Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Futures Channel

As part of our district's professional development this year, we are reading and discussing Intellectual Character by Ron Ritchhart. We have also been watching videos that in some way exemplify the culture of thinking that Mr. Ritchhart advocates.

A couple of months ago, our principal showed us Good Morning, Miss Toliver. It was a reminder for me about how teaching and learning are supposed to be. I wondered if there were any more videos out there of her, and I found some of her work on The Futures Channel.
The Futures Channel is a wonderful resource. There are several more video lessons by Kay Toliver, including the one on area, where students design their own apartment.

In addition to the lessons, this site also has engaging movies that demonstrate how STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills are being used in the real-world.

Whether you are trying out one of Kay Toliver's thinking lessons, or if your students need a break from BrainPOP videos, The Futures Channel is a great site to bookmark.

Friday, December 18, 2009

No Pulling Hair!

Last week I received this email from a teacher:

"I am really struggling with writing. I want to pull out my hair!!!! We have been practicing writing prompts and they are really needing work on word choice. Do you have any lesson suggestions? I am so burnt out trying to find ideas I could cry."

Boy, do I feel her pain. As a classroom teacher, I, too, wanted to provide meaningful and engaging activites for my students, but there never seemed to be enough time to search for them!

Now as an instructional coach, it is my job to help teachers find books, websites, and other resources that create positive learning experiences for students, and I must say, I love the challenge!

I know Halloween is long gone, but really, do kids ever get tired of monsters? The Monster Exchange Project encourages the development of reading and writing skills while integrating technology. Here's how it works: Classrooms are paired together. The students in each class draw then write a description of a monster. The students then exchange their descriptions via e-mail. Using only the written description of the monster, the students must use their comprehension skills to try to redraw it as close to the original picture as possible. Both the new and original drawings are posted online to compare.

A couple of years ago, when I was looking for a lesson for Camp Write-A-Way I discovered Writing Fix. There is a wealth of information and lesson ideas on this site. I ended up doing Sausage Sentences,

which the students loved!

Story Starters from Scholastic is another great resource. What could be more fun that using a slot machine to help create a story? It is very similar to a RAFT. A teacher's guide to this resource can be found here.

ilearntechnolgy (winner of the 2009 Best Educational Tech and Support Blog...Yay!) has many ideas for integrating technology and writing. StoryBird is a recommended site that offers "collaborative storytelling for families and friends." I also like Telescopic Text. We always say to students, "Show, don't tell." When you click on the highlighted portions and the sentence expands with descriptive words, students will finally understand what we're talking about!

I also want to mention one of my all-time favorites, ReadWriteThink. There are hundreds of lesson plans, and the online student tools are fantastic. It's impossible to leave ReadWriteThink without a great idea.

I'm still on the hunt for more great ideas, but I hope these will keep the teacher from pulling out any hair (at least for a little while.)

Saturday, December 12, 2009


As any of my former teaching partners and/or students will tell you, art is not my forte! I distinctly remember Mary, my first 4th grade teaching partner, coming into my room after one sketching lesson. She took one look at my work and burst out laughing. I really couldn't blame her. It was worse than awful!
I wish I would have known about these sites when I was in the classroom, but I'm excited to share them with teachers. I can imagine doing a whole Picasso unit using the site Mr. Picassohead.

Here are some other sites that lI've also had fun experimenting with lately:

Maybe if I would have had these online resources, I wouldn't have dreaded Art Fridays.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Let's Say Thanks!


If you go to this web site, www.LetsSayThanks.com you can pick out a thank you card and Xerox will print it and it will be sent to a soldier that is currently serving overseas. You can't pick out who gets it, but it will go to a member of the armed services.

How AMAZING it would be if we could get everyone we know to send one!!! It is FREE and it only takes a second.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the soldiers received a bunch of these? Whether you are for or against the war, our soldiers over there need to know we are behind them.

This takes just 10 seconds and it's a wonderful way to say thank you. Please take the time and please take the time to pass it on for others to do. We can never say enough thank you's.

Thanks for taking to time to support our military!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I found gold!

Sometimes surfing the internet can seem like panning for gold. You spend hours and hours looking for something worthwhile, but more often than not, you come up empty.

However, if you keep at it long enough, you eventually find some little piece worth keeping. If you are very lucky, you discover a huge nugget!

That's what happened to me about a month ago. I was searching for some differentiation sites to share with teachers, and I found ilearntechnology.

ilearntechnology 's creator, Kelly Tenkely, teaches 3-5 technology and is a technology integration specialist and instructional coach for elementary teachers. Kelly finds and shares wonderful online resources and expertly explains how they might be used in the classroom. Whenever I visit, I always find something that I can use the next day.

I was excited to hear that Kelly had nominated for a 2009 edublog award . I encourage everyone to visit ilearntechnology then vote for this gold nugget here.