Blogging in a 3rd Grade Classroom

This is the name of the presentation I am giving at the Northern Illinois Computing Educators (NICE) Mini-Conference this Saturday, January 31st.  Stay tuned for my presentation notes, complete with links to various tools and resources.

To prepare for my workshop, my 3rd graders created posts today on our classroom blog that are reflections on the blogging experience.  The questions I asked them were: What do you like about blogging?  Why is it different then writing things down in your writer’s notebook?  Do you like giving or receiving comments better?  What is your favorite comment that you received?  What is your favorite post that you have written?  What else would you like to write about on the blog?

Here are some of their thoughts:

“I like blogging because typing is easier and you don’t get writer’s cramp.”

“I like receiving comments because each new one is from a new person in the world.”

“I like blogging because it is relaxing.”

Please visit “The View from 3rd Grade” to read the rest of their thoughts.  Please also take 5 minutes to leave a comment.  The 3rd graders have worked hard and they get so jazzed when others notice!

Halloween – a Time to Teach???

Halloween can be so much fun, but it’s also a “lost day” for curriculum.  Earlier in the week I had let our 3rd graders go onto their blog pages to create titles and choose templates.  Their excitement was encouraging and I thought that maybe I could have them begin to create their first posts on Friday (also Halloween).

The assignment for their first posts was about friendship and they had to respond to the following questions:  What qualities do you look for in a friend? What are some responsibilities that you have toward your friends? If friendship were a color, what color would it be for you? How are you a good friend to other people? What’s your favorite thing to do with a friend?

At 8:00am they arrived to school bouncing off the walls and in full costume.  We had 3 of the 4 Beatles, a ladybug, a birthday present, Indiana Jones, and so on.  By 8:20 I was reminding them that the parade was not until 10:00 and we that we needed them to calm down and cooperate.  Now I was having serious misgivings about doing anything academic.

At 8:30, half of the class went to science and the other half followed me (dressed as Bob the Builder) into our smaller room down the hall.  They were very excited when I told them to each get a laptop because we would be writing our first blog posts.  I gave directions while demonstrating on my new smartboard and set them to work.  I walked around between the tables to monitor their progress and to be available for tech assistance.  As I walked around I realized very quickly that it was totally silent except for the sound of fingers tapping on the keyboards.  Here were thirteen 8 and 9-year old kids in full costume, working, focused, engaged, happy.  It was an awesome sight.  I was further amazed when almost half of them completed the post before time was up.  I was only requiring 4 sentences, but that can take an eternity for a child who is new to typing.

Now our classroom blog is up and running!  Please click here to see The View From 3rd Grade or click the link to the right under the “Additions” menu.  The 3rd graders are excited and ready to receive comments from you.  Drop on in for a visit!

Use More Gluestick

I have just spent the last week getting to know a wonderful new group of 3rd graders. I observed many anxious faces as we began our first math and spelling assessments, but I was also happy to catch the smiles of relief as I cracked a joke. Smiles that seemed almost to say, “Mrs. Kenyon’s really not that scary after all!” I am fortunate to have a fabulous co-teacher who is particularly great at setting the tone of the year. One of my favorite quotes of his is, “If you get all of these math problems right – fabulous. And if you get them all wrong – fabulous. Your mistakes help us to teach you better.”

This year (as in years past) we have some ambitious goals. We have new technology (projectors and smart boards) that we intend to put to good use. The whole Lower School has moved to a six day rotational schedule which has made things fresh and opened new opportunities. Also, I worked with a curriculum team this summer to create a Lower School service learning experience which will require having Junior Kindergarten through 5th Grade participation.

But we have also decided to try to get back to the “good old days” from time to time. We are finally setting up the arts-and-crafts center that we have talked about for the past 3 years. We will do more hands-on projects, put drama lesson and games back into our schedule, allow for free choice time, read more books aloud, and use more gluestick.

Yes, we’re really looking forward to a great year.

Gearing Up for 2008-09

Wow!  It has been a L – O – N – G time since my last post!  Summer is a time for many of us to unplug and switch gears.  I wish I could say that I get to spend time recharging, but it never quite works out.  I am the Language Immersion Director for our Summer Programs here at school, and this has been my 8th summer at camp.  We have a week of “pre-camp” set up and then thew program runs for 8 weeks.  This means that I launch straight from closing up my room into camp and then I get a short 2 weeks before school meetings start up again.  Even though my break is short, I do enjoy my camp job.  The staff is fun to work with, and some of them I only see in the summer so it’s always great to reconnect.

Now it’s time to start thinking about next year.  I have to do the usual: labeling folders, taping down desk tags, running off worksheets, sorting out books that got packed in a hurry, etc.  I will also have a mounted projector and smart board for the first time, so I will be figuring out how and when I will use it.  I am very excited about this opportunity, and I have lots of help from the tech staff here as well as my Classroom 2.0 colleagues and others I have met on the web.

Stay tuned for posts about my summer curriculum grant and our new classroom blog.

Colonial VoiceThread

My third graders have been learning about Colonial America these past 2 months. This year the technology/library teacher, Lane Young, and I decided to collaborate and create a VoiceThread. First the students were each assigned an event on our colonial timeline. Next, each student found facts using books in our library collection and Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Each student then created a reflection or personal connection to what they learned. Mr. Young helped them select images for their slides using Google Images. Next, they used Audacity to record the facts and reflections. They also had to draw self-portraits that we scanned in so we could identify each student’s slide and comment.

This has been an amazing project. It has touched on many important skills such as researching, writing, recording, selecting appropriate articles and images, and using the online library catalog. I have especially enjoyed the opportunity to work with a specials area teacher.

So, here it is for the world to see. Please comment on the slides and if you are a teacher, have your students comment as well.

3rd Grade Colonial and Revolutionary War Project

Thank you to Lane Young for creating with me, Vinnie Vrotny for leading me to the k12 Online Conference which led me to VoiceThread, and David Green my co-teacher for encouraging and supporting me with this project.

Meme: Passion Quilt


Service Learning

I’m going the borrow Karen McMillan’s idea of beginning my post with a quote. Thanks to Karen (aka McTeach on Twitter) for tagging me for this.


“Service-learning motivates students. Suddenly there’s a connection between what the teacher is saying and the world outside the classroom.”

Senator John Glenn
My Picture

This is a picture from Pennies for Peace, an organization that is part of the Central Asia Institute. CAI was started by Greg Mortenson and Jean Hoerni and it was originally established for building and maintaining schools (particularly girls schools) in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. Now CAI is also instrumental in establishing medical facilities, better water systems, and other things that promote the health and welfare of these rural communities in need. Greg’s journey has been documented in the best selling book Three Cups of Tea, which is a definite must-read for anyone.

Greg Mortenson is coming to our school in May as a Harold Hines Fellow (a person who gives back to others in the world) and he will be meeting and speaking with our children. The Lower School began collecting money a couple of weeks ago for Pennies for Peace and the excitement is palpable. My 3rd graders are even asking to count out the jars of change during their free choice time. Some kids are asking for donations instead of birthday gifts! To date we have collected almost $2000 and we have not finished yet.

My Passion

I have always been passionate about service learning because it is a way to teach children how to care for others, it generates understanding of other cultures, and connects the students to the world around them. My goal is to help my students become global citizens and caretakers of this planet.

Now it’s your turn! The rules are simple . . .

1. Think about what you are passionate about teaching your students.
2. Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short title.
3. Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
4. Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.
You’ve been tagged: I’m passing this meme onto five teachers that I’ve met face to face, through blogs, or through Twitter. Please forgive me if you’ve already been tagged:

Vicki Davis (I saw one of your presentations at IL-TCE but didn’t have time to introduce myself)

Vinnie Vrotny (my technology mentor)

Mark Ahlness (another 3rd grade teacher and inspiring blogger)

Brian Crosby (a Twitter buddy and amazing 5th grade teacher in Nevada)

Ann Oro (a Twitter buddy who teaches and blogs in New Jersey)

My Contribution for the Auction

Below is an explanation of the presentation I was asked to create for our annual school auction. Here is a link to the actual screencast video or you can read below and click on the links to screenshots to get the jist of it.

Earlier this week, Vinnie Vrotny, my friend and colleague asked me to send him a lesson that I created using my TabletPC and the smart cart projector on my floor. He explained that he wanted to use it to show at our school auction in order to share how Lower School teachers are using newer technology. At first I was very nervous about this idea, but I have decided to jump straight into this with both feet by using a new technology tool called Jing to share this with the parent community.

First I must go back in time to an earlier post . . .

Their homework assignment sheet looked like this . . . and this. Just a normal Microsoft Word document

Then I imported the text from the document into Microsoft Journal. This is an application on the TabletPC that allows you to write using a stylus. SinceI never have and never will be a great typist, I have enjoyed using this program for writing and projecting brainstorming sessions (like when we voted on names for the class gerbil) and for teaching cursive.

By importing the text into Journal I could model what I expected the 3rd graders to write. We watched a scene from the movie The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. When the short scene was over, the kids recalled what was said, what the characters did as they spoke, and how they felt throughout the scene.

When they brought their homework back the next day, I first let them share what they wrote if they wanted to. The kids were very eager and as they shared I mentally selected “good candidates” for writing out the scene with all of the parts in one paragraph.

Here was a scene that a student shared from the movie The Parent Trap. We began our class rewrite with some of the dialogue she wrote down. Next we chose a sentence that explained the setting of the scene. Then came more dialogue and we inserted some action for the character, Hallie. The class decided to put in some of what Annie, Hallie’s twin, was feeling. Then we concluded the paragraph with Annie’s final statement and some more action.

What we ended up with was a paragraph that would give a reader a clear picture of what is going on in the scene.

The 3rd graders used this and other lessons to help them write their fiction stories which were presented at our annual “Hot Chocolate House.”

Parents and alumni, thank you for supporting the teachers and students by coming out the the “Green B. Lounge!”

Studying Dialogue

Here was the assignment:

Listen to two people talking (either live or on T.V.) for a few minutes. Watch what they do with their hands, face, and body. Notice whether they listen to each other, talk over each other, or hesitate before they speak. What do they say? What do they do as they speak? What do you think they are feeling during this conversation?

The kids then shared their homework (if they wanted to – and many did) with the rest of the class. Below is an example of a student that watched a scene from the movie “Parent Trap.”

What do they say?

“Hallie, we got a major problem, said Annie. “Dad is in love with a different girl! You and Mom need to come to California.”
What do they do as they speak?

Annie is talking to Hallie on the phone. Hallie goes into her closet to talk because she doesn’t want to be heard. Annie is talking on the phone and hiding in the bathroom.

What do you think they are feeling during this conversation?

Annie doesn’t know what to do.

Next, we created a paragraph that included the setting, dialogue, emotions, and action all mixed together.

“Hallie, we got a major problem, “said Annie. Annie is talking to Hallie on the phone. “Dad, is in love with a different girl!” Hallie goes into her closet to talk because she doesn’t want to be heard. Annie doesn’t know what to do. “You and Mom need to come to California,” said Annie. She is talking on the phone and hiding in the bathroom.

I was able to use my TabletPC and Microsoft Journal to project this on the board for them. This way I could also use various colors for each type of sentence (dialogue, emotion, etc.). In this way, we were able to see how pure dialogue can be expanded into a short, descriptive scene by adding these details.

Here is a screen capture of the journal page.

As I travel through this unit logging my experience, please also check out my wikispace for updates. I will eventually be posting all of my assignments there while I use this blog for reflections.

Stay tuned for the next writing adventure . . .

Observing Like Writer

Happy New Year!

On Monday I told my 3rd graders, “You have shown us that you are really great writers by all your work on personal narratives this fall. We think you are ready for fiction writing.”

Their answer??? “YAY!!!” (That is one really cool thing about 3rd graders, they love new challenges. Older kids do not get nearly as excited about things like multiplication, cursive, homework, and spelling tests.)

Now I will be implementing the new writing curriculum that I created during my summer curriculum grant. One of the reasons I started this blog was to connect with other teachers globally to discover how others tackle creative writing with their students (for more read my post “Growing and Trying New Things”). Although I have not been able to share ideas in the way I had visioned, I am excited to use this blog as a way to reflect on how this experiment turns out.

The first part of this unit is called “Observing Like a Writer,” which is a chapter title of the book I read this summer called Writing the Whole Story by Karen Jorgensen. (For a more complete look at the curriculum as it evolves check out the wikispace I have created with all my notes.  I would love feedback!) We have just begun to study dialogue. The kids need to be taught that characters talk to show action, intention, and emotion. Here is their first homework assignment:

Listen to two people talking (either live or on T.V.) for a few minutes. Watch what they do with their hands, face, and body. Notice whether they listen to each other, talk over each other, or hesitate before they speak. What do they say? What do they do as they speak? What do you think they are feeling during this conversation?

I am looking forward to what they come up with.

It’s My Turn For Excuses

So I’ve unplugged a bit lately due to the busyness of life at home and school. Of course I have a million excuses for why it is okay that I have not met some of the Web 2.0 goals I had made for myself after participating in the K12online Conference. Here are just a few of my excuses:

1) I can’t show the kids that new program because the smart cart is too big to fit comfortably in my room along with 15 third graders.

2) I’m too bogged down by email to get past my inbox each day (and I think they must breed in there because there is always more each day).

3) No one (administration, parents, other teachers, etc.) is forcing me to try all these new Web 2.0 tools, so I don’t have to.

4) It’s too hard to implement more tech into my curriculum because I don’t yet have “buy in” from my fellow teachers whose support I need to have.

5) I am not as excited to post on this blog these days because I am not getting the readership I had hoped I would.

OKAY, OKAY, OKAY . . . now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I need to get back on track. Here are the reasons why I have to get past the excuses:

1) I knew it would be hard to jump onto a moving train. Yes, getting “plugged in” is a lot like drinking from a fire hose, but that doesn’t mean that I should “unplug” when I get overwhelmed. One way I am doing that is by focusing on one tool to implement in my classroom. After I get one success under my belt, I will be ready to take on the next new tool.

2) My students will benefit from my newly acquired knowledge. I have already impressed them by using simple programs like Microsoft Journal to record thoughts they have brainstormed for social studies and writing. They are much more comfortable with technology than I am because there world has never been without it.

3) I am personally benefiting from each new skill I learn. I have already made new friends that I haven’t met (yet.) People read my blog (even though it is not as many people as I would like) and give me positive feedback.

4) I have to help bring my fellow teachers “on board.” If I wait for some of them to be as fire up as I am, it could be a long wait. If I keep them posted on my progress and show them tools that would be easy for them to learn, I am sure that someone will be inspired. I am going to start by showing Brian Crosby’s keynote address from the K12online called “Obstacles to Opportunities – The Whys and Wherefores.” You should check it out if you haven’t seen it yet.

I got this ball rolling and I need to keep it going now. I’ll keep you all posted throughout my journey.

No more excuses . . . for now.