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Each Monday, the New York Times posts one of their images, inviting students to discuss what they see. Posted without any text attached, students rely on their inferencing skills to make meaning about what they see. That’s right – there are no headlines or captions. Which means kids draw solely on clues from the New York Times picture when they build their evidence.

Ideas for using “What’s going on in this picture?

  • Class discussion
    Check out this Monday’s post to find a picture sure to get kids involved.     Without the clues words usually provide, it’s a great opportunity for kids to get clues from the New York Times picture then use their inferencing skills. Discussion questions are also posted to get conversations started.
  • Be part of a bigger discussion.
    Visual Thinking Strategies collaborates with The Times to facilitate a discussion about the picture. This happens on Mondays between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Eastern time. With their help making connections and paraphrasing, kids get the support they may need to have deeper discussions.
  • Writing prompt
    Encourage kids to build their observation skills by looking closely to discover something more in the picture. Then, write to explain what’s happening. Change up the writing by participating in blogging sponsored on Mondays. The VTS facilitators are gentle persuaders urging kids to tell more.
  • Check back on Thursdays to get the background info not posted on Monday. Checking back and discovering how closely the class discussions did or didn’t align to the actual news story could make for some deep discussions. Information posted on Thursdays includes the source of the image as well as when and why it was published by The Times. Then, your kiddos can have a follow-up discussion that includes how having the background information to the image might change their perspective or even their opinion of it.

Want to find out more?

The Times offers an information page to help you get started. Have tips to share? Please write! Together, we can do this!

Using Twitter in your classroom is an easy way to invite parents into the classroom. It works for parents with hectic schedules and it works for teachers by not adding the distractions of additional people.

Using Twitter in your classroom is an easy way to invite parents in - works with parents' hectic schedules & keeps it simple for teachers

Tips for using Twitter in your classroom:

  • Candid shots that show what kids are doing as they learn are great!
  • Post a comment along with a picture when your group attends an assembly. Not only does it connect parents to their kid’s day, but it also gives them a talking point, complete with a visual, for reviewing everyone’s day at home.
  • Your Twitter feed can be by invitation only so it’s pretty secure. To make it even more so, show backs of kids’ heads so you’re not showing any identifiable features. And, of course, no kids’ names.

 Using Twitter in your classroom is an easy way to invite parents in - works with parents' hectic schedules & keeps it simple for teachers

Twitter in your classroom can…

  • help parents remind their kids of important upcoming events or tests.
    • Had kids stressed that they forgot their disposable sack lunches for the field trip? Or stressed parents who are making last minute deliveries? Twitter is one more way to send a reminder.
    • Got a big project coming up? In Marti’s school, it might be the 4th-grade state report project. Tweeting a few countdown reminders can help ensure that it doesn’t become a stay-up-late-the-night-before project.
  • challenge students to share their learning with their parents. Tweeting a classroom discussion question or even a short math task can work like an invite that encourages parents to continue the learning discussion at home.
  • let a sick kiddo feel part of the group (a little bit anyhow). Tweet some of the exciting moments of a field trip to help him feel included. Might even be the bus ride!

 

Here’s how to get started to have Twitter in your classroom:

Go to Twitter.com

Need a little help signing up? Check out this video.

 

How do you use Twitter in your classroom? What other ways do you keep in touch with your parents? Please share your thoughts.

Newsela says they’re the “best way for students to master nonfiction”. That’s a big claim but they have a lot to back up their stake.

Newsela has:

Newsela has news articles from around the globe. And, leveled so it’s easy, natural differentiation. Articles begin at a second grade level of text and can go as high as 11-12th grade.

Set up your own Newsela class to make the most of it.

When you’ve set up your own class, you can:

  • digitally assign articles and quizzes. You can even add your own instructions for kids to follow so you can keep the focus on the mini-lesson you just taught if that’s what makes sense. When we’ve been focused on being word detectives, using context clues for unknown words, Anna’s instructions have told kids to highlight words they don’t know as they read. That mirrors what she just taught so it’s great for reinforcing good reading practices.
  • share annotations with your students. Yep, you can practice what you preach – annotate, annotate, annotate!
  • group your kiddos by reading ability and track their progress.

Articles literally from A to Z

You can browse and you’ll find some interesting surprises. Or, you can narrow your search in different ways. Search by:

  • reading skill. Think text structure, main idea, word meaning, word choice, point of view and more. Need a formative assessment to see how your kiddos are doing with a specific skill? Choose an article that has a quiz with that focus.
  • content focus. Science, health, sports, the arts – there’s a long list of possibilities. Options that let you give your kiddos choice in what they read. In addition to the news section, there’s also a library which you just might get lost in.
  • reading level. Many of the articles come in four or five different levels. In Marti’s class that’s key! And no surprise since we all have kiddos reading at different levels. Newsela is one more option for assigning reading with the same look and focus but that can be at very different levels of difficulty.
  • language. There are almost 300 articles offered in Spanish.
  • format. Need a primary source? You can find over 200 here. Need an essay? Over 200 options again.

We say, check it out for yourself.

Not sure who suggested we try it but we’re glad we did. If you use Newsela in your class and have tips to share, please do! Together, we can make this sustainable!

Want to prove that you are all-knowing, all-seeing while your kiddos are working on their 1:1 iPads? Classroom – your iPad teaching assistant is here to help!

Classroom lets you see what your students are seeing – it shows their screen view.

 

Here’s how Classroom can work her magic:

  • Anna’s tip: If you should ever look across the room and spot several kids gathering around one kiddo while they’re all supposed to be working independently on their iPads, check out Classroom to see what’s up. You’ll see what’s on the screen before they have a chance to change it. Same thing goes for hearing laughter in the corner of the room. Keep them wondering how you always seem to know just how well they’re using their time!
  • Another tip from Anna – if need be, you can lock that kiddo’s iPad from wherever you are so that they have to come to you to get back on track.

Want to prove that you are all-knowing, all-seeing while your kids are working on their 1:1 iPads? Classroom - your iPad teaching assistant is here to help!

Transitions Minimized

Classroom – your iPad teaching assistant makes getting to work on 1:1 iPads super fast. No more time spent launching apps, signing on …..

  • Classroom lets you share a website so that everyone can get on at once.
  • Launch that app or create group work and get it to everyone right away. With Classroom, it’s fast!
  • When it’s time to clean up, Classroom lets you lock everyone’s iPad so that cleanup time starts immediately and gets done fast. Sometimes that’s just minutes before the bell rings – we know! 🙂

 

Yes, I see all. Know all.

  • Brilliant! Classroom lets you lock kids onto their assignments so that they can’t be tempted and end up off-task.
  • Classroom can also be used to project a kiddo’s work onto Apple TV when showing an example will help during a mini-lesson.

Need a new teaching assistant? Classroom can be it. Check out this guide from Apple to learn more.

Already introduced to Classroom? Please share any tips you have.

Want to prove that you are all-knowing, all-seeing while your kids are working on their 1:1 iPads? Classroom - your iPad teaching assistant is here to help!

What can differentiated math instruction look like? On most days in Anna’s classroom, it includes students working on their 1:1s on Khan Academy. Khan Academy is easy to implement with either a more controlled and focused approach or a general foundational approach. Both are differentiated – yay! Both are sustainable – yay, yay! That extra yay! is us celebrating as we work to build our own sustainable teaching practices.

Khan Academy is:

Khan Academy is an online collection of video lessons that teach math and several concepts including engineering and science. In addition, they provide tasks that assess learners’ ability to apply those concepts. Khan is also working together with Pixar on projects that strengthen learners’ writing. The content on Khan Academy’s website is mostly in English however it’s also provided in other languages.

Khan Academy is an online collection of video lessons that teach math and several concepts including engineering and science. In addition, they provide tasks that assess learners' ability to apply those concepts.

Some pluses of Khan Academy are:

  • Khan Academy automatically differentiates instruction. If kids respond to tasks showing that they get the concept, they’re moved on in just a few minutes. Add to that the fact that they can progress as far as they’re able,  their math world adventures seem limitless and it grows their understanding and ability to apply their knowledge.
  • It’s a genuine solution for parents who want to support their kids with extra instruction and/or practice at home. Khan gives that support to both advanced and struggling mathematicians.
  • Kids who make connections quickly will run with it and progress through math standards at multiple grade levels.
  • Kids who struggle with number sense and problem-solving will get the additional practice they need because Khan will recognize their deficit then cycle around with more lessons. Repeated practice builds motor memory but there’s also such a thing of beating a dead horse (there must be a story to that saying because it conjures up a bad image!). But seriously, sometimes kids need a little time for a concept to sink in before trying it again. Moving on to another math concept, then cycling back, gives that support.
  • Instructional videos vary in length from about one minute to about six which makes it easy to fit into short time slots.
  • It generates weekly reports which make it helpful for tracking progress on math standards.

The long-short of Khan Academy for us:

  • We let our kiddos run with it! We feel confident that their time on the site helps them build their number sense and fills in any Swiss cheese holes in their understanding. Yes, we know that we can use it to identify students’ deficits and focus on them, however, we think our kiddos are benefitting from the foundational work.
  • We use it for early finishers in addition to a short segment of daily time built into students’ schedules (think morning work).
  • For those parents who want to support and enrich their kids’ education, it’s a great solution – easily implemented and comprehensive.
  • It’s authentic! It’s automated! It runs itself! It’s sustainable! In this crazy-busy time, that’s priceless.

 

Genuine. Comprehensive. Limitless while giving tons of support. Sustainable. That makes Khan Academy a great resource in our eyes. Thoughts? Share your ideas on what it means in your classroom.

Sustainable math practices – you’ve got this!

Khan Academy is an online collection of video lessons that teach math and several concepts including engineering and science. In addition, they provide tasks that assess learners' ability to apply those concepts.

Looking for a way kids can share their work with parents? Thinking ahead to curriculum night or parent-teacher conferences? Seesaw is a great solution. It’s paperless! It’s organized! And so easy to use!

It’s a digital portfolio and it’s so kid-friendly that they can upload their own work. That’s huge for the kids and you too! For the kids, it’s exciting to upload, organize and embellish their work. For you, it’s sharing the work! No more collecting and saving projects for 20+ kids. Each person’s is kept in one place and, the best part is… they’re taking charge of it. That’s a win for sustainability!

Looking for a way kids can share their work with parents? Thinking ahead to curriculum night or parent-teacher conferences? Seesaw is a great solution. It's paperless! It's organized! And so easy to use!

How we use it

Anna uses it in her classroom. She uses it to record her students’ presentations so that they and their parents can see what an amazing job they did! She, also, uses it to keep digital copies of the students’ creations throughout the year – including those hard to keep pieces of artwork like salt dough maps of the continents!

Marti hasn’t used it yet but after seeing what it can do, she’s all in.

Looking for a way kids can share their work with parents? Thinking ahead to curriculum night or parent-teacher conferences? Seesaw is a great solution. It's paperless! It's organized! And so easy to use!

Here’s what we like:

  • It’ so kid-friendly! The app even recognizes when the camera is still enough to get a clear shot so kids can be their own photographers and organizers. It’s quick and simple for you to create a class and folders so that kids organize their own work. So they’re getting practice with functional organization skills and you’re not getting the repeated practice of organizing 20+ students’ work!
  • It’s got great features – the ability for kids to do their own voiceovers easily and add drawings. Those extras will make kids even more excited about showcasing their work!
  • Easy for you to give kids feedback. Yup, you can still review students’ work with feet up at home but you won’t have to lug the projects home. That’s one for sustainability!
  • It’s great for parent communication and for sharing students’ work. Which also means it can be great evidence for evals – think Danielson Framework.
  • You can set the restrictions so that you approve anything students upload, all comments they make and approve work so that parents can access it. You can decide just how open or restrictive you want access to be – from students viewing and sharing comments with each other to access being restricted to just you.
  • Teachers can upload and assign work through Seesaw. We haven’t done that yet but since annotating looks easy and straightforward for kids, we think it could be a good option.
  • The app is versatile. It’s accessible online, on Chromebook, Android, and iOS. And even in several languages. If your students have their own Google account, they can use it so set up is even easier.
  • Seesaw has a parent invite printable with a QR code that tells how to register and download the app so no homework for you there! An important thing to make sure they know is that while parent access is free, it’s limited to the most work uploaded within the last 30 days unless they pay a yearly fee (about $10).

Creative, dynamic, organized student portfolios? SeeSaw could be your ticket! You’ve got this! Make it happen!

 

Looking for a way kids can share their work with parents? Thinking ahead to curriculum night or parent-teacher conferences? Seesaw is a great solution. It's paperless! It's organized! And so easy to use!

Apple Watch: Phenomenally Convenient, Fantastically Functional

Let me start by saying, I hate when I start sounding like an ad! Phenomenally convenient? Fantastically Functional? Really! Yes, really! My Apple Watch is one of those little things that makes a big difference in my school day. Here’s how:

#1 – getting email, text and calendar notifications. So easy! And so much more subtle than reaching for my phone even when it’s just steps away and especially when my arms are loaded with reading workbooks, manuals… you name it! My Apple Watch gives me a couple light taps to let me know I’ve got a text or email and I can quickly and easily check it out without losing my – or my kids’ – focus. I admit it – it’s a little thing but for me, it’s one of those little things that goes a long way towards sustainability. Keeping myself connected to all parts of my life so that, at the end of the day, when the bell rings, I don’t have to play catch up!

#2 –  notes to self. Time for another admission. I’m always coming up with ideas or reminders for myself which is great but my timing often isn’t the best. With my Apple Watch, I just send myself a super fast note. Then, later, I’m not tapping on my cheek, thinking what was it that is so important?! You know the feeling!

#3 – step tracking, heart rate tracking. My life is simple (well not quite…) with one device that does so much. All those trips down the hall add up – keeping track of my steps makes me feel a little stronger.

#4 – easy to use timer. Let me count the number of times, a timer comes in handy each school day. RCBMs. Timed fact tests. Keeping track of how much time until P.E. starts or ends. Giving my wiggly kiddo a break… you name it!

#5 – so many functional extras I’m going to cram in here:
* The display is 2x brighter – a fact I love when my kiddos and I are out on the playground on a sunny day.
* Connects to my phone on a tripod to take class pictures that actually include me! Okay so this is totally random but  I know it will come in handy one day!
* Translates easily – I just record a message, hit a button to translate it and my watch speaks it back. I know my Aunt Karen would love this when some of her kindergarteners start the year knowing only Burmese, Thai, or Arabic. Could be so much more comforting to everyone than the gestures and guesses she has to make!
* Get news snippets. Mostly that’s a good thing although sometimes it feels comforting to stay in the dark about some news events just a little while longer.
* And, it’s really waterproof! Let me say that again for all of us who dream of swimming in an infinity pool but actually have at least one technical disaster story we could tell involving a toilet. Waterproof can be a lifesaver!

Long story, short – I love my Apple Watch! It’s like a mini-assistant on my arm. Do you feel the same? Or have a different tech piece that helps you keep your sanity? Please share!

Everything you need in one place? Too good to be true? Nah! It’s Google Keep and a great way to organize all that info so it’s ready when you need it. Ready for parent-teacher conferences. Check! Ready for report card comments. Check again! You can keep students’ MAP or other assessment scores and academic or behavioral notes in Google Keep. Then, whether you need to refer to info for a team meeting or before contacting a parent, it’s easily accessible. Create a label called students to collect all your student cards.

Quick trick though: think backwards when you organize it. Work through your class list backwards, making a note for your student furthest in the alphabet then working your way through the alphabet backwards. With Google Keep, notes are organized with the newest ones on top. When your done making a card for each student, they’ll all be in alpha order. Ta da!

Once you get started, you may find all kinds of uses for Google Keep. Here are a few of our faves:

Organize guided reading groups. Be sure to add labels for guided reading. Then, keep all your guided reading notes and info in one spot.

Organize progress monitoring.  Use different colored cards to tell you how often kids need to be progress monitored.

Take notes in meetings. Add labels for each type of meeting – staff meetings, team meetings … that way, you can find them quickly and you’ll have all your stuff organized even when a meeting is called at the last minute. And they’ll be easily searchable so you’ll have answers at your fingertips… fast! Winner! Winner! Chicken dinner!

One more handy tip – color code your labels so you can easily find your data and keep those extra minutes for you!

If you have more tips for organizing student info, please share! We’d love to hear from you!

Books

“Little Green Books” Series
 
This trio of books includes Max, an environmentally irresponsible little monster who learns the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling, in “I Can Save the Earth!”, as well documentaries that explain the “life” of a recycled plastic bottle and an aluminum can.
The EARTH Book by Todd Parr
In addition to giving Todd Parr’s always colorful, kid-friendly approach, this book itself lives its message as it’s created with environmentally friendly inks and printed on recycled materials. Go Todd Parr!

Videos

Short, clever and to the point – great video for kids of any age!
Click to watch the Dr Seuss’ Original Lorax animated TV special from 1972. It’s timeless!
Daunting images of people’s wasteful choices change to hopeful ones then end with a reminder to take care of our earth. 
 
Powerful and perfect for upper grades!

Earth Day Video for Kids

Everything living thing on earth is important, no matter how big or small. That’s the message of this video and the Little Earth Charter they ask kids to take along with them. Great for younger students.
Absolutely beautiful song and images. Sung by Nick Kello. Sorry, not able to upload an image but please click on the link above. You’ll be rewarded with a celebration of the diversity and beauty of our planet and an inspiring reminder to take care of it! Great for second grade on up.
Make Earth Day part of learning all day long

Check out these free learning activities on Teacherpayteachers:

Games 4 Learning offers two calculation games. One requires players to throw two dice then find the sum or difference of them. The other requires players roll the dice, add the numbers then double or triple the sum. 

This poster lets kids share ideas with their writing.
Players match homophone pairs and record them.
Watch the story of how Earth Day came to be.

Talking Points

Kid-friendly tips for saving energy and protecting our earth: could be used for making posters in groups then sharing in a class discussion.

Storyline Online is a great website where well known Screen Actor’s Guild Foundation actors read children’s books aloud in engaging videos that are easy to stream online. We have both used them in school with our students, sometimes to entertain the students during indoor recess in these cold months and sometimes to supplement our lessons.

So far, Anna’s favorite is I Need My Monster  written by Amanda Noll and read by Rita Moreno. Rita does an incredible job with the voices. So fun!

Marti loves Harry the Dirty Dog written by Gene Zion and read by Betty White. It’s an old classic that has some added animation. Enjoy!