Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Virtual Postcards from Virtual Trips

Imagine your students emailing home an epostcard from a virtual field trip!  Use Google Earth and interactive virtual field trip sites to journey to a place you've been reading about or studying.  Then, have students use images from that location to "write" home about what they have seen and learned.

Check out the app called PhotoCard by Bill Atkinson.  It's FREE!  You can even record a voice message to go with it!  E-mailing is free.  If you want your post card printed and mailed in a hard copy, there's a less than $2 fee in the U.S.  Not bad!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Differentiated Spelling Lists - How I Manage

It took me until my 7th year of teaching to be ready to tackle differentiated weekly spelling words.  Now that I've had 2 years of success with it, I'm never going back!  I've gotten the most positive feedback from parents about the spelling words I give their children.  They appreciate that I find out where their child is and challenge them.  Too often we choose spelling words based on where the curriculum or standards say our students should be.  This leaves about a third of the class bored and wasting their time, and a third of the class lost, confused, and frustrated.  I've figured out a system that works for me to reach the needs of all of my students.  Hopefully my system will give you some ideas or get you thinking about how you might be able to work this into your spelling program.

My team does weekly spelling lists.  Typically we shoot for 10 words a week, however, the number of words depends on the students' needs.  For many struggling spellers, we will choose only 5 or 6 words that all have the same spelling pattern, vowel sound, word family, or phonogram.

So how do you know what words to give each student?

I give a pre-test on Fridays after I give the post-test for the words we studied that week.
Here's the Pre-test and Post-test paper I copy front to back and cut in half for weekly tests.  Feel free to download it from my EdWorld Exchange store and use it in your class!

How many groups do I make?

I typically have 3 groups.  I call them List A, List B, & List C.  Sometimes I have students do so well on their challenge words that I have to make them their very own list.  If I have one student on a list all by themselves, I will typically just name the list with the student's name.  I had a student two years ago that was so advanced in spelling, that I used 7th and 8th grade science terms!  It was awesome, because he was challenged, which he and his parents loved, but he was also learning advanced vocabulary terms.

Where do I get the words for the different spelling lists?

List A - word families, short vowels, words that incorporate the phonograms we are studying in class, in some cases I use sight words, RTI goals, istation data, etc.

List B - on grade level words either from Spalding Spelling, our district curriculum, or MY FAVORITE SOURCE:  Sailing Through First Grade  (This teacher has got it going on!  She has regular and challenge word lists that include related words and sentence dictation suggestions for the entire year.  It's the best spelling list resource I've found; especially for FREE!!!!)

List C - vocabulary words from content areas, ie. geometry: sphere, cylinder, rectangular prism, animal classification groups:  mammals, reptiles, etc.

How do you keep the different lists straight?

I use a table in a Word document.  I update the words, and move the students' names around from week to week as needed.  I post this table in the classroom so students know which words to practice during Daily 5.  You're welcome to download this template and use it to organize your spelling lists.

How do you practice the spelling words?

Students practice writing, stamping, and building their spelling words independently or with partners during Daily 5.  We also send home the spelling words on Monday as part of the weekly newsletter and homework.  We include a list of fun and different ways to practice spelling words to keep things interesting for practice at home.

I also use Spelling City for fun and easy online practice and printable handwriting practice pages.  It's super easy to create the weekly spelling lists and print already made handwriting sheets for each spelling list.  There are interactive and engaging games that students can access from school and home. It's free to set up and account and create spelling lists.  Some of the games require a premium account, but I have never found the need to pay; there's plenty to do for free!
To save me the trouble of typing up or writing all the spelling lists for each child's newsletter, I just print the handwriting paper and send it home on Mondays.

You get a link to your own home page to make it easy for parents and students to access.
Check mine out here:  Link to your Homepage: http://www.spellingcity.com/mrsacolwell/

I also use shared sentence writing practice each week.  I model writing each word in a sentence on the SMARTboard, and the students practice proper handwriting in their handwriting books.  They help me sound out and spell each word, and we talk about and note spelling rules.  We also discuss capitalization, punctuation, and parts of speech.  It's a great way to incorporate phonics and grammar all in one daily routine.

How do you give the tests?

I have taught the kids to listen for their list title, List A, B, C, etc. and then the number.  For example, I will say, "List A, #1 is fish.  List B, #1 is shark.  List C, #1 is washing."  Then I'll start over for #2 and so on.  We start with the posttest to cover the words the kids have been working on all week.  Then, I preface the pretest by telling the kids that they're not expected to know these words, so it's ok if they have to just sound them out and try their best.  I also have the kids label the top of their test with A, B, or C to make it easier for my high school volunteer to grade for me.  ;)  I'll use their pretest to decide which list of words they should work on the preview week.

Again, this system works for me, and I have seen success from the kids and gotten positive feedback from parents.  If you also use differentiated spelling lists, I'd love to hear how you manage it!  Please leave a comment and share your ideas and advice.  Thanks!

20+ Science & Social Studies Apps for Kids

I recently taught a training about the first grade science and social studies curriculum in our district.  It forced me to really focus on those subjects that are often pushed to the bottom of the priority list after reading, writing, and math.  I decided to put some time into gathering some app recommendations for K-2 science and social studies.  I admit that there are a few that aren't specifically made for science or social studies, but they're SUCH great apps that they can be used across all subjects and grades!

Hope you find some apps that will work for your class!

Most of these apps are FREE... at least for now!  The apps that aren't free are marked with their current price.

1.  What's that, Little Sherlock? - Notice details on objects & good observations.

2.  Discover USA - Learn about our country's landforms and US symbols in 10 different states.

3.  Seasons and Weather - seasons and weather changes
Identify various weather situations in different seasons, and learn about appropriate clothing and activities.

4.  Bill Nye the Science Guy - I'm a longtime fan!  Visit Bill Nye's lab, play games, watch video clips, and try science experiments.

5. Go Nini - Make healthy food choices & learn about the importance of active play.

6. Shout Science! - A comic storybook app for young readers about scientists & scientific discovery. It consists of three narrative biographies that take place during the Scientific Revolution in Europe.

7. Fotobabble - Take a picture of anything, such as an animal or a historical figure and add animation & voice recording.

8.  Animoto Video Maker - make a slideshow of your pictures from a nature walk, etc.

9.  Dentist Office - Act like the dentist and clean the children's teeth.

10.  The Four Seasons - Raise awareness about our natural resources through an animated and interactive children's storybook.  Great for Earth Day!

11.  Google Earth - An essential tool in education!  Take virtual field trips, visit the locations of animals, landforms, landmarks, etc.

12.  Recycle Hero for Kids - Learn about recycling and taking care of our environment by playing this adventure game.

13.  Haiku Deck - Haiku Deck is the simple and fun new way to create stunning presentations – whether you’re teaching a lesson or explaining what you've learned.

14.  Educreations - An essential app!  This app gets my top choice for elementary students.
Educreations turns your iPad into a recordable whiteboard. Creating a great video tutorial is as simple as touching, tapping and talking.

15.  Tellagami -  (rhymes with origami) is a quick and easy way to create and share a short story called a Gami.  Create an avatar, add your voice and animations, and talk about something you've learned.

16.  Skitch - Add labels to images to create diagrams.

18.  Barefoot World Atlas - $4.99  (I caught it when it was free.)

20.  Count Your PeasThink about what you eat and food choices. Make art while you learn about food! 

21.  Geo Walk (3D world fact book) - 2.99

22.  A Heart Pumping Adventure (storybook on the circulatory system) – 2.99

23.  Scan - Free and easy to use scanner for QR codes.  Create research projects or scavenger hunts for your students to learn about animals, the human body, etc.  Check out my example of using QR codes in with animal research HERE.  Or Texas & U.S. symbols research HERE.

24.  American History Time Line - $0.99  

Check out another list of science apps created by a homeschooling mom.  :)

For a list of 12 more science apps visit Best Apps for Kids by clicking HERE.

Check out the list of apps for science compiled by the Appy Mall's Appy Store.

National Geographic has many more apps for kids.  Check them out.

PBS Kids has MANY apps; some of which are free.  The Sid the Science Kid series is one of my favs for my kiddos!  Check out the list of all their apps HERE.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Teaching with Style - WBT

I have been researching and testing out some Whole Brain Teaching strategies this past year, and it has been awesome!!!!  The kids are SO engaged, and they are practicing vocabulary words more than ever!  I highly suggest and encourage you to look into it and consider whether or not some of it it might work well for you.

In a nutshell, WBT is an interactive teaching style.  It's very engaging, and involves a lot of student verbalization and practice of content and vocab. as they are learning.  Students won't be asleep or checked out with this teaching style!  They are moving their hands and bodies, and talking a lot!

I have to admit that it takes some energy and enthusiasm, but when you're doing it, the kids are having fun and they're eyes are glued to you, so it's also exciting and rewarding.

Seeing is believing… I have added some videos that really impressed me of WBT in action to our first grade wiki.

There are also so many free resources on Pinterest and TpT.  Some are also linked  to the wiki page.

Just wanted to share this with you, because I have had some success with it.  It really cuts down on behavior problems when the kids are having fun and taking an active role in lessons.  
I've posted about WBT before including an awesome video.  Check that post out HERE.

Use Google Forms for Quizzes & Tests with Automatic Grading!

You can use Google forms for online quizzes, tests, and quick checks. Then, use Flubaroo with Google forms to automatically grade the student answer submissions for you!

Check out this 3 min. demo:

To learn how to set up a Google form view my previous post with a 5 min. how-to video.

FREE Meet the Teacher Night Gift Tags

I made these cute gift tags for my son's kindergarten teacher, but I think they'd make GREAT team gifts for your coworkers! There are many different colors. They're in a PDF, so when you're printing, select the option to print multiple per page so they print small enough to serve as gift tags.

Stop by my TpT store to download them for FREE!

You can make your own foot scrub for the gift, or purchase a small gift from Bath and Body Works.  I'm planning to use it something like these ideas...

...but you can use the gift tags however you want!  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How-to Create a Google Form

This is my first screen capture how-to video. I used Jing, so my video could only be 5 minutes. Therefore, you will hear me run through the steps very quickly. ;) I created this video for a teacher friend of mine who is prepping back to school paperwork for her team. I created a Google form for my team of teachers to fill out their specifics about what they like, their address, etc. All the basic goodies that it's nice to know about the people you work with for special treats or gifts.

Check it out! Any helpful ideas for improvement are welcome.

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Check out the Google form I made for my team by going to my team's wiki.