Friday, March 27, 2015

It's spring - write a haiku!

Celebration of spring often gravitates toward creating the ultimate nature poem, the haiku.  The ReadWriteThink website jointly sponsored by ILA/NCTE has a haiku poem interactive that helps students generate a haiku, and even provides some lovely Japanese-style pen and ink drawings as backdrops.  The haiku interactive is also an app that you should have in the "writing" section of your teacher iPad.  If you try it out with your students, let me know so I can add some onto the blog!  By the way, if you're wondering how I embedded this PDF file onto my blog, check out the blog post Embedding PDFs or other documents into Blogger or the video Using Google Drive to embed documents.


A teacher mentioned her frustration that google doesn't seem to catch all the grammar and spelling mistakes that students make, so I've been investigating options, and I've come across one called Grammarly which can be added as an app to your google chrome account.  To my surprise, it also shows up when I write emails and other online documents as well!  You know it's active when you see the little spinning G at the bottom of your document.  Misspellings or grammar errors are underlined, and when you hover over the word, a pop-up screen appears to ask you about whether you meant something else instead - so polite!  It may even give you a little explanation.  Grammarly just sent me an email today reminding me of some of its other features.  The one I especially liked was that you can double click on a word which gives you a definition, pronunciation, and synonyms.   If anyone tries it, let me know how you like it!  There is a premium version which you pay for, but I haven't really felt a need to upgrade  - the basic version has sufficed.

Addendum:  Shortly after I published this, I ran into another very positive review -  Website Review: Grammarly

Monday, March 23, 2015

Discover Art Whenever You Open a New Chrome Tab

I came across the blog post  Discover Art Whenever You Open a New Chrome Tab last week, and set up the chrome extension as suggested.  It's been a delight the last few days to click on a new tab and see what work of art unfurls on my screen that day.  The artwork has been more varied than I expected - not just traditional pieces, but also amazing street art.  I have wondered about nudity, which can be an appropriate aspect to great art a little tricky with elementary school children, but so far have not seen anything concerning.  However, I plan to follow this for a while longer on just my personal computer before going public.  By the way, today's treat was "Field of Bluebonnets" - a beautiful way to celebrate the spring that is finally arriving!

Thursday, March 19, 2015


Keyboarding always seems to be a discussion point at spring conferences.  I've just run across some resources that might be helpful to you as you think about keyboarding in the classroom.

Here's a blog post on 6 ways to make classroom typing fun.  It's not quite as frivolous as it sounds  - the first point she makes is that keyboarding isn't really about speed and accuracy, it's about typing well enough that thinking isn't disrupted.  And her second point is that plugging in a typing tutorial and working the students through it with little teacher intervention may only work for some of the students - switching it up by adding some applications, variety and challenge can make a difference in your success.
This blog on keyboarding in the classroom also gives some practical advice.  I checked out this online typing site she mentioned Dancemat Typing and was pleasantly surprised by a couple things.  First, NO ADS (Trina, I know you'll like that one) as far as I can tell - it's put out by BBC educational services. Second, it moves very quickly into typing real words and even phrases.  Bonus but of no educational value are the cool accents.  It also made me chuckle to have the computer say "oops" when I made a mistake, or for the correct key to say "over here!"  On the downside, it's not as extensive a program, so the students would get through the lessons quickly - as the blog says, more something you could use midyear to review and change things up, or something you could recommend to parents to try at home.  Also, the cartoon characters might be a bit babyish for our older students.
Dance Mat Typing Level 3

So how is keyboarding going in your classroom?  Any tips or frustrations?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Stay Focused

One issue that came up in some of my parent conferences was a student spending too much time on frivolous or inappropriate internet sites.  Apparently, our students are not the only ones with this issue.   I just ran across a Chrome extension called  StayFocusd that can be downloaded from the Chrome store, (and has been downloaded 584,090 times already) and wonder if it would be helpful for some of our students.   Its introduction is below:
  • What is StayFocusd?

    StayFocusd is an extension for Google Chrome that helps you stay focused on work by restricting the amount of time you can spend browsing time-wasting websites. Once your allotted time for the day has been used up, the sites you have blocked will be inaccessible until the next day.
  • Why do I need StayFocusd?

    Because you're human. 

What's new on your iPad for March

Here are some of the apps that I've added to the Lower School iPad account over the last month or so (check out What's new on your iPad for apps added in February)

Hello Crayons, Hello Oil Painter, and Hello Color Pencil are all easy-to-use and attractive coloring apps.  You can draw "from scratch" or import a picture to color, and you can also save any of your creations into your camera roll, allowing you to use them for other apps such as ChatterPix kids.

I've also added several stories:  Regina's Big Mistake, Lazy Bird, and Storm and Skye.  I think all of them have a read-aloud option, but it's been a while since I opened them.  There's also another storytelling app called Zooburst, which creates amazing 3-D popup books.  I could envision an older class creating stories  - maybe even re-telling folk or fairy tales, that then could be shared with a younger class using this app.

There's an app called Loggr, which allows you to create graphs using any 4-5 data points - perhaps books read or fluency scores?  Also in the math and science realm, another amazing visual app called Universal Zoom, which allows you to scroll from the smallest part of an atom to the edges of the universe.  Can't picture that?  Check out the app!    And speaking of visuals, YouTube has launched an app called YouTube kids, which is supposed to have just kid-appropriate videos - no ads, no previews.  I got caught for a while watching the videos from the International Space Station.   And speaking of space, there's a new math game app called SMART adventures mission math 1:  Sabotage on the space station.

And for the pure fun of it, check out WeeKids Mazes, which are beautifully illustrated mazes that might be nice for a rainy indoor recess.

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Friday, March 13, 2015

I amuse myself with ChatterPix Kid - and perhaps amuse you too!

Thanks to Richard Byrne's blog post, I have spent the past half hour amusing myself with ChatterPix Kids.  The premise is simple - take a picture, draw a smile, record up to 30 seconds, add some stickers and/or text if you wish, and voila!  Your inanimate object comes to life.  Here's my first attempt - I'm sure all my teachers will recognize the inanimate object!

How does this have any educational value, you wonder?  One thought that immediately came to mind was animating fruits and vegetables in health class to talk about healthy eating.
Or maybe some messages for Earth Day?
A helpful download from Karen Balbier provided some more suggestions.
Links to Chatter Pix Kids Examples available on YouTube

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Kids and gaming

In my search for some time management apps, I came across the website LearningWorks for kids.  Their stated goal is to find the best apps for kids, selected for each unique child - in other words, matching apps and learning challenges such as ADHD, flexibility, time management, etc.  I was immediately pulled in by the blog post Can kids learn from Minecraft? (preview - yes), since I had just encountered that question at a parent conference.  The founder of the organization is a clinical psychologist and has put together a team of other clinicians as well as tech folks.  How much of the advice is research-based rather than clinical experience is one question in my mind.  But I am intrigued and wonder if any of you have encountered his site.
LearningWorks for Kids

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Blogging 101

Here are links to a couple posts by one of my favorite tech bloggers, Richard Byrne.  The first is a power point presentationn on the basics of blogging.  The second is Three elements I always add to blogs post.  I was particularly interested in learning more about "static pages."