Thursday, November 29, 2012

Exploring the 6 Levels of Moral Development In The Classroom

In my last post I outlined how I explain the 6 levels of moral development in class. For this post I feature some of the resources I've collected over the past few years to help with understanding the 6 Levels.

1) 'The Wizard and the Hopping Pot" by J.K. Rowling

The Wizard and the Hopping Pot" is the first story in The Tales of Beedle The Bard. It's a pretty fun read aloud, even though the vocabulary is slightly advanced for fourth grade. What makes it fun is all the disgusting stuff that this hopping pot does. 
The vomiting, crying, braying, wart-filled hopping pot

The pot is so disgusting and disturbing, that the evil wizard who is plagued with it is forced to turn good. It's a happy ending for all the wrong reasons, and is a great example of: Level 1: I Don't Want To Be Punished. It's one of the first things I read to the children after I introduce the 6 levels. I challenge them to think about why the evil wizard turned nice, and what level he decided to make that choice.

2) is a great resource. There's a lot to use there, and some day I'll write a post that features how I use all of the site's resources. One of the great resources is their public service announcements. Their PSAs are non-denominational and exemplify a lot of values. Here are some of the ones I use to feature certain levels:

Level 3
Peer Pressure

Level 5 and 6



Let 'Em In



3) Jerry Spinelli
Jerry Spinelli's characters exemplify a moral center in both interesting and fresh ways. For many years I called Level 6 simply The Stargirl level.

I've read Stargirl as a read aloud for the past couple of years despite it not being a great read aloud. It's the wrong age group for elementary, it's missing too much back-and-forth dialogue relies on deep description and metaphor. It's a great read, but not a great read aloud. But the children enjoy it despite this because it's a great story, and introduces them to a character they've never been exposed to before. Stargirl lives a level 6 life, and the book is full of amazing examples of level 6. But Stargirl has a great personality too, and so every day that I read, my students takes notes divided into 2 columns. In one column they note what they think is level 6 behavior, and in the other column they note simply "different" or "interesting" behavior. Then after I read, we talk about what they observed.
But Stargirl isn't the only character that Jerry Spinelli has created worth examining. Penn Ward from Crash, Donald Zinkoff from Loser, and even Maniac Magee... although I have a few issues with how that book is sometimes used in teaching.* Spinelli fills his worlds with memorable characters that flow with virtue and face relatable problems.

4) Groundhog Day vs. 11 Birthdays
Groundhog Day is a movie starring Bill Murray about a man trapped in a day. 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass is a book about a girl trapped in a day.

Bill Murray's character, Phil Conners, escapes his day by reaching level 6. It took him approximately 10,000 years. Amanda escapes her day by silly magic, and she's trapped in her day for slightly less time. She tries to be a level 6 person so that she can escape her day. Of course by trying to do nice things for other people to achieve a reward (in this case the reward is to get to the next day), she's actually only achieved level 2. Comparing similar plots but different motivations lead to great discussions.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Explaining The 6 Stages of Moral Development in the Classroom

Ever since I read Rafe Esquith's Teach Like Your Hair Is On Fire, I've tried to incorporate Lawrence Kohlberg's six stages of Moral Development in my class and my teaching.
Or was it his other book, There Are No Shortcuts?

Here is Mr. Esquith's explanation of the six levels:

I've re-worded the levels slightly to make them more accessible to fourth graders. First, I changed the title, "Six Levels of Moral Development" to "Six Levels of Good Choices." My reasoning here is that the language is more natural, and I can refer to it easier. So I can say, "Why did you make that good choice?" As opposed to, "What stage of moral development were you at when you made that choice?" And can get to the same response, without as much confusion.
Below is a table of how Rafe defines his 6 levels, and how I choose to define them:
His WordingMy Wording
Level 1: I don't want to get into trouble Level 1: I don't want to be punished
Level 2: I want a rewardLevel 2: I want a reward
Level 3: I want to please somebodyLevel 3: I want to please somebody
I care about
Level 4: I follow the rulesLevel 4: I follow the rules
Level 5: I am considerate of other peopleLevel 5: Empathy: I think of others
before I think of myself. 
Level 6: I have a personal code of behavior
and I follow it
Level 6: Integrity: I think of others before
I think of myself, and I don't seek
recognition for doing so.

The big differences are the ways I choose to communicate levels 3, 5, and 6.

On rewording level 3:

When I first started teaching this several years ago, I found that students had a hard time explaining the difference between level 3 and 5. This was because the wording for each was so similar. Being considerate of someone and pleasing someone can be similar things. So I thought about what each means. To me Level 3 doesn't mean wanting to please random people. Therefore I made the distinction that this is really about making a good choice for the people that we care about.

On rewording level 5:

For me level 5 is all about empathy, and for me empathy is one of the main values that I want my students to understand and appreciate. It's critical. Here's one reason why:

On rewording level 6: 
This level is the hardest to understand and explain, so I need to use wording that is easier than the phrasing that Rafe Esquith chooses to use. A few years ago, I simply called this the "Stargirl" level or the "Groundhog Day" level. I'll get to why in my next post. But that title was simply not sufficient, so I changed the title to be an extension of my level 5 title, with the addition, "...and I don't seek recognition." Along with the examples I use to illustrate this in class (again, I'll talk about those in my next post), the wording makes this level more clear.  But this year I decided to add that one word, "Integrity" to the definition, because along with "empathy" this is an important concept to understand. It is also a concept that gets thrown around a lot in elementary. It's a value that our school as a whole trumpets, but it is often misinterpreted as a synonym with "honesty," and it's not. It's bigger. It's level 6, and that is why I changed it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

3 "Talking Photo" Apps: A Review

The iPad was built with one thing in mind; to easily create photos with audio. Everything else the iPad does is just peripheral.
The original vision for the iPad

So for this post I'll be looking at three apps that claim to do this: Fotobabble, Pixntell, and Skqueak.

1) Fotobabble

I've used Fotobabble in class for a couple of years now. We've used the online version to create talking slideshows of our work. It's a great way to show off a portfolio, and to reflect what we've done. I have some issues with it though. The first is that we embed this on our websites, and from there it can take a long time to load. Sometimes forever. The second is that it is written in Flash so those ridiculous "Adobe Flash Player Settings" pop-ups pop up all the time. This would be okay if Adobe hadn't designed the pop-ups so that they could never be closed. Often times, no matter if we click "Allow" or "Deny" nothing will happen. The box will still be there. Because Adobe decided to add the special feature that they are completely unresponsive no matter what button you choose to click. You want kids to hate computers? Introduce them to a random, unresponsive pop-up that forces them to refresh the screen and restart their work. Finally, to create a slideshow, you have to first give each slide a unique identifying tag, and then search for that tag, and then you have the option to view the slideshow with all the photos that have that tag. It reminds me of some of the hack programming I did when I was in college.
Anyway, this post isn't about that. There's no native support of Flash and so the Fotobabble app doesn't have the Flash problem. The app allows you to "tag" the photos. You can't create the slideshows from the app, but once you log into your account, you can do the tag search and create a slideshow from there.
Like with all of these apps, you can either take a photo and record audio over it, or choose a photo that's already in your photo library. Your "Fotobabbles" are saved online to a free account. I like that.
The Fotobabble app also has a photo editor in it. There are basic enhancements and filters, a crop and orientation tool, and a dumb "stickers" pack if you want to fill up your photo with terrible clipart.
My Conclusion:
The most frustrating thing about this app is that it is hard to make slideshows. If that is not a necessary tool that you need, then the Fotobabble app is nice.

2) Pixntell
Pixntell must have heard me complain about Fotobabble just now because it's super easy to create slideshows with this app. There is no cloud storage device for your creations. Instead, once a talking photo or a talking slideshow is done, the user can uploaded to a Youtube account (or Facebook, but that's not applicable to my students). Our class has a Youtube account for their work, so that is a good solution for us.
My Conclusion:
Simple and easy, Pixntell takes about 10 seconds to learn and does exactly what it is supposed to do. Creating slideshows is a snap.

Skqueak is the most powerful of the three apps reviewed here. Like Pixntell, making a slideshow of talking photos is easy with Skqueak. One of the things that makes Skqueak stand out though is that as you are recording your voice over the photo, you can also draw on it. When the talking photo is played back, your drawings appear, synched with your voice. It's very cool. The other thing that is great about Skqueak is that you can zoom into your photos as you are talking and drawing on them.
There are a lot of options to share something made is Skqueak; Facebook, Twitter, email, SMS Message, or just copy a link. If you want it on Youtube though, you'd have to first export the video to the i-Device's camera roll, and then upload the video to Youtube.
All of your "Skqueaks" (that can't be what they're called) are saved online to your Skqueak account, and like Fotobabble, once you are in that account they provide you with embed code to put your Skqueak-thingy anywhere you want.

My Conclusion:
Skqueak takes about 30 seconds to learn instead of 10 seconds. But with the extra learning curve, you get the added benefit of being able to draw and zoom in on your photos while your talking. This is the best app of the three. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sign Up Genius: An Intuitive Online Sign-Up App

Since I took over as the elementary after school activities coordinator, I've wanted to migrate away from paper sign ups and do all information sharing online. I created this website to share information, but I wasn't sure how to do electronic sign-ups. The problem was that at the same time I took over, we also decided to institute "caps" on the activities, so that 20 people, for example, wouldn't sign up for drums when our school only had one drum kit.
...Even though that strategy worked well for Trip Shakespeare*

So any online tool I used had to only allow for a certain amount of sign-ups. This meant that the school's recent push to use Google Docs for everything wouldn't fly here.
Keep trying little one.

I started looking at online survey tools; Survey Monkey, Fluid Surveys, and a few more that I can't recall. Fluid Surveys seemed to have the most potential. Their paid service allowed caps to be set on questions (which they called "advanced quotas"), and they had some nice logic commands so that I could control what grades signed up for certain activities. So I paid the monthly fee, designed the survey and tested it. I didn't work. I emailed them. They told me it was a bug and that they'd fix it eventually. I cancelled my monthly subscription.

I might have gone back to Fluid Surveys this year to see if they'd fix the bug, but our school's IT coordinator told me I might want to try SignUpGenius. I got this tip at around 9:00 at night. By 11:00 I had a perfect sign-up tool for after school activities ready to be rolled out.
A screenshot of my first sign-up 

SignupGenius allows for a maximum number of people to be enrolled in a certain activity. When that number is reached, the activity is grayed-out. I can also set it so that it can only be reached by password. Since I started using it for after school activities  I've started using it for parent conference sign ups as well. I absolutely love it; it does everything that I want it to and it's free.

*When I saw Trip Shakespeare way back in 1991 or 1992, they all migrated to the single drum kit during this song (I think). It's a four person band, so it was fun to watch four people banging out a synchronous rhythm on a single kit. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

PYP and the Learner's Profile

I recently took a PYP course to help me understand what it was all about.

One of the things it introduced me to is "The Learner's Profile," which I think is an excellent way to think about education and development.
Um, I think we're talking about two different things...

Quickly, the profile is broken-down in this way:
(From the IB document, "Making the PYP Happen")

IB learners strive to be:
Inquirers They develop their natural curiosity. They acquire the skills necessary to conduct inquiry
and research and show independence in learning. They actively enjoy learning and this
love of learning will be sustained throughout their lives.

Knowledgeable They explore concepts, ideas and issues that have local and global significance. In so
doing, they acquire in-depth knowledge and develop understanding across a broad and
balanced range of disciplines.

Thinkers They exercise initiative in applying thinking skills critically and creatively to recognize
and approach complex problems, and make reasoned, ethical decisions.

Communicators They understand and express ideas and information confidently and creatively in more than one language and in a variety of modes of communication. They work effectively
and willingly in collaboration with others.

Principled They act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness, justice and respect
for the dignity of the individual, groups and communities. They take responsibility for
their own actions and the consequences that accompany them.

Open-minded They understand and appreciate their own cultures and personal histories, and are open
to the perspectives, values and traditions of other individuals and communities. They are
accustomed to seeking and evaluating a range of points of view, and are willing to grow
from the experience.

Caring They show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings of others.
They have a personal commitment to service, and act to make a positive difference to the
lives of others and to the environment.

Risk-takers They approach unfamiliar situations and uncertainty with courage and forethought,
and have the independence of spirit to explore new roles, ideas and strategies. They are
brave and articulate in defending their beliefs.

Balanced They understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to
achieve personal well-being for themselves and others.

Reflective They give thoughtful consideration to their own learning and experience. They are able
to assess and understand their strengths and limitations in order to support their learning and personal development.

Since I've never worked in a PYP school I got to ask myself if what I do as a classroom teacher fits into each category of the IB's vision of a learner profile.  Asking myself that question allowed me to think of what could I do better to make sure that each of these areas is as fully developed as possible. Here is what I came up with how I answer each of the profile's attributes:

Inquirers: I guess science would be the easiet way to illustrate this. We are currently learning about the Scientific Method by investigating the death of a fictional body I found while walking to school. 
Thinkers: We use Scratch to explore various subjects, including principles of geometry. Some sample projects are listed Here and here.
Communicators: Our class uses our class websiteEdmodo, and school emails to extend the classroom beyond its walls. We learn how to have an appropriate online presence in our communication with each other. 
We believe that writing can be an effective tool of change. Last year we wrote essays and presented them to the school board asking to change the constitution to allow teaching assistants, who are Nepali, the right to vote for school board members. Teachers at our school have long enjoyed the right.
Risk Takers: Every day students take turns leading the class through our morning routine. The class learns how to be comfortable with themselves and with each other, and not be afraid of trying things they normally wouldn't in front of each other.
Knowledgeable: There's an emphasis on knowing our host country at our school, and as a result the children have double periods of art and Nepal Studies. Here's an introductory video of this that I made with my brother.
Principaled: I use Lawrence Kohlberg's 6 levels of moral development, rephrased as the 6 levels of good choices to create a common language with the children that encapsulates the choices we make. We try to live at a higher level, and reflect on the reasons for the good choices we do make.
Another example is that last year we noticed that a lot of food was being wasted during lunch time. We started a campaign of awareness that will carry over to this year. 
Caring: Our elementary school uses the Responsive Classroom approach to building character. Our children are well versed in Apologies of Action and other ways to handle conflict.
Open-Minded: We collaborate with a sister school that is nestled right in the heart of Kathmandu's trash dump, and 90% of the time we go there for our collaborative projects. Most of the children at our sister school are indentured servants, sold by their families at an early age.
Balanced: I understand this to be a balance between mental and physical exercise, as well as being an effective collaborator and valuing sportsmanship. As a class we learn to play with everyone all the time. What are school is working on is a rubric for play in team and individual activities.
I divided our after school activity program into the following 8 threads so that parents have an easier time choosing a balance of different activities for their children:
- Creativity, Strategy and Innovation activities
- World Leader activities
- Movement activities
- Team Sport activities
- Music activities
- 21st Century media activities
- Brain activities
- Imagination and Performance activities
It is the goal of the elementary school to offer activities in each of these strands for each of our four seasons, and we encourage children to involve themselves in a variety of strands.
Reflective: My students maintain e-portfolios (last year I used Posterous, but this year I'll use Weebly) to continually reflect on their projects, events, and goals. All of our conferences this year are with both the parents and students to reflect and refine their hopes, dreams, and goals for the year.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Developing Digital Dendrites: Teaching Internet Literacy

Right now I'm creating a wokshop for internet literacy. It's my proposed workshop for this year's spring NESA conference. I'll be busy over the next few days putting the resources together. Here are my two main tools for the workshop. They'll be modified drastically each day through Wednesday. The Prezi won't make a whole lot of sense without the presentation notes. I'll post those when I'm finished writing them.
The Prezi has several embedded videos, and although the Prezi will run just fine, the videos will take a while to load. I chose to upload the videos instead of direct links to youtube because our school internet is unreliable. Still for most connections and viewers, it's probably much easier to simply have the embedded youtube links. I'll post another Prezi that has the embedded links when I'm done with this initial Prezi.

The Accompanying Prezi

The Bookmarked Resources
Developing digital dendrites and Attention / Introduction / Communicate / Collaborate / Access Information in (salamanca)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Two Of The Best Scary Read-Alouds For Elementary

It's Diwali! I mean it's Tihar! So let's share our favorite Halloween read-alouds.

It took me a while to figure out how exactly I wanted to share these stories. I finally decided on SoundCloud as the best way. Listening to the two sound files I realized that
a) I probably should have rehearsed reading the stories a couple of times, and
b) They need some music and sound effects. Maybe I'll do that next Halloween.

So anyway here is a belated post showcasing my two favorite Halloween stories that are appropriate for all ages.

1) "Simon and the Magic Catfish" by Nat Whitman
August House specializes in fantastic read alouds. Their books are great! My favorite book that they publish might be Greek Myths, Western Style. It forces you to tell greek mythology in a southern accent. It's brilliant. And then there's this book:
Not all of the stories are great read alouds, but some are fabulous. And "Simon and the Magic Catfish" is the best non-threatening one. "Johnny and the Dead Man's Liver" is great, but it's a bit scary, and I wouldn't read it to kids under 9 years old.
What makes "Simon and the Magic Catfish" so great to read aloud is that it has a chorus. And any story that has a chorus automatically allows the audience to participate in the read aloud. In this story, the chorus is: 
Cuz the catfish want to go home. Yeah yeah yeah.
Cuz the catfish want to go home. Yeah yeah yeah.

I don't know how to make the 3 yeahs sound natural, so I cut it down to two. It's such a fun read when the audience is part of this story. Unfortunately I don't have a recording of me doing it with the elementary school, although I did read it this year to the whole school and it was a lot of fun. But here is me reading "Simon and the Magic Catfish" without an audience.

2) "Wylie and the Hairy Man"
This story comes from another fun compilation:

What makes "Wylie and the Hairy Man" so nice is the dialogue. And like Greek Myths, Western Style, the language almost forces the narrator to talk with a southern accent. I read this story for the whole elementary last year. I don't have that take, so here is me reading it without an audience.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

3 Photo Tricks For Teachers

1) Resizing Batch Photos

One of the things I like about the iPad is that it is easy to take photos, and the photo file size is relatively small. But sometimes I still need the clarity of a digital camera with a lot of megapixels. This is because I'm a terrible photographer.

My Hands Are Like The Waco Kid

So it's helped me a lot when I discovered that I could easily automate the resizing of photos using mac's Automator. I have always ignored this icon in the applications folder. So it was to my surprised delight that it can be an extremely useful utility.
Hey Little Guy, You Can Serve A Purpose!

I'm not going to rehash the instructions for doing this, since they are clearly explained here. But just in case that post gets deleted and I hit my head with a falling piano and forget how to do it, I'll repost their screen shot:
For Prosperity!

Wait. Is that enough? I mean a piano could cause a pretty severe memory issue. I pride myself on original content in this blog, but this is for the greater good. Okay, well just in case, this is a direct step-by-step taken from the link above:

How to create an Automator application that will resize a group of pictures:
  • Launch Automator and select to create a new Application
  • From the left side Library menu, click on “Files & Folders” then double-click on “Ask for Finder Items”
  • Now on the right side set the “Ask for Finder Items” choice to ‘Start at’ the Desktop and then click the checkbox next to “Allow Multiple Selection”
  • Next, from the same Files & Folders menu, find and double-click on “Copy Finder Items”
  • From the right-side pull-down menu alongside “To” choose “Other” and create a new folder called “Resized”
  • Optional: Again from the library, double-click on “Rename Finder Items” to add that action as well
  • Optional: From the pull-down menu choose “Add Text” and in the box below add “-resized” to appear after the file name
  • Now click on “Photos” from the left side Library menu, then double-click on “Scale Images”, and select the resized pixel width of images
  • Run the workflow to test it, otherwise choose “Save” to create an application that allows for drag & drop resizing of groups of images

2) Making Photos Look Like Coloring Book Pages

There have been several times in my teaching career where I needed to change a photo into a coloring book page. When I was teaching preschool in South Korea it's because I wanted the children to color themselves. More recently though it's because I make classroom money for our class economy, and I think it's only fitting to have the students featured on each denomination in our classroom currency.

There's a couple ways to do this. I'll demonstrate both by using Adobe Photoshop CS 5 and this photo:
"I'm About To Be Changed Into Money!"

The first way is to simply use the "Photocopy" Filter in Photoshop.
"Not As Glamorous As I Was Hoping"

That's the easy way. The next way produces an image a little clearer, but takes a lot more work. Again, I didn't create this method. It's posted in various places on the internets. Here's one of those places. 

STEP 1 - Duplicate The Background Layer
First duplicate the background layer. Go Layer> New> Layer via Copy. Now we have 2 layers, the Background Layer, and Layer 1.

STEP 2 - Desaturate The Photo
With Layer 1 selected, choose Image> Adjustments> Desaturate. This gives us a grayscale version of the photo.

STEP 3 - Duplicate Layer 1
At this point you must duplicate Layer 1. With Layer 1 selected, go Layer> New> Layer via Copy. Now we have 3 layers, the Background Layer, Layer 1 and Layer 2.

Next we'll be working with Layer 2.

STEP 4 - Invert Layer 2
With Layer 2 selected, go Image> Adjustments> Invert. This will make your photo look like a negative.

STEP 5 - Change The Layers Blend Mode To Color Dodge
In the Layers Palette change the Layers Blend Mode for this layer (Layer 2) to Color Dodge. This will make your photo almost completely white, but don't panic! Everything is going to work out just fine.

STEP 6 - Apply The Gaussian Blur Filter
Go Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur. When the dialog box appears start by moving the Radius Slider all the way to the left. Once you've done that you can start to slowly move it to the right.

If you follow the 6 steps, you'll get a result that resembles this:
"My Shading Feels More Subtle"

Although this method is 5 more steps, I like the results more. It works better for our class currency too:
"Imagine What I Look Like On Bright Orange Paper!"

3) Spicing Up Photos

I've written about using Photofunia to make normal photos fun and exciting for my students. I do want to update that initial post by sharing the complete list of photo web filters I use. Here are my bookmarks I use when I want to play with a photo:
Celebrations & Signs in Teaching / (salamanca)

I won't talk about all of the above links, but I do want to feature a few. 
A) PhotoFunia: This is still my favorite place to alter a photo's reality. There's just a great big huge selection. I would have the children choose their own way to manipulate their photo, but there are a few inappropriate filters for 9 and 10 year olds, so I still choose for them. But I do give them choices.
I Guess There's A Third Way To Put Our Faces On Money

B) FunPhotoBox: Runs a close second to Photofunia. Just like Photofunia there are a lot of original, quality options. And what's really cool is the creativity of both sites really don't overlap. 
Well, We Do Live In Nepal

C) Is an interesting site that has a lot of potential. It offers a variety of ways to manipulate photos. The filters seem to be a bit lazy in quality, but there are a ton of choices. One sub-category is branding the subject of the photo with flag face paint. Unfortunately there are only 16 countries offered, and all are from Europe. This would be cool for an international school if they included a lot more countries.
The Stripes Of Spain

I've just scratched the surface with web photo filters, and I probably should revisit the awesome and not-so-awesome web tools available on this blog at some point. In the meantime, please take a look at the "pearl" bookmarks above. Photo filters are a lot of fun, and never fail to impress students.
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