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Finally! I have the beginnings of a Reader’s Blog.

Blogging was so successful last school year that I was certain to get a head start on it in August. Well, August came and went, and no blog for my students. Edublogs worked wonderfully last year. I could oversee the students’ posts without micromanaging and balance online safety with a sense of independence for the children.

This year, I needed to become a “supporter” to have those same capabilities. What’s a cash-strapped, budget-crunching teacher to do? Jump the proverbial ship, of course.

I tried a number of blogging platforms, but none had exactly what I needed as a teacher. Until I came across Kidblog.org, a FREE and easy site for classblogs.

It’s simple enough for first time student bloggers, offers nice privacy settings for teachers, and eliminates extras such as themes and widgets. For this last reason, seasoned bloggers may not like it, but it really helps to keep the focus on the content for our younger bloggers.

Best of all, our DOE servers are not blocking it as a “social- networking site,” like many other fantastic resources I would love to use in the classroom. Nothing kills the students’ enthusiasm faster than “technical difficulties!”

Sent from my iPhone

I love lots of apps that I get from the App Store. Everything you could possibly want…”there’s an app for that.” (With maybe the exception of Flash. Are you listening Apple?) But Ustream Live Broadcaster definitely hits it out of the park. As a teacher, the thing I am most concerned about after my students is parent communication. We have lots of opportunities for parents to come and hear about what their children are learning, but it’s a completely different experience to see it. As such, we post lots of pictures on our grade level website; everything from field trips to day to day life in the classroom. We even have a few video clips, raw, to be sure, but fun for families to watch once the event has been recorded and archived. Ustream Live Broadcaster, however, has made it possible for families to watch while it happens.
We first experimented with Ustream during our Curriculum Night. The turnout, typically, at 5th grade is fairly low, but that doesn’t mean that people are not interested. Cooking dinner or taking care of the children at home takes precedence, as well it should. Ustreaming Curriculum Night meant that our families did not have to choose or go out of their way to do both. We were also very lucky to have a parent (Thank you again @ParkRat!) who was willing to help us get equipment set up and video tape while we were sharing. 
With the app for iPhone, I’ve been able to live stream both our Market Day event and a Winter Assembly at school. Did I mention live? Families can see what their children are doing and learning, and they don’t have to wait for us, the teachers, to get home, go through the footage, and upload it to our website. It’s the next best thing to being there in person. And setting it up? Easy as pie. I just go to the Ustream website, schedule a show, get the embed code, and copy paste to our website. Then I start up the app on my iPhone, and shoot. If you can copy and paste and hit the record button, you can use Ustream. It has been one of the simplest, easiest, most economical (it’s a free app!) ways to communicate with parents and the larger school community. 
My Ustream Live Broadcaster plans for 2010? You can be sure our families will be seeing lots of our field trips and other in-school events…live.

Much of our professional development over the past two years has been in the instruction of reading. We were even lucky enough to have 10 teachers go to New York to attend the Teacher’s College Reading Summer Institute headed by Lucy Calkins, language arts extraordinaire. If one thing that was deemed crucial, it was that we get a “just right book” in the hands of every child. Scholastic must be thinking along the same lines, because they just made a widget available that allows you to search their Book Wizard for reading levels. Embedable on your blog or website, this tool makes it simple for parents and students to use in their search for appropriate reading material.
http://www.scholastic.com/tbwwidget/

Here is a much delayed part 2. Thanks to my other student, cala5b, for patiently waiting…

In fifth grade, we’ve been enjoying our blogs! A blog is where you get to write absolutely anything you want! For example, write about an awesome trip you had, a favorite birthday present, some kind of delicious ice cream you just finished eating, anything you want!!! How do I see it? Well I see it as a virtual conversation with your best friends. Just get on your blog’s comment page, and while you’re reading your friend’s comments, you’ll feel like they are right in front of you! Blog a lot, and just being by the computer will make you feel like your friends are with you!
There are also really cool things you can do, such as make smiley faces, and even color your letters! Blogging is just the awesomest thing ever.

Summer is here and it’s time to (in the words of my students) “dust off my blog” and get back to posting. I am, however, going to start slowly. I asked a couple of my students to be guest bloggers and share their opinions about the blogs we did this past year. Here is the first, who goes by her login name, clsh5a. Enjoy!

I had so much fun blogging during my time as a 5th grader!! I loved it so much, that I made my own blog on a website all by myself!!
Blogging is fun because you get to write about anything you want. The posts on your blog could be about a cool school activity, or maybe just a small little picnic you had that day. Whenever I had a bad day, I would write about it on my blog and I would feel better.
Blogs can also be for commenting on your friend’s blogs. I would always check up on my friend’s blog and comment on any new posts they wrote. It’s fun to comment because sometimes, you could check up on the comment you wrote earlier to see if your friend responded to it. Then, it could be like a little chat as you type another comment to respond to your friend’s and your friend could respond back to that comment, too.

Overall, I had a lot of fun blogging and I’m glad mching introduced blogging to me!

For those of you who have seen my Twitter account, you’ve probably glimpsed the occasional tweet about my “borrowed” SmartBoard. We were lucky enough to use it in our classrooms for about a month, and despite the steep learning curve and lack of formal training, use it we did! At first it was an “endless whiteboard,” a space to store a few lessons, a picture or two, and our thoughts and ponderings. Eventually, though, we really began to use it to make the teaching and learning by both teacher and students more dynamic, interactive, and, dare I say, fun.

We even did a quick video on the first day the students learned about rotational symmetry. While it’s not perfect, neither the video, nor their understanding, it was a huge step forward in terms of the possibilities. With this in mind, we’d like to share this video with you.

Alas, budget constraints brought this experience to an abrupt end. We’ll go back in January to our chart papers and static whiteboard, but the heart of it, the interactivity, was not lost on me. And perhaps that was my most important reminder of all.

“Is preparing students to enter a system that is at war with itself really preparing them for the future?”

This is just one of the thought-provoking questions asked in this viral video. To describe it further would do it injustice. Watch and judge for yourself.

Beyond “Did You Know?” A Video for Viral Times: “Did You Ever Wonder?”

Posted using ShareThis

SnagFilms is a great site for free, full-length documentaries! Planning on using this in my history classes!

[clearspring_widget title=”SnagFilms Film Widget” wid=”4837b4759c19ccae” pid=”48cb38ea0806d56a” width=”300″ height=”250″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”]

My 7 year old has been in school for over half his lifetime. Never did I imagine the kind of heartache this would cause for us. After all, we read together daily, talked and shared our experiences, enjoyed outings to the zoo and the beach and the aquarium.

Being my first child, he went to activities such as Gymboree and Keiki Sports, all meticulously recorded for posterity. With typical parent over-confidence, I was positive that I had given him everything needed to insure that school would be the right mixture of challenge and creativity guaranteed to stimulate mind, body, and spirit.

Then reality struck.

Nightly homework, long commutes, and early mornings combined with a difficulty decoding text, “poor” penmanship, and letter reversals added up to near disaster. As an educator, I began researching strategies and systematically applying them, but as a parent, I despaired. Not because I needed a child that would be “perfect,” but because I hated to see what was happening to him. Someone who rattles off scientific facts (especially those pertaining to dinosaurs!), sings songs word for word after hearing them once, and spends enormous amounts of time building and rebuilding Legos and Bionicles without instructions, puts on a brave face every morning and counts the days until the weekend.

By no means do I blame his teachers or even the school he attends. But, I do wish that our school system would allow for the kind of learner I know my child is. Somehow, I don’t think that the completion of a worksheet will ever bring that same glow and satisfaction that the Lego city which spans our living room floor does. Not a day goes by that I don’t worry and hope and pray that something will click, and my son will be able to approach school learning with the same enthusiasm that he does his own pursuits. So when I read Who/What is Smart? on a blog that I follow, I saw my son and his struggles reflected in that post. It was a call to recognize different kinds of learners, and I’d like to add my voice, and my son’s, to that call.

Just the other morning, as he worked through his first chapter book, he told me, “You know, Mom, I kind of like it when there aren’t any pictures, that way, I don’t have to think like the author thinks.”

Out of the mouths of babes. Lessons for us all.

August 2017
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