The Tuesday 12: 12 Awesome Digital Resources for Your Classroom (Word clouds, comics, infographics, math, classroom management, and so much more!)

12 digital resources

In this week’s edition of The Tuesday 12, we’re looking at some excellent digital resources for your classroom! There are so many great sites out there that would be beneficial to both teachers and students, but here are 12 that we can’t live without! Just click on each name to be brought to its website!

1. ClassDojo

This is a classroom behaviour management tool that allows you to track each student in your class.  You can either use the predefined behaviour categories or create your own.  I have created the behaviour categories to match the learning skills we use on the Ontario Report Cards.  I think it will be great to keep students on track (you can even set it so that it tracks group behaviour) and to help teachers with anecdotal comments. I’ve just begun using this app and so far, so good! I’ve downloaded the app for my iPhone, so it’s really convenient and easy to use!

2. Glogster

So what is a “glog”? Well, according to Glogster, a glog is an interactive poster loaded with text, graphics, music, videos and more, while being a space to express emotions, ideas, and knowledge online.  What I like about glogster is that it is great to watch…students will be captivated by the interactive, multi-media lessons making them much more engaged in learning.

3. Wordle

I’ve already told you how much I love Wordle! Create word clouds about any topic.  So easy to use!

science wordle

4. Tagxedo

Similar to Wordle, but you are able to make your word clouds look like various images and create various shapes. Check out the ones that Lisa has created!

5. storybird.com

According to their website, “Storybirds are short, art-inspired stories you make to share, read, and print.” Students can create a free account, choose the images that they would like, and then start writing a story, poem, comic, or anything else they’d like.  Just like the photo and image prompts that are often used in creative writing, the digital images found here are a great springboard to help students get writing!

6. Gizmos

As Elita previously explained in a post, Gizmos are interactive online simulations for math and science topics.  There are a variety of fun, engaging, and interactive activities on many different science and math topics, such as dividing fractions, predator-prey relationships, and genetics.  The activities are scaffolded, so students work on increasingly difficult tasks to fully comprehend the concepts.  Although it is not free, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial, but you can always see if your school or school board is interested in obtaining a subscription for their teachers.  Our school board has a subscription, so teachers and students are able to enjoy this great resource!

7. Bitstrips

As Lisa has previously mentioned, Bitstrips is a great site to help your students create their own comics. So cool and the kids love it!

8. Pinterest

Oh, Pinterest, how I love you! We just love spending hours on Pinterest finding great ideas and resources for our classrooms! If you haven’t already, follow our boards!

9. LiveBinders

This site allows you to create a digital binder of the your favourite web resources! Instead of adding them all to your Favourites, you can create various binders to keep track of sites and resources you love! You simply add the “LiveBinder It” tool to your browser toolbar and then surf the web like you normally do…when you come across a great resource, you can quickly and easily add it to one of your binders.

10. Edmodo

I’m going to start using Edmodo with my class very, very soon. It seems like a combination of Twitter and Facebook to me, since you can post pics, chat, vote, and send messages that are 140 characters or less. What I really like about it is the privacy…teachers sign up for a free account, students sign up for a free account, and then teachers provide their students with a code to join the group.  This way, the classroom information and messages are kept private.

11. Prezi

A great way to create cool, multi-media presentations! Simply sign up, login and begin adding in your information.  You can add video or audio clips, images, websites, and other resources to your presentations.  Why can’t I just use PowerPoint, you might be asking…well, Prezi makes the presentation so much nicer and more fluid as the ideas flow from one section to the next.

12. Easel.ly

Love infographics? This site allows users to create their own infographics by choosing, selecting, dragging, dropping, and editing vhemes directly onto your canvas. This would be a great way for student to consolidate learning, create mind or concept maps, visual key concepts, and share their learning with their peers.

Don’t forget to check back next week for another edition of The Tuesday 12!

It’s all in the Flip!

 

Have you thought about it?  How am I going to reach more of my students?  What can be done so we interact with them more while they strategize?  Why is it so difficult to do?  I know I struggle with these questions all of the time.  As we all know, students come to school with their homework incomplete, unable to recall anything you taught the day prior.  You then need to go through that whole scaffolding process and sometimes re-teach that whole lesson over.  So then you send them on their way and hope that they will work through the problems on their own.  Or maybe you have made some time to hold an extra help session (during another subjects time if you are able to) or during your lunch or afterschool.  I don’t think that there is anything wrong with extra help but would it not be better to be with your students when they are actually attempting the work?  Would it not be better to have them discuss, share, strategize in front of you all the while you working with them, in class, instead of teaching them the concept?  Would this not be a better plan, in order to deepen their understanding?  In order to reach all your students and the diverse ways they learn? You are probably wondering how in the world this can be done, with what time? This new strategy is called the Flipped Classroom!

We always look for innovative ways to teach our students, we re-invent, re-work, and re-shuffle.  Well here is one more way that could possibly change your whole practice.  How about converting the way you do things?  How about if your students do the work in the classroom and attend your lessons at home?  Yes, let me say that again, your lesson at home and the work at school.  Flipped!

With today’s technological advances, this is not a thought of the future but a thought for now!  Many teachers in the past five years have been taking aim at this process of flipping their classroom.  They record their interactive lessons (known as Educational Vodcasting) and students access them from home to watch and then come to school to work through the problems.   As summer is upon us, we have more time and researching this new practice would be worthwhile.  I hope you let us know what you think about this practice, let us know your plans and experiences.

This concept was started by two teachers John Bergmann & Aaron Sams who found great success with their students.  You can find their book through Amazon.

Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day (2012). By Bergmann & Sams.

Also, a support network, with many examples of flipped classrooms can be found at  the Flipped Learning Network.  The website has a network of over 6000 educators in different phases of flipping their classrooms.

Good Luck to you all!

Disclosure:  This post contains an affiliate link; however, all opinions expressed are the author’s own.

Resource Review: “The Leader in Me” by Stephen R. Covey (2008)

“Leadership is communicating people’s worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves” (The Leader in Me: How Schools and Parents Around the World are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time (2008), Stephen R. Covey, p. 41).

Why is leadership in schools so important?  Before you answer, I’m referring to students as leaders in a school, not just the administrators and teachers.  Although it is necessary for administrators and teachers to take on a positive leadership role within the school, it is essential that students develop their own leadership skills and use these skills to make a positive impact on the school climate.

Stephen R. Covey is famous for “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” which have been incorporated into developing the leadership skills of students across the world.  Why are schools looking to develop leadership skills in their students?  According to Covey (2008, p. 4) explains that student leadership:

  • improved student achievement
  • significantly enhanced self-confidence and esteem in students
  • dramatic decreases in discipline problems
  • impressive increases in teachers’ and administrators’ job satisfaction and commitment
  • greatly improved school cultures
  • parents who are delighted and engaged in the process
  • business and community leaders who want to lend support

“The Leader in Me” tells the story of several schools that have incorporated student leadership into their daily curriculum and strived to make every student a leader.  One such school is A.B. Combs Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina that underwent a dramatic transformation after incorporating “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” along with some other leading practices.  The book takes you through the issues A.B. Combs Elementary began with and how they underwent a carefully planned metamorphosis into a culture of leadership.  Their story is both inspirational and attainable, as Covey takes the reader through the entire process and helps one understand the rational behind each step and how it can be adapted and applied to one’s own school community.

How can you begin to think about student leadership for your school?  As Covey explains, you must think of the various stakeholders (parents, business community, teachers, and students) want from a school and begin from there.  Right now, we have five committees for our grade 7 and 8 students, in order to help them develop leadership skills while assisting the school community, but I would like to work on our strategies and evolve our model, so I will be further researching this topic and its application.  Check out http://www.theleaderinme.org/ for more ideas on how to get started.

How do you develop the leadership skills of your students?  What opportunities are they given to showcase their skills and use them for the betterment of the school community?

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link; however, all opinions expressed are the author’s own.

Encourage students to care more about learning!

Back in teachers college, we were asked to read and respond to an article titled, ‘What Urban students say about good teaching’ (Dick Corbett and Bruce Wilson). I read the article with every intention of doing just that, reading and responding; however, I was quickly engaged in the article and knew that one day, when I became a teacher myself, that I would most definitely take this, reflect on it daily, and teach by it.

The main question posed by the article is this: “What can schools do to encourage students to care more about learning?”

Read my full response by clicking on the image above! Leave your suggestions, comments, feedback!

The Daily 5, a complete Language Arts Program

The Daily 5 is a series of literacy tasks that a group of students complete daily while the teacher meets with small groups or confers with individuals. This book not only explains the philosophy behind the structure, but also shows us how to carefully and systematically train students to participate in each of the five components.  Explicit modeling, practice, reflecting and refining takes place during the launching phase, preparing the foundation for a year of meaningful content and instruction tailored to meet the unique needs of each child. “The Daily 5 is more than a management system or a curriculum framework – it is a structure that will help students develop the daily habits of reading, writing and working with peers that will lead to a lifetime of independent literacy.” (http://www.the2sisters.com/the_daily_5.html)

As the title expresses, it is a combination of five different tasks throughout the two-hour literacy block. Each essential task is a foundational element in literacy for the K-5 grade levels. This program allows for a change to the atmosphere in the classroom and the role for us teachers. It is a change from trying to manage students, from rushing around the room, from putting out fires, to creating routines and procedures that creates independent literacy behaviours to the point of becoming habits. Read to Self is the best way to become a better reader by practicing every day. Children are allowed to choose books that interest them at their appropriate reading level. During the implementation and training stages, children are taught how to select books at their correct reading level. Read to Someone allows for more time to practice reading strategies. This essential task helps students work on fluency, expression, to check for understanding, to hear their own voice, and to share with their partner. Work on Writing works the same way as reading, the only way students can be better writers is to write each day. Listen to Reading is a task that allows students to listen to examples of good literature and fluent reading. This task allows students to expand their vocabulary and become better readers. The last of the essential tasks is Spelling Word Work.This task allows for consistent practice in spelling which aids in fluent writing and the ability to quickly write thoughts down on paper. These tasks are to be done daily and students are given a half-hour within each task. They rotate between the tasks, but what the most important factor of this system is the choice that students have. Eventually, when all is implemented, students will have the ability to select which task they wish to start with and which one he/she goes to next (as long as all five tasks are done within the day). In order for this system to work smoothly there are six core foundations to make it successful. Trusting students is the first. This is not a blind trust but a method to build behaviors gradually through lessons and guided practice. Providing choice is the second core foundation. Choice is extremely motivating and allows the student to be in charge of his or her own learning. Third is a nurturing community. This foundation will create a sense of community thus providing members (the students) with ownership to hold others accountable for behaviors of effort, learning order and kindness. Next is the core foundation of creating a sense of urgency. This foundation will empower kids by allowing them the opportunity to understand why we teach a certain idea or concept. A purpose along with a choice will give the student the motivation to keep persevering and keep on task. The next very important core foundation is the building of stamina. This correlates to the constructivist theory. For the program to be successful, children must commence slowly, a minute at a time thus providing them with a teacher who will lay the foundation for success, support them, cheer them on, and help them succeed. Should this not be done, students will become frustrated and failure is imminent. Last but not least is that the teacher must stay out of the way. This is extremely important because the teacher must display trust and must allow students the opportunity to make their own decisions and monitor him or herself.

I feel that the concept of the Daily 5 is greatly beneficial as students are really capable and if we work with them, we can truly empower them to be active participants in their learning process. The task is a great one, and there is a lot of preparatory work. The Daily 5 does allow for more control overall, and it does dissuade behavioural issues within a classroom. The program fosters a comfortable environment where desks are the furthest requirements. A couch and lounge chairs are more appropriate. This is a complete detachment from the current state of classrooms. It is a fresh approach which requires a 2 hour block of literacy. The five essential tasks are an excellent foundation to literacy. I must stress that this is a complete change in mindset but a successful one. Some school boards have begun to adopt the Daily 5, providing teachers the support and the resources to implement the program. Should you choose to take on this system there are many websites that support your implementation. I hope you find the Daily 5 useful and the following websites to help you start.

http://www.the2sisters.com/

http://www.thedailycafe.com/

http://k-5literacyconnections.weebly.com/daily-5.html

Disclosure:  This post contains an affiliate link.  All views expressed are the author’s own. Thanks for supporting our website!

Resource Review: Making Differentiation a Habit (2009) by Diane Heacox

Resources that provide support on how to practically apply DI in the classroom are extremely useful, as most resources are more theoretical and do not actually show you what DI looks like in the classroom; in my opinion, Diane Heacox’s latest book is the best resource I have encountered to provide teachers with the tools to use DI daily. Making Differentiation a Habit (2009) is an excellent resource as it takes explains the process of how to differentiate, it addresses challenges and concerns that you may face, and it provides an abundance of practical resources that teachers can use in the classroom.


Making Differentiation a Habit: How to Ensure Success in Academically Diverse Classrooms

 

 
Making Differentiation a Habit: How to Ensure Success in Academically Diverse Classrooms

The first part of the book answers the question, “How do I differentiate?” A key component of this resource is that it takes you through the process step by step. First, Heacox helps you to identify your learning goals by identifying the KUDo’s for the unit by asking yourself the questions: What do I want my students to know, understand, and be able to do by the end of the unit? (p. 6). Specifically, know incorporates facts, rules, and vocabulary, understand encompasses the big ideas of the unit and the essential concepts to be learned, and dodescribes the skills and processes that students should be able to perform independently (p. 6-7). These three components directly relate to the Ontario Science Curriculum document (2007) for Relating Science and Technology to Society and the Environment (understand), Developing Investigation and Communication Skills (do), and Understanding Basic Concepts (know). Heacox states that the unit KUDo’s should be shared and posted in the classroom to provide students with an understanding of the goals of the unit and how to be successful on assessments (p. 8). Sharing the learning goals and success criteria with students is connected to the Growing Success Document (2010) which states that teachers need to “share learning goals and success criteria with students at the outset of learning to ensure that students and teachers have a common and shared understanding of these goals and criteria as learning progresses” (p. 28). I would suggest that teachers write out the KUDo’s for themselves first and then work with their students to co-construct the learning goals and success criteria in student-friendly language; thereby, ensuring that students are actively involved in constructing meaning through the unit.

Heacox provides several examples of assessment for learning that can be used to help teachers recognize the preconceptions their students already have regarding particular concepts:

· Topic webs (similar to the concept maps) can be used individually or in groups to determine facts and ideas about a topic and then these ideas are written onto a sticky note and placed onto a chart paper. Several topic webs are then merged together and the sticky notes are moved around to create a large class topic web with interconnected ideas and relationships between the concepts are discussed (p. 31-32)

· Walkabout charts (similar to a gallery walk) are used to have groups answer an open-ended question. Charts are then posted and groups walk around and record comments/questions on other groups’ charts (p. 33)

· KWI chart (similar to KWL charts) that asks students what do you know, what do you want to know, and what are you interestedin learning? This allows teachers to include topics/questions into the unit that they may not have thought of, but will increase the interest/motivation of the groups (p. 35).

Once teachers have conducted self-reflections of their teaching practice and conducted pre-assessment of their students’ preconceptions and interests, they are ready to begin using a Differentiated Learning Plan (DLP), which provides students with choice of assignments and tiering to meet diverse needs. Heacox (2009) states that there are nine parts to a DLP:

· KUDo’s based on expectations

· Pre-assessment notes (preconceptions and interests from student surveys)

· The hook to get kids interested and motivated (e.g. artwork, article, anecdote, timeline)

· Content delivery (the actual lesson itself) which may include differentiation of resources or learning goals dependent on the needs of the students

· Application activities which show how students will learn the concepts, skills, or processes presented in the lessons (this is where teachers can use choice boards or tier assignments for diverse learning needs based on multiple intelligences, readiness, or complexity)

· Independent activities which allow students to demonstrate their learning

· Closure to reinforce the concepts that they have learned (e.g. Think-Pair-Share, Exit Cards)

· Teacher reflection and next steps (p. 58-62)

If teachers were to simply read all these steps, it would seem daunting, but Heacox provides several sample DLPs from a variety of grades and subject areas. The plans are relatively quick and only have a few points written under each heading. DLP: Example #3 is based on Desert Ecosystems (Middle School) and shows the use of graphic organizers, websites, group tasks, and exit slips throughout the lesson (p. 67-68). In this case, the independent activity is a choice based on interest: choose an animal or plant from the food web and explain what would happen if it disappears. Students are to either illustrate the effects on the ecosystem by either writing an article (Verbal/Linguistic) or creating a chart/diagram (Logical or Visual/Spatial) (p. 68). By seeing the actual sample DLP, I see that they are similar to lesson plans that I am familiar with, but incorporate choice boards, tiering, and reflection.

Heacox (2009) then takes the reader through the process of creating choice boards and tiering assignments. Chapters 5 and 6 are dedicated to this process and contain an abundance of examples to show readers how simple this process can actually be. I would be stumped if I did not have this many examples before my eyes. Heacox does a good job of taking a potentially difficult task and breaking it down into something feasible by providing examples and explanations along the way.

There is also practical advice on how to differentiate tasks by tiering assignments for various learning groups. When reading through her work, I thought that this strategy would not work well because students would realize that they were being “leveled” into groups and might feel resentful. When looking over the samples she provides, I saw that she does not make a distinction between students who “get it” and those that do not; instead, the basis of the task is the same, but one group may receive additional support or more scaffolded directions, while the other group may have a chance for enrichment and exploration. Heacox (2009) states that “tiering by degree of structure provides some students with more support or direction for their work while other students engage in a more open-ended task.” (p. 91). For example, the Tiering by degree of abstraction example for high school English has both groups providing 10 artifacts to represent a character in the novel. The first group is to choose 10 items and represent the connection to the character, while the second group chooses 10 items to symbolize the character and connect these items to the theme of the novel (p. 91). A slight change in wording, but a dramatic change in complexity as both groups will have 10 items, but one group has the chance to extend their understanding and make more sophisticated and abstract connections. Heacox (2009) provides step-by-step instructions on how to tier assignments and suggests a three tier approach: task one is for some students (more scaffolded for those who struggle), task two is for most students (on target), and task three is for some students (more abstract and open-ended for enrichment) (p. 88-97).

The best part of this resource is that she has worked with teachers mainly in the U.S. and Canada, but has also studied teachers in Great Britain, Germany, India, and Singapore, so she understands the questions and concerns that teachers have regarding differentiated instruction (p. 1). Throughout the last few chapters of the book, she provides more sample DLPs, strategies, choice boards, and charts to provide teachers with tons of resources to get started with incorporating DI in their classrooms on a regular basis. This resource was created for teachers in mind and includes practical strategies, step-by-step directions, a CD of blackline masters, and answers any questions you may have on DI in the classroom. There always seems to be a new government mandate for education; however, teachers are not always provided with the tools and strategies to apply these theories in practice. Diane Heacox does an excellent job in making teachers more comfortable with applying DI in their classrooms. If teachers are confident in their abilities and in the tools they have, then both teachers and students will benefit.

 

Disclosure:  This post contains an affiliate link.  All views expressed are the author’s own. Thanks for supporting our website!