Anyone else remember the early 90’s sitcom, Home Improvement? That was a weekly family event in our house, watching the new episode that came out. And then after it stopped airing, every rerun that was shown. I am pretty sure I could at least remember a snippet from every episode of that show. But the one line that you heard on every episode, without fail… “Does everyone know what time it is? Tool Time!”
Anyway … when thinking about what we wanted to share this week, we wanted to give you some concrete takeaways that you could implement tomorrow if you’d like. So we decided that we would share our top ten tools. Now, we aren’t going to share about tools that can fix your leaky faucet or wiggly table, but some tools that we find we use on a consistent basis in our classrooms, tools (both hands on and tech related) that we couldn’t teach without!
Now you know why that classic Home Improvement line kept popping up into my head! 😉
Top Ten Tools:
7. Symbaloo: This is a website that allows you to create a grid of all the websites that you use frequently. We set this as our home page on our preferred internet browser. Then when we open our internet browser when we start our day all of the daily websites we need are right there! When using Google Chrome, you can also “Pin” this site to stay up.
8. Apps: Book Creator, Epic, Flipgrid, Prodigy (There are more but we tried to limit ourselves! 🙂)
9. Daily Drawers: We have purchased two sets of 3 drawer containers that we use to organize our daily supplies. Whether it is paper copies, read alouds, games, etc. we fill those daily drawers with whatever we may need. This also makes things easy for a sub if they have to come in unexpectedly.
10. IntegratED Unit Planner: We have developed a unit planner that helps us create engaging, effective, creative units throughout our year. We love this planner to help keep us on track and organized for our long term planning and goals. (Coming soon for purchase!)
*** None of this is for an ad! These are just some of the things we love that we wanted to share with you!
Too often we hear, “My students can’t do that! They are too little to make that work!” However, we are here to tell you that elementary students, even the primary age students (K-2), are capable of doing amazing things with technology.
Green screen projects are a great way to integrate technology into your classroom, no matter the grade level! Here are some ideas that can be used as is or modified to fit whatever grade level or subject you teach.
1. Opinion Writing: After students have written an opinion piece, have them bring their writing to life! Students can record themselves reading their writing with images that correspond to their writing in the background.
Students were writing their opinion pieces on if they would want to be a cave explorer! This project was integrating research on landforms (science), opinion writing, non-fiction reading skills and strategies, and technology.
2. Current Events: News Report: Students can research and then report on current events, creating their own weekly or monthly news report.
3. Readers Theatre: In a guided reading or whole group setting, students can record their readers theatre performance, using green screen to increase their engagement and ownership of their performance.
Getting ready to record on the green screen! A great activity to practice fluency and speaking and listening skills.
4. Informative Writing: Engage audiences by incorporating green screen images or video to showcase a research paper/project. Students will be more motivated and engaged while researching with this end project in mind!
Animal research is always a hit with our students! It is a topic that is easily integrated into science, reading, writing, and technology!
5. Students teaching Students: This idea can be modified for so many things! One example would be for math. Students teach students different math problems by breaking them down step by step. The background is the math step/math problem. With this one being recorded and segmented, this one would have to be made into a video so an additional app would be needed to put the video together, such as iMovie.
6. Holiday Fun: Whether you are celebrating Christmas or Valentines Day students can use green screen to send personalized messages or showcase their favorite parts about those holidays.
7. Map It!: Using the subject of social studies and geography, students can showcase their knowledge of different countries, states, locations using those images in the background.
8. All About Me: Need a fun and engaging beginning of the year idea? Have students create an all about me green screen project! Students record themselves sharing their favorite things and a little about themselves. The background images are what they are sharing about in their video. With this one being recorded and segmented, this one would have to be made into a video so an additional app would be needed to put the video together, such as iMovie.
9. Alphabet Fun!: (K-1) Have students show their learning of the alphabet by recording the letters and a word associated with those letters. The background images are the words they are sharing!
10. Bringing Books to Life!: Whether you are working on a book report, reading strategies or skills, green screen is a great way to make books and those abstract skills more scaffolded and engaging to students. Using green screen to showcase student understanding of text is also a great way to differentiate for those students who have difficulty expressing their thoughts on paper.
All the ideas listed above can also be done in one of two ways, using a green screen with still picture or video. There are many apps that will help in your green screen creation. A few apps that we use often in our elementary classroom for green screen projects are PicCollage, iMovie, and Green Screen by Do Ink (paid). There are many other apps that are available, these are just our current favorites.
● PicCollage : If you are looking for an app that has lots of options for creation and productivity, look no further! PicCollage is not just for inserting pictures. Students can create so many things using photos, video, cut outs, green screen pictures, various backgrounds, templates, grides, text...you name it. We like this app because it is easy for any age of student to use, as well as, it gives students choice and the opportunity to personalize their learning. Another amazing feature... this app is FREE! There are certain features within the app that you can pay to upgrade, but we have never had the need to do so.
● iMovie: If you are an apple product user, we are sure you have heard of iMovie before. However, many are leary of using iMovie with students because they feel it can be too complicated or overwhelming. We are here to tell you that with modeling and some scaffolding, your students will be able to use and manipulate this app to create green screen magic! iMovie offers many editing and creation features when making a video. This app also has trailer templates that the students can drop their videos into, add text, and then they have their own green screen movie trailer! The iMovie app is also FREE!
● Green Screen by Do Ink: This app is designed specifically for students to create using green screen images and video. The editing and creating of the video is a little simpler than iMovie and more user friendly for primary age students. You can add video, pictures, and there is even a live camera option on the app. There is also the option to add in additional elements to the video/photo. This app offers so many creative elements for students to make their green screen vision come to life! With just a little modeling on how to get started, our students were easily able to figure out the app and create some great content! We highly recommend this app, however, one this to keep in mind is that this is a paid app. One thing we have done in the past to help on cost is we paid to put it on some devices and then had students work in pairs or teams on their project.
Now that you have some ideas starting to form and some tools and resources to help you get started, it’s time to jump in and start creating! Green screens are a wonderful way to integrate technology with a variety of content, all while the students' engagement, excitement, and knowledge of both the content and the technology grow.
Pro Tip: You don’t actually need to have a fancy green screen to make these projects happen! In our classrooms we actually use plastic tablecloths. They work great, come at a great (cheap) price, and are easily moved, stored, and replaceable. And..... they don’t have to be green! A blue screen can also be used as a background when creating your projects.
Here is an example of a green screen corner set up in our classrooms. This was done with a flat green sheet attached at the top of the cupboards. When we are not using it we roll it up and put it on top of the cupboards, out of the way!
*** We recently had the most amazing opportunity to work with Matt Miller and his team. He asked for us to be guests writers on his blog!
Now, if you don’t know Matt Miller, he is the author of the well known book Ditch That Textbook and many more books. His focus is on technology in the classroom. If you have never checked him out or read any of his books, we highly recommend it!
This was, in part, the article we had the opportunity to publish! To check out the entire article in all its glory (photos and graphics included), head over to Matt’s website -> 10 Green Screen Ideas for the Classroom
Do you ever have those moments when you take a second to stop and scan your classroom and you think,” Oofta! This place is a disaster!” If you haven’t…. Please tell me your secret to keeping seven year olds tidy! But if you’re like me, this scene is more of a daily occurrence. :)
From the very beginning of my career I have always believed that if the kids are the ones doing the work, they are the ones learning. Now, I will tell you, that way of thinking does not always lend itself to Pinterest worthy bulletin boards and Facebook posts. I started teaching in kindergarten...need I say more? But what it does leave you with is a classroom full of students proud of their work, students who are 100 times more sure of their work's purpose and students who are gaining more understanding of the learning.
Just last week, my classroom, to one passing by, may have looked like a scene of utter chaos. But to me and my students, we were in the learning zone! Paper scapes were everywhere. Glue and popsicle sticks and construction paper scattered the floor. Students' discussion filled the room (along with a little music..because why not?). It was a messy, loud, beautiful sight. I overhear a table of students talking. One student said, “Look at this mess! We have stuff everywhere.” The other student turned and said, “That’s okay! We are getting a little messy, but we are learning and having fun! Right, Mrs. Rigsby!?” Music to my ears!
If you are wanting Pinterest worthy, I can understand that. There is a lot of pressure and eyes on us as educators that make us feel we need to live up to certain expectations. But I would encourage you to examine the ‘Why” of you needing that picture perfect project. Is the student at the center of that project and the learning?
So, will my classroom look like a tornado went through it on a daily basis… probably. But there is beauty in that mess. You just might have to dig down past all the construction paper and glue to see it. :)
It was a Friday morning, after a week of inside recess. It was Valentine's Day weekend (aka... classroom celebration day) and the following Monday was a holiday. Hello three day break! This was the set up of a long day. I grabbed my coffee and headed out the door prepared for the craziness.
Every morning after announcements the kids come join me at the front of the classroom for a morning meeting and a read aloud. We love sharing books together. On this particular morning I chose a book called Sincerely Emerson. I had found it at our local bookstore. It caught my attention because it was based on a true story of a little girl in a town not far from where I grew up, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Sometimes I am really good about previewing books before I read them to my class but other times, I hate to admit, I judge a book by it’s cover and can’t wait to hear the story for the first time with the kids. This book was somewhere in between this, I knew just enough for it to be the perfect fit for Valentines Day.
I will tell you just enough for this to make sense but you MUST read this book. Emerson is a girl living in a small town. She loves to write letters and would send the letters to her relatives and friends all over. Her letters were written with love and care, decorating each one perfectly. One day she realized that this wouldn’t be possible without her local postman, Doug. She decided to write him a thank you letter. Doug was so appreciative that he told his friends. By the end of the story Emerson’s one thank you letter turned into something amazing. She touched so many people from her hand written letters.
As I started to read the book the kids became very quiet and engulfed in the story. Most of the time they are reading along with me, making comments, asking questions, or laughing at the funny parts. You could sense that they were feeling what Emerson was feeling in the story. At the end of the book, I paused, it was quiet... which is very uncommon for this particular group of second graders. Then a small voice said “Mrs. Diede I think I would like to write a letter to someone that might be unnoticed.”
As the class listened, this little girl talked about our community of workers in the oil, gas, and coal industries. She told a story about her dad not getting a new warm coat like others had with tears in her eyes. It was then my class showed what I had been waiting for all year. Three of her friends got close to her and showed their support while others started to agree and started to figure out a way to reach more people.
By the end of the morning my students had written over 20 different letters to workers in our community, thanking them for working through the nights, the bitter cold weather, and leaving their families behind so we could have heat and power to our homes. They took time to decorate each letter and used their best handwriting. They worried about spelling and even wrote some jokes to make the workers laugh. I have delivered the letters to the appropriate places for our community workers to read and feel the love.
This particular morning wasn’t planned. This was completely student driven and teacher supported. On this morning, amongst the craziness of what our day and week had held, my second graders showed true empathy for their community workers and for their classmates. There was no better way to start Valentine’s Day weekend.
The Perfect Lesson
This morning was it! The lesson was planned and the goals were set. As teachers, we try to plan the perfect lesson with goals that we will be the perfect fit for our students. Then then...reality hits. Half of the time we have to go to plan b or scaffold it differently (and on the fly) in hopes that the students will still get to the end goal we desired/planned. You just never know where this group of 2nd graders is going to take a lesson. They keep me on my toes and I try to be prepared for what they might throw in my direction. But today… we hit the home run of engagement, smashing goals, and being complete 2nd-grade rockstar readers!
Today the lesson was about asking questions when reading in nonfiction. This was a new skill that we have started to work on in our classrooms. As much as kids ask questions they don’t seem to be very proficient at asking questions during a lesson when you really want them to. Since I knew the skill was going to be challenging for them I found a topic I thought would be engaging. It is important to think about what you are asking your students to do, if the skill is new then pair it with something that will either engage them or that they are familiar with. This will allow the students to be able to focus more on the challenge of the skills rather than both pieces.
A bug-eating plant…what could be more engaging than that!? Especially when you start your lesson with a short video showing this venus fly trap catching its meal with a SNAP!
As soon as the jaws closed shut trapping the fly inside my group of kids were hooked and the questions started. Below are some of the questions that the group thought of.
How does the plan close up?
How does it know the bug is there?
How do they smoosh it?
What does the plant need to survive?
Then the students were sent out with a National Geographic article about these bug-eating plants. They were given sticky notes and got to work reading to find answers to our questions. Students were engaged and excited. You could hear so many different conversations happening. Students were talking to each other about the answers they were finding, discussing their misconceptions about how the plant works and proving each other’s predictions from the text!
The perfect lesson doesn’t have to be expensive, incorporate a fancy technology project, or take hours to plan. Sometimes all you need is a good hook and an interesting topic to get the ball rolling.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.2.1Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate an understanding of key details in a text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.2.3Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to clarify comprehension, gather additional information, or deepen understanding of a topic or issue.
Love is in the Air