Category: 5th Grade

minecraft in education

Teach Digital Citizenship with … Minecraft

minecraftThe hottest topic in my elementary school tech classroom is Minecraft–and has been for several years. So I was thrilled when efriend, Josh Ward, offered to write an article for Ask a Tech Teacher connecting Minecraft and the most important topic in my classroom–Digital Citizenship.

Josh is the Director of Sales and Marketing for green hosting provider, A Small Orange. He is originally from Southeast Texas, but has called Austin home for almost 20 years. He enjoys writing about his passion for all things Internet related as well as sharing his expertise in the web hosting industry and education.

I think you’ll enjoy this article:

Teaching Digital Citizenship with Minecraft

A “digital citizen” is generally defined as “those who use the Internet regularly and effectively.” With children and teenagers moving more and more toward the Internet and away from television for their recreational and informational needs (95% of all teens from ages 12 to 17 are online, and 80% of those use social media regularly), the next generation of digital citizens isn’t just arriving, they’re already here.

Advertisers and corporations have known this for some time, and have begun targeting the youth demographic that will drive the country’s economic future, making responsible and informed “digital citizenship” that much more important.

The Internet has come to play a huge part in not only our daily lives, but our educational future, and these formative years are a perfect time to stress the importance of a free and open Internet, as well as developing a strong sense of civic identity, cooperation, and participation.


5 Sure-fire Ways to Teach Vocabulary

vocabularyHave you ever been around someone who knows exactly the right word when they talk? Don’t you conclude they’re smart? Capable? The one you want in your study group? How about the inverse–an individual struggling with language, maybe picks words that aren’t quite right or can’t come up with one at all. What do you conclude then?

Teachers have always taught ‘vocabulary’ using labels like word study, site words, Dolch, Hi-Frequency words. Common Core considers proper terminology part and parcel to preparing for college and career. They fall into three types:

  • Tier 1: Words acquired through every day speech, usually learned in early grades
  • Tier 2: Academic words that appear in textbooks, precise words that refine meaning, i.e. ‘sprint’ instead of ‘run’.
  • Tier 3: Domain specific words tied to content, included in glossaries, highlighted in textbooks, and considered important to understanding content.

The ‘tier’ you focus on in your teaching depends upon student age and material being taught. Here are five ways technology will make the time you spend on this subject more effective, fun, differentiated, and authentic:

  • Context clues
  • SpellingCity
  • Online graphic dictionaries
  • Word clouds
  • Vocabulary websites

Before we begin, let’s lay some groundwork. Vocabulary (or word study) isn’t done in a vacuum. You don’t pass out lists and have students memorize words and definitions (you don’t do that, do you?). If you used to, that’s changed with Common Core. Now, you are expected to integrate vocab into learning. Every time students run into a term they don’t get, you need to pause and help them decode it. It may be obvious from context, its parts (roots and affixes), but always–always—pay attention so students know unfamiliar words are not skipped. With Common Core, every nuance is important. It’s about uncovering knowledge.


34 Categories–Over 500 Links–of K-8 Links for Your Classes

I’ve spent a good chunk of time this summer updating my link collections so they are easier to wander through and reflect more topics you’re interested in. Here are 34 categories. K-MS are also subdivided by topics with age-appropriate links. The themed categories mix all ages together. I’m not sure which is better. It’s awfully difficult to differentiate by age considering the varied skill levels of students. Please forgive me if the grade-level categories don’t always hit the mark for you!

Remember: Any time students visit the internet, remind them of their rights and responsibilities, and the obligation to be good digital citizens.



Tech Tip #62: Email from Word (Or PowerPoint or Excel)

As a working technology teacher, I get hundreds of questions from parents about their home computers, how to do stuff, how to solve problems. Each Tuesday, I’ll share one of those with you. They’re always brief and always focused. Enjoy!

Q: I was helping one of the faculty at my school. She couldn’t print a document (server problems) so I suggested she email it to herself at home and print it there. She started going online to her Yahoo account and I stopped her. Click the email tool on the Word toolbar. She was so excited–an epiphany! What fun to share that with her. She was so happy about it, I’m going to email it to all the teachers in the school (I’m the tech teacher). (more…)

Book Review: Common Core Lesson Plans


30 Projects that integrate technology into core lesson plans

The Key to Aligning Your K-5 Class with Common Core State Standards is for classroom teachers, technology integration specialists and lab professionals, as a resource for aligning your technology program with the Common Core State Standards now implemented in forty-six states. You will find it a foundational tool for scaffolding technology into the areas of math, language, reading, writing, speaking and listening as is required in CCSS. Overall, they are authentic approaches to student-centered learning, asking the student to be a risk-taker in his/her educational goals and the teacher to act as guide. The essential questions are open-ended and conversations organic and inquiry-driven, ultimately asking students to take responsibility for the process of their own learning.

It can be used as a resource book, to provide exciting new lessons that seamlessly blend technology with lesson plans and involve students in the many new tools available to enrich their educational experiences, or a road map, plotting the vertical planning and differentiated instruction fundamental to CCSS goals.

There are thirty lessons, five per grade level. Each includes:


mobile lesson planning

Book Review: 55 Tech Projects for the Digital Classroom

With the school year on its way back, I want to share some of the tech books I use in my classroom. I think you’ll enjoy them also. This one is a two-volume all-in-one for grades K-8. It includes a mixture of lessons that cover different skills, different subjects. Hope you like it!

55 Technology Projects for the Digital Classroom: Everything you need to integrate computers into K-8 classes

by Jacqui Murray

Volume I is 219 pages and Volume II 235 pages, making this series an all-in-one K-8 toolkit for the lab specialist, classroom teacher and homeschooler, with a years-worth of simple-to-follow projects for K-8. Integrate technology into language arts, geography, history, problem solving, research skills, and science lesson plans and units of inquiry using teacher resources that meet NETS-S national guidelines and many state standards. The fifty-five projects are categorized by subject, program (software), and skill (grade) level. Each project includes standards met in three areas (higher-order thinking, technology-specific, and NETS-S), software required, time involved, suggested experience level, subject area supported, tech jargon, step-by-step lessons, extensions for deeper exploration, troubleshooting tips and project examples including reproducibles. Tech programs used are KidPix, all MS productivity software, Google Earth, typing software and online sites, email, Web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, internet start pages, social bookmarking and photo storage), Photoshop and Celestia. Also included is an Appendix of over 200 age-appropriate child-friendly websites. Skills taught include collaboration, communication, critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, creativity, digital citizenship, information fluency, presentation, and technology concepts. In short, it’s everything you’d need to successfully integrate technology into the twenty-first century classroom.


learn keyboarding

Dear Otto: What are Common Core keyboarding standards?

tech questionsDear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please complete the form below and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.

Here’s a great question I got from Lani :

I am trying to set up my curriculum map for 2013-14, for preK-8. This is the first year I will be actually using the lab f/t…I hope, along with library skills. I purchased several of the structured learning books & your blog has been amazing! My question, you mentioned that keyboarding is part of the CC…45wpm minimum, by end of 8th grade. I have looked at the CC State Standards, but cannot find this or any tech standards. Can you share where this is? I have new administration coming & would like to be prepared! Thank you.

Here are the relevant Common Core standards for keyboarding:
  • Keyboarding is addressed tangentially–saying students must be able to type *** pages in a single sitting (see CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.6 for example. The ‘pages in a single sitting’ starts in 4th grade and continues through 6th where it’s increased to three–see CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.6)
  • By 3rd grade, Common Core also discusses the use of keyboarding to produce work, i.e., CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.6 which specifically mentions ‘use technology to produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills)’
  • The keyboarding requirement that is giving teachers across the continent heartburn is that keyboarding will be required to take Common Core Standards assessments (a year off except where Districts are testing this eventuality).

It’s worth noting that CC standards are progressive–students are expected to learn material, transfer that knowledge to the next grade level where they show evidence of having learned it by using it and building on it. Therefore, the notation to ‘produce and publish writing using keyboarding skills’ in 3rd grade carries into all successive grade.


Literacy In K-5 Classrooms

classroom managementCheryl Lyman has 12 years experience teaching K-12 computer science, most recently at McDonald Elementary in Pennsylvania as Instructional Technology Specialist. Awards include Classrooms of the Future Coach, Ed Tech Leader of the Year Semifinalist, PA Keystone Technology Integrator, PA State Peer Reviewer, and Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year Semi-finalist. We look forward to her knowledgeable insights in curriculum development and technology integration into the classroom.

The Importance of Literacy In K-5 Classrooms

I recently completed a literacy course through the University of Pennsylvania. This course was predominately geared towards secondary classes. However, it provided me with insight to the importance of literacy at a very early age and how I have the power to promote literacy as a teacher of technology.

By third grade, students can begin to lose interest in literacy. In some cases, that interest will never be sparked again. Many schools stop teaching reading in middle school at a time when higher level literacy skills are just beginning to emerge. It is assumed that if you can sound a word, you can read and reading skills and strategies are ignored. Is it no wonder that our student achievement scores have not improved in the last thirty years?

As teachers who embrace the use of technology in our classrooms, we have the power to keep the literacy embers burning and possibly ignite them for a lifetime for our students. Each day we have the opportunity to use technology with our students to keep them engaged in reading and writing. Keep in mind that we can be very creative in how we use our tools so students are immersed in literacy and they don’t even know it!

We can help students to annotate passages, take notes, look up words in online dictionaries they do not understand, develop creative thinking and problem solving skills –the list is endless for us to show our students how literacy will open doors for them.


Weekend Websites: 50 websites about animals

Here are 50 animal websites for grades K-5, everything from Dinosaurs to the wildly popular Wolfquest (click here for updates):animals

  1. 3D Toad—3D science study
  2. Adaptations—game
  3. Animal Adaptations
  4. Animal games
  5. Animal Games II
  6. Animal games II
  7. Animal Games III
  8. Animal Habitats
  9. Animal homes
  10. Animal homes
  11. Animal Homes II
  12. Animal Homes III
  13. Animal puzzle games–cool
  14. Animals
  15. Animals—San Diego Zoo Videos
  16. Barnaby and Bellinda Bear
  17. Bembo’s Zoo
  18. Build a habitat
  19. Build a habitat II
  20. Butterfies and habitats
  21. Classify animals
  22. Cockroach—virtual
  23. Dino collection
  24. Dino Fossils then and now
  25. Dino Games
  26. Dino Games II
  27. Dinosaurs
  28. Dinosaurs II
  29. Dinosaurs IV
  30. Dinosaurs V
  31. Dinosaurs VI
  32. Endangered species collection
  33. Food chain
  34. Food Chains
  35. Frog habitat
  36. Google Earth—African Animals
  37. Google Earth—endangered animals
  38. Habitat Game
  39. Habitats—create one
  40. Habitats—match them
  41. Life Cycles
  42. Life—the Game–colorful
  43. Ocean Currents—video from NASA
  44. Ocean Safari
  45. Ocean Tracks
  46. Video Safari
  47. Virtual Cockroach
  48. Virtual Farm
  49. Virtual Zoo
  50. Wolfquest—simulation–DL



Handwriting vs. Keyboarding–from a Student’s Perspective

keyboardingEvery year, I have 4th-grade students compare handwriting speed to keyboarding speed. We run it like an experiment.

  • we discuss the evidence–pros and cons
  • we develop a hypothesis
  • we test the hypothesis (with a series of four tests)
  • we revise if necessary

I wanted to test some of the reasons students come up with on both sides of this issue. I framed the discussion with Common Core standards for keyboarding as well as my school’s guidelines:

  • students must type 25 wpm by 4th grade, 30 by 5th, 35 by 6th, 40 by 7th, 45 by 8th
  • students must type 2 pages in a single seating. That roughly 500 words. at the 4th grade required speed, that’s 20 minutes of typing at a single sitting

Since fourth graders for both years I’ve done this have (from a show of hands) believed handwriting was faster, I put that as pro. I should note: The pros and cons were verbal the first two times I did this. The third time, I wrote them on the SmartScreen as students commented:

Pro–handwriting is faster

    • students are better at it. They’ve had more practice
    • don’t have to search for the keys
    • I can handwrite forever. Keyboarding–I get frustrated
    • Have to use two keys for some symbols which slows it down
    • Hand gets tired
    • Gives you writers bump if you do it too long—hurts for 4th graders

Con–keyboarding is faster than handwriting