Tuesday’s Tool: ThingLink


ThingLink is an image linking tool which allows you to add descriptions and links various points of an image. Identify a key figure in a famous photo or use the tagging feature to link students to more information on a topic. Watch the video below for details on how this tool works:

Some ways one might use ThingLink in the classroom include:

  • Labeling a map with links to further information about the locales featured
  • Identifying geometric shapes in everyday scenes
  • Creating a fun and interesting interface for a WebQuest
  • Making an interactive timeline (more on this tomorrow)
  • Identifying parts on an image of human anatomy
  • Explaining the process in a screen-capture of a math equation
  • Editing marks for a school newspaper

What other uses could you see for this image tagging tool?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Thursday’s Tip: Tests Written By Students, For Students

Students Taking a Test
Click for source.

Writing tests is a hard process. First, there’s the problem of insuring that a test accurately addresses what was taught or emphasized in class over the course of a unit. Part of this validity issue is whether or not a one-shot test accurately demonstrates what students have learned. Second, it is sometimes difficult to get out of the habit of asking only recall questions and posing a variety of question types. Third, students can feel disenfranchised from a teacher-dictated test.

So, what’s the solution?

Having students write their own test questions is a strategy that can adequately address all of these issues, but specific steps must be taken to insure that this plan of action is effective. Students have to be taught or have some sort of model to follow when writing their questions. Otherwise, a student-written test won’t look any different than a teacher-created one.

When questioning students and planning in a way that gets them to think at higher levels, teachers have some models to inform instruction. There is Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK), and many other models and taxonomies we use to guide instruction. Why not share this information with students? Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s DOK are probably the most useful in helping students as their are resources out there that provide insight into questioning that meets both model’s various levels.

To teach questioning to students, it’s typically best to begin by modeling how to question. Using question stems written specifically for Bloom’s Taxonomy or Webb’s DOK can help insure that all levels are addressed. Then, the teacher can hand these stems over to the students in helping them to form their own questions.

This process provides for both formative and summative assessment. A teacher can observe the kinds of questions students write (and are able to answer) as well as help them revise their work. This part of the process can provide a sort of formative assessment that allows the teacher to reteach and redirect when necessary, developing students’ knowledge. The actual test created, of course, is the summative assessment.

The results of having students write their own test questions will make the extra time worth the effort. The time spent writing and answering questions will work as a review. Revisions will support attempts to reteach the content. Using a variety of question types will insure that higher level thinking is addressed. In the end, students will feel some ownership in the testing experience. Their grade will be looked as something they earned and less of something a teacher gave them.

What are you experiences with students writing their own tests and quizzes? How would you teach your students about questioning? What other benefits or challenges can you see in allowing students to write the test questions?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

HD_Links: Halloween

Click for source.

Halloween is almost here, but we’re ahead of the curve at NT&L and have your resources for the scariest of American holidays…

The first link is an older post from Science Education on the Edge, but the Halloween ideas within are perfect. Imagine Physics teachers and students designing ways to dispose of all the pumpkins we’re left with after Halloween. Now, think of all the scientific properties that would be discovered in building a trebuchet or simply blowing up a few pumpkins. Sounds like a good way to study Physics and a lot of fun.

Is your school jumping on the iPad bandwagon this fall? Teacher Reboot Camp has a great list of apps for iPads, iPhones, and iPods. Most of the apps are Halloween games, but a good teacher can find some great classroom applications or just give the students a brain break now and again.

Edgalaxy has a couple of useful posts for Halloween. Try having students create a choose your own adventure story using a PowerPoint template. Or check out these five fun classroom ideas for Halloween.

For those who maybe want to research Halloween or practice reading infographics, Daily Infographic has several interesting infographics. There’s the Costume for Every Era graphic that demonstrates how students can create costumes based on historical eras. For students who are older and ready for the Dark Side of Halloween, there’s an infographic available. An economics lesson can stem from this “Candynomics” graphic. Check out the graphic below for another example and keep an eye out for whatever DI comes up with next.

The Learning Network blog at the New York Times is prepared for Halloween. In one post, they ask students what they are afraid of. Look to see some of the student responses and have your own students participate. It might be the opening for a new topic in your class.

In another post, a picture slideshow is used to spur on a research project on Halloween. Questions, procedures, and even resources are provided. Even if you don’t use the lesson, some of the linked resources can be helpful.

Of course, if you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, there is always Larry Ferlazzo. His post on “The Best Websites for Learning About Halloween” contains a huge number of resources to get you started with some Halloween-related studies in your classroom.

Also (H/T Jennifer Foster, eIS):

What are your plans for Halloween in regards to your students? What are some Halloween resources we may have missed? Of course, what are you planning to be this Halloween?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. He does not currently have a costume, but his three-year-old plans to dress up as Rosie the Riveter.

Tuesday’s Tool: Voicethread

First of all, what is Voicethread? Watch the Voicethread presentation below to get an idea of what this amazing tool is and what it can do for you.

Now you’re wondering how Voicethread can help you. Well, as you can see, Voicethread is a highly versatile online presentation tool which allows participants to discuss content and media, recording their comments along the way. Students could use Voicethread in real-time, during class for discussion on shared media. Students in classes that meet in different locations or times could participate in the same discussion. All of these options are made quite easy through Voicethread.

Specific classroom applications are plentiful. Brooke suggested back in May that one could use Voicethread for student reflections. The popular Kahn Academy model where lectures happen as homework and the real work of learning happens in the classroom is a good place for Voicethread to work as students digest and discuss content at home. There’s even an Interesting Ways to Use Voicethread in the Classroom presentation with several great ideas for using the tool.

To get started, one has to register, set up a class, and create identities. There’s a good tutorial at the Teacher Challenge blog. A wiki called “Integrating Technology for the Lower Grades” also contains some nice screen shots and steps for setting up Voicethread for your class. For a few examples, there’s a wiki called “Elementary Voicethreads” with samples from various elementary grade levels.

How have you used Voicethread? What other applications could you see for Voicethread in the classroom?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Monday Message (on a Tuesday)

We are busy with our year 1 comprehensive groups around here. So, regrettably, this week’s Monday post is a day late. Keep an eye out for today’s actual post to appear soon.

From the desk of Monica Beglau, our executive director:

Congratulations to eMINTS Teachers Featured in PD 360 Blog:
Congratulations to Chris Rivet from Eagleville, MO whose video and comments about using technology in a secondary science class were posted on the PD360 blog site for the October 17 : http://www.teachingstrategiesblog.org/blog.php?id=44.

Libbi Sparks from Independence, MO will be featured in an upcoming blog segment on using technology in a secondary mathematics classroom. We will post the link as soon as it is available.

Many of the PD 360 videos about technology integration were filmed in eMINTS classrooms. PD4ETS participants and certified eMINTS Instructional Specialists have access to all PD 360 videos for use in eMINTS professional development sessions. PD4ETS participants and graduates will find more information and access to PD360 videos in the FY12 Moodle course for facilitators.

PBS Channel 9 – KETC – St. Louis Invites Participants in American Graduate Broadcast: The national launch of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen will occur in St. Louis on November 7 at 7:00 p.m. with the live broadcast of an American Graduate Teacher Town Hall moderated by Gwen Ifill, senior correspondent for PBS News Hour and moderator and managing editor of Washington Week. For more information or to register to participate see: http://americangraduateteachertownhall.eventbrite.com/ PBS stations in Alabama, Philadelphia, and 18 other states are also participating.

New eThemes for the week of October 24, 2011

Library Skills: Wikipedia in Student Research<http://ethemes.missouri.edu/themes/434>
These websites are about information literacy, with particular emphasis on Wikipedia and its role in student research. There are interactive tutorials, articles, and ideas for class activities.

Literature: “Curious George” by H.A. Rey<http://ethemes.missouri.edu/themes/436>
These sites are about the book “Curious George” and author H.A. Rey. Biography of the authors, reviews of the book, discussion questions, lesson plans, games and circus activities are included. There are links to eThemes resources on Chimpanzees and Circus Acts and Animals.

4ALL: Nothing’s Set in Stone, Even IQ

Albert Einstein
Teachers thought Einstein was "low" and look how he turned out.

I heard this report yesterday on NPR about a study that suggests IQ scores are not constant throughout life. It used to be thought that once an IQ score had been established in an individual, that person was stuck with that one measurement of her intelligence The study cited in the piece suggests otherwise. The study reveals that the IQ score of teenagers can fluctuate.

What does this mean to us?

The idea that one’s IQ can change means that students have capacity beyond what was thought to be a set score. Through a positive educational environment and improved instructional practices, students can actually become “smarter.” A student’s capacity should not be limited to a perceived fixed IQ score.

It never sat well with me when I would hear other teachers suggest that a student was “just low” as an excuse for not raising expectations for what that student could achieve. A study like the one in the NPR story means that we can make a difference in the intelligence quotient of our students at the very least. No matter how “low” we think a student might be, there is still an opportunity to help them reach beyond their perceived potential.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Thursday’s Tip: What about the kids who already know it?

Space Shuttle EndeavourThis question, “What about the kids who already know it?” might just be the MOST asked and MOST unanswered question in our schools today.  Of course, in a class of low readers, medium readers, and high readers, and all of those in between, this question is going to come up.  While we’re trying to throw a life-preserver to our struggling students help them meet grade level expectations, our high kids wait.  Whether your school has Response to Intervention (RtI), PLC (Personal Learning Communities), enrichment, or other programs designed to help meet ALL kids needs, this question is likely (hopefully!)  asked at one point or another.   So, what do the kids who ‘already know it’ need?  One thing is for sure.  They don’t need more reading, more stapling papers, or more watering plants.  But, they do need more…..

Projects: Not stapled worksheets, nor definitions to copy.  Real, authentic opportunities to solve problems, design, create, and apply their learning.  Afterall, they already know the gradelevel curriculum, so give them a chance to use what they know.  Example: Ask them to investigate a problem in the school and devise a plan to solve.  Math could get involved with measurement, analyzing data, adding up costs, or even creating graphs.

Mentors: Search in your community for people willing to come into your school and talk with kids about careers and future plans.  If you have a fifth grader who already knows the entire science curriculum why not let him or her meet with a mentor scientist and plan an experiment to carry out.

Independent Study: Let students design a project to research and carry out.  They pick the topic, design the project, create a timeline, and carry out the project.  Best of all?  They are highly motivated because it’s a project they chose to do.

Philanthropy: Let students research a world issue, choose a charity, and then design a philanthropy project to carry out.  Just planning the project will be a major learning activity, but the problem solving and creativity required to carry out a successful fund-raising activity will be the icing on the cake.

So, the next time you pre-test your students before a unit and have a small group or even one student that “already knows it,” provide them a new opportunity. Don’t hold them back while the others are trying to catch up. Let them go, challenge them, and give them a chance to experience the important struggle that leads to learning.  Then, suddenly that group known as “the kids who already know it” will be just like everybody else.  They will be learning, too.

This post was simultaneously published at TeacherFactory.com. Blogger and gifted teacher Krissy Venosdale has graciously given permission for us to share her work here on NT&L. Be sure to jump over to Teacher Factory to see what else Krissy is doing with her students.

HD_Links: Classroom Management

Central School classroom, interior, with students and teacher, Auburn, October 29, 1909
Click for source.

As the fall moves along, students become comfortable with their new classrooms, teachers, and schedules. Teachers, lulled into asleep by a relatively easy start to the school year, begin to let norms and procedures to slip. The result is a sudden influx in disruptive behavior. This causes teachers to revisit their classroom management. Sometimes it’s just a matter of needing a change and other times it’s a moment to get back to basics.

For those looking for classroom management answers in the middle of October, we have a list of resources for you to check out…

Alfie Kohn is a leading expert in behavior management and educational policy. His website is loaded with excerpts from his many books on these subjects. Order his books from his site or simply follow him on Twitter for some insight into what research says about child development and behavior.

At Teacher Reboot Camp, guest author Alexander Marchuk proposes that the answer to managing behavior (among other factors) is to search out new ways to involve parents. Instead of simply blaming parents, Marchuk offers examples of how increased parental involvement has resulted in better student performance and behavior. When we look for management solutions, we often look at the student and our own teaching practices, but we forget the power that involved parents hold.

David Altshuler wonders if a student’s behavior is more likely tied to the richness of curriculum than to other factors within the student. This post is mostly intended for parents, but it provides a good framework for teachers to assess their curriculum and instructional practices. Are we engaging students enough to hold their interest so that they don’t act out?

NT&L favorite Larry Ferlazzo offers a couple of good resources for answering the classroom management question. On the Classroom Q&A blog for Education Week, Larry gives several valuable tips for addressing disruptive or “unpredictable” student behaviors. This is extremely valuable as every management system breaks down now and again. We need strategies to deal with such behaviors immediately.

The second piece from Larry is on his Website of the Day… blog. Here, he points to an article on how Steve Jobs changed his management style in order to allow his company to thrive. Jobs relinquished some control in order to involve his subordinates. Maybe giving up some of your own control will allow students to become more involved in how their classroom community functions effectively.

NT&L contributor Krissy Venosdale has an interesting post on rewarding gifted students. Although not specifically about classroom management, it addresses the idea that teaching is about addressing individual needs, not seeing how many races can be won or hoops can be cleared. We all know that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs tells us that students can’t attend to academics until their basic needs are met.What needs do disruptive students have? How can we address those needs so that they can concentrate on learning?

How do you manage your classroom so that students can learn in your classroom? What are you doing to readjust your management to meet evolving student needs? How are the norms holding up that you established with your students?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Tuesday’s Tools: Finding Space for Students on the Web

The World Wide Web is a wondrous thing, but it is often overcrowded with material not suited for students. We at eMINTS are always on the lookout for tools and resources that make the web a friendly place for students. This week’s list of online tools will do just that.

While Blogger and WordPress are excellent blogging tools, they come with the added risk of being part of an online community. For some teachers, this is rather uncomfortable position. Kidblog.org makes it possible for teachers to set up safe and easy to figure out blogs for their elementary and middle school students. Kidblogs simply allow students to publish blog posts and converse in a safe, controlled environment.

Looking for more of an online presence for students? Try Weebly for Education as a web and blog host. The popular web hosting and design site provides an added features of collecting homework and managing student accounts. Of course, there is also a blogging component that makes Weebly rather versatile.

It has been mentioned here before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Safeshare.TV is an easy way to access videos on YouTube without having to deal with pesky ads, (un)related videos, and comments. Safeshare.TV just makes it possible to access the great content that can be found in YouTube’s many, many videos.

How about finding resources on the web that contain appropriate reading levels for your students? Twurdy is a Google-powered search engine that color-codes resources based on reading levels. This can come in handing when researching a topic for students with some reading limitations. Allow students to conduct searches on Twurdy or do the work beforehand, identifying the most appropriate results for your students.

What are some tools you use in providing space and accessibility to the web for your students?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. A special H/T goes out to eMINTS instructional specialists Carla Chaffin and Debbie Perkins for suggesting the tools above.