Great Read Alouds to Pair with Writing and Some Poetry

I'm excited to be linking up with Amanda from The Teaching Thief and Jennifer from Lifelong Learning to share a couple of my favorite fiction books.  My first is “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” by Mo Willems.  My first graders LOVED this book and it’s a great way to teach both voice and persuasive writing for the little ones.  It's about a pigeon who keeps begging the readers to let him drive a bus after the bus driver requests that the readers "don't let the pigeon drive the bus."  After I read the story aloud, we made a class book called “Don’t Let The Pigeon Come Into Our Classroom!”  The kids pretended to be the pigeon trying to convince the students to let him into our classroom.  They came up with some hilarious responses such as, “I’ll do your homework for you,” and “I won’t tell your teacher.”  This activity was so fun and really helped my students begin to understand persuasive arguments. 

Another read aloud I love to use when teaching voice and persuasive writing is “I Wanna Iguana” by Karen Kaufman Orloff.  It’s about a boy named Alex who really wants a pet iguana and is trying to persuade his mom to let him have one by giving convincing arguments.  The entire story is told in the form of letters between Alex and his mom, and some of her responses to his arguments are pretty funny.  After we read this story, my first graders wrote a letter to their own parents trying to persuade them to let them get a pet.  They actually did a great job coming up with some good persuasive arguments!  FYI, this book has a great sequel called “I Wanna New Room.”

While I’m on the subject of writing, I thought I would share some of my favorite poetry activities I did when I taught fifth grade and student taught third.  Maybe I can recycle some of these ideas to use with my fourth graders this year.

These are I Am Poems, which I’m sure most of you have heard of.  I had the students stand in front of the overhead projector while I traced the shadow of their profile onto black paper.  They cut out their profile and glued it onto colored paper.  Then they typed their poems, printed them out and glued them on.  I used this activity to teach voice, explaining that we should be able to recognize who each poem belongs to just by hearing their voice in their writing.

For this activity, the students wrote a poem about an item that is special to them.  Most of them wrote about pets, toys, etc.  They brought in a picture of their item and then typed the poem.  They repeated the line “This is my _____” at the beginning of each stanza, and the second and fourth lines had to rhyme.

This is a collage of haikus my students wrote to celebrate spring.  In a haiku, the first and last lines have 5 syllables and the middle line has 7.  They did a really nice job working together and planning out how to put the whole thing together with very little help from me.

Taking an Online Spelling Test

Many of you have probably heard of or are already using Spelling City for practicing spelling words in your classroom.  I used the free version this past year with my first graders and it became a staple in my reading centers.  The activities are fun and engaging, and it’s extremely easy to sign up and create your weekly lists.   Plus, if you link it to your classroom website, you may have better luck getting students to practice their words at home.;)

Have you ever thought about or tried having your students take their weekly spelling test online?  With Spelling City, students can take the test at their own pace and have words repeated and read to them in a sentence multiple times.  If you have a technology lab, cart or are 1:1, all of your students could take the test at the same time.  If you just have access to a few computers or iPads at a time, you could have students take the test in a center or take turns testing.

If you simply can’t get your entire class online in one day, you may just have the kids who have a different list from the rest of the class (i.e. modified or challenge) take the test online.  That way, you don’t have to read off two lists at the same time, which is something I always hated doing!

Here is what the students see when they are taking the spelling test.  They can click the “Say It” and “Sentence” buttons as many times as they need to hear the words repeated and read in a sentence.

Once they are done, students can see their score one of two ways.  This is the spelling report, which can be printed and send home.

This is an adorable certificate that can be printed and brought home as well.

In an effort to conserve paper, I’m using this form that I made for my fourth graders to fill out so their parents can see how they did. 
If you are not a fan of Spelling City, but like the idea of having your students take different spelling tests simultaneously, you could always record your voice into iMovie, Garage Band, Photo Booth or QuickTime, link it to your website, and have them listen and write the words on paper.

I personally am looking forward to no more reading off multiple lists, repeating words several times, and the best part of all... NO MORE GRADING 25 tests every Friday! 

Today's Meet- An Online Chatroom for Students

Have you had the chance to use Today’s Meet with your students yet?  It is, in my opinion, one of the easiest Web 2.0 tools to get students using those higher-order thinking skills.  I love using Today’s Meet because it’s very informal and there isn’t the hassle of signing up with an email address or assigning students usernames and passwords.

You simply go to and enter a name for your room.  Then you click to indicate how long the data will be saved (anywhere from two hours up to one year).  Once you click “Create Room,” it will generate a web address, which you can link to your classroom webpage or simply write on the board for students to copy.  Once you have posted a question or discussion topic, all the students have to do to respond is type their first name, click join and start typing away. 
Today’s Meet always makes for a good reading center.  You may have students read or listen to a story and then respond with a summary, prediction or general response to their favorite part.  You may use it in the content areas to have students demonstrate their learning of a certain topic and even use it as an informal assessment.  The possibilities are endless! 

Today’s Meet is a great way to hold students accountable for their learning and really engage in conversations with one another (especially the ones that are hesitant about volunteering).   Since anyone in the class can respond multiple times, you might get students posing questions and learning from one another. 

A neat closure activity might be to display the entire discussion on your Smart Board to look at together.  Today’s Meet can be used on computers and iPads anywhere you have an internet connection, and it can be used with any age group.  My first graders had no problems using it and absolutely loved sharing with one another online!

Please share how you have used Today’s Meet in your classroom or how you plan on using it.

Sumdog Math- My New Favorite Web 2.0 Site

This gem of a site came to my attention at the very end of this school year, which was when I needed it the most.  My first graders were so squirrely that I was having trouble getting them to focus on just about anything.  When I heard that several teachers at my school were having success using Sumdog with their classes, I jumped right on the bandwagon.   

It was all but several minutes before I had created my free account, set up student user names and passwords, and had them diving into the games.  I had NEVER seen my students so engaged in math, or any website for that matter, all year!  I think what makes Sumdog so exciting for the students is that they can play against one another since many of the games are multi-player.  There’s nothing like a little friendly competition to get kids enthused about learning, right?! 

My first graders engrossed in Sumdog.

Not only is this site super engaging, it gives kids great practice with various math skills and fact fluency.  Sumdog covers over 100 skills split into 10 levels of difficulty.  Teachers can set the topics and challenges they want their students to complete or let them have free reign.  Teachers can also track their students’ progress with the various skills.

Trust me when I say that this site is super user friendly and well worth the several minutes it takes to set up your class.  I’m sure you could use Sumdog with any elementary grade, whether it’s in the computer lab, in a center, or if the students wish to play it at home.  Needless to say, I plan on using Sumdog with my fourth graders this coming school year.  

Newbie Blogger

After spending the past few months checking out all the awesome resources on blogs I’ve found through Pinterest, I got inspired to start my own blog.  I have lots of ideas I want to share about how I’ve integrated technology in the past few years, especially in my experience with 1:1.  But first, here’s a little background info on me…

I taught fifth grade for one year and first grade for three years, and I am thrilled to be starting this coming school year in a 1:1 fourth grade classroom.  I spent this past year piloting 1:1 Macbooks with my first graders and can't wait to see what my fourth graders can accomplish with these amazing devices.  Oh, did I mention our class will also be getting a few iPads to add to the collection?!

I realize not many classrooms out there are 1:1 yet, but if you have any form of technology in your classroom, I’m confident you’ll get something out of my tech tips.  I can’t wait to start blogging about my successes and failures with implementing technology, 1:1 and teaching in general and I am excited to pick up some new ideas from all the amazing teachers out there in bloggy land!

Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog!