Spring Forward!


Hello Friends!

This is our spring break edition of the weekly/bi-monthly pd shares.

First up is something I learned about through a new Twitter follower and it is pretty cool! It is called Edynco and it is a teaching and learning tool that I think you will like. Think of it as if Prezi and Inspiration had a baby this would be it. It has the look and design of a graphic organizer, but the movement and paths of a Prezi. What it does it it allows you to create learning maps for your students and include text, images, video, audio, links and more right in the design. You create it and set the not-necessarily linear order and then share it with your students so they can use it to enhance their understanding. Great for blended learning, flipped classrooms, or as study guides- this tool will definitely make a difference in your classroom. Check out this learning map on Designing (learning) according to cognitive theory of multimedia learning (and if you read my Wow from about a month ago, the information should sound familiar as I included a video about the same topic).

For iPad teachers, take a look at what this teacher has created for her students during her daily 5 center time— a QR code Reading Box for read alouds. I love that this allows students to work independently and have choice in what they are doing.

This next one is really the motherlode. Richard Byrne, aka Free Tech 4 Teachers has been busily creating tutorials on just about everything and he has just reached number 80. His Practical Ed Tech Tips is a youtube playlist where you can view these tutorials from the comfort of your own choosing, most of which are under 4 minutes. He also has 40 Google tutorials that are well worth your perusal. So, you can’t beat professional development that you can do on your own time in less than the time it takes you to drive to work and less money than that cup of coffee from your favorite coffee place. 

PreK-3 teachers, tutors, and parents this one is for you! Sight Words is a site with printable flash cards for you to use. They are divided by grade, by word list type (Dolch, Fry), quarter page, half page, blanks, customizable (you can add your OWN list here)- pretty much everything you need to make, download, and print these for your classroom or home. For my teachers of older students- say upper elementary through high school- you might want to make a free account in Flashcard Stash and share cards with your classes and students. They have lists on just about every topic imaginable including Spanish and French and they include options for seeing the words in a sentence, getting synonyms, and audio. Pretty nice! Other flashcard sites I like and use at home are Quizlet and Studystack. Both are free, Have pre-made lists on many, many topics, allow you to create your own lists, learn your words then play games. Studystack offers more types of games for learning your words, offers option to print, share, embed, but Quizlet allows you to make a classroom account and share words with your students, and offers the ability to embed the stack on your site. To be honest, try them both and see which you like.

Lastly, you know how much I love all things Google and this one is no exception. It combines your love of tabs with art. Really. I learned about this from a post on the FreeTech4Teachers blog and after some additional browsing, I became fascinated. The Google Art Project share beautiful collections and exhibits from all over the world in an effort to bring art to everyone. You can browse the hundreds of collections, or you can create your own gallery by dragging pieces you like together and then sharing the gallery with your students, friends, or whomever. Well Google Art Project has a Chrome extension which when you open a new tab, you will see a new piece of art. The collection is changed everyday, or you can change your settings to see a new one with each new tab you open. Imagine your students (or you) opening a new tab, seeing a piece of art that inspires them to learn more about the artist, the period, the style, or the subject. Now that is incidental learning!

photo credit: pidgin point lighthouse 1 via photopin (license)

“‘Assessments that Don’t Suck'” the Art of Color and Twitter

I know many of you have thought about using Twitter with your classroom and now Twitter  has come up with a way to make multiple users able to tweet from a single account (your class account) without the need to share your password. Now you have to be tweeting from Tweetdeck, which is a platform that allows you to create columns so you can see the twitter searches that you are interested in without having to do a separate search each time (ex. You could have a column for #edchat a column for #4thchat –or whichever grade you follow- a column for your notifications), which is not a big deal at all. Just think how great it would be if your class was tweeting about their learning, sharing the excitement, sharing the innovations, and learning from other classrooms. This might also be a great way for a team of teachers (think grade level or department) to tweet about what they are doing.

This next is absolutely the best thing of the week hands down. The title is “Assessments that Don’t Suck” and the teacher, Paul Bogush, offers 24 different ways to creatively assess your students, rather, they are 24 ways your students can creatively show and share their learning. One of my favorites, is the Notecard Confessions idea. In this he gives a day-by-day account of how he introduces the lesson and then step by step how to do this with your class. It puts your students right into the character, whether historical or fictional, and clearly shows evidence of their deep understanding of the material. Now you really must take a look at all of the 24 ideas as each one offers different ways for your students to show what they know. Some are tech based, others are not (like the Footsteps idea, or the  “I’m Breaking Up With You” letter- aka the Declaration of Independence lesson- which I love). Imagine trying different ones as a class, then allowing your students choose the one they want to do for an assignment later in the year. Now that would be empowering and engaging! I am serious when I tell you how excited I was to see this on Twitter today and I would love to help you implement these assessments with your class.

OK, I thought the last was the best of the week, but I think my art friends will beg to differ once they see this learning series from PBS Learning Media. This is the sixth of an installment on Elements of Art, this on Color where you can share short videos and hear from artists discussing the various elements of art. The rest of the art school series includes videos on space, form, shape, texture, as well as videos on hip hop, printmaking, crocheting, and more- all areas of the art world. These say they are for grades 6-13, but I do think that with guidance and facilitation from you, our upper elementary students can enjoy learning from these artists.

For those of you who would like to see what else there is this week, then please visit today’s Shipley PLN Lower School Edition.

What Good Learning Looks and Sounds Like

“Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.”
John Dewey

“Give me liberty or give me death” proclaimed a Patriot this morning at our fourth grade debate. The students in our fourth grade classes have been intensely and feverishly preparing for their debates, this class specifically on the merits of diplomacy.

For the past several weeks the students have been learning about the causes of the American Revolutionary War. They were randomly placed on sides of either Whigs or Tories, Patriots or Loyalists and spies were assigned. Lines were drawn -literally drawn down the middle of the room) and so began the immersion in the learning. There was not a teacher reading from a text book nor students regurgitating information. This was a classroom transformed by the chronicle of events to the point that they became these historical characters.

This morning the children shared their learning and understanding of the causes of the Revolution as they debated their side of the argument. Each student argued their point as if they themselves had been alive during those years. The students were not just reading from a script that each had written, they knew their argument because they lived and breathed it these last few weeks.

To say that they did a tremendous job and that they understood the curricular content to be able to take on the role so perfectly is an understatement. It is what good learning looks like; what good learning should look like.


Overdrive, DOGOnews & Thought Leaders & Innvoators Worth Following

This is a copy of an email I shared with my colleagues back at the end of October

Guess what?! I found another FANTASTIC EXCELLENT AMAZING GREAT news site for kids and it’s called DOGOnews (but I read it as dog gone news at first). Kids can ready by category (Current Events, Science, Sports, and more) or filter by Grades (K-3, 3-5, 6-8. Note: When you filter by grades, you will not necessarily get the most recent news). Kids can look at news on the map and see where in the nation/world news events are happening. There is also sections on Books, Movies, and Sites where students can read reviews and see trailers. Try it- bookmark it, and let your students have options for getting the news (other FABU options: Youngzine, Tween Tribune, and Tween Tribune Junior ALSO HAS TWEEN TRIBUNE IN SPANISH, Time For Kids, and Newsela— I gave you that link last week). 

Surely you must have seen or heard of the movie High School Musical. Well, then you’ll appreciate this “We’re All in this Together” reference when I strongly suggest that you read this WashPo article on WAIT FOR IT— math. Since many of you are feeling that we are all math all the time, you will get a lot of enjoyment of this article on math. It might say Common Core, but it can easily apply to our MIF as both encourage teaching understanding rather than the rote way we learned back when teachers used blackboards that were either black or green and clapping erasers outside was high on the job chart. Anyway, you will get a chuckle about halfway through at Stephen Colbert’s words and a at what one of the dad’s wrote in response to an assignment. I’m serious— it’s FUNNY! So, be like Dora and just keep swimming (after you read this article).

I love Pinterest and get weekly updates on great boards. Here is one for Spanish teachers that has a lot of lessons, videos, books, and sites to share with your classes. And here is an annotated list of 30 Pinterest Boards for elementary teachers including SPECIAL SUBJECT TEACHERS like Art, Music, and Science :) Yay, something for everyone!

By the way, if you are like me, you love to read. At this point, I go from book to book on my Kindle or my Kindle app. Well, you can kick your book habit into Overdrive (literally) and rent ebooks and audiobooks right from your local library using the Overdrive app.This article will explain. And you’re welcome; I just saved you $7.49/book or $9.95 if you were using Oyster Books monthly.

Checking in with your students before, during, and after a lesson is important to your teaching as it informs how you progress with a lesson. Here are 52 ways to formatively assess your students. There are some really easy and excellent ways to do this. Some involve technology, like using PollEverywhere, Geddit, Padlet, Google Forms; others are simple, no tech ways like a show of thumbs or paper slips. However you choose, make formative assessment a regular part of your teaching day.

Yesterday’s #edchat was about educational innovators and thought leaders. It was a great conversation talking about who we thought was inspiring to us as a thought leader; who challenged our thinking. I immediately thought of Sir Ken Robinson, Alan November, and Seth Godin. Another chimed in with Alfie Kohn . It was a great online discussion about what kinds of people inspire us to to look at our practices and beliefs about education.Someone shared this link in the chat that lists 30 Education Innovators Worth Following on Twitter. If you are making your way into Twitter, these are some people you might want to check out and follow.

Stuck in the Middle ?

Have you ever had a question that at 2 in the morning you happen to come up with another way of responding? Well it’s 2:29AM and here I am with another response to a question I was asked last evening at a forum for potential school board candidates. The question was posed, ‘Our school district provides excellent programming and support to our children at both ends of the spectrum, do we do enough for the middle of the pack?’ (I do not remember the actual wording but it was something like that.)

When I was thinking back on the question as I tend to do, I had a few different ways of approaching this response.

First, let’s think about how are children identified as needing support– whether it is support because they are deemed gifted and talented and therefore need to be challenged; or because they are not meeting grade level benchmarks and require additional support; or perhaps they are differently-abled and require a different style of teaching or assistive device. Maybe the children need behavioral support because they have a difficult time staying quiet in class.

So then who are the children in the middle of the pack? Are they the children who are not the best and brightest, not the academically challenged, not the differently-abled, or not the ones who cause disruptions in the class? Are these children average? Grade level? Above grade level but not gifted? The ones that are easier to deal with because they are not any of the above? Who are the ones considered to be middle of the pack?

Perhaps we need to rethink how we look at and define gifted and talented and needing support. My daughter is gifted and talented academically and socially. She is tall, lithe, and can dance. She is not at the top of the charts athletically, musically, or artistically. It is in those areas she could require additional support. My son was not identified as gifted and talented. He is very bright, does beautifully in his Honors and AP courses, but is not in the G&T or challenge program. He is talented athletically and excels on the playing field. At the time, my son was a little upset that he was not considered gifted and could not go to “challenge” classes. I suppose I would tend to say that he is the upper middle of the pack or the middle of the front of the pack.

Here are my questions that I am thinking about:

  1.  Should we pull children out for support and challenge, or special experiential programming, or should we bring that challenge, support, and experiential programming to all children?
  2. Should we as teachers just be better at identifying our students’ strengths and differences and support them in our classrooms by differentiating the curriculum?
  3. Couldn’t all children use support in some areas? I mean, everyone is not necessarily excellent in every area of the curriculum and we should not expect people to be great at everything, We do need to expect that they will work to their strengths.
  4. Is it fair to offer programs and opportunities to those deemed qualified and not to those who are just interested in these kinds of learning experiences?
  5. Are we offering the same learning experiences to some but not all? or
  6. Are we offering excellent academic and holistic experiences to everyone but in different places based on where students identify their strengths and talents?

Then I reconsidered and thought about the flip side:

  1. Is it unfair to keep students who need extra support in a classroom that might not move at a pace that is the same at which they learn whether it is more quickly or slowly?
  2. Is it unfair for all the students to have to move at a pace of learning that is different from their own?
  3. Is it unfair to expect that teachers can have a large class of students all needing different things at different times?

Thinking about this, all children are gifted and talented in some way, need support in others, and are middle of the road in still other ways. Perhaps what we need to be doing is finding out where the children are deemed gifted and help groom and nurture that gift whether it is in the classroom, the art studio, the music room, the stage, or the athletic field. And perhaps we need to see where the students could use a little more support and help them grow in those areas. Because if you think about it, all children deserve to be and should be challenged and supported, even if they are the middle of the pack.

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” ~Henry Ford

This is a huge WOW! This teacher whom I follow on Twitter (@MrsEvon1) is sharing how her 4th grade students are using their ipads in a 1:1 environment. All throughout the day the technology and creativity is embedded in their learning and in everything that they are doing. It is truly amazing. Just because you might not be using ipads does not mean you cannot do what she, is doing. Many of the apps that she is using are also websites (Haikudeck, Vocabulary and Spelling City, Storyline Online, Kidblog, Quizlet, Wonderopolis; the ones that are not also web-based can easily be found in other tools). 

I especially like the ipad menu of activities that Mrs. Evon is using to keep her students responsible for their learning. 

You know how much I love all things Google. Well, Google has another new add-on which will make using Google forms for sign-ups like appointment times or bake sale donations even better. Now Google has added Choice Eliminator— when a selection is made that should no longer be available, Choice Eliminator gets rid of it. Now you will no longer have 5 people bringing paper plates or signing up for the 4:00 appointment. Yay!

More Google (because we could all use more Google in our life)- this from Kyle Pace in my Feedly (used to be Google Reader but, alas, sadly, that went). Anyway, when you go to Create something in Google Drive, your default choices are Folder, Doc, Sheet, Slides, Drawing, and Form; but if you look closely, you will see at the bottom of that list, “Connect More Apps.” There are many wonderful apps that once connected, can offer you and your students a lot of benefits and assistance. You can find the ones that Kyle B. Pace recommends here. I am a fan of Lucidchart, Pixlr, and Powtoons, but there are really so many options.

This next set of tools are great! I came across Wideo over the weekend, and have had it open in a tab so I could try it out (still open, am going to help my daughter make a math video for her class). Then I saw that Richard Byrne, aka Free Tech 4 Teachers, had a nice post about this and 2 other video creating sites. I have used We Video and found it fairly easy, but I have not tried Magisto (which seems to me to be similar to the easy and simple-to-use Animoto which I and my 5th grade students love). Anyway, you can read here about all 3 sites that will allow you to create your videos in the cloud (aka Web-based) then easily share them or embed them. I would say that in order of ease-of-use you should try Animoto, Magisto, We Video, then Wideo (which makes animated-style videos).

Last, for our folks teaching current events or doing current events with your students, here is Newsela— a site that allows you to search for topics by grade level, reading standard, or quizzed articles. You can sign up and create a classroom for your students and assign them articles, or just make it a job for our student to bring a piece of news to your morning circle. 

Looking for more classroom jobs? Have a class public relations person tweet out what your class is learning. Have an historian of the day find out what happened on this day in history and see that today is not just another ordinary day. I have more ideas but if you have been reading and you got to this point, you can ask me.

Shared in late October with my colleagues

Five Minute Activities, PhotoMath, and Musical Shares!

Photo on 2-17-15 at 2.07 PMIt might be snowy and cold, but that does not stop me from getting the Shipley PLN Lower School Edition to you. Like the postal motto: neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail will prevent me from delivering your mail (something along those lines); Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough . . . You get the picture :)

Singapore Math has a Facebook page where it posts daily questions that you can share with your students. Depending on the type and your age group, it might be a fun way to open your math lesson or even your day one day a week.

Speaking of math . . . This just might be one of the coolest apps I’ve seen after Wolfram Alpha! With PhotoMath you use your phone’s camera to scan a math problem from a text book or homework page, then PhotoApp solves the problem AND shows you step-by-step HOW to solve the problem. If you have or know middle or high school students, or upper elementary students, this might be something to share with them for when they need a little extra help with a problem.

If you can believe that I have another Pin to share you would be right! This pin board is all about critical thinking, but 2 of the pins stuck out for me because they are quick to implement: the first is about things you can do when you have 5 minutes- the 2nd is the invention box. I love the 5 minute activities for movement and brainteasers as they are great ways to energize and refocus your students. I love the invention box idea because we all have things lying around our house that students can repurpose when/if we give them innovation/genius hour time.

If you are having your students create written documents in Google Drive, and you want them to see which words they (or their peers if they are peer editing) use frequently, then try using the word cloud ad-on. See this post from Richard Byrne for more on how you can use this in your class.

Many of you are blogging or tweeting or are thinking about it. This from Vicki Davis and Linda Yollis talks about ways to build an authentic audience for your students. If you are on the fence about getting started, just ask the students who are receiving comments on their blogs or who have skyped with other schools how it feels when they see these comments or make these connections. They LOVE it! And by the way, our student bloggers are writing and commenting beautifully. Check them out and please leave a comment. 

Grab your chairs, some post-its, and turn on the music for this next idea. I came across this fun idea from Lisa Nielsen, the Innovative Educator. Though it seems to be geared towards adults for a post professional development reflection activity, I can see it working really nicely in the classroom as either a reflection at the end of a unit, or as a fun way to review for a test. It’s called Musical Shares and it’s a take off of the old birthday party game Musical Chairs (you know, the one where there are actually people who get out and someone who wins?). The kids move to the music, stop when it stops, sit in a chair and answer the question that is prompted on their chair.

Staying with the Music for a moment, this is a really cool video that visualizes rhythms and beats. Our music teachers and any musicphiles will find this informative and a may want to show the kids.

Finally, in many social studies classrooms, it’s mapping time. Well, here are some ideas to build map skills in the PK-8  (actually PK-6; I misread. We’ll blame it on 45) classroom.

Folks, I love sharing these with you each week. If you love getting them, and if you have found them useful, if you actually open them and maybe read them, drop me a line. Let me know that this tree is not falling in the woods with no one to hear it.