Monday, April 30, 2018

ReadWorks - Three (outstanding!) Updated Features

ReadWorks, a free reading comprehension program, has created a new eBook feature which I love! I ran across it while I was modeling how to incorporate ReadWorks into reading centers.

Basically ReadWorks has taken some of their articles and converted them to illustrated eBooks with human voice audio (and some text highlighting).

The result is a more engaging differentiated experience for students. Everything is the same you still love about can assign the article to students, they can opt for the article versus the eBook, and there are always question sets.

The problem I ran across on student tablets was how big the eBook opens up. I've emailed ReadWorks and let them know that it is a problem. 

It is not an insurmountable problem but I did have to show third graders how to change the size of their screen to accommodate a full view of the eBook. 

Once students have the book open they can press play and navigate through the book and the question set.

This is a great addition to ReadWorks. To see a full list of articles that have been converted CLICK HERE

Another great new feature is the addition of the split screen for students. Students can now, at the touch of a button, have the article on one side of the screen to reference while answering the associated questions on the other side. It is a small thing but it is so nice that students don't have to click back and forth between the article and the questions. 

Yet another great new feature that I think is a game changer is the reading strip option. Students can click on this option and get a highlighted bar that they can pull down line by line (instead of being overwhelmed by a large amount of seemingly insurmountable text). 

To find out more about ReadWorks offers click on their information page HERE

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Instagram Post Activity - Using a Windows Device

I liked the idea of having students create fake Instagram posts but really hadn't got past the "idea" phase. Last week in my Classy Graphics course with Tony Vincent he had us working with pictures and gave us free reign on the assignment. I used several of the techniques he taught us to FINALLY create a sample Instagram post that could be easily duplicated by students.

I used Google Drawings, which is an under utilized tool in our district, to create the final product. This is a great activity to showcase several "how to's" in Google Drawings. I also used Pixlr to edit a photo of myself to remove the background I was standing in front of.

I made a "how to" video as well as the simple screen shot "how to". The video is a little more in-depth for any teacher wanting to try it out first. If you wanted students to make an Instagram post you might want to make a more specific video for your students to reference back to, particularly if this is an independent assignment. I used Screen Cast-o-Matic to make my tutorial. The free version is enough for most teachers (just sign in to make an account and you can download the software...if you aren't allowed to download software to your district device you skip the download part and use the software from the site).

I used Google Images to find what I need in a separate window but you can also search for images within Google Drawings. I didn't mention it in the video but wanted to mention it here.

If you try this activity with students I would love to see any finished pictures!

Friday, April 20, 2018

"Eye" See Your Point of View Activity

I was looking for Boston Tea Party resources when I came across an  adorable picture where events of the Tea Party where drawn in a giant eye. That picture led to a blog post that led me to another blog post that led me to yet another post and I absolutely loved all the ideas!

As far as I can tell the original idea stemmed from the drawing above. Apparently someone posted it on Pinterest and noted that it could be used for a point of view activity. Instead of the clouds and sun in the eye the student would draw what a character in the story or in history might see from their perspective. Brilliant!!!!

So for the Boston Tea Party the eye would be that of a British solider or supporter of the King. What a great way to teach that there is always two sides to every story. I think I would want students to explain what they were "seeing" on the back.

In my Boston Tea Party lesson plan I would have students write a letter home on the back as if they were a British citizen, solider, or sympathizer and explain their drawing in a creative way. For example I might write:

I can't wait to try it . It could be used in a notebook as well with the eye on one side and the explanation on the other. If I get some good responses I will post them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Copyright Free Music (associated problems) and Podcasts

Richard Byrne recently posted about three free music sites that teachers can use to find music and sound effects for podcasts and projects. It was super helpful and I bookmarked it for future reference.

He didn't mention Free Play Music, which is my "go to" music site so I would add that to any list you have going. I worked with students making Lion King trailers and in this site I was able to type in "African" and found some fun royalty music that worked with the trailers students were making.

Here is MY problem. I don't know what music to choose! I get overwhelmed with too many choices which is why I appreciate it when people cite their music in the video credits (Richard Byrne goes over that in his post). One teacher (art) who does that well is Tricia Fuglestad. I follow her for her outstanding use of green screen videos. She has a Vimeo channel and she gave credit to Kevin McCloud in one video where I liked the music. This took me on a fun internet search where I came across another free music site which features music by Kevin McCloud...the search also took me to YouTube where I could listen to Kevin McCloud's "best of" video to get ideas of some of his music I might want to use. 

Some of my go to music that I use for projects include:

- Daily Beetle by Kevin McCloud
- Building Blocks in Free Play Music
- The Story in Free Play Music (for an intro to a morning news show)

Our district has a subscription to Discovery Education and I generally use that for sound effects if needed. If they don't have something I need then I download it from another site.

One thing I want to try with students is making a podcast (with music and sound effects). I ran across a graphic organizer in a course I am taking online for a debatable podcast that would make a short podcast but might be easy for my first time out. It is definitely on my list to try before the school year is over.

Do you have any "go to" royalty free music please add it to the comments (so I can grow my list). Thank you!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Google Classroom and Emojis

I am taking an online course called Classy Graphics with Tony Vincent. This is the first time I have taken an online course for fun. I heard about the course by following Tony Vincent on Twitter. When he tweeted about the course I didn't allow myself to think about it and just jumped in.  It is a six week course and cost $100. I am only in my first week, as of this writing, but I have already learned so much and my hesitation over spending $100 of my own money is a thing of the past! The class is worth it...I am looking at it as in depth instruction on how to practically use the Google Drawings tool. Professionally it will help me with future questions and training ideas and personally it might help motivate me to start making pretty things to share with teachers.

Probably my biggest takeaway this week in the course is Tony's use of bullets in Google Classroom. I had read his post about it awhile ago but didn't really think anything of it until I saw it in action and now I am OBSESSED. It really does make assignments more fun. The screen shot below is me putting it in action in my sample class I use for training purposes.

It is super easy. Per Tony I used to find the emojis I want and then I simple copy and paste it in the text of the assignment and topic. The emojis are limited so you do have to use your imagination, or at least different keywords, to find something you want.

Why use emojis? I think this graphic from Tony's website sums it up nicely.

I definitely want to try some of the other ideas mentioned in his blog post like using it in my Google Drive to identify folders. I also like the idea of emoji story generating. Definitely start with adding emojis into Google Classroom first. Once you see how easy it is it might motivate you to try adding emojis elsewhere.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Flow Chart Notes - Graphic Organizer

Flow Chart Notes are a fun way to take notes particularly in a Social Studies class where many of events are told as a story.

I read about Flow Chart Notes here and decided to make a graphic organizer to support the format in my Classy Graphics Class with Tony Vincent. (our first assignment was to make a graphic organizer in Google Drawings using the align and distribution features). CLICK HERE for a copy of this graphic organizer. It was made in Google Drawings so you can go to "file" and "make a copy" to have your own editable version. To download it as a PDF simply click "file", "download as", and then "pdf".


I liked how it turned out and I decided to download it as a PDF and use Kami to fill it out as a test run (see first picture). Kami and DocHub are free add ons to Google Classroom that allow students to write or draw on a PDF on a tablet (not an iPad). I could have printed it out and filled it in with pencil but we are trying to go paperless in many of our schools. In my opinion Kami is the better of the two (easier to use). Our district bought a license for it recently so that is our go to. The free version is adequate for this particular graphic organizer.

I used the California Gold Rush as my "event". If I was doing this as a teacher I would probably teach the lesson the first day with all the bells and whistles (videos). Then I might assign them the Duckster's article on the Gold Rush to read and highlight the nine main parts, once that was done I would have them fill out the graphic organizer (text first) and then draw pictures to go with it (to read the article and fill out the graphic organizer I would give it two day of class time based on a 45-50 minute class).

If I wanted something similar in a Social Studies notebook I had to modify the graphic organizer so there was eight panels instead of nine (which changed the flow of the arrows - see below). You could print it out (and cut down the middle with each side being glued in the notebook) or just have students draw the eight panels (which would use less paper). CLICK HERE for a copy of this graphic organizer.

If you use this with students I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Favorite YouTube Channel (K-2 Teachers)

One of my favorite YouTube channels is Kidtastic TV. The channel has a ton of Disney (and other) storybooks read out loud with the words highlighted on the screen as it is being read.

If you have a "Listen to Reading" center this would be a great resource for you. You should pay attention to the length of each video when considering using them.

Our district does not block YouTube videos for students (they are filtered through a clean video search filter) so they can be easily incorporated into a listening center with a QR code (we use this extension in Chrome to generate quick QR Codes).

If students don't have access to YouTube you can use a YouTube Downloader (click here for instructions on a quick and easy way to download videos from YouTube). Downloaded videos can then be uploaded to a Google Drive account where you can create a QR code or get a link for students. This is definitely more time consuming, downloading and uploading speeds can vary depending on the length of the video, but if you want students to watch a particular video independently (and YouTube is blocked) this is viable option. NOTE: Up until recently (April 2018) our district has been using the Google URL shortener extension in Chrome but unfortunately Google announced that they will be closing their services effect mid-April 2018). We liked this extension because we got a shortened URL and a QR code. We have been unable to find a replacement that will do both so we have been using the chrome extension to make shortened URL's and The QR Code Extension to make QR codes. 

If you just want to show the video whole group I HIGHLY recommend the View Pure site. It allows you to add a button to your bookmarks bar to filter YouTube videos. How does it work? As soon as you have pulled up the video you want to show the class on YouTube you click the "purify" button you add to your bookmarks bar (see all screen shots below). The video is moved to the viewpure site where ads are removed (starting ads and popup ads). You also don't see distracting side bar video recommendations and there is no automatic playing of the next recommended video. It is really the best way to show a YouTube video whole group. 

I am always on the search for good YouTube channels, and tips and tricks, so if you have any suggestions please feel free to leave a comment!