Tech You Can Use Tomorrow: Epic! Books

Tuesday, December 19, 2017 2 comments

Technology You Can Use in Your Elementary and Middle School Classroom: Epic! Books Free Online Library #epicbooks #middleschool #elementaryschool #literacy #onlinelibrary

Hello all!  I hope the holiday season is finding you all festive and well!  Things are going fabulously over here in EngagingLand and we are counting down the day till break!!!

So, do you want some tech you can use in your class and implement tomorrow?  If you haven't yet, you MUST use Epic! Books!!!!  Epic!  is an online library that is totally free for teachers.  Teachers can have students read casually off of a guest account or can quickly and easily create an account for each student.

So .... why is it amazing?

The teachers in my district love Epic! and are using it with students who are K - 8.  My favorite thing is the amazing and quality informational text.  Their nonfiction books are amazing (I can't get enough of their National Geographic titles!) and teachers are using these to introduce kids as young as second grade to the concept of research.

A couple of weeks ago, like many urban districts, we started to enroll students from Puerto Rico.  These students all came with different backgrounds and access to education.  I was personally working with a couple of students who spoke no English at all.  The principal and I set these students up on Epic! and selected "Spanish Books" as their preference and voila!!! We had an instant Spanish language library and these students got to spend at least a part of their day exploring and in their home language!!!

If you are already using Epic! in your classroom, I would love to hear the ways you have implemented it!!! Feel free to comment below, head on over to my Facebook page ( ) or email me at

5 Ways To Teach Thanksgiving, Engage Students, and Not Lose Your Mind!

Sunday, November 5, 2017 No comments

Engage your students and teach Thanksgiving Activities for kids in elementary and middle school. #thanksgivinglessons #thanksgivingactivities #middleschool #elementaryschool
Don't forget to sign up to get ideas, tips and tricks, and freebies to engage your students!

I love Thanksgiving!  Mostly I love Thanksgiving because it means I get to put up my Christmas tree the next day, but I do really love having my whole family over to just spend time together.  Thanksgiving also is a great opportunity to sneak in some learning no matter what age you teach.  So, what are some awesome, low prep activities?

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If you teach middle school, Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to talk about myths and legends vs. facts.  On of my favorite activities to do before the holiday was from Beyond the Bubble.  Beyond the Bubble is operated by the Stanford History Education Group and focuses on students being critical readers of history.  Beyond the Bubble has a great activity comparing the facts of the first Thanksgiving and the picture that was painted in 1932. Click here for the activity!
2) A teacher can never have enough books and little ones can not read enough!  In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, think about joining Epic! Books !  I’m going to blog more about Epic! Later this week but just know that your students can access high quality, digital books about Thanksgiving!  Students can read both fiction and informational text on the site and can find books that are read aloud.  Epic! Books are also great for young students to start their journey into researching!

3)  Have you taken a virtual field trip yet?  If not, one of my favorite simple and easy virtual experiences is taking a trip to Plymouth Plantation the week before Thanksgiving.  Head on over to Learn Around the World and let Brandon Hall show your kids around Plymouth Plantation and teach them about life among the Pilgrims and Wampanoag.

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4) Introduce your kiddos to podcasts!  Podcasts are a super hit in my house and they help students create critical listening skills.  Stories Podcasts is one of my favorites. Students write stories and the lovely peopl at The Stories Podcasts act them out and add music.  They have a cute and short podcast about two sibling fighting about a Thanksgiving Pie Off.  I suggest it for 3rd grade and above:)

5) Lastly, I love to get the kiddos ready by playing my The History of Thanksgiving Digital Simulation.
The game is performed whole class but students compete in a group of 3 or 4.  I launch the activity by having students turn and talk and discuss the following essential questions:
What obstacles and what successes did the Pilgrims encounter as they attempted to survive at Plymouth?
Once students are in groups I give each student a point sheet and each group gets a spinner.  To use the spinner, the students need a pencil and a paperclip.

Once the students have all their paper resources, I begin the presentation.  The presentation has students spinning through the game to assign them their actions on how they would have acted in the months leading up to the first Thanksgiving. Every option in the game is taken straight from history.  If students “choose” the same path as the Pilgrims, they will be successful all the way up through the first Thanksgiving.  Students will also experience the difficulties the Pilgrims had on the way to success.

Last year when I played this game with a group of 3rd graders, they didn’t know that I had created it.  While we were playing, one of the kids turned to me and whispered, “Don’t tell my teacher but this is really fun!”  Engagement for the win!
Once the game is complete, I have my students go back through the presentation and analyze the information by completing The History of Thanksgiving: Questions for Understanding.  As a summary activity, I have the students create an advertisement that extolls the magnificence of the lives of the Pilgrims and and Warning sign that gets settlers to stay away because of the hardships.

If you are interested in The History of Thanksgiving Digital Simulation click here and head on over to my Teachers Pay Teachers page.  I promise this will not disappoint!

Tech You Can Use Tomorrow: Live Webcams

Saturday, November 4, 2017 No comments

Quickly and easily transform your classroom with live webcams! Turn your elementary and middle school classroom into an aquarium, transport your students to the Space Station, and hang out with grizzly bears playing in the water. These are great to support informational text units! #informationaltext #techintheclassroom #livewebcams

Hey all!  In my new job as an integration technology specialist, I go into a ton of classes!  As I travel across the district my goal is to inspire kids and teachers to just add something small to their days to create engagement.  For me, engagement means that students want to be in a classroom and if they want to be there they will be open to learning. 

I'm going to start a regular series where I give you a simple little tech tip that you can easily roll out in your classes on Monday and they will get you and your kiddos excited!

Week 1: Live Webcams
The other day I showed teacher the power of live webcam and they couldn't believe they had never thought of it.  A live feed is a 24/7 video feed of anything but I have teachers focusing on live feeds of animals and places.

Imagine launching a unit on the solar system and the students walked into the class to this on the projector:

Or imagine doing an informational text unit on penguins and while the students were doing their research this was playing on the projector:

Adding a webcam to any lesson or unit makes the content come alive and is so simple to incorporate.  I have come up with a list of some of my favorite webcams so click here to see how you can add these to your classroom!

To be honest, sometimes I just put the live webcam on to make me happy so right now I'm going to leave you with some fun brown bears..... because, well.... they are adorable.

Join Me On My Journey to Engagement!

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Join Me On a Journey to Engagement!

Hello all!  I'm making my New Year's Resolution early!

I'm really going to put more effort into keeping this blog.  This blog has helped me grow an amazing professional learning network and has kept me sane when everything around me was going crazy.

In my attempt to get back on the blogging wagon, I'm going to start a mailing list so you can join me on my journey to engagement.  If you sign up, you will be emailed my Main Idea Choice Board and recording sheets for free.  It also comes with suggestions for differentiation and technology integration.

Sign up below and not only will you get tips, tricks, and resources from me, you will also be notified of new products first.  These products will be 50% off for the first day!  Isn't this all very exciting?


Join Me On My Journey to Engagement!

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Back to School 2017

Monday, July 31, 2017 1 comment

Yeah!  I love the time of year where I get to start with a blank slate and plan my classroom!  I'm not ready to go back just yet, but I'm always ready to shop! Teachers Pay Teachers is having their Back to School sale on Tuesday, August 1st and Wednesday, August 2nd to receive up to 25% off! Don't forget to use code BTS2017 at checkout!!!

If you would like a little extra cash to fill your classroom and curriculum, enter to win a $10 Teachers Pay Teachers gift card and $15 credit to my store! A winner will be chosen at 11 pm tonight!

250 Virtual Field Trips.... most of them are free!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017 7 comments

If you have been following my blog lately, you will know that I am absolutely (and probably ridiculously!!! ) obsessed with virtual field trips.  I promise I will blog about something different soon but I have one last thing.  I have been working on organizing all the field trips I find into one sheet and I was just able to make it into a searchable database!  
So search away and make some connections!  Let me know if you take any of these field trips!  I would love to hear how others are using them in their classrooms!!!
This list is ever growing so bookmark this and keep coming back when you are planning next year!

Why yes... those are wild animals in my classroom!

Sunday, April 9, 2017 No comments

Have you been thinking about taking a virtual field trip? Take your elementary, middles, and high school students on a live safari in South Africa! Students ask questions and get answered in real time! #virtualfieldtrip #elementary #middleschool #safarilive

Hey all!  Now that I have been in my new job for a bit, I have sooooooo much to share with you.  My job is super fantastic!  I spend my days traveling to schools teaching teachers and students how to use Google Classroom, Green Screen videos, iMovie, podcasting and more!  

My favorite part of the job is bringing kiddos from my fabulous district all around the world with virtual field trips.

I have taken the DEEP dive into virtual field trips.  Some may even call it an obsession but I adore the fact that I can introduce my students to experts and places all over the world.  My favorite experience right now is Wild Safari Live!Image result for wild safari live

OMG!  This is amazing!  Wild Safari Live is a game changer.  It is a live feed of an actual safari from the Djuma Game Reserve in South Africa.  You can watch the live feed every day from 9:30 - 12:30 and 12:00 to 3 am eastern.  You can watch the live feed at or Youtube Live.  On the safari, you have 3 rangers traveling throughout the reserve looking for amazing animals and answering questions from Twitter using #safarilive.

But the excitement does not stop there!  Thanks to an AMAZING educator, Erik Moore who is an Instructional Technology Specialist for Landstown High School in Virginia Beach, Wild Safari Live is a teacher's dream!  Erik worked with Wild Safari Live to save the first hour of the sunset broadcast (the morning broadcast here in North America) for student questions only.  Three schools can sign up daily (Click here if you would like to sign yourself up!) and get to monopolize the questions for the first hour. Teachers submit their questions through the message option in Skype and the absolutely best part about it is they speak directly to the students and post their question and name on the screen!

The kids absolutely freak when they see their names on the screen and love it when the rangers personally talk to them!
I have conducted about 15 safaris so far, from grades 1 - 8, and it has been amazing.  I have seen giraffes, impala, rhinos, elephants, tortoises, lions, cheetahs, hyenas, eagles, and more!  If you are interested in exploring this, check out the following resources!
1) Read a great blog about what Erik Moore has done for us right here!
2) Email Erik at for materials and ideas.
3)  Follow Erik on Google Plus at Erik Moore and on Twitter @ITS_LHS_Erik
3) Click here for resources I have put together for the experience!
4)  Here is a great video that describes the safari experience:

Watch this clips to see one of my kiddo's questions being answered.  How cool is this?

Lastly, click here to check out my experiences with Wild Safari and other virtual field trips I'll be discussing in the coming weeks!  As always feel free to contact me at twitter @kwilkinstchr!