Monthly Archives: December 2011

Using Wordle, Storybird, Voicethread & Google Earth in the Classroom

Using Wordle, Storybird, Voicethread & Google Earth in the Classroom

There are a million-gazillion ways to use Wordle, Storybird, Voicethread & Google Earth in the classroom. Here are just a few activities that have sparked our enthusiasm in the Grade 5 classroom.

I would love to hear from other teachers. Please share you success stories and ideas.


A) Wordle:
a) Project & Book Report Covers – Write short summaries. Create Wordles.  Wordles become the covers for longer presentations or bulletin board displays.
b) Student Autobiographies – Students write autobiographies and create Wordles.  Share, read, review & search for similarities and differences, i.e. Are there any words that stand out across the board?
c) Biographies & Character Studies – Create a bulltein board.
c) Current Affairs: Students find current news stories that speak to them. Copy and paste it into Wordle. Share & post.

B) Storybird:
a) Assessment Tool: Culminating/Unit End Activity: Create picture books about a unit of study.
b) Assessment Tool: Create books using literary devices covered over the course of the year (e.g. similes, metaphors, personification, onomatopoeia, etc.)
c) Create student autobiographies.
d) Historical figure studies.
e) Create stories, themed-books to share with Reading Buddies.

a) Post & comment on a piece of artwork, a thought provoking picture, etc.
b) Post & comment on famous saying, “words to live by”, etc.
c) Post & comment on a problem. Provide approaches/solutions.
d) Post & comment on a “character analysis/study” from a novel being read in the classroom.
e) Record student presentations. Students provide feedback.
f) Post a video from a current unit of study and have students comment.
g) Post a picture that relates to a unit of study and have students comment on the unit: i.e. What did they learn? What did they find the most interesting? What surprised them?
h) Math: Upload a picture for discussion i.e. discuss a graph, probability, word problem, etc.

Google Earth:
a) Go on virtual field trips as relates to units of study. (My Students love this.)
b) Explore the impact of people on the environment – what do students notice?
c) Use an area viewed as a writing prompt.
d) Compare and contrast the environment of two very different locations.

My Top Picks: Activities & Approaches that Rocked Our First Term!

My Top Picks:
Activities & Approaches that Rocked Our First Term!

Always Give Away the Ending
I start every unit in Social Studies & Science by “giving away the ending”. For example, when introducing our unit on Ancient Egypt we read a short article (or watch a video, read a picture book) all about life during that time: the roles of men, women & children, the foods they ate, where they lived, their kings & queens, religion, gods and goddesses, rituals, etc. We then discuss interesting facts (i.e. the fact that only boys were allowed to go to school) and “play with” the topic for a day or so. This introduction peaks their interest and serves as a foundation to build upon.

Choice is Choice
This year I have provided more “choice” than ever …. my students loved it … & I loved it. This approach allowed students the opportunity to build on their strengths while learning about and addressing their needs. With this apporach there is a true sense of ownership, interest, engagement and enthusiasm.
For example, upon finishing both class novels this term (The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick & The Iron Man: A Children’s Story in Five Nights is a 1968 novel written by British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes) students were provided with a “menu” of final assignments to choose from. Some excellent examples of project menus are as follows: 1. Book Projects 2. Final Novel Projects 3. 91 Ways to Respond to Literature  4. Novel: Tic Tac Toe

Project & Inquiry Based Learning
Love it(!) and I am excited to do more, more, more!
To learn more check out:

The Teach & Tell
A “Teach and Tell” requires that students teach their classmates about something that is of interest to them.  Much like “Show and Tell” this activity provides students with an opportunity to share individual areas of expertise/interest. It encourages students to make organized, engaging oral presentations, while developing effective speaking and listening skills. The Teach and Tell is also a great way to increase class interconnectedness as students learn important things about one another’s interests and skills.

Blogging Rocks!
This was the first year that I had my students blogging … & we all loved it! I used There’s nothing jazzy or fancy about this site … but it is easy to navigate and it is super secure: and that’s all that really matters to me.
The Benefits of Student Blogging include:
-Authenticity – authentic writing for authentic audiences;
-Affordability – is for example is free;
-Builds confidence as students shine, share & respond;
-Carries across the curriculum;
-Collaborative discussions as students respond to & learn from one another;
-Communication skills – writing for an audience necessitates & builds effective communication skills;
-Connections between students & classes, between home & school;
-Develops higher order thinking skills (as students write, read, reflect & respond).

Hot Penning Please
Three times a week I set our timer for 5 minutes. When I say “Go!” my students write and write and write. They write about whatever comes into their heads. They might write a story, a memory, a poem or a stream of consciousness. The “deal is” that they can’t lift their pencil from the paper! My students just love this opportunity “free write”. They tell me that “it’s fun!” and that “it feels like a game!” On occasion we go back to highlight favourite passages, sentences or ideas to use as a springboard for longer, more formal pieces.
Check out:

Strategy Driven
It’s so important for my students to learn about and play with different strategies. I want them to build on their strengths (e.g. know what works for them) and addresses their needs. I want them to understand how to listen and read for meaning,  how to answer comprehension questions, how to study smart, how to write a test, how to problem solve, etc.
For some tools of the trade check out:
Test Taking Tips:
Active Listening Skills:
Writing Strategies:
Math Problem Solving: ;

Picture Books in the Grade 5 Classroom
I love reading, exploring and sharing picture books with my Grade 5 students. I use them in all(!) subject areas: Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, etc. They are quite simply a fantastic resource.

Class Meetings Building a Classroom Community
Class Meetings are just that: A time for students to sit and discuss issues that speak to them. They are student directed and teacher facilitated. The agenda is set by the group and depends on the group’s various interests, needs and concerns at any one time.

Learning Logs
Learning Logs develop metacognitive skills, guide my teaching practice, and provide yet another authentic assessment tool. Learning Logs are classroom journals. Students use them in order to keep honest and reflective records of their understanding of subject areas in the classroom (e.g. Math, Science, Social Studies, Writing Workshop, Reading, etc.).
Read more here:

Home Journals: Authentic Writing & Communication Between Home & School
Every Friday students write letters home to their parents about their week. Home Journals help to answer the age-old “dinner table question”, “What did you do at school this week?”. These journals also provide parents, students and teachers with weekly examples/snapshots of individual writing skills development.

Well, although I am sure that there are more …. these are my top picks for our First Term/2011 in Grade 5!
What are some of your “hot picks” in your classroom? I would love to know!