Thursday, March 31, 2011

Connecting with Skype

Yesterday I finished up my first school to school collaboration project (Flat Stanley Project) with a Skype visit between Mrs. Archibald's first grade class and Mrs. Dittman's first graders from Kickapoo Area School in WI.

After a few technical glitches, the Skype visit went off without a hitch! My kids loved to hear from the Kickapoo students about the pool at their school and their students were interested in finding out more about the skeleton that resides in our science lab. The teachers and students in Wisconsin all had a good laugh when I told them it had been a little chilly here this week - it has been in the high 50's here!

This whole project has been an AWESOME collaboration between the four of us (me, my first grade teacher Mrs. Archibald, Jen Malphy, the librarian at Kickapoo school district and her first grade teacher Mrs. Dittman.) We were able to pull in all kinds of learning, from writing to geography and even science when we talked about the weather here and the weather in Wisconsin. I can't wait to do more school to school collaborations!

Some pictures of our Skype visit yesterday

Sunday, March 27, 2011

WILD Storytime

This week I used the excuse of wanting my students to use the website Build Your Wild Self (a website from the NY Zoos and Aquarium) to read one of my all time favorite books to them - Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I think I love this book because I have so many memories of my parents reading me this book when I was a child and because I LOVE reading it out loud - I have great voices for the lines "And they Gnashed Their Terrible Teeth and they rolled their terrible eyes and they showed their terrible claws" Since this classic is also fairly short, I also read Wild About Books by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Marc Brown - I love it when I have a students make the connection of Marc Brown being the author/illustrator of the Arthur books!

The best part of this story time though, is having my students use the website Build Your Wild Self. The kids are LOVING this - basically you can choose all kinds of different animal parts to add to your boy or girl avatar. When the kids are finished, they can print out their wild thing, which comes with an explanation of what animal parts they added to their wild thing. I have encouraged the teachers to then take these back to their classroom to use with their kids in their writing workshops. Some of my kindergarten students are printing these out and taking them to art where the art teacher is working on having the kids make wild things out of different materials.

Another WILD thing that happened last week - I was named Media Specialist of the Year for Gwinnett County (the LARGE county I work in). I was totally surprised when my Principal, a few people from our district media office and my husband came charging into the media center on Wednesday yelling CONGRATULATIONS! What a great honor!

My Principal congratulating me after the ambush.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Flat Stanley Connections

A few weeks ago someone on Twitter mentioned doing a Flat Stanley project with their own kids - one of the teachers I used to teach with at another school used to do a Flat Stanley project every year and the kids loved it. I started thinking about how I could use some web 2.0 tools to do a Flat Stanley project with a twist. I was thinking out loud on twitter (I do that a lot) and another media specialist that I follow, Jennifer (@Jmalphy on twitter) from Wisconsin responded to me that she would love to do something. So a few emails later we had a plan - we would each choose a first grade class to work with. We would read some Flat Stanley books with them and have the students color their own Flat Stanley. We both scanned in our students Stanley's and put them up on a Picasa web album so that we could each access the Flat Stanley's to print them out and not have our tech. people screaming at us for emailing HUGE files to each other.

Before I gave my students the Flat Stanley's from our friends in Wisconsin, I showed them on a Google map WHERE Wisconsin is, how far away from Georgia it is and what the difference in our weather is (I think the day I showed them the high in WI was 40 and our high was 65!). Once I gave them to the students they went back to their class and brainstormed where they should take pictures of Stanley in our school to share with our new friends. Our school is VERY different from Jennifer's school in Wisconsin, for one her school is K-12 and about 450 students and our school is K-5 and about 950 students!

The class took their Flat Stanley's and a camera around the school for a week. After they took pictures, we had a writing session where the students, their teacher, Mrs. Archibald and I helped them to caption the pictures they took. We then did something pretty cool, we put the photos up on the Mimio board and we had the kids write on the picture who was in the picture. We were then able to save the pictures as jpegs to add to our Animoto video. It added another special touch to our project.

I took one of the Flat Stanley's to Chicago with me and he seemed to have a great time at the Follett Software user conference and at the ST. Patrick's day Parade with me!

Our finished product was an Animoto video that I produced. I just finished it tonight and sent it on to Jennifer in Wisconsin. She will be sending to us in a week or so a Smilebox presentation of her students' experience with our Flat Stanley's. My students can't WAIT to see where their Flat Stanley's went!

This was my first experience of collaborating with another school and with a teacher in my building and it was such a GREAT experience. I can't wait to do more collaborating between my school and other schools near and far. Next up, hopefully a Skype visit with our new friends in Wisconsin!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hello from Chicago!

I am in Chicago for the first Follett Software User Conference. You may remember the CHEESY video I made which won me a full scholasrship to this conference. I am so glad I have the ability to be cheesy!

The conference started yesterday afternoon with some round tables. I was in one on student engagement. It is always so great for me to hear what other schools/libraries in other parts of the country (and in this case the world since there were two people from Canada in our session) are doing. It also makes me feel SOOO thankful for what I have in my school.

The Follett people also really know how to make you feel welcome. They had a great opening reception last night with a local arts high school jazz band and free drinks and food. I am really looking forward to today's sessions and to meet some people I have been getting to know on Twitter (@MrSchuReads & @shannonmmiller ).

I will leave you with a picture of Flat Stanley in Chicago. I am working on a project with one of my first grade classes and a first grade class from Viola, WI (@jmalphy ). I will blog more about the project when we are done, but so far my kids are LOVING it! Here is what Jennifer has to say about our project so far on her blog.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Read Across America Day Celebration

Because of a state writing test that our fifth grade students had to take on Wednesday, we moved our Read Across America celebration to Friday, which is actually a great day to do such celebrations, teachers are much more receptive to doing special things on Fridays!

Our reading specialist arranged to have books given to each teacher for their classroom and a guest reader to visit each classroom. Some of the guest readers included people from inside our school community (Principal, Assistant Principals, technology specialist etc..) and people from outside our school. I arranged to have the mascot from our local minor league baseball team, the Gwinnett Braves and a local tv weather man (Steve Milone from Fox 5) come and participate in our reading celebration. A tradition I started when I worked at St. John Neumann continued again this year, having the TEACHERS dress like a book character. We had some great ones, Pippi Longstocking, Captain Underpants and of course the Cat in the Hat. I gave all the teachers who participated a $10 gift certificate to our book fair (which was ending on Friday). I had been working on my costume ever since I saw the 360 theater production of Peter Pan in Atlanta, I was Tinker Bell and my costume included a light up skirt and lights in my hair - it was FABULOUS! We also had the kids participate by having crazy hair day. The students were encouraged to bring in $1 and they could wear their hair as CRAZY as they could get it. The proceeds from crazy hair day go toward our literacy team and purchasing new books for our book room.

Here is a short video of some of the fun we had on Friday!