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.
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.
Fifth graders at Trevvett Elementary have been studying the characteristics of ocean environments (SOL5.6), so today, students in Ms. Poland’s class created their own oceans websites using Google sites. First, the students accessed their Google Drive and clicked New > More > Google Sites. This opened up a starter template. They typed a creative title (with capitals), selected a background header image, and a theme. Next the students chose a layout and began typing the information they wanted to share. Some wrote about ocean life, others wrote about the ocean zones, and a few wrote about ocean topics that weren’t necessarily taught in class, but were interests of theirs. I usually guide students to write before searching for images, because the image search can become distracting and time consuming. However, I also understand that images can inspire further writing. So once the students had some focused typing time (ten minutes or so), I let them search for photos, even if they weren’t finished writing. After they added their photos, they went back and revised their writing until it was polished and complete. Finally, I showed them how to publish their webpages, copy the links, and share them on Schoology for their classmates to see. You can take a look at some of their work here (UPDATE: I taught this lesson in a few other classes and added their examples to the document).
First graders at Holladay have been learning about plants and their needs (SOL1.4). They have also been learning how to write complete sentences starting with capital letters (SOL1.13d,e). Today students in Ms. D’Antonio’s class used ABCYa! StoryMaker to create drawings of plants and write a sentence about plant needs. First, we reviewed the things that most plants need to live: sunlight, water, and soil. Then, we went to StoryMaker, and I showed them how to use the different brush tools to draw a picture of a plant. I suggested that they also include the things that their plant needs. Some students even knew that sunlight + rain make a rainbow, so they used the rainbow brush to add a rainbow to their picture. Next, we clicked the yellow button on the side to go to the writing section. Storymaker has the familiar lined paper and a font that early elementary students can read easily. I showed the students how to use Shift to make a capital letter and how to use the space bar to make spaces between each word. We started our sentences the same way: “A plant needs…,” then they chose the ending and added a period. You can see their plant drawings and sentences here.
Fifth graders at Laburnum Elementary have been studying the southeastern states in History (SOLSE), and they have been learning about animal survival traits in Science (SOL5.5c). Today students in Ms. Hall’s class chose a southeastern state or an animal to research, and then shared their findings on a Google website. First I explained how to research their topic using books or the Internet. We discussed the importance of checking facts (seeing if the fact was repeated in multiple sources) and using reliable websites. I instructed them to find the answers to three questions they were curious about–like “What is the coolest place to visit in the state?” or “What is the most amazing survival trick of this animal?” Once our research was complete, we went to Google Drive and clicked New > More > Google Sites to create a website. I showed the students how to pick a theme, and how to use the buttons to add different features to their websites. Besides including their three facts, I also wanted them to include a header image, a photo, and a map. When our websites were finished, we published them and copied the links into Schoology. You can see them all here.
Third graders at Holladay Elementary have been learning about goods and services in Social Studies (SOL3.7) and main idea/summarizing in Language Arts (SOL3.6f,g,h). So today students in Ms. Edelblut’s and Ms. Howard’s classes practiced these skills by creating their own websites. First, we reviewed main idea/details using a web. The main idea is the center of the web, and the details are the branches. After several examples, we determined that knowing the main idea helps you summarize. Next, the students decided whether they wanted to make a website about goods or services. We used Popplet to make a main idea/details web for planning out our websites. We wrote a summarizing sentence about goods or services in the center, then provided examples of specific goods and services in the branches. I showed them how to change the colors of the bubbles and even draw images inside. We saved the diagram as a .JPG image (Gear > Export > As JPG File). Then we went to their Google drive and clicked New > More > Google Sites. We created a new Google Site and wrote the title, “Goods” or “Services” and their names. We uploaded our Popplet diagram, then typed a paragraph about our topic, using the diagram for guidance. We made sure the first sentence was the main idea or summarizing sentence. Then we wrote additional sentences for the details. Finally we added images of our specific examples (the details) and published our websites. We shared the links on Google classroom, but you can see them all here.
Fourth graders at Holladay Elementary have been learning about animal ecosystems in Science (SOL4.5) and measuring length in Math (SOL4.6). Today students in Ms. Rivara’s class researched an animal and created a website about it. First the students chose their animals (we made sure that there weren’t too many duplicates by brainstorming a variety). Next, I gave them some guidelines for their research: they had to find out the animal’s (1) habitat, (2) predators, (3) prey or diet, (4) length, and (5) an interesting fact. I showed them how to do quick Google searches to find the information they needed, such as “animal name + predators,” for example. There are also several great sites for researching animals: National Geographic Kids, Go Wild by WWF, A-Z Animals, and Arkive (more advanced reading, but lots of photos and videos). To create the websites we used the new Google sites. Students went to their Google drive and selected “New > More > Google Sites.” They added a title and found a suitable background header image. Then they added a text box and typed the facts they found in their own words (we reviewed the problems with plagiarism). For images, the students used the built-in Google image search to find copyright-free pictures of their animals. I showed them how to add a caption by double clicking next to a picture and choosing the text box option from the pop-up menu. Some students even added videos after class. Finally we published the websites and pasted the links to Google classroom. You can see them all here.
Fourth graders at Holladay Elementary have been learning all about the Revolutionary War (VS.5) and nonfiction text elements (SOL4.6). Today students in Ms. Zimmerman’s class chose a Revolutionary War battle or person and created an informative website about the topic using the new Google sites. Google sites has made some dramatic changes in its layout and interface that allow you to create a great-looking site in minutes. The students logged into their Google drive, then clicked New > More > Google Sites. They typed the name of their Revolutionary War battle or person in the title box. Next they chose a theme for their website by clicking the Themes tab on the right. The theme changes the default fonts, colors, and layout of the site. We clicked back on the Insert tab and added a text box. The students changed it to a Heading (SOL4.6a) using the dropdown menu and typed “Facts about ___ (their topic)” Now it was time to do some research. We opened a new tab in the browser and searched for our battle or famous person. The students could also use their class notes. I discussed the importance of writing the facts in their own words and the problems that could result from plagiarism. Back on their website, the students added another text box and typed their facts using the bullets option. I showed them how to add an image by clicking the Images button on the right and doing a Google search for their battle or person. In order to make a caption (another nonfiction text element they’ve learned about), we had to double click on the section with the photo, chose Text from the popup menu, and type our caption. We changed it to a Subheading so it would stand out. Finally we added a map (since graphics are an important part of nonfiction text) by clicking the Map button in the Insert panel and searched for the location of the battle or a place of importance in the person’s life. The students added a caption to explain the map, then we published our websites using the Publish button. You may want to check under “Settings” to be sure that it is public on the web. We posted the links to our websites on Google classroom, but you can see them all here.
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!
First graders at Holladay Elementary are learning about winter in science (SOL1.7) and compound words in Language Arts (SOL1.6g), so today students in Ms. Schemmel’s class wrote and illustrated sentences with winter compound words. We used ABCYa! Storymaker, which is a great site for writing in the lower grades. First we brainstormed a list of winter compound words: snowman, earmuffs, overcoat, wintertime, snowball, gingerbread, fireplace, snowflake, iceberg, frostbite, evergreen, peppermint, sweatshirt, turtleneck, pullover, snowplow, etc. Next students typed a sentence or two about winter using some of the compound words we discussed. I explained how to start each sentence with a capital using Shift, put a space between each word with the space bar, and end each sentence with a period. It’s also important to explain to first graders that when they get to the end of the line, it will automatically go to the next line if they just keep typing. When they finished their sentences, they used the painting tools to paint a winter picture. I showed them how to use the paint bucket to fill in the sky and the spray can to make snowflakes. When they were finished, we saved them, and I uploaded them to CoMemories. You can see them all here.