Thursday, April 17, 2014

Techy Time: Mad Lips

One of my students' very favorite apps to use is MadLips. Everyone always thinks I am talking about MadLibs where you fill in the blank, but this isn't even similar. This app allows students to record their voices while they video heir lips then add them to a picture to create a report.
Sounds a little on the weird side right? I promise you, they will have you laughing and learning the whole time.

There are both free and paid versions of the app, so that you can try it out before you buy it. I stuck to the free version for a while, but like a few of the options like longer videos, and different backgrounds that the paid version offers. For $2.99 is was well worth it for me.

To create a MadLips you open up the app.

Choose a picture from those provided or from a Bing search.

Record yourself talking while the app videos your lips through the forward facing camera.

Size the lips to fit your picture.

Watch your video!
It really is simple, and students love it. The first time we did it I thought I was really going to have to walk students through it, but they caught on faster than I did. What's new, I know. We played around with the app a few times, but have also done several reports using it. This works extraordinarily well with students who are too shy to speak in front of their peers. Instead, they get to play the video, but still give their classmates the same great content.

We have done reports on:
Famous Texans
Important leaders in the community
And there are many more to come

Give it a try, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Attitude Check, With a Little Review

Are you tired of test prep yet? Surprisingly I am not, which is shocking because we are really in the trenches now. I have been trying to keep it really light and fun this year. This approach has helped my students to not stress quite as much, and I am trying to relinquish a bit of control.

I mean, don't get me wrong. We are still prepping, just not with the Doomsday Prepper attitude that I may have had about this time last year. I swear, it really has made a difference. I attribute a lot of this to the guidance of our amazing principal who has set such a positive tone.

Today I am popping in to tell you a little bit about some of the review that has been ongoing this week in our classroom. With all of this review students are bound to finish up at different times, so we have a few projects going on that will keep them reviewing.

One thing that is always really tough for our kiddos is estimating units of measurement. We have a measurement station set up in the back of our room that students can go to when they finish up an assignment. In the station we have a triple beam balance, rulers, math charts, a yard stick, a spring scale, and sand to measure volume along with object to measure. Students have been going a few at a time to explore the station. I am hoping that this hands on experience will stick with them.

Our next ongoing project is a name reflection. I don't know why transformations are so difficult for our students, but they are. For this project, students create a reflection of their name over a line of symmetry.

They start by folding a paper in half making a defined crease. Then, using a black crayon they write their name entirely above the line. They need to go over their name several times in order to get a good build-up of crayon.

Then you refold the paper with the crayon on the inside. Using a marker, pencil, or other object apply pressure over the paper. I like to use a marker and run it back and forth multiple times.

Once you have done this, you reopen the paper. The crayon should have transferred to the other side as a reflection. I then allow students to decorate their reflection as way they would like, but it has to remain a reflection.

Finally, this last little bit isn't so much ongoing other than that we play Stinky Feet almost daily between reading and math. One of my teammates was having a difficult time with the poster that I use, so she improvised and I love it! Instead of the poster that I use, shown in this post, she uses popsicle sticks in a bucket. Ingenius! She doesn't have to worry about stickies losing their stick, or kids walking off with them, or kids trying to read the point total through the sticky. Genius I tell you! I have amazing coworkers, what can I say?

We are getting down to the wire, but you wouldn't know it by all the smiles in the classroom. I knew this time of year didn't have to be so bad!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Texas History Tuesday: Railroad comes to Texas

Okay, real talk time. As I said a few weeks ago, Texas History really goes on the back burner this time of year. This is the usual routine for this time of year, but this year especially. I don't know where the time went, or where it goes each day while I am in the middle of it as a matter of fact, but either way I was hit head-on with a pretty bad realization today.

Progress reports are due next week and I have exactly zero items that I can take a grade on in social studies. Panic may have ensued for a while moment. How did I let this happen? Surely there is something that we have done that I could take a grade on. Nope, nada, not without a whole lot of stretching.

Sooo... I bring you another week of slightly panicked Texas History Tuesday.

We are still working on the Texas Frontier. We have done several read alouds, and lots of discussion on life during this time period. It is time for some knowledge checks though!

An important part of the Texas Frontier was the railroad coming to Texas. I mean, has there ever really been a more significant change in transportation? Cattle trails were on their way out, and populations were beginning to rise.

United Streaming has a great video that gives students the imagery they need for this era called, "Transportation, the History of the Railroad." While watching this video, I have students complete an FQR. An FQR is a simple assignment in which they list 3 facts, 2 questions, and 1 response that they have after the video. I have found that FQRs are a great way to help students process information, and they let me know really quickly who is getting it and who is completely off base. You can grab a generic FQR freebie here. Sometimes I will give them the template, others I just have them write it in their interactive notebooks.

After watching the video and discussing how the railroad changed the way of life in Texas we get busy on our Impacts of the Railroad fold-up.

Honestly, that is about all we have time for at this point. At least it is something I guess. Until after STAAR...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Math Test Prep

We are in full on test prep mode this week with the STAAR reading and math tests next week. We are doing our best to cover all of the content that we need to review without boring anyone to tears, myself included. I am always Googling and trying to dream up another game that can be played while doing review, but sometimes it is the "Oldies, but goodies," that get the job done right. 

Every day we do a problem of the day. We use these Daily Multi-Step Problems each day to get the math juices flowing. They come in monthly or a whole year, so that there can be consistency. 


Our school uses the UPS Check method for working through a problem. Students draw four quadrants then ask themselves:
What does this problem want me to UNDERSTAND?
What is my PLAN?
How will I CHECK my work?

This strategy really helps me to see what my students are thinking and quickly diagnose if a misconception is in understanding or computation. I have seen it work wonders this year. 

After our benchmarks I created a couple of sets of stations based on my students' lowest performing SEs. There is one set with a winter sports theme and another with a candy theme. I am using both this week to review from our learning throughout the year.  

We use these stations independently, in partners, and in small groups with me. 

In small groups I have students show their work on dry erase boards. 

I also encourage them to write on the task cards so that I can see how they are comprehending the problems as well. 

Thinking hard!

I will be back throughout the week with more ways that we are practicing our math skills and encouraging confidence this week!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Math Review Egg Hunt!

Easter is right around the corner, and what better way to get my kiddos excited about math than an egg hunt? This egg hunt was completed indoors, because it has been a wee bit windy this week, but it was no less fun. 

I bought a bag of 48 plastic eggs at Target for $2, which I thought was quite the steal. I went real low tech on this one by taking a practice STAAR test, renumbering it with Sharpie, and cutting it to pieces. I did make a quick grid for students to do their work and record their answers on. 

Then into the eggs the questions go. I put one question in each egg. I did all of this in the morning before my students got there, but made sure to leave all of the eggs in a container on my blue table where I was sure the students would notice them. 

They got one look at all those eggs and almost exploded. Now, we did a writing egg hunt a few weeks back, so I thought they would know better, but they were convinced that the eggs were filled with candy. 

They asked all morning when we were going to start the hunt, and were pumped when it came time. 

I hid the eggs all over our classroom, but mostly in fairly obvious places. 

I mean, the meat of this is math, not searching for eggs for hours. 

They were so excited and go right to finding eggs. I made sure that there were many more eggs than students, so that they wouldn't be piled up. Their job was simple. Find an egg. Open it up. Read the problem carefully. Solve the problem. Record their answer. 

They loved hunting for the eggs, and I loved seeing the hard work they were doing. It was super quiet too, which was completely unexpected. 

A few management tips:
Make sure that students know your expectations for showing work.
Tell students that they need to put the egg back exactly where they found it. (I had a student who thought it would be funny to rehide the eggs in places like the trash can.)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bright Idea: Rock-Paper-Scissors Championship

Another month has already passed? My how time flies, but there is some good news... another month means another Bright Ideas Blog Hop! I know that I am looking forward to more new ideas, because I always find something inspiring.

I am still in full on test prep mode for the next week and a half before our state tests, and that is leaving me feeling a little less than inspired. I am feeling a little ho-hum about classroom life these days inspite of trying to keep it as fun and interactive for my students as possible. 

SOOO.... my bright idea is a brain break that my students and I love! This brain break can be completed in less than two minutes once you know the rules, but lifts spirits and energy levels high in the process. My goal for a brain break is to get students up and moving, work off a little extra energy, and get more oxygen to their brains.

Without further adieu I bring you the Rock-Paper-Scissors Championship.
Everyone knows how to play Rock-Paper-Scissors, but this one has a little twist to it. 

Students start with a partner and say, "One, two, three, show!" I emphasize "show" with my students, just because, well you know. Then students show their hand. There is a winner, but that is where things get changed up. 


The winner finds a new partner, but their former partner becomes their SILENT cheerleader. They follow them around and cheer them on. 

The cheering squad grows bigger and bigger for each student still in the game until there are just two left. 

I make a really big deal about the final two and announce it boxing match style. Then we cheer on the final players until a champion is determined. The champion of the day gets their name on the board and is king for the day. 

We play each and every day, my students won't let me forget. 

**I apologize for all the smilies in the photos. It proved impossible to get true action shots without faces in them. :(

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Techy Time: Baiboard

We tried out a new app in class this week, and I am excited to share it with you! The app is called Baiboard, and is a collaborative whiteboard that can be used by multiple users at the same time. I was a little skeptical at first, but it turned out great.

You start off by creating a "meet." Then others join your meet based on proximity or by entering a meet number. I created a meet with five different slides that each had a circle map with a specific genre. My students were tasked with adding the title of a book that belonged in each genre to each circle map. 

Baiboard allows you to add shapes, text, write or draw with your finger, use stamps, and add clipart. 

Now comes the absolutely fantastic collaborative element... 
Once you are all on the same meet, anything that is added on any linked Ipad, is added to everyone's presentation on their Ipad. SO, my students were able to use each others' responses to guide more responses. 

I projected one Ipad so that they could all see it, and I could monitor responses from anywhere in the room. 

Adding a response. 

Reading others' responses before adding their own to the nonfiction genre. 

Evaluating responses in the fiction genre. 

Moving text so that it didn't overlap. 

Adding a response.

Mystery genre filling up!

Moving text to the proper location. 

All in all, this is an app that we will definitely be using again. Best of all, it is free which means you can try it out and not have any guilt about buying it. 

Last but not least, below is a video of our screen while students added their own responses to the fairy tale genre. Don't mind the giggling in the background. I apologize for the video quality. 

If you try out Baiboard I would love to hear what you think of it!