Ed Tech In the SpEd Classroom

Using Technology to Help Bridge the Learning Gap

You win some, you lose some…


Being a Resource teacher (we call the class Extended Core in my building), my job is not only to help my students with their IEP goals and objectives, but to help keep them caught up in their core classes.  Today, we worked on Social Studies review.

Let’s rewind 10 hours, shall we?  The Hubs (who teaches 8th grade Social Studies at my school) can testify that I spent a really long time trying to come up with a fun Social Studies activity.  To me (personally), “fun” and “Social Studies” don’t really go together (no offense, honey).  I eventually decided to forget about the “fun” aspect so much and focus more on having them get the content down.  They are just about to get into the period of Andrew Jackson’s presidency so I figured I’d give my students a sneak preview of the material so they’d have a little advantage going into the chapter.  I didn’t really want to do a vocabulary activity, so instead, I chose the first three parts of the chapter to focus on.  I recorded myself reading each section aloud using Chirbit.  Section 14.1 took me 2 minutes to read, section 14.2 took me 5 minutes to read, and 14.3 took me 2 minutes to read.

Why the heck would I do that? Yes, my students can read.  Can they read well? Not so much.  I wanted them to be able to listen to the recording and follow along in their books at the same time so they could focus on the content rather than the reading process.  After I recorded the readings, I took the link from Chirbit and created a QR code out of each one.  Then I downloaded the code, and copied and pasted it onto a Word document.  After each QR code were 3 questions from each section reading.  I didn’t make them too difficult, but tried to ask questions that would get them thinking about the main idea of each part.

Sample Question


There were three sections total with three sections each, so nine questions total.  It was a little eerie as they did this–the classroom was completely silent.  They all had their headphones plugged in and were listening, reading, and answering questions as they listened.  Overall, however, it was pretty awesome to watch.

Following along in the book as he listens…


Unfortunately, I had to stop them before they were able to finish completely.  Most made it to the third section.  However, I’d been dying to use a new tool in my classroom–PollsEverywhere.  This website allows me to post a question (or several, if I wanted) in the form of an open question or multiple choice.  Students can answer the “poll” by texting in a code with their cell phones or by going to the website and answering it there.

Screenshot of what the students saw.

You can see from the picture that it shows students both options for responding.  You’ll also notice that only 1 person responded.

Yeah…about that…

Sooo, it turns out we ran into a little problem when it came to having those students who were answering the question via iPads or laptops.  My one student that had her cell phone on her was able to text her answer and it showed up immediately.  The other students were led to some sort of error page.  I can’t for the life of me figure out why, either.  I made sure the poll was “active” but it was still being weird.  We did, however, have a crazy network connection today at work, which may or may not have contributed to this fiasco.  It would work and then not work in random spurts today.  Yeah…I’ll just blame it on the network.  Regardless, I like the tool and plan on using it, but will test drive it a few more times before using it again in class.  We ended up just verbally going over *what would’ve been* the poll questions.

Tomorrow I plan on giving them more time to finish their questions, we’ll go over them as a class, review some Algebra for Math class, and call it a good day.  I’m also getting in touch with all my students regarding their Innovation Day 2013 projects to see if they’ve made their decisions yet about what they want to create.  I’m excited to hear more of their ideas.  Still trying to figure out some last minute things, but I’ll make it work. Keep your fingers crossed! 🙂

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Back to Reality…


Tell me this wasn’t all of you guys the first morning back to school after Spring Break.  Uh huh….thought so.

While I was not the most excited to get up and tackle the school day today, I was excited about being able to introduce Innovation Day 2013 to my students.  I was given the ok to bring my principal to bring them up during lunch, so I did in order to get them all in one spot and explain everything.  At first, students didn’t really understand what was going on. They heard “you won’t go to any of your classes that day” and “you’ll work on a project that interests you,” but, somehow, couldn’t put both of them together to make sense.  I had to explain it a few times until they finally got it.

Next, I gave them some handouts, explaining what it was so they would be able to show their parents and talk to them about what was happening.  On the back of one, I listed some ideas of what kinds of projects they could choose to work on.  I figured they would have trouble coming up with some ideas.  By the time lunch was over, some students had already picked out their project.  Others started talking about different ideas they had.

I do have one concern regarding the project.  Supplies.  The students are to bring in their own and the school would provide the rest, such as laptops to work on, chart paper, markers, etc.  However, one of my students asked me, “Miss, what if we don’t have any supplies? I don’t have anything.”  My heart dropped.  I knew this was going to come up with some of my students.  If I had the money, I would by all the supplies myself.  God knows I’ve spent my own money tons of times before.  But times are tough.  I have four children to feed and my district hasn’t given me the raise they promised me in years.  At this point, I will keep encouraging them to think about what project they’d like to do.  Then I can better gauge what items I’ll need.  I may have to ask for help in the form of donations eventually.  Regardless, I want to make it an amazing day for them.

Keep your fingers crossed, friends.



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“Oh, hey there, stranger…”


…is what you’re probably saying to me right now.  Sooooo yeahhhh, see, what had happened was…. Ok, enough beating around the bush.  I’m a bad blogger.  Bad, bad blogger.  I know what you’re thinking:  “Where’ve you been, Miss Rivas? What happened to you?”

Life happened, folks.  Life.

Just a quick little view into the mayhem I call my life: My house sprung a leak and ruined my family room, I found out my homeowner’s didn’t cover the damage, I had to cancel my planned wedding, ended up getting married by the courts instead, was taking 2 grad classes as well as a 12 week class through my school district, all while trying to work as a full-time teacher and raise 4 children.

My apologies, friend.

So, as Nacho Libre would say, “Let’s get down to the neety-greety.”

What have we been doing up in Room 204-A lately?  My biggest thing has been introducing our next big project: book trailers.  No, you’re not experiencing deja vu, we’re doing book trailers.  Again.  The first time we did these, it was a hot mess.  I tried using the school laptops for this.  I thought it would be easier using Windows Movie Maker.  This was the biggest waste of time ever.  First of all, the laptops at our school suck, to put it lightly.  Software needed upgrading (0nly able to be done by our oxymoronic “Help Desk”), keys were missing, along with lagging of our network.  Rather than burying the evidence, I decided to go for a round 2.  This time:  iMovie on the iPads.

I should’ve done this from jump, but I was hesitant about the students’ abilities to use the app.  This time, I would present the project to them once again, only with (hopefully) more seamless results.  The first thing I did was create a video to intro the project. (Side note:  I attended the 2013 MACUL conference in Detroit a few weeks ago.  While my roomies were out networking after the conference, I was holed up in my hotel room working on this video.  It took me FOREVER to get it done just right! [Read: to my standards.])  Surprisingly, the students didn’t smother me with the excuses and teeth-sucking that I expected.  They accepted it.  One student even said, “Miss, I wanted to learn how to use this anyways, so I can make my own videos.” EXCELLENT.  All hope is not lost.

Letting the video sink in…

I proceeded to lead my little minions angels down to the library and choose the novel they’d be reporting on.  Basically, it’ll look like this:

  • Students read self-chosen novels
  • Students give a basic written summary of their novel, using the 5Ws as a guide
  • Students plan their narrative, using their storyboard template
  • Narratives are recorded and imported into iMovie
  • Video is captured, using digital cameras
  • Video is imported into iMovie
  • Images are imported
  • Music is imported
  • Video is finalized
  • All videos are presented to class as a whole. Popcorn is provided.
This is a general outline of how they’ll complete their projects.  There is more detail here and there, but you get the gist.  As I mentioned in my earlier post, I chose to do it this way because first of all, book reports are boring.  They just are.  This is the use of technology. Apps. Creativity. The students have full control of what images, video, and “soundtrack” their video will have, giving their trailers a motivational advantage over  a written book report.  Additionally, um, hello00?  What age are we living in? Whether you like it or not, folks, times they are a changin’.  Everything’s morphing to fit into this digital world we live in now.  The students will read their novel (which is at their reading level and will help them get the reading practice they desperately need) and learn some video creating/editing techniques.  There is only good that can come out of this.  I briefly went over the rubric in my video, but will go over it more in depth when we come back from Spring Break.

Book Trailer Rubric

So that’s where we are now.  The kids will have a while to get this done.  I am flexible with time (I’m a teacher–I have to be, don’t I?)  I plan on doing a LOT of conferencing with them during this process and will give them tentative deadlines to go by so they don’t get too behind.  Hopefully the video tutorials provided to them will help them in the process.  I’m determined to make this work, darn it!

 Chapter 2:  Innovation Day, 2013

So, as I stated earlier, I was very fortunate to have had the chance to go to the MACUL conference in Detroit a few weeks ago.  Among the plethora of information/ideas that was thrown at me was one that I found particularly interesting.  I’d never heard of an Innovation Day before (also known as FedEx Days), but was drawn to the whole concept.  In a nutshell, it’s an entire day dedicated to students creating a project of whatever interests them.  It could be building a 3D model of something, painting a picture, composing an original song, whatever.  The only requirements are that they have to produce something to present (whether it’s a slideshow, the art itself, a speech, etc.) and they have to mention what they learned from the whole process.  Upon doing some more research on this, and with the help of the information I got at MACUL, I found this website from Stump the Teacher  that explained it more in depth and this video from RSA, which also does an excellent job explaining, courtesy of the speech Dan Pink gave.

After e-mailing my principal with my proposal, I was surprised to get an e-mail back very quickly, telling me he was in full support of this.  Now my goal is to compile a list of possible projects, since I know the first words out of their mouths will be, “What can we do?” And “anything you want” is too broad for them.  They just need a gentle nudge.  As of now, I’m planning on doing this later this month with all my students with IEPs.  We will spend the entire day in my classroom, working on projects.  I. Can. Not. WAIT.  I’m getting antsy just thinking about it.  More to come.

So, that’s what’s going on.  I will attempt to keep you posted more regularly.  Time management is not my forte.

I’d like to think of it as a work in progress.  🙂


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Classroom Updates


No, I promise I haven’t broken up with you. I just finished the two Master’s classes I’ve been taking, with the last major assignments due this past week. Priorities, man. Priorities.

So, Miss Rivas, what has the wonderful world of Extended Core been up to lately? Let’s start with our class blog, Operation X.

The students are progressing nicely. The first few entries were a little shaky, but that was expected. I was trying to teach the concepts of using a blog, how to edit their blog entries, and how to add more “meat” to them as well. After reviewing previous entries as a class, I think the students have a better idea of what I’m looking for in their blog entries. I have been trying to keep the topics interesting in order to motivate them to write. Their topic for this week’s entry is about their New Year’s resolutions. I’m still struggling a little with those students who aren’t giving me much to work with. For example, one of the questions they have to answer for their blog entry this week is: “What do you think are some good things about starting a new year?” Right away, I had one student answer out loud after I read this to the class, “There’s nothing really good about it, Miss. It’s just like a regular day for me.” This, of course, made me rephrase the question and urge him to think deeper in to it. Besides, “idk” is not an acceptable answer to this. I’d like them to focus on actually checking their spelling with the spell check (versus just checking the box on their blog checklist) and adding more to their peer comments. Most comments are very short. I’d like them to expand on their replies.

Next, our E-Pal project, which we do every other week. We’ve hit a few bumps along the road with this. As I’ve stated before, this is my first year doing E-Pals with my students as well as our partner school in New Jersey. Since we’ve started, I’ve had two students exit my Extended Core class, leaving two students on the other end with no E-Pal. Two of my X-Core students volunteered to take on two E-Pals, which was very thoughtful of them to do. Also, between my class and the other class, there are some e-mail addresses that got screwed up along the way. This prompted a mini lesson on saving contacts to e-mail. While most students have yet to get a response, the ones that did were excited to read their e-mails. Today I had one of my students check his mail and see that his E-Pal wrote back to him. Coming from the same student who griped about this ongoing assignment earlier in the year, he was very excited today as he read his letter aloud to the class. After he read it, the discussion went sort of like this:

Student: “Miss, can I write him back?”

Me: “Yes, we will be writing them back next week. This week we’re doing blog entries, remember?”

Student: “I want to write him back, though.”

Me: “That’s good, and you will. You’re supposed to be working on your blog right now.”

Student: “He’s gonna think I’m being rude if I don’t…”

Me: “I promise he won’t think you’re being rude. Now get to work.”

I have to admit, however, I was excited that he was excited about his E-Pal. His view on this assignment has done a 180. I think once we get over these little obstacles, they will enjoy E-Paling more.

Last update is on the flipped classroom components I’m doing in my room. So far, the students have all been working on the same unit, all at their own pace. The majority of students are testing out and passing, and for those that don’t, they’re going back and re-learning it until they’ve mastered it. We’ve been taking baby steps with this and I’m comfortable with that. I’m teaching a new process and content at the same time, for the first time ever. I’m pleased with the progress they’re making. The Parts of Speech unit was given to them not only because they all desperately need it (especially with some major essays coming up in English class), but because it was a good way to intro the flipped classroom. Since my last post, I’ve gone from posting individual videos on Edmodo to creating tutorials on Sophia.org. What I love about Sophia.org is that I can create a group of activities for students to do pertaining to the lesson they’re learning. For example, with their adverbs lesson, I uploaded an intro video of an adverbs song being sung by a band. After that, their next step was to view the actual screencast done by myself, explaining what “how” adverbs were and how to identify them. Students are stilling filling out their SSS Packets as they watch the videos. Next, I posted a “how” adverb quiz via Google Forms for them to fill out. Last, I posted a link to another website which allows them to practice adverbs in a game format.

A student listens to a tutorial on Sophia.org

Another student fills out his SSS Packet while watching my tutorial.

The videos I’m making are slowly morphing into a better product. When I made my first video (*cringe*), I carefully scripted it out, timed the presentation just so, and recorded it very seriously (an adverb!). Since then, I’ve let that go. The script idea went to the wayside. I felt a lot more comfortable just presenting it on the spot. I’m able to let my personality come through more doing it this way, which the students have noticed (either that, or their giggles that escape while they’re watching mean that they’re laughing AT me. I choose to stay in denial). The one major discouraging part about doing this is, again, the technology we have in the class. The laptops are in bad shape, are slower than molasses, and are in dire need of updates. I’ve contacted our “Help Desk” several times, only to get chewed out and asked why I’m not taking better care of them. Whatever. That’s another entire blog post in itself. I would’ve liked to have the kids create a Wordle on the “how” adverbs they’ve learned so far, but unfortunatley, some laptops don’t have Java/Flash updates, so there went that idea. What sucks is that I demonstrated on my teacher laptop how to do it and they were actually looking forward to doing this activity.


So anyhoo, that’s the latest and greatest on the Adventures of Extended Core. Tomorrow the students should be finishing up the “when” adverbs tutorial and solidifying what they’ve learned by playing some adverbs games in class. Hopefully, I’ll remember to post how I’ve been incorporating flipped videos with student IEPs. This is, after all, the focus for this year.

Wish me luck. *heavy sigh*


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Me+Creating Videos on Camtasia= O_o


Wow.  I seriously underestimated the video-making process for my flipped classroom library.

I know I’m a newbie at the video recording anyway, but I am still trying to figure out how Camtasia works.  I did a PowerPoint on adjectives, then used the Camtasia to narrate through it.  That alone was an eye-opener for me.  I can’t tell you how many “takes” I did because my script was off from the PowerPoint at the time.  When it was finally finished, I went back to edit it.  There were a lot of long pauses that were unnecessary and I wanted to clip those out.  Ha.

It didn’t go down as smoothly as I’d hoped.  Regardless, I published what I had and had my students watch it and complete their SSS packets simultaneously.  I’m still trying to figure out how to save the videos to the flash drives.  I’ll have to tinker with that tonight.

A student filling out his Adjectives SSS packet while listening to my video. 🙂

One thing I was successfully able to do, however, was update our class Leaderboard.  If you’ve followed my earlier posts, you’ll know that I’m trying to gamify my classroom.  The students start at zero points and earn their way to the top level (or, an A in the gradebook).  The kids made up their own player name and earn privileges for leveling up.  Today, one of my students earned some free time on the laptop.  Now that the students are seeing this in action with the leaderboard and badges, I’m hoping it’ll light a fire under them to keep working.

Our leaderboard. 🙂


Last thing I wanted to bring up was our quiz review last Friday.  The kids were going to be quizzed on Math vocabulary.  I had created a Quizlet to help them study and posted it on my student Facebook study group page.  The morning of, I decided to post a question on the ELMO and gave my students the possible word choices.  They all wrote down their answers on their whiteboards and when I counted to three, they all raised their whiteboards.  I tried to study with them as much as I could before the quiz, offering little mnemonic devices to help them remember.  As I stated before, sometimes, just using the stuff in my room works just as well as the technology.  🙂

“One, two, three…show me the money!” 🙂

P.S.-All but one student aced their vocab quiz.  🙂

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Operation: Resource Flip


*insert Mission Impossible theme song here*

So my class has been practicing getting used to the flipped classroom components by watching the videos in class and filling out their SSS Packets.  We are about halfway through our Parts of Speech unit and so far it’s been going really well.  I just purchased a small lot of flash drives off eBay to save the videos on for those students that don’t have internet but have a computer at home.  We will be starting the adjectives part of the unit Monday.  We finished up the verbs portion earlier this week, and the kids struggled a little bit on the linking verbs concept.  To help them with this, I found this website to help solidify the concept.  This really helped them when they decided to test out.


Learning about helping/linking verbs.

I’m starting to create videos for all the different goals and objectives the students have, which is a challenge, to say the least.  For example, I’ve started scripting how to fill out a plot map, how to find main idea and three supporting details, and inferencing.  I’m not gonna lie–it’s been really time consuming for me for a couple of reasons.  First, I’m still trying to figure out how to use the Camtasia software I won earlier this month.  Also, I’m looking for additional videos to go along with each of mine.  Possibly looking for short YouTube clips of movies to prompt students about these different things.  The good thing is, once I have the videos, I have them.

My students will also be (re)sending their E-Pals letters to their recipients in NJ.  Their teacher told me they just got back to school last Thursday.  She had no power for 12 days! I can’t even imagine.  So my students started their e-mail drafts earlier this week, using a checklist to check their writings because that is something they ALL struggle with! They’re so used to writing and turning in.  I’m hoping this gets them into the habit of self-checking!

Checking his work before he submits his e-mail. 🙂

Finishing up her rough draft.

Tomorrow is Friday (thank God), and I’m having my students work on their goals and objectives for the hour.  I’ve already compiled work in separate folders for each student, meaning they will each be working on something different tomorrow in class. I will also be student conferencing while they work.  Let’s hope everything goes according to plan!  Well, this week has dragged on enough.  Conferences were craptacular, as usual, and I was in PLC meetings all day.  Needless to say, I’m spent.  So, having absolutely no life whatsoever and sitting here in my onesie jammies with footies, I am going to bed at 9:15pm.

Hey, don’t knock it.  They’re really comfy jammies.

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First and foremost, I’d like give a big OOH-RAH to all my fellow Devil Dogs today.  Happy 237th birthday, Marines! Today, I raise my glass to you!

Next, I’d like to update you on how it’s going with my semi-flipped classroom.  The unit is on parts of speech, and that’s broken down into categories.  We’re still in the intro stages of it all, but the students took their first quiz after learning the entire lesson on the different forms of nouns via videos.  All except one aced it.  For the one that didn’t do so well, I told her to go back and watch the videos again.  Then, she’d have the opportunity to re-take the quiz.  When I sat down and reviewed with her, she understood better when she was verbally giving me her answer.  However, I wanted her to try it on her own.  First, because we just started and I wanted her to work independently.  Second, I knew she didn’t do well the first time because she was socializing rather than learning.  Most of my students are almost finished (if they aren’t already) with the verbs portion of the unit.  My one student who is a little ahead of the game is doing online activities during class to apply what he’s learned from the videos.  He asked to test out of this lesson early, because he said he had it down.  Although I was a bit hesitant, I let him take the quiz.  He didn’t do well.  The linking verbs concept was a little tricky for him, so he’s practicing some more before re-taking the quiz at a later date.  But he had the choice to test out early, which he liked.  As I stated before, each student is working at his/her own pace, which is one of the biggest advantages of the flipped classroom model.  I can work with my students individually to monitor their progress or answer any questions they have, but they’re all engaged in their own tasks at the same time.  It’s great.  🙂

Thursday, we had the ever-longed-for parent/teacher conferences.  I LOVE sitting in a gym for 4 1/2 hours waiting for parents to show up.  It’s my favorite.  And for the record, only 2 of my parents showed up.  Yeah.  Anyhoo, for the two that did, I had my teacher iPad propped up, showing all the pictures I’ve taken during the year so far of their students in a slideshow.  The parents seemed to like it.  🙂  My plan for this next marking period is to continue taking pictures, especially of student work, and documenting it in Evernote.  Because each student will have their own “notebook,”  they will have the ability to show their parents their work (along with any audio clips) during conferences, so it’s more student-led.  I’m actually giddy about doing this.  We’ll see how it pans out.

I also had my students start on ScootPad on Thursday.  For those of you who haven’t tried it, it’s a website geared for K-5 students so they can learn and strengthen math and reading skills.  Although I teach 8th grade Resource, my students are (on average) at the 3rd grade reading level, so this is just right for them.  I’ve grouped students according to their reading level and had them start on their lessons.  Best of all, it’s free.

Last, on Friday, I had my students set up a Symbaloo account.  Symbaloo is a bookmarking site that keeps track of all your favorite websites in one place.  Since my students are using various websites, they will add all these sites onto their Symbaloo page so they’re accessible with a click of a button.  The website tiles are iPhone/iPad app-ish, making it visually appealing as well.  Tiles are editable and can be categorized.

On Monday, I plan on introducing this marking period’s project to them.  They will be doing Book Shares that will be due by the end of the marking period.  Each student will read a novel at his/her Lexile level.  When they’re finished, they will create a Glog, Prezi, or movie trailer using iMovie.  I’m working on rubrics, finding examples, and writing out objectives for these this weekend.

Holy crap, I’m going to be busy.

So, on that note, I’m off to tinker with my Camtasia software that I won last Saturday at EdCampGR.  I’ll post some videos as soon as I can get them up and edited. To my liking. It may be a while.  Ciao for now!


Holy plethora of info to update you on…(flipped classrooms, class blogs, E-pals, and gamification)


This title actually reminds me of a clip from one of my fave movies, “The Three Amigos.”  If you like the movie as much as I do, click here.  If not….well, then…don’t.

So, where to begin?  Yesterday I spent most of my day at the 2012 EdCampGR conference.  Two words: Dee. Lish.  I came out of that conference with so many ideas of how to incorporate different apps, programs, and strategies into my classroom!  I highly recommend attending one, if you’re close to the Grand Rapids area.  I also met a lot of great people and made some new Twitter connections.  🙂

Ok, so back to all the info I’ve kept you in the dark for the past week.  I apologize for not updating this sooner.  Last week was atrocious.  Grades were due by Friday and my building is currently doing a pilot for a new gradebook system.  Glitches galore.  On top of that, I co-teach Math and English, and have to input my resource students’ grades into the gradebook myself.  It may not seem so bad, but my assignments/test entries need to match the GenEd teachers’ entries, and it’s hard trying to get printouts of their gradebooks when they’re running around like crazy themselves. In the words of Kanye West, it was cray.

So anyhoo, back to my stuff.  Since there’s so much, I’ll divvy it up into sections.  First up, updates on using the flipped classroom components.

Part 1: Flipped Classroom Updates

*insert nervous laughter here*  So things may or may not be going as anticipated.  In my last blog, I talked about how I showed the class the video while pausing and having them write their information in their SSS packets.  By the end of class, they were all doing well and gave me the impression they knew what they were doing.  Since there were only 4 videos in the set (and already doing one video as a class), I had them do the next section on their own.   Here’s where things start to go willy nilly.  I allowed them time in class to do the videos, regardless if they had internet at home or not.  This was because I wanted to monitor how they were doing.  Unfortunately, I was asked to help with MEAP (our state’s standardized test) makeups.  Meaning, I had to get a sub for a bit.  Well, apparently, those who “knew” how to do it forgot that although they copy notes from the videos, there are places for them to put in their own examples.  I had a lot of packets turned in with the portions that they were supposed to fill in blank.  For some reason, they copied all the notes/examples from the video and kept truckin, even though I (and the video) said to pause and put in their own examples.  This wasn’t the case for ALL students, but I’d say the majority of them.

A student fills out his SSS packet while listening to his video on abstract nouns.

Clearly, this is something I will have to go over with them again.  Additionally, there were some students who “lost” their packets or left them at home, or who just didn’t finish them.  I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to deal with this, since this no doubt will happen again.  I hate to waste paper and still haven’t gone completely paperless in my room yet, so I’ll have to keep extra copies on hand.  The funny thing is, they were told to keep them in their file folder in my room.   Listening to directions is something we need to work on.  Looks like I will have to go Barney-style on them and do the whole, “Everyone, lift your SSS packets in the air. Good. Now place your packets in your folder. Good. Now close your folder. Good. Now, one at a time, place your folder in the crate.”  I didn’t think I would do this much hand-holding, but darn it–we will get it done.  Sergeant Rivas* may have to appear here and there.  This week I plan on starting class by having a chat with them about being responsible.  Then, we’ll go over procedures on filling out the SSS packets again.  Students who completed it the first time and feel they’re ready to test out of the nouns portion of the unit, will have the chance to do so.  Everyone else: back to finishing up their packets.  I hope to start presenting the verbs portion of our Parts of Speech Unit by Friday (no school Monday or Tuesday).  Delia Bush gave me the great idea at the EdCampGR conference of spending about a month doing them as a class.  So be it.  🙂

*Sergeant Rivas refers to my military rank. I served 5 years in the Marine Corps.  Yelling at Marines is ok. Yelling at students is frowned upon in a school district.  I have to remind myself of that. A lot. 

Part 2: Class Blogs Update

Holy cow.  Talk about another area that we will need to revisit.  I had been talking about our class blog since the beginning of the year and have prefaced our first blog entries with videos, the Paper Blog project (see my post about that here), and looking at sample class blogs.  I officially started it this past Monday, showing them step-by-step how to just get into the blog.  This, of course, required them to retrieve their usernames and passwords that were e-mailed to them.  This, of course, turned out to be an epic fail.

First of all, some students forgot their e-mail usernames and/or passwords.  No biggie, since I gave them all a log to write their usernames and passwords for all the sites we’d be using during the year.  Well, it makes it a skosh more difficult when students a) didn’t write their passwords down on their logs or b) didn’t have their logs at all.  I’d say, half of my students were able to follow along.  Rather than losing my cool about this (I could feel my inner Bruce Banner  stirring), I simply told them to watch and I would help them, individually, later.  I showed them the menu and where to enter a new post.  As far as their entry, I gave them all a Blogging Checklist to follow, which I quickly realized, I would need to tweak.  After going over the checklist, I gave them their topic, which was in correlation with the Wonderopolis Wonder of the Day, “Do You Get Spooked Easily?”  The kids had four focus questions to answer in their blog entries: 1) What were you doing? 2) Who were you with? 3) What time of the day was it? 4) How did you conquer your fear?

I then modeled how to write a blog entry.  I had my computer screen displayed on the projector and typed about how I saw the video “Thriller” for the first time when I was four (don’t even think about doing the math).  I purposely made spelling mistakes to show them later how to correct them.  When I finished my entry, I showed the class how to check off their checklists and how to do a spellcheck.  When I was FINISHED finished, then I asked them if I answered each focus question. I followed up with showing them how to save, publish, and how to read/comment on their peer blogs.  Oops–there goes some of the student laptops just shutting down for no reason again in the middle of everything.  But I will keep my comments of how crappy the laptops we have are to myself.  For now. *ahem*

Remember, this was our first time doing it and it required a lot of steps.  Oh, and did I mention that I was being observed by my principal during this lesson?  Yeahhhhh….. (side note: although I was sweating bullets, he was very optimistic about my lesson and gave me a great review.)  🙂

So, to wrap this all up, I have to go over this with them again.  Blogging will be done every other week, so we will have plenty of time to discuss. I keep wanting to believe that this will come to pass once they get into it more and more.  I really, really want to believe…

Part 3: E-Pals Update

Well, the kids started pen-paling via e-mail (e-pals) a few weeks ago to another Resource classroom out of New Jersey.  All my students sent their letters and were eagerly awaiting responses.  It was somewhat encouraging, as bad as it sounds, to hear from the other Resource teacher that her students were really struggling with getting their letters done.  It was just nice to know I wasn’t the only one desperately trying to teach a concept and having students give you a deer-in-the-headlights reaction.  I think one of my students only got a response.  Unfortunately, with Hurricane Sandy hitting the east coast as badly as it did, their teacher informed me that they were out of school for at least a week.  While our e-paling may be on hiatus, I would like to think of something our class can do for them.  I can’t begin to imagine what they’re going through.

Part 4: Gamification Update

Lastly, the gamification piece.  So, if you read my first blog, you’ll know that I was interested in using gamification in my classroom.  Basically, using components of games, such as earning badges, working at levels, leveling up, and so forth rather than doing a traditional grade system.  The kids all start at 0, or Noob status when they begin a marking period.  The more work they complete (and the quality they do it in) will allow them to move up levels.  They are able to see their progress on the Leaderboard I have posted at the back of my classroom.

I can see how this totally works in a classroom where one subject is taught.  However, being a Resource room, I had to think of how to do this, knowing they each have different goals in different areas.  So I decided I would award badges only if they get a B- or above on an assignment (and each badge will have a different status.  For example, Ben can get a blue Edmodo badge for getting an 87% on his Edmodo packet, but Alice will get a gold Edmodo badge for getting an 100%).  After so many badges, they will level up to the next level.  It’s really hard to explain if you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about.  Hyle Daley is my inspiration for this, as he has gamified his classroom wonderfully! While I slacked majorly on this aspect of my class so far, I will work harder this marking period to use it more often.

So, there you have it.  That is definitely what I call a plethora of information.  I will continue to make tweaks where I need to, all the while evaluating what’s working and what’s not.  In the end, I value my own sanity.  I know I strive to exceed expectations and go above and beyond.  However, I do have 4 little ones that would like to have Mommy, not Homer Simpson, around.  That’s all for today.  Rivas, out…..

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Intro to the Flipped Classroom–AT LAST!!


If I could have a soundtrack to this blog entry, it would be this.

At long last, I’ve finally been able to get around to intro-ing the flipped classroom component.  If you’re not familiar with the flipped classroom model, click here for some info.

I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting to actually start this.  With all the (unpaid) researching I’ve done all summer, I’ve been dying to actually try it in my own classroom.  Since the start of the school year, I had to train my students on the technology (iPads) and the digital tools we’d be using in class (Edmodo, Wonderopolis, Dropbox, Edublogs, etc.) before we could even start this.  Now that the training is all finished (and the MEAP is finished as well), we can start.  My plan is to use components of the flipped classroom to help my students with IEPs master their goals and objectives.  By providing them with video lessons on their goals (that they will watch at home), each student can learn and progress on their own and at the same time.  This way, I can help Student 1 with syllabication while helping Student 2 with making inferences and Student 3 with multiplication at the same time with these videos.  Also, I can work with them more one-on-one during class time to follow up on their progress.

I’ve already taken into consideration those students that don’t have internet access.  I will allow these students (I only have 2 right now) to watch these videos at the beginning of class as their warm-up.  The videos will be no longer than 10 minutes long, so they’ll have plenty of time to apply what they’ve learned and ask questions during class.  Again, this is my very first time trying this out and it’s complicated enough being a resource room where they all have different goals in different areas.  But I’m willing to try it anyways.  The video lessons will come from ones pre-made that I find online as well as videos that I will create myself.

As far as today, I introduced my students to what the videos would look like and how their work packets, called Student Success Sheets (or SSS), will be used.  Before I get into all of that, I want to give props to Crystal Kirch and Nicole Cremeens for the videos, SSS packet creations, as well as a lot more tools of theirs I will be using during the year.  I pretty much used what they had already created and modified it to fit my own classroom.

The first thing I did was pass out an SSS packet to each student.  I put it up on the ELMO and explained what it was and how it was going to be used.  I then showed them their first video to their first unit, Nouns.  The videos were already created by Mrs. Cremeens and go hand-in-hand with the packets.  To see the Nouns playlist, click here.  To see the SSS packet, click here.  As the video played, I paused and explained how they should be filling in their packets along the way.  The great thing about the videos, besides being short, is that they present the material in small, bite-sized pieces.  It’s not too complex, but it still requires the student to think and apply what they’ve learned in their packets.  I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty cool to watch them do this.

Filling in their packets as they watch.

Working so diligently. 🙂

Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to finish the video and our packets.  However, I still plan on finishing it up tomorrow for the nouns portion of the unit.  That way, they will have a clear understanding as to how the videos and SSS packets work.  I’ll keep you posted on that.

Last thing I wanted to mention: I’m trying something new tomorrow, and it may be a flop but oh well.  I posted on my student Facebook that I will have an online study session to prep for their Math test that they’re having on Friday.  Anyone who is interested can join.  A perk I threw in for my resource students only: free admission to the Halloween dance on Friday that I’m running for those that get a B or above.  Hopefully, it’s enough to get them studying.  🙂


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Test Results and Class E-Pets


So, my students took their tests today in Social Studies via the iPads while listening to the test recorded.  They did better than I thought they would, to be honest. 🙂

It could’ve been the review game.  It could’ve been the QuizRevolution I created.  It could’ve been them going at their own pace because it was a recorded test.  It could’ve been the fact that I posted it on my student Facebook.  It could be none or all of these reasons combined.  All I know is that they did better than I thought they would’ve.  Granted, we had the small percentage who still did craptacular on it because they didn’t put forth any effort.  But I had two students get only 2 incorrect on their test.  ONLY 2.  That’s angel-choirs-singing worthy.

On a completely different note, I haven’t talked to you all about our class pets.  Or should I say e-pets?  My students are absolutely obsessed with the app Pocket Pond 2.  It allows the user to build a pond and maintain koi and other pond creatures.  It also encourages users to maintain their ponds/fish by giving points for keeping it clean.  If you don’t keep up with it, your pond becomes dirty and your fish die.  I got it at first because it has relaxing water noises.  Plus, if you touch the screen, it’s as if you were touching real water, with the waves and ripples it creates.  I thought it was cute.  Until I really started playing with it and now am just as obsessed with it as my students.  Which reminds me–I should go check on them right now and make sure they have a late night snack before I go to bed.

Don’t judge me.

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