Friday, August 26, 2011

Questioning Students with iPad

I'm always looking for the best way to question my students. I think most educators do. We look for ways to question to check student understanding, plant a seed to promote further thought, and help direct our classroom learning. We try to vary the levels of questions...who hasn't used Bloom's Taxonomy here and there to guide their levels of questions?

So, knowing that the conversation is really important in the lesson, I try to find the best questioning methods and techniques. This leads me to the iPad and how I utilize it in the classroom for questioning.

I may find more apps and methods in the future that help me with this goal, but I'm going to explore my use of three questioning methods and the reasons behind them. (This is a journey, and I'm sure I'll find even more ideas out there to try in the future.)

Method One: Google Docs

I can link a google form to my class webpage and use it for gathering student responses.

Benefit: Keeps my student responses for long term review. Able to grade and use for numerical grade data. Variety of questions can be asked. Super easy to create, link, and have students access. Free!

Method Two: eClicker and eClicker Host

I can use the combination of the free eClicker app and the $9.99 eClicker Host app to push questions to my students iPads. I am the Host, and they are the receivers. (Seriously, that JUST sounds cool!)

Benefit: I can use a variety of questions, including ones with pictures and drawings. The students can see the spread in answers with a graph. I can store and email results for later review, print, and use. This is cool for pushing a couple questions at a time for a quick check.

Downside...I have experienced some trouble with the iPads all trying to communicate with the host at the same time.

Method Three: Socrative System

This is a really slick way that I explored today in class. This runs through the web. The teacher sets up a free account at and gets a 'room number'. Students then jump onto the web and go to and enter that 'room number'. ( www used at beginning of web address.)

(Also, we used the iPad function of safari to make a shortcut of the site so that students can easily jump to this site each time.)

From here, I can ask students a variety of questions including short answer, T/F, multiple choice, and more. There is a game feature with this site. And, I set my iPad up with the projector so they could see answers as they fed in. Fun way to intro the app! They loved checking the results spread.

We used it to decide clues for our Mystery Skype calls next week.

Benefits: Really easy way to access student ideas. Really reliable (for the first time using.) There seems to be even more possibility in this method than I explored today. FREE!

What it really boils down to is what method works best for your task/goal? Using different apps and methods is all a part of the game of the evolving classroom. What was needed today may not be needed tomorrow, or may be needed even more! What works in my room may or may not work in yours. But, it sure is fun trying this out, learning, growing, and sharing!

(If you have an app or method that you use, I would love for you to share!)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Back to School app

First day of exciting! The faces of 115+ fifth graders are my future scientists, ready to meet me! This is exciting, but a bit overwhelming at times for me.

So, this year I decided to use an app to help organize my classes a bit. The app is TeacherPal. I started off with setting up my 5 science classes and one homeroom. Then, as the students gathered books, created book covers, and we got to know each other, I captured their pictures with the iPad2 camera for the app. This gave me a semi-private moment with each student to talk a bit. I was able to comment on the new shoes, the great smile, the family resemblences, etc. I was able to show the student the seating chart and have them drag their picture into the correct spot.

The beginning moments with the app were great!

This app offers even more...

  • I can enter data for each student including attendance, notes, behavior, grades, and personal information.
  • I will be able to email directly from this app. So, my observations during a lab (great team work, awesome responses). That can be sent directly to parents! This makes communication with home that much easier!
  • Very easy to switch seating chart around quickly for labs and group work...project to smart board and students can jump quickly into groups.

So, a new app for the new school year. I enjoyed using TeacherPal, and I can see it paying off in the long run!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Skype an Author? Edmodo? In the Summer?

Absolutely!  I have to admit that I am still on cloud nine over our Summer Learning Camp Skype with author, Neal Shusterman.  My kids were excited.  I was excited, and I think this was a wonderful way to connect my students to the text!

A little background...
If you have read my previous posts, you know that I am in the process of working with 7-9th graders for two weeks on Language Arts review.  We call it Summer Learning Camp, and it is meant to give the kids a jump start into the school year.  My part being Language Arts has been focused on reviewing some of the most common areas of struggle for students in writing and reviewing how good readers attack text and make meaning of it.

To do this, I have used a combination of read aloud with Mr. Shusterman's book, Dread Locks, discussion and activities based on the book, and review of grammar and writing.  This review has been a mix of google docs and smart board lessons for editing work.  I have also used the iPads for students drawing pictures of the book events and characters, reading the book Dread Locks with iBooks, and testing out the Edmodo platform...AND I REALLY LIKE IT!  I love the way I can ask students to brainstorm questions for Mr. Shusterman and then vote for the best.  I like how they can make predictions about the story plot.  I like how they can draw pictures and upload to the site for everyone.  I like how files like videos and docs can be uploaded for everyone.  I like how we can edit comments together, digitally.  And so on...

I like this community of readers that we have developed.  We all invested in this story, and we are all making meaning within the text. 

So, today at 10:30, Mr. Shusterman called us on Skype to answer a couple of quick questions.  These were the questions we brainstormed together, practiced this morning, and were VERY excited to ask.  We did a practice run with @seankaiser to check equipment at 9:30 (THANK YOU, SEAN!).  We were a little giggly and nervous before the Skype!  So, we watched a couple of YouTube videos of Mr. Shusterman discussing his books and writing process. 

But, once we started talking and listening to Mr. Shusterman, it was amazing to see my students intense attention.  Here was a REAL author, talking to US about his book and being an author.  We had 5 questions that referred specifically to the book and being an author.

My absolute favorite moment during the call was when we asked, "What made you want to be an author?"  Mr. Shusterman talked about how it wasn't something he necessarily was more of a calling.  He couldn't imagine doing anything else.  It was such a part of him.  The feeling that he conveyed in his voice was NOT something we could capture for reading about him, or even viewing a video.  I really think my students understood that feeling.

Many of my students showed their excitement after the call ended with comments like, "Wow!  That was awesome!" or "That was the coolest thing ever!"  So, what a huge payoff.  Summer Learning Camp bumped up a notch with a real connection.  I mean, how many times can you talk to the guy that wrote the book you've been reading for the last couple weeks!

With two days left in Summer Learning Camp, what are my plans?:
  1. Gotta finish this book.  We are right on the edge!
  2. Create a new INTERACTIVE book cover for Dread Locks using the iPads and an app called Composer (beta app that I will be testing out this school year).
  3. Include an original music score (embedded in the interactive book cover) by a couple of my kids that have been testing out GarageBand app on the iPad.
Will we finish?  If only I have 2-3 more days with them!  Hmmmm, maybe I can convince them to come back Monday and Tuesday.  :)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Making Summer School Fun!

We are coming to the end of our first of two weeks of Summer Learning Camp. And, I have to say it has been going really well! I do think that it helps having some pretty cool tools to use...iPads! I mentioned in my last post some of the ways I was utilizing the iPads to make Language Arts review a little more exciting for my 7-9th graders.

So, here is a bit of an update...

Grammar and Language Skills w/Google Docs-
Yep...still using that for a quick review/assessment of those FUN skills that we all love. But, honestly, the kids do not complain a bit. Even though they are directly from the workbook, the kids act like it's no big deal. Getting the necessary review in, one google form at a time. ;)

With this format, I have these students do some great writing and editing! We created a paragraph response to a question about character development and author's purpose. As each student submitted, we all helped them better their post by editing it with them in real time. They loved it! They students were so helpful to each other. One of my boys actually said to me, "I liked my paragraph so much more when we edited it together. It looked good!". So, that's pretty cool.

Also, I figured out how to award badges in edmodo. So far, students have earned First Day badges, Participation badges, and Excellent Writer badges. They love checking their status to see what badges they have earned. This is a really cool way of reinforcing students! I love it! I am definitely going to use these badges for SCIENCE!

Tomorrow, we will try our hand at back channeling during the read aloud. Back channeling is when students post comments about a given topic while the event is occurring. So, my students will be discussing the book with each other online WHILE I'm reading. Risky, right? Here's when I give my students control of their learning. What will they discuss? Will they stay on topic? Will they make connections? Giving them the power to lead in the learning process with this lesson will empower them.

Popplet app-
Students enjoyed using the Popplet app for creating a character web for one of the two main characters in our read aloud book, Dread Locks. The app was super easy for them to use. They enjoyed using colors, pictures, and short phrases to describe the characters. Really great tool on the iPad!

The author of Dread Locks, Neal Shusterman, tentatively agreed to connect with us in a quick Skype this next week! It will be a quick Q and A session, but we will be ready with questions and comments about the book! What a great way to show these students that reading has many levels, many possibilities. This will be an excellent way to wrap up our summer learning together! I will be posting pictures of that! ;)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, August 1, 2011

iPads & Summer Learning Camp

Imagine are three weeks to the end of your summer break. You might be bored, having a blast, or somewhere in between. But, you are pretty sure that one of the LAST things you want to do is spend two and a half hours each day for the next two weeks reviewing parts of speech with your former 5th grade Science teacher...

Yep. It could be that bad. BUT, it's not.

Seriously, I promise!

Because, even though I am the 5th grade science teacher, I also have a masters degree in literacy...

Better? No? Really, you don't think that is impressive to a 7, 8, or 9th grader?

Ok. You're right. That really doesn't make the situation that much better.
I do think that our district does a great job with the learning camp...keeping it fun, light, and a great review...
But, still!

In any case, I decided to avoid passing out the workbooks and go with an ALL tech/iPad edition of summer school. (I'm still giving the students a refresher on reading, writing, listening, and speaking. We are still working!)

This is how I'm doing it:

In just the first day, my students set up their accounts, browsed around, and changed their profile picture. (within the first 5 minutes...seriously that easy!). We did this all with the edmodo app on the iPad.

I used this setting to get to 'know' my former students by asking them to practice posting by introducing themselves and telling about their summer so far. To be truthful, they didn't write too much here...surprised? Ha! Hey, they were writing and reading each other's post.

Then, we used some time to google the read-aloud book, Dread Locks by Neal Shusterman. To preview the book and get background, my students were sharing book reviews on Amazon, book trailer videos, and other sites. They seemed to be pretty interested in the book. So, we dove right in with my reading out loud the first two chapters while they followed along.

The book was already loaded on to their iPads, so we did a quick iBooks tutorial. We practiced highlighting key words, checking word meaning in dictionary, adding notes to the side, and adjusting font/color. Can you see where I'm heading with this?

Using the iBook features I totally rocked out the reading/thinking strategies that I was going through as I read. I modeled what good readers do t make meaning of text as I read. We talked as a group and made connections with the text.

Back to edmodo....
We jumped back into edmodo to make predictions about the book.

Then, to gauge student interest in projects to complete with Dread Locks, I had a survey posted in edmodo. I asked them to select between:

You can see the spread in votes. Which is totally awesome! Variety is the best way to go! We will start working on these after we get a couple more chapters read.

So, after introducing ourselves, working with our read aloud book, and gauging student interest in projects, it was time to throw some good old grammar and writing skills at them. Mwah ha ha!

Kidding, but not really.

I took questions from the workbooks that we were given to use regarding sentence fragments, parts of speech, and types of fragments. I put these questions into a google form which I linked to our edmodo site. The kids worked in partners to answer them. Tomorrow, we will review the answers, and I found out that you can award students badges on edmodo...WICKED COOL!

Finally, I linked a site and PDF of possible summer reads to the edmodo page for them to check out tonight for homework, which I hope they do! (I actually had a student message me on edmodo about one of the characters in our read aloud already tonight! How about that!)

From here....
Continue using edmodo for our class discussions, links, and home base.
Rock out the google docs w/forms and review slides in google presentations.
Utilize iBooks for reading/thinking aloud strategies w/Dread Locks.
Projects on iPads...oh yeah!

And, possible author skype? Hmmmmmmm?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad