I am probably the last teacher in the world to try Kahoot, but I finally used it with my students. Of course, I had heard of Kahoot and how much students like it. I have even seen students use it, but I was not the creator or the facilitator of that lesson.

Since we recently became a 1:1 classroom with a set of Chromebooks, I figured I could finally try Kahoot. We have been practicing adding and subtracting decimals using mental math, and I thought a few of my quicker, more mental math-adept students would like to try to practice using a different format. For this game, I created my own Kahoot, though there are hundreds of teacher-made Kahoots for you to browse and use with your own students.

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Once you have an account, you click on New K!, and you can pick one of four formats: Quiz, Jumble, Discussion, and Survey. I chose to do a quiz, which is the most well-known version of Kahoot.

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I thought practicing mental math would be a great use of Kahoot, since the students don’t need to have any paper or pencil to do calculations.

I created the image for the Kahoot on Canva, and I pulled questions from the student textbook (we use Singapore Math at my school) for the students to practice.

When the quiz was “live”, students logged in using the class code and created a nickname so I could see which questions each student got correct. The question appeared on my SmartBoard with the answer options, and students clicked on the answer on their Chromebooks.


With the first group of students, I didn’t have the students work for points, but it still somehow gave students first, second, and third places. They thought that was highly unjust (and I kind of agree…). So I asked them if they would like to use points next time, and they adamantly said YES!, so I added points for the second group. The second group thought it was a lot of fun (so did the first group, even with the weird score-less “winners”).

This was definitely a win with my 5th graders.  I don’t think a lot of the teachers at my school use it (apparently we are all behind the curve), so it was new and exciting for my class. I am planning on using this again when we practice multiplying and dividing decimals by 10, 100, and 1000.

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There are a lot of non-math ways I could use Kahoot. I thinking about using it for students to practice identifying simple, compound, and complex sentences. We could use it to review our read aloud or book club books before assessments. I know other teachers have used it for getting the discussion started or introducing a new topic with some of the other formats. I am excited to see what else I can do with Kahoot!



In my slice this week, I talked about my sentence boot camp and how I tried Nearpod for the first time.  I am probably pretty late to the game, but my class was recently gifted with a set of Chromebooks, so I am now a 1:1 classroom. With this new technology, there are a lot of new edtech tools that I have been meaning to try and now I have the capability to use. Nearpod is one that I have had my eye on for awhile.

I realized that my students needed some instruction on types of sentences (simple, compound, complex). I wanted the lesson to be both informative and interactive, especially since this could be a pretty dry topic for students. I had used Nearpod as a “student” in professional development presentations, so I was familiar with the interface, but I had never used it as a teacher. You can create your own Nearpod lessons or browse hundreds of free and paid lessons in math, language arts, social studies, science, digital citizenship, etc.

For my first two lessons, I opted to use lessons that had already been created, and for my third lesson, I created my own.

When it is time for students to “do” the lesson with you, they log in using a class code that you provide them. Once they are logged in, they have the presentation on their own computer/device, and you control what page they are on. When you advance forward a slide, everyone’s presentation advances to the next slide. When I was using it, my students could look at the lesson on my board or on their computer screen.

The slides can be text-, image-, or video-based. The coolest feature of Nearpod–and what makes it different than a regular PowerPoint–is that the slides can also be interactive. Students can post to a collaborate corkboard (like Padlet), or they can take a quiz, write, or draw. It was fun to see the types of sentences that my students created during the lesson.

On these interactive slides, you can share particular responses with students, so they can see particular examples right on their screens. Students love it when you choose one of their responses to highlight for the rest of the class.

Nearpod could use used by teachers or students to create presentations. They are definitely presenter-led, but the interactive features make them more collaborative and engaging than most direct instruction tools. It would be fun for students to make their presentations more interactive, and “be the teacher” using Nearpod. My students really enjoyed the lessons that I presented using this tool. They seemed to think they were more like games than anything else. I will definitely use Nearpod again in the future.


Looking for nonfiction texts to use with your class? Then you should check out Newsela.  On Newsela, you can search for articles on a wide variety of topics, including art, geography, US and world history, science, and math.  These articles are available to teachers for free (there is a paid Pro version that includes additional features).

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Bibliographic information is easily found at the beginning of the article to help students cite their sources using date and author. Photos in each article are sourced and captioned, so students can see what that documentation looks in an authentic writing piece. I can use this to help my students as they write more evidence-based pieces and highlight the importance of citing their sources, whether text or image.

There are also opinion pieces that relate to current events that students are interested in. You can find pro/con articles in this section, written by two different authors.  These will be great mentor texts for when my students are learning to write their own evidence-based opinion writing pieces.

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One amazing feature of Newsela is that you can adjust the reading level on each article to fit the reading needs of each of your students.

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Each article also has a short quiz and writing prompt to support your students’ understanding of the content.

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Text sets are another great feature, as the Newsela staff has organized some articles around specific themes in all of the content areas and Spanish-language articles.

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You can bookmark text sets that you want to reference later or share with your students.

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Since my first unit is on human rights, I am excited to look at articles about civil rights in the past and present, including current events. You can also create your own text sets using the articles available on the Newsela website.

I am looking forward to using Newsela to support my students in their research and nonfiction reading skills. Since I use a lot of inquiry in the classroom, I see myself using Newsela to  provide texts for my students as they learn about the content that is intriguing to them within each unit. Also, I plan on using Newsela to introduce background information to students, so they have a general understanding of each unit before they delve more deeply into the areas that interest them.

I am discovering new things on Newsela every time I log in. Today, I learned that there are transcripts to famous speeches throughout history, including Woodrow Wilson, Sojourner Truth, and Steve Jobs.

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There are also biographies, primary source documents, and myths and legends for you to use with your students.

There are some even newer updates, courtesy of the Newsela Blog: Max6 and Power Words. Max6 are articles designed for elementary school teachers, where the highest reading level is 6th grade. Power Words highlight important and Tier 2 vocabulary words that students need to know, including a definition and a pronunciation button so students can hear what the word sounds like.

There are so many great features to Newsela, and I am sure that you will find more when you get on to discover it yourself. I hope this is a useful tool for both you and your students as you get into nonfiction texts together.



My Storybook

Are you looking for a way for your students to create beautiful books on their own? Then My Storybook is a good website for you! This is a student-friendly, easy-to-use, drag-and-drop website that allows students to publish their writing and share it easily with authentic audiences via email or social media.

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Students can also print their stories to keep or put into a portfolio. There is a $5 fee for downloading the ebook, but it is an option if you, your students, or their families are interested.

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But before they can publish their stories, students have to create them! There are four tools for students to use: items, draw, text, and scene.

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“Items” include clip art and cartoons to add to your story. You can also upload your own images, including drawings, photos, or images from the internet. There is some variety in the available items, but not a lot; it’s good that there is an option for students to do their own illustrations and upload them into their book.

“Draw” allows students to draw directly in their books, using a variety of tools and colors. If students don’t want to upload their own images, this is a great option.

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“Text” is where students can type up their stories. There are limited options for text customization, but font, size, and color should be enough for most students.

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Finally, “Scene” gives students options for backgrounds on their pages. Students can pick a different color scene for each page or no scene. Students can draw and add text and items on top of scenes.

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I didn’t use this with my whole class last year, but I did make it an option for students on their homework projects. I had one student use it, and she said that it was fun and easy to use. I would like to increase my students’ opportunities for typing their writing and sharing it with authentic audiences; My Storybook does both of those for me, so I plan on using it more this year.

Students need a login to save their work. You could have students use their own email addresses, if they have them, or you can have students login using a shared email. Since my school doesn’t provide email addresses, I created a Gmail account for my class to use on websites like this, and it worked really well last year. This website is good for any age student, though it is geared more toward elementary-aged students.

Check out the product I created as an exemplar for the Million Dollar Project.Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 4.21.48 PM

Want to see what using My Storybook looks like in real time? Check out my screencast of My Storybook.

Punctuation Rules!

Now that I have recovered from my ISTE experience, I am starting to go through some of the amazing resources that I learned about while I was there. One that jumped out at me is a Curriculum Pathways resource called Punctuation Rules!. You need a login to access Curriculum Pathways’s tools, but it is free.

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I love grammar, but I have a hard time teaching it in a way that is interesting for students, especially since they usually have a wide range of skills when it comes to understanding and using grammar in their reading and writing. Punctuation Rules! is one tool that I think could help me target students’ individual grammar needs.

Once you launch the resource, you can see all of the punctuation marks that you can learn about. You can jump to a resource by clicking on it. It will take you to the menu where you can look through the different uses of that form of punctuation.Screen Shot 2017-07-17 at 5.14.56 PM

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Once you select a usage, you have three options: learn, practice, and quiz.

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The “Learn” tab has a short video outlining definitions, examples, and common traps associated with that specific usage.

The “Practice” tab provides sentences where students practice using the form of punctuation. There are choices or write-ins for each question, so there is an opportunity for students to control some of the practice.

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Once you pick your sentence, you drag the punctuation mark where it needs to go in the sentence. There are sentences where you don’t need the punctuation mark at all, so you have to be paying attention. You check your work after each sentence to see if you are on the right track.

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The “Quiz” tab provides sentences that allow students to assess their understanding of the usage, including any “traps” that they talked about in the video.  You check all of your answers at the end, when you get a handy PDF with your name, usage, and results to share with others.Screen Shot 2017-07-17 at 4.56.57 PM

The definitions are not “dumbed-down” for younger students, so there is a helpful glossary that students can open up at any time if the video uses a term that they are unfamiliar with.

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This resource is marked K-8, and I feel like it will be perfect for my 5th graders, but some of the language can be tricky. I think it’s good for students to use the proper terminology, so I like that the glossary is there as a scaffold while they are learning.

I am excited to use this resource as part of my writing workshop this year. My students need to learn about more advanced forms of punctuation, and this resource provides them with short practice opportunities that they could reference again at home if they need to. We could also do it as a whole-class or small-group activity, but I envision myself using this more on a individual basis, if students are struggling with incorporating more advanced punctuation or need additional practice with more familiar punctuation (like commas).

Top Ten Day 4 ISTE 2017

Last day of ISTE 2017.  Here are my final thoughts:

1. Crowds. There were definitely fewer people at the closing keynote than there were yesterday at the random Tuesday keynote. I guess a lot of people had to jet out of there, literally. Hooray for being local, y’all.

2. Music. Still digging this live music at the keynotes. Three for three on high school-aged artists from Austin. Quick recap: Tianna Girls, Charlie Belle, and Grace London. Makes waiting for the keynote to start much more fun.

Grace London

Made on Canva.

3. Serendipity. I started talking with a computer science teacher in North Carolina and it turns out that we had been to several of the same sessions throughout this conference. Great minds think alike.

4. Fatigue. While this has been an amazing learning experience, I am ready for ISTE to be over. I am overflowing with new apps, cool tools, and learning that I can’t wait to take back into the classroom. But I am tired.

5. Social media in the classroom. I went to another session that talked about the importance of using social media in the classroom, modeling it for students, connecting with them, and creating a respectful and responsible community of learners. This session was about Snapchat. I can see how this would be very popular with high school students, but I am curious as to how it would work with elementary students.IMG_51856. Global collaboration. My class next year will likely be very small. Because of this, I am nervous that we will create a sort of “echo chamber”, without a wide variety of voices, perspectives, and opinions. Today, I learned about several tools that should provide us with some collaboration opportunities: Flipgrid, Recap, and PenPal Schools.

7. Sketchnotes. You have probably seen some of these floating around the internet. If not, just Google it; the images will blow you away. Anyway, today I learned how to do my own sketchnotes and use them in the classroom. I like the visual nature of them; I can think of some students that probably would’ve paid better attention were they taking sketchnotes. Here are my first two humble attempts:

8. Rental car shenanigans. My husband and I just downsized to one car, so I rented a car for ISTE. Enterprise closed at 6. I left San Antonio at 4:05; that should’ve been plenty of time. Car returned: 5:55. Whew.

9. Closing keynote. The woman who started Girls Who Code spoke to us, and it was both uplifting and depressing. Depressing that there are so many coding opportunities and so few women in computer science fields, and uplifting because there are people working to get young women interested in these lucrative, in-demand fields.img_1673.jpg10. Reflection. I wasn’t sure how much I would really enjoy ISTE. I loved the math conference I went to, but I am very passionate about math instruction, while edtech is more of a personal hobby. I thought there might not be much I would be interested in (HA…with over 1,000 sessions, how could there not be!?!). Well, it was amazing. I learned so much, and I am excited about a lot of the things I learned. Now it’s time to prioritize what I am going to do first when school starts up in the fall. And it’s time to start budgeting for ISTE 2018 in Chicago.Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 8.00.32 PM

11. Bonus: Yesterday, I talked about people with excessive name tag decorations. Today, I secured a couple of photos so you can see the madness for yourself. 🙂 IMG_5206IMG_5200

Top Ten Day 3 ISTE 2017

Whew. These days are long and action-packed. Here’s my top ten for day 3.

1. Keynote. Wow. The keynote today was awesome. We had a student panel. We compared student growth to cilantro that grows wherever it wants. We compared teachers and wizards. We learned about single stories and untold stories. Amazing. IMG_1626IMG_16312. Talking to exhibitors. I think their favorite sentence might be, “Tell me more about your product.” Their eyes light up, their voices pick up, and they look like Christmas has come early. They must be exhausted by the end of the day, all that enthusiasm.

3. Tidbits. Today was my day for learning little things. I didn’t do as many “sit and get” sessions, but I did a lot of poster sessions and short 20-minute bursts. Like how to search more effectively on Google.IMG_16544. Buncee. Never heard of it before, but it looks like something my students would love to use for presentations. It helps that the person I talked to was also a fifth grade teacher. Holla!

5. Newsela. I’d never heard of it before this conference, but it looks like a good nonfiction resource, especially now that they have US history and thematic units for my students to use during research. Score!IMG_5145

6. KidBlog. Started by a teacher, it’s a safe place for students to blog and share their writing with a wider audience. I ever got a picture with the CEO!IMG_51737. Tired feet. I clearly did more walking today as my feet hurt more than they did yesterday. Just a little more walking to do…

8. Clever session names. I did a session called Under the Sheets with Sheets, which I just thought was so funny. Bonus: I learned lots of cool tricks to try with Google Sheets.IMG_5146

9. WriteSteps. It’s fun to talk to educators about products they are passionate about, especially if they created them. This looks like a good resource for writing instruction. I’ll have to check out the free unit they are sending me.IMG_5136 10. Name tag accessories. You can get these tags to attach underneath your name tag. I have zero. Most people have 3ish. I saw a couple of people today with 20. 20! Clearly I have a lot of catching up to do tomorrow.

Last day and last top ten tomorrow!

Top Ten Day 2 ISTE 17

Another day, another top ten of ISTE 2017.

1. More student presentations. I was really impressed by the student presentations yesterday at ISTE Ignite, and I was happy to see more of them today at the poster sessions. I also saw a lot of regular teachers like me. Since I am a novice conference attendee, I tend to think that only researchers or professors or super teachers can present at conferences. While I know that logically this is not the case, it’s still nice to see regular teachers being given a space to share the amazing things they are doing in their classrooms every day.

2. New things to try with my students. Today, I learned about podcasting, which I am excited to try with my students as I love podcasts.IMG_1593

3. Swag! While I spend most of my time at the Expo trying not to make eye contact with the over 3,600 vendors that I don’t care about, it is definitely worth my while to stop at the ones I do care about. Shout out to IPEVO for hooking me up with my very own document camera!IMG_1603

4. The Expo. While we’re on the topic of the Expo, there are so many pleasant surprises there. I can’t seem to find any of the vendors that I want to visit, but I always stumble upon undiscovered gems that I am so glad I did find. Like the Global Oneness Project, which will be amazing for my globally-minded, IB-learning students.FullSizeRender

5. Powerful presentations. There is always one presentation that causes a monumental shift in my thinking as a teacher. Today, it was the presentation on rubrics. Why are rubrics so vague? Why can’t students use them to improve? I am really excited about changing my rubrics to make them more student-friendly and skill-based.IMG_5129

6. Taking breaks. With so many presentations, attendees, and exhibitors, ISTE can be very overwhelming. I found that taking breaks during the day made me a lot less brain-tired. I brought along a handy non-tech-related book to keep me company (because being continually surrounded by 20,000 strangers is surprisingly lonely).517oaelnrcl-_sx402_bo1204203200_

7. Ponderings. Thinking about how to model good social media usage for my students if I don’t use social media in the classroom with my students.IMG_5115

8. Fun new apps! Like Newsela for reading and vocabulary practice.IMG_1617

9. Google. I love going to “tool” sessions where I leave with new tools under my teacher belt. Today, I learned about the autoCrat add-on to Google Sheets and Google Arts and Culture. Hooray for virtual field trips and high-def artwork.


Fun things to do with autoCrat.

10. The Expo, part 2. From all my wanderings throughout the Expo, the vendors I saw could pretty much be placed into one of three categories:

  1. Hardware that is meant to protect expensive devices from grubby, droppy hands
  2. Super amazing tech security that will protect everything in the district from scary things like viruses
  3. Other (things teachers actually want to use)

Plenty  more fun to be had tomorrow!

(Featured image created on Canva.)

Top Ten Day 1 ISTE 2017

After my first successful professional conference experience at NCTM this year (check out my exploits here, here, and here), I decided to come to ISTE (International Society of Technology in Education)’s conference in San Antonio.  There were several reasons why I wanted to come for the first time to ISTE: 1) I learned so much at NCTM’s Annual Meeting this year, and I was eager to learn more about edtech, a personal interest of mine; 2) I was very envious of everyone’s tweets about the conference last year; 3) I am already very familiar with San Antonio’s convention center, since NCTM was in the same place; and 4) San Antonio is close enough to my home in Austin that I don’t need to fly.

My first day of ISTE top ten, in no particular order:

1. Live music. I was into the jazz duo in the lobby of the convention center and the girl band from Austin. Shout out to the Tiarra Girls. img_1583.jpg

2. New books. Well, just one new book.  I find that reading is a nice way to take a break from all the tech-ness of this conference. IMG_5108

3. Fan girling. I feel pretty good about myself when I recognize someone that a presenter references. In this case, Jennifer Gonzalez and the Cult of Pedagogy being awesome, as usual.IMG_1569

4. Student presenters. One of the coolest parts of ISTE Ignite (20 slides, 15 seconds per slide, lots of information in a short period of time, whew) was the student presenters! One student was an entrepreneur who founded Studio1ne. Another student talked about different apps and websites that he uses, that maybe we might want to use with or introduce to our students:

We also heard from a student (@steamnerds) who was “too young” to join his school’s robotics team, so he started his own. Rock on, Generation Z! (Learned about them in another adult-led Ignite talk).

5. 90 minutes to wait for a session?!? No way, Apple. I don’t care how great your presentations are, that is too much time standing in line and not enough time checking out all the other cool sessions. I will never know what I missed anyway.

6. Good questions. A good thing to keep in mind, as edtech can be pretty overwhelming, and there can be a pretty big feeling of FOMO.IMG_1578

7. Innovation ≠ Technology (necessarily). A good thing to keep in mind at an edtech conference. Just because you use technology does not mean that it is innovative.IMG_1567

8. Radiolab. New fan of this guy right here: Jad Abumrad. Great thoughts about productive struggle and how to work through difficult things to make greatness, or something closer to greatness each time. I like the model he made for Radiolab. I think it also works for education.IMG_1589

9. The Gap. The difference between knowing you can do high-quality work and actually producing it. So good for students–and their teachers–to keep in mind during the learning process.

THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.

10. Size matters. ISTE 2017 is huge! Over 21,000 exhibitors and attendees. All 50 states and over 70 countries represented. Over 8,000 different schools and organizations represented. Maps and “Ask Me” helpers everywhere. People everywhere. Oh. My. Gosh. This thing is so big.

I hope tomorrow is just as thought-provoking!


I first learned about Trello at an International Baccalaureate (IB) workshop on integrating technology into the classroom, and I started using it about 2 weeks ago in the classroom.  I am very excited about how easy it is to use and how quickly my students have grown accustomed to it.  It has made organization of group work so much easier to manage for both me and my students.  I would describe Trello as an organizational and collaboration tool.  My husband, a software engineer, uses Trello at work to keep track of on-going projects, and he would describe it differently, but it is mostly a place for you to make lists and add information under that list.  This information, called “cards”, can be notes, attachments, videos, or images.

I decided to use Trello during my current unit on conflict to help us all keep track of what we need to accomplish.  I was tired to having all of the information myself and was ready to give my students more practice with self-paced learning.  With Trello, each group can move through the unit at his or her own pace, and they have all of the information that they need, when they need it. I put information on Trello, and the students log in and see what they have to accomplish before moving on to the next topic.  I created a Gmail account for my class to use this year, and they log in using that group Gmail address.  While I control the content that goes on the site, my students have access to all of the material.

I have four groups of students, each one learning about one major, historical U.S. conflict: Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, and WWII.  Each group has a Trello board.  This is what the main dashboard looks like, with my four current boards:


When you click on one of the boards, you will see their lists.  These lists are what each group needs to accomplish within a certain track.  In the IB program, we call each track a “line of inquiry”.  They can move through their list at their own pace, and I can see where everyone is and what else they still have to accomplish.  This is what the boards looked like at the beginning of the unit:


For my Revolutionary War group, they have several primary source documents to look at as they synthesize the causes of the Revolutionary War.  They have documents, an image, a voice recording, and a video to watch before they complete the formative assessment.  When you click on one of the cards, more information pops up.  You can see a variety of cards below:


As the students complete each task, they archive it, so it disappears from the main board.  It’s still there to access if they need to go back and look at it for any reason, but it is no longer on their main page.  They can now move on to the next task.


At this point in the unit, every group is finished with their primary resources and is ready to move on to the formative assessment.  Everyone’s board now looks like this:


I started using Trello on a bit of a whim, but I am confident that I will continue to use it in my classroom.  It is so easy to use, and the students are using a collaboration tool that is being used out “in the real world”.  While I control the content now, in the future, I see my students adding in their own cards and content as they create more of their own units.  This will be very helpful not only for the group, but also for me, as I can see what each group is doing, how their pacing is going, and what I can do to support them as they move through the unit.  I would highly recommend using Trello if you use consistent group work or if you have several projects going on at once, whether group or individual.  It is easy for you and your students to use, and it makes group work management much more manageable.