Box 1

Box 1

Box 2

Box 2
Character Education

Box 3

Box 3
Digital Learning

Using Animoto to Capture Your Teaching Year

Making Memories - the most important thing we do as teachers. As the year draws to a close, we naturally wonder what students will take away from the time they have spent in our classrooms. Of course, we hope that their knowledge base has grown; that they know more of the curriculum than when they entered our class. We also know that there have been some amazing, fun, memorable moments on a more personal level amidst all of the standards and testing. How can we make sure that kids remember the personal connections, the happy moments, and even the silliness that mixed in with the learning? I hope this post will offer some ideas for saving the special moments of the past year, and will give you some ideas to use right away when school is back in session after summer break!

Taking photos has become even more widespread since smart phones make it so easy! From selfies to shots of students hard at work, from field trips to parties, we all probably have quite a collection of photos from the school year by now! I used to spend quite a bit of time making personal video portfolios for each of my students each year, often assisted by a parent or two, until I discovered Animoto! Animato is an online video collage creator that you can use to create beautiful video collages almost instantly with a collection of photos. The best news of all? The Animoto Plus account is FREE to educators! Click on the link above (the word Animoto) to sign up for your free account. After registering, you and your students will be able to start making amazing videos of your year together, their summer experiences, or specific events that were special to you.

To prepare for easy-peasy movie making, just create some files of photos. I would save photos from specific events, lessons, field trips, etc in separate folders to make them simple to retrieve. I stored those files in a shared drive that my students had access to. If you don't have a network drive to share with students, keep the digital photos on flash drives or CDs where students can get to them. Although Animoto has quite a music collection available as part of your subscription, you can also substitute your own music. Just have the mp3 ready on your desktop or even inside the photo file folder before you begin.

From this point, video creation is super simple:
  • Open Animoto, log in,  and click on "Create".
  • Choose a style. This is the background that your photos will display on, and also the way they will transition from one photo to the next.
  • Upload your photos (and video clips if you like). Just go to the folder you have created for the photos you want to use, select all, and choose. Uploading is then automatic. It will take anywhere from a few minutes to a half hour, depending on how many photos and video clips you have selected.
  • Move any photos around by clicking and dragging.
  • After all photos have uploaded, add text screens for title, comments, credits, etc. You can also click and drag these.
  • You are now all set to publish if you are using their music. If you are using your own music, just click on "Music" near the top of screen to upload your own. 
  • When you think you are done, you may preview your movie and edit, or you may just publish. 
  • After your work is published, Animoto gives you links to share on social media, to download,  or to embed. If you plan to share on social media, be sure that you have written permission from parents first.

Animoto also has personal accounts available for just $5 per month. Anyone can make a short video for free! If you would like to make longer videos and/or use your own music, the personal account is worth it!

As you plan for next school year, why not think of some ways to use Animoto to introduce lessons, or as a project presentation tool for students!

Here are two examples of the fun you can have with Animoto, capturing and saving those memories to be enjoyed over and over! The first is a link to a student-created collage of the whole school year, created by two students working together. The second is a quick video I made with my personal account to celebrate my grandson's first T Ball practice.

School Memories Class of 2014 video 2

Ethan's First T Ball Practice

I'd love to hear from you after you give Animoto a try! How will you use it?

Happy to link this post with the Bright Ideas Blog Hop because I think using Animoto is a Bright Idea!


Collaborative Groups That Work

"It's not a wedding! It's a twenty minute group! You can do this!"
Quoting myself here - it's what I've always told my third, fourth,  and fifth graders when it's time to work in groups! Because I have no filter, I often continue with statements like: "Wouldn't I be more dressed up if we were having a wedding here?", "Where's the band? Where are the flowers?", and on and on. This fun stand-up routine has been repeated for years as I've encouraged boys and girls to work together in the same group. Strangely, if you teach long enough (as I have!), you do hear of the occasional wedding between former students. Hmmm.... and to think it all started.....

So how can we make collaborative groups that work? Groups where all feel comfortable, all continue to learn while staying on task, and all contribute to the outcome? Since our brains love novelty, I think collaborative groups work best for upper elementary students if they are at least a little different each time. Viewing collaborative groups as a science/psychology/sociology investigation (three subjects close to my heart), what works for me is changing the variables.

The variables I look at in group work are: people, task, materials, and method.

  • People, of course, is your most important variable. No one wants to work with people who make them feel uncomfortable or underqualified for the task, but elementary students often need just a little nudge to try out some new arrangements.  
          Some ways to help students find their groups:

                    Playing cards are an easy choice! Just select as many cards as
                    you have students, with an equal number of each suit.  Ask
                    students to randomly select a card and find group members
                    with the other three suits.
                    Another playing card trick is to place 4 of the "2" cards, 4 of
                    the "3" cards, etc. face down on a table and mixed. Students
                    who draw a two card will work together, the threes will work
                    together, and so on.

                   You might also try having students count off by the number
                   of groups you would like to have. Then all students with the
                   same number would form a group.

        Of course (and I couldn't get to this fast enough), you might also
       want to let students choose their own groups. Sometimes. Not
       always. As a surprise. Because....Yay! I get to work with my friends!
       Don't we all like to work with our friends?

  • The task is important. Not all tasks lend themselves to cooperative groups. Many do, however, and will give students opportunities to make those interpersonal skills blossom. I don't use the assigned roles practice, although I have the utmost respect for those who do. It just seems unnatural to me. I believe if the  task is motivating, servant leadership will kick in, and everyone in the group will want to take part.  
                Make sure the task is motivating, and all  will want to take part
                in the work. Some very motivating and student-approved tasks
                can be found at the end of this post!
                Allow some time at the beginning for students to share their
                thoughts on the task and to decide how the work should be
                divided. I promise they will surprise you with their responsibility
                and creativity!

               Make sure the task is structured for individual accountability as
               well as group. Including an individual journal, performance
               assessment, or presentation piece due at completion will help
               with accountability.

  • Materials are another important piece to cooperative work. They should be easy to locate and use in your classroom, or easily found at home. Students will need to have the materials right there, or to have a list so they know what is expected of them as they work.  You should also be clear about whether substitutions or additions are welcome with this particular task. Fun materials to use can be very motivating for the "maker" inside each of us!
Simple materials: plastic cup, gummy worms, paper clips, but lean-in motivating!
  • Method is the final point I like to think about when planning for cooperative groups. Is your task based on problem-solving that requires lots of discussion? Is it a task where students will complete their own piece and then bring it back to the group? Is it a task where all will dive into the materials and work on it shoulder to shoulder? Is it a process where the group will meet and discuss and then disband with an assignment for further investigation (the way book clubs tend to go)? 
          These are important points to consider, and when you spot a
          group showing exactly the behaviors you have been hoping for,
          it's time to spotlight that. I like to have a "fishbowl" demo
          in between group work times and let others observe the process of
          a successful group.
          Form a fishbowl by placing the demo group in a circle in the
         center, and all other students in a circle around them. Students in
         the fishbowl go through a portion of their group session and stop.
         Students in the outer circle then offer a "star" (compliment) and a
         "wish" (something they'd like to know more about).
         Observing the group process and listening to stars and wishes
         make for a powerful lesson in how groups work rather than having
         the teacher explain over and over.

If you're looking for some group tasks for your third through sixth graders, you may be interested in some of these. Just click on the images to learn more!