Creation in the Classroom Part 1: Green Screen

Tuesday, March 19, 2019 No 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
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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 2 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!!!

Flipgrid + Mystery Location Calls = Instant Engagement!

Friday, September 28, 2018 1 comment

Use Flipgrid to connect your students to other classrooms to play a Mystery Location Game! #flipgrid #edtech #mysteryskype #classroom #elementarysocialstudies #socialstudies #geography

Happy fall everyone! I hope you all are settling into the school year well! I've been doing a ton of beginning of the year training on interactive boards and Google but this week I got to start doing the fun stuff. I took two second grade classes on a live drive and Q and A with a safari in South Africa and Kenya. I've talked about this here:)

I then combined two of my favorite edtech trends: the Mystery Location Call and Flipgrid! For those of you that are new to these here is a bit of an overview:

  • A Mystery Location Call is a game played between two classes that are located in two different places in the world. Usually, the classes connect through something like Facetime, Skype, or Google Hangouts. They then ask each other yes and no geographical questions (i.e. Are you East of the Mississippi River?, Are you located in the Central time zone?, etc.). The object of the game is to geographically pinpoint the location of the other class. Go here to read how I used it in my class!
  • Flipgrid is a website that allows teachers to post questions, activities, etc. and students can respond to them though video. It is s super amazing tool to get kids speaking, communicating clearly, and is also a fabulous tool for students who struggle to communicate through the written word. 
I worked with a 3rd class this week to combine the two! Instead of meeting live, we are sharing a 
"topic" with another class and leaving each other daily video to respond to!

There is probably an easier way to do this but this is how I did it: 

I created a Grid for Mystery Location Calls and set it for "PLCs and Public Grids".

I then created a topic and named it Mystery Location #1. The next classroom connection I'll make will be #2 and so on.
I shared the student link with the other teacher we are connecting with, so we actually can both access the "topic".

The class I was working with went first. They recorded a video and asked a question. Later that day, the other class recorded a video, answered our question, and asked us a question. This will continue until the first class can guess the location of the other class!

Another thing that I super love is that Flipgrid has a pretty good closed captioning option. I teach in a district with a high population of students that speak English as a second language and closed captioning is a great way to scaffold for them. The particular school I was working in this day also has a large population of students with a hearing impairment so I love that they can fully engage with this activity.

I will update you more at the end of this process! Here is a list of questions I give to kids to use for reference. I'm working on creating a free resource that will help you implement this in your classroom so stay tuned!

Labor Day Sale!

Monday, September 3, 2018 No comments
Hey all!  I'm trying to take the labor out of your Labor Day! Head on over to Teachers Pay teachers and give yourself a break from planning with one of my bundles!  today and tomorrow, my bundles will be an additional 20% off their already discounted price!!!

Enjoy your Labor Day!