Saturday, June 30, 2012

Blogging with students? Yes please! (Even the little ones!)

Just want to point out... You don't want to miss this one. If you don't have time to read the entire thing, scroll to the bottom and bookmark or pin the links. You'll be glad you did later!

 Also, if you don't make it all the way to the bottom, this is the host I am seriously looking into.

If you are reading this, chances are that you don't need to be convinced of the benefits of blogging. Half of you probably have your own blog, and the other half at least get to enjoy the ideas people share. Although I completely understand the benefits of blogging for teachers... I did need a little convincing about blogging for students.

I was lucky enough to attend Southwest BLC last week. It was three days filled with an overload of information. I expected the presenters to be telling us how to integrate technology in teaching, but really it was about good teaching. Yes, they explained how technology could support that, but I was very happy to hear how much they stressed that technology is not everything. It can be helpful and engaging, but it has to be integrated in a way that it adds to the curriculum. I think that too often, technology can be used in a way that it really takes away. It needs to be seamless!

There I am in the middle... just 8 days after my gallbladder surgery!

One of my favorite presenters was named Kathy Cassidy. She has first graders that she blogs with. I was so impressed! The whole time I was thinking how I could have done it with my kindergartners last year. Here is Mrs. Cassidy's class blog. You can click there to see exactly what her students are doing and posting.

It surprised me that she used blogging more like a digital portfolio. Really, it was great for me to see that I can combine blogging and a digital portfolio next year. With a digital classroom next year, I am expected to have my students create digital portfolios. I'm so glad I attended her session!

Here are some of the cool things I noticed on Mrs. Cassidy's blog:

  • The main page is the teacher blog. This is where I imagine keeping parents updated with pictures, videos, etc.
  • On the right side, there is a list of names that link to each of her students blogs. Notice that she lists first names only!
  • Her blog counts how many "reads" they have. How motivating for her students to see how many people are actually looking at the blog. Talk about a global community!
  • People comment from all around the world.
  • She has a map widget on the right side that can show the students exactly where their readers are from.

Although there were so many cool things about her blog, I was concerned about the students' privacy. You see, I had a blog this year for my parents to be updated on what was going on in the classroom, but I made sure it was private and only they could see it.

I thought, "How is it okay to show the whole world videos of the kids?" I also wondered, "Are the parents really okay with their students' portfolios being available for the whole world to see? Aren't they going to compare their child to others?"

Despite my concerns, she managed to convince me that it's still a good a idea. First of all, her students are still protected. At the beginning of the year, she tells the parents her guidelines for protecting their privacy and shows an example of the blog from the year before. (I plan to show hers as an example of what I'd like to do.)

Here are her privacy guidelines:
  • No student last names anywhere. (If a parents comments and leaves a last name, she will not approve the comment, and she will delete it. She is serious about no last names.)
  • The only place she has pictures of the students' faces is on the main teacher page. 
  • She never has student names associated to these pictures or videos on the main page.
  • On her student pages, she never shows student faces. You may notice in some of the videos that you hear their voices or see their hands, but no one will be able to match a face to a name.
  • Parents already compare. She has never had anyone complain, but she knows that parents already compare their students to others. I'm sure you've seen it just like I have at open house. They already know if their child is at grade level, below, or above.
  • She approves all comments and posts before they are live on the blog.

After hearing her guidelines, I realized that I was convinced and now I've got to figure out what blog host I'd like to use. If you are interested in starting blogging with your students you'll want to check out these links:
Be sure to check out the links above. I couldn't wait to share these great links with you! If you passed over it, please go back and read the privacy guidelines I listed. As cool as all of this is, I think we need to be protecting our kiddos first. 

I'll keep you updated and let you know what host I choose. I am hoping that some of you wouldn't mind getting involved in commenting on my student's blog posts to keep them motivated in blogging for a real audience. Can't wait to start!


Monday, June 11, 2012

Digital Learners

Part of my job next year will include collaborating with others and using technology in order to help develop our district's model of a digital classroom. I just finished an online lesson to prep us for our training, and I really enjoyed one of the YouTube videos we were asked to view. It is less than 5 minutes, and I encourage you to watch it. It is pretty powerful!

Some of you may watch this and are sad to think that you don't have the resources to teach this way. I want to point out that moving to a digital classroom can happen in baby steps. If you need resources, you can always write grants or work with a site like Donor's Choose. That's how I got 3 iTouches to use in my classroom!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

My Summer To-Do List

 Ahh... summer! It's that time of year when we can kick back and relax a bit. It's that time of year when we can look forward to the next school year with high hopes and expectations. It's that time of year when we can finally tackle those projects we've been pinning on Pinterest!

Although people always comment on how lucky I am to have the summers off, I find it funny how much of the summer I actually spend working. Something about working on my own time is perfectly fine with me! Here's my summer to-do list. I wonder how it compares to yours.

1. Organize those pesky bulletin board letters (Just finished this actually, you can check it out here!)

2. Finish creating and post some freebies and for sale items on Teachers Pay Teachers and Teacher's Notebook.
Here's a little preview for you!

3. Get my gallbladder out... boo! I can't believe that I'm 25 and have gallstones! Oh well, better to have it out and not mess with it anymore.

4. Attend lots of training! Call me a nerd, but I love to learn new things. I especially love to go to conferences! I've got trainings lined up to help me with my new job title next year... Colleen Patton, Third Grade Teacher, Dual Language, Digital Classroom! Lot's of stuff packed in there... Looking forward to it, but I'm still not sure what it will look like. That's a lot of change for one year.

5. Read and get ready to host chapter 7 of Guided Math by Laney Sammons. Brenda over at Primary Inspired has put this whole thing together. I'm super excited to get started!

6. Tackle these Pinterest projects:
  1. Create a Hula Hoop Tent for my classroom.
  2. Line those milk crates I use to organize things.
  3. Find new table baskets for community supplies in my classroom next year. Probably from Hobby Lobby. :)
  4. Make some cute hand sanitizer bathroom passes.
7. Relax with my sweet husband!

How does that compare to your to-do list?

Hope you get yours done, too!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

End of the Year Beach Week

I can't believe how quickly this year has flown by! Isn't it funny how it seems so long when you're right in the middle of it, but when you get to the end it seems to go by in a flash?

When I found out that I would be teaching 3rd Grade Dual Language next year, I decided I needed to have fun with my kinders. I have a feeling I will be in 3rd grade for a while! So, I came up with Beach Week! I sent out an invitation and planned out an activity for each afternoon. Check it out, and maybe you will find some ideas for next year. :)

Beach Snack:

We made this with pudding, crushed graham crackers, blue sanding sugar, and gummy fish. It was inspired by this pin.

Beach Ball Signing:

My students LOVED this! Even though it was almost the end of school, they were very willing to write their name 20 times. I remember telling them at the beginning, "This could be your beach ball, so you better do your best job on your name. Or, this could be your beach ball, so you better do your best job on your name. Or, ..." I got pretty good results that way! :)

It was inspired by this pin. In case you are wondering, yes, I blew up all of the beach balls before with help from my mom. Then, I carried them in trash bags to school. I told my kids they could take the beach ball home that day if we deflated it, or they could leave it at school and their parents could take it home from the awards ceremony inflated the next day. I could see beach balls flying everywhere on the bus and didn't think inflated beach balls going home would be such a good idea... :)

Beach Awards:

The students made awards folders like these to hold all of the awards they received:

I just love how they all look a little different!

We do our awards in our room and provide refreshments for the parents. 

I really enjoyed my end of the year with my students! I hope you enjoyed/ will enjoy yours just as much!