Sunday, April 28, 2013

Too Soon for End-of-Year Panic Mode?

I was just looking at the calendar trying to make some summer plans when I suddenly realized that there are only 27 more days of school!  How can that be?  Although I can't deny that I am looking forward to summer vacation, I'm also a bit sad and panicked about this school year ending.  Sad because I have really enjoyed this group of first graders, and panicked because there are so many things I would still like to do! (And many things I HAVE to do!)
There are still a lot of technology tools and ideas I would like to explore.  Almost every day I read about something new to try.  (I love Twitter!) I just purchased Kathy Cassidy's book Connected From the Start and am even more fired up about trying new things with my class.  I discovered Kathy when I was researching blogging with primary students. It was so inspiring to hear about someone who was using blogging, digital portfolios and other tools with young students. I purchased the book as an e-book, which is fabulous because it is full of links and examples of her students' digital work. This book is a fantastic resource for those of us who want to use more technology with our little digital natives.  After  reading the first couple of chapters I find myself wanting to try Skyping with my class.  Too much technology, too little time!
Using Kidblog in the computer lab

Then there are resources and activities that I have done in the past, but haven't used yet this year.  This week I stumbled across my Marcy Cook Number Tile Cards.  How could I have forgotten about these wonderful activities?  I included them in my math tubs on Friday and my kids had a blast.  I loved when one little guy told me "It was challenging but I got them all!"  If you are not familiar with Marcy's tile activities, check them out here:

Here's some of my friends enjoying math tubs on Friday.
Pattern block animals

Number Tile Task Cards

Close up of a partially completed task card.
This is a big week for the first graders at my school.  Our annual Reading Restaurant is Friday, and I can't wait!  We still have a lot to do to prepare our "Mother Earth Cafe" but it's going to be loads of fun.  I'll try to post some of our projects as we complete them.
Have a fantastic week!

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tried It Tuesday: Class Dojo and Symbaloo

I am loving Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper's Tried It Tuesday linky.  Each week I think "What can I try this week to blog about?"  It is encouraging me to use many of the ideas I have heard or read about instead of just filing them away for "someday".  Last Tuesday was the day I spent in the hospital- I don't recommend trying that!- and I didn't get to share, so today I'm going to talk about 2 new technology tools I've been using.

The first is Symbaloo.  Symbaloo is a visual bookmarking tool.  This has made it so mcuh easier for my little firsties to find the websites I want them to use in the classroom!  Creating the webmix was super easy; it took me MAYBE about 15 minutes!
Check out my webmix!  

A few months ago I began to use Twitter as a source of professional learning.  Something called Class Dojo kept popping up so I finally got around  to checking it out this weekend.  What is Class Dojo?  From the website:
ClassDojo is a classroom tool that helps teachers improve behavior in their classrooms quickly and easily. It also captures and generates data on behavior that teachers can share with parents and administrators.

The teacher can award or take away points throughout the day for various behaviors which can be customized to fit your needs. The best part is there is an app for your smartphone so points can be awarded from anywhere. You can project the screen so students can instantly see when they have been rewarded, or they can log on at home using their secret code to track their progress. Parents also have access, and once they sign up, they receive a weekly report. My kids are loving this so far! If they even see me reaching for my phone they immediately get back on task! This week was a perfect time to test it out as we have been trapped in our classrooms without specials due to STAAR testing and have had to be super quiet in the halls. I've heard from a couple of parents who said their students came home Monday very excited about the program. The students can design their own avatar which was very exciting for my little friends!

Here is what the screen looks like using the sample class from Class Dojo:
I can't wait to share this tool with the rest of my first grade team!

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Crazy Days

Monday started out just like any other school day.  We did our weekend writing, did making words to practice building words using silent e, and then continued with our study of fairy tales.  Little Red Riding Hood is one of my favorite tales, so I decided to spend the first couple of days this week comparing and contrasting different versions.  Today we did a story map based on Tricia Schart Hyman's beautiful version.

After lunch and recess our first graders go to their specials classes-music, PE or art- at 12:30.  After I walked my class to PE, I came back to the office to check my mailbox and stop by the clinic.  My cardiologist had asked me to monitor my blood pressure last week, so I stopped by to have the nurse check it.  I had been checking it at home all weekend, and although it was a bit higher than normal, it was much better than what was measured in his office on Thursday.

Our nurse took my pressure, and then asked how I was feeling.  I said I felt fine,  Then she told me how high it was.  I sat for awhile and took it again.  When the second reading was just as high, she suggested calling my doctor or heading to the ER.  What?!!! I felt fine so how could it be that high?  Anyway, since it was lunch time, I couldn't get right through to my doctor, so I decided to head to the ER.  The nurse wouldn't let me drive so our assistant principal drove me.  At this point, I am still not worried.  I figure they'll give me some blood pressure meds and send me on my way.

Nope!  My pressure continued to climb, top number was now over 200.  After blood work, the ER doctor suspected a blood clot in my lungs.  Tests for that were inconclusive.  I needed another test but due to an iodine allergy I would need to be pre-medicated.  I was admitted and moved to a room.  The internal medicine doctor who admitted me wasn't as convinced it was a clot, so he ran some more tests to rule out too much thyroid hormone.  In the meantime, my cardiologist weighed in.  He thought my leaky aortic valve may have worsened so he ordered an echocardiogram.  He suspected it might be time to have the valve replaced which would have meant another open heart surgery- good grief!

The echocardiogram was done early Tuesday morning.  Many hours later,  the cardiologist filling in for my regular doctor finally looked at the echo results and could see no worsening of the leak.  At around 7:00PM, I was discharged with a prescription for blood pressure medicine and no real answers as to why my pressure went so high!

I'm home today because a sub had already been called.  I'm glad cause the new medicine is making me a little tired.  But I am so anxious to get back to my babies tomorrow!  My wonderful teammates stepped right in and took care of everything when I left Monday. The assistant principal stayed with me in the ER until my daughter arrived.  The nurse and her aide couldn't have been more supportive. I am so blessed to have such a wonderful team and work with such fabulous people!

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Five for Friday April 12

I am always too exhausted to post on Friday so here is my link to Doodlebug's Five for Friday linky a day late!

1.  I've already posted about Kidblog this week but finally getting it going in my class was definitely the highlight of my week!

2.  Our fact fluency focus this week was using doubles (doubles plus one.)  I love these dot cards from Donna at Math Coach's Corner.  We've been using them for number talks all year, and I feel like my kids are really understanding the strategies this year.

3.  We have been "wondering" about the world this week with Wonderopolis.  My class loves the daily question and videos.  I was surprised that "What is mercury?" was one of their favorites and that many of my first graders already knew a lot about Mercury, the planet.  Maybe there are some future astronauts or astronomers in this class!

4.  A visit to my cardiologist this week resulted in scheduling a stress test next week.  I am NOT looking forward to it at all.  My last stress test 5 1/2 years ago led to hospitalization and a double bypass.  I don't think I'm heading there again but it's still stressful.  Why bother with the treadmill- just hook up the electrodes now!

5.  And finally, Saturday morning!  I know the rest of the country has had crazy weather this week-my daughter is at Colorado State where the temperature plummeted about 50 degrees one day complete with a snowstorm- but it is beautiful in our part of Texas this morning so I enjoyed my coffee poolside this morning. Of course I used my favorite Steelers mug!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tried It Tuesday: Kidblogs


I'm linking up with Fourth Grade Flipper this week for Tried It Tuesday.  This week I tried Kidblog with my first graders. I first heard about using Kidblog with young students this summer at Confratute. The idea intrigued me so I spent some time researching it and decided this was definitely something I wanted to try.  I set up our blogs, wrote a sample post, and even uploaded several of my students KidPix creations.  But trying to keep up with the required elements of our curriculum didn't allow a lot of time to experiment with new technology so I put it on the back burner.
Until today!  I decided this weekend that our fairy tale unit was the perfect vehicle for reintroducing blogging so I created a blog assignment requiring the students to write a summary.  We have been using the "Somebody Wanted But So Then" format so the assignment asked them to summarize a fairy tale using this format.

I checked out a set of netbooks and we went to work.

What Worked:
1.  The kids were so excited- especially about the prospect of sharing their work with their families.
2.  Logging on to their blog on Kidblog couldn't have been easier!  A dropdown menu makes it easy for each student to find his/her name, select it and enter the password.

What to Work On:
1.  I need to create a link or shortcut to actually get to our class blog.  Typing the web address was NOT successful!
2.  I'm thinking about having the next group of students prewrite their summaries before typing.  Typing was S-L-O-W so maybe if they weren't trying to think and type at the same time?

The activity was a big hit with at least one student. One of my girls is a "teacher's  kid" and she was still talking about "blogging" when I saw her after school! I am really excited to see where this new adventure takes us!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday Mornings

I love Sunday mornings!  I have always been an early riser, so I still get up quite early even on weekends.  The house is quiet, and for several hours, it's usually just me and my coffee and computer.
I don't have a lot to share about my week.  I was out of my classroom for 2 days helping with STAAR testing, and then spent most of Thursday just catching up.  We also had our Eureka science lab on Thursday.  Eureka is a parent/volunteer led science program my school has been using for a couple of years.  Every couple of weeks, parent volunteers organize a science lab for a grade level.  Our lesson this time was "Capillary Action" to go along with our plant study.  The kids love it!

We did use the MentorMob playlist I created in the computer lab on Friday. (Read about MentorMob here and here.)  The kids really seemed to enjoy it and cheered when I asked them if they wanted me to make another!  There is a way to include a quiz, so I may try that with the next one.

I spent a lot of time yesterday on the computer researching new tech tools and creating some activities.  I can't wait to try out some of them and share what I've learned.  Here's a little math activity I put together to go along with our fact fluency program.  Hope you can use it!
Google Docs

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Mentor Mob!

I wasn't planning to post tonight-too tired from a long day of STAAR testing and preparing ANOTHER day of sub plans- but I had to share my experience with MentorMob.

In my last post (here) I shared the playlist I created to use with our fairy tale unit.  The day after I created it I got an email from Erin at MentorMob welcoming me and saying  "As your personal MM Support Team, I'm here to answer questions, help fix issues, and listen to your feedback. What do you think of our playlist platform so far?" 

I emailed Erin to tell her how easy MentorMob was to use but I also mentioned that when I got to school I tried my playlist only to remember that YouTube is blocked on student computers so the first step of my playlist wouldn't work.  I sent Erin a reply and mentioned this problem.  She emailed me back today, and said that this is a common problem, and although she didn't have a solution, she suggested several other sources for videos.  (I wasn't able to find what I needed for this playlist, but I saw a lot of videos that will be useful for future projects.)

I am just so impressed that she took the time to personally welcome me and then respond to my question so quickly!  Thanks for the support, Erin!

Note:  I finally found a way to use the video from YouTube but I'm not sure I could ever do it again!  I downloaded it using a website called KeepVid, added it to a VoiceThread and then put a link to the VoiceThread into the playlist.  I probably could have recorded my own video easier than going through all that!)