Monday, 27 February 2012

Permission to Pin

I am very new to this pinning business but it appears to be a fun, quick and easy way to share and organise ideas. Just what we teachers need!
I would love people to pin my ideas. If you think something on my blog is useful to you, it may be useful to others too, so why not pin it and share the ideas?
Copyright and other ethical considerations are a serious issue. I try very hard to be a good role model for my own students with regards to copyright ownership and teach them explicitly that ideas, images, music etc belong to people and we can't just "take without asking". This is going to be a huge thing for them in the future.
The ideas I share on my blog are there to share, so please, share away!
And if you really like my ideas, then follow my blog and encourage others to follow me too. :)

Saturday, 25 February 2012

A Favourite Edu-App: iMovie for iPad2

One of my favourite educational apps for the iPad2 is iMovie. The iPad version of the program is pretty simple so it is easy enough to use with children without them getting too carried away with extra features, but there are enough cool things that kids can do with it to allow them to unleash their creativity.

The first time I used this app with my students was last year with my Year 4 class. They made very simple movies using still images that they took using the inbuilt camera and then recorded their own narration for the movie while they watched the images playback. It was super simple and the children really enjoyed making the movies and watching each other's movies once they were done.

On that occasion we used some of the "dress-up costumes" from the RE cupboard to re-enact the bible story "Jesus calls the first disciples". As a group we planned the storyboard and worked out which images we would need, then they posed for each scene and we took photos using the iPad camera. This meant that the photos went straight into the camera roll and appeared in the iMovie app ready to be dragged in. The students had control over the length of time that each image played so they could decide how much narration they needed for each part of the story.
One of the creative students then went on to sing her own song on another recording track so she had music as well. This is what is so great about creative apps- the children are not limited by our ideas and they can teach and inspire each other to go further than I might have imagined on my own!

This year I am getting these same students (now in Year 5) to assist my Year 2s to make short iMovies about the lifecycle of their chosen plant or animal for our science unit. I don't want to restrict the amount of information the Year 2s can tell me by having them write everything they know. I am expecting they will find talking about it easier than writing so this should give me a better indication of their knowledge of life stages.

I am also planning on using iMovie to record my students reading for my own records and assessment. I think it will be great to have a short sample of their reading from now and a few other times throughout the year so I can see how they are improving.

What apps do you use? Join my linky party to share our favourite apps.

Join the Edu-Apps Linky Party!

I am hosting my first linky party!
It has taken me ages to work out how to do this so hopefully I have it right...

I want you to tell me (and the rest of the blogging world) all about your favourite educational apps.

My kids are really loving our new iPads and we already have a number of apps they like to use. When describing educational apps, there are two main groups (IMHO): educational games and creative apps.

Educational games are great fun and are a motivating way for students to get plenty of practice at basic skills (like spelling and maths facts), and although they tend to live at the bottom end of Bloom's Taxonomy, they certainly have a place and have been a huge hit amongst my Year 2 students.

Creativity apps are more flexible in their application and can be used to challenge children to apply, synthesise and critique - moving right up there on the Bloom's scale!

Please link to this Linky Party and share your favourite app or apps. It would be great to blog about how you use this in your classroom so that we can all help each other to use this new technology to transform our teaching and help our students reach greater heights!

Assessing Calendar Work

In order to see who meets the standards for the Year 2 Australian Curriculum for Mathematics, I have put together a Calendar Quiz for students to complete.

To celebrate the end of this work on calendars, students will work with a partner to create a page for our class calendar. We will use this calendar in our room this year and by writing some of our favourite memories on it, it will become a memento of our journey together.
You can download a free template for a blank calendar page at my TPT store.

The following table shows how this can link to the Australian Curriculum in Year 2 for Mathematics and English.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Calendars, Months, Seasons and Colours!

We have been learning the days of the week, months of the year and now the seasons as part of our beginning of the year work on Calendars.
Great minds must think alike because Kylie over at Down Under Teacher has been doing the same topic. Check out her blog for even more ideas!
The Australian Curriculum for Mathematics requires that students can name and order the months and seasons and use a calendar to identify the date and determine the number of days in each month.
I have made a simple worksheet that requires students to write in the months of the year and identify the seasons. You can download it for free.

I am working on a quiz sheet that will require students to use a calendar to answer a series of questions. When I get it done, I will put it up too.
My kids are going to work with a partner this week to make their own page of a class calendar that we will put up in our room to celebrate the end of this part of our learning.

We have linked our study of seasons of the year to our cross-curricular priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures by learning about the seasons in Arnhem Land through reading the great picture book: Ernie Dances to the Didgeridoo by Alison Lester.

The students really enjoyed the story and it lead to some great discussion about the seasons we experience in Queensland compared to places that are much colder or hotter.

Because we are a Catholic school, our discussion of seasons has been a great segue into learning about the Liturgical Seasons too.

We have constructed a display in our room which focuses on the different colours of the seasons.

Yesterday our fantastic Assistant Principal, Michelle, came in to talk to the students about the special colours of the liturgical seasons. The children enjoyed having a special guest speaker.

She used an experiment with milk and food colouring to show the different colours. The children thought it was fun to watch the colours swirling in the bowl and we had a great discussion about the "pictures" they could see within the patterns. They surprised me with their deep thinking about the colours and the seasons.

I love it when all of the different things we are learning about tie together so beautifully!

Have you been learning and teaching about seasons? What have your students enjoyed?

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Writing Animal Reports

My class have really enjoyed the work we have done over the past few weeks about animals. We (my teaching team and I) have decided to give them a go at writing their own animal reports.
I think they will need a lot of scaffolding. I have a few students who can write confidently but just as many who are still struggling to read basic sight words and can not write sentences that I can read without them there to translate. Some of them have a long way to go this year if they are to meet the standards in the Australian Curriculum for Year 2, so the more help I can give them to get there, the better.
In order to give the students the support they will need I have created a suite of resources this weekend.
The collection is based on the use of icons for each section of the report. I used a similar system a few years ago when I taught Year 1 and it worked well so I have developed the idea a bit further.

I have created a Powerpoint presentation to introduce the icons, a collection of animal note cards with keywords and phrases about ten different animals, and three different scaffolds for student writing that I can use in different ways with different students.
You can check out the collection at my TPT store.
I have made the three scaffolds freebies so that people can pick and choose what they think will work best for their own class.
If you download them and use them I would love some feedback.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

You Know You're a Teacher When...

Kindergarten Lifestyle is hosting a Linky Party!

Sometimes there are things that only other teachers "get" about you. I know that when I am with my friends and some of us are teachers and others are not, we have to try really hard no to talk about work the whole time.

My teaching team gets together to socialise quite often and it is always an exciting moment when we discover that we haven't spent the entire night talking about work!

I think it's great that we love our jobs so much and I think we are very lucky to work with other such dedicated and collaborative professionals, but sometimes the "teacher" in us comes out even when we don't mean it.

If you want to link up, head over to Kindergarten Lifestyle.

You can download the pic here.

Practising Addition Facts

Having taught Year 4 for the past few years, I know that parents and students are aware that students need to "learn their tables". The problem is, the focus on needing to know multiplication facts outweighs the focus on addition and subtraction facts which are just as important.

It is vitally important that children can recall basic addition and subtraction facts quickly and accurately. This only happens with practice. We are revising and practising addition facts in class this term but there is only a limited amount of time in the school day and in order to become proficient at addition and subtraction facts, most students need a lot more opportunity to practise.

The Australian Curriculum identifies four proficiency strands in Mathematics. One of these is "fluency". Fluency is the efficient recall of basic facts and concepts, and this certainly includes addition facts.

It is important that children understand the importance of knowing these facts so they will be willing to put in the effort required, but it also helps to provide some suggestions for fun and/ or simple strategies for practising basic facts.

There are many cheap/free apps available for iPhones/ iPads/ iPod Touch, as well as some fantastic websites that you can access for free.
The aim is for speed of recall so look for a game that doesn't have too much "story" that takes away from the practice of facts. Some games take so long between questions and allow an unlimited time so there is no sense of urgency to come up with an answer in a reasonable time and the child could play the game for twenty minutes and only answer a handful of problems. This is unlikely to produce efficient recall of facts.

The Math Training DS app is a good game that will intuitively adapt to the level of your student and set achievable goals for them to reach. There is a you tube introduction here.
The game is relatively expensive (compared to an app or free website) but it will grow with your child and goes well beyond the expected level for Year 2. It suits children who are competitive against themselves because it works on setting personal bests then trying to outdo them.
It gives good feedback about your child's progress but it is fairly simple and not at all glitzy, so children who only like bright colours and fun storylines in a game might be uninterested.

Of course, the time that you are able to spend with your child practising facts is incredibly beneficial too. Playing good old-fashioned board games like Monopoly and Snakes and Ladders provide many opportunities for children to practise adding. Two dice games are best because as they roll the dice over and over, they get quicker at recognising the dot patterns (this is called subatising) and adding to find the total.

Asking your child five quick facts in the morning during breakfast, in the car on the way home and while you are cooking dinner is great practice if you can make it a regular habit.

Playing cards are great for using to invent your own simple games that practise addition (and later subtraction and multiplication facts). For example, you could play a game similar to "Snap" in which the child has to say the total of the top card and the card they place down each time. If it makes a specified number (eg 10) then it is played as a "snap" and the fastest player to recognise that the total is 10, wins the cards.

How do you practise addition facts with your child?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Teaching with the Brain in Mind

I have been reading plenty of things from the Whole Brain Teaching program and implementing the bits I like in my room.
I am so happy with the 5 Rules and the actions. My kids knew all the rules by Day 2 and are still keen to keep their dear teacher happy. (They keep checking to make sure that I am - they are so cute!)
I am also using Class! - Yes! with lots of success.
The Teach-OK! is not working as well as I would like. I think I need to work harder on this one.

My teaching colleague showed me an attention getter today that she had come up with and I told her how impressive it was because it is whole brain teaching too.
She has modified the usual "Stop, Look and Listen" sing-song (which most of my kids echo and then proceed to ignore) to a short, sharp, "Stop, Look, Listen, Think" with simple actions. I like the actions because the students actually do have to stop what they are doing and it seems to switch in their brain enough that they do turn and look.

I have also used a sing-song repeat to great effect with my Year 2s where I extend the Class-Yes! to an "Are we ready?-Yes" when we were doing repetitions in both Maths and in our science experiments.

If you haven't seen the Whole Brain Teaching site yet, I recommend it. If you are implementing the suggestions, which bits are working for you?

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Creative Inspiration

I found a site with some great ideas for using basic software such as PowerPoint and Word to create student presentations beyond the basic flat, printed piece.
The website is called Print, Cut, Fold.
You can of course purchase their book and get many more ideas and templates but the few ideas they describe on their web page are enough inspiration to get started.
I am wondering how I can adapt some of these to make them simple enough for my Year 2s.
When I come up with something I will let you know.
I love their halo idea - it would work well with lifecycles. If we did this just using cardboard and not bothering with the computer side, it would be simpler, but I kind of like the idea of them creating something cool on the computers too.
I am working on a template for a lifecycle wheel and a folding concertina book too, but now this cool website has given me further inspiration. I might try one of their ideas too!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Science with Mealworms

We are having a lot of fun learning about growing and changing in our Science unit.
The unit is designed to support the Year 2 Science in the Australian Curriculum and so far my kids are loving it.
This week we read the book "Guess the Baby" and have started playing the game in our class.
We also had our buddies (Year 5s) come to help us to measure our height, weight and head circumference and compare these to our size when we were a baby.
We have started learning about mealworms and have made predictions about how we think they might grow and change.
Next week I plan to conduct some science experiments and introduce the concept of a fair test as well as the scientific process to the students.
To this end, I have created a series of experiment templates and put them together in a mini-unit available from my TPT site.

I have also made a PowerPoint presentation which can be used alone or in conjunction with the unit plan.
The PowerPoint introduces students to the idea of being a scientist and focusses on the idea of a fairtest.
I am really looking forward to doing some "hands-on science" with my students. I hope you find the PowerPoint and unit useful too.