Saturday, March 29, 2014

John Green, I Think I Love You!

This week, I finished John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. Thanks to my students, I have now been introduced to an amazing author. Throughout the entire book I highlighted various phrases and metaphors. I don't think I've read an author whose use of language is absolutely inspiring. But at the same time isn't intimidating to read. And did I mention the metaphors?!?!!? I'm a huge fan of good writing and use of language. Holy Cow!

The Fault in Our Stars made me literally laugh out loud and cry at the same time. I am on a John Green kick. The next book in line is Looking for Alaska. John Green! Where have you been in my life?!?

Favorite Quotes Tagxedo

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Must Read Monday

In my 8th grade Language Arts class, according to our Weekly Blogging Schedule, Monday is billed as Must Read Monday. I thought I would join my students this week with a Must Read!

The first Must Read book I finished over Spring Break was Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I started it early in the school year and really didn't get into it. I restarted again over Spring Break while we were on a road trip to East Texas. I finished it in a day! Wonder is such a sweet book about a boy, August, who has a facial deformity. He has been home schooled all his life and when he enters 5th grade his parents put him in a private middle school. Starting middle school after never going to school would terrify me as a parent! Auggie goes through so many challenges throughout the year to just be treated like all the other kids. What I really loved about this book is the different point of views the parts of the book were told from. Of course starting with August and then moving to different important people in his life that year. It's truly a beautiful story and easy to read.

I'm currently reading The Fault in Our Stars due to all the pressure from my students. I keep seeing blog posts from my students who have read it. They are ga-ga over this book. If they love it, I must see what all the fuss is about.

What's your Must Read Monday book?
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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Exciting Opportunity and In Need of a New Template

On Friday, my district Curriculum Coordinator paid a visit. I always like when she comes because I enjoy our conversations. Friday she told me that she would like for one of the 7th grade LA teachers and me to put together a training class for new teachers and teachers needing a refresher to our SSI curriculum. I'm looking forward to doing this for a couple of reasons:

  1. I didn't have training when I first taught this curriculum. It was kind of a "Surprise! Guess what you're teaching this year?" approach.
  2. There are so many places to build on what we already use from Pearson. 
  3. I would like future SSI students to have a great curriculum and teachers excited about teaching this class!
As soon as the state testing is over (April) is when planning for this starts up. I'm so looking forward to it!

New Blogger Template: I'm desperately in need of a new template. Right now I have a free one from The Cutest Blog on the Block. I don't know if I should pay for a new one or continue with the free. That is my dilemma right now. I guess for a Sunday night before the week before state testing that's not too bad. If you have any suggestions of places to look for Blogger templates, please comment below!

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pixton vs. Storyboard That

Today I'm linking up with Technology Tailgate for Techie Tuesday Link Up!

Early in the school year, my students read Lois Lowry's The Giver and created a graphic novel depicting The Hero's Journey. When I first started teaching this unit a few years ago, my students drew their own graphic novels. Oh the complaints! "This isn't an art class!" "I'm not a good drawer!" Even though I reassured them that the content of what they wrote was more important than the quality of their pictures.
Since my district's push is with technology, a teacher friend of mine introduced me to Pixton. She was using it with her kids and they were able to focus more on what the point of this unit was- depicting The Hero's Journey and visualizing. I used Pixton and had pretty good success with it. There were some frustrations, however. After the unit this year, I discovered Storyboard That. It's extremely similar to Pixton.
Let's compare the two!

The learning curve with Pixton comes when you actually go to create the comic. There are so many features including facial expressions and posing of your characters that students can get really bogged down in choosing just the right positioning. The good news is that Pixton has videos that are only about 30 seconds long that are How To videos. My students (8th graders) watched them and were able to quickly figure out how to pose their characters, choose colors, backgrounds, and resize what needed sizing.
Pixton creation

Storyboard That

Storyboard That has the same basic functions of Pixton. I haven't used it with my students this year since I found it after the unit I usually use Pixton with, but I have an idea for using it soon.
Teachers have a dashboard, students use an activation code to join the teacher's class, etc.
Storyboard That doesn't have the same learning curve that Pixton does. The characters and backgrounds can be colored, but there isn't the posing and moving challenges that Pixton has. The characters are pretty stationary in the poses. Storyboard That also provides help for the user. Instead of videos they're still screenshots. Storyboard That works on tablets too! This is huge for my district since next year, our students will be given Dell tablets and will no longer have netbooks.

Created in Storyboard That

Pixton allows the teacher to create a classroom, assign assignments for students to create, create rubrics to grade students, and share with one another privately. Another feature of Pixton is that students can work on their comics together (if working in partners) or alone. I discovered this feature this year when my students worked in pairs with their graphic novels. Students sign up with an activation code or the teacher can enter names. In a 1:1 it takes no time at all to get everyone going.

Pixton isn't free. Depending on the number of accounts you pay for will depend on how much it will cost you. Here in the screenshot you can see for 50 accounts and for 2 months it would cost $42.

Storyboard That isn't free either. The pricing is a little better though!

I'm definitely interested in giving Storyboard That a try. They provide lesson plans to use and webinars and events on technology in the classroom for teachers. I think Storyboard That might be the way to go for me!
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Sunday, March 16, 2014

March Currently- Really Late!

I know March is almost over, but I really need to get back to a regular blogging schedule. To get back in my routine I've decided to link up with Farley over at Oh' Boy 4th Grade for her March Currently.

Without further adieu, here is my March Currently!

Listening: I'm listening to the sound of the rain and the thunder. I'm so happy that it's raining and it's not sleet or snow. We've had so many yucky days of snow and ice that I'm pretty happy about the rain. Plus it's a sign of Spring on its way {hopefully}!

Loving: I love the time I've had this week with my family. We spent the time in East Texas with my husband's family. We were able to see our daughter blossom with everyone. She's so close to talking it's hard to believe that she's almost a year and a half. Where does the time go?

Thinking: Even though I have a day left of my break I'm thinking about all that needs to be done when I get back. The papers I should have graded, the books I should have read, etc. My mind never really stops thinking. I'm thankful I'm able to blog to get my thoughts out. 

Wanting: Desperately wanting another Spring Break! Too bad I'm not going to be able to make the Jamaica trip with my husband at the end of April. That would have been perfect. Oh well! Summer is only a few months away.

Needing: A personal assistant. I'll take an intern too! I just need someone else in my life to help me manage everything that I have on my plate.

????????: Yeah...

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Blog Topic Ideas For the Classroom

Spring Break is pretty much over and now that it's coming to an end I've had some time to reflect on some things in my classroom. A few weeks ago, I received a comment from a visitor asking what I have my students blog about. I thought that I would create a post about just that. Now that I've been in school for 3/4 of the year and my students have been blogging for that length of time, I feel that I can truly discuss blogging in the classroom.

One thing that I think is very important when your students are blogging is that they still have the freedom to choose what they write about. This is still writing but just in a digital way! I tell my students that this is their virtual Reader's/Writer's Notebook. With that, I do require certain things from them on the blog because I do know that:

  1. Some students are not yet ready to produce their own topics
  2. Writing assignments for my class are required from time to time
The writers in my class treasure their blog and have truly taken ownership of it by personalizing and freely sharing, posting, and commenting on one another's blogs hoping to develop the writing connection with one another. Other students need a little more help from me in what I want to see as far as writing goes. 

Exit Tickets- A great way to give your students an idea for a blog post is have them write a post in response to what happened during class. Just like a written exit ticket it can be about anything!

Quick Writes- This is a great way to start class when students first arrive. They complete a quick write over the topic that you want them to write on for a few minutes. This can be posted on their blog and then allow each other in the class to comment on these. Commentary is such a great tool for each student to see that their words are powerful!

Create a weekly blogging schedule- I have a weekly blogging schedule for my students to use if they wish. Every day of the week has a different theme like "Text Talk Tuesday." The way this works is if a student is blogging on a Tuesday and they need something as a topic they can use Text Talk Tuesday. Text Talk Tuesday (for my Language Arts class) just means that their blog post focuses on a piece of text where they thought it was meaningful/insightful/powerful, etc. and they quote it and then respond to it. This is a way for me to bring in reader's responses without calling it a reader's response. 

Book Reviews- If you teach a Language Arts class this is a great way to get the conversation about books going! Students love to talk about the books they've read (good or bad!). Just make sure you've gone over book reviews first. You may even keep a template for how to write a book review as a resource for them to follow on the blog.

Embed Web Tools- Sometimes I use web tools like Padlet to start discussions in my class and then my students are able to interact with it. I've also had my students use Smore recently and embed the Smore directly into their blog. Students learn how to embed basic HTML code this way. It really opens up what they're able to do and share. 

Keep in mind- if you can write it on paper, you can probably find a way to share it on your blog.

For more ideas check out my class blog here! Have a great week everyone!!

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