Friday, 26 October 2012

Audio Conferencing for Writing

Recently I began to use an app on my iPhone called Voice Memos.

My kiddies were in full blown inquiry mode and beavering away over their paragraphs for an information report. Each paragraph was drafted on a separate inquiry sheet and handed in for conferencing. They needed to follow this writing cycle;

1. research and take notes on the sub-topic
2. draft your  paragraph
3. discuss your paragraph with your research buddy and edit
4. conference with T
5. type into class Google docs account then drag into T folder for typo check
6a. research next paragraph, or
6b. retrieve T checked paragraph from Google Docs for publishing into presentation mode. the middle of all this frenzy....I got sick. Oh no!
My trusty iPhone to the rescue.

I took their stack of draft work home and read them into voice memos. I gave oral feedback as I went and saved each one by name and subheading under the 'custom' option. I then shared each one by email to my work email account.
Mine would have been called e.g. Matt P2 causes. At first it comes up with the time of the recording and you need to re-name under custom . 

Once they arrived into my in-box, I could save each attachment into a folder on my desktop as they were already correctly labeled. They come through in m4a format.

I uploaded this folder to the school server where the kiddies could access their feedback and went home to crawl back into bed, under a pile of tissues.

Under my wonderful relief teacher's supervision, they took their paragraphs, red pens and headphones to the computers to listen to their feedback and make edits.

The joy was being at home in bed and seeing their work begin to appear in the Google Docs account in real time, as they began typing up their edited paragraphs. I could then correct their typos for them from home, as soon as they were done, so that they could move onto their next step.

Now some of you reading this will be quite skeptical, I'm sure. From my point of view, here are the benefits for the students, as I see them:

1. students receive their conference privately through their headphones
2. they can pause, rewind, re-listen to the feedback while editing and even come back and listen again if  they were asked to go away and add more detail, to ensure they were on the right track.
3. the conferences can be recorded after classes are finished and multiple students can work through their feedback at the same time, the next day (depending on the number of devices you have in your room).
4. this also avoids students leaving you after a conference and immediately forgetting what they had to edit, despite the notations you made on their work :)
5. students make their own corrections, not you, that way they own it and there is a higher chance of it crossing over into their typing / publishing.
6. they listen to an informative feedback model and will hopefully develop the skills to provide feedback in a similar way, when buddy editing.
7. the inherent stress of being with the person while they critique your work, is also removed
8. it slots easily into Daily 5 with an authentic 'listening to reading' model

Would love to hear what you think so please leave a comment. Have you used anything like this in your class? How has it worked for you? Please comment below :)

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Super Speed Maths

Today I want to post about a cool way to practice Basic Facts in your classroom that doesn't involve paper and pen and encourages mental arithmetic. Chris Biffle from Whole Brain Teaching shared this resource a few years back and it just sat on my hard drive till this term. Such a shame, now that I see how much the kiddies are enjoying it.
This is my old copy. I believe it has been updated now to include Fractions too.

I have a few reluctant/slow writers that know their facts but just don't achieve on timed written quizzes, so I wanted to give something different a go.

We started with each student gluing the first level of facts and the matching answer sheet into their books (1 per page and side by side). There are multiple levels in the resource.

They work with a buddy. Person A gets 60 sec to read out and answer as many facts as they can. Person B monitors on the answer sheet. If a wrong answer is given, person B says "Beep! its x, go back 2 spaces". Person A then resumes 2 spaces before the incorrect answer.
Sorry if pics are a bit blurry. I cut them from the video.

When the timer buzzer rings, person A records a small 1 beside the last fact answered.

Person A now immediately gets a second go, with the aim of beating their first go. If they do so, the reward is to highlight off a row of facts at the top of the page. Tomorrow they start on the row directly below the highlighted one.

Repeat with person B.

I also gave out the STAR sheet that they record the  coordinate of the last answer given each day (the box where they write a small 2), to monitor their progress.

I have loaded up a short video (quicktime) of it in action today, on my classroom wiki page for this term. Feel free to visit and leave feedback here.

You can also watch a Chris Biffle webinar about it here here on You Tube but be warned, it is long (almost an hour). The resourse is available FREE* for download on their WBT website.

* resources are usually free with the pro visor that you share about WBT to your teaching community.

Monday, 22 October 2012

The Art of Frank Stella

As part of our - How We Express Ourselves - unit, I searched the internet for motivation to do something different in an artist study from your usual VanGogh, Picasso etc.

That's when I came across an image of some unusual looking student artwork based on American artist Frank Stella.

That little image motivated the following unit. It looks absolutely WOW when mounted up on your classroom wall for display, or in a public area in the school, because of its 3D nature. I wouldn't do it with kiddies younger than 8/9 though. That is the age group that is represented in the resource so older kiddies would yield a more graphic result.

This is what it looked like in my room:
The great thing  was that my class learnt about colour theory along the way. I incorporated fractions and  patterns in Geometry too.

It was so much fun that we have repeated the unit again. My class particularly loved the final part of cutting and gluing the sculptural shapes. They were very creative with this part and so good at helping each other as they got to that part. Because of its segmented nature, students could pull it out and work on it for about 30 min each day, or completing one section at a time.

I have put it up the 53 slide unit on TpT so please take a look. I designed it in landscape format so that you can project each step up for your kiddies to see. Its in full colour and jam packed with photographs. I would love for you to try it and send me some feedback. Click here to be taken to the unit on TpT. It is at 50% off till Christmas.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Elements of Art

One of our IBO units is called - How We Express Ourselves. At year 4 we developed a unit around around the central idea:
People use many different forms of expression to convey their uniqueness as human beings.
An inquiry into the ways we express ideas, feelings and values.

The unit encompassed an art history timeline, up-skilling on the elements of art, a visit to the city gallery and researching a famous artist of choice. Students produced a brochure about their artist and exhibited art work they created, in the school art exhibition. A pretty full-on unit for 6 weeks.

I spent hours and hours scouring the internet for ideas on teaching the elements of art and accumulated them in a slideshow for my students. I am now slowly tidying up these resources and including samples of original work from my students and own daughters, and then posting them onto TpT.
You can find them in my store by clicking on "SEE ALL" on the Teachers Pay Teachers button to the right.

These are the two elements that I have posted so far.

Let's Learn About Colour:
Let's Learn about Line:

There is one coming on Texture soon.
I have put these up at an introductory price of $4.95 till the end of this year. Happy Christmas everyone !

Friday, 19 October 2012

Sharing your photos

As many teachers do, I am constantly snapping away in my class. I end up with folders and folders of photos and videos. Some I keep as a record of lessons and use for motivation for the following years, others I may include in resources that I create.

Often I wish to share some with parents and went on the hunt for a site that could so something creative with the way your photos can be displayed. So I went searching...

I came across

This site offers to compile your uploaded photos in many ways. You can upload 20 at a time and store them on your FREE account. I created this collage from 11 snaps of our calendar art lesson today. Sure saves heaps of time by only uploading 1 image to our class wiki.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Book clubs for the bored reader

I had a great afternoon reviewing reading programme ideas by Below is one of her videos from You tube. You can always learn something new and find ideas to keep your classroom programme fresh for your students. Earlier this year, I had a (shall we called it a) point of difference with a colleague around reading programmes for 8-9 year olds. She was coming from the point of view of K-1 and was still expecting my older students to be given readers selected by me for daily reading, as opposed to students self-selecting with guidance, books they wanted to read. A big philosophical difference for me. Keeping in mind that this was personal mileage  material we were talking about, not material for the teacher guided comprehension strategy learning tasks.  Glad to see many 'expert' reading teachers out there agree with the premiss that when a learner wants to achieve something (in this case read a story / access information), they will be motivated to do what is necessary to achieve that goal. And - BONUS - make better progress doing so than being passengers on a teacher directed reading train. I guess what I am trying to say is that a reading programme is a multi-leveled, multi-faceted thing and its wonderful to read about so many quality ideas shared by teachers around the world.

That's my little rant for today :)

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Daily 5 Tracking

At the moment we are doing the Daily 5 - Read to Self & Read to a Buddy - together as a whole class, all at the same time. But eventually I'd like to move it to the independent realm. With this in mind, I came up with the following tracking sheet. Its good for 2 weeks if you read 5 days a week. Ignore the last two rows in each table if, like me, you read 4 days a week. (my 5th day is specialist day - Music, PE, Spanish etc).

The Read to Self has a Stamina column where the student can reflect on whether they 'got lost' in their book for the full 5min (tick all 5 boxes)
For Read to Buddy, I have found my students have continued with their own chapter book for this session so, instead of recording the book title again, I want them to reflect instead on the feedback that their 'coach' gave them (remember 2 stars and a wish?)
At the end of 2 weeks, students can write a reflection about how they went over the fortnight. Honestly in the recording needs to be emphasised for this data to be meaningful /useful to them at reflection time. Here is the Fortnightly reflection sheet.
If you would like to use these in your classroom, you can download these for FREE here at my TpT store.
Please let me know how you get on by leaving me  a comment below.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Daily 5 Listening Centre Follow up

Expanding the Listening Centre in my Daily 5 programme is my next job at the start of the new term. For the last couple of years, my students have enjoyed listening to the entertaining stories of Canadian author - Robert Munsch. You can explore his website for yourself here. Click on the BLUE BOOK. This will bring up 'Quick find' on the right beneath the book images. Choose a story with the up/down arrows. Then click GO. A media player will pop up. You will fall in love with these stories.
Later I added the ever expanding site - Studyladder - to this activity. In the Literacy section of this site, there is a reading section. The digital books are leveled and students can choose to turn the speaker on. The stories are followed by comprehension activities, both on-line and printable. You will need to open an account for Studyladder in your area. I use the New Zealand site at:

To follow up the listening activity, and to encourage listening with purpose, I devised the following activity pack.
After writing it, I remembered that the British spelling we use in New Zealand differs for some words in the US, so I made a second copy with US spelling and bundled them into 1 pack. You can grab it here at my TpT store.
 Here is the contents page and a sample, free for you to enjoy.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Bookmark websites for Students

Digital research is now a standard part of any inquiry based classroom. However, for primary school children, teachers spend many hours searching out websites with appropriate content for their students' reading ability and the topics they are looking at.
But how can we collect these sites without having to bookmark them on every computer in the classroom? And when your computer time is restricted to time in the school computer lab, this problem is even more pressing. I have posted two options on the eLearning reflections page that I have used with success.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Internet safety

New resources for internet safety from Teacher's Pet. Free to download HERE

First Sale on TpT - Yay!

Today I made my first sale on Tpt. Woop! Woop!
I am so excited to think that someone else likes what I make and now will find my resource useful. Thank you for your support. I just realised I never posted it on my blog so here is the resource on the eLearning Reflections page.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Times Tables

I make a big push to cement timetables in the year I teach (year 4) and we spend the whole of the second term on it, term 1 being about addition and subtraction basic facts. I made a Keynote for each set of tables to support the Visual learner and read them out as well. See more about times tables and resources I use, on the Maths Reflections page here...

Chunky Monkeys

I posted about Word Families earlier. Go to the Literacy Reflections page to see photos I have loaded up about this Word Work activity.