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Using Podcasts to Generate Deep Discussions in the Classroom

Using Podcasts to Generate Deep Discussions in the Classroom


Listening to, dissecting, and responding to topics via podcasts can be a great way to get kids to engage in important discussions.  As an audio-only medium, podcasts also foster listening skills.

Listening to, dissecting, and responding to topics via podcasts can be a great way to get kids to engage in important discussions.  As an audio-only medium, podcasts also foster listening skills.  You can have a class-wide discussion about the selection, and/or whip up some reflection sheets to help focus your students and get them thinking critically about what they heard.  In addition to listening to podcasts whole-class, they can also be added in as an independent choice station.  


You can find podcasts on just about any subject!  A quick Google search for podcasts to use in the classroom will provide dozens of curated lists to get you started.  Alternatively, search for something specific by using wording such as “[subject] podcast for [age range]”.  Kids Listen is also easy to navigate, hosts podcasts all in one spot and if you click “Find Podcasts” it will categorize them into the age levels.  You can look for guidance on a podcast review website to get a feel for whether or not a podcast will be appropriate for your classroom.  If you’re unable to get good information about a podcast, you can always preview it for suitability by having it on the background while you grade, have lunch, or even on the drive home.  


Here are some of our favorite podcasts, loosely organized by topic and accompanied by a suggested age range:

  

Storytelling 

Primary - What If World, Circle Round, Story Pirates  

Middle/Upper Elementary - Storynory, The Story Seeds Podcast 

Middle School/Early High School - Eleanor Amplified, Flyest Fables, Book Club for Kids, StoryCorps

High School - This American Life, Welcome to Night Vale, Serial 


Science/Discovery 

Primary - But Why

Middle/Upper Elementary - Brains On, Tumble, Wow in the World, Flash Forward    

Middle School/Early High School - StarTalk, Science Friday 

High School - Freakonomics, Stuff You Should Know, Radiolab 


History 

Middle/Upper Elementary - The Radio Adventures Of Dr. Floyd, The Past and The Curious 

Middle School/Early High School - Stuff You Missed in History Class 

High School - 1619, Code Switch  


Current Events 

Middle/Upper Elementary - KidNuz, Short & Curly  

Middle School/Early High School - Listenwise, This I Believe, The Way I Heard It

High School - Youth Radio, Criminal 


Other Notable Podcasts

Primary

  • Pants On Fire seeks to help young students how to sort out truth from “fake news” using a fun game show format. 

Middle/Upper Elementary

  • Smash Boom Best is a kid-friendly debate podcast you can use in your speech class, or any class in which you want to teach your students how to defend their arguments.

  • Fate and the Fablemaidens or Dungeons & Dragons & Daughters are family friendly podcasts following Dungeons & Dragons games, which not only provide imaginative storytelling but also highlight ingenuity and creative thinking on the part of the players as they seek to meet challenges that arise in the game.  You may find one of them to be a great addition to your language arts or drama class.

Middle School/Early High School 

  • The Allusionist explores the roots of words and phrases that we use every day in a fun, humorous way.


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Listening to, dissecting, and responding to topics via podcasts can be a great way to get kids to engage in important discussions.  As an audio-only medium, podcasts also foster listening skills.




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Brittany Washburn
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Free Online Games that help make Reading Fun

Free Online Games that help make Reading Fun


Want to make reading fun in your classroom?  Here are some games to help you out.  Games can also help your students with various computer related fine motor skills such as clicking and dragging, typing and hand eye coordination.

Want to make reading fun in your classroom?  Here are some games to help you out.  Games can also help your students with various computer related fine motor skills such as clicking and dragging, typing and hand eye coordination.

Education.com

Games with verbal instructions for struggling or pre-readers, encompassing a wide range of game types and reading skills.  You can gain additional functionality with a premium teacher account if you’d like to create a class and assign different games directly to students.


Room Recess

A variety of game types, with a refreshingly heavy focus on games for mid-upper elementary reading skills. 


Mr. Nussbaum

A wide variety of game types that nevertheless remain focused on reading skills rather than game mechanics. The site also includes online reading comprehension and skill practice that is less game-based, but equally helpful and convenient.


Arcademics

Fast-paced, engaging games with multiplayer options on race-style activities to let your students challenge each other.


Primary Games

Several game types, including a focus on holiday and seasonally themed games.


Starfall

The primary classroom’s go-to, with sections to take students sequentially through ABC’s, Learn to Read, It’s Fun To Read and I’m Reading.


ABCya!

Games cover a good sampling of reading skills all the way from letter recognition to idioms.  The site also has many just for fun games, however.


PBS Kids

Basic letter recognition, vocabulary, rhyming and writing practice themed with popular PBS Kids characters.  Several games have more theme and less skill practice, however.


ReadWriteThink

Games that act like guides to walk students through completing an impressive number of reading and writing activities.  Many tasks are suited to use by middle and high school students in addition to some for elementary.


Teach Your Monster to Read

Adorable, and the series of games cover everything from letters and sounds to reading full sentences.


Quia

Battleship, hangman, and rags to riches games made by other teachers for their reading classes and shared with the community.


Sheppard Software

A small but mighty collection of grammar games, with quirky graphics to draw in students of many different ages.


Kiz Phonics

A game for every phonics rule you could wish for.


Fun English Games

Just four games, but each is well-done and teaches a separate mid elementary reading comprehension skill.



Bonus! Let Students Be Read To:

Storyline Online

Your students can watch stories read aloud by various actors.  The stories are from a variety of genres and have suggested grade levels K-4th.  They are also starting to add some titles read in Spanish, and even have one read with an ASL interpreter. 


School Radio

Animated shorts or video series representing various stories for ages 5-11+, as well as a collection of audio only stories.


PBS Kids

Stories about popular PBS Kids characters, with words and audio.  Many stories can also be read in either English or Spanish.


Starfall

Several stories organized by genre, with words and audio. 


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Want to make reading fun in your classroom?  Here are some games to help you out.  Games can also help your students with various computer related fine motor skills such as clicking and dragging, typing and hand eye coordination.



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Classroom Management Basics for First Year Teachers

Classroom Management Basics for First Year Teachers


"Don't smile until Christmas."  Whether that classic adage appeals to you or not, we have some better advice to offer.  Here are some tips for new teachers on how to manage the classroom!
"Don't smile until Christmas."  Whether that classic adage appeals to you or not, we have some better advice to offer.  Here are some tips for new teachers on how to manage the classroom!


Have Clear Expectations

The biggest single thing you can do to manage your classroom effectively is set clear expectations for both students and parents.  If you have a class website of any kind, consider making a page for classroom policies and rules.  Your school or grade level team may have some policies in place already to corroborate, and then you can fill in any holes you need to.  Writing things out like this will keep others informed, you consistent, and it will also help you think through your stance on various issues (such as late homework, missed tests or consistently incomplete class work) so you don’t have to try to decide how you will respond in the moment. 


Establish Routines

Everyone feels more comfortable when they know what comes next.  Students and teachers alike benefit from having less instructions required, because they already know exactly what to do every time they need to transition from paper work to computer work, or how to turn completed work in.  Routines also help minimize the lag time between activities, which creates opportunities for students to come up with their own unfortunate methods of entertaining themselves.  If you’re looking for a place to start, try establishing routines for how class begins or ends.  When putting a new routine in place, consider:

  • Writing instructions for how to complete it on a slide you can display the first few times you go through the routine.  

  • Pairing a visual or auditory cue with the routine so it’s very clear when that routine is to be carried out.


Minimize and Deal with Distractions/Disruptions

Make your behavioral expectations clear for things like what kind of classroom volume and wiggles are okay in your class.  Think about how this will look different between test-taking versus things like group work as well.  As much as possible, you’ll obviously want to decide on and discuss these parameters with your students in advance, rather than deciding on a case-by-case basis what is disruptive enough to merit consequences.  Students testing where boundaries are (and other students watching to see how you’ll react) can waste a lot of time.


Foster a Sense of Community in the Classroom

Countries are founded on agreed upon sets of restrictions and freedoms.  Students should feel like they’re all dwelling together in the peace loving, knowledge-rich land that is their classroom.  As in any good realm, they should also feel like their benevolent ruler (you) is subject to their own checks and balances.  Let your students know what your commitments to them are, as well as what rewards they might earn for being good citizens.


Build Relationships with Students and their Parents

People try harder for the people who care about them.  Let parents know you are just as interested in their child’s well-being and growth as they are.  Show students you see the effort they put in today.  Strike up conversations with your kids too… who loves grapes, who can’t wait for the next Star Wars movie, who has three dogs?


As a first year teacher, know that you’ll make mistakes.  You’ll probably try several different things before you find a classroom management style that works for you.  


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"Don't smile until Christmas."  Whether that classic adage appeals to you or not, we have some better advice to offer.  Here are some tips for new teachers on how to manage the classroom!


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Brittany Washburn
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14 Free Online Games to Reinforce Elementary Math Skills

14 Free Online Games to Reinforce Elementary Math Skills


Basic math skills require a lot of practice though, so games can really help your students be motivated to put in that time.  Games can also help your students with various computer related fine motor skills such as clicking and dragging, typing and hand eye coordination.

Elementary math skills are the foundation for future success in mathematics.  In addition to career paths that rely on math such as engineering and finance, elementary math is utilized in almost all jobs.  Those basic skills require a lot of practice though, so games can really help your students be motivated to put in that time.  Games can also help your students with various computer related fine motor skills such as clicking and dragging, typing and hand eye coordination.


Great Games & Skill Practice: The best of the best.

Arcademics

Practice a variety of core math skills with racing games and other fun activities.  Multiplayer options let your students challenge each other if you wish.


Sheppard Software

Fact practice as well as games with great visuals for identifying fractions, decimals and shapes.


Mr. Nussbaum

A wide variety of game types that nevertheless remain focused on math skills rather than game mechanics.  Also includes games for less served skills such as calendar practice, probability and coordinate plane problems.


Education.com

Games with verbal instructions for struggling or pre-readers, encompassing a wide range of game types and math skills.  You can gain additional functionality with a premium teacher account if you’d like to create a class and assign different games directly to students.


MathGames.com

Unique in that you can choose different skills to work on inside each game type, allowing students to pair individual interest with their skill practice.  


Adaptive Games: Gamified math practice that automatically gets harder as your students are ready.

Prodigy

Students battle monsters with spells cast by correctly answering math questions.  The game will level, assess and continually challenge your students all by itself, or you can create classes to track progress and assign your own questions to match what you are studying.  


Sumdog

Provides access to six great games that support progress in essential math skills, with class creation and teacher reporting.  A Sumdog subscription will unlock access to more than 20 additional games.


Splash Math

Students collect coins as they progress through skill practice, which they can redeem for virtual pets.  Teachers can create classes to monitor skill mastery and make ability groups.


Mixed Bag: Some great educational games, some non-educational games and games where the mechanics are too difficult to be conducive to effective skills practice.

ABCya!

Notable educational games not found elsewhere include: fraction manipulatives, roman numeral practice, and order of operations.  The site also has many just for fun games your students may wander off to.


Hooda Math

Hosts external games on various math skills, and includes shop games for money management practice.  Includes some loosely math-based board games such as Mancala, Checkers and Backgammon as well as just for fun games. 


Funbrain

Practice math skills with a variety of game themes with excellent graphics.  It can be difficult to see what skill games are practicing without actually clicking on them though.


Math Playground

Hosts external games practicing a variety of math skills, as well as including robot games that blend counting practice with beginning coding skills.


Math Play

A good spread of math skills available in each of their game types.  Their sports themed math games can end up being more about game mechanics than skill practice though.


PBS Kids

Basic math skill practice themed with popular PBS Kids characters.  Several games have more theme and less skill practice, however.


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Basic math skills require a lot of practice though, so games can really help your students be motivated to put in that time.  Games can also help your students with various computer related fine motor skills such as clicking and dragging, typing and hand eye coordination.


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Brittany Washburn
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How Google Classroom Can Make This Your Best School Year Ever

How Google Classroom Can Make This Your Best School Year Ever


Google Classroom is a learning management tool that teachers can use to connect with students both in the classroom and out. Let’s talk about the various aspects of Google Classroom that make it a solid choice for teachers looking for a classroom management tool.

Google Classroom is a learning management tool that teachers can use to connect with students both in the classroom and out. Let’s talk about the various aspects of Google Classroom that make it a solid choice for teachers looking for a classroom management tool. 


Hundreds of Apps Integrate With It

Your favorite websites integrate, like Khan Academy, BrainPop, Flipgrid, Newsela, Pear Deck and much more.  Check out the full list!


Resources Abound

Google Classroom is easy to use. Setting up a new classroom doesn’t take a ton of time or expertise. You can train for about an hour, and have a classroom set up and running by the end of the session.  However, since it is such a well established and prevalent platform, there are tons of guides and helpful tips out there to help make it work for you even better.   Upgrades and improvements are also constant.


Teacher Planning Made Easy

Google Classroom allows teachers to schedule assignments in the future.  Designated assignments could be scheduled to go live on a Monday and then close that Friday. If you have to be absent, you can schedule out the assignments and thereby avoid having to rely on a sub to manage it all. Classrooms can also be used from semester to semester or year to year, allowing you to save some time by having certain things already in place (class syllabus, grading expectations, etc.).


Differentiation Distribution

Through Classroom, teachers are able to target instruction for their different learners. Designating lessons for the whole class, individual students, or groups of students takes just a few simple steps when creating an assignment on the Classwork page.


Facilitate Collaboration

Students can share assignments and work from home together to complete them. Teachers can flip the classroom by sharing a video to go live in the evening, requiring students to view it that night to prepare for a quiz on it the next day.  You can allow students to comment and post on the main page, so students with questions about assignments can get help from other classmates.  You can facilitate online discussions between students and create group projects within Classroom. Teachers retain full control over student comments and posts. 


Communicate More Efficiently

Enter the email addresses of the students when you set up the class, and classroom communication is done. You have an email group, a discussion group, and a Google Calendar automatically created. It’s then easy to add and remove students from the class as necessary.  Teachers and students can both send emails, post to the stream, send private comments on assignments, and provide feedback on work.  You can also communicate with parents either through individual emails or through Classroom email summaries including things like class announcements and due dates.


Data Analysis

Data from assessments can be exported into Sheets for easy sorting and analysis.


One Wonderful Word: Paperless

Online learning management systems are designed to help teachers create and collect classwork paperlessly.  When you set up Google Classroom, it will create Google Drive folders for each assignment and for each student to help keep everyone organized.  Once students turn in an assignment in Google Classroom, they do not also have to share a Google Doc with you. Because it is all Cloud-based, there are no more “lost” assignments, rubrics or worksheets.  Students who are absent can access classroom materials from wherever they are, as well as can locate any other resources they may need to complete missed work. You can easily see who has turned in the assignment and who hasn’t.  As soon as they do turn in an assignment, you can grade it and send it straight back to them to review.


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Google Classroom is a learning management tool that teachers can use to connect with students both in the classroom and out. Let’s talk about the various aspects of Google Classroom that make it a solid choice for teachers looking for a classroom management tool.




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Brittany Washburn
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6 Simple Ways to Integrate Technology into Any Unit Study

6 Simple Ways to Integrate Technology into Any Unit Study


You don’t have to teach technology to use technology in your teaching!  Teachers can integrate technology into any unit of study.

You don’t have to teach technology to use technology in your teaching!  Teachers can integrate technology into any unit of study.  

Some examples to try include: 


Using Apps

  • They say “There’s an app for that.” because there probably is.  Classroom and learning needs are no exception.  Khan Academy has educational videos on a variety of subjects, Duolingo will help your kids learn a new language, Tynker teaches students how to code, Google Arts & Culture lets you explore and interact with art and architecture around the world, Quizlet helps students study for tests, Starfall will help you primary kiddos learn to read.  


Playing Online Games

  • Playing educational games is an extremely effective way to reinforce learning in an engaging way.  Even if you’re not quite ready to build them into your lesson plans, early finishers can be assigned a game on the topic you are studying as a meaningful reward while you help the stragglers complete their work.  Open up Google and type in “[subject] game for [grade level]“ to find something aligned to your unit. 


Videoconferencing With an Expert

  • Videoconferencing is a great way to shake up your classroom routine and add some enrichment to your subject.  They’re a lot cheaper than a field trip, and you can pull a conference off without that pre-field trip day nightmare about losing a student.  You can use a website like Nepris or the Digital Human Library to get in touch with an expert.  Or if you already have a subject matter expert in your contacts, you can just use any video conferencing platform you like from Skype to Zoom or Google Meet.


Blogging About It as a Class

  • Classroom blogs are a great and versatile way to get your kids creating content. You can have students post their writing (stories, paragraphs, poetry, etc.), pictures of class projects, or even audio projects (read aloud practice, speech class ventures, etc.).  As a bonus, they are also a great way to showcase student work to parents and keep them in the loop.  Many blogging platforms are designed to be very easy to use, like Blogger and Live JournalEdublogs was even made just for classroom and school library blogs. 


Doing a Class Podcast Discussing the Topic

  • You can post your podcast on your class website (or blog).  Although you can try using the built-in microphone on a computer, an external microphone usually works a bit better.  If you use Macintosh, you can just use the included GarageBand software for recording and postproduction.  If you use Windows, you might use the free software Audacity.  You can also do podcasts as weekly classroom news broadcasts, to document a field trip, share book reviews or review curricular content.


Using or Creating Videos, Graphics, Digital Presentations, etc.

  • Animoto and other tools help create educational videos.  Websites like Canva and Thinglink help you or your students create gorgeous graphics.  Digital presentations are easy to create with platforms like Google Slides or Prezi.  There are also several creative platforms out there for contributing to online communities that create storybooks and illustrations, such as My Storybook and Storyboard That.  

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