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Recording Read Alouds

How to record basic read aloud stories for the students during our remote learning.Now, admittedly, I am not expert when it comes to video recording.  Generally, I take small snippets of my classroom or whatever on Instagram and am done with it all.  But with this "distance learning" thing upon us, and in my efforts to keep the love of reading alive for my students, I have been forced to learn how to use some basic video recording technology.
Daily, I read a book aloud to my students.  There have been many authors who have given permission during this shut down to read books aloud to students via video as long as those read alouds are locked down to some extent (meaning, not just free and clear on youtube for anyone to see.)  So each day, I choose a book that I know has been cleared.

Then, I sit down with my computer and open QuickTime.  This application was already loaded on my Mac when I bought it.  It is a super easy video recording method.  I press "New Movie Recording" and the little box pops up.  I press record and I am off to the races.

Now, I am sure there are editing apps I can use (I do know that you can trim your video in QuickTime itself, as I have done that to cut off unnecessary stuff on the end) but I really haven't ventured that far.  Mostly, I press record, read the book, press end record and I am done.  Easy peezy.  


Now, originally, I was just uploading these directly to Google Classroom (which is the platform I am using to keep my students organized and connected to their work through this shut down) but the videos stopped processing for some reason.  So I needed a backup plan.  I set up a private YouTube channel that no one can access.  When I upload videos there, they are locked down so only I can see them.

Next, I take the url of the video I uploaded to that private channel, and place it in Safe YouTube.  Thank you to Kristen at Ladybug's Teacher Files for this tip!  This site makes my video accessible to my class through a secure link.  What is great about it, too, is that once I get the secure link, the kids ONLY can watch the video.  No adds or "next video" pops up.  (you can see the side bar of the video I uploaded in the picture.  There are no adds or anything.)   It keeps everything kid-friendly for them and makes sure that they are only seeing what I want them to see.

After the secure link is generated, I paste that onto my Google Classroom feed and the kids are able to watch the video.  


This has worked out well for us so far.  I know that there are video services out there that offer more in the way of editing and stuff, but for the purposes of reading a story aloud to my kids, QuickTime is working just fine.....and it is free and already available on my Mac.  

What video services have you use to video yourself for the kids during this time of distance learning?

Preparing for At Home Student Learning

If you had asked me one month ago if I thought I would have to be preparing for my students to spend 2 or more weeks at home learning their lessons instead of being in the classroom with me, I would have thought you were crazy.   It just seems so surreal that something like this could happen.

Yet, here we are.

I was told three days ago that I would need to come up with a plan for 2 weeks of learning that my students would be able to do independently (read: without a teacher) and still further their education.  Instantly, I was stressed out.  This was uncharted territory and I was just unsure what to even do.

And I figured if *I* didn't know what to do, *YOU* probably didn't either.   Below is a list of all of the resources that I came up with to use with my students (and a few more too ;)  )  

To begin with, I created this calendar that I thought would be useful to my students and their parents to keep all of the learning organized.  It is a basic checklist of all the things that the kids need to do while they are away from school.  This calendar includes a mix of paper and digital resources for my kids.  

You can get an editable version of it here.  Just plug in what works best for you students.  I sent a hard copy of this with my students (since I knew we were going to be closing down) and a digital copy to their parents. 

I created a digital Book Summary Log for my kids.  Now, usually I am not a book log kinda gal. I just find them to be less useful for my own instruction.  However, with the kids being away, I can't discuss the books with them.  So I made a very simple, easy to use Book Log.  You can get a copy for yourself here.

Wonderopolis.org is also a wonderful site that I am assigning my kids.  There are articles on interesting and timely topics for the students to choose from.  They will write a summary and make an inference on each article that they read.

There are also many resources that are free on Scholastic.com due to the school closures.  

The kids will also be doing some SBAC practice on LumosLearning.com  It is free and SO helpful to get the kids thinking about THE TEST (because, like it or not, the kids test almost immediately after we get back from the closure)

For writing, I am assigning two of my digital Paragraph of the Week files for the kids.  Since you are here on my blog, you probably need writing resources too.  So here is Week 1 and Week 2 I am sending to the kids (if you would like the entire digital file for year round use, you can get that here.)  Each of these weeks are formatted the same way that the kids use on paper.  The only difference is that it is digital.  

Each day for homework, my students complete a spiral math page.  I wanted to keep that continuity for them, so I converted two weeks to digital.  If you teach 3rd grade, you can find it here.  Your students should be able to do all of the skills here, as we are nearing the end of the year anyway.  You can get 5th grade here (4th is on its way)

In math, my kids are using xtramath.org (fact practice that is always free and always super useful!)   My kids also LOVE Prodigy and Zearn.  Both are free for students to use.
For science, I assigned the kids several of the Mystery Science lessons.  Mystery Science has put many of their lessons out for free because of these school closures.  They are the same, exact lesson that you would get in the paid membership, which are amazing!  Doug leads the kids through the science so they should have no problem learning the lessons and concepts.

BrainPop has also set their service free for the duration of the school closures.  It is a MUST USE site for all things social studies and math.  You can sign up your class with this link here.  

Those are the things that I am assigning my students while they are away from school.  A few others things (like our math book and Benchmark Advanced) are paper textbooks that I did not include in this list.  My hope is that this list of things we are doing above sparks some ideas for you and makes this time a bit less stressful.


US Symbols: Tech Meet Art

After learning about the three branches of government, my students were ready to move on to learning about the symbols in the United States that mean so much to us as Americans.  I took this opportunity to also get my students working collaboratively on Google Slides.  
We began by pulling out our social studies books and reading about the various symbols that have made an impression on our American culture.  Things like the Statue of Liberty, the bald eagle, the White House, and even holidays such as Veteran's Day, were all symbols that featured in our reading.  

I then paired my students up and assigned them one of the US Symbols.  The kids were asked to create a Google Slide in which they both were added on (basically, one student started the slide.  Then she shared the slide with her partner using the partner's email address.  That slide then showed up in the partner's Google Drive and both students could work on it at the same time.)  Once the slide was created and shared, I told the students that each slide needed to contain the following:
10 facts about the assigned symbol (facts related to that object as a symbol)
One picture of the symbol
A large title naming the symbol

The rest (fonts, backgrounds, colors, etc) was up to them.  To insure the kids found appropriate  information about the symbols, I told the kids to search google with "Statue of Liberty for kids".  Adding on the "for kids" at the end helped more kid-friendly websites pop up.  
The kids worked together, on their own computers, looking up information and transferring it to the slide.  I am SO impressed with their skill at maneuvering from tab to tab and getting the proper information on the slide.  Since this was my third graders' first time collaboratively working on a slide, we did have to have several conversations about not deleting the work of others and helping each other as we were working.


After the slides were complete (which took about 3 days of work), I gave each group a clip art of their symbol (or something that would represent their symbol -- like fireworks for the Fourth of July) and some construction paper.  Working together on the same clipart, the kids created a tear art mosaic of that US Symbol.  They just used glue stick and construction paper.  The kids LOVED this part and it made for a cute art add-on to the research.

The final part of this was sharing out their information to the class.  They got to work on their speaking and listening skills too.  All in all, this was a great way to get social studies, research, tech, and art into our classroom.  


Writing: Knowing the Genres

The other day, I assigned my students the following writing prompt:
What if you were a fly on the wall?  What would happen to you if you were?  
What would you do if you were a fly on the wall?

I expected my students to write a narrative story about a time when they were magically turned into a fly on the wall and all of the mischief they would get into.  What I ACTUALLY got back from them were a lot of informational paragraphs listing various, random, non-connected ideas of what could happen to them.  

I realized that I had not been clear with my students about the differences between the genres of writing.  When they were asked to write a narrative, my kids just didn't know what that meant.  They didn't realize that just writing ANYTHING wasn't enough.  They had to write within the correct genre for their response to be counted as correct.

The kids tend to just write and not think about the subtle differences between the three genres -- narrative, informational, and opinion -- that they are being asked to write in.  Often times, they are being asked to write a narrative story, but end up just listing facts, turning their writing into an informational piece.  Or they are asked to write their opinion on a topic and end up telling a story about said topic.   I decided enough was enough and set out to really get through to my kids within these genres.

I started out by creating a three tier chart with my kids.  On that chart, I listed the characteristics of each genre.  What makes that specific genre unique and different from the others.  For example, a narrative is a story with a beginning, middle, and end while discussing EVENTS, whereas an opinion piece will be riddled with REASONS as to why the opinion is valid.  To make it easier for them (and their readers) to know which genre they were writing in,  I also added basic "key words" that might be found within the writing piece.  

Then, we went back to the original prompt.  I asked them how we could make sure that what we were writing was NARRATIVE instead of INFORMATIONAL.  With some gentle prodding and leading, I was able to get the kids to see that we need events and a story line in a narrative.  That they had to be turned into a fly somehow, fly from wall to wall, encountering things, and then have some sort of ending.  I showed them how this was different from just listing possibilities of what might happen if they were a fly on the wall -- as they were already writing.
The kids seemed to get it, and they were off to the races writing their narrative.  This time around, I did get stories back from them.  They were imaginative, had events, and told the beginning, middle, and end.  They were definitely and clearly different than the informational writing I originally received.

Since we were at it, I asked the kids to then write an opinion piece.  Would you like or dislike being a fly on the wall?  This time the kids knew that they needed to pick a side and have REASONS for their choice.  There was no right or wrong, as long as they could support their reasons with evidence or examples.  Again, the kids consulted the chart and made sure they kept their writing within the genre.

I have to say, I LOVED what transpired from all of this.  What started as a disaster, turned into a glorious teaching moment.  So I decided to keep up with this theme and idea.  I came up with 10 more prompt topics (a total of 30 prompts) for the kids to focus on writing across the genres.  First up, since we were learning about the Branches of Government, we wrote opinion, informational, and narrative pieces on that topic.  I gave them a brainstorm sheet so they could organize their thoughts within the genre specifically for each prompt.  I put the chart points on each piece of writing paper for them so they had the key ideas for each genre right on the paper.  (you can pick up the Branches of Govt one for F R E E  here). 

For the rest of this year, I am going to keep hitting this idea hard.  I have lots of prompts ready to go form them, and excited to see where this all leads.  My hope is that they will get those differences between the genres engrained in them.  You can pick up the prompts I am using, and all of the graphic organizers and lesson plan, here.  

Elapsed Time Number Lines

I don't know why it is, but teaching elapsed time is just so hard!  The concept seems so foreign to the kids, though they deal with it on a daily basis.  I am really stumped as to what makes this so difficult for them to grasp and figure out.  So, to help make the idea more concrete, I whipped out some good old sentence strips and had the kids practice with concept with their own life as an example.
I asked them to think about a typical weekday afternoon.  From 2pm until 6pm (so when they get out of school until dinner-ish), what did they normally do?  They needed to think of 4 events that would happen during that time.  Could be doing homework, baseball practice, riding in the car home....anything that they do within that four hour window.  

The kids then needed to guesstimate what time they start the activity and what time they end the activity.  Those times were written on the recording sheet.  The kids then calculated how long that time frame was.  The found the elapsed time!  They did that with all 4 events. 

The students then created a number line using a sentence strip.  They began the number line (which was a sort of time line...get it? TIME line?? ;) ) with 2pm and ended it with 6pm, using 1 hour intervals in between.  They used blank clocks and drew the time for both the beginning and ending of each event.  Then the students glued those clocks onto the number lines.

All in all, this  really was a great way to get the kids practicing with elapsed time, using number lines, AND showing time on an analog clock, all in a real life way.  The kids really liked this activity and were eager to show their work with time off!  You can get the printables I used with this activity here.






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