Ready, Set, Blog!

We did it.  We’re officially online!

After a little technological hiccup yesterday, we set today as the day for our first “real” blog posts.  Remember how I’m always saying my kids are amazing? Well, today they did not disappoint. 🙂

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I know you will want to read what they’re doing, and I know they will love to have you read it!  And, as most of them remembered to add to their posts, please remember to leave a comment!

Check us out at www.kidblog.org/MrsBeardensClass2!

 

10 Things I Learned Today

I have always thought that good teachers are also learners.  I try to learn something every day.  And today was one of those days when I was learning a lot.  Here are just a few of those things.

1. My students are ready for Winter Break.

2. Many of my students like to argue–I mean debate. 🙂 

3. My friend Melissa is really sneaky.  She left me a really great Christmas gift on my desk, right under my nose.  And it was perfect–partly pink, partly related to writing, and mostly made from a cupcake.  YUM!

4. My students are ready for Winter Break.

5. My kids are amazing bloggers, even though they just did their first post today.  I knew they were great writers, but I LOVE seeing it in action.  And I chuckled out loud at some of what they wrote.  This will definitely be a great way to get to know them better as people, not just writers.

6. If you eat too many Oreo Cookie Balls, you will get a stomachache. But then you might keep eating them anyway because they are so amazingly yummy.

7. My students are ready for Winter Break.

8. If you’re walking in a parking lot and there are two paths–one through a big puddle and another on dry pavement–you will walk on dry land and the kids around you will stomp through the puddles every time.

9. There are many people in my school I don’t talk to often enough.  I got to have a great conversation this afternoon with two friends I don’t see very often because their roles are different than mine.  Our paths don’t cross unless we make them, and I need to learn to do that more. Thanks Rochelle and Erika for chatting today.  I learned from you in that short time and enjoyed myself, too!

10. My students are ready for Winter Break.  But so am I. 🙂

Entering the Blogosphere

If you would have asked me last school year if I’d ever have a blog, I’d have said you were nuts.  I knew what they were, but didn’t see myself as a blogger; I didn’t have a story that anyone wanted to hear.  I wasn’t really sure what I’d write about–up to that point I’d only written for myself as the audience in my notebook.  So then if your next question would have been if my kids would be bloggers, then I’d have considered you certifiable.

So I guess you’re all crazy–and I am, too!–because my class has a blog, and my kids started their blogging journey this week, too!

Before I go any further, I have to give a shout-out and a thanks to Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp) and Karen McMillan (@mcteach) for providing many useful blogging resources to teachers like me who have a great idea but don’t really know where to start.  Their assistance via Twitter and their own blogs has been unbelievable!

Now for the story:

I have been talking up blogging since pretty much day one.  I started the class blog that you’re reading in July, after talking alot with my brother, who teaches high school math and just finished his Masters in Educational Technology (or something like that–sorry if I got the title wrong, Chuck!).  I have been writing for a long while now, but I needed another outlet.  At this same time, I also joined Twitter, and have been learning much from my “tweeps” ever since.  That’s actually where I got the idea for blogging with kids.

I was noticing that so many people were tweeting about updated posts by their kids, and so I started reading.  I soon learned that there a tons of kids out there who are learning super important lessons about writing and internet safety (and too many more to name) because they are blogging.  Even kindergarteners.  Yep, 5 and 6 year olds.  So the more I read, and the more I thought about it, the more I knew I wanted my kids to join them.  And so I began planning on how my 5th graders would enter the blogosphere.

We started on Wednesday, with a lesson that I called “Blogging 101.”  It was funny that I had to explain the “101” part to my kids–they had never heard of that before.  We talked about what background knowledge they had for the word LOG, and discussed how a log is a place where someone (like a pilot or ship captain) writes down important things that happen, organized by dates.  They were able to then transfer that idea to web-log, or blog, and we were in business.

They already have experience with this blog that I write, because we read it together almost everyday, and many of them have been following and commenting for months now.  I showed them several of the other blogs I follow, like Make It and Love It, the Candy Blog (that one is one of my hubby’s favorites, actually), Bake at 350 and Daily Daisy (and Caleb, too!).  We talked about what we noticed about both the appearance and theme of each one.  At this point they were chomping at the bit to get going–but there was another very important thing we had to talk about next: safety.

Thanks to an idea I found from Pernille Ripp again, we talked about why internet safety is like the mall.  While my students, who are 10-11-year-olds, don’t spend a lot of time at the mall or other places by themselves yet, they knew some really smart things to do and not do: not talk to strangers, not share their personal information with random people, only go where you tell your parents you’re going and stay there the whole time, and so on.  I was really pleased, because I knew I was going to be talking about how the very same things would keep them safe while they were on the internet on their own.  We talked through an internet safety plan, that they were to take home to share with their parents and have signed.

Next step: first blog post.  But not online, on paper.  They created a rough draft to tell about themselves, then edited and made a final draft on 9X12 oak tag.  This was serious business in our room.

     

    

After two days’ worth of work, we had finished paper blog posts and we were ready to learn about what makes blogging interesting: commenting.  I shared some guidelines, and we talked about what they were thinking.  I gave them some ideas for comment starters (shared by Karen McMillan on her blog Notes from McTeach), and my kiddos were great to connect some conversation prompts we already use in our classroom to this new learning.  Each student was given a pad of sticky notes, and the were off.  I turned on some quiet music, and they went to work.  They read, they thought, they commented.  For almost 45 minutes!  Yes, you heard right–45 minutes of silence and students focused on sharing their thoughts with their friends.

        

                     

After a while, everyone’s blogs started to become a beautiful rainbow of colored post-its, each containing kind and constructive words from their classmates.

Once everyone had had a chance to comment on blogs (and comment on other comments), we took some time to read what others had written, and then sat down to debrief and celebrate.  As we gathered in a circle on our carpet, I asked them to share with each other whatever they were thinking about what we had just done.  Here were some of their words:

I liked it.  I think this was a good experience for knowing what we’re going to do on our “real” blog.

I think it’s cool because we were talking with paper–kind of like having a conversation, but definitely different.

I think that it was really fun.

It was fun because you got to pass notes and you don’t get to do that in class normally.

It’s great that we got to learn something new while we were having fun together.

This reminded me of Harry Potter–like passing owls–we got to come back and reply to a note that someone wrote.  I really felt like someone was noticing me.

I was excited when Kelsey was replying to my answers, I had to reply back!

So we’re on to the internet on Monday, to be introduced to our kidblog.org blogs.  We hope to have our first “real” posts up by Wednesday.  I have to say I’m impressed.  I am amazed.  I knew it would be good, but it went even better than I anticipated.  It was so cool how engaged they were, how eager they were to share their thoughts and read the thoughts of their classmates, how kind and generous they were with their words.  I didn’t have to censor anyone’s comments; they were completely honest and gracious as they told each other how much they liked what they had read, asked questions to dig deeper and to encourage future work, and to make connections to what the blogger had written.  They commented on each others’ comments, too, and we even ended up with one long string of sticky notes that was about 10 long!  I was so proud of my students once this was completed, and am so excited to see what they do next.  I know it will be amazing.  Because they are amazing. 🙂

Enjoy our first finished projects:

           

               

                    

                                    

                  

                        

          

                          

                                

               

Wordles in Math

We’ve been busy this week.  We’re always busy, but I think for some reason we’ve crammed more than usual into the last fives days.  And it seems that a lot of what we did was new.  And very cool.  And involved technology.

We tried making Wordles again on Monday.  It was the start of a new unit on 2D geometry in math, so I needed to get a feel for what they remember from 4th grade.  Rather than do a pencil/paper pre-assessment, I had them create a Wordle to show me their background knowledge for this unit.  We brainstormed some words we might use and explain in our Wordles, and then got to work.

I should stop saying I’m amazed with their final products–by this point they’ve shown me countless times that they can do amazing work.  But that’s what I was: amazed.  And I learned much about what they already knew.

Enjoy!

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Just Let it Happen

We were in the middle of a really important lesson yesterday, when we saw this out our window:

 

What could we do next but this?

It was one of those moments as a teacher that I really hate–like when it starts to snow or rain really hard and kids act like they’re never seen weather before–but I decided I just needed to go with it. We do indeed have a construction site right outside our window, and it was, in fact, interesting to see a big crane carrying a massive slab of concrete or metal (or whatever it was) to put into the building that will hold our new gym and several new classrooms next year (yay!).  So rather than be annoyed and fight what was going on out there, we decided to stop for a minute.  And just let it happen.  Learning occurs in many ways and many places, and sometimes it involves stopping to watch a big crane.  🙂

“There Are Two Kinds of People in the World…”

“…people who like marshmallows in their hot chocolate and people who like whipped cream.”

I’ve decided that there’s actually another: the kind who likes BOTH!

Are you confused?  Or maybe you’re just thirsty now.  Let me explain. 🙂

Of course you already know about how much I LOVE read-aloud, and how it’s such a big deal in our classroom.  I tell you all the time.  But I’m going to tell you again, because yesterday we had another great read-aloud experience together.

We’ve been reading Who’s Stealing the 12 Days of Christmas by Martha Freeman.  I’ve been a fan of hers for a while, and this is actually the second of her books that we’ve read this year (in October we read Who Stole Halloween?)

                                              

So there’s a part in the story where the characters (who are trying to figure out who’s been stealing the birds from their neighborhood’s holiday yard displays) are chatting with old Mr. Stone.  He is making cocoa for them, and starts to tell them about how “there are two kinds of people in the world: people who like marshmallows in their hot chocolate and people who like whipped cream.”  What else could we do but see which one of those people we were?

I conveniently got some hot chocolate for my birthday (thanks, Archie!), so we were already a step ahead.  Then I made sure to bring the rest of the fixins’ with me that morning:

For most of the morning, the cocoa warmed in the big ‘ole Crock Pot as we waited for read-aloud after lunch.

When my kids came back from recess (on a rather chilly day), this is what they saw:

I had already gotten marshmallows ready in half of the class, because I guess I figured that there would be an equal amount people who wanted each kind of topping.  Just for the record, I believe our class was 9 Team Marshmallow and 16 Team Whipped Cream.  Oh, and then there was me–I can never decide, so I took both. 🙂

Then we sat down to read.

Ok, so I know there are some of you who are yelling at me about how this isn’t really related to read-aloud as a teaching time, which I am always making such a big deal about.  But I disagree.  No, the lesson today wasn’t about word choice, fluency or inferences, but there was learning happening.  We were learning about each other, and we were sharing an experience.  We were building our community and having fun while we were doing something we’d normally do anyway.  We were loving a story and making a connection with the characters in the book.  And in some ways, I think those lessons can be even more important than just the reading parts.  We’re enjoying a good book together and enjoying each other, too.

Missing Wordles Pictures

As I was so excited about Wordles the other day, I started the post before I realized that they were saved on my computer at school, and I sit with my laptop at home and blog.  Boo! 😦

So here they are–finally.  Remember, they’re about the Ancient West African kingdom of Songhai.  And they’re pretty great.  Hopefully you can tell what they’re about by the way kiddos prioritized the size of the words.

Enjoy!