Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tuesday Teacher Tips - April 30, 2013 - Sumdog, Jacques Cousteau, Testing Motivators & 7 Steps of Story Telling

These were the Tuesday Teacher Tips I sent out to my teachers today.  A bit of a random collection of fun ideas for sure.
Click on underlined text to open links

Sumdog—engage students with math games

Sumdog has been on my “To Find Out About” list forever, and when our very own Miss Leftin, tried it out and gave rave reviews, I figured I shouldn’t wait until this summer to find out more about it.

The site, which is aligned to the Common Core, seems like an engaging way for students to practice math and compete against the computer or live with others.  As their teacher, you can set the levels for them to practice, and the site automatically adjusts to their ability level based on correct/incorrect responses, so that all students have a chance to experience success.  As students answer questions correctly, they earn coins, which can be spent in the game’s store to make improvements to their very own game avatar.

Sumdog allows teachers to create a free login.  Your students can play math games, you can set up or join your school (Miss Leftin created our school code—JES1), you can create free student logins, monitor your students live, run 10 progress reports and create 5 activities.  There is the option to subscribe for a premium account for $2 per student or a Math & English account for an introductory $4 per student.
Jacques Cousteau - from Wikimedia.org
Manfish: the Story of Jacques Cousteau
Need a biography read aloud that has connections to science & invention?  Check out Manfish: the Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne.
The story is an engagingly illustrated narrative of Cousteau’s life.
As an extension, follow up with the Cousteau Collection a free iPad/iPhone app that allows you to access the Cousteau Archive.  Download it now, because for the next seven weeks, until May 9th, they’re giving away Cousteau Red Hats;)  The app does require you to purchase “trading cards” so that you can view facts about Costueau’s accomplishments, but you get a free pack for signing up.
You may also want to check out the History of Cousteau’s Movie Camera for information about how he began underwater filming –or check out the English  YouTube channel on Cousteau.
Testing Motivators
Want to do something special for your kids during state testing?  Check out these cute ideas at the Fourth and Ten blog.  I love the “You are One Sharp Student” pencil idea.  Or how about these cute notes from Classroom Freebies. Print, cut and pass out to your class.  Here are a few more cute ideas from Primary Possibilities—I’m a fan any time you can give away blow pops, and this site has the perfect idea.
Every brain needs a break, so when the day’s testing session is over, you may want to check out some of these ideas for a reward:
· Create a class Harlem Shake video—just download the app and you’ll be a total rock star.  The app is free, but you have to pay to be able to save the video to your camera roll (I have the app and can help with this!)
· Give me a Brain Break by Barbara Gruener includes links to many different ideas
· Or check out my Brain Breaks YouTube playlist—featuring such classics as: Kung Fu Fighting, The Sid Shuffle, Boom Chicka Boom, and Super Mario Gangham Style
Seven Steps to a Perfect Story
I saw this late last week on Pinterest and had to share.  Seven Steps to a Perfect Story is an awesome graphic that could help students if they’re stuck writing.  
The graphic walks students through 7 steps of choosing the pieces of plot that will help them write.  In the first step they look at an overview of the story to understand it.  In the second step, they choose their plot type (overcoming the monster, rags to riches, the quest, etc).   In the third step, they choose their hero (unwilling, anti-hero, tragic, etc).  For step four, they choose the rest of their characters and are in step five are encouraged to observe the rule of threes (three stooges, three little pigs etc).  In step 6, which is an interesting addition, students are encouraged to choose their “media” - be it dance/performance, traditional storybook, video, digital story, song etc), and step 7 is the golden rule. 
The graphic follows a modified archetype structure that is very traditional in story telling and can help students to organize their thoughts and you could easily use it as inspiration for a writing lesson or prewriting exercise.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tuesday Teacher Tips - April 23, 2013 - FollettShelf & Safe Image Searches

Click on the underlined text below to go to the links.  If you’re having trouble viewing the links, email me and I’ll send them to you directly

Introducing Ebooks

I am excited to announce that we now have ebooks available through our Destiny catalog! If you have a browser and a username/password, you can view our books!

screen shot of FollettShelf icon
To see our selection go to our JES Destiny account, click on FollettShelf on the left side of the screen, and log in with your usual school username/password. 

Once you are logged in, the site is fairly easy to navigate.  When you hover over a book cover, it will change to an “Open” prompt.  If you click on the book, the book will open in another screen and you will be able to begin reading right away.  To help you get started, I’ve made a few screencasts that will walk you through what you need to do.
The FollettShelf page on my website currently has two videos: Part 1—explains how to get started using FollettShelf & Part 2—explains how to use the interactive features.  These ebooks can be used in centers, individually or as a class, and there are plenty of ways to use the interactive features to assess student learning and aide them in comprehension. 

If you’re not a staff member at Johnson, but you’re interested in trying it out, let me know and I’ll send you a guest pass.

We currently have 42 selections available, but in the next few weeks, I’ll be adding over 100 more!  Be on the lookout for more information about how to use our ebooks on your tablet or iPad!
Other Ebook Resources
Your local, county libraries have tons of ebook resources available to you for free!
One of my favorites is Tumblebooks.  You will find links to this on many of the children’s pages of your county libraries.  Check out Kenton County Public Library’s Children’s page as an example.  Don’t miss the Magic Wall—where you can find ebooks in a visual search.
Kentucky Libraries Unbound (Overdrive) is another awesome resource.  All you need is your library card to check out books.  Campbell County Public Library is a great resource for these downloads.

A Better Way to Search for Images Online

Many handouts we make and projects our students do can be enhanced with photos and clip art. 
Often, when looking for an image, the easiest thing to do is just go to Google Image search, where we could end up seeing anything—some of it inappropriate.  Finding an image this way is also a really good way to walk into a situation of copyright infringement.

There are plenty of websites that you can use that offer access to open source photos, but they aren’t
always the easiest pages to navigate.

If you have a subscription, like we do, to Britannica Image search you can log in and search through millions of beautiful (and student safe) images that have been copyright cleared for educational use.
If you aren’t lucky enough to have a subscription to such a service, you can set your search parameters on Google, to search safely for images that are free to use, share, and modify, even commercially in just a few steps.
Steps to Search Google Images Safely
· First, turn on SafeSearch by going to www.google/preferences and put a check in the box that says Filter explicit results”, then click Save at the bottom of the screen
· Go back to Google, then click on Images at the top of the screen
Screen shot of Google Images search

· Type in your search terms
· Click on the Settings icon , on the right side of the screen, above your search results and select Advanced Settings
Next to Usage Rights choose one of the options that would apply to your need—you would likely want to pick images that are free to use or share, although you may find that you need to modify it or even use it commercially.
Screen shot of Advanced Settings Page

Remember, no matter where you get your images, it's best practice to always give credit to your source!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Flipped Classrooms: A Primer

I sent this information to my staff about flipped classrooms in my weekly Tuesday Teacher Tips email.  I would love to get to collaborate with teachers in my building using this as a basis.  Have you had any success with the flipped classroom concept?  What are the pros/cons that you can think of?
Photo from:
What is a Flipped Classroom?

A “Flipped” classroom is one of the newest trends in the push for student-centered classrooms.  In this approach, teachers video record those “sit and get” lectures, or gather a selection of video clips that would cover the content, ask students to watch the videos for homework, then come to class prepared to ask questions about the content, practice the concept or work on projects. 
Essentially, the goal would be to make class time a time of total engagement, where students have access to their teachers for feedback during the critical time when they are struggling to understand and apply the material.
According to the article “Flip Your Students Learning” by Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann, flipping the classroom allows for greater in class time to be dedicated towards achieving the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy where students will be working with the teacher to apply, analyze, evaluate and create.  It will also, according to the article, allow for “Self-Paced Learning” where students have lectures at their disposal to view when they are at their best or review when they need to brush up on content.
Check out Aaron Sams & Jonathan Bergmann in this 2 minute YouTube video about flipped classrooms

Should you Flip your Classroom?

When trying to decide whether or not you want to flip your classroom—or even just flip lessons—you need to consider the possible drawbacks and the benefits of doing it.
There are some obvious questions to consider before you choose to flip your classroom. 
First you need to consider the technology needs and if your students will have equitable access to the technology required to view videos.
Additionally, you need to consider whether or not the content lends itself to “flipping”.  Bergmann and Sams point out that “Not all classrooms lend themselves to flipping.  Courses that are more Socratic or inquiry-based, or those that don’t have reams of factual content for students to learn, aren’t particularly suited to flipping”.  They point out that courses “that consist of large quantities of content on the low end of Bloom’s taxonomy—in the categories of remembering or understanding—will likely undergo a greater transformation”. 
You should also consider whether or not you feel like you have the technical savvy—or whether or not you can partner with someone with the technical skills to help you flip content.  While you can use many different methods to create videos of your lectures, transferring the videos to the computer and to appropriate sites can sometimes be time consuming and frustrating.
Despite some of these questions and extra technology considerations, the actual benefits of flipping your classroom could be astounding.  Consider the elementary school teacher who needs to communicate to students and parents the finer details of the next big project; if that was presented in video format, it could be shared on a class website and all members of the learning community would have access to the same information and directions.  Think about the benefit it would have for the student who struggles with learning math concepts.  Creating a screencast of solving a problem or directions for how to do a particular problem could be shared and viewed over and over as a method of review.  Or what about giving that science lecture for homework so that you would have more time to conduct experiments in class?  You might also track down other examples of flipped lectures on the same topic and offer students a variety of explanations on the same topic.
If all of this seems like it would just take way too much time, consider what Lodge McCammon, project director of the Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State points out “I would give the same 70-minute lecture three times a day to my students—210 minutes of lecture on the same topic...if you film that same lecture, it ends up being between 8 and 10 minutes” (Springen 24).  I would agree with that statement.  When I have something to demonstrate in the library that requires going online, I often create a screen cast of the demonstration because I have found that in the long run, showing screen cast is actually faster than waiting on what could possibly be a slow internet connection, and it saves time because I take away the chance of spelling a URL wrong or showing something I didn’t intend to show.
How can I get started?
So maybe you want to give this concept a try, but don’t know exactly where to start.  My suggestion is that you start small.   Pick only the most important concepts and create a 2-3 minute video to share on your classroom website.
As Karen Springen points out in this month’s School Library Journal “Stephen Spielberg-quality videos are not the goal” - check out the link to the online article below (25) .  If you have any knowledge of  how to use Smart recorder, begin with that and create a screencast.  A screencast is recording of the actions on the desktop and includes narration—you record your voice and not your image. 
Don’t have time to do create the video ahead of time?  Don’t sweat it—record your screencast as you present the concept, directions or lecture to your class, then post it on your class website so students can go back and view it later if they missed something.  This way it’s also recorded for the next time you might need the same content.  Or search YouTube, Teacher Tube and iTunes U for videos on the same topic you would present about.  Maybe someone has already created a lecture over the same material.
How can you use the content you created, especially if you aren’t sure students will watch it? You’ll need to get your students used to the idea of watching videos for homework or using them to get directions.  You might start with showing the video lectures, directions etc in class and model where to find them and how to use them.  If you have iPads or computers in your classroom, consider creating videos for center time or individual research time that students can view.  Tie that to some sort of formative assessment, and you have a learning activity and evidence of the whether or not it works for your students.
Hosting sites to consider
If you’re not sure where to put your videos to share them, you could upload them directly to your class website, you could create a school account on YouTube Education and make your videos “Unlisted”, which means that only people with a direct link can access them, or you might consider sharing the videos through a service like Edmodo.
Recording your first  screencast
I highly recommend starting small and using Smart Notebook Recorder.  I shared this YouTube video from Radford University awhile back, and it’s a good one to review if you’re not sure how to use the recorder.
Resources to Check Out
The 10 Best Web Tools for the Flipped Classroom” - Edudemic (these are good resources)
“Flip Your Students Learning” by Aaron Sams & Jonathan Bergmann—ASCD
“Flipped Classroom Webinar Series” by Aaron Sams & Jonathan Bergmann—ASCD