Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Choose Your Ending Story

Currently, I am working with a class of first graders to create a story that allows the reader to choose their own ending. We are beginning by creating a simple web of our story, something we have done before. The students need to web the beginning, middle and two possible endings to their story. Creating two endings to their story has caused many to stop and think. They are very capable of creating an ending, but creating two possibilities is a challenge which is why I started with the graphic organizer.

Once they finish their web correctly, they will open a Power Point I sent to them with the mechanics of the story already created (the links to each page) as it did not work as smoothly as I had anticipated. Detailed instructions for the Power Point can be found here.  My pre-made Power Point and a sample story can be found here. After we are finished, we will do a gallery walk so all the students can share their stories and pick their endings!

Collaborative Story Writing

In discussing our upcoming lesson plans, one of our first grade teachers had an idea for a collaborative story where each child wrote a page for a story and they were all combined to create the entire story. After discussing the best way to do this so that she could print it if she wanted to and also send it home to parents, we decided to use Power Point and Flipsnack. She emailed the students a three page Power Point that had the title page, beginning of the story and then a blank page. The students wrote and illustrated their page and saved it.

After all the students finished their page, she copied them all into one large Power Point. We have the ability to pull documents from student files, but if you did not, you could have the student email it back to you, or save it on a flash drive as you walk around the room. If your school has access to Google Docs, a single presentation could be created for all to create their page on.

Her original idea was to have the students rearrange the pages so the story made sense, but in this case she was able to leave them in random order. She only picked one page to precede the ending, which she created. For older students who may write more on a page, allowing them to go through the entire story and rearrange the pages to make sense would be a wonderful exercise. Once the story was completed, we saved it as a PDF and uploaded it to Flipsnack.com to look like a real book. The PDF could be printed as she wished, and the Flipsnack book link could be emailed home to parents. I was really impressed with how it turned out! You can view it here.

Fractured Fairy Tales

As we are working through our Fairy Tales Extension unit, some students are ready to move on and will be writing their own fractured fairy tale. A trip to our school library netted me quite a few examples of fractured fairy tales and here is the lesson the students will complete. Here are some student examples that I was able to find online.

As I was preparing my lesson, I realized that it would be difficult for the students to understand the different point of view change. This lesson that I found will help them prepare to think about points of view. I remember my own children writing some very creative fractured tales and I am looking forward to reading the stories my students write.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Creative Writing Prompts

Technology allows us to find so many creative writing prompts that we were previously unable to access. I especially love the ones that allow for student customization. One of our first grade teachers used just such a site yesterday by having his students make themselves into dancing leprechauns with this website. After creating their leprechaun, he showed them how to do a screen print, insert it into Word and then crop it. Each student then wrote about themselves as a leprechaun. What an engaging activity!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Fairy Tale Extension Project

As I work with our third grade team during our Response to Intervention time, I develop extension projects for the universal students. Currently, we are working on a Fairy Tale extension project. After showing a video of Little Red Riding Hood, the students used this website to read through and pick their favorite fairy tale that they would like to use for this project.
Once they pick a fairy tale that they like, they work through a list of activities at their own pace. While we are using computers, these activities could easily be done on paper depending on your access to technology. While I have a couple of collaborative activities, peer feedback can be included in almost all the activities.

Depending on time, I may add to this project and have them create their own fractured fairy tale as our last extension project had them writing a story about a character, their problem and solution. Writing fratured fairy tales would connect the two projects nicely.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Which One Appeals to You Most?

For our Digital Learning Day challenge to try something new, I decided to have my 8th grade students create a Voki and then share them with a high school Social Media class in another city whose teacher I had connected with through our Business Education List-serv. To create a little excitement, I offered it out as a contest to my students explaining that the high school class would pick the Voki that met the requirements and appealed to them the most.

We were just beginning our unit on Photo Editing and I like to begin that unit with a discussion on the ethics of editing a photo that results in altering the truth. In the past, I would have my students write an email to a co-worker explaining the possible outcomes and consequences of altering the truth through photo editing, and persuading them not to do it. Using a Voki to communicate this message seemed like an engaging, yet still practical way to accomplish the same purpose. 


The students had a great time using Voki. Although they were all over thirteen, could create their own account, and I had notified all the parents we were using this website, I found out that we did not need to have an account to create a Voki (although they still need to be over thirteen). Once the Vokis were created, I sent all the links to the other teacher. He did a great job of using a Google Form to have his students answer questions about the effectiveness of the Voki, and then choose their favorite. I did all my grading prior to receiving these comments as I only wanted the high schoolers to provide authentic feedback to my students - an opinion other than mine as to the effectiveness of their message. Additionally, I hoped that the topic we covered added to the high school student's awareness of the ethics involved with photo editing. 


My students were eager to find out what the high school students thought of their Vokis and who the winner was. It was a neat experience for me to connect with another teacher and bounce ideas off of him, and we ended up being able to share some great resources on ethics with each other. In the end, both classes of students and both teachers gained from this experience. 

What to do When You are Done

No matter what subject you teach, you will always have some students who finish before others. If they finish with only a short amount of time left in class, I usually have a filler activity, such as typing practice for younger and older students, and reading a book or finishing other homework for my middle school classes. However, there are times when a student will finish a whole class period before the rest of the class, and most importantly, they have met the quality requirements for the project. In this case, I want them to spend the next class period on something worthwhile that challenges them and is not just a filler. 

While discussing this with my administrators during my ILP meeting, I remembered an example of a Bingo card I had seen in another teacher's classroom. Since my ILP is about differentiation in my classroom, I committed myself to creating a choice card for my students to use when they complete a project early. Looking at my plans for the month, my second grade lesson would offer the opportunity for me to try this choice card out. I came up with sixteen choices of things to do based on what we had already learned throughout the year or things I felt they could do independently. Here is my example.

As I predicted, I had students finish a whole class period before the others and it was a great feeling for me to be able to have something meaningful for them to work on. At the same time, they were thrilled to be able to have the opportunity to chose something to do in class. While some of the tasks were a little easy for my third graders, I was able to use the same choice card with them. Overall, it was a win-win situation!

Our Elf Exchange

While this post is a bit late for talking about elves, the concept can be used with many other topics so I felt it still worthwhile to share. One of my first grade teachers wanted to do a collaborative, descriptive writing project similar to the Monster Exchange, but on a smaller scale. As it was the end of November, together we came up with the idea for doing an Elf Exchange during December. I contacted @shannonmmiller at Van Meter School in Iowa, who was very excited to be a part of this exchange and invited @mrshureads from Brook Forrest School in Illinois to participate as well.

The general idea was for each student to try and redraw another student's elf using their written description. We ended up with both  first grade and second grade classes participating in this project. It was a great lesson in descriptive writing as the students couldn't just tell us about their elf, but had to describe what the elf looked like. Beforehand, the teachers did a min-lesson in descriptive writing  to help the students know what to write. After posting their descriptions, the students were very excited to find out what the other student's posted on the Wiki, and at the end were very surprised to see what the original elves looked like! This was a very authentic and engaging lesson to teach the importance of accurate, descriptive writing.
We used a Wiki to organize our elves - each pair of students had their own page. The steps we followed were as follows: 
1. Draw your elf.
2. Looking at your drawing, write a detailed description of the elf.
3. Post only the description on your Wiki page.
4. After all schools had a chance to do #1-4, the student's returned to their wiki page.
5. Using the other student's description, draw their elf and post it on the Wiki.
6. After all schools had a chance to do #5, the students posted their original elves for comparison.