For the summer, I have decided to use my Tuesday and Thursday posts to reblog some of my favorite posts that some of my readers may have missed the first time around:
As a teacher, do you ever have a moment when no one needs your help, and you are standing in the middle of your classroom wondering what you should be doing? In my twenty years of teaching, I think that’s happened twice: when I was student teaching and had no idea what I was supposed to be doing anyway, and today. I showed my students Storybird, which allows you to choose sets of art to illustrate a story that you write. I meant for it to be a station on some computers in my classroom, but the students who started at that station didn’t want to leave. So, I started pulling out laptops until everyone was working on their own stories. For over an hour, there was silence in my room, and every child was engaged in creating his or her own story. We had been studying Figurative Language, and the assignment was to create a story with a winter theme that used at least 4 different types of figurative language.
After lunch, I thought the students might be weary of sitting in front of computer screens. I began saying, “Okay, you have a choice. You can either continue working on your Storybirds or – ” I didn’t even get to finish. They unanimously agreed that they wanted to continue.
Storybird is free. Register as a teacher, and you can add a class of students easily. The students do not need e-mail addresses to register or log in. You can view their work at any time, and they can also view the work of other students in the class by clicking on a tab at the top. They can comment, as can the teacher. It’s online, and easy to share, so they can show friends and family. The teacher can post specific assignments or the students can just create. Collaboration on stories is possible, and reading the stories of others is inspiring. The art work is charming and lovely.
Pink Bat, by Michael McMillan, is an inspirational book that I just shared with my 5th graders. The book is “about turning problems into solutions”. In a charming story about a plastic red baseball bat that fades with time, the author teaches about the importance of trying to look at problems through a different lens. Included with the book is a DVD of the author explaining his message. You can also find that video here. We were able to connect the story to another video that was recently brought to my attention through e-mail. Ask your students to brainstorm their own “pink bats”, and share a few of yours!
An Awesome Book was recently featured on the blog iLearn Technology, by Kelly Tenkely. This book, written by Dallas Clayton for his son, is about dreaming big and dreaming different. It is about being creative and not restricting yourself to society’s norms. Clayton originally self-published the book, unable to find anyone to take on the project. After making an impact around the world, he was finally contacted by a major publisher. The book is now available for purchase at major retailers. What is fabulous, though, is that Clayton and the publisher also agreed to make the book available for free online. You can go here to view the book and a short video of the author. Kelly Tenkely has a few recommendations for how this resource can be used in the classroom on her blog. This book will inspire you and your students!
Bembo’s Zoo is a book available at Amazon. But it is also an amazing website that uses flash animation to delight the viewer with animals created from the letters that spell their names. Visually, it is very appealing, and especially great for use on interactive white boards. To use it for a learning activity, you might want to try showing it to your students, and then challenging them to create their own animals out of letters. Extending further, some students might want to draw other objects using letters, or even create their own alphabet book with a different theme – such as inventions. The app for iDevices, TypeDrawing, could be used for a similar activity.
This site has downloadable posters for “Thick” and “Thin” questions. Beth Newingham has also provided bulletin board ideas and question prompts to encourage “thick” questions. If you have time, click on the “Home” link to find out more about her class, and to see how she organizes her classroom. You can also get more information on how she manages “Reading Partnerships” in her classroom.
Students Review Books is an interesting concept that combines student book reviews with QR codes. The site accepts reviews from any elementary school student, but has certain parameters for contributing, which are listed here. Parents must give permission for the reviews to be posted, and a form for this is included on the site. It would be fun for your students to access this site to view the book reviews, and to make some of their own (even if they are not officially submitted). Another idea is for librarians to use the QR codes provided to place on library books or posters so that students can hear about the books before checking them out. And, for the advanced students, creating their own book reviews for the site would be a great project.
Oh wow. I know that it is hard to find 15 minutes in your day to watch an animated film, but you truly must make the time for this one – especially if you are a lover of books. This Oscar-nominated short is stunning in graphics and in its message. My students will be having a discussion about the impact of Gutenberg next week, and I fully intend to incorporate this video into the lesson. It is beautiful and inspiring. Bravo to the animation shop, Moonbot Studios for this truly amazing video. (If the embedded video does not work, you can view it at http://vimeo.com/35404908. You can also download the video FOR FREE from iTunes. There is an accompanying app for $4.99, which I have not yet previewed.)
UPDATE 9/28/16: Unfortunately, the film is no longer available for free 😦 You can download it from iTunes for $4.99. It is a beautiful video, and I wish it could still be viewed by everyone…