Monday, September 22, 2014

The 5e's of Instruction: More Ideas for Researching with Students

Ok, I admit it I am terrible at writing blog posts consistently. Last week I was determined to write about all of the tools I wanted to share for Explore in the 5e's. Life happened and I realized it's been over a week since I've written on my blog! I wish I could promise to write a post everyday for the rest of the week but it seems I have another busy week ahead of me. I will not make promises I can't keep. Hopefully, the quality of my blog posts will make up for the lack of quantity! haha All kidding aside, I really hope I am helping you on your journey to learn more about infusing technology in the classroom.

So today I want to share a couple of tips you might find of interest to help you with anchor standard 8 and 9 of the Common Core State Standards.
  • Anchor standard 8 states, "Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism." 
  • Anchor standard 9 states the learner will, "Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research."
If you read the other two posts I wrote about researching here and here, you will recall I discussed tools students can use during research. As I was preparing for writing this post I realized some of the tools I told you about would be perfect to use when teaching these standards. Now let's take the sites we have found and do something with the information:

Create a Resource Bank
I briefly talked about this in my last post, but I wanted to reiterate the idea. It can be challenging for students to find appropriate resources that are accurate and credible. Allow students to pool their efforts to find resources. Some of the tools I mentioned in my last post such as ThingLink or Pinterest would be perfect. Another option is to research directly from Google Drive when working on a shared document. There is a research tool to help students find the resources they need and cite the information included. By creating a resource bank of sites, students will be able to share the sources they know to be credible and rely on others knowledge. Remember the old saying "Two heads are better than one." It is still true.

Use Skitch
Skitch is a great app for students to use for close reading. I have skitch downloaded on my MacBook, iPad, and phone. Use this app for students to highlight and annotate the information they have found.

Students Map the Big Picture
Even though students have curated resources to help them with the research, it is still challenging to take the information and synthesize it. One way to help students with this is have students decide on the main points they want to focus on from their research. Students could create maps, timelines, or four-squares to organize their thinking. It is even better when students are allowed to work in collaborative groups or partners.

Avoid Plagiarism
Hopefully the strategy above of mapping the big picture will help students in terms of avoiding plagiarism. However, there are online tools to help you if you suspect a student of plagiarism. One of the easiest and cost effective methods is to simply take the suspected phrase or sentence, put quotes around it and search for it in Google. Other tools include Google Scholar and Doc Cop.

Don't use Copyright Images
I know this isn't exactly plagiarism but I think it is important to address. Be sure when students are using images in their research, they don't use images that are copyrighted. There is a fabulous tip for students to use when Googling images. This is how it works: 

Students type in the word - Click on images - Click on Search Tools - Click on usage rights - Then choose one of the filters. The images shown will be images related to the keyword that can be used for presentations and essays. This is important for students to learn, even the very young. There are also a lot of online sites students can use such as Pixabay to find quality photos.

Hopefully these tips will help you when teaching your students to synthesize and evaluate information during research and close reading. I also wanted to mention a great sale happening at Educents for the next week. The September Frenzy is going strong and you will find a ton of bundled resources for $15.00 or less. As a matter of fact, I have three of my Folktale units for sale at 57% off. These units are great for close reading with students. 


$15 Frenzy is BACK at Educents!

From Monday, September 21 - Sunday, September 28, 2014, Educents is bringing back the ever-popular $15 Frenzy! Here's your chance to get 15 different curriculum bundles for less than $15 each! Some incredibly talented teachers have come together to bring you Science, Reading, Language Arts, Interactive Notebooks, Planners, Math Centers, Social Studies Units, Reading Comprehension Units, Clip-art & more! You're sure to find something during this amazing sale! Check out my unit by clicking on the picture below.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The 5e's of Instruction: 6 Tools to Help Explore Content

Today I would like to introduce six online apps and tools to explore content with your students. If you have been reading my posts over the last couple of weeks you will be familiar with my series on the 5e's of Instruction. You may recall I shared with you six tools to help engage your students. Earlier this week I discussed the second "e" known as explore. I believe exploring concepts doesn't have to be just for content units of study. There are a variety of ways in which we can explore concepts, strategies, and skills. However, for this particular post I want to concentrate mainly on tools I use for inquiry and research.

Six online apps and tools to explore content and research with your students.

My last post introduced you to three anchor standards from the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). These standards require students be taught how to research, analyze, and reflect on topics and texts. I want to focus on anchor standard seven which states:
  • "Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation." 
Exploring concepts when introducing a unit, strategy or activity is so important especially for problem-based learning or inquiry units of study. I envision the process like this...let's pretend our brain has pieces of velcro all over it. In order for information to stick to the velcro connections need to be made. In order to make connections, students must develop background knowledge of the topic at hand. Therefore, exploring the concept or topic is vital. However, just because students research doesn't mean they understand.

I think one of the biggest challenges teachers and students face when researching a topic is the simple fact the material is too difficult for students to read. Therefore, students need scaffolding to assist them in understanding the content so the content will stick (to the velcro). So let's look at the tools to help you provide the biggest scaffold.

Aurasma - I absolutely love this app! I love it because I can customize the user experience, which is why it is the tool that can provide the biggest scaffold for a student. To be honest, your options are limitless. For example, let's say I want a student to read an article online but I know it may be a little difficult. So I create a trigger image for students to scan. When scanned, a video will pop up to help the student in some way. It could be a video with directions, a video to help build background, or a video lesson. Once watched, the student can then tap on the video to read the article online.

ThingLink - I typically use ThingLink when students are researching to allow them to curate all of their resources into one easy location. This way they can refer back to the resources throughout the unit. However, piggybacking off of the idea above with Aurasma, I could see how ThingLink would be a great way to house the sites, videos, etc. students would need when doing research. You could even embed a Google document into the ThingLink for students to take notes.

QR Code Reader - I like to use QR codes to send students to specific sites especially for younger students. This diminishes the time factor problem that always arise when allowing students to actually search for their own resources. It also ensures students are reading the appropriate materials at their level.

Pinterest - Have you ever thought about using Pinterest for your class instruction? I have never tried it out myself but this is how I imagine it to work. Create a class Pinterest account. Whenever you are doing research students could pin content to a specific board named for the unit. Every student would have access to the findings which would be super helpful. I would think you could set a timer for pinning. Another way to use Pinterest would be to have students actually do the research within Pinterest. There is such valuable information on Pinterest with a wide range of topics. One last option would be to actually have content already pinned to a board for students to research. This would be especially appropriate for the younger students.

Newsela - This is by far one of my favorite online resources for reading nonfiction articles. What I love about this tool is it can be differentiated for each student. Create a classroom account, add your students, and assign the article. The differentiated part is each article can be read at different Lexile levels. Just assign the appropriate level to the appropriate student at their "just right" level. It is that simple! Other great features include the ability for students to take online quizzes as well as highlighting and note taking feature. This is great for close reading assignments. It looks like there is a Pro option which would allow the teacher to track student progress and results.

National Geographic Young Explorers - My last tool is for the little ones. I love this site! My only wish is that it worked on the iPads. I guess it could if you had a flash enabled app. Anway, this is a great site to use with K-1 students doing research. Remember, even the little ones have shared research projects. Students can listen to and read online magazines; most written about animals.

So now you know six of my favorite tools for exploring content. However, I'm not finished exploring this topic. Next I want to show you a few simple tricks you can use to teach anchor standard 8. So be sure to subscribe by email so you don't miss out!

What are tools you use in the classroom? I'd love to hear more about them.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The 5e's of Instruction: Exploring Concepts During Problem-Based Learning

Do you like teaching problem-based learning units with your students? I know I love them! There are so many teaching strategies and tools to use to keep inquiring minds engaged. Recently, I talked to a friend of mine who is going to departmentalize in her grade level. She will teach literacy, another teacher will teach math, and another the content areas. I'm not a huge fan of departmentalization but I started wondering what subject I would want to teach if I had to departmentalize. The obvious choice would be literacy since I was a literacy coach for four years. However, I really think if I had a choice I would teach science and social studies. I have always loved creating units of study. I could still teach literacy concepts through the content area but would be able to do so much more. It would be the best of both worlds! Plus I am definitely a nonfiction girl and when I read for pleasure I pretty much always read nonfiction. I know this is not always the norm and it can be difficult to research and explore new concepts with students. This is why I wanted to spend some time this week discussing the second e of the 5e's of instruction known as EXPLORE. You may recall a post I wrote about this framework. The 5e's of instruction are:
  • Engage
  • Explore
  • Explain
  • Elaborate
  • Evaluate
Learn teaching strategies and tools to help you teach problem-based learning units.

To me exploring concepts during a unit is all about inquiry and research. Whether your state has adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or not there should be some type of standard related to teaching students how to research, analyze, and reflect on topics and texts. In the CCSS, research is addressed in anchor standards 7 and 8 of the writing standards.

  • Anchor standard 7 states, "Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation." 
  • While anchor standard 8 states, "Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism." 

These anchor standards are the overarching idea for teaching students about research. Even in kindergarten, students are to begin participating in shared research and recall information from provided sources. The question becomes, "What does research look like with the little ones and how does it change over time?" So let's take a closer look at the standards from kindergarten through 5th grade.

In K-2 it is all about "shared research". Students are gathering information and answering questions about particular topics through exploration in group settings or with partners. A slight variance occurs in second grade in which students are to begin recording observations or findings during science experiments. However, it's really not until third grade, students start conducting short research projects independently and record findings by taking brief notes and sorting information into categories. Fourth grade is when research becomes a little more complex and anchor standard 9 is introduced.
  • Anchor standard 9 states the learner will, "Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research."
In fourth grade students begin to list the sources in which research was found as well as analyze informational texts more in depth. When students move to fifth grade they are required to paraphrase or summarize notes taken during research. One obstacle of teaching research to students is the lack of appropriate materials and digital resources available. Comprehension can be difficult when students are asked to read from materials that are way above their reading level. This is especially true when reading nonfiction.

However, research is so much more than just reading comprehension. Students need to be taught HOW to find appropriate Internet sites, which images are appropriate to save for their projects, how to use advance features in the search tools, and how to provide credit and list their sources. In my first post on the 5e's, I discussed six tools to help engage students and assist in building background knowledge. This week I'm going to give you tried and true techniques and tools for exploring content on the Internet and research particular topics. So over the next several days I am going to share with you some great resources to help you when doing research with your students in order to make exploring concepts with your students a breeze. Stay tuned! You don't want to miss this series!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Online Professional Development: Teacher Training Bootcamp Style

You may recall earlier this year my technology series known as "Teacher Training Bootcamp". I collaborated with some wonderful teachers from around the globe to bring you tips and tricks for using Google Apps for Education in the classroom. Some of the topics I wrote about were:

Using Google Voice in the Classroom
Tips for Creating and Viewing Google Calendar
Creating Google Quizzes for Primary Students
Using Flubaroo to Grade Your Google Quizzes
Using Google Sites for Teacher Evaluations

This collaboration was such a great experience I decided to start a new website known as Teacher Training Bootcamp, along with Nancy Alvarez of Teaching with Nancy. My plan is to use this site, along with its sister sites, anytime I provide some type of professional development or speak at a conference. One of the reasons I decided to do this is because during professional development sessions, teachers are scrambling to take notes and sometimes miss important points. By having the site, teachers will have all of the information provided during the session as well as any extra information. For example, when Nancy and I presented augmented reality at the TechnoPalooza conference, we did not have enough time to show the teachers how to make auras using Aurasma but we could provide access to everything they needed to learn later. Teachers could also use this information to present at their own schools. Now everyone has the same information.

I believe in the power of the teacher. Professional development is so important to teacher success, but it has to be quality. When I first started teaching I remember sitting through countless professional development sessions feeling like my time was being wasted, especially at the beginning of the school year. Maybe it was because I had so much to do, but many times it was because I longed to leave sessions with a take away. Even if it was just one tidbit of information, I wanted to learn something...anything! This might be why I started teaching professional development and why I became a coach. If the session was awful, I had no one to blame but myself. :)

Online professional development from Tech with Jen.

Most professional developments are a one size fits all but now with 24 hours of online training teachers can customize their professional development needs to fit their interests and their needs. The great thing about the digital age is the simple fact I can bring the professional development to ME, wherever and whenever I want. I am a huge advocate for being proactive. If I want to learn something I am sure I can find it on the Internet by reading a blog article or watching a YouTube video. Of course, it's no fun learning by myself, which is why it is an added bonus there are so many opportunities to connect with like-minded educators through social media.

I dream of the day when our schools "catch up" with today's technology. How cool would it be for districts to allow teachers to take charge of their own learning? What if teachers could spend time chatting on Twitter for an hour and count the time as part of the REQUIRED hours of professional development or the time spent researching and writing a blog post on an important topic? I know I am just thinking out loud and haven't really thought this through but WHAT IF? Would things be different?

If you are reading this blog post, I am probably preaching to the choir. I would bet you DO take charge of your learning or you wouldn't be here, but what about the teacher next door? I am always surprised at how many teachers do not read blogs, pin on Pinterest, or even type their lesson plans. However, if I had to guess I am sure the main reason is time and (as many tell me) lack of professional development. If only teachers had more time! SIGH! I guess there is not much I can do about time, but the professional development, I could help!

Well I'm on a mission. Earlier this month I wrote a post about building your own professional learning network (PLN). I challenge you to find at least one teacher in your school or district to mentor or partner with in learning online. I have a few ideas of how we can begin collaborating and will be discussing them in the next few weeks. I would really like for my site to become a community and would like to get to know you. So I am inviting you to join my PLN. So how do you join? Fill out the following Google form and I will contact you as soon as I can. You may also reach out and let me know how I can help you on your professional journey through my social media sites or my contact form on the right. I look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Interactive Reading Notebooks: Greek Mythology Style

Interactive reading notebooks are still very popular, but have you ever thought about doing them on your iPad? I've talked about the process a couple of times already on my blog {here} and {here}. My app of choice when creating a notebook has to be hands-down the Book Creator app. It is a very simplistic app, even for the very young, but yet powerful enough to use with students of all ages. Students can add pictures, text, audio, and video to the book. It can also be published by opening in iBooks, saving as a pdf to be printed out, or it can be exported as a video for publishing on the web. I love this feature because now students can share what they have created using the app without having to worry about their audience not having the right technology to view their books. Genius!
Use the Book Creator app to create interactive reading notebooks during a Greek Mythology Unit.

Another reason I love Book Creator is because I can create templates so students can easily add their content. I don't always create my own templates because I like for students to be able to design their books but sometimes it just makes sense to have a template as a scaffold. Take my Greek Mythology unit, for example. In this unit, I created a template because I had specific content I wanted students to work on as they were analyzing the different myths. It made it easier for everyone involved to have the exact same template for organization purposes. Students could add their content and artifacts to the book and when the unit was complete have a great eBook, pdf, or video to share with family, friends, and/or the world. This is a great new feature (or at least it is new to me)!

As you can see from the video, students have a variety of activities they can do to deepen their understanding of Greek myths in a fun and engaging way. This takes the interactive notebook to a whole new level and helps the teacher better assess students knowledge of the topic. So what do you think? Do you think these interactive notebooks would be a hit in your classroom? Click on the picture below to take a closer look at my Greek Mythology unit. Even if you don't have technology, students can be taught the same skills using the graphic organizers provided in the document or you could even use the templates in PowerPoint. If you ever have questions about how this works please do not hesitate to ask.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The 5e's of Instruction: Let's Talk Student Engagement

Have you ever heard of the 5e's of Instruction? Several months ago I was planning for one of my units when I came across several resources about the 5e's. I immediately fell in love with the structure because this is exactly how I teach during my units of study, I just hadn't realized there was a framework. The 5e's are:
  • Engage
  • Explore
  • Explain
  • Elaborate
  • Evaluate
I thought I would share with you over the next several weeks how I use the 5e's during my units. For today's post I'd like to talk about engagement. When I am teaching a unit, I like to find out what my students know about the topic at hand. I also need to make connections between past and present learning experiences. However, my lesson must focus students' thinking so they can become mentally engaged in the learning. My favorite way to do this is to begin with the RAN Strategy. This strategy was developed by Tony Sneed from the book "Reality Checks: Teaching Reading Comprehension with Nonfiction in Grades K-5". Basically, the strategy is the same concept as a KWL chart but it takes the idea further. 

For example, ask a student the following question to begin a unit, "What do you THINK you know about ________?" Students can write their thinking on a post-it, graphic organizer, or by using technology. Once they have written what they think they know about the topic, read or have them read an article/book, watch a video, or use some of the technology tools below to introduce the concept and build background. Students will then look at what they have written and move their thinking to the "Confirmation" or "Misconception" section of the chart based on what they learned from the book or video. They can also write any "New Learning" and "Wonderings" to the chart.

Great list of apps to engage your students.

My favorite technology tools to use to determine student readiness and get them excited about the learning would be:
  1. Kahoot - Online game tool that is super fun and engaging. Click here to learn more.
  2. Socrative - Create quizzes for students to access on the computer or tablets.
  3. Nearpod - This can be used on computers or tablets. A whole unit could be taught using Nearpod. Click here for more information.
  4. Frolic - Frolyc is a lot like Nearpod. It has some great features.
  5. Google Drive - Use Google forms to gather information about what students' know about a particular topic. Here is a post I wrote about using forms in the classroom.
  6. Padlet - I use Padlet to help in creating the RAN strategy, when technology is available. Padlet is basically an interactive wall. If you have devices students can scan a QR code to get to the Padlet and type what they know directly on the wall. If you don't have access to this technology, students can do this in a computer lab setting or just type student responses on the wall during a whole group lesson. Click here to learn how to make one. 
Of course, sometimes there is nothing better than a good book to engage your students!

Hopefully, I have given you enough information to help you get started getting started with one of these great tools. Choose one and try it out. Tune in next week, as I talk about the second e - explore. What tools do you like to use to engage your students? I'd love to add it to my list.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Bring on the Learning Revolution

I have been in education for almost two decades. This week I met two new teachers who were students at the elementary school I taught and now are teachers themselves!?! YIKES!! Where did the time go? I remember being the youngest, bright-eyed new teacher of the bunch. I also started thinking of how things have changed a lot since I first started teaching. Back in the day, (my kids laugh at me when I say this) teachers had more autonomy in the classroom to make decisions for themselves. Unfortunately, since "No Child Left Behind" was passed, the education of our students has changed dramatically! At times I am sad for all that is put on teachers in the classroom and other times, I will admit, I get MAD! Enough is enough! Please for all that is holy in the world, let teachers TEACH!

I could rant about this subject all day long (especially after the day I had), but to tell the truth, I am a cup half full kinda girl. I could let the state of our system get me down but I believe this is an exciting time in our educational history. I know for many schools around the nation, changing educational paradigms may seem out of reach. There appear to be a lot of external reasons for this such as money, administrative and state mandates, and parental influences. However, I have always and will always believe that an extraordinary teacher can remove barriers and create conditions in which students can flourish and be innovative. Teachers are what make a difference! YOU have the POWER!

Don't endure the state of education. Let's change it together!

Don't endure the state of education. Let's change it TOGETHER! The best defense is to arm yourself with knowledge. There are so many opportunities for teachers to learn and grow together. You can find a lot of opportunities in Facebook groups, Twitter chats, or even just following your favorite blogs. Better yet, step out on the ledge and write your own blog. If you feel overwhelmed, these avenues are great ways to develop a Professional Learning Network (PLN) with like-minded educators who understand what you are going through, bounce ideas off of, and create plans to develop your passions and ideas.

It is important to realize innovation is the spark of insight that leads the learner to question, experiment and test assumptions. In the world of education, in order to be innovative the educational system itself must change as well as the instructional delivery system. According to Sir Ken Robinson in the video, "Bring on the Learning Revolution," he states, "It's about customizing to your circumstances and personalizing education to PEOPLE you are actually teaching. Doing that is the answer to the future. Develop your own solutions with external support." So develop your OWN solution. You have the tools. In today's world you no longer need your district making decisions about your learning needs. For example, you may read my blog and find lots of ideas you never even considered. You have the whole world at your fingertips! Use them to bring about change! Have a great year!

For me, innovation is driven by a commitment; because you believe in something better. What does innovation mean to you? Are you ready to bring on a learning revolution?