Last Week in Lab: Week Ending 02/10/12

Posted on Feb 12, 2012 by kjarrett Comments Off

This post is part of my continuing series of weekly lesson summaries. My goal is to give parents & caregivers in our school community the resources needed to extend student learning at home, and to share my professional practice with teacher colleagues around the world in the interest of improving my craft.

Week ending 02/10/12

Kindergarten

What we covered / did / explored:

  • I thought I’d change things up for the little ones this week and move away from straight-up games, so, we started the lesson with ABCYA’s Keyboard Zoo (WARNING! TURN DOWN YOUR SPEAKERS BEFORE CLICKING THAT LINK!) an online keyboarding activity that’s easy and fun. (Pretty sure this is the first time I’ve used it with Kindergarten.) I like how the keyboard is color-coded for proper hand selection, but to be honest, I’m happy if they can even FIND they keys! A few managed to complete the entire alphabet during the warmup, which is pretty impressive.
  • Since Valentine’s day is just around the corner, I took the opportunity to introduce the kids to Kerpoof.com, arguably the most powerful web-based application of its kind on the web. Kerpoof.com has it all, from the most basic coloring, drawing and card-creation tools (we used the latter this week) to EXTREMELY sophisticated digital authoring / movie creation tools suitable for middle and even high school. Kerpoof.com is owned by Disney, and it’s so refreshing to see the site continue on as it was before the acquisition, not swallowed up and overwhelmed by over-the-top Disney branding.
  • Using Kerpoof.com, students had to create a Valentine card for a family member with the following elements: a border, appropriate clip-art (for some reason, kids can’t resist inserting a rappelling Ninja or the infamous Spaghetti-Head Baby), a Happy Valentine’s Day banner of some kind, and, optionally, TO: and FROM: lines.
  • The Kerpoof.com card maker is super simple to use and kids can get right to work without a login, which makes it PERFECT for use in school. (Kerpoof also has a fantastic, FREE “classroom” edition with tons of great content – click here to learn more.)
  • When finished, cards were exported to .JPEG (another terrific feature) and I printed them for everyone. (Kindergarten students are capable of printing on their own, but their user accounts are restricted from printing as they often do so in error.)

What I learned / observed / inferred:

  • This lesson was most challenging when it came to lettering. By this time of year, kids’ fine motor skills are just fine for selecting, clicking and dragging elements around the page, but many are still developing the skills needed to spelling and word recognition. I made the lettering optional after the first class I did the lesson with.
  • It’s easy to identify students that (through an older sibling) have used Kerpoof.com before. I’m willing to bet that Dani, whose art is shown above, is one. She not only included all the required elements but added properly rotated corner borders (which I didn’t even DEMONSTRATE), and, was one of  the first ones finished.
  • Though I instructed students to make a card for a family member, I had to redirect a few that tried to sneak one for their classmate crush. :) Parents: this article on MSNBC is very timely.

What students can do at home:

First Grade

What we covered / did / explored:

  • Students warmed up by selecting an activity of their choice from the “Keyboarding Games” section of the Student Sharepoint – everything from Keyboard Climber to Nitro Type (which is WAY beyond expected first grader skill levels but a few insisted on trying it.)
  • We also made Valentine’s Day cards for family members, like Kindergarteners did, but with slightly more advanced expectations for page design and text entry.
  • Students printed these in color on their own and took them home.

What I learned / observed / inferred:

  • Though I instructed students to make a card for a family member, I had to redirect a few that tried to sneak one for their classmate crush. :) Parents: this article on MSNBC is very timely.

What students can do at home:

Second Grade

What we covered / did / explored:

  • We warmed up with Typing Pal, and once again made a big deal the “Zero to Hero Club,” in which kids that get “0 errors” on at least one warmup excercise get a big high five and then race up to the SMART board to proudly write their name on the list of “Zero to Hero Club Members.”
  • Students imported their PowerPoint-saved-JPEG slides into Microsoft PhotoStory (which we have working on our Windows 7 PCs) and began adding voice-overs by reading (and in most cases, improvising on) their scripts.
  • Students saved their PhotoStory projects to the network for next week, when we’ll add custom music soundtracks and produce the final projects.

What I learned / observed / inferred:

  • Kids love to IMPROVISE! Put a set of headphones on a kid, show them how to record their voice, then, GET OUT OF THE WAY! I can’t WAIT to see and hear what the students have come up with on their final projects.

What students can do at home:

  • For those with a home computer running Windows XP, the free Microsoft PhotoStory download is worth trying. Though phased out in Windows 7, the new Windows Live Movie Maker is said to be good and is also free.
  • Practice keyboarding with Typing Pal. Celebrate with them when they achieve “0 errors” because accuracy is more important than speed. Speed comes as their finger muscles mature!

Third Grade

What we covered / did / explored:

  • We warmed up with Typing Pal, and once again made a big deal the “Zero to Hero Club,” in which kids that get “0 errors” on at least one warmup excercise get a big high five and then race up to the SMART board to proudly write their name on the list of “Zero to Hero Club Members.”
  • Third graders also did Valentine’s cards using Kerpoof.com but had to add more complexity to their final projects including more descriptive text (not shown above; that image is a sample I made to show the user interface).

What I learned / observed / inferred:

  • Valentine’s Day cards are timeless and appeal to kids of all ages. Of course, Kerpoof.com makes them easy to make and share.

What students can do at home:

  • Practice keyboarding with Typing Pal. Celebrate with them when they achieve “0 errors” because accuracy is more important than speed. Speed comes as their finger muscles mature!

Fourth Grade

What we covered / did / explored:

  • We warmed up with Typing Pal, and once again made a big deal the “Zero to Hero Club,” in which kids that get “0 errors” on at least one warmup excercise get a big high five and then race up to the SMART board to proudly write their name on the list of “Zero to Hero Club Members.”
  • Though we were unable to use Minyanland.com due to a yet-to-be determined network issue, and kids ended up getting a free period to catch up with other work and/or create (you guessed it) a Valentine’s card with Kerpoof, I do want to talk about Minyanland.
  • Minyanland is an INCREDIBLE financial education site that I first wrote about in April of 2008. Since then, the site has grown to over half a million users. It is by far the best financial simulation for elementary age students I’ve ever seen. Upon choosing and customizing a character, the player begins with a $50,000 bank account balance and an unfurnished apartment. By exploring the Minyanland community, players can earn money by learning and answering questions about financial and other concepts as well as playing games. The music is catchy, the animations are superb and the gameplay is fast. My only concern with the site is the unabashed promotion of capitalism and spending. Though there is a strong focus on saving and investing, much of  the game experience involves consumption.

What I learned / observed / inferred:

  • That I need to test ALL my websites before using them in the lab, AND to have a better system of relevant, meaningful backup lessons I can launch at a moment’s notice if needed.

What students can do at home:

  • Explore Minyanland - sign up for an account, explore and discuss with Mom & Dad!
  • Practice keyboarding with Typing Pal. Celebrate with them when they achieve “0 errors” because accuracy is more important than speed. Speed comes as their finger muscles mature!
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