Friday, February 24, 2012

A Creative Approach to Representing Content Receives Recognition

Congratulations to Mr. Levine, a social studies teaching in our high school. Mr. Levine has been using Glogster EDU as his primary method of delivering instructional content to his students.  His recent Glog on FDR and The Great Depression has been published as a top 5 Glog on the Glogster Edu website. You can view all of Mr. Levine's Glogs here.

Mr. Levine designs Glogs that contain images, links, videos, audio and any other relevant content for his lessons. He uses a projector in his classroom to display the Glog and discuss/review its content. Because the Glogs are available online students have access to it for further review at home, as a study guide, to make-up work when absent, and to participate in small group projects and discussions.

This unique approach to organizing, disseminating, and presenting content is proving to be effective with students. The web has provided opportunities for us as educators to change the way we present.This creative approach is both engaging and effective.


Glogster is a tool that allows for the creation of digital posters. I really like the way it curates information. It is most effective as an assessment for students when presenting the Glog is a requirement. Because of the small amount of real estate available on the Glog students are limited with regards to the amount of text that can be displayed. What that equates to is a lot less reading and more summarizing and discussion regarding the visual content on the Glog. You can read my previous postings on Glogster here:

Glogster as a teaching tool

Digital posters develop higher order thinking skills

Create portfolios in Glogster.



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Common Core Writing - Web-Based Instructional Resources

Consider the following standard taken from the Language Arts Common Core

Standard: Writing

     “The ability to write logical arguments based on substantive claims, sound reasoning, and relevant evidence is a cornerstone of the writing standards, with opinion writing—a basic form of argument—extending down into the earliest grades. “       

While there are a number of resources and strategies that may be used to address this standard I would like to share some online resources that are available.

Let’s first take a look at the available options in the NY Times. We are all aware that the Opinions Section for any newspaper, not just the Times, offers an opportunity to read various viewpoints on a topic. Students may reflect, conduct further research and form their own opinions based on what they read in these sections. The New York Times Editorial page, Op-Ed columnists, Letters to the Editor or even the collection of Opinion videos are great resources for this type of activity.  There is also the Student Opinion section from the NY Times Learning Blog which targets stories relevant to our students.  Students 13 years old and above may register to post comments on the stories posted.

The New York Times offers another great resource called “ Room For Debate”  (  Room for Debate looks at an issue or event in the news and organizes four to five opinion pieces for each. The contributors are limited to a four or five paragraph response. This makes the reality of implementing this in a classroom or as a homework assignment more practical. The site is very user friendly for teachers and students.

There are a number of uses for such a source. Instructional strategies such as think-pair-share or jigsaw may be used in the classroom to discuss the various views. Culminating activities may involve contributing to an online discussion using Moodle, Edmodo, Ning, or a blog posting or any other online discussion forum.

After reading and researching varying viewpoints on a topic students may be charged with crafting their own written opinion piece that will be reflective of the various opinions as well as their knowledge of context gained.

Teen and Tween Tribune are another great resource for students to read current event articles as well as the responses and comments published by other students. Each day they post the most compelling, relevant, and interesting stories for teens and tweens. Students are provided with an opportunity to comment on these stories. Teachers may setup a class page and accounts to manage and monitor the activity on the site.


There are a number of websites that offer articles or conversation starters that can be used to formulate persuasive or argumentive writing. Opposing Views, Procon, Middle School Debate and the Wikipedia list of controversial issues are a few.

When looking at current news, politics and other notable events PolitiFact takes an interesting spin in its approach.  Each day they analyze statements and comments made by notable politicians and then rate the accuracy of these statements.

The RAFT writing strategy is a popular strategy for both teachers and students. You can view my wiki of resources regarding this topic here. When constructing a writing task in social studies this topic generator may come in handy.

When developing expository writing assignments in any subject area technology may be a valuable asset. The development of a digital story or tutorial requires a written document that is then narrated.

Students may develop a mathematics or science tutorial using Jing. This tutorial may demonstrate the steps of solving a word problem, the process of photosynthesis, or how to compute the area of a room. In each of these scenarios the students must develop a written piece that identifies the steps of the process. The fact that they will be speaking and recording their writing for a global online audience offers a level of authenticity and engagement that is difficult to replicate with traditional writing tasks.

By taking students on virtual field trips to  locations throughout the world using Google Earth, or the museums of the world through the Google Art Project we present opportunities to build context and activate prior knowledge. We also provide an engaging and interactive experience that acts as a catalyst for writing.

A simple webquest created using Google Sites may ask students to compare the sequence of events that led to the New Deal and contrast them with the events that led to the current economic stimulus package. A webquest template contains links to resources, tasks and guidance for students to take part in this inquiry driven assignment. Writing may be published and shared online using Google Docs. Google Docs will allow for peer review and editing. It also allows for the teacher to monitor the writing progress in real-time


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Connecting Literacy, Technology, Science & Penguins?

We have been successful with implementing various author Skype sessions in all of our schools. These experience are always positive.  The authors that we have connected with have done a fantastic job inspiring our students. Most notably they have  allowed students to make an authentic connection to the writing process. They connect the strategies taught in the classroom with what real authors actually do. Sometimes it is just better when they hear it from someone other than their teacher. Each time we connect we also have a lot of fun.
This particular Skype session was different. The student's in Ms. Reichel's grade 1 class in Ellen T.  Briggs School connected with author Jean Marzollo. Mrs. Marzollo is the author of the well-known I-Spy book series. Ms. Reichel's class chose to focus on her non-fiction story Pierre the Penguin.  The students had been studying about penguins. They recently skyped with a penguin expert.

Here is a excerpt from Ms. Reichel's blog posting regarding the connection:

"We first read this book as part of our unit on penguins and instantly fell in love with the adorable Pierre who wears a tiny wet suit so he will stay warm in the water even though he does not have feathers.  Our interest in Pierre brought us to his home site  There we were able to watch live footage of Pierre and his friends and read about how he is doing on the Penguin Blog.    

After that we were hooked!  We wanted to know more and were lucky enough to Skype with Mrs. Marzollo.  Not only did she read us the book but she also took the time to answer questions. "

What really differentiated this experience from other author Skype sessions is what unfolded during the exchange of questions with Mrs. Marzollo. The students shared that they discovered Pierre's birthday was the next week. He was going to be 29 years old. They had learned this and other interesting facts about Pierre while reading a blog published about him. This was new information for Mrs. Marzollo. She was so impressed with the knowledge she had uncovered from our students that she wrote a posting on her personal blog to highlight the experience. You can read it here.

The student's in Ms. Reichel's class are very excited to be mentioned on the blog of an international author. They believe that they are now famous! What is underlying here is what this has accomplished. The student's have seen a true purpose for their research. They were able to curate and communicate what they learned and share it with a global audience. This opportunity opened up a level of engagement that each of us strive for. If we could create opportunities for students to share what they have learned or created with the world, we can expect a level of  engagement and excitement about learning that is difficult to develop using traditional instructional methods.




Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Collaborative Project to Build Bullying Awareness

The students in Mrs. Bock's reading class at White Rock Elementary school wanted to work together to apply what they have learned about bullying, character counts, and the writing process to publish a book about bullying. The students and Mrs. Bock had recently been introduced to Storyjumper  through one of my training sessions. Storyjumper is a free web-based application that allows students to create and publish page turning online storybooks. The books are viewable online and can be purchased as a hard cover children's book. 

Mrs. Bock recognized that while writing in isolation on a topic that is of interest to students may be engaging, she knew that connecting with another school to collaborate on a publication would spark student interest.   Mrs. Bock successfully connected with a class from the Califon school in NJ. Together both groups of students co-authored a book that addresses bullying. This wonderful publication identifies the characteristics of a bully, integrates the six pillars of character and offers solutions for addressing the problem.

The overall project was a success. The students enjoyed applying what they have learned about bullying and character counts. They were provided with an opportunity to collaborate with another class, apply problem solving skills, and publish for a public audience. These are key skills for the 21st century. Please follow the link below to read a copy of their book.

Click Here To Read Their Book

Congratulations to Mrs. Bock's Class! Great Job!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Vote for our Middle School Students!

I  have had the pleasure to work with Dr. Nancy Harris and the students in  her middle school gifted and talented program. We worked on submitting an application to the Samsung Solve For Tomorrow Contest. The contest required participants to develop a solution for an environmental concern in their area that uses STEM. We were asked to create a two minute video that documents our solution.

Out of 15oo applicants we were selected as a top 12 finalist. While the 12 finalists will each receive $70,000 worth of technology for their school, 5 of the 12 will be selected as grand prize winners. Public voting is now open to select one of the top 5 winners. Please follow the link below and vote for Jefferson Township Middle School!