Tag Archives: writing

A Dash for Treasure

Full disclosure – our class received a Dash and Dot package from Wonder Workshop for review.  

Last month I posted an article about the new additions to our classroom, Dash and Dot (and Fitzgerald).  Since then, the school Maker Club, our Robotics team, and my 1st graders have been learning more about the features of these robots.

My 1st grade GT students are learning about different countries around the world.  Before digging into that research, I wanted to make sure they understood the difference between countries and continents, and had a general understanding of their locations.  We have a giant map of the world on our wall, but I thought Dash and Dot might be able to help us by taking their own virtual trip around the globe.  I ordered this vinyl map for the floor from Amazon.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 6.55.38 PM

My daughter helped me to write an adventure for Dash that took him to every continent. (Yes, she came up with the idea for the Shoe of Honesty in the story – which the students found quite hilarious!) As I read the story out loud, the students took turns programming Dash at each juncture using the Blockly app.

A Dash for Treasure

The synergizing and problem-solving were phenomenal.  They took their task of guiding Dash very seriously.  They learned about angles and programming logic.  And, in the meantime, they learned their continents and compass directions.

dashworldmap

My daughter and I deliberately stopped the story before the end. When we got to Dash’s “uh-oh” the students were in complete suspense.  It took practically no prompting from me to get them to write their own endings and to illustrate them.

You can see the endings the students wrote below. (Click on the image to see a larger version.) Don’t be confused if you see “Fitzgerald” in some of their stories.  We have 2 Dashes, so one is named Fitzgerald.  The students are very attached to both, and get upset if all of the robots are not included!

If you are interested in downloading a copy of the slide show with the story and programming prompts, click here.  Here is the PDF of the writing page the students used.  Thank you to Susan Prabulos (@fabprab) for the awesome graphics!

CommonLit

I was so thrilled to see this post by Richard Byrne (who is one of my favorite Engaging Educators!) about CommonLit.

This is going to be an awesome resource for me to use with my 4th and 5th grade GT students.  I will let Richard tell you the details, but suffice it to say that it is a great way to encourage deep discussion in your class, and offers downloadable texts that you can use to tantalize your students with philosophical questions.

image from CommonLit.org
image from CommonLit.org

I plan to use this with Socratic Smackdown (which I also found out about from Richard).  Socratic Smackdown has been a great success in my classroom and CommonLit will augment it even more.

You might also want to consider using some of the CommonLit themes to enrich your students’ writing if they are participating in this year’s Philosophy Slam (deadline is 3/6/15). The “Social Change and Revolution” theme on CommonLit could definitely help students determine if violence or compassion has a greater impact on society.

 

Outside My Snow Globe…

One of the more popular posts on this blog (particularly during the winter months) is, “If I Lived in a Snow Globe, I Would Wear my Bike Helmet to Bed.”  This is a follow-up post for anyone who might want more details about the lesson I teach my gifted 1st graders.  For this project, it’s helpful to have at least one iPad and a video editing program.

First, I show my first graders the “Bumbleville” video referenced in the Bike Helmet post, and we discuss the perspective questions I listed.  We also read Snow Globe Family and compared the book to “Bumbleville.”

Next, the students brainstorm a list of interesting locations.  They can range anywhere from the jungle to Mount Rushmore.

I ask the students to choose one location and pretend they are in a snow globe at that location.  They write a rough draft of a short story describing what they see outside the snow globe.

As students finish at different times, they take each other’s picture using the iSnowdome app, which is free.  The app places you inside a snow globe, and makes a short video with the snow blowing around you.  My students sometimes like to ham it up and pose as though they are freezing cold – even though we live in San Antonio and it’s usually about 85 degrees outside.

I also take screen shots in the app of each student so I can print those out and add them to their final drafts.  The screen shots can be used for augmented reality purposes, as well.

When the students complete their final drafts, they meet with me separately and we record their stories over the iSnowdome videos in iMovie on the iPads.  (Wow, that was a lot of “i”s in one sentence!)

In iMovie the students get to choose which music will accompany their video, and that’s always interesting!

I display the stories with their pictures.  At this point, you can either send the videos home, link them on your blog, or do what I did – use Aurasma.

I link each child’s picture to his narrated video.  Now, when they take their projects home, all the parents have to do is scan the picture with the free Aurasma app and the video will play.

If you haven’t used Aurasma, here is a link to their tutorial videos. Also, I have a quite a few augmented reality resources gathered on this page.

Want to see an example?  Make sure you have Aurasma downloaded on your mobile device.  Subscribe to the Hidden Forest Elementary channel.  Then scan one of the pictures below to see the videos!

Photo Jan 05, 1 57 35 PM

 

Photo Jan 05, 1 58 06 PM

 

The Other Part of the Story

It’s the last day of the year.  Like many of you, I am reflecting on the past year, and wondering what the new one will bring.  During this reflection, I opened an e-mail from WordPress (who hosts this blog) which gave me my stats from the last twelve months.  Amongst the surprising information that 8 people in Nicaragua found the time to visit my blog this year, I ran across this list of my most popular posts of the year:

Most Popular PostsNotice anything?  Don’t worry if you don’t.  I didn’t, either, until I read this observation from WordPress:

Writing Has Staying Power

 

My writing has staying power!  Wow, is that a compliment – or is that just a nice way to say, “Hey, your most popular post was written three years ago!  What happened?!!!”

Self-doubt ensued.

Temptations to investigate further flooded my brain.

So did the urge to quit.

I thought about the time I would save not blogging, the periodic twinges of guilt I could avoid by telling my family, “Just a minute while I finish up this post,” the frequent escalations of panic when I realize I have no idea what I’m going to write.

And I realized that I can’t give it up.  I love blogging, and I love thinking that someone in Nicaragua might be interested in something I have to say.  The connections I’ve made and the education I’ve gained from fellow bloggers and social networkers have energized me and inspired me.  There is nothing in the statistics that measures the growth I’ve experienced as an educator since I first started blogging.

Statistics can be informative, but they don’t give the whole picture.  According to Ron De Legge II,  “99 percent of all statistics only tell 49 percent of the story.”

Something that might need to be emphasized to the people in charge of education legislation in 2015…

Statistics

 

Tried and True – Parallel Poetry

an example of Parallel Poetry done by one of my 4th grade students
an example of Parallel Poetry done by one of my 4th grade students

On this blog, I tend to post about a lot of ideas that I find, and some readers don’t always get a chance to know if I ever tried them – or if they were complete flops.  This week, I want to feature a few past ideas that I did try and that were successful – and that I definitely want to do again.

If you teach a poetry unit, I strongly urge you to check out this post that I did on Parallel Poetry.  It has definitely been one of my “Tried and True” lessons throughout the years for me, and I am always delighted by the results from my students.  I felt so strongly about the power of this activity that I submitted it to Ian Byrd for his Byrdseed TV.  (You need a subscription to view the full lesson.)

While we are talking about poetry, I would also direct you to Newspaper Blackout Poetry if you have never tried it.  This past year was our first attempt, and I definitely plan to do it again.

Newspaper Blackout Poems

A newspaper blackout poem by Austin Kleon
A newspaper blackout poem by Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work, also has a book called Newspaper Blackout.  He recently participated in a Twitter chat, #edbookchat, co-moderated by Chris Couch (@the_explicator), which found its way into my Twitter stream.  Austin, who lives in Austin (fancy that!), has posted some of his poetry on his blog here. He creates one of these each day, and posts them on Instagram.  I find this method of creating poems so intriguing.  To take a piece of writing that is meant to be informative and light on figurative language, and make it into a work of art that speaks deeply and lyrically really appeals to my appreciation for irony, I suppose.  I want to try this with my students, but I’m still working out the logistics (which grade levels, how much to scaffold, etc…)  And then there’s the newspaper.  Do I limit it to certain sections and/or articles?  Or maybe I should start with a Scholastic Weekly Reader, or a website, or a picture on the iPad of a textbook page.  So many possibilities!

Regardless of the educational implications, it’s Phun Phriday, so you don’t have to stick this in a lesson plan.  Just read, and appreciate the talent of Austin Kleon!

(Strangely, right after I saved my draft of this post, I saw a tweet from @PrincipalOgg about a great writing blog.  I followed the link, and found a recent post on “Erasure Poetry.”  I highly recommend you visit “Two Writing Teachers” for some more awesome ideas!)

UPDATE:  After this post was shared on Twitter, Mr. Theriault (@davidtedu) shared this link to a Slideshare about creating Novel Blackout Poetry by Sean Ziebarth (@MrZiebarth).  Thanks for the tip, Mr. Theriault!  And, one of my Tweeps, @ArinKress, was inspired to create her own Newspaper Blackout Poem and share it.  The pic is a bit difficult to read, but it says, “Enough with worrying when falling because we all stumble.”  Love it!

Parallel Poetry

I don’t often repeat lessons from one year to the next.  But this has been one of my favorites to use with my 4th grade GT students during my career.  The only change I made this year was to integrate it with some technology lessons on using Google Drive – specifically the Presentations.

In 4th grade, we read Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt, which is rich with wonderful examples of figurative language.  It’s truly one of the most poetic pieces of prose that I have ever read, and I delight in the author’s descriptive phrases each year – though I’ve read it over 14 times.

I’m not sure if it’s the age or the GT-ness of my students, but I always have a high percentage of reluctant writers in 4th grade.  The Found/Parallel Poetry lesson on ReadWriteThink, however, seems to bring out the most amazing ideas from nearly every one.

After going over the figurative language in the story (here is one Haiku Deck lesson we did at the beginning to practice), I ask the students to pick one of their favorite paragraphs from the novel.  They write the paragraph, and then I tell them to take it apart – get rid of extraneous words and punctuation.  Then they “move the words” to create lines that have a rhythm.  The result is their “Found” poem.  You can see an example here from the ReadWriteThink site.

Then, it’s time to create a “Parallel” poem.  Mimicking the rhythm of the “Found” poem, but writing about a completely different topic that is relevant to them, the students compose something in their own words.

Here are some of this year’s examples (Click on each slide to enlarge.):

Plane Ride

Allergies

Suspense