Science blog ideas for Grade 4 Pennsylvania Teachers

I’ve been having a blast using 2 blogs to teach Science.  I post assignments to my class blog page www.mrsdibattista.blogspot.com which allows me to add gadgets, widgets and look really snazzy. 4th grade project topics include Ecosystems, Weather and Electricity. 

I use KidBlogs for student posts.  When students read the main blog to find their assignment they usually need to research and choose a unique way to present their project on our KidBlog- http://kidblog.org/MrsKDiBattista/6a6333dd-9d75-41e9-9a08-3f1726578c4e/welcome-to-kid-blogs-2013-14/

Ideas for student posts include Power Point presentations, Animoto videos, Voice Thread, PicMonkey and many more. 

The KidBlog site really protects the kids while they are learning to blog, because it offers a ton of control by the teacher.  I just need to approve or disapprove comments on a daily basis and it basically runs itself. 

By using the two blogs I am able to maintain classroom communication between parents while providing them with a link to the student blogs so they can directly see their child’s work.  It also helps parents realize where their child ranks by allowing them to view and compare other student work to their own child’s.

Check out my class blog http://mrdibattista.blogspot.com or our KidBlog site for more ideas.  Happy Blogging!

 

Blogging with students update… 3 months into it

Well, it surely wasn’t as easy as it sounded, but here I am 3 months into the school year and my class of 26 students are blogging away.  I will give you some helpful start-up hints here, because there are bumps in the road, that is for sure.

#1 I started a class blog at www.mrsdibattista.blogspot.com to get students familiar with blogging.  First of all, they don’t understand the sidebar area versus the new post middle area, so modeling the format of a blog is an absolute must.  I also created additional pages by topic for the blog, but I actually think it was a waste of time, as not too many people search the other subject area pages, plus each new post goes on the main page anyway, if you want to update the additional pages, you need to edit the existing pages, not just click “new post”.  So anyway, lesson learned.   (directions for starting a class blog are in an earlier post if you need gadget/widget info)

Update: KidBlogs stopped allowing students to change themes or backgrounds, it is now an upgrade fee.

#2 After students had mastered the “how to comment” and “navigate the blog” lessons, they were ready to build their own.  After parental permission of course.  I found www.kidblog.org to be extremely user-friendly and the best bet for teaching children how to blog for many reasons.  First of all, you set up a class set of student blogs that all correspondence goes through your school email address.  It sounds overwhelming, and it is at first, until you get on a schedule and realize that you can just delete all emails and monitor directly from the blog.  And monitor you need to do.  First lesson to create a student blog was to create the blog names with the students, I had them brainstorm a good blog name and I entered them right then and there.  Next, we headed to the computer lab to choose a theme background and avatar, most were successful, but some didn’t click “update profile” at the bottom of the page, so it didn’t save, but a good lesson was learned.  What ever changes you make, you need to “save”, “submit” or “update” for the blog to listen.

#3 So now, each student has an individual blog through kidblog.org that you can see by going to www.mrsdibattista.blogspot.com and clicking on the top link to the right that says “Individual Student blogs click here”.  Students started by posting a book review and commenting on classmates’ reviews.  I would only approve “error-free” posts and comments.  It took a while to sink in and many sessions of me editing with the student and then approving or me pushing the “trash” button for too many errors.  Spell check exists within the blog, so this is an introductory lesson also.  I chose kidblog vs. blogspot or edublogger because it doesn’t have too many bells and whistles that would distract from the serious writing and reading that I want my students to do.  I also need the monitoring feature to work for me and BOY have I needed it- it is a shame, but I have received comments on the student blogs from sites with “sex” names in their addresses.  Delete Delete Delete. If I wasn’t monitoring posts and comments through this site, they may have slipped through and I don’t even want to go there.

#4 We are ready to add photos and begin a contest through the blog which will be a step above regular posts and comments, so stay tuned for more updates and good luck with your’s!

New Glitter word widget to spruce up your blog


Custom Glitter Text  works on blogspot or edublogger see www.mrsdibattista.blogspot.com

Well, its almost that time… time to start up the blogs again.  I was thrilled to come across www.pageplugins.com on my quadblogging buddy, Mrs. Parkinson’s blog! http://room12sawesomelearningjourney.blogspot.co.nz/

You can choose from many options to jazz up your words.  I liked the glittertext feature as shown above.  You can choose glitter colors and font for your words.

Another feature I liked on there is the option to post a cute little post card on to someone’s blog.  Instead of just showing up as a comment, it will show up as a postcard with lady bug decorations on it, like you stuck a post-it note on their blog.  I found  all of these easy to use, just decide what you like- then copy html code and paste it to your blog. I hope you like this helpful new find!

Happy Blogging!

Yeah! Its finally… Time to Sign-up for Round 3 of Quadblogging

http://quadblogging.net/

I’ve been waiting for this for quite a while!  Back when I started taking online courses, one of my first assignments was to explore teacher or classroom blogs for great ideas and report my findings back to my classmates.  I thought I stumbled on a jackpot when I came across the idea of quadblogging.  First of all, I wasn’t all that familiar with classroom blogging, so quadblogging really blew my mind and I’ve been waiting to sign my own class up for it ever since then!

So, what is Quadblogging you ask?  Well, besides the obvious- the quad- in this case it is 4 classrooms from all over the globe, who sign up to be blogging partners.  The teachers decide on the activities or projects that the students will blog about.  Here is an explanation of quadblogging created by 4 classes:

one of my favorite examples of quadblogging in action: http://yollisclassblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/langwitches-video-of-mystery-skype-call.html


This was a mystery skype with another class, talk about authentic learning! Students had to figure out where the other class was located by using geography clues, watch how cool it is:

All projects target numerous academic standards and the engagement level for students (and teachers) is off the charts.  I plan to utilize Skype, Glogster, Animoto, PicMonkey and Voice Thread applications during my quadblogging activities, they are all easy to use applications that are perfect for 9 or 10 year old kids (and up) and they don’t take a lot of time to learn how to use them if the teacher is new to technology.

If you are looking for a great way to dive into technology during the September 2012 school year- you should consider quadblogging- you can hook up with 3 other teachers to help you along your journey!  I can’t wait to find out who my blogging buddies will be!

Special thanks to David Mitchell for coming up with this great idea and managing to find the time to keep it going! You are much appreciated!! Here is David talking about quadblogging:

Ready to try the 100 Word Challenge- September 2012

The 100 Word Challenge http://www.theheadsoffice.co.uk/100-word-challenge-week-16/ finished up for the school year.

It looks like an interesting way to get kids to think about and learn new words while improving their writing skills.  I think the activity will appeal to many writers and I think its worth a shot, especially for those reluctant writers we all have.  The site posts a new list of 100 words each week with a topic to follow.  Kids are supposed to write a creative story using all 100 words in a meaningful way.  The stories get posted online where everyone can read the stories and comment on them.  I think it sounds like a good idea.  I remember enjoying activities like this back in the day and plan to give try it out with my class next year.

Wordle is fun for name banners and much more!

I am officially a Wordle fan! Check it out for yourself at http://www.wordle.net/  I love all the choices and options the site gives me.  All I had to do was type in the words that I wanted to appear and Wordle walked me through the rest by offering me different shapes, colors and sizes until I found the one I liked best.

I made this name banner for my class.  Next time, I will add my name and some other key words like “4th Grade” or “French Creek Elementary”.  I think it will be a fun way for the kids to find out who is in their class next year, I’ll send them to my classroom blog where I will post a new Wordle name banner and they can find out that way!  Fun, Fun, Fun- many thanks to Louise for 1st introducing me to Wordle- here is her post http://sliceofrice.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/word-clouds/  if you need some more ideas.  Have fun!

Check out the “advanced” tab in Wordle to add more weight to certain words or to choose your background color.  Some other ways that I think I will use Wordle, would be to have kids practice typing their spelling words- how cool would that be?!  Or the new science vocabulary words, that would make a modern concept map- I’m sure the ideas are out there, do you have any good ones? Let me know-

Tips for creating a classroom blog…

Blogging is the newest trend in education- and I can see why!  Creating a classroom blog serves many purposes.  First of all, it is a super public relations tool that allows parents to see what is going on in the classroom and they can actually see samples of children’s work, which I think is great for comparison purposes when a reluctant student may need a little nudge or your top notch student doesn’t get enough spotlight- a blog helps every student.

Check out my 4th grade classroom blog at: www.mrsdibattista.blogspot.com I’m still in the process of setting it up.  Next year, you will see the students on it as well, right now it is still “UNDER CONSTRUCTION”

On a blog, students have a place to showcase their writing, their thoughts about quality literature, their questions and hypotheses all the while brushing up on their 21st century technology skills.  To me, it seems like a win-win for all involved.

Ready to get started??

#1- Decide which blog site is most compatible with your school districts’ server.  For some reason Blogger or Edublogs seems to be most popular with schools.  WordPress is great, but there is so much more on here that kids can access, if you choose Blogger (www.blogspot.com) or Edublogs to create your classroom blog- you are eliminating the risk of other topics seeping into your class site.

#2 Once you have set up your account- you need to choose a theme.  I love themes!  and there are a lot to choose from.  The best thing is that you can change the look at any time.  How much room do you want for the actual blog post or writing?  where do you want your widgets to appear?  What font, size and color do you want the text to appear?  These are all the choices you need to consider and adjust to your preference when choosing the theme, make sure to explore the “advanced” button for more personalization.

#3 Choose and enter your widget html codes.  This is daunting at first, but all you need to do is find the widget or gadgets that you like when you see them on other blogs.  Then sign up for your own, copy and paste the html code into your widget or gadget area (usually under “layout” in appearance on your dashboard and don’t forget to click save.  If it doesn’t work right the first time, try it again.  See my post https://kdibat.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/widgets-gadgets-and-more-widgets/ for ideas on some widgets to try.

#4 Check out other teachers’ blogs- there are so many great examples out there.  I love www.quadblogging.com because those teachers seem to be the pioneers of educational blogging and that is where I get a lot of great ideas from.  One of my personal favorites is http://yollisclassblog.blogspot.com/, she has so many projects going and links for teachers to help set up their own blogs.  This wiki is perfect when you are starting out http://educational-blogging.wikispaces.com/  or http://mrsdibattista.wikispaces.com to see examples of online portfolios of ideas to use in the classroom.  A good place to start this year, is to take a lot of digital photos of your classroom that you can upload with your posts, they really enhance the blog!

HELPFUL HINT #4- Don’t forget to update your time zone in the “settings” tab or your comments won’t post properly!

good luck and let me know if you find anything I might enjoy! Share and share alike!!

Widgets, gadgets and more widgets!

As a classroom teacher, new to blogs- I am in love with widgets!  I found some super cool ones that work great, like Revolver maps

It seems to work well and keeps better track of blog hits.

I also like ClustrMaps, but I don’t have high enough blog traffic to make the counter stay active, so it is sometimes disappointing that it doesn’t get updated unless I have a 10% increase in traffic that day, but their site claims to be fixing that issue, so I will hope for the best.

  (this is my clustrmap from my classroom blog that I just started)

Another widget that is very handy is the whizz calculator.  You can type in numbers and get real answers with a few beeps and whistles that you can add directly to your blog.  The widget fits nicely onto the side bar, you can pay extra to turn off the ads but they are pretty quick and you can click them off easily.

                                  

I like Moon Phases, but I am looking for some information to go with it.  I think the kids will want to know what stage it is at and stuff like that, so I think I need to revisit the site to see if there were more options available and I was just in a hurry or something.

I’ve had trouble adding a weather widget that works to my little league site, I finally found: http://yowindow.com/weatherwidget.php that works on wordpress! yippee!

So, these are my favorite widgets so far, please let me know of any super cool ones that I may be missing.  I will update this post as I discover new ones.  I’ve used all of these in my classroom blog and I must say that it is really coming along nicely since I started working on it, but it sure is time consuming!  Check it out at http://mrsdibattista.blogspot.com

Hatching Chicks in the classroom

Embryology 101 by Kellie

My favorite time of the year is almost here!  Chick hatching time🙂

No, I have not ALWAYS been successful hatching baby chicks in the classroom.  There was that one nasty power surge, where I came in to the smell of fried chicken and lo and behold- yep, the incubator was full of chicken potato chips, crispy and flat.  I had to peel them off the bottom- that was NO fun.  ,

Then there was that other time, when I miscalculated hatch dates and cracked an egg open to try to determine WHY the poor thing never hatched- only to discover the fully developed chick with heart beating, beating,  gone.  OOPs, I am still very sorry about that poor little guy. (not to mention the 20 some traumatized children that watched it all go down)

But, over my 20 years of hatching chicks I only have a few mishaps to report.  The rest have been great (mostly) so, if you are brave of heart, this is a wonderful opportunity to bring real life into the classroom.  You can even learn from my mistakes to avoid heartbreak and tears (or vomiting) depending on your personality type.

Here is a week’s worth of plans (Embryology 101 attachment)for after you’ve ordered your embryology stuff from your local 4-H Extension office- Good luck!
It is truly a heart-warming, educational project that you will all enjoy!
Helpful hints:
1. Don’t crack open unhatched eggs for at least 3 days past calculated hatch date
2. Make sure your incubator is CLEAN and smells fresh (lots of clorox) PRIOr to and after incubating eggs- there were a few more mishaps I didn’t mention above
3. Wash hands before and after handling eggs and chicks
4. Make sure that YOU look in the incubator BEFORE the kids each day
5. Have baby chick vitamin drops ready in case they can’t stand once they hatch, this is usually a vitamin deficiency that is easily rectified IF you are aware of it- if not, chick dies.
6. Be prepared for maybe a few (over a 20 year period, keep in mind) to be hatched with their insides not really on the inside which is why rule #4 exists
7. Remember that they are LIVING organisms from egg to chick and need to be handled carefully

Check out my wiki

http://mrsdibattista.wikispaces.com/

Jackpot for 4th grade teachers or anyone taking a PLS course, enjoy!

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