Snow in California

The Snowflake Bentley January activity on the Winter Wonderland Wiki sparked an idea for me for grades beyond 3rd. As I was researching Wilson Bentley and snow to create lesson plans for Kindergarten through 3rd grade who are participating in the Winter Wonderland project, I ran into a site by Rick Doble. As part of his work, Rich has exhibits of snowflake images which he digitally altered from Wilson Bentley’s snowflake pictures. This became the jumping off point for the projects I did with my 4th & 7th Grade classes.

First, I read the book Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin to each class. This is also available in a video format. After reading the book each class created a timeline of Wilson Bentley’s life. 4th Grade used the PowerPoint template available on the Winter Wonderland Wiki and 7th Grade created a timeline in Microsoft Excel.

After the timelines were complete, the students then download one or more of Wilson Bentley’s snowflake pictures from the Snowflake Bentley web site. Using the filters and effects in PhotoFiltre, the snowflake pictures were digitally altered to create something new from Wilson Bentley’s image. This could be done using other programs such as Gimp (Open Source) or Paint.NET (free image & photo editing program) or Photoshop or many others. We have PhotoFiltre installed on all of our computers because of a project I did with it last year so we used this application.

Once the snowflake images were complete, each student created a slide in PowerPoint with their image(s) and then wrote and recorded a poem to go with their images. I then combined all of the slides into a single PowerPoint presentation for each grade which I uploaded to SlideBoom. Here is the finished 7th Grade project:

I feel this was a really successful project overall. Since timelines in PowerPoint and Excel were new concepts, they kept the students engaged and they all enjoyed finding pictures to illustrate their timelines. The students all seemed to enjoy using PhotoFiltre and I didn’t get too many “how do I” questions during their use of it. They were very willing to just try things to see what it did especially since there are multiple levels of undo available. Most of the students also enjoyed creating their poem though a few did struggle with this especially in 4th grade where I required a Cinquain poem. This was also an easy introduction to narrating a PowerPoint presentation since it was a single slide that needed to be narrated. I would love to get better quality microphones for all of the computers so that the sounds levels could be consistent on projects like these.

Okay I admit it – I LOVE PowerPoint!

Yeah, I know, it’s so not Web 2.0 but I find it so useful on so many levels. Here are just a few things we’ve done or are doing using PowerPoint:

Math Books: I first saw this used by Kevin Jarrett in the fall as a Pumpkin Math Book and adapted this for my own use with my Kindergarten through 2nd Grade students. Since that time I got involved with the Winter Wonderland project and adapted this yet again into Penguin Math Books. You can download the templates on the Activities page of the Winter Wonderland project. While you’re there, check out the Penguin Glyph too – that’s also done in PowerPoint!

Keyboarding for Kindergarten: Collins Trott has designed a keyboarding curriculum for Kindergarten students called Trott’s Typists which uses Kidspiration focusing on learning letters and starting letter sounds as well as finding keys on the keyboard. We don’t have Kidspiration but I’ve adapted her idea into PowerPoint and now my Kindergarten and 1st Grade students are using this on a weekly basis. So, if you don’t have Kidspiration, don’t let that stop you – adapt those Kidspiration ideas into PowerPoint!

Idea Webs: My 3rd Grade students are involved in the Monster Project and one of the lesson plan ideas for that project involves using a word web in Kidspiration. Once again I took the idea and created a web template in PowerPoint that my students are using.

Internet Safety Posters: Using the ability to export slides as images, my 4th and 5th Grade students designed Internet Safety Posters in PowerPoint and then exported them as images.

Animoto Videos: Taking the concept used in the Internet Safety Posters, my 8th Graders designed a series of slides about Cyber-Bulling which were exported as images and then uploaded to Animoto to create Cyber-Bulling PSAs. An added benefit of this is that it gets the students to think of PowerPoint as a visual medium and not as something with just a bunch of bullet points.

Presentations: Yes, I actually do have my students use PowerPoint to make presentations, too. My 6th Graders have just finished up Christmas Around The World narrated presentations. You will find few (if any) bullet points on these. What you will find is lots of visuals and recorded audio to narrate the slides.

Poetry Books: In the same vein as above, my 4th Grade students and 6th Grade students are creating a slide in PowerPoint which will contain snowflakes that they have digitally altered from Wilson Bentley’s photographs and a poem that they have written about winter or snow or snowflakes or Bentley that is being recited by the student that wrote it. These are being combined into one presentation for pictures and poems by the students.

Bottom line, PowerPoint isn’t just for the dreaded Death By PowerPoint presentations anymore! I do promise to train anyone and everyone who will listen not to make these mistakes:

What are some ways that you use PowerPoint?