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lesson plans

What a Typical Tech Lesson Looks Like

tech lessonIn the past few weeks, I’ve gotten several emails like this from teachers:

I am a tech teacher, going on my fifth year in the lab. Each year I plan to be more organized than the last, and most often I revert back to the “way things were.” I’m determined to run the lab just like I think it should be! … Could you please elaborate on how you run your class? I love the idea of having kids work independently, accomplishing to do lists, and working on different projects. You mention this in Volume I, but I want to hear more!

Currently, I see close to 700 students, grades 1-6. I want to break out of the routine (the “you listen, I speak, you do” routine), and your system seems like it would work well. Just hoping you can share some details.

I decided to jot down my typical (as if any planned lesson ever comes out the way it’s written–you know how that goes!) daily lesson. You can tweak it, depending upon the grade you teach. Here goes:

Typical 45-minute Lesson

Each lesson requires about 45 minutes of time, either in one sitting or spread throughout the week. Both are fine and will inform whether you unpack this lesson:

  • In the grade-level classroom
  • In the school’s tech lab

As you face a room full of eager faces, remember that you are a guide, not an autocrat. Use the Socratic Method—don’t take over the student’s mouse and click for them or type in a web address when they need to learn that skill. Even if it takes longer, guide them to the answer so they aren’t afraid of how they got there. If you’ve been doing this with students since kindergarten, you know it works. In fact, by the end of kindergarten, you saw remarkable results.

When talking with students, always use the correct domain-specific vocabulary. Emphasize it and expect students to understand it. (more…)

3 Apps That Encourage Students to Read

readingReading is defined as “the action or skill of absorbing written or printed matter silently or aloud.” Sounds dry, maybe even boring, but once a child learns to read, they get much more than an understanding of words, sentences, paragraphs, grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. It has been credited with providing an escape from reality, exercising the mind, saving lives, bringing people together, answering problems, and predicting success in school. It alleviates boredom in the bits of free time that pop up between soccer and dinner and it can be done alone or in a group.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends…”
― Charles William Eliot

According to Early Moments, reading is associated with the following traits:


16 Thanksgiving Sites For Your Students

tagul thanksgiving2Need a few websites to fill in sponge time? Here are Thanksgiving sites that will keep students busy and still teach them:

  1. Canadian Thanksgiving
  2. Online/Offline Thanksgiving activities
  3. Plimoth Plantation–a field trip of a Pilgrim’s life. Included on this real-life site is a video of the Pilgrim’s crossing to the New World.
  4. Starfall–Silly Turkey
  5. Thanksgiving edu-websites–CybraryMan
  6. Thanksgiving Games
  7. Thanksgiving games–Quia
  8. Thanksgiving information–history, moretagul thanksgiving
  9. Thanksgiving Jigsaw
  10. Thanksgiving Jigsaw II
  11. Thanksgiving Lesson Plans
  12. Thanksgiving puzzle–by Digipuzzle
  13. Thanksgiving Tic-tac-toe
  14. Thanksgiving video–Brainpop
  15. Thanksgiving Wordsearch

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-8 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 reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today and TeachHUB, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

updated 12-23-18

online training

22 Ways Any Teacher Can (and Should) Use Technology

If your state adopted Common Core, 75% of you will administer yearly assessments online. If students haven’t used online tools or software for classwork, this can be a daunting task. Having computer devices as optional education tools is a massive difference from requiring students to use them for grded assessments. This can be intimidating for both students and teachers.

The tood news: It doesn’t take as much time and practice as you might think to prepare. What it does require is a techie mindset, the acceptance that technology is part of the daily economic landscape, that it be integrated into assignments, practice, modeling, homework, assessments, projects, portfolios, grading rubrics, expectations.

There are ways to get students in shape that won’t take much out of your already-packed day.

Here are twenty-two strategies to use next year that will make your teaching life easier, bump up your effectiveness with students, save time complying with Common Core standards, and prepare students effectively for next Spring. As you’re in your grade-level teams, planning lessons for next year, include these. They will add spice to your classes, build flexible learning paths, , and contribute to sustainable, transformation learning. Once you start using tech in the classroom as a tool (not a separate activity), you will find students self-selecting it when given a choice, coming up with their own ways to make tech today’s adaptive answer:


tech in ed

10 Ways Any Teacher Can (and Should) Use Technology

thanksgivingCommon Core notes:

New technologies have broadened and expanded the role that speaking and listening play in acquiring and sharing knowledge and have tightened their link to other forms of communication. Digital texts confront students with the potential for continually updated content and dynamically changing combinations of words, graphics, images, hyperlinks, and embedded video and audio.

The underlying theme can’t be ignored by teachers any longer: A 21st Century learner requires technologic proficiency. Proof enough is that Common Core summative assessments will be completed online—only possible if students use technology as comfortably as paper and pencil to demonstrate knowledge.

But how do you do that if you aren’t a ‘techie’, a ‘geek’, if you barely use a Smartphone much less the myriad of online tools. I have ten strategies that will make your teaching life easier, bump up your effectiveness with students, and save time complying with Common Core standards. Try these ten tech uses. Watch what a difference they make:


New Students? 7 Tips to Differentiate with Tech

differentiate with techThere are two areas where technology can optimize learning better than any other educational strategy. I’m not talking about iPads or laptops or apps. I mean how you deliver your message–done in such a way that more students are able to achieve their goals.
The first is problem solving. If you want students to be critical thinkers, to take responsibility for their own learning and in doing so, excel–and you do–you must must MUST use technology to teach problem solving. More on that later.
Today, we’ll talk about differentiation. If you struggle to adapt your lessons to the multitude of learning styles in your classroom, struggle no more. Technology is like that friendly laugh that diffuses a tense situation, the tale wag from a rottweiler to tell you s/he’s on your side. Tech will become your classroom’s transformative tool–a magic wand that can adapt any inquiry to student needs. Take the cornerstone of literacy–the book report–as an example. When a teacher assigns this sort of compare/contract, who/what/when/where exercise, students thinks paragraphs of words and grammar struggles. Thanks to technology, that project is no longer a nightmare for everyone challenged by phrases and paragraphs. Now, students have options that transcend pencil on paper. Communicate the essential ideas with a comic tool like Zimmer Twins, an art tool like SumoPaint. How about an audio tool like Voki–or a movie maker like Animoto. The challenge for you as teacher is to provide those tech options and then encourage students to be risk-takers in using them to achieve the project goals. The challenge for students is to analyze what’s available and select the tool that uses their learning style.
You’re probably thinking that before students can use these fancy tools, you have to learn all of them–and teach them. Where’s that sort of time come from–and by the way, you aren’t one of the ‘techie’ teachers. Do I have good news for you. The ideas below require very little prep from you. Students learn to read the screen, look for something that says ‘start’, not be afraid to make mistakes, and collaborate with neighbors on the learning. This can happen as young as 2nd grade. The hardest part for you is to facilitate rather than step in and solve their problems. Students will get used to the new reality that teachers provide guidance not step-by-step instruction. I promise.
digital whiteboard

6 Ways to Say Bye Bye Binders

digital portfolio3-ring binders–the mainstay of education for decades–now seem clunky, heavy, unwieldy even.. You never have a hole punch when you need one so you end up forcing holes into the margin. The rings break or bend and then the pages don’t turn properly, and still you persevere, using them even as your younger colleagues abandon them. There are digital alternatives, but you aren’t one of those teachers who jumps at the latest technology. You wait, see what colleagues like, and stick with the outmoded binders like comfort food.

What is it about binders that seems so irreplaceable? The fact that everything is in one place–you can grab it and have pretty much all the material you need for a particular class or event? Is it the nice tabbed set-up where you can quickly flip to the topic you need? Or maybe it’s the pockets–stuff papers in there that don’t seem to have a home among the tabs as they await filing.

Here are six free tools that are going to liberate you. They not only do everything a good binder does, but they’ll reorganize and share your notes, email colleagues, help you collaborate on projects, grow with you (no more buying a bigger binder), and magically appear wherever you are–no more forgetting to bring the binder. These ebinders are always there, in the cloud, ready, accessible by dozens of people at once from pretty much any digital device–computers, netbooks, iPads, smart phones.

Live Binderslivebinders

Live Binders is the closest the internet gets to a three ring binder. It’s a free online service that allows you to collect webpages, images, and documents in a tabbed, book-like format. Students can collect not only the information they collect from websites, but what they’ve prepared in software programs like Word, PowerPoint, pdfs, and more. Live Binders are simple to set up. Just create an account, add tabs for primary topics (say, math), and then add collections to each tab of sub-topics (say, Common Core). When visitors see your LiveBinder, they see the main tabs, select the topic they want, and then see related materials. Very clean, organized, and appeals to the clerk in all of us.