Digital Tools to Get Your Students Reading and Thinking Over the Summer

Friday, May 10, 2019 1 comment
Digital Tools to Get Your Students Reading and Thinking Over the Summer #ebooks #activities #elementaryschool #middleschool #highschool

I got a question from a colleague yesterday on the best ways for kids to access books online this summer. Specifically we were looking for free books because we are a Title 1 district and wanted the process to be as easy and as inexpensive as possible for the parents of our community.

As usual I went into a DEEP dive. I turned to my favorite Facebook Community, "Teach with Tech" . This community is affiliated with the Teach with Tech Online Conference that I will be presenting in this summer.

The conference is entirely online from July 22 - July 24. If you sign up and choose the free option you will have access on the 22nd to that days 21 presenters. You will have access to those 21 videos until July 29th. For $10.95, you will have access to all three days, 60 presenters, and can view all of their presentations for up to a year! I might be biased, because I am presenting, but I think that is a steal!

Anywho... I totally digress! I turned to the Teach with Tech community on Facebook and crowd sourced the answer. As usual, I was blown away at the amount of information I received and the willingness to collaborate of everyone involved! 

I got so many great ideas, I wanted to get them all together. I expanded from just ebooks because that is definitely a one size fits all topic. Students can work on their literacy skills in many different ways!

  1. Favorite Paid 

Image result for epic books

My absolute favorite is Epic! Books. It is free for teachers, but for parents to use it over the summer, they would have to subscribe for $8 a month. Teachers can print out flyers with directions from their accounts. Parents also get their first month free. For more information on Epic! Books, check out my blog post here.

2. Favorite Free

Image result for open ebooks

If you are a Title 1 School, you have access to Open eBooks, a free digital library for elementary, middle, and high school students. The easiest way to access these books is by signing up with First Book, and then follow the directions  for signing up with Open eBooks. Open eBooks has a pretty amazing selection and is good for students in PreK through high school.

3. Favorite Find

One of my surprising favorite finds is Sync: Audio Books for Teens. Every week during the summer, middle and high schoolers can download two audiobooks for free. Students will need to download the free Overdrive app to listen to the books. I have already downloaded this weeks books and I'm addicted! The website comes with flyers and handouts to give to your students before they leave for the summer. 

4. Your Library is Your Friend

The most suggested free reading option was without a doubt, your local library's digital resources. Many libraries use the OverDrive app to offer free access to eBooks and Audio Books. The Libby app and the Sora app are associated apps that help you search your local libraries for the books you need.

As a teacher, reach out to your local librarians. You can definitely take a field trip to the library but many librarians will come to your school and show the students how they can access the digital resources. Most importantly, if you are in middle school, take the time to let the kids take out their devices and walk them through the process of signing up.

5. Who knew YouTube was for more than just cat videos?
A couple years ago one of my middle schoolers told me that whenever she wanted to read a book and didn't have the money to buy it, she just went to YouTube and found someone reading the book aloud. She was totally right. If you are looking for middle and high school books, students can often find them on YouTube.

It is not true for every book but there are many titles available!

This is also true for elementary books! There are some fabulous people out there dedicating entire YouTube channels to reading aloud picture books.

This would be awesome to provide to parents. Many parents don't share literature with students because they don't enjoy it themselves or they simply are not good at reading aloud. The channels would be great to share so the whole family could enjoy reading together.

Below is a growing database of online reading options for summer. Toggle through the fields at the top to find what you need. Here is a quick link to the database

Lastly, don't forget about podcasts! I know they aren't books but if our focus is trying to get our students to read, listen, and think podcasts can help kiddos do that! Take a look at my podcast post. Below is a podcast database!

Please reach out and let me know of you have any suggestions to add to my list!

Digital Tools to Get Your Students Reading and Thinking Over the Summer #ebooks #activities #elementaryschool #middleschool #highschool

Quick Tech Tip: and Escape Rooms

Tuesday, May 7, 2019 No comments
Quick Tech Tip: to make quick escape rooms! #edtech #escaperooms #digitalbreakouts #breakoutedu

Hey all! I wanted to jump on super quick and show you a cool tool. I always feel like I have to write a novel on here and then I posy great ideas on my Instagram but I really need to combine them!

I have been dabbling in the world on Escape Rooms and am really enjoying myself! I have made a couple of physical escape rooms and some digital ones and both kids and adults love them. I was teaching the concept in a grad class of current teachers the other day and they all loved the concept but realized it does take a chunk of time to create one.

On my quest to make their lives easier, I found the, which I already love to use for putting students into groups or choosing a random name. Has a quick and easy lock generator!

Basically, you enter your prompt, answer and hint on a spreadsheet and Flippity makes the locks for you.

I have embedded these in a Google site digital escape room but I can see this used in many different ways!

  1. Take a worksheet and cut it up to make the problems separate "locks". Make the answer the combination to the lock. Add even more engagement by placing these problems up on a wall or around the classroom.
  2. If you have a station activity, add an overarching question and answer that they have to unlock before they move to the next station.
  3. Us the locks for a whole classroom reward! Countdown to a an event, vacation, etc. and have a password for each day. If the class meets the expectation for the day, the receive the "password". When the lock are all unlocked, they receive their reward!
So, let's crowd source this idea: how might you use these locks in your classroom? Leave a comment below!!!

If you are interested in checking out some of my escape rooms, click on the links below!

Click here! This is a FREE digital escape room on digital citizenship!

Click here!

Click here!

Creation in the Classroom Part 1: Green Screen

Tuesday, March 19, 2019 2 comments
Use Green Screen in the classroom to engage students in elementary and middle school.

If you have followed me for awhile, you know how passionate I am about making an engaging space for my students. I try to amp my creativity up to help spark a passion for learning.
I think it is important for us to create in our own classes so we can model the process to kids. Most importantly, I think we need to give our kiddos the time, space, and support to create themselves.

When I say create, I mean to create artifacts of their learning. No child ever said to me, "Miss, remember that packet we did last year. That was so fun!". Come on...let's be real. I have heard, many times, "Miss, do you remember that play we did/movie we created/game I invented, etc!"

This blog post will be a first in a series of ways you and your students can create artifacts of their learning that will engage them and spark passion!

First up we are talking about my favorite movie making technique: Green Screen! I have been using Green Screen technologies with my students for about 5 years now, and as an instructional tech coach, not a week goes by where I'm either teaching a teacher how to do it or modeling for the educator. Here are some of my tips and tricks!

  1. What do I use Green Screen for?
In my district, we use Green Screen in so many ways! As a teacher, I use it to launch lessons and give directions.

I've used it with students from Kindergarten through high school in many different scenarios.
    1. Storytelling videos to work on their speaking goals - Kinders
    2. Listen to, read, rewrite fables to work on their four domains (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) - English Language Learners
    3. Planned a trip around the world and we used Green Screen to take picture of them "on" their trip. They included these in a slideshow. - 6th grade
    4. Created statues with their bodies to symbolize the weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation and they used the green screen to take picture with backgrounds. - 8th grade
    5. Reported on penguins from Antarctica - 2nd grade
    6. Created PSAs after researching problems teens encounter. - 7th grade
    7. Created videos to go along with merchandise they created - 7th and 8th grade
    8. Took pictures in front of Washington monuments they researched and included it in a project. - 4th grade
    9. Take pictures at family events, after school socials, etc. - elementary and middle school
    10. Book trailers and reports with all grades
    11. Shakespeare retellings with 6th graders.
    12. Fractured Fairy Tales with 2nd graders.

2. DoInk
Green Screen by DoInk is my absolutely favorite way to shoot green screen. It is an app that easily allows you to take videos and photos. You can  actually use any color as a background and easily adjust on the app. It is super easy to run. When I use it with 2nd graders, they very quickly push me out of the way and operate it themselves!!!
The only drawback to DoInk, is that it can only be used on IOS phones and tablets. This definitely limits its use for some classrooms.

3. Open Broadcast Software (OBS)
OBS is free software you can download to any computer. If you mention this software around middle schoolers you will often here, "Oh! That is what the YouTubers use!".
OBS is a solid option but it has a much steeper learning curve. I learned it by watching MANY tutorials on YouTube. It is not a tool that younger students could use independently and even middle schoolers find it has a ton of steps. It is, though, a good alternative if you don't have access to an iPhone or iPad. Here is a pretty detailed instructional video I made!

4. iMovie
In my district we have Apple computers so we are lucky to be able to use all the capabilities of iMovie. In iMovie you can layer videos shot in front of a green screen with backgrounds to create the video effect. It is super easy to do. Unlike OBS and DoInk, though, you really don't get to manipulate the items (make the background bigger, make the subjects smaller, etc.) It is very limited in its capabilities but it does layer the two video pretty clearly. Here is a video walking you through this!

There are other ways to make Green videos such as WeVideo and Android apps, but these are my three go tos!

Create GreenScreen videos in your classroom to spark engagement, work on speaking and listening skills, and convey knowledge. This works super well with informational text units!!! #elementary #middleschool

5 Resources for Teaching the Midterm Elections

Sunday, September 30, 2018 1 comment

5 Resources for teaching the Midterm Elections to Upper Elementary, Middle, and High School students #civics #usgovernment #activities

Regardless of partisan politics, election time is a magical time for social studies teachers. We love to teach the current events of the time and intertwine it with the history of our country and elections. Here are some great resources to enhance your students's study of the midterm elections.

1) Five Thirty Eight

Five Thirty Eight is one of my favorite websites to help middle and high school students analyze the polls for the elections. The website is the brainchild of Nate Silver, a statistician who loves to use data to describe politics. He and his team offer a number of graphical representations of data that really help students visualize what is going on.

I love the cartogram because it is a much better representation of how people vote in America.

2) 270 to Win
Image result for 270 to win
270 to Win has one of the best interactive maps out there. You and your students can see the people running in each district and state, making it a great way to do some visual research.

3) PBS News Hour #MonitoringTheMidterms

PBS has some amazing lesson plans that come with activities and videos to help your middle and high schoolers understand the important topics that surround a midterm like gerrymandering, the voting age, swing states, misinformation, etc. Definitely head on over and check this out!

4) ICivics

Image result for icivics cast your vote

iCivics has been my go to for a long time so please forgive my fan girling! First off, I love that Sandra Day O'Connor has worked in collaboration with this company to bring civics education to the youth of America. Secondly, every time I used iCivics to reinforce concepts of government in my classroom, the students always walked a way with a deeper understanding. I have had parents tell me that playing Win the White House made them finally understand the Electoral College as an adult!

Although iCivics does not have a midterm election game, they have a bunch that will help your students better understand the legislative branch! Click on each picture to go to the game.

5) Midterm Election Escape Room: Save Democracy!

I have created a super fun and low prep escape room to help teach students about the midterm elections! It covers the topics:

  1. What are the midterm elections?
  2. The House of Representatives and the Senate
  3. U.S. Election Fun Facts
  4. History of Voting Rights
The item comes with a fun launch video to get your kids excited! Each "Lock" comes with a reading and a puzzle activity to solve a combination of a lock! This item would also be a great addition to any government unit, regardless of whether we are in an election year or not!  Click here to check it out!

Happy election season!

Podcasts To Spark Learning in the Elementary and Middle School Classroom

Saturday, September 29, 2018 3 comments
Podcasts to spark learning in the elementary and middl school classroom! #character #setting #elementsofastory

I LOOOOOOOVE PODCASTS! I am seriously obsessed with podcasts and am not ashamed to work a suggestion for a podcast into a conversation with a stranger. "Oh, you like (insert topic of interest here)? Do you like podcasts? Do you know what you should listen to....". 
Seriously, I'm sure my friends and family will one day limit the amount of podcasts I'm able to recommend in one conversation. If you are doubting my love of podcasts, just know that my Valentine's gift this year was to watch the taping of the West Wing Weekly podcast. That is right I watched a taping of a podcast that discusses a show that hasn't been on the air in about 15 years. Like I said, I love podcasts:)

I have passed on my love of podcasts to my own children (or maybe shoved it down their throats)! We are constantly listening to a podcast in the car. I really think it is helping my kids (7 and 12 years old) become better listeners and has made them work their imaginations. They love to discuss them as a family and have learned a ton of information from some of them! Just to recap:
  • better listening skills
  • increased creativity and imagination
  • increased communication
  • heightened vocabulary
  • increased knowledge of the world around them
I have a growing list of student friendly podcasts to use in your class right now (scroll to the bottom of the page), but here are our favorite 3!


Wow in the World! 

Hosted by Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz from NPR, my family can't get enough of this science show. Every week they take on a current science topic while building a hilarious world with crazy characters, time machines, and sassy pigeons name Reggie. I can totally see an elementary teacher using this to fit science into their day. It would be awesome to listen during snack time or transitions between subjects.

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Six Minutes

OMG! This is addictive! It is taking all my will power to only listen to it with my kids and not go ahead! This podcast is about a girl name Holiday who is found unconscious by a family. She can't remember who she is and each episode gives us a bit more information. The coolest thing is each episode is only 6 minutes long! This would be awesome to launch a class with and it would be a great study in characterization! In the chart below I say it is for 4th to 8th grade but my 2nd grader is listening to it with me and she just needs a bit of guidance.

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The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel

This podcast is amazing!!! I found out about it from Haylee Harwick on over at Hello Mrs. Harwick. Catch her Instagram Stories to see how she did a class transformation to listen to this with her kiddos!
This podcast is about a young man named Mars Patel whose friends are disappearing. It has twists, turns, and suspense. I just finished listening to season two and am psyched to know season three is being released soon.  There is so much you could do with this book. It would fit wonderfully into mystery unit and would be a great way to teach prediction and setting!

Below is a list of even more podcasts for kids and the classroom. I'm adding to it all the time and if you have any suggestions, please let me know! I love to share!!
Click on the "Genre/Subject" and "Grade Span" buttons to tailor your searching. Click on the right arrow in the top and bottom right hand corners to see more podcasts. The list is best seen on a computer as opposed to a phone or a tablet. If you have trouble seeing the list you may view it better here:

If you are interested in trying any of these podcasts in your classroom and would like some resources to help lead the way, head on over to my Teachers Pay Teachers store and check out my new Podcast Listening Graphic Organizers!

Happy Listening!!!