The Gifts That Keep on Giving

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I love when I find things that can be helpful to my colleagues. Sometimes I stumble across them, sometimes I find them because I am on Twitter at the right time, and other times they find me because I am a subscriber to a particular site or blog.

Today is one of those days.

While scrolling through Twitter, I came across this tweet from @KarlyMoura:

How can we move away from traditional homework especially in elementary?

Try ditching those homework packets with family choice boards! Brilliant post by @TechCoachSusan Includes ideas, examples, and a template to get started!

Who would not click on that?! So of course I did and found a fabulous idea and set of resources for Pk-1 teachers in both English and Spanish which I am sure that teachers in grades 2-5 could easily modify to create their own. The teacher who wrote the blog post shared that she and her colleagues wanted to move away from traditional homework packets and create activities that would bridge school and home. Thus the interactive home activity choice boards were designed. Each week a new board with nine different options is sent home. Parents, guardians, and students can access these activities and instructions via QR code scanner or web browser allowing them to interact with them on the go as well as at home. The teachers have thought of everything and send home the reusable tools students may need at the beginning of the school year and throughout in the homework folder. You can click to read more about it here and then view the choice boards and templates for PK-1.

You know I am a big fan of Epic and recently Rivet and that is not changing. This next website/app is also free for teachers and students and has thousands of leveled books for children Preschool through 6th grade. It’s called Reading IQ and in it you’ll find popular titles of Newbury and Caldecott winners and other books in English and Spanish grouped by pre-readers, early readers, growing readers, independent readers, and Spanish readers ages 2-12. Like Epic there is a read-to-me option and like Rivet you can find books by Lexile and Guided Reading level. Sign up is easy and free. Create your account, select the grade level along with the leveling system you use in your class (Grade level, Lexile, Guided Reading, Accelerated Reader), add your students, and go! You can choose to have them take an assessment the first time they log in or not. Teachers can assign books to the whole class and students will find them both in the class library with the books at the class level at the top of their page and then books by category below; they’ll also find them on their own shelf with books at the classroom level. Definitely a great find! For reluctant or challenged readers from late elementary through high school and beyond, check out StoryShares. You can read what I wrote when I first shared StoryShares in this post.

Hello Flipgrid, how can you get any better? Well, pretty easily and actually almost daily! If you have not checked out the DISCO library (short and fun for Discovery) you should stop what you are doing and go now. The DISCO library has numerous weekly hits and featured topics ready for you to use with your class and new ones are regularly being added from places like The Met and California State Parks to name just the most recent two. So even if you are not sure what to have your students do on Flipgrid, you can just pop in to the DISCO library, find a topic, add it to your grid, and get started!

This Week’s Possibilities

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“Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.”
Ann Landers

It always amazes me how many tabs I find myself with each week full of things to read, share, or try. I know I have said it before, but I am not a hoarder of things- my house is very organized- (though my children would say I have emotional attachments to some things)– I do tend to hoard my tabs until I am able to share them. And while I do use my One Tab extension when I am sharing a group of links on a particular topic with my students or colleagues, I keep the ones for my weekly share open as a visual reminder.

Many teachers at one point or another have their students participate in a group project. I use the term participate loosely as you will see in this post by John Spencer, The Four Biggest Pitfalls of Collaborative Groupings (and How to Avoid Them) that there are various forms of participation depending on the group’s individual members and their personalities. His post (which also has the podcast version included if you are more of an auditory learner) is full of great examples, strategies, and helpful videos like Collaboration vs. Cooperation, and The Seven Keys to Creative Collaboration (or more affectionately titled, Why Group Work Doesn’t Have to Suck). If you are one who either participated in group work as part of your PLC, your department, your grade level, or graduate class; or if you do any sort of group work with your students, this is one post you may want to take time to read/listen to/watch.

Who doesn’t love a good smackdown! Matt Miller posed variations had a tech smackdown during his #DITCHBook Twitter chat (every Thursday at 10PM Eastern) on this question, What are your best tips for using (GSuite tools, Flipgrid, Quizlet Live, Quizizz, Kahoot; , in your classroom and got countless responses. He culled them and put this post together, sorted by the three questions and I am sharing them here with you ICYMI. No need for FOMO here. So if you have been thinking about incorporating some new ideas into your repertoire, or have been thinking about trying a new tool, take some time to learn from fellow educators.

Continuing on the learning path, MCIU (Montgomery County Intermediate Unit) has some excellent offerings this fall that you might be interested in taking advantage of. You can filter through 12 different categories like Social Emotional, Equity and Diversity, Literacy, or you can just scroll to your heart’s content and see what catches your eye. If you really want to dive deep, there is this Universal Design for Learning Professional Learning Community (PLC) that will be run from mid-September through May.

Last is a fun extension to your Flipgrid, Padlet, and Epic books experiences. #EpicPals is now in it’s 5th year running and is brought to you by Sara Malchow. Each month there will be a new collection of primary and intermediate books available in Epic (you can use the app or the browser version) that you can search for using EpicPals. There is also an accompanying Google Doc for each month that has the books as well as both a link to the Padlet that goes with the particular book. You can read about getting started with EpicPals here then you will want to join in the fun with your students and the hundreds of others who are also participating.

For more great tips, tools, and articles like this one from Eric Sheninger, “Why It’s So Important for Teachers to Cultivate Their Own Resilience” check out this week’s Shipley PLN Lower and Middle School Edition.

Happy learning!

Epic Updates and a Day-long

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

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

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

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

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

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