Avatar Explorations

Avatars . . . to be or not on my blog?  Edublog’s Teacher Blogging Challenge was all about avatars in Challenge #4.  My avatar has always been a photograph of myself. As part of the challenge I explored a variety of free web-based tools to create a virtual version of myself.  See my creations below:

Avatars are perfect for MBS students to use because they help protect their identity.  Children should not be sharing personally identifiable information on the internet. Avatars make it possible for students to create a virtual self that represents their real self.  Students can be creative and express their interests and personality through their avatar.

After creating several different avatars for myself, I decided to add the one I created with Voki to the left sidebar.  Press the play button and hear my message.  I liked being able to welcome parents to my blog and suggest ways to use it to spark a discussion with their child.

What do you think of my new avatar?  Leave a comment and tell me what you think.

Reading in the 21st Century!


Our reader’s workshop has gone digital!  When I reflect on my own reading habits, it’s surprising how much internet content I read daily.  Our children live


in a very different world than we grew up in. Today’s children have grown up with internet access from multiple devices. Several students in our class got iPodTouches for Christmas. Emal brings his in everyday to read his ebooks. He takes notes on digital sticky-notes while he reads. Today, another student told me she was selling her Nintendo DS because she got an iPod Touch, and it can do a lot more than her DS. Another student shared his new DS with me today and was showing me he had Skype on it and could video conference when wifi was available. It’s easy to assume in this technological world we live in that our children will learn how to read and write (yes, write!) on the internet. However, like reading a book or writing a story, reading and writing on the internet needs to be taught and practiced.

IMG_1512So . . . during independent reading, each child has a “netbook” day.  On their assigned day they have the choice to read online.  I bookmarked several websites for students to locate and read interesting articles on the internet (check out ‘Online Reading Links’ on this blog).  One very popular site is TweenTribune.  This website is designed for 8-12 year olds (i.e. Tweens) and contains interesting, current internet articles in all subject areas.  Students can comment after reading an article, but comments must be a minimum of 25 words. I approve all comments before they are posted.  This connection between reading and writing helps develop active reading strategies (ex. connections, questions) and critical thinking skills.

hindenburg 2I am also trying to weave digital content into guided reading too.  Students participate in guided reading groups every other week.  Recently, one group was reading about the Hindenburg disaster.  I shared with them footage of the disaster in an effort to bring their nonfiction article to life. Students then researched one survivor from the Hindenburg to learn their story. We are now in the process of creating a Voicethread (ask your child to share with you) where they assume the role of their survivor and tell the story from the survivor’s point of view. Stay tuned for a blog post in the near future sharing this wonderful project. Think about the deep level of comprehension and understanding these students gained from this technology infused reading group!

IMG_1517On the writing side, we have also started blogging about our independent reading in lieu of a hand written letter in notebooks. When we blog about our reading and share our thinking, we are writing for a wider audience. Not only will students receive comments from me, but also their classmates!  When I was growing up, there wasn’t an internet, let alone the ability to create internet content.  Once the internet became popular, I never dreamed I’d one day be able to publish internet content, but look at me now . . . I write comments, articles, and post resources on a daily basis.  This is the world we live in and it is the norm for our children.  I believe my job is to prepare them for this new world. . . .a new world that is evolving even now as I write this blog post!  Thank you for sharing your wonderful children with me!

Image Attribution: Flickr by History In An Hour Rupert Colley

Reader’s Workshop

What is a reader’s workshop? Reader’s workshop is an approach to reading instruction that includes both guided and independent reading experiences in a workshop format. What does a reader’s workshop look like?  Reader’s workshop follows a predictable format and includes tons of READING!!!!

We begin each workshop with a mini-lesson. This is my opportunity to teach reading strategies and model my thinking to the class. Last week we read a Discovery magazine article on the Titanic and learned how to link text clues with our background knowledge to infer the meaning of unknown words. This was a challenging skill for most of the class, so we will continue to practice in guided reading groups for the next several weeks. This week we are inferring the meaning of inferential headings and subheadings in nonfiction. We use National Geographic Explorer magazines for practice because every issue is engaging, current and full of inferential subheadings!

The majority of our workshop is devoted to reading. Students alternate weekly between self-select independent reading and guided reading groups.

  • When students spend their week reading independently, they write a letter about their thinking by Friday. Students now have a choice of how they will share their deep thinking: traditional letter or blog entry. Our blog has been active with thinking as most choose this option.  Students enjoy having a choice of format.  We also work with fluency groups during this time and confer 1:1 with students about their independent reading.



  • When students participate in guided reading groups, we meet every other day for a guided reading lesson. Guided reading groups utilize short text and focus on specific skills students need.  Reading self-select books is at the heart of our reader’s workshop, so students in guided reading groups usually have enough time to complete their group work and spend time reading their self-select book.


We end workshop most days with some type of sharing activity. This often is a “turn and talk” with your nearest neighbor about your thinking or your work during reader’s workshop.

Please consider commenting on how helpful this post was to you as a parent.


Mr. Lamphier and Mr. Martin donated their time for IBM’s E-Week.  They taught our class about wind turbines and led them in a design challenge.  They had to design their own wind turbine, test it and then redesign it to make it better!  They loved designing their turbine’s blades and wanted more time to work on them.  Check out the video highlights below 🙂

We made our first VoiceThread . . .

So what is a VoiceThread? VoiceThread is a way to talk about and discuss digital media. The best way for you to learn about VoiceThread is to watch one (and maybe add a comment).

What is this VoiceThread about? We read about Iqbal in our Daybook and became VERY interested in his story. As I researched more about Iqbal’s life, I found this video and decided to use a VoiceThread to help the kids share their feelings and reactions to this tragic, yet inspiring, true story. Click the play arrow to watch the video about Iqbal’s life and death and then listen to several of members of our class react to his courage and bravery. If you too are inspired, consider commenting on our VoiceThread . . . you can type a comment or record a comment using your computer’s mic. We would love to hear your reactions!!!