Sunday, September 24, 2017

The school year has begun; is it too noisy in your room?

Welcome back!  Did your summer go by as quickly as mine?  But, I have to admit, I felt ready, rested and excited to begin again.  But, I have to admit.  This is a CHATTY class.  Most of the issue is that I looped with this class, and I have used all of my tricks.  But, I have just discovered a new app.  Sometimes, the class is just too loud, but sometimes, I am just overly sensitive to the noise.  The "too-noisy app" is a perfect tool.  It is $3.99, but it is a perfect tool now that Silent Light has gone away.  You set the noise level, and the time limit.  The kids have to keep the noise level at a certain level to earn points.  I plug the iPad into the projector, and the kids can see the points they earn and lose.  It is helping my sanity--and the kids love it.  Click here for more information.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Are you starting to drag...sing about it.

Hi all!

I know for some of you, you are ending your school year.  Packing it up.  Heading out into the sunset. Some of us have snow days to make up and will be in school long into June.  After testing, it can be hard to get kids to be engaged.  So, here is a great idea.  Create song parodies!  All you need are the lyrics, a karaoke track, and an iPad.

I love using parodies, because I have the students review things they have already learned.  In groups of three or four, they get to choose the popular song to change the words to.  Together as a class we pick different topics, and each team gets to choose a different topic.  We then get to discuss rhyme schemes, patterning, and syllabification. I model and provide guided practice by writing a song myself.  In no time flat, you have kids discussing syllables, and what content to include, and how to find rhyming words.  All you are doing is helping manage.

Once the song is complete, allow them to use a movie making app to create a music video.  They may want to do a stop motion video, or a live action music video, or they just might want to use images and video from discovery streaming.  But here is the tip...

Record the music separately from the video.  It is too difficult to record good audio with kids making a video.  Record them singing using garageband or a similar app.  And then record the video.  Move the video into iMovie (or a similar movie making app) and turn the audio off.  Then bring in the song from Garageband.

And there you have it!   A song that reviews content, teaches important literacy skills, and a 21st century project made with a lot of student choice.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Another fun way to practice vocabulary...

Hey all!

I am sure you have heard of QUIZLET.  The wonderful flashcard review website.  Well, they now have a "live" feature.  It allows you to create a game from those vocabulary flash cards.  The first innovative thing about this game is that it is done collaboratively between 3-4 people.  On your team, everyone sees one side of the card, but only one person on the team has the answer.  So they have to discuss and share to get the correct answer.  And just to be sure students aren't just randomly clicking, if they get an incorrect answer, they go back to the beginning.

As the teacher, I can observe which teams are moving quickly, which teams are struggling, and which teams keep missing answers.  It gives me a lot of good data, while the kids are having a blast.  Try it out!  There are lots of vocabulary sets already made, but it is also very easy to make them yourselves.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Want to improve your students' writing? Go Google.

Hi all!

Well it is almost spring break.  Here is a little tip to look into while you are resting on the beach, or skiing the slopes, or watching Netflix on the couch.  I don't know about you, but trying to constantly conference with my students about their writing is overwhelming.  I have discovered a trick.  I wish I knew where I first heard of the idea, but it changed writing time for me forever.

When your children are writing, have them write in google docs.  They should set the document up to share with you right away, right when they set up their document.  Then from that moment forward, you can comment on their writing as they type their stories.  You can conference during class, but you can also conference during your down time or prep time.  And, I find the students love coming to writing to see if their teacher has left any comments on their writing.

For example, right now, we are working on our student autobiographies.  We decided to do it in google slides, so that it will print and look like a real book, but could also easily be turned into a movie.  Here is a screen shot of my student's writing, and my comments.  She has already started editing based on my comments below her slide.  It's easy and powerful.  Give it a try!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Mini-Golf, Math, and Me

So, I have continued my robotics/coding journey.  It just keeps getting better and better.  The kids are really starting to understand the language of coding.  And, it has been amazing to see who has stepped into the expert texspert role.  It is not the usual student leaders.  I have found that coding is a leveled playing field.  Some kids that are gifted at school are not gifted with this required "thinking outside the box."  I have also watched gifted students struggle with perseverance issues.  Since they have not had to work hard at school, they do not have their grit muscle strength like some students that have to persevere every day.  Fascinating to watch.

It has also forced students to really understand angles.  To give correct instructions, the students have to inform the robot at what angle it should travel.  A lot of discussion, trial, and error have brought a greater depth of understanding than any curricular math lesson.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Coding and Kids

I did it.  I made the leap into robotics.  I was terrified to fail.  I kept putting it off-finding reasons that I couldn't make it work right now. But, the kids asked about when the robots were coming.  So, I jumped.  And I regret nothing.

I do not know how program or code.  At all.  But, the good thing is that and sphero and other coding groups know this.  They have your back.  They have created lesson walkthroughs for the teacher, or you can just show the tutorials to the students and have them follow along.  I relied on that and the fearlessness of my students.  We had a blast as learners together.

Ok.  I am sure you know about the Hour of Code.  And I am sure some of you are on the bandwagon. But, I have an idea that some of you hear it and think--not one more thing.   I can't do one more thing. And I hear that.  I am a classroom teacher, but I promise once you try it, it will remind you why you became a teacher.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Do you Kahoot??

Ok, so this may be old hat to some of you early adopters out there, but Kahoot has added such a fun element to my classroom.  It is an educational version of adult pub trivia.  The students are asked a question--and need to answer that question in a hurry.  The faster they answer, the more points they get, but to get any points, the answer must be correct.  My students love it so much, they even chose Kahoot for a class party.
One great thing about Kahoot, is that there are zillions already made by other amazing educators.  For example, my district uses Wonders as their reading adoption.  Some amazing teachers have every grade level's weekly vocabulary already created.  Done and done.  But, it is also super easy to make your own. 
My favorite way to use it is in Team Mode.  I have the students work in pairs.  I love that it gives them time to chat before they answer.  And then, they have someone to high five.  Just be prepared, your classroom is going to become a noisy excited place!

Thursday, February 16, 2017


Our students need to learn a little perseverance.  And so do we.  As a teacher trainer as well as a classroom teacher, I find that teachers want to give up when they hit tech roadblocks--or they assume technology just isn't for them.

The first thing I say to them is that you will hit roadblocks.  We all hit roadblocks.  Even those of us that play on computers for fun.  The amazing modeling point for students is that we as teachers show we have grit as well.  We celebrate our failures and use them for learning.  I love to show this Disney video clip to my students, but I watch it myself from time to time when I have hit a particularly frustrating spot in my own journey.   Keep Moving Forward!!!

Why teach coding or programming?

So, if you are anything like me, you are overwhelmed.  The different ability levels in your classroom, the demands of testing, even the sheer number of students can make adding one more thing put a teacher over the edge.  But here is a secret...teaching programming is fun AND it hits quite a few standards of the common core.  Here, I will prove it.

  1. It is fun and exciting!  We need more of that!
  2. It teaches important future ready skills such as:   
    1. Problem Analysis/Solving
    2. Logic
    3. Growth-Mindset
    4. Experimentation/Creation
    5. Team Work
    6. Communication
  3. It is a leveler--you don’t have to be “gifted” to be a gifted coder
  4. It could lead to an amazing job for students in the future.  Check out this inforgraphic.

How long has it been since you have Hopscotched?

The Hour Of Code (presented by has taken the world of education by storm.  But, there is a free app, that allows your students to take block programming to whatever level they are able.  It is a natural differentiator, which as teachers, we desperately need.  Hopscotch is also does not require a lot of reading, so it allows normally struggling students really shine.

It is also highly engaging.  I had several students, on their own time over a weekend, work together to create Pong.  Yes, that pong. The world-rocking video game of our youth.  10 year olds figured out how to block code it in two days.

The most amazing part about it is that as a teacher you do NOT need to know how to program or code.  The tutorials are built in---and students naturally start to figure things out.  They become the leaders of the classroom, while you get to sit back and learn from them.

Want to learn more about the FREE app?  Check out the Hopscotch Tutorials.

Hello fellow friends and followers,

So, I took quite a break from my blog.  Sometimes life gets in the way.  And am important lesson shows up--one that teaches about life balance.  I have been on that journey.  I have also felt in the past that I needed to do a dog a pony show for each blog entry, and that's a lot of pressure.  So, in being forced to look and prioritize, I have learned that teachers don't always want some huge new project.  Sometimes, they just need tips and tricks.  So, I am removing that pressure and sharing some tips and tricks--along with any major projects I do with my students.  I hope my successes and failures help you in your journey to technology integration.

Much love,