Thursday, March 28, 2013

Presidential Election 2040

When the election season was upon us this school year, I wanted to do something special with my students.  In the past, I have had students write speeches and read them to the class. They have voted for a Class President and the runner up was Vice President.  This year, I took it a step further.  My students first wrote speeches for presidential elections, sharing everything they wanted to do to make the country a better place.  And yes, they were all written in seven year old writing.  I let them feel free to express the changes that mattered to them.  The next step involved my students creating a Voki avatar character of themselves during the 2040 Presidential Election, which was the first election all of my students would be eligible to be president. Each of my students created their avatar and typed in their speech.  We discussed what clothing they might wear, what background they would have and other important ideas.  On election day, we watched each of the Voki characters after the students introduced themselves.  We then ran the election with a voting process, a voting booth, and a ballot.  Each child had the opportunity to vote for who they thought should be president, vice president, and had to share three reasons why they voted for this person.  They could not vote for themselves, and could not state a reason such as: "I liked it because they are my friend."  With these stipulations, my students really voted for people who wrote powerful speeches and would make a great president.  I took the top person voted as President, the 2nd as Vice President, the 3rd & 4th as Senators and the rest of the students were the House of Representatives.  This shared a little of our government and offices with the students, and they were all able to receive an award.  It was a very special occasion for my students, and it should help them remember the election processs for the years to come!  I then displayed the student's work in an interactive display outside of the classroom.

                                    Our Class Bulletin Board Display

Class President: Marlee
Class Vice President: Sierra


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Read Aloud with Accountable Talk

I love doing read alouds!  I have always read aloud books during Reading, Writing, Science, Social Studies and even Math.  I really enjoy sitting down with students and sharing the written word.  I feel that there is a perfect picture book to go with just about every concept that can be taught.  But until this year, I didn't have a specific time in the day that was "Read Aloud" time, where I read a chapter book/picture book and discuss it for many different reasons.  I am not saying I never had a read aloud time of day, I just don't think I used it the best way I could have until now.  Now, I dedicate 15-20 minutes at the end of every day for Read Aloud time.  My students have their Read Aloud Response notebook that they bring with them.  This time of day does not tie in with one specific teaching point, rather I cover MANY different points with my students.  I started this at the beginning of the year, we got into a great routine.  My students now expect this time, look forward to it, and get really sad when we miss this time of day.  What I love the most is students get so wrapped into the books they do not want this time to end.  Each day I use strategies such as Turn-and-Talk, Stop and Jot, and Stop and Sketch.  I honestly think that my students LOVE Stop and Sketch so much, and they are really thinking as they are drawing their pictures to match the text.  There is not much time dedicated into the day for drawing, so a few days a week, when they have to sketch during read aloud, the students' inner artists come out.  During this time, I bring in strategies that good readers use, writing techniques that great writers use, and pull in other content area connections.  Chapter books we have read this year include: Magic Tree House series; Sarah, Plain and TallSkylark; The 13 Clocks; The Stories Julian TellsMy Name is Maria Isabel; and many, many more.  We fly through the pages of chapter books, and my students love to continue reading books in the series, after I start one.  One of my favorite moments occurred when I started The Criminals in the Caymans by Connie Lee Berry, and no sooner had we left the rug, then all the books in the series were borrowed with pleas to take the books home and read them that night.  How can I say no to students who can't wait to read?  Did I mention, I love the read aloud time a day in the classroom?  It's the best time of day to spend with my students, getting them excited to read, read, read!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

KidBlog in the Classroom

Hello!  I know it has been awhile since I have been blogging, but I am back and excited to share about the experiences in my classroom this year.  One of my absolute favorite websites that I have integrated into the classroom is  It is an excellent kid-friendly website that allows classrooms to have a blog and share work.  This year my students have created Voki characters, Glogster posters, and Animoto videos.  It has been my hope that students would be able to share their work and comment to each other about their work.  Trying to find a website that was user-friendly and seven/eight year old friendly seemed to be a small challenge. Then I found KidBlog.  This website allows each of my students to see each others' work and make comments. I have taught my children how to do the "Ladder of Feedback" in a response.  At the start, students would make comments such as "This rocks." and "Wow, cool video" Since we have done lessons teaching children how to value the work, share a concern and make a suggestion, student's have been offering great advice to each other.  It is very second grade friendly and my students LOVE to go on KidBlog.  We often times use this website when students finish classwork, or when we are in the computer lab.  Children are given a whole new purpose and audience to share their work in an online format.  I have also shared the link with the parents in my classroom, so they too can go on and see all the work that is being created in the classroom.  The best part is that KidBlog is also private, and only people with the log in code (students, teachers, and parents) can access our site; so we don't have to worry about children's work being out on the world wide web for all to see.  As an incentive for students to go on at home, if they go on an make five comments on five different students within the week, they get to come to a Monday Lunch Bunch in the classroom.  Children LOVE spending lunch in the classroom and eating with me.  What an easy motivation tool for my students.  I was recently in Washington D.C. to speak with House of Representatives members of Congress about education programs.  While away from the classroom, I was able to write letters to my students and share pictures of my trip and they were able to comment to me and ask questions.  It was great having a connection to my students, even from afar!

Here are a few samples of student comments to each other on KidBlog:

Dear C, I really liked how you explained that the book was enchanting. Nice job using juicy language. I think you could add more facts that are from the book.  love, D

Sk- I think you did a good job on your bio poem because I think you you used good word choice. I think you need to work on different facks about describing Barack Obama. Like famous and attractive, serious, and smart. -W

Dear Ka, I really like when you used wow words!I wonder why you put he feels there should be peace? I suggest you should put more words describing his accomplishments. your friend, Ki

Dear Miss Lak,
I cann’t wait until you get back! Is your mom and sister Jen in that picture with one friend? Did you get to see the president? Mrs.Germain sent in the stories into the post office for the contest. I miss you! what other things did you see besides the Capital Building? Who took the picture? Did you get to go inside the Capital Building? Who was in the picture with you?  Love, S