Sunday, August 26, 2012

Beginning With Vocabsushi

I have been looking for a way to enhance the vocabulary of my fifth graders and now I have am about to implement the best way to do so! I ran across Vocabsushi and immediately knew that I had found what I have been looking for. It offers each student an individualized program that will adapt to their specific needs. After a pre-assessment, each student will be assigned to his own vocabulary level and will be exposed to an unlimited number of words to practice as they read the words in the context of newspapers from around the country. The features in Vocabsushi include sentence completions, definition matching, and each word contains the part of speech, definition, and an MP3 recording of the pronunciation. Each student can monitor his own progress of how many words are being learned over a period of time, as well as which words need more practice.
I really love the feature of being able to select current articles from various newspapers from New York Times, Wall Street Journal, ABC News, Boston Globe, and many others, as they bring global awareness to the classroom and broaden perspectives.
Assessment is available by creating practice quizzes, teacher-assigned quizzes, as well as taking exams to determine which words have been mastered to eliminate from your vocabulary list.
In the past, I have assigned 10 words every other week through Vocabulary for Achievement (when they aren't doing spelling) where they apply them in different ways through analogies, synonyms, antonyms, and in context. That means that they only learn 150 new vocabulary words a year vs. hundreds through Vocabsushi. I am so excited about all that this adaptive learning program has to offer and I can't wait to see the progress that my students make. Below is a vimeo that offers a brief introduction to Vocabsushi.

Rapid (muted) Demo of VocabSushi, iPhone app, and VocabBomb from Vocab Sushi on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Global Virtual Classroom

Bullying 101 Website

In September, the PDS 5th graders began a collaborative project through Global Virtual Classroom (GVC), a project of the Give Something Back International Foundation.  Its purpose is to enhance 21st century skills and allow for cross-cultural communication, collaboration, and technology skills.   We were partnered with Heng-Shan Elementary School in New Taipei City, Taiwan and Percy Julian Middle School in Oak Park, Illinois. Together we agreed to build a website on the topic of bullying since it is a current and relevant issue as well as a world epidemic.

Connecting with a diverse group of students from schools around the world was a very rewarding experience.  Twiducate, a private social network, was used for introductions where the students learned about each other’s language and cultural differences.  They also used a private wiki called Students Meet World where all of their collaborative work was shared for uploading to the website.  They saw purpose in what they were doing as they set out to answer their guiding question of “What are the impacts of bullying on our society and what can I do to prevent it?”  

After many months of brainstorming, researching, collaborating, and creating many different end products, the boys thought critically and creatively as they demonstrated how they could make a difference by bringing awareness to bullying through our GVC website.  Their work reveals deep thinking as the they used various thinking routines, created on-line surveys and quizzes of the information they learned, wrote original slogans, filmed role-playing, and reflected on their journey along the way.  They used technology such as glogs, iMovies, Google docs, Haiku (Learning Management System), Excel for graphing statistics, and much more.  One group even designed a pen with the words “Control, Escape, and Delete Cyber-Bullying” and collected money within their group to purchase the pens so they could raise money for the Boys and Girls Club of Memphis. They spoke to all fourth, fifth, and sixth graders about their experience and collected over one hundred dollars in donations so far.

In addition to the great work the boys contributed to the website, the US Attorney, Ed Stanton and Debra L. Ireland, Assistant United States Attorney agreed to come to PDS to speak on the topic of Internet safety and cyber bullying.  The boys learned about Internet safety tips and how to conduct proper and ethical behavior when using technology in addition to learning strategies for putting an end to cyber bullying.

The Global Virtual Classroom project was a competition that involved sixty-four schools and twenty-two countries from around the world, and over twenty-two websites were submitted covering an array of topics. The 5th grade PDS boys earned the Silver prize in the primary school category that included a plaque and a $1,500 cash prize.  They plan on adding their portion of the prize money to what has already been collected for the Boys and Girls Club of Memphis to help to further raise awareness to bullying.

Kim Trefz
5th Grade English Teacher