Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reading Buddies and QR Codes

If you really want to see your kids be leaders and get excited, partner them with some younger children. We had the best time today reading with our 2nd grade friends. Two weeks ago, my kiddos worked to create QR codes to go along with the biography about George Washington Carver in the 2nd grade readers.  We put all our work in this Google Doc:


Then, I reformatted it to make it easier to print onto one page. The kiddos cut out the codes and taped them to the agreed-upon pages in the books. Then we borrowed as many iPads and iPhones as we could get our hands on and headed down to 2nd grade!

My class was so excited, and I was really impressed with them. They took charge of their groups, and worked well with the younger children. I heard them saying things like:

"Who would like to read first? Okay, you can start on this page..."
"Here's how you scan a QR code. You want to try it?"
"See this picture...?" 
"Good job reading that!"
"Let's focus on our story."
"Did you know...?"

And you know how you always wonder to yourself if your class really remembers what you're teaching? Well, I'm here to tell you, mine did! I was amazed to hear snippets from my kiddos that they'd learned in Alabama History as they explained things to the younger children. Segregation, Tuskegee University, boll weevils destroying the cotton crop, etc...It was so exciting to hear them explain these concepts! 

Probably the best moments of all for me were seeing my kids so engaged in literacy learning/teaching, and the comments they made when we came back to the classroom. 

"I love how they all looked up to us like we were the adults!"
"All the kids in my group were so interested in what we were doing!"
"My group took turns really well."
"Can we do this for the other 2nd grade?"

This was a fabulous learning activity that we'll be doing it again for the other second grade classroom very soon. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

alnbctnetwork: Breakout Sessions 2013

I'm so excited to have the opportunity to present with my friend Cara (Teaching...My Calling) Saturday at the Alabama NBCT Conference. Hope to see you there!

alnbctnetwork: Breakout Sessions 2013: Here they are...the Breakout Sessions for our 2013 Alabama NBCT Network Conference on January 26th at Spain Park High School.  This conferen...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Kindle Fires on the Way!

I'm so excited! Yesterday morning I walked in to the office and was greeted with the news that my class will be receiving 18 Kindle Fire HDs! Since I'm fortunate to have a small class size this year, that means our classroom is now 1:1!  My mind's been going ninety to nothing since I got the news, planning how to implement them as much as possible and thinking of all the great things we can do now that each kiddo will have a tablet in his/her hands. It's also made me think of a LOT of questions:

  • What are the best educational apps (free and paid)?
  • How do you manage a class set of tablets? Are there unique issues when dealing with so many?
  • Can I purchase ebooks from Scholastic, or only from Amazon? 
  • How well do Google and Google docs work on them?
These are just a few questions I have. Please help! I'd love to hear any advice or tips you can offer. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

On The Fence

Just a quick post to share a great activity we did today during our history lesson. I used this idea (that I "borrowed" from an EdCamp Birmingham class) as an introduction to our lesson on women's suffrage. I wanted to get my kids moving and discussing before we ever got into the specifics of how women got the right to vote.

On the Fence: The teacher poses an idea (some hot-topic item), and the children decide what their opinions are about the idea. Everyone stands in the middle of the room as they listen to the idea. Next, they can move to the "yes" side, the "no" side, or stay on the fence if unsure of their opinions. Each group talks about reasons to support their choice, then they have a chance to convince the children in the other groups to move to their side. 

My four statements were:
  • Pizza should be one of the choices at lunch every day (my class was about 1/2 yes and 1/2 no).
  • It should be illegal for small children to play games rated "M" (I had more no's on this one).
  • Our school should have a uniform policy (3/4-no, 1/4 yes)
  • Children should be allowed to vote (1/2-yes, 1/2-no)
What was really interesting was listening to the reasons presented by each side. Some of them came up with really great reasons that I hadn't even thought about. This activity also provided the opportunity to discuss the phrase "On the fence" and exactly what that means. It was a great lead in to our lesson, because I was able to talk to the children about how everyone was able to express their opinions and cast a vote, but women weren't always allowed that opportunity. 

This strategy was a HUGE hit with my kiddos...and an eye-opener to me. I need to teach them more about speaking and listening skills, as well as what types of reasons actually support an opinion. I'll definitely be doing this more often!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Books I Want to Read Reading Roundup Linky

It's no secret that I am a major book lover. I come from a long line of readers, and read constantly...blogs, e-magazines, twitter feeds, professional articles, and of course, books! So when I saw that Mary, over at Pinter's Potpourri started this awesome reading linky, I knew I had to get on board! What a great way to share books and get some ideas.

Here's my To-Read list:

Professional Book:
I love to teach grammar, and I loved learning it as a child, but I get so frustrated when my students will "learn" a concept in grammar, but not apply it in their writing. I just don't get it. I hold them accountable and that seems to help, but this year only ONE child could come up with anything when I asked them what they knew about nouns (see my post about that here). I'm hoping this book will help.

Pleasure Reading:
A Memory of Light
The last book in my favorite fantasy series, The Wheel of Time, is coming out in just two days! I love to read fantasies, especially the really far-out ones. They're just about the only stories that I can lose myself in. Reading a fantasy is one of the few times when "school" is turned off in my brain. I've read through this series about 4 times and am still not tired of it. The plot and characters are so complex that rereading is a pleasure!

Book to Teach a Skill:
I've never read this particular book, but I adore David Wiesner's work. Its so imaginative and interesting! I imagine using this book to review the common themes and traits of fairy tales. I'm sure it will also lend itself well to making predictions and drawing conclusions. His books usually do.

I can't wait to dive into these books and see what others will be reading. So, what's on your list? 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Science AND History? A Necessary Decision...

Call me "old school" if you want, but I've always felt strongly about trying to teach both content areas each day. I just feel like 1). By 4th grade, the kiddos need to be exposed to both, especially since they'll have them both in 5th grade. 2). For some kids science or social studies is the highlight of their day. Back and forth I've gone, trying to decide if its best to teach both subjects each day or simply rotate every few weeks. I've even blogged about it before here.


Our new math program takes about an hour and a half. I have to find another time to do my own reading and math intervention groups. We have 45 minutes of PE and 30 minutes of computer lab everyday (for which I'm very grateful). Language arts encompasses so many skills and strategies that we could literally spend all day doing it. Something had to give!

So, I decided to try swinging to the side of some colleagues and teaching only science OR social studies each day. My coworker and I decided to do a chapter of one, then do a chapter of another, and flip-flop. Although I've agonized over this, after only two days I've found that there are some really great advantages to this set up:

  • Focus: This one is for me and the kiddos! I can do a much better job planning and teaching for just one, and I think the kiddos can absorb more this way. 
  • Quality: This sort of goes with focus, but now I have more time to plan more engaging lessons.
  • Less Pressure: Teaching one subject at a time frees the students and myself from yet another "thing" to cover each day. 
I think I'm really going to like this new set-up, but I'd love to hear what's working for you and your class. Have you been in my position? What do you do in your room? 

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