Category: Lesson plans

Looking for Summer Activities? Try These

Earlier this week, we posted activities for a summer school student program. Now, we’ll focus on you–what do you want to accomplish with your summer? I’ve collected the most popular AATT articles on how to spend your education time this summer. Pick the ones that suit your purposes:

6 Must-reads for This Summer–2020 edition

Summer for me is nonstop reading — in an easy chair, under a tree, lying on the lawn, petting my dog. Nothing distracts me when I’m in the reading zone. What I do worry about is running out of books so this year, I spent the last few months stalking efriends to find out what they recommend to kickstart the 2020-21 school year. And it paid off. I got a list of books that promise to help teachers do their job better, faster, and more effectively but there are too many. Since I covered a mixture of books in a past article, many on pedagogy, this time, I decided to concentrate on content that could facilely move from my reading chair into the classroom.

I came up with six. See what you think:

10 Books You’ll Want to Read This Summer–2019 edition

Summer is a great time to reset your personal pedagogy to an education-friendly mindset and catch up on what’s been changing in the ed world while you were teaching eight ten hours a day. My Twitter friends, folks like @mrhowardedu and @Coachadamspe, gave me great suggestions on books to read that I want to share with you…

5 Apps to learn this summer

Summer has a reputation for being nonstop relaxation, never-ending play, and a time when students stay as far from “learning” as they can get. For educators, those long empty weeks result in a phenomenon known as “Summer Slide” — where students start the next academic year behind where they ended the last.

“…on average, students’ achievement scores declined over summer vacation by one month’s worth of school-year learning…” (Brookings)

This doesn’t have to happen. Think about what students don’t like about school. Often, it revolves around repetitive schedules, assigned grades, and/or being forced to take subjects they don’t enjoy. In summer, we can meet students where they want to learn with topics they like by offering a menu of ungraded activities that are self-paced, exciting, energizing, and nothing like school learning. We talk about life-long learners (see my article on life-long learners). This summer, model it by offering educational activities students will choose over watching TV, playing video games, or whatever else they fall into when there’s nothing to do.

Here are favorites that my students love…

Help Students Select the Right Summer School

Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Alex Briggs, has an interesting take on summer school, why you should start thinking about it now–in the Fall–and how to do that. I think you’ll find this interesting.


6 Tech Activities for Your Summer School Program

With the growing interest in tech comes a call for summer school programs that supersize student enthusiasm for technology. If you’ve been tasked (or voluntold) to run this activity, here are six activities that will tech-infuse participants:


Working in groups, students research opposite sides of an issue, then debate it in front of class. They tie arguments to class reading, general knowledge as well as evidence from research. They take evidence-based questions and look for information that will convince them which side is right. This is an exercise as much for presenters as audience, and is graded on reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.

Debates help students grasp critical thinking and presentation skills, including:

  • abstract thinkingsummer school
  • analytical thinking
  • citizenship/ethics/etiquette
  • clarity
  • critical thinking
  • distinguishing fact from opinion
  • establishing/defending point of view
  • identifying bias
  • language usage
  • organization
  • perspective-taking
  • persuasion
  • public speaking
  • teamwork
  • thinking on their feet—if evidence is refuted, students must ‘get back into game’
  • using research authentically



Google Earth Lesson Plans

Tech Learning recently shared an excellent lesson plan by Dr. Stephanie Smith Budhai that incorporates the amazing Google Earth into learning. Here’s the beginning:

The 3D interactive online exploration platform Google Earth provides a pathway to endless learning adventures around the globe. For an overview of Google Earth and a breakdown of its unique features, check out How to Use Google Earth for Teaching

Below, is a sample Google Earth lesson plan geared toward elementary and middle school that is focused on teaching geography. It is important to note that while geography is a natural fit for leveraging Google Earth, other content areas and Google Earth tips and tricks for teaching can be used. 

Click for the complete lesson plan.

For more lesson plans using Google Earth, check out our resources:


Ready To Go Back To School? 7 Fun Lesson Ideas To Start The New Year

Every teacher knows the struggle of getting a class full of children to cooperate the first few weeks back after the long Christmas vacation break. If you’re looking to avoid going hoarse from shouting at distracted kids all day then you need an organized plan of action that will keep you and your pupils entertained whilst learning. This article is aimed at teaching children in the 4th and 5th grade so if that’s you, read on for our top lesson ideas to keep everyone happy, entertained, and ready to learn!

  1. Start With Your Resolutions

Before you pile straight back into hardcore learning (aka the boring bits!) give your kids a chance to settle in with a mindfulness session where they can write down their resolutions and wants for the year. You can have this session be as creative as you like. They could decorate their objectives, frame them or even add them to a jar. If you pick the latter, why not end the year by reading out everyone’s resolutions and seeing how far everyone has come?

  1. Use Some Fun Worksheets

Rather than having your kids write pages of English and history right off the back, ease them back in with educational worksheets. There are a ton of great teacher resource center websites where you can download sheets for virtually every subject on the planet. Why not pick a fun subject such as foreign languages that can relate to their Christmas break? You can pick three countries that some of your children may have visited over the holiday season and work on sheets based on the languages of each country.

  1. Plan A Horrible Histories Lesson

Most children love blood and gore, so incorporate these themes into your history lessons. Focus on the Roman Empire, which was full of deathly battles they can learn about, or you can teach them about the early origins of the toilets. Romans are a great subject as they invented many things that we still use in the modern-day. You could even have the kids re-enact famous Roman gods and goddesses or have them paint their ultimate roman feast.

  1. Class Presentations

Let the children write and present what they did to celebrate Christmas to the rest of the class, or how others celebrate. If you can, set this task before the holidays begin as a homework task. You can ask them to pick one fact or tradition about Christmas and ask them to research it in depth. Bonus points to the child who explores a tradition and teaches the class some facts that even you don’t know!


Subscriber Special: Donate to my blog–free MLK Lesson Plans

Every month, subscribers to our newsletter get a free/discounted resource to help their tech teaching.


This month: If you donate to my blog drive, I’ll send you FREE: 

The 18-page two-lesson plan bundle to teach about Martin Luther King (click for more information) in preparation for MLK Day January 17, 2022. Lesson plans include:

        • an Event Chain of Dr. King’s impact on American history
        • interpreting his words with a visual organizer

Donate using the feed below or the button in our sidebar. Add a note that you’d like the MLK lesson plans. If you need to reach us, email us at askatechteacher at gmail dot com.

We’re close to our goal, but not there yet. To those who have donated–Thank You! I sang your praises from the roof of our building and sent a special appreciation prayer your way. Any amount you can contribute–$5… $10… using the PayPal Donate button below or in the sidebar, would be appreciated.

Here’s the one-time donation button, or you can find it in the sidebar:

Here’s the button for a monthly donation–the price of a cup of coffee and a donut:


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Making a Family Story Video For A School Project

Working on a school project could be fun if you’re making it together with your kid. If they need to create footage to tell a story of your family. One of our Ask a Tech Teacher crew has some tips on how to make it properly


What Is A Family Story Video?

A family story video is a moving picture that illustrates the complete history of all your ancestors up till your generation. Many schools require their students to sit down with their parents, talk about their ancestral history, and put it all together in a video. It can be an amazing experience for homeschooling parents and their children to talk about their family and what events led them to where they are now.

How To Make A Family Story Video With Your Child?

Making a video with the kid can be tricky, and since it is a school project, you must make sure that you give your 100 percent! Here is a step by step guide that can help you make a spectacular family story video:

Gather Information

Our lives are extremely fast-paced and busy; we might not know our family really well and, therefore, might not have the required information to give our children. This is why we need to conduct a great deal of research and look for relevant information to your lineage. A good place to start research is ‘Google’. Google might have the information even your adults might not.

You can type the name of your great-grandparents and see what pops up on the internet. If there has been a notable person in your family, there may be several articles in their name, and you can use them in your family video.

Make sure to save whatever information you find so that you can use it later. Make notes as you go, as it will help you keep track of the information.

Get the Geographical Location

Your ancestors might have lived in different places over time. You might not originally belong to the place you live in right now. Therefore, keep track of where your ancestors came from and your original homeland. Your adults might have some information they can share, so consider asking them about their origins, and then you can locate them on Google Earth. This will help your child visualize the areas and learn about your origin a little better.

Connect With Your Extended Family

Connecting with your family and learning their history is an enriching experience for every child. Reach out to your extended family members and inquire about the whereabouts of your adults. This will help you connect with the older family members, helping you gather as much information as you need. You can even ask them for pictures and videos of themselves or their parents who fall in your lineage.

Record Interviews, Gather Pictures, and Find Videos

Another method of data collection is recording interviews. Your child, with your help, can come up with a list of questions they should ask, and then you can connect them with your elders to ask them. You can use applications such as Flipgrid to record and save these interviews. Involving your children in these activities will increase their knowledge of technology and help them learn how to use different software.

Now that you have all the material you need to add to your video, it is time for you to piece it together. To do that, you will need the help of specific tools.

What Tools Should You Use For The Video Making

There are lots of applications and tools available for video editing for kids. You can search the internet for the best ones, but here are some that you can use and make the video-making process a lot easier:


If you want your child to amplify their learning, you can make them join Flipgrid, and here they can communicate with other people and learn the ins and out of video making. There is a lot of space for your child to work on their expression of creativity. Using this platform, they can see how others are using it and try it too. What’s more, you can even use this platform to discuss different random ideas, such as what to get your husband this Christmas.


While making the video, you will need the help of a video editor, and Movavi is one of the best video editors out there. It allows you to do a lot when it comes to video editing. For instance, if you want to remove background from videos without green screen, you can easily utilize this tool. Movavi also has other useful tools that can come in handy when editing your video. The best thing about t this application is that you can use this application on your mobile phone. You don’t have to get through the hassle of opening your laptop each time you want to edit. More importantly, children are most likely to know their way around a mobile application rather than a tool on your computer.

Google Slides

You may want to add stop motion animations in your videos. For that, this application is the best fit. It is super easy to use and can help you add presentation slides to your video. Oversee what they are doing and help them wherever need be. Otherwise, the application is super easy to use for children.

Make it a fun experience for you and your child as both of you can learn a lot. It may also serve as a great way to spend some quality time together, and you’ll be able to get to know your roots. Needless to say, making a family video is essential for the identity of your child!

#storytelling #digitalstorytelling #familystory @flipgrid @movavi #videoediting

Here’s the sign-up link if the image above doesn’t work:

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

Holiday Activities To Keep the Learning Going

Teaching the days before big holidays is challenging. Students and teachers alike are ready for a break. Both struggle to pay attention regardless of how innovative and engaging are the lesson plans.

I’ve been there often. As a result, I’ve come up with fun ways to support learning while students power through the last few days of school. Here are seven I use during the pre-holiday season:


Time required: Less than one class

ASCII Art is the graphic design technique of creating images by typing the letters, numbers, and symbols defined by ASCII Standards. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Open your word processing program (MS Word, Google Docs, or another).
  2. Add a watermark of a picture you’d like to use, preferably a single image rather than one that includes a background. Silhouettes are perfect for this sort of project.
  3. Type over the image with the letters, symbols, and numbers that best fit the outline. It’s fine to use one letter throughout (like an X).
  4. Add color by highlighting the letters, numbers, and symbols typed over the parts you’d like colored (such as the stem of a pumpkin or the bow on Christmas bells in the linked samples above).
  5. When you’ve covered the image with characters, delete the watermark. That leaves just your typing.
  6. Save, print, share, publish as is customary in your classes.

Tie-ins: Use this not only for holidays but any academic class by creating an artistic image of the topic being discussed. Click the link for an example of Abraham Lincoln to align with study of the American Civil War. This is also a fun and authentic way for students to practice keyboarding.


Tract+Genius Hour–a new twist on a popular project

If you haven’t heard of the learning platform, Tract, you are in for a treat. Tract is a new way to inspire students to become lifelong learners. It focuses on student growth rather than state or international standards (it does meet them–just don’t look for that in the detail). The purpose of its videos, hands-on projects, and lessons is to spark student creativity–empower them to explore their passion. Lessons are delivered by peers–high school and college students with a love of the subject. Students engage through tasks, projects, and peer interaction. Content is vetted, curated, and reviewed by teachers to ensure educational rigor.

Click for a more detailed review of Tract or visit Tract’s website here.

What is Genius Hour

Genius Hour is inquiry-based, student-directed learning that promotes curiosity, research, creativity, and speaking and listening skills. Students are given 20% of in-class time to research and complete a project related to their passion which they then present to classmates. It can be as loose or structured as the teacher wants. Almost every student I know loves it.

Why Tract + Genius Hour?

I have been a fan of this innovative learning approach for almost a decade. Before discovering the Tract platform, researching Genius Hour meant sending students to the library (virtual or physical), digging through books and pages of website hits, and finding the knowledge required to complete the project that was then presented to the class. Tract simplifies that. Now, students have everything close at hand, in one virtual place, so the work doesn’t distract from the joy of learning. Tract is designed to spark creativity and empower learners ages 8+. What better way than through self-directed projects about their interests. Suddenly, reluctant students become life-long learners fueled by a love of knowledge they didn’t know existed.

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to what Track Founder, Esther Wojcicki, has to say about pairing the two:

“… 20% time can be … every day, every week, or every month. It may be more collegial if it is decided by the school or by several teachers in a single grade level working together. Students working together on a common product in a similar way, provide a sense of community; kids can ask each other what they are doing in their 20% time. Teachers do not need to provide any other instructions other than providing the website address and student login information [for Tract]. Explain to them that they can work on any of the Learning Paths they want. That’s it!

How it works

Genius Hour projects can be done individually or in small groups, whatever works best for students. Most include a “ToDo” list something like this:

4 ways to use Tract in the classroom

If you haven’t heard of Tract, it’s a new way to inspire students to become lifelong learners. The platform focuses on student growth and learning rather than state or international standards (it does meet them–just don’t look for that in the detail). The purpose of its videos, hands-on projects, and more is to spark student creativity, empower them to explore their own passions at their own pace. Lessons are given by high school and college-age peers who clearly show their love of the subject. Students engage through tasks, projects, and peer interaction. Content is vetted, curated, and reviewed by teachers to ensure its educational rigor.

Click for a more detailed review of Tract or visit Tract’s website here.

When I dug into Tract, one (of many) pieces that appealed to me was how well it fit into so many parts of a student’s education journey. Here are a few of my favorites:

Afterschool program

It’s challenging to persuade students to think deeply, especially after a long day of learning. Using Tract as an afterschool program changes that. This can be a one-day activity or longer.

Here’s how it works:

  • Students pick a subject from the many offered by Tract, watch a peer-presented video on the subject (like how to make mac and cheese or what are some careers with animals), and complete a project which is shared with classmates.
  • If students are inspired to dig deeper than what is shown in the Tract learning path, you can have them research in the ways used in your school–online, classroom books, or something else.
  • When the project is finished, students present it to classmates, maybe parents, as an evening event, a virtual event, or during the program time.

Summer program

I often use student-choice activities in summer programs. They are student-directed, student-driven, and provide a plethora of differentiation for varied student interests. The problem is, too often, they become complicated to administer and confusing to follow. That won’t be the case with Tract. It offers plenty of choices to students, presented as an easy-to-understand step-by-step process that is intuitive and clear, and fulfills the platform’s promise to be inspiring and engaging.

Here’s what you do:

  • After students sign up for your summer class, ask them to pick either among Tract’s many learning paths or from a group suggest by you that fits the summer school theme.
  • Students can work individually or in groups as they dig into the topic and complete the project(s).
  • If students require it, offer training in video production for youngers or those not comfortable creating their own learning path.
  • Students present their completed missions to the group or parents.

Depending upon the length of the summer program, you can offer one or more learning path opportunities. This option is easily adapted to remote or hybrid learning because everything can be done online, including the presentations (using a platform like Google Meet or Zoom).

Enrichment program for high achievers

Enriched learning for high-achieving students, like GATE (Gifted and Talented), Honors, AP (Advanced Placement), and IB (International Baccalaureate), often requires teachers augment daily class activities with additional lesson plans and resources. Tract simplifies that process to where it barely takes any additional teacher time. Students who finish regular work select and pursue topics offered through the Tract platform that build student creativity, critical thinking, and independence.  Because these learning paths are intuitive and peer-to-peer, they require minimal adult guidance and give students considerable independence in their work.

Here’s how it works:

  • Students finish the regular curriculum requirements and then access the Tract Learning Paths to select one that appeals to them or one from a group suggested by the teacher.
  • Because these projects are designed to be student-driven, teachers can expect students to work independently at their own pace.

Tract is available online which means inside and outside the classroom, anywhere the student is. High-achieving students appreciate that learning isn’t confined to the four walls of the school building.

A nice side benefit: These projects are enticing enough that other students will want to try them. Of course they can, once they, too, finish the assigned work.

Develop SEL 

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success. The importance of SEL has made it a sought-after add-on to a school’s curriculum. Unfortunately, too often when I talk to colleagues, SEL has become another layer on top of an already bursting education day. There are SEL curricula, rubrics, toolkits, videos, parent guidelines, and more. You’ll be happy to know if you’re enrolled in Tract, you don’t need any of those:

“Using Tract can help to promote the development of social-emotional learning skills as students become self-aware as they design their own project and track growth, build social awareness as they learn from their peers, and build relationships during the learning process.” – Rachelle Denè Poth, Getting Smart

The most effective way to develop social-emotional learning in students is to make it integral to their education. That’s what Tract does.


If you want to put project-based, peer-to-peer learning into practice, you’ve found the right platform with Tract. Be one of the first 1,000 to request access at Use the access code ASKATECHTEACHER to get your free Tract teacher account.

–This post is sponsored by Tract. All opinions are my own.


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.