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.  


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.  



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.


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.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Nourishing the Teacher Writer

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

I've been absent from my blog.  I've resisted any kind of writing.  Moving from our home of 17 years and changing jobs has taken me on an emotional roller coaster ride for the last 3 weeks.   Boxes needing to be unpacked permeate my life both in and out of school.  In addition, moving into a new role of literacy coach and Title Reading teacher has me wondering where I fit into my school community now.  I don't have 25 young learners in front of me every day.  I can no longer change my lesson plans at the last minute to try out a new idea I heard about on Twitter or read on a blog.  And I wonder, "What will my teacher writing voice be now that I am no longer in my own classroom?"  

According to the dictionary, nourishment is needed for growth and good health.  It's common knowledge that we need to eat healthy foods to keep us going.  (Although chocolate has played a major role in my diet lately).  In the same way, I know it's important to nourish the learner and teacher writer inside of me.  Today was a day that filled me with inspiration, energy, and a desire to get back to my writing.  I was surrounded by other teacher writers, both in person and virtually.  There's something about hanging out with others who share your passion and "get you."  We need those people in our lives to help us move forward when we get stuck.

Tonight I was fortunate to participate in a webinar with Troy Hicks and Penny Kittle.  Troy said something that will stick with me (and it made me smile).  He said, "Don't should on yourself," in reference to holding yourself to what you think you should be writing.  And that's exactly what the last 3 weeks has been for me:  "I should get up early and write."  "I should go back to that email and review the feedback and start over again with my draft."  "I should post on my blog."  I should, I should, I should.  

Earlier this afternoon, I spent an hour with a friend who has also changed roles at her school.  We bounced ideas off each other, shared our thinking and ate really good ice cream.  Good conversation and good ice cream:  what more could you want, right?  We're committed to meeting every few weeks to keep the conversation going.

So, for tonight, it feels good to return to my blog.  Slice of Life is the perfect space for this reflection because this community nourishes me too.  I've missed reading and commenting on what's going on in others' lives.  

I'm ready.

I'm ready to jump back in and work on some challenging writing, do some deep thinking, and play around with some other ideas.  

How do you nourish the writer inside of you?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

DigiLit Sunday: Connecting What We Know About Writing Workshop to "Going Digital"

Thank you to Margaret Simon for inviting teachers to share how they are using technology in their classrooms.  You can link up and/or read others' thinking at her blog Reflections on the Teche.  

This week I played more with Zeega to create my digital story, House Hunting Blues.  If you haven't seen it, you can view it on yesterday's post.  You can also read more about Zeega here, where Mashable explains what makes Zeega different from other storytelling platforms.

I find that the more I play (thank you #clmooc for providing this opportunity), the more I ask questions about where I've come from in the writing workshop world and where I'm going as I incorporate more and more digital composition. How did this experience mirror and differ from what I might do in a traditional writing workshop?
  • What could I do in my digital composition that I couldn't do in my written narrative? 
  • What other tools would give students the same access as Zeega?
  • Does one get my message across more clearly than the other?
How did my knowledge of writing narrative inform my digital composition? (What was the same?)
  • I had a message:  This house hunting business is crazy, but it all ends well.
  • My audience:  Family & friends, blog readers, Google+ community
  • It has a beginning, middle and end structure.
  • My lead tells a bit of the background story.
  • I wrote about something that was important to me.
  • I focused on the important details of the story.
  • My ending brings the story to closure
  • I revised as I composed.  
What was different?
  • The music I chose (Everything Gonna Be Alright by Bob Marley) helped me send the message that the story was going to have a good ending.  I could have chosen more chaotic type of music to show the frustration I was feeling when the story began.
  • I carefully chose images to show what I was thinking and feeling.
  • The cartoon of the person spiraling out of control and "Nope" swirling through the air shows my sense of helplessness at that time, which leads into the muppet running away, which is exactly what we did when we terminated the contract.
  • Charlie Brown's "I need help." indicates the point when I was at the end of my rope.
  • From that point, the images begin to show my sense of peace as I said a little prayer and moved through my day.
  • I edited images, took screen shots, and used a combination of my own images and those from the Internet.
  • I easily shared with Facebook, Google+, Twitter and through my blog.


  What could I do with my digital composition that I couldn't do with a traditional narrative?
  •  The choices afforded in Zeega made writing this composition very engaging.  I found myself in the flow.  
  • Using a combination of still images and gifs make my composition appealing and engaging to my audience.
  • I am able to connect with a wider audience (which I can also do through my blog).
  • I can add layers of meaning through the images (both still and gifs) and the music I've added.
Are there other tools I could have used?  Of course...and I'm sure I'm only hitting a few of the possibilities:
When comparing the written narrative to the Zeega, does one get my message across more clearly than the other?

I'd love to get feedback from my readers.  If you have time to look at yesterday's post and compare the two, please do and let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

Next week, when I post, I'll be one day away from moving.  Let's hope that this week is uneventful and the house hunting woes are finished.