Math and More!

banner-1183443_960_720This week I am focusing on sharing some great math sites and articles since that appears to be the subject of all but one of my open tabs.

It started with an email from PBS Learning Media (you know I love that site) about some fun math videos like this one, “I❤ Math”. Of course I cannot stop at just one click so I looked at some of PBS Learning Media’s other math offerings and found their Math Club which is geared towards 6th -9th grade math and aligns with Common Core Standards. They even have InstaCram sessions– 15 second videos for 4th -9th grade students on various math topics like integers and the commutative property.

I love the articles from KQED News and this one on making math more emotionally engaging for students is excellent as it talks about reducing math anxiety, having students work collaboratively, and showing math’s usefulness to students’ lives. This article referenced, Annenberg’s resource site and what a find that was! When I visited Learner.Org I found it is the Annenberg Learner site with resources, lesson plans, videos, professional development offerings from kindergarten through college, the arts, foreign language, and all other core subjects including literature. It is a site worth spending some time browsing.

Math anxiety also came up in this article, “Fluency Without Fear” which highlights the importance of understanding and number sense over memorization and timed tests.

Math anxiety has now been recorded in students as young as 5 years old (Ramirez, et al, 2013) and timed tests are a major cause of this debilitating, often life-long condition. But there is a second equally important reason that timed tests should not be used – they prompt many students to turn away from mathematics.

Marilyn Burns discusses number sense and shows its importance in this one hour EdWeek webinar, Developing Students’ Numerical Understanding and Skill.

If you have been reading my blog, you know I often reference Alice Keeler as she does amazing work with Google apps, add ons, and scripts. This week I am sharing her Upgrade the Worksheet: Place Value and her Math Puzzles, Get Students Thinking posts. Both offer fun, authentic upgrades to traditional worksheets and Keeler supplies the templates for you to then use/modify for your class. Since Keeler often references Depth of Knowledge in her posts, I am including a link here to downloadable DOK charts for the content areas as well as a link to her post on DOK conversations she has been having with teachers via #DOKchat.

While searching around for some math games for one of my third grade colleagues, I came across this jackpot of fun learning games for ALL subjects from the Arts to the Sciences, and ALL grades from elementary through high school. Bonus!

Lastly, another interesting article by KQED News, this time on the benefit that regular quizzing has on making information stick. The article references a psychology professor from my alma mater, Washington University. Professor Roediger is “obsessed” with memory, particularly how and why people remember things.

“Roediger said, ‘We don’t get information into memory just to have it sit there. We get it in to be able to use it later. … And the actual act of retrieving the information over and over, that’s what makes it retrievable when you need it.'” ~Freemark

Image from Pixabay

Read, Snap, Doodle, Share, Repeat

Sometimes I read something and I immediately want to share it. This morning while looking through my Twitter feed I saw several posts with the hashtag #booksnap. Since I had never seen that before and certainly had no idea what it was, I clicked on it. I scrolled through several tweets with pictures from pages of books that were written on, drawn on, and typed on until I found one that had a link to what this was all about.

#Booksnaps are a perfect blend of what teachers want students to do with books- read, engage, connect, find meaning- and what many students love to do- take and share pics via snapchat.


When ideas and related concepts can be encapsulated in an image, the brain remembers the information associated with that image. ~Katrina Schwartz, Mineshift KQED

Part of what makes this such an exciting idea, is that the snapchat app allows users to add fun doodles, emojis, and stickers to the pics they snap. Sketchnoting and doodling are great ways to help move information to long-term memory. When your students (or your colleagues) find text they want to snap, they can add their own text, drawings, doodles, arrows, or stickers on top of it making their own mini sketchnote of the idea and thereby making it meaningful and memorable. A #winwin for everyone!




His Story, Her Story, Their Story, Our Story

11627048594I have had two tabs open in my browser for the last rotation and a half. Since my school is on a 7-day rotation, with each day being a letter of our school name,  that means this tab has been open since the previous P day. Today is E day. That is a long time to keep something hanging around but these two tabs are worth it and here is why.

The first is a blog post from the Cult of Pedagogy that got me from the title, Best PD Ever: The Gilder Lehrman Teacher Seminars. At the time that I first saw this post, I was researching effective PD (which I then shared here) so of course I was going to open it up and read it. Gonzalez talked about a series of teacher seminars that immerse the teacher learners in the specific history experience during one week residential seminars. Depending on your area of study, this could be Mount Vernon for the George Washington experience, New York City for the 9-11 experience, or Missoula, Montana for the Lewis and Clark experience.

I had not heard of Gilder Lehrman so I went to visit their site. I have still not left. It is a veritable treasure trove of learning from all eras of history from The Americas and American Indians,  exploration to the present.  You can explore by era or by themes across time. There is so much here for history teachers, history buffs, students, or anyone like me who just likes to learn. There are primary sources like letters from soldiers that you can listen to while reading along, or this letter from a slave to his mother, or this one from Abraham Lincoln to his wife. They also have Multimedia like this one about Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass that I coincidently heard about during Dave Chapelle’s opening monologue on SNL, where Abraham Lincoln asked Frederick Douglass what he thought of his inaugural speech (Douglass was not allowed in to the White House because the guards did not know him. Lincoln saw him and shouted, “Let him in, he’s that’s my friend Douglass,”), or these about the Thirteen Colonies. There are Interactive features, teacher resources, video series, and so much more. The site is free to sign up and use, many things viewable without logging in. For educators there are professional development opportunities, online programs, self-paced courses,  summer seminars, teacher resources, and that is just the beginning.

To have this amazing collection of resources at your fingertips is incredible. While this post may be short, it is packed with information that I encourage you to spend some time checking out and then passing along.

Epic Updates and a Day-long

27992885494_5fd46d6f0c_mThis week I have two epic updates to share that you will love!

First off, actual updates to Epic!, an amazing site I have posted about before.This week while on Twitter I saw this fantastic post by Sara Malchow which naturally piqued my interest since it is about reading and connecting with other classes.  As you might know, Epic! is a  FREE (for teachers and librarians), fantastic, browser-based site and app for books. It is “the Netflix of books” as they are known, and now with recent updates, as recent as last week, teachers can now create collections of books and then assign those collections to their students! Imagine the possibilities here: you have groups of students in your class researching various topics (as a group)- you can create a collection of books that they can read for information (or for fun), then assign that group the collection. You can differentiate based on interests, reading level, topic, etc. You can pull together collections of books for thematic units; the possibilities are nearly endless! Sara has created a collection of books and padlet activities for the month of November that you and your elementary classes can easily participate in. She has the primary and intermediate versions here that you can print out, hang in your classroom, and use a QR code scanner for the activities (or share with your students via Google Drive). This is a great way to read and connect with others around thematic and seasonal books.

Next is an epic update to Google forms. As you might recall, one of the things you can do with Google forms other than collect information, is create self-graded quizzes. While it used to be that you had to use only multiple choice, true/false, or drop-down questions, now you can assign point values to short or longer answer questions, grade them, and then return the graded quizzes to your students. Eric Curts’ post does a great job of explaining and showing exactly how to do this in a step-by-step fashion. Now you can get your students’ higher order thinking on- hooray!

Speaking of Google, it is just one month until the Google Education On Air online conference begins in the Americas with the keynotes starting at noon on December 3. Breakout sessions led in English and Spanish will go all day from 1:30PM until 7PM with sessions geared to teachers, leaders, IT professionals, and everyone. Themes range from hacking the classroom, using Google tools, empowering students, professional development and more. I am looking forward to hearing from Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis as they speak about HyperDocs at 5:00PM (Hyperdocs? Read my recent post). Of course there are many other exciting sessions that I will tune in to and will happily share my learning with you once it is all over.

Feeling like you want more? Check out the Shipley PLN Lower & Middle School Edition for great articles like this on how a happy school can lead to successful students and this on adding mindful pauses to your classroom to engage your students.

photo credit: Say It With A Camera Find My Epic via photopin (license)

Professional Development: Teach the Teachers As You Would Teach Your Students

I recently researched best practices and what works for professional development for a class I am taking. I wanted to find something that would be relevant to me useful in my current position. I read several articles, watched an archived session of a webinar, read a book, and watched a few videos all in the hopes of better understanding the best way to provide professional development.

I used Canva and Moovly to make visual representations of research articles I read so that I could begin to connect the dots. You can view the Moovly here.


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I realized that what works in providing professional development for teachers is a lot like what works when teaching your classroom of students.

Professional development has to be meaningful, engaging, aligned to learner’s needs, there needs to be choice, time for practice, and reflection.

Fred Ende in his book, Professional Development That Sticks: How Do I Create Meaningful Learning Experience for Educators? speaks of three phases of professional development for learning: Planning, Providing, and Following Up, and three ways to think about each phase: Think, Act, Review. When teaching a class of students, teachers need to decide on a purpose to guide the planning. The lesson should be based on the areas that students need support and this should be based on formative assessments and feedback. Similarly, when planning professional development for teachers, we want to find out what areas the teachers could use support and whenever possible, use feedback from other PD sessions to help guide the planning.

As part of planning the PD we also need to think about what will make the experience conducive to learning for the attendees and how will they best learn the material. When we are planning lessons for our students, we think about whole class vs. small group instruction, using multiple intelligences to engage all the learners’ strengths, how the learning space should be organized with respect the type of lesson, and using writing and reflecting to solidify understanding of the lesson and help move the information to long term memory. We need to do the same when planning out PD sessions.

Ende speaks of connecting with learners to understand their needs so that we can use that information to steer the direction of the session and adjust as needed. Similarly, when teaching our students, we connect, learn, and form relationships with them so that we can use what we know to plan lessons that will work for all our learners. Additionally, we gather formative assessments and check in for understanding while teaching so that we can be sure our students are learning the material.

As teachers we are constantly reflecting on a lesson, our students, what is working, and what we can do differently next time. The same holds true for effective professional development. As providers of PD, we need to reflect while planning, providing, and during follow-up so that we are not just forging ahead with our plans, but learning from our audience what works for them, what they found engaging and what they need so that the learning continues to be about them and their needs, not ours.

Whether we are teaching a classroom of students or a classroom of adults, the goal is the same- success of the learners, implementation of the material, and student achievement.

Get Hyper (Docs)


This week I feel like I hit the motherlode with what I found while scrolling through my Twitter feed and I am excited to share my find with you.

It all started with this intriguing title, “Forms + Hyper Docs, Putting the Form in Formative Assessment!” Of course I clicked on it because I was curious about HyperDocs and I like posts that offer ideas for formative assessment. This teacher loved using HyperDocs so much that she thought she would replicate the engagement and learning into a Hyper form so that she could see all the results in one place (a spreadsheet) and provide feedback, and students could get instant feedback and the ability to retake the quiz! Phew, that is a mouthful and most likely a run-on sentence. This is the Hyper Form she made for her third grade students to show their understanding and what they know about rounding numbers.

This same teacher linked to an earlier post about Hyper Docs so naturally I clicked on it to learn more. What I learned is that Hyper Docs is not a document with a lot of links in it, rather it is a series of lessons and engaging activities  within a doc that can allow students to work independently or in small groups, and the the teacher can coach, guide, and work with another group. If I had to analogize a Hyper Doc to something so you can get a frame of reference, I would say it is similar (kind of) to TES Blendspace in that everything you need for a lesson is in it but with Hyper Docs it is prettier and more inviting packaging.

As I scrolled along on that post I saw this Padlet of HyperDocs made by other teachers and saw this HyperDoc on the Holocaust for one of my middle school history teachers, this on the 2016 Election, this Interactive States doc, this on Dia de los Muertes for my Spanish-teaching colleagues this on Exploring Makey Makey.

Still wanting to learn more, and being a serial clicker, I went here next, HyperDocs Explained. One click led to another and I came to How to Create a HyperDoc  and this set of video tutorials, and then- wait for it- Teachers Give Teachers – searchable HyperDocs lessons from other teachers that are ready for you to use, adapt, remix, share! There is something here for every grade, every subject. I found this on PAX, one of the Global Read Aloud 2016 books, this on Ancient Greece, and this on Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. 

But don’t take my word for it, click for yourself!

Hop on the Feedback Train

This is a short week so it will be a short-ish share.

A couple weeks ago I shared a great Google add on for giving feedback to your students, Joe Zoo Express. Well last week they launched their new platform making it even easier for you and your students. They have a great YouTube channel of videos and tutorials that I encourage you to check out and subscribe to so you can get the most out of this tool. Here is the list of new and improved features that they sent in their announcement:

  • New Add-on Design – we’ve redesigned our add-on to improve its usability 
  • New JoeZoo App – to bypass some of the design and functionality limitations inside Google Apps, we’ve built JoeZoo App to house our new Rubric Builder and more great tools to come 
  • New Rubric Builder – it is now faster and easier to use and includes the following improvements: 
    • Customizable Grading Scale – you can now input NAME, IB or any other scale you’d like to use 
    • Fractional Grading – you can now give B+/- Weighted Points Scoring – you’ll be able to give points, as an alternative to %, when grading a doc 
    • Rubric Sharing – if your school or district installs JoeZoo, you’ll be able to instantly share rubrics with anyone 
  • Redesigned Feedback & Grading – we’ve redesigned both to reflect what you’ve told us:
    • Multiple Assessors – now multiple teachers and students can add feedback and grading to each doc
    • Feedback & Grading History – now all of the comments, messages and grades added to a doc are grouped by Date and can be scrolled in our add-on 
    • Self/Peer/Teacher Feedback – based on who assessed whom, we group and label their comments, messages and grades in our add-on 
  • Less Clicks – we’ve reduce the number of clicks to give feedback or grade by 75%, here’s how: 
    • No More Steps – we got rid of all those steps so you can add a comment, message or grade from 1 screen in 1 step 
    • No More Menus – to add a comment you simply search and save, no more menus to click through 
  • New Comment Features – here are the requested features we added: 
    • Point Scoring – you can now indicate if your comment is corrective or praise by give it a score between 1 – 5 points
    • Fix Tip Control – you now control when you want to show a “How to Fix” tip with your comments 
    • Resource Links – you can now add links to comments if you wish students to explore helpful resources 
  • New Monkey Checkers – if your school or district installs JoeZoo, you’ll get the following improvements: 
    • Teacher Monkey Checker – users with ‘educator’ accounts will get this version
    • Student Monkey Checker – users with ‘student’ accounts will get this version, perfect for Self Assessment
    • Multiple Uses per Doc – now you can use each Monkey Checker multiple times per doc 
  • Increased Student Privacy – we take privacy seriously and have made these improvements: 
    • No Personal Information – we will no longer ask for student Names or Gender during the set up of JoeZoo 
    • Deleting Personal Information – for existing students, we will be deleting any Names and Gender information they gave us when setting up JoeZoo 
    • JoeZoo Privacy Kit – we will be providing teachers and schools a kit that will include our new Privacy and Terms of Use policies and a Parental Consent Letter template 

While stepping in at the last minute to cover a 6th grade English class, I found The Teacher’s Corner. I was looking for daily writing prompts for middle school students and this one incorporates historical events and people in each day’s prompt. This link is for the month of October. While Teacher’s Corner’s prompts came up in my query for prompts for middle school, they could easily be tweaked for use in elementary classes as well.

I enjoy thoughtful articles that prompt discussion amongst other educators and this one on homework practice from Eric Sheninger is one such post as it was tweeted and retweeted several times. In it he reminisces about how he and his brother spent after school afternoons playing outside until dinner, participating in school sports, and the like. He then went on to talk about how our students are spending their time after school – often on “obscene” hours of homework. Sheninger reminds us of the purpose of homework and asks us to look critically at the kind of homework we are assigning and at how it is affecting our students.

“If your homework practices make kids dislike school and/or learning that alone should tell you something has to change.”

Last, but certainly not least, is a teaching and learning tool I learned about again from last night’s Edchat Interactive webinar with Kathy Perret. It’s called Class Flow and it’s completely FREE tool to create engaging, interactive, differentiated lessons for your class. I first mentioned in this post along with 9 other formative assessment tools. You can create your own lessons (compatible with Smart, Promethean, and more), find lessons that other teachers have shared, differentiate what your students do  by sending questions to small groups of students, give  badges, check for understanding, and work together in class or out of class.  They have lessons for students from pre-k through post-secondary that you can filter by grade, subject, rating, language- yes- I said language as they have lessons in languages from Arabic to Vietnamese and 22 in between. There is so much more to know (I only just learned about it last night) and you can learn more about it by looking at their information and short video introductions here. And by the way, as I mentioned, it is completely FREE to sign up and use!

For great articles, videos, and more like this one on teacher stress, please visit the Shipley PLN Lower & Middle School Edition!