Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Reflection on: Read, Write, Doc!

I went to the Read, Write, Doc! Enhancing the Reader's and Writer's Workshop with Google Docs, Presentations, Forms, and Spreadsheets session by Wendy Gorton who demonstrated a few tips and tricks for re-thinking writer's and readers' workshop, or as the title of the session indicated, to enhance it. As a grade two teacher, there were some activities that I have simply filed away for "if I teach older students".  However there were a couple ideas that I could see modifying for division one use. In this post, I will reflect on the writing component only.

Writing Practice - The New Writer's Notebook?

Wendy demonstrated how she created a template for her students in Google Document where they would do their writing. She used Doctopus to create this as a Document in each of her students' drives (good-bye Make A Copy and Share back with me steps). Throughout the document were dates for their writers workshop activities.

Currently I have a paper notebook aka writing journal for students to do their practice writing or first drafts. Often the task is a prompt/activity that is glued in to the journal. I also have organizers in addition to the paper notebook. For those activities we take to a final draft, sometimes students use technology, sometimes they do not, depending on the purpose of the activity. 

Why Go Digital?

One of the key themes of the Alberta Summit is think about why you are adding technology to an activity. If you cannot answer why, then reconsider what you are doing. 

Reason One: UDL

Students who require support for writing due to spelling or handwriting are more successful with composing text using a keyboard and spell check. As well, students can use Read and Write For Google to read their writing back to them. This is great for many students, especially English Language Learners. 

Reason Two: Paper, Paper Everywhere

I have tried writing journals and writing folders. Regardless of the organization, keeping track of the various paper copies involved in writing can be a challenge. If composing was all digital, it is less to lose and keep track of. 

Reason Three: Collaboration and Commenting

Once students have developed digital and composition skills, Google Docs provides a simple platform for students to create together. Plus it provides the teacher a record (revision history) of which students were doing the bulk of the work.

Reason Four: "Good Copies"

Each year I have students take some activities to a good copy so students go through the entire writing process. However, the act of recopying by hand a draft with edits and revisions is time consuming and not relevant in our current society. Learning how to edit and revise a digital document and publishing is much more relevant for our students. Plus, it is easy to cut and paste text in Google Docs to things such as Blogger for publishing purposes.

Reason Five: Teacher Neck

Taking 25 journals to and from school to read, comment and/or assess is heavy! Or even more frustrating, when you forget them at home after an evening of assessing! Having access to read student work anytime, anywhere allows teachers to manage time and resources more effectively.

Reason Six: Creativity

Students can be creative with their text (font style, colour, etc) much easier in Google Document than on paper and can do it at any stage of composition. Plus being able to add images (self created or from research) is easier as well. 

Reason Seven: ePortfolios

As more and more schools move to ePortfolios, having digital work to select from is important. 

Routines and Organization

So now that I have established it is worth doing, now to think about how to implement it. One of the things I appreciated Wendy saying was that creating routines is important so the focus can be on writing. That is something I believe and try to practice when using technology in any subject, especially with younger students.  The issue with division one students is keeping those routines simple and time effective - so thankful I learned about Doctopus

Writing Folder

I like the idea of creating a writing folder for each student in their drive that is shared with me. I do not think having simply one Google Document for students to do their writers' workshop in throughout the year in grade two would work for me. So here is what I think the routine in my class will look like:
1. Go into Drive
2. Go into Writing Folder
3. Create a new document
4. Name your document
5. Compose!

If the folder is shared with me, it eliminates the need for students to share individual documents with me. 

If there is an activity that has a specific prompt I want them to use, then the routine will likely be:
1. Teacher uses Doctopus to add Document to each student's writing folder
2. Go into Drive
3. Go into Writing Folder
4. Find new Document
5. Compose!

Wish Me Luck!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Reflection on: Google Apps to Redefine Your Classroom

I went to a session by James Peterson who shared how he uses Google Apps for Education as he moves away from "traditional" teaching methods. He also shared how he redefined his workflow with GAFE (and scripts). While he is a grade seven teacher, he shared some ideas that I can see using in my grade two classroom. 

Make Mistakes

From: Google Apps to Redefine Your Classroom Prezi
One of the themes in James' presentation was that mistakes are necessary. It was a  theme throughout the day, in fact: let kids fail. To encourage students to take risks, the classroom environment has to be a place where kids can "fail". Teachers can model by taking risks.

Daily Math Problem

I liked the idea of a math problem that uses Forms and Blogger. So each student completes their own activity on a form that is embedded in a blog post (that can be graded with Flubaroo) but that allows for discussion in the blog comments. 
He uses a script called Form Limiter to close the form at a set time, but not during class time. This allow students who do not complete the problem during class time to continue to work on it later. He also encourages students to create their own daily math problem. 

How Could This Look In Grade Two?

Perhaps this is only at the substitution stage of SAMR (as it is based on Quest 2000's Problem Of The Week), but I think creating a weekly problem that students can work on at school and at home could transform the task. First of all, by opening it up to something that can be viewed at home, it brings parents into the discussion. As well, if blog comments were used to discuss strategies, problems and ideas around the problem/question the goal does not simply become "solve the problem". Those tasks that are identified for summative assessment could have forms that close by home time. 

Alberta Google Apps for Education Summit Bookmarks - Day One


If you were at the sold out second annual EdTechTeam Alberta Summit featuring Google for Education or know anyone who was, you will know that you leave with acquiring more information and inspiration than you can process. The presenters share many fabulous ideas as well as links. This post contains my favourite recommended links, extension and apps from day one.

Chrome Store Extensions

One recommendation to keep in mind when thinking about extension... As a teacher, you may decide to use many Chrome extensions, however you will probably want to limit the extension you have your students use to around six. 

Clipboard History - keeps your copy/clipboard history so that you can paste a variety items that you copied, not just the last item copied into your clipboard.

Auto Text Expander - this allows you to create a type of technology shorthand for your emails. You create shortcuts, such as brb and the auto text expander will spell out be right back for you. 

Lucidpress in Chrome - this allows you to create more dynamic documents than you can make in Document. When you are in Drive and you select create, go to the bottom and select "add more apps". Search for and add Lucidpress (you can also find it in the Chrome Web Store). Great for newsletters. 

One Tab - Doing research that results in many tabs being open and not sure how to organize all your discoveries? Use One Tab to convert it to a list!  

Chrome Store App

Build With Chrome - LEGO®! Need I say more? 

Bookmark These Links

EduSlam - Inspired from Google Demo Slams, these short (5 minutes or less) videos are by teacher for teachers that highlight best practices. 

Movenote - a way to record voice overs.


SAMR was a thread throughout the day. The image/poster at the end of the SAMR as a Framework for Moving Towards Education 3.0 is a good summary of the framework. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Story Substitution Writing Plan and Reflection

Adding Google Presentation to a Substitution Story Lesson (Grade Two)

Currently my class is doing story writing. I've been using the strategy of using story substitution as a way to teach the elements of good story planning. For the third and final story  activity, I wanted them to take the activity to a final copy. I also wanted them to compose their first draft digitally. Typically I have done this using Google Document. 

Then I got thinking. We are making a substitution story from a book. Why not actually have the student's final copy resemble the original: a book. I did not want to make this an epic process, however. I know there are very creative ways to digital storytelling with younger students. However, my students already have the skills to use Google Presentation.

Step One: Teacher Read Aloud

I decided to try a new book for story substitution this year: Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin. At the end of the book we discussed the elements of the story. 

Step Two: Story Organizer

I modeled the planning stage on the Smartboard. I created a story organizer based on the discussion we had as a class at the end of the teacher read aloud. I suggested that it would be fun to start where the author left off - with the ducks having the typewriter and wanting a diving board. So I modeled how that would look on the organizer. 

Then students were given their own organizers and told to pick a different farm animal to use as their substitution. 

Step Three: Composing Text on Presentation

I put the class substitution plan on the Smartboard and reviewed it. Then I explained we would be making a book for this story and that Google Presentation when printed would be like a book. Again I modeled the process. As my students have used Google Presentation a number of times, I did not spend much time on the technology side. 

I flipped between the plan and our writing and went back to the original book itself with the students as we wrote our substitution story.

As we did it in Presentation, it embeds nicely, so put it on our class blog and below. Currently it is just text, no images. It has not been edited or revised, this is our first draft:

Students then started composing their own stories. The only hiccup is that there is no slide that is "body only" for Google Presentation. As a result, I had students keep it simple by using the 
"new slide" button that adds a slide with a title and body. I will have students delete the title text boxes later.

Step Four: What About My ELL Student?

I have a student who is very new to English and my classroom. I wanted him to participate in this activity. For the planning stage I asked him to choose a farm animal. He selected goat and I showed him that he needed to change cow to goat on his organizer. Then I asked him what that goat wanted: meat. Again I showed him how to make the substitutions.

I am fairly certain he was not ready for story writing. So I typed up the story into Google Presentation (thankfully I am a fast typer and it is a short story). I shared it with him. His job is to go through the story and make the substitutions like he did on his plan. This gives him experience with Google Presentation and allows him to participate in the class activity.

Step Five: Images

I have not decided if I am going to have them add images to make it truly a picture book. I may use this as a story, once students are finished their composing, as an anchor activity. This is something they can work on if they finish other projects early.

Alternatively, I may have them illustrate their book once it is printed with pencil crayons.

Step Six: Commenting

My students have not done peer editing on Google Apps yet this year. I think this would be a great project to introduce this important piece of the writing process. I think I will have them practice on our class story first before commenting on a partner's work.

Step Seven: Extension

I have a number of students who are skilled writers. Not only do they finish a writing activity quickly, but they do it well. I plan to give them mini-lessons on enhancing the text artistry of their story. For example changing the font for the typed notes to Times New Roman and making some of the words bold to add emphasis.

Alberta Curriculum Objectives

2.4 use own and respond to others’ ideas to create oral, print and other media texts
2.4 create narratives that have beginnings, middles and ends; settings; and main characters that perform actions
4.1 identify features that make own or peers’ oral, print or other media texts interesting or appealing
4.1 explore and use the keyboard to compose and revise text
4.1 choose words, language patterns, illustrations or sounds to create a variety of effects in oral, print and  other media texts

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Inspiring Students Through Literacy and Technology: A Best Practices Day

My presentation for Inspiring Students Through Literacy and Technology: A Best Practices Day

Here are the results of the website crowdsourcing:

Story Jumper - StoryJumper is a place to create and discover stories for kids.
SymbalooEDU - organize websites for your students
Black Gold Regional Schools - Engaging Students - Division One  (old link -http://content.blackgold.ca/ict/Divison1/Div1Index.htm)
Oxford Owl - free ebooks
Literactive - online phonics activities, guided reading books
Abracadabra - online reading and comprehension activities
PebbleGo - research activities for emergent readers (currently available through Online Resource Centre until Feb. 14)

Tablet Apps

Popplet For School - to capture and organize your ideas.
Aurasma - augmented reality platform

Someone asked "is there a site that show how to use Google Apps?
Try "Learn the Apps" links from EPSB's Share A Little Help.
Try Create And Save A Presentation  from Google

I was also asked to share some of my playlists. If you go to my YouTube Channel, you can see them there. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Teaching Grade Three

Here We Go....
My First Experience Teaching Grade Three Bloggers!

Yes, I'm somewhat a nerd when it comes to Technology. Not so, when I come to my community of practice (ED TechGroup ) at the blue building in Edmonton. Here, I learn far more than my brain cells can take in!

This year, as I participate in my collaborative work with my colleagues I've committed myself to trying something new. Scary....Why? Because as educators in the 21st century we must move forward and engage in how our students learn.

So I've decided on a class blog! I've read a lot about it here, thank goodness!
I'm going to post my trials and tribulations as I get going...more news to come soon! 
Stay tuned to your computers..you're in for a ride... if not, a really good laugh.