Internet Woes

Webcams, one of my to go to tools for teaching grammar and writing to my 1st graders.  I have spent hours searching the internet, clicking on countless links, sorting through the good, the bad and the ugly, finding the perfect site for the perfect lesson for the intended skill.

The year starts with very few of the children being able to write a sentence.  We start small with three word sentences both for reading and writing.  Over a period of time they add words to their “Words I Know” dictionaries.  They grow and their sentences grow.

By December they are ready for their first webcam writing experience.  And off we go, spying on the world, for real time writing.

Our first stop is Aspen, Colorado to watch the skiers at the Aspen Mountain Gondola on the user controlled webcam.  Everyone has paper and pencil as they watch the gondola go up and the skiers come down the mountain.  They write down what they see and after about 10 minutes everyone has seen enough action (we just learned about verbs) to write and illustrate at least a three sentence story.

In January when we learn about sentence order we visit the JH Whitewater Boathouse. It becomes a snowmobiling office in the winter.  It’s perfect.  It has a 30 second refresh. You can see Steve (yes, I called and ask who was starring the day we watched) move from activity to activity.  The day someone came in to book a tour and money was exchanged was pleasant surprise and a big hit with the children.

The snow comes, the lifts open, and its showtime! As it turned out it was “no show.” I start checking the cam as soon as I hear it has started to snow in Jackson Hole.  No one is in the boathouse this winter booking tours even though there are snowmobiles going in and out of the parking lot (I kept watch when I was there Christmas) to begin said snowmobile tours.  So back to the search engine for this one.

On to the next assignment, adjectives.  I always start by saying in 1st grade terms that nouns are things you can draw and adjectives tell you how to draw them.  Eventually we get to the point where we can watch Jason’s Fishcam.  Once again with paper and pencil in hand they look for what they can draw and beside it list the size, shape, color, how many or what kind.  They always love the alligator that you can open and close its mouth. Time to check to make sure every thing is working for the next day’s lesson.

Oh, Jason, what have you done?  Retired the gator?  Moved the tank?  What happened to the red fish, the two yellow fish, the rough fish cave, the big alligator mouth, and all of the other things I need for my lesson?  Time to go fishing on the internet to see if I can find a Fishcam clone.

The good news, after two disappointments, is that I know my lesson to go along with our reading story “Foal” will go as planned.  Mystic Rock Minis will be there for us.  We may or may not see a foal born, we will definitely become attached and they’ll want to take up a collection to buy it as our next class pet.  Instead, with a little sadness, we’ll write the first born 2011 Mystic Rock Mini foal letters describing what it would get to do if it came to live with us.  We’ll add some math to this lesson as we compare a standard foal with a miniature foal which is about the same size as Felicity’s, an American Girl Doll, horse.

Before the year is out we’ll check on the Bald Eagle cam, Lily and Hope cam, discover some new cams and we might even give the JH Whitewater Boathouse cam another try.

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