Tag Archives: writing

Book Creator ideas for lower primary

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Let me preface this by saying these are not JUST for lower primary. Heck, you could use them anywhere, but the examples I’m including are from a lower primary perspective.

Story Journal:

I had an ASD student, who brought in his Zhu Zhu pet Zak and treated him like a class member during Term 1. This student HATED writing with pencil and paper and wasn’t overly fussed by using the iPad to write either. Enter the iPad camera and Book Creator. I told him that I thought it would be cool if Zak kept a diary of his adventures at school, so Zak could show all of his other Zhu Zhu pet friends…(bear with me, I know, it’s a bit funny that I was fully communicating with an inanimate object). To my joy, the student went for it and thus, this book was created. You’ll notice that the spelling isn’t correct – we were focusing on the sounds her could hear, rather than perfection, and these words became words we focused on spelling correctly later. You’ll notice that some of them aren’t even full sentences, but as he recorded himself speaking, he was experimenting with expression in his voice. Small steps for some, HUGE steps for this student.

Procedural Writing:

Like cookbooks, procedural texts are often better with photos. This same student (who still hated writing during Term 3) was reluctant to write a procedural text on how to make a Magnetic Fishing Game that all students had created in class. I instructed him to use Book Creator to get the job done, but typing was too much for him. He verbalised all of the wording direct to me while I typed – word for word (and he checked, his reading skills were fabulous). He took all of the photos by himself (except the ones where he featured – I was told exactly what to photograph!), to match the text on his page and then he recorded the audio for each page. This was emailed straight home to mum and dad – he was so proud and shared with the class in the afternoon.

Maths Journals:

This year with my Prep class, I am hoping to integrate technology more into authentic learning, rather than stand-alone lessons. Using Book Creator on the iPads, the task for the Preps will be to create a Nature Number Journal – by taking the iPads outside, creating all of the numbers to ten using natural materials, photographing it, recording the audio and writing the number, to reinforce correct number formation.

If you don’t already, follow Book Creator App on Twitter. They post great lesson ideas and resources!

How well do you know your students?

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Last week I spoke to @alice_eliza on the phone and she was telling me about the activity she did with her Year 5 students. I’d heard of the activity, but hadn’t jumped on the bandwagon yet.

She simply asked the students write on a piece of paper to finish this sentence,

“I wish my teacher knew…”

I’d seen lots of photos that teachers had posted using the #iwishmyteacherknew hashtag and after speaking to @alice_eliza, I decided to give it a go on Monday with the Year 4/5 class I taught. I teach this class once a fortnight, so I do have a relationship with them but I thought it would be a good insight for their classroom teacher. I promised them that I wouldn’t look at their pieces of paper…and I would keep them face down until I handed them to their teacher.

So how well do you know your students? As I handed over the stack of papers to their teacher, she was gobsmacked with some of the things she found out – some sad, some concerning, some hilarious and some interesting facts.

She verbally shared a few of them with me (I’d promised I wouldn’t look at them)…and there are two that stood out to me – and her!

#1. I wish my teacher knew…I am afraid of NAPLAN.

#2. I wish my teacher knew…I’m not really a fan of minions. (This teacher has a theme in her classroom – minions! Minion money as a classroom reward system, minion posters, minion pictures…you name it, she’s minion-ed it!)

But you know what? This teacher read every single one – and then proceeded to write a note back to every single student, acknowledging that she now knows something that they chose to tell her.

Personally, if I were in that class, I’d feel that my teacher knows me so much better. Not because I wrote a note to tell her something…but that she wrote back to me and made me feel important.

How well do you know your students?

Do they feel like you do?

 

Reluctant Writers

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This year I have been faced with a significant number of difficult students in my class. Let’s face it, no class is a ‘breeze’. There are individual nooks and crannies to every single student, however the Year 2 class I am teaching in 2015 seem to present a myriad of ‘specialities’.

Trying to get my Year 2 students to write is challenging. I have a student with Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), who needs physical stimulation, eg a trampoline, massage, yoga, roller-board to shift his ‘writing brain’ into action. Despite his Occupational Therapist providing me with a wide range of suggestions – some days there is no progress made – the ‘Defiance’ part of his diagnoses comes into play, well and truly!

Add to this mix a boy who has autism and hates any fine motor activities, a girl who has super low processing speed, a boy who has the attention span of a gnat…it’s really like any regular classroom.

Trying to write descriptions last week was my chance to really find out what I could expect from these students.  I started with a 3 step process:

  1. Plan
  2. Draft
  3. Publish

I decided to eliminate the editing stage, to try and build that success. I helped edit briefly, but wanted to show the children that publishing work is fun and something to be proud of.

We used this template to brainstorm words to describe our lunchbox.  I then modelled how to write the words into sentences as a whole group activity. Once the students had written their sentences, it was time to publish.

Using the iPads, students worked in pairs to use PicCollage to describe their lunchboxes. I gave (and modelled) the following instructions:

  1. Take a photo of your partner with their lunchbox.
  2. Open PicCollage and add the photo of your partner.
  3. Add text boxes with your descriptive sentences.
  4. Change the background etc.

PicCollage - Version 2

There were a few types of students – those who completed all three stages with ease. Others who did the planning, but found the drafting too draining. There were others who planned and drafted, but weren’t overly interested in publishing – they’d prefer to spend their iPad time doing whatever they like, rather than a set task.

  It was a fabulous activity to include all students.

What other strategies/apps do you use to encourage reluctant writers?

Making QR codes unique.

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When I was first introduced to mobile devices in 2012, QR codes were becoming all the rage. We now see them on drink bottles, food packaging, newspapers and posters.  

Our staff received some PD opportunities to scan a QR code to find out information, watch videos, complete scavenger hunts and be directed to websites.But there were still reservations on how teachers could use them, why it was a big deal to actually create their own and if it could engage students. Being one of the first classes to have access to iPads, I set about making sure that my students knew what a QR code was, how to use it and eventually, how to create their own.

History:

One of the first ways I used QR codes was to develop a ‘flipped classroom’ type of approach.  Instead of sitting down as a class and watching short video clips about different aspects of Australian Explorers and the First Fleet (AusVELS, Level 4 History), I chose 6 Youtube clips that I felt were appropriate.  Using the QR stuff website I transformed these Youtube clips into QR codes, printed and laminated them and placed them around the classroom. Armed with a worksheet (yes, sorry, a worksheet!) to record some of their findings, and one iPad between two students, I asked my class to try and find the answers to some of the questions on their sheets by watching the videos. Students could watch the videos in any order, watch them as many times as they liked, fast forward, rewind and pause the video and work collaboratively to try and find the answers.  I gave the students about 35 minutes to watch the videos and work on their answers. This lesson provided such rich conversation at the end of the allotted time and posed many questions, many of which were ‘Can we make our own videos?’.

Click on the following for the worksheet and the QR codes I created.

Vocabulary work:

As part of our Daily 5 program, my students participate in a Word Work time. This focuses on spelling, parts of words and other other uses of words. When we were focusing on synonyms, I felt that there could be a more engaging way to teach my students new words rather than whipping out the thesaurus.

I decided to use the Web 2.0 tool Bingo Baker, introduced to our staff by @LyndaCutting. The creator fills in the bingo board squares with the ‘answers’ (in my case, synonyms) and then generates a Bingo Baker Board. By copying the Bingo Board link into QRstuff, it creates a QR code that produces a randomly ordered bingo board each time it is scanned!  So no two students will have the answers in the same order!  I then inserted the QR code into Microsoft Word, along with a list of words that matched the ‘synonyms’. To play, each group member scanned the QR code and the bingo board would be displayed on their screen. As one of the group members called out a word from the list, (e.g. ‘hot’), the rest of the group members would have to search their board for the matching synonym (eg. boiling). Once they’ve found it, they simply tap the word on their device screen to mark it.  My students loved playing this and I’ll definitely be making a few more versions with different synonymns!

For a copy of my Synonym Bingo, click here.

Writing:

When writing narratives this year, my class used the Storybird website. As their final products were so amazing, I wanted them to be able to include their narratives in their Portfolio to take home, as well as self and peer assess their story. I created a video using Explain Everything for them to watch and listen to, in order for them to turn their narrative into a QR code. Once they printed it twice, one copy went onto their assessment sheet for their Portfolio, while the other one was blu-tacked to our outside window for students from other classes to come along and scan to read. To see how we managed it all, click here. The (very simple) assessment sheet can be found here.

I have also used QR codes in Maths for self-checking answers, but haven’t created anything for those lessons myself. I’m aiming to get my students to do a lot of the QR code creating this year to highlight and demonstrate their own maths skills!

If you have any engaging QR code ideas, I’d love to hear about them 🙂

Brainstorming…

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Brainstorming. Concept maps. Word Webs.

Knowing the thoughts of our students is vital to ensuring that they are learning something, no matter how big or small, but technology now offers us more ways of doing that. There are many Web 2.0 tools and Apps available to present student knowledge in a way that is organised, eye-catching and reflective.
Here are some of my favourites that I use in the classroom, as well as some that I have tinkered with personally.

1. Popplet Lite

Popplet Lite is a simple, free iOS App designed to help users map their ideas and thoughts. It uses text boxes which can be colour coded for grouping, but also has the ability to insert photos from the camera roll or via the in-app camera. My students love using Popplet, as they can include photos of themselves, move the ‘popples’ all around the screen and choose a variety of colours. Popplet Lite enables the user to export the Popplet by email or saving to your camera roll.  I ask my students to email the jpeg file of their Popplet to me, so I can monitor their progress and upload it to our class blog. The full version of Popplet ($5.49) allows the user to create more than one Popplet and save it to the device you are using.

2. Mindomo

This free iOS & Android App is another mind-mapping tool. It allows you to enter text, link text boxes together, insert photos from your camera roll, the Mindomo library, Bing and Flickr, as well as a variety of icons to add to your map. Furthermore, hyperlinks can be added to the text, which enables more information to be included. Sharing the maps can be done via email, or exported as an image or a PDF. My students like using this App, as it provides them with a few more editing and formatting options. I haven’t signed up with an account for Mindomo, although for some extra options you may need to.

3.  Wordle

Wordle is a word cloud Web 2.0 tool which is free to use. It simply requires the user to input text, which may be copied from a website or blog, or inserted word by word. I love using Wordle, as it the size of the words depends on the frequency of that word within the slab of text. I use it for predicting the theme of texts, or for brainstorming the opinions of students to look for similarities in their thoughts. The Wordles are able to be printed to display or saved as a PDF, and the font colour and direction can be edited easily.

4. Tagxedo

Tagxedo is another Web 2.0 word cloud tool, with similar capabilities as Wordle. One option that Tagxedo offers is that the text can be arranged in a shape, chosen from the gallery.  The colours and fonts can also be changed, with some really funky fonts available. Tagxedos can be saved to be emailed, or printed for display. The only trick to entering your text is to do it via the ‘Load’ button!

5. Cloudart

This is an iOS app ($0.99) which creates beautiful simple word clouds, like Wordle and Tagxedo. I like this app because it is so simple to use, especially for students. The word cloud can be saved to the Camera Roll, as well as being emailed or printed, which is fantastic for keeping a record of students’ work samples.

There are probably many other apps and tools used for creating mind-maps and word clouds and I’d love to hear what your favourites are. Let me know!