Something for everyone: #Reading, #Writing, #Grammar, #History & #Music

I have just perused this week’s Shipley PLN Lower School Edition and found some excellent articles, videos, and posts for you. 

In no particular order, here you are:

Teach With Movies (now free) is a site that allows you to do what it says, teach with movies and accompanying lesson plans. There are movies for all topics and subjects as well as all ages from 3 to college level. This happens to link to movies that teach US History- the Colonial Period. You can view whole movies, snippets, clips, and short subjects. This is COOL!

This next is exciting news for all of our lower school teaches who are going to be having our laptops refreshed this summer! It might not mean anything to you now, but this is one you will want to put in your back pocket because it involves AIRDROP! Let me put it this way, sharing amongst friends (or anyone in the room really with an IOS device- and I mean laptops, iPhones, and iPads) just got a whole lot easier.

Speaking of iPads, here are 5 Great Writing Apps!

Reading and Writing go hand in hand- to become a better writer, write more and read more; to become a better reader, read more and write more. At least this is what Lucy Calkins and Reggie Routman espoused in the 90s. Now I have not pulled this from nowhere, this post by EdTech Teacher speaks to the relationship between reading and writing and what sounds like an amazing app to help children become better at both. How, you ask! Read on to learn about Write Reader. Imagine your students typing and the app SAYS EACH LETTER SOUND AS YOUR CHILD TYPES! Now also imagine that there is a space below for you to write the words correctly a la language experience. Yep, it seems that good!

FREE posters, charts, and lesson plans for writing and grammar! Enough said.

Planet Nutshell is a video site for teachers and students. Now they have added videos for PreK too! Read about it here from Free Tech 4 Teachers. For more educational video sites, visit my livebinder!

You have heard of teachers teaching teachers, this is students teaching students and that is why I love this next one- Learning Walls. Why I love it is because it leverages the knowledge in the room because everyone knows something that someone else might need help with. Each one teach one!

Anxiety is a word we all know and have maybe even experienced at times, and this sketch artist explains it perfectly using pictures and some very good analogies. Something we can all learn from.

Our very own 3R was featured in the today!! Check out their Aquatic Animal Research Google Slides presentations. I promise you will be impressed by their bullet points, pics, and overall research presentation!

One of the skills students need to have for modern learning is critical thinking- the ability to question, analyze, and make judgments. This site The Historical Thinking Project aims to help teachers create lessons that will engage their students in critical thinking with regards to history and how what they are learning about is relevant today. After browsing through the site, one of the things I like are the different historical thinking concept templates that you can use with your students because they ask your students to take different perspectives, give evidence, and think about history with a critical eye. While this site is based in Canada, the templates are for everyone.

Music lovers and teachers, Stringquest is for you! It brings musical enjoyment, learning, history, and knowledge to students and lovers of music of all ages in a fun, game-based way. Resources, curriculum and more. Seriously, there is so much here that I think you will love it.

For word cloud lovers, this is for you. I happen to enjoy a good word cloud, but did you know that word clouds are a great way to find themes in writing, speeches, poems, and more? Read on for 5 Ways to use word clouds in your classroom.

Last is the relationship between Questions and Answers, aka QAR. This post from Reading Rockets speaks to why, how, when to use the QAR approach (you can use it in math for word problems!) and also gives some great examples of books you can use to teach the different response strategies (Right there questions, think and search, author and you, and on my own). 

I hope you find even one of these useful or interesting; if you do, feel free to drop me a line!

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)

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.


Care to Share

This week I have done a lot of collecting and have been so excited since last week about the things I was finding to share. And then the Shipley PLN Lower School Edition came and it had many great links to ideas and posts as well. So, here is the, and below are all the things I hope you find worthwhile.

This first link is to a ready to use Year full of ideas for using HaikuDeck with your students- something for each month of the school year. Haiku is easy to use and last week I sent you the updated features which should make Haiku a go-to presentation tool for all your digital storytelling and public speaking needs

Hola Classroom Pinterest Board. A great find for Spanish teachers. Scroll to video storybooks for Little Red Riding Hood and 5 little Pumpkins plus The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Espanol. Muy bien!

This Pinterest Board of Teaching ideas has some excellent ideas for your classroom. I happen to like the place value BINGO and the place value dice roll game. There are many more fun ideas like the specials clocks that show your students when their special is. This is great for classrooms where students do not know how to tell time, as well as for students who need to know at all times (no pun intended) what is coming next.

This tech toolbox is all about ways to communicate with your parents. You’ll hear about one-way tools like Remind and S’More and so many more. I like Remind because how do you really know your students’ parents are looking at the information. This way, they choose whether they want to receive text messages or email alerts.

Lend me your literacy has a page with pictures of the day to inspire your writers. Each day a new inspiration that you can project during writing time for your class to help prompt those who need a story to tell.

Following along on the visual prompts is this: Many classrooms spend some time during the year writing poetry. This idea is about writing visual poetry. Using a visual prompt, you can have the students write a Diamante poem, or any other form that you are learning. The difference is that the picture will prompt the poetry. Though this post specifically uses an app, there is no reason why your students could not do this without the app (or without technology altogether- if you felt like going that route).

Constitution Day is coming and PBS Learning Media has all you need (and trust me, it’s a lot).

This next one is AMAZING and I found it thanks to someone I follow on Twitter (@ictmagic)! Edpuzzle lets you make interactive, graded videos for your class. You can use videos you find on youtube, vimeo, Khan, Learn Zillion— crop ONLY the segment of video that you need, then add your own voice and questions. I think this is going to be one you will use again and again.

So this next thing is pretty cool. Imagine having the ability to record your lessons or capture a presentation without a videographer. Now go to swivl— a robotic mobile accessory that will change how you deliver your message. Take a look at all the different ways you can use swivl. Once you create your video, you can then use edpuzzle to interact with your targeted viewers to see what they are thinking. “Now that’s incredible!” (nod to the late 80s tv show here).

Some of you might remember that we have little bits in our science classroom that our 4th and 5th graders used last year. This year our 5th grade is going to have innovation time built into their classtime to use little bits (and other bits of things they bring in from home to reuse) to make some of their wildest creations. Little bits has introduced the Bitlab to see other people’s creations, submit your own creation, and vote on the one(s) that you think should get made into a real product. If nothing else, this is a great site to share with your students as they get ready to embark on genius hour, makerspace time, or if they are going to be learning about and creating their own invention. An innovative place to see what others are making.

Our Prek, K, and 1 classrooms will begin using ipads at the start of October. This article from a kindergarten teacher in Montana is about how her students use the ipads to enhance their learning throughout the day.

Do you find yourself doing a lot of talking in your classroom? Well perhaps you might enjoy these 8 ways to get your students to talk more (and you talk less!).

I’ve decided to end this weekly share with this statement: homework should be optional and left to the choice of the student and the student’s family. I’m not promoting here, just providing a provocative topic to capture your attention. I imagine there will be many different thoughts and reactions to this post. 🙂

Caring is Sharing

square_3931909203I know the saying is actually “sharing is caring,” but I am going to put it out there that if you care, then you share (i.e. caring is sharing).

I work with a wonderful group of fantastic educators. Over the six years that I have been at the school, I have tried several ways of sharing information with them and it has evolved over time. Here is a glimpse:

  1. First it was several emails a week with links to tools or tips– not terrible, people made me a folder in their inbox just to keep them from cluttering the rest of their mail
  2. Next the emails turned into a spreadsheet (blech- who was going to look)
  3. Then came the learning resource wiki (still up and running and regularly updated- love this)
  4. Weekly Wow Wednesday was my next endeavor- I invited my colleagues to my room to learn about the weekly “wow”. No one came. Ever. Not a soul. Sad.
  5. Not to be deterred, I turned my weekly wows into Web Wow Wednesday and shared my tips, tricks and tools via screencast which I then embedded on my wiki
  6. Which brings us to the weekly edition of the Shipley PLN Lower School Edition

Each week my updates which, as my tagline says, brings great information to great teachers. I eagerly await it’s arrival so that I can share it with my colleagues. Usually I open about twenty articles (or so), read through them, and then choose which to highlight. My motto with respect to this is not necessarily to pre-chew it as a mother bird might do, but to do the weeding and sorting for my colleagues, and then share what I think they will find “ready to wear” so to speak. OK, not so much ready to wear, but ready to use, read, try, ponder. Then I send an annotated email with links and a bit of humor (pretty much just to see who actually reads to the end) in the hopes that perhaps one or some of my colleagues will find something to use, try, or learn from.

Here is what I sent this week:

  1. Design Thinking for the Younger Crowd- this article brings the idea that design thinking is not just for the adult or teen, but also for the elementary student. The embedded TED video definitely gives some food for thought.
  2. Next, a Principal’s Reflection by Eric Sheninger- Eric Sheninger is the Principal of New Milford High School in NJ and author of the book I am currently reading, Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times. This post is about what kinds of exciting things are happening in his high school, but I am recommending the read for those of you that daydream about Maker Spaces and other STEM related ideas, and just to read about an amazing innovative school leader. If you can dream it . . . .
  3. Summer is right around a couple corners and that is a great time to get you PD on. Check out these workshops happening in Cambridge. Can’t get to Cambridge but still want to learn, just ask and I will happily make time for whatever you need.
  4. I’m not sure you know this, but I am a HUGE fan of Alan November and his annual conference, Building Learning Communities, also in Boston, is one of the best around. If you have an opportunity to learn from the amazing educators that Alan November brings together, then I strongly urge you to take it.
  5. Who is not a fan of the great Dr. Seuss?! Here is a s’more with 16 (SIXTEEN!) story videos.
  6. Create Thinglink channels and interactive albums with Thinglink EDU- Thinglink is a site I have shared previously but in a nutshell, upload an image and make it interactive by adding links of text, audio, video, links or other images. With Thinglink Edu teachers can create channels with the images your students create. This article shares the dets (that’s details in cool speak).
  7. Digital Portfolios– the time is coming. Here is why . . . And here is the how.
  8. I love livebinders- they are a great way to collect and share resources. Here is a whole library of binders that one teacher has created. Binders include resources for music, math, reading and more— actually, a whole school day’s worth of binders. And then there are mine. Want to make your own binders for your class or your grade level?? You know who to call (RIP Harold Ramis).
  9. From the man who never sleeps, Richard Byrne . . . This is a teaser; I highly recommend your clicking the link to see what he is sharing. I guarantee you’ll like it and want to start using it.

That’s it, my top 9 things for you to check out. Ta da!

photo credit: erika.tricroche via photopin cc

Connecting, Collaborating, Sharing, Oh My! This week’s Highlights

agenda_plannerSo much to share in this week’s Shipley PLN Lower School Edition and the focus or theme is all about Connected Educator Month and ways to become a Connected Educator.

First off is a blog post and video about what it means to be a connected educator. The embedded video shows a “day in the life” of this 6th grade teacher.

Second is this article from edudemic which highlights several free webinars that will happen throughout the month of October. Each webinar is focused on helping teachers and administrators make connections. Be sure to click on the link to register for these free events. All are recorded so you can watch on your own time if you can’t make it to the “live” event. I would strongly suggest checking out the recording from October 1st: “Connecting and Collaborating in Elementary Classrooms.” This article also includes an infograohic on what connected educators do (which is a nice complement to the video in the above post). October 8th’s webinar will be most beneficial: Creating a Connected Classroom. I hope you will register for this and put it on your calendar.

Next is this post from Tom Whitby, creator of The Educator’s PLN and frequent #edchat moderator. He asks the question, “Do we really need connected educators?” and then proceeds to describe the benefits that being connected offers teachers and students.

Last, but certainly not least, is this link to the Connected Educators calendar of events page. You can filter these by topic, audience (teacher, admin, etc), or event type (book club, webinar, twitter chat).

Now, before I sign off, I do want to mention that there are a whole host of other amazing articles in the Shipley PLN Lower School Edition on topics ranging from math and number sense, to helping students learn breathing techniques to reduce stress, to articles on character education, rigor and motivation, and using YouTube’s audio library for downloading copyright free music for your digital storytelling projects. I encourage you to check these or some of these out, but that you at least click on the links that might be interesting to you and those that will help you move forward in making connections for yourself and your students.

Will Wonders Never Cease

thumbn_1126113609It is the third year we have had laptops in our lower school. We are not one-to-one, but we are close enough to be good to go. We got our shiny white Macbooks three springs ago and have not looked back. What is exciting for me to see, as I go in to each of the classrooms, is that the students are ready to pick up right where they left off. Even our first graders, who only used them for the first time last year are remembering their passwords and logging in without issue. For our second through fifth grade students, for whom this will be their third year using these laptops, they are ahead of the game; even ahead of where they were last year at this time.

So, my hope is, that the teachers whose students these children are, will not only admire and acknowledge the students’ acumen and recall, but will tap into that knowledge and excitement and move these students forward, engaging them with activities and projects that will allow them to connect, collaborate and be creative.

photo credit: Martin Gommel via photopin cc

Digital Literacy

globe-e-mail-ball-earth-world-at-63774I know this post comes a bit late in the conversations the #etmooc group has been having around the topic of what it means to be digitally literate, but it took me a while before I could formulate my thoughts (which, I might add, are still percolating). So, better late than never I say.

Literacy, as defined by Merriam Webster, means:

Competence or knowledge in a specified area: “wine literacy can’t be taught in three hours”.

It would stand to reason that digital literacy then would mean competence and knowledge of all things digital.

So, I have a digital clock that I can read, but I don’t know how it works. I have a slight understanding of digital vs. analog when it comes to my tv, but certainly not enough to be able to talk about it coherently.

The dictionary defines digital literacy as the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, and create information using digital technology.

It almost sounds like one must be able to make their way through all of Bloom’s Taxonomy in order to be called “digitally literate.”

Can one be literate with Google search and all things Google, but not with, let’s say, the information once they get it?

If this is true, then there are probably many, many people who are only kind of literate. Topic-specific-literate.

So then, where do our children and our colleagues fall in this model of digital literacy? Is it possible for our students to have an easier time becoming digitally literate than some of our co-workers?

Let’s think about this a moment. Children who are growing up within this context are certainly around technology more than children who grew up even 10-15 years ago. I didn’t have a digital camera to capture pictures of my children until around 2003 ( I was late to that party– still clinging to my film and developing the pictures). Now, parents can snap a photo, look at it, share it, post it and delete it all within seconds. And children are doing this as well (just ask almost any parent of a young child how often their child wants to play with their phone, ipad, etc.).

So children are around technology more and use it more, but being immersed in it and using it are not enough to be digitally literate according to the above definitions.

Doug Belshaw shared this slideshow with us during his presentation for #etmooc. In it he speaks to what he terms the 8 essential elements of digital literacy. One of the quotes he has is pretty poignant and speaks to the nature of how quickly things change and become outdated:

The nature of literacy in a culture is repeatedly redefined as the result of technological changes. ~Hannon (2000)

It is apparent that one can be literate until something new comes along and then one must learn again.

John Seely Brown, in his video Motivating Learners, the Big Thinker Series from Edutopia, says that  “In a world of rapid change, any skill we learn now will have a rapid shelf life,” and that [we] need to learn to embrace change.

I think that for children who are growing up in this digital context, they will have an easier time adapting to the changes than adults who have not grown up in this context (some, not all). Just my personal opinion.

One of the reasons that I think some people may become digitally literate more quickly and possibly more easily than others, is desire and confidence in taking risks and, (as John Seely Brown terms), tinkering. For those who embrace technology and change and are willing to play and figure things out will be the ones who will become digitally literate before others. Which is why I think that children who are growing up in this context will have an easier time because they (many) are willing to play around on their way to figuring out how things work. Give a child a video game or a new ipad and that child will figure out how to make it work (I have watched it happen).

So it seems that we need to create environments where children (and teachers) are encouraged to take risks; where our students can feel turned on about what they are learning, so they will embrace challenge & not run from it.

image credit: pixabay


This past Saturday my friend and colleague @Wendye40 hopped in my car and drove up the turnpike to the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, NY for the TEDxNYED conference with the theme Connected. Instructed. Created. After some technical glitches and a short rewind we were ready to go with the first presenter. I was a little upset (actually more than a little upset, a lot distressed) because the wifi that was supposed to connect us to the world and allow us to be able to tweet and share was not strong at all in the  theater and was not even showing up as an option. I sat in my seat growing increasingly agitated as I watched my 3g spin and spin because I like to tweet during these events and I like to see what everyone else is saying. Unfortunately I was going to have to take my notes using pen and the lovely composition style program they provided and share my thoughts later. So, here I am two days later getting my thoughts together, ready to share what I learned this past weekend.

Presenter 1: Jenny Buccos (@globalcitiz)

  • Global citizenship is a critical 21st Century skill
  • Global education has mainly been foods, fashion, entertainment
  • What does it mean to be a good global citizen?
  • Everyone is a global citizen but some people feel they are only a citizen of the country they reside
  • You can’t opt out of humanity
  • Technology is erasing geographical borders

Presenter 2: Jose Luis Vilson (@TheJLV)

  • How can we as teachers and educators use our own voice to elevate our profession
  • Teacher voice should be nuanced, distinguished, powerful
  • We need to speak up and speak out
  • What do I need to do to advance my voice
  • We need to be advocates for our own profession (see related article)

Presenter 3: Juliette LaMontagne (@Jlamontagne)

  • Students need to be part of designing solutions to problems rather than just learn about a problem
  • The desire to learn by doing
  • Designing solutions to big global challenges
  • Project Breaker- unique projects organized around a challenge

Presenter 4: Jim Groom (@jimgroom)

  • We need to get away from crisis mode of education and invest in what it means to create and produce and be a citizen of the world

Presenter 5: Sree Sreenivasan (@sree)

  • “Almost everyone will miss almost everything you do on social media”
  • With regard to social media, we should always be listening, not just broadcasting
  • We need to marry the digital and the physical to have anything done; if you want it to be successful, bring together the physical and the virtual
  • Hashtags amplify what you are doing
  • Social Media success formula

Presenter 6: Jamie Cloud (@cloudinstitute)

  • “Educating for the future we want with the brain in mind”
  • “Most people make sense to themselves” – Dr. Steven Jones
  • We get stuck in our own thinking
  • Why is it so easy to get stuck in our own thinking: fear, change is difficult, how much our status, identity and finances are attached to the old model
  • Results of being stuck in our thinking: “believing is seeing”, we ignore or can’t read the feedback

Presenter 7: Chris Emdin (@cchrisemdin)

  • Hip-hop based education
  • Using your Heart Inspiration and Power to Heal Oppressive Pedagogy

Presenter 8: Adam Bellow (@adambellow)

  • Passion and dedication can be infectious
  • You are the one you can control
  • Question the rules of the system and change it
  • “Fixing” education implies it is broken implying it once worked
  • The problem is the way we see school
  • “McDonaldization” of Education”- now we stuff kids full of information rather than having them make stuff (at least during the industrial revolution, people made stuff)
  • We give kids boundaries of DONT’S rather than tell them what they CAN and SHOULD do
  • Problems have not changed, the medium has (instead of passing notes, kids are texting)
  • Come up with questions then figure out how to learn it
  • Every learner should have an IEP (individualized education plan)

The day was running late and since we had a 2 hour drive back, we needed to hit the road prior to the last few presenters but overall I came away with an understanding that education is no longer “one size fits all” and as teachers we need to harness the power of social media tools and other web 2.0 platforms that will allow our students to connect, share and collaborate with other  people around the world so that students can be the architects of their own learning.