Have you ever used the graphic organizing/planning tool Inspiration
? I took a workshop that included Kidspiration this year, and I thought it was a really neat tool. Unfortunately, we don’t have access to either program at our school (Travesty!). A member of my Master’s class introduced us to Webspiration
, a FREE online program similar to Inspiration.
You can create visual organizers and outlines and toggle back and forth between the outline and graphic organizer view.
There are tons of graphics and visual options–You can create a web or a flowchart, and customize the colors, shapes and sizes of everything.
Did I mention it’s FREE!?
You can save your webspiration documents as an Inspiration file, a Word document or straight to Google Docs–handy, right?
Since Webspiration is web-based (hence the ‘web’) you can access your projects from any computer and it saves your files just like a word processor.
There are several collaboration tools that I haven’t tried out yet, but look really neat, including a chat and comment feature.
I’m using this site to create a flow chart for my Digital Portfolio…I’m trying to plan it well so that it will be less work for me once the school year starts. The best of intention, you know!
As I look ahead, this is also a tool I think my kids could use to map their learning…and since it’s Google Doc compatible it will fit right into our Google Apps for Education portfolios…I *heart* technology!!
A screenshot of the flowchart for the math section of my Digital Portfolio
Confession: I got it in my head a few months ago that I wanted to do Internet based Digital Portfolios with my students..and I have been searching for the perfect Digital Portfolio solution every since. I wanted a web-based portfolio that I could design around our state standards to house my students’ digital work. There are several options I looked at including Wikispaces, Edu-portfolio, and Epsilen. I even considered creating a template using Publishe, but all the options were either too complicated, too restrictive, too expensive, or too….the list goes on!
I’ve been researching on and off for the last few months, and I was just about to give up in disgust when I discovered Google Apps for Education. “Eureka!” It is just what I have been looking for! By integrating Google Docs, Google Blogs and Google Sites I will be able to create a template for our portfolios and then let the kids take it from there…exactly what I was looking for. It’s not very often that you find the perfect IT solution, but Google Apps was love at first site…hehehe, pardon my pun.
After a quick email to our Technology Director we had already come up with a new Domain name (keene-kids.com) and I have been fulfilling my nerdy teacher quota by feverishly creating “demo” portfolios. I’ll post an example as soon as I’m not embarrassed by it!
More about this amazing, innovative tool as soon as I understand it better :)
One of the big things I’m working on this summer (mostly during the lulls in summer school computer lab :) is my classroom economy. The bread and butter of my classroom management is the Scholar Dollar system, otherwise known as the “Checkbook” system. I can’t take credit for coming up with this idea, when I student taught in Orange City, IA the 4th grade teacher I worked with used the checkbook system and it was so effective that I have implemented it every year…and every year it gets more involved! Here it is in a nutshell.
- I ask my local bank to donate 25 checkbook registers and plastic checkbook covers–they have come through every year! Thanks Wells Fargo!
- At the beginning of the year each student applies to the “Scholar Dollar” bank and receives a checkbook.
- They are responsible to keep track of their credits and debits–more on that later!
- Students accumulate Scholar Dollars and at the end of the 6 weeks we have “Scholar Dollar Fair” where students work together to come up with an idea for a booth, bring the items they want to sell, set their prices, man their booths and sell their wares! (See Scholar Dollar pictures here)
Ok, that was the simple version…let me flesh it out for you!
Why I Do It:
I’m a huge advocate of creating a classroom community where learners are actively involved in every aspect of the classroom and where students take responsibility. Scholar Dollars are FANTASTIC for this! The first few weeks of school I spend a lot of time explaining and modeling how students are to keep their checkbooks, they catch on very quickly, mostly because they are so excited! (And aren’t kids way more capable than we give them credit for sometimes?)
How I do It:
I already explained that I have checkbook registers donated, here’s the rest of the story.
Attendance–I use the checkbook system in every aspect of my classroom management. When kids arrive in the morning they take their checkbook out of their pocket in our pocket chart. This serves as my attendance system–if the checkbook is still there the kiddo is absent. (Click here to see the bulletin board)
Classroom Jobs–Every student has a daily classroom job that they are expected to perform each day at the end of the day to help keep our classroom neat and organized. They are paid $1 per day for coming to school (attendance) and performing their job. If they aren’t at school, they don’t get paid…sound like real life?! Besides applying for a Scholar Dollar checking account, students also fill out an application for a special classroom job. This application asks them about their strengths and weaknesses and even requires them to provide a “reference”. All these things are great real life applications and open up conversations about why we are doing it. These jobs are things I need throughout the day and that need a responsible committed student.
Credits–As I mentioned, students are paid $1/day for coming to school and performing their classroom job. They can also get money for the following things:
- Getting their weekly folder signed–The first day=$2, The second day=$1, Every day after= -$1
- Good grades on tests–90-100%=$3, 80-89=$2, 70-79=$1
- Special Classroom Jobs–Depends on job!
- Bonuses= Good report from a substitute, compliments from other teachers, random acts of kindness
Debits–There are also fines and debits for things that happen in the classroom
- Color Changes–If students get their color changed they loose $$ (Yellow=-$1, Orange=-$2, Red=-$3, Blue=-$5)
- Losing Homework–$1/Sheet
- Speeding Tickets (Misbehavior in hallway)–$1
- Late Fees–$1/Day
Purchases–There are some items students can purchase from me if they choose
- Extra pencil (we pool our pencils, but they can purchase “special” pencils to keep at their desk)
- Homework passes
- Free time on the computer
One of the things I’m researching and learning about this summer is implementing a Reader and Writer Workshop into my 4th grade classroom. This is something I was vaguely familiar with, but in my first two years of teaching I was far too overwhelmed to try it. One of the blogs I’m really into right now (Beth Newingham’s Blog) talks a lot about Readers’, Writers’ and Math workshop and the model lines up exactly with my teaching philosophy!
To prepare for the new year I’ve been reading blogs, digging around for good websites and books to learn more about implementing a readers and writers workshop (we’ll save math for later :)) Here are some of the resources I’ve found so far:
- Every Child a Reader and Writer –This one is fantastic and I’m just starting to get through all it has to offer! Complete with lots of videos and examples from a variety of grade levels this is a fantastic resources.
- Jennifer Myers: Workshop Approach–Another good one with some very helpful videos (I’m seeing a theme that I like videos, can you tell I’m a visual learner?!)
- Busy Teacher Cafe–This website has tons of resources for all kinds of classroom activities, but I thought the sections on Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop were very helpful. (FYI-Some of the links were broken–an evil of any resource website, but enough good ones were still working that I still think this is a valuable resource)
- I also bought two new books that came highly recommended by many teachers: Launching the Writing Workshop: A Step-by-Step Guide in Photographs and Getting Started: The Reading-Writing Workshop, Grades 4-8. I’m anxiously awaiting their arrival in the mail–does anyone else obsessively check the “Track Your Package” feature when they order something online? Another sign of a nerdy teacher I guess :)
This summer my friend Kate and I have started a new hobby–Garage Saling! Both of us are hyper-organized teachers who have been known to spend more than a few dollars on teaching supplies and classroom materials. But like everyone else in America, we are tightening the purse strings. That is what inspired our Garage Sale adventure.
Items I’m looking for:
- Books–novels, pictures books, non fiction (2nd-6th grade reading level)
- Shelves–I have a LOT of classroom books and my new classroom is lacking in the book shelf dept.
- Classroom library Seating–One of my goals this year is to create a more homey classroom setting. I want to have some comfy chairs and cushions to add to my reading corner.
- Fun Lamps–Also to create a homey atmosphere–I got my inspiration from Angela Bunyi’s classroom!
Last week was our first try. We mapped out our route using our local paper’s Garage Sale classified section. Any garage sales that looked promising we plugged into MapQuest’s newest tool Route Planner. This handy little tool lets you put in multiple destinations and then gives you lots of options for creating a customized route!
With our plan, we set out for our garage sales. The first time we went we met at 9:30 and we shopped for a few hours, hitting about 10 garage sales (and 2 estate sales just for fun). I was kind of disappointed because I only got a few books, and most of the garage sales were super picked over. Today was our second attempt, we sacrificed our sleep and left a little before 8am and we got to the garage sales right as they opened. We only went to about 3 sales, but on our first one we hit the jackpot! They were selling 2 storage shelves with the bins for $25! I looked it up and these sell for $70-90…yes please! I don’t know if I will use it for classroom supplies or books, but I am excited with my bargain purchase.
I love the colors of the bins...all the ones I've seen are very "primary" or "cutesy"
I think Garage Sales might be our “thing” this summer, so I’ll make sure to share about any other amazing finds!
Well my first attempt to be a blogger was a disastrous failure! But what do I tell my kiddos when they fail at something? Keep trying. If at first you don’t succeed, try again! Never give up! So I’m going to take my own advice and try again…
This blog is going to take a sharp turn, mostly because my teaching career has taken a sharp turn. I had a fantastic year as our Technology Specialist, but unfortunately our funding was unexpectedly cut! After mourning all my plans and dreams for our growing little technology program, I began thinking about the classroom again. There were so many things that I missed:
- Relationships with my students and developing a classroom community.
- Watching students grow and develop as learners and getting to see the light bulb come on.
- Planning exciting activities and putting those plans into action…whatever the outcome!
- Working with my grade level team and collaborating with a wonderful group of 4th grade teachers.
Of course the list could go on and on, but those are the biggies that come to mind! So, back to the 4th grade classroom I go, and I really couldn’t be more excited!
One thing has not changed…I am still a Nerdy Teacher. Being the Technology Specialist didn’t make me nerdy, I was nerdy a LONG time ago :) So, this will now be a reflection on my classroom experiences, professional development and research! Enjoy!