Sunday, November 9, 2014

Continuing the Digital Literacy Conversation

I was up early one morning this week  beginning to write the blog post below when I got a notification that Troy Hicks and Kristin Ziemke posted a response to Nancie Atwell's blog in our Facebook group Digital Literacy Workshop K-6.    I've had a few days to think about both articles and decide  how I wanted to continue with this blog post.  I have to agree with Troy and Kristen that the digital writing workshop in the upper elementary grades is so much more than using a computer as a word processor.  I've written many times about my fourth grade students making purposeful decisions about their digital compositions and articulating those decisions.  When using technology in thoughtful and authentic ways, our students are given one more avenue for both consuming and producing text.  In a true digital workshop, students have choice in how they read, respond, and write.  Sometimes they choose traditional tools, at other times they chose digital tools.  It depends on their purpose and comfort level.  In addition, the ability to receive feedback from others outside the classroom walls is powerful.  Connecting with others offers opportunities to share ideas, reflect, and consider new ideas.  While I do not have much experience in using technology with primary students, I am quickly learning in my new position as a literacy coach.  The teachers in my building are at the point that they want to incorporate digital reading and writing authentically into their workshops.  We are working together to envision and create opportunities for our youngest learners.

I am grateful to Troy and Kristin for sharing their thinking and for starting a conversation.  As educators, it is important that we consider diverse ideas and add our own voices.

Below you will find the blog post I began on Wednesday.  I hope that you will add your voice to the conversation by leaving a comment.

What We Learn About Writing and Writers from Blogging

People ask me if I miss being in the classroom.  Without a doubt, I do.  I miss reading about new ideas and trying them out in my room.  I miss the freedom and flexibility of arranging my schedule to accommodate trying out these ideas.  And I miss having 24 or so students that I know deeply as readers, writers, researchers, and mathematicians.

However, on the positive side, I get to work with lots of different people and kids at my school.  That means there are more opportunities for conversations about reading and writing and my favorite subject...how do we authentically weave digital reading and writing into our workshops.  It's an exciting time for me right now at Scioto Darby.  Teachers are looking for ways for their students to write for an audience that extends beyond their classroom walls.  I am surrounded by people who want to learn and are excited about the opportunities afforded by digital reading and writing.  These experiences and conversations give me time to reflect on what I know about reading and writing and help me refine my instruction.  I am continually learning through this whole process.

Most recently, I've been able to get into some first grade classrooms to get them started with blogging.  This week, I had the opportunity to visit Mrs. Shell's room.  As I always do when beginning a new type of writing, I share some mentor texts.  For that day's lesson, I shared this blog from 6 year-old Em.



Together, we wrote what we noticed and we came up with the following list:

  • Writers can blog about different things.
  • Writers write about what is interesting to them.
  • Writers choose a catchy title to grab their reader's attention.
  • The words tell a story.
  • The picture matches the words.
  • Writers can have a conversation through comments with their readers.
  • Writers can share their writing with people far away.
As you can see from this list, there is some deep thinking going on with these 6 year-olds.  I, for one, am excited to watch them and their teacher as they begin to use technology in other authentic ways within their day.

Thank you to Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche for hosting DigiLit Sunday.  Please visit her site to read other posts about this topic and other ways teachers are using technology in authentic ways.  


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Metamorphosis of A House


Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays.  Please visit their site to read other Slices and leave a comment.

I've been wanting/needing to write this story for awhile and the time didn't feel right until tonight.


It's the first time we've bought an existing home.  Our previous 2 homes were brand new when we moved in. I didn't know it wouldn't feel like home at first.  I wasn't prepared for the unsettledness.

I missed my big windows where light shone through every morning.

I missed my front porch.

I missed my gardens.

I missed the familiarity and comfort I felt in my old house.

I didn't feel like I was at home.

The call came while we were in Cleveland visiting my mother-in-law who was back in the hospital.  We were crawling into bed, the clock inching toward midnight when my phone rang.

It was hard to understand Annie's voice, "Mom, it's Zach.  He's in trouble and he needs you."

Ten minutes later, Keith and I were in the car headed for Cincinnati, a 5 hour drive at least.  We stopped half way to pick Annie up from college.

My heart raced.
My hand clung to Keith's.
I prayed.
I cried.
I prayed even harder.
I willed the car to go  faster because all I wanted to do was hold my son and see that he was ok.
I was more scared than I'd ever been as a parent.

We arrived a little after 4:30 am, inching down the dark street searching for the address.  I jumped out of the car as soon as he came out the door.  Standing on my tiptoes, I wrapped my arms around my son, letting him know that no matter what, we were going to be there for him.  We pulled into our driveway as the sun began to rise.  Both kids stumbled off to bed and I tucked them in, something I haven't done for years.  How I wished that a kiss and hug could heal the pain.

Molly, taking a redeye,  arrived from DC a few hours later.

For a week, our family stayed close.  Molly...Zach...Annie...our grownup children all together.

 The kids hung out, they teased, they laughed, they cooked, they went on a tour of bookstores and came home with books to lose themselves in.  Our house overflowed with love and gratitude for each other.

And my heart began to change.

It no longer mattered that I needed to turn on all the lamps even during the day.
I found that the patio overlooking the back yard was the perfect place for a morning cup of tea.
I saw the potential for new flower beds when I looked outside at the blank landscape.


That week, in my eyes, our house became our home.

The metamorphosis surprised me.  I knew the saying that home is where the heart is.  I had repeated it to myself over and over again, but, I didn't realize how much that was true until last month.

So, now, this new place we call home has become the space for healing and fresh starts.  I am filled with hope for new beginnings and gratitude for the things I hold most dear.  Because now I know, without a doubt, that my home is wherever I find Keith...Molly...Zach...and Annie.

They are who makes my house a home.








Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why Blog with First Graders

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday.  Please visit their site to read other Slice of Life stories.  There are so many wonderful stories out there.


As I talked with a friend today about some ideas I had for writing about digital writing, she asked me what my purpose was in blogging with my students.  It was one of those questions that made me think and then ask myself even more questions.  As teachers approach me about beginning digital writing in their classrooms, I find myself suggesting we start a blog.  Why is it that I suggest starting there?  

I can think of many reasons to blog with students, but one of the main reasons is the audience a blog provides.  Blogging gives students a wider audience with whom to share their writing.  For those of us who have been blogging for a long time, we know the power in receiving comments.  It motivates us to continue writing, it validates us, and we begin to build relationships with others outside our immediate community.  

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to experience first graders receiving their first comments on their blog...

Anticipating the excitement from my new blogging friends, I couldn't wait to visit Mrs. Klochak's class Monday morning.  After we posted our shared blog about Good Fit books on Friday, I had promised them I would return first thing on Monday to see if we received any comments over the weekend.  They were waiting for me at the meeting area ready to go.

As Mrs. Klochak brought up the site, an immediate murmur began winding its way among the students.  I could  hear giddy whispers of "Six.  Look we have six."  Some of them recognized the title of the post I had typed and saw that we had 6 comments.  I'm not sure who was more excited, Mrs. Klochak and me or the kids.

Then we started to scroll through the comments.  I will never forget the looks on their faces.  Beaming smiles filled the room.


I read the name of a commenter, and someone someone said, "Hey, that's my mom."  We repeated the process 8 more times as I read comments from parents.  You could feel the excitement in the air.  I wish I had turned on a video recorder, it was so powerful.

Needless to say, the students can't wait to write their next post.  I am returning on Friday to support Mrs. Klochak as she composes the next blog post with the students.  It'll be her first blog post!

If you have a chance, please take a look at this first grade post on Good Fit books and leave a comment for the students.  Knowing their words are being read by so many people will be a great motivator for them to continue on this blogging journey.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Celebrating New Bloggers

Thank you so much to Margaret Simon who hosts the DigiLit Sunday round up.  Please check out her website to read about how other educators are using technology in their classrooms.


As much as I love my new job as a literacy coach, I REALLY miss having my own classroom where I can explore technology and digital reading and writing with my own students.  However, there is a good side to all of this, because instead of working with 24 or so students, I am able to work with students in my whole building.  I felt a little bit like a rock star Thursday morning when a first grader asked me (with a big ole grin on his face), "Are you the blogging teacher?  When are you coming into our room?"  I was happy to let him know that I'd be there later in the day.

I had met with their teacher, Carol,  a few weeks ago to plan how we would introduce blogging to these young writers.  They have a good workshop routine set up, and they were ready to try something new.  Carol's been wanting to blog with her students for some time, but wasn't sure where to start.  Thinking back to my own experience  of beginning blogging with my  third graders, I recalled mayhem and chaos as I jumped in without really thinking through the whole process.  I wanted Carol's experience to be a little smoother.

I shared Cathy Mere's article from Choice Literacy about shared blogging.  If you are a member of Choice Literacy, you will be able to download the article.  It's full of useful information.  I went into the first grade classroom and we started by looking at some mentor blogs.  (Isn't that what we do when we introduce a new genre study to our students?)

I shared a few blogs from Edudemic's 30 Incredible Kids Blogs and we charted what we noticed.

  • Blogs can be about different things.
  • There are pictures.
  • The pictures match the words.
  • There is a title that tells about the story.
  • People can leave comments.
Who has an idea for a blog?
I then gave them a few minutes to share what they might want to blog about.  They eagerly shared their ideas...fishing, brothers and sisters, school, pets, grandmas and grandpas, dangerous animals, etc.  They were excited to say the least.  I explained that we would so several blogs together before they learned how to write their own.  

I went back a week later so that we could do a shared writing of our first blog.  They wanted to blog about choosing Just Right books because they've been working on that in their classrooms.  I stopped in that morning to take some photos during their independent reading time so that I could put them into the blog post.  


Display in the hall shows how first graders choose Just Right books.  Sharing it on the blog allows students' thinking to be shared with a larger audience.

When I arrived, they were seated at their meeting area, ready to go.  I brought the Kidblog site up on the Smart Board and explained the dashboard.  Together, we decided on a good title, and they helped me compose the post.  We were able to reread, revise, and add some photos before hitting the publish button.

I will be updating this blog with the link to Mrs. Klochak's blog.  Unfortunately, Kidblog is down right now.  I invite you to check back and get the link so that you can leave a comment on their blog.



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Slice of Life: Soothing Your Soul

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays.  Please visit their site to read other Slices and leave a comment or two.

Sometimes life hands you just a bit more than you can handle.  Instead of plowing through, I've found it's important for me to slow down and give something to myself.   It doesn't have to be big.  It doesn't need to cost a lot of money.  The little things can be huge to help soothe the rough edges life gives us.  


More often than not, my soul is soothed when I am in the kitchen.  

Chopping
                     Measuring
                                          Sifting
                                                         Mixing

It calms me.  It brings me back to what's important.  

Today's therapy came in the way a half bushel of Concord grapes and a new recipe for Concord Grape Pie.    The scent of grapes wafted through the house as I cooked down the grapes.  It brought back sweet memories of northeast Ohio where vineyards abound.  

The pie will make it to the dinner table tonight where I will sit with my husband and children.  

Family, 

Pie,

Soul Soothing.




Saturday, October 4, 2014

Celebrating a Home

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for providing this space for us to share our celebrations.  I am happy to be back posting this fall Saturday afternoon.



Today we are moving my in-laws to Cleveland where they will live with my their daughter and her husband.  As I am sitting here in the living room, waiting for my mother-in-law to get home from the hospital, I can't help but marvel at all the love and laughter this house has seen.

They moved here 57 years ago last Saturday.  Shirley tells me that the walls were chartreuse throughout the house.  Apparently, it was the builder's special color.  Kirk was three and Kathy was two.  Grant was a young electrical engineer and it was hard to find a house in Ashtabula, the town was booming.  Two years later, they brought home a new baby, Keith (my husband).  They raised three children in this wonderful house with three bedrooms and one bathroom.

Today's been a day of remembering...

  • Kathy broke her collar bone when she and Keith decided to go out and "ice skate" on the driveway when they were supposed to be inside doing their homework.
  • Phil Nolan broke through the screen door when Kathy had stolen the ball the boys were playing with and she brought it into the house.  No one was supposed to be in the house because Shirley and Grant were gone.  
  • Kathy had to grab the pizza while it was there because she was competing with two brothers who ate much faster than her.
  • Grant built his first computer in his basement and he met Bill Gates before Bill Gates was Bill Gates.  
  • This was the place for Wednesday computer club meetings which Grant hosted for many years.
Today I celebrate this house that has been filled with love and family.  And I celebrate that Shirley has come home and is feeling better.  That's the best celebration in the world.




Sunday, September 21, 2014

DigiLit Sunday...Write About This

Thank you to Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche for hosting DigiLit Sunday.  Teachers who are trying new things with technology are linking to her blog on Sundays to share their experiences.  Please visit her blog to find out what's new.

I am so glad to be back to Sunday's DigiLit posts.  In my new role as a literacy coach, I'm finding it difficult to not be able to jump into my classroom to try new things with my students.  I now look at digital writing with a lens of a K - 5 teacher instead of a fourth grade teacher.  I also am thinking about how to support the teachers I work with.  Just as in any classroom, the teachers in my school are a diverse group when it comes to their familiarity with using technology in the classroom.  I am trying to find the balance of offering support without overwhelming anyone.

Now that beginning of the year assessments are almost done, some teachers are beginning to approach me about using technology in their reading and writing workshops.  I am thrilled to begin working with kids and teachers to show them the power of digital literacies.

About 3 weeks ago, I chatted with Brad Wilson about an app he and Bob Armbrister designed called Write About This.  Brad, a former fourth grade teacher,  is an educational technology consultant with Jackson ISD in Michigan.  I had a chance to explore the app today and know that I will share it with teachers in my building.

Write About This, "a visual writing prompt and creation platform" was easily navigated and one that students as young as first grade could use.  The app, which costs $3.99, houses photographs, each with 3 different prompts that students can respond to.  (There is also a free version).  If they so wish, students can use the device's camera to take their own photos and use their own in their writing.   In addition, students can add their recorded voices to their written draft.  Once finished, students can save their work to My Write Abouts.  My Write Abouts can be saved to the camera roll as a jpeg or video file.  From that point, students can share their work with their parents and teachers via email or upload their work to Google Drive or DropBox.

Here's a quick example of the Write About I created this afternoon.  I used the image provided in the app, but chose not to use the prompt.  I think it's important to always give kids the choice to use the prompt or not.

video

I saved my final piece to my iPad's camera roll and then uploaded it to Google Drive to share here on my blog.



There are 19 categories with many photos in each one.


After downloading the app from the Apple Store, I spent a few minutes reading the teacher information section.  From the settings page, a teacher or parent can select (or deselect)  text prompts, voice prompts, spell checker, create custom prompts (I especially like this feature), share by email, delete, and choose the prompt level (there are 3 different levels).  A teacher can also add student profiles.


There are 19 categories from which to choose.  Each category has several different photographs that are credited to the source.  In addition, each photo has 3 different writing suggestions (prompts) or students can do a free write.



Students can choose from 3 different prompts for each photograph or do a free write about the photo.

The prompts are aligned to the CCSS.

Students are also able to go back and edit their work if they so wish.



In addition, the authors have created Tell About This for younger children who are too young to type.  They can add their voice recordings to their images.

From what I can tell, this app is for short pieces of text.  I can see students and teachers using this app in different ways:
  • The images can help students come up with ideas when they are stuck.
  • The app could be used to help build writing fluency if used as a tool for free writes.
  • The app can serve as a digital writer's notebook where young authors can save seed ideas.
  • Students can share their learning in the content areas by taking a photo and recording their voices.
  • Students can take a photo of pictures they've made and add text and voice.  (I may try this with my kindergarten friends this week).  This piece could be a response to a book they've read, a short story they've written, etc.
  • Work is easily embedded into blogs, which would be great for students keeping digital portfolios.
  • Students could upload their own images of a favorite place, family member etc. to  write about.
  • A teacher could project an image and model her thinking as she writes about the image.
  • The piece of writing could also be embedded into Glogster as part of a digital multi-genre piece.
  • Narrative, opinion and informational texts all lend themselves to this app.
I'll be interested to see how teachers begin to use this app in their classrooms.  If you've used Write About This, please share your experiences in the comments section below.