Thursday, September 30, 2010

Let Them Sing It For You

Let Them Sing It For You is a site where you can type in a sentence or phrase and it will mash up little pieces of songs to create the sentence. It is funny and interesting. The truth is, I don't think there are many extremely relevant applications for this tool other than "coolness." It might serve as a good lesson starter for students. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Teaching Copyright Curriculum

A few days ago, I had the chance to discuss digital citizenship with some middle school teachers. Throughout our talk, we all seemed to agree that copyright and fair use were difficult topics to address. They can be vague! Well, Wendy Sinkler, a music teacher, shared this great resource with me. It is called Teaching Copyright, and it offers a FREE brief curriculum (5 lessons at 60 minutes each) to help introduce students to the world of remixing, fair use, and copyright. Check it out!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Progressive Phonics

As a former reading teacher and advocate of student literacy, I think this site looks pretty good. It is called Progressive Phonics, and it appears to be totally FREE. Teachers can download printer-friendly or e-reader friendly books that provide students with sequenced phonics instruction. My immediate reaction was: This is a GREAT resource to give to parents that will vary and reinforce instruction in your classroom. You have to register, but registration gives you access to all of the books. There are also supplemental worksheets that go with each book. (I was never a huge fan of supplemental sheets, but they work well with some teachers' styles.) Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Great Visualization for Bloom's Technology

While I have seen many renditions of Bloom's taxonomy (both digital and analog), the ones recently published by Kelly Tenkely were fantastic (see above). You can click here to get the original image files to use as posters in your classroom or as part of your instruction. I think visuals are important for both teachers and students. Constant reflection about the rigor of the activities in our classrooms will lead to immense student benefit. Enjoy!

Photo Citation:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Vocab Grabber

If you read this blog regularly, you know how much I value good vocabulary instruction across all grade levels. Well, I recently found a new vocabulary resource that I consider to be excellent. It is called Vocab Grabber. Here's what it does:
  • It creates an interactive word cloud from any text that you paste inside. Clicking each word will reveal a visual thesaurus, context from the passage, and a definition.
  • You can view the vocabulary words according to their importance to the passage. The list increases in number as you include more tiers of words. This is a great way to differentiate vocabulary instruction for all learners.
  • If you create a free account, you can create and manage your own vocabulary lists.
This really seems to help teachers create vocabulary lists that are authentically linked to text. Give it a try today! Thanks to Instructify for sharing this great resource.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pinball Graphic Organizers

Need to add some life to your graphic organizers? Well, the BBC has just released 5 interactive graphic organizers that have a "pinball theme." Essentially students "quick write" and sort as many ideas as they can as quickly as they can. I tried all the organizers, and I found them engaging and enjoyable. It could spark good discussion in your classroom. The graphic organizers would also be great for class brainstorms on a particular topic. This is a fun resource you could use with your students as you debut a new writing project!

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for sharing this resource.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Save Trees: Print What You Like

As a former third grade teacher, I can remember all of the paper that would be wasted when students would print research or information off the web. They would often get unnecessary pages, pages cluttered with ads, and other "junk." Print What You Like allows you to select a part of a page and print it easily. You can even install a bookmarklet in your browser to make the process easy. If you work with younger students, I recommend experimenting with this tool. It might save lots of precious trees!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Epic Fail: When Technology Doesn't Work

Last week, I planned to debut the new standards based grade book to teachers in grades 2-5. I spent most of the weekend preparing the handout directions, my slides, and my words. When the day finally arrived, I was somewhat nervous. This was my chance to make a strong initial impression on these wonderful elementary educators.

Well, nothing went according to plan. We could not log into the training database, teachers could not log into the system, and some people needed their passwords reset. The training was a complete and utter disaster. Not only was I embarrassed that I could not get the technology to work, but I also wasted an enormous chance to build positive relationships with these teachers.

While every single teacher was incredibly supportive and understanding, it is my strong goal to prevent this from happening in the future.

After some reflection, here's what I learned to improve for next time:
  • Always make sure that you have a list of log-ons and passwords for everyone in the training.
  • Create screen capture videos that you can show when things JUST DON'T WORK.
  • Keep group size small. With technology, large groups usually aren't best.

What do you do to prevent an epic tech fail? I would love to hear from you!

Photo Credit: Twitter Fail Whale from

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Upgrading Learning: Starting with Assessments

Over the past few months, I have been considering how standards based grading can positively impact the educational experience for both teachers and students. (See a previous post about my day with Thomas Guskey here.) Believing in a standards-based model has required several paradigm shifts for me, all of which were difficult but necessary.

Just yesterday, I was rereading some sections of Heidi Hayes Jacobs' book, Curriculum 21. In it she states,
"I have found that starting with assessments has proven to be the most successful portal to moving school faculty and administrators into 21st century teaching and learning."

What does this mean? It means that changing the way we view assessment changes the way we view instruction and learning. Standards based grading assumes that learning is student-centered. The more that our instruction includes learner-centered practices, the easier standards based grading will be.

There is no doubt that the progression to standards based grading is not easy. However, the benefits are worthwhile for our children. The more specific we can make our learning targets, the more effectively we can ensure that ALL students reach them. (In different ways on different days, of course! Kids ARE still kids, after all!)

Photo courtesy of


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