My Five Favorite Tech Tools/Websites

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As you may or may not know, I teach Spanish (more on that in a later post) and I LOVE technology. I have decided to share with you some of my favorite tech tools/websites. Keep in mind, this isn’t an exhaustive list of what I use, these are simply the ones that I probably could not live without (ok so maybe that’s an over exaggeration but you get the point). Some of them are totally just for personal use while others I use with my students to keep them engaged or for classroom management. Now that I sit and type this post, I am quickly beginning to see that my list should be much longer than
5…ummm…I guess that means there will be an extended list coming soon. So, in no particular order, are the first 5 that came to mind when I impulsively decided to blog about tech tools.office365-3.pngx

  1. Microsoft OneDrive (well, Office 365) – OneDrive is Microsoft’s Cloud Storage/Online Apps. It’s Microsoft’s answer to Google Apps. The proper name is Office 365 but I call it OneDrive because I log on to my personal account using http://oneDrive.live.com. With Office 365, you not only get cloud storage space but you are also able to edit and create documents such as Word And PowerPoint Online. I am obsessive when it comes to saving files. I will save them in multiple places because there is always a fear of losing said space (online, hard drive, or flash drive) so I save and save and save again. With OneDrive, I have found that I can breathe more easily knowing that once I save it, I will always have it. I love OneDrive so much that I currently have 5 OneDrive accounts (I know a bit excessive, but hey, that’s me). Site: http://www.office365.com51801c6614f09201f200026b-1367350375
  2. Pinterest – So, this one is probably pretty obvious. I mean, who doesn’t like Pinterest?! I use Pinterest for both personal and professional reasons. I tend to post recipes I never use or activities I never have a chance to implement but it is full of great ideas and I always consult the site when I need inspiration and guidance whether I am meal prepping or lesson planning. Site: http://www.pinterest.com/ (Shameless Plug: You can always follow me at http://pinterest.com/teacherlorg for professional or http://www.pinterest.com/klthoma for recipes and crafting ideas)
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  3. Remind – So this is one that I actually use with my students. Remind is a texting site/app that allows teachers to send messages to students (or parents) without exchanging personal information. Everything is done on the Remind site or app. What I like about it the most is the ability to download transcripts of all the messages to sent to a class or an individual student. This has saved me during one or two conferences when students have told parents that they were unaware of due dates. When I have a little extra time, I try to schedule out reminders in advance so I don’t have to worry about forgetting. If you are a secondary teacher and are not using Remind, START NOW! Site: http://www.remind.comquizlet_logo_large
  4. Quizlet Live – I had a quizlet account years ago (when it was totally free) and I used it often. After a few years, I stopped using it and it stopped being free. However, a couple of months ago, I wanted my AP students to practice vocabulary independently so I once against turned to Quizlet. I paid for the account and got so much more than I anticipated. Quizlet is a web-based game that allows students to work together in teams as they practice vocabulary. The first time I played with my students you would have thought that I had given them all As just for showing up. They immediately fell in love and because they were learning and practicing in the process, we would play multiple rounds in one sitting. Site: https://quizlet.com/features/liveclass-dojo
  5. Class Dojo – A lot are probably thinking that I’m crazy because Class Dojo is for elementary students and there is no way it could be effective with my high schoolers. Well, you’re wrong! High Schoolers are just big kids so it totally works. I could go on and on about how I use Class Dojo in my class but that is a whole other post (coming soon?). It is great for not only classroom management but for motivation. With Class Dojo, teachers have the ability to award (or deduct) points as need for various behaviors. What’s even better is that teachers are able to customize behaviors and point values. For example, my students LOVE to use the trash can as a goal (often missing and leaving paper on the floor) so one of my negative behaviors is “Using Classroom as a Basketball Court”. Occasionally one or two students will try to toss it if I cam preoccupied with helping a student).Yes, I did include it and it works (For the most part. I really don’t use the negative points as much because I really want to focus on positive behaviors. They receive various rewards based on the number of points they accumulate (think PBIS but classroom level).  My students covet each Dojo Point is worth a million dollars so it’s worth its weight in GOLD!  Site: http://www.classdojo.com

 

Honorable Mentions (Would have definitely been on the list had it been longer): Quizizz & Kahoot – There will be more on these two tech tools when I discuss formative assessment and technology.

Happy Techin’! (Yes, I probably made up a word…you’re welcome!)

Kristen

How I Used a Classroom Version of PBIS to Manage Classroom Behavior

1796418_263377700506392_1025098475_nA few years ago, I was presented with a set of classes that were somewhat challenging. All of my previous classroom management strategies just did not seem to work with this crew. I wrecked my brain (and the internet) to research other alternatives. As a high school teacher, I never shied away from using elementary strategies for my high school students. After all, they are still children and they should have rewards as well as consequences.

The system I decided on had to serve two different purposes: award individual students AND manage groups (my students were seated in groups most of the time). I wanted to teach the students the importance of collaboration and teamwork.

I got to work and created a behavior chart. Each of my groups had a number and they were placed on the behavior chart in the middle at the beginning of each day. This is very similar to the way elementary teachers monitor behavior for their students. Because I taught 90+ students instead of 30+, I had to make adjustments. The groups moved up and down the behavior chart as I saw fit during the period. I NEVER moved the cards; I always had a member of the group move the card. Wherever groups ended that day determined what reward or consequence the group received. I made sure to exhaust all of my options in the classroom before contacting administration (I never had to contact administration).  Students moved up and down as many times as needed. Because I wanted to really focus on the positive behavior (PBIS), I rarely moved the students past neutral. My intention was to REWARD much more than issuing consequences.

The next step was to set up a reward system for individual students. As a class, we brainstormed types of rewards that the students would like to “purchase” from the class store. Don’t be alarmed!!! Most of the rewards we chose did not require me to spend a lot of money! After compiling the list, I assigned values depending on the type of reward. Students earned “pesos” when I wanted to reinforce a particular behavior. When we had visitors to the class, they even had the opportunity to pass out “pesos” if they saw behaviors with which they were impressed.

I must say that this worked very well for my students! The groups began holding other members accountable and the students as a whole went the extra mile to make sure they were on their best behavior and to help one another. You would be amazed what high school students would do for a stick of glue! I don’t necessarily recommend this system for all classes and many educators are firmly against behavior charts. However, in that moment, I needed to do what was necessary to ensure that learning was always taking place in my class.

Implementing Interactive Student Notebooks Part 2: Adhesives


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Now that you have decided on what you are going to as your ISN, it’s time to decide how you are going to adhere the handouts, foldables, etc. As with the notebooks, your choice of adhesives will depend on what works best for you and your students.

ADHESIVE CHOICES

Glue Sticks: Although this is my top choice for adhesive, it is not always the best choice. Why? The glue does not always stick as firmly as needed. If you choose to use glue sticks, I recommend Elmer’s glue (the purple one). I have found that this sticks better than all of the other brands that I have tried.

Liquid Glue: As far as securing documents in your notebook, this is probably the most practical choice. The glue sticks well after it dries and I have not had issues with papers falling out later in the semester. The problem with liquid glue is just that, it is liquid and it makes a mess. Even at the high school level, students have to be taught how to use glue. Most teachers teacher the 5 dot-rule (if that’s a real thing), students place a dot in each corner and in the middle. With double-sided pages or if gluing in multiple pages, I tell my students to fold back one side and place a thin line of glue down that side.

Transparent Tape: I neither like nor dislike using transparent tape. I have found this to be an expensive choice if I can’t buy the tape in bulk.

Staples: I tell my students not to use staples…I hate them. Why? Because when I am not paying attention, my hand or finger sweeps across a staple and the next thing I know I’m bleeding! I also think that the notebooks don’t look as neat with staples because unlike me, my students don’t take the time to make sure pages are lined up before stapling them together.

Double-sided Adhesive (what Scrapbookers and Crafters use): If you or your students can invest in cheap double-sided adhesive, this is a great choice. Often times its repositionable and you can easily remove the adhesive off of the sheets if needed.

Washi Tape: Washi tape is like a decorative masking tape that crafters use. I LOVE washi tape because it can add a decorative (not really more functional) aspect to your pages. A lot of my female students like to use washi tape to make their pages “pretty”. This option is not really economical but I allow students who purchase their own to use it.

I hope that sheds a little light on adhesive. Let me know if there is something you can add to help out teachers trying to make that decision.

Happy Notebooking!

Kristen

 

Implementing Interactive Student Notebooks Part 1: Introduction & Choosing a Medium

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I first began researching Interactive Sudent Notebooks during the summer of 2008. I was about to enter my fifth year of teaching and I was frustrated with the lack of organization skills and the apathy that my students had towards turning in notebooks. I would only have half the class turn in the notebook. And of those half, only half of them had all of the materials that were important to the class and the majority of it was not in order so they couldn’t not readily find what they needed. In other words, the notebooks no longer served their purpose: to aid the students in learning and retaining the information. As always, I took to the Internet to search for alternatives and stumbled across teachtci.com and was introduced to Interactive Student Notebooks (ISNs) for the first time. What I found was not just a way for students to organize the information…but a way for them to interact with the information to guide them to understanding the content. We were already utilizing many of the activities that were used as “left side activities” so it seem like an inevitable match. Even after seven years, I am still learning how to make ISNs work best for my students and for me!

Over the next few weeks, I will try to give you as much information as I can to help you to successfully implement ISNs. There will be several parts because I want to keep the posts informative but also as short as possible. If I don’t answer your questions at the end of the series, don’t hesitate to email me!

OVERVIEW
So what are ISNs? When I first tell people about INTERACTIVE Student Notebooks, they immediately think that it has to deal with technology! Simply put, it is a way for students to take the information that the teacher gives (input) and complete some type of hands on activity (such as a foldable, graphic organizer, drawing, etc.) that demonstrates (or improves) their understanding of a concept (usually utilizing higher order thinking skills and/or incorporating multiple intelligences). The ISN essentially becomes an portfolio of student learning. We will get into more detail about left vs. right and setup in a different post…so don’t worry about that part just yet

CHOOSING YOUR MEDIUM
Like choosing a vehicle in which to travel back and forth, choosing a medium for your ISN is all left up to functionality, need, and personal preference.

Spiral Notebooks: This is my personal preference for high schoolers. I stress to my students to make sure that their notebook measures 8.5X11 because it makes adding in handouts easier. With anything else, they will have to do extra cutting or they will have pages hanging from the notebook. I suggest Five Star College-Ruled Notebook (I use 3- or 5-subject). This notebook is the right size and the cover is sturdy enough to last after being thrown in a locker a few times. CON: If the student is too rough, the pages will tear…especially if they use heavy weight construction paper for their activities.

Composition Notebooks: After using composition notebooks for one semester, this is probably my least favorite. However, when I train elementary teachers, I usually suggest composition notebooks. The size is PERFECT for younger students and there are not usually as many handouts at that level or endless pages of notes to add. The notebooks do not tear as easily and will probably last the entire semester or year. Finally, the cost of a composition notebook is not just appealing to teachers but also to parents. CON: The size!!!! If you have handouts, you will have to resize the pages to make them fit and there are ways to do this by using your settings on your computer or just reducing the size when you make copies. However, I like to print as is, glue/tape, and keep it moving.

Binders: Many people prefer binders. The greatest (and worst) thing about binders is that you can add and take away paper as needed. I have stayed away from this option for the most part (except that one semester I tried with my Spanish 3/4 class). With binders, you can still have your sections and only choose to use a certain section as your “interactive” part. With my class, I only had them do left side activities in their grammar section (not the best idea but hey, at least I tried). CON: The chance that students will not have the information in order is pretty high. Additionally, the pages rip from the rings easily if they are not reinforced when you start gluing or taping stuff in (if you choose to do that).

3-Prong Folders: I have done a couple of trainings during which we set up a mock ISN in a folder and this option could be very useful. If you choose to do individual units, this would be perfect! I imagine that the students will store their folders in the classroom at the end of each unit to use as reference. CON: Due to the nature of the folders, you will not be able to add a ton of content because you will not be able to expand but so much.

So there you have it, a brief introduction and some information about what your options are for housing your ISNs. Use this information to decide which choose you will use because by the end of this series, we will set up our very own ISN. During the next part, we will look at the different adhesive options!

Happy Notebooking!

Kristen

QR Codes in the Classroom

This week, I tested out one of my new products in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store! My students used their phones to scan QR Codes and participate in a Cartoon Character Scavenger Hunt. To complete the activity, the students had to scan the code. Each code linked to a description of one of the cartoon characters. We completed the activity in the cafeteria so the students could spread out. Ideally, the pictures are posted in separate parts of the school and the students really have to search for the pictures. Overall, the activity went well. It was the first opportunity for them to use technology in the classroom. It was a great way to teach them procedures on proper technology use as well as practice their Spanish.


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Reading Groups/Literature Circles

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One of the things I love to do in class is to use reading groups or literature circles. This is especially effective if you have groups of students at different readiness levels. I group students and assign novels or stories based on their abilities and have them translate, answer questions, and analyze what they read. It is okay that not every group is reading the same thing. The most important thing is that the reading challenges the students and is manageable at the same time (+1).

When students are assigned their groups, the first assignment is for them to read and/or translate. I usually assign two chapters at a time. After reading each section, they create a circle map summarizing what they have read.

Other activities include: cover page, one-pagers, story pyramid, paragraphs (summaries), etc. At the end of the unit, the students combine all work into a literature portfolio and turn it in. By the end of the selection, students have tremendously improved their reading comprehension in Spanish.