This summer will be different than other summers. COVID has changed how we address summer PD so I’ve collected the most popular AATT articles on how to spend your education time this summer. Pick the ones that suit your purposes:
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:
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…
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…
From our files, here are great articles about activities popular at the end of the school year:
The end of the school year is a time when both students and teachers alike are distracted by thoughts of vacation, sleeping in, and no deadlines. For many, this means, during the last few weeks of school, learning limps to a grinding halt but increasingly, teachers use this time productively to introduce curricular- and standards-aligned activities that “color outside the lines” — step away from the textbook to blend learning with dynamic activities that remind students why they want to be life-long learners. Many of these, educators would love to teach but “just don’t have time for“, even though they align well with broad goals of preparing students for college and career.
If you’re looking for meaningful lessons to wrap up your school year, here are my top picks:
- Digital Passport
- Cool book reports
- Practice keyboarding
- Dig into cyberbullying
- Applied Digital Skills
It’s the end of school. Everyone’s tired, including you. What you want for these last few weeks are activities that keep the learning going but in a different way. You want to shake things up so students are excited and motivated and feel interested again.
Change your approach. Provide some games, simulations, student presentations–whatever you don’t normally do in your classroom. If you’re doing PowerPoints, use the last few weeks for presentations. Make them special–invite teachers. Invite parents. If you never serve food in your lab, do it for these presentations.
Here are my favorite year-end Change-up activities:
- 6 Webtools in 6 weeks
- Class Debate
- Digital Citizenship review
- Games and Simulations
- Genius Hour
- Group Discussion
- Khan Academy
- Presentation Boards
- Service Learning
- Write an Ebook
Every year, the world celebrates Earth Day on April 22nd, a day the United Nations recognizes as International Mother Earth Day. It is a day to remind ourselves of the importance of clean air, fresh water, and unlittered land. It’s when we can all participate in making that happen rather than accepting the trash-filled oceans, the smoggy skies, and the debris-laden land that is becoming the norm in our lives.
Despite the questionable health of our world, we have made progress. Back in 1970, when Earth Day was first celebrated, trucks spewed black smoke as they drove down the highways, toxic waste was dumped into oceans with no repercussions, and the general opinion was that the Earth took care of itself. That changed when U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day’s founder, witnessed the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara California and decided it was time for someone to do something. When he looked around for that “someone”, it turned out to be himself. He started with a “national teach-in on the environment” with a simple goal: Encourage people to recognize the importance of protecting the Earth:
“It was on that day [Earth Day] that Americans made it clear they understood and were deeply concerned over the deterioration of our environment and the mindless dissipation of our resources.”
How effective is Earth Day
In the 49 years since the inception of Earth Day, there have been more than 48 major environmental “wins”. Here are some of those:
- The U.S. Clean Air Act was passed, a comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions.
- The U.S. Clean Water Act was passed to regulate the discharge of pollutants into U.S. waters.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was passed.
- The U.S. Endangered Species Act was passed to protect animal species that are disappearing.
- The Acid Rain (what happens when normal rain becomes loaded with offensive chemicals and scalds the skin) Program obtained emission reductions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
- The importance of the ozone layer to the health of the Earth is better understood.
- The consequences of too much plastic in the Earth’s oceans is coming home to roost.
Every month, subscribers to our newsletter get a free/discounted resource to help their tech teaching. This month, take your pick:
15% Discount Sitewide on
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-Thanksgiving 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. Holiday examples include this Thanksgiving pumpkin and these holiday bells. Here’s how you do it:
- Open your word processing program (MS Word, Google Docs, or another).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- When you’ve covered the image with characters, delete the watermark. That leaves just your typing.
- 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.
Here are ideas for Halloween projects, lesson plans, websites, and apps:
Websites and Apps
- Carving Pumpkins
- Carve-a-Pumpkin from Parents magazine – Resolute Digital, LLC (app)
- Enchanted Learning
- Halloween games, puzzles–clean, easy to understand website and few ads!
- Halloween ghost stories
- Halloween counting & words games – IKIDSPAD LLC (app)
- Halloween WordSearch – FinBlade (app)
- Halloween Voice Transformer (app)
- Landon’s Pumpkins – LAZ Reader [Level P–second grade] – Language Technologies, Inc. (app)
- Make A Zombie – Skunk Brothers GmbH (app)
- Meddybemps Spooky
- Pumpkin Toss
- Signing Halloween–a video
- Skelton Park
- The Kidz Page
- WordSearch Halloween – AFKSoft (app)
- ASCII Art–Computer Art for Everyone (a pumpkin–see inset)
- Lesson Plan: Halloween letter for grades 2-5
- Make a Holiday Card
- A Holiday Card
- A Holiday flier
I get a lot of questions from readers about what tech ed resources I use in my classroom so I’m taking a few days this summer to review them with you. Some are from members of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew. Others, from tech teachers who work with the same publisher I do. All of them, I’ve found well-suited to the task of scaling and differentiating tech skills for age groups, scaffolding learning year-to-year, taking into account the perspectives and norms of all stakeholders, with appropriate metrics to know learning is organic and granular.
Today: Lesson Plans
There are lots of bundles of lesson plans available–by theme, by software, by topic, by standard. Let me review a few:
- bundles of 5 lesson plans–Themed; great when you want to cover a software program, a tool, a grade, or a standard. Each calls out the higher order thinking skill engaged. Pick the one that fits your need. They’re affordable, focused, and often completed in just a few class sessions.
- bundle of bundles–Buy three bundles of five lessons to cover a wide-range of needs.
- STEM Lesson Plans
- Coding Lesson Plans
- By Grade Level
- 30 K-5 Common Core-aligned lessons–5 per grade level
- 110 lesson plans–integrate tech into different grades, subjects, by difficulty level, and call out higher-order thinking skills. These cover everything and are discounted this month. Check them out. They could be exactly what you need.
- singles–for as low as $.99 each. Genius Hour, Google Apps, Khan Academy, Robotics, STEM, Coding, and more.
- Holiday projects–16 lesson plans themed to holidays and keep students in the spirit while learning new tools.
Who needs this
The first week of school is different from all others. During this week, teachers and students alike spend time getting to know each other, become comfortable in the classroom where they’ll spend countless hours for the next nine months, and take time to reach a comfort level with leaving summer behind. I’ve gathered suggestions below from some of the leading education folks, those who are all about project-based learning rather than the application of pedagogy, to share with you. I’ve also included a few general back-to-school activities with a digital spin to get you back into school quickly and agilely.
- Authentically use forms
- Build a puzzle to decorate class walls for Back to School night
- Let students prepare how-tos to share with classmates
- Prepare English Language Learners to participate fully in class
- Review class tech tools so students are comfortable with them and not surprised when they pop up
- Review the class LMS
- Set individual goals
- Share back-to-school thoughts with a #hashtag
- Take class selfies
- Write a Back-to-school story
Authentically use Forms
Digital forms have become a go-to activity for polls, bell-ringers, exit tickets, quizzes, and more. When used early in the school year, they become an easy way to show students how technology can update classroom activities. Catlin Tucker suggests using forms the first week of school to collect student background information that is not only useful for you as the teacher but helps students get to know each other. Click her link and check out the complete lesson plan. She includes a video and a template you can use of her survey.
I get a lot of questions from readers about what tech ed resources I use in my classroom so I’m going to take a few days this summer to review them with you. Some are edited and/or written by members of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew. Others, by tech teachers who work with the same publisher I do. All of them, I’ve found, are well-suited to the task of scaling and differentiating tech skills for age groups, scaffolding learning year-to-year, taking into account the perspectives and norms of all stakeholders, with appropriate metrics to know learning is organic and granular.
The K-8 Technology Curriculum is Common Core and ISTE aligned, and outlines what technology should be taught when so students have the necessary scaffolding to use tech in the pursuit of grade level state standards and school curriculum.
Each book is between 212 and 252 pages and includes lesson plans, assessments, domain-specific vocabulary, problem-solving tips, Big Idea, Essential Question, options if primary tech tools not available, posters, reproducibles, samples, tips, enrichments, entry and exit tickets, and teacher preparation. Lessons build on each other, kindergarten through 5th grade. For Middle School, they are designed for the grading period time frame typical of those grade levels, with topics like programming, robotics, and community service with tech.
Most (all?) grade levels include base topics of keyboarding, digital citizenship, problem solving, digital tools for the classroom, and coding.
Included are optional student workbooks (sold separately) that allow students to be self-paced, responsible for their own learning. They include required weblinks, rubrics, exemplars, weekly lessons, full-color images, and more.
The curriculum is used worldwide by public and private schools and homeschoolers.
Who needs this
Tech teachers, tech coordinators, library media specialists, curriculum specialists
Classroom grade level teachers if your tech teacher doesn’t cover basic tech skills.
Everyone wants to write a book — right? Studies show that 74% of people think they have a book in them. Teens are no exception. With the ease in which that can be done, thanks to word processors like Word and Docs, online editors like Grammarly, and automated publishers like Kindle, there’s no reason why teens can’t do just that. Look at this list of kids who wrote successful books in their teens — or in one case, before:
- Alexandra Adornetto — published The Shadow Thief at age 14 and Halo at 18.
- Christopher Paolini — published Eragon at age 16 (he is now over 30)
- Steph Bowe — published Girl Saves Boy at age 16.
- Cayla Kluver — published Legacy at age 16
- Alec Greven — published How to Talk to Girls at age 9
As a teacher, I recognize that writing a book ticks off a range of student writing skills by providing organic practice in many required standards such as descriptive detail, well-structured event sequences, precision in words and phrases, dialogue, pacing, character development, transition words, a conclusion that follows what came before, research, and production/distribution of the finished product. I’ve tried novel-writing activities with students several times to varied results. Everyone starts out fully committed and enthusiastically engaged but by the end of the project, only the outliers on the Bell Curve finish. The rest have too much trouble balancing the demands inherent to writing a 70,000-word book (or even its shorter cousin, the novella). That I understand, as a teacher-author struggling with the same problems. As a result, usually I settle for less-impassioned but easier-accomplished pieces like short stories or essays.
Then I discovered co-authoring, a way to get all of the good achieved from writing a book without the intimidating bad. Many famous books have been co-authored, most recently, Bill Clinton and James Patterson’s The President is Missing but there’s also Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, Stephen King and Peter Straub’s The Talisman, and Preston and Child’s Special Agent Pendergast series. Done right, co-authoring encourages not just the writing skills we talked about earlier but perspective-taking, collaboration, and the teamwork skills that have become de rigueur in education.
The most common approach to co-authoring a book is to have students write alternate chapters but this doesn’t work for everyone. Today, I want to talk about four alternative co-authoring approaches that allow students to differentiate for their unique needs:
- multiple POV
- themed collections