11 Easter Sites For Your Students

hare-86079_640Many Christians celebrate Jesus Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. The Easter date depends on the ecclesiastical approximation of the March equinox. This year, it’s March 31st. Here are some websites your students will love:

  1. Easter color-me (for Kindergarten/first grade)
  2. Easter Color Me to print or import to drawing program
  3. Easter games II
  4. Easter games III
  5. Easter games IV
  6. Easter poems and songs (to play online)
  7. Easter Puppies–video
  8. Easter puzzles and games
  9. Easter songs for kids
  10. Easter story--the Easter Egg–video
  11. Easter Word hunt (Starfall)

Read more »

Categories: 1st, 2nd, Holidays, Kindergarten, Websites | Tags: | Leave a comment

#73: How to Graph in Excel

Excel graphs are easy enough for third graders. So try it. Collect your data, enter it into an excel worksheet and push F11. If you have more time, show students how to format the graph. This is a favorite with my third graders.

If the lesson plans are blurry, click on them for a full size alternative.

More about spreadsheets:

#75: Tessellations in Excel

#12: Create Simple Shapes in Excel

How to Use Excel to Teach Math Arrays

5 bundled Excel lesson plans (for a fee)


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of dozens of tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and dozens of books on how to integrate technology into education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a tech ed columnist for Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

Follow me

Categories: Excel, Freebies/Discounts, Lesson plans | Tags: | Leave a comment

What is the 21st Century Lesson Plan?

lesson plansTechnology and the connected world put a fork in the old model of teaching–instructor in front of the class, sage on the stage, students madly taking notes, textbooks opened to the chapter being reviewed, homework as worksheets based on the text, tests regurgitating important facts.

Did I miss anything?

This model is outdated not because it didn’t work (many statistics show students ranked higher on global testing years ago than they do now), but because the environment changed. Our classrooms are more diverse. Students are digital natives, already in the habit of learning via technology. The ‘college and career’ students are preparing for is different so the education model must be different.

Preparing for this new environment requires radical changes in teacher lesson plans. Here are seventeen concepts you’ll want to include in your preparation:

  1. Students are graduating from high school unable to work in the jobs that are available. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to insure students learn over-arching concepts such as how to speak to a group, how to listen effectively, how to think critically, and how to solve problems. The vehicle for teaching these ideas is history, science, and literature, but they aren’t the goal.industry analyst
  2. To focus on the over-arching concepts above, make learning platform-neutral. For example, when teaching spreadsheets, make the software or online tools a vehicle for practicing critical thinking, data analysis, and evidence-based learning, not for learning one brand of software or a particular spreadsheet tool. Besides, what you use at school may not be what students have at home. You don’t want students to conflate your lessons with ‘something done at school’. You want them to apply them to their life.
  3. Morph the purpose from ‘knowing’ to ‘understanding’. Teach the process, not a skill. Students should understand why they select a particular tool, not just how to use it. Why use PowerPoint instead of a word processing program? Or a spreadsheet instead of a slideshow? Expect students to be critical thinkers, not passive learners.
  4. Transfer of knowledge is critical. What students learn in one class is applied to all classes (where relevant). For example, word study is no longer about memorizing vocabulary, but knowing how to decode unknown academic and domain-specific words using affixes, roots, and context.
  5. Collaboration and sharing is part of what students learn. They help each other by reviewing and commenting on projects before submittal to the teacher (GAFE makes that easy). The definition of ‘project’ itself has changed from ‘shiny perfect student work’ to review-edit-rewrite-submit. You grade them on all four steps, not just the last one. This makes a lot of sense–who gets it right the first time? I rewrote this article at least three times before submitting. Why expect differently from students? Plus: No longer do students submit a project that only the teacher sees (and then a few are posted on classroom bulletin boards). Now, it is shared with all classmates, so all benefit from every students’ work.collaboration
  6. Self-help methods are provided and you expect students to use them. This includes online dictionaries and thesauruses, how-to videos, and access to teacher assistance outside of class. These are available 24/7 for students, not just during classroom hours. This happens via online videos, taped class sessions, the class website, downloadable materials so students don’t worry that they ‘left it in their desk’.
  7. Teachers are transparent with parents. You let them know what’s going on in the classroom, welcome their questions and visits, communicate often via email or blogs when it’s convenient for them. That doesn’t mean you’re on duty around the clock. It means you differentiate for the needs of your parents. Your Admin understands that change by providing extended lunch hours, compensatory time off, or subs when you’re fulfilling this responsibility.App icons
  8. Failure is a learning tool. Assessments aren’t about ‘getting everything right’ but about making progress toward the goal of preparing for life
  9. Differentiation is the norm. You allow different approaches as long as students achieve the Big Idea or answer the Essential Question. You aren’t the only one to come up with these varied approaches–students know what works best for their learning and present it to you as an option.
  10. The textbook is a resource, supplemented by a panoply of books, primary documents, online sites, experts, Skype chats, and anything else that supports the topic. This information doesn’t always agree on a conclusion. Students use habits of mind like critical thinking, deep learning, and evidence-based decisions to decide on the right answers.education resources
  11. The lesson plan changes from the first day to the last–and that’s OK. It is adapted to student needs, interests, and hurdles that arise as it unfolds, while staying true to its essential question and big idea.
  12. Assessment might include a quiz or test, but it also judges the student’s transfer of knowledge from other classes, their tenacity in digging into the topic, their participation in classroom discussions, and more.big idea Light bulb  illustration icon
  13. Vocabulary is integrated into lessons, not a stand-alone topic. Students are expected to decode words in class materials that they don’t understand by using quickly-accessed online vocabulary tools, or deriving meaning from affixes, roots, and context.word study
  14. Problem solving is integral to learning. It’s not a stressful event, rather viewed as a life skill. Who doesn’t have problems every day that must be solved? Students are expected to attempt a solution using tools at their disposal (such as prior knowledge, classmates, and classroom resources) before asking for help.
  15. Digital citizenship is taught, modeled and enforced in every lesson, every day, every class. It’s no longer something covered in the ‘tech lab’ because every class has as much potential for working online as offline. Every time the lesson plan calls for an online tool or research using a search engine or a YouTube video, teachers review/remind/teach how to visit the online neighborhood safely. It’s frightening how students blithely follow weblinks to places most parent wouldn’t allow their child to visit in their neighborhood. Just as students have learned how to survive in a physical community of strangers, they must learn to do the same in a digital neighborhood.
  16. Keyboarding skills are granular. They aren’t used only in the computer lab, but in every class students take. If students are using iPads, Chromebooks, laptops, or desktops for learning, they are using keyboarding–which means they must know how to do so efficiently, quickly, and stresslessly. Since keyboarding benefits all classes, all teachers–including the librarian–become partners in this effort. I go into classrooms and show students the broad strokes; the teacher reinforces it every time the student sits down at the computer.typing on keyboard
  17. Play is the new teaching. It is a well-accepted concept for pre-schoolers and has made a successful leap to the classroom, relabeled as ‘gamification’. Use the power of games to draw students into learning and encourage them to build on their own interests. Popular games in the classroom include Minecraft, Mission US, Scratch, and others on this list. If your school is new to this concept, clear it with admin first and be prepared to support your case.play

When I first wrote lesson plans, it was all about aligning learning with standards, completing the school’s curricula, ticking off required skills. Now, I build the habits of mind that allow for success in education and home life and construct a personal knowledge base with students that will work for their differentiated needs. Like any lesson plan, this is only difficult the first time. After that, it seems natural.


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of dozens of tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and dozens of books on how to integrate technology into education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a tech ed columnist for Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

Follow me

Categories: Critical thinking, Education reform, Lesson plans | Tags: | Leave a comment

29 Unique Ideas for Publishing Student Work

GAFEAfter you’ve looked at these 29 sites, there’s no reason to print student work and stick it on a wall. You have too many options:

  1. Book Cover creator
  2. Create a magazine cover
  3. Flipboard—organize ideas into mag
  4. Glogster—posters
  5. Go animate
  6. Issuu (http://issuu.com/)
  7. Newspaper—create a newspaper
  8. Newspaper—create a newspaper clipping
  9. Newspapers around the world
  10. PhotoPeach–online slideshows
  11. Poster maker—like an eye chart
  12. Posters—8×10 at a time–simple
  13. PowerPoint games for kids
  14. PowerPoint stuff
  15. PowerPoint Templates
  16. Prezi
  17. Print Large Posters in 8×10 bits
  18. Print Posters One Page at a Time
  19. Publish the magazines 
  20. Scoop-it—organize webpages
  21. Screen Capture—full webpage
  22. Screen capture–Screenr
  23. Screencast-o-matic
  24. ScreenLeap—screen share for free
  25. Slideboom—upload PowerPoints; share
  26. Tackk—create online fliers
  27. Turn short stories into books
  28. Wideo–create videos online
  29. Youblisher to make your pdf documents flappable

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Categories: Education reform, PowerPoint, Websites | Tags: | 3 Comments

7 Websites That Ring in Spring

easter-78006_640The temperatures are freezing on the East Coast, but Spring is right around the corner and we as teachers must get ready for it. What better way than with Spring Websites. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Life Cycle I
  2. Life Cycle II
  3. Spring Games
  4. Spring Games II
  5. Spring Garden–click to find flowers
  6. Spring Word Search
  7. Spring Word Scramble

Read more »

Categories: Holidays, Websites | Tags: | Leave a comment

#55: Keyboarding in the Classroom

Mix a variety of keyboarding tools so students get the most out of keyboarding time in the classroom. I include software (TTL4), online keyboarding websites (Dancemat typing) and fun tests (TypingTest.com). The goal is to get students to age-appropriate national standards for typing speed with practice three times per week, fifteen minutes each time. Click the image below to enlarge:

Read more »

Categories: Freebies/Discounts, Keyboarding, Lesson plans | Leave a comment

10 Tips for Teachers who Struggle with Technology

With technology moving out of the lab and into the classroom, it’s becoming a challenge for some teachers to infuse their teaching with tech tools such as websites, educational games, simulations, iPads, Chromebooks, GAFE, and other geeky devices that used to be the purview of a select group of nerdy teachers. Now, all teachers are expected to have students work, collaborate, research, and publish online.

I’m fine with that because I am that nerd, but if I was expected to integrate art into my classroom, I’d break out in a cold sweat and expect the worst. As the tech coordinator responsible for helping teachers use these tools in their classrooms, I hear too often from experienced, valuable, long-time teachers that they believe the time has come for them to retire, that they just don’t get this new stuff. I also have colleagues who think it takes a special brain to understand tech (the same way students think about math and science)–one they don’t have. If either of these educators are you, here are ten tips that will take the fear out of infusing tech into your lesson plans. Take these to heart–let them guide you. They will make a big difference in how you feel about yourself and your  class at the end of the day:

Make yourself use it every day

Even if you have to set aside ten minutes each day where you close the blinds and lock your door so no one sees your misery, do it. You don’t have to succeed with the tech tool you select, just use it. Whether it works or not is entirely beside the point. The point is you’re trying. You’re exploring the process. You’re unpacking the mysteries of tech in your academic career.

Believe this: The more you use tech, the more comfortable it will be, the more commonalities you’ll find between tools, and the easier it will be to share with students.

edtechTry to figure it out yourself

Read more »

Categories: Computer skills, Critical thinking, Education reform, Teaching | 8 Comments

12 Spring Cleaning Steps for Your Computer

spring cleaning It’s time for Spring Cleaning. Of your computer.

If you followed my suggestion over New Year’s, this will go faster than you expect, but still, plan to set aside a couple of hours. Grab a coffee or tea, get a comfortable chair. Put on your problem-solving hat, and get started:

  1. Make sure your firewall is working. Windows comes with a built-in one. Maybe Mac does too. Leave it active. It’s under Control Panel-Administrative Tools. Sometimes, they turn off by themselves (I have no idea why). Check it to be sure it remains active.
  2. Run Spybot or a similar antispyware program. Spybot is free, which is why I like it. I’ve had good luck with it. Download.com says this about Spybot: The program checks your system against a comprehensive database of adware and other system invaders. The Immunize feature blocks a plethora of uninvited Web-borne flotsam before it reaches your computer.
  3. Keep your antivirus software active. If you’re paranoid like me, run an antivirus scan weekly to be sure nothing is missed.
  4. Run Ad-aware once a week to keep malware and spyware off your computer. It has a stellar reputation and is still free to all (although there’s an upgrade you can pay for).
  5. Sort through your My Documents files and get rid of those you don’t need anymore. That includes pictures, videos, faxes, all that stuff. It’s intimidating, like a file cabinet that hasn’t been opened in months–or years. Do it, though. You may not need the hard drive space, but you don’t need the computer fingering through unnecessary files every time it searches.
  6. Back up all of your files to an external drive or cloud storage. If you have an automated system like Carbonite (see my sidebar for a link), skip this. If you don’t have one, consider getting one. They not only automatically back up your work, but they make it accessible from wherever you are–home, work, your accountants, the soccer field. If you use Windows, try their ‘backup’ program. It’s easy to find: Click the Start Button and search ‘backup’.
  7. Empty the trash folder. Don’t even look in it. If you haven’t missed a file by now, it won’t be in there.
  8. Learn to use that program you’ve been promising you would. Evernote is a great example. Use it (and you won’t be sorry) or delete the email from your best friend exhorting you to. Move on.
  9. Go through your programs and delete the ones you no longer use. Here’s what you do:
    • go to Control Panel>Programs and Feature
    • Peruse the list and pick the programs you downloaded by mistake, meaning to use, or used to use and no longer do
    • uninstall
    • don’t look back
  10. Update any software that needs it. I don’t mean BUY a newer version. I mean click the free update that’s been nagging at you (Adobe Reader and Windows, for example)
  11. Clean the junk off of your desktop. Put it in folders or create a folder for ‘Working on’ or ‘Desktop Stuff’. Don’t know how to create a desktop folder? Here’s what you do:
    • Right click on the desktop and select ‘New>folder’
  12. Clean up your Start Button. Remove shortkeys you no longer use (with a right click>delete). Add those that are now your daily go-to sites. How? Right-click>add to Start Menu.

Read more »

Categories: Computer Wisdom, Tech tips | Tags: , | 6 Comments

18 St. Patrick’s Day Sites For Students

Getting ready for St. Patrick’s Day? Try these fun websites:WANTED--LEPRECHAUN

  1. Color the shamrock
  2. Color the Pot-o-gold
  3. Color the leprechaun
  4. Games–St. Pat’s games and activities
  5. Puzzle–St. Pat’s Puzzle
  6. Puzzle–St. Pat’s puzzle II
  7. Puzzle–St. Pat’s drag-and-drop puzzle
  8. Puzzle–St. Pat’s slide puzzle
  9. Puzzle–St. Pat’s slide puzzle II
  10. Puzzle–Leprechaun jigsaw puzzle
  11. St. Pat’s math
  12. St. Patrick’s Day history–video
  13. St. Pat’s Day songs–video
  14. St. Pat’s Sudoku
  15. Tic tac toe
  16. Webquest for St. Patrick’s Day I
  17. Webquest II
  18. Wordsearch

Read more »

Categories: Holidays, Websites | Tags: | Leave a comment

5 Favorite Classroom Apps

appsApps are out of control. When you think you have just the right one for your classroom, a better/faster/snazzier version pops up. Often for free. It’s not like a decade ago when every teachers’ favorite tech tools were MS Office, KidPix, Reader Rabbit, and the internet.  Apps changed all that. Suddenly, the list exploded to include names like Voki, Tellagami, Wordle, ScreenChomp, Evernote and scores more that are weekly pushed aside by a new generation.

So before I unfold my favorites, here are guidelines to what I expected, culled from top education sites like Edutopia, Google Education, Educational Technology, and EdWeek:

  • free or small fee
  • support the ‘4 C’s’–creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration
  • offer compelling content (although this is subjective; ‘compelling’ varies teacher-to-teacher and student-to-student)
  • are not distracting or overwhelming in colors, music, or activity
  • offer levels that become increasingly more difficult, providing differentiation for student needs
  • stand the test of time
  • positive parent reports
  • few ads–and those that are there do not take up a significant portion of the screen
  • intuitive to use with a short learning curve, encourage independence
  • easily applied to a variety of educational environments
  • doesn’t collect personal information other than user credentials or data required to operate the app
  • rated ‘for everyone’ or ‘low maturity’
  • no in-app purchases or billing

Based on these criteria, here are my top five:

Read more »

Categories: Critical thinking, Reviews | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments