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COETAIL Course 2 Project

Course 2 Final Project – Grade 2 Sharing the Planet Research

This was a great unit already, and adding some authentic and meaningful technology and media literacy components only enhanced student learning and engagement.



Introducing the idea of plagiarism:

When I introduced the idea of plagiarism to my students, I used emotion to engage them in the concept. I put my name and photo on one of my student’s published story books and began to read it to the class, claiming it was my own.

When I began reading Lisa’s book, the students looked confused at first and then began quietly protesting. Lisa looked visibly upset and one student patted her arm reassuringly and said ‘Ms. Quinn’s just pretending.” I stopped after a couple pages and asked if there were any comments.

One student raised his hand and said, “That’s not your book, it’s Lisa’s.” I showed them where I had put my name over Lisa’s and showed them the back of the book where I had pasted my picture and bio over top of hers as well. I said “My name and picture are on this book, what makes you say I didn’t write it?”

The students talked about how they had seen Lisa working hard on it and it was her ideas and her illustrations.

Lisa agreed that it was her book and that I had just stuck my name on the front and changed the author page. I asked Lisa how she felt about that and she said  at first she felt a bit sad, and then she felt angry.

I asked the other students if they would feel the same way if someone did that to their stories. They all agreed.

This began a good discussion about taking someone else’s work and not giving them credit for their ideas.

I went on to introduce the word ‘Plagiarism’ and talked about the idea of stealing, and how ‘taking someone else’s work or ideas and saying it’s your own’ can be a type of stealing.

Needless to say, this was a powerful way to introduce a new idea and my hope is that students won’t forget what plagiarism is any time soon.

A detailed lesson plan can be found here.

Introducing our class Google Docs account:

After nearly a whole year of trying to manage digital student work on individual USB sticks, it was a huge relief to both teacher and students to using a class Google Docs account to manage their work.

It made a huge difference, especially in terms of saving work and having different students or the teacher view work in progress.

I will never manage student documents via USB again. Period. (And this year, I will introduce this idea way before the last unit, to save many a frustrated student.)

Introducing using Creative Commons images:

This was not as successful as introducing plagiarism. I would like to do a better job of introducing the idea of Creative Commons this year. I will use CommonSenseMedia as my guide.

Any ideas fellow COETAILers?



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Plagiarism and Paraphrasing Lesson

Research skills can be tricky to teach, especially to younger students.

No research skill is more tricky than avoiding plagiarism by paraphrasing and citing your sources. Our final unit is under the transdiciplinary theme of Sharing the Planet. Our students choose a plant or animal to research and they write a report about their species. We look at many research skills, from finding reliable sources and creative commons images to taking and organising notes.

With my grade 2 students, I managed to put together a successful series of lessons to introduce the idea of plagiarism and how to avoid it.

I wanted to share it here, so that other teachers can get an idea of how they might tackle this topic with their students, and also because it relates to my Unit Plan for COETAIL.


Plagiarism, Paraphrasing and Citation – Grade 2 Sharing the Planet

Lesson #1 ­ Plagiarism

  • The Teacher­ would prepare for the lesson by taking a student’s recently completed published piece that the class would recognise. The Teacher would then put his/her name on the piece or copy it to try and pull it off as their own. (This would work best with a published book or story.)
  • The Teacher would begin the class by telling the students that while they were writing their story, he/she was also writing his/her own story too. And ask if they would like to hear it.
  • The Teacher would begin reading the ‘plagiarised’ story and hopefully the students would begin reacting to the fact that the story didn’t belong to the Teacher.
  • When the Teacher is satisfied with the protests he/she will strop reading and lead the students in a conversation about what happened and what they were thinking or feeling, (especially the student whose work was used).
  • Through the discussion, the students would hopefully come up with the words not yours, stealing, lying, property, angry, upset, sad, hurt.
  • The Teacher would then introduce the word Plagiarism and show the  BrainPop video about  Plagiarism.
  • After watching the video and discussing the definition of plagiarism, the Teacher might then choose to read their school’s policy on plagiarism, and read out a couple hypothetical scenarios involving plagiarism to discuss as a class.
  • The Teacher would divide the students into small groups and hand each group scenario, (See Appendix A ­ from  Common Sense Media‘s  Whose is it,  anyway? lesson.)
  • In groups the students would practice applying what they learned by deciding if their scenario qualifies as plagiarism or not and, if it is, come up with an alternate solution or ending for each situation or problem. (The Teacher could also infuse some drama into this lesson by having each group act out their scenario as written and then, ‘rewind’ the situation and act out their alternate ending in which the situation would no longer qualify as plagiarism.)
  • The Teacher brings the students together to share their scenarios.
  • The lesson would end with students reflecting, either orally or written, their understanding of plagiarism. They may choose to use the following sentence starter: Plagiarism is when..

Lesson #2 ­ Paraphrasing and Citing Sources

  • The Teacher would ask the students to reiterate what they learned about plagiarism.
  • He/She would ask what the students remember as the two ways that plagiarism can be avoided when doing research. And hopefully the students will remember paraphrasing, (or using your own words), and citing your sources, (or saying where you found that information).
  • Watch the BrainPop video on  Paraphrasing and talk about it with students afterwards. Make a class list of paraphrasing tips.
  • As a class examine a couple of resources about Orangutans (or other animal / plant), both print and digital and talk about how we should go about citing those resources, using what they have learned from the two BrainPop videos they have watched.
  • Agree as a class on some logical way to help their readers know where they got their information, and record it on a class list of citing sources agreements.
  • Using the example of the Orangutans, let the students know that they are going to make a class ‘report’, (or whatever summative assessment the grade teachers have agreed upon beforehand, ex. report, wiki, poster, student choice, etc.), to help them practice the process of gathering information.
  • Using one of the guided inquiry questions that was predetermined by the class, (ex. what do they eat?), the Teacher would begin modelling using a variety of non-fiction resources to find information relevant to the question and using the class tips for paraphrasing and citing sources.
  • The Teacher would then divide the students into pairs and assign each group one of the class inquiry questions, along with a variety of resources. The students would practice using the resources and class generated tips to paraphrase appropriate information and cite their sources.
  • After a predetermined amount of time, the class would come together and share their research.
  • The Teacher would then help the class logically assemble their research into the desired format for whichever form of presentation was decided upon.
  • The class would then reflect upon what they learned either orally or written. They may choose to use the following sentence starter: You can avoid plagiarism by…

Assessments for Learning

  • Students will use their class generated tip lists for paraphrasing and citing sources.
  • Students will refer to their unit rubric which they helped create at the beginning of the unit.

Accommodations/Special Needs:

  • Provide research material from a variety of media, (books, magazines, videos, interactive online resources, etc.) and reading levels.
  • Offer students a variety of opportunities to express themselves, whole class discussions, small group, partner work, writing, speaking, acting.
  • Take note of children who have misconceptions, (example: thinks putting something in their own words means changing the meaning of the information), and address these misconceptions immediately.
  • Any other accommodations necessary based on the needs of the students in the class.

Resources / Materials

  • Piece of published student work
  • Projector and internet access for BrainPop videos
  • Plagiarism Scenarios, like the one pictured below
  • Plant / Animal resources of various types and reading levels


Google Docs Research Tool

Library of Congress Classification - Reading Room
I discovered google doc’s research tool by accident but am I ever glad I did.

This powerful tool allows you to search for related webpages, scholarly articles, images and quotes without leaving your google document. You can also insert citations and links with the click of a button.

Even more impressively, it allows you to use advanced image search options to filter the images it finds for ones that are free to use and share. And, if you’re using google presentations, you can search for, preview and directly embed YouTube videos all while staying in your presentation.

The ease and convenience of Google’s tools gets better and better, and the research tool is a perfect example.


YouTube Video Editor Review

I learned about YouTube Video Editor when I attended the Google Apps for Education Summit – Tokyo in February. Jim Sill ran some great workshops, including one about using YouTube in the Classroom.

I’ve experimented with online video editors before this. I used jaycut before it went belly up and enjoyed the idea of instantly uploading the photos and videos I took on my phone into my google picasa account (like I said, this was a few years ago), and then manipulating them directly online. No downloading of software or media, no cords to fumble with. Needless to say, the technology wasn’t quite there, and neither was I as a video editor.

I had the opportunity to experiment a bit with the YouTube Video Editor at the Flat Classroom Conference held at YIS and eventually built up to making a couple videos by the end of the school year.

Video using only stills.

Video and stills combined.

I just wanted to share some pros and cons I’ve found using the YouTube Editor. It is now my go-to editor for making quality photo slide shows or combined photo / video creations.

YouTube Video Editor Pros YouTube Video Editor Cons
  • an unlimited number of creative commons videos for you to search through use, edit, remix, etc. (very easy and efficient search function to filter cc videos)
  • endless access to creative commons music to pop into your videos (they have made improvements here. You can now add multiple songs)
  • (At this point I was sold – these first two pros are enough to make YouTube Video Editor a dream come true.)
  • easy access and transfer of photos you have uploaded on google+
  • access to any videos you already have uploaded to your YouTube account
  • drag and drop everything (photos, videos, music, transitions, etc.)
  • very simple functions (adding effects, text, etc.)
  • direct upload to YouTube account when finished
  • they are continually improving the service
  • it doesn’t look like you can shorten music clips
  • although you can add multiple songs, they don’t overlap, so transitions music transitions can be choppy.
  • the functions are very basic
  • the biggest con is this: because it’s online, it needs to refresh when you make changes, so if you’re editing something near the end of your video, it will constantly jump to the beginnings. This becomes very frustrating. (But, like I said, they are constantly improving the service, and when I made a classroom video today, Sept. 1,  I noticed a positive difference from the last video I made at the end of July.)

This is the video I made in July. It’s a book trailer for a course in Librarianship I took over the summer. It is made exclusively using video clips and music from YouTube’s Creative Commons library.

And this is the video I made today. The first one of the new school year.


Building an Online Community of Readers

I was looking for a new and interesting way for my students to keep track of what they read. I also wanted a way for us to share with each other and talk about books as a classroom community. I turned to my good friend the internet to help find a book sharing site appropriate for second graders.

I already knew about GoodReads and LibraryThing and did not find them suitable for students as young as mine, for various reasons including layout, privacy, and other settings.

I did choose to use GoodReads to generate a list of books we read aloud in class that I’ve embedded into my classroom blog as a widget. This will inform parents which books we have read in class.

Click here for an online tutorial on how to embed a Custom Goodreads Widget into your blog.

I did a google search for book-related social networks for kids and found two sites that looked promising. I checked out Biblionasium first and was immediately impressed with the layout of the site and it’s function to get kids reading and keeping track of what they read and want to read. I did, however, have some apprehensions about the site’s focus on reading levels and rewards. I got into it anyway and set up a class and went ahead and enrolled my students with usernames and passwords. I then created a fake student for me to try out, thinking that maybe I could turn off settings that I didn’t like.

As a student I enjoyed setting up my avatar and searching for books, until I realised that the site’s database didn’t include many of the new books I purchased for my class in May. These are the books my students are currently reading. I did like filling out the easy reading log function and I loved that I could recommend a book to my classmates and my teacher. But I hated that I received badges as rewards for everything, like agreeing to the site’s code of conduct and completing my first reading log. I want my students to read because they love it, not because they get a virtual reward every time they do.

I decided that the rewards plus the lack of depth in their catalogue outweighed any positives and abandoned this site and proceeded to completely glaze over this similar one.

I was about to give up hope and submit to the old paper reading log but luckily did one last search and found this article that reminded me of Shelfari.

New Shelfari account screenshot

New Shelfari account screenshot

I did another quick google search to find out about using Shelfari with kids and found some good tips in a review from Common Sense Media advising to use privacy settings, and this great blog post from a first grade team that used Shelfari as a class and their students were inspired to have their own ‘shelves’ using personal accounts.

Shelfari’s downfall is that each user must log in with their Amazon account. This means setting up an Amazon account for each student using a unique email and password.

I decided to check out Shelfari anyway and created an account paying close attention to the privacy settings. I then began adding my classroom books to my ‘shelf’. Because it uses Amazon’s catalogue of books, it has practically every book under the sun, including any new books I buy as well as old classroom favorites.

I then went on to create a group for my class and added a couple of books we have read aloud to that shelf.

After all my searching and trial and error, I have decided that this school year I will try to use Shelfari in my classroom. I plan to begin using it as a whole class and then if students seem interested, I will see how to make it possible for them to have their own accounts.

It seems like a great way to introduce students to using Social Media safely and responsibly at an early age. Teaching students about privacy settings and exposing them to appropriate online interactions at an early age will make sure they have some knowledge before they venture off on their own into the world of Facebook and the like.

But most importantly, I would like my students to get excited about books and reading. Maybe Shelfari can help. We’ll see.

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Custom Widgets Tutorial – Goodreads

I embedded a custom GoodReads widget on my blog and wanted to share how to do it.

(These steps are transferable and may also work for other custom widgets.)

FIrst I went to my GoodReads account homepage and clicked on ‘My Books’.

Custom Widget Tutorial #1

In ‘My Books’, check out the menu on the left-hand side.

Custom Widget Tutorial #2

Find and click on ‘Widgets’.
Custom Widget Tutorial #3

If you scroll down, you will see several widget options. You’ll most likely want to create a ‘Custom Widget’, that will look something like what’s in the red box below.
Custom Widget Tutorial #4

You can change the appearance of the widget to meet your purpose and liking using the options under the heading ‘Customize Your Widget’.

You have several options to choose from and can decide which category of books are displayed, what information about those books you’d like displayed, how many books, and in what order. You can even select a title for your widget box.
Custom Widget Tutorial #5

You can preview all the changes you make by clicking ‘Save Changes’. Play around with the settings to get exactly the look you want. You can make changes, click save, see what it looks like and continue by making further changes or changing back based on what you see and like.
Custom Widget Tutorial #6.5 (1)
By clicking on ‘Customize Style’, you can make aesthetic changes to the widget.
Custom Widget Tutorial #6

This is where you would play around with size and placement of text, book covers, and the widget itself. You can also choose to alter the border and the colour of your widget background and text. Again, click ‘Save Changes’ to preview what it will look like.
Custom Widget Tutorial #7

When you think you could be satisfied with what you have and are ready to test it out on your blog, grab the code from the HTML box by copying it. (Highlight the full text and “Command C”.)
Custom Widget Tutorial #8

Don’t close the GoodReads custom widget window, because if you don’t like the look or fit when you copy it into your blog, you’ll want to go back again and try some different settings. Just open your blog’s dashboard in a new window or tab.

On your blog’s editing menu click on the Appearance tab. Find and click on ‘Widgets’.
Custom Widget Tutorial #9

Your widgets page should look something like this:
Custom Widget Tutorial #10

You’ll want to find the ‘Text’ Widget.
Custom Widget Tutorial #11

Decide which sidebar you want your widget in and click on the arrow to open it up. Drag the text widget into the desired sidebar.
Custom Widget Tutorial #12

Once it’s there the Widget should open a text box. If it doesn’t automatically, click on the little arrow on the right hand side and the widget should expand to show a box for you to paste the code into.
Custom Widget Tutorial #13

Paste the copied code into the HTML text box in your Text Widget. (“Command P”), and click ‘Save’.
Custom Widget Tutorial #14

You are new ready to open your blog and check out your widget. Remember not to close your blog dashboard or your GoodReads. You may still want to make changes, so open your blog’s main page in a new window or tab.
Custom Widget Tutorial #15

If you like the look and size of your widget, you are done!

If your Widget is too big and part of it is cut off or if it’s too small and looks smooshed or silly, go back to your widget’s page and take a look at the code you pasted in your text box.
Custom Widget Tutorial #16

You can change the size by looking for *customize your Goodreads widget container here*. Underneath, there should be the word ‘width‘ and a number followed by px.

The number is the key to adjusting the size of your widget. If your widget is too narrow, make the number bigger. If the widget is too wide, make the number smaller.For example. My widget was originally too narrow. It’s width was 200px. I experimented and changed it to 250px. It looked better, but I thought I could go a little wider, so I tried 260px but it was too wide, so I stuck with 250. should open I wanted to try adding a custom widget to my classroom blog that would display the books we’ve read aloud in class.

I hope this tutorial was helpful in outlining how to make a custom GoodReads widget. 

A couple things that helped me when I was embedding my widget were the GoodReads help page and the WordPress help page.



Tech Goals for 2013-2014

After two COETAIL courses, I felt it was time to come up with some tech goals for myself and my students for the upcoming school year.

This is what I’ve come up with:

Tech Goals for Me Tech Goals for my students
  • Intro laptops early
  • Have a central location for online resources accessible to parents and students
  • Survey parents about easiest way to contact them and share information
  • Have a consistent blogging schedule (once a week or 10 minutes at the end of the school day.)
  • Make blog posts useful to myself / parents
  • Educate parents about blog posts and the kind of information they can find there
  • Give students plenty of opportunities to click around and explore
  • Set up a class Google Drive where students can store their work in a central location to make it easier for them and myself
  • Know how to treat hardware (laptops)
  • Know basic vocabulary (click / double click / online / desktop / etc.)
  • Know basic search skills to find answers to questions
  • Know the difference between storing something online (accessible from anywhere) vs. storing something in one place (desktop / USB stick, etc.)
  • Feel comfortable knowing when and how to use the laptop
  • Feel comfortable exploring new applications / websites
  • Feel comfortable asking each other for help when stuck / unsure

What I realized after last school year is that I kind of expect students to just know how to use the laptops and navigate applications, web browsers and sites. Some students had prior knowledge in managing macbooks, but others had no clue.

My plan is to take my time introducing the macbooks to the students, and combine direct instruction with time to play and experiment. The students will hopefully gain confidence in taking risks and solving problems when faced with technology.

Looking forward to authentic use of technology in my classroom this year.