Thursday, December 19, 2013

Newsela and SpeakIt!

This week, I had the chance to work with Ruth’s English class.  This class had a dozen fun-filled and very active 6th grade students and they were ready to learn.  What Ruth and I had chatted about was working on standard number two:  “determining central ideas or themes of a text and analyzing their development.”  The question was, how to engage the students and then track their progress.  The answer--use Newsela.  If you haven’t checked out, you need to.  Newsela is an awesome free site that makes current events a reading adventure.  As a teacher, you register, get a code and the rest is like frosting on top of a cake.  Teachers have the ability to assign articles to students and then track progress according to six common core standards.  Students have the ability to change the lexiles, so they can read at a level that is more suited to their ability and quizzes are geared to test reading comprehension.

But wait, we did one more great thing.  Some of Ruth’s students struggle with reading.  So, enter Google Chrome Extensions.  First, we made sure that each student installed SpeakIt! as one of their extensions along with Google Dictionary.  Then we modeled how to use Newsela with SpeakIt! and the dictionary.  We read an article as a class, took the four question quiz, reviewed the quiz and then set out to enroll each student with an account of their own.  The students were ready for the challenge and they loved it!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Flipping Instruction for the Classroom at Schroeder Middle School

It is time to feature all of the great things that are happening at Schroeder Middle School with our PSLD 1:1 initiative.  Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education has said, "I applaud districts that are expanding technology. It's so important. However, it's important to note that technology isn't about replacing teachers. It's about pairing technology with great educators to meet the needs of all kids."

Today, I had the good fortune to observe our 6th grade music teacher, Amy Rogers, as she flipped instruction in her classroom.  She used screencast-o-matic ( to record detailed videos for her students to log into the school server.  Recording and automating this process allowed her to be free for curricular questions related to the assignments her students were given and she was able to move around the classroom and answer student questions as needed.  Furthermore, she used a playlist within YouTube and her GAFE account to organize these videos for student use.

Now that her students know where to go to find her videos, Ms. Rogers has flipped her instruction and allowed her teaching to continue beyond her classroom.  As I observed her classroom, I saw students going to Ms. Roger’s YouTube Channel, find the videos they needed to watch and then continue with the task at hand.  Certainly, Ms. Rogers is also demonstrating Marzano design elements under Domain 1 as she incorporates screencast-o-matic into her classroom routine.  She is impacting student achievement by establishing and maintaining consistent and reviewable classroom procedures.  By posting the procedure for logging onto the school server, Ms. Rogers is providing a method for reviewing and revisiting this task as often as any student needs that information.  She is also providing resources and guidance at the click of a button.

In the video below, you can see how Ms. Rogers is displaying what the students will see when they go to her playlist within YouTube.

Hats off to Amy Rogers!!