Friday, March 29, 2013

VersaTiles Review and Giveaway

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 ETA hand2mind VersaTiles Science Starter Kit

I was first introduced to VersaTiles several years ago when one of our math teachers used them for after school math tutoring. I always thought that they were used only for math, but I recently discovered that they also have resources for science, readiness, and reading/language arts!

VersaTiles takes worksheets to he next level by requiring students to place number tiles on a corresponding letter that matches their answer. When all of the tiles have been placed, the students closes the answer case, flips it, and opens it back up. If the pattern matches the one at the bottom of the worksheet, the students has successfully answered all of the questions correctly. If the pattern does not match, the students can easily find their mistakes and make corrections.

I chose the Science Starter Kit because I have a hard time fitting in extra science activities. All of the workbooks have activities that fit perfectly with our scope and sequence.  My students have done activities relating to weather, the moon, and plants.  They are great for independent work or small groups.
The Science Starter Kit include a Teacher Resource Guide, 2 Science Process Skills,  Earth Science, Physical Science , and Life Science books. It also includes one answer case.

Students can work independently once they learn how to use VersaTiles. 

VersaTiles are engaging and challenging.
Students can self-check their work and make corrections. 
And now for the giveaway...
Win a VersaTiles Science Starter Kit!
Giveaway ends Sunday April 7th

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The Benefits of Author Visits

My school has had the pleasure of hosting three author visits this year. One was an all day in-person presentation by Susan Stevens Crummel and Janet Stevens. The other two were 30 minute sessions via Skype or Google Hangouts. Bringing authors to school, in-person and virtually, has many benefits to both students and teachers:
  1. We are able to see that authors are real people. 
  2. We become personally connected to the author and their publications.
  3. We gain an appreciation for the hard work and effort required to be a writer.
  4. We are inspired and motivated to be better writers.
In-Person Author Visits
In-person author visits can be very expensive, but worth every penny. Generally, they will charge a flat fee for the day plus traveling expenses.  A way to cut costs is to find local authors who do not need to travel very far.  Another way to help fund the visits is to apply for grants. Our author visit was funded by Target Grants for Arts, Culture, and Design. The $2,000 grant did not completely cover the cost of having both authors visit, but my principal was more than happy to pay the difference. 
Author visits create a personal connection

The artwork created during the visit will be a permanent reminder to our school of the special day.

Student participation inspires and motivates.
Virtual Author Visits
A less costly way to bring authors to your school is through video conferencing. A lot of authors will do a 20-30 session free of charge or for a nominal fee.  Author Kate Messner has created a fantastic list of Authors Who Skype with Classes. Other resources include The Skype Author Network and Skype in the Classroom.

Because I am so active on Twitter, both of our virtual author visits were a result of Twitter Chats.  Erin Dealey popped in on #2ndchat one Wednesday night looking for classrooms to work with on World Read Aloud Day. On another Wednesday night, Dave Roman was a guest on #sharpschu book chat. I simply asked him if he would mind kicking off our 4th grade writing camp, and he said YES!

Skype and Google Hangouts are popular tools to use for video conferencing. Google Hangouts allows screen sharing so the author can show images during the presentation. Premium Skype also has a screen sharing option.

Erin Dealey shares her writing process with 2nd graders

Of course, the 2nd graders loved that she wrote a book called Potty Time!

Students are able to ask questions and talk with the author.

Dave Roman was a hit with the 4th graders. His work on Nickelodeon Magazine, and the Last Airbender and X-Men: Misfits graphic novels got lots of "oohs" and "ahhs".

A Successful Author Visit
In order to get the most out of an author visit, it is a good idea to prepare your students ahead of time by familiarizing them with the work of the author. Before Susan Stevens Crummel and Janet Stevens came, we did a library display of their books and encouraged the students to check them out. The teachers also used the books for classroom read alouds.  Our library does not have books by Erin Dealey or Dave Roman, so we got classroom copies ahead of time to read to the students.

If an author comes in person, they are able to sign books that the students purchase in advance.  For virtual visits, we did pre-orders of the books and gave the students a signed bookmark to go with it.  Selling books is a nice way to thank the author - especially if they have presented free of charge. Most authors have information on their websites about book orders.

Author visits are the perfect supplement to your reading program. The possibilities are endless!

Photo Credits: 
Penny Haight, Ginny Limer, Louise Morgan