Dive into Summer Learning

Image from Pixabay

Sitting here on my side porch attempting to close the tabs on the school year- literally- I have so many that need closing, I have a few final things to share with you before the official start to summer. This has been a whirlwind start to the 2020 year and to be honest, I am already wishing for summer 2021 just to know that we are not only past whatever will come this winter, but to know that we made it through what may be another hybrid school year. It’s not that I want to wish the time away, but I am looking forward to progress and changes on numerous fronts. So, as we are about to slide into summer, here are some resources to add to your beach reading and teaching toolbox.

The first is from Matt Miller: An Educator’s Resource for Distance Learning, Remote Learning, and e-Learning. Always one to share excellent resources, this set of ideas, tools, and templates will have you ready for whatever the 20-21 school year brings our way. You can even sign up for this free, 14-module (ranges from just over 3 to just under 14 minutes per module) Remote Learning 101 course. From “gearing up for remote learning” to “now what” including ideas that use no internet to how to help students with slow internet and others in between, this free course will help get you ready to enhance your remote teaching.

The next four links are to three Bitmoji Classrooms and resources. What is a Bitmoji Classroom you ask? Bitmoji Classrooms are interactive Slides using your Bitmoji and colorful backgrounds to share links, assignments, books, and more in a fun visual way. You can learn how to create your very own Bitmoji interactives here. So the first two links (actually the third and fourth if you are counting) is a copy of a free background you can use in your early childhood/kindergarten classroom to get started. Think of them as templates for those of us who like to start with them. You can just switch out her Bitmoji for yours, add your own message to the board and you can stop there or swap her bookshelf and books (with links) for your own. Both are easily adaptable to your upper elementary and even middle school classrooms with just a few changes. This is one for a Dr. Seuss-themed bookshelf and this is one for a Pete the Cat bookshelf. This last Bitmoji Classroom is a Black Lives Matter reading room filled with books and video read alouds to read and watch to with younger students to learn about being an an ally, an anti-racist, and learn about building a positive racial identity. Finally, here is a classroom full of math manipulatives like ten-frames, unifix cubes, base ten blocks and so many more for your students to use to practice their math skills. Be sure to click each element in all of the classrooms to see all the great things you will find.

The next few links are for teachers to read and learn about implicit bias, microaggressions, and culturally responsive teaching in the classroom so that come the fall, we can all do better for our students and colleagues. The first is from Edutopia, A Look at Implicit Bias and Microaggressions: A primer on the impact of implicit biases in schools and how they can be expressed by students and faculty. The next is, What is Culturally Inclusive Teaching. In it you will find videos, definitions, strategies, TED talks, lessons, and more; just keep reading, watching, and scrolling. This next article is from the Atlantic and it is titled, “What Anti-Racist Teachers Do Differently.” Hint: “Educators who are committed to black students use evidence in their own classrooms to find ways to improve” and, “It requires educators to view the success of black students as central to the success of their own teaching” They are not afraid to hold a mirror, be reflective about their practice, and hold themselves accountable for reaching all students everyday.

Looking for more ways to keep your learning going during the summer? Perhaps a little daily dose of learning to help prepare for the upcoming school year? The Global EdTech Academy is a free series of master classes, office hours, and edtech resources that you can watch and learn on your own time. So far, I watched Connecting the Community: Race and Culture in Education – Moderated by Ken Shelton (see Wakelet for additional resources) and am planning on watching the two-part master class, Embedding Authentic Choice and Voice with Pernille Ripp (creator of the highly successful Global Read Aloud). You can find all 41 current recordings here on their YouTube channel.

This final link is for all the history teachers out there who want to make sure that all stories are told and who want to “bridge history and current issues”. My colleague Mark, an amazing history teacher who seeks to do (and does) just that every day, shared it with me and so now I share it with you. It is the Choices Program from Brown University. Be sure to explore Teaching with the News, the free resources and lessons for your classroom.

Happy summer!

What’s in Your Toolbox?

Which comes first, the hammer or the picture that needs hanging? In my house, it’s the picture that needs hanging and that picture might often sit there until it gets noticed by me at which point I will go get the hammer. In my house, the job comes first and then I find the right tool for the job. I don’t open up my tool drawer feeling like I would like to use the needle-nose pliers and then walk around my house to see what I can do with it.

In Making Thinking Visible and Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Ritchart, we read about creating opportunities for learning and thinking in our classrooms, providing time for students to notice, wonder, think aloud, and planning for the kinds of thinking we want our students to do. It is from the type of thinking we want to promote in our classroom at any given time, that we then choose the thinking routine that will enable it to happen. We match the tool to the thinking, not the thinking to the tool.

Recently, Project Zero released two resources that you will want to open and keep in a prominent tab for ease of use.

The first was designed with teachers in virtual classrooms, parents and caregivers partnering at home, and home teachers in mind. The At Home With Project Zero Toolbox offers activities and experiences for preschool through high school students and filterable by amount of activity time you have. From there you can see which thinking routines and tools match. In a search for a 15-30 minute activity for preschool you can try this thinking routine, Think, Feel, Care that encourages students as young as preschool to look at systems, stories, or events from different perspectives.

The next is Project Zero’s Thinking Routines Toolbox, an interactive resource that puts the power of thinking routines at your fingertips. You can begin by selecting your subject area to see which thinking routines work well in your discipline, and then you can narrow it even further by choosing the ideal, disposition, or competence you are looking to promote. For example, if you are a History teacher who wants their students to explore fairness, the thinking routines that would be appropriate would be Circle of Viewpoints, Reporter’s Notebook, and Here Now, There, Then.

If you would like to be able to see some routines in action, you can take a look at the Power of Making Thinking Visible YouTube channel which was created this past September and has a growing list of videos posted as recently as two weeks ago.

For those of you who teach design thinking or maker-centered learning, Project Zero’s Agency by Design offers you a framework and set of thinking moves that you can use with your students to help them notice and engage with the world around them.

Lastly, during this time of remote teaching and learning, having a whiteboard is a necessity. This new, free, virtual whiteboard is one way you can do this. It’s fast and easy to set up a whiteboard and invite your students to join. Then just post a question or problem and have students respond in real time on their own whiteboards that you can see all at once. This is a new tool with new features in development and will be a great addition to your toolbox. Thanks to Richard Byrne for sharing this new tool!

The View from Here

The pretty out my dining room window
The J where I can see him

From where I sit, both figuratively and literally, I am able to easily view many things. My literal view is out my dining room window from where I have set up shop so to speak. Each morning I arrive to work and have a beautiful view of the pretty that is often lit up from the morning sun. As the day goes on, the light changes but the view out the window remains the same unless you begin to look closely for subtle differences. In my case, I am able to notice the flowers on my trees being replaced by little leaves and the leaves on the trees become a little larger each day.

The same holds true for the things I am able to notice as I am able to peek into our classes: like teachers connecting with students during themed morning meetings, kids feeling comfortable working together in small groups, kids independently navigating between our learning management system and various links and team meetings, or teachers using the language of community, praise & feedback, and language of identity. While each day may feel like it’s the same as the last, taking time to look for the subtle changes from the day before may make a difference in your outlook.

This week I have a few things to share that may add to ways you can make your days stand out for you and your students.

The first actually comes from my brother in-law’s company, HDR, and it is an earth day BINGO game you can share with your class. Perhaps have your students take photographs of them doing these different activities and share a picture BINGO card to your class Padlet or Flipgrid.

Next is one I am so excited to share: the EduHam at Home from Gilder Lehrman. To read more about it take a look at this WaPo article about the free student program. If your students are studying about this period in history, are Hamilton fans, or want to learn how to take historical information like primary source documents and use their creativity to turn them into songs, raps, and spoken-word piece, then EduHam is one you will want to share right away. Your students or personal children can take what they learn choosing from 40 characters and 14 events from the Revolutionary War, create a video, then share it with Hamilton cast members who will choose 10 submissions each week to highlight. How exciting would that be for your students! I have one student who I know will go absolutely crazy for this chance.

This ABC Kids home exercise video is brought to you by three siblings, two of whom are gymnastic sisters. In just over 12 minutes, you’ll be taken through an exercise for each letter of the alphabet from Alligator leg chomps to Zebra rocking horse lunges. I can see our PE teachers having some fun during their PE Pop-ins and morning workouts.

Yesterday I participated in one of the Learning Revolution’s Emergency Remote Teaching webinars led by John Spencer, “Empowering Students in a Distance Learning Environment.” Among the many things Spencer shared was the importance of starting with the human, the connections and relationships; knowing students’ stories; and student agency moving from compliance to engagement to empowerment. Last week I shared Spencer’s free video writing prompts. Today I’ll add his YouTube channel with hours worth of professional development on design thinking and empowering students (to name just two topics) for you, and project-based and video prompts for student projects (again, to name just two). I am also sharing his instagram where you will find different ways to engage your students like having them choose their Quarantine Band Name. Putting it out there that mine would be the Fine Blue Hippeas. The recordings of yesterday’s Learning Revolution’s Emergency Remote Teaching & Learning webinars are now available for free; just sign up. Zarretta Hammond, Matt Miller, and A.J. Juliani, are just a few of the inspiring presenters. I caught the last bit of Hammond’s “Culturally Responsive Teaching Through Remote Learning” and plan on viewing the rest this weekend.

The last thing I am going to share is an article from Ron Ritchart’s blog that is in this week’s Shipley PLN Lower & Middle School Edition. In “The Power of Art and Making Thinking Visible in Early Childhood Learning”, a kindergarten teacher from Sidwell Friends shares how she is creating a culture of thinking and learning not just for her students, but also for their families and caregivers who are often sitting with their student while they are learning from home. By using the familiar See, Think, Wonder routine and language of learning with her students and the families who have become part of her classroom, she continues to model the type of thinking and learning she values and extends the culture of thinking to her remote learning classroom. As she says in reference to our emergency remote teaching, “We don’t shift what we value, we shift what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like for our learners and their families or caregivers.”

What’s New Pussycat

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Asking someone “what’s new?” these days is not likely to bring a whole lot of different responses since we have all been home for the last five weeks. One day does not look that much different from the last unless you are changing the room from which you are working each day and have a view out a different window. Perhaps you have put on pants with a button and zipper today instead of the sweats or workout leggings that will not show during your synchronous meetings; that would be a change. But though our daily lives seem to be in a holding pattern, there are opportunities and updates to tools and sites that will bring something new to you.

First off, if you are using Microsoft Teams as we are in my school, you may have noticed that your students and colleagues are now working from a cool NYC loft space, a Minecraft landscape, a beach, or a village that looks like it belongs in Beauty and the Beast. That is because as of the other day, background effects have been installed allowing users to do more than just blur their background. Now you have about a dozen options to choose from and coming in May, users will have the option to upload a custom background. If that does not give you something to look forward to, I am not sure what will!

Next are some amazing, FREE lessons and resources you can use from Share My Lesson. This month, along with it being National Poetry Month, is also Math Awareness Month– who knew! To the latter, I am guessing my colleagues in the Math Department did but not me. In any event, while browsing the Share My Lesson resources, I came upon these collections for students from elementary through high school including social justice poetry, this on-demand webinar on using multicultural children’s poetry to inspire poetry appreciation, and this culturally responsive lesson on Langston Hughes. In honor of Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month, is this fabulous collection of activities and lessons for PreK through twelfth grade.

Our fifth grade teachers and students and those who participated in the GRA know of Kelly Yang as the New York Times best-selling author of the book, Front Desk. Well, she not only has a new book out, she also has videos where she talks to tweens and teens about the writing process in her online writing class videos. She currently has 11 videos on things like editing, layering, structure, point of view, and others. She even has a video talking about Corona-Racism. Each video is between 20-30-minutes. Use some, all, clips, (you can use the Chopper for that) and learn write’s craft from this author.

Speaking of writing, John Spencer has this collection of video writing prompts you can post and share with your students to inspire creative writing, virtual discussions, debates, and more. You can search by genre (personal narrative, expository to name just two) or view the whole collection. Perhaps you do a little mixing it up of a lesson from Kelly Yang that they then incorporate into writing prompted by one of John Spencer’s videos. Fabulous!

Many of you are using Screencastify to record lessons and instructional videos. Now with Screencastify Submit (currently in beta), you can create assignments, share a link with your students, and they can record and submit their videos (screen recording, webcam, both) directly to your Google Drive- no extension or sign-in required. Pretty cool!

Last is an article I read and tweeted the other day. Silvia Tolisano, aka Langwitches, wrote this piece, “Let’s Not Go Back, Let’s Go Forward in which she talks about what we will take from this emergency remote teaching experience when we go back to school (actually not go back but go forward) and how this transition might have been a little easier had we felt the urgency to adopt some practices earlier. It’s an interesting read that encourages all of us to think about how we will incorporate things we have had to learn in a hurry (and even new things) when we are able to be in buildings with our students again.

When one door closes, a virtual one opens

This week has been a flurry of learning for teachers across the country as our classroom doors have closed, our virtual doors are getting ready to open. This is causing many teachers to have to learn a new way of thinking about teaching and this potentially involves learning to use new tools. While many of these tools may have been shared in the past, there was always the option to look and try later. As of last week, later has become now and we are all learning to adapt to this new way of teaching and learning.

With the news that schools are closed for an undetermined amount of time, sites are providing opportunities for teachers and students to learn from the comfort of their home, keeping a social distance while gathering in online spaces.

Here are a few more things you might want to check out:

Share My Lesson has thousands of lessons, resources, and webinars for all subject areas, all grades, all levels, for English speakers, English language learners, things for parents, teachers, for all times of the year. This particular collection is their Free Online Resources for Educators, Parents, and Students. It is broken down by topic, school level, and subject area, is very easy to navigate, and links to many of the sites and tools offering free access. You can scroll through the linked page or filter through the tabs along the top. Don’t forget the virtual learning conference they are offering March 24-26th.

Way back when in 2009, my colleague Wendy and I were part of Powerful Learning Practice (PLP for short). It was at a PLP in-person conference that I first signed up for Twitter and created my account all the while thinking, “what do I have to say and who is really going to care?” Plus, at the time I had zero followers so whatever I was going to say would go nowhere kind of like the proverbial tree that falls in the woods. If no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound? Anyway, the PLPeeps are offering a 3-part webinar series (which at this point is 2 parts over the next two Thursdays) on best practices for teaching remotely based on their twelve years of doing so.

If you are looking for ways to engage your students with books, Vooks and Audible are offering their sites for free. Vooks brings stories to life (in animated versions) for elementary school students and is giving teachers their first year free. I have been doing some clicking around and they have all the well known books with reading guides and each day they are going to offer a week’s worth of daily activities to do with two Vooks titles. This is week 1. Audible is a whole collection of audio books and they too are offering free streaming for kids. From the very young to the teens and the literary classics, just click, listen (in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Mandarin), and learn.

This resource doc is a living document with resources, tips, tools being added often. The last edit was yesterday dinner time. You will find resources on creating tutorials, lesson plans, help guides, and this fabulous read aloud and activity guide with authors offering read alouds both live and recorded each day. You will definitely want to take a look at and share this with your students. Other authors are sharing both read alouds and accompanying resources to complement their stories and to show that learning can happen anywhere. One thing to note: I have seen on Twitter that authors are ok with teachers reading aloud their books to their students but would like us to pause and ask questions, do some think, notice, wonder so that it is not a straight reading.

Speaking of read-alouds, how about listening to a story being read from astronauts in space? This just in: Virtual School Activities from Africam (live action cams from Africa) and aquariums to You-Visit, 360 degree virtual reality experiences. There are so many things in between including storytime from space, the U.S. Holocaust Museum online exhibits, and the Vatican Museums. with updates every couple days. This will provide you and your students different experiences each day.

This next resource come from Pernille Ripp, creator of the Global Read Aloud. She has created a “Choose Your Own Adventure” for virtual learning. These are two week adventures and include an independent reading adventure, a picture book read aloud, an inquiry project and a creative writing project. She includes everything you need to introduce this to students and use with your classes. While Pernlle is a 7th grade teacher, I can see teachers of all grade levels being able to adapt these adventures for your personal students.

And here is a final fun idea for all you who are missing sports. Last night while my husband and I were watching Slippery Stairs competition on ESPN (which tops our watching of the 2019 corn hole championships #emptynesters) my husband showed me a March Madness bracket sports movie version (here is ESPN’s version) and then this morning I saw this one from a band teacher with composers. I can see this idea adapted for English teachers with novels or writers, and students submitting their picks, art teachers with artists or paintings, and history teachers with battles, leaders, eras.

So, while we are all making this transition, we can feel positive about the way teachers have come together to share resources, learn together, and model resilience for our students and each other. And to think we did this all in a matter of days. Imagine if we had time to really plan!

Love in the Time of Cholera or Keep Calm and Learn On

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This is an interesting time for many of us educators who are brick and mortar teachers, planning for disruptions in in-person school time, and who are preparing for potentially extended times away from our school communities. The past couple weeks have been a flurry of activity and discussions around how to keep the learning going for our students, how to keep the feeling of community for our faculty and students, and how to keep calm in the face of the growing pandemic.

Fortunately, a whole host of learning websites and tools are helping to make this easier for those of us who are moving the learning to virtual classrooms. Tools like Sutori, Quizlet, Screencastify, EdPuzzle, and BrainPop are just a few of the many on this list (hover over previous phrase for link) providing their premium features to schools closed due to the virus.

In this post from Matt Miller, he is sharing 50 e-Learning activities, templates and more including links to

Teachers can participate in webinars like this from Conference 2.0 on Organizing and Hosting Online Educational Events on March 19 from 4-6PM. It is a 1-hour webinar and Q&A with individual consultation. If you have not hosted online learning before, you might want to sign up to participate.

There is also this virtual conference from Share My Lesson that runs from March 24 – March 26 and has over 30 one-hour webinars on topics like balancing equity and building inclusive communities, STEM, and other webinars for all school staff that you can earn PD credit for while you learn in your jammies.

Finally, for your students, you can add these virtual field trips to your list of ways they can be engaged and continue their learning. Exploring by the seat of your pants hosts almost daily field trips and talks 30-45 a month!) with explorers, researchers, and leading experts around the world. From their newsletter:

this link will work to join every live event, head here when the event is about to starthttps://www.youtube.com/c/Exploringbytheseatofyourpants/live

Important links:

Sign-up Form: https://forms.gle/DieS1NPwfW3wVyDd7

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvQkEzcH9f_9OylEdmALiWg

All events will stream live on this YouTube feed: 
https://www.youtube.com/c/Exploringbytheseatofyourpants/live
Hi Parents and New Educators!
Welcome to Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants, we broadcast live events to tens of thousands of students a month and bring live events into classrooms that no one else can!Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants (EBTSOYP) is a non-profit with a goal of bringing science, exploration, adventure and conservation into classrooms across North America, and around the world, through virtual guest speakers and field trips. Since launching in September 2015, EBTSOYP has run well over 1,000 virtual events connecting hundreds of thousands of students with leading scientists and explorers from over 75 countries.

The goal of EBTSOYP is simple, to inspire the next generation of scientists and explorers! We show students that there is so much left to explore and discover, and in the process, create informed global citizens. Students are introduced to important and challenging issues, exciting places around the world, strong role models and new career paths in a variety of STEM fields.

Each month we organize and host 30-50 live events, featuring a variety of opportunities from the fields of science, engineering, exploration, adventure and conservation. What we do is 100% free for classrooms everywhere and always will be. Instead we find our funding though grants, partnerships, corporate sponsors and donations. The scientists and explorers who give their time to take part in EBTSOYP events all remember a time that they met someone, saw a documentary or read an article that ignited a passion, setting them off on the path that lead them to their future careers, it’s these tiny ‘aha’ moments that EBTSOYP strives to replicate in classrooms everywhere.

Events are approximately 45 minutes long, with the first portion dedicated to a lesson or virtual field trip, before classrooms take over with questions for the speaker. Classrooms from kindergarten through grade 12 regularly participate in EBTSOYP events.

Many of our events take part from scientists and explorer’s homes, offices, labs and in the field with good cell signal. EBTSOYP’s signature events involve the use of a fleet of textbook-sized satellite BGAN units to live broadcast into classrooms from the most remote regions of our planet. These units are sent into the field with scientists and explorers and when paired wirelessly to their laptop or cellphone, can be used to video broadcast into classrooms from almost anywhere on the planet, no internet or cellular signal needed. We’ve broadcast from the field on all seven continents, from remote coral islands to deep within rainforests, from the bottom of the ocean to the tops of volcanoes.

Grab some more info here: http://www.exploringbytheseat.com/for-teachers/

She Blinded Me With Science, Among Other Things

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This week in learning I am sharing some great things for our Science and History teachers as well as pretty much all the subjects.

First, from We Are Teachers, is 35 of the Best 7th Grade Science Projects and Experiments. In this list you will find everything from illustrating the greenhouse effect and density rainbows to how sugary drinks effect the teeth and 32 others. Each project/experiment in the list comes with a description and link to the details including all you need to do this with your students. Of course if you click the links you will be taken to sites that have even more resources so consider this a gift that keeps on giving.

Having books around your classroom that represent all your students is important in creating and building positive identities. Not only is it important to reflect the learners, even those who may not be in your room, but it is vital to show students what they can become and who has come before them. That is why next is a list of multicultural STEAM books to inspire girls of all ages. The books are categorized by elementary, historic, Latina, motivation, and more. There are picture books for our younger learners and books for our teens. Take a look and add them to your reading and recommending repertoire.

Next is this YouTube playlist, The Daily Bellringer, a daily dose of history in short bites that you can easily and quickly share with your students. Videos are added weekly on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, are 3-6 minutes long, and include comprehension and critical thinking questions. Watch them as a group, pop the video in your learning management system, or add them to an EdPuzzle. There are currently three playlists with a total of 33 videos: the Presidents, the American Revolution, and the U.S. Constitution.

Each week I get the New York Times Race Related newsletter delivered to my inbox. This week’s linked to a series called, Overlooked, and it shares the obituaries of remarkable people overlooked and not reported by the New York Times at the time of their death beginning from 1851 to today. This history project details the lives of black men and women whose important work was left out of the news. These are stories of people we can share beyond Black History Month and make the learning happen all year long.

Last is something that really could be its own post in its own right (and will be). I recently started participating in Project Zero’s course, “Creating a Culture of Thinking” and reading the book of the same name. I left the book at school and finished the sample on the kindle so since I also am part of a book group at school about to begin reading another Ritchart book, Making Thinking Visible, I started reading (this is the empty nester in me). One thing led to another and I landed on the Visible Thinking site that inspired the book. What you will find if you follow this link is a series of thinking routines that you can use in your classroom to help each of your students become active participants in the learning that goes on in your classroom, even if the learners or participants are adults. They are called routines because they are hopefully going to become embedded in the way you and your students approach learning, be it reading a novel, looking at a piece of art, discussing historical events, scientific phenomenon, differing perspectives. They are routines that can be applied to all areas of the school and curriculum. As I was reading, I was tweeting some highlights and my friend Loren shared this fantastic, printable toolbox of the visible thinking routines with me. Now you can print them out and begin making them part of how you and your students approach learning.

Enjoy!

Fun Teaching and Learning Tools

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This morning as I was reading through my Shipley PLN Lower & Middle School edition, I found so many things I wanted to share with you I almost didn’t know where to start. I had to rearrange my tabs to get them organized and ready I was so excited (I need to get out more).

The first thing I am sharing is so cool, I think you are going to LOVE it! Insert Learning might be the coolest Chrome extension. I first read about it from Catlin Tucker. It turns any webpage into an interactive experience/lesson for your students (and you if you choose to try my links that follow) and allows you to insert learning in the form of sticky notes with videos from you, questions, discussion prompts, as well as be able to see what your students are highlighting too (a la making their thinking visible). The above post explains it nicely and includes screenshots. I was so intrigued I popped over the the Chrome store and added it so I could try it out. I used their resource page as the example and when you make your way over there, you will see there are even lessons created and shared by other teachers that you can assign to your own students. You can view the lesson I created as a teacher to see how it works by installing the extension, then clicking on this link; or view it as a student by clicking on this one (a caveat: to view as a student, you need to be enrolled in my class and have the extension so if you would like to try it out, let me know, I’ll add you as a student). For those that use Google Classroom, assigning/sharing lessons with your students is super easy, you just click the Classroom icon then select your class, you can also share it as a link as I did. When I shared this news with my colleague Wendy she mentioned that the Hypothesis extension worked similarly. I did not know about that one yet so took a peek and checked out their article, 10 Ways to Annotate with Students. Pretty, pretty cool as Larry David would say.

In last week’s post, I shared a set of PBS lessons with Lin Manuel-Miranda discussing how he turned history lessons about Alexander Hamilton and the founding of the United States into the musical Hamilton. Today I am sharing a Visions of Education podcast that discusses ways you can teach with Hamilton that includes, along with the podcast, several links to books, articles, related podcasts, close-reading activities, and hip-hop based education resources to name just a few of the many.

Speaking of teaching with a musical, how about teaching concepts, subjects, and topics with tv and movie clips? This morning, my colleague Lucie asked me about finding a math clip from a tv show to share with her students as she was making a playlist of these. I knew the site but could not remember the name so I quickly did a search and landed on Teach With Movies where I instantly searched the snippets and shorts by subject matter and sent off the results. Teach with Movies has full-length, shorts, snippets, and clips from tv and movies, and has lesson plans you can use as well for most school subjects. Class Hook is another way to engage, or “hook” your students using clips from TV and movies. Your free account will allow you to search by grade level (K through college), clip length, and series (there are hundreds). They have premade playlists on all sorts of subjects and topics from writer’s craft and phonics to digital citizenship, US history, and social-emotional learning, and you can add to them or create your own.

While some of us may enjoy being creative and making new things, others of us may not enjoy reinventing the wheel which is why we look for templates. Today I have two sets of templates to share with you. First is a link I got from Matt Miller. Paula Martinez, creator of the FREE SlidesMania templates for Google Slides and PowerPoint wrote this guest post where she shares 20 free templates for you to use in your presentations. This is only one-eighth of the number of FREE templates she has on her SlidesMania site. And guess what, teaching and being creative is not even her regular day job (or even her temporary day job), she is in finance! The next is a FREE fake Instagram template to use for Google Slides and it comes from Carly Black who wrote a guest post on the Shake Up Learning website. With many students being all over social media, having them turn what they like to do into an educational purpose makes sense. That’s what Tara Martin did when she figured out how to turn the fun of using Snapchat into the very popular #BookSnaps to which I can attest, kids love to create.

Who does not enjoy playing games? Well, some of you might not but your kids will. Educandy is a free site (currently in beta) for taking your words or questions and turning them in to a game like hangman, word search, crosswords, memory and others or quiz. All you need to do is create your free account, click the type of game you want to create (words, matching pairs, or quiz questions), enter your words or questions, then Educandy turns them into the games and activities. Here is one I just made. It literally took me about 3 minutes and there are now three games to play with my words. There is no log in to play, just the link or the game code. So fun!

Sing, Sing a Song

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Back in 2016 I wrote a post, More Than Just Music to Their Ears, on using songs for teaching to help with memory. Today I am reiterating that here with some additional sites. In case you choose not to click on the past post, I will summarize: music helps with memory. Not only can songs trigger memories and evoke emotions, it can create a positive learning environment and help solidify scientific concepts. I go in and out of classrooms when I teach so earlier this fall I started incorporating mindfulness into the beginning of class time to refocus students and get everyone together. I created a YouTube playlist called mindfulness jars and I do notice a difference when I start classes with a mindfulness transition. Additionally, in the younger grades, I sing the directions to the students that I want them to follow. By now, they know the tune so I can just hum it and they will know what to do. Since I use a song, I can add on when additional directions are needed.

With all that being said, here are some sites for teaching with songs:

  1. Numberock– This is a YouTube channel and website with math songs for all concepts for elementary age students. They even have songs about holidays and other special events on the calendar The YouTube channel has playlists in English, Spanish, French, Hindi, Chinese, and Portuguese (and maybe more but I stopped scrolling) so you can learn your math concepts in many languages.
  2. Using Music to Teach Science includes songs created by high school and college students to teach science concepts like the Krebs Cycle, Physics, and Polymerase. This was inspired by this Life Science Education publication, Using Science Songs to Enhance Learning which offers a study and includes a rubric to use with (college) students who create their own songs as evidence of understanding.
  3. Songs for Teaching has songs for teaching Science topics like Astronomy, Botany, and Earth Science to name a few. It also has songs for teaching Math topics for elementary school as well as advanced math topics like Geometry, Trig, and some Physics. The lyrics to songs are included with a short sample of the song, enough to give you the tune to sing along.
  4. I happened upon this Jack Hartmann channel of songs that includes songs about letters of the alphabet, phonics songs, counting songs, brain breaks, and additional songs for younger students and early elementary. The digraph one is quite catchy and will have your students singing about sh and th among others. And who could resist, Silent E by the Bazillions? Check out their channel of songs too.
  5. For history teachers and students, this PBS set of lessons, Hamilton’s America with Lin Manuel, is about the process of writing the song, My Shot for the Broadway show, Hamilton. The videos and support materials will introduce students to the process of turning history into music. If you are considering having students create and adapt history into music, this set of lessons will be inspiring.
  6. Last is one I have shared before. History for Music Lovers YouTube channel is 53 songs about events and people all set to popular tunes.

So if you want your students to listen to or sing these songs, write your own, or have your students write their own, songs can enhance the learning environment and experience.

Black History Activities for the Month and All Year Long

“Won’t it be wonderful when black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.”

Maya Angelou

February may be the official time to celebrate and recognize the contributions and achievements of Black Americans with the hope of educating people and eliminating bias, but we know that culturally competent and responsive educators embed it all year long in the books they read with their class, the songs they play or sing with their students, the posters on the wall, the people study, and the missing voices and perspectives they seek out when learning about our history.

There are a number of great resources from which we can all learn. Here are just a few.

Black History Month Cube for Teachers has about a dozen different resources including videos, novels, stories, women in STEM, lessons, and more for all ages of children. CUBE for teachers is a global education network of resources shared by educators all over the world.

This next is an incredible resource. It is a Black History Month shared public folder complete with videos, full documentaries like “Eyes of the Rainbow”, “An Interview with Malcolm X at UC Berkeley”, and “Marcus Garvey”; PDFs, as well as 42 folders of information on people from Aime Cesare to Zora Neale Hurston, and topics from Afro-Centrism and Black Film Scripts to Speeches and Black Panther Party.

PBS Learning Media is always a great place to start looking for lessons on any topic and this one, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross is a collection of lesson plans that address a large variety of themes. The collection of lessons for middle to high school students uses clips from Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s series of the same name that “explores the evolution of the African-American people, as well as the multiplicity of cultural institutions, political strategies, and religious and social perspectives they developed — forging their own history, culture and society against unimaginable odds.”

The ADL has curriculum resources including lesson plans for teaching about historical events like “60 Years Later: the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education”; current events like “Representing the People: Diversity and Elections”; and issues like “Experiences with Race and Racism” for elementary through high school. They also offer children’s and adult literature and discussion guides, and teaching tools and strategies. Additionally, they offer these 10 Ideas for Teaching Black History Month for K-12 educators to help get you started.

Last is a HyperSlides presentation that I made and continue to edit each year.

 “If the only time you think of me as a scientist is during Black History Month, then I must not be doing my job as a scientist.”

Nel deGrasse Tyson
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