Sunday, October 27, 2013

All About Us!

This year I wanted to "freshen up" our All About Me projects. This is also the first year that I will be blogging with my class from the BEGINNING of the year. (Last year, we didn't get started until about March.) I went to EdCampSC in the beginning of September and heard about an app called PixNTell that allows you to take pictures and record voice over them. I immediately thought of our All About Me projects and our class blog. BINGO! 

During the All About Me projects students are given a blank person poster. They take it home and decorate it as they want and return it to school. I choose a different student each day and they are given an opportunity to tell all about themselves. The other students are then given a chance to ask questions and interview them. When the speaking presentation is finished, the children then create and publish a book all about the presenter. 

Poster Presentation
All About Me Poster

                   Student Writing for the Class Book

Front Cover

I also decided to map our connections across the globe through our class blog, visitors, Google Hangouts, etc. I put up a map of the world and purchased colored pins. A few teachers down the hall thought that they would get a local map and use it to map where all the students lived, and... I totally stole this idea! (Thank you, Ms. Shirley and Ms. Greene!) I thought it was a great idea to map where we live on a local map before we started make global connections. My hope was to make location and mapping a little more concrete for my students. Fingers crossed.

Our Local Map

I wanted to capture this All About Me project process and this is where PixNTell came into play. At the conclusion of the presentation, I took each presenter to the side and made a short video using the PixNTell app. SUPER QUICK AND EASY! I then uploaded the video to the blog and Voila! - great way to preserve the projects for the blog. If a teacher was going to use a class blog for a digital portfolio, this is a great way to include student products AND reflection. I will be using this FREE app for other projects as well! 
Here are a few examples and don't forget to check out this year's class blog!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Our School Tour... in the 21st century!

Every year within the first few days of school we gather all the children up and venture outside the classroom. Any Kindergarten teacher will tell you that this alone can be quite an adventure! You must remember, some of the children have never been in school. This doesn't sound like a big deal until you want everybody to line up and follow you around. You envision yourself as the mother duck and all your little ducklings are happily following behind you... And then you turn around! Kids everywhere. Some are over at the water fountain, others are marching on the wrong side of the hall, a couple are over at the bulletin board pulling on the other students' work. You just hope there aren't some still back in the classroom!
Only in my dreams!
So, a few of us decided that we would take our school tour into the 21st century. Shout out to Mrs. AltmanMrs. Cook, Mrs. Paulson, and Mrs. Faith! We created a school tour that could be navigated with QR codes!

Ready to head out for our adventure!
Our ducks in a row :) 
Scanning QR Codes
Watching Video Interview
Scanning QR Codes

Watching Video Interview
I know what you are thinking... too much work! But really it was not that much. Mrs. Altman, Mrs. Cook and I split the work and now we have something we can use again next year with just a few adjustments. The little bit of extra work was worth the payback of a meaningful school tour. Students this year seemed to be able to recall and recognize members of our school family easier than previous years. We also reference our school tour during our Off to School unit (15 days), so it was nice to have those interviews to playback if we needed. Trust me - this is an upgrade :)

Want to try it? Here you go:

1. Decide who or what will be included on the school tour. We included places like the cafeteria, the nurse's office, Principal's office, etc., but we also wanted to include people that the children see throughout the building like the custodial staff and curriculum coach.

2. Record a video interview of the school family member or footage of the place you want to explore. Upload them to YouTube. You can choose to leave your video public, private, or only accessible to those who have the link. You may want to get permission from your colleagues before you post them publicly. Also, if you are sharing the tour with other teachers you will need to at least make it accessible to those who have the link. If it is private and you do not share an account, they will not be able to view it.

3. Create QR codes linking to the interview or location. We used QR Stuff. It is a simple, free QR generator. *I recently heard of VisuaLead at EdCampSC. It is a free QR generator that creates codes over/in pictures. I may try this next year.

4. Create posters with the QR codes and picture of person or place. We created posters on card stock that had a picture of the person we interviewed and the QR code. The posters were hung in the locations we would explore. For example, the Principal's poster was right outside the door of her office. This was really helpful because often times when you go on the tour the school family member may not be there. Having the video allowed us to still complete the tour and revisit the interview for other projects. We have also left the posters up for other classes or visitors.

5. Obtain a QR reader and organize the tour. You will need a digital device (phone, tablet, etc) to install the QR reader and give to the students. We used iPads with Unirac QR Code Reader, but there are tons of free readers. With working with younger students, it is helpful to choose a reader that does not include a bunch of ads. Students always seem to click on them instead :) You may want to think about splitting a large group up, especially if you do not have enough devices. The major obstacle we found was sound. It was hard to hear in some heavy traffic areas. In a perfect world we would have had an iPad with headphones for every student... maybe. Small speakers may be a better plan. I'll let you know after next year's tour.

6. OPTIONAL: We really wanted to expand on the traveling and adventure theme, so we had a pith helmet for each student and a passport. Inside the passport we put labels that had the picture of the person interviewed and the QR code. After each interview we stamped their passport :) The students were able to take their passport home and share the code and interview with their family at home.

Passports from Oriental Trading

Labels inside passport

The students did a great job scanning the codes and completing the tour :) It was a success and I am looking forward to using QR codes for other projects!

Kindergarten is an Adventure... Join us on our Journey!

It has been an exciting start to a new school year. Mrs. Long and I have teamed up with Mrs. Altman's class to provide a true adventure in Kindergarten. Our goal this year is to make each and every day "The Best Day of Kindergarten Ever!" So far... I think we have done well :)

Mrs. Long and Mrs. Bodkins

Our Corner of the Earth :)
We started off by welcoming our students on their journey with a ticket to board and an in-flight snack! They were pretzels of course! Gone are the days of peanuts, on airlines and classrooms too - too many peanut allergies! We had these sitting at their tables for Meet the Teacher day. It was cute to see how many students brought the tickets with them for the first day of school. I am pretty sure some of them really thought they had to have those tickets to get in the door :)

Ticket and In-Flight Snack

Mrs. Long and I got the students involved in the adventure by having them parachute out of a plane! Not a real plane of course, but judging by all the excitement, you would of that it was a real airplane :) 


We look forward to continuing our journey... I hope you will join us!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

#Kinderblog 13 Change

The change I am going to make... stay on task! Here is my REALLY late post about change!

Keep Those Skinny Jeans!

Keep Those Skinny Jeans!

Somebody once told me that in fashion everything comes back around. That somebody was my Aunt Karen, better known as Karkar.

Side note: I am not sure why the entire family allowed me to name everybody just because I was the first child, grandchild, and niece. I also do not know why these names were kept, even into my adulthood.  My family members currently have names like Old Gramma, New Gramma, Papa Bert and Grandma Ernie (Can you see the Sesame Street undertones?). To this day I am not that great at naming things. I have a black named Black Cat and a white cat named White Cat. I also have a brown chihuahua, did you guess it? Donatella Versace.

Speaking of fashionistas, let me get back to what my aunt told me one day when she was cleaning out her closet. She told me that she wasn't going to get rid of her colorful Bill Cosby-ish sweaters because they will be stylish again... Along with the other 7 closets full of clothes. I secretly laughed on the inside because who would wear those wild colors and bold patterns?? Ha!  I am anticipating their comeback this winter! Have you seen some of the neon 80s fashion out there lately? Whew! I never thought I would see some of that stuff again, and guess what... it's RAD! Wait, that maybe hasn't come back around...

As scary as those sweaters can be, the same can be true for education, sort of.  Now this doesn't mean get out your jelly shoes and start rocking the side ponytail, or that teachers should start digging out holiday sweatshirts and thematic vests.... What I mean is that some of that "good" teaching that I remember as a student in school and those "crazy" things my college professors told me to do can be used today.

Many teachers fear the "change" to Common Core State Standards. Those standards are asking students to shift their way of thinking, so as teachers, we will have to shift our way of thinking too. After examining the standards, I am finding that some of the "old school" ways of teaching really were not that bad. For example, last year I spent a considerable amount of time working on close reads for my classroom. During a professional development I was reminded of the QAR strategy and I thought, "Wait a minute, I remember cramming those letters in my brain for a test in college!" I went back to my room and started to try and recall what I had learned. Couldn't remember, so I googled it. Guess what? It is VERY SIMILAR to the idea of close reads!  See! It's just like fashion! It comes back around!

Again, as teachers, we do not have to breathe in chalk dust and teach the dewey decimal system, but there is something to be said about how I was taught "all them years ago." (said with a country accent and followed by "up hill both ways")
I am not that old, 33 to be exact, but I have vivid memories of teachers acting more as a guide and more responsibility being put on the student. Let there be no mistake. I did have to do worksheets of math facts. I did copy definitions out of dictionaries. I did have phonics lessons that were drill and practice, but it seems like once my foundational skills were built that the learning was handed over to me. I think this is the change we need with CCSS (minus worksheets and dictionary copying). Students should be given a foundation of skills and then presented with real life "problems" and measured on how they apply the skills they were taught. As for struggling learners, teachers are there to guide them.
I say this ALL the time... Give a man a fish and he is full for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he can eat for a lifetime. Same is true for students.

The moral of the story is this, Common Core State Standards are not that big of a change from what is good practice for students. Yes, there will be some adjustment in ways of doing things, but at the end of the day teachers must prepare students who will be able to thrive in a fast-paced global society (fishermen).

PS - Keep those skinny jeans! They will be back in fashion.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

#Kinderblog 13 Brag

Brag. Not something I like to do, but something I have been thinking about lately.

I recently started to reflect on my career. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE teaching Kindergarten, but I often wonder if I was not meant to do something more different. I get great satisfaction from taking my classroom "successes" and sharing them with others. I love collaborating, mentoring, and growing as a teacher, but also watching our profession, as a whole, do the same. I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts and hearing others' contributions so much that I got to thinking...

Should I take my show on the road?

In my quest to share and grow I submitted a proposal to present at a conference. I am going to give that a go and see where it takes me. I am really proud of the fact that I got my class of Kindergarten students up and blogging this past school year. I actually went to a conference at the beginning of March and attended a session about blogging in the classroom. I was so inspired that I went back to my room almost immediately and started blogging with the students. I was so excited about the learning that was taking place I started to spread the word around school. Since then a colleague and I created 2, count them, 2 iTunes U courses about blogging! I have had a great response from members of my PLN on Twitter and Facebook, and even some "followers" at my school.

In addition to my proposal to present, I created a personal website, just a place to showcase who I am as an educator and some of the things that I have accomplished. It is an online portfolio of sorts. I know what you are thinking, yes, I know it is summer time. In my defense, we have had lots of rainy days this summer! I actually enjoyed using Webs to create the page and Vizify to create my bio. They are two resources that are easy to use and produce great looking products.

So... without further ado, let the bragging begin!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

#kinderblog13 Confessions

"This is my confession... " -Usher

The good news, I did not get somebody else pregnant while dating another person. Talk about a confession!

The bad news, I did not get the poster insert AND there is little to confess. I am pretty much an open book.

I will confess that I wanted to post the video for the song, but it was a little risqué. I also confess that I listen to music that is not really Kindergarten appropriate. Sorry Dr. Jean, I do not bring you home with me. The sad part is, some of my students come in singing the songs I listen to.

So after some thought, here it is...

I DO NOT know everything about technology! 

I am confident in what I do know, but I do not know everything. I am flattered that people in my school automatically come to me with all things technology, but I do not know how to retrieve deleted emails, get a virus off of your computer, or hook up your wireless printer to the network.

I  DO consider myself versed in integrating technology in education (thank you master's degree, Twitter, Pinterest, and sleepless nights). I think the tricky thing about being an "expert" in this department is the definition of expert. The list of programs, apps, or devices you can use "competently" does not define an expert in technology in education. Being successful can be measured by your ability to be flexible and innovative in the use of tech tools, your commitment to staying connected with other educators, and your drive to continue to learn in and out of the classroom. Those things I CAN help you with.

Technology is constantly changing. It is not like math, 2+2 always equals 4 (unless your 5 years old and do not have a strong number sense yet). It is not humanly possible to know EVERYTHING about technology because as soon as you figure it out, something new has come along. That is why it is essential for effective teachers to be flexible in their use of tools and not use technology for the sake of using it, but because it enhances the learning experience.  At the end of the day, my job is to prepare students for our global society and to be "college and career ready" (do you have that memorized yet-hehehe)

If you give a man a fish, you will feed him for a day, TEACH a man to fish and he is fed for a lifetime.

TEACH your students to fish and maybe pass a pole to Mrs. Doe down the hall who needs her projector bulb changed. I need an infographic at the very least!

One last confession - I can't fish because I do not like worms... or spiders, or mosquitoes, or any other bug, not even ladybugs!