I love the Verizon ads that always asked that question. Perhaps it is because one of the greatest challenges I hear repeatedly from teachers across the district is in regards to parent communication. Each year as a classroom teacher, I would reflect on how effective my chosen methods of communication were over the course of a school year. I typically had frequent contact with about 25% of my families, moderate contact with about 50% of my families, and little to no contact with about the other 25% of my families. By contact, I mean two-way communication that takes place on a weekly basis.
In looking at my own practices, I realize now that I was great at one-way communication; newsletters, notes in planners, forms sent home with students, etc. However, I was not offering my families any great tools, other than email or phone, to actually converse with me about their student and how things were going at school. Therefore, this summer I set out to find what other educators are using.
What I learned is that there is a TON of apps out there specifically designed to accomplish the task of parent-teacher communication. I spent some time exploring and weeding through the plethora of options out there and have come up with a list of 5 that impressed me the most and had fantastic teacher reviews.
If you are looking to communicate in a timely manner with parents these days, some form of technology is a must. These are just 5 of a multitude of apps that are available to accomplish this task. If none of these strikes your fancy, there are much more from which to choose. Ultimately, all that matters is that our families can hear us.
This post brought to you by Rebecca Mecikalski, Elementary Implementation Associate
Podcasts have been around for quite a while, however, many educators still have not tapped into their learning potential. Podcasts can be used for your own personal interest, as an easy source of professional development or for student use in the classroom. As the popularity of podcasts continue to rise, here are some creative and easy ways to use them in your elementary classrooms.
Podcasts for Educators
There are many educators out there who have started their own podcasts! If you are interested in learning more about a topic or if you are interested in getting new ideas, a podcast is an easy way to learn. While you are doing the laundry, driving down the road, preparing for your day at school or if you are interested in engaging teachers in a new way at a staff meeting, try listening to a podcast. Below are some Podcasts to check out!
Podcasts for Your Students
Students can also take part in learning through podcasts. They are available currently to them on their on iPads. Ask them to bring headphones, provide them with a list of pre-approved podcasts and they can get started. The podcasts below are currently used in classrooms around the country. Once students download their podcast on their iPad or phone they can listen to them anywhere. Consider taking them outside on a warm day or on a walking field trip. It can even be a station of learning in your classroom or a resource to use while writing a paper. If you want some ideas on where to start, below are some student friendly podcasts!
New to Podcasts? Here are simple directions on how to get started!
In iTunes you can find and subscribe to podcasts in several ways:
Things like Podcasts are the educational future. They open a whole new world of learning possibilities for adults and children alike. Explore. Engage. Enjoy. Of course, should you find something wonderful, be sure to share!
This post brought to you by Kate Palmquist, POSA overseeing Elementary Curriculum and Instructional Coaching
Are you aware of all the amazing things that our school librarians can do if you just ask? Listed here are just 10 of the ways you can better utilize this amazing resource that is already right at your fingertips!
1. Plan & co-teach engaging lessons.
Librarians cover topics that are important to their media classes which, depending on your media specialist, can include digital citizenship, research, book selection, state and national award books, components of fiction and nonfiction books, book care, database usage, teaching App usage, literature appreciation, multimedia presentation tools, book genres, growth mindset, keyboarding skills, citation, plagiarism, oral presentation skills, keyboarding skills, mouse skills, website evaluation, note taking, and alphabetization skills. This is just the tip of the iceberg of topics covered in media classes.
They also value and connect with the content that is being delivered in each of their buildings, each of their grade levels, and each of their individual classrooms. Frequently, teachers will ask librarians to reinforce a skill they are teaching in class, and librarians feel this is a major part of their role. They plan lessons for multiple grade levels, often for 2 different buildings: some of those buildings have 1:1 iPads, some don’t; some have computer labs, some don’t. Like classroom teachers, they seek to make their lessons engaging and enjoyable for their students. Librarians also push into classrooms to co-teach lessons when teachers are looking for support. They are happy to lead the lesson or just be an extra set of hands.
2. Partner in integration of new technology in your classroom.
3. Locate, vet, curate and share high quality resources for you and your students.
As most teachers know, librarians will research and acquire materials such as books (from their libraries or from other school libraries), websites, and databases to support student learning. Some of the greatest resources are quality databases which can easily be accessed through MackinVia by both teachers and students. Please see your media specialist if you have any questions regarding access or ways to best use these resources.
4. Connect students with books to nurture life-long readers.
5. Support and advancement of curriculum development.
Librarians often work on curriculum writing teams in order to support their work with valuable resources and offer their unique perspective. There are librarians who work on articulation committees, attend PLCs, participate in summer curriculum writing, and work with grade levels on planning teams. Feel free to contact your librarian if you feel this is something that would be helpful for you or to your team.
6. Cohort in exploring and trying new things and ideas.
7. Help students develop research and presentation skills.
Everyday there are new and exciting ways that students can present their learning. The more tools the students feel comfortable with, the more choice they have in presenting the information. The more comfortable they are with different methods of presentation, the more efficient they will be in their choices. They can target their strengths and/or explore new options. Librarians teach them not only presentation skills but presentation options. They teach the most effective ways to research and how to translate what they have learned into information that is easily consumed. Whenever possible, librarians give students voice and choice in their topics and encourage real world application and sharing of the knowledge they have acquired.
8. Community Builder - Both within the school and globally.
9. Collaborate on innovative projects.
Even librarians on fixed schedules can find time to collaborate on new and exciting projects with teachers. There are often resources they are aware of that can be added to enhance a particular project. Librarians can also teach components of the lesson that will help students achieve their goal. They can also just be another set of hands when needed. They are always happy to help.
10. Facilitate lessons and discussions on digital citizenship topics.
Librarians are there for you in whatever way they can be helpful. If they can’t answer the question or find the resource - they can find someone who can. Please don’t hesitate to seek them out.
Originally posted on the Secondary C&I website on 1/5/2018
I love the start of a new year for a variety of reasons. I love buying new calendars, organizers, and seeing that expanse of possibility as I look out at 365 new days to learn and grow. One of my favorite parts of being in the education profession is that our profession is filled with people who love to learn. In fact, many of us loved school so much that we never left.
As you look out on your 365 days of possibility how will you plan for your own continued learning? Here are some of the best ideas that I recently collected from RPS educators:
Plan a time each week to read professionally.
Many people are taking advantage of our “flipped book group” that will meet this winter called Bundle Up with Books. This is a great way to ensure that you set aside time to read, since the way the class works is that you bring your own professional reading (book, magazine, etc.) and spend time actually reading during the book group. Heather Lyke and Katie Miller facilitate this and the best part is that you get to actually read that stack that you’ve been meaning to get to.
Listen to a podcast.
If you are new to podcasts these are basically audio broadcasts that you can listen to at any time. They are great if you spend a lot of time in the car since you can listen as you drive. One of my favorites is Principal Center Radio.
Edutopia also suggests these:
Schedule time to network with those outside of education.
When I asked people what they do to continue to grow and learn a surprising pattern emerged. Many people find inspiration from thinkers outside of their chosen field. For instance, Julie Ruzek (the RPS coordinator of Coordinator of Family and Community Engagement and Title I Programs) commented that “the most productive meetings/ideas/outcomes have happened when I've collaborated with people both in and outside of education. Sometimes we forget that people outside our chosen profession have much to offer as well!”
Surround yourself by people who love to learn.
Cultivate relationships with those who are constantly reading, seeking feedback, and trying to improve themselves. If you don’t work directly with these kind of people, find a way to have lunch or coffee with them regularly to keep yourself energized and inspired.
Put yourself in situations where you are the student.
This might be taking a college class, learning a new type of yoga, or learning to rock climb. Putting yourself back in learning mode helps you remember what skills and dispositions are most important for learning something new. For example, Michelle Baines (RPS music educator) commented that she“recently took some classes at the college which helped [her] remember what it is like to be the learner!”
Here’s to 2018! Have a wonderful year learning and growing!
This post brought to you by Heather Willman, APOSA overseeing Secondary Curriculum and Instructional Coaching
The sheer number of educational apps available to teachers is overwhelming. It can take a lot of time to research quality online tools that can assist in your teaching. To save you some time, here are a few examples of free apps available to you and your students.
Seesaw: The Learning Journal
All subject areas
If you haven’t checked out Seesaw, it might be time! Seesaw is a great tool for not only teachers but for students and parents. Seesaw is an online tool that allows students to document their learning throughout the year, provide feedback to other classmates and receive feedback from their parents and teachers. Teachers around the district love this tool because it has become a portfolio of their students learning and allows students the opportunity to collaborate online in a safe environment. Seesaw is also a platform that allows students the freedom to show their learning in multiple ways and it works within any subject area.
If you currently use Seesaw in your classroom but are looking for new ways to use this platform, check out and read about the “100 Ways Students Use Seesaw”.
Number Rack from the Math Learning Center
If you keep up with our elementary curriculum blogs you know that our last blog included information on “Number Talks” and the importance of providing our students with a daily opportunity to improve their number sense. For those of you looking for a math teaching tool that helps students think in terms of 5’s and 10’s you might want to check out this app. This app allows you to facilitate the exploration of addition and subtraction strategies. You also have the opportunity to annotate the work on the iPad. The Math Learning Center provides an online video on how to manipulate the app for those of you looking to get started.
Exercise & Movement
We don’t want to forget about our PE teachers in our elementary blogging and since movement and exercise is a conversation we have often in classrooms here is a suggestion for those looking for new ways to get students moving. What is unique about this tool is that it not only get students moving but it models the appropriate ways to stretch and safely exercise. If you aren’t sure how to model that for your students, you can use this tool in any classroom or gym (just be sure you have enough room once they start moving!).
We know that giving spelling lists is not best practice which is why as a district we have moved to word study. Teachers are always looking for more creative ways to get students engaged in their independent word study work. Spelling City is a tool that teachers can use to download students individual work lists. When you meet with your students for a mini-lesson on a new sort or after introducing students to their new sort students can work on their individual spelling pattern in multiple ways within Spelling City. Students can also take a pre-test within Spelling City and teachers can check their understanding. It does take time on your end to enter the sorts but once they are in you can use them over and over again.
If you are looking for a list of other district approved apps, you can find that here.
Enjoy trying out these apps but as always before introducing students to online resources don’t forget to teach them the importance of online digital citizenship!
This post brought to you by Kate Palmquist, Elementary Principal on Special Assignment
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