Sunday, December 13, 2015

Using 'Board Builder' to Discuss Winter Holidays

Discovery Education has a great tool called Board Builder where multiple media files and text can be compiled together for a specific topic. I created a board that introduces three winter holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. I included a video and definition for each holiday as well as an end-of-activity quiz.  Check out the board at:

Winter Holidays

Note regarding quiz: If I had a class to assign the board to...a student would be given one question at a time, in random order, and they would know right away if they had answered correctly or incorrectly

If my school had a subscription to Discovery Education I could ask my students to create their own Board Builder projects. I might ask them to compare and contrast different countries' holidays, cuisine, or children's games. They would be tasked with finding videos and images, publishing their own writing, and creating a quiz on the material presented.

Howard Gardner (2006) states that, "the respectful mind notes and welcomes differences between human individuals and human groups...[and] the ethical mind ponders...the needs and desires of the society in which one lives" (chapter one). These projects could be great discussion starters for the class, and even act as foreign diplomats. Students would be learning about multiple countries, cultures, and religions through research and writing, and they would have a chance to stand in others' shoes when compiling an original quiz. Learning about other societies could springboard a better understanding of their own country and cultural traditions. This would be a great activity to develop their respectful and ethical minds.

Gardner, H. (2006). Five minds for the future. [Kindle version].

Five Minds

I had a lot of fun using PowToon, but I'm having difficulty embedding my video into Blogger. You can still check out my thoughts here: Five Minds

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Collaboration and Respect Online

Pixton is a comic-making site where I can task students with creating their own comics or even group them together to collaborate on a comic project. In the past I've used it for...

- social studies unit on Olympics
- science unit on animals and habitats
- grammar lesson on verbs
- math lesson using UPSL format - Understand, Plan, Solve, Look back and explain
- and of writing time

Once I've approved a comic it's available for all my students to view in the gallery. They can browse their peers' comics, rate them and leave comments. We talk about the importance of being respectful and "filling buckets" online.

Monday, November 30, 2015


Second graders are expected to be fluent with their recall of math facts with sums up to 20. They must also use their knowledge of place value to add and subtract within 100 using various strategies. Subitizing usually starts out small, but over time, according to Douglas Clements (1999), provides "stepping-stones to constructing more sophisticated procedures with larger numbers" (pg. 401). Virtual manipulatives, apps, and SMART Table activities pose a familiar setting for children as they are used to playing games either online or through handheld devices. 

Visit or view below:

Clements, D. H. (March 1999). "Subitizing: What is it? Why Teach it?" Teaching Children Mathematics. Retrieved from

Friday, November 27, 2015

Technology Day

   This past Monday was a technology day for my 2nd grade class. We had been going through the stages of writing during the previous week and now we were ready to publish. I would have loved to have used Google Apps for Education, but students in our school don't get those accounts until 3rd grade. So instead we used Microsoft Word. I explained how to open Word and 'Save As' to my desired folder. Then I reminded them that they must utilize the shift key for capitalizing letters as well as for some punctuation. 
   They got right to work and I began to notice that right away they were figuring out how to adjust the alignment and use the heading option for their titles. Kids are great with sharing information so as soon as one person saw something that a neighbor had done they were trying it too. This continued with the frenzy of selecting font style, color, and size to make their writing even more individualized. I had a student ask if she could use KidPix. She told me that she'd used it in first grade and would like to create an illustration to go with her story. I gave her the green light and before long her teammates were also creating illustrations.  My day was pretty easy; all I had to do was praise, encourage, and motivate. 
   What do students want in the classroom? They want the freedom to create something unique. They want a chance to learn - learn by doing! They want an opportunity to click, swipe, and paste until they feel content with the product they are creating. They are more than happy to share their knowledge with peers, and are proud to present their products to me, the class, and their families. I lit a fire on Monday morning and it burned brightly all day. At the end of the day I was asked if we'd continue using the laptops on Tuesday. I could tell they were excited about creating and publishing, and hated to tell them no.This does make me wonder, though, if I could do something similar every day...maybe on a smaller scale?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

STEM Inspires Creativity

There's more than one road to success. Right now we're being directed to take an expressway, but 25 miles down is a construction detour because it hasn't been completed. More and more of us are abandoning the expressway altogether for the scenic backroads. There's a whole lot of them and we'll both enjoy the journey and reach the destination. All the educators I know love to plan projects that incorporate both the standards and a little fun! Some are able to do it more often than others. I believe that our technological boom has caused a shift in what we value in education, and I have high hopes for the future. One example is the rise of STEM or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) in schools.

Have you heard of Caine's Arcade? Caine is a little boy BIG on creativity! He built an arcade out of cardboard and sparked a cardboard revolution. My school has a STEAM  committee and they present monthly challenges to our students; some are carried out during the school day while others are meant to be tackled by the entire family. The October in-school cardboard challenge was inspired by the movie below:

My 2nd graders were so excited about this activity. We watched the movie together and then I allowed them time to brainstorm what they could do with a box by drawing and labeling diagrams.  Next I asked them to form 3-person groups. They would work together as a team and construct a game or toy. I've never seen 7 and 8 year olds both communicate and collaborate so well! When they were finished we took our creations to the main hall of our school where the other classes were placing their projects. Our school designated one afternoon for students to just play with one another's games. Take a look at photos from the week of the  Cardboard Challenge!

I took advantage of the enthusiasm and after talking about how to properly write a friendly letter (2nd grade standard) I asked each kiddo to write a letter to Caine. Next I tasked the kids with recording one another reading their letters. We compiled all the letters into a mini-movie and sent it to Caine's "fan club".

Sunday, November 15, 2015

My latest tech tool find is Prezi! Second grade science includes learning about animals and habitats so I've collected numerous websites, videos, games, and ebooks for an independent student learning center. I will introduce biomes by reading What is a Biome? by Bobbie Kalman, and then we'll create a fun graphic organizer they can use to collect information. They will be asked to explore the biomes via the Prezi and take note of interesting facts learned. Afterwards, we'll discuss which biomes we're interested in learning more about! Students will select an animal to research from one of the biomes and create a shoebox habitat for them to live in.

Prezi will allow me to nurture both the disciplined and synthesizing minds of my students. Even when students have decided upon one biome to focus, they will still have the background knowledge provided during the learning center that all of our world's biomes rely on one another.

NOTE: Do I love Prezi? No - the idea is there but I've encountered too many hurdles. I wanted to insert audio of animals from the different biomes, for example, the roaring of a lion. The only way I could find to insert audio was as background music and who wants to hear roaring while they're watching a Magic School Bus episode? Also, the Raz-Kids links aren't working correctly so I had to include each books's specific level so it can be located.