1st Grade Winter Changes

First graders at Holladay Elementary have been learning about changes in the weather during winter, and the effect those changes have on animals, plants, and humans (SOL1.7). They have also been learning how to write complete sentences (SOL1.13). Today students in Ms. Sokolowski’s class and Ms. Harris’s class practiced writing sentences about winter to accompnay digital drawings they created with ABCYa! Storymaker. First we drew our winter pictures. We used the paint bucket to make the sky blue, then we used the big roller brush to paint the ground white with snow. The spray can tool was perfect for drawing snowflakes in the sky. The students added people, animals, and plants, showing how they are affected by the winter (for example, they drew people wearing coats, trees without leaves, and animals hibernating or migrating). Next we clicked the yellow button on the side to type a complete sentence beginning with “In winter….” Finally we clicked the green button to print our assignments and saved them as PDF files. We shared them on a Padlet that you can see here: Ms. Sokolowski and Ms. Harris.




1st Grade Past, Present, & Future Comics

First graders at Holladay Elementary have been learning to distinguish among past, present, and future (SOL1.1). Today students in Ms. Valvoda’s class used StoryboardThat to create imaginary scenes from the past, present, and future. We started with the present, since that is the time we are most familiar with. I showed them how to find modern backgrounds using the Scenes tab. Next we clicked on the Characters tab and chose a person that was dressed in clothes from the present. I demonstrated how to change the color of the person’s hair, skin, and eyes using the pop-up menu items. Then we went to the U.S. History Scenes tab at the top and chose a background to represent the past. We discussed ways that the past scenes were different from today (they used fire for lighting and cooking, buildings were made of wood and stone, animals were used for transportation and work). For our Characters, we clicked on the 1600s-1800s tab and chose a person from the past. We noticed that the fashion styles for men and women were very different. Finally, the students had to be creative to think what life might be like in the future. They could pick any background scene and any character they wanted, as long as they could explain how it showed the future. Some of their visions of the future were very interesting–from military dystopias to underwater cities! You can see them all here.




Kindergarten Gingerbread Men

Kindergarten students in Ms. Sharpe’s class at Trevvett Elementary have been reading The Little Gingerbread Man and other gingerbread stories this week. Today I showed them how they can make their own gingerbread men using this website. Kindergarten students are used to using their fingers on the iPads, but in order to prepare them for using laptops, they need to practice clicking and dragging using the trackpad. So any website that reinforces those skills is worth incorporating into your lessons occasionally. Her students were also able to follow one and two step directions (K.3g) as I showed them how to choose from different colors of frosting and different sized nozzles to decorate their virtual cookies. When they were finished, we clicked the save button, and tried typing their names, but some of them just typed the first letter. Then we uploaded them to a Padlet that you can see here. Now it’s easy to refer back to these images for future oral language practice or even to review math concepts. Since their work is shared online, Ms. Sharpe can send the link home to parents, and they can view their child’s work, print it out, or email it to friends and relatives. The best part about decorating digital gingerbread cookies–there was no mess to clean up!




2nd Grade Lakota Indians

Second graders at Trevvett Elementary have been learning about three different Indian groups: the Powhatan, Lakota, and Pueublo (SOL2.2). Today students in Mr. Weldon’s class used ABCYa! StoryMaker to draw and write about the Lakota Indians (the tribe they are currently studying). As we were navigating to the website, we discussed their background knowledge of the Lakota–where they lived, what they hunted, their transportation and occupations, as well as how they dressed and built their houses. With StoryMaker, there is a drawing part (blue button) and a writing part (yellow button). First we painted a picture of the Lakota Indians, including their environment, homes, and animals. Next we typed complete sentences (SOL2.13a) about the Indians, using the vocabulary words we have learned. When we were finished, we clicked the Print button and saved it as a PDF. Then we uploaded it to a Padlet that you can see here. Sharing the students’ written work online via Padlet (or any other webtool) is one of the advantages digital assignments have over traditional written assignments. Students and parents have access to their work from anywhere, and they can review it anytime they want. Plus, students are getting valuable practice with word processing and other computer skills.




Social Studies Digital Resources

One of the great things about attending conferences is getting the opportunity to come back and share what we learned with other teachers. Today I was asked to present at the Social Studies contact meeting, and I shared many of the things I learned at VSTE. First, I created my presentation using the new Google sites, so they could be inspired by the new layout, like I was. I showed them the cool, creative ways to use Google maps in their Social Studies lessons, which I learned from one of the VSTE presenters. Carol Simopoulos, the director of Elementary Social Studies, also asked me to share some of the resources available through the Library of Congress (LOC). If you haven’t been there in a while, you may want to check it out. It has an incredible collection of primary resources that are clearly organized and easily searchable. You can find historical maps, early children’s books, vintage news broadcasts, and more. Finally, I shared a few links to webtools that students enjoy using for Social Studies projects. StoryboardThat is great for creating comics about people and events in history. Padlet provides an online “bulletin board” for quickly sharing projects. Kahoot is a fun way to assess student understanding, and WeVideo is an easy-to-use movie editing resource. Let me know if you’d like some help using some of these ideas in your classroom!




Hour Of Code

December 5-9 is Computer Science Education Week, and many schools around the world are participating by hosting an “Hour of Code,” where students practice computer coding skills. Computer science and coding not only prepare students for future job possibilities, they also help students think logically and solve problems. Students have to organize their code into the correct sequence of steps to accomplish their goal, and when their program doesn’t work out as planned, they need to make adjustments until it does. There are numerous free websites that provide entertaining game-like interfaces to teach coding skills. Elementary students from kindergarten through 5th grade can learn how to code. Kodable, the website pictured, is great for even your youngest pre-readers. I have listed many of the most popular resources here, and you can search my blog for past coding lessons I’ve taught. Let me know if you’d like me to teach a coding lesson with your class. It doesn’t even have to be during this week. Coding activities are beneficial anytime!


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VSTE 2016 Conference

This year the VSTE Educator’s Technology Conference was held in Virginia Beach from December 4-6. My friend, Alfonso, and I presented a session called “EDM: Educator’s Doing Multimedia.” We shared how teachers and students can create videos, animations, and music using free online tools. We also shared several examples of student projects using multimedia (you can find many more examples on our blogs). Since Alfonso and I are DJ’s on the side, we included some of the other EDM (Electronic Dance Music) in our presentation. There was a disco ball, lasers, and glowsticks for the crowd. At the end we collected the attendees’ names using a Google form on our website and pasted them into a random name picker to choose a lucky winner for an iTunes gift card. The random name picker is a great tool to use in your class as well. We attended several other VSTE sessions yesterday and today, but my favorite was one about Google maps by Adam Seipel. I learned some cool tricks and features I didn’t know about and was inspired to redo my own session’s website using the new Google sites (in your Google Drive click New > More > Google sites). Tonight we DJ’d a special reception for the vendors (that’s where the photo in this post was taken). If you get the opportunity to attend VSTE or another educators’ technology conference in your state/country, I’d encourage you to go. It’s a wonderful way to expand your professional knowledge and network.




5th Grade Plants Under the Proscope

Fifth graders at Trevvett Elementary have been learning about vascular and nonvascular plants in Science (SOL5.5). Today students in Ms. Ballou’s class examined different types of plants using a digital USB microscope called a Proscope. First, the students got into self-selected groups, and we distributed the Proscopes and the plants (flowers, moss, celery, and ferns). Then they logged into Google classroom where I posted a Google slides template for them to use to share their findings (you can make a copy of the template here) Students put their names on the first slide, and on the subsequent slides they were to identify each plant as vascular or non-vascualr and upload a photo or two of the plant under the microscope. Proscope makes it easy to take photos by simply clicking a button. Some students also labeled different parts of the plants using the text box and arrow tools. They had a great time seeing the plants in a way they had never seen them before, and they also got some practice making a Google slideshow. You can see their finished slideshows here. Let me know if you’d like to use the Proscopes with your class. Each school has a couple, and I can bring a box of 15 additional ones.




1st Grade Writing about the Past

First graders at Trevvett Elementary have been learning about life in the past in History (SOL1.1) and how to write complete sentences with capitals and punctuation in English (SOL1.13e). Today students in Ms. Fletcher’s class showed off their skills by writing sentences about the past. We used ABCYa! Storymaker because it has a familiar writing paper template and an age-appropriate font. The students got to the website all by themselves by typing “ABCYa” in a Google search, clicking the link, then clicking the 1st grade button, and finding the Storymaker link on that page. First we discussed different ideas they could write about so they weren’t all writing about the same thing. We talked about how they cooked on a fire, traveled using horses and wagons, washed clothes in a bucket or the river, went to school in a one-room schoolhouse, sent letters instead of texts, and many more ideas. The students typed their sentence about the past using Shift to make a capital at the beginning and remembering their period at the end. We encouraged them to use sight words and sound out any unknown words (SOL1.12c). Then they used their newly-learned click-and-drag skill to draw a picture illustrating their sentence. When they were finished we saved them as PDF files (click the Print button). Finally we helped them upload their files to a Padlet (a free online bulletin board). You can see them all here (click each one to view the whole page).




4th Grade Jamestown Maps

Fourth graders at Trevvett Elementary have been studying Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America (VS.3), and they recently took a field trip there. Today students in Ms. Harlow’s class reflected on their trip and what they have learned. I posted a link to My Google Maps on Google classroom. My Google Maps allows you to create your own map (you can also access it through your Google Drive by clicking New > More > Google My Maps). We titled our map “Jamestown,” and I showed them how to find Jamestown by zooming instead of using the search box. First, we switched to Google Earth view (click the box in the bottom left corner) and zoomed into Virginia. Then we found the James River and zoomed into one of the big bends in the river. As we zoomed in, we saw Jamestown appear on the north bank. We continued to zoom into Jamestown until we saw the park and the dock. Students were amazed that they could actually see the ships, the fort, and the Powhatan Indian village. They already knew that the park isn’t the true location of Jamestown, but we were able to find the true location nearby. I showed them how to add markers to different parts of the map. They wrote a description for each marker, explaining what they learned or what surprised them at that spot. I also showed them how to click the camera button and add a photo. Finally we gave our map some finishing touches by customizing the markers (click the paint bucket, and you can change its color and the icon on the marker). We clicked the Share button and shared our maps with “anyone with the link.” The students posted their links to Google classroom, but you can see them all here.