A Great Site for Worksheets

The summer is always a great time to recharge and get ready for the next school year. We may catch up on our reading, attend workshops, or find new resources to use in our classrooms. One such resource was passed along to me by a colleague (Thanks Eric!). It is called WorksheetWorks, which offers you hundreds of free worksheets in a variety of subject areas (Math, English, Geography, Misc.). There are worksheets on writing, parts of speech, addition/subtraction, geography, word searches, etc.

This site allows you to create customized PDF worksheets from existing templates and even provides a key! This seems to be a great resource for elementary and middle school teachers, however, high school teachers may want to check this out too!

Special Guest Post: Jeff Swisher on KidBlog

Over the past few weeks, I have been on the road.  Today I am going to be in Columbus, Indiana to make a presentation! Because of this busy schedule, I have asked several of my UDL students to make guest posts. Jeff Swisher is one of my former students. Jeff is a young teacher who is passionate about incorporating technology into his classroom. He really has some great ideas! Take it away Jeff!

 One of the great challenges I have always faced in teaching is finding enough time to have my students reflect on what they have read.  I can never get through as many guided reading groups as a plan to in a day because my students are so eager to share their thoughts on our current book.  While that is a great problem to have, it does slow down our progress through books.  So how can I allow students to reflect in a structured environment, and still get through guided reading groups at a faster pace?

The best solution I have found so far is Kidblog.  Kidblog is a website that allows you to easily create a class blog.  The blog is completely password secured, with the teacher having complete control of who can access your class page.  Student accounts are simple to start, and are easy to access.  The teacher even has the option of approving any student comments before they are posted to the actual bog for everyone to see.  You can even choose from a variety of themes to personalize your classroom blog to your own style. 

I use my class blog to have students practice reflection and interpretation skills when reading.  By creating a new thread for each chapter or section, I can post questions for my students to answer.  Students can access these questions when they are done reading, and can answer them at their own pace by commenting on my questions.  Students can see each other's comments, and then respond to what their classmates have written.  In this way, I can read with my guided reading groups, and then send them to their seats to discuss their reactions online.  I can also assign reading for homework, and still have my students interact with each other.  While I still have face-to-face discussions with my students several times a week, this does provide me with the flexibility to squeeze in an extra reading group when I need to.

There are two additional advantages to using Kidblog.  First, I can look back at student posts at any time to evaluate the quality and accuracy of their reflections and see the progression over time.  I can also see where I need to spend extra time improving student comprehension skills without having to rely on my memory of many conversions through the day.  The second major advantage of Kidblog is that my students LOVE using it.  I was overwhelmed by how eager my class was to get on and post comments on the blog.  My class even begged me to continue posting questions all summer on the series of book we had used for our read aloud time throughout the year.  While I can attribute some of that desire to wanting the finish the rest of the series (we read the first seven of thirteen books in A Series of Unfortunate Events), the students were very specific in wanting to have questions to answer all summer long.  While it has taken some time to keep up with the kids' pace of reading the remaining books, having kids be excited about reading and reflecting all summer is well worth it.

My name is Jeff Swisher, and I am a teacher at Monroe Elementary in the Cumberland Valley School District.  I have been teaching for three years, and have bounced between 4th and 5th grade.  I will be teaching 4th grade again this year.  My wife Bethany and I are excited to welcome our first child into our growing family this November.

Special Guest Post: Lora Varvel and iPads

Here's a special guest post from first grade teacher, Lora L. Varvel! Lora was one of my graduate students who has an exciting opportunity to lead an iPad initiative! Check it out: 

About mid way through the 2011-2012 school year, my classroom was given one iPad to use with my students. I decided to use it with various reading and math fact practice apps in a center during guided reading time. This worked out well and my students enjoyed it.
 But, as we started our unit on safety I began to think about how we could use the iPad in a different way. I decided to group students in pairs to create an iMovie safety video as a culminating activity. I created a form that the students used to record their idea. Once they wrote their idea they came to me for approval. They then used the form to create dialog that the two of them would say to show an instance when their safety rule would apply. At the end of each skit they had to say together while looking in the camera, “And so, (never or always) __________________.” With each step of this process my students checked in with me and I gave them advice along the way without taking away their ideas.

Finally, we used iMovie to create the final product. I connected the ipad to our BenQ projector to show them how to add simple effects and with each group’s input. Together we added a title, music and fading. I then chose a date to show our creations to the first and second grades in the all-purpose room, along with their parents and principle. It was a process that took very little extra class time and truly showed what my students learned during our safety unit. It was a great success!

About Lora: 

My name is Lora Varvel and I have been teaching first grade in Northern Lebanon School District for the past 5 years. I have taught 4th, 5th, and 6th grades as well.

Simple Chat Room Service

A few years ago, I was teaching a graduate class and had to cancel a full day due to snow storms. I was looking for a way to have class virtually through a chat room. At the time, there weren't many free services out there. In fact, finding a service without paying an arm and a leg was virtually impossible.

I just recently came across a site called ChatFoo, which creates a temporary chat room for you to use. Simply go to the website and click on the "Start New Chat" icon, you will be able to create your own private room. This may be a helpful place to have study help available for your students. It could also be useful if you wanted to facilitate an online discussion with your students in a computer lab setting. It may also be useful if you wanted to chat with a guest speaker.

In order to get others to participate, they will need to have the link to the chat room. This appears in the top-right-hand corner of your screen under "Share this Room." You are also able to share this link through social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

Create Your Own Virtual Field Trip

Many of us are traveling all around the country / world this summer. Why not use your photos to provide your students with a virtual field trip? Mapwing is a site that allows you to take your photos and create an interactive virtual tour. You can add interactive maps, images and comments.

There are many examples of virtual tours in the Explore section. There are many different examples in this section. There are photos of Apple's Corporate Headquarters and even a tour of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. You could even use this for personal use. There are several virtual tours of homes that are for sale!

Creating your own tour is very simple. Just keep in mind that you do have to have a username and password to create your own personal tour. Even if you don't have your own photos, you may want to even consider using Google images to help your students.

5 Tips for Engaging Learners with UDL

Phillip Schlechty (2011) theorized that the highest levels of learner engagement require learners' full attention and commitment. While ...