I’m starting a unit about chemistry and it is very vocabulary heavy, so I wanted to find ways to teach vocabulary that are interesting, but effective in reinforcing the terminology. 

What I love about this lesson is that the technology is there, but it disappears to just become another engaging part of the lesson, not the focus of the lesson. The ideas here are nothing earth shattering or new, but when combined together they make for a very engaging, fun lesson, that really wakes up otherwise very boring topics.

Station 1: Vocabulary  Jenga Each jenga block was wrapped in paper and had a definition or vocabulary word, as they freed the blocks they had to match them, and if the tower tumbled they had to match them all!  I got the idea via twitter off of a blog which I didn’t bookmark, so it’s not original, but I loved it!

Station 2: Smartboard I had three vocabulary activities up on the board they were to work through as a group to match, drag, and review vocabulary.  They loved gathering around the board and trying things together, working through the activites.  A great use of technology embedded into a lesson instead of the lesson being about the technology.  The use of an IWB as a small group station is wonderful.  The level of student engagement is very high and a conversation about their learning always seems to develop.
Station 3: Paper Chains  The students had strips with a definition and a word (that didn’t match!) They had to find the matching definition that would connect to continue the chain. 
Station 4: Two Truths and a Lie  Students were given a word and had to come up with two facts and a lie about it.  Their group then had to decide what was untrue. 
Station 5: Head bandz  Students had words attached to headbands.  They had to ask questions of other people in their group until they figured out what word they were.
Station 6: Name that Mixture  Students had to identify what type of mixture was in the beaker, but it’s more fun that that.  There were six mixtures with 8 labels.  They would have to run and match up six labels to six mixtures.  A helper would see if they were correct and if not they would have to race back and try to fix them up.  They were timed and would race to make matches.  A helper would check and then they would race back to fix when they knew how many they had correct.  You could hear cheers of,  “No it’s  a suspension!” or “It’s saturated!”  Very fun!  This one would have been labelled a heterogeneous mixture!
Station 7: Looping  I did this activity as a large group.  Each student is given a card with a word and a definition that doesn’t match.  One student starts by reading their definition, then the student with the corresponding word reads their word, then the random definition on the next car, leading to the next student, and so on.  Eventually it loops back to the original student.  We then race to beat our own times to see how fast we can loop through the definitions

When preparing lessons using Smart notebook, one of the great features you can incorporate is the ability to hide content and have it “appear” at an opportune moment.

The list below are your options to hide and reveal content in your lessons:

1) Flash Based Pull Tabs – In the new LAT 2.0 the pull tabs can be “pinned” to a location.   After you pull them out, you hit the arrow and they will hide again automatically.  Pull tabs in the LAT 2.0 can be pulled from the left, right, top, or bottom of the screen.  They can also be pulled out from behind other objects.  Very flexible and useful!   The tabs come in all sorts of colours to match your lesson design.
Reveal - pull tab
2)Simple Pull Tabs – The flash based pull tabs are great, and easy to use, but they have limitations.  The graphic based pull tabs are more flexible.  You can group an image, text, or a shape to the graphic tab and pull out the tab to reveal the attached content.  Using image transparency you can have a complete overlay attached to a tab and pull it across to fill in answers, add colour, or enhance details.
reveal simple tab
3) Question Flipper – Text/Image – a simple tile that, when pressed, flips over to reveal text or a photo.
reveal flipper
4) Balloon Pop – click on the balloon to reveal text, graphics, or photos underneath. Great for very young kids!
Reveal balloon
5) Question Tool – click on the box to have text appear/disappear in the box.
reveal note
6) Information Button/Note Reveal – Click on the Question mark to reveal information!   A nice reveal tool to use with old and young students alike.   The information button has a larger box to type in.  The note reveal is for shorter chunks of information and can appear to the left or to the right.
Reveal info button
7) Click and Reveal Shapes – click on the shape to reveal text, graphics, or photos underneath.  The shape can be a square, star, circle, rectangle, or triangle.
Reveal square

One of my goals for next year is building my individual Smart Notebook files into complete units, providing some flow, cohesiveness, and I will have all of my resources in one place, easily accessible.  Over the summer I hope to get my units done and ready to go for neat year.  I’m starting with science, grade 5, electricity and magnetism.

Here is the process I am going through to build a Smart Notebook based unit – as I try to maximize the use of my Smart Board and engage students to deepen their understanding of the concepts being taught.

1) Theme, background, and visuals – I always start with a background colour, a title, and a few visuals to create consistency.  After the title page I create a theme from the first page so that it is easy to have the same colour and title on each page following.
2) Outcomes for the unit – I build the outcomes of the unit into simple, “I Can” statements for students and link lessons to those outcomes.  I reference the actual outcomes at the end of the unit – to keep them in an easy to refer to location.
unit - I can
3) What do I already have – I dig through my old files to see what I already have made, and what I can incorporate and reuse.  What I don’t use I delete, I’m never one to keep old files – they just collect and I never use them, so I clean them out as I go.
unit - already have
4) Linking – The key to developing a unit – linking smart notebook files, pdf files, student handouts on word, assessments, and helpful external websites.
unit - linking
5) Visuals, Media, Videos, Flash – I love using the Smart Board for Flash activities we can do together and discuss.  I think the hands on nature of them is great reinforcement of concepts for students.  Visuals are key for visual learners, and short video clips to introduce or reinforce concepts are very engaging for students.  For a complete list of the flash activities in the Lesson Activity Toolkit 2.0, with examples – Click Here
unit - Flash
6) Bringing it all together – pull together individual lesson elements, attach files and stand alone Smart Notebook lessons. Using the attachment tab you can bring in pdf, smart files, word documents, and collect all unit documents in one place. This collection makes all of your files easy to access, and easy to link so all of your lesson and unit materials are in one place.
unit - together

P1000407I don’t even remember the first time I saw a smartboard – it may have been student teaching in Edmonton, or it may have been in my undergrad days at U of A.  Today I introduced a new set of teachers to the wonder of the interactive white board.  Dominica is still a developing country, but they are working hard to improve their country.  Education is a main focus for improvement, espeically improving skills with IT.  When I walked into my classroom at the Dominica Grammar School this morning a smartboard was not what I expected to see, but I was pleasantly surprised.  I immediately turned it on and pulled up my work.  The people standing around me were entralled as I adjusted settings, oriented the board, and organized the floating toolbar just how I like it.  I think this is when they started to realize what they had.  The board had just been installed and no one had even used it yet, the markers were still in a plastic bag.  As the teachers trickled in and started to see me magically flip between windows just by touching a screen, they stared!  The internet choose this opportune moment to go down so I started to show the smartboard tools.  The excitement over making a triangle, recording a math problem, or just writing and erasing your name was contageous.  The teachers before me started to see the possibilites the board held in the classroom and I have only showed them a few simple tricks – just wait until I dig into smart notebook and show them my jeopardy game, or flash files.

This school year has been one of tremendous growth in my teaching and in my use of technology in the classroom.  In previous years I used technology consistently and came up with some great projects, but this year I tried everything.  I integrate technology into every unit, and I tried to engage and enhance learning with technology.  Below are the tools I’ve used this year, what worked well, and what I want to do next year:

1) Smartboard – This was my first complete year with an IWB.  I used it every day, almost every lesson.  Everything from the morning handwriting to the end of the day select a job list was posted.  I started to develop entire hyperlinked units on Smart Notebook.   My big project is developing Smart notebook lessons for each of the outcomes for the new Alberta Gr. 5 math curriculum, and I’m almost done!  What I’ve done has been posted to the district moodle site for all of the grade 5 teachers to use, and to hopefully make better and repost.

2) Moodle – I’m working on a paperless unit in Language Arts using Moodle.  It has an icon based, graphic user interface – I’ve blogged more detailed information here.  I’ve used moodle to guide the students through resources, websites, flash activities, and quizzes about extreme weather.  I used moodle to post photostories that the students created.  Each photostory has its own forum for the students to leave comments about each story.

3) Wikis – I’ve used wikis in several ways this year.  I worked on a collaborative writing wiki, with two other schools in the district.  The kids had fun with this, and it was a great way for kids to see writing of other kids and have to fit their style to match with someone else.  We have a wetlands wiki, where the students are going to use Glogs to create posters for a wetland creature or plant to post to the wiki.  The content on the wiki right now is from last year and will be updated over the last month of school, you have to leave something for June!

4) Blogs – I’ve had the students contributing to a class blog all about Canadian Identity.  We’ve had external contributions from a class in Florida, a class in Coalhurst, and a few of my twitter friends!  The students are making posts on all different topics about Canada using edublogs.  I’m using 21 classes to have the students develop individual poetry blogs.

5) Videoconferencing/Skype – Using a webcam and microphone, I’ve been trying to “flatten the walls” of my classroom by connecting with experts and other classes regularly.  My grade 5 students connected with a meteorologist from the Biosphere in Montreal during the weather unit, we met with a class from St. Louis to compare and contrast Canadian and American culture, and we’ve met on a weekly basis with a class from Hamilton to discuss Canadian culture, differences across Canada, technology and change, and we are going to learn more about ancient civilizations next week!

6) Podcasting – the students recorded summary podcasts of the videoconferences we’ve taken part in.  It was a great way to summarize and review what we’ve learned.  They are currently in the process of learning audacity and planning to record their own podcasts.

7) Video – The students used Flip video cameras throughout the year to record fun events.  We took video of fun science experiments and each time we went geocaching.  It is a great way to collect and review events and concepts.  The flip cameras are simple and easy to use.  We use windows movie maker to put clips together and make a longer video.

8 ) Jog the Web/Google Docs – These are two great stand alone tools, but they are even better together.  I can send the students on a guided webquest with jog the web, then at the end there is a google form the need to fill in to reflect on the sites they visited.  These tools are a great way to guide students through a website to maximize the learning, instead of a quick glance.

9) GPS – This has been my pet project of the year.  The students are using handheld GPS receivers to find hidden caches with clues to solve a problem, math puzzles, or other fun projects.  Expect many more blog posts on the project, this was the first.

10) Facebook – We create profiles of the characters from the novel Holes.  The students had to fill in profile information as the character, then they joined a Camp Green Lake Group and IM’d in character.  The level of understanding of the characters in the novel went way up, and the students had a great time digging deeper into the book.

11) Other Web 2.0 – Wordle, Voki, Doppleme, Elf Yourself, Interactive Game Sites – I love Wordle to illustrate a concept in words.  We created vokis out of novel study characters.  Doppleme is my favourite site to create avatars so the students aren’t tempted to upload their own photos for a blog or wiki avatar.  Elf Yourself was a fun Christmas activity doing some simple photo editing.

12) Google Earth – I had to put this one last because it is probably my favourite.  I’m a geography nut – Dad was an SS teacher for 32 years and the history geography stuff really rubbed off on me.  Grade 5 in Alberta is all about Canada and Google Earth is open almost every single SS class to make a connection, comparison, or just show the kids what Canada really looks like.  I found a great KML file for Underground to Canada to show the route taken in the book, and I use if for Math to show real world examples.  We found 90 angles all over the world last week!

I love the customizable flash activities that are a part of the Lesson Activity Toolkit.  I thought I would give a brief overview of each one and an example of how I might use it. Each activity comes in a variety of colours to suit your mood or theme.

1) Vortex – The vortex is a fancy sorting tool – the answers will only go into the correct vortex, and spin out of the incorrect choice. There are both text and image options.
2) Image Match – match the picture with the correct labels.
3) Pairs – just like classic memory – works with both text and images, just drag and drop images on to the tiles in the setup. You can change and modify the number of tile pairs.
4) Category Sort – Drag and drop the words or images into the correct category. Self checking!
5) Tiles – This application reveals what is behind it, one square at a time. You can select how many squares you want. You can put text, an image, or multiple images behind the tiles. I like it to interrogate a historical picture, breaking down a photo or painting into pieces, then looking at is as a whole.
6) Word Guess – Very fun! It’s just like hangman, with the choices of soccer, basketball, or my favorite the tomato splat. Choose the letters to try to guess the missing word. Fun vocabulary practice.
7) Anagram – Rearrange the letters to unscramble the words. It allows for hints, and even hints with a picture to help.
8 ) Multiple Choice – a simple multiple choice question option. You can add up to 10 questions to the same set.
9) Image Arrange – put the pictures in order. This one is great for sorting, ordering, or patterns.
10) Image Select – allows you to import up to 18 images. The images appear in a large box and the students have to select or write in the correct label.
11) Hot Spot – You place dots in a background based on the instructions in the top red bar. The background can be a grid, human body, map, or other custom image.
12) Word Biz – Spell out the answer to the question in the box.
13) Sentence Arrange – drag and drop the sentences (or single words) to put them in order.
14) Timeline reveal – click on a labelled dot to reveal information. Great for dates on a timeline, but the interval between dots is fixed. With some creativity it can be used for more than just time.
timeline reveal002

My last post was a hit – it seems that sometimes a reminder of some of the neat features of a program is helpful.  PD seminars can be overwhelming and packed full of information (if they are good ones) so a few reminders or highlighting a fuzzy feature can go a long way.  In that spirit here are 5 more features that I use to help design engaging learning activities for my students using Smart Notebook 10.

1) Change the Default Font Settings – This drove me a bit crazy for a while – I could change the text settings easily once I opened a text box and started typing, but I didn’t know how to change the default settings.  I asked for help on Twitter and had my answer from TeqSmart via TechyTurner in about 5 minutes – so here is it for everyone else that it is driving a little bonkers.
text prop1
Click on the Text Tool (Big “A”) on the toolbar and select one of the six text settings that you want to change.  On the properties tab change the settings as you require (colour, size, font) and choose Save Tool Properties – and your settings are changed.
text prop002
2)magic003 The Magic Pen – The Pen Icon with stars around it is a very neat tool. If you draw a circle it will put a spotlight on the circular spot and greys out the rest of the screen. If you draw a rectangle it will zoom in on the rectangular spot. If you just use it as a normal pen the notes will fade in 10 seconds – the kids will think you are a superhero (mine do – I should get a cape!)
3)shape 1Shape Recognition Pen – This is a handy tool to draw free hand shapes. When you draw something reasonably close to a given shape, it will automatically transform into that shape.
shape 002
4) shadeScreen Shade – and a Cell Shade too! Use this tool to hide or cover a slide from the top, bottom, or either side. A similar tool can be used with a table to hide a cell. In a multi-cell table you can shade one, any, or all of the cells. If you right click on a cell, one of the options is cell shade.
5) Create a Theme – if you make a great background and header for a page and want it to be fixed without endless locking, you can choose Format – Themes – Create Theme From Page. This will save your custom theme in the theme folder in the gallery.

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