Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Last Holiday Concert

We recently read The Last Holiday Concert by Andrew Clements in my fifth grade language arts. I did this one as a read aloud which limited the activities we could do in conjunction with the book. Here's what we did.

Week One

·         Read Chapters 1-3
·         You will be given one character web to complete while I read to you.  I want you to give me four details about Hart.  You will need to give me two sentences for each detail supporting that point. This is classwork, but if you need to finish it overnight you may.  Due Tuesday.
·         Homework:  Go to and read the author’s biography.  Then, hop on over to  Create a new wiki page and tell me three interesting facts about the author’s life.  Remember to use your fake name.  Due Wednesday before you go to bed.

·         Chapters 4-6
·         You will be given another character web just like yesterday. This one will be done on Mr. Meinert.  While I would like this to be done in class, you have till Wednesday to finish it.
·         Reading Response Journal:  What makes a kid popular?  Is this a good thing or a bad thing? (1/2 page, please)
·         Don’t forget yesterday’s web assignment.

·         Plot Hill Quiz
·         Remember that your web assignment is due before you go to bed tonight.

·         Read Chapters 7-9
·         You are going to get a Sequence Chain in class today after I am done reading the chapters.  Your job is to give me the 6 most important events of the first nine chapters in order.  You must write two sentences in each box.  I will try to give you time to work with your group.  I would love to have this before you leave class but will happily take it before class starts on Friday.

·         Station Day!
·         One station will be a Reading Response Journal: Will Hart ask Mr. Meinert to take over? (1/2 page, please)

Week 2

• Read Chapters 10-12.
• You know I can’t resist a good plot hill. Taking your sequence chain from last week and the new events we read so far, can you put 8 events on plot hill in the right spot? On a piece of notebook paper, draw your plot hill so far. I’ll take this tomorrow, but if you finish it today you can put it in Basket 2 before you leave.
• Go back to Click on books, then novels. Which of Mr. Clements’ books would you like to read next? Why? (Note: You HAVE to give me at least one book that you might like to read.) Your answer should be in complete sentences (2-5 should be sufficient) and put on your wiki page. You can just add to the page you created last week. This is due before bed time on Wednesday.

• Read Chapters 13-14.
• Reading Response Journal: Poor Hart! Things didn’t go his way at the end of today’s reading. Tell me what went wrong and how you would have handled it differently if you were Hart.

• Read Chapters 15-16.
• Reading Response Journal: Did we just see a new side of Mr. Meinert? Tell me how he’s starting to change. I love in this book how both main characters see the other side of school life. How is Hart changing?

• Read Chapters 17-19.
• Reading Response Journal: On page 126, there is a conversation between Allie, James, and Jenna about including all beliefs, mentioning fearing being too Christian and offending Jewish people. Jenna pipes up that she doesn’t mind but maybe they should include Kwanzaa and something about Islam. How does this differ from holiday concerts here at MVCA?

• Read Chapters 20-21.
Be sure you take the AR Test before you leave for Christmas Break

Week 3

• Mr. Meinert and Hart both changed quite a bit as this story unfolded. Literary people would say that they were dynamic characters because they changed. (Static characters don’t change during the story… like the kid who dressed up as the Elvis Santa.) In a paragraph (yes, a world famous 3-pt paragraph) you need to pick one of the two characters and tell me HOW he changed. You are only required a rough draft, but you should be careful to fit the format given in the Paragraph Notes. This is a classwork grade due Wednesday. You may turn it in anytime before then.
• I will be collecting your journals tomorrow, so I hope you’ve completed all 5 entries.
• Don’t forget to take your AR Test before Christmas Break. I will not accept late tests.

• You and your group will be given a length of bulletin board paper. Imagine you had the chance to develop Thursday night’s Christmas concert. How would you design the auditorium? Draw and color it on the paper. Use the whole paper. Post your picture on the wall in this classroom. You will have two days to work on this. If it is not done by the end of class Wednesday, you will have to find time to finish it on your own. It is due the beginning of class Thursday at the latest.
• Paragraph due Wednesday.
• Don’t forget to take your AR Test before Christmas Break. I will not accept late tests.

• You will have all class period to work on your picture with your group. I’d love for it to be done and hanging today. Make sure your names are on the front.
• Don’t forget to take your AR Test before Christmas Break. I will not accept late tests.

Thursday and Friday:
• Due to our own concert and the party, we will not have time for Reading class these days. We may have time for Language Arts, but I’ll fill that time with something else.
• Don’t forget to take your AR Test before Christmas Break. I will not accept late tests.

HAVE A GREAT CHRISTMAS AND A MERRY BREAK! We all have worked hard this first half of the year and could use a break! I’m proud of how far you’ve come in such a short time. See you in January!

So, tell me.  How have you used The Last Holiday Concert in your class? What ideas have you found that worked well for you?  How can I improved on this for next year?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Catching Up

I have a lot to catch up on. Here's a cool feature of the iPad.  I typed up the bulk of this post on the plane flying from Philly back home.  I typed it in Notes and transferred it to Blogger when I got home and could use the Internet again.  Sure, you can do this on a laptop too, but using an iPad in public just feels cool.

On to the post...

I recently posted about WebQuests, and I wasn't impressed.  I found another quest on pioneer colonial life which was a ton better.  It was quick and easy and informative...but not exhaustive.  One problem.  In order to advance to the next level you had to answer yes or no.  That meant that in theory very little reading had to be done.  Make a guess. If you're wrong, no big deal, pick the other choice. So, I'd like to think that my students read every bit of the quest, but let's be realistic.  I didn't. Maybe for next year I can find something in the middle.  Till then, my faith in WebQuests is not entirely dashed forever.  Here's the link I used.  It even worked well on the iPads.

My kids love QR codes.  I use them in lessons now, and you would think I just gave them ponies for Christmas.  Attached below is one QR code I used to introduce an activity.  It will take you to a video of me introducing the activity.  My wife refused to watch since I didn't look happy.  Oops! I'll plaster on the smile next time.

You'll notice I used Vimeo not YouTube.  Why?  Ease of access in school.  Our school doesn't block YouTube, but it is quirky.  Vimeo was easier for me.

I'm struggling for a math app on a sixth grade level.  I find apps on blogs and download them.  However, they either seem to drill and practice facts below them or hit topics above their heads.  Do you have ideas?  I think I'm going to download a massive amount of math apps and give the kids a solid hour to explore and find their favorites.  From there I can come up with a plan for the future.  I welcome your input if you have something good for me.

My fifth graders tried Toomtastic for the first time a little while ago.  The response was overwhelmingly  good. they only had 8 minutes so they didn't produce anything to get giddy over, but I plan to have a Toontastic week soon. What I figure is that I'll give them time to plan, then to draw, then to animate.  One complaint kids had was that they had a hard time recording their voices in a loud room.  We'll have to have a "recording studio" room set aside for making that aspect of the production. More when that happens.

Thanks for reading.  If there is a topic you want me to hit, let me know.  I'll see what I can do.

Tech Integrators - December 8, 2011

I am sitting in the Philadelphia International Airport awaiting a flight home after a funeral, so I have some time for blogging.

My first thought is about my iPad, my music, and the Internet here in the airport. Every time I bring up Safari, my iTunes cuts out. So I turned on Pandora. Same thing. Now I'm listening to Muzak. Ugh!

Here is an article about what to do before you unleash a 1:1 program on your middle schoolers. The #1 thing? Email training. Interesting. I think my students are being trained on Office right now, so we're a bit off the radar here. I know that in one of my wiki projects I had to put the kabash on goofball emails as teachers and parents had to read them. Craziness. Here's the link.

This article is about 10 months old. Ancient for this discussion, but it has good questions to comsider before you get into a program. A lot of it is for administrators and the IT department not the teachers, but there are some good thoughts for classroom teachers as well. Are you teaching in project-based environment or are you still the lecture-style teacher. If you are putting machines in there hands, you have to be prepared to give up some control.

Do you use Twitter as a teaching tool? I have a hard time allowing my 10- to 12-year old students get ahold of Twitter. I must still be a bit old fashioned. However, this article gives reasons to ponder it.

I'm a gmail guy. I really think a third of my life is run by Google, and another third is run by Apple. This article helps us guide the way to meld the two together. I need to do this.

If you're not following the Nerdy Teacher, then start now. Here is his list of 5 most needed apps in school. What would you put on your list?