Plastic Times: In the Beginning

This year we have been focusing on Book Studies. We have read several great works of literature including Love That Dog and Bridge to Terabithia. Recently, we picked up another Newberry Award winner. After 16 pages most of us were having trouble ‘getting into’ the book. We weren’t even through the first chapter yet – it was 24 pages – when I stopped and asked the students what they thought. At first, they were reluctant to be completely honest. They said things like, ‘it’s okay’ and ‘eh’. So yeah, when I gave them my honest opinion, they opened up a bit more. I have difficulties with reading comprehension, which they all know about, and I simply told them that I was having trouble ‘getting into’ the book. Collectively, they all breathed a sigh of relief and opened up. In the end, we decided to put the book down – at least for now – and move on to something different.

This is where Plastic Times comes in. Last year my class wrote, directed, produced, and acted in their own movie. It was an empowering experience. Within the last year, A Tale Unfolds has expanded their resources and restructured their payment system. Essentially, they have a ‘suggested’ price but will accept what you are willing to pay. Yep, even if you want to pay nothing! Which is brilliant, since their generosity makes me want to pay the suggested price and not try to get a cheaper price. A Tale Unfolds has partnered with several quality organizations, including CNN, to create top quality lessons. Teachers, everything is included!

Anyway, after the book fail, I wanted my students to participate in something meaningful, fun, and most importantly, rigorous. So, I went onto A Tale Unfolds and was immediately drawn to Plastic Times.  This lesson incorporates research, forming opinions on facts, (high quality) writing, and PBL.

screen-shot-2017-02-25-at-5-26-25-pmFriday we started our new path. The first lesson has students reviewing five different pieces of ‘Evidence’ (all factual) and taking notes. They are investigative reporters learning about the impact of plastic on our environment, animals, and us. Then, they are to form an action plan. When each group received their ‘Evidence’ I don’t think they thought I would stick to the 4-minute timer. I printed one copy of each piece of evidence and so they had a certain amount of time to review and take notes before passing it along. After the first round, they got the message. They then watched a 14-minute video produced by CNN to further their knowledge on the subject. Honestly, I have never seen the students so engaged. They really wanted to get all the information provided and answer all the questions on the guiding worksheet. And that was only day 1! I can’t imagine what the rest of the three weeks will bring, but I’m excited to see where this takes us!

Martin Luther King, Jr.

This week we went back to school, after 3 weeks off. My partner teacher and I decided to start book studies on the 17th which left us wide open for this week. Well, we have Benchmark Assessments (I know, who does those the first week back from a break? Apparently, my district). This got me excited. I never feel like there is enough time to study some of the important people and events in our history. That’s when I decided to create a Hyperdoc! I have fallen in love with the model. It’s work on my end in the beginning, but so worth it! The experience and learning are so much richer for the students.

I have shared this out with my PLN and some might be using it. This is what we want! Sharing really is caring. As my students were working on it today, one came up to me and showed me that there were 3 ‘anonymous’ animals on one of the required documents. I said yes, that makes sense since I shared it. He was confused. I explained to him that others were looking for an MLK Hyperdoc and I shared the one I created. He was satisfied with the answer and walked away.

I LOVE that I can model a collaborative mindset for my students. They know I find Hyperdocs and activities online (and am sure to point out the author and give credit even when they don’t know the person). This is what I want my students to do in the future; reach out to others online to create better products and help one another.

If you’d like to use the MLK Hyperdoc, go for it and feel free to pass it along. Sharing really is creating a caring world!

Writing With Literacy Shed

I know I’ve written about this site in the past. I thought it deserves to be talked about again, especially with the beginning of the school year upon some of us. So…. If you STILL haven’t checked out The Literacy Shed, do it. Like right now!

Literacy Shed

What is it?

Simply put, it is an amazing – FREE – writing resource. It will work with any writing program you have going on in your classroom or district. The creator and curator, Rob Smith, explains:

“The aim is to provide high-quality resources that can be used in stand-alone literacy lessons, can form the basis for a whole Literacy unit or can support literacy units that you already have in place.”

Rob has most certainly provided those high-quality resources.

AND, many of the video resources are non-verbal making them perfect for the ELL students.

Why use it?

First of all, it has beautiful quality videos. In addition to the videos, the site has several lesson ideas for each video. This isn’t put together by some corporation or publisher. This was created by a teacher who freely shares his knowledge and ideas.

About the Sheds

There are ‘Sheds’ that are essentially themes. There are so many sheds, and more being added, there is no shortage of resources. I love looking around the site and getting ideas. Word of warning; once you jump into this rabbit hole, it may be a while before you emerge. But it will be well worth it! Currently, I’m looking at the Rio Olympics Shed and getting REALLY excited about the possibilities for my classroom.

One Last Thought

I wish I were in the UK so that I might attend a training. Maybe someday there will be a training here….

 

Movie Premiere

I have been doing much reflecting, as most teachers do, upon this past school year. To say that there were many ups and downs would be an understatement. However, one of the best – if not THE BEST – thing I did this year was to have my students write, direct, act, and produce their own movie. With a full-fledged Red Carpet Event!

Thanks to Dominic and his efforts in A Tale Unfolds my students were able to have an incredibly memorable 5th-grade experience. This was, by far, one of the most fun and rewarding experiences in my teaching career. And I can’t wait to do it again! Throughout the process, I had been writing about this (A Tale Unfolds: Part 1A Tale Unfolds & Writing,   Writing and the CAASPP) and aligning it to 5th-Grade CCSS ELA. And here are the results of their efforts:

Red Carpet Event:

Cast Interviews:

Movie:

Once again, thank you, Dominic, for creating a high quality, rigorous program.

Voiceover Videos with Snagit

After sharing the awesomeness that is Literacy Shed, the most often question I get is, “How did you do the voiceover?” (See Presentation)

There are a multitude of programs that you can use: Screencastify (Chrome Extension), Screencast-O-Matic (download), Quicktime Apple or Windows (download), or my personal favorite, Snagit (Chrome Extension). If you are using Chromebooks you will need to go with a Chrome Extension – Screencastify or Snagit.

Here’s how my students use Snagit:

After adding Snagit to your (or your students’) Chrome browser, it will appear in the toolbar next to the URL as shown below. Click on it.

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Once you (or your students) choose Snagit, they will see a black sidebar appear on the right side of the screen. Please note that the first time you open the Extension, it will ask you to allow Snagit to access your mic. You must allow. You have the option of saving an image or a video. For voiceovers, you will want to select ‘Screen’ under ‘Video’. Also, note that the mic icon is on.

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This will bring out a pop-out menu in which you will select ‘Entire Screen’. This way, you (or the students) can switch to full-screen mode. With a little editing, they can chop off the first portion.

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Once ‘Entire Screen’ has been selected, you will see a notification at the bottom of the screen, notifying you that the screen is being shared (aka you are now screencasting).

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In YouTube, the last choice on the bottom right is full screen. Have the students chose this. As a side note, I use 2 Extensions with YouTube: DF YouTube and Adblock for YouTube.

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Now voiceover away! Once you are done, select the ‘Stop Sharing’ option at the bottom of the screen.

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This will then open a new tab in your browser. Hang tight. Depending on the length of your video, it may take a while to upload to your Google Drive. Once it is completely synced, the blue ‘Syncing Capture’ will change to green and you can THEN name your video. NOTE: The video will be saved in a folder named TechSmith in the Drive. TechSmith is the maker.

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Depending on your district, you can keep them in the Drive – remember to change the shared setting to ‘anyone can view’ – or upload them to YouTube. My district has the student Drives locked so that anyone outside our district CANNOT see them. If this is the case for you, you have a few options.

  1. Have the students transfer ownership to you. Most district will allow teachers to share items in their Drive.
  2. Have students share the video with you. You then download the video and upload to YouTube. This was the route I took.
  3. Create a shared class YouTube account (from your district) and have students upload it to this (or you upload to this).

The advantage to a class YouTube account is that the students can then go into the editor and chop off the first portion of the video, that is no doubt messy.

A Tale Unfolds: Part 1

a tale unfolds Next week I will start A Tale Unfolds with my class. It is an 11 week ELA/ELD/Writing unit where the end product is a movie that the class has written, performed, and taped. As this is a UK Standards aligned unit, I looked over the lessons for the upcoming week and was pleased that on Day 1 ten (5th grade) CCSS are covered. While the lessons are complete on their own, I will be able to enrich them with conversations and expectations.

Along with the lesson plans, there are Promethean Flipcharts and SmartBoard resources, a ‘book’ (2 levels), and in certain cases leveled resources (depending on the activity). The focus of the writing is on quality, not quantity.

Overall, I am excited to get the unit started. I think the students are really going to enjoy it.