Author Archives: heddenturner

First Graders Go Global – Course 5 Final Project

What a joy it was to work on this project!  I have embedded my video here and below I have gone into a bit more detail on my reflections.


My thoughts:

My goals for this lesson were to help my students understand they can share their thoughts, feelings and understandings with the WORLD!  To help instill in them that they can be thoughtful global citizens in the hopes they will share their ideas, start conversations and ask questions.

  • Did I accomplish my goal?  This project was a success on many levels.  The children were empowered, I was empowered, they felt and saw first hand what it meant to share with others and how they can impact others even if they are on the other side of the world.
  • What would I change or do differently?  I will be continuing to look for different apps to use for publishing.  Next time I would like to have a ‘menu’ of sorts so they can choose what app they would like to use to publish.  To do that I will also need to continue to work with different apps so I that I know what skills they will need for working with them.  Scribble Press was a great app, except when it is saved from the i-pad to the website so people can see it on the computer the line breaks are removed.  We had to make a screen shot of each poem and re-create the book to share it on the blog in its original form.  For this reason, we will probably not use this app for publishing poetry but may consider it for a small moment story.

Reflecting on COETAIL:

I can’t believe the journey has ended, or should I say had a great start!  I definitely do not feel it is over.  I will be using all that I have learned each day in my classroom, professional goals and personal life!  I have gained the knowledge and confidence I need to write on a blog, share my thoughts and ideas with others, ask questions, make mistakes and most of all work towards redefining my teaching in such a way that technology is not an “add on” but infused in my lessons.  I will continue to blog, comment and read others blogs as they work towards their goals.  I hope to find another First Grade teacher living in another country that would like to partner with me and help create lessons and allow our classes to work together and share in their learning.  I will continue to work on the idea of flipped centers, using QR codes.  I will simply continue moving forward, asking questions and working towards my goals.  Thank you COETAIL for this wonderful journey!  I am not finished, this only the beginning!



Blog Comments in First Grade

I have been busy working with my class on our poetry unit.  The goal is that they are able share their thoughts, feelings and ideas on a global scale.  We have partnered with a school in another country and are looking forward to reading the comments that they write and commenting on their writing as well.  I have also asked my students to comment on each others poetry.  I realized that my students have no idea how to write a blog comment or what a good quality comment even looks like!   I need to teach my students what it means to write a thoughtful and meaningful comment for others to read.  I started to do some research.  There seemed to be quite a bit out there for older students on this but for the younger ones it was pretty slim.  I did, however, find a great resource in Mrs. Yolli’s Educational-Blogging website.  Her students have even created a nice YouTube video on how to write a quality blog comment.

All of the research helped me to also reflect on my own blog commenting skills.

Do I write meaningful comments? Do I…..

  • Give specific details
  • Add information
  • Ask questions
  • Give compliments
  • Try not to repeat myself

I will strive to practice what I teach my students.  I am looking froward to teaching them how to make an impact on others through not just writing poetry, but writing thoughtful and meaningful comments!

Do you know of any other resources that might be helpful in teaching lower elementary students about writing blog comments?

QR codes in First Grade….Always a Learning Curve


Mrs. Turner’s Grade 1 class using the Scan app on QR codes to read poetry on blogs and websites

I have been working on my poetry unit for Course 5.  I am trying out new and different ways of using the i-pads in my classroom.  One of my experiments this week was to use QR codes (scan app).  Here are some of the things I have learned over the last few days:

  •  There are may ways to create QR codes.  I used  Another way is to use (which is good if you want to keep track of how many times it is being visited.  The will also keep track of your URLs for you so you will have a data base for all of your QR codes- I will be using this one from now on)
  • Many great poetry websites for kids use flash (ugh!).
  • Flash DOES NOT WORK on the i-pad.
  • When putting up the QR codes for First Grade students to use, do not put them too close to each other, they crowd around it and also have a hard time scanning the one they want.  The codes need to be more spread out around the room.
  • When a QR code leads to a Youtube video it is important to explain they are not to click on any other videos from the sidebar after they have finished.

I am sure as I continue through this journey I will learn many new things.  I hope that as I try them and blog about them,  I can also give those that read my blog a “heads up” if they intend to try any of what I am doing in their classes.  I also welcome any feed back from those that are already using QR codes in their classes.

  •  How do you manage the codes?  What has been the best way to give students the access to the codes (binders, folders, taped on the wall)?  
  • What have you used them for? 
  •  What type of reflections do you have the students do after using them?  

Final Project Ideas

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My brain is swimming and in so many directions!  Not that it is a new thing for my brain to be all over the place.  Ideas for Course 5:

Literacy:  Possible Writing Units Are:  –  Revision Unit – How To Books Unit-  Poetry Unit – Flipped Centers Unit (?)

  • Why do I think this is a good unit for course 5? Revision is a hard concept for First Graders that needs to be revisited often and I believe with some more tech integration the ideas and thoughts would “stick” more.  It is also a place I can add Marcello’s and my idea about QR codes and flipped centers for those at different stages in this.  It is also a goal of mine to do more tech integration in my writing.  For the How To writing unit, there are so many options for tech integration, take the writing and make the published piece a “How-To” video or “info-mercial”.  Watching How-To videos to help understand the language that needs to be written and the transition words.  ( I could keep going with this).  For poetry I also have so many different ideas where technology can be integrated and used to enhance the process of understanding as well as creativity.
  • What are some concerns about re-designing this unit? For me, It has always seemed easier to integrate technology in science and social studies.  Although I do integrate it in writing and reading units for Grade 1 there just seems more opportunities in the other subjects.  Maybe it is because I need to research more ideas….the more I work at it I hope to do more and more… I am also concerned about the videos for the flipped centers idea.  There is a lot to consider here.  How long makes sense for these videos for 1st and 2nd Graders?    What is the best way to check for understanding after review?   – Maybe use an app on the i-pad to practice the skill after watching the video?  Can I use the smart board activities on the i-pad with lessons I have created to go with these mini-flipped lessons?  How much time will this take?
  • What shifts in pedagogy would this require of me – With the flipped centers….I feel how I teach will not change.  They will have more accesses to me, I am not sure yet of the other ways….I already do centers and plan for many different lessons in one day for the different learners.  It would be a lot of pre-work to create the amount of centers I would like to use as mini-flipped centers.  For the How-To and Poetry it would require me to make sure my students are understanding and able to use the technology that would be required for this type of integration.  It would also change the way I do the assessments, formative and summative
  • What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require of your students?  Some of this answer I do not think I will totally know until I start really planning the unit I choose out piece by piece.  There are some tech programs and previewing that I know will need to be done.  It will require a bit more self reflection in all of them, which I think is a great thing!
I am really looking forward to Course 5 and taking the time to reflect further on my teaching and how I can make them better.  We shall see….  


The New World?

When addressing the question…

Will education as we know it change because of technology? Where and how will you be teaching in 5, 10, 15 years time?

As we all know, the world is changing all the time, so I do hope that education will continue to change in the way that we help the students understand education in “real world” situations.  Part of the “real world” now is technology, how can it NOT change the way we teach.  At the same time I sincerely hope that my goals to teach children to ask questions, be independent thinkers and problem solvers will have not changed.  I can only imagine how education might change in 15 years!

Whenever I think of how education is changing or might change it reminds me of this youtube clip I watched in one of my previous classes with SUNY about 21st century learning.  In 10-15 years we will be in another new world of different technologies.  What will those new skills be that we as teachers will need to know to teach the students in a way that makes sense to them?  What will the new theories be then ?     

Managing i-pads In Grade 1

1JT Tech Literacy with Mr. Hoffman

  The big question last week was:  How are you managing your laptops in your classroom?  For me that means i-pads.  I decided to do a little research of other Grade 1 classrooms and see what they had to say about it.  This is my first year to have i-pads in the classroom and I am sure there are many different ways to manage them.  Some of the blogs I liked were: Primary Preoccupation , Ipadschools, Teaching Like Its 2999.  I found though, for the most part we are all managing them in a similar way.  In my school the i-pads are stored on 2 carts and shared with the entire elementary.  Managing has seemed extremely easy to this point.  It helps that we have a wonderful technology guru that takes care of them.  As for when we are using them in the classroom (which is getting more and more often by the day), there are some agreements and managing techniques that I really find useful:

  • The i-pads are numbered and the students are assigned an i-pad that is theirs
  • Students must use two hands when carrying the i-pad
  • When helping our friends we are not to touch our friends i-pad but explain in words

I also make sure to explain WHY they are using the i-pad.  If we are taking pictures and saving them in dropbox, it is not just to take pictures, it is to practice so when we do our science project they know how to use the i-pad properly and save their information in the dropbox folder.  If we are drawing on top of images it is so in math they can show all the different ways to make 10 using the drawings they have created.  



You mean I CAN be in two places at once?


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 I must admit, when I started reading about this I thought it did not make much sense for a Grade 1 class.  I do not “lecture” to my children and we are constantly learning by doing, experiencing and  sharing.  Why would I even need to flip my classroom?  I have many different levels of children in my class and I am teaching many different concepts at one time…..AHHH HAAA!  That is it!  I can use a flipped lesson in a center to teach one of my groups about a concept they are working on.  My time is always pulled in so many different directions with the different needs of the class. Now I CAN be in two places at once!  This is really an exciting idea to consider.  I have never flipped a lesson, or center.  In researching this idea I came across a blog post from the Flipped Learning Blog.  It was a post about flipping the elementary classroom.  The author writes:

Don’t flip a class:  Flip a lesson.  

  • Think of the flipped class as another technique in your arsenal.
  • Start with a lesson that students struggle with and make a short video.  An easy way to determine what to make a video of is to ask yourself:  What do I constantly have to repeat or what do kids really need extra help on?
  • Keep the video to no more than 10 min and shorter if you have younger kids.  I think the rule of thumb might be 1-2 min per grade level.
  • Make sure you figure out how the students are going to access the video.  Are you going to post it to your website, to YouTube (this might be tricky with younger kids since some parents might not want their kids on YouTube).  Also make sure that all kids have a way to access the videos.  If you teach in a school with access issues, then make sure you solve this problem before class.
  • You might also not assign the video as homework, but make it a center in your classroom for students who struggle and/or need extra help.
  • Figure out how you will check to see if they have watched the video.  You could have them take notes on paper or you might have them give feedback via a google form.  There are lots of ways to check student work.

Now that I know how to produce a video from Course 3 in COETAIL I can get started right away!  It will be a short 1 – 2 minute lesson.  I know it takes quite a bit of time to create a video, but once I have a collection of videos to use I can begin using this flipped center model more often. This will be a new challenge for me, but I am up for it!  Do you have any lessons or centers you have used in your classroom?  I would appreciate any thoughts or advice on using this in a Grade 1 classroom.  


The Where, When, What and How

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The big questions I have are where, when, what and how we should be teaching technology.  Yes, technology is in the classroom. We have computers, i-pads, smartphones, CD players, flip cameras, document cameras and projectors.  This is all great!  We use them each day to help our students be the best ‘superhero’ they can be.  The only problem is if this learning and the programs we use do not build on eachother it is a lot of time spent each year re-teaching or un-doing or explaining how to use the technology.  For example, should we be teaching typing?  This is a BIG discussion and there are MANY views out there on if this should even be taught.  Why does one need typing on an i-pad?  However, if they are expected to be typing stories on the computer in Grade 2 or Grade 3, shouldn’t they then have some background knowledge on typing in Grade 1.  Is there a standard for when that should be introduced and at what point the students are held accountable for knowing it?  Is Grade 1 to early for typing or should it be started even earlier?  Also, are we holding them accountable for the right reasons?

I read David Warlick’s blog post What Difference Might One “S” make?:

We can’t provide them with skills they need when they graduate.  It will change!  We don’t even know what skills they need.

I teach First Grade.  That means that my students will graduate from highschool 11 years from the time they are with me.  Technology use will look very different in 11 years.  So it doesn’t make sense then to base a Grade 1 technology standard on what they will need when they graduate, right?  They may not even be typing by then at all!  What they need for when they graduate are those problem solving, questioning and deeper thinking skills.  Again, using technology as a tool to help them learn and understand those concepts.  This means a school’s technology standards should be based on how to best help them use those technology resources.  To use those resources they need to know some programs and skills.  How do we know which ones they need to know and by when?  All that boils down to our own curriculum, vertical alignment and understanding of how each grade level uses the technology and what skills they need to help them best accomplish those goals.  

I feel like I am swimming with thoughts and questions!  I have my own opinions and ideas but I am not sure where they fit in at this point.  Jeff’s blog post:  I don’t want to integrate it, I want to embed it!, makes a good point, but I do not yet feel that all schools are at the “embedding” stage and how does that fit in when we are creating standards? What are your thoughts and opinions on this?  Where are your technology standards in regards to vertical articulation and grade level curriculum?  Do you have specific standards for each grade or are they more general ?  Do you like them to be more general or would you rather have more specific ones?  Should there be more?   I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this as I work out my own.


Never Ending Technology Superpowers

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NETS – Never Ending Technology Superpowers!

Many of my students are already born with this technology superpower gene.  It is unbelievable how little I have to explain. As with every superpower, my students must learn how to use it in a way that will be most effective in accomplishing their goals.  Whether conquering the world, an evil villain, or a math problem, without prior knowledge or experience it will take longer and be much harder to get the job done.  Whose job is it to teach them and give them that experience?

How does a Kindergartener or First Grader  create a video journal from observations of their class pet if they have never been taught what program or app to use?   I believe that we all (students, parents and educators) are invested in doing whatever we need to do make sure a student is successful in their learning.  We should be teaching them:

…to apply technology to solve problems. – David Warlick

We should be giving them access to any and every tool we have at our fingertips to help them be successful in their learning and become masters at asking questions, problem solving, and understanding  through real world situations.

A Small Moments Digital Story

I started to really think and work on my digital story quite a while ago.  I used the blog post by Alan Levine, 50+Web 2.0 Ways to Tell A Story.  Reading this helped me to take a deep breath and break it down.  He said:

A story can be broader than a personal tale of a dog (!)– it can be slide show from a vacation , a project report, an idea pitch, a teaser for a class topic. if you are doing this in one of my workshops, time is limited, and you will want to pick something quickly, and not worry about it being worthy of a national art prize.The purpose here is to experience the creative aspects provided by the web tools, not to create a cinematic work. And remember that you will need to find images and other media from public collections that can represent the characters, places, or metaphors in your story- so try to think of ideas that lend themselves to visuals and media.

I know that Coetail is not expecting a cinematic work of art but is more interested in me learning the process and understanding how to use it. I go.  First I need to brain storm and decide what I want to make a digital story about.  There are so many options it  was hard to decide.  Some of the stories in my head would be WAY to long for this project and others would be boring to the general public.  I decided it needed to be more like a “small moment” that I tell my kids to write.  Not one giant watermelon but a tiny seed.  I GOT it!  My first night in Kathmandu, Nepal.  It is funny, entertaining and certainly creates all different types of emotions for me.  I can also use it in the classroom!

Now that I know my story I need to make a story board to get an idea of how many frames and pictures I will need.  I have decided to use all of the tools I will be asking my first graders to use when they create their digital story.  I have done this before but I am now at a new school and they do not have the same programs.  I consulted with my Tech Literacy colleague and we have decided to have the children use the app Explain Everything to create a digital story.  I had never used the app until this year so I am learning as I go.  I created the story the same way the children will, through Writing Workshop paper (I really wanted to follow the same process I will be asking them to follow).   I then illustrated my story and took pictures of each page.  I put my pictures in dropbox and imported them into Explain Everything to add my vioce.  The kids already know how to save pictures in dropbox from the i-pad and import them!   

Now to make the movie for them see what a digital story will look like and what the end goal will be for their stories.  When we are finished with them in the classroom we will post a link our classroom blog for all of the parents to see.  I hope you enjoy the one I created.  It was certainly a learning curve for me, especially the understanding so I can now teach it.  I will post some of the stories from my First Grade class on this blog when we finish them (we are just now starting this unit).  I am excited that I have really been able to take what I am learning and use this in the classroom. :)  Here is my small moment digital story:

What I could have done better:

In all this project took what seemed like forever.  Just creating and re-creating the story and brain storming was incredibly painful at times.  I learned that part of that reason was how open it was for what kind of story we were to do.  It took me a long time to “zero” in.  I know exactly how my kids feel!  I needed to narrow things down and to do that I used some of the same things I use with my class.  I used a web and then picked one part of my web to write about.  Now that I have been through this process I think I could certainly do that part faster and use my time a bit more wisely.

I had a hard time lining the pictures up right in Explain Everything.  They move when you touch them and the last one I never could get centered.  I wonder for my teaching purpose if I want to include the words and the pointer or maybe that could be a different project for the kids.

For my purpose in making this an example for my First Graders to see what the end result of their projects would be I had to be careful not to “over do”.  I did find myself “over doing” during the planning process a lot and sticking with the idea of PURPOSE for this project (to learn and understand how to use digital technology to create digital stories AND for me personally create something I can use in my classroom that would be meaningful and make sense)…I had to really work hard not to try and add everything.  I found that music took away from the story, so I took it out.  I think maybe I should have left it as an introduction and ending.  I added frames around my drawings but that also took away and looked really busy, but perhaps the Title Page could have had a frame.  Like all things here in is a work in progress and will never truly be finished if we really want to learn.  I can’t wait to see my student’s reactions to the story.

If you are an elementary teacher and want to use Explain Everything for creating digital stories, I highly recommend it.  I do not know it all yet, but I can certainly help with the planning process and ideas on how to use it with writing workshop.