Monday, April 29, 2019

Need Recertification Hours?

Come join other educators on June 12-13, 2019 for 2 days of fun learning. Numerous choices of sessions, you are guaranteed to learn something new. Check out the sessions and register today! 
Earn up to 12 hours of recertification hours.

Memes in the classroom

Everybody loves a good meme.  From teachers to students, these days memes provide a lot of entertainment.  Have you ever thought about assigning memes as student work, though?  Asking kids to make and share memes could get us further in the engagement battle and really the kids are doing much more than creating memes.  See some examples below:

My Favorite Mistake Meme
So often teachers spend tons of time reviewing student work and providing feedback only to have it be ignored by the kids.  What if you asked students to meme their favorite mistakes?  This would force them to review the work and the feedback, and if you as a teacher only identified where the mistake was rather than what the mistake was, it could force them to do some focused error analysis.  Teachers can then anonymously share memes that address common mistakes or misconceptions in student work.

KWL Meme
KWL charts are an often used strategy but sometimes they deserve a technology upgrade.  What if you asked students to meme a portion of the KWL chart - maybe a key takeaway for the learning portion?  That way you could see what sticks with the students and they can create a library of key points from the unit.

Generating Questions Memes
Once students have accessed information, it can be a great process for them to create conceptual questions about the content.  Students can display their questions in a meme format and then peers can provide comments or answers.  

Six Word Stories Memes

The Six Word Story memoir is a great strategy to ask students to really narrow down and essentialize their thinking.  Asking students to develop a Six Word Story after a reading or a unit can be a great way for them to capture and create themes for learning.  After students create their memes they can review their peers’ work and decide if their six word story is on track or needs adjusting.  This is a great practice in evaluating information, reflecting, and improving student work.

All of these memes were created using a Google Drawing template.  You can simply share the template in Google Classroom with the feature ‘make a copy for each student’ and they can edit it to fit the assignment requirements.

This is also a great opportunity to bring in conversations about digital citizenship and copyright use of photos.  If students find images within Google Drawings using the INSERT > IMAGE tool, these images are all available for reuse and modification.  Otherwise, teaching students to ask permission and/or cite sources of images is a valuable skills in this digital era.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Monday, April 22, 2019

Digital Strategies to Make Learning Visible

Gone are the days that students must memorize facts, dates, and people. Nowadays most educators would agree they want their students to not only “know” the information but be able to do something with the new knowledge. Simply put, students need to be able to critically think about the content and put it into application. However, as a veteran educator or even a novice educator, what does that type of “active” learning look like? It was certainly not how we learned when we were going through school, nor did our colleges prepare us for this type of teaching. I want to share a few strategies that can be applied in any subject and any grade, though you may need to modify them to meet the needs of your students in order to get your them critically thinking about the subject matter.


Tweet This
Bring the idea of social media tools to help students formulate their own understanding or opinion on a topic they are learning. At the end of your lesson, ask students to create a “tweet” regarding specific content or making connections. Limit students to the initial 140 characters or the recently modified 280 characters to allow revision and fine-tuning of their thoughts. Add in the #hashtag for an additional main point or connection to the content. Many templates are already created and shared for educators to use, sustaining students focus on organizing their thinking with the content in mind, not designing the graphic organizer. Here are some suggested ways of incorporating into content areas:
  • book character conversations
  • a summary of a current writing piece they are working on
  • historical figures/time periods and events
  • current events
  • scientific findings
  • results from a science lab
  • environmental concerns
  • current events
  • math talks - description of a process to solving a math problem or method
  • Facilitate conversations on Twitter using a hashtag, (Twitter Chats)
Discovery Education has an entire library of resources and instructional strategies that allow for meaningful and effective learning opportunities. The Spotlight on Strategies library has simple instructional strategies that are organized based on skills that are taught/practiced. Each skill has at least 15 different ways to either teach the skills or ask students to practice it. Within each skill, a video and PDF is available for educators to become familiar with the strategy.

Spotlight on Strategies

An example I found that can be used in any content area is “They Said What”, focusing on the skill of point of view and purpose. After selecting a content related image that contains at least 2 characters, upload it to Google Drawing or Google Slides in order to add in the speech bubbles and share the template with your students. Ask students to make inferences as to what the people may have said to each other or thought in the picture using the content knowledge learned. Allow students to fill in speech bubbles and have them share with their peers to look for similarities and differences between the conversations. For an asynchronous opportunity for conversations between peers, ask students to upload it to a shared VoiceThread and have students compare a variety of images.
They Said What? strategy

Some students have a knack for retelling a story or an event through illustrations. Storyboardthat is a free resource that allows students to create 2 boards a week, 3 or 6 cell stories and provides thousands of illustrations for students to communicate or explain their new understanding. Storyboardthat has a library of lesson plans for all grade levels, content areas and examples of storyboards to use as models for your initial instruction.
Here is an example of an elementary math lesson where a student created examples of fraction sets using an illustration and written format.

Fraction Sets

Another example of using is detailing the major components of the Declaration of Independence using the 5 W's.

5 W's of the Declaration of Independence

"Exit Tickets"
This is a fantastic way to formatively assess ALL your students as they "summarize" what
they have learned from the day's lesson.
Here are some suggested sentence starters:
  • Today I learned...
  • I was surprised with...
  • I'm beginning to wonder...
  • Now I understand...
  • If a friend was absent from class today, what would you tell him/her?
  • At first I thought... but now I...

These exit tickets can be paper/pencil or digital; written and shared in student journals, sticky notes on a “parking lot” chart paper/bulletin board, as a discussion board in Google Classroom or create a Padlet board for students as a digital response.

This may be a new learning curve for your students. Start out small and model the process with your students. Similar to the “I do, We do, You do” method, students will learn the expectations and instructions for these types of activities. Your students will gain a deeper knowledge of your content and better prepared with those essential 21st Century skills. This also allows you to have a better understanding of what each of your students knows about the content. If you have already done something similar or can suggest some other strategies, please leave a comment below to share with everyone.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

So, you've moved the learning online (part 3)

See part 1 here and part 2 here.

Learning from slide decks
Slide decks are an often-used choice for online content for teachers who blend instruction.  Using these resources that have already been teacher created is an efficient choice.  Just asking students to review the deck, however, may not ensure that students learn as deeply as you need them to.  Consider supplying one of the following strategies next time you ask students to review a slide deck to power up the learning.

Internal summaries in the comments
Every slide deck in Google slides has a notes section available if the slide deck is distributed to students as editors (use “make a copy for each student” in Google Classroom).  Requiring students to summarize the content on each slide in the notes section gives them opportunities to summarize and make connections.

Sketch it out
After students review an entire deck, assign them the task of sketchnoting the key concepts.  They can sketchnote on paper or digitally!  Let them use as a canvas to simplify the drawing process or copy icons from the Noun Project (there are also Google Apps add-ons).  After students have sketched, ask them to write a narrative of their sketch (or of a peer’s!) to further deepen their comprehension.

Image result for autodraw gif

Supplying strategies along with online content to students not only ensures they cognitively engage with the text.  It also helps them know themselves as learners.  Eventually you may not find you need to scaffold the online learning as much once students learn how they learn and understand methods to capture their learning online.

Monday, April 8, 2019

So, you've moved the learning online (part 2)

See part 1 here.

Learning from online text
Routine reading of subject specific text is always an important part of content delivery.  Online reading, however, has its challenges.  Luckily, there are plenty of supports you can provide students to ensure they engage deeply with the text.

Reading in Google Docs

If you’ve assigned a Google Docs reading, ask the students to engage with the text by using the highlighter tool to identify important information (you may scaffold it further by telling them to look for topic sentences, evidence, details).  Then, students can share texts with one another and review each other’s highlights.  Students can add comments to analyze why their peer highlighted a certain portion of text or compare a peer’s highlights to their own to determine if the correct information was selected.

If students highlight in black, you can create a “reverse highlight” effect.  Tell students to black out extra, irrelevant information to create a document that only shows the essentials.  Check out Eric Curts’ blog post on this text reduction strategy.

Photo credit: Eric Curts, Control-Alt-Achieve:

Reading content on websites
Teachers can choose articles on websites and use a Chrome add-on called Insert Learning to prompt students’ thinking while they read the texts. Students will experience the content in the website format but at various teacher-selected points in the text, a reflective question can be inserted. This way students can force summarization and reflection opportunities and check students’ learning after the assignment is complete.

Create collaborative reading experiences
Reading documents can often be an individual learning experience but it doesn’t have to be! Adding a collaborative element to a text can engage students and provide kids with different perspectives on the text. Using a tool like, teachers can upload a text that the entire class can interact with. Teachers can allow students to see one another’s comments or emoji reactions to portions of the text and view a visual heatmap of student engagement with the text. Teachers are also provided with a reading report to see the extent to which individual students engaged with the article. Read more about via this blog post from a few months ago here at Beyond Integration.

Reading texts online may be an assignment that students groan about but strategically using some of the above strategies (or many others!) can allow for more interactive reading that engages students. And higher engagement has the potential to lead to deeper learning.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

So, you've moved the learning online...

So, you've moved the learning online...have you prepared your students with strategies for how to learn from online materials?

Combining face to face instruction and online materials, or blended learning, is a great strategy to provide more choice, access to content, and differentiated learning experiences to our students.  Sometimes, though, we make the mistake that because students are so good with technology, they’ll be able to extract the information we expect them to from online materials such as videos, slide decks, and articles.  In the next few posts, we will provide some strategies that will help you prepare your students for what they need to learn. We will share some select strategies for when you assign videos for learning, online texts for learning, and slidedecks for learning.

Learning from Video

Videos are perhaps the most stimulating of all online content.  With sound, images, and often added text, videos provide a lot of potential for learning and a lot of potential for information overload.  When you decide to use a video to deliver content to your students, identify for yourself first exactly what you want students to take away from the learning experience.  Once you’ve decided your learning outcomes, provide a scaffold to help students structure their learning.

Events/Chronological Learning

If the video is being used to present students with background information about events, supplying students with a timeline scaffold may help them best identify the most important components of the video.  

  • Google Slides has a plethora of timeline templates you can supply to students.  Teachers can customize how many dates students are expected to know from the video and share a template slide in Google Classroom so that each student has a copy of the slide to fill in.
To access the timeline templates, head to the menu bar.  Select INSERT > DIAGRAM > TIMELINE.

Categorical Learning 
If students are to understand information about categories of items, consider providing them with a table. As a teacher, you can decide if it is best to supply the column and row headings to the students or just give them a heads up that they should be comparing two items (rows) with five different characteristics (columns). Simple tables can be made in Google slides, Docs, Sheets, or Drawings.

Genetic material


Conceptual Learning 
Many times students must implement a strategy to force students to reflect and review comprehensive information they’ve learned. Consider implementing a summarization strategy from Discovery Education’s Spotlight on Strategies (SOS). The wide variety of strategies in this lesson library will keep the learning interesting for the students and help you check the kids’ understanding from the videos.

It is important to remember a few key practices when assigning video as a method of instruction for students.  First, it is always appropriate to regroup with students after they've all watched a video to develop shared understandings as a group or address misconceptions.  Second, teachers should consider using video to support and extend content they've already delivered rather than as a first line strategy for delivering information.  Finally, it is always important to be mindful of the length of videos we assign students.  Recommendations change based on grade level but teachers should be cautious of assigning video learning experiences where videos are longer than 10 minutes.  Remember, for students to pause, reflect, and gather information from videos, a 10 minute video could easily turn into a 30 minute learning experience. 

The Influential Parent - Episode 9

  The Influential Parent - Episode 9, Summer Care Tips   With devices going home for the summer in our district, we wanted to take some ti...