Summer vacation is quickly approaching (or already here for some lucky teachers and students!) Students regressing academically over the summer is a real problem, but there are lots of tools available to help maintain those critical skills. Here’s a roundup of some great apps that you can recommend to parents to keep their students on target this summer.
There aren’t a whole lot of frills to this reading tracker, but it’s easy enough for kids to use on their own. This app solves the problem of tracking reading time and books read, which can be key for summer reading programs. Parents can create a record for each child, then kids can click the stopwatch icon when they start reading. The app records the time spent reading, and you can also enter the title of the book and notes. All of the information is available in a report when you need it.
This review app lets students practice their basic math facts in the context of a simple game. The app consists of a series of quizzes, with three levels of difficulty for each. While the app isn’t really designed to teach new material, there is a basic explanation for each mathematical concept, as well as a link to Khan Academy videos to explain further. There’s a feature that allows students to send their quiz results to a teacher, which is an interesting concept but not as useful in the summer. Four math concepts are included; additional concepts cost another $.99. This app developer has similar apps for other grade levels and subjects that are worth a look.
Are your students spending time in nature this summer? Send them out with Project Noah. This app lets students record and share the wildlife they’ve spotted, and also helps with identification of species. There are some really interesting classroom implications for this app, but summer vacations offer a great opportunity for kids to use it as well.
Have a student who is really struggling with long division? There’s an app for that. Long Division Touch walks them through the steps of long division. If the student forgets what to do next, they can view a lesson that reminds them. The one down side is that kids can successfully complete the problem without knowing their multiplication facts--this app is more about teaching the process. Some problems are included with the app; you can buy unlimited problems for an additional $.99.
This app comes with six sets of sight words, with increasing complexity. Students can use the app with the sound on, so the word is read to them, or with it off, so they can say the word out loud. The best part is that the sets are customizable. You can add and delete your own words, and record yourself pronouncing them. This is perfect for students who are learning sight words.
As we wrap up the school year, many teachers begin thinking ahead to the following year. We reflect, we question, we ponder. Then, after all of that, we plan. We plan what to do next, how we're going to finally perfect whichever subject area is our least favorite to teach, how we're going to incorporate more of [insert idea or theory] next year.
To help you as you begin to plan for next year, I decided to share two Common Core resources that I recently stumbled upon and am looking forward to exploring more over the summer (you know, when I can breathe for a few minutes!).
They are both put together by the Preston Education Network and feature lesson plans and resources made by teachers, for teachers that align with the national core curriculum, With resources ranging from grades K-12, there is something there for every educator, no matter what level you are teaching.
This site features lessons and resources aligned to the Common Core math standards. Broken down first by grade level and then by instructional strand, you can find anything you might need or want with a few simple clicks of your mouse. Best of all, once you click on your grade level and the instructional strand you are looking for, the resources are then farther arranged by the specific standard you want to teach. For example, if I click on Grade 4, then measurement and data, I can easily find resources sorted by the specific standards of MD.1, MD.2, etc. Very simple and very cool.
This is the sister site to the math lessons and resources site. Again, you can simply search by your grade level, the goal strand you are working with and then the specific standard. There are even some performance based assessments you can access through this website.
This installment of Tech Tips, is a newly released application for Apple's iOS devices called inClass. inClass is an app that can help students keep track of coursework, tasks that must be accomplished and would help limit the excuses that students make that they forgot to do their homework. Simply put, inClass can organize, share and help students excel in their courses.
Some of the main features of inClass are:
*inClass even determines which class you are in
*iTunes File Sharing
*Retina display ready
*Automatic course selection
Be sure to get your copy today in Apple's App Store for free!
I spend a lot of my free time searching the web. I search for teaching related items, new ideas, Common Core strategies and more. I get some of my best ideas for my classroom from exploring what other teachers are doing.
This weekend, I came across an amazing idea that I knew I had to share with all of you. One of the things I love the most about the Common Core, aside from the increased rigor and common curriculum, is that students are put in the driver's seat of their education. They are at the helm, right where they should be. I know that I have taught many students over the years who are very content to take a passive, back-seat-of-the-car approach to their learning. The idea I want to share with you may well just change that.
Let me be honest: this idea was thought of to be used with elementary children. However, there isn't a reason in the world it couldn't be adapted up (WAY up!) for middle and high school. More on that in a moment.
For our younger friends, imagine this: you have the standards and curriculum that you need to teach. You wonder why you never have time to help Little Johnny or Little Susie with just a few extra minutes of intervention to reinforce that math concept or that reading strategy they have worked so hard on. Guess what? You do.
I'd like to call this idea "Flex Friday". Flex because it's flexible. You could call it anything (it's called STAR Friday on the blog where I found the idea). Basically you teach your content, your lessons and do your fabulous teaching thing Monday through Thursday. The students are hanging on your every word, everyone is engaged and learning (hey, it's my fantasy...). Come Friday, you pass the proverbial torch. You put the students in the driver's seat.
Flex Friday Basics
The students get a schedule paper, customized however you'd like to make it to fit your needs, but they determine what they will do and when. This is great for students who need intervention because you can make some parts mandatory based on data if you need to (particularly useful for younger students) or provide them choices within a range of areas you know they are struggling in. (Check out this blog post for an example of a schedule sheet.)
The students run the show. You can continue to keep your normal "schedule" but students are working on areas they need support in and you are then freed up to grab that few second conference, reinforcement or teachable moment you didn't have time for yesterday (or the day before).
Why this idea fits Common Core: first and foremost, you are differentiating without even really doing anything. The materials and content you've used all week are still available to students but they are either reinforcing, extending or bridging that learning. Best of all, they are doing this because they want to! Secondly, you've spent all week teaching Common Core related content and standards. "Flex Friday" simply allows you to expand those lessons, continuing to hit the standards, but at the students' direction rather htan your own.
Making it Fit in Middle and High School
Of course my only experience with middle and high school is six weeks of teaching ELA in summer school to 6th graders and being a middle and high schooler myself once upon a time. However, I firmly believe this would still be applicable to the "big kids". Think about what you have to teach. Is it reading/English? Math? Social Studies or Science? We are now all accountable to Common Core and thus you can make this fit.
Think of it sort of as "centers" for secondary students. You can set up mini-stations for exploration, provide ideas and let the students choose a project or model it just like the elementary classrooms: students get reinforcement or support if they need it or have an opportunity to pursue enrichment so that you can support the students who need just a bit more support. I can envision providing these older students with an outline of tasks and/or standards and letting them reach for the stars in how to learn these concepts. Web searches, projects, book studies and more could all be part of an on-going student focused learning environment.
Author's Note: I have not used this idea myself as I just learned about it over the weekend. However, I can assure you that this will be one of my biggest "to add" ideas for next school year. If you are intrigued and plan to try it, please let me know how it goes when you do! I'd be interested in sharing the journey with you.
This week's tech tip is a site called Museum Box, which can be accessed by clicking on the link: Museum Box. This website is an interesting place where teachers can have students produce evidence or create a description of a historical time, person or event in the past by putting items in a virtual museum box. The site allows users to display text, movie files and even look at other museum boxes submitted by other users. Museum Box is a great interdisciplinary tool because it can be used in all areas such as English, social studies, art and many other subjects. Museum Box pushes students to have to evaluate, inspect or defend issues and explore and develop their thoughts and ideas.
The basic format of Museum Box is the cube. The application provides instruments for uploading just about any type of digital content, including images, videos, sounds, presentations, word processor documents, and Web links. Audio and text content can also be created directly in Museum Box, allowing users to explain and recount their information. Voiceovers can be created by speaking into a computer microphone and then saving the clip in Museum Box’s website.
One of the features of Museum Box is the ability to set up a school account. Teachers can register their schools and there is a $99 fee for the service, which is worth the price. Once a school has been signed up and registered, teachers can administer the site and add pupil accounts or ask pupils to sign up. Once students have their accounts set up they can then create and submit their boxes to their teacher for approval and publication. Students only need to register once or be registered once by their instructor and can use their student user accounts at home or at school to load and save work within the Museum Box website.