Posts tagged ‘Curriculum’

Reflections on Balanced Literacy

“It always seems impossible, until it is done.” — Nelson Mandela

I found it appropriate for my two year anniversary for blogging that today’s post would be my first guest bloggers post by Jessica Mize-Wilson. (@jmizewilson)

Recently, I joined a new learning community, The Teacher’s Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP). I had the privilege of attending a TCRWP Homegrown Institute this summer and loved all the “Ah!” moments! It was affirming and satisfying knowing we were teaching readers and writers strategies to master skills that are so broad they can be applied to any type of reading. We are moving from a hybrid basel/reader’s workshop model reading program to full implementation balanced literacy. Balanced literacy, as defined by Cowen, states “A balanced reading approach is research-based, assessment-based, comprehensive, integrated, and dynamic, in that it empowers teachers and specialists to respond to the individual assessed literacy needs of children as they relate to their appropriate instructional and developmental levels of decoding, vocabulary, reading comprehension, motivation, and sociocultural acquisition, with the purpose of learning to read for meaning, understanding, and joy.” Teachers cannot implement balanced literacy alone, in silos! We must share and collaborate! Teaching teams will be most excited about the “instructional synergy” coming into the classroom. Teachers will see how each piece builds on one another and a community of learners (both teachers and students) begin to work together, feeding on each other and a “buzz” about our learning develops!

When I read the units, I begin to see each teaching point build on one another (something I always felt highs and lows with in my hybrid model of reader’s workshop.) I begin to hear and see opportunities for shared reading, interactive writing, word study, conferring, strategy groups and guided reading groups….oh my! Now I am overwhelmed! Not really, but it is easy to do because balanced literacy is about responsive teaching. A lot of decisions cannot be made until the students walk in the door! This fall, as a Literacy Facilitator, I will be coaching teachers in implementing balanced literacy and thought there were a few Ah! Ha! moments to share. So, here goes…

1. The components of balanced reading! Balanced literacy is a complex, dynamic teaching approach. If we want students to become risk takers, we must also take risk. Set your own goal! Choose one component to focus on and get really good at it first. Seeing the big picture and knowing the components of reader’s workshop will help you choose your goal! All of the components work together and offer a balance for students to transfer learning to all areas of their lives.

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2. The mini lesson! Can it really be a mini and not a “maxi”? Yes! The TCRWP shared the architecture of a mini lesson and several conversational moves to keep the lesson at a brisk pace. Using the architecture of a mini lesson accomplishes three goals: planning becomes easier, teaching becomes more efficient and students come to know what to expect so they can better focus on what we’re teaching (builds trust in us!) Sending a message of, “We’ve got this!” load and clear. The mini-lesson is a invitation to try a strategy and the architecture of a mini lesson clearly defines what and how students can become successful readers.

3. Conferring! What am I suppose to talk about that will move students along their current text band and propel them forward to the next text band? It is going to take a lot of balance between mini-lesson instruction, strategy work, guided reading groups, partner work and conferring! Conferring catches a student at the cutting edge of their learning, at the cutting edge of greatness! A lot of times teachers think it is easy to confer with students, until you start! The key to conferring is not talking but listening! Coaching into the greatness is the hard part and it takes a lot of practice. The architecture of a reading conference helps move the conversation along.

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Other Ah! Ha! Moments…
1. Reading Toolkit — teaching into readers needs!
2. #tcrwp chats on Twitter
3. The different types of small group work!

Using Kodable App in the Classroom

“I can’t live without my smartphone, but I really geek on coding. It’s not so much technology that I like, but puzzle solving.” Sylvia Day

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Last week I was lucky to meet the creators of KodableGrechen and Jon. Kodable is an amazing app that teaches programming to students K-2nd. It allows students to have an interactive learning experience using a gamification approach. That app will soon also have curriculum to help educators including lesson plans, vocabulary and activities. Jon and Grechen are also working on a web and android version which will be great for BYOT schools.

Kodable uses a scaffolding technique helping the students learn the positional arrows by dragging and dropping. Using key programing skills such as if – then statements the students steer a ‘fuzz’ character through a sequence of mazes. The students also earn coins and level up as incentives. Kodable connects with the Common Core curriculum. Here are just a few standards it meets: W.1.7, L.1.6, Math Mathematical Practices along with the many of the Anchor Standards.

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You can have multiple players allowing you to differentiate and lets the students work at their own pace. The level ‘Bugs Below’ is a fabulous feature letting the students learn to de-bug; acknowledging problem codes and using critical thinking skills to work out how to fix them. You can take it a step further in the classroom by having the students blog on HOW they solved the problem.

Meet the Fuzz Family

Other articles and blog posts about Kodable:

Kodable Teaches Kids To Code Before They Learn To Read

Kodable: the First Step in Coding

Kodable: Engage Their Minds

Kodable: Gets Kids Thinking About Logic and More 

Katching up with Kodable: Bugs Below! KidTech Summit, and STEM

Using ThingLink in the Classroom

“An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” by Edwin Land

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Thinglink was introduced to me when I was at the NC Technology in Education Society (NCTIES) Conference during a presentation by Richard Byrne (@rmbryne). I thought it was a really great FREE web tool but was disappointed it didn’t also have an app. A few weeks ago, Thinglink launched their FREE app, which I love!

What is Thinglink? Thinglink makes pictures interactive with text, video, images and links. When you click on a Thinglink image, you’ll see symbols such as red video circles and dots where it is interactive. Thinglink has endless possibilities in education. My top 3 ways of using it in education are below:

1. Student Portfolios: Teachers can use a picture of a student and through-out the year, students can add images of their work or video to show mastery of content. By doing this each quarter the teachers, students and parents can see the progress over the year. Each corner of the picture could represent each quarter/semester.

2. Assessment, Projects and Presentation: Students can create Thinglinks to show their understanding for any Common Core or Essential Standard. Teachers can have a rubric setting the expectation for what they want in the Thinglink. For example you could require, two text boxes, a link and  a video. Or you can set the expectation that the student must show mastery of a standard, and the student has a little more freedom to determine what that looks like. Having the students creating Thinglinks lets them use all their 21st century skills of critical thinking, creating, communicating and collaborating (if they work with a partner).

Ex of Assessment: The student can draw out any topic, for example the water cycle or a math problem, using the free Skitch app. The student can save it to their camera roll and then create a Thinglink demonstrating their knowledge by adding recordings, text and links explaining their thinking.

Ex of a project: The students can make book reports by taking a picture of the book cover and embedding a movie trailer that they have created for the book. Or for non-fiction the student could find a picture of the person like Steve Jobs, and they can show their understanding of the book. Click here for my example, I chose to do a favorite quote and speech.

A fabulous teacher, Lisa Maples, embedded her class Thinglink into her wiki, as an end of year project. There are  links to various digital projects that the students have created. http://maples.cmswiki.wikispaces.net/Thinglink+2012-2013

3. Lesson Plans and Homework: Teachers can create Thinglinks to help differentiate lessons and homework. Using any image, the teacher can add the content they want the students to know. You can even spice up graphic organizers and info-graphics.

Ex of  a Lesson Plan: The teacher can take a picture of an ecosystem and add all the vocabulary words and/or videos that can help the students learn the topic.

Ex of Homework: This is a great way to flip the classroom. You can embed videos and practice problems on a  topic and have the students complete for homework. Click here for an example using comparing fractions.

Thinglinks are easy to create on both the website and in the app. First create an account at thinglink.com (it is free). If you want to create a Thinglink on the app, download it, and then sign in. Using the pictures in your camera roll, chose one and then tap anywhere on the picture. Here you add the content you want such as video or text, add a title and you are done. You can share it by emailing the link from the app but it also automatically syncs; when you log into your account through the website, you can share it many more ways. If you are creating a Thinglink on the website, click on create in the top right corner and chose an image that is on your computer or for a website (make sure it is a creative commons imagine) and add your content. That is it, I love free and simple!

Any of these Thinglinks can be made into a QR code as well. You can have these posted around the room as helping aids or to inform the students. Just copy the url and paste into any QR code creator such as qrstuff or follow my directions on my blog post about making  QR code in google drive.

I would love to hear how you have used Thinglink or want to use it in your classroom, please share in the comments or on this open Thinglink I created by clicking edit and adding your idea. (To make a Thinglink where anyone can add info, click on the edit tab and set your settings to anyone.) Another great way to have students collaborate in the classroom.

Follow me on Thinglink:  Edu_Thompson. Here are some more great Thinglinks done by other educators! Click on the links to view.

Flexible Learning Paths

Web Tools and Literacy

Let’s Teach Kids to Code

A Check Mark on My Bucket List

“The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” by Arnold J. Toynbee 

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Recently I started my own company called, Edulum LLC. It has always been a goal of mine to one day own my own company that provides support for educators. Starting a company was not easy but I have learned a lot through the process and I am excited to embark on this journey. I chose a team of professionals that were dedicated to providing quality professional development to schools and districts. Each team member has their own strength that makes us a true team. (To read more about our team click here)

I often get asked two questions, one is, ‘why did you name it Edulum?’ I named my company Edulum because it combines two of my passions Education + Curriculum  = Edulum. Yes, I love technology but to me it is not a separate entity, it is a tool we use in education and curriculum so my third passion is embedded within.

The second question I get is, ‘what do you want to accomplish with your company?’ To be honest, support for educators that is affordable. I might get two contracts a year and to me, that is great. That is one reason why I started Edulum’s First Annual Conference this summer because it provides educators with an affordable professional development that is not hundreds of dollars like other big conference.

Our conference theme is: Engage, Enrich and Empower.  Tyonna Hooker (NC Teacher of the Year) is our keynote speaker and we have amazing presenters from all around the Carolinas! It is going to be great and we are excited! The conference is at UNCC in the College of Education Building on August 2nd from 8:30-4:00. Some of our session titles are below to register click here!

•”Scratch-ing” the Surface of Coding in the Classroom

•Tech Up the Common Core

• Stretching the Limits – Text Complexity and Close Reading

• How am I doing? Conferring and Setting Goals with Students

• Better Together: The Power of Collaboration for Teachers and Students

• Incorporating the Common Core Math Standards for Practice into Grades 3-5

• Apps for Increased Engagement

• Promoting Reading Comprehension through Digital Storytelling

• Exhilarating Enrichment Clusters are Elementary!

• And Much More!!!

I am nervous but excited about this adventure but at least I can say I checked off something on my bucket list and am doing something that I love! If you are interested in some of our Professional Development or meeting with our team to provide  customized workshops email us info@edulumllc.com or call us @ (803) 220-4126

Digital Portfolios and Student Lead Conferences

“Time has a wonderful way of showing us what really matters.” By Margaret Peters

Digital portfolios (or sometimes known as e-portfolios) allows opportunity for students to showcase mastery of content through a variety of methods other than paper and pencil. It allows students to show evidence that they are working toward a goal and improving skills based on objectives. Students gain confidence, learn to reflect on their multimedia work, track and demonstrate growth based on their level of learning and most importantly improve self reflection and build learning independence.

Why are we hearing more about digital portfolios lately? Because more colleges and Universities are not just excepting SAT scores but portfolios. There are many applications you can use for digital portfolio such as blogging, 3 Ring, wikispacesGoogle Drive, Livebinders, Gaggle/Edmodo, or Evernote. Evernote is my favorite for many reason but mostly because it’s free, works on all devices and you don’t need internet except for syncing.

In Evernote you can make folders for each students, where they can upload their projects or documents to show mastery. I prefer portfolios because it takes the pressure off of grades and focuses on growth. It also helps set the tone in the classroom environment that we are all different and we will make mistakes but we can learn from them.

I set up my conferences so that I was conferencing with my students in every subject, at least once a week. During this time (because I only had one iPad) I would write the conference notes in their digital portfolio. Over time we could see their progress and growth.

During the conferences, I would discuss with the students individually about what they did well, what they needed to work on and a plan on how they were going to improve. This allowed ownership and also held the students more accountable through reflection. I became the facilitator making sure they made goals that were best for them and that were based on their needs.

Inside the portfolios the students would take pictures of projects they had created, such as the thermal solar house they built or they would upload their best writing piece. Sometimes we recorded our reading fluency so they could hear themselves and make improves. Setting up my portfolios this way allowed the students and I to build a relationship and helped me easily differentiate based on needs and their interests.

Naturally came student lead conferences, where the student walked their parents through their digital portfolio. The students knew their strength and weaknesses and didn’t need ‘prepping’ because they did this naturally every week. It showed the parents the students understood their strength and weakness and allowed the parents to ask their students questions. Because the parents realized that their children understood their learning so well, I found that more parents engaged with their child’s education because they didn’t feel the pressure of figuring out what the student needed to work on. It also naturally helped me, get the parents to see that there is more to education then just grades, taking pressure off some students by default. I also noticed that students had more confidence in themselves because they weren’t comparing themselves against anyone but themselves.

When I left the classroom, I was able to help other teachers set up these portfolios. One teacher @missbrinnsclass, started them. The students are in first grade and it is amazing to see them take control of their learning. Here is a sample of a students writing and her reflection on her work.

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This is a video of Madison leading her conference in front of her parents and teacher.

I would love to hear how you are using digital portfolios in your classroom or tools that you are using.

Discovery Education: Changing the Classroom with Techbooks

“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children.  One of these is roots; the other wings.” by Hodding Carter

Discovery Education has been a wonderful tool in my classroom and in our district. A few days ago, Discovery Education announced at the NSTA conference, that any teacher in the country may have free access to their Techbook from now until the end of June.  This is exciting for many reasons! Techbooks are going to change the classroom and offer students more interaction then just a regular textbook. Another great reason to start this free trail even though it is towards the end of the school year because it is a great way to review for the end of year tests your state has without teaching to the test.

This is the link for the DE Techbook free trial. It is very easy and DE helps you walk through the steps. Once you begin your free trial there is a 4 min video tour before you begin your exploration.

Great Features of the DE Techbook for the Teacher: 

– Curriculum correlates with State Science Standards (Ex: NC 2.L.1.1 – Summarize the life cycle of animals)

– 5E plan with essential questions with built-in prep and big ideas (To learn more about 5E see previous blog post)

– Lessons are broken down into time segments to give you, as the teacher, a rough idea about how long that portion of the lesson should take

– Easy navigations and can add lessons into ‘My Content’ to stay organized

– Offers Hands On Activities suggestions with directions

Great Features of the DE Techbook for the Student:

– The students can highlight and take notes and interact with the text

– You have the option of having the techbook be read to you

– Embedded videos and interactive glossary for the students use.

I highly suggest you check out this free trial from DE. They also offer Free Webinars to ‘dive deeper’ into how to use Techbook in the classroom. They also offer Quick-Start guides, that you can download for the Techbook you want to explore more. I hope you enjoy DE’s Techbook as much as I do!

* I am also excited to learn more about DE’s ideas when I attend Discover Educator Network Summer Institute (#DENSI13) this summer in Vermont.

Web Tools for Shift 6 – Academic Vocabulary of the Common Core

“One forgets words as one forgets names. One’s vocabulary needs constant fertilizing or it will die.” Evelyn Waugh

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In the Common Core  State Standards (CCSS)- Literacy there are six instructional shifts that are needed to effectively implement the CCSS. In this post I am going to focus on shift 6.

We can use web tools seamlessly with shift 6 to build academic vocabulary. It is important to remember even if we teach math, science, physical education; vocabulary is crucial in learning. The shift 6 – Academic Vocabulary tiers are:

Tier 1: Words we use every day such as chair.

Tier 2: Words that frequently appear across all domains and have shades of meaning such as relieved.

Tier 3: Words that have a specific domain such as photosynthesis- domain: science.

The web tools I highlight can be used in any subject and within each tier.

1. VisualThesaurus is a free mind mapping vocabulary tool that takes one vocabulary word and branches out related words visually. The students can see the different parts of speech and these are color coded. If the student spells a word wrong they offer suggestions helping the student learn the vocabulary. You can have students make their own individualized tier 2 and 3 vocabulary lists to help differentiate. You can also search for word lists, such as this general academic vocabulary.

2. Make Beliefs Comix is a free comic strip maker that allows you too create simple free comics strips. Having the students show master of a vocabulary makes the students critically think, create and communicate their knowledge. Giving them a vocabulary word such as ‘absurd’ and having them demonstrate though making a comic. You can assess mastery without a paper and pencil vocabulary test.

3. Sketch Odopod is a free web tool that you can have the students draw out their vocabulary knowledge. Having the students represent a non-linguistic approach. You don’t need to have an account unless you want to save the pictures. Here is one done on the elements of fiction and on the water cycle.

Ninjawords is a fast dictionary students told me about the other day….they love it because it gives them the definition fast. (It is an iPhone app as well)

Want to learn three more web tools for shift 6 you can use in your classroom check out this blog post, 3 Digital Tools For Common Core Academic Vocabulary by Susan Oxnevad

Please share other ways you are teaching shift 6 in your classroom so we can learn and grow together!

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