Sunday, November 22, 2015

Practice Math Facts with SEQUENCE

Our school has created a 30 minute block four days a week for all students to participate in Practice, Intervention, and Enrichment (PIE).  Students who qualify for intervention or enrichment sign out and go for lessons with our interventionists (math and reading) or our Learning Resource Specialist (formerly known as G&T).

On Fridays I like to use that time to teach longer, more involved games to a group of students.  This week it was a game called Sequence.  While my other students were busy reading, practicing sight words, handwriting, or math, I pulled these four boys aside and taught them how to play.

I've never seen the board so full!

It was an exciting game!  They even stayed in when recess started to finish and see who the winner would be!  It's hard to tell, but blue got four in a row first!

This is a game I read about online and thought would be a great way to practice math facts.  My version is pretty simple.  There is a deck of cards with math facts, dragons, and unicorns.  Each player always has three cards.  Play a card and put a colored chip on the sum on the game board.  Then pick a new card.  The unicorns and dragons are what add the excitement!  Play a dragon card, and you get to take someone's chip off the board!  Play a unicorn, and you get to put a chip on ANY open space!  

It's so hard for them to hold onto the unicorns and dragons. They want to play them right away, but I encourage them to hang on to them until they need them.  They are very good to have when your opponent has three in a row and you need a dragon to stop him from winning. Or maybe you have three in a row and need a unicorn to get that last chip on the board.

I copied my board and cards on card stock and laminated them.  I use a snack box for the "draw from" and "discard" piles.  (You'll notice that they need help remembering to discard and take a new card each turn.)  I'm hoping that once enough kids know how to play, they can teach the rest!

To make my version, I used the font Rowdy Writing, which is one of my favorites, and free clip art I found online.  You can see and print it from HERE.  Have fun!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sit Spots in First Grade

I'm so excited to tell you about the Sit Spots I've been using for the last two weeks!

 view from the door

When my students come to the meeting area for a mini lesson or to use the Smartboard, they sit on the floor.  I've already got a completely carpeted classroom, so when I was new in primary world, I had the kids just randomly plop down anywhere.  That lasted a few days.  Then I decided to assign them "carpet spots."  It was a way for me to keep the talkers separated and give the wigglers a close spot where I could put a hand on their shoulder.  In order to keep track of everyone's spot, I made myself a chart with velcro dots and pictures of the kiddos.

 my reference chart

They were pretty good about remembering who they sit next to or behind, but occasionally there would be small scuffle about placement.  I thought about getting one of those $300 carpets with the big squares.  I thought that would solve the problem, but I couldn't get passed the huge price or the fact that putting carpet on carpet would be weird... and it would shift/slide... and be hard to vacuum over... and someone might get sick on it.  So I never ordered one.

Then I see post after post about Sit Spots on all my favorite educator blogs.  At first I thought they were just rubbery-plasticky circles that sat on top of the carpet.  I thought they were like the ones our P.E. teacher uses on the gym floor.  Didn't seem like a good idea for my classroom.

Fast forward one year, and picture me finding out that Sit Spots are like VELCRO!  They actually "stick" to the fibers of my commercial carpeting!  Luckily, I was able to use funds from my school budget to purchase 24 spots.  I decided to go with half green and half blue.  We often "turn and talk" to our partner.  Having two colors makes it easy to determine who goes first.  

in our carpet spots

If you're looking for an easy way to organize your students in your meeting area, I recommend ordering the free sample from the SitSpots website.  Once you know it works on your carpet, go ahead and order them, you won't regret it!

Happy Teaching,

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Our Class Calendar

I know many first grade teachers who use number cards on their calendars.  Each day they move a marker to show what day it is.  Some even use yesterday and tomorrow markers.  Maybe it's because I came to first grade after teaching fifth grade for several years.  But just having the numbers up there didn't make sense to me.

I don't know anyone who uses a calendar like that in their everyday life.  We all write on our calendars, don't we?  We keep track of events and count down the days until birthdays and holidays, right?  So, why shouldn't first graders use a calendar the same way?

I use a laminated blank calendar.  It just has the days of the week at the top.  I fill in the numbers and the events we need to know about.  This includes holidays, birthdays, assemblies, field trips, picture day (big smiley on the 15th), and days off of school.  At the end of each month, I wash the whole thing down.  I use Expo markers.  I used to use Vis a Vis, but I never need them anymore (goodbye overhead projector, hello smartboard).  Dry erase works just as well. 

At the end of each day, I cross off that square on the calendar.  My students know that "today" is the first box not yet X'd off.  They are getting so good at looking to the top of the calendar to see what day is written there.  I also do a variation of the  Teacher Tipster's "elevator game" routine too.  

I also like to ask, 
"What day of the week was our field trip/assembly/etc?"
"How many days until __________?"
"How many days ago did we ____________?"
And then we count them as a group.

You can see other parts of our calendar routine on the board too, including weather, coins, base ten blocks, and today/tomorrow/yesterday.  We also have some elements on our whiteboard.  We move the ribbon on our thermometer after checking Weather Puppy on my ipad.  I upgraded to the Boo version.  We love that dog!

We also add a number to our empty 100 grid.  We are working toward 100 days of school, of course.  We add a tally for each day of the month.  And something new we started last year was using ten frames.  I printed out five small ten frames and glued them going down a strip of construction paper.  I have two stampers (dogs of course) that are different colors.  Each day I add a stamp.  On the top row of the ten frame I stamp the red one.  On the bottom I stamp the blue one.  Each day we use the current ten frame to do two math number sentences.  Red + Blue  and Dogs + Empty boxes.  That way we are working on our addition skills and making tens.

We always end our calendar routine by going over the schedule.  These are the free cards I use.  I love them.  My students rely on them and are always catching my goof-ups!  I put magnets on the back and use them on my whiteboard.  I love telling my students about all the great learning I have planned for the day.

Happy teaching!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Business Cards with QR Codes for Teachers

So after my previous QR code success, I thought I might try something new with them.  I had seen how to use one to link to your end-of-the-year video by printing the QR code on a cute card and sending it home with students on the last day.  While I really like that idea, I thought using a QR code might be a good way to get my students' families to use my district website more regularly.  So I used VistaPrint to create business cards for each member of my first grade team.  Each card has a QR code to our respective district websites. We will put magnets on the back and send them home next fall.

I used my First Grade Top Dog clip art from this blog. Other art used on our cards included Elephant, Piggie, and the Pigeon by Mo Willems, Rocket by Tad Hills, and Little Critter by Mercer Mayer.  I knew the clip art on my blog was free, so no infringement there.  But I wasn't sure about Rocket.  So I googled the author, found his publisher's website, and emailed him asking permission.  I got a response the next day.  And it was a WEEKEND!  He was fine with it as long as we weren't making any money or putting Rocket in any "embarrassing positions."  It was so fun to be connected to the real author of Rocket!  He suggested a copyright note under the picture, which was no big deal.  We even sent him a picture of the finished product for approval.  How cool is that?  The image by Mo Willems already had his signature, and I added Mercer Mayer's copyright.  Take a look!

They were so fun to make and turned out so cute!  I wish you could see them in real life.  I can't wait to hand them out.  My hope is that families will stick them to the refrigerator and scan them at least once a week to get my weekly newsletter, homework updates, our monthly calendar, book order info or download some of our favorite math game materials.  Our phone numbers and email addresses are right there too!  So convenient!

We each bought 100 cards for $7.99.  That's enough cards for at least three school years.  I used the code VPBC100 to get 50% savings!  If you order with your team, you can share the shipping costs, although it wasn't much at all.  I think it'll really pay off in the long run!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

QR Codes from Vocaroo

I recently learned how to create QR codes.  A teammate and I were meeting with our district UDL specialist to get ideas on how to teach our CTC "Read Across Genres" unit so that ALL our students could participate fully.  In this unit, the class creates "topic tubs" which include a variety of genres all based on the same topic.  Our problem:  what to put in the tubs for our below-first-grade readers.

Well, problem solved!  Just go to the website called Vocaroo, record yourself reading a few of the books, poems, or Scholastic News in the tubs, create QR codes, print them, tape them to the front of the book, and make sure those kids have an ipod or ipad to scan and listen with. Amazing!  My ipad and ipods have the free app called i-nigma, which reads the code with the camera.  Students then click the link that appears that says, "go online."  Vocaroo opens with just that particular recording.  Students push the play button and they're ready to go!

When you go to Vocaroo, you'll click to record, and then a popup box will ask if you'll allow them access to your microphone and camera.  You can put a sticky note over your camera if you wish.  As soon as you click "allow," the recording begins.  So make sure you have your book ready!  You can't stop and start.  If you get interrupted, you'll have to start over.  When you get to the end of the book, click "stop recording."  You will then get the option to create a QR code.  Once you've created it, copy and paste it into a word document and type the title underneath.  You can get at least a dozen QR codes onto one page.  Then print, cut, tape, and you're ready!

Scan this code to hear me read the book!

My students really enjoyed being able to "read" books in their topic tubs.  I have four ipods and two kids who needed the QR codes.  With two kids per tub, I just made sure two ipods were in the tubs of the kids that needed them.  That way, their partners could use them too, and they wouldn't be so obvious.  I don't think any of the other students even realized which kids they were for.  Perfect!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Free Teacher Accounts with Animoto

Have you tried Animoto?  It's a great website for creating videos.  I signed up for a free two-week trial, and while getting that set up, I saw something that said teachers can apply for a free classroom account.  Hmmm?  Free you say? Sign me up!

It was so easy to sign up for a free trial and then apply for a free teacher/education account.  I was approved instantly.  And using the website is SO EASY.  You just upload your pictures, and then you get to pick your background style, your music, how fast the pictures change, the order of the pictures, and to which pictures you add captions.  Rearranging pictures is easy, too.  You just drag and drop them where you want them.  After producing your video, you can choose to upload it to youtube, facebook, email a link, etc.  I'd really love to show you how it turned out, but it shows my students' faces. You can see what a finished video looks like by watching the video I whipped up with pictures of my dogs... just to share with you!

Click HERE to see my silly puppies (the original Top Dogs).

I used the same background and music as I used for my class this year.  So cute!  I'll be humming this tune for the next few days.  It took me only 12 minutes to make this video of the dogs, and that's because I added captions. Just imagine the end-of-year video you could put together to share with your students' families.  Ahhh, memories!

Go check out the animoto website and get started.  I'm so excited that my free teacher membership is good for one year.  You should get one too!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Math Apps

My class has really enjoyed using the iPod Touches when they have free time.  We also use them every Friday in our math stations.  Since the students are assigned to a specific color iPod in order to save their progress on some apps, I have to plan out the groups quite carefully.  If I put two students in the same group who are assigned to the same iPod, someone is going to be VERY disappointed.  After several weeks of trying to figure out groups, I got a great idea. With the iPod assignments right in front of me, I created a doc that has THREE different groupings that allow everyone to have their own iPod when their group arrives at the iPod station.  I printed off six copies, stapled them together, and tacked it to the bulletin board above my desk.  Now when Friday rolls around, I just cut off one of the charts, and I'm all set.  I fill in the activity and location where each group will start.  This way the groups are different for three weeks before repeating.  And I made sure to separate the kiddos who need to be separated.  You know what I'm talking about!

Click HERE to see my google doc for groups.

So what are our favorite math apps?  Our latest addition has all the kids buzzing!  It can be played by two people on the iPods and up to four people on the iPad.  It's called Math Slide.

It starts as a free version, which allows you to see if you like it. You get to play each of the ten different games twice.  After deciding it would be fun for the kids and help them improve basic addition and subtraction facts, I upgraded to the $1.99 version, which allows unlimited games. You have to do that as an "in-app" purchase.  The lower numbered games are easier.  Here is an example of Game 6 being played by two players.

Students have to compute the problem and be the first player to slide the correct answer tile into the middle of the board.  Use all your tiles first and you're the winner!  Here is a picture of four of my students playing on my iPad after finishing their math work.

Another math app we love is Smart Cookie Math by Molly at Lucky to be in First.  You can read all about her fun app HERE (on her blog).  I have many students who have already filled their cookie jars, and we just started using it in February!  By the way, Molly is the blogger who gave me advice on how to use my iPods as a listening center.  Thanks again, Molly!

We have also been enjoying Bean Flip.  Do you know Teacher Tipster?  Love his youtube videos.  He's a riot.  Wish I had been in his class as a firstie. (No offense intended, Miss Murtha.)  We also adore Subitize Tree, but it isn't compatible on the iPods, just our iPad.

Here's a math app that I added for my students who really enjoy challenging themselves.  It's called Sushi Monster.  I didn't think it would be very popular, but as usual, when a few kids show success on a game, the other kids want to do it too.  So Sushi Monster is actually one of our most-played math apps.

Other interesting and techy projects I've been working on include using Vocaroo to record my voice reading books, and then printing out a QR code to put on the book cover so my students can use the app i-nigma on the iPods to link to the recording.  This has been a huge help during our Read Across Genres unit from TC.  It allows ALL levels of readers to access the information. I've also been experimenting with Animoto.  I'm going to make a video slide show of all our first grade pictures this year and then give each student an end-of-the-year card with a QR code that links to it.  I learned how to do that HERE.

In other news, our caterpillars are HUGE.  We've had them for two weeks, and a few are already hanging in their J shape. I'm expecting to find a chrysalis or two or five when I get to school tomorrow morning.  Oooh!  It's going to be an exiting day!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

My Caterpillar Parking Lot

Happy spring!  Our caterpillars arrived yesterday, and the energy in the room was through the roof!  We get our caterpillars from Carolina Science.  They are painted ladies, not to be confused with monarchs, which also have black, orange, and white wings.  Painted ladies also have a lot of brown.  Anyway, this is my seventh year with them, so you'd expect me to be an expert, right?  Hardly.  But one lesson I've learned is that when there are live critters in the room, the teacher blends into the background.  Yep, I'm chopped liver compared to a one-centimeter caterpillar, living in a cozy cup with a splotch of mallow food.  Trying to teach a reading workshop lesson?  Not gonna happen.  Want to get the kids to line up for gym?  They can't hear you.  Their eyes and ears are glued to their newly adopted, named, and dearly loved caterpillar.

Usually I put a strip of painters tape down the center of my free-standing bookshelf.  It's only 3 feet tall, so it's the perfect height for displays.  I write the numbers 1 through 20 (depending on how many students I have) with Sharpie.  The students put their caterpillar cups on their number.  It's easy for them to keep organized, easy for me to see who has stashed their caterpillar in their desk because they can't bear to be separated, and easy for everyone to keep track of their rapid growth.  Well, I came up with a new idea this year.  I call it a caterpillar parking lot!  It's low tech and totally free!

In order to be able to put the caterpillars out of sight when we're working on other academics, I took the lid from one of our copy paper boxes.  Then I used a straight edge to divide it into 24 sections.  I numbered each "parking spot," and voila! A caterpillar parking lot!  I made sure to tell the class that if "parking" your caterpillar goes quickly and quietly, I'll be more likely to take them out throughout the day.  I left the parking lot out on a back table before school, and the students were so excited to check on them this morning.  Recess is also an acceptable time to hang out with your caterpillar.  And of course, we have to check them during science time!  Here is the parking lot full of caterpillar cups.,,

I use a Sharpie to write the student's number on the lid, and the caterpillar's name on the side of the cup.  I have twenty students this year, and kept an extra four, making the total 24.  It's a good idea to have a couple extras for those unfortunate times when a caterpillar dies, which sometimes happens while in the chrysalis stage, or when a butterfly flies away before posing for a picture (how rude).  For the last three years, I have had each child adopt and track their own caterpillar's growth, chrysalis, and emerging.  I think having their "own" caterpillar adds another level to their learning.  The years where we didn't mark the cups and put all the unmarked chrysalises into a giant net/house, the kids weren't as interested or committed to the data we were collecting.  However, give them their own, and they are hooked!  

Each student uses a donated, plastic pretzel tub marked with their number, so I can reuse them each year.  I use the clear kind with wide lids.  It's easy for the kids to put their hands in and get their butterfly on their finger at the time of release. The tubs are too big for the tiny caterpillars, so I don't transfer them to the pretzel tubs until the chrysalis is formed.  It is so exciting to come in to school each day and see "who" has emerged overnight. Some years, we've been lucky enough to see one emerge live, up close, and personal! The look on that child's face is incredible.  They'd pass out bubble gum cigars if they had any. 

We had a great day today, partially because I was able to move the caterpillar parking lot over to a high shelf, out of sight, so we could get some work done.  

Mission accomplished.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Remember Me?

I think as teachers, we have special memories of our own elementary teachers, especially those who were particularly motivating, understanding, or inspirational.  For me, it was Mr. Ron Halverson, who was my teacher for both fifth and sixth grade.  I've often thought of looking him up and telling him how much I remember from those two school years, things he said, how he made me feel smart and successful.  I haven't done it though.  I know I should, especially after what happened to me this past month.

I started teaching 24 years ago.  In those early years, I was teaching fifth grade in a different school district.  I was with them for only five years before deciding to stay home with my infant son.  I loved those years, and I loved fifth grade.  But most of all I loved my students.

A few weeks ago, I read this email after dismissing my class.  I was thrilled.  Read it and you'll see why.

Honestly, I couldn't stop smiling.  We met for coffee, and it was so good to see him!  He is all grown up, married, a daddy, and works for a university!  I wouldn't have recognized him, though.  I was still expecting the little boy from 20 years ago, just bigger.  See what I mean?

He remembered so much from our year together!  It was one of my best.  Our class had a pet hamster, parakeet, and an occasional pug.  That was back in the "good ol' days", when you could have animals in classrooms.  Man, we had fun!  Science experiments, math challenge competitions, student portfolios, and lots and lots of fun learning together.

What a joy it is for me to see that one of my many students remembers his year in my classroom with a happy heart.  In fact, he told me his memories from that year are "crisp."  I admit, a few of mine were a wee bit fuzzy.  

Thank you, Johnny, for taking the time to find me, contact me, and meet up to remember a great year. I'm so glad you did!

Now, to search for Mr. Halverson....

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Monthly Playlist of Books on ipods

Having just one playlist for the first graders to choose from has been wonderful.  No getting lost in the wrong playlist, fewer pictures of books to choose from... truly, problems and confusion have been ELIMINATED.

Once you have created your playlists, drag your books to the month you are most likely to want to share them with the class.  As I mentioned in my last post, keep track in a notebook or on note cards.  This will also be helpful when your desk is completely covered in tapes and you are trying to remember which ones you've already recorded. #learnedthehardway

More Than One ipod

I requested four ipod touches from Donors Choose, so I had to find a way to distinguish them when syncing with itunes.  I found it easiest to make a cheatsheet that reminds me which is which.

When you first connect your ipods to itunes through your laptop, give them each a name.  I made it easy by using my initials and the numbers one through four. 

Changing/Adding Playlists

As you can see the in the photo above, I have the red ipod connected to my laptop.  I opened itunes on my laptop and clicked on the icon of the ipod.  Then I clicked on Music (under summary on the left side).  Here is what I saw:

Notice that the boxes checked are "Sync Music," "Selected playlists," and "February."  Because I want it to be easy for the kids to get started with the book right away, I don't put the entire collection on the ipod at one time.  It's way too overwhelming.  I'm ready to switch to the March playlist, so I uncheck February and check March.  Then I click Sync in the bottom right corner of the screen.  Done.  Wasn't that easy? 

What My Students See and Do

When students are ready, they click the red itunes box.  

When itunes opens, they see the current playlist, which shows the cover of a book from that playlist and the number and name of the list (month).

When they touch the picture, the playlist for that month opens.  I only have four books ready for this month so far.  Don't worry, I have Moosekitos and Hippo's Tooth Surprise ready to record.

Students find the picture that matches the book in their hot little hands, and boom!  The story begins!

Here's a picture of a few kids in action.

Notice how there are only three kids?  The fourth kiddo decided to go off to a different spot in the room. Way to be independent!  Also notice how they're not all on the same page.  No waiting for everyone to get settled when you've got an ipod to yourself.  Thanks, Donors Choose!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Kids R Funny

Teacher presents new book to guided reading group. 

Teacher:  I chose a really interesting non-fiction book for you!  It's called Motorcycles of the Past, and it's about motorcycles from long, long ago.

Student 1:  You mean from back with the dinosaurs?

Teacher:  No, the dinosaurs didn't drive motorcycles because there were no policemen to direct traffic.

Student 2 (completely oblivious to what teacher says): The dinosaurs couldn't ride motorcycles!  They didn't even have any thumbs!  How could they ride motorcycles without thumbs?

Teacher laughs and writes it down.  I just love talking to 6-year-old boys. They are hilarious without even trying!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Books on Tape to iPods!

Howdy!  February went so fast!  Sorry it has taken so long to get back to you on how to change your listening center from cassette tapes to ipods.  Warning:  This post is for people who have never used an ipod or itunes.  Please don't feel offended that I'm explaining every little detail.  It was all new to me, and I figure I'm not the only one.  Here's how I did it...

Getting Ready to Convert Tapes to mp3s

First install the software that comes with your converter.  I have an  AGPtek USB converter.  I installed it on my Toshiba laptop.  You will also need to download the correct version of Audacity for your computer. Then connect the converter to your computer.  Be sure to put the tape in so that the side with the "turn the page" beeps will be recorded.  Also note the length of playing time.

When you open Audacity, you'll see this box:


Press play on the tape converter and hover your cursor over the red recording button.  Count to at least 5 before you click it.  If you begin recording immediately you will have a lot of silence at the beginning of each book.  Try to avoid that!  I did it this way so kids would not come up to me and say, "It's not working" just because there was a long silence at the beginning. ( It worked like a charm!)

Now, once I start recording, I set my little kitchen timer for about 30 seconds LESS than the length of the book, and then walk away.  It's a great time to fold a basket of laundry or make a bed, or whatever other chores you need to do.  When the timer goes off, zoom back to your computer, wait until the story ends, and then click the yellow stop square.  

Saving as an mp3

You'll need to click on File and scroll down to Export as mp3.  Type in the title of the book and click save.  Another box will open, allowing you to type the title, author, and album (I just do the title again for the album).  For genre I choose "other." Click OK. 

 It will take about a minute to export it.  Then you'll have the opportunity to go to File, New, and start recording another book, or click close. When you click close, it will ask you if you want to save the project.  This is optional.  You have already saved it as an mp3.  If you wish, you can also save it as an Audacity project.  

Adding Recordings to itunes

Now when you open itunes, go to File, and scroll down to Add File to Library.  Then find your story in your music file, and add it. It will look like this:

Saving Pictures for Later

I knew I wanted a picture of the book's cover to help the kids identify it on the ipod.  I went to google images and saved a picture of each book in a folder in my picture files.  I named each one with the title of the story so I could find them easily later.  

How to Add a Picture for the Book

When you open itunes, click on the "song" (it's a story but itunes doesn't know that.)  Then go to File and scroll down to Get Info.  On the pop-up box you'll want to click Artwork, and then Add Artwork.  This will allow you to upload a pic for that book.  Choose it from your folder of book covers.  Done.  

Organizing Playlists by Month

I created monthly playlists so that I only have to sync the ipods once at the beginning of each month and the students have an easier time finding the book they want.  Once you have monthly playlists (I numbered them so they'd be in order, otherwise itunes automatically does alpha order), drag the songs to the month you want them in.  I also used 3x5 cards to keep track of what went in each playlist, as well as the length of each book.  When I finally have all my books loaded, I'll type up the monthly lists and hang it inside the door of the cupboard with the books.

Helpful Hints

This has been a labor of love, as they say.  I worked long and hard on it the first weekend that my Donors Choose materials arrived.  I have a few tips to help you along your way...

1.  Save all your bookcovers from google images in a folder with titles as names.
2.  Record your books in monthly sets as you need them during the school year.
3.  Upload to itunes and add pictures monthly.  I do about 6 to 8 books per month.
4.  Save your directions so you don't have to "relearn" the process each month.
5.  If you do YOUR WHOLE LISTENING LIBRARY AT ONCE, do ALL the book covers, then ALL the recordings, then ALL the uploading and artwork.

Interested in seeing how I sync my ipods each month?  It's the perfect time for it... March starts tomorrow!  Watch for my next post later this week.  I promise not to wait another month!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Earbuds VS. Headphones

I'm back to tell you more about my ipods!  Let's talk about headphones and earbuds.  If your school has ever had lice, you know that when lice are present, the headphones have to be put away.  So I decided that earbuds would be perfect, especially after learning that they're a dollar a set at the Dollar Tree!  I sent a note home to my families, letting them know they had two options.  They could either purchase their own set and send it to school, or they could send me $1 to buy a set for their child.  I also let them know that I would accept an extra quarter if they wanted to cover the tax and help pay for the hair clips.  The hair clips are to keep the earbuds wound and untangled in the containers.  I just bought three packs of 8 plain brown and black hair clips, medium-sized.

 I also used 20 of the baby food containers with lids from my teammate's stash. Thanks, Dana!   Here is the result...

(For those of who are wondering, my student #11 didn't come to school this year.)

I taught my students how to use the earbuds and put them away.  I found it best to teach them to hold onto the plug while standing to let them unwind.  When it's time to wind them up, hold the plug again, flat against your palm with your thumb.  Then use your free hand to wind the cord around your four fingers.  Put the clip on.  Put it in the box.  Put the lid on, put it back in its place.  Done!  

One of the reasons I love using this tray with the baby food containers is that if we are using them in another area of the room, or even in the common area outside of our room, it's so easy to carry. There are no drawers to slide or dump out.  The baby food containers are easily replaceable, but we've dropped them without damage.  Also, the students never handle any one else's earbuds like if you used a box with compartments and one big lid.

But beware!  Earbuds are not perfect!  Many of my students can't fit the earbuds into their little ears.  And since I'm not available to insert them each time they wear them, we came up with this solution.  Get your book and ipod ready.  Then push play on the ipad, and pick up one earbud to hold in one ear.  Use your other hand to turn the pages of the book.  It's not ideal, but it works!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Donors Choose & iPods for Newbies (Like Me)

No one in my family owns a Smartphone.  Or an iPod.  So when I asked for four iPod Touches on Donors Choose so kids could listen to books, I knew it could be done but had no idea how.  "I'll figure it out if/when it gets funded," I told myself.  Incredibly, it didn't take long at all!

I have to say, Donors Choose is AMAZING!  If you haven't tried it out, take a look.  Take the time to look at other projects on their website, especially those similar to yours.  Then think about your students and the amazing things you'll do if your project gets funded.  I had donations come from my extended family, my students' families, an anonymous person who used a gift card, and the bulk of my project was funded by Cellular One. Thanks again, everyone!

Perhaps you are in the same boat I was in for the past few years.  You have a giant wooden caddy for your cassette/CD boombox, headphone splitter, and six bulky sets of headphones.  Either the tape player or CD player breaks every year.  Girls are getting their long hair caught in the headphones.  Kids can't get the CD or tape to play.  No one ever bothers to rewind afterwards.  Kids accidentally blast a friend when they turn the wrong volume knob.  It's dusty.  There are goldfish cracker crumbs in the corners.  Sad.  So Sad.  Sometimes my students used their entire listening time just trying to get the story started.  Then they'd ask to stay in at recess to listen.  That's how much they love to hear stories.  I had to do something!

I Googled iPod listening centers to look for ideas.  I decided that my best bet would be to get four iPod Touches so the kids could listen independently from one another, AND we could use them for reading, writing, and math apps, too!  So my project included the four iPods, a tape-to-mp3 converter, a charge adapter for four devices, and a headphone splitter (just in case).

Well, I got everything I asked for but had NO IDEA how to use any of it.  I was able to load the apps, since I have an iPad for school.  But I didn't know anything about mp3s, iTunes, or iPods.  After lots of Googling, I emailed one of the teacher/bloggers I admire, Molly at Lucky to Be in First!  I'd seen her blog post about using and iPod for a listening center, but needed more details. ('Cause I was a newbie!)  She responded the same day!  Amazing.  She provided me with a couple of links to try out.  And it was just what I needed!  I am the kind of person who needs written step-by-step directions when trying something new.

I now have over 60 books on my iTunes account with pictures of book covers as the "album artwork."  I've organized the books into monthly playlists with six to eight books each.  When my students go to listen, they grab a bucket containing an iPod, stylus (they make it more fun), and the book for the week.  They add their own set of earbuds and head off to find a comfy spot to read and listen.  We are so excited to have this technology in our classroom!  It's easier for everyone!

Next week I'll share my tips and tricks with you for this entire endeavor, including converting tapes, adding the book cover, making your playlists, and teaching your students how to use/care for it all.