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.



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. :)


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!

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! 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?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

iPad Mini Giveaway

I am super excited to announce my first giveaway! Your chance to win an iPad Mini for your classroom. A topic I am most passionate about is getting technology in the hands of students. When Melissa @Teacher Treasure Hunter asked me if I would like to participate in a giveaway, I jumped at the chance. If one of my readers could have an opportunity to win technology for their classroom than I am on it! So if you win, I thought I'd provide a few tips of the trade to help you manage your new device.


Tip #1 is let the students use the iPad. I know a lot of teachers who have access to one iPad and they keep the device to themselves. Most are scared the students will break the tablet. I get it! Students like to run around the room. They drop stuff in the floor. They just don't pay attention!  However, an iPad is a goldmine in your teaching arsenal. Get a good cover and let the students use the iPad. However, there are certain things you need to know before handing this device over to students. For example, NEVER EVER add your credit card to the device! I always advice my teachers to create a class email. You can use this as your Apple ID, email address, Dropbox account, etc for the iPad. You do not want students or anyone else having access to your personal information.

Another tip is to become familiar with the settings app on your iPad. This will allow you to set up the iPad the way you feel is best for students. For example, you may be interested in setting a few restrictions on the iPad. It is possible to set the iPad so students do not have access to Safari, FaceTime, and the iTunes store to name a few. You can also create restrictions to prohibit students from deleting apps. One word of caution though when using the restrictions is be careful what you restrict. For example, when our district first started managing the iPads, our network administrator created default restrictions. I didn't pay much attention until one day I was setting up a cart. I loaded the restrictions and my teacher started teaching with one of the iPads she freaked..."Where is my camera?" Our network administrator had restricted the camera! I would not recommend disabling the camera. This is probably the most important part of the iPad for the classroom, but sometimes people forget almost all of the best apps need camera access.

One question I get a lot is how to disable the iPad so students only have access to one app. This is called guided access. This is so useful for young students when iPads are accessible during center time. You have given them a specific assignment only to find them playing Angry Birds! Can I get a witness!?! With guided access, students will have no alternative but to use the app you have chosen for them. If you are interested in how this works, check out my friend, Nancy's video. Another feature I think is so valuable for students who struggle with reading is the accessibility feature. By enabling the speak auto-text option on the iPad, students can highlight words, sentences, and paragraphs, press speak and listen to text being read to them. For more information about using iPads in the classroom check out the iBook I made. If you need more ideas of how to infuse the iPad in your classroom, check out some of the technology lessons in my store. I even have one to help with the one iPad classroom.

So now for what I am sure you are here for: the giveaway. "This giveaway is only open to teachers (classroom and homeschool) who are living in the contiguous United States. The winning entry will be verified and proof of eligibility may be required. Please see the complete terms and conditions at the bottom of the giveaway for more information." Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more technology tips of how you might use this wonderful device in your classroom, please visit the sites below: