Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why I Skype

On Friday, November 16th, my class of 7th graders in St. Louis MO, had the privilege to Skype with Miss Greta's (@gret) class of 5th graders in Buenos Aries, Argentina. The students conversed using a question and answer format. The questions were shared between myself and Greta before, to help the students on both sides of the equator feel more comfortable. Judging by the reactions from my kids and the blogs written by Greta's kids, the event was well received by both groups of students. My students learned so much from the VERY well spoken English learning students. The differences in seasons and culture were met with the same wonder and awe as the similarities in taste in music and difficulty in learning our native languages. (My favorite moment was when students 5400 miles apart did the dance, "Gangham Style" together - priceless!) Some of the students in in Miss Greta's class went home and blogged about the experience, unprompted! Their comments were so genuine and honest. One comment in particular summed up why I Skype and is why I want these sessions for my students more and more. A great student in Miss Greta's class made the comment in her blog, "It was very interesting and fantastic.It was the first time that I could speak English with someone who speaks English all the time!!!" That comment right there is a exhibit A in the case of whether or not to use technology in the classroom! Through the use of Skype, we were able to shrink the world and expand the classroom a little bit for both classes! And that is why I Skype! Read more of the blogging responses here - and here - Thaks Greta!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Project W Reflections

A Reflection on The Bible - Wordled 7th Grade Version

I use wordle ( in my classroom a lot!   My 7th graders and I were using it one day in class and one student blurted out - “We should Wordle the Bible!”  That’s how it all started.  We got to talking, planning and all of sudden we had a 5 month project on our hands.    After much discussion and brainstorming about the content and form we settled on a wordle for each book of the Bible with an accompanying devotion.  We decided that each devotion would have a summary of the book, some key memory verses for the book, a personal reflection on the wordle itself, an explanation of where Christ can be found in the book, some reflection questions and a prayer. 

The 23 seventh graders each worked on at least two books of the Bible.  They researched the books using websites like .  Next I created a Google doc with a template for the students  with all the necessary parts.  We also invited guest authors: our two pastors and school principal.  Our original thought process was to have guest authors from Lutheran schools around the country.  However, since we also decided to turn this into a school auction project, we thought it best to keep it all Abiding Savior authors.  Each student used and copy and pasted the NIV version of their books into a Google doc and then into wordle. 

After each student did their research, we started to write.  This process was similar to a normal English class writing process.  They wrote and edited their devotions.  Once they had their rough draft written and edited, I sat down with each student and went through their devotion with them.  I was able to help them articulate some thoughts, guide them when they were struggling and polish the writing.   From there we put all their writing into a Microsoft Word document, because I find formatting with text and pictures easier than Google Docs.  Once it was edited, we turned it in to a PDF and used to create an online magazine.  Wordling the entire Bible and separate testaments was not too hard because we already had all the text in the individual docs, so we copied and pasted it into a word document and then into wordle. 

The process was a long one, but I am very happy with the many positive outcomes.  My 7th graders really took pride in their piece and the project as a whole.  They learned many things about their book in the research/writing process, in editing others’ writing and in our use of it as a devotional book in class.  Hopefully the online version gets some readership and others faith lives can be strengthened a little.   

The Online version of Project W can be seen at:

Student reflections on Project W can be seen at

Monday, March 26, 2012

What I Learned at METC 12

What follows is a stream of consciousness about my time at METC 12.  It was a great conference that I am so thankful I got to attend. 

Monday – Pre-conference workshop – This was about doing one-take videos in the classroom. Video use is a definite weak spot for me. (My 6th and 7th graders will attest to that) What did I learn? Keep it simple. I don't need to do a lot of fancy editing. Just get the students making videos. They enjoy it, so do it! I also learned that they can be used in any subject. There was a great lower grades math example used by @amymcordova

Tuesday – Keynote – too much great stuff to process. Search the hashtag #metc12 for all the great quotes, video clips and ideas given. 

1st Sectional  - 21st century literarcy

We teach the iGen students, who are multitakers; love virtual worlds. We must teach students to be CRITICAL CONSUMERS of information they are looking for. What causes red flags? Teach Fact checking; Author bias; ownership, is it fresh?

How will I ethically use the info?

Good questions to ask myself came out of this sectional.  I need to get better with intentionally teaching these skills. 

Websites I learned about and/or want to try
(Students - google these and you'll find the websites.) 

Creaza    Audacity   Scratch    Mentimeter    tikatok 

Apps to try. (Some free some not)

civic quotes                overdrive = library                        360panorama                       Screen chomp
Mind push                  Bluster                                          showme                               mysterybookmaker
toontastic                   story lines                                      Skitch                                  story buddy
comic life                   popplet                                         evernote peek                       jot not
up next                      rover - flash sites                           study blue                             zite
pigeon                       kno                                               idea flight                              tech junkie
flixlab                       yelp                                                mixel                                    chorepad
kloutscore                tango                                             comic life                              join me
100 cmaeras            vocal zap                                        ignition                                doodle
splash top               dragon go!                                      remoter vnc


Ideas to use in the Classroom
paper slides

Standards based grading -

Students who learn more - should their "grade be higher?" This sectional made me really begin to question the standard ABCDF grading scale. I want to do more research about this topic, but it really seems to offer a better look at the question - DID A CHILD LEARN?

Growth mindset - a student can grow they do not have a fixed amount of knowledge.

After heraing this sectional I want to explore standards based graded more.  I would love to start this style of grading in my classroom.  It is a complete philosophical shift.  I am convinced that it is worth exploring and I may already  be convinced that this is a more accurate picture of student achievement. 

FLIP THE CLASSROOM - WILL try this during this school year. Video tape the lecture/lesson - then class time is all practice/activities.  Makes complete sense. When do the students need me?  During the practice.  Give them "homework" of watching the lecture and gaining exposure to the new material, and then do all practice and activities in class where I can be there for help and more guided practice.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Speaking Loudly

As I sat in a presentation being given my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. K, about China, I could not fight the urge to blog about the experience. Mrs. K was using an actual slide projector. (One of my students asked while she was setting it up, “What is that thing?”) Every year she comes and talks about her trip to China, shows some great slides, shares some great stories and provides a great first-hand knowledge based learning experience for my students.

This year my students and I tried to incorporate technology into this presentation. We used to back channel during her presentation. (I cleared it with her first.) The students did an amazing job of following along, asking questions, making comments, reflecting, connecting to their own experiences. I sat in the back and tried to answer some questions, shared additional websites and pictures for them to look at during the presentation. They started to answer each other’s questions and engage in conversations about the presentation. All without interrupting the speaker!

This is why I teach! It was so fun for me to watch, react and learn right with the students. They gained a voice when they are normally supposed to be quiet. They got the live presentation plus additional, relevant information instantly. Another benefit was that I was able to invite parents to “watch” the conversation. This provides a connection between school and home and allows parents to be involved in their child’s education.

Technology opens up the world to our students. It shrinks the world for students and allows them to experience things we as teachers could not provide without it.