Monday, September 30, 2013

Get Creative

Have you always wanted to be on the front cover of a magazine?  Or maybe a movie poster was more your dream?  Or maybe you just want to have students create cool things to prove they have mastered a topic in your classroom?  If so, I found something you may be interested in!

I discovered a great - free - resource to create magazine covers, movie posters, mosaics or motivational posters (but wait...there's more!).  Honestly, this site has a lot to offer and it is all free!  The site is Big Huge Labs.  At first I thought this was just a "fun" little site...but then I started thinking about how it could be used in the classroom.  In history students can create movie posters about a time period or event.  In English they could create a magazine cover for the main character in a novel.  In science a mosaic of pictures from their lab would really show some creativity in their lab report.  And in math students could create motivational posters based on different rules like PEMDAS or reducing fractions.

As you can see - this site will  help students be creative...Yeah for Common Core!  The possibilities are endless really.  You all know what would work best in your classroom - I just thought I would share the site so that you can put your creativity to work!  And like most of us all know already...if  you put the tool  in the hands of the students they will do amazing things!

Here is a quick little practice magazine cover I created while practicing with the website:

One downside - there are a lot of ads on the site...they have to make money in some way.  You will need to teach students what are ads and what buttons they need to click to create their project.  But, there is a link at the top of the page for education where you can sign up for an educator's account so that you can:
  • Pre-register your students so they can sign in without requiring an email address.
  • View and download content created by your students.
  • Use the site advertising-free. And we absolutely do not try to sell anything to your students.
  • Ready to print ID cards for your students
Signing up for an educator's account is easy.  All you need to do is:
  1. Create a free account or sign in. (Registering with your school email address isn't required but it does speed up the approval process.)
  2. Return here to scan and upload proof of current educator status. This can be a scan of your official school identification or similar document.
Anyway, check it out and give it a try.  I created the sample above without adding my email or creating an account.  If you do end up using it - respond and tell me what you did and if the students enjoyed it!

Friday, September 27, 2013


Remember - I am not an ELA teacher, I am a science teacher who loves technology.  So I found this cool new tool and I wanted to share it.

I stumbled upon this website that I think teachers could easily use in their classroom.  This could be used in any subject area - but I think it would be best in ELA, History and Science.  Sorry math folks, I don't think this one would be that helpful for you.

The tool is call Rewordify - and it will take a text and quickly define words that are difficult.  I tested the site with the poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth.  The poem was written back in the early 1800's and most students probably would not relate to the poem as it is written. Rewordify highlights in yellow the more common word and (with a few changes to the default settings) will also highlight in purple the word it is defining. Here is what I found when I copied/pasted the poem on their site:

I know the actual words make the poem much more descriptive and it reads better with the original text.  I also know that with Common Core just around the corner we need to be teaching academic vocabulary and having students understand what these words mean.  But with this tool a student can better understand the meaning of the text.  I am guessing that many of our students may not know the word "pensive" or "sprightly" and I know they would not know the word "jocund" - but this tool gives students a quick replacement to help them  understand the meaning.

Also...the site quickly will give you a data table (there is the science teacher in me) that looks like this:
I do not know if the reading level is accurate or not - but it tells you what it thinks...based on the total number of words vs the number of words it has to define.

Anyway - it is simple to use, free and it might help your students with some of their assignments.  So give it a try and pass it along to other teachers, students, admin and parents!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

When 20 Days = 1 year

Over the summer I had set 4 goals for myself for the 2013-2014 school year (they are listed below).  Well, my school year did not last as long as I had anticipated - I only taught 20 days instead of the regular 180.  As many of you know I have moved to a district edtech TOSA position where I will be working with a team of people to help train teachers to use technology in their classrooms - and we are getting ready for CCSS.  So anyway, since my official school year is over...I thought I would reflect back the 2013-2014 year in review (all 20 days of it)...

Here were the four goals I set for myself at the beginning of the school year - and my success level for each during my 20 days:

1. Be in class
This was a big one since I had missed 18% of the school days last year!  Well I am happy to report that I had perfect attendance this year :)  Sure, it was only 20 days - but I was asked to go to two meetings and a training during that time and I said no to all three so I could be there for the students (before I left them).

2. Blogging
Oops!  The goal was to blog twice a week - that just did not happen.  My last blog was on Aug 25th!  That means that during my 20 days of teaching I only blogged one time.  I would count that as a total failure - or as the students say "Epic Fail".  I keep thinking that  my new position will give me new topics to blog we'll see if I can get to blogging more often.

3. Flipping the classroom
This was both successful and not - if that is possible.  I created all the videos and I posted them online for students to view.  But since I knew I was only going to be in the classroom for a few weeks I decided not to do a full flipped classroom model.  I taught the "old fashioned" way but gave students access to my at  home lectures if they wanted.  Some students loved the ability to re-watch lessons - others never clicked on the link.  Overall I think it would have been awesome...but I didn't have the best situation to try it out.

4. Going paperless (or using less paper)
I'm going to count this as a success.  I did not make a copy until my second to last day on the job this year...and that was a common assessment that I had to give on paper :(  My syllabus, safety contract, 5 labs, two study guides, 4 activities and 2 tests were all paperless!  I do have a confession to make though - I was using printed out sheets of paper from last the lab sheets from last year were used again this year.  So during my 20 days in the classroom (including 3 prep days) I only used 172 sheets of paper!  I had to print out 150 sheets for the common assessment (I had some left over from last year for the other 30 students - large class sizes!) and I printed out my roster (12 pages) and my seating charts - twice because I move the students once (5 pages).