Healthy Habits

“Would you help me?” were the words out of her mouth.  One of my former fourth graders came by my elementary school one afternoon after school began.  She’s in ninth grade now.  I taught her in fourth grade!  She looked the same, just a bit taller.  I remembered her excitement and zeal that she brought to the class.  There was always something very special about her and her ability to grasp concepts deeply.  In her quest to earn a Silver level as a Girl Scout, she now came to visit me in hopes that I could help her.

She explained her project.  In meticulous fashion, she had created a website and a Google Presentation about healthy habits for kids.  She included coloring pages that she had linked to her website to encourage young children to think about healthful foods, ways to be active and positive character traits.  I agreed to help her and share her presentation with my first and second graders.

It thrilled me that she would want my help in sharing her website with my students.  While sharing her presentation with first and second graders, I shared games that she mentioned such as “Red Light, Green Light”, “Mother May I?” and “Simon Says”.  We discussed fruits, vegetables, and athletic activities such as volleyball, dancing and active games that my school children are playing at Recess this year through a federal Move Grant.  Students then chose healthy habits to draw and left voice comments on the Screenchomp app.  They love hearing their voices played back in the app.  I love that this classroom activity had the students to share their thoughts and communicate clearly about how to have healthy habits.

I took pictures while students were using the app and uploaded them to my free Animoto account where you can place 12 images in a movie for free.  The pictures and the recordings that they made where they discussed healthy habits demonstrate that students were positively impacted by the ideas in the Google presentation and from the coloring pages images that many of them tried to emulate when they drew. I am so glad that my former student had the desire to promote health and wellness as a part of her Silver Girl Scout Award.

 

 

 

 

Google Classroom

I am excited about Google Classroom that will launch to the public next week.  I am in a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) school district.  This allows my students to have protected email accounts accessible only within my district.  Students in my technology classes in Grades 4 and 5 created Google Docs, Google Presentations and Google Spreadsheets last year.  I loved that these docs could be accessed on computers or on iPads.  If your school is not a GAFE one, it is easy to apply to be one.

I am thankful that with the new Google Classroom, teachers can set up a class, add their students and push out assignments.  There is a Facebook-like screen to show messages that can be seen by all members of the class.  Students can also receive email from the teacher.  Communication can occur between teachers and students.  As of now, there can only be one teacher assigned to a class, but I am glad for the option to create a class.  Teachers can upload files from your computer, attach a source from Google Drive, put links to websites and add video.  Students will read the teacher’s directions and follow them.  For example, if a teacher had a student watch a video at a link, students can comment on the video.  Students can share files, links, sources from Google Drive and videos as well to promote sharing, discussion and collaboration.  I love that teachers and students can set an option when they share to allow students to edit so that they can build and add on to the original document.  Teachers can comment directly to students or to the entire class.  The class creation feature opens many new opportunities for blended classrooms and for teachers to not have to haul around loads of paper when grading assignments.

I discovered a great resource on Twitter this morning which helped me learn about the features of Google Classroom and am providing it here:

Google Classroom Information and Tutorials

I am still learning about the new features in Google Classroom.  If you have suggestions on how to use it, please share your thoughts in the Comments below.

Google Docs Tutorial

Many teachers already know how to use Google Docs in the classroom.  After receiving some PD during the school year on Google Docs, I introduced them to my fourth and fifth grade students who used them to type while researching and share documents.  Being able to share a document that I made or have someone share a doc with me is one of my favorite features.  Our limited space school email accounts don’t get overloaded with attachments now since people can share within Google Cloud Storage.

I like a tutorial that I found by Stacey Huffine about Google Docs which I have linked below.  It gives you a quick 12 minute overview of how to use Google Docs.  You can get a free account by signing up for a gmail account.  My school district is a Google Apps For Education or GAFE district which allows our students to have their own accounts and to share their Docs within our district when working collaboratively.  I love the research and citation ability that one can do directly from within a Google Doc.  The commenting features allow collaborators to give feedback about the doc.  Since all comments and changes are saved within Google Cloud storage as soon as the words are typed, there will never be a need to remember to Save changes.  Whether you are a teacher giving your feedback to students or collaborating about a lesson plan with other teachers, Google Docs is a very helpful tool.  Another neat feature of Google Docs is that it allows you to turn your Doc into a web page by converting it into an HTML format.  As a result, if students have created a Doc or Presentation (similar to Power Point), it can be exported onto your class web page or on to students’ web pages!

Google Classroom has been launched which feels a bit like Edmodo.  I am still learning about Google Classroom but wanted to share the link below in hopes that it would be a catalyst to help another teacher learn how to jump into Google Docs!

Google Docs Tutorial

I also want to mention the place where I found Stacey’s tutorial.  Todd Nelsoney is a principal in Texas whom I follow on Twitter.  He created a Summer Learning Challenge for his staff.  After putting the challenge on Twitter, other teachers worldwide (thousands of them!) have now taken the challenge.  I have not been able to do all of the challenges, but have enjoyed growing while watching tutorials that Todd has placed on his website.  Here is a link to his Summer Learning Challenges on his blog: http://summerls2014.blogspot.com/2014/07/challenge-week-8.html 

I like the format of his Summer Learning Challenge and think it would be a great format to follow when offering PD to staff any time during the year!  Stacey’s tutorial is on Todd’s Blog.  After watching the tutorial on his blog,  teachers are given a challenge to create their own Google Doc and add their name to a Google Form to indicate when they have completed the challenge.  If you have never experimented with Google Docs, I challenge you today to see it for yourself and create a Document or a Presentation!  If you make one and would like to share it, please send it to me as a link in the comments below.  Have fun!

What’s your mindset?

VoxerMindset

A few weeks ago, some folks in my Twitter PLC announced that they were beginning a Book Chat about the book “Mindset” by Carol Dweck hosted on Voxer. Voxer is an app which I had never used before but I now realize that it functions like a walkie talkie to a group of people or to an individual. I requested to be added to the “Mindset” Voxer group. After the organizers added me, I began to see how the Voxer group was communicating. First, I noted different time stamps throughout a day or week so people were posting when they were inspired to do so and not on a schedule. I joined after it had already begun and it was announced that we would focus on Chapter 3 for this week.  I noticed that some participants posted pictures of the Mindset text that was annotated with reflections. I saw some messages that had been typed to the group, while there were also audio recordings that participants had posted about the book.  I enjoy posting my educational thoughts on Twitter, but Voxer allows me to post more than 140 characters!  Most importantly, it is allowing me to consider the reflections of other educators whom I respect.

After reading Chapters 1 – 3 of “Mindset”, I realized that it was time for me to not only post my thoughts on Voxer, but to also blog about my experience so far.  The theme in the book so far is to focus on learning and improving in life, not just in the teaching arena.  This book was written not only for educators, but for parents, businesses and any relationship.  Carol Dweck so aptly refers to two types of mindsets that people develop:  One is the FIXED Mindset and the other is the GROWTH mindset.  If I have a fixed mindset, then I would believe that I have only a certain amount of ability and I would try to prove myself for a lifetime.  If I have a growth mindset, I believe that I can use my God-given qualities to grow when I give effort.  The author insists that one must ask herself, “What is my purpose?” and then chart a path to attain her chosen purpose.  I may be born with a set of genes, but it is what I do with my ability that leads to future outcomes.

Praising my own children and students for their effort will allow them to see that their talent and intelligence can be cultivated because they weren’t given a limited ability in their genetic code.  It is important to not over criticize my children and to notice and praise their effort because I want the optimal outcome for my own children and my students.  Results from a published study this year from Utrecht University in the Netherlands indicates that over-praising children with comments like “That’s incredibly beautiful?” versus “That’s nice!” can be harmful for children with low-esteem, but be helpful for those with high self esteem.  The study indicated that more challenging tasks would be chosen by children with high self esteem who received inflated praise.  On the other hand, difficult challenges were not as likely to be accepted by children with low self esteem if they were given inflated praise.    So, it depends on the child and the parenting/teaching style.  Parents should purposely give praise to fit the child while using words to promote the effort that was given and not just praise the ability.  Giving specific compliments about what the child has done right as the child showed effort will promote a growth mindset in the child.  Creativity will flourish when we help our children and students “…convert…life’s setbacks into future successes.” (from p.11 of “Mindset”) If a mindset is a belief about yourself, then parents and teachers can give the gift each day to their children as they offer words to develop the thinking of a child instead of just focusing on the fixed mindset where one must prove himself again and again.

Challenges are seen differently based on which mindset one adopts.  Easy challenges feel good to those with a fixed mindset while hard challenges excite the growth minded individual.  I have examined my mindset and realize that I have a growth mindset.  When I was in high school and had to practice for hours to memorize the nuances of a multi-page piano piece, I gave effort.  First, I would sight read the difficult composition with my teacher by my side and began to realize that this new piece was hard for me.  I didn’t give up though.   I would stop at frustrating parts, practice the right hand then practice the left hand’s notes for a few measures to help me see where I had gone wrong.  I didn’t just throw my hands up and quit stating, “I can’t do this.  I’m a failure.” even when I had practiced for hours and I still didn’t have it just right.  I know for a fact that memorizing piano pieces in preparation for a Music Teacher Federation rating or for my Spring Recital in the beautiful Alumni House at UNC-Greensboro gave me a way to challenge and push myself.  I wasn’t proving myself over and over, rather, I was challenging myself to do what I could not previously do.  I got out of doing dishes most nights because my parents encouraged me to practice piano after dinner.  This must be why for years, I dreaded cleaning up dishes as an adult.  I now like to see my kitchen clean so I have learned to challenge myself now with cleaning up as I cook instead of piling all the dishes in the sink.  Nevertheless, I think that playing piano for a purpose set me up to enter college as one who could recognize a challenge and set a course to attain my goals.

With the encouragement of my piano teacher, Mrs. Matthews, whom I had from third grade through twelfth grade,  I heard her point out each week how to re-position my fingers for optimal outcome and transitions between measures of the music.  She would remind me of the musical emotions that were written on the music while she followed along with the music on her lap once I started memorizing the piece.  I didn’t remember every nuance of a musical composition but I began to embed my teacher’s suggestions each week until I was ready to share it in public.  I have begun to see this same mindset in my own children who practice their piano pieces in preparation for public celebrations such as their Spring Recital at a local church or their Fourth of July Piano Party at their piano teacher’s house.  They see that their practicing results in the feeling of competence due to the effort that they have given.  Their teacher encourages them to play all of their memorized songs and calls the songs that they’ve learned their “repertoire”.  My girls like to play their “repertoire” of songs which I believe helps them remember where they have come from and boosts their confidence in new songs that they are learning.  Piano lessons and public performances of them are akin to a soccer player who practices for a game working on specific skills that need sharpening or a CEO who checks in on what has gone well and discovers areas of growth needed in a company.

My reading of the “Mindset” book has encouraged me to determine which mindset that I operate from, then recognize the mindsets of others, to speak life and growth into my own children, husband, students, and colleagues as they give effort to accomplish a task and to be open to criticism.  I am a work in progress and will always be.  The wisdom found in the following Scripture Passage from the Bible in Philippians Chapter 3 verses 12 – 17 further connects to having a growth mindset:

Verse 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Verse 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,

Verse 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Verse 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Verse 17 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

On p.56 of “Mindset”, Carol Dweck refers to Mozart who for 10 years as a composer did not produce work that was original or interesting.  In fact, he would piece the work of other composers into his own work until finally he took on the authentic role of a composer.  He not only embraced his own ability and style after 10 years of trying, but transformed his previous capacity into the beautiful music that we know he originally composed.  I am so inspired by this story because it gives me hope.  As a teacher and parent, I am constantly borrowing other strategies and techniques from others who appear to be successful and applying it to my situation.  I use the knowledge of the others to enhance my own ability.  I begin to embrace ideas and then run with them to make them into my version that will work with my children and students.  It took Mozart time to try out his own musical style but we see that with the scaffolds of other musicians’ pieces, he became great.  He always sought to be better and to thoughtfully arrange music.  I wonder what kind of praise that Mozart received for those 10 years when he wasn’t confident as a composer.  Whether it was documented in history or not, I have an idea that he was praised either by a friend or to himself for his effort and not just his ability.  Carol Dweck found in a study that she mentions on p. 73 of “Mindset” that “…praising ability lowered the students’ IQs.  And that praising their effort raised them.”  Again, I am realizing that there is wisdom in following the pattern of those more knowledgeable others who I can look to for inspiration and clarity on my journey as a wife, parent and teacher.  I want to further develop my ability to give specific praise that focuses on the effort that was given by myself, by my family members, by my students, and by my colleagues.  I am in the process of developing a list of sentence starters which will help me give authentic praise for effort.  If you have ideas to add to my Effort Praise List, please let me know.

I have included in this post some of my other favorite quotes from Carol Dweck’s book.  I would also like to invite you to consider your reflective response to the quotes below:

p. 7 “…people with his (growth) mindset believe that…a person’s true potential is unknown; that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.”

p.7 “…the belief that cherished qualities can be developed creates a passion for learning.  Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better?  Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them?…Why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset.  This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”

p.11 “If, like those with the growth mindset, you believe you can develop yourself, then you’re open to accurate information about your current abilities, even if it’s unflattering.  What’s more, if you’re oriented toward learning,…you need accurate information about your current abilities in order to learn effectively.”

p.33 “Even in the growth mindset, failure can be a painful experience.  But it doesn’t define you.  It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from.”

p.34 “Instead of letting the (negative) experience define him, he took control of it.  He used it to become a better player and, he believes, a better person.”

p.41 “People with the growth mindset…believe..even geniuses have to work hard for their achievements…They may appreciate endowment, but they admire effort, for not matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”

p.48 “The growth mindset does allow people to love what the’re doing – and to continue to love it in the face of difficulties…In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome.  If you fail – or if you’re not the best – it’s all been wasted.  The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome.  They’re tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues.”

p.51 “…when (college) students had the growth mindset, they gained confidence in themselves as they repeatedly met and mastered the challenges of the university.  However, when students had the fixed mindset, their confidence eroded in the face of those same challenges…people with the fixed mindset have to nurse their confidence and protect it.

p.53 “…even when you think you’re not good at something, you can still plunge into it wholeheartedly and stick to it.  Actually, sometimes you plunge into something because you’re not good at it.  This is a wonderful feature of the growth mindset.  You don’t have to think you’re already great something to want to do it and to enjoy doing it.”

 

 

Times of Refreshing

The trees across from my neighborhood have just been installed by the developer of a new neighborhood.  As I left for work one morning in early June, I saw the trucks hauling in the trees with their roots wrapped.  When I got home that day, all 10 trees had been planted to line the entrance to the neighborhood.  Although the junior trees looked pretty for about a week, the heat began in earnest.  Afternoon storms provided a deluge of a drink to them for a few days.  Lack of water due to no rain seeping into their roots became evident though after another dry week.  They are now brown.  I feel so sad.  They started off strong.  They were positioned near a newly poured sidewalk with about two yards of space between the sidewalk and the road.  Their roots can’t soak up the water that is not there and honestly, I have a feeling that the original soil was not the best either since I know that the soil around my house is hard and like clay preventing much moisture from getting into the roots.  I was also reminded of a bush that had been uprooted in front of my house after the plumber repaired a pipe in our front yard then replanted it.  It hung on during the winter months, but eventually, became brown and had to come up.

Do I ever look like that brown tree?  If people could really see my spiritual condition, what would they see?  Would I be like a tree planted by the water who bears fruit?  Would I have the faded look of a tree that is malnourished?  Would I stand out as an example of one who is dead or blind spiritually?  After an incredible school year, I realize now that I need a break.  I gave it my all, poured out my best, and now it’s time to rejuvenate physically, mentally and spiritually.  In order to prepare for my roots to soak up needed refreshment, I began to contemplate the idea of being thirsty and wanting a drink.  I really want to relax for my health.  So how do I do this?

Prior to this amazing day, I had just experienced three days of summer training online and at my district’s Summer Institute.  This afternoon,  I drove toward my neighborhood and saw the brown trees.  I got home and saw a Facebook post from my friend who had shared Casey Treat’s FB post on June 23, 2014 -

“Don’t dig up in doubt what you planted in faith!  Stay planted & stay faithful!”  #BeYou #faith

After dinner, I just had to sit down and write.  I am reminded that I can prevent myself from taking in nourishment if I don’t pray and meditate on God’s Word daily.  I want to be present and enjoy every waking minute with my children and my husband.  I am praying and asking God to heal what has been hurt, restore what has been damaged and refresh me like only He can with His Living Water.  As I reflect on His promises, His Spirit sends a refreshing like wind over water.  I love the Everlasting Water in the Word of God.

Unlike the bush that eventually had to be uprooted in my yard due to the lack of life, God will never allow me to be plucked from His hand.  He works in ways we cannot understand.  He provides streams in the desert and brings the dead to life.  I know because I’ve witnessed this in my life again and again.  I discovered life flowing scriptures after searching for “planted by water” online knowing that there are Bible verses about this topic.  Here’s what surfaced:

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD.  For he will be like a tree planted by the water that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaves will be green and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.

Isaiah 44:3

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

John 4:14

But whoever drinks the water I (Jesus) give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

John 7:37

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.”

John 7:38

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.

Revelation 21:6

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.

Revelation 22:17

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

Psalm 42:1

For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah. As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.

Psalm 42:2

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Psalm 143:6

I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land.

Praise be to God because I know that He provides my spiritual nourishment!  My spiritual roots grow down deep.  I am in his vineyard.  He supplies the life giving water that will never run dry.  I must rejoice to know that I am protected and provided with the Holy Spirit.  If I feel like the brown tree, I must let my roots soak up the life giving water of the Word of God.  Its words bring hope, healing and life.  Prayer must accompany the reading of the Word of God.  The following scripture is the focus of my pastor’s preaching these days for me:

Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things that you do not know.”

My pastor mentioned yesterday that when we call to God and ask him for things, we should expect an answer, however, the answer will probably not be something that we thought of in advance.  In other words, when God answers my prayers, He will show me things that I don’t even know at this point.  I am astounded to know that even though I pray, God is doing way more than what I could ever ask for.  When God repairs, I imagine that it’s like He pours in His Grace and Life into me so that I can be filled.  Thirst requires action.  If you are thirsty for the Holy Spirit of God to renew, reshape, restore and resolve the past, plant yourself by the water.  Be refreshed!

When the doctor numbed my foot a few weeks ago to prepare me for some stem cell injections to rebuild and repair damaged tissue in my foot, it hurt.  No, it was excruciating pain when the needle entered my skin and the medicine was released.  “OOOOUUUUUCHHH!”  I yelled.  I wailed.  The numbing by the doctor meant that two needles went in on both sides of my heel.  I then had to wait for 40 minutes for my foot to fully numb so that he could inject the Amnio Fix solution filled with life giving stem cells.  I decided to do this procedure because I know know that God has given doctors the knowledge on how to give us life based on 2 Peter 1: 3 International Standard Version

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the full knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence.“

I couldn’t feel the Amnio Fix until it must have hit a nerve which almost made me jump out of the seat where I was reclined.  Soon, it was over, a black robotic-like boot was fitted on my foot/leg, and I stood to walk.  I could not feel my heel but the boot stabilized me so that I could walk.  I was walking slowly but knew that this procedure should help me feel better and walk without limping.  I had to take action and make a decision.  After three years of plantar fasciitis in the left foot, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I was thirsty for a drink.  I made a choice, have hobbled and had limited mobility for two weeks and can see that this healing is taking a while.  Nevertheless, summer time is my time to have down time so I am patiently waiting on wholeness to come to my foot.

My summer break allows me to reflect and unwind.  I feel like David in the Psalms when he wrote, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures.  He restores my soul.”  Today I sat beside of the pool from 4:45 – 6:45 p.m. at my YMCA outdoor pool under an umbrella.  The sun’s rays began to peek under the covering as it lowered in the sky.  It was my first time by the pool this summer.  I sat down with a headache.  I watched my children jump in the pool.  “Watch me, Mommy!” I heard them say.  Watching their cannon balls and underwater flips and seeing them race against each other on the two water slides caused me to grab my new found freedom.  I love the feeling of relaxing.  I don’t do it enough, but know that there is health and wellness in that lounge chair by the pool.  I even let myself read my new book by Chris Lehman whom I met last week at the CMS Summer Institute called “Fall in Love With Close Reading”.  I began putting together what he said in my all day session with him last Thursday and what the book explained.  I’d look up a lot and see my girls having a blast in the pool.  Due to my foot being in my boot due to the foot procedure that I had done on June 13, my first day of summer vacation, I couldn’t get in the pool.  I dangled my foot, even taking it out of the boot while I sat in the lounge chair reading, relaxing and rejuvenating.  I could feel the headache fading and myself embracing the moment.

The breeze came as clouds blew across the sky, but as I drove away today from the pool, I  let my hair blow in the breeze and the warmth invade my skin and my heart.  “Who’s relaxed?” I asked my children.  “Meeee!!!” they exclaimed.  I loved the moment and hope for many more of them during the summer.  Let the times of refreshing begin!

TWT post: Google docs + writing workshop = happy writing teacher (and happy writing students)

lisamaples:

Thank you for sharing your experiences with Google Docs in Writing Workshop.

Originally posted on TWO WRITING TEACHERS:

googledocs

When I was asked to pilot Google docs in the last month of our school year, I was enthusiastic… but also a bit blasé. It seemed like a wonderful “new thing”, and although I am all for trying out new things in my classroom, I also knew that I had developed and fine tuned a system for writing workshop over the years, and I was pretty happy with our writing folders, our “in the works” writing crates, and our writing portfolio filing system.

That was then, and this is now – I love using Google docs in our writing workshop!  Here are five reasons why:

1.  The revision process is so much more efficient and there is clarity about what changes need to be made where.  

My students still use their writer’s notebooks to plan and sketch their piece, and their yellow legal pads to write their first drafts…

View original 881 more words

From 0 to 840 Blogs

I began my journey last summer to blog about my encounters with technology as a new technology teacher of 1150 elementary aged students.  Today as I was helping a third grader look up her classmates’ blogs so that she could comment on them, I saw a number that has been flashing in my mind ever since:  840.  “840 what?” you may ask.  This child was narrowing her search down from 840 student blogs at my school to the 20 kids who are in her class.  So the 840 stands for 840 Kid Bloggers.  I have exposed 840 students to the world of blogging where they comment on articles they’ve read, embed a Timeline from http://www.readwritethink.org, a 30 Hands app presentation about the Edenton Tea Party in N.C., a Tellagami presentation on Ecosystems, and comment on each others’ blogs using the acronym TAG.  TAG stands for Tell Something, Ask A Question and Give a Suggestion.  Prior to this year, none of the students at my school had a school blog.  The excitement that exists when my third, fourth and fifth graders blog and are able to share their ideas then comment on others’ blogs is phenomenal.  I love how their blogs are now becoming a place to reflect on the school year and examine their favorite parts of their year.  

I know that miracles happen in the world.  Blogging is not technically miracle material, however, when students view themselves as writers to a wide audience, the walls of the school have come down, thus offering a miraculous transformation of students.  They see themselves as writers who have a voice that other people care about.  They can blog outside of school too which creates for some of my students a world of possibilities that previously had not been made available to them.  The act of writing and expressing ourselves allows us to think about our world and to consider points of view that may differ from our own.  So to me, writing makes miracles. It opens our eyes allowing scales to fall from our eyes and causes us to view possibilities with wonder.  

My mind wandered this week back to the first week of school when a first grader entered my newly decorated computer lab and exclaimed, “It’s like a miracle happened in here!”  I had rearranged the computer tables, created a word wall with technology related words and spent hours making a three dimensional keyboard for my large bulletin board.  He noticed these changes.  I hope that my students have been able to see that they create products with technology and write words that ring out to the world in our computer lab.  It is a place for me to fan the flames of learning and watch as they grow more confident and courageous as writers.  “Mrs. Maples, look what I wrote!” is my favorite request in the computer lab.  I heard it today as one of my students shared her Google Presentation slides with me.  She loved the Sockket soccer ball that I had told the class about as a way to create clean energy and then plug into to power lights and computers.  She had included it as a solution to fixing climate change due to global warming.  I felt her excitement over creating a meaningful digital presentation after researching causes of climate change using the steps of The Big 6 Research process.  

As this year of school is winding down, I would like to think that my students know that I believe in them and their capacity to communicate as writers, collaborate on digital products, critically think about design decisions and content of presentations and create using their imaginations.  The world lost a precious soul this week when Maya Angelou passed away.  I can only aspire to inspire as she did and will continue to do from her writings. One of my friends wrote a story about an encounter she had as a child when Maya Angelou visited her school 30 years ago.  With my friend’s permission, I am sharing her story here and hope that I have made a positive, lasting impression on children by the words I’ve spoken to them this year as their Technology Teacher.  I know that my students are born with an innate curiosity, a spark, to investigate their world.  In our 21st Century World, I plan to continue to fan the flames and ignite more interest and confidence in my students to create as digital citizens.  Here’s the incredible story from my friend, Jennifer Love Faulkner:

“As a child, I had the pleasure of personally meeting and sitting at the feet of Maya Angelou at the Billingsville Elementary Library.  She spent time with me one on one for about 30 minutes.  She read something I’d written and encouraged me to continue to use the gifts God gave me despite some of my learning disabilities.  She asked me, “Who are you?” And I told her.  “I am loud and my words bring bright and shiny to my day.  I am different because my dad is in a wheelchair.  I’m awkward because I don’t want to play with dolls.  I’m goofy and distracted.  I don’t learn the same as ‘them’ so some think I’m lazy or dumb.  I don’t dress the way they do and my family doesn’t have the money to get my hair cut where the other girls go.  “. (This is who I saw myself to be.). Ms. Angelou related to me her struggles that day, her lack of a college degree, her lack of a high school degree, her incredibly challenging family issues and what she’d overcome to at the time be known as one of the most celebrated American poets, thinkers and writers of our time.  She, in her deeply rich and musical voice, poured into my my spirit that day.  She propped me up with wisdom.  She soothed my injured view of myself with experience and empathy and encouragement and with *Maya*.  She took my face into her hands and brought me close to her and told me, “Child, I see in you sparks of things that will be fanned into flames.  Don’t you let them render ash to anyone or anything.  I believe in you.”

from a Keynote Speech delivered for JenOnJobs by Jennifer Love Faulkner

From no blogs, to 840 blogs… During the 2013-2014 school year using Gaggle as our blog platform I have launched into a whole, new miraculous digital world using computers and iPads.  During my twenty year teaching career as a third and fourth grade teacher before this school year, I had taught 500 students.  In one school year, I have taught 840 third through fifth graders how to become bloggers.  I believe in my students and am inspired by their writing!

 

Fanning Not Filling

 

Keepers of the Flame from FableVision on Vimeo.

I just finished accompanying my elementary school chorus tonight for their Spring Concert.  I love to hear them sing and then see magnificent smiles come across their faces as the audience claps wildly.  Upon arriving home, I checked my email and discovered a lovely Vimeo video from Paul and Peter Reynolds called “Keepers of the Flame”.  In some small way, I helped fan the flame inside a child tonight.  It is the flame of singing and making music.  What a great thought to know that by doing my part, I kindled an inner passion of children.  Those children standing on those risers tonight at school weren’t just fourth and fifth graders who are about to embark on End of Grade testing.  They are wonderfully made human beings built with the capacity to wonder, to explore, to dive deep into music among other subjects at school.  I heard them sing an African American spiritual, a religious memorial song in honor of those who were killed in the Oklahoma City bombings, and to absorb the feeling of collaborating as a choir as they joyfully belted out favorite tunes from a medley from “The Little Mermaid”.  I kept the beat going at the piano, my colleague and friend, Traci, directed, and the audience enjoyed.  No, we weren’t at Carnegie Hall, but we may as well have been.  Our hearts and minds embraced music which lifted spirits.  The first graders also performed music about caring for the Earth.  One of the lines in a song they sung was “We are stewards of the Earth” which inspired me. Of course I can do my part to reduce, reuse and recycle, but being a steward of the Earth means to also fan the innate curiosity that exists in children.  It is such a privilege to be able to share music together.

I am not filling buckets, I am fanning flames.  The Vimeo Video amplified this thought to me.  Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Publishing Mother’s Day Writing at ABCya.com

Common Core State Standards state that children as young as Kindergarten will explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing.  This week, my Kindergarten students brought their Mother’s Day books which they made in their class to the Computer Lab where I teach.   They had used ABCya.com’s Paint Tool before to write speech bubbles above character’s heads so I thought they were ready to transfer their Mother’s Day writing to ABCya.com.

CCSS W.K.6: With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.

I have included in this post some pictures that I took of their screens while they worked.  I was impressed with the vocabulary that their teacher had encouraged them to use.  Although the words are not all written in standard American English, the spellings of the words are developmentally appropriate.  After the kids created their digital pieces, I had them press “Print”.  They eagerly raced to the printer to see their work on paper.  The joy,  the smiles, the excitement that were brought about from printing made my day!  ABCya.com’s Paint tool is the specific resource we used.  I have a link to it at my school website under the Kindergarten tab.  My school website is found at bit.ly/elonpark.   I hope you will explore the ABCya Paint tool to see the power and ease of use in allowing five and six year olds to publish and print within 45 minutes.

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Folktales in Zooburst

The Common Core State Standards require that students are exposed to fiction and nonfiction texts. I do Interactive Read Alouds with my students in grades K-5 to allow them to not only hear me demonstrate my thinking about text, but to also give them time to turn and talk, stop and jot on Post Its, and to have an opportunity to conduct themselves as reflective readers.  During April, I knew that my school’s third graders were studying folktales and focusing on the following CCSS:

RL 3.2. Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.

My school’s fabulous Media Specialist shares Anansi folktales with our second graders each year and other folktales with other grades.  I approached her and asked about the folktales that she had shared with third graders this year.  Currently, she has read aloud to third graders the following folktales books:

The Little Red Hen Makes A Pizza by Philemon Sturges

Teeny Weeny Bop by Margaret Read McDonald

Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile by Won-Ldy Paye and Margaret H. Lippert

Lon Po Po by Ed Young

The Hunterman and the Crocodile by Baba Wague Diakite

She gave me the idea to read aloud a book that was new to me when my third graders come to the Computer Lab.  It is “Soap!  Soap!  Don’t Forget the Soap!” retold by Tom Birdseye.  It is an Appalachain folktale about a forgetful little boy who was sent on an errand to get soap.  He runs into distractions along the way causing him to forget his original mission.  As he meets new characters along the road, he is orally reciting the sentence that the previous character told him so that he would not forget it.  Unfortunately, the sentence that he is reciting is heard by a new character and misunderstood causing the new character to respond to the boy which causes the reader to see humor and how one thing can lead to another.  After he interacts with the final character along the road, he remembers that his mom sent him on an errand to get some soap.  He returns home with the soap, is scrubbed down by his mom and never forgets anything else again.

I will be reading aloud this book to my third graders after Spring Break.  I plan to have them determine the message of the story while exploring the details of the story.  Students will also analyze the boy’s actions to explore his character traits.

I will have students locate text references using the following prompts about characters:

The writer tells us directly…

The writer tells us the words that the character speaks…

The writer tells us the character’s thoughts and feelings….

The writer tells us the character’s actions (what the character does)…

The writer tells us how others react to the character….

If you could rename the book, what would you call it?  Give examples from the text to support your new title.

How does ______’s actions change what happens in the story?  Give a detail from the text to support your answer.

Describe how ______ changes from the beginning of the story to the end of the story.  Support your answer with a detail from the story.

Describe one of ______’s character traits.  Give a detail from the story to support your answer.

I plan to have them listen to another folktale at http://www.storylineonline.net/ called “Knots on a Counting Rope” and analyze it using the same character prompts that I wrote in this post.

After they have analyzed both books’ characters, key details, and themes, I will have them compare and contrast the two books using the Venn Diagram app or web based version at www.readwritethink.org.  They will publish their Venn Diagrams on their blogs and comment on each others’ blog postings.

Finally, I plan to have them use Zooburst which is an app and a website at www.zooburst.com.  It allows students to create digital pop up books where the character rises up from the page.  They will add text and characters as they recount on of their favorite folktales that they read in their. Lass, with the a Media Specialist, or in the Computer Lab with me. These Zooburst Books are also known as Augmented Reality books because the images are three dimensional and add interest to text as each page is turned.

Two other folktales that I plan to share are “Fire On the Mountain” and “The Greatest Treasure”. These two books provide readers with rich settings, characters and themes. Some of my students created Zooburst Pop Up Books last year using these two folktales as their sources. Visit the direct links below to see examples of how students recounted events from the books and determined the themes.

http://www.zooburst.com/book/zb01_517e85641a235

http://www.zooburst.com/book/zb01_517e944d56a59