Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Secret Santa Goes High Tech

I just noticed some schools are preparing to start their staff Secret Santa. Last year our supervisor organized our departments Secret Santa using

It was a nice technology twist on something that typically is done, in a very confusing manner, by paper and pencil.

The site is free to use and participants sign up, if they are participating, and they can add what they like as far as drinks, snacks, etc. to help out the person they get paired with. The system then randomly pairs people up so you don't have to do it. It is pretty cool and something you might want to pass on to whoever handles your school's Secret Santa sign up.

My supervisor has a large extended family and she uses it with them as well. It is very easy to use and would save your organizer man hours as well as help keep the copies down at your school.

Have a great holiday season everyone!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Parent/Teacher Conference Scheduling

If you are looking for a techie way to schedule parent/teacher conferences, instead of sending home slips of paper asking parents to choose a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice, try using the free site

The site (which I only use for this purpose) lets you adjust your time in whatever increments you want, as soon as parent books a spot they get an email confirmation, and then the time slot disappears so other parents can't see it. 

I made a 6 minute video (above and linked HERE) walking you through how to set up an account, create a parent/teacher calendar, what the parent sees and what you see when your times start booking up. 

I shared this with our teachers but I thought it might help others as well. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Morning News Shows and How To Create Video Overlays with a Windows Device

This week I have been working with several schools as they start putting together their morning news program for the school year.

Almost exclusively schools are using Touchcast to produce their morning show. It is super cool free software with lots of templates and green screen capability (plus so much more...really I need to apply to become an ambassador!). The only downfall is that it is an app and software only for Apple devices (most schools have bought an iPad to record their is that good!).

We have one school that just started their morning show and the person in charge (Mr. Blaine Peltier at Robert Smalls International Academy)  has done an OUTSTANDING job. I went in to see how he is doing some of his graphics and learned he has been doing them on his personal Mac at home (which, sadly, I do not have).

My favorite effect on his video is the Pledge of Allegiance where he has a two video overlays with words scrolling on the screen.

I was determined to figure out a Windows based version of it and succeeded (3 hours later!). The video above will walk you through the steps if you are interested in something similar.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Eclipse Activity Book and Badge

The Planetary Society has partnered with the U.S. National Park Service to create an Junior Ranger Eclipse Explorer activity book.

You can download the PDF for free of the book. It is pretty colorful so you may want to print it in black and white.

If you have classes tomorrow (Monday, August 21st) you might want to consider that as an activity for the day. Parents can then take their child to the nearest National Park to get their badge for completing the activities in the book.

Definitely call ahead though to make sure they have badges. The program is only offered at NATIONAL parks not STATE ones (I called our State Park without thinking but they pointed me in the right direction).

Happy Eclipse!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

FREE Eclipse Resource - REGISTER NOW (8 day waiting period)

Here in South Carolina we will be in the path of a full eclipse on Monday, August 21st. Many schools in the state have pushed their start date for students to Tuesday, August 22nd, as the eclipse is due to occur at dismissal time for many of the schools and their is concern about walk/biking home in the dark as well as curious students looking directly at the sun.

In our district students will be going back-to-school two days earlier (17th/18th) with the 21st off for teacher PD. Our district science coordinator has arranged for free solar eclipse classes to be given to all students K-12 and has put together resources for teachers to use during lesson planning.

Just about every grade level will get a lesson on what an eclipse is and how it occurs, as well as general safety tips.

With that said, I have been on the look out for science resources related to the eclipse as well. Today one from Mystery Science came up on my Twitter feed.

Mystery Science is a subscription based service that provides science lesson plans but for the eclipse they are offering their eclipse lesson (Why are people making a big deal about the solar eclipse?) FREE.

I went to access the lesson by registering on the site but there is an eight day waiting period so DON'T WAIT. You can speed up the waiting period by referring other teachers but I try not to spam my teacher friends if possible.

There are some sample Mystery Science videos that give you an idea of their lesson structures and they look pretty cool (videos, questions, easy hands on activities).

So if students go back in August and you are planning to address the eclipse you might want to check out the Mystery Science site and register to start your eight day waiting period today.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Free'ish Test Review Idea (it's Good!)

Our district just purchased a subscription to Flocabulary this school year. Flocabulary is a website that creates educational rap and material for teachers to use in the classroom across a variety of subject areas.

I jumped on the Ambassador band wagon this year and signed up to be an Ambassador with Flocabulary (along with Discovery EducationClassFlow and Seesaw...all sites and companies I use and love in the classroom). This is me sporting my Flocabulary Ambassador shirt :)

I love Flocabulary...and so do our's rap...what's not to love! Sadly it is subscription based and I try not to promote anything too subscription based on my blog because I know most of my readers have no control over budgets. However, I feel there is a slight loop hole.

As an Ambassador we are given a 45 day free trial code we can share with teachers at conferences when presenting. I asked if I could share with blog readers and I was given the thumbs up. 

The 45 day free trial includes the ability to make a class and have students join so you can assign work and they can use the resources too (great if you are in a 1:1 environment but even if you are not you can use it for whole class review).

While 45 days does not seem like a lot IT IS enough to get you through any end-of-year testing you are reviewing for (see where the loop hole is helpful?). 

They have a ton of resources that support their raps so it isn't just showing them a cool educational music video. I use the "lyrics" first to make sure the song supports instruction (or to see if I need to fill in any instructional gaps). I then play it for students using the "fill in the blanks" activity. By doing this first I know they have at least heard the song and have followed along with the lyrics (I print out this activity so it is in their science notebook). Then I show the video and do the quick review (and have students make connections to our learning). Since I do work with 1:1 devices I then assign the students the rap and quiz and have them listen to the song on their own and take the quiz (for a grade!). 

My favorite feature is the Lyric Lab where students can create their own content specific rap. The system gives them keywords to choose from and will provide students with a list of rhyming words based on the last word they type. Once they are done they can choose from a ton of different beats to perform to (my favorite is "Climbing Trees"). 

Obviously the intent is that you will love Flocabulary so much that you will want to purchase a subscription (even if you can't purchase it you can still use the 45 day free trial). 

Here are your purchasing options and some tips to pay for it:

- There is an individual classroom plan (only for front of the classroom use) for $96/year. Our State Department gives teachers a $250 stipend at the beginning of the school year to use in the classroom at their discretion. If your state does that you can use the money toward a subscription. In my last school our grade level was given money and we have used that money before to purchase subscriptions as well. 
- You can talk to your principal about getting a school subscription (which they can call and get pricing is listed as $2,000/year for every teacher and student in the school...which is a pretty good deal). This is the time of year principals have to USE UP THEIR BUDGET MONEY so if anytime was good to approach a principal now would be it. 
- If you teach in a Title 1 school you can approach the district's Title 1 Coordinator (they have me!). He (or she) usually has money and if you make a compelling case they can release funds for a subscription purpose. To make the case...highlight that Flocabulary is across all grade levels and subject areas so there is a lot of bang for your buck (it isn't "just" for math or "just" for ELA). You can add that rap music is more likely to engage children and help them remember content. 

If you have any questions about Flocabulary feel free to leave a comment. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

How to Survive End of Year Testing

I have been working as a ClassFlow Ambassador over the past year and I have really enjoyed how much it has pushed me to find ways to incorporate ClassFlow in the classroom in different ways. We have so many teachers using it now and it has quickly become my "go to" resource for delivering interactive content to students.

One of my requirements as an Ambassador is to write a monthly blog post for their ClassFlow Blog (they have a bunch of teacher Ambassadors from across grade levels and disciplines who also write articles...and I find them super helpful). In this month's blog post I wrote about ways you can survive testing season. I tried to put in some useful tips, tricks, and links that I used in the classroom when I hit testing season (for us in SC we have five days spread over two weeks). To make it fun I used the words in R.E.L.A.X and C.H.I.L.L to highlight ten ideas worth considering.

How do you relax and chill during testing season?