Sunday, September 30, 2012

Week 6---Digital Storytelling Completed!

I am happy to say that my digital story-telling video is now complete.  Although, I did enjoy this project!  Working through this story step by step, I followed the same writing process that I expect out of my 3rd graders.  Now that I am more experienced with digital story telling I cannot wait to start with my class. 
I created this digital story as an introduction about myself to share with my students at the beginning of the year.  I plan to update it every year and post it to my class website before school starts.  Students can get to know about me and 3rd grade before school even starts!  In the past I have done this as a Q & A session with my kids on the 1st day of school, I think that this will be an effective way to share information and hopefully get the students excited about making their own digital stories!


Friday, September 21, 2012

Week 5

Working on my digital story these past few weeks reminds me a lot of how I run writer's workshop in my classroom.  The steps are the same (prewriting, rough draft, editing, revising, and publishing), but the end product will be a little different.  I am interested in impleting digital stories into my classroom even more so now that I can directly and effieciently involve students in the writing process while allowing them to create something creative at the same time.  I  think that writing will become more meaningful to my students and give them a goal to work towards, by viewing other digital stories. 

Plagiarism has been a problem for as long as anyone can possibly remember.  It is not a new trick that students are doing, students just have more opportunities to do it with the internet and so many digital sources.  I think many times we assume that students understand plagiarism, when in reality they don't.  I do not think we start teaching students internet responsiblity at an early enough age.  Students at young ages are capable of writing a simplified citation acknowledging what internet site they found information at.  These simplified citations would then be built upon each year, and become more and more commonplace in our education system.  Often times student aren't taught how to write a citation until junior high and it is introduced in a somewhat complex manner to a student who has never been required to do it before that point.  As with any material we teach, this is a skill that must be built upon especially in today's technological world. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Classroom Websites

Classroom websites......I was so surprised to hear several parents at  recent birthday party I attended discussing that this is how they decided what teachers to request for their children.  They were specifically looking for organization, availability of resources 24/7, and up to date information that they could access.  Wow!  We have came along way with the use of technology.  The building principal in my building is huge on class websites.  It is expected that they remain up to date weekly with homework assignments (if given) and important dates.   
My classroom website is ALWAYS a work in progress, there are always so many new ideas and resources to put on there.  I have added so much since my first year of having the website, and I feel that it is a useful tool for the parents in my room to stay up to date.  They can access reading & math books directly from my website, skill based games based on our reading or math unit, and extra copies of classroom newsletters, calendars, and forms sent home.  I think one of the major gaps in websites is the lack of technology within districts to offer them to all teachers at the classroom level.  I also do not think that all teachers are comfortable enough with their technology skills to create one when given the opportunity.  I know with my website that it is really difficult to stay on top of keeping it current and constantly checking for broken links. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Literacy in the content areas

As a elementary school teacher who is responsible for teaching all content areas I must say that my only saving grace somedays is the creation of cross-curricular lessons/activities!  With such a huge emphasis on reading and math nowadays I find that science and social studies tend to get the back burner and the least amount of emphasis.-which is sad because they are usually the favorites among students.  To ensure I can at least get 30 minutes of either science/social studies in daily I try and incorporate them into my reading/writing units as much as I can. 
     One way I try and do this for social studies is by utilizing the  Scholastic News  that my grade level subscribes to.  It  covers current events, geography,  and historical events; which almost always ties into a reading story we have recently read (or can easily dig up).   The subscription offers website access for students and teachers, so we can even promote some technology usage within it.    It is also a fantastic non-fiction read  (extremely difficult genre for 3rd graders)  for my students that is engaging and offers videos, web links, vocabulary building activities, and writing prompts (usually even argumentative!) for the students.  There is also always a reading skill that the articles focus on weekly such as main idea, compare/contrast, cause and effect, etc. We receive the magazines weekly and my students are always so excited to see me pull them from my mailbox.  It is so interesting to hear my 3rd graders debate hot topics such as the presidential race or how we should encourage people to recycle. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012



The use of wikis within a classroom can lead to powerful collaboration and communication between students and teachers.  I spent some time this weekend reviewing several literacy based wikis  and looking at the similarities at differences among them. I was curious to see examples of how this type of technology tool was being utilized in classrooms and their effectiveness in teaching/reviewing literacy skills for students.  I was really interested in the wikis that teachers created that revolved around a reading story/unit.  I tend to do a lot of literature sets in my classroom and was curious how other teachers were creating story based wikis for students.

The first wiki I looked at was based off of the story Sarah, Plain, and Tall.  This wiki was primarily used for the teacher to post questions related to story elements (setting, characters, plot, theme) and had the students post a response to the question.  While it was nice to see this teacher attempting to use technology in the classroom, I felt the major point of a wiki was missing.  There was no discussion amongst teachers or students found in the wiki.  Students merely posted their answer to the question and basically forgot about it. The use of this wiki was no different than a teacher just asking the students the questions in a class discussion, it was not an effective use of this instructional tool.    The wiki offers no graphics or media to make it visually appealing either.

The second wiki I looked at was based off of the story Holes.  I found this wiki to be much more collaborative and open ended than the previous wiki.  This wiki basically had the same purpose-to teach and identify story elements.    The difference in this wiki was the strategy that the teacher applied.  The teacher did not pose specific questions, instead asked students to describe or show their understanding of the characters, setting, plot, and events in the story.  By giving the students more freedom I felt that the students put forth more time and the quality of work appeared higher than the previous wiki.    The wiki was visually stimulating and motivating for students as well. 

When creating a wiki for students I think that collaboration and creativity are the key to its success. While organization and structure is important for a wiki I feel that in its most effective form it should contain open ended questions or prompts and offer opportunities for collaboration amongst students in creating the final product. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Read Write Think

Well, I think we all know by now that technology can either be a blessing or....a major pain!  Unfortunately this week I have experienced the latter, my internet connection failed me most of the week and my subscriber was just able to fix it this afternoon!  Apparently I need some experience on working ON technology, not just teaching with it :)

One of my favorite tools for integrating technology and literacy is the website Read Write Think.    This website allows classroom teachers to utilize pre-made lesson plans and online interactives to teach literacy using a variety of  higher level skills including:  collaboration, phonics, reading, writing, inquiry & research, digital literacy, and comprehension.  The site offers lessons for students K-12 and correlate with standards set for by the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) and the IRA (International Reading Association).  The lesson plans are high quality and offer the latest in research and best practices for students in online literacy activities and lessons. 

I use Read Write Think on a regular basis in my classroom.  One of my students favorite activities is the animal research interactive, where they research an animal, complete the interactive organizer, then complete an powerpoint presentation for the class.  I also utilize the comic strip creator and have the students create their own comic strips using new vocabulary words that we are learning for the week.  Another great interactive is the Friendly Letter Generator, in 3rd grade we teach letter writing skills, so this is a huge motivator for my students.

There are so many advantages to using Read Write Think, but I think the biggest is the interactive nature of the activities.  Students are always eager and motivated to complete their activity and often I find them checking out all of the other activities and wanting to do more.  I like how the activities increase in difficulty so that there is something to offer every student depending on their needs.  The only drawback that I have found is that students cannot save their work. Sometimes, it is difficult for my 3rd graders to finish a project on here from start to end before the end of our time.  So if you plan on using the site keep an open time frame so students do not have to start from scratch the next day!