Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Story of the Water Princess

The Water Princess tells the story of a young African American girl who has to travel 4 miles every day to get water for her family. The water sadly is not clean, yet the family uses it to drink, bathe, wash clothes, and cook with. The dynamite author and illustrator team of Susan Verde and Peter Reynolds bring a story inspired by Georgie Badiel into the hearts of readers. 

Olivia and Charles shared, “To know they had to travel that far to get a bucket of water when we can go to a sink is sad.” Julia and Marissa added, “The story makes me want to help them.” Sophia said, “The story made me feel selfish as we take advantage of what we have.” Jake feels “bad knowing all the stuff we have and knowing the struggles they have.”

Katie mentioned, “We cannot take everything for granted.” Zoe learned “not everyone has what we have.” Rayyan wanted us “to always be thankful for the things we have because not everyone has what we have.” Maddie reminded us “hard work is always worth it.” Charles suggested people could “donate money to build wells for clean water.” Visit the GeorgieBadiel Foundation to help their cause! You can also check out the Ryan’s Well Foundation

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Never Again Making Assumptions about Student Technology Use

In the course of the past few days I have discovered the importance of not making assumptions of students technology skills. I had figured most students knew how to log onto something and understand how to navigate websites. I also thought students would know what a tab was. In seeing the confusion in the eyes of those I directed to open a tab or how to make a capital letter I have now realized how much growth my students will have this year in their technology skills. Encouraging students to use Google classroom, Google drive, and Google search tools is just the beginning of our adventure into navigating technology together. Jumping right in seems overwhelming and probably a bit scary for us all, but these tools are things students will need to access their whole lives.


So I decided it is important to go back to basics and teach students tech 101 of how to navigate various tools online. I also learned the value of checking in with students to see what they know and need to know. I also want to encourage students to take more risks and figure things out on their own. Many are hesitant to push or do things on their own. I want them to learn by doing. Tomorrow I will be showing students what tabs are as well as some keyboard shortcuts thanks to my guru, Alice Keeler. I am also going to remind them to play around with these tools when they can. See what each Google product can do for them. I want them to think, How can this enhance my learning? What will this help me with? What else could it be used for?

I know I think those things every day!  

Monday, September 26, 2016

Give Yourself Permission To Listen to Books Digitally

Students need to have access to books in order to build their literacy skills. I spend a lot of time explaining to students over the summer who dread summer reading it is okay to listen to books on tapes. Parents mouths go agape, shocked to hear this is ok. I think any way students can be exposed to text (books, newspapers, magazines, play scripts, comics, etc.) and helps foster a love of reading works! I worked hard to build a classroom library that provides choices to students at various reading levels. Students have also shared they use various apps at home on devices to get books in their hands. I do think one of the best ways is to hold a book but I am guilty of reading mostly on my IPad.
 Image result for tales2go
One of the ways students can access books at home this year is through their Tales 2 Go Account. We did a test drive of this wonderful resource in class yesterday, and I had sent home log in data for this day one. Students are aware of their at home user name and password (or should be). I love how students can choose various forms of text and listen to stories. Stories can be sorted by grade level or students can search for things they are looking for. I saw students listening to various genres of text, some laughing out loud at the fiction story they chose. Others visited stories by favorite authors.

I asked students about why kids should use Tales 2 Go.  Here is some of the feedback from our users.

Marissa said, “If they do not feel comfortable reading stories in their head it is better to listen to it online. “  Shawn shared, “If kids do not like reading so much this tool could be used. If a child feels they are not reading fast enough this helps hear someone who is fluent. Olivia told us, “If someone already read the book but did not understand what they are reading they could go on there and reread it. It also helps with words they do not understand.” Sophia added, “Students should use Tales 2 Go because students find it more appealing to do things on electronics or computers because it seems like more fun, and as a student it is more fun! Emma finished our conversation but saying, “Students should use this because you can read books that you cannot find in a bookstore. You get experience with other people reading to you too. “

To learn more about Tales to go and see tutorials click here.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Engaging Students in Literacy

Engaging students in literacy is one of my favorite things to do! I love talking about books with agents. I do trust your student is reading at home (and at school) during the week. Click here if you want to learn more about why not to skip the 20 minutes of reading a night. Every other week students will have a reading letter due where we converse about the books (any type of text) or magazines or newspapers they are reading. Over the course of the years I have watched students develop a love of reading and an enjoyment for discussing books, as well as grow as thinkers just from these letters! Read this end of the year sample from Lulu!  Many agents will start the year giving me a summary of their book and within weeks are sharing their thinking and questions about the books they are reading. This helps me get to know your agent in a more meaningful way.

Students should use the same letter document for each letter. Each letter should begin with the date, a greeting (Dear Ms. Freedman,) and then introduce the book the student is reading with a brief summary of what happened. If I ask any questions of the student from the previous week those should be answered next. Then students will want to share with me their THINKING about the book using evidence from the text. I am not looking for a list of events that happened in the story, rather if something was funny they should tell me what it was and why it was funny to them. Maybe there were words or figurative language that caught their eye! Why is this good writing? Some students have written alternative endings or imagined what would happen if the setting changed, and then they explained how that could change the story. These letters might be challenging at first, but over time the student growth that occurs is unbelievable. Students are also welcome to ask me questions about what I am reading, though I cannot promise it will be exciting if it is for Northeastern.

Questions we use in class for reader response might be helpful:
1)      I especially like/dislike this character because…
2)      I especially like/dislike this text because…
3)      I learned an unbelievable amount of new information from this text.  For example…
4)      The chapter I read was mainly about_____________________.  In the beginning…in the middle…at the end…
5)      This character reminds me of myself because…
6)      This part was very realistic/unrealistic because…
7)      The character I most admire is ________________ because…
8)      Give an opinion: Tell what you think or feel about a certain part, and why. Be specific.
9)      Ask a question: This can be a basic question about something you don’t understand in the text or a larger question (about life, literature, or anything) that the text made you consider.
10)  Make a connection: As you read, a certain point in the text reminds you of another story, poem, movie, song, or something from real life. How are the two alike?
11)  Significant passage: You realize a certain part of the text is important. Why do you think it’s important? What does it mean? What does it tell you about the entire book, story, or poem?
12)  Language recognition: You notice some appropriate sensory details, or figurative language such as a simile, onomatopoeia, or personification, and so on. What is the language, and how does it add to the piece?
13)  Find foreshadowing: You read something that seems like a hint of what will come later. Explain you think this, and make a prediction.
14)  Prove a character trait: Think of a word that describes your character and prove it with examples from the text.
15)  Spot the setting: Describe your book’s setting using images that form in your mind as you read.

I am looking forward to sharing books with our students! They are always welcome to get their letter done early. Due dates for the year are posted on the classroom calendar. I hope your agent can find some time to read outside the school day! Here is a list of tipsHere are the directions coming home with your child!

Friday, September 23, 2016

What Drives You?

What drives you? What pushes you to want to do things? I often wonder about the answers to these questions for each of my students. I try to create learning experiences that push students to meet their potential and surpass it. I want them to have fun while learning and learn life skills at the same time. Today I modeled to students how to make up a math game on the spot (but the secret was they had no idea I was doing that until after they played).

Our math lesson today was rounding. We wrote down what we knew about rounding, and then the class viewed a BrainPOP video on rounding and added to their definition. I did some whole class practice to make sure students understood that one number could be rounded to different places. Looking back at me was a lot of stares from kids who were ready to be more active than passive. I made the decision right then and there students would play a rounding math game. I randomly chose a student and got a deck of cards. The objective was to make a four digit number using cards picked out of the deck. The number had to have a digit in the tens, ones, tenths, and hundredths place. Players wanted their number to be smaller than their competitor, except they had no idea what their partner had. Once students had their number they read it out loud and earned 2 points for being the smaller number or 1 point for having a bigger number. I am not a fan of zero points.  Students then had an opportunity to earn three more points by rounding their number to the nearest tens, ones, and tenths place. There was a buzz around the classroom as students went off to play. I heard lots of laughing, numbers being read, and questions being asked about whether or not numbers were rounded correctly. After playing I asked students if they liked the game, and I got a resounding, “That was AWESOME.” I told them I made it up.  A look of surprise came over many of their faces. They quickly realized some ideas best come out on the spot, it is important to test out ideas, and give feedback at the end. I hope some of our students make up math games to practice their skills when they have the chance! Maybe one will be good enough to market and sell.

Transitioning to writing students who had finished their work were given a scenario that I thought of off the top of my head to write about. One student is writing about a mouse going to NYC. We have another telling the tale of a mad scientist who got lost in a polar cave. There is a penguin that decided it was a good time to go to Miami. Students burst out laughing when I gave them their scenario. I heard one say it is important to use imagination, another asked if I was serious, and a third begged me to let him take his writing log to recess so he could work on the story. I love watching students’ eyes open to possibility. That is one of the things that drive me.

Feel free to view this Ted Talk. Daniel Pink, author of Drive, shares his thinking about the puzzle of motivation. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Making Choices Is Part of Learning

During social studies students are in charge of their own learning. Armed with notebooks, construction paper, and glue sticks they were asked to create a flat map in a collaborative group. Students had to work together to determine important features that go on a map, using the web as a tool. They decided as a class of a list of items that had to be on their map such as the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs location. They discussed latitude, longitude, Primer Meridian, Equator, compass rose, seven continents, 5 oceans, and the tropic of Capricorn and Cancer. When one student asked me where these things were on a map my answer was simply, “Google It.” Each group has a group Googler. What I loved the most is that they are changing the directions and taking risks! Ask your child what he or she is working on. We talked about how students should not be afraid to share what they know as we can all learn from them! I am excited to see how their maps come out! We will be working on this for a few social studies periods.

Our math lesson was on modeling addition and subtraction of decimals. Addition and subtraction of decimals and whole numbers use the same approach. Decimals and whole numbers are broken apart using place value and properties of addition and subtraction. The commutative property of addition applies to decimals and whole numbers. The commutative property does not hold for subtraction of decimals and whole numbers. Students discovered how to add and subtract decimals in tenths and hundredth using models.  During math today we had a lesson on adding decimals. Research says that some students align digits on the right rather than aligning the decimal points when adding decimals. This practice reflects a lack of conceptual understanding. In this lesson, students will estimate before adding decimals, then use the estimate to check if the result is reasonable. Holding a lined piece of paper horizontally will help with understanding this concept visually.

During writing we are working on the Best Part of Us project! You are welcome to join us for a presentation on October 31 at 8:30! I love how each student is working on his or her slide on a group project in Google! This is the beauty of Google tools! We can all be on one document at the same time! Students are coming up with clever titles and learning to not put last names on slides, which is a digital citizenship skill. Several families joined us last night at our first Google training. I hope some others join me on October 24 at 7:30 in our classroom!

I let the students know I would be out a few times each week in October and the expectations for our classroom still stand! One of the weeks I will be out a few days for the annual fall MassCUE conference! I hope to bring some of our agents next fall, as we have been presenting something every year! To learn more about this conference visit:

Go Pats!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

My Relationship with Google

I dove into the world of Google in education four years ago. Our school has N Computing (pods), which means there is one CPU and 5 monitors that think they are separate computers. Except when one student was working in Word and his or her monitor froze, so did the others. I would have tears over lost work and instilled in my 5th graders the power of saving everything immediately. I sought to avoid this and decided to take a risk and have my parents sign their students up for a Google account. Google saved automatically, so if a pod froze students would not lose their work. Little did I know how much Google would become a part of how I teach and drive me to challenge myself and take risks from that one decision.

Google is not just about enhancing learning or being an effective tool. Yes it allows us to create things and be efficient in our work. It has opened doors to collaboration. The biggest piece of Google for me has been building relationships with students. I remember the first time I happened to be on a document the same time as a student. To him it was probably like a ghost typer as I began to send him a message. His mother said he screamed so loud she had to go flying upstairs to see what the commotion was. This started a live conversation with the family while we were each in our own homes.

The one conversation has led to countless others with students. Last year I took advantage of the comment tool, which empowered students to think deeply about their work. Students are more apt to revise and edit work with the comments. The student would then resolve the comment, thinking he or she was done. This year I am asking that no comment gets resolved, so we have a record of our conversation in the Google apps we are working on.

Our school finally is a GAFE school, and I am in year four of using Google tools. Glad I am not rogue anymore, as my eyes are fully open to the possibility GAFE brings to a classroom. I spent 30 minutes in our computer lab this week going over the basics of Google and already have many students using Google Docs for their spelling homework. I created some things ahead of time in Google classroom and students are having conversations not only with me but with each other on there. I have students emailing me, taking responsibility for their work and asking questions. I love the side comments in student work. It allows me to share stories with students or ask them questions or help them dig deeper.

We have been at school a little over a week, and I can already tell you something about each student. I have Google to partly thank for that. It allows me to reach all students synchronously and asynchronously. It helps us build a foundation for a better future. In teaching these students how to use various Google tools and as Alice Keeler says, that Google exists, they are learning more about their world on their own. I am just their guide. They are going to teach me way more about Google tools than I can figure out on my own. I am so glad I decided to try out the Google drive a few years ago. I know I have only scratched the surface of Google. Nonetheless, it has helped me be a learner with students and develop relationships that last long past the 180 days I have with each of them.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Welcome to the World of Google

Taking 22 agents to the computer lab today to introduce the world of Google was so much fun for me! Google tools are wonderful ways for us to be more efficient and effective in all that we do! I forget how much training goes into showing students how to use Google tools. I also am well aware we have very curious students who are ready to push buttons and see what happens.  Today I showed students how to log into their Google accounts. On the page there is a blue sign in button on the top right hand corner. Students can hit that and log in using their Mansfield schools address. I showed them there is an omni box at the top of the page. This is where they will write web addresses and run their searches, as Google does not need the search box to do that anymore. I also showed students the hot dog (three dots on the top right corner). This has a list of commands. Always click on the three dots! You never know what you will get! We explored Google classroom, set up our reading letter template, and created a folder for spelling homework in their drive. Students learned to make a copy of a document and how to rename it as well! We covered a lot of ground in 30 min!

If students want to do their spelling homework in Google, I encourage them to do the following:

1.     Sign into the Google account

2.     Click the 9 boxes icon where the apps are located

3.     Click on drive

4.     Click on the 5th grade folder they created

5.     Click on spelling folder they created

6.     Click the New button

7.     Click Google docs (By going to the folder of the subject and creating the document there it automatically saves it in the right folder). Google saves automatically with every change to work being done in the drive.

8.     Name it whatever assignment it is in the title box (where it says untitled document)

a.     TIP: I highly suggest when naming documents in each folder start with 001 (followed by the name) as this keeps it organized in the drive.

b.    Ex. 001 abc order, 002 Three times a charm, 003 sentences, 004 abc order, 005 three times a charm, 006 sentences, etc.

c.     See Alice Keeler’s Blog post for more information!

9.     Once they are done make sure they share it with me by clicking the blu share button on the right