09-10 Reflections: 1st Grade

1st Grade is such a great age. They’re still loving everything about coming to the computer lab and they’re able to do more then they could in Kindergarten because most of them are reading and are comfortable with navigating on the computer. It’s amazing to watch what wonderful drawings they can create in KidPix. They haven’t gotten to the judgmental “I can’t draw” phase and they love to explore all of the options and just create and they do a lot of creating in KidPix during the year.

One of my goals with all of the grades is to have the students work collaboratively with others outside of our school through online projects. I struggle with this every year since I feel many of the online projects are not truly collaborative but more like the parallel play that a toddler might do at the park with other toddlers. Just like toddlers though, we’re learning to walk and 1st Grade did participate in two online projects this year.

How Tall Is a 1st Grader

This was the second year that 1st Grade participated in this project. It provides a great tie in to working with non-standard ways of measuring which is part of the 1st Grade math curriculum. I also use it to show how Excel can be used to make graphs of their heights. The students love to find out who’s the tallest and how tall they are and how much they grow during the year. In addition to measuring the students twice a year (in the fall and in the spring) and drawing a picture of height comparisons, the 1st graders also had the chance to play some fun online measurement games.

2009-10 How Tall is a 1st Grader

I started using this to get 1st Grade involved in a collaborative project but it hasn’t really worked out to be very collaborative – even between teachers.  I would love it if this project had each teacher post some measurement information to a shared spreadsheet so it would be easy to do height comparisons. Only six classes ended up posting their spring measurements and most classes didn’t post VoiceThreads. I should have had my students comment on the VoiceThreads that were there but forgot about it. I’m not sure if I’ll do this project again next year or not. If I do, I’ll try to make it more collaborative for my students by commenting on the VoiceThreads earlier in the year.

Winter Wonderland

It was year two with this project also, both as a participant and as one of the organizers of the project. I struggled with the collaborative nature of this project last year but this year some of the activities were more collaborative including Holiday Traditions VoiceThreads and Describe A Snowman January Activity along with the Holiday Card exchange in December. I think these gave 1st grade a more real taste of collaboration especially the Describe A Snowman activity. They really enjoyed making and describing their snowmen and trying to recreate their partner’s snowmen. It was also great preparation for the Monster Project that they will be doing in 2nd or 3rd grade. They also enjoyed the Winter in 6 Words activity which I adapted and used to create a real book at Mixbook which is now in the 1st Grade class library.

Mixbook - Create stunning photo books, cards and calendars! | Design your own photo book with Mixbook’s easy online editor.
Mixbook - Create Beautiful Photo Books and Scrapbooks! | View Sample Photo Books | Create your own Photo Book

All in all 1st Grade had a fun and productive year in the Computer Lab which included learning more about being safe on the Internet and how to use various programs on the computer. I’m not sure that they learned everything I would like them to learn in 1st Grade because I have realized that I didn’t have this well defined. Defining this, is one of the things I plan to work on over the summer.

Lessons I Learned

  • 1st Graders LOVE to draw on the computer. Luckily we use KidPix a lot in 1st Grade!
  • 1st Graders want to learn to type like older students. Of course that could be because more than 1/2 of my 1st graders have older siblings
  • Some 1st Graders are starting to become microphone phobic. They’ll record something over and over and over if you let them because they don’t like the sound of their voice or they’ll whisper instead of speaking up.

Things I’ll Definitely Repeat Next Year

  • Winter Wonderland Project & maybe some other one too.
  • KidPix drawings to support almost any theme
  • The Best Things About 1st Grade
  • Educational Software & websites – these are great for fill in time after students complete a project or activity and are waiting for the rest of the class to finish.

What are some of the technology rich activities and projects that are successful with your 1st grade students?

09-10 Reflections: Kindergarten

Last year, I wrote three different reflective posts about the year (Time Zone Experiences, Monster Project & Scattered Thoughts). I’m still working on posting final projects and as I am working on this I want to capture my thoughts about the year for each grade level starting with my youngest students.

Kindergarten students are so much fun in the computer lab. They love everything about computers and are always enthusiastic and ready to try anything I want them to do. However, Kindergarten can often be my most challenging class too. They come in at so many different levels – some of them have not ever touched a computer and others you can tell probably spend way too much time on a computer.  Most of them can’t read and they often all need my help at the same time but even with all that they accomplish a lot in computers. By the end of the year:

  • They are all very good at finding all of the letter keys on the keyboard. Have you ever noticed that the I on the keyboard looks like a lower-case L? This can be very confusing to Kindergarten students.
  • They know what the Save icon in Microsoft Office looks like and use it all the time
  • They’re great at using the backspace key to correct mistakes
  • They’re getting better at double-clicking or have become experts at single-click enter to get into a program from the desktop

Online Collaborations

This year my Kindergarten students participated in two online collaborative projects: Winter Wonderland project and KinderKids Draw project.  I loved seeing their understanding that other classes from different places were doing the same things as they were when they listened to comments on their introductory VoiceThread for the KinderKids Draw project and when we received Christmas cards from other classes participating in the Winter Wonderland project. I enjoyed both of the projects as did the students but I wish the KinderKids Draw project had been more directed or interactive somehow. I love the concept of this project but I think it needs something so that it doesn’t end up just an introduction and nothing else which is what it ended up being for me this year. I’d love to see interaction on the Teacher Planning page with some kind of discussion about an activity to be done and then a way to vote on an activity each month or each quarter.

Lessons I Learned

  • Repetition is a good thing. I often worried that they’d be bored going to Starfall again or or doing all 26 letters in the alphabet on their Adventures in Keyboarding activity, etc. but they weren’t. They loved doing the same things and discovered new things whenever they did.
  • Include movement whenever possible during whole class instruction. One of the favorites this year was a lesson about the Winter Olympics. The introduction to this was an activity where they pretended to be each different type of athlete and they just loved this. So, my goal for next year with Kindergarten is more movement!
  • 10 minutes is the limit for whole class instruction. There were times I planned what I thought was a really fun way to introduce the next project that Kindergarten would be doing. It was fun but after about 10 minutes a hand would go up and I’d hear “Can we go to the computers now?”. They want to be on the computers and I need to remember to limit anything not hands on to 10 minutes if I want them and me to be happy.
  • Kindergarteners love microphones! As students get older they tend to get more reticent about recording their voices at times but boy did my Kindergarten students love to get their hands on a microphone.

Things I’ll Definitely Repeat Next Year

Do you teach Kindergarten students in a computer lab? Are you a Kindergarten teacher who is integrating technology into the classroom? What are some of the activities and projects that are successful with your students?

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.

Collaboration Conundrum

One of the things I have been very excited about this year were all of the different online collaborative projects I have been doing with my classes. These all involve some fun and different activities using a variety of tools and applications. The conundrum is this. My students are doing a great job completing these activities and we’re posting them online. A lot of other schools are also completing the activities and posting their projects online too. But, it feels more like the parallel play that you might see with very young children at a park rather than children playing and interacting together.

Ann Oro shared a wonderful map illustrating the collaborative projects that her students are doing this year and I loved the idea so much I am planning to put one up in my computer lab starting next week. I think it will help the students (and parents at Open House) see the connections we are trying to make around the world. Some of the projects my students are involved with have many schools participating but none that I feel we’ve connected with. So do I include these on the map as long as we’ve added to the project and the other schools have added to the project or don’t I? We’re in the project and the other schools are the in project. We’ve both posted finished activities, videos, pictures, etc. to the project but have we truly collaborated? Does there have to be a more tangible connection of some kind or is just being part of the whole project and adding to that enough?

Last year, I stumbled upon the Voices of the World wiki and loved the project and the global feel of it. I was thrilled this year when my 4th Grade class became a part of this project. This project is now one of my do I include all the other schools on the map projects. I don’t know that my students feel the connection to the other schools they way that I hoped they would or that they really understand that there are students all over the world drawing pictures and saying or singing the same thing as they are. Would putting all of the schools that have participated so far this year help them to understand?

Another of my do I include all the other schools on the map projects is the A Room With A View project. My students are doing their part. We take a picture each month and record information about the day and time the picture was taken and upload it to our wiki and to the gallery for the project. Each student also writes a paragraph about the month and what they like or don’t like about it that they post online. Once again I don’t think my students feel connected to the other schools. It’s hard to find the new pictures each month because there are a lot of schools involved. I have posted a request for a few other schools to connect with on the A Room With a View ning and may email a few participants directly next month to try to make more of a connection.  Would adding visual references for the schools help my students connect more with the other schools? Do I really add all the schools involved? Since my class is 6th graders do I only put connections with other 6th grade or 5th & 6th grade classes? Would that be missing the point of the project?

I always seem to have more questions that answers. I do know that because I’ve been thinking about this I plan to have my students spend some time looking at, listening to and commenting on the work of others involved in their collaborative projects. This is our first task in the computer lab when we’re back in school with my classes involved in the Winter Wonderland project and the Voices of the World project. As we watch and listen and comment we’ll add another string to our map as we connect our school with others around the world.

Winter Wonderland Project Announcement

The Winter Wonderland Project is now open for registration!

The Winter Wonderland Project is an online project for grades K-3 that includes winter-themed technology activities with reading, writing, and math components. Registration will open on Monday, November 17th. The Project will begin December 1st and end February 29th. Teachers who participate will share student work on their own personal page(s) on the wiki. Suggested thematic activities and resources for each month will be provided. We will have a Featured Activity each month that we hope all classes will be able to complete. We have chosen our Featured Activity to introduce you to some new tools or websites or new uses for tools you already use. We do realize that there may be times when sites are blocked at schools or schools do not have access to the programs or tools used. If you cannot complete the Featured Activity we would still love your participation in the Winter Wonderland Project.

Please visit the Winter Wonderland Wiki to register, learn about the planned activities, or to get more information about the project.

Thank you,
Winter Wonderland Project Coordinators
Amber Coggin, Nedra Isenberg, & Vicky Sedgwick