Saturday, March 14, 2015

Video created a Classroom Star!

I love video! I use video for everything in my class. I create videos to launch activities and give directions.  I let my kids make videos all the time.  Since this is becoming a constant in my class, I thought it would be a good time to make a list of my favorite go to video accessories and apps.

1)  I use my iPad for most of my videos.  My best investment was purchasing a decent tripod.  I love this one I got from Amazon.
2) I was blessed and was able to get an iPad mount from my tech department.  I love it and it makes it so I can trust the kids to videotape on their own.

3)  I set up a little recording studio in my class where the kiddos can take green screen videos.  We absolutely love the app Green Screen by DoInk.

Because the kiddos often have to record while class is going on, I just invested in lapel microphones and a long cable.  

Now I place the mic in the middle of their shot and the volume is much better!

4)  On the iPad I am a huge proponent of iMovie.  I think it has an ease of use that can't be beat.  My kiddos absolutely love making videos on their phones and they find iMovie to be the best.  Once the make it they share with my on Google Drive.  I absolutely adore the ease of them getting me their videos!  Gone are the days when I ran out of space on the school server or could never buy enough flash drives.  Now it's just shoot and share!
5)  If you need to edit movies on a pc, I really like WeVideo.

WeVideo is really easy to use and can hook right up to a Google Drive account.  My students have used this software as well and they learned to use it in about ten minutes.

6) Sometimes I just like to have fun.  A great purchase was the IntroDesigner app.  I've made a class intro that the students love to see and we can easily add credits to the end.

7)  Lastly, who knew it, but my selfie stick comes in really handy in the classroom!  Kids made Common Craft inspired In Plain English movies and used my selfie stick to hold their phone as they video taped.

So, these are the things I'm doing in my class to make video a go to form of learning and creating.  What are you doing?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Murders in My Classroom Continue

Every classroom benefits from these two purchases:

So, in the weeks before the holiday break, my kiddos walked into this.....

I you are a reader of my blog, you will recognize this as an activity I did last year on the Boston Massacre.  Read about it here! For those of you that followed along last year, do you love my new tablecloth?  Bloodier than last year's window clings and I get to use it again and again.

My eighth graders were so excited because they saw the set up of this last year.  They did such an amazing job!!!  These kiddos are champions of textual evidence and totally would have gotten those British soldiers off in a court of law!

If you are interested in using this in your classroom, click here for the resources!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Let them use their devices!!!

I absolutely looooove making videos with my students, but many times over the years I've given up because it was just too hard.  I've used flip cameras and flash drives that fill up too quickly.  I've gotten in trouble with IT because my videos took up way too much space on the server.  I've tried to transfer videos from one iPad to another... ugh!
Right before Christmas, on a whim, I decided to do a quick video project to  finish up my vocabulary list before Christmas.  I was ready for a headache but was absolutely amazed instead!  What made this a fabulous experience for the kids and me?  Their own devices and Google Drive!
If you read my last post, you will know I've been really helping my kids immerse themselves into our content vocabulary.  One of the successes of the daily vocabulary I do, is that I go and find videos on YouTube that are either an example of the word or the actual definition.  Sometimes its hard!!!  I tasked the children with making videos for the words that I could include in my lessons next year.
I offered the kids my devices and a couple of groups took me up on it.  The ones that used my iPad used iMovie to edit and I had kids who used my Mac desktops and had a great time using WeVideo for editing.  Most of the groups used their own devices.  They made sure they had Google Drive on their phones and verified that they were hooked to their student accounts.  Many of my kids have iPhones so they used iMovie.  My Android users definitely taught me tons.  Many of them used Vont to add text and tons of different video editors.  It was an absolute breeze for them to upload to Google Drive and share it to me.  The best thing is that when they share with me, it doesn't take up any real space in my storage and it is all organized.
So many times we make our kids hide away their devices. Look what happens when you tell them to take them out!

This part of the video was total overkill but tons of fun!  We used an app called Action Movie FX and it allows you to add super fun effects to your videos.  You must try it out!!!

I'm Back!!!!.... and teaching vocabulary!

I'm back! I totally apologize to all my readers for disappearing for the last couple of months.  I took my first real grad class this fall and had no time to breathe.  Something had to give and unfortunately it was my blog.  But, the class is over and I am back!  I have so much to tell you but instead of one long post, be looking for short posts over the next week or so to catch you up!

The class I took was TONS of work but also very rewarding.  In Massachusetts, if you have even one student in your class who is and English Language Learner, you need to take a class called Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners (RETELL). It's basically an intro to ELL and walks you through tried and true activities that helps ELLs succeed in the classroom. Being my second year in district, I found the class to be EXTREMELY helpful and my biggest takeaway is direct vocabulary instruction. I have always felt that vocabulary is such an important part of teaching social studies and last year I just knew I wasn't cutting it. My students were just understanding vocabulary on the most superficial of levels and I knew it was because I was teaching a population I had never really experienced before.
In the class they taught us a vocabulary activity called the Seven Steps to preteach vocabulary. Here is a fabulous example of Seven Steps from an elementary teacher:

I knew this was exactly what I needed but I decided to tweak it for my class.  Now, almost every day, my kiddos walk in and we preteach a word or term they are going to need in order to understand the upcoming content (Tier 2 and Tier 3 Words). We do it in the same order every day:

  1. Introduce word and have them pronounce it twice.  Ask if they know anything about the word and identify and prefixes, suffixes, and/or base words.
  2. Have them write down a student friendly definition.
  3. Tell them how we are going to use it in content.  I also like to tell them how it is used in other contexts (for the word "convention" this week, we talked about the Constitutional Convention but we also talked about ComicCon).
  4. I show the kids a YouTube video that better illustrates the word or a visual.
  5. Lastly, the students are given a sentence stem that they need to finish with the students in their table groups.  We then share out as a class.
This method has truly revolutionized my class!  Not only are the kids truly understanding the vocabulary, it has allowed me to frontload my teaching.  As an example, I taught the term Articles of Confederation three days before we really learned about the Articles of Confederation.  The kids absolutely love it and have been acing their vocab quizzes like champs.  They can use the words weeks later in a sentence and I really feel like it has helped me make bigger connections in my content. 

I showed two different videos with this term.  The first clip, I explained to them, is how the British knew how to fight and the second video was how the Americans learned to fight from the native Americans.  We were able to compare and contrast the two styles and this whole lesson took less than ten minutes of my class.

If you're interested, I have started to gather together these vocab lessons and have made them available on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Head on over to TPT to check these out and look for more as I progress in the year!

Saturday, January 3, 2015


It is that time of year again…. time to make resolutions for becoming a better you, trying really hard for about two and a half weeks, and then letting life take over and those resolutions go by the wayside…. ugh:( Luckily, I find resolutions for the classroom much easier to keep than decreasing carbs (bread…. I love bread!!!! Want to know what I like with my bread? More BREAD!!!) so even though we are less than half way through the year, this is a great time to take stock and make some goals going forward.

So, how will I make 2015 the best year for my students? Simply, I will continue to ENGAGE! I will continue to get my kiddos out of their seats and help them interact with their learning. Im going to accomplish this in two ways:

1) Simulations and Labs: I’m going to add even more activities into my class to help students experience history. We will continue to act as detectives and solve history's mysteries as well as take part in labs that help reinforce key concepts and let the kiddos understand what daily life was like for people of the past! 

2) Extend their Learning: I have so many kiddos that are begging to be challenged! Technology can truly help me do this. For the rest of the year I need to enrich their learning by continuing to implement my Google Classroom extension assignments, have them play more with video using websites like Zaption and EduCanon, and utilize those amazing phones they have in their pockets for response systems and classroom videos (blog post coming soon on these amazing vocabulary videos we made with their own phones and editing apps of their choice!!!) As usual they taught me a thing or two!

So, comment up people! How are you going to make 2015 the best year ever for your students? I’d love to hear your ideas!!!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Social Studies Labs

So I gave myself a goal this year. I want to add as many hands on, experiential activities into my class as possible. So far, they have been an amazing success! I blogged about this activity last month.

This week my kiddos got to experience what it felt like to be a hominid. They looooooved it and beg for more labs!!!

Homo Erectus building their tower.
Neanderthal and Cro Magnon
Homo Habilis very proud of their horrible tower and their lack of fine motor skills.

Click her and check it out!