Earn Extra $ with Teachers Pay Teachers

Warning: I personally make extra money off this idea.

You won’t get rich as a teacher, right? Think again, there are a small number of teacher’s who are making millions of dollars selling their lesson plans online on a website called TeachersPayTeachers (TPT). Teachers Pay Teachers is the first open marketplace where teacher’s can buy and sell original teaching lesson materials. I have uploaded several of my lessons to the website. Check my profile on Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education - TeachersPayTeachers.com


One Georgia kindergarten teacher Deanna Jump has earned more than $1 million selling lesson plans. The website was created om 2006 and since then more than 26 teacher’s have made more than a $100,000 on TPT. Please note the website takes 15% commission on most sales.


It is a website created with a mission to bring teachers together who create curriculum that strives to create new and fresh approaches to the classroom.  Teachers Pay Teachers is designed to reward teachers who work hard and deserve extra compensation for all those long hours lesson planning.


Ultimately teacher’s pay teacher’s creates a place where teacher’s can share their best practices and everyone benefits, especially students. If interested, Join Teachers Pay Teachers as a buyer or seller or both to make your teaching career even more rewarding.


View my profile of lessons on Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education - TeachersPayTeachers.com

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

30 Storytelling Tips For Educators


This is a guest post written by Julie DeNeen from InformEd and Open Colleges.


Storytelling has been around as long as humankind. It is one of the most effective ways to communicate an important truth to another person. It is a connection point between two people. It gives meaning, context, and understanding in a world that is often filled with chaos and disorder.


Because of this, educators must use stories if they hope to reach their students. Stories will stay with people much longer than facts or statistics. If a teacher becomes an excellent storyteller, he or she can ensure that any concept they teach will be remembered for years to come.


Stories don’t just work well for narratives; they can be used to illustrate scientific or mathematical processes as well. Take for example the difference between learning a formula, and the ability to solve that problem in the context of a real-life example. Stories bring information, knowledge, and truth to life.

1. Every Part Must Be Essential

When you compose your storyline, be it a fictional story to teach a lesson, or a non-fiction example, make sure that each part of the story is essential to the ending. Each character, point, or principle must somehow relate to the main point you are trying to drive home. Anything that does not affect the outcome in some way (directly or indirectly) can be hacked off the story.

Let’s take for example, a story about the planets. You may be trying to help students memorize the order of the solar system. Any tale you concoct to help illuminate the facts must be related to the planets. It is not the time to talk about black holes, supernovas, or even the size of each planet.

Keep the main thing…the main thing.

2. You Must Have a Hook In Your Opening

In writing, it is called an inciting incident. You hook the listener in by presenting a problem that encourages them to keep listening. You can use this tactic in any lesson.

Creating a world in which it is taken away reveals the ultimate importance of the process you are describing.

For example, if you are teaching the concept of photosynthesis, start your story by imagining a world in which all the flowers didn’t have leaves. You create a problem that the story (in this case photosynthesis) solves. In many cases, students don’t realize how many principles they take for granted (gravity, light, etc.).

Creating a world in which it is taken away reveals the ultimate importance of the process you are describing.

3. Draw a Theme Out of Your Story

Stories have a depth of meaning when there is a theme. However, it isn’t always easy to write a story with a theme in mind. Rather, write the story first- with all the points you want to cover. When you’ve finished, stand back from the story for a moment to see if you can draw out a theme.

This is especially important when your story relates to incidents in the past. History can be a boring subject without a lot of real-life application. Themes help connect the past with the present, and ultimately the future. Don’t be discouraged if once you find your theme, you have to rework and rewrite the story.

This is common.

4. Keep It Simple

Complicated stories aren’t necessarily better. If your audience is young, simple is obvious. However, even older audiences can be profoundly impacted when you take a complex idea and reduce it to a nugget that can be remembered.

Scientific principles like gravity and electricity can be difficult for young minds. Using analogies can help. For example, to explain an electrical circuit, describe how a train can only move along tracks that are connected to each other.

A broken track means the train must stop and electricity is the same way.

5. Maintain Eye Contact

Eye contact is one of the most important non-verbal ways to connect with other people. It not only helps keep a student’s attention, but it also conveys a sense of confidence and truthfulness.

Imagine telling a story while looking at your feet. What kind of emotions would your students feel, even if the story were light and upbeat? Always look directly into your student’s eyes. You will connect with them and keep their attention longer.

6. Use Vivid Language That Kids Can Understand

Storytelling in classroom

Some psychologists argue that telling stories is one of the primary ways humans learn.

Even if you are teaching science or math concepts, pick a word or two that your student’s haven’t heard of before. Describe and define the word first, and then use it throughout the story.

For example, if you are talking science, identify the word “energy” and then use it several times during your story. By the end of the story, they will have learned the concepts of the tale plus some vocabulary.

Popular television shows use this method. Dumbing down the vocabulary will minimize the power of your story. It is similar to reading a text in a translation. When someone wants to study the content more carefully, they first learn the original language it was written in to understand more fully what the writer was trying to convey.

You want to use the right words, which may mean first having to explain them so students can follow along.

7.  Use Movement

Movement can be used in multiple ways. As the storyteller, you can paint pictures with your body- using your hands, feet, legs, and head. Similarly, you can ask the student’s to perform movements during certain parts of the story.

This will help activate their memory and keep their attention focused on what you are communicating.

8. Use Dramatic Pauses

People often talk more quickly than the brain can process. If you pause at crucial moments in the story, you give your students the chance to think critically about the piece of information you have just given. Don’t be afraid to pause, especially at a tense moment.

Popular television shows use dramatic pauses (or cliffhangers) to rope the audience back into the story. When it seems that the problem is unsolvable, it is the right moment to pause, giving your audience a chance to think up the solution themselves.

9. Change Your Voice With Different Characters

It helps to make characters more memorable when you give them personalities. Part of that includes changing your voice with each character. Without visual props, the voice is one of the only ways to bring the character to life.

If you can have multiple instructors acting as different characters, this is the best option. But sometimes, it isn’t possible. If you are re-enacting the Civil War, stand tall and speak deeply when you are President Abraham Lincoln. When you are speaking as an African American slave, change the volume of your voice and use an accent.

Maybe slump your shoulders over to take on a look of oppression.

10. Make Your Ending Strong With an Important Take Away Point

The ending is the last thing your students will hear. Whatever points and/or principles you think are most important, put them at the end. If it doesn’t make sense to wait until the end, simply add them AGAIN at the end- to drive the point home.

If you can make the ending one sentence, this is even better. Use alliteration, repetitive words, or a singsong cadence to help make it memorable. For example, if you want your students to remember that equality is the theme of the history lesson, come up with a phrase like, “The Civil War taught Americans that everyone is free to live, free to pursue their dreams, and free…to be free.”

It is easy to remember that “freedom” is the central theme.

11. Tell The Truth, Even When It’s Difficult

Adults are tempted to lie to children when the situation seems too complex or mature for younger audiences. However, telling the truth is always preferable, even if you have to adapt some of the details and adjust your language for younger audiences.

Kids are notoriously smarter and more intuitive than adults realize.

For example, suppose you are teaching a lesson on the Holocaust. If you are speaking to a younger crowd, you might be tempted to gloss over some of the horrors because it is too scary. However, rather than describing the disgusting acts in detail, you can explain the “horror” in a way that gives a tone of seriousness, without the graphics.

“The Nazi’s made some terrible choices and killed millions of people. They hurt them very badly and there was a lot of pain and suffering,” is better than saying “The Nazi’s weren’t very nice to the Jewish people.”

Kids are notoriously smarter and more intuitive than adults realize.

12. Make The Character Relatable

The main character of your story must be relatable to your students. You want them to “root” for the character’s choices and decisions. If the main character is a dud, the student’s won’t care if he or she succeeds or fails.

One way to do this is to make the character “feel” real. He or she shouldn’t be perfect, but have weaknesses and talents just like we all do. Juxtapose next to the hero (or heroine) an arch nemesis that rivals your protagonist. Student’s love to root for the good guy in a story.

Keep in mind; it doesn’t have to be human. For example, when you talk about pollution, make recycled paper the good guy, and aerosol cans the enemy. Anything can have a good and evil counterpart.

13. Have Your Story Provide An Answer To a Problem

Every story has theme or meaning. When you can tell a tale that provides a solution to a problem, there is higher likelihood that the story will take on a deeper meaning when it solves a problem in real life.

When you are trying to communicate boring facts (like multiplication facts for example), they don’t take on meaning until you create a story in which the protagonist must know those facts in order to divide her gifts up among her family members.

All of a sudden, the solution to the story- lies in the principle you are trying to convey.

14. Know Your Ending Before You Begin

Before you tell a story, know the ending. Know where you are going so your story doesn’t go down rabbit trails that distract the listeners.

Good storytellers when they begin to formulate their story, start at the end and work backwards. As you prepare, pick the ending first. Write it at the end of a timeline. Then think about the point that comes right before the end, then the point that comes before the point that gets to the end. Keep working backwards until you arrive at the beginning of your story.

15. Appeal To Their Senses

When preparing your story, activate as many senses as possible. Humans have five senses; sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. The more a story activates the senses, the more memorable it becomes.

For a lesson in geography, you can use a visual map first. Add a song to help memorize the countries or cities. Use props that the students can hold. Maybe you can offer a food from each locale, to activate touch and smell.

It may seem like more work, but ultimately- the principles learned will not soon be forgotten.

16. The Story Should Be “Trustable”

It is called “cheating” when a storyteller automatically twists the laws of the universe to make the story work. Don’t offer coincidences that magically solve the problem. Whatever world or situation your character is in, don’t break its rules just to end the story.

According to Pixar (a very well-known storytelling production company), coincidences can be used to get your protagonist into trouble, but should NEVER be used to get them out of trouble.

17. Invite Interaction

At certain points in the story, open up an invitation for questions. When your students are able to offer their predictions, they are more invested in the future and ending of the story to see if they were right.

It drives home the idea that stories have multiple solutions.

Depending on the subject, you may want to enlist your student’s help in solving the problem. Perhaps you could tell the first half of the story and ask them to write or act out an ending that solves the problem. Students can work in groups and learn from others who may have chosen to solve the story a different way.

It drives home the idea that stories have multiple solutions.

18. Make The Stakes High Against The Goal

Stories with a happy ending must first overcome obstacles. Before you get to the end of the story, you want to create dramatic tension that makes the listener think, “Will the character reach his or her goal?”

A good story knows how to use tension. Whatever the hero wants makes it difficult for him or her to get there. If the African Americans want freedom, build up the side of the story that showed a dismal outlook (i.e. the North had several setbacks, etc.)

19. Use Props

Almost any story can benefit from props, no matter what subject you are teaching. Don’t introduce the props all at once, but bring them out one by one during poignant parts in the telling. Enlist the help of your students. You can have them hold the prop, use the prop, or even let them use it in a way that creates another problem in the story.

Magicians often do this in their show. They ask someone to come to the front and help with juggling. Then, the magician allows the helper to “accidentally” break the plate that the magician plans to put together. This can work well in math. If you have a student manipulate a prop (like for example breaking several pretzels), you can then showcase the mathematical principles of fractions and division.

20. Create The Extraordinary Out of The Ordinary

A story doesn’t have to be dramatic in order to drive home a point. In many cases, taking a mundane event and looking at it from a different angle is just as profound.

In many cases, taking a mundane event and looking at it from a different angle is just as profound.

For example, if you are talking about accepting other cultures, try this tactic. Pick a common ritual (like men shaving their faces), and tell the story from the angle of a character from another world that has never seen such a thing. Better yet, treat the students like they are from another world.

“Did you know that I saw someone put a knife to his face the other day?!” Use different vocabulary words (like knife versus razor). “Then, he smeared this unknown substance all over his face and used the sharp edge of the knife to rub it off!” Your students might be shocked when you reveal that you were simply talking about shaving. Then you can go into the idea and philosophy behind prejudice and discrimination against other cultures that are unfamiliar.

21. Set The Scene

It is crucial to create an environment for your story. Are you in the woods, on the beach, in a little apartment in the city, or on a different planet? Describe the surroundings, the weather, or the pre-existing conditions.

Use rich detail so the student’s can picture the environment in their imaginations. Field trips are such a fantastic way to get into a different environment, but it isn’t always possible. Words, descriptions of smell, sounds, and sights will make the story more meaningful.

22. Use Music

Music is an excellent way to learn and memorize long lists. If you are teaching the fifty states, a song with a catchy rhythm will help solidify the memorization process.

Songs have long been used throughout history to help cultures preserve traditions and historic events. What could be impossible for the human brain to do without music (like memorize the periodic table of elements) becomes possible when you create a song with a recurring chorus.

23. Create Fun Sound Effects

If it is a stormy night, enlist the help of your younger students by asking them to each be in charge of a “sound effect”. For the older students, you can easily round up effects on the computer that will help paint a richer scene.

Sound is one of those senses that the world doesn’t pay as much attention to when constructing buildings and classrooms, but it can be more psychologically powerful than sight. Make sure your story has a strong auditory component.

24. Have Your Students’ Retell It Back To You

Once you are done with your story, have the students form groups and re-tell the story in a different way. Perhaps, you can assign them the task of summarizing the story in a sentence or paragraph. Maybe you ask them to use the principles and create their own story context.

The important part about this concept is to get the student’s involved in an active way. They’ve spent some time listening; now it is time to put it into action.

25. Draw Real Life Connections

Stories around campfire

Stories are not just for children.

If your story teaches abstract concepts, find real life examples that make the information more meaningful. Math formulas are meaningless until they are building a computer from scratch and need to use the principle in order to continue to the next step.

If your story teaches abstract concepts, find real life examples that make the information more meaningful.

If you are trying to teach a history lesson (i.e. WW1), put the events in a different context. Imagine it now in the present day, with the present governments. How would the scene play out in 2012 versus 1914? All of a sudden, history will feel much more “real” and alive.

26. Use Repetition

This tip works well with younger students. Oftentimes, storybooks have a repeated phrase throughout the story (i.e. “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam I am). Do this when you start, in the middle, and at the end. Pick an important concept and repeat it over and over, even if you think you are being redundant.

You can describe the same concept with different words if you wish.

27. Write Your Story In One Sentence Before You Begin

In order to keep your story simple and focused on what’s important, narrow it down to one sentence. Start with the beginning, and then add the middle, and the end. In the sentence, you should get the main purpose of the story, as well as the competing concept that threatens the story’s goal. Some people might think, “I can’t narrow down my story to one sentence!”

Yes you can.

It will force you to iron out the most crucial points. Once you do this, expand the sentence into a paragraph. Then expand each sentence in the paragraph to its own paragraph. Continue onward until your story is complete.

28. Avoid Detours

Simplify, simplify, simplify. Cut out characters, scenes, and information that do not somehow work towards the goal of the story. If you aren’t sure if something is crucial or not, tell it to a friend or fellow teacher, and remove the parts in question.

If the story still flows well and has meaning, then it wasn’t necessary.

29. Create a Timeline

Write a timeline of events for you to keep track of the order. You can even put up an empty timeline on the board, and as you tell the story- add the important events as they happen.

Combine the idea of props and interaction into your timeline. If it is a history lesson about the major events in WW2, have a student paste (or write) the event along the timeline, as you tell the story. When you are done, the timeline will be filled out, and act as a visual prop for your students.

30. Don’t Give Away Too Much

When you tell a story that has some mystery, you invite the listeners to try to figure out the solution for themselves. When they do, chances are- it will be more memorable and long lasting.

Read a few mystery novels and watch how the author leaves crumbs. The key is to give enough information so the student can solve the problem, but not so much that it is obvious. If you leave no trail of hints and clues, then it will be frustrating and impossible to solve.

 Read a few mystery novels and watch how the author leaves crumbs.

Stories are meant to bring meaning, feeling, and context to concepts that are dry and lifeless by themselves. Invite your students into the storytelling process. Give them enough to understand and follow along, but not so much that you are spoon-feeding. Add drama, props, effects, and set the scene, so the listeners are drawn into the story; its characters, problem, and ultimately, the solution.


Julie DeNeen has her bachelor’s degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of New Haven. She spent several years working for a local Connecticut school at the district level, implementing new technologies to help students and teachers in the classroom. She also taught workshops to teachers about the importance of digital student management software, designed to keep students, parents, and teachers connected to the learning process.

Read more: http://newsroom.opencolleges.edu.au/features/30-storytelling-tips-for-educators/#ixzz2Cv38o1qf

Read more: http://newsroom.opencolleges.edu.au/features/30-storytelling-tips-for-educators/#ixzz2Cv2bac76

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Encourage full class participation with “chalk talk”

Last week I was introduced to the idea of “chalk talk” from a fabulous co-worker of mine.  What is chalk talk? Chalk talk is a silent way to generate ideas, solve a problem, or reflect on your learning. Student’s remain silent and they can comment on other student’s writing  generate their own ideas, or contribute to the class with a marker or a piece of chalk. You can even make it digital with a wallwisher.


My First Chalk Talk

After my class had a successful socratic seminar, I decided to put a prompt on the board (see image below) and I gave white board markers to my students. They had to go up to the board and write a statement, a reflection, a comment,  or a question. When a student was done writing they gave their marker to another student who did not reflect on the board. By the end of class we had a semi-organized interesting collection related to essencial question about political culture and politicians  My students liked the quiet generated by the class and they liked that they could to reflect on what other students were writing. I was especially moved by their ability to make connections to concepts learned from previous units or current events.  I have to say I was impressed chalk talk and my students said they liked how it made everyone participate silently!

How can you use Chalk Talk in a Lesson about Hurricane Sandy?

I am going to do another Chalk Talk on Monday, our first day back after the Hurricane to reflect about the government’s relief effort.  I think it will be an interesting way to connect the government’s response to my government course. I think I am going to make my question: “Does the government have a responsibility to get involved after a natural disaster such as a hurricane?”


For more information about Chalk Talk visit the Education Alliance from Brown University.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Part 2: Evernote for the Social Studies

Last week, I posted at what you can do with Evernote.  Hopefully you’ve had a chance to get hands-on with Evernote in the last few days and got a feel for how awesome it really is.  Once you do get started with Evernote, you’ll wonder what you did without it.

Evernote in History Class

(Photo courtesy: Library of Congress)

Continuing on in the “Evernote for the Social Studies” series, today I wanted to take a look at how Evernote can help students in History class.  For this post, I contacted a former student of mine and asked if she would be willing to take a few minutes with me and take a look at what Evernote could do for her in her History class.

Digitize and Organize your notes

As I sat down with her and we began to discuss what she was doing in her classes, she showed me some of the notes that she had taken in her class.  Currently, she’s in 8th grade and taking a United States History class from Colonization period to the end of Reconstruction of the American Civil War.  The notes had been done on loose-leaf notebook paper and she kept them in a folder specifically for that class.  As we discussed the positives and negatives of taking and retaining notes that way, the one thing that concerned her was loosing her notes.  Here’s where I showed her where Evernote could step in and take care of that problem.  To start off with, we created a new notebook “US History Notes” in her Evernote account (age requirement is 13 yrs old for any users of Evernote, see the privacy policy).  Using the Evernote app on her Ipod Touch, we took a snapshot of her notes:

She like the idea of creating a “notebook” specially for her US History class for quick and easy organization.  What I also showed her as well was how Evernote can help her refresh on her notes and prepare for a test.  On the notes above, we looked at Evernote’s search feature to quickly find needed notes.  Once she took the snapshot of her notes, she would title them–i.e. Jamestown notes:

Notice how performing a search of “jamestown” in her Evernote notes came up with her Jamestown notes and how Evernote highlighted the searched term in yellow.  As a side note, if you are a premium user you can also search for text in the image themselves.

At the end of our discussion of Evernote, she said she was going to try using Evernote for the next couple of weeks and see how it will help her.  I’ll be updating everyone as she continues to use Evernote over the next few days.  In her words, she classified Evernote as “cool”.  Yes my fellow educators, Evernote will make your students say “cool”.


Staying up-to-date on current events with Evernote

The interesting part of history is that it does’t stop, history happens every day.  If you plan on having your students keep up with current events throughout the school year, why not have them clip articles with Evernote?  As my former student did for her history notes, have your students create a notebook in their Evernote account and name it something like “Current Events”.  If they have the Evernote Webclipper installed on their internet browsers (weather it be at home or at school) they can clip a article that they like or over a topic that you choose for them.  Here’s an example of article I clipped and also added a short response, the article is over the events in Libya.  What’s good about this is that students can email you the article they clipped or share in on Facebook, Twitter, or copy the note URL and put it in their Livebinder.


How does this help the teacher?

When I was student teaching, I had students who lost their notes, forgot to bring them to class, and everything in between.  As we discussed in the first post of this series, students can access their notes from their computer, tablet, or mobile device.  When a student scans their notes into their Evernote account, they won’t be able to say “I lost them” or “I forgot them”.  Of course, as the teacher, you might consider typing or scanning your notes into your Evernote yourself.  This way, if you do want to share your notes with your students, you can share them the same way your students can.  Here’s how to share notes and notebooks.



Hopefully this gave you some ideas on how you might use Evernote in your History class.  As with any technology tool that is used in the classroom, the main goal of it is to use it to engage the students and nurture them to become life-long learners.  Once I showed Evernote to my former student, she automatically started to see things that she could do with it.


Next week, we’ll look at how Evernote can help in the Geography class.  Looking forward to sharing more ideas for using Evernote the Social Studies classroom!


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Teach Civics: Use Project Vote Smart

Project Vote Smart is a wonderful website for any civic or government teacher. The website is designed to be practical informative, and useful when teaching about Congress, political parties, campaign finance, the Constitution, elections, state government and much more. There are lessons, interactive activities, and so many other resources. 


The Voter’s Self-Defense System

Every candidate and elected official from President to local government can be easily and instantly accessed through the Voter’s Self-Defense System:

  • Voting Records — Project Vote Smart digests key legislation in Congress and all 50 states into easy-to-understand summaries, making it easy to compare what your representatives said during the campaign with how they actually voted on the record.
  • Biographical & Contact InformationBiographical & Contact Information — From their previous professions, education, family life, and organizational memberships, to their latest e-mail address; we gather it all.
  • Issue Positions (Political Courage Test) — We test thousands of candidates for President, Congress, Governor and State Legislature with our Political Courage Test. The Test accurately measures candidates’ willingness to provide voters with their positions on the issues they will most likely face if elected.
  • Interest Group Ratings— See how over 150 competing special interest groups evaluate your representatives. Despite their bias, special interest group ratings can help indicate where an incumbent has stood on a particular set of issues.
  • Public Statements — Vote Smart is constantly collecting speeches and public comments made by the president, governors, and congressional representatives. Just type in a word, say; ‘immigration’ and all public utterances containing the word ‘immigration’ will appear. Compare what they said while campaigning in California a few years ago to what they are saying now in New Hampshire.
  • Campaign FinancesCampaign Finances — How much money did your representatives raise and from whom?


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Share My Lesson: 228,000+ Free Teaching Resources

Share My Lesson is an interesting resource for any educator to collaborate, connect, and share with our teachers. It is a FREE website that gives teachers access to teaching resources such as worksheets, learning materials, lesson ideas, activiities, and lesson plans. The lessons are divided by grade level, subject, and unit.


Start using the site today with your TES login. Simply enter your TES username and password and then accept the Share My Lesson terms. Do so before 31 July and you’ll be entered automatically into a prize draw to win the new iPad!*

The website also connects teachers to an online community to build your PLC. Share My Lesson was developed by the American Federation of Teachers and TES Connect, the largest network of teachers in the world. Check it out today and improve your teaching repertoire!


As a US educator Share My Lesson offers you:
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Mirror your iPad with Reflection

I learned about Reflection at ISTE12 and was so amazed I just had to blog about it. Reflection is a new application that allows you to mirror your iPad or iPhone to your desktop using Airplay mirroring on either a Mac or on a Windows computer. The application is installed on your desktop computer or laptop.


There are so many positive applications to using this program in the classroom. I can’t wait to roll it out at the beginning of the year as I am showing my class how to use the iPad or specific applications on it.  You can create a screencast to help students learn in the process, such as the ability to mirror my iPad onto the screen of the desktop. No more mirroring the iPad onto the using a video camera to record the process!  The work is all done on the iPad– the desktop is just the “screen”. The app even sends the audio from the iPad to the Mac.  Check it out today!


The price of the Reflection Mac App is $14.99 for use on one machine, $49.99 for a 5-pack, and, if you are interested in purchasing more than 20 copies,  drop them an email at support@reflectionapp.com and they will work with you!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Preparing for the Oath with the Smithsonian

At the beginning of every school year I use some form of US Citizenship test to assess my students background knowledge of U.S. Government and U.S. history. I usually give a paper version of the quiz on the first day of school, but next year thanks to @Larryferlazzo  and his wonderful blog, I now have a digital version to supplement with my lesson. The Smithsonian along with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, has just unveiled Preparing For The Oath.


It is a great resource for people preparing to take the U.S. citizenship exam but it is also an interesting and fun way to learn about U.S. history and government.  Preparing For The Oath  is a wonderful web-based learning tool that can provide students with an interactive practice exam, videos, and other activities that use sources from the Smithsonian’s collection and exhibition. The website offers a 100 MC practice questions from the naturalization test, lesson plans for teachers, definitions, and narration that can be transcribed for all learners. Check it out today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Explain Everything: For Substitute Plans

I hate having a substitute. My students are usually never on task and don’t complete the assignment. I put a lot of time into substitute plans get really annoyed when they are not taught the way I instructed or a lesson was not completed. This year I resorted to a video or a simple activity the kids can do on their own rather than continue with my lesson plans.


This week I had to create substitute plans with a days notice and rather than change my plans I used the application Explain Everything. I created a 15 minute podcast lesson for my students to watch and listen to with a substitute. My students said “It was like you were there with us,” or “I liked the lesson.” I never hear that after having a substitute. The following day the substitute came into my classroom and said it was the easiest class they ever had to cover.


I learned about Explain Everything from @gregkulowiec at EdCamp Social Studies. Explain Everything is an easy to use app that allows you annotate, animate, and narrate any presentation. You can create interesting and dynamic lessons and tutorials. You can take any lesson and record on screen drawings, objective movements, and capture audio. You can add any photo, powerpoint, PDF, or a file from dropbox, Evernote, Email, or Photos. Explain Everything is truly a wonderful application that is changing the face of education.


For other uses of Explain Everything, please visit the History 2.0 Classroom.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Common Core App

Common Core Standards is a application that I recently discovered that could provide teachers with a conviently and useful way to access the Common Core Standards.  This app could be a useful reference for students, parents, and teachers to easily understand the Common Core Standards. The app lets any user quickly search the standards by subject, grade, and category. This application includes Math standards K-12 and Language Arts standards K-12. You can download the Common Core App at App store.

To learn more about MasteryConnect’s free web-based solution for teachers to track common core standards and parents to follow along, check out their wesbite. For more information on the common core you can visit the website.


Citation: Common Core 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

5 Ways Engage Students

Thanks to Michelle Doman, a guest blogger at the Simple K-12 blog, I learned about a few interesting ways to “wake” students up in class. I like the ideas to increase engagement and excitement related to a lesson. Thanks Michelle. I can’t wait to try them in 2012!

Here are a few ideas I would like to try:

1. When responding to a writing prompt, have the students drop their pencils on the ground when they have completed the task. You won’t believe how MANY giggles and guilty looks you will get. classroom management

2. Play a sound clip of the Mission Impossible theme, have them act as 007 until the music stops. Then, whoever they end up next to, that is their partner for the activity, or that is the person that they share their Think-pair-share answer with. This is most defiantly a middle school idea!

3. Place random discussion or reading comprehension questions on sticky notes underneath a handful of desks. When you are ready to ask questions, ask them to peek and read-aloud the questions. This works really well for introverted or shy students. Plus, they LOVE secret note passing. Another great idea

4. Have each student call on the next student to answer your lesson questions. This motivates them to stay focused, and they enjoy calling on others! Great idea…. I can’t wait to try it.

5. At the beginning of class on Mondays, ask if anyone has any crazy stories to share from the weekend.  I do this with my high school classes and students love to share.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Increase Student Engagement with Deliberation

I learned about Deliberation Lessons at the NCSS Conference Presentation in Washington D.C. on December 2nd, 2011.  The workshop was really interesting and provided me with a plethora of new resources to engage students in the 21st century classroom. The website contains primary documents about controversial issues in our society, which can engage students in the content and create meaningful classroom discussions. Regardless of what you teach these materials and the style of instruction is powerful.  For more information visit: Deliberation in a Democracy in the Americas

Deliberation is the focused exchange of ideas and the analysis of multiple views with the aim of making a personal decision and finding areas of agreement within a group.

Why Are We Deliberating?
People must be able and willing to express and exchange ideas among themselves, with community leaders, and with their representatives in government. People and public officials in a democracy need skills and opportunities to engage in civil public discussion of controversial issues in order to make informed policy decisions. Deliberation requires keeping an open mind, as this skill enables people to reconsider a decision based on new information or changing circumstances.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Great Ideas: 7 Uses for QR Codes in School

I discovered another great blog post from Vicki Davis author of the  Cool Cat Teacher blog. I could not agree more with Vicki that we should be encourage students to use their cell phones in the classroom. Vicky said “Let’s harness the elephant in the room instead of pretending he isn’t there. Cell phones and mp3 players provide us valuable links to the pockets and minds of the students we teach and qr codes are a great tool to leverage that connection.”   Great ideas Vicki!

Here are some great idea’s from Vicki’s Blog: 7 Uses of QR Codes in the Classroom

1 – CoverPage for Portfolios
I have my students write one summary blog post including hyperlinks to everything they have done for that period of time. For the eighth grade portfolio, we do have printed copies of many items that they save to use as reference during high school. (A sample MLA paper, instructions on creating MLA papers, proofreaders marks, etc. as well as their best of work.)

Their cover page has a QR Code on it. I can snap a picture on whatever device I need and have their summary post up on my screen in less than a second. The summary post includes hyperlinks to everything they have done online.

2 – Anything I have to assess online.
If I have 3-4 online items in a week, I have the students generate QR Codes and put them on ONE piece of paper and turn that in on Friday. Assessment is a snap and I can take pictures and use them.

3- When I want them to use an app
I would like to be 1:1 ipod touch or iPad at some point. But, for now, I share free apps with the students and try to find the Android, Blackberry, and iPod/iPhone equivalent. Put a picture of the QR Code for each of those on the Powerpoint Slide and show it on the board. The students can take a picture of the Code for their device and be taken to the app download screen immediately.

4- Take them to a website from a PowerPoint slide
If I’m using a PowerPoint and want them to go to any website, I always put the QR code on the slide.
(This needs to be standard practice at all conferences.)

5- Take them to a website as we are surfing.
Add Mobile Barcoder to your Firefox web browser. When you go to a website and want your students to follow you there on their mobile devices, you can use this handy add on to generate and show the mobile barcode on the screen. Just make sure that the link you are encoding is near the top of the screen, sometimes if you generate it low on the screen, students cannot get a good photo on their camera.

6 – Encode Homework.
This is a new one I’m testing. I don’t give a lot of homework, however, if I have some things I need them to do, I can encode the text and tape it up onto my assignment grid. They can snap a picture and put it into a text program of their choice. I’m not sure whether I’m going to end up keeping it as an SMS message or text file, but for now, I do it as a text file.

7 – To Hardlink and Remember
Our trophy case is FULL of trophies and state championships this year. We’ve just won state boys and girls track, team tennis for girls, state runner up tennis for boys and are hopeful about baseball. We’ve got movies of the assemblies and things. I’m encoding these and putting QR codes on the bottom of the trophies linking to the YouTube videos — for posterity. Eventually, we might put them in small plastic picture frames in front of the trophies, but most of the adults aren’t quite ready for that yet. (See more on hardlinking.)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Professional Development the Right Way! @ NCSS Conference

The  NCSS Conference in Washington D.C. was so useful and relevant to my teaching. I learned about useful resources, meet new friends from around the country, and gained a better understanding about teaching to the  21st century learner. I love going to workshops that are useful and can be applied to my classroom.  I can’t wait for next year!

Here are some helpful links I have discovered: 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email