Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Quick Write Activity: The Piano

Quick Writes are daily short writing activities I ask students to respond to upon entering my classroom.  While I'm taking attendance, collecting homework, etc., students are responding to a writing prompt, quote, video, or a picture. I require students to provide a creative title, the date, and a response that should be a minimum of 7-10 sentences long. Recently, I had students respond to The Piano - an animated short film in which an old man shares his life story with his young grandchild.  Here are a few responses from my 8th graders:

"The old man plays the piano to connect with the music in a way that comforts him. The expression he plays with is portrayed through the various characters, or people in his life.  The somber music takes him back through his life and all of its tragedies until he reaches the time when he first learned to play the piano.  Then, looking back, you can see that even through his bad times, he still continues to play so that he is able to travel back and once again become a child through his music."

"The first woman was the grandmother, or his wife who passed away.  The army man was his close friend, the first boy was him, and the second boy was his grandson.  All of them, with the exception of his grandson, were love ones he had lost.  When his wife kisses him on his cheek, you can see that he deeply misses her.  When his friend is shot he feels a great sorrow and maybe guilt that he couldn't do more.  Then he remembers the stick horse and his grandson who makes the pain of the ones he lost vanish."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Homeworkopoly for SMART Boards

Back in 2002, I started playing Homeworkopoly with my students each week as a way to reward them for doing their homework. This is a game based on the traditional monopoly game. I printed off the game board, had it laminated, and used post-it flags as game pieces. Since obtaining a SMART interactive white board this year, I found a skeleton template online and adapted it to my class/school.  Click here to download my version. I typed up the text for the chance and community lunch box cards into a word document, used the screen capture tool to create images of my text, and put them into the random image generator from the SMART notebook gallery.  I then linked the brain binder space with a website with grammar exercises for my language arts classes. This can be easily adapted to any subject.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Taking Attendance Using Your Smartboard

A few months ago, I came across a blog by Byron Davis, a chorus teacher from Knoxville, TN, on how to use your Smartboard to take attendance using an excel file.  I downloaded the file, adapted it to my class, and began using it in my classroom the very next day.  This file allows students to “tap in” next to their name on the Smartboard as they enter the room.  After downloading the file, you’ll need to follow these steps to adapt this file for your own classes:   

1.      Take note of the original tab names.  You will need these later when you edit the macro.

2.      Go the “View” in Excel

3.      Click on the Macros button in the menu

4.      From the macros drop down list, choose “View Macros”

5.      The Macro list pop-up menu should be visible now, Click on “Edit”.  It doesn’t matter which Macro you choose to edit.  This is just to get you into the Macro Editor.

6.      In the Macro Editor Menu, choose Edit | Replace
Macros -4

7.      In the Replace dialog box

a.       In the “Find What” field, type in the first tab name from the original. (See #1)

b.      In the “Replace With” field, type the name that your want for your tab.

c.       Under “Search”, be sure to choose “Current Project”

d.      Click “Replace All”

e.       Repeat for each tab that you want to rename.

8.      In the Macro Editor Menu, choose File | Save

9.      In the Macro Editor Menu, choose File | Close and return to Microsoft Excel

10.  Rename each class hour tab with its new name.

11.  Be sure to save when you are finished.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Poetry Rocks

I decided to introduce a "Poetry Rocks" project to my 8th graders. Since many songs are poetry put to music, I proposed this project to my students:

1. Find a song that you like. No sexual references, no profanity, no discrimination. If you are not sure if the song will be okay, then DON’T USE IT. Find another song.

2. Get a CD or Mp3 of your song (You may bring in your iPod or Mp3 player on the day of presentations)

3. Type or copy and paste the song lyrics in a word processor and underline or highlight examples of at least three elements of poetry (in addition to repetition and rhyme).

Your song must have at least one example of three different elements of poetry (in addition to rhyme and repetition). The highlighted copy is due prior to the day you present.

4. You will give a presentation about your song in class. During your presentation, you will play the song while displaying the lyrics on the document camera or in a presentation format of your choosing. Do not choose a song that is extremely long (no 10 minute guitar or drum solos!) You will then give a speech about the poetic elements in your song. The entire presentation should be about 10 minutes long, with the actual speech portion of the presentation being at least five minutes long. During your presentation, you must do the following:

Introduce the song title.
Tell about the writer and group/singer.
Play the song.
Show the highlighted copy of the lyrics.
Fully explain the poetic elements your song contains.

As an example, I used the picture book Don't Laugh at Me by Steve Seskin and Allen Ramblin. The book comes with a CD of the song sung by the writers:

I'm a little boy with glasses
The one they call the geek
A little girl who never smiles
Cause I've got braces on my teeth
And I know how it feels
To cry myself to sleep

I'm that kid on every playground
Who's always chosen last
I’m the one who’s slower
Than the other’s in my class.
You don't have to be my friend
But is it too much to ask?

Don't laugh at me
Don't call me names
Don't get your pleasure from my pain
In God's eyes we're all the same
Someday we'll all have perfect wings
Don't laugh at me

I'm the beggar on the corner
You've passed me on the street
And I wouldn't be out here beggin'
If I had enough to eat
And don't think I don't notice
That our eyes never meet

I was born a little different
I do my dreaming from this chair.
I pretend it doesn’t hurt me
When people point and stare.
There’s a simple way to show me
Just how much you care.

Don't laugh at me
Don't call me names
Don't get your pleasure from my pain
In God's eyes we're all the same
Someday we'll all have perfect wings
Don't laugh at me

I'm fat, I'm thin, I'm short, I'm tall
I'm deaf, I'm blind, hey, aren't we all?

Don't laugh at me
Don't call me names
Don't get your pleasure from my pain
In God's eyes we're all the same
Someday we'll all have perfect wings
Don't laugh at me

A version of this song was also recorded by the country music singer, Mark Wills in 1998. I showed the picture book beneath my ELMO document camera as I played the song. Once the song was finished, I then put my highlighted copy of the song lyrics beneath the ELMO and discussed the poetic elements that the song contains. I'm hoping my students will be unique and creative with their song choices and presentations!