Saturday, December 15, 2012

Teachers are Heroes

My 8 year old daughter asked me this morning why I was crying. I explained to her that I was just very sad about the loss of life in Connecticut. She asked me if I knew those people. I told her I did not, but that there were parents there that were wishing with all their hearts that their kids were with them this morning.

How can I explain to her that I feel pain for them, but cannot even begin to sympathize (thank God) with the level of pain that they are feeling today? I am a teacher and a mother. This story is affecting me in a way that no other has that I can remember. I am feeling so much sadness and so much anger that it is hard to put into words.

The teachers that lost their lives in this tragedy is something else that we haven't even begun to think much about because it is so hard to see past the young lives that were lost. Teachers are being blasted for so much these days. Test scores, accountability, the list goes on. This brings to light what teachers really and truly are. Heroes. There is not one teacher that I can think of that wouldn't willingly put themselves in front of a bullet for their students if this situation were put in front of them. Not just their own children....their students. I'm sure that we are going to hear many stories in the coming days about how these teachers died. My hope is that people begin to realize what we do every day. That we love these children as our own. That we would give our lives to protect them if it came to that. My heart breaks for the parents of the students who died and for the families of the teachers.

How are you going to address this with your students? I have spoken briefly with my principal who is still working out a plan that works for all of our students grades K-5 as they are going to be dealing with this tragedy on very different levels. I would love to hear how other schools are planning to approach this very sensitive topic.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Our 1st iPad Project: Create a Short Story

As most of you know, we were able to buy 2 iPads with our Fall Festival money. We already had 4, but I wanted to have 6 so that we could use them with the Storia app in guided reading. I also want to explore how iPads can be used as a creation tool and not just for apps. For this project, we used:

Doodle Buddy

We've been working on writing and grammar skills since the beginning of the year. We've also worked through the writing process quite a bit. The students have writer's notebooks where they keep their stories that are in the editing/revising process and they've published on different sheets of paper. This time, I wanted to try a different type of publishing.

To prepare for this, I spent one day of guided reading allowing the students to get familiar with Doodle Buddy. I knew this is where we would create our illustrations. I also wanted them to get the "play" out of their systems so we could get down to business. We also spent one rotation of centers last week writing our short stories (and I did stress short for this project) in our writer's notebook and editing/revising them. This week was a 2 day week because of fall break. No centers or guided reading=perfect time to publish. :-)

Students all had assignments to do while the six iPads rotated through the students and they typed their short stories into Pages. I also have two computers in the room that had Pages and they were able to type there too.

**Warning: You must have iWork '09 to move the document from the computer to the iPad.**

Next, the students used Doodle Buddy to do ONE illustration each for their story. They saved their drawing to the camera roll. They could then go into their document in Pages and add their illustration to their story.

**Time Saving Tip: Configure Dropbox to automatically upload your photos and store them. That way the students don't have to use the same iPad they typed on to create their illustrations, they'll automatically go to dropbox from the camera roll and you can pull them in that way. This was a two day process, so we typed one day and illustrated the next.

After the students got their stories typed and illustrated, my job began so we could showcase them to parents and you all! From their document, I used--Open in another app--export as a PDF--and saved in Dropbox. From Dropbox, I uploaded to my Google Drive account so that I could share the link. All this was done in a two day period, so it is possible! Later, the kid's projects will go up on a classroom wiki. I just couldn't wait to get these out there!

Whew! And here they all their fifth grade glory! Great job, kiddos!! :)

Mrs. Lanning's Homeroom:
Hailey B.
Matt B.
Hailey L.
Mrs. McClary's Homeroom:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Money to Spend!

This year, I was very blessed to have the son of a prominent business owner in my classroom. I went to the parent when we (myself and my co-teacher) began planning our Fall Festival fundraiser and asked for a donation. He was extremely excited about the possibilities of earning lots of money for our classrooms and gave some very generous donations. We were able to sell items donated from his store and give away a shotgun as a door prize. This raised $2519 for our classrooms!!! to shop I went with my half of the earnings.

I asked my students to write down topics/titles that they would like to see added to our classroom library. This is the list I got so I headed to McKay's.

I purchased as much as I could find buying about 95 books for $196. 

Next stop..WalMart. I have a futon in my room, and they all want to sit there during silent reading. I had discussed this with my class and they asked for a couple of bean bags. So, I bought two bean bags and a butterfly chair along with another floor lamp. Then, for the big purchase..the one they ALL wanted. I also bought two ipads. We already had four in our room, but it just wasn't enough to accommodate our groups of six.

I've already set up bookshelves for groups based on their guided reading level using Storia from Scholastic. I've used points to purchase books so far. The app comes with a dictionary and also allows them to highlight text. We're going to use this at the guided reading table.
You can create up to 10 bookshelves, so I made shelves for my personal kids too. :)

I do not want these iPads to be just about playing game apps so I've been looking at lots of creation type apps. So far, I've downloaded Pages, Comic Life, and Animoto.

And so our iPad in the classroom journey begins...I'd love to hear how other elementary classrooms are using them for creation!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Apple TV in the Elementary Classroom

Thinking of trying Apple TV in your classroom? I have heard about this tool for quite some time, but had not actually seen it in action until a recent conference. The keynote speaker did her entire presentation from her iPhone through Apple TV. I immediately emailed my tech coach and asked for one.

I have always loved and used my IWB in my classroom. I am a certified Promethean trainer so I support the boards wherever I go, however, I do like the possibilities that Apple TV brings. It is very easy to stream whatever is on your device through the TV. The first thing that occurred to me was that I could finally stream my ipad wirelessly and without my document camera. We have a set of 30 iPods in our school that we share. I would love to have the students create projects on the ipods (perhaps with Animoto or something else) and then let them stream their creations through the TV.

I'm very excited to explore the capabilities of this device. I read this post this morning that really gives a good argument for using the TV in place of an IWB. I'm not quite there, yet. I don't think I'll want to replace my board, but I think it will certainly be an exciting addition to my classroom.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Classroom: The Physical Design

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I'm headed back to the classroom after my two year stint as an RTI specialist and I couldn't be happier. I have been working in my room all summer trying to find the best way to set it up to promote the ideas that I have about learning. I want very limited time for students at their desks. (I actually asked for tables, but didn't get them.) I also want comfortable, inviting reading areas and whole group instruction areas (carpet). I teach fifth grade so I tried to balance my ideas of an elementary classroom with the maturity that I know they expect as "kings and queens" of our K-5 school. I went with a jungle/safari theme. Here are some pictures of my design minus a few things that I haven't gotten up on the walls yet. The entire album can be viewed through this public link on my Facebook page.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Back to the Classroom....Hallelujah!!

Two years ago, I was approached about taking a newly created position in my district. It was called Curriculum/At-Risk Data Specialist and would involve studying data and planning interventions for at-risk students and doing PD for teachers at my school. I would not be doing any work directly with students, but would hopefully be helping on a broader scale through my work with teachers. I had been a classroom teacher for 7 years. I wasn't burned out, but I wasn't totally against a change of scenery either. So I took it.

I immediately began the work of training in RTI and assessment. I attended numerous conferences, studied the differences in systems implementing RTI, evaluated different assessment tools, visited and observed at numerous schools and began bringing some of what I'd learned back to our teachers. Data-driven instruction became my mantra. I also preached differentiation, although now I can clearly see the oxymoron. I wanted the teachers to differentiate everything they did with their students based on the data we were getting, but then assess them all the same. I generated spreadsheet after spreadsheet outlining exactly what the students were deficient in. I learned the names of almost all of the 550 students in my elementary school (especially if they were red or yellow). I lost sleep over a 4th grade student who couldn't read. I watched teachers cry over students they couldn't get from "yellow to green". I saw fantastic teachers panic over colors and numbers on a sheet.

Slowly, over the course of the two years I began to wake up and take a good look at what was happening around me. My philosophies began to change. The formative assessments, I really don't have a problem with. I think we do need ongoing feedback in some form or fashion to help direct our path and make sure our students are getting what we're teaching. The summative assessment is a different story and unfortunately that's the one that gets all of the attention. All roads lead to it. Teachers know it, students know it, and unfortunately it's driving everything we do in school.

Because of the recent changes with RTTT, this position went from two years to four years. I've decided that I don't want to ride it out that long. I'm returning to my classroom this year and I couldn't be happier. I feel like a first year teacher all over again! I wish that every teacher could experience what I have over the past two years. I've had training that I never would've gotten in the classroom. I've learned reading strategies, differentiation techniques, different approaches to running centers in my classroom, and so many other things and I can't wait to try them out with my students. I sincerely hope that I'm a better teacher because of everything I've learned over the past two years. I'm certainly enjoying looking at a SchoolBox catalog right now instead of reading a book about RTI!

Here's to the 2011-12 school year for all of us. Hope it's the best yet!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Snagit for Mac

Last night I was reading this month's Macworld and I came across an article about Snagit for Mac. This product is made by Techsmith and normally has a price tag of about 50 bucks. Techsmith offers a 30-day free trial so I thought I'd try it out.

When Snagit is open, it stays out of the way at the edge of your screen, but with a small tab for quick access.

 Clicking the big red button will allow you to capture any part of the screen that you wish. You also have other options from this tab such as capturing the entire desktop or a specific window. It also allows you to scroll and capture, which is a feature I haven't tried yet. The picture immediately falls into the Snagit editor. The first thing I noticed within the editor was that it is very "Mac-user" friendly. The interface reminded me of an iMovie and found that it was very easy for me to manipulate without a lot of directions.  From here you're able to customize your screen shot with arrows, speech bubbles, etc. You can also combine multiple images into a collage. I made a quick one here:

Notice you can also color the background of your image and change the edges. Sharing is incredibly easy as well. Drag and drop your finished project into another app or a click of your mouse will send it by email, share to, or to an ftp server. There are lots of other features that I'll try out during my 30-day trial. I'm anxious to see what else it can do. 
What do you think? Worth the $49.95?

Images: ;