Saturday, April 28, 2012

KidBlog: Getting Started

Do your students blog? I started blogging with my students last year, and love it! It is a great opportunity not only for writing for an authentic audience, but to practice digital citizenship, Internet safety, and learn various technology skills. Since I use KidBlog with my class often, (and answer the same questions over and over) I decided to create this podcast to help them navigate and as a "Getting Started" video.

Hopefully, its something you can use with your children. Enjoy!

PodCast Camp

I've just gotten home from two days of PodCast Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. What an amazing experience! Sponsored by the Alabama Learning Exchange, or ALEX, we spent two days learning software, viewing, and creating podcasts. While I've made a few videos with my students before, the training was a great opportunity to fine tune my video-producing skills by using programs I've not used before such as Audacity and Windows Media Encoder. In addition, I was able to network with other educators, and I came home with TONS of ideas for incorporating podcasts into learning. I highly recommend attending this training if you can, but if you can't, here are some resources that might help you get started:
Click here for podcasts and resources for creating them.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Two-Word Wonders

After the previous near disasters with Diamante poems, I decided to try a little something different. They're poems called Two Worders. Each line has two words about the topic of the poem. They loved them! We decided to write poems about penguins since we're reading Antarctic Journal. You should have seen them searching books and the Internet to find out more information about penguins. What a fun learning activity!

Here's a link to the penguin template we used. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Diamante (Almost) Disasters!

Last week I encountered a problem I've never had before. I *thought* we would have great fun writing diamante poems. I added a little twist, and instead of doing synonyms or antonyms I had the students use Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart, as an extension activity for our reading story, Amelia and Eleanor Go For a Ride. Every class I've ever done these with has loved them! Not so, this year. Two days into it and I knew this was not the poetry for my kiddos. These kids had to really work hard just to get finished. That just goes to show you that you simply cannot do the same activities from year to year in the same way they've always been done. Every class is unique. Every child has his own interests and personal learning style. On the upside, I'm glad I taught it, because the children had to think in new ways that weren't necessarily natural for them. They had to really stretch their thinking. Here's one of their poems:

Wondrous, Brave
Amazing, Daring, Thrilling
Airplane, Pilot, First Lady, VIP
Helping, Caring, Loving
Sweet, Honest

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ode to an ActivExpression

This is a poem one of my students wrote today that made us all chuckle:

ActivExpression, ActivExpression
The greatest technology since the Great Depression
Oh, ActivExpression, where did you go?
Please don't leave 'cause you're the best techno.
Just be careful if you're on a boat
Because if you fall in the water you will not float.
We've been through good times and we've been through bad
And when your batteries go dead I will be sad.

During THE TEST we had to put away our ActivExpressions. It was like Christmas when I passed them out again! I'm guessing that's one reason he was inspired to write this poem. 

Headbands With a Twist

Here's another great vocabulary activity that your kiddos will LOVE! (Caution: This activity is not for QUIET classrooms). I do this in groups of about 6 students. Each group has a stack of cards with vocabulary words written on them. Each kiddo tapes a word card to their head. The other members of the group give clues to the student. I teach older kids so we have rules like:
  • You can't give away any letters. 
  • You can't give word parts. 
  • No rhyming words. 
  • No "Duh" clues.
The student guesses the vocabulary word. If guessed correctly, they take the card off their heads. The first group to guess every word is the winner! We usually play to find the 2nd place winner as well. Adding the group competition is a huge motivator for 4th graders. 

This is really great because each group collaborates in their own way: some decide to do one card/one child at a time, with every person giving clues to help. Some groups choose to sub-group themselves into pairs (because it is faster that way). The best part is that they are constructing their own ways to define the words! 

If you do this, be prepared to do it more than once. You can't stop after one round!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Need a quick, fun way to review vocabulary? Wordo is basically Bingo using vocabulary. Today, as a spur of the moment activity, I had my kids draw a tic-tac-toe board (3x3), and write in their vocabulary words randomly. I called out clues and students drew an X on the words that answered the clues. Once students got three in a row they yelled "Wordo!" It was a super-fast, super-easy activity that the kids really enjoyed. It's always great when learning is fun!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Can I Bring My Kindle...?

Yesterday as we settled down to read:

Kid: Mrs. Kilgo, can I bring my Kindle Fire to school tomorrow for read to self because it has my Tim Tebow book I'm reading?
Me: Sure! (Happy that he's reading a biography!)
Kid: My mom said that if you catch me doing anything I'm not supposed to be doing on it, I will get grounded from it and you'll take it away until the end of the year.
Me: (in my head) I sure do like this mom!

When I got home from school today I had an email from another student asking the same question. While I know there are some concerns about this, I think its really cool that my kids are asking. What's next? Technology is literally changing how students learn, or want to learn, and the face of the classroom. What will our classrooms look like in five years? Ten years? Twenty?

I can remember my third year teaching, gathering 18 students around ONE computer to teach them how to use PowerPoint. (The first two years I had NO computer). And now, almost every child in my class owns their own hand held device. Wow! I just wonder what the future will hold?

Teaching My Calling: Edutopia Featured Teacher

I'm so proud of my good friend, Cara! Check out her post:

Teaching My Calling: Edutopia Featured Teacher: Today, I received an unexpected surprise. I was recognized as an Edutopia Featured Teacher. {Click here} to view my spotlight. Although i...

Friday, April 6, 2012

Its Beginning to Look a Lot Like Test Time!

Walk in any classroom in my building and you'll see something similar: posters and alphabet lines completely covered, desks in neat, little rows, computers completely unplugged from the wall. Children stare in wonder..."This looks really different! Mrs. Kilgo, do you have to even cover up our class rules? Surely they don't think we could cheat off them?" Unfortunately, I do have to. It's ridiculous of course, but everything that has print or numbers must be covered up.(Notice my book baskets are turned backwards). Even the kiddos desks have to be emptied. *Sigh*

While I was doing all of this, I thought I'd share a tip that might help someone out there. Instead of spending hours pulling posters down, then putting them up again, or using lots of paper to cover each item, I decided a few years ago to go green and use old sheets! It is *so* much easier than the "old" way of preparing the room. 

They're very easy to hang, and even easier to pull down when testing is over. All of my bulletin boards remain intact! Simply cut a small hole near the edge of your sheet. Then put a paperclip in the hole. Hang the sheet by slipping the paperclip under the ceiling tile. You're done!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Blessings

Want to add a little magic to your Self-Selected Reading time? Try "blessing" a book or two and see how fast your kiddos grab it up. It doesn't take but a few minutes, and very little preparation, if you've previously read the book. I did this today with Sarah, Plain and Tall
Have any of you read this story? It's a pretty quick read, with only 57 pages (heads jerk up) about a family living during the pioneer days dealing with a tragedy. In it the mom dies, and the dad decides to marry a "mail order bride." It's a story about a family learning to get through a difficult time. And, it's a Newberry winner, so you know it will be a great story! Anyone interested?
You'd be amazed at how many students will try it, simply because you suggested it. I handed out all 7 of my copies, a child checked it out from the library, and there are 10 names on the waiting list on the board!

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