Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Making the Most of Shared Devices in the Classroom

One of my first experiences as an instructional technology coach was in a K-3 school where teachers had eight iPads for their classes of approximately 20-25 students.  The most popular question I received was, "How am I supposed to teach 24 students with only 8 iPads?"  This was a humbling experience for me because I was ready to train them on apps to enhance instruction/learning and hadn't even thought that they might need more than just these tech tools for teaching... I was clearly a newbie and needed to take a step back before moving forward.

Now,  several years later, one of my first priorities when I visit a teacher who has been given shared devices, is to make sure they feel supported as they become comfortable with the devices in their classroom and give them some ideas so they can explore various ways to integrate them into instruction. 

Before I get into the variety of instructional techniques, I suggest imagining your classroom is completely empty.  Now that you have these devices, what does your classroom look like if you re-design a bit?  Is there a specific area where you will keep them?  What does organization look like?  Maybe you see a low table with pillow seats around it or a bulletin board that compliments your new technology?  If you have a new interactive board, where is the best place for students to gather?  Would tables be better than desks?  Would flexible seating allow students to collaborate more easily when using the devices?

I find this to be almost therapeutic.  Many teachers end up changing their whole room setup and it refreshes their passion for teaching as well as their room. 

Ok, on to the instruction!

If you are in a K-5 classroom, your instruction is naturally student-centered.  Adding shared devices to this type of instruction can be a fairly smooth transition.  Once your room is ready and you start planning, think about your lessons and what integration options might work best for you and your students.  If you are brand new to devices, you might want to only pick one content area to start with and move forward from there.  Here are some ideas for implementing technology into your instruction.  Feel free to comment with your own ideas too!

Depending on how many devices you have, you can do your mini-lesson and then divide students in half.  While one half works on the iPads/Chromebooks, etc, the other half can work with the teacher or be completing a hands-on or independent activity.  Rotate halfway through the workshop.  Come back together at the end to share or assess.

Partner up:
This can be done during the mini-lesson or workshop time and, depending on the amount of devices, you can use groups of three students also.  Students can sit together on the carpet with devices face down on the carpet until it is time to use them, work together, and then hold up their work.  If you have airplay, they can project their work from the iPad right to the screen.  During workshop time, students can work around the room with their partner and the devices.  Once the activity is over, sharing can be done all together or students can place the devices around the room and do a gallery walk to see the completed activity.

Similar to Halvsies, you are just dividing students into three groups.  One activity would include the technology, one would be another activity, and the third would be working with the teacher.  This is great for differentiation. Create the groups according to ability levels.  Everyone still completes each station but you will work with each group on their specific needs.

12 devices = 3 stations with 4 devices each
8 devices = 2 stations
4 devices = 1 station
You can also create a static research station during a specific uit of study using Epic Reading or Chrome, Safari, etc.  If students can't find certain information, the iPads become a great place to explore other resources.  If you have some high flyers, a station can be used to challenge them.  Student who are struggling can get some extra practice or instruction.

If you are using Seesaw or some other type of digital portfolio for students to document their growth, teach students how and when are acceptable times to go grab an iPad and upload/reflect on their work.  Let them take ownership and grab an iPad whenever they want to document something they feel proud of as long as they aren't interrupting the instruction.

Don't forget that modeling is one of the best methods of instruction.  Use the technology during your mini-lesson or mid-workshop interruption to demo what something looks like, sounds like, etc.  You can also showcase student examples or share a new strategy.

The Daily Dose:
Have a station set up for a morning activity that 4 students hit each day of the week until all have completed it.  Maybe one iPad is designated for sharing the weather during morning meeting and a different student is in charge of reporting each week.  Help students become more self-aware by creating a status check to display using airplay during writing workshop. Promote confidence and responsibility by creating a student tech team and giving students the job of closing apps, charging devices, updating, assisting the teacher, etc.

These ideas can work whether you have shared iPads, Chromebooks, or other devices.  Once you play around a bit, you will find what works best for you!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Rethinking the Daily Reading Log

Ever wonder how you can use technology tools to make reading logs more engaging and beneficial to your students without just creating a meaningless substitute for the paper version?  There are actually lots of ways to breathe life into reading logs so they are looked upon as fun and not so much of a chore to fill out each night.  The right kind of reading log (digital or not) can be meaningful for both the student and for the teacher and can tell a lot about who your students are as readers.
  1. Reading logs promote student independence, self awareness, and reflection
  2. They allow students and teachers to see growth over time
  3. They inform the teacher as to whether a book is too hard, too easy, if students are stuck, if they are spending too much time in one book, or if they aren't getting enough time with "eyes on print," etc...
Let's face it, most students don't enjoy writing down the title, author, page numbers, genre, level, etc. every night. It's boring and tedious.  However, some districts require it and we as teachers can tend to feel stuck.  The digital tools I share below can help us give these logs a major facelift.  There are various options and you have less chance of the data being lost or eaten by the family dog (so they say...).  Change things up a bit and you increase motivation because you are adding engaging activities that offer useful information and also add student voice, choice, and the opportunity for purposeful work that will improve reading skills.  Here are some of the possibilities.  I hope they spark some ideas for you!

Google Forms:
If you want to have access to student reading logs and don't mind if students can't easily see their own until you share it with them, Forms is a great option.  You can ask about finished books, have them write little reviews, have them jot an example of a reading strategy, etc. and it all gets collected into a convenient spreadsheet that you can organize by student name, date, etc.  You can share the responses with them as well if you like but this isn't as useful for the littles.  I actually love Forms for reading conferences but that's a whole other blog post...

Google Slides:
I love this option.  If your district requires reading logs and your kids have Google accounts, Slides is the way to go.  Not only can you make it colorful and engaging, but you can have various types of reading activities in one presentation, easily duplicate pages if they need more, and share it in Google Classroom so you can easily access each student's work at any time.


These are both online sites that allow students to log their reading online.  You create the classes and have access to all of the logs.  Students can recommend books, write in their logs, collect awards, and participate in reading challenges.  Check out these short intro videos!

Google Maps:
This type of logging is a lot of fun and adds a global awareness piece too!  Add your books according to the main setting or where the author is from.  Each layer of your map can be a different genre so both you and the students can easily see preferences and/or interests.  Add book cover photos to your pins and text can be mini-reviews, character traits, or a "show what you know" for any reading skill or strategy.  Click on the map below for an example.  The kids love this!

For the littles all the way up to 5th grade, Seesaw is another option.  If you aren't overly concerned about page numbers, students can take photos of their books, record themselves reading a page or two, or talk about the book, and then add it to their journal.  Both parents and teacher can see the books their kids are reading.  You can also create activities if you want to focus on specific skills for a finished book or, if you have editing turned on for your students, weekly logs can be created that can be filled out each night.

Have a great week!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Don't Eat That Donut! FREEBIE!!

There is rarely a day when I walk into one of my schools and don’t see some sort of snack in the office or workroom. Donuts, cakes, bagels, soft pretzels, etc. It is way too easy to just walk by the table, pick up some delectable little treat, and pop it into my mouth. 
The regret comes later...

It seems that food is at every turn and it isn’t always healthy. In fact, most new teachers gain around 15 pounds in their first year or two of teaching. I'm in my 20th year of being a human yo-yo when it comes to my weight and one of the biggest culprits is my teacher workroom snacking.

This journal is meant to help you whether you want to lose weight, maintain your weight, or just make better choices throughout your work day. It isn’t focused on counting calories and it is not time consuming (because we are busy enough!). I kept it simple. Instead, the focus is on being aware of our food and making better choices. 

Click on any of the page previews below to download this freebie for your device!


Monday, April 22, 2019

2nd Grade Resources for Technology Integration

In many second grade classrooms, units of study include Force and Motion, Native Americans, Communities, plus place value, addition, and subtraction in math. Below, I've shared some resources that will hopefully be beneficial to your instruction.

Whole Class Activities and Teacher Resources

Math Center Activities for the iPad

Using Seesaw as a Center in Science and Social Studies

Are you a Seesaw user? There are many ways to use Seesaw in a center during our content area units:

  • Take a picture of a page in a nonfiction book about a topic and use the audio feature to read it out loud or use the drawing feature to underline important vocabulary.
  • After students finish an activity or project, have them take a photo of it and reflect on how they did or what they learned.
  • Use the drawing option to create a picture of something they learned during the unit. They can add audio to explain their drawing.
  • Create a digital poster using PicCollage Kids to show money amounts, geometrical figures, different communities, etc. Upload it to Seesaw to show what you know!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Social Studies Resources for Early Settlements and Revolutionary War

What used to be my favorite social studies units are either in progress or coming up in the next couple of months in my district. There is a lot of curriculum to fit in and only two days a week to teach it. That's not a lot of time to get our students excited about American History.

So, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, I've located some engaging resources that you can use with the lessons/objectives you already have. These can also be easily put into Google Classroom to do at home, as enrichment, or made into QR codes for centers.

Colonial America

This site can be taught during the early settlements unit. Students can use Chromebooks to tour the town themselves or you can use the tour with the whole class to discuss the culture/traditions of Colonial America.


Play these two games on the Chromebook to learn more early occupations. The first is about how bricks were made and the second is about the tools the blacksmith used in his forge.

What happened on this date in the 1770s? You can find out here. You can change the date manually or just use today's date to read newspaper excerpts about events occurring at this time in history.

Students can click on each colony in the map to learn more about it including when it was founded, who moved there and why, and other historical information. It also include clickable points for five major cities.

This is a great site for all information on what life was like during colonial times. If students are doing a presentation or project, this is the place to go for research. Another great site for research is 

Like to show your students videos of popular songs with the lyrics changed to help them remember history? Click on the link above to see song titles for both Colonial America and Revolutionary War topics. A really engaging way to get kids to remember their history. 

Revolutionary War

This site has playable maps that you can stop and start wherever you want for discussions/Q&A, etc. You can play the entire Revolutionary War from beginning to end or pick specific sections to focus on.

This interactive Q&A activity gives students a chance to make decisions that will either lead them to independence (with correct answers)... or not.

Brainpop actually has quite a few resources for the Revolutionary War. Not only videos with quizzes but games and other tools as well. This link will take you to the list of options available.

Great game to go along with the Rev War unit. Students can create a quick, random username and password and then go on the mission.

Help to restore the Bill of Rights by navigating through the fictional town of Freeville to find the missing freedoms.

iPad Resources

This is an interactive textbook that students can read in addition to History Alive. Many pages have videos to play or pictures they can enlarge to learn more about a specific person or event. 

This is an interactive timeline of artifacts. Students can move across the timeline on the bottom of the screen and tap on any of the artifacts to learn more about them and their importance to the time period.

This is a quiz game where students have to find a dog named Thimble in the colonial town. They have to answer questions to move through the map and learn more after each correct answer.

LOOKING FOR A PROJECT IDEA? is a great tool for creating digital posters or infographics for these units. It is super easy to use and you can create class groups, send out a link, and use a class code to join.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Global Connections in the Classroom

Connecting educators and classrooms around the world allows students to learn, question, create, and engage in meaningful, authentic opportunities. There is a whole collaborative, world-wide community out there involving students, educators, and organizations at all levels with a goal to increase opportunities for connections around the globe that support cultural awareness and recognition of diversity.

Embracing a rapidly changing world, our job as educators is to empower learners to assume active roles in their communities, to face and engage global challenges, and to contribute proactively toward a more peaceful, just, inclusive, and secure world. This is one of the strategic goals in my district and so I collected these resources to help teachers find ways to support their students.

How can I integrate these connections into the classroom?
  • Author Visits
  • Content area experts (scientists, park rangers, historians)
  • Book clubs or debates with other classrooms
  • Mystery hangouts to learn about other places and cultures
  • E-pals (electronic pen pals)
  • Share/participate in projects
  • Global Read Aloud

Need to connect? There are many ways to start reaching out.


Nepris focuses on connecting classrooms with industry specialists around the world. The freemium version lets you create one live virtual session and join one live industry chat but gives you unlimited access to all past recorded videos/virtual field trips to use in your classroom.

With participants in over 200 countries, this service allows educators throughout the world to connect with one another in meaningful ways and collaborate. Projects and challenges are available in addition to Epals to reinforce the connections made.

Mystery Skype

Mystery Skype (or Google Hangout) is a 45-60 minute session with a classroom in another part of the country/world. Students ask yes or no questions to guess where the other class is located. Once the locations have been guessed, the students can share information about where they are.

You can also try these simple ways to get started:

Unicef Kid Power: Brain Breaks that Save Lives Answer questions and donate food to those in need Learn about the world, with the world
Global Read Aloud: Read aloud and make connections

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Creating a Connected Classroom

Working in K-5 classrooms, not only do I support teachers with tools for their students, but I also see some of the awesome ways they are already promoting confidence, independence and ownership in their classrooms, even with regards to tech integration.  There is nothing I love more at work than walking into a classroom where technology is being infused all across the board, rather than something just taken out when needed.  I can tell immediately just by looking around the room at what is hanging on the walls and by what the students are doing that it is truly a connected classroom.  

Whether you are 1:1 or have shared devices, there are many ways to incorporate technology naturally throughout the day to support students in all aspects of their learning process.  Here are a few possibilities if you are looking for some ideas:

Create a student tech support team.  This can rotate each week, allowing three or four students to be the technology helpers in the classroom.  This builds confidence and the students love to show what they know and support their peers.  I've seen this done as young as 1st grade with excellent results!

Help students monitor their own progress using an interactive status chart.  Designate an iPad or other device for them to mark their status during projects or activities.  It will help them stay focused and be more independent.  It will also help you as the teacher to keep better track of everyone's progress.  This example was created in Smart Notebook.  Students can drag the star to their box or draw a checkmark in their box on the Smartboard.  It also works in the free Smart Notebook app. No board needed!

Use Seesaw!  Seesaw is an excellent tool for students to show what they know and keep a record of their growth and accomplishments.  It can be used in any subject area and parents can join to get a peek into their child's day.  Teach students how to identify pieces that have meaning to them and use the recording or captioning tool to reflect on them.  They can add their work anytime throughout the day.

 Use QR Codes.  Forgot your homework? Scan the QR code and fill out the Google Form to let me know what happened.  Want to borrow a book from the classroom library? Add a suggestion to the class suggestion box? Create a Google Form and hang the QR code somewhere in the room for easy access.  A great way to collect information into a handy spreadsheet.  Using Google Classroom?  Just add the links to your Forms in the classwork tab to use whenever needed!

Learning about animals? nonfiction topics? a specific time period in social studies?  Make devices an option for research.  Some students will use them and others may not.  That's ok!  Student choice is a wonderful thing.  Add some resource links to Google Classroom if you like, or let students explore on their own to find what they need in addition to using print books and other resources.

These are just a few ways to incorporate technology naturally.  Check out your colleagues classrooms or ask your admin to let your next meeting be a share of ideas.  The best teacher learning comes from seeing each other in action.

If you would like to try the status chart, it's free!  Just click the link in that section.  It is in Google format.  To use it, just add it to your drive.  Using laptops? Download it first and then upload to Smart Notebook.  Using an iPad? Import into the Smart Notebook app directly from your Drive!