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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Slide into Summer Fun & Learning (Part 1)

Summer vacation is here and already I'm hearing, "Mom, I'm bored, what can I do?"  In my daughter's defense it has been raining since school let out a few days ago.  Of course I suggested she start her summer reading project but was met with a huge "UGG!!"

As a teacher (and mom) I know it is important to keep those skills current and avoid the 'summer slide'

Many school systems have required reading and even math packets for students to complete during the summer break.  I'm going out on a limb by saying that although we want to keep our students' skills honed I'm not sure REQUIRED reading and math packets will do the trick.  It has always been a struggle to get my own kids to complete their summer reading.  We would be vacationing on Cape Cod that last week in August and I'd be hounding them to read their book.  Now, tell me how that instills the love of reading or promotes the retention of skills?

So what is the answer?  How can we get our children (or students) to keep learning during the summer?

There are no sure-fire fixes. However, a few suggestions to help keep the kids engaged in summer reading include: finding audio books, participate in summer reading challenges or read with family members.

Audio Books:  Find stories that can be plopped onto their iPods or MP3 players.  They can listen to a book while riding in the car or while falling asleep.  Pair the audio with the book and it's even better.  Some places offer the books for free! See a sampling below:

87 Places for Free Audio Books OnLine - offers links to sites that legally offer free audio books.

LibriVox - provides free books in the public domain   

Learn Out Loud - highlights 50 of the top free audio books

Summer Reading Challenges:  Many local libraries promote summer reading challenges.  While this is not effective for all children, some really enjoy a challenge.  Check out these two challenges:

SCHOLASTIC SUMMER CHALLENGE - students log their summer reading minutes and enter a sweepstakes (free and no email is necessary).

BARNES & NOBLEKids read 8 books, record them in a downloadable journal and receive a free book off a list from Barnes & Noble.

PBS KIDS Summer Reading Community Challenge: A six week program to help kids discover the joys of reading.  Sign up for receive Emails with tips provided to guide you and your child.

Read Along with your child:  It might be helpful if you read the same book as your child.  Take turns reading it aloud together.  Make it a family event!  You will model reading and most likely have conversations around the same book. You can even try some of these Pre-Reading Strategies with your child!

I wish there were some "magic" that would help get children to LOVE to read!  Since there isn't, we sometimes have to find creative ways in which to share the joy of reading with our children.  Whether it is through a magazine, blog, graphic novel,  poetry or museum plaque, we need to engage our children and help motivate them to read!

Please share your ideas on how to promote reading in the comment section!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Skype in the Classroom...For Real!

"Are we skyping today?

"Can we skype this afternoon?"

These are the questions my eager 4th graders ask each day.  You see, they are getting quite comfortable using this web 2.0 tool.  

Over the past several months we have connected with students in Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Utah, California, a local meteorologist and even the classroom down the hallway.  

If you look up the word "Skype" or "skyping" in the dictionary, you will not find it.  However, it has become one of those 'new' verbs that have been identified with the 21st century (like "google it" and "text me").  Skype has taken the pen pal idea and made it into 'instant pals!"

Skype was founded in 2003, but has recently begun to make its way into our classrooms.  Using Skype one can video-conference with another user (for free). 

This year Social Studies has come to life via Skype.  Kim Powell, a fourth grade teacher whom I met via Twitter,  asked if I was interested in doing a Mystery STATE Skype with her classroom.  Check out her Glog here!

The students researched clues that would help identify our state to help the other students guess our location.  Students took turns sharing clues about bordering states, bodies of water, climate, geography, resources, famous people, animals and more. After that we started 'skyping' other classrooms of teachers I connected with through Twitter.  It was a hit!

Along with using a Social Studies book the students were learning first hand about different states, schools and more.  It became the highlight of our days! 

It has opened up doors and windows for my students that they would have been only able to 'read' about. 

For days after our skype calls the kids would be abuzz about what they had learned from each mystery class.  Many students researched the Mystery State further (without being prompted!).  

Skype in the Classroom is a site that allows teachers to connect.  You can collaborate or post project suggestions.  It's a great way to get started.  

Fourth Grade teachers may sign up for Mystery Skype through our #4thchat Wiki.

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano (Langwitches) created this Assessment tool to use with skype.  As she says in her blog, "A skype call is a learning call".  The forms which she has designed allows students to prepare for the call and then share what has been learned. 

Check out this Family Feud between 2 classrooms using Skype!

Skype Feud from Kelly Moore on Vimeo.

Would love to Skype with other classrooms next year...math, science, ELA, the possibilities are endless.  Please contact me if you are interested!    I can't wait to start early!!!

How have you used Skype in the classroom - Share below!