Friday, October 26, 2012

First Graders: Location and Perspective

The First Graders recently learned about location which is the first of the five themes of geography. They created a project (see example above) where they also learned about perspective by creating a flip chart of pictures and words starting with the location of their street. They then went on to draw pictures of their Street, Town, Country, Continent and Planet. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Art and Technology Field Trip

Ms. Tacktill is organizing a series of art field trips to various museums that brings together our student buddies to view, discuss and create art. The first field trip took place this week with the 7th Graders and their 4th grade buddies traveling to the National Portrait Gallery. The 7th Graders prepared for the trip by downloading photographs of assigned presidential portraits that they would analyze and discuss with their buddies at the museum.

Ms. Tacktill challenged the students by providing only portions of the paintings (e.g., a nose, hand, etc.) pushing the students to not only problem solve to find their portrait but to then use their iPads to do some digital painting. Each student embedded his/her assigned photograph into an art app from which they would use their imaginations to create a new painting. Here are some examples of the art our very creative students painted. And for more specific details about the learning activities of the field trip, take a look at the Lessons Learned blog.



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Animated Stories

The previous post described the Third Graders using the Toonastic app on their iPads to animate the stories they wrote in class. As we have teachers inside and outside of ACDS who might want to do the same project, we asked Ms. Worrell, one of the Third Grade teachers to share directions in how to use the app. 

Interested in having your students turn their stories into cartoons? If so, you will want to check out the Toontastic App on the iPads. The app allows students to create an animated rendition of their own stories, in this case their personal narratives. The students began the assignment by working their way through the writing process: brainstorming ideas to write about, selecting an idea, drafting a story, revising the first draft, editing with classmates and the teacher, and finally writing a clean copy of the story. The next step was to publish their stories. We decided that the students would enjoy creating cartoons based on their personal narratives using Toontastic.

The app is fairly simple to use. Students begin by designing 5 scenes or 'settings' (setup, conflict, challenge, climax, and resolution). They then create characters to use in the scenes. Each scene can have up to 6 characters. The characters are the only things that will move in each scene, so some students created objects that they wanted to see move as well (i.e., waves, trees blowing in the wind). Next, they added the characters to each scene and recorded their animations. 

It was easier for the students to first create the animation with no audio, then press 'start animation' again to add their voice-over. For the narration, they simply read their personal narrative into the microphone. Before recording, students had to decide which part of the narrative to read during each scene and to practice reading fluently and with expression. The app then asks one to choose a 'theme' for the scene, which adds background music. Once the students were satisfied with the animation and narration of each scene, they completed their cartoon by giving it a title.

Toontastic has its own ToonTube website where students can publish their movies. The videos are password protected for privacy proposes. We look forward to sharing the videos with you when they are completed. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Story Creation in the Third Grade

Ms. Worrell and Ms. Holland recently worked with their students to write stories using paper and pencil. They then made a digital move to the iPads using an app called Toontastic. Toonastic provides helpful scaffolding embedding the five stage story arc into the app. The story arc is made up of the Setup, Conflict, Challenge, Climax and Resolution scenes.

Within each stage of the story, the students choose a provided background or draw their own. They then do the same with the characters. The next step is to animate the scenes by moving the characters around the scene. The students then go back to each scene to read from the stories they wrote recording the audio with the animation. Everything comes together as the students save their work and play back their newly created animated story.

The students worked in Toontastic during their regular class time and in their technology class. It was pretty interesting watching the students in technology class especially as they chose to draw their own scenes and characters. The incredible art program at ACDS definitely supports the creativity of our students.

The students worked independently at different stages in their stories at times reaching out to one another for help. "Can you help me with the animation? What do you think of my character? Oh yeah! Wow, my animation really works" could be heard throughout the class sessions.

The Third graders definitely engaged their imaginations using their art, spatial, speaking among other skills to create their Toonastic stories. Bravo to Ms. Worrell and Ms. Holland for bringing in this form of multimedia writing into the Lower School. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Olympic Moments Provided by Ms. Z and Mr. B

How do two Olympian PE teachers showcase their physical abilities? How does one do a one finger push up? Is javelin catching a sport?  Find the answers to these questions in Ms. Zaleski and Mr. Baroody's "instructional" video that was a part of the Olympic themed unit they taught.

Creativity through Video

The 6th Graders just completed their six week exploratory with some students taking technology and others drama class. The students in the technology class spent the 6 weeks going through the video production process. Their project assignment was to produce a 3 to 5 minute video to be shared with the class at the end of the six weeks.

The students first brainstormed ideas using a mind mapping tool. They then pitched them to the class receiving feedback to make a final decision. The next was to use a storyboard mind mapping template to plan out each of their scenes. They worked to list the following in their mind maps:

  • the talent needed for each scene
  • the setting  and actions for each scene
  • costumes and props
  • the script for each setting

One student, Camille, decided to try her hand at animation using stop motion software. She was especially creative working painstakingly to build out several scenes of action in a very delightful and fun video. Take a look for yourself at Camille's work.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Audio Books in the 2nd Grade

The Second graders read and listen to books on the computer as one of the learning centers in their classroom. They can listen to books on tape or on the computer from websites such as Children's Stories Online. As the students listen, they are prompted to think about character and setting in their book. The students use Venn diagrams and mind maps to make their thinking visible. They also engage their creativity and imaginations as they rewrite the books in their minds.

Here are the guiding questions the students work to answer as they read their books.


  • Draw the character from the story. 
  • Make a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting you and a character from the story. 
  • What problems did the character have and how did they get solved? 
  • Make a web about the character.


  • Draw the setting. 
  • Describe the setting with your senses. What could you hear? See? Smell? Touch? Taste?
  • Create a new setting for the story. How might the story change because of the new setting? 

Be Creative

  • Create a new ending to the story. 
  • Write a new chapter to the story. 
  • Give the characters a new adventure that includes you in the story. 

Image Source

Thursday, October 11, 2012

8th Grade Science Book Publishers

Mr. Ros Points to an iBook Created by an 8th Grader

A theme running through the curriculum at ACDS is to have students gathering, curating, creating and communicating information that helps to demonstrate their understanding. Mr. Ros worked with his 8th graders last year to help him develop an online science textbook. This year he is working with his students to publish their own books for a younger audience. 

iBook for Kindergarten Readers

Today Allie, Karson, Claire, Nate and Erin shared the iBooks with their Kindergarten buddies. Their iBooks were rich in images and they embedded audio instead of having text for their pre-reading Kindergarten buddies. This adaptive strategy fits well with our overall theme of working to provide differentiated instruction for our students at ACDS.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Finding Shapes in the Kindergarten

Learning about shapes and dimensions is a part of the the Kindergarten curriculum. To connect it with the students' environment, Mrs. Blatt and Mrs. Perkins have their students taking photographs of shapes they find in the classroom. As the year progresses, the students will take their cameras out into the hallways and into the neighborhood on a walkabout as they connect their learning about math and patterns to the real world. 

Image Sources: Kindergarten Students

Making Connections in History Class

Mrs. Herre's wanted her 7th Grade students to learn about sequential and parallel timelines as they began their studies in history class. As Mrs. Herre developed the assignment, she knew that a powerful way to make connections in her students' brains would be to engage the them socially and emotionally. This leads to deeper learning and more understanding. 

The assignment was to interview a grandparent or other relative who has lived through a good portion of the last century. Using their communication skills, the students were to interview and record some of the major personal events of the relative while also learning about the broader historical events of those times. The students had three tools from which to process the interview information and to create timelines of their relative's life along with the parallel historical events. They could either do a poster board as you see above, a Mindmeister online mindmap or a video using images with a voice over. In all three cases the students could use their media literacy and design skills. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Project and Inquiry Learning in the 8th Grade

What does an inquiry driven learning project look like? How will the students use their research skills to gather information, role play and communicate their learning? Let's take a peek at Mr. Girard and Mr. Gilbert's 8th grade history class and their study of immigration in American history to find the answers.

With all of our Middle School students using Haiku, it is easy for students to access assignments, resources, discussion forums and other tools for learning. Here is a copy from Haiku of the recent 8th grade immigration project.


Immigration Scrapbook Project

Sep 19, 2012, 02:10 pm (13 days ago)
Sep 27, 08:00 am

At the turn of the century, new immigrants flooded the gates into America.  They experienced hardships and economic progress. Their story is the story of America’s growth and expansion. To deepen your understanding of the immigrant’s story, you will role-play an immigrant from one country and create a digital scrapbook of their life using Keynote and Pages.  You will select a country (maybe where your ancestors came from; you might even “become” one of your ancestors).

Use resources such as:
and other print/Internet resources to gain a better understanding of immigrants coming from that country

Goals and objectives of this project:
A) Research and “re-live” the immigrant experience through the eyes of somebody who lived it.
B) Become more familiar and proficient in the use of Keynote and Pages.
Use Keynote to create a scrapbook of your life. The scrapbook must include the following (it may include more items if you choose):

a.      A cover page (including a title to your scrapbook and an image that you select).
b.      Artifacts or memorabilia that represent your home nation (ex: flag, national anthem, photographs of historical figures or famous places).
c.       Photographs of your family or friends with caption. You are required to have at least one family photo and one photo of yourself in America.
d.      Artifacts, memorabilia, and information about: your first sight of America, your new home, job, expectations of America and social experiences (ex: pay stub, job description, any school experience, report card, immunization form)
e.      Two “original documents”: Use Pages.  Options could include Ellis Island Registration Card, Medical Evaluation Sheet, Ship Log or Manifest from your journey over, Passport  the options are almost limitless.
f.        Four journal entries including at least one from your trip to America and one of your experiences at Ellis Island (each should be on a separate slide and include a date).
g.      1.5 – 2 page autobiography or biography of your immigrant.  This could take the shape of an obituary, a written life history by a “family member”, or many other creative possibilities.
h.     Each photograph or item must have a caption to illustrate its importance
i.        Creative design features that create interest for others viewing your scrapbook.
j.        The final page of your scrapbook (slide show), will be a bibliography.  The bibliography needs to be completed in the MLA format

Though this project is digital, the documents, artifacts, photographs, and other materials that are used should be historically accurate. You will be graded on completion of requirements, historical content, historical accuracy, and creativity.

The Rubric for the Project

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Interactive Reading on the iPad

How did you spend your summer? Reading an interesting book, perhaps? Maybe one on your iPad? Ms. Parker, a Second Grade teacher, spent her summer advising the very creative people at ReadImagine in their effort to create interactive books for the iPad. Ms. Parker introduced the ReadImagine iPad books to her students last year and will be working with ReadImagine this year to help them better support teachers and students in reading their books. 

The folks at ReadImagine describe their books in the following manner: 

"Our stories have beautiful animation, tablet touch interactivity, and text that adapts to a child’s specific reading level. Text adaptation helps to increase reading stamina, as the reading level remains just high enough to keep children engaged, but not so high that they put the book down. At the end of each story, we ask children what they think will happen next – and then allow them to work collaboratively with their peers to decide upon a direction."

We are excited at ACDS to see how our Lower School students react and learn from reading the ReadImagine books. It is pretty neat to have one of our teachers so involved with a cutting edge company that is working to support reading. 

Image Source