Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Welcome Back!

Happy New Year!

A very frosty hello to you!  I hope that everyone enjoyed their vacations and also enjoyed our first day back together.  Yarmouth's first delayed start in recent memory would suggest a potentially wild transition, but instead I was pleasantly impressed when our class came in eager, excited, and ready to learn.  We spent a little extra time sharing from vacation and talking about desires and plans for the new year.

I wanted to update you on some of our "technology" work so far this year.  I put technology in quotation marks because most of what we're actually doing with technology has nothing to do with technology itself, but actually using the technology as a tool to further our academic progress.  So while we may be using "technology" in class, it's just another way to help us grow our big brains and practice new skills.

Math Practice: We're still using Sumdog, XtraMath, and TimezAttack to practice our math skills.  XtraMath starts with addition and works up through fluency in subtraction and multiplication.  TimezAttack focuses (not surprisingly) more on multiplication, and can be downloaded at home following directions on the YES website.  Sumdog does a mix of skills and different approaches (money, algebraic thinking, measurement) in a fun, game-ish way that is a good motivator for many students.  If you're unfamiliar with any of these, ask your Mathemagician!

Reading Practice: We use Tumblebooks and Tumblebooks Cloud to practice "Listen to Reading," which gives the students time to hear stories spoken with intonation and feeling while following along with the words in front of them.  This is done a few times a week as part of our Daily5 block of reading activities in the afternoon.

Writing: You must have heard about Google Docs by now, where we try and put all of our finished, publishable writing.  You can log on with your child to see his or her account at any time from home, work, or just about anywhere in the world.  Your child knows his or her username and password, and by the end of the year should be able to show you a thing or two about cloud computing!

We also use FreeRice to practice our vocabulary online.  Your child can show you where to find this on the YES webpage.

Finally, I hope you've heard about our recent foray into blogging!  We are using KidBlog, which creates what is known as a "Walled Garden," so that only members of our class can see anything that is going on in here.  Students have been making posts about what they think will happen after the end of stories we have read together as a class, and are then able to comment on each other's work.  I have been most impressed with not only the caliber of writing, but the sincerity and thoughtfulness of comments we've been seeing.  This has proved to be an excellent showpiece for what we call accountable talk, and I encourage you to ask your child to show you what we've been up to!

So that's a quick rundown of what's going on in the realm of technology in our classroom!  I find that the technology kind of takes a back seat to what your amazing children are doing with it, and I look forward to seeing what comes up in 2014!

Take care,
Todd