This week's tech tip is a useful tool called Readability and this site is useful for anyone trying to make reading online easier. Readability creates a clean view for reading now or later on a computer, phone, or tablet device by eliminating all the ads and other clutter. The site's administrators claim their service has a simple purpose: to deliver a great reading experience.
Readability can also place articles found on the internet and save them for reading at a later time. For example, users can click the browser add-on extension and the service will ask if the clean article should be viewed now, later on or on the Kindle application. Readability is also available on iOS devices, Android OS, chrome browsers, FlipBoard, Twitter, email and many more options. Readability is a free service and is easy to get set up by linking a Facebook account to their service.
I have used Readability in my courses at school by having students set up their own free accounts, so that when they are conducting research on various topics on the web, they can get a clean and legible copy to use. Students in my Participation in Government class had to conduct research on a public policy issue and students who were working in groups, could save articles to a group account that they could look at later or use immediately to assist in completing the assignment. I have also had students use Readability when they complete their current event assignments because it makes the copy much easier to read and saves on printer ink and toner. See the video below for more information on this great application.
Recently, I came across a blog post that had me seeing glory lights and made angels sing. Truly, the strategy I read about in this post was awesome and I knew I wanted to try it with my 4th graders.
The blog was written by a wonderful teacher named Kelly, who teaches 3rd grade. She discusses how she taught her 3rd graders to leave "tracks" of their thinking and what happened next was really awesome. (You can read the blog post here.)
While my intentions were good (I really DO plan to try this strategy), it just hasn't fit into my schedule with MAP testing, IEPs and so on. Maybe I will save it for after Spring Break when I can truly push my students to the next level in those last few weeks of school.
I made a big connection to Kelly's post, however, when I sat through a PD session last week. We were watching a few short classroom clips on Teaching Channel (love that website!) and I thought about how cool it would be to be able to make notes as you were watching videos. This is so important to the Common Core as we really try to teach our students to leave those "tracks" like Kelly discussed in her post. Why shouldn't teachers do the same to help them not only comprehend but also to synthesize and really grasp whatever their professional development is about.
The good news is, at Teaching Channel, you can leave notes on the videos you are watching. It's really simple to do but also very cool. Check it out!
Have you been studying the Olympics with your students? There’s almost one week left, so don’t worry if you haven’t gotten to it yet. Here are some great resources to help get your kids in the Olympic spirit.
The Official Sites
If you’re looking for information straight from the source, there are plenty of official Olympics sites to use, and most of them are fairly kid-friendly, although they weren’t specifically designed for younger kids. For up to the minute information, check out the official Sochi Olympics site. The site is also available in French and Russian, which make it a great resource to use with foreign language classes.
Olympic.org is the official website of the Olympic movement. It’s got some of the same information as the official Sochi site, but it also has plenty of background information about the Olympic Games, plus detailed information on previous Olympics. There is a great search tool that allows you to search for Olympic medalists based on the year, event, country or the athlete’s name. Results from Sochi aren’t included yet.
For information about Olympians from the United States, check out the website of Team USA. This site has bios of American Olympians, links to the official sites of US Olympic sports teams and information about the US Paralympics.
Want to show clips from the Games? Head to NBCOlympics.com. Some content requires logging in using your cable or DirecTV account information.
One of the most amazing things about teaching about the Olympics in a wired world is that many athletes have websites that give you lots of great information about their sport and themselves. Here are a couple that your students can use to learn about their Olympic idols.
Shaun White’s site has a bio, links to news articles and videos of the Flying Tomato snowboarding. Ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White have a fairly simple site with information about their skating partnership, fun facts about the skaters themselves, and a list of their awards and accomplishments. Figure skater Ashley Wagner’s site includes a huge gallery of photos from her competitions. Noelle Pikus-Pace, 2014 silver medalist in Skeleton, has an interesting collection of videos, including one about her training regimen and one that gives information on her recovery from a serious injury.
For more information about Olympic athletes, Sports Illustrated Kids has a great site set up with links to news stories and interviews.
Connections across the Curriculum
Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada have concluded that because of climate change, only 6 of the 19 cities that have hosted the Winter Olympics would be able to do it again by the end of this century. Use these findings as a springboard to discuss climate change and climate science.
The Greek Olympic team always leads the parade of athletes into the arena during the Opening Ceremonies, in recognition of Greece’s role as the birthplace of the Olympics. Learn more about the original Olympic Games with websites from the BBC, the Perseus Digital Library Project at Tufts University or Scholastic.
How are you teaching your students about the Olympics? Share in the comments.
This week's tech tip is a new beta website called gooru. Teachers can create and share collections of captivating internet resources with students. Gooru has many courses now available in their K-12 Community Library which allows anyone to get started right away in creating their own flipped classroom.
It is simple to get started by first creating a class page that you can add resources to by searching using the site search bar. Gooru will look for standards-aligned, interactive learning materials tied to Common Core and state standards. Once resources are found for the class, the teacher can share the content by creating collections after signing up for the free service. Once you create collections for students to work with, teachers can also create various types of questions as well, such as multiple choice, true/false, fill in the blank and open-ended. Another powerful feature of gooru is that the site makes it easy to share the collection for students to use by making the content available on Facebook, Twitter, email, private link or on gooru's main webpage.
Check out the video clip below to see the power of this great new service!
I often hear people say that teaching under the Common Core is no longer fun. I shrug and proclaim, "it is in my room!" and go about my day.
I'm a firm believer in things being what you make of them. The fabulous Lucy Calkins says in her book Pathways to the Common Core, "You can view the standards as a Curmudgeon--Or as if they are Gold" (pg 3). I love this point of view and try to embrace it every day. Do I love everything about the Common Core? Of course not. However, if I expect my students to buy into them, I have to have that buy in as well.
Introducing....Decimal Bunk Beds?!
I often pull things out of thin air when I'm teaching. (I know, right? How dare I do such a thing!) Sometimes when I know my students are really struggling with a concept in math, I can think ahead and come up with an idea to help them. There are times, however, that I really do just pull things out of the air. I don't know where they come from but it really makes teaching math fun.
We have been working with place value, decimals and fractions. My 4th grade friends were really struggling with the actual placement of those decimals when you have a number with a tenth and a number with a hundredth. They really wanted the actual digits to line up on the right as they have always done. I was having a hard time getting them to understand that the placement of that decimal was the most important thing with these numbers.
All of the sudden an awesome metaphor came to me -- I knew how to help them understand. Insert the "Decimal Bunk Beds."
See? The "yay!" side is the bunk beds with the decimals lined up perfectly. The "ouch!" side is them not lined up. Kind of ridiculous but the light bulbs sure came on!
In addition to my crazy picture, I used my fists as "decimals" and put them on top of each other. I had my friends do the same. Then we moved them over to simulate the non-aligned bunk beds. They laughed because they realized that they would have the end of the bunk bed on their face if the ends weren't stacked together. Bingo! We don't want decimals (or bunk bed legs!) on our faces. There was understanding here and it was beautiful. Once they caught on to that, it was time to introduce why Zero is such an important number.
Invisible Zero is a Hero
I have recently taught my young friends about the invisible zero. I would imagine that many middle school students would not only laugh at this concept but also benefit from it because that "Place Holder Zero" can be such a difficult concept to understand.
When working with the fraction side of the coin, my friends continued to have some trouble with how to make sure they could really compare the numbers they were looking at. So I introduced them to "Zero the Hero" in a new form--he could become invisible! (What 4th grader isn't fascinated with the idea of becoming invisible whenever you want?) We practiced with where you could put that invisible zero--could he go anywhere? Soon they discovered that no, he couldn't.
On their unit tests, my young friends had to analyze a sample student's work and tell why they agreed or disagreed with the work the student had done. Here is one friend's answer.
This piece of work was priceless to me. I knew this friend had really internalized what I had taught him about that invisible zero. (Love how he also added the dotted lines on his zero to show it wasn't *really* there. Even though he didn't follow the process on the entire problem, the written part of the work was really what I was looking for -- could the student explain how he knew the work was correct.)
While this concept would probably get you laughed out of your classroom if you tried it with secondary students, it was a very useful approach for my inner city 4th graders. It provided some kind of a visual for them to latch onto and really helped them make sense of the concept. I know that while not all of my friends have caught on to this yet, they are getting ever-so-closer every day with the continued reinforcement of our metaphor of the Decimal Bunk Beds and repeated visits from our good friend Invisible Zero.