As I begin planning for the upcoming school year, I've been playing around with Wordle and thinking of ways to use it in the classroom. Wordle is a free online tool that generates word clouds from the text you provide. You can then edit the layout, font, and color scheme. My first attempt is below. I may send this as a welcoming postcard to give my student a sneak peek at the year to come.
Other ways to use Wordle in the classroom:
1. Welcome sign using student names
2. Classroom rules or mission statement
3. Important vocabulary from a unit of study (science or social studies)
4. Words, phrases to describe the main idea of a book or character attributes
The possibilities are endless.
Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day! For weeks, my students have been reading and writing poetry. Today they chose a favorite to keep in their pocket throughout the day to share with friends, family, teachers and others. Since I challenged them to read their poem to three people outside of our classroom, unsuspecting parents who dropped their second grader off this morning we're quickly surrounded by excited children asking, "Can I read my poem to you?" It's been a wonderful way to start begin our day!
I, too, needed to find a poem to share. I've been following the Gotta Book blog all month as Gregory K. Pincus has posted new poems for his 30 Poets/30 Days celebration of children's poetry. On April 28th I found the poem for my pocket! Written by April Halprin Wayland, it was a great way to send my students off, ready to read their own poems throughout the day.
HOW TO READ A POEM ALOUD
by April Halprin Wayland
First, read the title of the poem
and the poet’s name.
Let each line
Then read it
one more time.
When the poem
Think about the poet at her desk,
late at night, picking up her pen to write…
© 2009 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.
During my commute home today, I was listening to NPR's All Things Considered as a mystery was revealed. For nearly 150 years, a story was told about a young watchmaker, Jonathan Dillion, who engraved a secret message on Abraham Lincoln's watch at the start of the Civil War. Although unconfirmed, it was shared for years among family and friends until it eventually reached a New York Times reporter in 1906.
The watchmaker's great-great-grandson, Doug Stiles, uncovered the Times article (via Google) and contacted curators at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, who were unaware of the engraving or of Dillion's story. Today, the Smithsonian agreed to open the watch, with Stiles standing nearby. You can read the transcript at NPR, but the audio is what made such an impression. I found myself on the edge of my seat, listening as the watch was gently and carefully opened. The inscription was there! The audience gasped and I got goosebumps as Stiles' was invited to read the words of his great-great grandfather. You could feel his excitement as he said afterwards, "My gosh, that's was Lincoln's watch and my ancestor put grafitti on it."
Of course, I hope to share this story tomorrow with my second graders. It's not often that such intriguing mysteries from history come true while we witness it! As Brent D. Glass, the director of the museum said, “It’s a personal side of history about an ordinary watchman being inspired to record something for posterity.” Ordinary people can do wonderful things. Thanks to the Smithsonian for letting us share in this moment.
Before beginning the whooping crane migration project with my students three years ago, I never imagined how these birds could have such personalities. Of course, the people that work closely with the cranes for such long periods of time are likely ascribing some human characteristics to the birds. There's no doubt, however, that these birds are real characters! Throughout the course of our study, we learned about the bullies or "meanies", the ones that were serious learners at "flight school", the strong fliers, the one bird that was always sleepy and the bird who prefered to have an ultralight airplane to himself. The Operation Migration team gave them nicknames like Mouse or King. My students quickly grew attached and became eager for updates about their chicks.
Now that the birds have reached their wintering grounds in Florida, our project is, for the most part, complete. The birds are now adjusting, with supervision, to being free and wild. In their field journal, Operation Migration posts frequent updates about how this transition is going. It's a wonderful way for my students to keep up with the birds they tracked, "adopted", and grew to love over the last several months.
Recently, an entry was posted by the "Swamp Monster" who had to be called back to work to get the mischievous birds in line. The Swamp Monster is really a pilot or team member wearing a large green tarp who scare the cranes back to the pen. Here's what the Swamp Monster wrote:
Apparently my favorite victims have become just a tad too independent and were creating havoc around roosting time. My favorite kind of misbehaving youngster--one who won't go to bed at night and wants to stay in the swamp and play. Yum!
On Wednesday night, so Bev told me, the chicks decided to take off out of the pen right as the sun was setting. They went to where they had spent the morning and wanted to poke around in the mud some more. This gave Brooke and Bev fits as they tried to get them back to the safety of the pen to roost. So I responded to their 911 call, and on Thursday went over to help them out. After all, just because I'm a Monster doesn't mean I'm a bad guy.
I took up my position out on the flats surrounded by all my favorite things: stinky mud, mosquitoes, and sand flies. You know, I felt almost at home there. Anyway, sure enough, out came the 7 chicks just after sunset. Boy - did I put on a show for them. Jumping, growling, snarling, blowing my horn, waving my tarp; all the usual things I do.
And do you know what? The little stinkers kept flying. Scared you didn't I? They kept flying alright, but right back to the pen. Darn right they did! When I scare something, it stays scared. They flew right back into the pen almost knocking Brooke down in the process they were so glad to see him. Then they marched right onto the oyster bar to roost like the good little chicks they are, and they didn't budge for the rest of the night.
I think I'll go have some more fun with them tonight. I really love that swamp they live in---a Monster could retire there!
Then, Bev Paulan, who has been with the chicks since they hatched, wrote another entry about how difficult it can be to get the "crane-kids" to sleep when they'd rather play. As a parent of two young children, I could relate to this bedtime routine and I think many of my second graders recognized themselves in this crane misbehavior.
Saturday was my turn to be in the pen with the chicks and stay with them until they roosted for the night. This seems a simple task; just stand out on the oyster bar, do my best crane parent impersonation, and wait for them to fall asleep. Not quite so simple.
Like any parent of an increasingly independent child, I did my best to get them calmed down for the night. Following 'Daddy' Brooke's advice, I stood in the feed shelter for a while so they could get nice full tummies; walked to the fresh water guzzlers so they could get their last drink; slowly walked them to their bedroom, aka the oyster bar, and tried to lull them to sleep with their favorite lullaby, the brood call.
Well like any child who doesn't want to go to bed tends to do, the goofing off started. They all had a good meal and while walking them slowly around the pond, the shenanigans started. First they started jumping about, tossing sticks and feathers into the air. Then they started playing tag, with one bird taking flight - and my heart stopping.
Okay, that burst of energy dissipated, I finally got 5 of the 7 onto the oyster bar. But once again, any excuse to not go to sleep. "I'm hungry," they chorused and they all marched back to the feeders for one last nibble. "I'm thirsty," they peeped as they sauntered to the guzzlers. "I have to take a bath" they sang. Now mind you, all this is at 6:45pm, 20 minutes after sunset ad past their bedtime.
Then it was another game of tag, tugging at my costume, playing with oyster shells, and pecking at each other - "Mom, 828 is looking at me!" More eating, more jumping about, and then, my worst nightmare; the batteries in my MP3 player gave up the ghost drowning us in silence.
Would I ever get them to the oyster bar now? Luckily, darkness won out and they eventually all ended up surrounding me on the oyster bar and slowly calmed down. 812 was the last one to join us, but 805 was so fascinated by my costume, he wouldn't relax. Finally I moved far enough out of his reach that he had no choice and he started to do his pre-sleep preening.
When it became so dark I couldn't see more than 5 feet, I figured it was a safe bet that I could leave them. Slowly, I waded ashore, taking just a few steps at a time to make sure no one followed. Looking back one last time, I could see their reflections in the pond and no one was stirring.
So as quietly as a rubber boot wearing, costume clad handler can walk through water covered mud, I made my escape, and headed back to the blind. No one followed and peace reigned over the marsh. I think I'm getting this chick-sitting thing down.
As you can imagine, my second graders loved reading these updates. In a short time, our cranes will once begin another migration. This time
they will fly north to Wisconsin as wild cranes, without their costumed human "parents" or ultralight airplanes. Each bird has been fitted with a new radio transmitter and legband. We will continue to learn about their progress as they grow into adulthood, learn to survive in the wild, mate and hopefully begin to raise chicks of their own.
This project has been engaging on many level and the interest keeps going. My class received a visit from Operation Migration and we raised more than $1000 for this historic effort. My students have a great appreciation for conservation efforts. They have connected to an endangered species in such a personal way - one in which they won't soon forget. I , too, now claim to be a true "craniac." We wish the best of luck to the Whooping Crane class of 2008!
Kathy Barbro has a wonderful blog filled with "classroom-tested" art projects for kids. She created her blog in hopes that teachers, left to make up for cuts in formal art programs, would find useful ideas to use in their classrooms. While I am fortunate to teach at a school with a wonderful art program, taught by expert artists and teachers, I am constantly integrating art projects into my curriculum. I'm always looking for new ideas. My students respond to reading and math problems through illustration, they create diagrams and life cycles for science units, and make crafts for holidays, cultural traditions and school fundraising events. Kathy's blog is filled with inspiration. Art Projects for Kids is helpfully organized by grade level, artist, medium, and theme. Below are just a few of Kathy's projects and there are many, many more. Explore for yourself. You won't be disappointed!
Watercolor Resist Snowflakes
This year, one of our school goals has been to focus how we teach and encourage kindness, respect and compassion towards others. As a faculty, we read Choosing Civility by P.M. Forni. His 25 Rules for Considerate Conduct became launching point for many of us. One of my colleagues posted these words outside of her first grade classroom at the beginning of the school year. and soon the "garden" bloomed with paper flowers made by her students. I smile each time I pass the board. Written by Henry Wadsworth Lpngfellow , these word have often been used as a children's nursery rhyme.
Kind hearts are the gardens.
Kind thoughts are the roots.
Kind words are the flowers.
Kind deeds are the fruits.
Take care of your garden
And keep out the weeds.
Fill it with sunshine,
Kind words and kind deeds.
This week's Poetry Friday roundup is hosted by Karen Edmisten.
Jonathan Reed won second place in AARP's U@50 video contest launched in 2007. Contestants were asked to create 2-minute video describing their vision of the future; what life would be like by the time they turned 50. Reed was inspired by the Argentinian political adverstisement "The Truth". (Thanks, Heather).
Here is the text. Read it and then read it again in reverse.
Lost Generation by Jonathan Reed
I am part of a lost generation
and I refuse to believe that
I can change the world
I realize this may be a shock but
“Happiness comes from within.”
is a lie, and
“Money will make me happy.”
So in 30 years I will tell my children
they are not the most important thing in my life
My employer will know that
I have my priorities straight because
is more important than
I tell you this
Once upon a time
Families stayed together
but this will not be true in my era
This is a quick fix society
Experts tell me
30 years from now, I will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of my divorce
I do not concede that
I will live in a country of my own making
In the future
Environmental destruction will be the norm
No longer can it be said that
My peers and I care about this earth
It will be evident that
My generation is apathetic and lethargic
It is foolish to presume that
There is hope.
And all of this will come true unless we choose to reverse it .
A few months ago, I learned that my class had been chosen in a raffle to receive a visit from the Operation Migration team. In November, we waited eagerly as the whooping cranes moved closer to Chicago. The cranes remained grounded in Winnebago County, Illinois for seven days until finally on November 18th, the strong and bumpy winds subsided and the cranes took flight - a 55 miles trip to LaSalle County. Late that afternoon, I received a call from Heather Ray. The team would arrived the next day!
Team member Heather Ray and pilot, Joe Duff, pulled-up in an official O.M. van that we could see from our third floor classroom window. They spent a couple hours in the classroom and the kids were able to get many of their questions answered. We learned first-hand what it was like to fly with the birds. The children tried on the handler's costume and the crane puppet, held a replica of a whooping crane egg, and heard tales of their "adopted" whooping crane chicks. It was a wonderful experience and one we won't soon forget!
After the visit, the excitement and giddiness lingered. We bragged to our families, friends and colleagues. Sure the Obamas attended our school, but we met Joe Duff! I have continued to keep in touch with Heather and know that this study will be an annual part of my curriculum. My own interest in helping these amazing birds has only grown. Jane Duden of Journey North graciously posted a slideshow of the O.M. visit so others could experience it virtually. Enjoy and maybe you can join the conservation effort next year!