Friday, December 14, 2007

Letter Pop

If you haven't tried Letter Pop you should do so. Someone asked me to make up some samples for a magazine article and I thought I might post one here. It is a quick creative way to make a newsletter of flyer that looks very profession. You could even use it for your Christmas letter!! You can share it with others or email to a group. You can have a group of 25 with the "free" plan. Try it--it might come in handy.

PS. I was contacted by Kathy Ishizuka, Technology Editor, School Library Journal to do some mockups using Letter Pop. My sample is published in the latest edition.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Pirate Wiki is Finally Finished!!

About 12 weeks ago we started a study of pirates and celebrated Talk Like a Pirate Day in mid September. We used the topic as content for what we thought was going to be a review of researching skills and an introduction of the "wiki model" to our 4th and 5th graders. Sixth graders had done a wiki last year. We'd planned on a 6 week unit and got broadsided a few weeks in.

Our 4th and 5th graders had no skills!! These are gifted kids!! My co-teacher ended up teaching a step-by-step unit on the research process including note taking, main idea, copyright, citing sources, etc. We have come to the conclusion that NCLB has sucked all the time out of the classroom and kids are no longer getting research, writing and for that matter basic technology (keyboarding and word processing) in the classroom. We actually had a gifted 5th grader ask us what "indent" meant!! Yikes!!

Well that aside, the students finally finished their paragraphs for the wiki and the editing is almost done. Here's my opinion of wikis for elementary kids---they are a different place to publish research. I like the linking to each other's work. But I don't think we are using it to its best advantage --as a true collaboration tool. I'm wondering if we will ever get to that point. See Arrrpirates here.

Sing a Song

Here is a website application you may never need. It's called Sing a Song. You write something and through "tags" the words are picked out of exisitng songs. Pretty wacky!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sam Tries Floorplanning!

One of our 6th graders, Sam, tried and really enjoyed it. Drawback? You can only do one plan per free account.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

As Close As I Came To Fame

Steve Hargadon, over at Classroom 2.0 asked me to participate in an article he was writing for the School Library Journal. I was thrilled, the online edition came out really neat. You can check out SLJ's feature story on Classroom 2.0 in their October 2007 issue.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Book Discussions Has Landed!

UPDATE #3: After trying blogs, free threaded discussions, phpbb, and Drupal, I finally decided on Moodle for our book discussions. "Moodle (for the uninitiated) is a course management system (CMS) - a free, open source software package designed using sound pedagogical principles, to help educators create effective online learning communities". I decided on it because it worked as a threaded discussion and the district just changed to it from Blackboard---though I might earn some brownie points by trying it. It doesn't seem as intuitive as Blackboard to me---but I've blundered my way through.

Fourth graders are reading Peter and the Star Catchers by Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson. Fifth and sixth graders are reading Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. You can access the book discussions HERE.

Teachers, students and parents who want to join the discussion need to read the book and email Mrs. Bosch for a username and password.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Peter and the Starcatchers Book Discussion

(repost from and )
UPDATE #2: Initially I thought a Blogger blog would work as a book discussion but realized I need a threaded discussion with capabilities for teacher and student to comment on eveyone's posts. After searching around for an Web 2.0 stand alone application that would work, I decided to go back to my student's blog site. The children are familiar with the format and the accounts are already set up. You can see the forum for Peter and the Starcatchers here.
UPDATE #1: I realized I'd chosen the wrong tool for the job. I'm not going to be able to use Blogger for the book discussion for several reasons---"Comments" window doesn't have a WYSIWYG editor--my kids need spell check. I also need to be able to comment on the posts (which is the whole point)--what I need is a threaded discussion forum, so I'm moving the book discussion. The invitation is still open and I'll post the new location ASAP.

Wanna join? I've put together a book discussion for my gifted 4th graders. Would you like to join us in discussing
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Berry and Ridley Scott?

Amazon Reviews say the book is appropriate for grades 5-9 but I would limit it to 4-6th, I think the questions are going to be hard for my 4th graders and they are smarter than I am.

I'm also creating another discussion for older gifted kids, 5-6th, maybe 7th. We will be reading Airborn by Kenneth Oppel.

Each child would need an email to log in and follow the "rules" of the discussion. The objectives are twofold-- analyzing the novel and writing in a "formal" way. Teacher would need to commit to being part of the discussion and comment often.

I think this would be a great opportunity to differentiate curriculum for a gifted reader(s)/writer(s). Let me know if you are interested, we read the book together (everybody has a book) and the students answer the questions in our classroom, their regular classroom and at home. We encourage parents to read the books and join in, we'll be starting @ Sept 15.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Meme'd for the First Time

Ms. Mercer invited me to my first meme, does this mean I've made it to the big time? Nah, but I'll give it my best shot.

The post by Will about the conference he is at on the future of schools got me thinking. There is a lot of talk about, new thinking and old thinking, and arguing about where the problem is. I’m proposing a new meme about this to try to suss out where we’re at. The questions are:

  1. Is School 2.0 about technology or pedagogy (teaching methods)? In a perfect world it would be about learning not teaching, both student and teacher--the technology would just make it more fun.

  2. What were 1-3 things you had to”unlearn” to become an effective teacher? I became a "gifted" teacher teaching gifted kids. I had to give up control, I had to learn that there was more than one answer, I had to learn your first answer sometimes isn't your best answer, I had to learn that some kids need longer to process than others, I learned that "know-it-alls" sometimes "know-it-all", I learned you could read Moby Dick under your desk if you were very careful, I learned that analysis and synthesis is hard, I learned that studying your passion raises the quality of your finished product...shall I go on?

  3. Did you learn these poor practices in your teacher preparation program, or somewhere else? If so, where? I began to change about 6 weeks after I started teaching gifted kids. My poor practices were probably genetic--I took a different path than most. I taught for two years out of college then didn't teach again for almost 20 years, I was raising 3 kids. So when I went back to teaching, I didn't have a clue what I was doing and didn't remember one thing I'd learned at university.

  4. Describe the philosophy of your teacher preparation program in 25 words or less.
    What age/grade level do you teach? When did you attend school at that level?
    Don't have a clue and don't remember a thing about teacher training. I teach gifted elementary students K-6. I was in grade school in the middle 50s. (Was it that long ago?)

  5. When were you in your teacher preparation program? 1967-1971.

Thanks for the invite!!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Favorite Student Posts

I'm posting this here because it didn't "fit" at Classroom 2.0.I teach in a program for elementary gifted kiddos (4-6) but their writing abilities vary as much as the students in your classroom. We've been blogging since November and if you'll bear with me I'll share some favorites. One bit of advice---ask high level reflective questions to get started, you may be surprised at the level of the responses. Remember, you get back what you accept. We also use RSS feed and creative writing prompts to generate posts. Let me know if you need any other tips.

None of these posts were prompted by me.

From Mattea 4th:

I think books are wonderful. They take you to places you've never been to and probable will never go. I usually read ever night before I go to bed. Sometimes I don't have a book to read and I have nothing to do. Books can entertain me for hours, especially when I'm alone.
One girl in my class hates to read. I hate it when we have a sub and they read to you so slowly. It's hard to pay attention, especially when they talk in a monotone voice. Our regular teacher actually talks in a faster, more expressive way. Not as fast as Mrs. Bosch (that's me), but fast. I want to know if this happens to any of you. Do you have a teacher who talks to slow or even to fast? If this is fine, what annoys you when you're reading and why?

From Russell 6th:

Einstein and Time and Space Travel and stuff
Here's another one of those boring "wonderful theories" by Russell. I know that I've already posted one of these on my blog, but this is my favorite thing to write about.
One of Einstein's theories was that space and time alter to not allow anything to travel at the speed of light. So, that means that time itself can alter to prevent something from traveling that fast. It is possible to travel extremely fast, possibly faster than the speed of light. One thing is, mass (not church, weight) also alters itself to prevent lightspeed travel. So it is impossible to travel faster than the speed of light on Earth. But, in space, that doesn't matter. I don't know if this is correct, but I believe that if you got going fast enough, time would stop, allowing you to, basically, teleport. And you wouldn't need to use up fuel during the whole trip. There's no friction in space, so once you got going, you would never stop until you used your brakes. If we could clear out all of the junk in space, and find a way to shield the ship, we could travel like this safely. So, we'd waste a bunch of fuel getting going, and a bunch getting stopped, and that would be all. There's still a bunch of imperfections, and I don't think that anything like this will happen in my lifetime. But I still think that this could eventually work.

From Ashlee 5th:

Flags of Our Fathers
I'm reading a really great book about the battle at Iwo Jima. You probably heard the name of the book or the movie, "Flags of Our Fathers". I find it so interesting but also so brutal. I can't believe how many people died on that 8 sq. mile island. I've been doing a lot of research on the subject lately. I was thinking I could write something about it and maybe put it on my blog sometime. The book was written by the son of the man in the famous photo of the flag raising on Mount Suribachi whose profile is the only one showing. I thought that it was cool how the author was one of the kin of the 6 men (three of them died on the island) who were in the most printed photograph in the history of the United States. I would highly recommend it.

From Molly 4th:

Portal For The Mortal
As I was sitting in my bed one night I thought of the future and I came up with a way to be "portaled" somewhere else. I thought of an arch and a sideboard next to the arch. You would type in a portal number on the sideboard and step through the arch. I thought that you would pop out of the numbered portal. The way to do this wouldn't be simple. The portal would send a jolt through your body, and then push you out of the portal. No one would see you come out the other side because it would push you so hard you would go so fast that nobody could see you. Then there is the matter of how could it push you that hard without damaging something, like a bone. How would it even push you? The are other problems such as if someone was accidentally pushed into the trees. I mean you couldn't be pushed of a tall building to avoid anything because you would fall. Then comes safety. What if someone gets a code or number and pops into your house? Maybe one day it'll be figured out and we won't need to use to much nonrenewable energy, like minerals, or fuels. This could help global warming. So this is what I think teleporting might be like.

And from the laugh out loud category...

From: Michelle, who never bought into my formal writing requirements

50....or maybe not quite 50 Things I'll Never Do....(in my right mind) 17, things i'll never do:
become a history teacher; swim in antarctica; purposely vacuum the floor; burn a bar of chocolate; be the new octopus for the Wiggles; sing the national anthem stadium full of people; throw icecream at Simon Cowell (although he deserves it :P); run a marathon in flip-flops; order a broccoli souffle; eat dinner with donald trump; be a contestant on The Bachelor; i'll never kill a butterfly on purpose;NEVER listen to country music longer than one hour straight; I WILL NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER... throw away my furry blue slippers; roll around on a movie theatre floor; work at Pricechopper (the smell drives me crazy, i can hardly breathe); NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER E..V..E..R die my hair bleach blonde.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Vandals Like Tetris, Too.

Sometimes I see something that just strikes my fancy (whatever that means). I like this image from The DailySnap

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Ten Things I Love About Being a Teacher (In the Summer)

Here is a list of things I love about being a teacher in the summer. I love the school year, too--but we are so blessed to have time in the summer to recharge. Can you add to the list?

1. Never being tired. Even if you are tired, it doesn't matter.

2. Staying up late.

3. Spending too many hours online and not caring.
4. Summer foods-tomatoes, cantaloupe, peaches, cherries.

5. Going to the ice cream store after dinner.

6. Reading a whole book in a day.

7. BBQing.

8. Going swimming.

9. Taking a nap, even if you don't need it.

10. Having lunch with friends and eating for more than 25 minutes.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Me: In One Slide

Dan Meyers has a very high stakes contest going on over at his place. I know that bloggers around the world are stewing over the perfect "four slides". I've decided to copy Chris Duke. I bet I can name that tune in one note!!! Oops, wrong contest--here is my slide.

Click HERE to see a bigger image.

A Boy in Africa

Three years ago I saw this picture in Newsweek magazine. I was so enthralled by the picture I emailed the Dutch photographer, Reinout van den Bergh, and ask him for permission to use the photo in a workshop I was presenting. His Dutch agent, Arjen Duijts, gave his permission then and has given his permission again to use the image in our blog.

From our student blog A Really Different Place: Look at this boy in Cameroon, Africa and think about what you see. Think about how this boy must live. Once you have considered the life this boy must lead, look at the item in his hand that he has made out of mud. What do you think it is? What does this picture say about our society. Write your blog entry after thinking for a few minutes.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Gifted Education 2.0 Check It Out!

This is a relatively new option for interacting with other gifted ed teachers and parents. Click on the icon and you'll end up on my page, but you can easily get to the home page from there. This and Classroom 2.0 developed at Ning.

(from Ning)

What is Ning?
Ning is a platform for creating your own social networks. Our passion is putting new social networks in the hands of anyone with a good idea. With Ning, your social network can be anything and for anyone.
You start by choosing a combination of features (videos, blogs, photos, forums, etc.) from an ever-growing list of options. Then customize how it looks, decide if it's public or private, add your brand logo if you have one, and enable the people on your network to create their own custom personal profile pages.

I Don't Like the Classics

This is an entry I posted at Gifted Education 2.0 in response to a discussion on books for novel studies. I really do like the classics---I just have a hard time slogging though them. I'm a contemporary kinda gal, I stick to contemporary themes in my adult reading, too.

I don't like the classics. Even though I'm smart, creative and an excellent teacher :) I'm not a scholar!! I've taught gifted for 22 years and got bored with curriculum available for gifted kids about three years ago. I decided to write all my own curriculum and added a literature component to my program. When I search for books I have two criteria in mind---1. none of my gifted readers have read the book and 2. the books get a "wow, this is the best book I've ever read" reaction from the kids. I've had good luck so far.

Here are some of the books we've used---some will be too young for your kids (middle school/high school) and I'll point that out.We started with Eragon by Christopher Paolini. The book isn't great but was written by a 15 year old ( my point was that if a 15 year old could write a best seller, you could too) --kids loved it and the sequel Eldest. We went as a group to see the movie last December.

We then read Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett. These are too young for your kids, but have a historical connection. I love the "daVinci Code" type books for kids---books with clues, intrigue and historical connection. I wrote curriculum for both these books and you can see a blog article about them here. Kids love Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. It's in the Steampunk genre, according to one of my sons. There is at least one sequel.

This spring we read The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick which has the historical connection to invention of movies. It is a brilliant book, half of the 580 pages are illustrations but not in a typical format. The illustrations tell the story---like a graphic novel. The problem with this book is that everybody has to have a book---not a good read a loud. I did not write a curriculum for it but easily could have.I have several others I haven't used yet.

Endymoin Spring by Matthew Skelton has the history of books as it's back plot. The end is a little weak, but I'm going to use it eventually. I haven't read Valley of Secrets by Charmain Hussey yet--but plan to. It is wrapped up in the rain forest fauna and flora.

Another option is Phillip Pullman's Golden Compass. The movie is coming out in December. I've read the book but only used it in a small group. I did read an article by a concerned Catholic parent about the religious (or lack of religion) overtones in the second and third books. Any time I use a book I read it first and contact parents. I tell them to read it and if we have online discussions I ask them to join in on the discussion.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Another Fun Beginning of the Year Activity

Another activity I've used at the beginning of school uses the Elmer books. Elmer is a "different" elephant. I teach gifted kids, we talk about how everybody is different and I read the book to them. I traced Elmer and put a template on a shared drive. They d/l the template and open it in Paint. They design their own Elmers. It makes a great bulletin board.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Wacky Summer Camp Brochure

I ran into a post at Pat's Blog about a beginning of school activity which reminded me of an activity we do every couple of years--the kids love it. It is called Wacky Summer Camp and students make a trifold brochure (Click on the activities link) for a camp that does not exist. I give them the following instructions and show them some "real" brochures that I print off the Internet. We've gotten some great brochures for camps that include: Picky Eaters Camp, Space Camp (in space), Obedience Camp (for kids), Whiners Camp, IM Camp, etc

You may copy and paste the following info into Word and print a document for the kids. Enjoy!!

Wacky and Unusual Summer Camp

Your assignment is to design a brochure for an unusual summer camp. The camp needs to be for someone (thing) under the age of 18. It can"t be a “real” camp, but needs to be a very special camp that you invent. It can be as wacky or unusual as you like but is must contain the following:

What is the name of the camp?
Does the camp have a slogan or nickname?
Does the camp have a logo?
Where is the camp located?
What kind of facilities does the camp have?
Who is eligible to go? Do you have to have special skills to go?
What kinds of activities can be done there?
How much does it cost? And how long are the sessions?
Are there testimonials from parents or kids who know about the camp?

Be sure to include clipart, photos or original artwork in your brochure. You can find copyright free clipart and photos at the following sites.
Animal Image Collection
Pictures for Projects
The Amazing Picture Machine
Oswago City School District Photo Archives
Awesome Clipart for Kids
Kid’s Domain Clipart
Clipart for Kids

Before you go to the computer lab you must have a “mock-up or prototype” of your brochure. You can use computer paper folded in thirds. Be sure to include a space for all artwork, also use the bottom back to put in a special designer logo and your name and class.

Your teacher will give you instructions on how to make a trifold brochure. Have fun!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Where Is All Your Stuff?

I've been asked for the URLs of projects/curriculum units etc over the last few weeks. I also sometimes want to share the sites with others, so I decided to list them all here so I can c/p them for a quick send. Here goes:

A Different Place This is a personal site, not affiliated with my school district. I started publishing it so I didn't have to worry about posting my workshops/curriculum units to the district site---intellectual property and all that.
Curriculum Links: Topic links related to curriculum and other skills
Primary Links: Good sites for K-3
Choose It!: Appropriate technology related activites for students to do after they are finished with grade level work or have technology, problem solving, or creativity as an IEP goal. (this page is under construction)

Broken Arrow Enhanced Learning Center official classroom site with student pics and work

A Really Different Place student/classroom blog
A Not So Different Place "gifted" blog
A Very Old Place primary source blog
Kids Review Books kid book review blog (coming soon)

Online Book Discussions Guest login username and password: baguest
Philosopher's Club (same Moodle username and password)

Titanic in the Classroom (see Biographical Sketches)

Curriculum Unit Websites
Inventors, Inventions, and Robotics (Fall 2008)
Titanic in the Classroom (spring 2008)
CSI:Cemetery Scene Investigation (winter/spring 2007)
Guardians of Freedom (2000-2001)
NE Kansas City Walking Tour (October 2007)

Classroom Curriculum
What Rhymes with Squirrel
Chasing Vermeer
The Wright Three
Exploring Leonardo DaVinci
Greek Mythology Virtual Fieldtrip
Mystery and Detection
Virtual Worlds
So You're Gifted---Now What?

The Wright 3 Wiki
Unsolved Mysteries Wiki
CSI Wiki
Weathering Wiki
Pirate Wiki

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

NECC 2007 Didn't Go!

I attended NECC for 7 years and presented at 5 of them. I was an excellent presenter and received "Best of NECC" several times. The people in my workshops always went home with tons of ideas to use in the classroom. I loved to go to sessions where people would show me stuff and I'd go "WOW". I got burned out with presenting and have not been to NECC for several years, even though I use all kinds of technology applications in the classroom. I always like to look at the NECC handouts to see what I've missed--I think I missed Web 2.0 all together in the last 2 years!!

I decided to take a look at blogs and wikis last fall and started using them in the classroom right away. I'm lucky--I teach in a full day gifted program so I don't have to worry about "teaching to the test" and other classroom distractions like kiddos who don't speak English. Along with using blogs and wikis I've started reading tons of blogs over the last 6 months and spent several hours in the last few days reading the follow up NECC 2007 blogs. That's the point of this rant.

All of the "famous" and not so famous educational technology bloggers raved about NECC 2007 and were thrilled with "Twitter", "Blogger Cafe", EdBloggerCon (?), etc. Several said they attended NO sessions and didn't visit the Exhibit Hall (what??). They raved about sitting around blogging f2f--it was oh so stimulating. I'm sure I would have been right there in the midst of all this chatting---but...

Isn't this preaching to the choir? It seems a lot of the educational/ technology blogging is all the same--discussing the same issues but not talking too much about kids and stuff to engage kids in learning. Web 2.0 is cool and has great gadgets and great potential but GET REAL. So much of it is fluff---and many of the gadgets will 1.) be gone in 6 months 2.) start charging a fee or 3.) will be blocked by your district.

We need to teach kids how to read well and do hard math and do real work in a real work environment. I retire in 3 years---somebody needs to figure this whole technology thing out and give teachers real ideas of how to do stuff and what works. Finished ranting.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Giant Step for Bud the Teacher

Bud the Teacher was thrilled when his district decided to allow staff to use Blogger. I responded with my latest "yuck".

Congrats on Blogger opening up for you. Giant step for you--backwards step for me. Today I wanted my students to see Le Voyage Dans La Lune (A Trip to the Moon). This film (1902) is considered the first science fiction film and plays a big part in a book I'm reading to my students. The book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick is a wonderful story that revolves around a young boy and his relationship with George Melies, who made the film mentioned above. The point--I watched this 12 minute film on YouTube several weeks ago and today with the kiddos huddled around their machines, waiting with bated breath---YOUTUBE HAD BEEN BLOCKED!!! Yikes! Luckily we saw the video on Google Video--Be sure to check out this book, it's like nothing you've seen before and the kids think it's brilliant.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

The fifth graders are in the process of completing their Unsolved Mysteries Wiki We read a book this fall called Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett. The book explores a mystery surrounding Johann Vermeer. The research on Unsolved Mysteries was loosely connected to the book. The kids spent 3-4 weeks doing their research, completing citations, and finding images. They put the wiki together and are almost finished with links and images. I am in total agreement with Jamie McKenzie's ideas about Ending Topical Research. He says:

When students conduct topical research, they do little more than scoop up information. Topical research requires little thinking and little imagination. It pays few dividends. It does almost nothing to prepare students for the kinds of thinking skills listed in state and provincial curriculum standards.

But, I wanted content to teach them about wikis, and topical research was easy. I'm hoping before I retire to do a "real" project using a wiki. Let me know if you've got a good idea for a wiki-collaboration.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Some Gifted Children Left Behind

The Lawrence (KS) Journal World ran an article called Gifted Student Feels Left Behind. Gifted children across Kansas were recognized January 31, 2007 when Governor Sebelius declared it the first-ever "Gifted and Talented Day" in Kansas. There were dozens of comments on the paper's website and of course I decided to add my two cents.

After teaching gifted kids for over twenty years many of these comments sadden and irritate me, but I'm not going to waste my finger energy to rebut the opinions of others. I would like to leave you with an analogy, maybe it will make you think:

You are an adult and last year you decided to take ski lessons in Colorado. You bought the clothes, rented the skis and drove out to the Colorado slopes. You signed up for beginner lessons, practiced and has a great time. A year had so much fun last year that you decided to go back to Colorado for intermediate lessons. You bought fancier clothes and this year you decided to buy skis. You drive out to Colorado and pull up to the ski school. Swen comes bounding out of the chalet and says "Velcome, Velcome...but I have bad news. Not enough people signed up for intermediate lessons, you will have to take "beginners" again." As an adult, you would say "H*** no, I will not take “beginners” again, I’m ready for intermediate!!"

But gifted kids don't have that power; they have to take "beginners" again and again and again. Think about it, as an adult you would never put up with that.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Teaching Gifted Kids?

I just read a post Differentiated Instruction, Web 2.0 and Learning Differences that referred to an old blog post from Vicki Davis blog site, How wikis, podcasts, and laptops help students with learning disabilities. I went to Vicki's original post to see the entire thing and this is the first paragraph:
Any teacher can teach a smart kid -- a "smart kid" with regular learning abilities can learn from an inanimate object -- a book. They can teach themselves on the Internet. Teach them and you are knowledgeable about your subject. But it is the child who has challenges -- you are true teacher when you accommodate and reach that child.

The gist of the posts were the benefits of using Web 2.0 tools with learning disabled students, definitely a good idea don't get me wrong.

I take offense :) to "any teacher can teach a smart kid". I've spent the last twenty years advocating for gifted kids in the regular ed classroom and many of them spend hours a week in an academic desert. Who learns the least new material in a given school week? Not the student with learning problems, but the gifted kid. "Any teacher" can't always teach a smart kid. NCLB has exacerbated the problem. i could rant on but 'Nuff said.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Really, What are Blogs Used for in the Classroom?

Dave LaMorte at Lesley University is exploring the option of a central location for "blog/ Web2.0 lesson plans". Seems like a good idea. I wrote a lengthy comment on his site and it would not post! Of course I forgot to c/p it before I submitted it. Oh, silly me. Anyway, I decided to rewrite my comment here. Then I'll leave a very short comment on Dave's site referencing this entry.

I'm fairly new to blogging, certainly not the expert many of you are, but I've been teaching, writing curriculum and doing technology presentations for years. As I may have mentioned before, I have opinions about everything and "blog lesson plans" did not sneak in under my radar.

My students have been blogging for several months and, all in all, they are doing a super job. You can see the details in my Blogging for Elementary Kids post 1/14/07 I'm stressing blogging as a "formal" writing experience and students must meet certain criteria in their writing; i.e. no IM and chat lingo, no personal drivel, correct grammar, punctuation, capitalization, citation, links, etc. In my opinion the beauty of blogging is the idea of writing for an authentic audience and being able to write discerning and insightful comments.

As I've slogged through the class blogs out there I see them being used for a lot of different purposes, some good some mis-purposed. (is that a word?) I've seen posting of projects, personal kid sites listing neighborhood schools, grades, last names, yikes!, lists of links, home school communication, etc. I hope blogs are not being used as "catch-alls". Blogs are not websites and shouldn't be used as such. Blogs and wikis are so much easier to post to than websites; teachers may latch on to that. Blogs are for communicating, blogs are for writing, thinking, and reflecting, blogs are for debating, discussing and affirming. Blogs give teachers the opportunity to get in there and really talk to kids. I hope they (blogs) don't get watered down...OK not my job to be the the "blog-police".

Some ideas I've thought of that would be appropriate used for blogs:
  • book/movie discussions (we're discussing Eragon, the book and the movie)
  • student/parent book discussions
  • book reviews
  • current events (we use RSS feed)
  • student opinions
  • reflecting on visual images
  • reflecting on primary source documents
  • debates
  • student poetry and reflection
  • posting student artwork for critiquing
  • posting student books for critiquing (we're doing this)
  • podcasts
  • vidcasts

So, you have any ideas you could add? Be sure to check with Dave LaMorte if you do. N.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Wikis for Elementary Students

My gifted sixth grade students did their first wiki quite by accident. Background: We had finished reading a book called The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett. The book is Balliett's second novel for kids, the first one is called Chasing Vermeer. All in all I love the way the books are written; they are filled with historical connections, math puzzles, codes and ciphers, like D'Vinci Code for kids. The plots are not as strong as I'd like and the mysteries are easily solved at the end of the books but the kids seemed to like them. I wrote curriculum for each book and students learned a lot about Frank Lloyd Wright and Johannes Vermeer.

Back to the wiki...I had planned for my sixth grade students to write a reflection essay on the book and what they had learned about Frank Lloyd Wright. The night before they were to start that assignment, I decided that they would hate it! We'd started a blog several months ago and in my researching of Web 2.0 technologies I'd run in to wikis and knew what they were. I decided, after I'd turned off my computer for the night, that they would love to do a wiki.

I got up early the next morning, went to school, cranked up my computer and in 30 minutes had the skeleton of the wiki ready. Several cautions: At the time I didn't realize that each student would have to "join"so there was a scramble to get everyone signed up. I use Wikispaces and they will set up accounts for all your students if you email them. I was savvy enough to realize that if students worked in pairs, each one would have to have a separate page. Two kids can't open the same page, work on it and save it. Notes are taken on two separate pages then combined on one page for final publishing.

I showed them Wikipedia and we did searches on chicken nuggets and Super Mario I could tell they were hooked right away! They loved all the connections. We discussed copyright, looked at Wikipedia's copyright (which I really like), and talked about notetaking and plagiarism. Then I set them loose!

Since I teach in a gifted pullout program the students are with us all day one day a week. In about five hours the seventeen kids finished the wiki on The Wright 3 and Frank Lloyd Wright. They really enjoyed it. Here are some of their comments:

“Boy, I’m glad we didn’t have to write!” (hello….you just spent the whole day writing!!)
“It is so cool to know that somebody might use what I wrote for their research!!”
“I write a lot more carefully knowing the ‘world’ can read it”
“I liked the fact that we could work together, help each other out and link to stuff someone else wrote”
“It is so cool to put something ON the Internet, rather than always taking stuff OFF.”

Let me know if you have any questions. We are in the process of completing two more wikis now.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


I bumped into this website, Scrapblog, quite by accident but it is fun. Several years ago I tried my hand at scrapbooking and I liked it but it is time consuming and expensive so I was thrilled to find a virtual version. this is a page I made about my students' forensic science unit. You can see all the pictures at one of our websites but this is a fun and creative way to reflect on things we have done. I'll try it with students soon and let you know how it works! You are suppose to be able to embed the scrapblog into your blog, but blogger doesn't seem to like that option, so here is a captured image.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Too Little Time; Too Much to Do

I posted the following comment to a discussion on David Warwick's site 2 Cents Worth. The comment from Randy Rodgers led me to think about "time" and people's frustration about adoption or non-adoption of certain technologies in the classroom.

Last year I heard Christopher Paolini interviewed on 60 Minutes. Christopher wrote an 800 page fantasy called Eragon, recently released on film at the theaters. He was 15 years old when he wrote the book and he said, in the interview “The gift my parents gave me, by homeschooling, was the gift of time.” I think that’s what missing in the whole “blog/wiki in the classroom” discussion. With NCLB and state assessments students no longer have “time” in the classroom. In our district the last thing students have time to do is something as spontaneous as sitting down to write what is on their mind. (hyperbole, I’m sure) The beauty of what I do, teach in a pullout gifted program, is that we have the time to think and explore areas of interest and new technologies. I also teach kiddos who have supportive parents and computers at home. There is no doubt that many, if not all, students would enjoy blogging and benefit from writing for a “real” audience. OK, finished rambling about that.
The same holds true for doing wikis. We did our first one in lieu of a reflection essay and 17 6th graders worked for 5 hours to complete it. Teachers in my building, a Title 1 school, would never find the time. They are required to teach reading for 2 1/2 and math for 1 1/2 hours a day. A sad state of affairs.

What barriers do you see to adoption of blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 technologies in the general ed classroom?

Monday, January 15, 2007

RSS Feed for Elementary Students

My students started blogging about two months ago. I wanted to have RSS feeds come into our site as an added topic for writing. I started my search with Annette Lamb, a national presenter, who has looked in to all current technology issues. She directed me to her bloglines account. After getting several ideas from her I continued to search the Internet. I felt strongly that the incoming feed needed to be appropriate for kids since I was making a conscious effort to bring the feed in. After all my searching, I found and use the following:

CBBC Newsround -Frontpage
Science Buzz--science
Why Files--science
Cybils --literature/books
Discovery Channel Headlines--science news
Nova Science Now --science news
Patent Pending inventions (blog written by a 15 year old boy)
PBS News Hour --news
Wands and Worlds--fantasy book reviews
Surfing the Net with Kids

The first lesson I learned..."you can have too many feeds"!! Second don't want adult news feeds coming in from CNN, ABC, CBS, etc.. Third lesson...the BBC feed has lots of news articles on "football", which my kids quickly figured soccer!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Blogs for Elementary Kids

My 4th, 5th and 6th graders started blogging at a site called A Really Different Place several months ago. Luckily, I had a student's dad offer to set up the blog site using Drupel, he also offered to serve it. My main objectives were safe and responsible social networking, understanding of copyright and intellectual property issues, and of course writing real and relevent content for a real audience. I looked at dozens of student blogs, mostly high school student sites. Aside, I had to have the CIPA representative in our district unblock about 100 blog sites that I was trying to look at!

I saw things I wanted to include in our site, all the while thinking "what are they going to write about?" I envisioned that I would post a topic once a week or so and they would respond. Each student has their own blog but I have administrative rights and can delete or edit all of their entries. I started by explaining the rules, got permission to use these rules from Bud the Teacher. We then discussed commenting and I used Vicki Davis' How to Comment Like a King or Queen. I had used for several years for online curriculum and online book discussions, so I was pretty comfortable about some of the hurdles we would have to overcome. I stressed that this was "formal" writing and they were not to include IM and chat language. I told them they must write using appropriate conventions and Iwould make them edit spelling and puncuation mistakes. Drupel used a WYSIWYG called tinymce, which has spell check, thank goodness! I told them they were participating in a written "conversation" and I would delete any comments like "Cool" or "Neat"!!

My co-teacher and I posted our first several blog entries and included a link to some creative writing prompts in the links section of the site. I also dug up appropriate RSS feed (a challenge) and included a Word of the Day node. The rest is history, they jumped in with both feet. I give them time in class (I only have them one day a week) and told them to blog 2-3 days a week in their regular classrooms or at home.

All in all I'm really pleased. The quality of the writing for the most part is very good condering our youngest bloggers are 9 years old. We have had blog entries on black warming...and the theory of relativity. We've also had entries on "50 Things I Would Not Be Caught Dead Wearing"..."Firedrills"..."Talent Shows" and opinions about the Katie Holmes and Tom Crusie nuptials!!

Some of our "writers" wanted a place to write books and comment on each others book writing so we included a "Book" section to remove creative writing from the blog posts. We do have several poets who post poems on their blogs. We also have a book discussion section, which is still being developed.

The only disappointment is that some of my best bloggers don't take the time outside of class to participate, but they'll come around!! Several parents and teachers have joined in and that has been a great add-on. Let me know of your blogging successes and frustrations.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Maiden Blog

I decided to write my first blog entry about blog entries. Three months ago I knew what a blog was. I had seen it offered as NECC sessions for the last several years and had heard about blogs on the news. Something, slips my mind now, inspired a lightbulb moment and I started taking a look at Web 2.0 technologies for my classroom. Now, three months later, my students are adding posts to a great blogsite and sixth graders completely their first wiki. Even though I spend an hour+ a night replying to their blogs and posting on our class site, I've decided to try my hand at a personal site. I forgot to mention one thing...I hate to write.