Monday, April 29, 2013

Tutorial - Create a Google Site for Literacy

Recently I shared with our staff a Google Site that I created for our literacy class.  The site incorporates screen captures from the book that we were reading and a Google Form.  The end result looks somewhat like the format that the new Smarter Balanced Assessment test will have.

The staff showed interest in learning how I created this site, so I have created a video tutorial showing what I did. Look below the video for the video content if you would like to watch a certain portion of the video.

Video Content
0:00 Introduction and sample
0:50 Create a Google Site
1:13 Select a theme for the Google Site
1:30 Change the Logo or Header
2:34 Create pages
3:18 Screen Captures using Snipping Tool (Windows 7 or later)
4:32 Insert the screen captures
5:40 Insert a Google Form

Click here to view a video tutorial on How to Create a Google Form

Thank you for watching my video.  I hope you consider creating your own Google Site for Literacy.  Let me know if you have any questions.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A RAP Smackdown 20 Sites Shared by Teachers

As you may know, I have been facilitating the current term of RAP  sessions.  RAP stands for Ripon Academy for Professionalism and it is professional development for new teachers as well as any veteran teachers that want to join.  I am very thankful for being given this opportunity.

Each week my co-facilitator, Kathy Davis, and I have been leading the session.  So far this year we have covered a lot of great topics including:  Using Surveys, Polls and Backchannels; Making Flipped Videos Using Jing or Educreations; Using iMovie to Make a Book Trailer or Video; Using and Creating QR codes; Troubleshooting, Tips, and Tricks.

This past week we decided to do a RAP Smackdown (Kathy's great idea).  In a Smackdown each person in our group was asked to share a site or tool that they use in their classroom.

Here are the sites / tools that were shared:

#1 -Flocabulary - Hip Hop videos that bring vocabulary to the classroom through videos.

#2 -Frank Gregorio's You Tube Channel of Science Videos.

#3 -Music Notes for free sheet music.

#4 -Class Dojo is an app for classroom behavior management.

#5 - Livebinders has great resources for teachers.

#6 - K-5 Math Teaching Resources

#7 - Share My Lesson is a great place to share and find lessons.

#8 - Estimation 180 a great site for teaching number sense.

#9 - Kyle Sackett's You Tube Channel of Inspirational Videos

#10 - Sum Dog is an online math contest.

#11 - Spelling City for spelling and vocabulary practice.

#12 - Koo Koo Kangaroo is a series of You Tube videos that provide brain breaks.

#13 - Toon Doo is a comic strip maker that can be used to make social skills comics.

#14 - Lose It is a site for tracking food and exercise  for healthy living.

#15 - Cool Tools for Schools is a wiki that has links to tons and tons of Web 2.0 tools.

#16 - Instagrok for researching a topic in a unique way.

#17 - Sketchup for creating 3 dimensional models and designs.

#18 - Search "Chat" in Labs for Gmail.  This lab add-on will move your chat to the right side of your Gmail so that your folders will be displayed on the left side of the screen.

#19 - Prezi for creating zooming presentations.

#20 - 33 Digital Skills Every Teacher Should Have - with links to sites that support those skills.

This just shows us how impressive our integration of technology is in the Ripon School District.  I loved our Smackdown and look forward to learning more from the talented teachers in our district.

Monday, April 22, 2013

IXL - I Feel Like I Just Won the Lottery!

Have you heard of the website  
IXL is a site with math exercises.  

I have seen this site many times over the past year, and I have used a few of the activities with my students on a few occasions, but I have never really looked into what IXL has to offer.

Then, one day, my 6th grade son, Robert, shared at the dinner table that his favorite class was math because he had finally mastered an activity on IXL that he had been working on for a few days.  I asked him more questions about the IXL site and he told me that his math teacher assigns different math activities for the students to work on and that it was fun and really challenging.

Seeing how enthralled my son was with this site, I knew that I had to look further into IXL.

So, I signed up for the free one month trial membership and made a class roster which created logins for my students.  IXL costs $199 per year for a classroom account.

Then I realized that the unit we were about to start in math was on the topics of ratios, proportions and percents and I thought to myself, "There probably aren't any exercises for these topics on the IXL site since math practice sites usually focus on basic skills."

Boy, was I wrong!! I went to the 5th grade tab, (IXL has math exercises for grades Pre K - 8th), and was shocked by the huge amount of topics and exercises.  I scrolled down and lo and behold, there was an entire section on Ratios, Proportions and Percents!

I was pleasantly surprised to see that when I hovered over a skill, a pop-out box showed me exactly what the exercise would look like.

As I always do, I went in as a student and tried to do the exercises myself.  WOW!!!!!  I was instantly hooked!  As I progressed through the first ratio exercise, I found that the problems were varied to keep my interest and the further I went, the more challenging the problems were.  I also was instantly challenged by the time tracker and the score keeper.  It was like I got sucked into passing the exercise to reach a score of 100.

 Needless to say, when I introduced the site to my students, they had the same experience that I had.  They were engaged, challenged and totally hooked!

We have only been using IXL for one week and my students are really loving it!  

One additional feature that my students are motivated by is the awards tab.  Students earn awards for mastering a skill or for practicing for a certain number of minutes.  

The skills on IXL are linked to the State Standards so that you can search by the standards and see the activities offered for each standard.

Finally, the IXL site offers a full array of reports available to the teacher that will show how your class and students are doing.  I love that the reports show me if my students have mastered a skill or are in need of improvement.  I can also see how much time they are spending on a skill and which skills they have been practicing.  The reports are very easy to read with great charts and graphs.

After giving IXL a closer look and implementing it into our math class, I feel like I have just won the lottery.  IXL gives my students practice at math skills in a way that is engaging, rewarding, challenging and is truly building their skills in a rigorous way.  

This is a site well worth looking into! 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Meograph Worked Great!

Meograph is a Web 2.0 tool for creating a four dimensional presentation.  I wrote about it once before here.  I've been waiting for just the right opportunity to Meograph, and this past week we did.  

My students read about immigration in the United States.  The text covered immigration from the 1800s to the present.  It also describes a variety of counties that immigrated to the U.S., the reasons why they immigrated, and where the different groups settled.

To show understanding of the text, I had the students create a presentation using the Web 2.0 tool called Meograph.  It is free and we signed up with just an email and password.  

Meograph creates a timeline based presentation with the integration of Google Maps, images, text, dates, and narration.  It was the perfect match to show what students had learned.

Here is an example of a Meograph created by one of my students:

No question about it!  This student really absorbed the text and was able to show his knowledge through this presentation.

I highly recommend using Meograph with your students.  My students gave Meograph a thumbs up and said they would use this tool again.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Two Great Sites for Storyboarding

Story boarding is creating graphic organizers in the form of illustrations or graphics displayed in a sequence to visualize stories.

Here are two sites that are very nice for story boarding.

Picture a Story

This sites lets students choose the many features of their story including genre, background, characters, props and the script.  It also allows the student to record their story and then email the story to multiple email addresses.  

Story Board That -

Story Board That has a drag and drop interface that is super easy to use.  Students choose the characters, scene, and speech bubbles.  They need an account to share and save their story board.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Blended Learning Options

I have become a true believer in using blended learning in our 1 to 1 computer classroom.  Blended learning is an approach that combines face to face classroom methods with computer- centered activities to form an integrated instructional approach.  

Blended learning gives my students the opportunity to access digital media content any time that they need it.  It also is strengthening their computer literacy skills through the multi-media rich content.  Our students are really loving learning through different modes of blended learning.

Here are some of the ways that I have been creating blended learning lessons and units for my students:

#1 - Schoology
Schoology is a free LMS that I have been using quite a bit lately.  What I love is the fact that it helps to organize and host the content  in one place.  Students can access videos,  quizzes, discussions, files and links easily.  I also love that my students can turn in an assignment from their Google Drive and I only have to open one window to view all of the students' Google documents for grading. Schoology's grade book is awesome!

Currently I am using Schoology for blending my math class and my reading class.  I am also using it for my Tiger Time group (RTI) to quiz my students and have digital discussions as they read a novel.

#2 - Google Sites  
I have been using Google Sites and Course Director for some time now.  Google sites makes it very easy for me to add content, including Google documents, Google Forms or Videos.  When I create a course with a Google Site, I can customize the look and layout of the site to make it fit the class I am teaching.

#3 - Glogster Edu 
I have just recently started using Glogster as a way to host content and blend my instruction.  Glogster is used for creating online posters.  What makes it so appropriate for hosting content is that a Glogster can include all forms of multi-media:  video, images, audio, text and graphic art.  Glogsters are easy to embed and share.  Another great feature of Glogster is the ability to create a template and share that template with students.  In this way students can access content on the template, but can also add their own content to the Glogster.
Here is a great example of using Glogster for blended learning:

Here are some more benefits of blending instruction in the classroom:

  • we use much less paper since students turn in their work electronically
  • students are becoming more digitally literate 
  • students are more in control of the pace of their learning
  • my online units and lessons are ready to go from year to year
  • quizzes and tests are graded within Schoology or a Google form to save me time
  • students are engaged in the online discussions and the classroom  activites
  • I am preparing students for the 21st century and for the future of online learning
I highly recommend giving the blended learning model a try if you have the technology available to do so.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Give Time for Gaming

We all know that students love to learn through games, so I believe it is well worth the extra 10 - 15 minutes of your class time, once or twice a week, to allow students some gaming time on the computer to reinforce the skills that you are teaching. 

Too often we don't want to give students any "free" time because we have so much to teach them, or they need extra time to get their work done.  I tend to think differently.  I think students will learn important lessons from the challenge and self-discovery of exploring a game on a site that reinforces what I have taught them.  I'm willing to cut my lesson short once a week to allow for some gaming time.  I'm even willing to shorten an assignment once a week to gain some extra time.  

A few guidelines to consider: 

  • Play the game yourself and see if the game appropriately challenges your students.  
  • If the game has directions, I don't teach the game to the students.  They need to read the directions themselves. 
  • Bookmark the sites so that you have them for the next year.

Check out these sites I have shared with my students that correlate well with what we are learning right now. 

Order of Operations:

#1 Royal Rescue- super challenging, but very doable.  Really made the students think critically about what they had learned!

#2 Millionaire Game - The problems get more difficult as the money amounts rise.  I had to teach my students exponents in order to play this game.

#3 IXL - This site is amazing!  Practically every skill that I have taught is on this site.  Skills range from P-K to 8th grade.  There is a limit as to how much a person can use of this site without a membership.  We have been using the free portion.  A membership costs $79 yearly.  My son's teacher has the membership and talks very highly of it.  The problems get progressively more difficult and challenge students to work hard to pass each level.
#4 Multiplying Fractions Millionaire Game - just like the Millionaire game above, but for multiplying fractions.

#5 Math Basketball - Dividing Fractions game.  

#6 Yong's China Quest Adventure - This is one of my favorite games to share with students.  This game teaches us about the Ancient Chinese culture which is perfect since we are reading about the Chinese in our reading series.  This game takes patience, perseverance, cleverness and problem solving.  There are directions, but students really need to figure out on their own how to succeed and get to the next level.

I always start with the standard that I am teaching and search for games that match that skill.  With all of the amazing gaming sites available today it is becoming easier and easier to find games that match well to whatever skill I am teaching.  Please consider using a bit of gaming in your students' day.   

Monday, April 1, 2013

Fakebook Creator from

My son, Ryan, needed to do several projects for his Social Studies class, where they are studying the Revolutionary War.  One of the projects was to create a Facebook Page for a famous person from the Revolutionary War.

I showed him the site Fakebook, and he was off!  Fakebook allows a person to create a fake Facebook page for anyone they choose.  The site was fairly easy to use.  Ryan watched the 1 min. and 41 sec. tutorial.  Ryan had to create the information and posts that the historical figures would have said.  This was true synthesis of the information he had learned.  

Click here to see Ryan's work in progress for his Fakebook of Paul Revere.  He ended up with much more than this page shows, but I have since misplaced the link.  In the end, Ryan printed off the Fakebook page and turned it into the teacher.  He also could have gone paperless and just shared the link with his teacher.

There is a gallery of Fakebooks for people to peruse through which helped to give Ryan ideas about what to create for a profile and for posts.  

Fakebook is part of a site called  This site has so many amazing tools and templates.  A person can make a fake Twitter page or a Fake SMS (text message) as well.  

I highly recommend checking out and letting your students explore the different templates.  Of course not all of the tools available will be appropriate for all students.