Ed Tech In the SpEd Classroom

Using Technology to Help Bridge the Learning Gap

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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iPads as an Accommodation, E-Pals, and the Common Cold


*sniffle, sniffle*

Don’t mind me…I’m just starting to get that dreaded cold that’s going around school.  Swell.

Anyhoo, just wanted to update you all on how it went with having the students use the iPads to listen to their tests being read aloud using the website Chirbit.  Again, as a quick recap, I recorded myself reading the test aloud and saved the audio file on my computer.  Then I went onto Chirbit and uploaded it onto my account.  Once the students were ready to take the test, I gave them an iPad and headphones, pulled up the website link from Safari, explained how to listen and pause the audio as needed, and turned them over to their test. It went over very smoothly.

Overall, here are my observations with using Chirbit:

Pros: I was able to walk around and clarify what some of the test questions were asking without having to stop the test for everyone.  Another big plus was that the kids were able to go at their own pace.  They were able to rewind the audio if they needed it repeated and they didn’t have to wait on me to wait on everyone else to finish before moving onto the next question.

Cons:  Some students had problems pausing the audio, mostly because the Play/Pause button is pretty small.  I started looking into how I could fix this.  Another con is that if you want to rewind the audio, you just have to estimate when sliding the play bar.  It would be nice if there was a program/app that I could separate each question into its own “track”, you know? Kind of like a CD.  I will have to look into this.

Even before I asked the students how they liked taking their tests this way, I had one student say, “Miss, we should do our tests like this all the time.”  When I asked them all how they liked it, all who took it on the iPads preferred doing it this way.  Interestingly enough, during the test, one of my students said, “Miss! The questions are like the ones you had in the test review game!”  Lightbulb moment. You don’t say? 😉  Of all the students who I am required to pull for reading tests aloud, all but one opted to do it.  One of my students opted out and I think it was because she was embarrassed.  I wasn’t able to pull some students out during one of the hours because I had an IEP to attend. So I spoke with their Science teacher and gave the iPads to them in their Science class to use.  The kids were bombarded with, “Ooooh! Is that a iPad? How come they get one?” (this is exactly how they said it).  I think she didn’t want the attention.  Which brings me to how they actually scored.

On average, like crap.

Let me clarify, however.  This is where some confusion takes place.  Most people would be like, “Miss Rivas, you’re doing all this stuff to help your students but they’re still doing poorly on the tests. Is the technology, in actuality, really helping them?”  Here’s my response:  in the end, it all comes down to the students.  I can make review games, record their tests, do everything I possibly can to help them, but if they don’t do their part, like actually STUDYING, it’s out of my hands.  In the past this had been a heavy burden on me.  I would blame myself for not doing enough to help them pass.  Now, in my fourth year of teaching, I’m able to cut myself some slack and have them be accountable for their own actions.  They did not study.  They told me they did not study.  And their results showed that.  As I stated before, motivation is a huge struggle with my students.  They don’t like to work.  I can only do so much.

Chapter 2: E-Pals

It seems like a book, with as much as there is to write today. Geez.  Ok, onto the next part: E-Pals.  *insert sniffly smile here*

I’ve been so excited to kick off our e-mails to our E-Pals lately.  Friday I was able to explain and model how to do their E-Pal letter using a fantabulous tool online from ReadWriteThink.  There is a Letter Generator tool that allows students to write a friendly letter or business letter by breaking each part down into small, bite-sized portions (heading, greeting, body, closing, signature).  I displayed my laptop onto the screen and showed them how to use the Letter Generator as well as what to write.  I wrote my letter to the other 8th grade Resource teacher in NJ and showed the kids the different things they could do.  I like this because it’s not too overwhelming for my students.  They don’t have to think about too much while writing.  Plus, there are hints and notes for each part, stating where there should be a comma, etc.  I had my students write their rough drafts on paper first.  For their first e-mail, they were to include an introduction of themselves, list some of their hobbies, and ask 2 questions.  Then, after having it checked, they had to go onto the website via the laptops and type in their letters.  There had to be some reminders, such as placing spaces in between words, but for the most part, it went well.  They all sent their e-mails today to their E-Pals in Jersey.  As much as some of them complain about it, I know they are secretly excited to get a response.  🙂

So, there you have it.  I think if the kids applied themselves more, they could get very far with their schoolwork.  Until then, it’s hard for me to see whether these strategies and tools are having any effect.  After reviewing today for their Social Studies test tomorrow for Future Hubby’s class, I informed them that the QuizRevolution I created for the test will be posted on Edmodo and my student Facebook, which I know they all log onto religiously.   Whether they use my help to improve their grade is up to them.  At least no one can say I didn’t try…

And on that note, it’s time to take some meds and call it a night.  Let’s see how tomorrow goes with their tests. *heavy sigh…sneeze*

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Trying….but is it working?


Ok.  Future Hubby will tell you that I am a dedicated Special Ed teacher.  I was up until 2 am last night creating a Science test review for not just my students with IEPs, but for any 8th grader who was interested in reviewing for their test tomorrow.  I used QuizRevolution to create the review.  I already have a Quizlet account, but it didn’t allow me to create quizzes with images or video, like I wanted.  Quiz Revolution is fairly easy to use.  The most time-consuming part was trying to search the internet for images that were relavent and easy enough for my 8th graders to understand.  Basically, I took the test, switched some wording around, and put them on the review with pictures and a video clip.  I didn’t use all the questions on the test, either.  Here is the final product.  My goal was for my students with IEPs, as well as the other 8th graders, to utilize this tool to review their Science, since Science is hard.  The terminology is complex.  That’s why I wanted to add images and highlight key words in each question and answer.  I had my students practice the review during my Extended Core (Resource) class since I knew they were the ones that would need the most help.

Unfortunately, I was administering the MEAP test this morning (our state’s standardized test), so I couldn’t actually be in my classroom to observe fully how the students were engaged with it.  However, I was able to make it back to class within the last 5 minutes to see them.  I told all of them to study at home, using this as help.  That’s when the excuses started rolling in:

“I promised my brother he could use the computer today.”

“I can do good without studying.”

“I don’t feel like it.”

My response?  “I DON’T CARE! You all NEED to study for this test tomorrow!  If anything, dang it, I was up until 2 in the morning making this for you.  Do it for me.  YOU. WILL. STUDY!”

Silence.  Then, “Ok, Miss.”  Sometimes you gotta play hard-ball with these kids.

Anyhoo, the last thing I was able to accomplish today was create a Chirbit for the Science test tomorrow.  It is roughly 20 questions, multiple choice.  Some of my students’ IEPs state that they require their tests to be read aloud.  Chirbit allows me to record the test ahead of time and have them listen to it on their iPads or on a laptop.  Essentially, it clones me.  And if any of you have ever read a test aloud multiple times over multiple class periods, you know the toll it takes on your voice.  Hopefully, it goes well.  *fingers crossed*

Ultimately, I’ve hit a point where I’m starting to question everything:  my strategies, techniques, motives.  So many hours are put into creating all this stuff for my students, but it seems as if they’re indifferent to it sometimes.  I’m doing it to better explain what they’re already supposed to be learning in class.  Sometimes, (and GenEd teachers, no offense) teachers can present the material a little too quickly with not enough explanation.  That’s where I come in.  That’s my job.  But researching, trying, spending my own money on apps and memberships, taking away time from my own family to help my students has me rethinking everything.  Is this even working? Am I doing all this for nothing? I really, really hope not.  Waiting for the light at the end of this long tunnel….   🙁

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Social Studies, Teched Out…


I’m not gonna lie–Social Studies was my least favorite subject when I was in middle school.

The teachers lectured and lectured, and every so often I’d get called on without having the slightest clue what the heck he was talking about.  My recollection of class would most accurately described as this.

Fast forward a few decades and here I am now teaching, or should I say re-teaching, my students with IEPs the material they’re learning now in their Social Studies class. Taught, ironically enough, by my fiance.  Back then I wanted to do well but had teachers who were (cover your ears, honey)…well, boring.  Now, these kids have access to all this technology and just lack the motivation.  I’d kill to have someone like me back then.  But then again, that’s why I do what I do now.  I’ve experienced the ugly before.

So they’re wrapping up their unit on the events that led up to the Revolutionary War.  I found this app called American Revolution History.  It’s an interactive timeline that lets students scroll through some of the events.  There are interesting tidbits as well as some awesome pictures that the kids can click on to read more about.  Right upon opening it, one of my students said, “Aw, cool!”

The students seemed to enjoy using this app.  While I did ask them to focus mainly on the points they were going to be tested on, they did check out the other interesting tidbits this app had to offer.

One other task I was finally able to do today was to record the test into an audio format using Chirbit.  If you’ve read my earlier post, you’ll remember that I had recorded an audio file on an app that I had downloaded onto the iPads.  It worked for the one student taking the test, but then I thought to myself, “What about the times that will inevitably come up where multiple students need to have a test read aloud to them? How do I transfer that recording onto multiple iPads?”  I did some research and found Chirbit. So, today I connected the Go Mic by Samson that I bought over the summer to record my (upcoming) flipped videos.  I’d been so antsy to finally use it.  One thing about Chirbit:  if you record from their website, you are only allotted 5 minutes of recording time.  I needed more than that, since it was a multiple choice test with 22 questions.  However, if you record from your Mac or PC and then upload that file onto Chirbit, your audio file can be up to 2 hours long.  Yeah.  So I recorded my test in around 13 minutes and uploaded it to my Chirbit profile.  Dunzo.  I’m excited to see the kids take it.  🙂  I so wish I had iPads to help me with Social Studies when I was a kid.  Maybe I wouldn’t have found it so boring.

Maybe.  Sorry, honey.  😉


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Who woulda thunk Math could be fun? :)


This is exactly how I felt today.  Let me tell you why.

So first of all, I was told yesterday afternoon that our new principal should be dropping into my classroom* to observe the iPad pilot we’re doing.  Of course, knowing this, I try to plan something that the kids will use their iPads for.  Being that today is Core Class Review day, I decide to introduce them to a new app to review their Math.  Lately, we’ve been going over how to write an equation of a line with a given graph.  I happened to stumble upon an app a while ago called Geometry Pad.  Basically, this gives students the ability to graph lines, coordinates, and other figures onto an x and y axis.  What I did was give them an equation, such as y=2/3x-4, and they needed to graph it.  I had to give them some brief instructions on how to use the app, but they caught on fairly quickly.  They graphed their line and we went over it as a class.  We did this two more times and they seemed to enjoy it.

After this, we went onto Wonderopolis so they could write their ten lines about the topic of the day, which had to do with nomads.  Before they began, I showed them the Speak feature on their iPads, which allows the user to tap and select any portion of text and have it read aloud to them.

I then showed my students how to tap and select the text on Wonderopolis.  I demonstrated it to them, showing them the process on my ELMO, then had them do it themselves.

After a bit of tweaking with reading speed rates, they were able to listen to the selection.  I explained that this would be a valuable tool to use when it came time to do research projects in a few months, which will require them to read material from several different websites.  All students in my resource room are below grade level and motivation is always an issue.  I’m hoping this is a useful aide to them when the time comes for them to read a lot more information on their own.

I let my student use my personal, pink-cased iPad for this one. 😉

After class, I had to have a student take a make-up test.  Her IEP requires her tests to be read aloud to her.  I decided to use the iPad to record the test at home and explained to her how to pause and un-pause the iPad so she could answer the questions.  It went nicely, and she did well, considering it was a pre-test.  I used the app Audio Memos, but plan to switch to Chirbit, which is an online audio recording tool.  This way, several students can access the test recording at once, rather than just one recording on one iPad.

And, of course, I had to save the best for last.  Thanks to the wonderful Edmodo community, I posted if someone would be interesting in doing pen-pals with my students.  I had a few people respond that they were resource teachers as well, and would love to get their students to practice writing.  So, beginning next week or the week after, we will be doing, E-Pals, or electronic pen-pals.  My students will be e-mailing their pen-pals, and hopefully, get to Skype with them later down the road.  You have absolutely no IDEA how excited I am for this! At the moment, I’m in the process of doing some brainstorming as far as grading, frequency, format, etc.  I wanted to wait until tomorrow to tell my students about this project, but instead I told them I had some exciting news that I would share the next day.  Dumb mistake.  They twisted my arm and I gave.  At first, they weren’t sure what I was talking about, then as it sunk in, some of them remembered they did something similar in elementary.  But when I explained that they’d be corresponding with other 8th grade students from another state and may possibly be able to Skype them, they started to get excited.  It’s pen-pals suped up.  🙂

Poor Future-Hubby.  He’s been letting me chew his ear off about all this while we were supposed to be sleeping.  Brace yourself, honey….this is only the beginning.  😉


 *Of course, after all that prep…he never showed. Oh, administration.  

Ah, the MEAP…



Occupational hazard, if you think of it the way I do.

As much as I LOVE administering the MEAP, I can honestly not wait until they’re over.  Ugh.  But, gotta keep a happy face on for the kids, right?  🙂

As for my Extended Core class, yesterday I introduced them to the world of Dropbox.  I was the only one excited about it.  I was  like, “Don’t you get it? You can save your work to the Cloud and never have to worry about hauling your thumb drive everywhere!”

And they were like,

But it’s all good.  They’ll learn to appreciate it more when we start research papers.  The actual sign-up process didn’t take very long at all, which was awesome.

I hope to have them blogging on our class blog next week.  Also, I will start them on their very first “flipped” lesson of nouns.  Hoping the technology is merciful that day.  🙂



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