Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Important Book Comic Life Movie

You probably have guessed that Comic Life is one of my favorite applications! There is so much you can do with it . . . the kids love it, it is SO user-friendly, it makes fun noises when you use it and it is very versatile!  Did you know you can make movies with it too?!  So fun.

One of the movies that we've made in our classroom is a movie based on the repeated phrasing in THE IMPORTANT BOOK by Margaret Wise Brown. The phrasing just lends itself to a tribute sort of gift for an individual. We created the movie below (screenshots) for our principal for Boss' Day. 

The Project Package© includes a writing template for the movie script/text seen on the image sample below (the movie has now dialogue, just music): 
I've also created step-by-step directions (four pages) for all parts of the lesson (reading, writing, technology), how to create the movie and screenshots of the sample movie.
Note: If the buyer has Dropbox, an online file sharing source, I'm happy to share the entire Quicktime movie. (File is too large to email or compress and attach.)

This activity can be done with just one computer in the classroom!  All you need is Comic Life.  The teams in my class created separate slides (5 slides for each team), and then I combined all of their slides into one movie. 

© Laurie Walsh 2012 http://techwithouttears.blogspot.com

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Color Poems & Comic Life Posters

***Note: Images in the posters shown are not the images included in the ProjectPackage© . 

This tech-integrated lesson was inspired from a lesson from ww.readwritethink.org. I loved the idea of creating poetry based on color-inspired writing, but I wanted to take it one step further and have my students create colorful Comic LIfe posters to go with their poems.  

This led to me creating a ProjectPackage© for teachers with materials necessary to create the posters.  I downloaded images that can be used without concern about copyright infringement. Some images are from government public domain sites and some are from Flickr. The images from Flickr only have to be attributed to the photographers.  I have enclosed a file with photos’ attribution information for posting. 

I suggest reading the book, Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill and illustrated by John Wallner aloud as it serves as a nice model for the type of poems that I was looking for . . . not just red poems about red things.  For example, a red poem may talk about anger, love, the warmth of a sunset, the taste of chocolate . . . you get the idea.  

I created these brainstorming sheets to help my kids really get their juices flowing.  The first thing that I had them do was to pick a color and then the brainstorming was limited to only that color. I even showed them the images that I collected to inspire their thinking differently about their color. (The blank lines on the brainstorming sheets are for the student to write his chosen color.)

Then my students took their brainstorming sheets and created their poems . . . they may have taken a couple of their ideas from “What things smell ______ ?”, and maybe just one idea from “What makes you feel ____?”  To me, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING is the WRITING.  The technology is a bonus to show their work in a different way, and served as a really good motivator! but the writing is still the most important thing.  We spend the majority of our time sharing, discussing, revising and really searching for the IMAGERY that really stands out.  

The writing below was by a very low special needs student . . . he was so proud of his writing and I was proud of him: 


Dark chocolate tastes black.
Black coffee makes me feel black.
Under my bed is black.
Diving off the high dive and swimming down, not up.
Black is a hole in my heart.
Mad when my dad is yelling. 
Black smells like a wet black cat. 
Black sounds like a bunch of goblins
screaming in your ear on Halloween night.
Black sounds like a black cat.
Black is shadows in a corner.
Black is midnight. 

I love the diving off the high dive line . . . wow. Here’s another “average” student’s work:


Green looks like a yard with fresh cut grass.
Right after a rainfall is fresh and green.
It’s a fresh lime being sliced.
It’s a sickness slowly overcoming you.
It’s feeling anew in a free world.
The forest in a rain season,
Or sleeping under the sky on our trampoline.
Green is having a water balloon fight in June.
The taste of bananas in a fruit salad.

After the students created their poems, I scanned their pieces and if there were important images that they might have needed for their posters I downloaded some for them and included it in the image files I uploaded to our school server. (One could also add the photos to CDs and have them share and pass on the CDs.) I didn’t search for every “missing image” . . . only one or two per person that they felt were critical for their poster.  For example, the student above thought a picture of a lime slice was critical to his imagery so I downloaded that for him.  My kids also decided that they would only use images that were the color of their chosen color.  In other words, only pink objects for the "Pink" color poems, and so on. (See poster examples below).I teach my students how to search for copyright free images and how to search for images safely, but for this lesson I don’t want their time to be spent on the computer searching for images.  

Next,  I told the kids the five templates styles in Comic Life they could choose from - that way the majority of their time could be spent typing their poem and creating their poster rather than searching through templates . . . which you know they love to do . .. same with fonts! :0)

Then they drag their chosen images into the panes, add two or three partial lines from their poem to the poster by dragging over the little text box.. They also add their “sound effect” letters as the title, add their first name and then I print the poster in color for them. Voila! Kids love how beautiful there work is represented . . . this is one of their favorite tech activities. 

Final Note: There are 107 images in the ProjectPackage© encompassing these colors: black, brown, red, blue, gray, green, orange, pink, purple, white and yellow.. It's a great bank of images to start with. :0)

Fifth Grade Common Core Standards Posters

The Common Core Standards have been on my mind, in fact, I even included them as part of my personal goals (required for our district).  I decided to create a goal for myself stating something to the effect of, "I will use the Common Core Standards to plan my writing instruction for the year.  Additionally, I will post the CC standards that I am teaching each day in writing."  I am part of the writing team in the district helping to roll out the CCS so it seemed a logical place to start. 

I created these for use in my classroom, but thought other fifth grade teachers might find them beneficial as well. Below you will find ALL of the fifth grade Common Core Standards . . . for math, reading, speaking, etc., with ONE standard on each page of legal-sized paper.  I printed the writing standards out and I laminated them and I post the standards for whatever I'm teaching for that day.  It helps me remember the point of the lesson and lets my principal know that I have the CCS in mind while planning and teaching. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

CultureGrams to State Banners

Currently, my students and I are involved in a trimester-long unit (Storyline) about presidential elections.  Storyline can be likened to a simulation set within a story . . . think: characters, setting, incidents, etc. The students in our Storyline are pretending to be campaign workers for a presidential candidate who happen to be from all over the U.S. 

The events in Storyline are not only moved along by incidents, but are driven by our state standards. In the case of these state banners, they are a representation of some of what we learned in social studies (geography, U.S. states, regions of U.S., economics of states).  I also wanted to expose the kids to a very simple, scaffolded research project and teach them how to use the CultureGrams database mentioned in my last post. It was also an opportunity to create a visual representation of their ( Storyline character's) home state.

I gave them a data collection sheet shown below, gave them some time in class to research the first day, and then the rest of the research was to be done at home. (I gave them printed copies of the CultureGrams if they didn't have access to the Internet at home.).
A few days later i modeled for them how to create their banner . . . from making simple line drawings of the objects in the squares; revising, editing and positioning captions to creating block letters for their headings.

The majority of the work on this project was done at home because I wanted this activity to tie some loose ends together in more rigorous curriculum they'd already learned . . . plus, we didn't have a lot of time in class before Thanksgiving break.  I was really tickled with the results!  Everyone was so successful and every banner was really well done . . . they were all so proud of their creations.   I believe that they were highly motivated because the activity was pretty scaffolded, the simple line drawings were fairly easy to do, and the majority of the kids in my class LOVE to do projects where they can create and show their artistic side. It's so fun when kids feel good about the process and the product!

Thursday, November 15, 2012


I was so excited when I learned that our public library had the online database called CultureGrams!  About 15 years ago I bought a hard-copy set, which is pretty bedraggled now, and was thrilled to find that my students could access the materials if they had a public library card (which they all do . . .but that's another post!).

Remember encyclopedias? :0) Well, CultureGrams are like encyclopedia articles, BUT BETTER!  They have reports for over 200 countries, all the states in the U.S. and all 13 Canadian provinces and territories.

What makes them better, in my opinion, is the amount and type of material they have for each country/state . . . there is all of the information that you would expect: climate, resources, population, etc. . . . but the user will also find information in graph and table forms, currency calculator for the country, as well as multimedia features such as photos, slideshows and videos.  The media may be downloaded and used by students for reports and may be share via school INTRA-net, but not on the Internet.

Here is a screenshot of the homepage for India:

Here is a screenshot of homepage for India in the KIDS EDITION (written at a lower grade-level):

Finally, here is a screenshot of the U.S. database . . . it is written at the same grade-level as the Kids Edition of the world database: (Also note the pink arrow on the Ohio image . . . each country/state report is downloadable!)

Be sure to check to see if your school or public library has bought a subscription to the Online Edition of  CultureGrams!

So, what did my cutie-pattooties do with CultureGrams recently you may be asking?  Check out my next post!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Non-Fiction Summarizing

Our district is switching over to the Common Core Standards little by little this year by starting with the writing standards . . . I'm trying to make the switch in reading this year as well. 

I've always been a big proponent of teaching my kids how to really read non-fiction so I was happy to see a big shift in the CCS towards non-fiction both in reading and writing. The document above is a graphic organizer I created to help my students learn how to summarize non-fiction. 

In my class we are going to start a new science Storyline* soon and the majority of our reading (and writing) in our Storyline is non-fiction so I'm prepping the kids with some non-fiction mini-lessons. (*If you are curious about Storyline, click HERE.)

We're lucky to have salvaged some old SRA boxes . . . do you remember these? (When I was a 5th grader, I always loved finishing my work so I could go read the short stories or  essays, answer the questions and correct my own paper! Thrilling stuff. i know you're shocked I became a teacher!) 

Anyhoo, I explained the graphic organizer to my kids, pulled and read-aloud an SRA card that was a non-fiction piece of writing.  I then Modeled  by doing a think-aloud as I completed the graphic organizer. I frequently went back to the SRA card and skimmed and scanned to demonstrate my thought processes and methods of answering the questions on the graphic organizer. 

Next I gave the students copies of a different SRA non-fiction card (all students given the same card so we could share/compare) and a copy of the graphic organizer so they could have some Guided Practice (gotta love Madeline Hunter!).  They will have other opportunities in coming days for Independent Practice. 

Common Core Standard for Fifth Grade: RI 5.2 Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text. (This graphic organizer can of course be used with many other grade levels.)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Book Report Review Template

My students love using technology to share what they've learned, and they always feel successful using Comic Life . . . me too. Using an easy application like Comic Life helps each student feel successful with his or her finished product because they always look good!

I've also found that my most reluctant writers will work their little fingers to the bone so that they can complete the activity in the computer lab (or on the laptops in our mobile lab).  The kids in my room know that they have to have a completed "first draft" of whatever it is we are doing on the computers in order to take part in the technology activity . . . think of it like an "entrance-ticket" as opposed to an "exit-ticket". :0)
This is a template for you and your students to use to create their own book reports/reviews using Comic Life and is modifiable. The template includes areas for showing understanding of : summary, setting, theme, connections (text to text, text to self, etc.), conflict (character vs. nature, etc.), character and student review/opinion. 

(** Computers must have Comic Life application installed in order to use this template . . . see my first post to learn more about Comic Life. Note: This template is for MAC USERS ONLY.)
If you are interested in downloading this file, click on one of the images above and you will be taken to my Teachers Pay Teachers site. 

Teacher's Guide to Comic Life

This freebie is a quick guide to Comic Life. If you would like to download and modify the file, click on the image and it will take you to my Teachers Pay Teachers site. :0)  (Note: You must have the Comic Life Application on your Mac computer to use the file.)

Self Selected Genre Bingo

I try to encourage my students to try different genres in their reading  . . . this Self-Selected Genre Bingo game has been a good motivator. Clearly, the idea is to get kids to complete a bingo by reading the books in different rows, columns and diagonals.  

In our 4th and 5th grade we have an economy where students can earn pretend money to be later used for purchasing items at "Town". An incentive (Other than to get a "bigger brain"!) from me is that for each bingo they complete, I will give them $500 (Town Dollars). That is a lot of Town money, so kids often jump at the chance to earn it.  I call that SNEAKY TEACHING! 

As you can probably tell, I used Comic Life to create the files. For more info on Comic Life, see my previous post. 

Click on the images above if you would like to download the files.  The link will take you to my Teachers Pay Teachers site. 

Freebie ~ Weekly Homework Assignment Sheet

I love Comic Life!  It is a great application that came with my Macbook. It used to be free on Macbooks, but a friend bought a new laptop the other day and the application was not included.  If you are interested buying the application, it is for sale in Windows and Mac format for $29.99 Here's a link for more information. Comic Life

This is one of the very first things I made for my classroom using Comic Life . . . it's a weekly homework assignment sheet that the students kept in their binders. There is also a place for a parent signature on the right-hand side for folks to sign after they saw their child's completed work..

If you are interested in downloading the file, click on either image above and it will take you to my Teachers Pay Teachers site.