Scholastics Story Starter – A Website Review

I chose to review a writing website called Story Starters designed to be used in the classroom because I feel that writing is an extremely important skill to develop all throughout elementary, into adulthood and throughout our lives. As teacher and writing guru Tom Romano states in his book Clearing The Way (1987), we as teachers have to get out of the way and “cut students loose” (p. 7) which allows students to find their voice through writing. You can find out more about Tom Romano here and buy his book here. This is a great book and every ELA teacher should have a copy of it!

Most people find writing difficult and getting started is generally the hardest part. What I found during my pre-internship is that while offering students the opportunity to free write, they had trouble coming up with an initial idea to actually dig in and start writing. I think that there is a certain vulnerability to put pen to paper and so we, as teachers need to find ways to skirt around this exposed place that students find themselves in and give them a little support to just get it started!

Photo Credit: barnimages.com Flickr via Compfight cc

I had a look at the website by Scholastic called Story Starters. What a liked right away about this website is that it is a part of Scholastic and I take comfort in the fact that it is from a well-known, teacher and school utilized resource. I have ordered many books for my children and myself from scholastic and I have never experienced any problems.

Photo Credit: CTG/SF Flickr via Compfight cc

The website is designed to help students get writing by helping them through idea creation. As I said earlier, sometimes this is the hardest part for students – finding an idea/topic that they think is suitable. Students can pick from four themes being adventure, fantasy, sci-fi and scrambler. Then the student just has to click on through to the next page where they enter their name and grade level. Students then click the spinner and it provides writing prompts such as “write a myth about a lawyer who discovers a talking frog”. Next, students pick their layout and begin writing. Once they are finished they can draw a picture, print or download and voila! They have created a piece of writing that is unique and fun to make.

Some of the pros about this website are:

  • It is FREE!
  • Easy to use
  • Includes lesson plans
  • Multi-genre
  • Reliable source

Some of the cons are:

  • Only for grades K-6
  • Some of the graphics/noises are a bit irritating (but I found that noise can be muted!)
  • The drawing option is hard to use – perhaps being able to insert pics from the internet would be a better option
  • Students would tire of it if it is over-used

Overall, I really like this program! This program would fit in the “Modification” level of the SAMR scale because it actually re-designs the way we think about writing prompts.

I found that it was easy to use and navigate which is perfect for younger student writers. The writing prompts were quite original and would make for good story telling. I would perhaps give each student a chance to sit in the author’s chair and read their creations to the rest of the class.  I can see this website working best for grade three and four where they are often very imaginative and open to new ideas. Lastly, I am excited to share this with my own kids – I know that they will love it!

 

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My thoughts on Twitter

So, I have to say that Twitter has never really been my social media platform of choice. Typically, I like to use Pinterest and Facebook. In the past I was also on Instagram quite a bit but it just seemed to be getting a little much and now I’ve lost interest. The reason that I like Facebook is because it is more of a personal platform where I feel that I can stay connected to my family and friends back home. As for Pinterest, I just really like looking at home décor, baking, haircuts and some educational stuff like lesson plans and activities. Perhaps I use both Facebook and Pinterest merely out of habit? Who knows!

 I created a Twitter account a few years back and I never really got into the habit of using it. I think this was because I didn’t really know who to follow and I didn’t want to follow celebrities because I feel like that culture takes up enough space already. I do have a bit of difficulty navigating and feeling confident about all of the ins and outs of Twitter but I think that I will get the hang of it just by using it with more consistency. Twitter is useful in terms of creating and being part of PLN and it seems to me that there are a lot of educators in Saskatchewan who use Twitter as a place collaborate with one another.  I am looking forward to taking part in the #saskedchat since I think that this will be a great place to start following educators here in Saskatchewan.

 Right now, a problem that I am having with Twitter is that when I access my account on my laptop it says that it is suspended… I think this happened when I tried to login but I had forgotten my password. The app on my phone seems to be working though and so now I am in the process of getting this all sorted out. If you have any tips on how to correct my account please let me know!

A decadent dessert

For my very first learning project I decided that I was going to go with a classic chocolate cake. But it couldn’t be just any regular old chocolate in a 9×13 rectangle pan. It had to be extra special if I was going to learn anything at all. After doing some google searches and looking through Pinterest I decided that I was going to go all in and attempt to make a triple layer raspberry filled chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate ganache. This cake is the mother of all chocolate cakes. On the blogpost that I found on Pinterest the picture displayed this lovely triple-tiered chocolate cake with flawless, smooth chocolate frosting and uniformly drizzled chocolate ganache topped with plump raspberries. This cake was perfection. I took a deep breath and decided to just go for it.

Other than looking delicious, I chose to make this cake because it had a blog post that was well written, with lots of pictures and also a YouTube video. The recipe that was with the blog post looked like it could easily be followed and contained ingredients that I am familiar working with – no coconut oil and almond flour here!

The first thing that I had to do was go out a grab a few groceries. I already had many of the ingredients on-hand, but I needed to pick up natural cocoa, raspberries (four pints worth!), semi-sweet chocolate chips, whipping cream and three eight-inch round cake pans.

A few of the ingredients to start off

My original plan was to make this cake on the weekend so that we could enjoy it for dessert after supper on Mother’s Day but the day got away from me and then I ran out of time. So, I ended up baking the cake on Monday and then finishing it off Tuesday morning.

Here is the cake with just chocolate icing and no other decorations yet

As I was making the cake I realized that it probably would have been a good idea to read through the whole recipe thoroughly because I was short a couple of ingredients, namely dark chocolate cocoa powder and icing sugar for the chocolate frosting. I decided that I would just use the regular cocoa powder I had already purchased for the and then I borrowed some icing sugar from my neighbour because I didn’t have time to run out to the grocery store again.

So thankful for my trusty neighbour!

Another thing that was really irritating while making the cake is that somehow my stainless-steel measuring spoons and my one-cup measuring cup have somehow disappeared. I realized that it is nothing short of a miracle when something that I bake turns out because I just don’t have all of the proper baking tools. Ugh. Anyways, what I learned is don’t procrastinate in the baking, read through the entire recipe, make sure that I have everything I need and buy some new measuring utensils!

In the end, the cake turned out pretty darn good! I took it to class on Tuesday to share with everyone and then brought the rest home for my kids. Oh, and I even ran a piece down to the neighbour who gave me her bag of icing sugar! Everyone thought it was delicious and I’m actually happy with how it turned out… even if it was a bit lop-sided!

Here is the finished product!

Finding Feedly

 

I was on Feedly today, researching different sites and blogs to follow to assist my learning in using technology in the classroom and education in general. I think that this will be a really useful tool, especially because I didn’t really have any other way to research stuff on the internet other than doing a Google search. Searching the internet using Google is fine, but sometimes, actually more often than not, I really come up with nothing that is of any use to me. So, hopefully using Feedly will help in researching education technology.

I happened to make three categories that I am interested in… the first of course being Educational Technology, next is a general Education file and lastly, I decided to create a Design file since that is something that I love to learn about!

My Feedly

A site that I am following is called Free Technology For Teachers. This site has articles about different apps to use in the classroom and also includes free resources and trouble shooting articles. This is great for me because I’m always looking for new resources! A second site that I am following is called TeachThought. This site has great articles on becoming a better teacher, classroom management tools and again using technology in the classroom. I think this will be another useful resource for me going into internship and being a new teacher next year.

 

I’m totally looking forward to using the Feedly app in the coming days to research education technology and design. We are planning a trip to Calgary and I will have about seven or so hours to get used to using the app!

 

Let the baking begin!

After much consideration in thinking about what would be the best, most rewarding learning project for me, I have decided that for this project I will learn how to make various cakes from scratch. I have a love of baking and… well of eating that baking too. This learning project will give me an excuse to bake up some fabulous cakes and it will also give me the opportunity to share the cakes with family and friends.

 I would consider myself to be a fairly good baker. I have made cakes before although most of them are the store bought variety and have come from a  box like Betty Crocker! For this learning project I will challenge myself to make what I would consider to be professional(ish)-looking cakes. The inspiration for this project comes from my daughter since her and I have recently watched the first season of Nailed It. You can watch a video about it here. This Netflix original series is where contestants compete for $10,000.00 by re-creating the most extravagant, complicated cakes. The show is quite hilarious and we have shared many giggle-fests watching it! Even though I’m not going to go quite that far, I love the thought of challenging myself in the kitchen!

 My plan is to bake one cake a week for the remainder of the semester. I will research and plan out my cake by using Pinterest, blogs and YouTube videos for recipes/instructions and then I will post blogs and videos on my progress. Then, I hope to share whatever I create with family, friends, neighbours and colleagues as I definitely don’t want to be eating an entire cake a week on my own! That would be a lot of extra calories!

Photo Credit: marcoverch Flickr via Compfight cc

A bit about me and my thoughts on technology and blogging…

Hello and welcome to my blog for EDTEC300!

As you probably have already seen, my name is Amanda Ewert and I am a third-year student at the University of Regina. I am in the Education program and I am going into internship this fall. I decided to dive right into extra learning this spring and summer and finish up the remaining five classes that I have so that after internship is complete I can go directly into teaching! I am excited and a wee bit nervous to be taking so many classes but I think that I can pull it off!

To give you a bit of background on me, I am a mom of three kids, ages ten, nine and four. My youngest is going into Kindergarten in the fall and it breaks my heart just a little seeing them all growing up so fast. When people say “it goes by in the blink of an eye” they are telling the truth, it really does. Sigh… Anyways, before becoming a mom I was hairstylist for about ten years. I loved working as a stylist because it gave me a way to be around people and be creative every single day. It was great, until it wasn’t… once my kids were born it became too complicated to be working nights and weekends and so I decided to move on into the world of being a (drumroll) …. legal assistant! You didn’t see that one coming hey?! Well, neither did I! It was quite a leap going from hairstylist to legal assistant but some how I managed to do it! It was while working in the legal field that I became interested in social justice issues. I began to dig deeper into issues that seemed to me to be “unjust” and the way that I saw the world began to change. Seeing these issues and researching why things are the way that they are is one of the many reasons that has driven me to become a teacher. I really hope that I can make a difference in children’s lives by teaching.

But back to the current issue at hand being using technology…

To be honest, using technology is not my strong suit. Some of you may have guessed this when I was unable to getting my mic working for the first two Zoom sessions! I am not surprised one bit that this happened, it is pretty classic form for me to have technical difficulties of some sort! Thankfully, Cody was there to help me fix the mic and I think I have this problem worked out now .  Anyways, this is precisely why I am taking this class! Computer and technology issues seem to follow me wherever I go. Even while working at the law firm it was a running joke that I was the one breaking all of the computers! Really, if something is going to break, it is probably going to be when I’m around. So, I hope that with this class I will become more confident and competent using tech in my everyday life as well as in the classroom.

On blogging…

I have blogged in the past for certain classes and I really quite enjoy having a place to go and write down my thoughts. I really enjoy the process of writing but it does make me a tad bit nervous thinking about who exactly will be reading my posts and if they are judging me… I hope not! That being said, I like how blogs show a progression of thought and processes. I am not a huge follower of anyone else’s blogs but I’m looking forward to reading what the other students in this class have to say! Thanks for reading! More to come soon!

Here is a picture of me and my famjam at the start of my degree. They sure have grown since then!

Science Unit Plan – Grade Six

This is a grade six mini unit plan that I created for ESCI317. This unit was developed so that the students would meet the learning outcome DL6.5: Assess effects of micro-organisms on past and present society, and contributions of science and technology to human understanding of micro-organisms.

Yeast Lesson Design Template Yeast hand-out Yeast Fermentation The Spice of Life Review Questions The Spice of Life power point The Spice of Life Lesson Design Microscope Lesson Part 2 Microscope Lesson Design Microscope Coloring and Worksheet Decompose This! Decompose This! Wrap up questions Decompose This! – Lesson Design

 

English Language Arts Unit Plan – Grade 8

Unit Plan Rationale & Summary

This unit  will focus on ELA, SS and Arts Ed. outcomes with the essential question being: “How does Place impact identity and culture?”. Students will explore how place influences their identity and culture. Students will ask “Who am I” which is a critical question to ask ourselves throughout our lives. We will talk about different identities and how “Place” has a significant impact on who we are, who we become and the labels that we give ourselves and others. The unit will include group discussions about identity, culture and place as students learn about themselves and their classmates.

We will discuss how Indian Residential Schools have impacted the individuals who attended them and we will compare and contrast the differences and similarities in the school experience the students have now. In learning about residential schools, we will have a visit from an Elder come into our classroom and discuss what their experience was attending these schools and how the schools impacted identity and sense of self.

We will work at developing creative ways to think about things and use the arts as a way to express our ideas and learning. Students will explore different mediums to display their learning such as a pencil sketch and poetry. We will learn about different ways and strategies to take notes and debrief different text types.

This unit will also focus on deconstructing commonly held classroom norms therefore, we will practice working in groups, pairs and individually. We will encourage and practice being present, in the here and the now, away from the distractions of cell phones and we will push back a bit against technology. We will also journal and reflect on a daily basis so that at the end of the unit there will be evidence of growth in the students.  The unit will culminate by attending Orange Shirt Day Memorial service in Regina.  ELA Unit Plan