Thursday, September 17, 2009 A Useful Tool for Creating Online Sticky-note Bulletin Boards

I was looking for a good way to communicate with parents in my classroom and came across a website called It allows me to set up an online bulletin board with Sticky "Post-it" style notes. The page of notes can also be embedded on a blog. I am trying it out on my classroom blog. I find it useful to write quick notes about homework or other classroom activities this way as I can do it anytime and don't have to use up paper. I believe I have set the options so that I am the only one that can leave a note (I have seen what fifth graders can do with sticky notes and don't need my computer decorated that way!). I can edit the notes (not easy) and delete them, as well as arrange them on the desktop if I want to waste some time. You can include links with pictures, audio, or video. I hope that my parents find this tool useful. I have put up notes with additional help and hints for completing some extra credit assignments that make the work easier and more understandable for my students. I can also write silly notes to hopefully generate some fun and interest. If a student forgets to write the homework down or if parents want to check homework assignments then they can look for a homework note each day. A link to my classroom's full screen version is here. What I like is that I could embed my wall in my classroom blog and that way parents don't have to navigate to different pages. I can thinks of many additional uses for this website tool. The website is free to use and teachers and parents may want to try it out for their own purposes.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Saying Hello to New Searles Elementary School

I am teaching at a new school in Nashua this year. After 21 years of teaching at Mount Pleasant Elementary School, I have moved across town to teach at New Searles Elementary School. It is exciting learning the culture of a different school, meeting new teachers, and starting all over again in a different setting ( I was in the same classroom for all 21 years at Mount Pleasant). I like what I see at New Searles and I know I will enjoy teaching here. I also get to learn a new curriculum as I have moved up to a fifth grade position. To top it all off, I have gone from a class of 17 students last year to a room with 27 students, fortunately they all seem nice enough so it is going to be a great year full of adventure, learning, and fun!

Not being one to procrastinate when it comes to teaching, I got the class off to their first project on the first day of school. Fortunately we have been having gorgeous weather in Nashua and that of course meant we had to go outside and study some of the trees in front of the school. Before we did that however we had a lesson that focused in on words and how they can be used (and how to play around with them). I prepared a similar lesson at Mount Pleasant School last year and wrote about it here. Briefly I gave each students all of the words from William Carlos Williams poem, "The Locust Tree in Flower":

The Locust Tree in Flower






The words were not in order. I asked them to make sense out of these words. They could add words if they wanted and could write in phrases, sentences, a paragraph, or even poetry form. When I showed the class the poem they were a little confused as it didn't make sense. I told them my best interpretation of the poem is that William Carlos Williams put the words in a random type of order with some omissions of important words. Upon reading the poem a few times the class matched up some words together and started making some sense of the poem.

I took the class outside and divided them into four groups to study four different trees in front of New Searles School. I told them to write down words or phrases that described the tree and its surroundings. Later upon entering the school, we used the words to create our own poems like "The Locust Tree in Flower". I told them poets are rule breakers and get to write their own rules. The rules I wanted them to follow was to have a title, and a thirteen word poem (one word per line), and to arrange it like Williams' poem 3 words, space, 3 words, space, 3 words, space, 1 word. For homework I had them tear out the paper and colorize each word on each piece of paper. The next day we went outside and arranged the papers on the grass. Fortunately it was another nice day and the papers did not blow away. I took 27 times 15-20 photos for each poem in under 45 minutes and filled up my memory card on the last photo! I did see some students took the "poets can make up their own rules" in their own way and misspelled some words or put more than one word on a line.

The photos will be used to make animoto videos (Digital Poetry) of each student's work. I made a couple of sample videos here. I have a ways to go since the school computers cannot handle this task. However, I think some students may wish to try this at home so for those who choose to do that I will send them the photos.

Animoto is a fun little program. Teachers can sign up for a free account here. It makes professional looking videos that are matched up with music. Each video is unique and can be shared. A free account will let you make videos at home, but they are limited to 30 seconds each. Animoto just announced that you can insert video clips into the videos now, so I went back to the school on Sunday and took a few brief videos of each tree (well one tree was the wrong tree!) and included a video clip in both of the sample videos that I made. The first is Darcy's poem and the second is the poem that James wrote.