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.

“Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally”

Hello friends! Thank you for stopping by to read about some great sites and tools. Please be sure to read to the end to see how you can get access to THOUSANDS of FREE e-books that you can use with your class. Trust me, you will want to start using this one right away.

First is a very lovely story about everyone’s favorite S word- Stress. It is a metaphorical story about how we can approach stress. I think you will enjoy it. Coincidentally, in the online course I am spending time with, I am reading about stress and stressors. In a nutshell, we all need a balance of stress and non-stress in our lives; if we reach a tipping point that moves us toward the negative (wherein we shut down, close down, are not open to new ideas or change) we need to find a way back by seeking ways of renewing ourselves (yoga, meditation, exercise, spending time with loved ones, giving back to others, etc). It is only through the restorative process of renewal will we be open to new ideas, more creative, and able to move towards our goals. Interestingly, a recent article by Dr. Robert Brooks (if you have never heard or read his work, he is fantastic. Visit his site linked above to hear some of his talks on resilience) talks about stress and mindsets. It will complement and validate the lovely story very well. 

Next is something very cool. I saw it on Twitter this afternoon (where else!) and I think it has a real place in the classroom. It’s called Periscope and it’s an app that allows one to broadcast a live-feed of themselves and what is around them. When used for good like @JudyArzt used it for today (and not like the girl in Florida who thought it would be a bright idea to share her post-party joy ride), this app can offer amazing opportunities to share learning with others. So, how can you use it? Well, first idea that comes to my mind is virtual field trips. You all go on great learning adventures- why not broadcast these to your Twitter followers & other classrooms who might not be able to go to Gettysburg, Ellis Island, the Chesapeake Bay, or the Insectarium! Let them learn along with you. Invite others to view your makerspace I-day inventions, or share your Painted Lady butterfly habitat. I think there are many possibilities to use this app AND to incorporate proper digital citizenship/positive digital footprint lessons at the same time.

By the way, if I have not recently told you about the power of Twitter, I have been remiss. I sent a tweet (a couple actually between Friday and Monday) looking for a class to do a virtual debate with our debate club. The response has been overwhelming and very kind. There have been over a dozen retweets, half dozen favorites. And a few teachers and edutopia bloggers who personally messaged me letting me know they are either trying to find a class in their school or are offering to help if I don’t find a class which, as of about 20 minutes ago, I did!! If you are not using Twitter as a personal learning network, please let me show you to the Kool Aid. 

OK, so here is another very useful idea that I saw via Edutopia and it is about Flipped Learning. Flipped Learning is when you share information with the students via either a video that you create about the lesson, or a video someone else creates, or share information with students about the lesson before they come to the class so that they have a little knowledge ahead of time and you can go deeper during class time. Well this article talks about ways to best do this, and shares an example of a video that the teacher and author of this article used with his 4th grade students prior to the first day of school. Why I think this particular video idea is a great one is that it introduced his students to him and his classroom and some of the first day procedures before they came to school. To me, this is a great way to reduce and alleviate some first day jitters. If nothing else, it gives the students a taste of the type and styles of learning to come.

Here is another great tool that you can use with your class starting today. It’s called Educanon and it is very similar to Zaption and Edupuzzle in that it allows you to create, borrow, use, edit, and share interactive educational videos with your students in order to Flip or formatively assess your students. While you can easily create your own “bulbs” which is what these learning videos are called, you can also choose to use a premade bulb like this one on multiplication and division using modeling. (while this teacher does not specifically call it “bar modeling” it is what he is demonstrating when he shows how to solve this problem), or this one on division as repeated subtraction or this one on fractions and decimals. 

While I was watching videos on Educanon, I found that there is a great site for  video math lessons called Math Antics that I think regardless if you use them to create interactive videos, they would be a great resource for homework help and reinforcing the lessons you are teaching like Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally PEMDAS or this one on long division.

Lastly, here is a site that you are going to LOVE. It’s called Zing and it offers thousands of free ebooks of popular trade books for you and your students from PK-high school to read simultaneously while allowing each student the ability to annotate and highlight, check the built-in dictionary for unfamiliar words, and you to assign books by topic, subject, theme, lexile reading level, guided reading level, and more. Take a look at Richard Byrne’s short video tour of Zing, then sign up. It’s FREE! Want to personalize your Zing and get a few extra options— for $10 for the year, you can select and assign different books to one, some, or all of your students rather than everyone reading the same book. 

Enjoy!