Thursday, 30 September 2010

5 iPad apps for the Wee Ones

I'm always grateful when I come across posts recommending iPad apps, so here are my recent picks.
Hanoch Piven, an amazing artist and author, has an app out that is so much fun and very creative. It's called Faces iMake
and uses object art to create various faces. Tons of fun and excellent for children to tap into creativity.*

The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin is a great story that is now on the iPad (how I wish more kids' books were on the iPad...) There are options to read it yourself or have it read to you, as well as lots of interactive sounds.

ShapeBuilder is perfect for spatial awareness in younger children. This one is a hit in our house.

Spell N Say Lite encourages spelling practice but with the cool factor of touching the speaker button to hear your word. What I love about this one is that there is a natural interest in spelling a word just to hear it said.

Piffle's ABC book of Funny Animals is great for matching pictures to words. There are a number of different animals to match, and then there is a song that goes along with each of them.

*Creativity in this Faces iMake is from my daughter.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Tagxedo--Alternative to Wordle

The always fabulous Chrissy shared a new-to-me tool, Tagxedo, that is similar to Wordle but with a few more bells and whistles. It wasn't as easy to navigate as Wordle, but it sure is cute! This is a recent post from my personal blog that was all about swimming and marshmallow treats. I love seeing the words I crafted displayed so artistically. And I know students would love all the choices they have in this program.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Playing with Prezi

For some time now, I've heard rave reviews about Prezi, a funky 'new' way of creating a presentation, but I had never tried it myself. However, this weekend I was determined to create a simple Prezi. Sitting down and actually having the patience to figure technology out is my biggest sign of growth in the last few years--the frustration doesn't stop me anymore, and I love that confidence that has slowly grown over the last few years. It is now few and far between that I want to throw the computer out the window.

Here is my first attempt at Prezi, inspired by my friend Colleen. I must say that I did not find it to be an intuitive program, which was kind of a bummer. Once I watched the tutorial video and played around a bit, it worked enough for a start. Certainly there are a gazillion more bells and whistles that can be added, I'm sure.

Already thinking this is the perfect idea for collaborating with a 4th grade teacher. We've been looking for something tech & literacy focused to do with the students. Can't wait to see what 5 books from various genres they will recommend.

*To view, click on the arrow, then the MORE button and click Autoplay.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Getting To Know Ourselves as Readers

I've been thinking of a way to have younger students look at their book choices a bit deeper. With 4th and 5th graders, they can easily explain what genres they like and dislike, but the little ones are still in the process of figuring out what is fiction and what is nonfiction. So I experimented with the 2nd graders this afternoon by asking them to make their book choices first and then to bring them to our meeting area in the Hub. We then looked at our choices and decided where they fit in the Venn diagram.

And then I figured out that it's a whole lot easier (and quicker!) for 2nd graders to write tally marks. We had a great group discussion with the children who came up unsure of whether their choices were fiction or nonfiction. My thought is to have something like this up every now and then to have the kids quickly add a tally once they have chosen their books for the week.

We did have a few stumpers--what about an I Spy book? After a lively discussion, it felt like both to us.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Reading for a Cause

Via Twitter, I discovered an organization called We Give Books that is just that--they give books. Every time you read a book online, you press a button, and they donate a book to the cause you wish to join. I joined a few of them them this week and am sharing the site with students who come to me in the Hub.

On top of that fabulousness, they are also organizing a world reading event on October 7. The idea is that thousands of people around the world will read The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. We are hoping to participate in that as well.

In the meantime, I love knowing that by reading great books online, I am helping out the people of Asia, my adopted home for the last seven years. Here's the promo video for that cause.

One more thing I love about the online reading is the ability to zoom into certain sections. This was a blast with the nonfiction selections on the site. And Spot is on the site! You can't beat that with kinders.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Big Nate Fever

You know a book is getting some good press within a school when the hold queue is 32 students! Big Nate Fever has definitely hit ISB, and the word is spreading fast. It's similar in format to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which is why it's making kids just nuts with excitement.

When I went online to find out more about Big Nate, I discovered that the website has the first 42 pages of the first book online for free. I was showing the site to a group of 4th graders the other day, and I read them the first few pages aloud from the computer. We were all laughing and having such a good time that I realized I didn't want to continue with my planned Destiny Quest lesson. Instead, we postponed that lesson until next week and spent our time reading the first few chapters at computers and then taking a few minutes at the end to play the games.

My biggest Big Nate lesson: taking the time to honor where kids are at the moment. There was such genuine excitement about the book that it felt very liberating for me as a teacher to honor that excitement and postpone my planned lesson.

Then I knew I had to get to the bookstore to pick up some extra copies of the book. 32 holds means that some kids won't ever get the book!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Letting Go

One year later, and I am still the hugest fan of the social networking options on Follett's Destiny Quest. For elementary students, the authentic nature of their book recommendations continually make me smile and make me proud because they are so into it and excited about writing about books--exactly what we hope for.

However, letting them use the recommending feature means I have to let go of a lot of teacher control. And I mean A LOT. Even the previous version of Destiny allowed for me to approve every single recommendation, and I could go in and edit out all those spelling and grammar mistakes if I so chose. It was kind of a pain, and how is that authentic if I add and delete or correct grammar from a child's work?

But no longer. It's just them out there, typing away about Geronimo Stilton or Leven Thumps or Candy Apple books.

There are some that will say the reviews are too loose, but I feel it allows the students to express what they truly feel about a book. Of course we talk about what is appropriate, and how we are writing for an audience, and how we should say more than the I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!!!!! comment (this is huge in 3rd grade, but even a big part of me thinks that is fabulous because there are some books I've read where this is exactly what I want to say!). It's fascinating to see how there is a natural progression from 3rd to 4th to 5th grade, and how their recommendations contain an added depth as they get older and wiser and more well-read.

I spent most of last week teaching students how to create good, solid book recommendations, and they have so much to say. But it is only when I can let go, when I can provide that gradual release of responsibility, that they can truly interact on Destiny Quest.

Here's to letting go and enjoying the ride. Try it--It's TOTALLY AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!

Image Attribution: Destiny's Agent

5 Great New Books

A Sunday shopping trip to our local bookstore provided me with some great finds, and I can't wait to share these books with our lower elementary teachers and students.

When I read Little Owl Lost, I knew it would be perfect for Pre-K. A small owl falls out of his tree and is off to find his mother, but there are lots of misunderstandings when he describes her. We were all giggling and acting out parts, which was such fun. The illustrations are simply stunning and with all sorts of additions that you notice only after a few reads. I'm putting this book into the Pre-K classroom library after I read it to the other class--it's great for retelling.

Teachers are always on the lookout for good books to model similes, and I have a feeling that My Best Friend is as Sharp as a Pencil will become my new go-to book for that. Great object art and deeper similes to describe teachers and classmates make this a great book to use at the start of the year to describe the class.

This songbook looks like it will be great for kinder and first grade classes with its monster theme and amazing illustrations, set to the tune of 'If You're Happy and You Know It." Lots of opportunity to act like monsters with this one.

Nico and Lola: Kindness Shared Between and Boy and a Dog is so special. Nico is asked if he would be "so kind" as to babysit his aunt's dog, and he agrees. Each page is a different activity that he does with Lola, and it ties into a sentence on the bottom that illustrates kindness. I love this book and can already hear the students clamoring to tell their own dog stories. Perfect for small moment writing.

Lastly, our ever-popular princess basket is always in need of new princess books. It seems that every girl under the age of nine wants to check out a princess book, and I can never keep enough around. I love that Princess Pigtoria and the Pea has a ton of alliteration, all with the letter P.

And the really cool part of buying these books? They are going to be part of our first teacher book club. The idea is that we'll invite our Kinder and 1st grade teachers to read all the texts, then we'll share some food and wine one night to discuss how the books will fit in the classroom and whether or not they are fabulous enough to add to our classroom libraries. I can't wait!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Balance in the Tech Zone

One of my biggest challenges in our Hub is the amount of time in the day that the tech zone is open for student use. We open at 6:30 a.m., so there is a 45 minute period of free tech time before school starts. After school, we are open for 90 minutes. In between, there are staggered recesses throughout the day, and so we are a revolving door for student use. Definitely not a bad thing, but the high interest of computer use coupled with the sheer volume of students has made it tricky for me for two years now.
Some questions I was asking myself: What should they be doing on computers during their free time? How can I manage the space best and still give kids a choice? How do I balance the volume of kids in the tech zone while I am teaching a class simultaneously?

After much trial and error (like when I thought it would be fun to let them do Poptropica--not my finest choice), I have created a wiki with choices that is the home page when students go to Firefox. It's a nice balance of fun and literacy that is weeding out the Poptropica-only patrons and allowing room for those who want to explore Destiny Quest or book blogs or National Geographic.

I'd be so curious to know what others are doing out there in the big, wide world. Feel free to share what your tech zone looks like during recess.

Image attribution from pshutterbug