Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Toys in Action Stories Using Book Creator

Summer is just ripe for new ideas.  Teachers are out in the world, looking at things other than their classrooms, and have a little time off.  That's often when those creative teaching ideas that have eluded us in the midst of curriculum, meetings, report cards, and end of year activities have a chance to percolate to the top.

On the third day of iPad Media Camp, I struggled to come up with an imaginative way to use the Book Creator app in my classroom.  Today, I came across a blog post from Christy Venosdale about Toys in Action stories, stories about toys that go out in the world and have an adventure.  I looked up from my desk and saw a beaded fish that I made with my children years ago, I looked outside at my garden and saw all the colorful flowers and, voila, an idea was born.

Book Creator (free, by the way) is very easy to use:

First, I came up with my story line.  My fish gets to leave his bowl and go on an adventure in the garden, unaware of what dangers might lurk there.

Second, I took my fish out into the garden and, using my iPad, took the photos I thought I might need in my book.

Third, I opened Book Creator and created my book.  With Book Creator, it was very easy to import photos from my camera roll.  I added some hand-written script, I added text, and I added sound.  I played with the options for colorful pages.

Fourth, I opened my book in iBooks and could read it, complete with sound.  I can already imagine my third graders writing books for their little buddies. My students will practice their fluency when they record their books.  Their kindergarten buddies can "read" the books by touching the sound icons.

Finally, I tried to find a good way to share my book.  I want my students to be able to easily share their books with friends and family. It's not easy to export the book with sound; it is easier to export it as a pdf.  I successfully exported my book as a pdf to Edmodo, which I may use as a learning management system this year.

Probably the easiest solution I found to share the book with sound was in a blog post by Kristen Wideen.  She recommends creating the book in Book Creator, then taking screen shots of each page to open in Explain Everything (not free, but worth every penny).  The narration can then be added in Explain Everything.  The Explain Everything book can be saved as a video on the camera roll and added by the students to their Kidblogs (maybe using EasyBlogger, Jr.) 

Digital portfolios for students -- Three Ring

I was reviewing my notes from the iPad Media Camp I attended the last three days and was reminded that Wes Fryer had very briefly mentioned a tool named Three Ring when asked about how to create digital portfolios for students.  I had never heard of it, but I looked at the website tonight and this looks like a wonderful, easy to use tool.

With Three Ring, it will be very easy to make a student portfolio of anything that can be photographed or videoed using my iPad.  I went to the website, signed up for a free account, and set up a dummy class. Using my iPad, I took a photo of mock student work, tagged it, and in less than a minute it was on my computer.  The image was only stored on my computer, not on the iPad.  Wondering if I could use the image, I discovered that the image or the url could be copied from Three Ring.

Next, I tried a short video.  This, too, quickly transferred to my computer.  By opening the video in a new window, I would grab the link, insert it here, where it could be shared.  I wondered if I could upload the video to my blog, but the best I could do was link to it.  Again, the video is not stored on my iPad so is not there taking up valuable space.

Here's a how to video from iPadagogy.

Something not mentioned in the how to video is that Three Ring can also be used to share artifacts with parents if parent emails have been associated with a student.  This could be a very nice tool, especially for sharing videos since they can't be viewed directly from my blog.  

Third Graders to Blog with the World

It's funny how things happen.  I was at an iPad media camp in Texas this summer and happened to sit by a very nice Southern lady.  We went to lunch together and realized that we both went to the University of Texas at the same time and that we both lived in the same building at the University of Texas and that we both teach third grade.  No wonder I liked her.  Even better, we started talking about the blogging we do with our classes and when I said the challenge for me was to get "real" people to comment on our student blogs, she had some fabulous solutions to that problem.  Long story short, this year, our students will participate in two great activities, the Global Read Aloud Project and Quadblogging.  We will be blogging with students all around the world -- really.

The Global Read Aloud is a project facilitated by the passionate Pernille Ripp, a 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin.  Here she explains in her own words what the Global Read Aloud is:

The premise of the Global Read Aloud project is surprisingly simple, and can have surprising results. Students from all over the world listen to the same story being read aloud to them, then they connect with other students to talk about what they have read.  I'll know more about the activities we will do with the story and what students we will connect with as the start date of October 6 approaches.

Quadblogging is another great way to connect with students from around the world.

The idea was conceived by David Mitchell, a Vice Principal at a primary school in the UK.  He is a big fan of blogging with students and has participated in research that shows both how effective blogging is and how important it is for students to have an authentic audience for their work. He began to connect schools in groups of four (thus the quad) and set up schedules for one school per week to be the focus school who would publish blogs to be read and three schools a week who would be the assigned commenters. To date, over a quarter of a million students have participated.  I anticipate that we will start quadblogging during the second half of the year.  I am very, very excited for our class to be part of this!

The One and Only Ivan - Teaching Writer's Craft

Over the summer, I read The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate because it was the Newberry Award winner for 2013.  I loved it so much that I decided that it should be one of our class's read-alouds this year and I am recommending it to everyone who reads YA books.

Here is a brief summary from the author's website:

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he's seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it's up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

You're probably hooked already, but this book has so much more to offer third graders than a good story.   It's a sweet story (with nuances built in for adults).  It's filled with humor, but also prompts critical thinking.  There is character development.  There is suspense and surprise.  These traits help make The One and Only Ivan an award winner, but these traits can often be found in good books.

What is unusual about this book is the accessibility of the author's craft in writing this book.  The writing is spare.  Each sentence seems to be carefully crafted.  It is very clear that each sentence, each word, is important.  Ivan doesn't waste words, but he thinks humans do.  In fact, he says, "Humans waste words.  They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot."  Sentence formation is important.  There are complex and compound sentences, but there are also lots of short, simple sentences.

The book uses figurative language liberally.  It is almost poetic.  Applegate uses personification, similes and metaphors beautifully.  Here are just a few nuggets:

     "I liked having sips of soda poured into my mouth like a bubbling waterfall."

     "The [cake] frosting peaked and dipped like waves on a tiny pond."

Can't you just taste the sweets?

The One and Only Ivan is not told by a third person narrator, but is told from Ivan's point of view.  This forces the reader to consider how things appear to Ivan and if he agrees with Ivan or not.  It makes the reader think about the author choosing to tell the story as Ivan.

I have read and re-read this book.  I am looking forward to teaching with this book.  I just wish I had the funds for every third grader to have their own copy.