Tuesday, September 16, 2014

News for You & Your Students

As most of you know, I like to start each day with my caffeine addiction boost from Starbucks.. but you may not know that I also start it with a little website called theSkimm. It's straightforward, witty, and short-and-to-the-point news. Perfect for me, since I never have time to pick up a newspaper or watch the news! 

Each morning in my inbox I get theSkimm's newsletter. 

I can easily browse through their quirky headlines, such as...



and even...


Paleo diet: Eating like a caveman. The reason you don’t go out to dinner with your friend who’s into P90X, because she basically only eats meat and nuts. Hold the cheese and bread basket and dessert and happiness.

So, while the headlines are catchy and grab my attention - yes, there is in fact real news from around the world included, with links to credible news sources - like CNN, NBC, Reuters, and CBS to name a few- in case you doubt their reporting :)

Looking to share current events with your students as well? We have an app on our iPads called News-o-Matic, which is a daily newspaper that's full of information and fun! 

Each day there are 5 articles that are made just for kids. But, the additional features are oh-so student-friendly:
  • Interactive maps that locate the story relative to the child – with integrated geography and math facts
  • In-app audio playback of complete articles via a Read-to-Me function
  • Definitions and pronunciation support for difficult words
  • Games that relate to the news of the day
  • Translations to Spanish – with Spanish language audio – at the tap of a button

Watch this video to learn more and check out an iPad to see for yourself!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Google Forms - New Themes!

For a long time, Google has not updated the "themes" for their forms. We had a very limited selection, but today that all changes! 

Google Forms now has 24 new themes to choose from, as well as the option to customize your own theme by choosing a heading and background image. 

To choose a theme, click on the usual "Change Theme" button in the toolbar, and you will get a sidebar with new options:

Once you click on "Customize", you get several options:

You can choose an image from your computer for the header and page background, as well as customize font options. 

So you can go from old:

To new!

Monday, August 11, 2014


It's here - the week I said I would stop ignoring the Back to School ads that came out in July and start thinking about the 2014-2015 school year. Starting with an Academy 39 class tomorrow, I'll be getting organized as best I can outside of Central's walls until our return next Monday! 

I've been saving several Back to School posts from a variety of places. There have been so many good tips that I can't wait to use this year! Edutopia has been using the hashtag #BestYearEver, and you know what?! It IS going to be the best year ever! :-)

Lindsey Petlak, a featured teacher on Scholastic, recently started a darling blog called It's Elementary, My Dear. I have really enjoyed reading her blog because it's more of a "teacher lifestyle" blog with a wide variety of things, from what she's listening to as she decorates her classroom to the bargain finds she got at Wal-Mart and Hobby Lobby. 

Check out her new blog:

She also has two posts on Scholastic of "The Extreme Classroom Makeover". She suggests great, practical tips for setting up your classroom to make it warm, inviting, and engaging for your new students! 

My favorite tips (that I also use) are #3: Lay on a Base Coat and #5: Start Styling. 

Edutopia also has a Back to School section with several articles for preparing for your #BestYearEver!

I really needed the one entitled "Teachers: 5 Ways to Ease Back Into School". I'm probably not the only one who needs it too :-)

One more.. BuzzFeed posted 37 Insanely Smart School Teacher Hacks. I love #4 for blue tape!

See you all soon!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sharing Ideas

I have a few things that have been shared with me that I want to pass onto you! 

Give your class brain breaks with this fun website! You can choose calming, energizing, focusing, and more, some of which even align to Common Core State Standards. Creating an account and setting up your class is free! 

The Teaching Tribune is a blog that has a group of teachers who contribute and write posts about things they are doing in their classroom. Lots of ideas for every grade and subject!

Thanks to Jaime G. for sharing this website with app recommendations!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Poetry Apps

Poetry Month is here! Some new apps are on our iPads, all of which are by Read Write Think.

First up is Word Mover, which is magnetic poetry for the iPads. Students can choose words from a word bank or write their own, and save, share, or print their poems.

Theme Poems introduces students to theme or shape poems, and has various images for students to choose from to brainstorm and write their poem.

Acrostic Poems has students brainstorm and write acrostic poems using any word of their choice. It also gives "hint" words for each letter to help students write their poems.

Finally, the Haiku app teaches students how to write a haiku, and includes brainstorming with syllable counts to help students get familiar with counting the syllables when writing their haiku.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

ICE Top 3

Have you ever been to a professional development conference and had FUN? That's how #ICE14 was for me last week. I learned so much and was rejuvenated and inspired. I am so excited to share everything I've learned at upcoming Academy 39 classes! Here's the top 3 things that I took away last week:

3. #OurKidsTeach
Kristin Ziemke (@KristinZiemke) and Katie Muhtaris (@literacyspark) are teachers at Burley School in CPS. They build their classroom environments so that "The community teaches the community, not just teacher to student, student to student"
One of the ways they build their classroom community is through blogging using Kidblog. This has created a shift in their classroom - "Kids are no longer looking to their teacher asking, “is this what you want”? They are thinking, "hmm what would my followers want!" If you don't have a blog up and running in your classroom currently and want to start one this year we can sit down together and set it up - or look for an Academy 39 class this summer!

2. Padlet is my new favorite tool.
Are you in my Appy Hour class? Good, because this is what I'm showing next week! Padlet is one of those tools that I'd heard of before, but until I saw it in action during Kristin Ziemke's and Carolyn Skibba's (@skibtech) "Beyond Apps" workshop, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. It's an online bulletin board. Sounds simple? It is, and that is why it has SO much potential! It can be a backchannel, discussion board, KWL chart, a stream of student work, and more. It works on an iPad or a computer, so students can share the work they've done and post it on the "bulletin board". Here's an example that was shared that students have created of Rainforest Fish (Sorry for my fuzzy iPad photography):

Here are two examples we created in the workshop: uploading pictures from Drawing Pad, and uploading ScreenChomps

1. "Technology doesn't equal engagement."

Harsh, I know. But George Couros (@gcouros) (who is one of my new favorite educators), really pushed the envelope on my thinking during his keynote speech at ICE. Here are some of the things he said that resonated with me:

And finally... he always says to ask yourself "what's best for kids"? That should be your guiding question day in and day out. They're the reason we're here of course! :-)

George Couros has also done a TED talk if you're interested in being inspired and have 20 minutes to spare. It's worth it! I guarantee it will bring a smile to your face, or your money back. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

PD in your PJs

As I was reading Scholastic Instructor today, I came across a catchy headline - "PD in your PJs". It seemed very fitting for this week, since we had our Township institute day just yesterday. 

I think what we can all agree upon is that we want PD that inspires us and meets our needs as educators. "That's the beauty of the Internet: Instead of spending your PD sessions poking at stale bagels and discussing irrelevant topics, you can curl up with your laptop and seek out training that matters to you."  So, whether Tuesday inspired you or left you wanting more, here are some resources that can give you a daily dose of PD.

Offers free MOOC's (Massive Open Online Course) such as "Student Thinking at the Core" and "Teaching Character and Promoting Positive Classrooms".

Free social and professional network that offers webinars.

Subscribe to a daily news brief with the latest news in education. 

One of my favorites! Blogs, videos, articles, and more. 

"EdReach provides a platform for passionate, outspoken educators, aiming to strengthen their voices by highlighting innovation in the field of education, through the reporting of critical educational news and providing commentary and criticism on the educational issues of the day."

Don't forget that we also have a district subscription to Atomic Learning, which is another great resource to learn something new!