Friday, May 31, 2013

Skype Read Aloud With Bree Turner

Skype has been my absolute favorite classroom tool this year. With 50,000 teachers strong, it's no secret that educators love using Skype. This year, Skype has connected my students with several authors, experts, and dozens of classrooms from around the globe. We've shared favorite books, trivia, and many funny stories about our classroom with our new friends.  These connections have deeply impacted my students' learning and have provided them (and me!) with some really cool and unforgettable memories. Because of Skype, my students have become more curious about the world and see the value in connecting and learning with others beyond our classroom walls.

Last week, we had a fantastic opportunity to participate in the Skype Read Aloud program. Actress Bree Turner read to us Maurice Sendak's classic Where the Wild Things Are. This is a well-loved book in our classroom library, and we were very happy to hear it read by a professional. My students were absolutely enthralled during our call, and they loved how expressive Bree was in her reading.

Listening to Bree read.

After the read aloud was finished, we had some time to chat with Bree. We learned about her life as an actress and how she got into the business. Students enjoyed hearing about her early career as a dancer and her journey into film and television. Bree talked a little about her character on Grimm and what she likes most about being an actress. She also talked with my students about having brothers, being a mom, and her many travels abroad. My girls were especially jealous of her dinner at the Eiffel Tower! Finally, we learned a few fun facts: her favorite books as a child were Amelia Bedelia and The Egypt Game, her father was a professional football player, and she collects cuckoo clocks! Bree finished off the call by giving my students some great advice to keep reading and work hard for their dreams.

Thank you, Bree, for taking the time out of your day to read and talk with my students. You were incredibly sincere and I appreciate how you honored and validated their questions and comments. My students felt as if they had actually met you, and it was clear to them that you cared about their education. That's pretty awesome. 

Many thanks to Skype for connecting us with Bree, as well as for providing every student with a copy of Where the Wild Things Are, and upgrading our old webcam to a fancy new Logitech HD camera! This new technology will allow us to see our new friends much more clearly and let us continue connecting with others for many years to come! These kind gestures have truly impacted my students and my classroom. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Skype!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

EdCamp PSWA Recap

Back in the fall, I helped organize the first EdCamp Seattle. We had so much fun we decided to do it again, but this time as EdCamp Puget Sound!

Our second event was another incredible day of connecting and learning. I was most impressed by the variety of educators that attended. People trekked from all parts of the Puget Sound region, some coming from as far away as Oregon and British Columbia! Our crew also included pre-service teachers, k-12 educators (public and independent schools), teacher-librarians, instructional coaches, college professors, and app developers. The wide range of experiences offered multiple and unique perspectives throughout the event.

We started off the day in a ball pit:

(we used colored whiffle balls instead)

And then it was time to assemble the board:


The rest of my day consisted of helping people get set up on Twitter, learning about motivation, and facilitating a discussion devoted to the New Media Consortium's "Wicked Problems" (more on this in a few weeks). The day ended with a fun smackdown and raffle where everyone walked away a winner!

As an added bonus, I also got to meet my Twitter friend, Karen, face to face! She is an amazing educator and friend. Karen definitely knows her stuff and is someone I continually strive to be. Her enthusiasm is contagious and it was such a wonderful treat to spend time with her.

To get a more detailed account of the incredible amounts of learning that went down, you can read yesterday's Storify.

Despite being physically exhausted from the day, I came home feeling energized from new connections and inspired to keep going these last few weeks of the school year. There are a lot of people doing really cool things in the Puget Sound region, and I'm glad I got to connect with them. Amazing things can happen when passionate and positive people band together and lead the way. I am truly thankful to be a part of the EdCamp movement. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Earth Day '13

Earth Day is my favorite holiday to celebrate with students. Helping the earth and celebrating its beauty is definitely an occasion we can all get behind. Not to mention, it's always a fun getting out of the classroom and doing something different for a change. Here are some of the ways we commemorated Earth Day '13:

Native Species QR Codes

After interviewing the Green Team Advisor, my after school TECH Club students researched and wrote short paragraphs about a few of the native plant species found in the 'forest' on our campus. Students are in the process of turning their writing into QR codes to be laminated and placed on stakes near the plant. After that, their plan is to create a scavenger hunt lesson plan of sorts for other classes to enjoy utilizing our school's iPad mobile lab. Some of the plants they researched include: salal, douglas fir, indian plum, Oregon grape, and rhododendron.

Measurement in the Garden

Teaching a multi-age classroom can sometimes pose problems when it comes to math standards. Our school's community garden was a great place to spend an afternoon while easily differentiating instruction for each student. Before heading out, we brainstormed as a class all the things that we could measure. We created separate categories for length, weight, temperature, and capacity and discussed how possible tasks related to specific standards. Students individually chose 2-3 tasks that would help them practice a skill, and off we went! Students worked together to find the perimeter of different garden beds, the average number of rocks a cup can hold, the lengths of flower stems and blades of grass, the weight of small garden tools, and the temperature of the soil (among other things). During this time I was able to confer with each child, assess measurement skills in context, and provide further instruction as needed. 

Dirt Cakes

This activity is an Earth Day staple. Earth Day happens to also be my birthday (or B'Earthday, as I like to call it) and this is my way to celebrate with my little friends. I have students make a simplified version of the traditional cake my mom always made me using Oreo cookies, pudding, and gummy worms. I make sure to work in multiplication, division, elapsed time, fractions, and measurement skills, too. This activity also emphasizes the importance of reading and following directions, as well as accuracy and teamwork. This year, a few groups also made blue ocean Jell-O with gummy fish for an added treat.

What did your classroom or school do to celebrate Earth Day? I'd love to add to this collection of fun activities for next year!