Friday, August 1, 2014

Friday’s Feature! ~ The Primary Techie

Introducing….

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Hi all!  I am so excited and honored that Terena asked me to guest blog for her!  Let me start by introducing myself.  I am Autumn Morrison and I live in Arizona.  I have three daughters (15,11, and 4).  My husband recently retired from the Marine Corps and now works full-time as a fireman.  Love a man in uniform!!! I have taught first grade for ten years and taught third and preschool before that.  I am passionate about making school fun and engaging.  It is my goal to make school so much fun that kids don't realize they are working.  I recently had the opportunity to present at the I Teach K conference in Las Vegas.  Terena sat in on my session and has asked me to give you a run down of what I went over during my presentation, so...here goes!

In 2009, my school put a smartboard in one classroom per grade level.  I was fortunate enough to get it in my room.  I was SO excited about this fancy gadget, but nervous because I had no idea what to do with it.  I wanted to use it!  I didn't want it collecting dust in my room.  I wanted it badly enough that over the past five years, I have taught myself HUNDREDS of ways to use my board and it has changed my life!  I know what you are thinking "how can a fancy gadget change your life?"  Well, it did!  

Before I was utilizing technology, I was working at least ten hours a day and went to school every single weekend.  I also brought a lot home with me.  When I put in this amount of time, I was a good teacher but not a great mom.  I was away from my family WAY too much.  I expected my husband and kids to make sacrifices for my students.  I knew that my priorities were wrong, but didn't know how to fix it.  Then I met the smartboard!  Like I said, I had NO clue how to use this thing!  I knew how to shop online and check my email, but that was it!  I never MADE anything!  I asked my tech guy for help and guess what he told me?  "You'll figure it out."  What a jerk, right?  Here I am asking for help and this is his advice?  Guess what I did?  I figured it out!  This turned out the be the best advice of my life because I learned that I can figure it out!  I have gained so much confidence in myself.  There is still a lot that I don't know, but I know that I will figure it out when I need it.  

In 2007, I started using "morning songs" in my classroom.  Every morning, we sing 4-5 songs.  2007 was pre-board.  I copied lyrics onto transparencies and burned songs onto cds.  When I got my board, I knew that if I could use the board to run morning songs, we were guaranteed to use it every day.  I created my very first PowerPoint!  Each song was on a separate slide.  The sound file was attached and played automatically.  As an added bonus, I was able to get rid of my projector, cart, cds, and about 300 transparencies!  Smartboard=less clutter!!!  I loved the morning songs so much that I added some "extras".  There is a slide with the pledge- which I often forget pre-board!  There was a slide for new spelling words and one for new sight words.  I included my poem of the week and all of the words they should have learned in kinder or sight words we had already learned.  Click here to read more about my Morning Songs.  I was lovin' that fancy gadget, but this was just the beginning!

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I began scanning all of my books so that the kids could see them better.  It is the ultimate big book when it is on the board!  Every story I read is 4'x6'!  The pages are SO easy to turn!  They are always easy to find - in their digital folders!  Scanning books completely changed the way I read.  Pre-board, I read TO my kids.  Post-board I read WITH my kids.  It is amazing!  How does this save me time?  I never look for books and never have to put them back.  To read more about scanning books, click here.

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I began loving this gadget so much that I wanted to use it for EVERYTHING!  When I have problems in my classroom, my mind immediately goes to my board.  Can technology help me fix this?  For example, I was SO sick of teaching letter formation.  I know that they need to learn this, but I have done A LOT of handwriting lessons in the past 15 years!  One day out of exasperation, I thought, "Can't my board do this?  Can't I make it more engaging and fun?"  I went home and created "Handwriting Heroes".  It is a cartoon that shows super heroes fly over letters.  We have to stop the evil Scribbler by helping them fly.  We stand up and trace the letters in the air.  Our powerful fingers help control the super heroes.  I added a sound for each letter stroke so that we can also make silly sounds and the sounds help reinforce proper formation.  I often put on the video and have them control the heroes with their pencils as they trace over the letters on a worksheet that goes with the video.  I made several different themes.  They LOVE it and I can walk around monitoring them or getting a something checked off my to-do list!

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My kids loved playing these mystery picture games where I would say a number and they color it to make a picture.  We did about one a month.  One day as I was rattling off numbers, I started thinking of all the things I needed to be doing.  I had papers to grade, lesson plans to write, kids to test, parents to email - but instead I am saying "color 74 red" for half an hour.  This was a problem, so I turned my mind to my board.  Can't my technology do this job for me?  After school, I began working on my first Watch, Think, Color game.  They WATCH the board, THINK of the number, and COLOR that square on a hundreds chart.  The next day we tried it out and it was MAGICAL!  The kids were silent for 20 minutes - TOTALLY SILENT!  My class had never been so good!  I added a chime to each transition to redirect them to the game.  They were so focused, that there were no behavior issues.  There were no early finishers or dawdlers because the game is timed.  My board also gave me the opportunity to use numbers in a new way.  I could show place value blocks, groups of coins, math problems, SO MANY POSSIBILITIES!!!!  Once I had made many skills, I started using these games to differentiate.  I put a game on my board for most of my kids, and I set-up laptops around the room for individuals or small groups.  They all make the same picture, but they are practicing skills they need.  The games run themselves so I can do other things. We usually WTC twice a week.  On Mondays, I make homework packets while they are playing.  I used to go to school every Sunday to make homework, but I am happy to say I have not gone to school on a weekend in three years!  Woo-Hoo!  We play again on Wednesday or Thursday and I pull small groups while the rest of the class plays.  They are so focused and engaged that I don't have to manage them while I am working with my group. 

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These games are time consuming to create and I had made dozens of them for my class, so I decided to start selling them on Teachers Pay Teachers.  I have continued making more and more WTC games.  Click here to download some FREE Watch, Think, Color games! I have HUNDREDS of WTC math games on TpT.  This fall, I am releasing WTC ELA.  These bundles will include a variety of skills including contractions, rhymes, punctuation, complete sentences, parts of speech, vowel sounds, and more!  I am so excited about this new WTC line.  To read more about Watch, Think, Color games, click here!

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I have found ways to incorporate technology into EVERY subject.  I am passionate about using this tool because I have seen how engaging it is for students.  By creating digital lessons and reusing them year after year, I am saving myself incredible amounts of time.  Technology should not be used to replace what we as teachers offer, but to enhance our lessons and make them more engaging.  My very favorite quote is "If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our students of tomorrow."  Please follow my blog and Facebook page to learn and share exciting teacher ideas.  I always welcome any questions, comments, or suggestions.  Thanks so much for reading!

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Thanks Autumn for guest blogging today! I love your ideas and products. If you haven’t been to Autumn’s TPT store, blog, or Facebook page, you need to take time to visit!

Have you used any of the products from The Primary Techie?

Let us know in the comments section and if you have a blog link back to it. Thanks.

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