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More Planet Movies

Here are two more planet movies:

Planet Movies

I wanted to share with you the space activity I did with my students. I had the students create their own planet on Kidspix. I encouraged them to be creative. I had a balloon planet and a planet that only cooked blueberry pancakes. After they were done creating the planet, I printed each child's planet and gave it to them. They then had to write about their planet. I told them I wanted at least 3 sentences but most of my students wrote more. They had a great time coming up with new ideas for their planet.

After they were done writing about their planet, I recorded them reading about their planet using Audacity. Each student had a chance to record. They are now so comfortable recording, it only took 19 students about 20 minutes total to record. I was impressed.

When the student were done recording, I exported their planet pictures out of Kidspix as a JPEG and took the MP3 from Audacity and created a planet movie using Microsoft MovieMaker. Here is one example:

Teaching Space with Bookflix

This week I introduced space with books with Scholastic BookFlix. Bookflix is a book resource that takes a subject and presents it with a fiction and non-fiction book. Each book provides users with additional resources that help students expand their knowledge on the topic.

Since we were learning about space, I had the students begin the day with watching Happy Birthday Moon by Frank Asch. The students enjoyed watching the story on the computer. The story is presented with animation and background music that sets the mood of the story. The students are able to follow along as the narrator reads the story as each word becomes highlighted.

Happy Birthday Moon has follow Puzzlers that help the students build their comprehension questions. I enjoyed the puzzle Which Came First? Here the students place the sequence of events in order. I thought it was clever that Scholastic provided ways for younger users to listen to the direction. The students click on the ear and then are able to listen to what they need to do.

After watching Happy Birthday Moon in the morning, I had the students watch the non-fiction book Updated: The Moon. Here the students were able to physically click through the fiction book on the moon. They could either drag the top corner of the page to switch pages or click the green arrow. Students have the option to read the story on their own or listen as the narrator reads the story. Words are also highlighted through the book. These words are vocabulary words. The reader can roll their mouse over the words and listen to the definition.

There are puzzlers for the non-fiction book as well. One of the puzzles is a word match that follows up with the vocabulary words. There is one more puzzle that compares the two books and asks the students to decide if the statement is fact or fiction. 

I also found that it offers a biography on Frank Asch. I thought it was a great way for the students to relate to the author. Again for young readers, it has the option to listen to the biography or for older readers to read it. For teachers there is also a section to extend the lesson online. Scholastic provides websites that reinforce the lesson on space.

Overall, I was impressed with the product. I will always believe teachers should not let the computer to the teaching but let technology enhance learning. This site does have a free trial that I strongly believe you should check out. There are many stories and many topics to choose from!

100th Day Podcasts

This week, I noticed I haven't done any podcasting with my class in awhile. I decided I wanted to do two podcasts with my students for the 100th day of school. While we were recording our podcasts, I noticed how comfortable they were talking into the microphone compared to the beginning of the school year when they were afraid to talk. Podcasting is just like anything else. The more you do it, the more comfortable you become.

The first podcast we recorded was our class book "If I had $100 I would ______". The students had aIMG_0902   blast coming up with ideas of what they would buy. I had many students ask me what I would buy and when I told them I would buy an IPhone, I had one student tell me that I would need more money because an IPhone cost $200 instead of $100. All I could do was laugh. Below is our podcast. Please be patience as it downloads.

Download If i had $100

Our second podcast was the entire class counting to 100. In the beginning of the school year, I had my students listen to my previous class count to 100. I had many students ask if we could record our class counting. I made a deal with them. I told them when everyone in our class could count to 100 we would record. I had many determine students come to me and count. Before I knew it, my whole class knew how to count to 100. I decided to wait to our 100th day of school to record them. Below is our podcast count to 100. Enjoy!

Download Count to 100

Africa Follow-Up

I wanted to share a website that I found this week while my class was learning about Africa. The website is called WildEarth. This website has a live webcam from Djuma Game Reserve in Africa. Each weekday morning, they have a live bush walk that allows us to follow them as the ride through the African Bush. We had a great time watching the webcam.

Throughout the day, I would have the website on while the students were doing seatwork. When different animals would appear, we would stop and watch. At one point, we watch an elephant eating leaves. I think I was just as excited about the elephant as the students. As a class, we mapped the reserve on Google Earth. We watch as the sun set and the sky became darker in Djuma. We compared the webcam to Google Earth's sun feature.

This website lets Africa come to your classroom. The webcam allows a more meaningful experience because at times, it felt like we were in Africa. We compared Africa's landscape to Florida's landscape. We saw many similarities and many differences. I thought you might enjoy this website. It's free and easy. My favorite :-)

More With Maps

Maps have been what I've been thinking about all week. Maps online, road maps, the rusty globe in my classroom, talking globes, maps of Florida, and puzzle maps. The list goes on and on. I couldn't believe the amount of maps that I could find. Throughout the week, I would introduce the new map and leave it out during our afternoon centers for the students to explore it on their own. Each day, I saw students using magnify glasses to discover the new places on the maps.

After using Google Maps to map out where my students were born, I decided to use Google Earth for our next mapping activity. I just wanted to compare Google Maps and Google Earth to see which one was easier for me to use. As a teacher, I wanted to find something that quick and simple to use.

I found that I enjoyed using Google Earth much more than Google Maps. Google Earth allowed me to enter the place marks quicker and the graphics were more attractive for the students. I mapped out where everyone in our class lived and the location of our school. We talked about who lived the closest and who lived the farthest. The students loved zooming in to see their houses. I felt like images in Google Earth made the activity more meaningful for the students.

I did have to do some changes on the settings of Google Earth. I unchecked most of the different layers located on the left toolbar. There were many layers that I thought would be a distraction for my students. I left the roads, Disney World, and NASA visible so I could prompt more discussions.

My main goal this week was to have the students enjoy exploring maps. I didn't want them to be overloaded with information so I kept each activity very simple and meaningful. I had the students ask me questions when they wanted to know more. I would like to continue more with maps throughout the year. If anyone has any suggestion on how I can include maps throughout the year, please share in the comments below!

Google Maps

After spending a weekend at FETC, I realized how important it was to teach geography to early childhood students. I have always been interested in reading maps and discovering where things were. I started thinking about what made me gravitate towards loving maps and traveling to new places. As a child, I remember exploring maps with my grandfather. I had a world puzzle that I remember doing often. And of course, I played Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? I still remember watching it on TV and singing the theme song!

In the beginning of the week I sent home a note asking parents to share where their child was born. I also asked them to share where they were born too. After receiving the responses, I created a Google Map. Creating a map was very easy but also time consuming. The school computer at school does have a slow internet connection so I think that was the reason why it took a long time. All I had to do was create a Google account and create a new map under My Maps tab.

I mapped the responses and was pleasantly surprised that my planned worked wonderfully. I had students and parents that were born all over the world. It worked out great because I started with the placemark that was farthest away and worked towards Florida. Google Maps has a feature called placemarks where you can describe the placemark. Each placemark I titled using my student's name and added mom or dad if needed.

While I was presenting the map, I asked questions like:

  • Who was born the farthest away?
  • Who was born in Florida?
  • Who was born the closest to me?
  • Why do you think most of the classmates were born in Florida?
  • Who was born near an ocean?
  • Who do you think was born in a state where there is snow?

Tomorrow, I will be mapping where each student lives. I asked the parents to send in their addresses so I could create another Google Map of their homes. I thought it would be interesting for the students to read the map and find who lives near each other or the closest to school. I will let you know how it goes!

FETC

This weekend I attended FETC (Florida Educational Technology Conference) in Orlando, Florida. I was especially lucky because this conference was held in my hometown. I had the opportunity to meet educators from all over the country that have the same interest as myself. As soon as I came back to school on Monday, I couldn't wait to start using some ideas that I learned.

The two days I spent at the conference inspired me to do more with my students. I attended one session on Adobe Flash Professional. I have not had a lot of experience with Flash but I was impressed at what it could do. The program gives you another way to present skills to your students. One of my friends who attended the conference won a free version to take home. We were thrilled. If anyone has had experience with Flash, please share. I can use any suggestions.

Another session I attended was on Google Sky. I wanted to attend this session because I will be teaching space soon. Google Sky has many features but I was impressed to find out Google now has Google Moon and Google Mars. Google Moon offers short videos from when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the Moon. I became very excited during this session when they presented the idea to use a green screen with your students. They showed videos of their students standing in front of planets sharing facts. I thought this was an awesome idea!

I also attended another workshop about teaching geography. I especially wanted to visit this session because I am teaching my class about globes and continents. This session shared the idea of using Google Maps. Google Maps has a feature where you can create a map and mark different places with a pin. They shared the idea to use a map throughout the year and mark places from the books you read with your students. At the end of the year, the students can see the different places they travel from reading. I will be doing more with Google Maps this week and I will let you know how it goes.

Saturday I attended an all day workshop on Adobe Premiere Elements. Premiere is another movie editing software that offers many features that Windows Movie Maker does not offer. Premiere makes it easy to edit pictures the way you want it. I became thrilled when I found the green screen feature in Premiere. I can't wait to use it when I teach space.

I left the conference filled with ideas to use with my class. I love learning new ideas especially ones that involve technology. If anyone has any idea they would like to share, please leave it in the comments below. Thanks!

Classroom Blogging

This is the first year that I have done a classroom blog and the response has been wonderful. I started writing this blog in August and feared I would run out of ideas to write about. I quickly realized that I have more than enough to write about. If you are a teacher, you know what I mean. These kids keep things interesting!

I have had the best response from my student's parents. Parents have told me they love reading about what their child is learning at school. Parents who cannot visit the classroom feel like they know what is going on because I have brought the classroom to them. My administrators have complimented on how I have created a window into my classroom for family members.

I have a few tips on how to start a classroom blog. First, be sure to ask permission from the parents from the beginning of the year. In my county, we must have permission to post pictures of students. Second, be sure to link it to your classroom website. If you can, incorporate it into your website. This provides easy access for parents so they do not have to "Google" you. Another tip is to add pictures to your site. Parents love to see their child learning and having fun. Epal is recommended as an easy way to blog with your students from the Tech Tools blog.

I have had many discussions with my classmates about having students blog. I always thought that blogging was for older students but one of my classmates does it with his first grade students. He has his students posting sentences on his class blog. I thought it would be a great writing assignment where the students handwrite the sentences first and then type it into the blog.  I have not tried it yet but I am willing to try it one day. If anyone has blogged with early childhood students, please let me know. I would love to hear what you are doing!

Picnik Photo Editing

I'm going to admit right now that I am a technology geek. There are not many people who would spend a Saturday night playing on the internet and thinking about way to use the website in the classroom. I'm OK with the small problem that I have as long as I have fun. So please don't make fun of me.

Last night, one of my teacher friends came over and we were playing around with the photo editing website Picnik. We were having a blast exploring the site and thinking about ways to use it in the classroom. I later thought that other teachers need to know about this site so I thought I would share it with you.

Picnik is free! I'm sure I have grabbed your attention now if I haven't already. There are some premium features that you have to pay for but I was using all the free features and couldn't believe the amount they offered. There is a section to edit your pictures. The editing section includes the basic rotating, cropping, resizing features but there are more interesting features as well. You can change the exposure, colors, and sharpen the image.

The creating section is where I had the most fun. In this section you can add effects, text, shapes, frames, and more advanced effects. This section offers top notch features that could make a boring picture into a work of art. Picnick has another section called Fancy Collages. Here you can make holiday cards and scrapbook pages.

To use this in the classroom I thought it was a great tool for class books, gifts to the parents, and writing assignments. Older students could easily be taught how to use the effects and work independently. I encourage you to take the time to explore the site. As I was exploring last night, I kept finding new features. Enjoy!

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