Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Giving Tree

As I reflect on my learning in EDU554, I recall an amazing story titled, The Giving Tree, By Shel Silverstein.
The giving tree [Book]
Watch the Video
The Giving Tree (image retrieved from)

This is a story about a tree that continues to give and give and give without expecting anything in return.  The young boy takes and takes and takes until there isn't anything left for the tree to give.  The story concludes with the boy being overwhelmed by all of his wants, and decides he must now rest on the left over stump...and think...and reflect...

This story reminds me of the many resources we as teachers have at our finger tips.  We are the "little boy" who will take and take and take all of these resources and put them on a shelf for future use.  Until one day we decide that those resources aren't what we really want so we seek out new resources, better resources.  And those older books, articles, and magazines go untouched and underappreciated.  So the tree (our professors, learning communities, Personal Learning Networks, Parents, Adminstrators) give us new resources (technology) to use.  So you see, the greatest growth of an educator is to not just take all of these resources, but decide how can we implement them so we can grow new trees (new learning for our students). 

So we begin with a small seed that is planted in each one of us as educators.  How we decide to nurture this seed is up to us.  Will we decide to implement these new technolgies in our daily classrooms?  Or will we forget to water, give space to grow new ideas, and provide sunlight in a loving and caring environment for our learning to grow? 
I decided to nurture my seed! 
I began by implementing a variety of technologies to implement in my classroom.  I have planted a seed of excitement for learning new technologies in each one of my students.  This excitement spread to other teachers who are now planting this same seed.

It is my inspiration from "The Giving Tree" that will foster this learning, and continue the use of technology so that in future learning, my students become more attentive to task, involved in their learning process, and become a successful 21st century thinker.  I know that my students will not be the little boy who takes and takes and takes, or the tree that gives and gives and gives, but instead will be the seed that can grow, and be planted in others in a cooperative learning environment.


Silverstein, Shel. The Giving Tree. New York: Harper and Row, 1964

Wah, Elaine.  The Giving Tree (Video).  YouTube, 2007.
      Video retrieved from:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUDBrz16Irk&feature=related

Friday, May 27, 2011

So You Think You Can Dance?

Why learn a new dance when so many are still dancing to the same song?

I am sure you have heard many of your colleagues say just this...Why teach my students technology standards...it won't help them on the achievement tests, or teach them how to write, or help all of the behavior issues of little Johnny?!  The speaker of this statement is clearly saying, "I am a digital immigrant, and I am not comfortable with fixing something that isn't broken."  However, this statement couldn't be more false! 

In the educational system we are seeing more and more behavioral challenges, the need to differentiate instruction, the need to maximize instruction to a group of students with limited attention to task, and the list goes on.  It is so important for educators with a knack for technology to help facilitate other colleagues to take the plunge, or "learn a new song and dance".

I recently met with my second grade team to completely revamp their original "safe" poster making lesson on animals in Ohio habitats.  In order to get them on board I created a web quest and showed them how easy this instruction is to implement in the classroom.  I used my class as the model classroom.  I brought two other classes and their teachers into my room to demonstrate the lesson.  The students and teachers watched in amazement.  The teachers were especially excited to see the students remaining engaged in their own learning, the amount of differentiation available, and the excitement that previous research lessons have never created.

Then we broke the students up into cooperative learning teams.  There they used this web quest to create a "fact file" brochure in Microsoft Publisher.  The students took complete ownership of their learning, and demonstrated their learning in the printing of their final product.  Parents, teachers, students, and the principal were shocked to see that second grade students could create an informative document using a program that previously was geared toward adults in a professional world. 

At the conclusion of this project the two teachers who chose to stay with the poster product decided, that although they used the web quest for the student research, next year they would be pairing all students up to complete a product like we had created.  It was a success!  So the dance continues.  As I continue to learn more in my course at Indiana Wesleyan University, I will continue to find new steps in the "dance" we know called Teaching!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Do Not Google This In Class!

Wait, Stop, Do not go any further before reading this!  What you are about to read is EXTREMELY important to utilizing the internet in your classroom!  In a recent example of integrating technology into the classroom, I stumbled over a water cooler story about a classroom example of what NOT to do.  
The teacher began by introducing the unit of research using tradebooks, informational texts, magazines, and the internet.  Texts, as you can imagine, give you exactly what you are expecting, but are limited in what each will offer.  The internet is highly engaging, and offers endless towers of information, and are child-directed.  This could include videos, interactive games, images, articles, blogs, text, interviews, and the list goes on.  However here is where you must BEWARE!  When researching a subject you must be careful what exactly you are having the kids research, as well as, where they are looking for their information.
Mrs. "B" was having her students research animals; adaptations, descriptions, food cycle, habitats etc.  This sounds harmless, but here is where it gets interesting. Because the internet has such a wealth of information, your student may be linked to information that is completely NOT what they are looking for.  Several of the images that appeared for animal adaptations were highly inappropriate.  She also mentioned that after pulling up an animal video on youtube, the video to follow as a reccommendation was Britney Spears, "Slave."  Of course that showed up because of the albino boa constrictor used in her video.
I am sure teachers have endless experiences in which this type of situation has occured in their classroom.  So our school adopted an internet search engine called nettrekker.  This is a search engine that is safe for students because of content provided, as well as, tiering the readability, and content so it is specific to the child who is researching.  You can learn more about this search engine by going to http://www.nettrekker.com/us
With all of the infusion of technology into the classroom, students are using the computer for typing more than they used to.  However, the skills of typing are not being taught due to computer lab funding being cut.  Instead of focusing on standards or skills of teaching cursive, should teachers begin implementing instruction on typing?  Or could this be a homework assignment that the students practice on their own time?  There are several free typing practice websites out there for this instruction.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Feel Free to Use or Lose

Uses of technology in the elementary classroom;
Type to Learn 3:  Beginning with a strong foundation of the keyboard is important in the fluency in your students technology adventure.  My school uses a program called Type to Learn 3.  However, if you don't have funding to provide this resource there are a ton of free resources on the internet.  These can be given as assignments, or used in the classroom.  This is one free site that I found when googling learning to type.

PowerPoint:  This is a highly engaging program for students.  I use this for their reflection journals; they may write journal entries, type key vocabulary from lessons, and include pictures of their learning.  The students also publish their poetry in a poetry slide show, create books in writers workshop, and even create lessons or assessments on a topic we are studying.

Microsoft Word:  We use this program to type spelling lists, friendly letters, and create timelines or other "smart art" graphic organizers for learning.

I am interested in learning more about blogging, and the use of our district's BlackBoard site.  This is a great tool for discussion boards, access to games we play in class, review of content learned, and update class information, and announcements.

HOW can I make this happen?
  • Seek out other teachers who currently use the BlackBoard site and discuss their uses
  • Attend a professional development provided by the tech team to learn more about BlackBoard
  • Play around on the site, and use my own problem solving skills, or use an online tutorial
  • Ask the students what they would like to see on the BlackBoard site
  • After talking with students, create a top 10 list of favorite learning websites to add to the class list
  • Talk with parents and ask them what they would like to see on the site, and have them create a top 10 list of their favorite parenting sites/homework helper sites/learning sites or resources for their child at home 

Friday, April 22, 2011

21st Century Teaching Skills

My Preparation for 21st Century Teaching/Learning

Kids will always cheer on your effort for improvement!
While on my journey of exploration into 21st Century Teaching/Learning, I came across a website that I find to be extremely teacher friendly.  This website includes resources from other web pages, and even includes templates/tip sheets for implementation into your own classroom.  The authors, Nicole and Donna, give their permission to use these tip sheets freely, and even allow a place for comments for improvement to their site.  It is a must read!


When creating lessons it is important to embed critical thinking skills and problem solving skills.  Begin with something simple that your students can relate to their own personal life.  Building the ability to make self connections to content can only occur when a strong foundation is layed. 

I began the introduction of this by creating a discussion circle format.  We identified the "laws" of an effective discussion; listen to the speaker, respond to their comment before creating a new idea, wait to speak until someone else finishes, praise each other for quality responses, just to name a few.  Having the students define these "laws" will help them take ownership and responsibilities for following them.  After practicing this whole group for several weeks you can trust that the students can follow the laws in small group, less supervised problem solving groups.

I begin and end many lessons with this strategies, and we talk about out strengths and concerns (YAYS, and NAYS).  This is very helpful when implementing cooperative learning structures, and follows closely with the responsive classroom model.  Using these problem solving/critical thinking skills will build an environment where students feel safe to ask for help from the teacher, but mostly each other.  This is easily demonstrated when using our personal laptops.  They share with each other more and more than raising their hand to ask the teacher. 

It is down to the last month and a half of school, and with that being said it is my relief that my class will carry these skills on to the third grade.  Luckily enough next year I will be faced with the same challenges of receiving new students who may or may not have had these skills introduced in their classrooms.  So I will continue to reteach the wheel in the hopes that more and more teachers begin taking baby steps to teaching these skills, so future teachers can focus on implementing this structure vs. teaching this structure.  I am eager to share these ideas with my team because I found out I will be in second grade again next year!  Yahoo, finally a year when I teach the same grade instead of jumping up a grade, and down a grade...No more yo-yo for me...I give that a YAY!


Nicole & Donna.  21st Century School Teacher.  Retrieved from:

eHow Family.  How to Teach Critical Thinking Skills.  (2011)  Article Retrieved From:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Now is the time to begin!

Where do I begin?  Much like standards for students, these standards for teachers will help you know where to begin when implementing technology in your classroom.  My suggestion is to take baby steps!  Don't be overwhelmed.  Just focus on one standard at a time, and if at first you don't succeed, try again!  If you fail to plan, you will plan to fail.

My first baby step was to begin with my students' interests.  I choose real-life examples that were motivating to them...GAMES!  I would introduce the content standard I wanted them to master, and found great interactive games we could all play together.  Normally I would choose a center rotation, but instead I found I had the "whole group" attention while they were working in small groups to complete games online.

Linking these games into my interwrite lesson plan saved me so much time, and the students were motivated for the drill and practice because I eliminated the need for paper/pencil tasks.  I started with an amazing website called http://www.multiplication.com/.  Here I found great interactive games, and videos that explained the concepts.

Start with these tasks first, and check back frequently because I have many more ideas coming your way.  Remember the key here is "less is more."  Once you develop an understanding and comfort with implementing technology, you will be more accepting for the rest I have to share. 

ROAD BLOCKS:  In the event you don't have an interwrite board in your classroom, or individual laptops, start with just a few computers.  Grouping your students into problem solving teams will eliminate the frustration of not having all of the technology you want to have.  You must be creative with what you have or don't have.  If you don't have any student computers, gather them around yours and show them the game.  Then instruct them that they are going to be creating a game just like the one they saw.  They can create story boards and plans for implementation (while secretly mastering the skill needed).

"Fear Not":  Fear not what you don't know, don't have, or can't understand!  Instead enjoy the opportunity to learn from others, create, and ask for help and understanding from within or a higher power.  You must be the leader of your own steps...and remember...BABY STEPS!

As you can clearly see this was my first blog, and I hope from my class at Indiana Wesleyan will teach me how to better express, and share the new technologies out there so we all can take Baby Steps together :)!


International Society for Technology in Education.  Nets for Teachers, ISTE Nets for Teachers: Advanced Digital Age for Teaching (2008)
      Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-teachers/nets-for-teachers-2008.aspx