Monday, May 21, 2012

State Projects

Our fourth grade students learn about the regions of the U.S. I have several different projects to do with them on this topic.

First, we take a tour of the country using Postcards From. This site was created by a couple of teachers who took a tour of all 50 states and created postcards and stamps for each state.

We use three sites to complete research on a particular state then create a PowerPoint. They can find all of the required information from 50 States, Enchanted Learning, and Stately Knowledge.

The final project is to make a table of states and capitals (here is a complete list for reference) in Microsoft Office Word (or Pages) and then to copy and paste the list into Tagxedo. Using the ~ symbol between words allows two-word states as well as states and their capitals to stick together. Tagxedo is similar to Wordle, but you can make interesting shapes from your word cloud. The one I would choose for this project is the map of the United States.

Mrs. Jones offers a song, sung to the tune of Turkey in the Straw, to help memorize the states and capitals, a task which many can find daunting. There is a video of the Animaniacs' states and capitals song on YouTube.

There are also some good states and capitals games. At Vector Kids, students select a state from a map then the capital from multiple choice answers. Puzzled States from Scholastic is basically a jigsaw puzzle of the 50 states that names the state and gives its nickname as the puzzle piece is placed. Here are some more map puzzles from Your Child Learns.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Earth Day

One thing I will always remember from my childhood is that my Girl Scout leader told us to always leave a place better than it was when we arrived. This was even before the original  Earth Day.

Here are some of the Earth Day activities I am doing with my students this year.

For first and second grades, I am beginning with a Maya and Miguel Video called Earth Day is Every Day. In the movie, students do a class project of cleaning up a vacant lot and creating a community garden. My district subscribes to Discovery Education and I found it there. On the Elementary Tech Teachers ning, of which I am a member, one of the other teachers gave this PBS Kids link to the same video.

After the video, they will go to the Eeko World site and find the best environmental choices in the Eeko House.

I found a video called Betsy's Kindergarten Adventures: Happy Earth Day, for Kindergarten on YouTube. Then they will read the Earth Day story on Starfall. They can also do a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle jigsaw on JigZone. Next they will play Michael, Michael, Go Recycle on FunSchool. As Michael makes his way through the maze, he picks up items of trash that can be recycled. He can only pick up five items before he must sort them into three different recycling bins. They will access all three of these in the Holidays tab of my Only 2 Clicks site.

I learned of the Happy Earth Day video from this Kindergarten Earth Day Pinterest.

On a personal note, my husband and I are in the process of getting quotes for a solar power system for our roof. It's pretty exciting to be creating clean energy that will not only provide power for our home, but will also contribute to our local power grid.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Happy first day of spring! Although this has been an exceptionally mild winter, I always find the beginning of spring to be thrilling.

In honor of this event, I am showing my kindergarten students the Spring segment of a Discovery video called The Four Seasons.

We will follow this with some garden stories and games:
Garden Shop story at Starfall
Dottie's Garden story from Primary Games
Bloomin' Gardens game from Primary Games
Caillou's Garden from PBS Kids
Arthur's Groovy Garden from PBS Kids
The Cat in the Hat's Flower Finder from PBS Kids
My Garden from Harcourt

Second graders also learned about plant life cycles with a Discovery video called Plant Life Cycles and followed with some online activities.

The Life Cycle of Plants
Plant Life Cycles, Plants, and Plant and Animal Habitats from the BBC


I decided to try doing animations with my second graders this year and was very pleased with the results overall and truly amazed with the artwork of some of these seven year olds!

I began by showing the students the Brain Pop video about traditional animations. This is a site to which my district subscribes, but a free trial is available.

I demonstrated a simple animation on ABCya and discussed some ideas with the students. I liked the way this site allows you to create a background image. It was important to remind the children to use the background tab on the right to draw things that they wanted to appear in every frame but did not want to move. Although there are 40 possible frames, most of the children only used four or five. A few kids really didn't get the concept and drew totally unrelated pictures in each frame. Many children did very simple animations such as a bouncing ball. The animations can be saved as an animated .gif file.

Here is an outstanding example:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

More About Kindergarten

I successfully used the tizmos page with my students for a while, but there were a couple of issues with it. First of all, more and more of the links were not coming up with screenshots and instead had a message that due to increased traffic, there would be a  delay. Well, after several weeks, the message would still be there! It kind of defeated the purpose of visual links.

The straw that broke the camel's back, however was that I read a post on Elementary Tech Teachers ning saying that tizmos was down because it had been hacked. Since I needed something for my kindergarten classes right away, I did some searching and found Only2Clicks. I found that it had a similar graphic interface and also had tabs, a feature that was not available on tizmos. The only problem was that it seemed at first that I had to enter the user name and password in order to get to the page, which was not a good solution for sharing with others. The other downside was that gave the students full editing capability, with one of them inadvertently deleting one of the links. After some searching around, I found that there is a URL to give out for a public page. I changed all of the favorite places in the bookmarks bar to the new link, both in the lab and in the kindergarten classrooms.

I did have an issue still where the cursor seemed to get stuck on one thumbnail, making it difficult to use the page. I contacted the developer and the problem was fixed within 24 hours.

Here is my Only2Clicks page. I add to it whenever I see the students. I use the tabs to separate the everyday links from the more distracting holiday links.