I had a great summer traveling across the country to California going the northern route and making videos for our 5th graders who are studying the regions of the United States. Last summer I went the southern route with the Virginia Trekkers and those videos are on our website. I haven’t finished editing the videos from this summer’s trip yet, but there are lots of other updates on the Trekkers site. We filmed 5 videos in southwestern Virginia telling about the Indians (VS.2), the European immigrants (VS.4), and westward migration (VS.6). We filmed a whole podcast about the life of Patrick Henry (VS.5b) from his birthplace in Scotchtown to his famous speech in Richmond and ending with his death and burial at Red Hill. We also filmed at the Maggie Walker house (VS.9d) and Gunston Hall, home of George Mason (VS.6b). Our most recent podcast was done back in May where we visited the Midlothian Mines to talk about coal production at the first coal mine in Virginia (VS.10b). Several teachers have written to us telling us that they have been having trouble playing our videos. I produce them using an old version of Flash, so that could be the problem. Over the summer I uploaded most of our videos to Vimeo, and hopefully they will play better there. Finally, be sure to enter our 2014 video contest this year. Your class will learn a lot making their own video and you could win a dance party, like our 2013 winners.
Today the kindergarteners in Ms. Brown’s class at Holladay Elementary showed that when students are given many opportunities to use the computers, they can do amazing things! Sometimes I can’t even believe it. In just under an hour, they were able to create a digital drawing of the frog life cycle using ArtPad, record their voices explaining the cycle using a site called RecordMP3, and upload their links using a Google Form. You can see their links by clicking here. My job afterwards was to combine their mp3 recordings with their drawings to make a movie. You can see their finished movies here. But you might also want to check out the direct links to their Artpad drawings because Artpad has a cool feature where it shows the painting as it happened. So it’s a great way to create a simple animation.
Third graders (and students in other grades as well) are often asked to identify patterns in a series of numbers. For example, given the following series of numbers: 7, 10, 13, 16, students might be asked to identify the next two numbers in the series or describe what mathematical “rule” is creating the pattern (in this case, the rule is “adding 3″). So I figured this was a perfect opportunity to teach the students in Ms. Boone’s class at Chamberlayne Elementary about spreadsheets and formulas. I gave them a Numbers template that you can download by clicking here (I just adjusted the size of the cells and fonts). I told them to enter any 2-digit number into cell B2. Then in cell C2 we wrote a formula “=B2 + 3″ and pressed the Enter key. The answer automatically appeared in the cell. Then I showed them how they could click in the cell and drag the little dot in the lower right corner to fill in the neighboring cells and create a pattern. Next they wrote the rule in the box. We continued in a similar manner writing formulas for subtraction, multiplication (use *), and division (use /). Once the students understood how to write formulas, I let them write a formula of their own. Then a partner had to enter a number and see what the “secret” formula did to that number. Their goal was to try to identify the formula or rule that was creating the pattern. Some students discovered that certain numbers (like 0 or 1) were very helpful in figuring it out!
iMovie is one of the more complicated programs on the MacBook computers, so I usually save that one for later in the school year. I’ve been working a lot with the second graders at Laburnum Elementary, and they have showed me they were ready to try iMovie. Since they’ve been reviewing the famous Americans (SOL 2.11) for upcoming tests, we decided to create movies about the famous Americans that they (and other classes) could use for review. Each child selected a person they were interested in and did a bit of research to refresh their memories. I showed them how to open up iMovie and add a title screen. Next they recorded themselves introducing the person using the built in video camera. I taught them how to select the part of the video they wanted to use and drag it up into their project. Then we did a Google Image Search for pictures of their famous person and added those to the video. I explained how to adjust the Ken Burns effect if necessary and they recorded a voiceover narration to accompany the photos. Finally I showed them how to add music to their video using the Audio Inspector. We exported the finished videos, and I posted them to a Google Doc which you can see by clicking here.
Kindergarten students in Ms. Fennell’s class at Laburnum created their own Keynote presentations about living and nonliving things today (SOL K.6). Just as with any skill, students have to have a good grasp of the basics before they can apply their knowledge to new situations and projects that require higher-level thinking and problem-solving. So the earlier you can teach the basics of various programs, the sooner students can start doing more advanced tasks with them. It’s amazing what even the youngest students can do with a few simple instructions! For this project, they chose their own themes, added a text box, and typed their title with capital letters. Then I explained that their job was to find pictures on the Internet of a living and a nonliving thing of their choice. I showed them how to do a Google Image search and drag their pictures onto their Keynotes under the correct headings. They were very creative in the types of images they searched for! Allowing students to find their own pictures, of course, requires teacher supervision and guidance, but it often leads to interesting, thought-provoking discussions. Like one student found a picture of Sponge Bob and classified him as a nonliving thing, while another student found a drawing of a pig and classified it as a living thing. Aren’t they both cartoon representations (nonliving) of living things (sponges and pigs)? So what’s the difference? Comparing these pictures and asking students to explain why they classified them the way they did helps clarify the concepts in their minds. Finally they added animations of their choice and recorded voiceovers for their presentations. It would be good to ask them to explain why their picture is living or nonliving in the recording, but due to time constraints (we did this activity in under an hour), we just stated the obvious. Take a look at their projects by clicking here.
Fourth graders at Chamberlayne Elementary have been studying the parts of a flowering plant (SOL 4.4) so today they made interactive diagrams of a flower using Prezi. First they drew a picture of a flower in Pixie. They looked at online photos to get different ideas for the type of flower they wanted to draw. I explained that they needed to include all the parts of a flower (pistil, stamen, anther, sepal, petal, ovary, ovule, stigma, etc) in their picture. Next they exported their Pixie drawings as PNG files with transparent backgrounds. The transparent background makes it look better in Prezi. Then they logged into Prezi and uploaded their pictures. I showed them how to use the selection tools to zoom into a part of the flower. They added text to label each part and to write a description. When they were finished, they viewed their presentations to make sure they worked correctly. When you click the arrows underneath a Prezi, it zooms into the different spots. It’s a very effective way to present information. Their projects turned out great, and you can see them all by clicking here.
Earlier, on this post, I described a lesson where students created Civil War timelines using TimelineJS. I was teaching that lesson today with a different group of students at Holladay Elementary and wanted a good way for them to save and display their timelines. Instablogg is one of the best sites I have found for students to easily publish projects that have an embed code. I like it because there is no sign in required, it allows comments, and it gives students a link where they can go back and continue editing. To add embed code, you just click on the “Code” button. We did find that we couldn’t use the exact embed code that TimelineJS gave us, so I showed them how to go into the code and adjust the size to this: height=”650″ width=”600″ and that seemed to work well. You can see all the students’ Instabloggs by clicking here (but remember that the timelines will all be the same since they use data from the same spreadsheet).
Kindergarteners and 1st graders at Holladay have been learning all about plants and flowers and how they grow in the spring (SOL K.9 & 1.4). So today I tried two different ways to create animations with them. In Kindergarten we used a site called ArtPad. It records the painting process from start to end, so students painted their flowers in the order they grow: first the seeds, then the roots, stem, leaves, and flower. We also labeled the parts. When you click on the students’ pictures, you can see the animation and it looks like the flower is growing! You can also speed it up or slow it down. Check them out by clicking here. In first grade we used a site called ABCYa! Animate. It was a bit more complicated because it was a frame-by-frame animation. The nice thing about this website though is that you can duplicate frames (pictures) so the students don’t need to draw them over each time. First we drew the background with the things plants need (soil, sky, sun), then on each picture we added the different steps: a seed falling into the soil, roots growing out of it, then a stem, leaves, and finally the flower. We also labeled the parts. You can see all their animations by clicking here.
Fifth graders at Chamberlayne Elementary have been learning about angles and how to measure them with a protractor. They also have to know how to use a virtual protractor for their online SOL tests. So the teachers wanted me to practice these skills with their students. I thought what better way than to have the students create their own virtual protractors. So we used Keynote and I showed them how to create a protractor shape using the Vector Shape Tool. Next we added the labels and I explained how holding down Shift when drawing lines will snap the lines to 0º, 45º, and 90º. We discussed how a protractor has two labels for each angle since they could be obtuse or acute. So we labeled the parts of our protractors: 0º, 45º/135º, 90º, and 135º/45º. We also made our protractor transparent by changing the opacity. Next we created some angles with the Arrow Tool. I showed them how to use the Option + Drag trick to make a copy of the rays so that they didn’t have to recreate them each time. Finally we used the Group and Front buttons to group all the parts of our protractor together and bring it on top of all the angles. Then students practiced using each others’ protractors to measure the angles. I had a few minutes at the end of the lesson, so I showed the students a new program we have called Scratch. It allows students to create simple programs with an elementary coding language. We wrote a sample program that makes Scratch the Cat draw angles. You can see it by clicking here.
Second graders in Ms. Jones’ class at Laburnum Elementary created their own websites about Egypt & China (SOL 2.1) today. We used CheckThis which allows the students to make a quick webpage with pictures and maps. First they picked Egypt or China and wrote the title. Then they had to write a few sentences about the ancient civilization, including information about its location, landmarks, and contributions. Next they did a Google search for an image that would represent their civilization. I gave them a word bank to use, or they could choose their own search terms. Once they found a picture, they just added the link to it in their CheckThis website. I also wanted them to include a map, so we went to Google Maps, searched for the country, copied the link, and pasted it into CheckThis. If we had more time, the students could have added a poll or a question to their site. I copied all their links and posted them to a Google Doc for easy access. You can see a couple of student samples here: China, Egypt, or see them all by clicking here.