Category: Language Arts

1st Grade Maggie Walker Research

First graders at Pemberton Elementary have been learning about two famous Virginians Maggie Walker and Arthur Ashe (SOL1.3d,e), and they have been learning how to conduct research (SOL1.14). So today, students in Ms. Hutton’s class researched Maggie Walker and shared their findings using ABCYa! StoryMaker. I showed them how to use the microphone feature on Google to ask any questions they had about Maggie Walker. It was great listening to all their curious questions! One student’s question even led to an interesting discovery for all of us. He asked, “Did Maggie Walker have a car?” We found out that she did, in fact, sell her horse and carriage to purchase an electric car in 1910. Wow! I didn’t even realize they had electric cars in the early 1900s. There’s a fascinating article about it here, if you’d like to learn more. I love it when students teach me things! We also took a virtual field trip to Maggie Walker’s house, right here in Richmond, using Google Maps. When we dragged the yellow street view man to her house, we realized that we could even explore inside her home (see photo)! After learning so many amazing things about Maggie Walker, we went to ABCYa! StoryMaker and typed complete sentences about her, using capitals and periods (SOL1.13). Then we drew a picture of her with the drawing tools and shared our reports on SeeSaw. You can see them all here.

5th Grade Coding Figurative Language

Fifth graders at Trevvett Elementary have been learning about figurative language (SOL5.4d) in English, so today students in Mr. Golden’s class used Scratch and coding to create interactive posters with figurative language. First, we reviewed different examples of figurative language: simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole, and alliteration. Then we logged into Scratch, and the students chose a background and a character (sprite). They also created two buttons and wrote a type of figurative language on each. In the code for each button, they used the “Broadcast Message” block so that when the button is clicked, it would send a message to the character. Next, they created three costumes for their character. One costume would give the directions and the other costumes would give examples of figurative language that related to the character, background, and situation. Finally, the students added code to the character so that when it received a message from a buttons, it would say the correct thing. So if the user clicked “Metaphor,” it would give an example of a metaphor. You can try out some student examples here.


2nd Grade Time Books

Second graders at Holladay Elementary have been learning about time (SOL2.9), so today students in Ms. Fournier’s class created a Time book with Book Creator. First we practiced telling time to the nearest five minutes with an analog clock online (other ones are here and here). We discussed the difference between AM and PM and the activities they would be doing at the different times. Next we went to Book Creator, and I showed them how to use the various tools: text, drawing, recording, camera and image search. I explained that they could use any of the tools they wanted to create their book. Each student made a title page with the word “Time” and a photo or two of clocks. For the next page, I gave them an image of a blank clock face that they could upload to their books. Then they used the drawing tools to draw a minute hand and an hour hand on it. They also typed a sentence telling the time and what they would be doing at that time. I encouraged the students to add extra pages to their books if they had time. One cool feature of Book Creator is the “Read to me” button at the top right. If you click it, a computer-generated voice reads the book aloud. This is a great feature to help students proofread their writing because they will hear when the voice reads something that doesn’t sound right. Finally, after the students finished their individual pages, I combined them all together into one class book that you can see here.


Kindergarten States of Matter

Kindergarten students at Holladay Elementary are learning how to write their names and other words (SOL K.10), and they are studying the states of matter in Science (SOL K.4). Today, students in Ms. Edelblut’s class drew pictures of solids, liquids, and gasses and they typed the words. First, we went to ABCYa! Storymaker and typed our names. I showed them how to use Shift to make a capital letter. Then we discussed different examples of solids, liquids, and gasses. I taught them how to use the paint brush tool to draw each of the three states of matter and how to use the text tool to type the words. Finally we clicked the lines in the top right corner and chose the save icon to download a PDF of our creations. You can look at some student examples here.

5th Grade Figurative Language & Force Animations

Fifth graders at Varina Elementary have been learning about figurative language (SOL5.4d) and force and motion (SOL5.3). Today, students in Ms. Messer’s class created animations with BrushNinja to illustrate different types of force and motion. Their animations showed pushing, pulling, speed, collisions, kinetic energy, and the effects of friction. They exported their creations as animated GIFs, then uploaded them to Schoology to share with their classmates. Along with their post, I encouraged them to type a sentence about their animation that included figurative language such as exaggeration (hyperbole), personification, similes, or metaphors. Later, I compiled their animations and sentences into a Google slideshow that you can see here.

5th Grade Vertebrates and Invertebrates Videos

Fifth graders at Holladay Elementary have been studying vertebrates and invertebrates in Science (SOL5.5), and they have been learning how to conduct research (SOL5.9), so today, students in Ms. Haislip’s class chose an animal to research and made movies about their animal using Adobe Spark. First, we brainstormed many different types of vertebrates and invertebrates, including insects and ocean creatures. Then I encouraged students go beyond the first few animals they recalled. I demonstrated how to use the internet to find unique animals that they had never heard of before. They could ask Google, “What are the most interesting animals?” or “What are the most poisonous animals?” or “What animals have superpowers?” After about five minutes of research, the students chose their animals and jotted down a few facts. They also downloaded one or two photos of their animal. Next, we went to Adobe Spark to start creating our videos. The students made a title screen and then recorded themselves introducing their animal. I explained that they need to speak with enthusiasm, like their favorite YouTuber. Then they added the photos and recorded a voiceover to give facts about their animal. Finally we added music, adjusted the volume so it wasn’t too loud, and published our videos. Students shared their videos with each other on Schoology, and you can see some of them here. (As you can see, they discovered some very unique creatures!)


4th Grade Flipgrid Debate

Fourth graders at Trevvett Elementary have been studying life in colonial Virginia (VS.4), and they have been learning how to conduct research (SOL4.9) and express an opinion supported by facts (SOL4.7j). Today we reviewed and practiced these concepts with a Flipgrid Debate. Knowing how to have a civil debate is an important citizenship skill which can be taught, even in elementary school. This article in Edutopia explains how oracy, or speaking well, can serve our students for the rest of their lives. Oral communication is the first of the English SOLs for every grade (K.1, 1.1, 2.1, etc.), but we are often at a loss for how to teach it. Voice21 provides great resources and rubrics for teaching oral communication to elementary students. I will be presenting on this topic at VSTE2018 if you’d like to learn more about it. My presentation is here. One fun, unstressful way for students to practice public speaking is to record videos, which is why we are using Flipgrid. Most of them have their favorite YouTubers, so they have some background knowledge about good public speakers. We discussed how those YouTubers speak with enthusiasm and expression and share interesting information. Then I gave the students a debate topic: “Life in Colonial Virginia was better than life in modern Virginia.” I explained that they would choose a side, pro or con, and defend their position with facts. We spent a few minutes researching facts about colonial Virginia on the Internet. Students copied the URL for the website they found most useful. Then, when we recorded our videos in Flipgrid, they clicked the button for attaching links, and pasted in the URL as a citation. Some of the sites the students found were: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Flipgrid videos use snapshots for the video thumbnails, so I instructed students to show their pro or con position visually in the snapshot with an emoji or thumbs up or down. Next, they had to find someone who held an opposing position, listen to their argument, then record a counterargument as a reply. We reviewed ways to disagree politely and with a respectful attitude. Even though this was their first debate, they did a great job! You can take a look at their videos here.


5th Grade Southeast Region Facts & Opinions

Fifth graders at Trevvett Elementary have been learning about the southeast region of the United States in Social Studies and facts and opinions in Reading (SOL5.6i). Today, students in Ms. Brown’s class created an interactive webpage with facts and opinions about a southeastern state. We used a fantastic new site called Wick that teaches coding in a simple but powerful way. First, the students chose a state in the southeast region to research. As they gathered information, I instructed them to download a map of their state to use in their project. Next, we went to Wick and clicked “Launch Editor.” We uploaded our map, used the drawing tools to create a character, and added two buttons for “Fact” and “Opinion.” To make a button in Wick, we selected the shape(s) and chose the “button” tool. We also grouped our character together (by dragging across all the parts) and turned it into a button. One of the most powerful features of Wick is the ability to give each button its own timeline that can be triggered with code. So we added new frames to our character’s timeline (by clicking it twice and clicking the + in the timeline) and added a stop(); code to each frame using the Javascript “JS” button. Without the stop code, the timeline would play and loop automatically, which is great for animation, but not for our activity. We typed an opinion about our state in one frame and a fact about our state in the other frame. Then went back to the main page and added code to each button to go to the correct frame. For example, our code on the “Opinion” button would go to the 2nd frame of the character’s timeline:

function mouseDown() {

You can see that it is real JavaScript, but the students don’t have to type it all. They click the code snippets from the left panel, and it fills in automatically. Finally, the students checked their code by pressing the “Run” button. If everything worked, we exported it as an HTML file. You can see all their webpages here.


2nd Grade Thanksgiving Rounding

Second graders at Trevvett Elementary have been learning about Thanksgiving in Social Studies (SOL2.5h) and how to round two-digit numbers to the nearest ten in Math (SOL2.1d). Today students in Ms. Fletcher’s class created Google slideshows featuring Thanksgiving foods rounded to the nearest ten. First, we discussed their favorite Thanksgiving foods and why we might want to round the amounts. Rounding makes numbers easier to remember and use. It also helps with estimating. We reviewed how to round numbers down (if the ones place digit was 0, 1, 2, 3 or 4) and how to round numbers up (if the ones place digit was 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9). Then, we opened a blank Google slideshow and chose a theme. We typed a title and our name in the text boxes on the first slide, and I showed the students how to add another slide with the + button. We chose the “Big Number” slide template. In the smaller text box, the students typed a sentence telling how many items of a particular Thanksgiving food they had. They could choose any two-digit number they wanted, as long as it wasn’t already rounded. We typed the rounded number in the big text box. Since we wanted our classmates to solve our problems, I showed them how to add a transition to the number so it faded in later, revealing the answer only after the problem had been solved. Finally, we used the built-in Google image search to add a picture of the food. The students shared their slideshows on Schoology, but you can see them all here.

4th Grade Planets Websites

Fourth graders at Holladay Elementary have been studying the planets of the solar system and their relative sizes (SOL4.7)–always a favorite topic for 4th graders. Today, students in Ms. Anthony’s class created their own planets websites with Google Sites. First, the students chose a planet to research. They could use books or the Internet. A few great sites for solar system research are: (1) ESA Kids (basic facts about each planet, easiest to read); (2) NASA (interactive 3D solar system, compare planets’ sizes); (3) Solar System Scope (interactive 3D solar system, explore planets’ interiors with cut-away diagrams); and (4) Star Atlas (shows which planets you can see in the sky tonight). One interesting fact we learned from our research was the the symbols for male and female came from the ancient symbols for Mars and Venus. After the students gathered the facts they found interesting, they opened a new Google Site via their Google Drive (New > More > Google Sites). They typed a creative title, changed the header image, and selected a theme. Then I showed them how to choose a layout and add images and text. They worked hard writing complete sentences, using their own words. When they finished, they clicked the “Publish” button, copied the link, and shared their planet website with their classmates on Schoology. You can take a look at all their websites here.