Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Morning News Shows and How To Create Video Overlays with a Windows Device




This week I have been working with several schools as they start putting together their morning news program for the school year.

Almost exclusively schools are using Touchcast to produce their morning show. It is super cool free software with lots of templates and green screen capability (plus so much more...really I need to apply to become an ambassador!). The only downfall is that it is an app and software only for Apple devices (most schools have bought an iPad to record their shows...it is that good!).

We have one school that just started their morning show and the person in charge (Mr. Blaine Peltier at Robert Smalls International Academy)  has done an OUTSTANDING job. I went in to see how he is doing some of his graphics and learned he has been doing them on his personal Mac at home (which, sadly, I do not have).

My favorite effect on his video is the Pledge of Allegiance where he has a two video overlays with words scrolling on the screen.

I was determined to figure out a Windows based version of it and succeeded (3 hours later!). The video above will walk you through the steps if you are interested in something similar.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Eclipse Activity Book and Badge



The Planetary Society has partnered with the U.S. National Park Service to create an Junior Ranger Eclipse Explorer activity book.

You can download the PDF for free of the book. It is pretty colorful so you may want to print it in black and white.

If you have classes tomorrow (Monday, August 21st) you might want to consider that as an activity for the day. Parents can then take their child to the nearest National Park to get their badge for completing the activities in the book.

Definitely call ahead though to make sure they have badges. The program is only offered at NATIONAL parks not STATE ones (I called our State Park without thinking but they pointed me in the right direction).

Happy Eclipse!



Saturday, August 5, 2017

FREE Eclipse Resource - REGISTER NOW (8 day waiting period)



Here in South Carolina we will be in the path of a full eclipse on Monday, August 21st. Many schools in the state have pushed their start date for students to Tuesday, August 22nd, as the eclipse is due to occur at dismissal time for many of the schools and their is concern about walk/biking home in the dark as well as curious students looking directly at the sun.

In our district students will be going back-to-school two days earlier (17th/18th) with the 21st off for teacher PD. Our district science coordinator has arranged for free solar eclipse classes to be given to all students K-12 and has put together resources for teachers to use during lesson planning.

Just about every grade level will get a lesson on what an eclipse is and how it occurs, as well as general safety tips.

With that said, I have been on the look out for science resources related to the eclipse as well. Today one from Mystery Science came up on my Twitter feed.

Mystery Science is a subscription based service that provides science lesson plans but for the eclipse they are offering their eclipse lesson (Why are people making a big deal about the solar eclipse?) FREE.

I went to access the lesson by registering on the site but there is an eight day waiting period so DON'T WAIT. You can speed up the waiting period by referring other teachers but I try not to spam my teacher friends if possible.

There are some sample Mystery Science videos that give you an idea of their lesson structures and they look pretty cool (videos, questions, easy hands on activities).

So if students go back in August and you are planning to address the eclipse you might want to check out the Mystery Science site and register to start your eight day waiting period today.




Monday, April 24, 2017

Free'ish Test Review Idea (it's Good!)


Our district just purchased a subscription to Flocabulary this school year. Flocabulary is a website that creates educational rap and material for teachers to use in the classroom across a variety of subject areas.

I jumped on the Ambassador band wagon this year and signed up to be an Ambassador with Flocabulary (along with Discovery EducationClassFlow and Seesaw...all sites and companies I use and love in the classroom). This is me sporting my Flocabulary Ambassador shirt :)


I love Flocabulary...and so do our students...it's rap...what's not to love! Sadly it is subscription based and I try not to promote anything too subscription based on my blog because I know most of my readers have no control over budgets. However, I feel there is a slight loop hole.

As an Ambassador we are given a 45 day free trial code we can share with teachers at conferences when presenting. I asked if I could share with blog readers and I was given the thumbs up. 

The 45 day free trial includes the ability to make a class and have students join so you can assign work and they can use the resources too (great if you are in a 1:1 environment but even if you are not you can use it for whole class review).

While 45 days does not seem like a lot IT IS enough to get you through any end-of-year testing you are reviewing for (see where the loop hole is helpful?). 

They have a ton of resources that support their raps so it isn't just showing them a cool educational music video. I use the "lyrics" first to make sure the song supports instruction (or to see if I need to fill in any instructional gaps). I then play it for students using the "fill in the blanks" activity. By doing this first I know they have at least heard the song and have followed along with the lyrics (I print out this activity so it is in their science notebook). Then I show the video and do the quick review (and have students make connections to our learning). Since I do work with 1:1 devices I then assign the students the rap and quiz and have them listen to the song on their own and take the quiz (for a grade!). 


My favorite feature is the Lyric Lab where students can create their own content specific rap. The system gives them keywords to choose from and will provide students with a list of rhyming words based on the last word they type. Once they are done they can choose from a ton of different beats to perform to (my favorite is "Climbing Trees"). 


Obviously the intent is that you will love Flocabulary so much that you will want to purchase a subscription (even if you can't purchase it you can still use the 45 day free trial). 

Here are your purchasing options and some tips to pay for it:

- There is an individual classroom plan (only for front of the classroom use) for $96/year. Our State Department gives teachers a $250 stipend at the beginning of the school year to use in the classroom at their discretion. If your state does that you can use the money toward a subscription. In my last school our grade level was given money and we have used that money before to purchase subscriptions as well. 
- You can talk to your principal about getting a school subscription (which they can call and get pricing on...it is listed as $2,000/year for every teacher and student in the school...which is a pretty good deal). This is the time of year principals have to USE UP THEIR BUDGET MONEY so if anytime was good to approach a principal now would be it. 
- If you teach in a Title 1 school you can approach the district's Title 1 Coordinator (they have one...trust me!). He (or she) usually has money and if you make a compelling case they can release funds for a subscription purpose. To make the case...highlight that Flocabulary is across all grade levels and subject areas so there is a lot of bang for your buck (it isn't "just" for math or "just" for ELA). You can add that rap music is more likely to engage children and help them remember content. 

If you have any questions about Flocabulary feel free to leave a comment. 



Sunday, April 23, 2017

How to Survive End of Year Testing



I have been working as a ClassFlow Ambassador over the past year and I have really enjoyed how much it has pushed me to find ways to incorporate ClassFlow in the classroom in different ways. We have so many teachers using it now and it has quickly become my "go to" resource for delivering interactive content to students.

One of my requirements as an Ambassador is to write a monthly blog post for their ClassFlow Blog (they have a bunch of teacher Ambassadors from across grade levels and disciplines who also write articles...and I find them super helpful). In this month's blog post I wrote about ways you can survive testing season. I tried to put in some useful tips, tricks, and links that I used in the classroom when I hit testing season (for us in SC we have five days spread over two weeks). To make it fun I used the words in R.E.L.A.X and C.H.I.L.L to highlight ten ideas worth considering.

How do you relax and chill during testing season?


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Blackout Poetry - Update





Earlier I wrote about how to do Blackout Poetry using Google Docs. I was dying to try it! A friend, who teaches 4th and 5th grade ELA to gifted and talented students, was all over it and invited me into the classroom. 

We all did a poem together so students got an idea of how the tech worked. Then they were on their own for their poem. 

The fourth graders struggled with what made a poem (many of them just picked words that summarized the article they were using) however the fifth graders did such a good job! The pictures above are a sample of some of the really outstanding poems.

I would definitely do it again! 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Jazz Appreciation Month - StoryLine Online


StoryLine Online just released a new book just in time Jazz Appreciation Month (April). It is called Rent Party Jazz and is read by Viola Davis (of "How to Getaway with Murder" fame).

Rent Party Jazz tells the story of: "Sonny Comeaux, a young boy living in New Orleans during the 1930’s. Sonny works before school and during the weekends to help his mother make ends meet, but they continuously struggle to make the monthly rent. When Sonny’s mother loses her job, all seems lost – until Sonny encounters and befriends jazz trumpeter Smilin’ Jack. When Jack hears about Sonny’s troubles, the musician offers to help Sonny and his mother put on a party consisting of tasty food, good company and great music in order to raise the rent money."

There is an activity guide for teachers as well. The activity guide is recommended for grades 2/3. 

Enjoy! For an additional jazz tie in type in "jazz for kids" on YouTube for music that you can play in the classroom. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Test Prep Practice - 3rd Grade Math


I have been working as a ClassFlow Ambassador this year which means I have been getting a lot of practice using the site to make lessons!

I have been working with some of the teachers in my district helping with test prep. I just finished putting together a series of five "lessons" that are designed to be test prep practice for our third graders. Each "lesson" has 12 test like questions which gives students practice in subtraction with regrouping, rounding, multiplication, measurement, and fractions. All together there are 60 practice questions.

The reason for this push is that our state will be going to mandatory computerized state testing next year with the option to begin this year. We took that option (as we are a 1:1 district). These "lessons" (I am putting quotes around them because they are more practice then lesson...but the system calls them lessons) are designed to expose students to computerized test questions in math.

ClassFlow is free to use (you have to make an account) and allows you to deliver interactive lessons to students on their devices (so they can respond on their tablets and iPads). If you are a 1:1 district I would definitely check it out.

Here is a link to all 5 math practice sets for anyone wanting to check them out and use them.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Blackout Poetry with Google Docs and Drawings


I love the idea of Blackout Poetry. The basic premise is using existing text and finding words within the text to create a poem...then blacking out what you don't need. There are many internet posts, pictures, and videos on creating Blackout Poetry for those interested in looking into this cool genre. Many years ago I tried it with a Girl Scout troop of fourth and fifth graders and they found the concept difficult..and I have to admit that I probably didn't do a good job of explaining it.

I tried a variation of it using magazines where students cut out words and created a poem using their "found" words. That went a little better (maybe because they can tangibly rearrange the words?).

Anyway...I haven't had much of an opportunity to work with students and poetry in several years and then this video came across my Pinterest feed and I got excited about using technology with blackout poetry.



The video was super easy to follow and I created a blackout poem using his instructions and text from DOGO news


I sent the video and my example to a couple of my tech co-workers who work with middle and high schools as a possible push for ELA classes in April. One of them asked if you could put an image behind it and that got me working on it (here is the same poem with an image behind it). 


To add an image I had to do it in Google Drawings.

So the poem was created in Google Docs using the instructions from the video and then I downloaded it as a PDF. I then took a snip of it (using the computers snipping tool...and saving it as a picture on my computer). I then opened up Google Drawings and inserted my poem as a picture and stretched it out to fit the canvas. I searched for a picture of a beach (since my poem was beach themed) and inserted that on top of the poem (please note you will no longer see the poem at this point). I right clicked on the beach picture and selected "image options" and used the transparency bar to make the beach image light so the poem would show through. I downloaded the whole thing as a JPEG.

I made this super short video that walks you through the steps. 

I haven't tried it with students yet but plan to work with a gifted and talented group of fourth and fifth graders after Spring Break to try it out (I will post their results and how it went). 



Monday, February 6, 2017

Black History Month - Video/Story




On my news feed at the beginning of the month StoryLine Online posted that a new book was added to their growing library of videos where celebrities read books online.

This one is called As Fast As Words Could Fly written by Pamela M. Tuck and read by Dule Hill.

The video tells the story of Mason Steel, a young African-American boy living in the south during the civil rights movement, who supports his activist father with the help of a typewriting in the fight for racial equality and ending segregation.

According to the press release the video comes with supplemental activity guides for both home and school, aimed at students in 3rd - 5th grades.

Since February is Black History month it would make an excellent read aloud (that you don't actually have to read aloud) in the classroom.




Tuesday, January 24, 2017

7 Sneaky Ways to Get Students Reading Using Technology - Article


Super excited to find out an educational article I wrote was published today in eschoolnews.com.

The article was inspired by a training class I conducted during our district's summer institute. As a mom of a boy I am well versed in getting my own child to read using sneaky and underhanded ways and this article highlights a few of those I think would work in the classroom.

The article was not a paying article...more of a contribution to the world of educational articles. Even though I write this blog and our district's newsletter (both of which I love to do!) it is nice to be published outside something I somewhat control.

I hope you enjoy!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Presidential Inauguration - Word Search




This week, Friday, January 20th, Donald Trump will be sworn in as our new President. Many teachers across the nation will be showing the event live in their classroom. Unfortunately while teachers are tuning in students may tune out. I developed a "Word Search" strategy that I modified from a teacher on how to engage students while listening to speeches and public addresses.

Prior to the speech ask students what kinds of words they think might come up in the President's speech. Brainstorm 10-20 words and then make a list (i.e. future, working together, hope, jobs). Have them try and think like the President. What might he say to try to motivate Americans from all levels and backgrounds? Have students copy that list on a piece of paper. During the speech have them listen carefully and put a check next to any word that the President uses that is on the list. If he uses it it more then once the word gets checked again. Note any words that seem to come up a lot that you didn't list. After the speech compare your results and discuss why they thought some words were mentioned and others were not. Did the words used help convey his overall message? Could they summarize his speech using words on the list?

I did this with fourth graders during Obama's inauguration and it worked like a charm. All the students were keyed in and checking their word list. The discussion afterward was certainly more engaging then if the event had been strictly passive on the student's end. This is one of those ideas that could be used from elementary to high school.




Two New (and exciting) Technology Upgrades

Exciting Technology Upgrade #1 - Google Classroom




This week Google Classroom announced that they have added a way to assign work to individuals, or groups of students, within Classroom. This is a HUGE deal, as it has been an issue of complaint not only in our district but also in the Classroom community forms. They have a couple of other upgrades as well (but this is the one that made the teachers I work with jump for joy!). You can read about the updates HERE.

What we would love Google Classroom to add is an inking feature for our touch screen tablet users (that would be users in grades 6-12 this year and 3-5 next year).

Right now our 3-5 users have iPads and Google Classroom allows students to open assignments and use the inking tool to write on documents with their finger (very handy!). However this isn't a feature available on our touch screen tablets.


The Classroom developers do allow for teacher feedback and I definitely submitted the suggestion (and asked a bunch of teacher friends to submit it as well). Hopefully, with enough requests, the developers might look into it.



Exciting Technology Upgrade #2 - ReadWorks Digital


For those of you unfamiliar with ReadWorks, it is a FREE site that offers downloadable leveled reading passage and questions sets for use in the classroom. I use it all the time with students. Most teachers typically run off copies of the passage and question sets for students...which, as you can image, uses a lot of paper. I've got several of our teachers putting the material into Google Classroom which reduces the amount of paper but Read Works just announced the launch of ReadWorksDigital which makes assigning reading passages so much easier!!!

ReadWorksDigital allows teachers to make classrooms, students then join with a class code and you can assign work through the site...which also grades the question sets. Students can join with their Google account if you are a GAFE school. To find out more there is a short video explaining how it works HERE.

I haven't tried it with a class yet but I am hoping to this week. I will report back once I have given it a test run. I'm definitely excited though!