Much Ado About Everything

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“LEARNING IS NOT ATTAINED BY CHANCE, IT MUST BE SOUGHT FOR WITH ARDOR AND ATTENDED TO WITH DILIGENCE.” ―ABIGAIL ADAMS

I love the start of the school year because it gives me a chance to think about what I want to do with the year ahead. I am not saying that the days leading to the beginning of school are not fraught with thoughts of wishing I had more time to stay home and relax (I work out of town most of the summer break), but, once I am back, I am all in! It’s kind of like when I wake up in the morning and calculate the number of hours until I can go back to bed, once I put my feet on the floor, I am up and there is no turning back.

One of the things I like to do is find tools, articles, websites for my colleagues and students that will enhance their teaching and learning, will reinforce initiatives, are helpful, or are just plain fun. This week’s share has all of the above!

First, a great tool that keeps getting better: Flipgrid (what is Flipgrid you ask? You can check out my previous posts that include it) has some exciting updates and improvements which you can find here in their blog, one of which is Shorts. Shorts is the ability to use the camera to make videos for your students, colleagues, parents, and community that includes a whiteboard mode, picture overlays, cool filters, and unlimited clips. You can see an example here.

Next are some tools I learned about from a recent post on Twitter asking people to share their favorite tools.

Genial.ly is a free tool for making and taking your images and presentations to the next level. You can begin a genial.ly in just a few clicks choosing first what you want to create. The options are many going from blank slate or template to learning experience, presentation, interactive image, vertical infographic to name just a few. You can work on your own or invite a collaborator. I made this one in about five minutes and it was not only easy to do, it was really fun looking at all the optional elements to include. Be sure to hover over the overlaid images and click on the button.

If you are a teacher, parent, librarian, someone who enjoys reading aloud to others, then this app is for you. Novel Effect amps up your read-alouds- no pun intended- by adding sound effects to the stories as you read bringing them to life like never before. Using your phone or tablet, find the book in their ever-growing library (currently over 200 favorite story and poetry books), plug in to a speaker (if reading for a class), then just start reading (note: you need to have a copy of the book, they have the music and sounds that correspond to the book). Novel effect adds the soundscapes, music, and sound effects as you read in the spots where the sounds go. If you stop reading, the sounds stop, if you slow down, the sounds will wait for you. You can check out their FAQs here and read how teachers are using it here. Adding this to your app collection is really a “no brainer.”

Speaking of stories, who does not love listening to a good one!?! Six-Minute Stories is a podcast I literally just heard of. When I say, “literally,” I am not being dramatic. I took a Facebook break and checked out the recent post from George Couros on the Innovate Inside the Box study group page and while reading the comments, I learned that one of the teachers uses Six-Minute Stories as a transition to class with her students. Of course I had to check it out (Curiosity is not in my top 5 signature strengths but is gaining ground with all its use). But I digress . . Six-Minute stories follows one storyline all year long, six-minutes at a time. It will definitely keep your students coming back for more. But wait, there’s more! The options do not stop at Six Minutes. Kids Listen has a whole host of podcasts (like Girl Tales and Tumble Science Podcasts for Kids) and story podcasts (like Sparkle Stories) for children on a whole range of topics! This one is definitely click-worthy.

While we are on the topic of kids, this next site will quickly become a favorite resource for your students of most ages (I try not to overgeneralize, hence “most” and not “all”). The Kids Should See This is a growing library of educational videos curated by its founder (with help from her two children) for kids of all ages. You can search from the more than four thousand videos in the Science, Technology, Art, Music, DIY, Space, Animals, Nature, Food, or Random categories, or get the list of new ones delivered to your inbox each week. I did a quick search for “sustainability” and got quite a list — 130 to be exact.

Last up is strictly for middle school science teachers; everyone else is free to go check out the other items :). In yesterday’s EdWeek email I clicked on an article about Next Gen Science Standards open educational resources called Open SciEd. Open Sci Ed is a fully free set of high-quality, full course, instructional materials for middle school teachers and student, along with accompanying professional development resources for science teachers. Currently there is one 6th, 7th, and 8th grade unit available for your use on the following topics: Thermal Energy (6th), Metabolic Reactions (7th), and Sound Waves (8th). By 2022 the full middle school science course that aligns to the NGSS will be rolled out and available but until then, there will be one unit available every six months. Their goal is to expand the resources from Elementary through High School.

Enjoy!

Free Teaching Resources: Always a Good Thing!

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Today I am diving right in to sharing some amazing free resources that are available for teachers (and parents too).

First is a set of evidence-based playbooks from Angela Duckworth’s Character Lab to help build character in your students and children. Everything from grit and purpose to gratitude and resilience with more playbooks to come, you will have research and evidence-based tools to help build and grow these skills. Looking to learn more about developing character in your students? The educator summit will be held this July 11-12 in Philadelphia.

Next is Open Middle: “challenging math problems worth solving.” I found this site from one of Robert Kaplinsky’s recent tweets and have been clicking around ever since. You’ll find problems for students from kindergarten through high school including this Ten-frame challenge for kinders.

The Math Vision Project is a team of teachers who set out to create free, printable math materials for teaching math that is inquiry-based, student-driven, task-based, and aligned with Common Core Standards. It is also a set of downloadable open source math resources created by teachers for teachers to use with their students learning Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, towards an Integrated Math I, II, II. When I say “resources” I mean everything you need to teach regular and honors math from beginning to end with both student and teacher editions, homework help, professional development resources and more. It is a complete curriculum offering multiple access points for students within the same classroom to be able to solve problems and show understanding.

Open Ed or ACT Academy is another free site with K-12 resources including lesson plans, assessments, homework, and videos for topics from all school subjects including Science, English, Math, and Social Studies as well as Social-Emotional learning, Electives, and Technology. You can search by grade, subject, resource type (interactive, lesson plan, audio, video, etc.) topic, standard, publisher, and featured content provider. Honestly, if all you do is click the type of resource you want, you will see the wealth of materials for you.

Last but certainly not least is Facing History, a site whose mission it is “to engage and educate diverse students on issues of racism, anti-semitism, and prejudice to promote the development of a more humane citizenry.” This site is rich with resources on topics from the Holocaust to Civil Rights, Race, Immigration, and much more searchable by subject (English, Psychology, US History, World History to name a few) and resource type (books and borrowing, lessons, featured collections, and beyond). They also offer several professional development opportunities to support teachers both in-person and online. This is a site you will want to spend time with.