Monday, April 8, 2019

Test Prep - TDA Writing with Writable


We are within a three week window of our state testing here in South Carolina and the test most teachers are worried about is the writing portion of the ELA test. The ELA test is divided into two days with the writing test on the first day and the reading test on the second day. The writing test has a text dependent analysis question (TDA) which requires a lot of higher order thinking/writing for our students (many of whom are taking it for the first time...on a computer).

I am super sympathetic, having taught writing. That is why I got SUPER EXCITED when I ran across the Writable site at conference in February. The site has a lot of TDA type questions and passages already put together in a format that mimics what students will see in May. It is not an exact match (the site corrects spelling and has a read-to-me option...which they won't see on the state test) but for the most part it is a way to give students the opportunity to see a writing passage on one side and a TDA on the other side for practice purposes.

The site offers a 60 day free trial (which activates as soon as the first student joins your class so you can make an account and look around for a bit to see if it is something you might use). You can use their prompts or (and this is what made me excited) you can make your own. I made several, which I will link below. I love that you can make prompts and then share them with anyone with a link.

Another exciting feature is that you can see revisions. Things that are removed from the first version are highlighted in red and things that are add are highlighted in green.




I have barely scratched the surface of this site...but for test prep practice I am loving it! I made a short overview video (again focusing on test prep ONLY). If you want more detailed training their YouTube channel is a good place to start. 

Here are links to the TDA's I put together on the Writable site:

Mo, Bow Tie Designer - https://app.getwritable.com/p/c4af12bc-7085-4658-bdc4-771aff72cdcc (this has a link to the YouTube video and the text is the transcripts)
Competitive Double Dutch - https://app.getwritable.com/p/cea95d4d-b7b9-4aef-9514-e27aa980f97b (this has a link to the YouTube video and the text is the transcripts) 

Friday, March 22, 2019

Test Prep - TDA Writing and YouTube


It is that time of year where classroom teachers are in full test prep mode. We are about six weeks out here in South Carolina and a big concern in a lot of our schools is the TDA part of the test (Text Dependent Analysis).

The TDA part of the test requires students to analyze a piece of text and respond to a prompt that where they have to pull evidence from the text to support their writing. Great idea, and certainly brings in those higher order thinking skills, but it is also a lot for students to process particularly if this is the first time taking the test or they are struggling readers and writers. I definitely feel their pain but sadly that doesn't make the test go away. This leaves me trying to think of ways to get these struggling students writing and reading as often as possible.

Luckily the test uses shorter reading passages so I try to pull high interest articles off the internet, ReadWorks, Newela, Writable, Teachers Pay Teachers, etc - pretty much any place I can find that is "free'ish....I am counting "free trials" as "free'ish. It really helps if I can make a connection to the article, or connect the article to the class in some way, because WANTING to read it is pretty much half the battle. If I can hook them in then they are intrigued enough to find out what the short article or story is about.

This leaves me sometimes struggling to find "hookable" text for kids. This got me thinking to what students REALLY want to do...which led me to YouTube (a lot of our students just want to watch videos and be entertained). This led me to thinking how I could get transcripts of videos off of YouTube to use as "hookable" text....which led me to discover YouTube has transcripts! To be clear not all videos have transcripts but it was good enough for me. Now I have a lot more "text" to draw from and I can "hook" them with the video part of it.

I made a flyer (see picture above) that shows you how to get transcripts off YouTube. You do have to do some editing. I basically copy and paste the text into a Word or any Word-like processor (Google Docs) and then clean it up. I also watch the video on one side of the screen to make sure the transcription is correct. Sometimes people in the video don't speak clearly enough and whatever program makes the transcripts has to guess at their words. I recently found the program guessed a curse word while a woman was speaking and I'm glad I proofed and rewatched the video so I caught it!

Below are the steps I take when using transcripts. To be CLEAR this may not be something you want to use every day because there is some front end work on the teacher's part. You may just want to give it a try once a week (Fun Writing Friday) until you start building up a library of YouTube transcripts to draw from.

1. First, I find the video. I love the Great Big Story channel on YouTube. They produce short high interest pieces that often feature children. There is an internal search area within their channel and if I type in "kids" I can usually draw from that (they also have a Kids playlist on their website channel that has closed captioning but all the videos can be found on YouTube where you can print out the transcripts). I try to find stories that focus on minority children if possible and then rotate looking between male and female lead characters. I also like Disney's Citizen Kid series. I use their "Mo - Bow Tie Designer" video a lot with students.



2. Then I open the video transcripts and turn off the timestamp feature.


3. Next I copy and paste the text into a editable document.


4. I edit the text to use the complete field on the screen. I tried to find a way to automate this step but was unable to find anything that worked for me so I go line by line and bring up the text. I look for videos no longer than 3 minutes in length to use since this is a tedious process. 



5. Then I re-watch the video with the screen split so I can follow the video on one side and pause and correct the text as needed on the other.



6. I edit in paragraph breaks as it makes sense to me. I do this so students can tell me which paragraph they found their evidence. 



7. Finally, I save and print (although saving it first would help in the event your computer accidentally closes on you!). 

Sometimes I add the TDA question to the page but other times I just to like to make up one on the fly. With the Double Dutch video example I might ask: "Write an essay explaining why you think Khnaue thought of her team like a home? Use examples from the text to support your answer." or I could have asked "Write an essay that describes Khnaue's character in relation to the story. Use examples from the text to support your answer." 

I usually let students watch the first time for fun, the second time to catch things they might have missed on the first viewing, and then I turn off my screen projector and have them listen (instead of watch) the video and use a pencil to track the words on the paper. I tell them if they find any mistakes to let me know...so it gives them a "task" while reading along with the video. 

For the most part, students seem to like this activity and it provides a nice change from looking at just text all the time. 

Here are links to my transcripts for:




If you give it a try, let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter @atechcoachlife.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Student Sub Messages

I am following a Seesaw teacher's Facebook group and one of the teacher's posted an animated avatar message she left for her students using Memoji which is available on the iPhoneXS, iPhoneXS Max, and iPhone XR. It was super cute but sadly unavailable to me with my sad iPhone 7.


This got me thinking about other ways I could use leave creative messages for students if I was going to be out. I couldn't find another free avatar program that made a close approximation of my face so I branched out to messaging apps. 

I made the two videos below using the Facebook messenger app (you could also use Snapchat as well). Both allow you to save videos to your phones camera roll. I put the Seesaw app on my phone and uploaded it from there but I could have easily emailed them to myself from my phone and uploaded it via my computer. 




If you are looking for a fun way to leave messages for your students you might want to give these apps a try!
   

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Rainbow Colored Word Generator



If you have ever painstakingly highlighted each letter in a word to get a rainbow effect you no longer have to! There is this cool add on into Google Docs and Slides that allows you to highlight an entire word and turn it rainbowish.

From Docs or Slides you can also copy and paste your rainbowed word into Word, PowerPoint, and email as well. It sadly doesn’t copy and paste over to Facebook or Twitter (I’ve tried!).

For this blog post I tried to make the title rainbowish but that didn't work. However, it worked when I cut and paste the text in from a Google Doc into the body of this post.

It is still a cool tool regardless of its limitations. I used it for these cool Valentine's Day cards.



If you find another great use...please let me know either in the comments below or on Twitter @atechcoachlife.


  

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Dr. Seuss - Green Screen - Masking Book Covers


Last week I worked with K-2 teachers in preparation of Read Across America Week teaching them how to use the Doink Green Screen App with Dr. Seuss characters and book covers. 

In the training I placed them into iconic Dr. Seuss book covers...much to their delight!

We are using this concept for a Seuess themed family literacy night as well. 

One question I repeatedly received was how I was able to mask the image on the cover. In all honesty I got the idea from an art teacher I follow on Twitter - Tricia Fuglestad. I have her blog bookmarked and I love all her ideas...particularly the ones related to green screening. 

The difference between Tricia and me is that she is SUPER artistically talented and sadly I am not. She is also an iPad wiz and, while I have an iPad, I am more comfortable with a PC. So when I see her projects I am always thinking...how can I duplicate it on a PC?

When she masks the covers of books she uses an iPad app called brushesapp which she highlights in this Twitter reply

I am straight up OLD SCHOOL with my tech skills and I use PowerPoint or Google Drawings (they both have their pluses and minuses). 

I put together a couple of tutorials walking through how I used both with this project.

PowerPoint Tutorial (click for direct link to the file below)


Google Drawings Tutorial (click for direct link to the file below)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Read Across America - Interactive Read Aloud App

Picture Source

If you have not heard of the app Novel Effect you may want to give it a try for Read Across America Week.

The free app brings popular kid's books to life by playing sound effects, music, and character's voices as you read out loud. Novel Effect works when you read aloud from the corresponding book using voice recognition. I heard about the app while attending the TCEA conference in San Antonio earlier in the month.

I was recently a guest reader in a fifth grade class and decided to give it a try. I downloaded the app to both my iPhone and iPad. I looked through the list of books in the Novel Effect library of soundscapes and found a corresponding book in our school's digital library (Overdrive). If I had a hard copy of the book it would have worked as well.

I then practiced at home. I had the book  (Rosie Revere Engineer) open on my laptop and the Novel Effect app open on my iPad.


I also tried reading the book from my Overdrive app on my iPad with the Novel Effect app running in the background and that worked as well.

The day of my read aloud I had the teacher check out the book on her Overdrive account so that it would display on the interactive panel in the classroom. I wanted all the students to be able to see the pictures. I then stood off to the side with the app open on my phone...with the volume up. I was having trouble connecting my phone to the panel's speakers but the students said the phone volume was loud enough. I could have connected it to my blue tooth speakers as an option as well. .

I read through the book with the teacher flipping the pages at her computer and the Novel Effect app picked up my voice and inserted the appropriate sound effects, voices, and music much to the delight of the students and teacher.



If you haven't tried it I would definitely give it a go! It was FREE, fun and easy to use (iOS devices only). 

If you try it with your students let me know what book you used and how it went in the comments below or on Twitter (@atechcoachlife). I highly recommend the Rosie Revere Engineer book!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Bitmoji Valentine's Day Cards


Tonight I am having fun making Bitmoji Valentines for an upcoming staff training that happens to fall on February 14th.

I used the Bitmoji extension in Google Chrome and put it together in Google Drawings. I could insert a 2x4 table into Drawings to get my dimensions set for printing (I printed four to a piece of card stock). I used the Google add on "Magic Rainbow Unicorn" to make the word "magical" rainbow colored. The add on only works in Google Docs but I cut and paste my words into my Google Drawings.template.

I bought the lollipops on Amazon but I am not sure I would recommend it. A lot of them were broken in the shipping process...which was packaged really poorly. I really wanted the twisty lollipops and couldn't think of any place in town that would sell them.

There are several Bitmoji characters that would have worked for Valentine's Day cards. Here were my runner up ideas:


If you plan on making Valentines for your staff or students you might consider using Bitmojis...I know it will make the folks I am working with on Thursday smile.

I would love to see any Bitmoji Valentines people make. Please post pictures in the comments or tag me on Twitter @atechcoachlife.

UPDATE: Here are some cute Bitmoji Valentine's that teachers sent me.