to, so they worked hard to get there. And their work paid off! I’ve uploaded a few of my students’ finished pieces for you to try out. Feel free to load the documents and scan them with the Aurasma app. For the best results, make sure to get the entire page into the screen – Enjoy!
We’re moving into the downhill slide of school, which means geometry and measurement in math. I like that these units fall toward the end of the year because they are more hands on, and typically more engaging. We started with area and perimeter a couple of weeks ago. While we did the standard practice activities, including marking out shapes in the hallway to calculate perimeter, I augmented with a couple of iLessons to keep the kids engaged.
At the start of the unit, I taught the kids how to use the app Jungle Geometry. This is a great app, with a wide variety of different geometry and measurement tasks. My students used the area and perimeter tasks in the app this time, but we’ll use this app again when we do more of the geometry standards. Jungle Geometry is a favorite of mine because I can customize the levels, measurement units and tools, and differentiate for each student within the app. There are a ton of customization tools, making this perfect for my multi-level group. You can read more about Jungle Geometry in my review here at FunEducationalApps.com.
By far my favorite activity was the students’ performance assessment. Students were given the task of creating a tutorial for how to find area and perimeter. I had already created my own tutorial that the students utilized for a note-making activity. Now it was their turn. Students were given a rubric of what needed to be in the tutorial: definitions of both area and perimeter, formulas, examples and directions for solving problems, and example problems with pictures. Students could work in pairs or alone – with the stipulation that I had to hear both voices if students worked together. The results were amazing!
My students are very familiar with the app Explain Everything, so we used that as our platform for creating the tutorials. Students utilized the shape and drawing tools, the text features, and even added some photos they took of the shapes we had measured in the hallway. Narrations went from 40 seconds to 9 minutes. And they all were great.
As a teacher, one of the best things about students creating tutorials, are the videos that aren’t right. I had a student who kept calculating perimeter wrong every time, and I couldn’t figure out what he was doing. Because he created the tutorial and had to explain his thinking as he did it, I was able to analyze his errors. He was adding every side twice, because in the examples of rectangles I had given the class, each short and long side was added twice. So when he found the perimeter of a pentagon, he added each side twice. I never would have figured this out if he hadn’t explained his thinking in the tutorial. It was an easy fix. I just needed to know where the problem was.
I posted last week about Why I Use Google Chrome on the iPad. That post spawned from our research project on Michelangelo. And no, I don’t teach art. I teach fourth and fifth grade special education. The point of the project was to conduct a research project in a small group setting so that I could guide and model the steps an independent learner would take to begin a research project. Honestly, I struggled with the topic selection – should I choose a science or social studies topic to span content areas and address more standards? Or was it okay to choose this random artist that the rest of the world has been exposed to, but my rural students had never heard of? I decided to give my students the art. Why shouldn’t they, too, have the experience of fine art.
Now, there were several obstacles to overcome before I ever began this project. First and foremost – a lot of Michelangelo’s artwork was done in the nude. So not going there with my ten and eleven year olds! Instead, I made good use of the Pic Collage app! I found images of some of Michelangelo’s best known works – The Pieta, David, and The Sistine Chapel – using the search feature in the app, and then cut and pasted some decorative leaves for the artwork. I liked Pic Collage for this because searching for the images, cutting out the leaf, and saving my work was all self-contained. I didn’t have to go between the Internet and the app.
Next, I dropped the images I had edited into a quick little slideshow using Sonic Pics. This was only about a minute long, but let me narrate the images so that my students got a look at Michelangelo’s most famous works. The kids viewed this on their iPads and had about 5 minutes to view the other images in the Michelangelo Dropbox folder I shared with them. This way they could free explore the images and play with the zoom features.
As this was a group research project, we developed a series of questions we wanted to answer together. I then chose some appropriate websites and placed them in a folder in Google Chrome. (Yay for syncing bookmarks across devices!) We discussed appropriate search terms and practiced asking the questions into the Google microphone. We also utilized the accessibility features and speak selection options to have the websites read to us. Read more about our actual research in the prior post.
Our last activity was not techy at all, but it was awesome! After publishing, the kids painted the Sistine Chapel. I taped some paper underneath my kidney tables and my students created their own masterpieces. While we learned in our research that Michelangelo didn’t really lay down to paint the Sistine Chapel, we did it anyway just to get the experience of painting like that. The kids (an adults who visited) loved it!
I love my iPad, but I’m a Google girl at heart. Safari works fine, and I have no issues with it. But Google Chrome just fits my teaching so much better. It has several features that just make it super easy to access and perfect for elementary classroom use.
We’ve been working this week on a research project about Michelangelo, the artist, not the Ninja Turtle. (Give me a week – I’ll be posting about that next time.) Being a special education teacher, research projects are normally the bane of my existence. Turns out research projects are tough on a good day, but imagine not being able to spell your search criteria or read your sources. Enter Google Chrome.
1. Google Chrome syncs with all your other Google Chromes – making bookmarks accessible across devices. So let’s say I started a folder with child-friendly Michelangelo resources on my laptop at home and then added another site to it from my school iPad while waiting for a faculty meeting to start, and then found a few more sites after school on my school computer. Since Google Chrome syncs across devices, each of my student iPads now has the same folder with the same content to begin our research with. This means no messy searching, web address typing, or “Is this the right one?” for my students.
2. Google Chrome has a microphone option to search with. It’s tough to research a topic if you can’t spell the words in your search criteria. Unless my kids are typing verbatim from a notes page (and how original is that thought?), chances are they aren’t going to spell their query correctly. Google Chrome removes that challenge. With a little practice enunciating, my kids can ask their own questions as we research. It was great to see where their thoughts went, beyond the general questions. They had some really insightful questions, that I would never have thought to include in an elementary research project. Just another example of why student ownership is so important.
3. Accessibility – okay this isn’t Google Chrome, but fits into the post beautifully. I hope everyone is aware of the Accessibility options on the iPad. In the Settings menu, users can choose to turn on the Speak Selection in the Accessibility menu. After doing this, students can highlight the text they want to have read aloud, and simply tap Speak to hear the narration. We found that we had to slow the voice way down in order to have it read slow enough for us to comprehend and make notes. As a side note, I thought the navigation of tapping and dragging to highlight whole sections of text would prove to be difficult for my fourth graders. Not at all. They were able to do so with ease.
Google Chrome just makes my job a little bit easier. Anything that makes learning more accessible to my students is worth a try. Plus, their research papers are coming out great. Check back next week to see how the rest of the project went.
This is not a tech heavy iLesson, but it is a good example of how a glimmer of a tech really hooks the kids. A while back we were reviewing basic fraction identification. Let’s face it, this can get boring. To liven things up, I paired up my students and sent each pair to a homeroom class to take a class photo. My kids were responsible for getting the whole class together and taking a picture with the iPad. The only stipulation was that you had to be able to see each of the students’ faces.
After returning to class, each pair of students had to analyze their photo and do some fractional observations. Because they used the iPad to take the photo, the students were able to zoom in and manipulate the photo to get more information. The task was to make observations using fractions about the students in the photo. I put very few limits on this project and gave very little guidance. I was pleasantly surprised by the data my kids were able to generate from their photos. Most partners had between 12-15 observations about their image. Some were basic observations like 13/21 are girls and 7/19 have long hair. But some were super detailed and things I never would have thought of: 12/19 are smiling and 4/12 show their teeth in the smile. Because I didn’t give the kids any preconceived ideas, all of the data they generated was completely unique.
The students finished up the project by printing their photo and typing up their observations. They presented the photo and data to the homeroom teacher and had to give a brief summary of their findings. Even though this lesson wasn’t tech heavy, the kids were still hooked. That is one of the beauties of technology – the kids love it. It doesn’t take much to engage them. With the learning in their hands, the kids owned that lesson.
We’ve been working on inferring this week. Whew. Inferencing is not a concrete idea, and therefore it is something hard for my students to grasp. To help them focus on the skill of making inferences, and not on the challenge of reading, I presented activities in several modalities.We began by making observations and using those observations to support inferences in pictures. I loaded five different photos to a shared Dropbox folder and asked students to create T-charts in their interactive notebooks with observations on one side and inferences on the other. I tried to pick high interest pictures that would provoke ideas. The underwater hotel and sand-boarding picture got some great inferences.
Next, we used Kenny Chesney’s song “The Boys of Fall” to make inferences. Given that reading is a challenge for my students, I love using song lyrics as text. Children can listen to the text aloud while also looking at the lyrics. We always listen to music twice. The first time we listen and soak it in, the second time I ask them to write down the lyrics. I always give the students a copy of the lyrics, but I’ve found that if the kids have to write them down, they are focused on the actual words and not on the tune. The task with this song was to infer that the song was about football. Students then had to support their inference with evidence from the text by highlighting portions of the lyrics.We also used the app You’re the Detective to do some small group instruction. This app is full of various cases. We read the written case files aloud, investigated the picture, and then answered questions in an attempt to solve a mystery. In a way, isn’t inferring simply using clues to make a guess? The kids really did well connecting inferring to solving mysteries. This may have been the best connections lesson of the bunch. If you want to know more about this app, you can read my review for Fun Educational Apps here.
Our performance assessment again involved pictures. Each child was given the same image. Students used the app Explain Everything to annotate the image and record their thoughts. Students were responsible for giving me two observations and two inferences about the picture. By recording themselves talking about the picture, I got way better responses than I would have if I had asked them to write.
Just a quick post about an app that is currently free. Oh the Snowmanity! is a super cute story telling about the life of a snowman, through the snowman’s eyes. The rhyming story is written in an engaging font that bounces around the screen and is narrated by an expressive voice. It has a few interactions for readers, but the app is mostly about the story. And the plot is great. It tells the woes of a snowman’s life in a way that readers have probably never thought about. From wondering why he’s got buttons but no jacket, to the horrible thing his new friend the dog does, the story is a really great example of how point of view affects the story.
My Pinterest board is currently full of ideas for winter writing. Oh The Snowmanity would fit beautifully with a writing prompt like “If I lived in a snow globe…” or the prompts about melting snowmen. We used it with our fifth graders today. They’ve just done a writing project on perspective and building a snowman from the ground up. Today we tried a Quick Write and asked the students to write a journal entry from the point of view of the snowman. We used this app to get them started and give an example of point of view. I think the biggest hook was the page of the book that talks about the beauty of the snow fall, but then tells how the snowman was freaked out by the bits of flesh falling on him. It was definitely a light bulb moment for the my kids! If you are looking for a great way to ease into integrating technology, this would be a great place to start. Grab it for free before it goes back to full price.
Fractions, fractions, fractions, and more fractions. We’ve finished up equivalent fractions and moved on to adding fractions.
To begin with, I’ve used a variety of fraction apps as station based learning so that I can work in small groups with students. One of my favorites is Slice It!, an app where students have to split shapes into equal pieces. I like this one because of the focus on equal sized pieces. I also like Smart Pirates, as it deals with fraction identification, equivalents, and adding fractions. Another app that the kids like is Fractions+. Matching fractions to pieces and connecting rows make this game-like app a favorite. But one of my iLessons began with the app Oh No Fractions! The full version (worth the money) has equivalent fractions plus all four operations. I gave the students no guidance other than to play the adding fractions game and be able to tell me at the end, how to find equivalent fractions. The app has both a Show Me feature and an I’ve Got It part. It guides children through creating common denominators and then adding. The kids had to turn in an index card at the end of the activity telling how to add fractions. About 40% of the kids found the key before I ever gave any instruction. I love inquiry based learning.
I also created an adding fraction tutorial for my students. As I posted earlier, I love the tutorial idea because it allows my children to access the instruction whenever they want to. While a few of my students access the video from our class site at home, the bulk of my kids use it in class. By having the tutorial accessible on their iPads, students can use the video whenever they need it. Those needing less support can work from the tutorial while I work with a small group who needs more intensive support.
While working on adding fractions, we also did a performance assessment. Students had to use fraction pieces to create pairs of fractions. They then took pictures using the iPads of each pair of fractions. The following day, students uploaded their photos into Doodle Buddy and created number sentences using their own fraction pieces. After solving the problems, they uploaded them to Dropbox for grading. I love it when the kids own their work. I gave them no portion of this assignment. They created everything themselves.
Looking for an activity that wouldn’t increase the already hefty Christmas/Full Moon hype, I stumbled across the Ugly Christmas Sweater writing idea from iintegratetechnology. Utilizing the popularity of the ugly holiday sweater theme, I was able to hook my kids on a writing task that kept them occupied those last few days before Christmas.
I began by making sure that all of my kids knew what the ugly holiday sweater theme was all about. We watched
the popular television commercial for Bank of America on Youtube. Next, we used the app Ugly Holiday Sweaters to ugly sweater ourselves for the holiday season. Some of these pictures were absolutely great! Keep in mind, I’ve not yet given the writing prompt. After students worked with a partner to get a photo of themselves in their ugly sweater, I finally gave the directions. Students had to write descriptively and persuasively to convince me that their’s was the most beautiful sweater in the world. Oh the moans and groans!
The children wrote great essays about their sweaters. To publish, students used Bill Atkinson’s Photocard app. On one side of the postcard was an image of them in their ugly holiday sweater, and on the other side they typed their written piece.