Liquid Learning: Cool Word Vocabulary

Students are always eager to get hands-on training in how to use new tools. In this exercise, I was inspired by the “Cool Word Vocabulary” activity published by Tech4Learning to create an opportunity to use the company’s software, Pixie, with my 2nd grade students. I love using Pixie with my students (see, for example, biography research, how-to tutorials, and states research) as it allows them to be creative while also exploring the features of a great digital tool.

Using an organizer, students each chose a word from their current spelling lists and wrote a sentence or two using the word in context.


In Pixie, students searched the copyright-friendly images available from Pics4Learning for images that represented the meaning of their chosen word. In some instances, this required them to think more broadly. For example, one student’s word was “stirrup”. Since there were no pictures of a stirrup, he had to think of other pictures that represent the meaning of the word and settled on “horse”.


Before students began working in Pixie, I modeled the steps and showed them an example. I also gave them the step-by-step instructions in writing. Most students did very well working independently to create their cool word vocabulary words.


As Pixie was new to this group, they really enjoyed playing with some of the software’s creative features, including the paint can tool. Some of the background students created were quite amazing. The finished products were exported as image (.jpeg) files. In sum, this exercise expanded both traditional and digital literacies. Liquid Literacy at work!  And we had fun.

Morgan's Cool Word




Expressing Emotions With Sensory Poems

My 2nd grade students celebrated National Poetry Month by showing off their poetry writing skills. I already wrote about their Haiku Passover poetry using the BookCreator app. This week, they finished sensory poems using the Haiku Deck app for iPad.

We began by talking about the five senses, reading some examples of sensory poems, and discussing their format (consists of six lines, emotion is stated in the first line and described by a color, uses lots of adjectives). We then brainstormed a long list of emotions and chose the word “surprised” to write a sensory poem together. When it was the students’ turn, they each used a template for drafting.

Template- My Sensory Poem

My Grade 2 students LOVE to write. They used lots of great adjectives and metaphors in their poems. While I don’t expect perfect spelling, I wanted to at least encourage the students to check the spelling of those “harder” words they used. So before moving on to the final phase, the students used dictionaries to look up words they themselves had identified as possibly misspelled.


To create a final product, I chose Haiku Deck for iPad. Not only is this app very user-friendly, but it also provides access to high-resolution, Creative Commons licensed photographs–the perfect match for our sensory poems!


I showed the students a couple of examples I had created and then very briefly demonstrated the steps to find an image (we searched by our chosen color), to select the best text layout for our purposes, and then to share the final product.

In all, we spent two 40-minute lessons writing and creating our sensory poems. The students are incredible writers–but their products speak for themselves!

Sophias Poem-1


[Slides created with Haiku Deck app for iPad. Lavender image by Scott 1346 CC. Yellow image by EssjayNZ CC-NC-SA. Green image by Preneur d’Image CC. Light green image by sodaro,k CC-NC.]



Passover Haiku Poetry

My 2nd grade students wrote and illustrated Haiku poems! In celebration of National Poetry Month, I chose to expose my students to Haiku poetry–mainly to reinforce syllabication with words. We recently created I SPY riddles, which are written in a 4-beats per line rhythm, requiring parsing of words into syllables. As some students found this difficult, writing Haiku poems seemed the perfect reinforcement activity. While traditional Haiku is about nature, I’ve changed our topic up a little bit. Since I teach at a Jewish day school and Passover is right around the corner, I wanted my students to write Haiku poems about Passover.

Introduction to Haiku

We began by reading lots of examples and counting the syllables in each line (traditional Haiku consist of 17 syllables–five in the first line, seven in the second line, and again five in the third line, are non-rhyming, and written in the present tense). Using the topic “Spring” as a whole group activity, we brainstormed any related words and recorded them in a web organizer. My original plan was to then write a Spring Haiku together, but the students were eager to get started and work on their Passover poems. So we did.

Creating Passover Haiku Poems

Armed with a graphic organizer, the students began brainstorming and then drafting their poems. They did a wonderful job incorporating everything they have learned about Passover in their Jewish Studies classes.

Template- Haiku

The next lesson, we used the BookCreator app for iPad to type the poems and draw an image to illustrate them.


Check out some of their beautiful creations!




I SPY: “The Project That Keeps on Giving”


“This project just keeps on giving” was my colleague’s, Arlene Yegelwel, comment on the second blog post about our 2nd grade students’ I SPY project. Arlene is right! After working hard on creating our class I SPY book and then on perfecting our interviewing skills as a means of project reflection, we enjoyed a fabulous virtual visit with Jean Marzollo, author of the I SPY book series, today. It was Jean’s challenge that inspired our own class book and resulted in about 20 minutes of insights and learning from the author herself.



As new experts in the process of creating an I SPY book, our students were especially curious about Ms. Marzollo’s process. They wanted to know how she finds the items for her collages (turns out most are selected by the I SPY photographer, Walter Wick), how she creates the rhymes (as this was not always easy for our kids), and why she chose a 4-beat rhythm for her riddles (we did a lot of clapping to practice). Lots of great questions!


Notice the last question about advice for improvement of our class book. No, Jean did not have any advice for us–instead she praised our book, describing it as “the best one yet”, and telling the kids that they “deserve a blue ribbon” for their work. And she asked if she could feature our work on her website.
The second grade students, their teachers, and I are both thrilled and honored. Thank you, Jean Marzollo, for inspiring us and visiting with us!

Hands On! Interviews for Peer-to-Peer Reflection

At our school, we talk a lot about “reflecting” as a means of self-assessment and thinking more deeply about learning.  Faculty write weekly reflections on our faculty Ning and our students write on their blogfolios. So in order to provide our 2nd grade students with a form of reflection after the completion of their I SPY class book, I decided to have them interview each other.

We first talked about the concept of an interview: What is it? What is it’s purpose? Rather than just letting them loose, I felt it important to provide students with some potential interview questions. So we brainstormed:


The students were paired up, provided with an iPad and a printout of the questions, and instructed to take turns interviewing each other–where the interviewer was also the videographer. The only requirement was to ask at least three of the brainstormed questions.


The interviews turned out great. Definitely listen to the kids reflecting on their learning: