Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Follow Up

Using the SmartBoard during lessons definitely engages students. Today we discussed yesterday's introduction to the Solar System. The use of yesterday's slides provided visual cues that brought the discussion right to the point and allowed us to move forward very quickly. Without this technology I would be referring to something I wrote on the white board yesterday, but is now long gone.

I experimented with TuneTalk Stereo for the iPod. It is a microphone that plugs directly into the bottom of the iPod, records and saves the recording as a file on the iPod. When you sync, the file is uploaded to iTunes so you can edit it and use it as you like. The sound quality is surprisingly good. I carried the iPod around the room as I facilitated the review and one of my students was advancing slides on the SmartBoard. TuneTalk could be used to get student reactions during a field trip. It could also be used to measure fluency in primary students or for my fourth graders to record read alouds for our pre-school reading buddies. Student recordings could be burned on to a CD at the end of the year as a measure of progress or just a great keepsake. What other tools are teachers finding to make their instruction more engaging? Are there tools for the SmartBoard that you are using every day with your students?

Monday, August 27, 2007


Ironic is the word I would use to describe today's introduction to the solar system.

I had asked my students to name a system so we could talk about the necessary components in a system and how if one component wasn't working the whole system breaks down. I had great plans to do this on my SmartBoard and it wasn't orienting correctly! (My system broke down.) I went old-school and made a list on my Not So Smart Board with Expo pens. As we were having this great discussion I commented that this would be great if my SmartBoard were working. With the encouragement from my students, I gave it one more try and it worked. I still don't know what the issue was.

This was the first time using it in a lesson, and I was playing with tools as I went. The screen shade is a great one. There is another screen where we created a list of all of the parts of the solar system that they currently know. I am planning on using this to compare what we know now to what we know at the end of the unit. I am realizing that a great benefit to the SmartBoard is the ability to capture everything that would normally be lost on the white board or on pages of flip chart paper. Capturing and sharing ideas on blogs like this one is great as well.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Alsup Fourth Grade Wikispace

I have created a wiki for the fourth grade to engage in online collaboration around the creation of our IB units. This seems like a perfect way for us to continue to develop these units and have our information in one place with the ability to pull it up any time. This summer I have worked on developing two units specifically: I Am Seeing Stars, a study of the Solar System and, A Timeline Study of History, a study of historical people of Colorado. I have done these on my own without consulting anyone... hardly a collaborative effort. But, I am hoping that this space will encourage everyone who has taught these units, or anyone else for that matter, to go in and add information, great ideas, resources and inspiration.

I am also hoping that this will better enable the current third grade team to go in and add any insight that they have from teaching these units last year. Third and Fourth grade teams loop, so the Units of Inquiry that I will be teaching this year were taught by this year's third grade teachers. I have found it very difficult to continue to improve these units when I only see them every other year. It is also very difficult to carve out time in our busy schedules for two grade level teams to collaborate in a "traditional" way to improve the units.

The units are not complete. I inserted information that teams worked on in the development of the planners, essential questions, student questions, summative assessments etc. Then I added specific lessons at the very bottom of the page (number 10). I Am Seeing Stars uses much of the resources from a fourth grade FOSS science kit. I am working on adding online resources and adding documents to the unit that teachers would need as they are teaching, guiding questions for journal entries for example. I also have found videos on each of the planets and downloaded those videos on to the ipod. Students will be able to pick up an ipod, look for the playlist on their planet, and view 2 or 3 short videos on that planet. This would be one of the way students will be gathering information about a planet they are studying.

A Timeline Study of History focuses on the influential people of Colorado from prehistoric times to the development of Farming and Ranching. I have been working on this chronologically so the first few lessons are very well developed, and the last few haven't been developed at all yet.

Again, I did this without any input and have been anxious to get this out there so the collaboration could begin. I believe you have to request to join the space. Click on the link below and join the process!