Students struggling with punctuation? Tired of suggesting corrections for comma splices? Is it time to brush up on writing conventions before a big essay assignment?
Check out this brief video: in two and a half minutes, we can quell your students’ fears about correct semicolon usage.
Watch on YouTube: How to use a semicolon
LESSONS FOR TODAY’S DIGITAL CLASSROOM
Contemporary classrooms need to engage students with digital tools—such as tablets and Chromebooks—and digital curricula. That was the intent behind Reading Dailies, a new digital curriculum designed to be delivered through tablets and computers. A teacher need only paste the lesson link into an assignment, and students can access a complete week of lessons that break down one of the Common Core reading standards and that include high-quality, complex, literary texts.
Reading Dailies, for grades 3–5, build students’ reading skills through weekly lessons that break down the skills students need to understand fiction and informational texts.
This supplemental reading program includes a Teacher’s Guide, 19 units, and 19 Checkpoint Assessments. Each unit and Checkpoint Assessment is available as an interactive HTML5 lesson or as a downloadable PDF, and each unit includes 3, 4, or 5 lessons designed to be completed in a single week. Each lesson takes about one day and requires students to read and reread a literary passage and write about it. A checkpoint at the end of each week assess students’ understanding of the main strategy, giving teachers the summative data they need to assess whether students have mastered the composite skills folded into one of the Common Core standards.
Reading Dailies offers students and teachers several features that make the program easy to use and convenient while still being rigorous.
Skills show the smaller skills needed to master the overall strategy
Academic vocabulary is introduced at the beginning of the week and reinforced throughout the week
Quality literature can be found in each lesson to acquaint students with literary use of language and the vocabulary used in authentic texts
Focused responses provide students with scaffolding needed to delve into the text and understand it
- Start the week by introducing the unit and key concepts. Then allow about one day to complete each lesson.
- Some students on their own may be able to complete a unit in less time, but the one day, one lesson pace allows time for students to work in small groups to discuss the passages and respond to them. Talking about the passages in small groups will benefit all learners and help them enrich their understanding of the passages.
- Small groups will also support struggling readers and English Language Learners.
- Throughout the week, encourage use of the academic vocabulary in the lesson in small-and whole-group settings.
To preview a G3 unit for free, visit http://store.greenlightlearningtools.com/product/rd301/
To preview a G4 unit for free, visit http://store.greenlightlearningtools.com/product/rd41/
To preview a G5 unit for free, visit http://store.greenlightlearningtools.com/product/rd501/
Helen Beyne has years of experience in creating innovative curriculum materials in reading, ESL, science, and social studies. She writes about IWBs and free online resources for teachers.
by Elizabeth Liberatore
Plan to turn complexity into comprehension
Reading, like any activity, requires plenty of practice to perfect. You cannot expect piano students to master a technically demanding score by Chopin or Beethoven unless it is practiced in bite-size portions. Reading is no different. Only when students are routinely exposed to quality literature with embedded skills that reinforce standards can students raise their literacy and comprehension skills.
“Unpack” Literature Standards in the Classroom
But how do you make a reading lesson equal parts attainable and rigorous for your students? You “unpack it.” Reading standards today are big and complex, embedded with at least three or four smaller skills. Students need to “make inferences” while also “explaining what the text says explicitly” and referring “to details and examples in a text.” Any one of those subskills warrants a lesson unto itself.
Small, bite-size skills help introduce your students to academic vocabulary, high frequency words, and other proficiencies needed to master the larger standard. Once students learn the subskills within a standard—such as reading and rereading, annotating unfamiliar and/or repetitive words, locating literary devices, and so forth—they will approach the larger standard with confidence. Assessments of each subskill within a standard allow you to better gauge students’ trouble spots in mastering the overall standard.
Make It Approachable Without Compromising Rigor
How often should students be practicing their reading? According to Dick Allington, author of What Really Matters for Struggling Readers: Designing Research-based Programs, students ought to read 300 minutes every week. That’s a lot. Constant distractions like entertainment on devices such as computers or iPads and students entering and exiting the classroom can make it difficult to allot that much time to reading without shortchanging other subjects. Even when 15–30 minutes of reading is spent in after-school programs or as homework, the suggested 300 minutes per week will be met only if students practice a daily reading routine in the classroom. That is, students need to read daily and practice mastering the skills they need to unravel today’s complex reading and literature standards.
Planning is teaching—teach a plan! Pack two ingredients into each week: clear, explicit instruction of key reading skills and sufficient reading of engaging, complex texts across all subjects. Take time to unpack the reading literature and informational text standards and work through them methodically. Then challenge students with complex texts on which they can practice the subskills they need to master. As long as your weekly reading routine has a consistent structure that students can easily digest, you can be assured that their comprehension and literacy skills will improve with every lesson they complete.
by Emily Levison
Teachers face the daily challenge of making their lessons accessible to all types of learners. Virtual tours are an incredible tool to reach a wide variety of learning needs, spark your student’s interest, and bring the field trip into the classroom. With applications like Google Earth, we can view anywhere in the world at the click of a button. Virtual tours, however, take you inside or give a full and expansive view of iconic monuments, landscapes, or artifacts.
Here are a few great virtual tours to use in your classroom:
- Mount St. Helens
This virtual tour puts you at the top of Mount St. Helens and gives you a full 360-degree view. Help your students discover the way the landscape has changed by comparing images from 2003, 2006, 2011, and 2016. Explore many other iconic places at Fullscreen 360.
- U.S. Supreme Court Building
Let’s explore the U.S. Supreme Court – not just the exterior of the building but the inside and outside of each room. What better way to learn about Supreme Court cases than to put the students right there? Imagine teaching about key Supreme Court cases, like Brown v. Board of Education, and allowing your students to see the inside of the courtroom and imagine what it was like to be there.
- Rare Book Room
Unlike other virtual tours that focus on exotic locales, the Rare Book Room allows visitors to digitally view the pages of almost four hundred books from some of the greatest libraries all over the world. Students can closely examine original copies of books from authors like William Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, Galileo, and Copernicus. Whether you are teaching social studies, science, language arts or mathematics this is a worthwhile resource to use with your students.
- Sistine Chapel
I have never had the privilege to travel to Vatican City, let alone the miraculous Sistine Chapel. This virtual tour makes you feel like you are right there, painting the ceiling with Michelangelo. Spin 360 degrees, zoom in and out and even enjoy the complimentary music from the Westminster Abbey Choir as you browse around this pristine work of art, just don’t forget to bring your students with you!
by Mary Kate Dempsey
Fun and informative websites and videos can improve even the most reluctant student’s understanding of science. Here are five of our favorite science resources to use in the classroom.
The Periodic Table of Comic Books
Show students who question the relevance of learning the periodic table this website. Click any element to see an array of retro comic book pages that mention or connect to that element. Sure, it can be cheesy, but even elements like molybdenum have been mentioned in comic books. Who knew?
Hank Green, Michael Aranda, and Olivia Gordon strive to make science fun on their YouTube channel, SciShow. Their videos explain things from animal behavior to oceans to why babies smell good. The videos range from 3 to 10 minutes, and are a great supplement to classroom discussions.
Veritasium is another YouTube channel that makes science engaging. The videos cover topics from energy to animals. The channel features several playlists, including overturning misconceptions, experiments, and catchy, memory-aiding songs. It is wonderful when students question the real world applications of science class.
This wildlife teaching resource for ages 5–18 contains professional photographs of animals accompanied by detailed descriptions, most of which are authenticated by scientists and researchers. Students can filter by species, conservation status, or location. The website also has fun games, activities, and quizzes. Check out the Educate tab for lesson plans and worksheets.
Sumanas, Inc. is an educational publisher with the goal to make science easier to understand. Their website features short animations appropriate for high school students on topics such as mitosis, the moon’s phases, and synaptic transmission. The section “Science in Focus” animates scientific current events, such as antibiotic resistance.
by Emily Levison
With so many schools using Google Apps these days, it’s worth a refresher course on a few easy things you can do to keep your (and your students’!) data safe.
Although this is the most basic form of protection, two-step verification means someone trying to get into your Google account needs more than just your password to get in. With two-step verification, Google sends a code to your phone after you enter your password. The code can be sent through an app, a text message, or a call. Two devices, two steps; good luck, hackers.
Now that sounds like a lot of work just to log into your Gmail every day. However, you have the choice to remove the two-step verification from specific devices; this keeps your Gmail sign in fast and easy on the computer, laptop or tablet you use regularly.
Hackers are not the only fear with Google Drive. One of the major worries of many Google users is the loss of data or files. Boxcryptor is one easy solution. This application secures your files by encrypting them before they are uploaded to Google Drive. There is a free version that allows for storage encryption on two devices.
Share with Care
One of the best features in Google Drive is the ability to have multiple people share and simultaneously edit a file. Despite this incredible capability, the multiple user feature of Google Drive opens the door to more risk. Take the time to explore your options before sharing a file. Here are some tips:
- Limit access: Share access only with users you fully trust.
- Use your options: Default to the “view only” option. When you share access with this restriction a user can only see the file, not change it. For sensitive content, choose the option to “Disable options to download, print, and copy for commenters and viewers.”
NOTE: If you give someone editing access, be sure to check the box that says “Prevent editors from changing access and adding new people” to stop others from distributing your content.
- Less is more: You can always upgrade a user to have more access if needed.
- Remove: If someone no longer needs to see a file, remove his or her access in the Advanced sharing setting.
- Remember: Although you can prevent all of these actions, a user can still use a screenshot to steal important information. Share smart and you’ll never have to worry.
by Mary Kate Dempsey
Technology is a great way to introduce variety to your math lessons. Below are some helpful websites that teachers can use as reference materials, for tutoring, as extra practice, or just for fun.
We have talked about Khan Academy before. Khan Academy has thousands of K-8 educational videos to help students grasp concepts from basic arithmetic to calculus and organic chemistry. As a teacher, you can create a class and track both your students’ progress through skill assessments and how much time they spent working on the site. The site includes non-math subjects, but they aren’t the draw.
A+ Click is a great resource for students who need extra practice. Students choose either a grade level, G1–12, or a topic. Whether the student answers right or wrong, A+ Click will show you why the correct answer is correct (so even the lucky guessers will learn something). The site revised most of the questions in 2015 to align to the Common Core. Bonus: no sign-in required!
This offshoot of the popular Wolfram Alpha online calculator has hundreds of free math articles on topics ranging from algebra to topology, including the history and definitions of math terms—fun for the math nerd in all of us! Many articles include helpful visuals such as GIFs and pictures. It is the perfect reference material when needing to go into more detail about a theorem or topic.
This site for students in grades K-8 contains short written lessons followed by practice items on topics from addition to algebra. In the classroom, ask students to answer a specific number of practice questions or set a time limit and have students tell you their score at the end. The site is also available in Spanish.
More for the audial learner, Math Dude is a weekly podcast most appropriate for high school students. Host Jason Marshall aims to make math fun with facts about the Juno Spaceship and the NCAA Tournament. He shares tips and tricks to help make math easier for kids who are struggling. The podcasts range from 6-10 minutes, making it a great bellringer.
What are some other math websites you love? Let us know in the comments.
Exciting news for Green Light Learning Tools: We’ve been named the Featured Provider on the HMH Marketplace for July. Hop on over to browse a selection of our products, from our iPad apps to our ever-popular Toolkit of Reading. (Bonus: The Toolkit lessons are Common Core aligned!)
While you’re there, check out some of the great summer resources available! Check back later in the summer for more great activities for back to school. Find something you love? Tell us about it in the comments or on Twitter.
by Mary Kate Dempsey
Tablets and phones can be a huge asset for teachers working with students with special needs. Technology allows teachers to work with students at their ability levels. Below are some of our favorite apps for the special education classroom.
Dragon Dictation (free – iOS only, similar apps are available for Android)
Speech-to-text apps are great for students who struggle with writing or typing. Dragon Dictation is one of the easiest to use and most accurate. All you have to do is open the app and speak into it. Once the app transcribes your words, you can edit it if needed and share through email or paste it into Google Docs.
Have a student who gets overstimulated easily? Try Pocket Pond. Calming music plays while koi fish swim around a virtual pond. Students can play with the fish until they are ready to rejoin the class.
iReward ($2.99 – iOS)
iReward is a useful app that tracks tasks for students to accomplish to earn a set reward. The app supports multiple users, making it perfect for the classroom.
An easy to read and highly visual timer that shows how much time is left in the event in red and the time passed in white. This app is great for time management in any setting, classroom or otherwise.
SoundingBoard (free, with in-app purchases – iOS)
SoundingBoard uses symbols to help teachers and students who are nonverbal communicate easily. Crucially for teachers, the app supports multiple boards for use with different people. It comes pre-loaded with 20 symbols, and each in-app purchase after is $0.99.
Nulite Behavior Tracker ($19.99 – iOS)
Yes, this app is expensive, but it has excellent features that make it worth the upfront cost. Nulite is an app made especially for special education teachers that tracks student behaviors with date, duration, and notes for each student. The easily exported generated charts and graphs are great for sharing with parents and administrators.
Do you use apps in the classroom? If so, what apps do you use and would recommend to other special education teachers? Let us know in the comments!
by Hope Morley
Everyone knows professional development and continuing education are important. It’s essential to stay up-to-date on new trends and best practices. There are a thousand great blogs and articles full of new information to use in your classroom… but let’s face facts. Teachers are busy people and it takes a lot of time you don’t have to catch up on all that reading. The solution? Podcasts! Podcasts are great to listen to while you commute, go for a run, or make dinner.
Add the following edtech podcasts to your phone or iPod and start learning!
Jennifer Gonzalez’s podcast covers more than edtech. Some of her best episodes focus on classroom management and strategies. A former teacher and college instructor, Gonzalez is engaging and conversational. You’ll want to spend an hour with her when a new episode is released.
In every episode, educator and host Christopher Nesi interviews an interesting person, gives some tips, and shares resources. One of the best features of the podcast, if you listen on Nesi’s website, is the collection of links mentioned in each podcast listed underneath the audio.
If you listen for this podcast for nothing else, listen to the hilarious theme song. Tim and Scott Bedley bring on great guests, such as Jose Vilson and Alice Keeler. The Bedleys ask useful questions and get their interviewees to share best practices that will help give you ideas to use tomorrow.
Ok, this one is a technology podcast, not an education podcast. It covers technology and how it affects our daily lives. It’s included because many episodes, such as one about the difference between reading on a screen and on paper, can be directly translated to the classroom. The mixture of brain science and trends will be interesting to any teacher using devices in the classroom.
A few additional notable mentions:
Did we miss your favorite education podcast? Tell us what you listen to in the comments or on Twitter.
Hope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT.