Thursday, May 5, 2011

Currently,our second grade students created a collaborative story using Each week our classes added a page to the story and we have just finished our first one. Please click on the picture below to view it.

This has been a wonderful experience on many levels. First, the students were very excited to be able to create a story with this website. Second, they were even more interested in seeing what the other class wrote each week! They are also proud of what we accomplished. We had just finished a descriptive writing unit and tried to apply those same guidelines to our pages of the book. We can now share it with our parents and school. has many applications in the classroom in addition to working with another school. You can use it in a reading center, having different students add pages to the story. The students can also do one with their parents. I even have two classes in our school doing one together. Storybird lets you set up a class and even create assignments for your students if you would want to use it on an indivdual basis. Whatever way you use it, your students will really enjoy the colorful, expressive pictures and story possibilities!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

If Nothing Ever Changed, There'd Be No Butterflies....My Trip To Merton

If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies.

~Author Unknown

Over my spring break, I visited Merton Community School District in Wisconsin for two days. Merton is a school community that I am already very passionate about because of the connections that Van Meter has made between classrooms, students and teachers.

Last fall, teacher Chris Reuter and I met on Twitter after I sent a tweet out looking for special education teachers to connect with. Chris responded saying that he could speak with the special education teachers at Merton and see if they were interested. Later that week I connected with Mark Flynn, superintendent, and Lisa Morowski, elementary technology teacher. We jumped right in and connected several classrooms in different grade levels with fun activities using Web 2.0 and social media.

And that was just the start of something very special between our schools. It wasn't just about the learning taking place. Our connections were also about the relationships and friendships.

I loved what I saw at Merton. The classrooms are full of life spilling out creativity, energy and amazing relationships between the teachers and students. I was invited into each classroom where everyone was so gracious and thankful that I was visiting.

I love how the students at Merton feel comfortable connecting and learning with one another and their teachers. Couches and other comfortable furniture ia a common scene throughout Merton. In Sarah Kasprowicz's 5th and 6th grade classroom the students enjoy sitting on the couch while collaborating about their next group project. This really added to the feel of community within the classrooms.

One of my favorite rooms was Mary Shannon's 5K classroom. Being an artist and in love with creativity, I was in heaven!

The first thing I saw was this amazing sculpture made out of recyclable materials and LOTS of packing tape. A little boy with crazy curly hair told me all about how they built a spaceship and had me look into different tubes or "spy scopes". Right next to this sculture was a cardboard box on the floor. When I was in the room the first day, two kids were in there talking all about constellations and what they had learned. I wanted to stay here all day. And Miss Shannon....amazing herself.

In Chris Reuter's classroom, the 6th graders were watching a video clip about Chernobyl. He told me that they were learning about something else, but when Chernobyl came up in the conversation the lesson took a turn. He quickly found a video on Safari Montage and engaged the students in a backchannel on their netbooks while watching the video. The students were engaged and enjoying the backchannel conversation.

Chris and I have worked together this year in connecting not only his 5th and 6th graders, but other teachers as well. His students are currently working on Voice Threads with the 6th graders at Van Meter. I hope that this relationship between the students continues to grow. Chris, Sarah, Julie Gilbert, and the other 5th and 6th grade teachers at Merton amazed me on how they work together and are bringing rich experiences to their students and community.

The highlight of the two days happened in Catherine McMahon's 4K classroom. Catherine has been connecting with Christa McClintock's kindergarteners at Van Meter throughout the year. My son Hagan is a student in Christa's room and she just happens to also be my cousin. So I have a little bit of a personal connection to these children at Merton as well. I couldn't wait to meet his Merton friends and take a photograph of them holding the gingerbread Hagan had created during their two month, multi-curricular unit Christa and Catherine did this year. (You can read about and see their incredible Gingerbread Tours here.)

As they were playing on the carpet I sat down next to two students and asked them about the basket of iTouches sitting next to their couch. A little girl asked if I wanted to see her use one and I said yes. As she went to get one of the iTouches, two more students went and got them out of the basket too. She came over, sat on my lap and started telling me all about the 100 different apps they have, how they have their very own cart, and the "cool" math game that is her favorite. The boy sitting next to us showed me his favorite game which involved dressing up people in all type of clothes. They could hardly wait to show me what was next.

It only took a few minutes for three more students to join us. Another girl came up and asked if she could play too. The little girl on my lap said, "Sure you can play a matching game with me." She quickly went to that app and they started playing the game together, taking turns and helping one another remember which squares matched.

I have seen Hagan and other children use iTouches before but never in a classroom setting like this. It was evident that they were comfortable and felt successful using the technology. When it was time to come to the Smart Board for a group activity, the students put the iTouches carefully back into the little basket and made sure they were all organized. Two of the girls looked at each other once they were organized and one said, "Bye bye, iTouch." It was priceless.

During these two days I brought ideas and thoughts to Merton. We spoke about change. We spoke about the similarities and differences between our schools. We spoke about 21st century learners and the type of environment we will need to create for them. Not only did I give them ideas for change, they gave me so many ideas too. I cannot wait to go to school on Monday to tell everyone at Van Meter what I learned. This will help us change and grow too.

So as you walk by something beautiful like a clay butterfly, spaceship made out of milk jugs and paper towel rolls, an iTouch in the hand of a five year old, or a student teaching an adult how to edit a movie on their laptop, remember these words once again...

If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies.

Change can bring incredible opportunities to our students, teachers, and communities. Embrace change and look for ways to support and enhance what it brings to your school. From these changes, we will create the spaces and opportunities that our young people need.

Thank you Merton. You are a very special place....with a whole lot of butterflies.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kindergarten Gingerbread Tours

The kindergarten classes at Merton and Van Meter worked collaboratively on gingerbread activities during the months of December and January. Mrs. McMahon and Miss McClintock read to their classes various gingerbread stories over Skype. Each student came up with their own version of gingerbread people. Some examples were a cowboy, Mario, princesses, and snowmen. We had parents make us gingerbread cookies and bring things to decorate them with. Afterwards we made a graph showing where everyone took their first bite. The legs were the winner.

We plan to share this with the kindergarten classes and talk about how our day is the same or different at Merton and Van Meter. ENJOY the videos of the gingerbread touring our schools.

This is the video of the gingerbread touring Merton School.

And this is the video of the gingerbread touring Van Meter School.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Our Pets

This morning I had the opportunity to help with another great Van Meter Merton connection! Our second grade teacher recognized the need for differentiation of her math unit. Three students who knew the material well and did not need to sit through the lesson again were instead assigned an alternative math project. These students created a survey about the pets students have both in their class here at Merton and their friend's class at Van Meter. Each class completed the survey and the three students used the information to create a game for their class to play.

Once the information was collected, the three students created a column graph showing their data results. Using this graph, they then created questions such as "How many more dogs does Van Meter have than Merton?" Each question also had an answer written on the bottom of the card. The rest of the class will be given a copy of the column graph and the questions to play a math game. I came in and helped the three students use Excel to create the column graph and then use Power Point to make question cards. All three students were very engaged and excited about this project! What a great way to make another connection between the two classes!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Our New Van Meter Merton Connect Wiki

With the collaboration, creating, and sharing between our two schools continuing we needed a place to showcase student work. We have created the Van Meter Merton Connect Wiki .

The first project that we will be sharing is the 3rd Grade Glog project that our students created in December about their holiday wishes. The students created these amazing projects using the Web 2.0 tool called Lisa created them with the 3rd graders at Merton and I created them with the 3rd graders at Van Meter. The students will now have a place to look at their friends Glogs too.

As we move into the second semester of school, the connections that we have started will continue to grow. We will be excited to share the work of our students on the Van Meter Merton Connect wiki and hope to inspire others to make similar connections too!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Beyond Skype

As I was helping one of our teachers get ready for her Skype session, she mentioned that someone asked her the value of our Skype. That made me stop and think, because the minute we started planning this connection, I could see the value of the relationship and I even had curricular ideas popping into my head! I also knew the collaborative effort of all our teachers would bring more ideas!

How does this Skype benefit student learning? At first I was going to look at the core curriculum areas that will springboard off our Skype session; but as I started writing this, there is no way to do this without simultaneously discussing the 21st Century skills our students are gaining. The original Skype itself helped foster relationships in our global community as the students are seeing similar classroom situations and meeting new students, some with the same name as theirs! This reinforces the connection with the other class and thus reinforces all the learning that results from this connection. Our Wild Thing videos were a great way to introduce our personalities to each other and a great spin off from the award-winning book “Where the Wild Things Are.” These wild things can now be used to help the students work on developing word choice, by describing their picture through Voice Thread or some other applications.

Our second graders are already writing back and forth to each other as pen pals using a Wiki. This is a great reinforcement of language arts skills while learning to communicate with those outside our community. They are learning about students in other communities (social studies) and using map skills to locate the other school in relationship to ours.

This Wiki will springboard into collaborative projects in many areas. We are already talking about combined problem solving in math, surveying each other to create graphs, and creating a collaborative story where each class contributes alternating pieces of the story. We will start with whole class activities and eventually, the students can do these types of learning experiences on their own with their pen pal. The third grade is planning to create book clubs through their Wiki based on a chosen set of books. Our kindergarteners are exchanging gingerbread men through the mail and photographing their visit to the other school. This will extend off into literature and creative art projects as well.

As educators we know that the greatest learning occurs when there is a personal connection, a personal motivation, to our lessons. The relationships we are building between the two schools are a springboard to all the curricular activities we will do together and I look forward to each and every one of them!