Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tune Into Technology Linky: Integrating Technology into Reading

I'm excited to be linking up with iTeach 1:1 and Learning to the Core for their new series Tune into Technology. This week's topic is Integrating Technology into Reading, so I wanted to share 5 strategies I use to do this.

1. Let kids annotate their reading with GoodReader.

I've talked about this app before, but it's one of my favorites. GoodReader allows you to annotate pdf documents. I use it for almost all of my professional reading, and I've converted several documents into pdfs for my students as well. It's a fantastic tool because my students are able to leave "think marks" all over their reading, and I don't have to worry about them writing in a book or leaving sticky notes everywhere. We've even developed our own codes for how to use the annotation tools.

2. Share favorite books on KidBlog.

My students LOVE sharing the books they're reading on KidBlog, and they especially love reading and commenting on each other's blogs. I've talked more about how we do this in a previous post.

3. Create Book Trailers in iMovie.

Some of my students began doing this for fun at the end of the school year when we became a 1:1 iPad classroom, and I will definitely be doing this more next year. iMovie has some great templates built-in for this, and my students loved being able to share their favorite books through this medium.

4. Create book clubs and discussion groups on Edmodo.

We started using Edmodo at the end of the school year, and it was a great way to get conversations started or keep them going about the books we were reading in class. You can read more about getting started with Edmodo in my paperless series here.

5. Use Evernote and GoodReader to assess reading.

I use the running record templates from the Reading & Writing Project at Teacher's College. Because they're pdf files, I can annotate them in GoodReader, and I can record students while they're reading in Evernote. I've written a complete tutorial on how to do this here.

How do you integrate technology into reading instruction in your classroom? I'd love to hear your ideas. And be sure to link up with the Tune into Technology linky!

And don't forget to join us for the Southeastern Blogger Meet Up. Click the button below to get the details and RSVP!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

July Currently & Goals & a Meet Up!

Oh, July! You seemed so far away a month ago. How could you possibly be almost here already?! Can't we add another month in between June and July? I really, REALLY want to hold on to June as long as possible. I'm really not ready to return to work in a few weeks...

Currently July

I'm linking up with Farley at Oh Boy! 4th Grade for the July Currently.

Listening: My little girl is almost 2, and she LOVES books. She also loves Pete the Cat. I took her to my favorite children's book store, Little Shop of Stories, to get the new Pete the Cat book the day it came out. Given that she knows and loves the song "Wheels on the Bus," it's a great book for her to "read" on her own.

Loving: I signed up for the one-month trial to tinker around with it, and it's fantastic. I'll definitely be using it next year.

Thinking: that I'm much more prepared to teach the Common Core this year -- especially with math. I'm excited about implementing all of the things that I worked on this summer to get ready for math, and I'm optimistic about my year ahead.

Wanting: a longer summer break. There are so many things that I still want to do before going back to school, and I don't think I'm going to be able to get them all done.

Needing: a maid. I can't keep up with my husband, toddler, and two dogs. Once I go back to work, it may be time to hire someone to come in each week.

Tips, Tricks & Hints: One thing that helps me with time management is to try to group all of my like-projects together and work on them at once. For example, I have one day a week at school that I do all of my copying (or at least I did before going paperless!). I also spend one day working on plans for each subject (e.g., a day for math planning, a day for science, etc.) and a day for working on blog posts, etc for the week. This helps me use my time more efficiently and stay relatively organized.

July Goals

I'm also linking up with Jess at I {Heart} Recess for the first time for the monthly goals post.

Personal: I want to start exercising at least 3 times a week (baby steps). I return to work in a couple weeks (!), and I know with all that I'll be juggling this year between work and my doctorate that I will need to do better with exercise for balance and stress management.

Family: I want to squeeze in a couple more "date days" before going back to school. My daughter is in school year round, so on "date days," my husband leaves his office before lunch, and then we go out to lunch and catch a movie before picking her up. It saves us babysitting costs, and it's a fun way to spend our afternoon.

Health: A few years ago when I lost a lot of weight, the biggest change I made was that I consistently drank 64 oz of water every day. Now that I've gained back the weight (and then some), I need to start drinking at least that much water every day.

School: I report to our staff retreat on July 17th, and then pre-planning officially starts on July 25th. I need to figure out how I'm going to decorate my room before then and map out some plans for the first few weeks before then.

Blog/TpT: I'm hoping to wrap up my Paperless Challenge series in the next few weeks, and I have several new TpT products in the works. This summer has just gone by too quickly for me to finish it all!

Outside the Box: I want to find some easy and tasty breakfast and lunch recipes that I can use throughout the year. I do a fairly good job cooking healthy dinners, but I am not consistent the rest of the day. I often forget to eat breakfast, and then I don't make the best choices for lunch either. The more I plan ahead, the better prepared I'll be. And this justifies spending more time on Pinterest. Win-win!

Southeastern Bloggers Meet Up!

Have you heard about the Southeastern-area blogger meet up? It's about time that those of us in Georgia and the surrounding areas get together, and I'm super thankful that Stacia, Amanda, and Jivey from Collaboration Cuties and Ideas by Jivey have  organized something for us. If you are close to Atlanta, I hope you'll join us for the meet up on July 20th. It promises to be lots of fun.

Click on any of the images below to connect with Jivey's blog where you can RSVP.

I hope to meet lots of other fabulous teacher bloggers there! Click the button below to RSVP.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Math Resources for Teachers

It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks! I went on a mini-vacation to a wedding in Nashville, and then I attended a 3-day workshop on The Role of Mathematics in the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme. I think this is the summer of math learning for me! I love attending workshops because I almost always leave with new ideas and new resources to explore. Even if you don't work at an IB school, there were lots of useful resources worth exploring.

(Apologies in advance -- this will be a long post!)

Book Resources

A Mathematical Passage: Strategies for Promoting Inquiry in Grades 4-6

This book was featured because of it's Mathematician's Bill of Rights on p. 139. The Bill of Rights lists the "rights" that all mathematicians have -- things like "solve problems in ways that make sense to me" and "capitalize on mistakes as sites of learning." I'm definitely interested in reading more from this book. I've read other things by David J. Whitin before, and they've been great.

Math Matters: Understanding the Math You Teach Grades K-8

I had a chance to browse this book during the workshop, and it looks like a good one for understanding how to approach math conceptually. May not be the most exciting read in the world (would you look at that front cover?!), but it looks like a very useful book if you're going for an inquiry oriented math classroom.

Good Questions for Math Teaching

This book is great for creating open-ended questions that will really get students thinking about the math involved in problem solving rather than just looking for a specific answer. It uses questioning techniques to develop more sophisticated mathematical thinking, and it has a wealth of information.

Number Talks

I was a little surprised how many teachers at the workshop were already familiar with this book and using it given that I'm usually up on all the latest and greatest math books, but nevertheless, this book had rave reviews. Of all the books that I'm reading this summer, this is the one that I suspect will have the biggest impact on my teaching this August. I've really enjoyed reading it, and I have so many ideas about how I will put it into practice this year. If you haven't gotten it already, I couldn't recommend it more!

Good Questions: Great Ways to Differentiate Mathematics Instruction

I know I've talked about this book before, but we spent a lot of time talking about open questions and parallel tasks at the workshop, so I had to share this book again. I used this book non-stop at the end of the school year, and I loved how it was so perfectly aligned to Common Core in math. It couldn't be more teacher-friendly.

Online Resources

Visible Thinking Routines

I've been introduced to the Visible Thinking Routines from Harvard's Project Zero before, but it was good to be reminded about them. These are some great activities to prompt student discussions and thinking. One example of this is "OTQ - Observe, Think, Question." For this activity, students see a picture and spend a few minutes describing what they see/observe. Anything they observe has to be rooted in the picture and not based on inferences. Step 2 is "Think" - what does this make you think about? This is where students can share their inferences and cite evidence in the picture to support why they think that. Finally, students "question" and share what they wonder about based on the picture. I like that these routines slow down student thinking.

We watched this video in the workshop, and if you've never seen it, I highly recommend that you take the 10 minutes to watch Dan Meyer's TED Talk. In it, he talks about the problems with current approaches to math instruction -- largely fueled by larger textbooks and math programs -- and how to turn those materials into the types of problems that will challenge your students to become patient problem solvers. I was really inspired by this video, and I hope that you will be, too.

Have a great weekend! I'll be back to blogging more regularly next week!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and/or believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, June 17, 2013

Overwhelmed, you say? How to Cope

Despite being on the planet for 30+ years, I still don't seem to have the concept of time worked out. I came to this realization last night as I compared my summer to do list against my calendar. Yikes! Honestly, the number of lesson plans I'd intended to write, TpT products I'd hoped to create, and professional books I planned to read were more than I could probably accomplish in a year much less a summer break.

Here are some tips I try to remind myself when I get into these stressful predicaments.

1. Delegate and negotiate 
There are some things that I have to do because no one else can do them for me (e.g., write my blog, research for my doctoral program, etc.), but there are plenty of items on my perpetual to do list that could be delegated or outsourced. For example, my husband and I hate to do yard work -- especially during the hot and humid Georgia summers. We could suck it up and commit the time, or we could pay someone to do it for us. We opt for the latter because the free time we gain is more valuable than the money we spend. When I get going with my doctoral program this fall, we'll likely hire a maid service for the same reason. The trick is to go through the to do list and determine how much of it has to be done by me and how much of the list could be done -- even partially -- by others. Using TpT for lesson plan assistance is another great example of delegating.

I also negotiate for free time on the weekends. I have an amazing daughter who's almost 2. I love hanging out and playing with her, but she's also at an age where she's a lot of work. When I have an overwhelming to do list, I try to negotiate free time with my husband where he'll take Syd for a couple of hours so I can work distraction-free, and then I'll reciprocate later in the day. Often he'll take her out of the house to run errands or get groceries so I can really get a lot done. It's been incredibly helpful to chunk out time like that and know that I'll have it.

2. Consider worst-case scenarios
Often the stress we feel is self-imposed, and it helps to gain a bit of perspective. What's the worst-case scenario if I don't finish making all of the TpT items I want to create this summer? Certainly nothing catastrophic. Often it's the same case with the stack of papers waiting to be graded during the school year. Looking at my to do list through this lens helps me see what's really important. It's not a blank check to delay work indefinitely, but it's helpful when there's a lot going on and too many balls to juggle at once.

3. Prioritize and minimize
Sometimes the sheer sight of my to do list can cause me to tense up and feel overwhelmed. One strategy I use to combat that is to rate the items on my list using a scale that reflects the urgency and the importance. Then I make smaller to do lists with the 3-5 items I want to accomplish in a day. This helps me stay calm and feel productive while avoiding the pressure of my long-term, substantially larger to do list.

Another helpful tip that I picked up somewhere was the two-minute rule. If something comes to me that I can take care of in 2 minutes or less (e.g., an email), I try to do it right then and not put it off. Otherwise, my inbox becomes cluttered and that's one more thing stressing me out. Filing or scanning papers is a similar example.

4. Focus on one thing at a time
One of the biggest time sucks that happens to me is that I try to do too many things at once, and I forget that "multi-tasking" isn't always more efficient. It helps me if I chunk like activities together and really get focused. For example, I try to spend a lot of time working on my blog on Mondays so that I can get posts written and scheduled for the rest of the week. I rarely finish all of my posts, but I'll at least know what I'm going to write about and have a skeleton draft done so that it will take less time the rest of the week. I dedicate another day to all of my cleaning and errand-running, a day to focus on reading/lesson planning, etc. I also try to have a day with nothing scheduled so I can relax and hang out with my family. During the school year, that's usually a Saturday or Sunday, and even if I can't clear out the whole day, I'll set a rule that I'll stop working by noon or only work after my daughter has gone to bed. It helps.

5. Shut down the distractions
This is the hardest thing for me because I often have email, Facebook, and Twitter open while I work, and then there's Feedly and Pinterest which can become huge time sucks, too. Lately, I've found it helpful to close out of those tabs and use a timer app. For example, I'll work on something for an hour, and then as my reward for being productive, I'll allow myself 15 minutes on Pinterest. The timer helps me avoid slipping down the rabbit hole of lost time.

What are some strategies you use to help you when you're feeling overwhelmed or overcommitted? I'd love to hear more ideas in the comments. 

And as a side note, have you checked out the Teacher Toolbox Trio lately? The giveaway is over, but I decided to keep the linky going for a while because there were still teachers who wanted to share. And honestly, how I could possibly resist the opportunity to see what other teachers love and add to my own wish list? If you haven't linked up yet, I'd love to have you join the fun!

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Giveaway Winner!

I had so much fun seeing what everyone posted in the Teacher Toolbox Trio linky. Thanks to everyone who linked up.

I went to the Random Number Generator this morning, and drumroll...

I'm excited to announce that Stephanie Ann from Sparkling in Kindergarten was the winner of the $25 Teachers Pay Teachers gift certificate. Congratulations, Stephanie Ann!

And welcome to all of my new followers! I have lots that I look forward to sharing this summer.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Why Teachers Love Technology

An infographic about "Why Teachers Love Technology" was recently shared with me, and on the heels of yesterday's post, I felt like now is a good time to share the infographic with you.

What do we Know Infographic
Graphic from

Do you love technology? I'd love to hear why in the comments section!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

In Defense of Classroom Technology

Usually when I talk to people about the fact that I teach in a 1:1 iPad classroom, they think that's awesome. But now and again, I'll run into someone who thinks handing a kid an iPad in school is an atrocity, and I feel like I have to defend the work that I'm passionate about. This happened to me recently at a social event when my attempts at small talk quickly turned into a debate about what we're "doing to kids today." The naysayers certainly exist, and this particular encounter made me pause to think about why I feel so strongly about this topic.

Here are some of the reasons I feel it's in the best interests of both students and teachers to maximize the use of classroom technology.

My students explore constellations on their iPads.

1. It teaches real-world problem solving skills.
Being good at technology is largely a result of being willing to experiment and fail. I wasn't born knowing everything there is to know about iPads or Evernote or Edmodo -- I've learned by trying different things and seeing what worked and what didn't. When I can't figure it out on my own, I talk to others or look for the information I need online. Now I get to see these skills in my students. Whenever they need to troubleshoot something, they work together to find a solution. They don't give up or think it's impossible. In this high-tech world, these skills are going to be incredibly valuable.

2. It facilitates better communication between home and school.
If parents want to know what we're doing in class each day, they can find all of our homework and activities on our class website. If they want to monitor grades or see what assignments are missing, they can look on Edmodo. If they want to know what their child's behavior was like at school today, they can look on ClassDojo and get a report. If they want to know what their child sounded like reading a 4th grade leveled text at the beginning of the year compared to now at the end of the year, I can pull up the child's audio recordings on Evernote. Technology makes it easier for parents to know what's happening in school, and I'm happy about that.

3. It makes students better writers.
Without question, writing skills are incredibly important. When I think back on all of the essays I had to write in high school and college or the cover letters I wrote to get opportunities I have today, I know that my ability to write mattered. Technology makes students better writers for a variety of reasons:
  • It makes them more open to revising and publishing their work when they don't have to handwrite the whole paper over again.
  • It teaches them typing skills that will make them more efficient at writing and therefore able to write more. 
  • It gives me more opportunities to give them feedback about their writing because I can easily collect samples at various points. I can have them turn in a copy of a draft wherever they're at without interrupting their work because I don't have to collect a notebook. 
4. It keeps kids engaged.
I used to have students write book reports. Now I have them write book blogs on KidBlog and make book trailers using iMovie. It's basically the same assignment, but now students are motivated and engaged to complete it. They have an audience of their peers that makes their work more authentic, and it's something that can't be easily replicated without technology. The effort and outcomes my students experience because of technology is something that should be encouraged.

5. It benefits all types of learners.
I think a lot of the criticisms of technology assume that students are being passive consumers of it -- watching videos or playing video games all of the time. Without question, technology could be used as a high-tech babysitter, but that's not how it's being used in my classroom at all. When my students use their iPads, they are active and interactive, and they're expressing their creativity in so many ways now. They're making movies, writing stories and articles, becoming budding photographers, and interacting with the world and each other in new and exciting ways.  They're still collaborating and developing the interactive social skills necessary to be productive citizens of society.

6. It keeps everyone more organized.
I can't begin to describe how many minutes I've lost over the last 6 years because students couldn't find a paper or a notebook. Then once it was turned in, I'd have to shuffle through piles of nearly 30 to find what I was looking for. Add to that the fact that students work at different rates and finish tasks at different times, and you have the potential for an organizational nightmare.

I'm a pretty organized person, but without any hesitation I can say that technology has made my students and me substantially more organized. Everything we need can be found on an iPad or a computer. There isn't instructional time lost finding materials or planning time lost figuring out where I filed that lesson idea or who is missing work. It's all in one spot.

7. It allows me to give better feedback.
My students recently took a multiple choice test on Edmodo. I'd entered the correct answers before giving the test, so when I went to look at the results, it was already graded for me. Rather than spending time rifling through a pile of papers to mark answers right or wrong, I was able to type specific feedback to the students. For example, when several students missed question #6, I typed 2 sentences explaining the problem with the answer choice they selected and why the other choice was better. With the help of copy and paste, I was able to give that feedback to all applicable students in less than 5 minutes. How often do you think I could accomplish that in a world where I had to handwrite the comment 15+ times? It wouldn't happen. I wish it could, but it's not feasible.

8. It gives me more information so I can help students.
I routinely ask my students to solve math problems and explain their thinking. Sometimes they have to explain it in words and sentences, but other times I let them use their iPads to make short (30-60 second) videos narrating their solutions and the steps they took. Similarly, when I do reading assessments with students, I can use my iPad to record the student's voice as the student reads. This creates an artifact that I can listen to, share with parents or RTI committees, and analyze in a way that wouldn't be possible absent technology. It's some of the best evidence of a student's ability, and it helps me identify strengths and weaknesses so I can give students the support they need.

9. It makes me more efficient.
Anyone who's a teacher can attest that this job sometimes borders on impossible. Teachers take on so many roles and have so many responsibilities that the stress can be overwhelming. I think that's a major factor in why so many great teachers leave this profession within the first few years and why many capable individuals are deterred from entering the field. In my experience, technology has made this all more bearable. I don't have to waste time shuffling through paper or hunting for files anymore. I don't have to haul carts -- literally carts -- of student work and planning materials home anymore. I can find exactly what I need wherever I'm at because everything is electronic. It's made me much more productive and efficient, and everyone benefits as a result.

10. It's appropriate for the world we live in.
I know a lot of people lament the fact that we've moved into an age of technology. I'm not one of them, but even if I were, I recognize that there's no going back now. I'd rather introduce students to technology in safe, structured ways where I can guide them through the perils and pitfalls than leave them to struggle on their own. I also like that I can show them how to make technology work effectively for them. I'm facilitating students to be productive, creative, and responsible users of technology, and I'm not confident they'd all get there on their own.

It's not technology that's an issue -- it's how the technology is being used. I'm certain that the ways my fourth graders use their iPads will make them better informed, more capable citizens down the road. Is it the only way to teach them? Absolutely not, but the advantages of using technology in the classroom far outweigh any disadvantages the devices bring.

What are the arguments for or against using technology in the classroom that you've heard? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Number Talks Book Study - Chapter 2

The farther I get into the book Number Talks, the more excited I am about implementing them next year. This is such a great resource, and I'm only on Chapter 2!

I'm linking up with Misty at Think, Wonder, & Teach for her fabulous book study. If you haven't checked it out yet, be sure to visit her because she's already offering some great resources to support the book (whereas mine are still works in progress!).

This chapter walks through some of the nuts and bolts of setting up number talks, and it describes how to manage some of the procedures and expectations. One of the sections that really resonated with me in this chapter was about building accountability with the students. So often, there are a few students who are eager to share their mathematical thinking, and there are many others who are willing to sit back and let those students shine. I don't like pulling sticks with students' names for something like this, but I also don't want students to feel like they don't need to participate. This book offered some great strategies for dealing with that:

1. Once all of the strategies have been shared, number them and have students show with fingers which one they found to be the most efficient strategy. This will get them thinking about the math involved.

2. Keep records of the problems posed and strategies used, and label them with the students' names. I plan to use my iPad to track this. I've talked before about setting up student data notebooks on Evernote, and I think that would be the perfect platform to track student participation. I can photograph students' work and add anecdotal records about what I observe. It would also be easy to share with parents at parent-teacher conferences.

3. Hold small group number talks throughout the week. As I prepare to transition into more of a math workshop/guided math approach, this seems like a very viable option.

4. Create and post anchor charts of the different strategies that students are using. The book names a variety of strategies, or you could develop names with your students. Having the charts available to reference could scaffold the less confident students.

5. Use exit cards. The authors recommend giving each student a notecard. On one side, students should record their solution, and on the other side, they should record a strategy that another student shared that they liked.

6. Give a weekly computation assessment of 5-10 problems. The selected problems should reinforce the concepts and strategies introduced throughout the week. I can also imagine using an app like Show Me or Explain Everything to assess. These are whiteboard apps that allow students to record audio on top of their drawing. Students could record their solutions and narrate them as if they're presenting them to the class. This would be another important artifact that could be saved in the student's Evernote portfolio to share with parents or an RTI committee. If it's only one problem, most students would be able to complete the task on the app in 5-10 minutes as the video they'd be creating should be less than a minute long.

I think these accountability measures could be effective in getting students to participate more. Of course, the classroom environment will matter, too, and I look forward to setting those factors in place for my Number Talks this fall.

In other news, I'm excited to share that I'll be participating in Sabra's book study of Word Nerds at Teaching with a Touch of Twang. Word Nerds explores strategies for teaching vocabulary to students, and it's another fantastic resource. It's published by Stenhouse, and you can preview the entire book online or you can purchase the book in Paperbook or Kindle edition.

The book study starts on Thursday and runs throughout the summer. You can see the full schedule by clicking on the image above. I'll be hosting Chapter 7, and I can't wait!

Also, have you joined in the Teacher Toolbox Trio Linky Celebration yet?

You still have time to link up and be eligible to win a $25 Teachers Pay Teachers gift certificate! The linky celebration will close on Friday night, so be sure to join the fun. My wish list has definitely grown as I've seen all of the fabulous resources other teachers are sharing and recommending.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

3 Favorite & Underappreciated Apps

I recently stumbled on an adorable blog called "Thirsty Firsties," and Kelly, the author, is hosting a linky party about iPad apps.

The rules are to share three apps - one free for classroom use, one paid for classroom use and one favorite app for personal use. She's also giving away an iTunes gift card as part of the linky, so be sure to check out her blog and join in the fun!

I've already shared many of the apps that I love and use in the classroom. See, for example, my list of favorite paid apps and my list of favorite free apps. So today, I'm branching out to share some of the apps that I've used and enjoyed this year that I haven't really talked about before.

Favorite Free App - Spelling City

Vocabulary Spelling City is a great app for teaching students vocabulary or spelling words. It has a variety of engaging games, and it can be used by students at all levels. The app itself is free and has a lot of functionality on its own. If you are a premium subscriber to Spelling City, however, it's a great complement to the activities you assign your students each week. I had my students doing activities on this app almost daily, and our differentiated weekly spelling tests were done entirely through this app (with the teacher premium subscription).

Favorite Paid App - Marble Math

Marble Math is a fun and challenging math game that addresses a broad range of math computation skills. I'll confess that I've even found myself playing it far longer than a typical "teacher test-drive" would require. The object is to navigate a marble through a maze by solving a variety of problems. It includes fractions, decimals, equations, and negative numbers, so this is probably best for grades 4 and higher. Of all of the apps on our iPads this year, this was the one that students seemed to gravitate toward most in their free time.

Favorite Personal App - Feedly

In the debate between Feedly and BlogLovin, I'm coming down on the side of Feedly for one major reason -- I LOVE the iPad app. It's really easy to flip through and navigate, it rotates, and it doesn't seem to crash as much as BlogLovin did. In fact, I've never had a single problem with it. I don't tend to comment on blogs as much from my iPad, so I can't speak to that aspect of comparing the two. Usually if I'm browsing blogs on my iPad, I'll mark the blogs that I want to comment on and comment through my computer later on. So for the sheer visual appeal of the app for reading blogs, I'm a big fan. This has become one of my favorite go-to apps on my iPad.

Now it's your turn. What are your three favorite apps? I'd love to hear about them, and be sure to link up with Kelly over at Thirsty Firsties if you get a chance. She's running the contest for the iTunes gift card through Monday.

And don't forget to link up with my Teacher Toolbox Trio celebration as well! I can't wait to discover more awesome classroom resources from TpT!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Teacher Toolbox Trio Linky Celebration!

Since the advent of Teachers Pay Teachers, my teaching toolbox has changed quite a bit. There are so many things that I've made or bought for my classroom, and there are many others that are on my wishlist. To recognize that, I'm hosting a Teacher Toolbox Trio linky party.

Here are the rules of the trio:
1. Share a product that you've made that you couldn't live without.
2. Share a product that you've purchased that you love.
3. Share something from your wish list that you're hoping to get for next year.

If you're not a seller on TpT, no worries -- just share two products you've purchased that you love!

1. Something I've Made

The Classroom Economy Megapack was my first major project for TpT, and without question, it was the one that I used all the time last year. It has everything I needed for setting up my classroom jobs, monitoring daily behaviors on a clip chart, running my classroom economy, and giving students free/very low-cost rewards. Unlike my units that were used here and there, this was on display in my classroom all 180 days, and my kids loved it. This is the one thing that I could not live without.

2. Something I Purchased

Erin's "A Roller Coaster Day" sub plans were amazing! I had to go to an all day district committee meeting on a Friday in May when the kids were already getting a little crazy, but they LOVED this. The sub said it kept them engaged all day, and given that I was already at the stage of the year when all of our required curriculum had been taught, it was perfect. It will be a permanent addition to my sub folder, and she's also made one for grades 5-6. You can follow Erin's blog: I'm Lovin Lit. 

3. Something on My Wish List

I'm really planning to focus on math facts and mental math skills early in the school year, and Laura Candler's Mastering Math Facts has been on my radar screen for a while. I'm hoping to snag a copy before I go back in July. (Yes, July!)  Laura's blog is Corkboard Connections.

The Linky Celebration

This is more than just a party -- it's a celebration! I've been meaning to do something to celebrate hitting 100 followers for a while now, and as I near the 150 mark, it's definitely time! If you link up through the tool below, you'll be eligible to win a $25 gift certificate from Teachers Pay Teachers -- enough to possibly clear off some items from your own wish list!

clip art from KPM Doodles

I'll be using a random number generator to select the winner from those who link up. The linky celebration will end next Friday, June 14 at 11:59pm EDT and the winner will be announced on my blog on Saturday.

Can't wait to discover some new products and see some of your favorites! Be sure to link up below, and please include the Teacher Toolbox Trio icon and/or another link to Eberopolis in your post.

Happy linking!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Paperless Mission #11: Getting Started with Edmodo

This is the eleventh installment in my Go Paperless! Challenge Series. You can check out the other entries in the series here. Also be sure to link up with my Paperless Challenge Linky!

Mission #11: Get Started with Edmodo

One of the tools that I started using in the classroom this year is Edmodo. If you're not familiar with it, Edmodo is a learning management system that allows students and teachers to interact online in safe environment. It looks and feels a lot like Facebook but without all of the potential problems Facebook could create -- especially for very young users.

1. Create a teacher account and create your group for your class.
Teacher accounts are free, and they're the first step toward using this in your classroom. Parents and students aren't able to access Edmodo unless they know the access code that a teacher has given them.

2. Add some content for your students to engage with the first time they use Edmodo. You can ask a question for discussion or take a poll as a good first activity. You'll want to have something queued to go so that students don't just start posting randomness. (They may do that anyway at first, but you can at least buy yourself some time to talk about guidelines and procedures for that before they get too carried away.)

3. Invite students by giving them the Group Code. This is unique to your group, and students will need an access code for each group they join with their student account. Joining your group doesn't give them the power to search for other groups. Similarly, if another teacher at your school is using Edmodo, he or she will also have a Group Code that students can enter and just add the group to their account. It's pretty easy.

4. Once all of your students have joined the group, lock your group. This will prevent other students from other classes inadvertently joining, and it's generally a good security measure. You can always unlock the group temporarily later on if you end up getting a new student.

5. Create an assignment. This essentially creates a place for students to turn in their work. Everything that they complete on their iPads gets turned in through the assignments I create on Edmodo. Then I can see which students have turned it in, assign grades, and give feedback. The beauty of this system is that I can grade work as it comes in without worrying about losing something. This is especially helpful on larger assignments where students tend to stagger their completion.

6. Give quizzes. I won't lie -- this is probably one of the most tedious parts about Edmodo from a teaching perspective. You have to manually input all of the questions, and there's currently not a way for teachers to share their quizzes with one another. But the time you put in on the front end of creating the test is more than made up for on the back end by the immediate grading of the multiple choice, true false, and matching questions. I'll talk more about Edmodo quizzes in a future post.

7. Set up small groups. You can create multiple small groups within your group, and students can belong to more than one small group. That means that you can have small groups for reading as well as different small groups for research projects in Social Studies, etc.

Preparing Students

My students really did see this as Facebook-lite, so it was important that we created some guidelines as a group. Here are some of the rules we discussed and implemented as a class:

  • Use posts to discuss school-related content only -- not to share personal information or "status updates."
  • Use appropriate school language and grammar, not texting language.
  • Be positive and kind and show good "Netiquette."
My fabulous media specialist, Sandi at Teacher Technotopia, did a series of lessons with students about "Netiquette" prior to this, which helped a lot. I also moderated the conversations a lot at the beginning. As the teacher, you can delete things that other students post and you can send that student a direct message to let them know that you deleted their post and why you did so. That helped with my class tremendously.  

As a side-note, one of the things I like about Edmodo is that you can send your students direct messages, and they can send you messages, too, but they can't send direct messages to each other. Anything they post is either public within the group or for the teacher-only. This eliminated some of my concerns about possible cyber-bullying.

How I Used This in My Classroom

Once we got going with Edmodo, I used it constantly. Virtually every test (except math) was done through Edmodo. It was also great for collecting student work, taking polls, and facilitating class discussions. For example, when we were deciding what our class team name would be for field day, I was able to relegate that entire conversation to Edmodo rather than take up valuable class time on it. I also love that students can access Edmodo from any computer or mobile device, so they could keep going on assignments even if they couldn't take their iPads home. It's not a perfect platform, but it was really helpful in my move toward a paperless classroom.

Do you use Edmodo in your classroom? I'd love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments section!

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