Friday, January 31, 2014

Tortilla Soup for the Soul

Remnants of the latest "polar vortex" dwindle in the 40+ degree temps today, but that's not all that's melting. One of my colleagues recently sent this to me, a "Young Author" submission for a school writing contest, written by a former student of mine.

It was the perfect way to end the week. And a delicious way to warm my soul. Just had to share.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Solving a "Double-Mystery" Skype

One of the objectives for using technology in the classroom is how to use it as an actual "tool", how to use it not only to find information, but to share as well.
There are so many ways to do this now, but one of our favorite ways is using Mystery Skype, and we wanted to show our readers what happened during the last one.

We learned a new word: "TROUBLESHOOTING".
At first, we could hear them and see them, but they couldn't see us.
We finally had mutual sight, but then we lost sound.
Neither class could hear the other, but we could see each other.

What would you do, if you only had a small window of time, and still wanted to solve the mystery?!

Look what my Geo Detectives did! Instead of sitting back in defeat, they grabbed our little whiteboards and started writing their questions as quickly as they could, then displaying them in front of the webcam.
The other class did the same. Take a look!

Using the whiteboards ramped up the excitement, and gave everyone
an extra chance to collaborate. 

Our fellow Mystery Skypers were rapt and attentive as they
read the next question.

They wrote their questions for us on whiteboards, too!
What an unintended (surprise!) twist to our Mystery Skype!
Hmmm....Ben and Jerry's, Cabot Creamery, mountains....any ideas?
The Googler Team is at it again, piecing the clues together.

Success!! We guessed their location! Vermont!!
When we finished our Mystery Skype, the kids were super excited that not only had they solved the location, but they had dealt with "real-world" technology issues with panache, and without giving up. These kids love a challenge--nearly as much as they love success!!

What type of "real-world" problems do your students encounter with technology and how do they solve them? We would love to know!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

How do we communicate? Do try this at home!

A fun and informative instructional strategy for my language learners is one that I learned about from @LarryFerlazzo called "Back to the Screen". (which he adapted from Zero Prep: Ready To Go Activities For The Language Classroom by Laurel Pollard and Natalie Hess) (What follows is my interpretation of the strategy.) 

Using short (2-3 minutes) videos or video clips, half of the class faces away from the screen, and their partners stand in front of them, facing the screen and watching the video. The ones who are watching, narrate to their partners what they see happening. (the sound is off) At the end of the clip, or midway through the clip, my students switch and repeat the process. 

The second group of narrators may or may not be watching the same part as the first group--it depends on the learning objective that day. At the end, partners will join to reconstruct the events in sequence. I've had them sketch the events with partners, write the events as a list, or retell the story in paragraph form. It can generate lively discussion, especially when they're searching for the right words or trying to remember which happened first!

I've also had partners pair up with other partners after a given time to compare stories and events, prepare short skits to reenact a clip, or simply share out what they saw. After everyone has shared, then we watch the video together, with sound. 

If time allows, I have them add or change one detail they may have gotten incorrect. 

Two things I tried differently this past week were to have students watching the screen: 

a) not use arms or body gestures while they were narrating events on the screen (YOU try it! a lot harder to do than it sounds!)
b) only use their bodily movements (no verbal explanation) to show what was happening on the screen (Try this without laughing! Impossible!) (But oh, how it grabbed their attention!)

Students realized how much more they used their bodies (hands, facial gestures, body movements) when they didn't know how to say a certain word. They also gained an awareness of how much we really do rely on visual cues from others when communicating and trying to help each other understand information. 

Using this activity can be a great vocabulary review, or a pre-assessment tool for teachers to determine what vocabulary students are missing in a given topic, too. Definitely a great tool to practice sequencing events and considering cause and effect--in addition to the actual content material of the videos.

Very fun and interesting stuff. And definitely a highlight. Check out the fun below. Kids were watching Ormie the Pig! as part of our unit on failure in the realm of setting goals. 

Narrating what she is tough to do without using
gestures and hand movements!

Like I said--SO hard to do, especially, as we found out,
when we don't know or remember the word for something!

Dare you to act out what you see on the screen without
laughing! (Great brain break--bonus!)

Fun and laughter is the perfect midday elixir!

Great job, kids!!
Who's next?....

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Making 2014 Resolutions With Idioms

Our class has been learning about idioms recently, and we've been focusing on idioms related to the body. 

Getting ready to lend a hand!

Idioms are word combinations that are totally crazy! If you looked up the words in the dictionary, then tried to put them together, they would make no sense! 

For language learners this type of figurative language can be very confusing. 

We listen to the idioms in context, then sketch what we think it means, and share our ideas out loud. After some discussion (and laughter!) I explain or act out its actual meaning. Once they understand the true meaning, they respond orally and in writing to a prompt to "show what they know"!

We decided to put our best foot forward in 2014 and think of ways to lend a hand as a New Year's resolution. We would love for you to read our ideas and add your own!

We are also going to be working on our typing skills, so some of our responses are in the comments below. 

Can you think of an idiom that you like to use? Please share it with us in the comments!

How about a way that you plan to lend a hand or put your best foot forward this year?
Putting our best foot forward!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2014, The Year of PRAESPERO

To my growing World Wonders, I can sense
Great things afoot in the realm of YOU...

This is the concept that will guide my actions in 2014.
The launch of my new project (SOOO Excited for this!!!)
is already official (!!) in one location
and soon it will be in another!
 Details will be posted here soon.

For all you doubters, have no fear--optimism reigns in Ms. Wendi's World.
As for the "Wonder"? This project will expand my previous boundaries.
Nervous? Yes. Taking deep breaths? Absolutely.
Ready to nourish HOPE? Without a doubt.
Wait and see.