MAT Blog

PowToon is Offering Educators $5 Million in Free Accounts

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 29, 2014 12:13:16 PM

disital_storytellingPowToon is probably my favorite digital storytelling application. Everything is as simple as drag and drop and once you’ve completed your animation, you can use PowToon’s easy export system to place your animation on YouTube or download it to your computer.

Although I’ve mentioned PowToon before, this morning I received an email from them letting me know that they are giving away $5 million in free accounts to educators. Each account gives one teacher and 60 students complete access to all of PowToons features, which, if you were paying for it would cost you nearly 100 dollars. Not bad.

Click here to sign up. You’ll also need to enter this promotional code when you get there: ToonUp5M

 


 

 

Tags: digital storytelling, apps for educators, Best Apps for Educators, writing skills, K-6 writing strategies

5 of Our Favorite Digital Storytelling Apps for Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 29, 2014 10:01:00 AM

Storytelling is an indispensable human activity, one that we use not only to convey our identity and experience, but also to convince others of our arguments. Because storytelling is so important, we believe it’s important that we encourage students to tell their stories—and in a way that challenges and inspires them. One way to get students excited about storytelling is by using a medium that they not only love, but are completely comfortable with: technology.

As with  traditional storytelling, students must write, but what makes digital storytelling engaging—and often less intimidating—for students is that it gives them the ability to add computer-based images, text, recorded audio narration, video clips and/or music. If you’re looking for a few applications to get your storytellers started, we’ve got 5 of them!

5 of Our Favorite Digital Storytelling Apps for Teachers

tellagamiTellagami is a free app that allows users to create short animated movies called "Gamis.” Here’s how it works: After you choose your character, you can alter his or her mood, swap out backgrounds, doodle, record your voice, or add text. When you’re satisfied with your work, all you have to do is save and publish it to your favorite social media site, blog or website.

 

zooburstZoo Burst (free) gives students the ability to create their own 3D pop-up books. Arrange your characters and props and customize your 3D world by using uploaded artwork or items found in the Zoo Burst database, which contains over 10,000 free images and materials.

We should also mention that readers who have a standard webcam installed on their computer can also experience any ZooBurst book in augmented reality. This feature gives readers the ability to interact with the book and turn pages simply by waving their hands!

superhero_comic_book_makerSuperhero Comic Book Maker ($1.99) is an award-winning app that helps students create personalized, animated comic books with monsters and superheroes. Choose from 27 unique background scenes and over 170 animated stickers with sound effects. Students can also illustrate their work and narrate it.


puppet_palsPuppet Pals 2 (free) builds on many of the features available in the first version of the application, giving users more flexibility and a wider variety of choices. Choose from a collection over 30 unique “puppets,” which include historical figures like Shakespeare and Abraham Lincoln, or design your own character from scratch. As with real puppets, users can flex their digital puppets’ joints and alter their poses. If you have access to a microphone, you can also make your puppet speak when you tap on it.

toontasticToontastic Jr. Shrek Movie Maker (free) is always a class favorite, especially with younger students. This app allows students to “remix” and the classic Shrek movie by picking a beginning, middle, and ending for the movie, and recording their voice. Whether you choose to storm the Dragon’s castle, rescue Princess Fiona, or battle Lord Farquaad, the decision is entirely up to you.

 

Tags: digital storytelling, apps for educators, Writing, writing fluency, apps for teachers, K-6 writing strategies

The Dos and Don'ts of Classroom Management: 25 Tips from Edutopia

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 28, 2014 10:55:32 AM

Our classroom management strategies may work for a while, but eventually, even the most effective procedures satiate or stop working entirely. We’re always on the lookout for classroom management advice from veteran teachers, so we were happy to come across Edutopia’s most recent e-guide, The Dos and Don'ts of Classroom Management: Your 25 Best Tips.

These tips were contributed by educators from Edutopia’s community in response to a discussion by blogger Larry Ferlazzo asking users to share their most valuable classroom management advice. 

To view the free guide, click on the image below.

 

classroom_management2-2

 

 

Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, Classroom Climate, student engagement

14 Back-to-School Ideas From Busy Teacher.org

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 27, 2014 2:53:03 PM

If you haven’t started the new school year yet, opening day is just around the corner. To help you begin with a bang, we’d like to share a couple of infographics courtesy of the folks at BusyTeacher.org. Enjoy!

Backt_to_School_Infographic_1

 

Backt_to_School_Infographic_2

 

Tags: first day of school, back-to-school

University of Maryland’s Resource for K-12 History and Social Studies Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 26, 2014 10:12:36 AM

history_labsMost of us are accustomed to using “labs” in math and science courses, but less often do we associate them with subjects like history and social studies. The University of Maryland’s new History Labs website is designed to turn all of that on its head.

Here you will find an impressive collection of resources and assessment strategies for K-12 American history teachers who are interested in taking a hands-on approach to their subject.

Rather than asking students to focus on memorizing names and dates, History Lab’s methodology is designed to help teachers evaluate students on a continuum. In other words, students will be asked to engage in a series of analytical, procedural, and experiential activities that push them to:

  • Seek to answer an open-ended overarching question that encourages several answers and perspectives
  • Analyze sources and apply information to answer that overarching question
  • Apply literacy and close-reading skills to historical sources
  • Critically examine source materials
  • Apply grade-level and ability-appropriate interpretive skills
  • Adjust or modify the overarching question when necessary
  • Develop present, defend, and refine their evidence-based answers

To learn more about History Labs, watch the video below—and be sure to stop by the History Lab website for more resources.

Tags: history teachers, social studies teachers, K-12 classroom

Free Student Motivation Resources from Larry Ferlazzo Now Available

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 21, 2014 10:18:42 AM

I refer to Larry Ferlazzo’s website on a regular basis, but for good reason. In addition to teaching English, social studies, and international baccalaureate classes to English language learners, Larry has written five books and is a weekly teacher advice columnist for Education Week Teacher and The New York Times! When does the man sleep? I have no idea.

This morning I found out from Richard Byrne—another one of my favorite bloggers—that Larry has made every student hand-out from two of his books on student motivation available for free download.

If you’re interested, check out Larry’s resources here.

Larry_Ferlazzo

 

 

 

Tags: intrinsic motivation, classroom management, Classroom Climate, Challenging Students,

A Simple and Effective Student Engagement Strategy: Praise, Prompt, and Leave

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 20, 2014 9:54:09 AM

student_engagement-3 

All teachers strive to empower students and push them to take ownership of their learning experience, but achieving this can be a challenge, especially when it comes to “needier” students. Fred Jones, author of Tools for Teaching, refers to these kinds of students as “helpless handraisers.” I think this is a fairly accurate description, but the question is, how do we wean these students off their neediness? And more specifically, how do we help them quickly and effectively without reinforcing helplessness and losing control of the rest of the class?

Jones’s Praise, Prompt, and Leave strategy is one that is particularly useful in these situations. Here’s how it works:

Let’s say that the class is working independently on a math problem. After only a few seconds, you see a hand go up. It’s Jessie. Again. “How could he possibly need help already?” you think. Rather than ignoring Jessie, or becoming frustrated with him, give Jones’s three-part strategy a shot.

Praise the Student
When you look at Jessie’s math problem, you will see two things: what he did right, and where he went wrong. Whether you want to or not, chances are that you’ll see the part that is wrong first. Rather than beginning with what Jessie didn’t do,

  • First, take a breath. Give yourself a second to refocus not on the mistakes, but on what Jessie did right.
  • Second, praise what Jessie has done well.

Keep in mind that praise is not necessarily synonymous with “nice.” Just comment on one or two aspects of the student’s performance in simple, declarative sentences.

Prompt the Student
Before prompting the student, think about what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. You want to avoid beginning your prompt with “But,” “However,” or “Instead of.” Language like this actually undermines your praise, turning it into a “back-handed” compliment!

Beginning your prompt with something like, “The next thing you might want to do is…” will work much better.

Leave the Student
After you’ve given a prompt, your instinct may tell you to check for understanding before you leave. Whether or not you do this is up to you, but as Jones suggests, “‘helpless handraisers’ constantly exploit corrective feedback for attention rather than learning.” For these kinds of students, you may do better to leave before you see the student carry out the prompt.

A Note About Corrective Feedback
Beware of beginning corrective feedback with a question. Why?

  • They produce verbosity: The best way to guarantee that you talk for three minutes is to talk for one minute! Meanwhile, the rest of your class is going off the rails.
  • They enable helpless handraising: While some dialogue with struggling students may produce a rich dialogue, you run the danger of further enabling your needy students.

Rather than begin your prompt with a question, you might do better to initiate a request: “John I’d like to see you do such and such right here.” “Kelly, take a look at step number four.” Why? Requests are “emotionally safe” because they do not imply judgment.


Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, student engagement, Challenging Students,

Better Classroom Communication: Honing Your Non-Verbal Communication Skills

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 19, 2014 2:46:00 PM

I spend a lot of time reading articles and books about classroom management and have noticed something: Very little of it mentions non-verbal classroom communication. This is interesting, especially when we take into account what Albert Mehrabian, an Emeritus Professor of Psychology at UCLA, reported after years of studying how humans communicate: In his studies, he found that when a listener is “unsure about what is being said,” or there is “incongruence” in conversation, s/he will “default” to reading body language or voice tones.

Let’s be more specific. Mehrabian argues that 55 percent of the messages we transmit to each other come from body movements, 38 percent from the voice—inflection, intonation, volume—and 7 percent from words.

55 percent of the messages we transmit to one another come not from what we say, but how we use our bodies! That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?

With the help of Richard Churches’ book, Effective Classroom Communication Pocketbook, I’d like to delve into this topic and share a few tips to help teachers hone their non-verbal communication skills.

Classroom_communication_1The Blaming Posture looks exactly like the picture you see to the left. It’s accusatory, hierarchical, intimidating, and does little to build rapport with students. Of course, teachers aren’t the only ones who resort the Blaming Posture. In fact, many of us only use it in response to a student who is pointing or accusing us!

Should you find yourself in a situation where a student is using this posture, Churches suggests that we use Placater Posture instead.

 

 

 

classroom_communication_2In the Placating Posture, your palms face upwards while you calmly, yet assertively tell the student what you want. This is not a form of posture you want to overuse, but it is a useful on rare occasions with students who are aggressive, angry, or making accusations. You may also find it useful if you are giving feedback or transmitting complicated information.

If you’ve used the Placater to make a difficult point to someone, end the sentence with the Leveller (the next, more assertive pattern).

 

 

 

 

classroom_communication_3When using the Leveller Posture, stand in a centered way with your palms down and hands slightly in front of you. This posture is ideal for when you want to be assertive or explain rules. It’s a non-threatening gesture that suggests to the listener that what you are saying is sincere and on his or her level. This position is very effective when you want to hold people’s attention.

As with all of these postures, you don’t need to exaggerate your body movement. Even slight posture adjustments will send a clear message.

 

 


Classroom_Communication_4Whenever I think about the Computing Posture, I’m reminded of a teacher I had in graduate school. The class was seminar-style, which meant that it was, for the most part, discussion-based and student-led. The professor would only chime in to maintain order or facilitate when we got stuck. When this happened, she would sit back in her chair, put her fist under her chin and her other arm below her elbow; then she would either look down at the floor, or stare off into the distance without saying anything.

This sent a very clear message to us: that we needed to stop talking for a minute and think. This posture was also an effective way to spark our curiosity. We wanted to know what our professor was thinking and what she might say after she had successfully computed her idea.

 

Classroom CommunicationThe Distracter is a posture that we should really avoid—unless we are joking around with students or presenting an aside.

When people use the Distracter, they move between different postures, appearing inconsistent. Distracting often occurs with new teachers when they start to feel nervous. In these situations, train yourself to adopt the Leveller more often and you will come across as more assertive and in control.

 

 

 

 

classroom_communication_6Sequencing is useful when you are teaching a lesson that includes stages in a process or steps in a journey. As you speak, allow your hand to move sideways, back and forth across your body. You can also do the same gesture moving away from you and towards the other person.

Another way to use the gesture is to start with your hand out in front and move it back towards you. This says, “Let’s back track from where we currently are”; it is also useful to reinforce points.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, classroom communication

Words of Wisdom: Advice from Veteran Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 16, 2014 4:03:00 AM

veteran_teachersLast week, I wrote a blog about five things I wish I would have known before setting foot into my first classroom. This is a conversation I’d like to continue, but instead of doling out my own advice, I decided to reach out to all of the teachers who regularly post on Edmodo. Here was my question: If you could give a new teacher one piece of advice, something you wish you'd have known when you started, what would it be?

Below are their responses:

Be flexible, always have a Plan B, be able to immediately recognize when your lesson plan is failing, and be willing to toss it, then and there.
-Ms. Butchikas

Establish a silent signal to get your students' attention. Yelling is not necessary in typical circumstances.
-Mr. Swaney

Bring a lot of laughter to your classroom lessons; it will make it easier for you and the students to learn and time will fly! I use YouTube videos in my class daily. They are a great resource for both educational videos and mental breaks.
-Ms. Montoya

Establish, build, and nurture relationships with students, teachers, staff, parents, everyone you can think of. Don't hesitate to give or ask for help—but remember, there is no one "magic" way of doing things. Figure out what kind of teacher you will be and work toward becoming that teacher.
-Mr. Gibson

Know that the perfect plans usually end up not so perfect...and that is ok! Capture the hearts of your kids and they will do amazing things for you.
-Mr. Topliff

Keep your focus and curriculum consistent; students will follow the rules if they are established and followed through to the end. Change is good, but setting the tone from the beginning goes a long way!
-Mr. Solorzano

Mark one day every week to leave at the end of your contracted hours and take NOTHING home. It takes some pre-planning, but a weekday break sure makes things easier!
-Mrs. Fizer

I have two. First of all, it is ok to say "I don't know" to a student's question and turn a search for the answer into a class activity. Second, be fair and consistent in your classroom policies.
-Ms. Pilkington

Don't see your inexperience as a weakness, see it as a strength. You are coming in with new perspectives, new insight, fresh enthusiasm, and you’re full of energy—have confidence in yourself and never apologize for being a new teacher!
-Mrs. Hals

Be flexible and go backwards or forwards depending on where the students are at that moment. 
-Ms. Craft

Remember if it is not fun for you, it is not fun for the students.
-Mrs. Foreman

Ask your students what's working for them and why. Adjust what's not working for them. Continue to shape and polish curriculum perennially and don't force what's not working.
-Mr. McLearan

Photo credit: Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, student engagement, first year teacher, veteran teacher

Begin with a Bang: 6 Ways to Make Students Go “Huh?”

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 15, 2014 1:55:10 PM

teachersTeachers can learn a lot from a well-written headline. Let me give you an example: When I logged onto Facebook this morning, the first post I saw was a link to a Buzzfeed article entitled, “20 Adorable Animal Couples…the Last One Astounded Me!” Did I click on it? You bet I did.

Regardless of what you teach, try beginning each lesson like Buzzfeed would—with some sort of provocative, attention-getting statement or activity that will make your students scratch their heads and go, “huh?”  Here are a few ways to do just that.

Begin with a Bang: 6 Ways to Make Students Go “Huh?”

  • Use a prop from a story you are going to read and discus. In my high school literature class, we were assigned John Steinbeck’s short story, “The Chrysanthemums.” On the day of our discussion, the teacher didn’t greet us at the door like usual. Instead, she sat cross-legged on top of her desk, staring at a plant (which, of course, turned out to be a chrysanthemum).

    This was strange behavior and certainly uncharacteristic of our teacher, but it did grab our attention. Rather than beginning our discussion with the text, we spent the first fifteen minutes of class talking about the plant on her desk, which ultimately led to a deeper discussion about Steinbeck’s story.

  • Go on a gallery walk. Set up several stations around the room and place a different image or object on each one. To give students a clear sense of purpose, provide them with a series of questions or tasks that they must complete at each station. When they are done, gather as a class and have each group share its conclusions.
  • Hand out a survey: Survey your students by asking questions and having them step to a side or corner of the room that represents their response. This gets students up and moving and out of their seats!
  • Begin with a relevant YouTube clip. Every semester, I ask my students to choose an advertisement and write a rhetorical analysis of it. I want them to not only describe their advertisement in detail, but analyze it and explain how the advertisement works, and how it delivers its message to consumers.

    Before beginning our unit on advertising, I always begin with Lucky Strike Ad Pitch,a clip from the popular AMC drama, Madmen. It goes perfectly with the unit and always sparks an interesting discussion that we might not have had otherwise.
  • Showcase a student’s work. This is another trick I picked up from a former teacher. Before my teacher would return our essays, he would select a couple from the stack and read a short section to the class. After he finished, he would talk briefly about what he liked in the essay and why he selected it. Every week, he selected essays by different students, read them aloud, and highlighted something that the student did exceptionally well. This was empowering for both the strong and weaker writers.
  • Pretend to be confused: Start class by describing a conundrum you’re experiencing and don’t know how to get out of. The only way you can get out of it is with your students’ help.

 

Tags: icebreakers for teachers, student engagement

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