Monday, March 31, 2014

QR codes in the Listening Center- Follow Up

So earlier this year I posted about using QR codes in my listening center.  If you want to read more from the original post,  here is the link.QR codes in the Listening Center Today I want to quickly share a fast and easy way that I have started generating these codes.  In the past,  I would go to a QR code generator via the web,  paste the audio file web address  from my dropbox ,  generate a qr code, cut and paste the code into a label template in word and then print.  Recently I learned that I could add a chrome extension that would not only shorten urls when I need but will also generate a qr code in a small pop up box right on the same screen. Now I just open dropbox,  click the file I want, and click the shorten-er icon.  This will take the file web address,  shorten it, and also generate a qr code from it.  I can also copy the code directly from the pop-up.  I still have to cut and paste into the label template but it no longer requires as many steps!  I am definitely all about simplifying.  If you would like to view a screencast of how to add and use  the shorten-er extension.  Please click below.
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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Expository Text in Kindergarten

Well we just finished our first week back after spring break!  We began our unit on expository text and writing. "All about"  books as the kids call them.  I started out by telling the kids we were going to choose a topic together and that we were going to learn how to research that topic using books, experts, and of course technology.  My class immediately chose sharks as their topic.  We then decided that we needed more shark books than I had available in my classroom.  We learned how to use our online library catalog to choose and order books from our school library.  The next step was to choose three questions that we had about sharks.  Our questions were "What body parts do sharks have?"  "What kinds of sharks are there?" and "What do sharks eat?"  Each day we read books and looked on various internet sites such as Nat Geo Kids, Discovery Education, and even the Wild Kratts from PBS kids  to answer our questions.  We charted and compiled all of our information.  We also "consulted" some experts by visiting the live webcams from The Monterey Bay Aquarium.  They have a fantastic site and each day you can watch a live diver in the tank who will talk about all the different fish.  Toward the end of the week,  I modeled and demonstrated how to turn their research into "All About"  books.  The coolest product that we made was using the site Thinglink.  I signed up for a free educator account and then helped small groups create a Thinglink report.  Check out one below.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

20 Questions Live!

Over the last two weeks my kinders have been playing 20 questions with our twitter pals in Michigan.  I got this wonderful idea from an amazing kinder teacher, Matt B. Gomez.  Hop on over to his amazing blog for other incredible ideas.  Matt's Blog After reading his inspirational blog post and watching his video,  I decided to give it a try.  Both my class and our Michigan pals had an absolute blast.  I set up a simple google doc and shared it with the other teacher.  We agreed on a time and voila.... amazing, relevant learning with real world application.  My kids were completely engaged in the reading/decoding,  asking questions, answering questions, and learning digital citizenship!  We played one week with my class selecting a  Texas Longhorn as our "item" and our friends asked the questions and then the following week we played again with us asking the questions.  We had to guess a mitten.  This was so easy to set up and do that we are going to try some other versions.  Perhaps a game centered around math next time!  I have included the link to a video of my class answering questions the first time around.  Give it a try!  You can find someone in your building  or another school or if you have connections with other teachers in other states.  It is so fun & easy.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Documenting Literacy Station Work

My kids have a wonderful time using the stamps in working with words stations.  They stamp a picture and then they write the word  under the stamp.  Usually they would complete this station and then turn it in to me.  This was fine but they wanted to take their work home with them.  To give them that ability, I used to quickly snap a picture of it and give it back to them.  This worked fine from a digital portfolio/documentation standpoint but it was me using the technology and not the kids.  I wanted to turn the control and use of technology over to them.  For this reason,  I put Evernote & Skitch on our I-pads & I-pods.  I started by teaching one "expert" child how to open Skitch, take a picture,  annotate by adding text, and sending it to my Evernote. You can see an example of his work below.  Normally they include their name so that I know who completed it but I chose one that he left his name off of.
He, in turn, began teaching others and now we have a VERY popular word work station.  One of them even snapped a photo of me teaching guided reading the other day and it showed up in my evernote!  Slightly off task but cute!

Friday, February 7, 2014

100th day!

So we finally reached our 100th day of school this week!  It was a little delayed thanks to two ice days here in the Houston area but Thursday was the big day.  We had a ton of fun counting all sorts of things to 100 many different ways.  We wrote down 100 sight words,  collectively read 100 books, made crazy 100 hats, and of course dressed up like we were 100.  One of my favorite projects of the week was our 100 year old self portraits.  The kids used tear art to create them and then they had to write about what they would be like when they were 100.  We then took out our ipads and used our face talk app to record what they wrote.   Each student sent me their mp4 file with drop it to me and dropbox and then I made a QR code for each of them. They glued the QR code to their picture so that when they take it home,  their parents can have a video of their animation.  I wanted to share them with you so I made a compilation video of their clips.  Also thought I would share our Kinder teachers taking part in the 100 day fun!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Podcasting in Kindergarten!

So  I use several methods to communicate with parents about our classroom activities but i still had trouble getting some parents to "seek" out my weekly update.  They were just passive about it.  Then one day during snack time, one of my students asked me what I was typing up.  I explained that I was sending a message to his parents about what we were doing during the week and what we would be doing the next week.  He then looked at me and said, " Can I help?"  That blew me away!  That was it.  Surely I could get parents to seek out the weekly news if their own kids were the ones giving it to them.  Now the question was....  how do I get 5 year olds to send out weekly news?  I didn't want them to have to write it and then correct it so that it was legible.  They would be much better at just verbalizing it.  That is when I decided to try weekly podcasting.  Each week,  we brainstorm the weekly news and announcements as a class.  We use shared & interactive writing to compose the news and then I select two "guest podcasters" for the week.  They rehearse their readings in small group with me and then I use audacity to record them.  When I am finished and have saved the file as an mp3,  I upload it to  edmodo.  The kids are super excited and always go home and get their parents to log in and listen.

If you don't use edmodo,  you could always use podbean.  A player is available to place on classroom webpages or blogs.  Of course, it is always an option to email the mp3 file to parents.

Try your hand at podcasting!  It is a super fun way to give your kids a real world application of reading, writing, and speaking.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

QR codes in the listening center

Ok. I have to admit that up until this year I have HATED the listening center. Years ago when I first started teaching there were books with accompanying cassette tapes! NIGHTMARE! The tapes had to be flipped over, changed out with each book, and they were always getting chewed up. I tried getting individual "walkmans" to go with each taped book but I still ran into the problem of having to teach which buttons did what and they still had to be rewound, flipped over etc.... I thought it would get better when CD's came out. I found myself using all of my scholastic points to replace my taped books with CD versions. I got parents to donate individual CD players. Now, I wouldn't have any chewed up tapes. Right? Right, but..... I still had the problem with the buttons and they ran through batteries like crazy! Ugggg. Enter the digital age. Ahhhhh.... now i have three ipod touches, 2 mini ipads, a kindle fire, and a galaxy tab in my room. I set about on a mission to turn each of my CD's into a digital file that could be accessed easily by the kids without my help. I did this by using audacity. We have the software on our school computer but you can download it for free. ( Once I had each CD in Mp3 format, I tinkered around with making playlists. This just didn't work because at the beginning of the year, my techno-babies couldn't read. They could work an ipad with ease but they couldn't read the titles of the books well enough to locate them in the playlist. That is when I decided to try QR codes. I quickly uploaded each of my mp3 files to my dropbox and then copied the hyperlink and pasted it into qr code generator. (These are easily found by doing a search for qr code generator). From there I just print the codes onto stickers and affix them to the back of the books. The techno-babies now just pick a book, scan the code, and sit down to read. No buttons, No flipping, No chewed up tapes, and they have rechargeable batteries! YEAH! Also, the bonus...If I don't have a CD for a certain book, I can use audacity to record myself reading the book and do the same thing. Next a tape to mp3 converter so I can put all of those old tapes to good use. Any recommendations?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Practicing Numbers in the Teens

We have been busy this week (in between snow/ice days) practicing numbers in the teens.  Most of my students had a pretty good grasp on rote counting but I quickly discovered that they did not truly understand the order of the numbers or have a good handle on which numbers were larger and smaller.  They struggle with counting forward and backward from a number other than a benchmark number and they cannot explain why one number is larger or smaller than another.  One game that we are going to use to practice numerical order (and some logic skills) is Nearby Teens.  I found this game on k-5 math teaching resources and since I have a smart board as one of my digital math stations,  I adapted it to use there.  I love how it turned out with the cute monsters!  Hop on over to my TPT store to check it out!



Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Gruffalo & Animoto

My techno-babies absolutely LOVED the book The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson!  I used this book to work with them on the skill of visualizing the character & setting, using describing words,  and making character maps.  First I read the book but stopped short of the part where the mouse actually sees the gruffalo.  We discussed, drew, and charted (using shared writing) and used the text to prove what we knew about the gruffalo.  We then continued reading to confirm our thinking.  The kids were absolutely amazed with how close we came to the actual revealed creature!  Next we each made a cut out gruffalo and watched the video.  When their artwork was finished,  they took pictures of them, uploaded them to animoto.  Then,  I made a bulleting board of their work and  I compiled them into a short video to share them with parents. Easy Peasy.  If you haven't tried,  animoto.  I highly encourage you to give it a try.  
Enjoy, Ellen

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Frog & Toad Animated Storytelling

My kindergarten students used their i-pads with the face talk app and i-movie to animate their puppets from Frog & Toad.  They did all the work!  We read the story several times,  Made the puppets and practiced a reader's theater play based on the story. They then used the cameras, animated the mouths,  & recorded the voices all on their own!  I only compiled them into one movie.  Gotta love those techno-babies!