Reading Comprehension 101: Five Strategies for Scaffolding Challenging Texts for Not-English Teachers

Welcome, Teachers!

A few weeks ago, our instructional coach Val Hoose asked me to help her plan and run a professional development session on reading comprehension for teachers who teach math, science, social studies, and various electives, as well as for new and experienced English language arts teachers. I readily agreed.

Below, you’ll find all of the information from our professional development session, as well as links to various resources you may share with your colleagues. You may also participate in our professional development session from the comfort of your own home! Just follow the directions below! Continue reading

Quills and Thrills: Figurative Language Throw Down Week Three

Ahoy, Quillers and Thrillers!

Last week’s Figurative Language Throw Down was a success! We had a total of four submission (not including my own) and they were AMAZING! You can check them out in last week’s FLTD post.

Your challenge this week is below. Be sure to tweet your response using #QuillsandThrillsFLTD. Like or retweet your favorite submission(s) to vote! But remember, it is tacky to like your own posts on social media, so do not vote for yourself.

This Week’s Challenge

Curious about the Continue reading

Quills and Thrills: Writing Prompt Week Two

Greetings, Quillers and Thrillers!

Welcome back to Quills and Thrills: Creative Writing for the Google Generation! If you were here last week, I hope you got your Ten Commandments of Digital Citizenship pledge and permission form signed by your parents because this week’s prompt is all about building your online presence!

If you are new to Quills and Thrills this week, welcome! You can check out last week’s prompt here, or just jump right into this week’s. Before you start building your online presence, however, you need to review the Ten Commandments of Digital Citizenship pledge and permission form with your parents and turn it in as soon as possible.

Dont have your Ten Commandments of Digital Citizenship permission form signed yet? No worries, you can still create the tools needed to build your online presence and set them aside until you get that permission form signed.

Figurative Language Throw Down Challenge

Prime your mind for creative thinking every week with the Figurative Language Throw Down Challenge! Check out the rules for the weekly challenge before playing.

Submit your weekly entry to Twitter using #QuillsandThrillsFLTD!

New Experience: Chewing Cotton Balls!

A small percentage of writing happens with a pen in your hand or a keyboard under your fingers. In fact, the bulk of writing happens through new experiences both profound and mundane. After all, how can you write about exciting new adventures without having a few adventures yourself?  Continue reading

Have you heard about Quills and Thrills yet?

Want to know more? Read all about it at What is Quills and Thrills?

Ready to start the first writing prompt? Check it out at Quills and Thrills: Writing Prompt Week One!

Download a printable version of the Ten Commandments of Digital Citizenship Pledge and Permission Form today!

Quills and Thrills: Writing Prompt Week One

Good afternoon, Thrillers!

Welcome to Quills and Thrills: Creative Writing for the Google Generation! Not sure what Quills and Thrills is?  Find out here!

Figurative Language Throw Down Challenge

Prime your mind for creative thinking every week with the Figurative Language Throw Down Challenge! Check out the rules for the weekly challenge before playing.

Thanks to @SSMindSchool for this week’s challenge!

Five Minute Burn

Your first writing prompt will require pre-writing using a nifty method I like to call a “five-minute burn.” Here’s how it works: I’ll set a timer for five minutes. As soon as I say go, you will start writing without stopping until the five minutes are up. If you run out of things to write about, simply write “IDK IDK IDK” over and over again until something comes to you. The trick is to keep your pencil moving. Don’t worry about erasing errors or scratching out mistakes. Just ignore them and KEEP WRITING!

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Ready for your prompt? Here it is: How would you define writing and why is it important to you?

If you’re following along at home, use the video below to keep track of your time.

Time is up! How did you do? Take a moment to reread your burn. If you come across a phrase or word that you really like, underline it.

Now, we’re going to revise our burn to be a publishable piece of writing. Here’s your new prompt: Use imagery and figurative language to define the importance of writing in your life.

Before you start revising your burn, check out two tricks of the writing trade below to help you jazz up your writing a bit.

Continue reading

My First Flippin’ Video

Hot diggity, dear reader! I finished editing my first flipped video last night, and I’m actually quite pleased with how it turned out! You can see it below.

Many thanks to Abacaba, Kate Gardoqui, and Gastondeluxe for the video clips!

Video Recording and Editing Software

I recorded some of the footage using QuickTime Player’s video recording and screen recording features on my school-issued MacBook Pro, and the rest of the footage came from YouTube. Finally, I edited the video using iMovie and PowerPoint. All free software!

I’m currently trying to get a more robust video editing software so I don’t have to use PowerPoint to create a picture-in-picture effect, but I’m hoping to get the software through my school so I don’t have to pay for it out of pocket.

Teaching Students to Learn from Videos

If you watched/read my seven tips for creating your own flipped videos, you may remember that you should teach your students how to learn from a video by showing flipped videos in class before assigning them as homework. Well, today I taught (most) of my students how to learn from videos using the video you see above.

Overall, I think it was a success! The students used visual cues to let me know when to pause the video, play the video, or rewind the video. Sometimes I paused the video myself and explained why I paused it, other times they told me to pause the video by holding up their hands. It worked pretty well, and it allowed the students to become familiar with the structure of my (soon to be created) videos, which will help them become more efficient and effective note-takers.

I learned quite a bit today as well. First of all, the video was only 15 minutes long, but between pausing, rewinding, rewatching, and note-taking, we needed a full 50 minutes to get through it. I’m sure the students will become more efficient with practice, but I will need to make sure future videos are no longer than 10 minutes if I expect the students to take thorough notes.

I also learned that visual cues within the video are very helpful for the students, but those cues don’t necessarily have to be text-based. In future videos, I may hold up a pencil when I want the students to write something down. That way I don’t have to do as much post-production editing, but the students will still know what they need to copy down. That’s a trick to perform later in the year as a way to scaffold good note-taking skills, and to teach the students how to differentiate between important information and fluff.

No Tech at Home? No Problem! 

Since coming back to school and sharing my flippin’ aspirations with my colleagues, many of them have raised a very valid concern about flipped learning for students who are unable to watch videos at home due to a lack of technology. I also had a handful of my new students express the same concern. In response, I created this Tech Letter for Parents which addresses those concerns. I’ve welcomed students to come into my class during lunch to watch the videos on the big screen, and I’ve also highlighted some of the resources within our community that students can use evenings and weekends, such as the public library and public transportation. Feel free to steal my letter and modify it to meet your own needs.

That’s all for today! Back to work for this busy teacher. If you want to read more about strategies using technology and the SAMR Model, check out my post on using Animoto in the classroom or my post on EDpuzzle. You can also read the first post in this series here.

Check out my prior post on practical tips for flipping your classroom!

Flippin’ Flipped Learning, Yo!

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Hey there, dear reader! It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I spent the past month traveling to San Diego and Denver, partaking in Netflix binges (Sense8, anyone?) and brewery shenanigans, and researching how to implement the flipped classroom model for the first time: all very important summer activities for a teacher blogger.

But now the first day of school is nearly upon us, which means it is time to get back to work. As you may already know, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to flip some of my lessons this summer. Since I’m to teach ninth grade for the first time this year, I figure this is the best time to flip since I need to develop new curriculum resources anyway.

Initially, I didn’t think flipping would be too much of a shift. I’ve always been a tech savvy teacher, so flipping some of my lessons seemed like a natural next step in my professional development. Alas, the more I’ve read, the more I’ve learned; the more I’ve learned, the more I’ve realized what a large task I have in front of me.

Have I wavered? No! Have I procrastinated? Yes! But I’m done with that now, so bring on the flip!

The first thing I’ve discovered on my flippin’ journey are Twitter hashtags #fliplearning and #flippedlearning. Why are there two (or more) hashtags and not one? Because it’s Twitter, and the hashtag you use depends on how many characters you have remaining in your sweet little tweet. As a novice Tweeter, I’m amazed at the number of (free!) resources available to teachers swimming around the Twitterverse.

People have a lot to say about the flipped classroom model, and many educators have taken it further than I ever imagined. When used with fidelity, flipped learning changes much more than content delivery. I’ll admit, it’s a bit intimidating: kind of like watching a professional skateboarder land a Stalefish Grab when you’re barely able to stand up without banging your head into the concrete (and yes, I did just Google “fancy skateboarding trick” to come up with Stalefish Grab).

Skateboard Slay
Reading about the flipped classroom model on Twitter
How I imagine my first flipped lesson IRL
How I imagine my first flipped lesson IRL

But, since success is almost always a product of failure, I’ve brushed my survival instincts aside and made three major adjustments to my plans for the first few weeks to allow for flippin’ scaffolding!

Flippin’ Adjustment #1: Watch the first few videos in class

One of my prized Twitter finds is a podcast called The Flip Side with Jon Bergmann. The episodes titled “Flipping Your Class? Do This, Puh-Leeze Don’t Do That” Parts One through Five have been extremely helpful by answering my questions about video length and the importance of making them interactive and whatnot (more on this later). Most importantly, however, Bergmann stresses the importance of teaching students how to watch and learn from the videos. He suggests watching the first few videos in class so the teacher can model how to pause and rewind the video to clarify important points, show the students how to take notes, and teach them how to develop meaningful questions to bring to class the next day.

Flippin’ Adjustment #2: Hold the students accountable

Once you’ve taught the students how to learn from your videos, Bergmann urges his listeners to resist the urge to reteach the content from the video the night before. Since some of our darling students may not watch the videos on time (just as they don’t always complete their homework on time) we may be tempted to teach the content again in class, but that completely negates the flipped learning ideology. Plus, it encourages students who have watched the video to blow off the next one. Why watch it at home when you’re going to teach the same thing in class tomorrow?

Flippin’ Adjustment #3: Dedicate class time to applying concepts

Bergmann also cautions against the temptation to assign a video without in-class application. Yes, we have too much content to get through and too little time to get through it, but if students don’t have the opportunity to practice the concepts discussed in the video while their teacher is available to support their learning, they might as well not watch the video at all. The whole point of the flipped classroom model is to increase your one-on-one time with the students as they partake in hands-on learning in the classroom. Don’t treat your videos as substitutes for real learning.

Now that I’ve explored the flippin’ concept and adjusted my lesson plans, I can no longer delay the inevitable: I need to create my first flippin’ video. Gulp. So, to synthesize my learning and practice using iMovie (and procrastinate making an actual video to use with my students) I created a flippin’ video on how to make a flipped video! You can see the video below, or if you don’t have six minutes and thirty-eight seconds to spare just skip ahead to my checklist below.

Seven Flippin’ Video Tips

  1. Show your flippin’ face! Disembodied voices are creepy and boring and lack nonverbal cues that aid effective communication. Get over yourself and get in front of the camera.
  2. Vary your flippin’ speech! Avoid the “Bueller” effect and actually sound excited about your content. If you’re excited, the kids will be excited too. They’re just pretending to be bored.
  3. Record flippin’ everywhere! Have you ever been on vacation somewhere and thought, “Man, I wish my kids could see this.” Well, thanks to that handy-dandy smartphone in your pocket, they can! Pull out a video and record your thoughts. You can edit them down later.
  4. Make your own flippin’ videos! You know what your students need to succeed on your end-of-unit assessment, so you should be the one teaching in your videos. Students prefer to learn from their teacher. If there is an awesome video on YouTube that is completely perfect for your lesson, download it and cut to it in your video.
  5. Make them inter-flippin’-active! Accountability, accountability, accountability! Use programs like EDPuzzle (read my post on EDPuzzle here), TodaysMeet, PollEverywhere, or your favorite learning management system to give your students a reason to watch the video, formatively assess their learning, and give them a safe place to discuss the concepts from your videos online with their peers outside of class. Bonus: if you have the kids ask questions the night before class, you can review them and tailor your lessons and individualize your instruction.
  6. Include flippin’ note reminders! Students are kids, and they need constant skill reinforcement. Remind them to pause the video and jot down important information using your preferred note-taking system.
  7. Keep them flippin’ short! Again, students are kids, and they have limited attention spans. I’ve read that the average medical student has an attention span of only twenty minutes. Med students! They’re like, the cream of the crop! Bergmann suggests sixty to ninety seconds per grade level maximum, so if you teach tenth grade, keep your videos no longer than fifteen minutes. Also, don’t forget that students will have to pause the video to take notes, which will add to their viewing time. If they’ll need to take a lot of notes, try to keep it between five and eight minutes.

That’s all for today, folks! I’m going to attempt a video introducing Greek and Latin roots. Wish me luck!

If you want to read more about strategies using technology and the SAMR Model, check out my post on EDpuzzle or my post on updating EdTech PD. You can also read the first post in this series here.

Check out my next post: My First Flippin’ Video!

Professional Development 2.0

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Greetings, dear reader! I have a question for you. How many professional development (PD) workshops, seminars, classes, trips, etc. have you attended this summer? Zero? One? Two? Or are you crazy like me and working on your fifth? Here’s another question for you: how many times have you attended a hyped-up workshop only to not change your own practice? It’s okay. We’ve all done it.

I attended a Promethean training earlier this week, and half way through I had an AHA moment (pun intended – go Jags!):

Project-based professional development workshops are much more effective than traditional, lecture-based professional development seminars.

How do I know? Because I was halfway through a traditional, lecture-based Promethean workshop, and I was bored to tears. Instead of learning strategy, I was stuck listening to a long, drawn out explanation of what a paint bucket does in ActivInspire. All I really wanted were ideas on how my Promethean Board could improve my teaching and deepen student understanding, but my idea factory was experiencing a forced furlough due to paint buckets and shape tools.

Two weeks ago I started the SAMR EdTech Series as a way to cope with the overwhelming amount of ideas threatening to consume my soul. Where did these ideas come from? My district’s Teacher Summer Tech Camp, of course! It was the best PD I’d ever attended. Instead of learning about tools, we learned about strategies, and in learning the strategy we learned the tool.

AppSmash! Teaching Perspective with ChatterPix, Tellagami, and iMovie

One such breakout session required us to create a perspective video using ChatterPix, Tellagami, and iMovie on iPads. Initially, I wasn’t sold. When I was asked to download ChatterPix and Tellagami, I knew this lesson would be geared toward elementary audiences. Nevertheless, I decided to stick around and give it a shot.

First, we watched a sample video in which an elementary student used ChatterPix and Tellagami to create an informative newscast on zoos. The news anchor was an avatar created through Tellagami. She interviewed different zoo animals – created through Google images and ChatterPix – about their experiences living in a zoo. The animals explained why zoos were bad from a first person perspective. They each responded in different voices (with lots of sass), and their mouths actually moved as they spoke! It was very cute.

After watching the sample video, we were asked to create our own. The instructors quickly walked us through the basic process of creating an avatar on Tellagami before giving us time to record footage for our own perspective videos. Then, we repeated the process with ChatterPix. Finally, we squished the videos from the two apps together using iMovie.

Why did it work? Because the focus was on what we could do with the tool, not on the tool itself. Since we spent most of the session time creating our own videos, the instructors were free to help individuals struggling with the programming while the rest of us were absorbed in our own projects. They understood that many of us would be able to figure out how to use the tool on our own, so they didn’t force us to listen to a remedial lesson on shape tools and paint buckets unless we needed it.

My AppSmash video is below. It’s a little creepy and a lot cheesy, but you get the idea.

While the I initially thought this would only work for elementary students, creating my video made it clear that secondary students can learn a lot from this activity as well. By having different characters from different books interact with each other, the students can explore how different texts explore similar themes, compare and contrast characterization techniques, and have a lot of fun in the process.

Using Keynote and iMovie to Reflect on Learning

I also attended a couple of breakout sessions on Keynote and iMovie. Initially, I didn’t have high expectations for these sessions. What can I say, I’m a tech snob. Keynote? Psh. I know how to use Keynote in the classroom: to make slide shows! Duh! And iMovie? Easy. There were limited breakout options though so I attend the sessions anyway. I figured I might learn something.

Learn something I did.

Like the AppSmash lesson, these sessions didn’t focus on iMovie or Keynote. They focused on strategies, specifically science labs.

Documenting Water Tension with Keynote

For the Keynote lesson, we were each given a cup of water, a water dropper, a paper towel, and four coins. We were told that we were going to experiment with water tension and document our findings using Keynote.

Apparently, Keynote can be used for more than slideshows. Who knew?

Curious? Check out my partially completed presentation lab notes in the video below.

Parachute Building: A Documentary

For the iMove lesson, we were given a coffee filter, four pieces of twine, a paper clip, and a binder clip. We were then told that we had five minutes to build a parachute. We were to use our iPads to take pictures and videos of our progress. We had another five minutes to test our parachute outside. When we finished experimenting, we used iMovie to create a documentary of our parachute experience.

My parachute video is below.

EdTech Speed Dating

Finally, after two days of breakout sessions we were given four or five hours to create something to use with our students. The instructors stayed on site to assist us if necessary. Camp ended with “speed dating,” which is exactly what it sounds like but from an EdTech perspective. We rotated from person to person and showed off our lovely techy creations. It was fun to see other teachers talk about flipping their lessons and putting more technology into kids’ hands. That’s where I learned about Aurasma (it is SO FREAKING COOL!), which I will write about next.

Why did speed dating work? Because we were able to collect more ideas, network with other tech savvy teachers in our district, and most importantly own the tool. Even though we weren’t given explicit instruction on how to use every feature every tool had to offer, we figured it out our own because we were motivated to do so. The tools were necessary to bring our great ideas to fruition and show them off to other teachers.

Final Thoughts

I keep reading posts about how difficult it is to actually get teachers to use available technology or to be innovative, and change is difficult and it takes time. A possible solution? Design PD that utilizes best practices. Ideas come from experiences, not lectures, so don’t give a lecture on how to teach without lecturing. Instead, provide teacher-centered PD that models new learning opportunities from a student perspective.

I created a handy-dandy chart highlighting the differences between traditional EdTech PD (Professional Development 1.0) and modern EdTech PD (Professional Development 2.0). Check it out below.

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That’s all I’ve got for you today! If you want to read more about strategies using technology and the SAMR Model, check out my post on using Animoto in the classroom or my post on EDpuzzle. You can also read the first post in this series here.

Check out my next post on practical tips for flipping your classroom!

Flippin’ with EDpuzzle

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Guess what, dear reader? I created a flipped video using EDpuzzle! It only took me an hour (and let’s face it, an hour is a bit too much time to spend on one, four-minute video), but I’m optimistic that I will become much more efficient at creating EDpuzzle videos, especially if I add questions, audio, and text to videos I create myself instead of the videos in the EDpuzzle library. Half the challenge was figuring out if I was using the right video, what to cut out of the video, what to include in my audio notes, and what questions to ask.

I couldn’t figure out how to embed my EDpuzzle video into this post, but if you click here you’ll be able to see my EDpuzzle video in a new tab.

If you’re wondering what I mean by “flipped,” you should check out this informative EDpuzzle video that compares and contrasts flipped classrooms and traditional classrooms.

Why EDpuzzle?

First of all, it is FREE! EduCanon is a similar program, but it’ll constantly pester you to upgrade to receive certain services. EDpuzzle will never panhandle its users.

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EDpuzzle Library – you can use any video from any of the sources on the left.

So Many Options!

As I mentioned earlier, EDpuzzle makes it easy for teachers to add questions, comments, and audio notes to a video. You can create your own video and upload it to EDpuzzle, or you can select a video from their extensive library.

Crop Videos

Crop a Video
Crop any video!

Have you ever found a YouTube video with useful information in the middle of the video, but irrelevant information at the beginning or end of the video? With EDpuzzle, you can crop a video down so you only use what you need.

 

Use Audio Track to Record Over the Entire Video

If you want your students to watch a slow-motion video of a bullet hitting an apple so you can discuss the transfer of energy or something, you can record your explanation over the video. This is a neat feature, but I wish it would let you record over only a portion of the video instead of making you record over the entire thing.

Keep it Personal with Audio Notes

Some videos use academic language that is just out of students’ reach, and some students need to hear you explain things multiple times before they finally get it (or tune-in). With EDpuzzle, you can interrupt the video with audio notes to re-explain concepts from the video using kid-friendly language. This could also simply act as a cue letting the students know what is or isn’t important. Audio notes are different from audio tracks because they stop the video to play the track instead of playing over the video. Even though they pause the video, audio notes do not tally into the total length of the EDpuzzle video.

Assessment and Accountability with Quizzes

This name of this feature is a little misleading because it allows you to do more than just quiz students. While you can make them answer multiple choice questions (I love the “no skipping” option!), you can also ask short-answer questions or leave comments to the right of the video.

Multiple-Choice: This is exactly what it sounds like. Ask quick, level one questions to make sure your students are paying attention, or ask level two questions that make the students apply the information covered in the video. You could also ask a series of questions before the video as a pre-assessment, then ask the similar questions again at the end of the video to track student learning. But be aware, EDpuzzle gives immediate feedback on multiple-choice questions. Students will know if they answered correctly or incorrectly as soon as they click continue.

Multiple Choice
I plan to use the multiple choice option to have kids predict the difference between subordinating conjunctions and coordinating conjunctions. Asking kids to make predictions increases engagement!

Short-Answer Option: This is also exactly what it sounds like, but when I flip my lessons I’ll use this feature to ask students what questions they have about the content. This will allow me to tailor the next class period to meet student needs. Hello, data-driven instruction! I know this is somewhere in the NM Teach Domains…As for me, I’m planning on pairing EDpuzzle with PollEverywhere or TodaysMeet so students can ask questions about content in real-time.

Open Ended Question
After the video covers the information kids need to test their predictions, they have to summarize what they’ve learned in a short answer question.

Comment Option: This is a neat tool that allows you to simply add a comment to the right of the video. Like the audio notes, this can be used to restate information in kid-friendly language but it targets visual learners more than auditory learners.

Comment
In this video, I used the comma option to restate the rule I want the kids to remember. I phrased the rule differently than the video to give the students multiple opportunities to learn the information.

Multiple Ways to Share with Students

Once you’ve finished creating your video, you can assign it to a class. This is important if you want to see your students’ results after watching the video. To set this up, students will have to create their own account (FREE!) and join your class using a unique code. Then, you just assign your video to a class!

Assign to Class

 

If you aren’t worried about student data but you still want to share your video with a large group of people, you can simply share a link or embed the video into certain platforms like Schoology. The data won’t be saved, but anyone with the link can see your comments and answer your questions.

Student View

When students are logged in, they’ll see their assigned videos and completed videos side by side, along with their scores on completed videos.

Student View 3

If students try to work in another tab while the video plays in the background, the video will automatically pause. However, clever students will quickly figure out that the video will keep playing if it is open in a different window.

Students may also realize that they need to rewatch a portion of the video again before they’re ready to answer a question.Rewatch Time If that’s the case, they can simply click the “rewatch” button and the video will start over from the last stopping point (question, comment, or audio note).

Viewing Data

On the teacher side of things, you’ll be able to see some helpful data and quickly grade short answer questions:

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IMPORTANT: Be fastidious when creating your multiple choice questions. Once you assign a video to a class, you cannot edit it, even if you realize that you neglected to change a multiple choice option from “correct” to “incorrect” as evidenced by this image.

Teacher View 3Just make sure you always double-check your questions before assigning a video to the class. Once it’s been assigned, you will not be able to edit it.

That’s all I’ve got for you today! If you want to read more about strategies using technology and the SAMR Model, check out my post on using PollEverything in the classroom or my post on Animoto. You can also read the first post in this series here.

Check out the next post in this series: Professional Development 2.0!

 

Simply Animoto

Logo-V2_Full-Color1-e1382125340276If you’ve poked around this website a bit, you may have stumbled across a couple of videos I created using a nifty web-based program called Animoto. You can find the videos here and here.

If you scroll down you’ll also find an Animoto Tutorial video I created for my students showing how I made the above video.

Animoto is great because it is super simple to create a short video using text, pictures, and video files that are already on your computer, iPad, or SmartPhone. You just log in, click “create,” select a style, then drag and drop! It is so simple and intuitive, even young elementary students can create a video with Animoto.

At this point, you may be wondering why use Animoto when there are plenty of other tools out there that students can use to create a glorified slide show. For me, it’s the platform. Most other video-editing programs I’ve used require a full-blown lesson on how to actually use the program. Aside from getting the kids logged in, I won’t have to teach an entire lesson on how to use Animoto. I can just give them the computers, tell them where to go, how to log in, and what I expect them to create with the program. After that, I can focus on teaching content again. If they need a little extra help maneuvering the program, I’ll just direct them to my nine-minute Animoto Tutorial below.

Animoto and the SAMR Model

samr_coffeeNow that you’ve become acquainted with Animoto, you need to create meaningful lessons. In an earlier post, I discussed the importance of using technology as a way to enhance student learning. The SAMR Model is a great tool because it serves as a reminder to use technology to create new learning experiences that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. If you want to know more about how to apply the SAMR Model to your own lessons, check out the first post in this series: Doug, SAMR, and Me: Reflecting after a week of PD.

Animoto in my English 9 Class

Mandala Project

Ever since I started teaching, I’ve always had students create an artsy-fartsy representation of themselves to present to the rest of the class. Some years I’ll have them create shields, others they’ll create self-portraits, and last year my American Lit classes made personal flags. It’s a great way to learn names and get to know the students. Plus, I have a ton of student artwork to hang on the walls, which helps the students feel more comfortable and proud to be there.

Last year, however, after presenting his flag, I had an English language learner (ELL) write about how anxious presentations made him because he didn’t speak English very well. I realized that by requiring presentations the first or second week of school, I was already setting some of my students up for an anxiety-ridden year in a classroom where they don’t feel socially safe; the exact opposite of what I intended for this particular project.

Animoto will help me change that. This year, my students will create Mandalas for their artsy-fartsy Ms.Hayes-needs-art-on-her-walls project. Since Animoto is so quick and easy to use, I’ll give students the option to use Animoto to present their Mandala to the class instead of a traditional presentation. Since Animoto has apps for smartphones and tablets, shy or tech-savvy students can use their own technology and their own time to create the video, and ELLs can recruit help from friends or teachers so they feel confident about their English usage in the video.

Vocabulary Review

My students will also have Greek and Latin root-based vocabulary quizzes every Friday this year. When I taught juniors and seniors, I didn’t provide any vocabulary instruction during class (unless students asked for help, that is). I told them that in order to prepare for college they needed to get used to studying on their own outside of class, and if they needed help or explicit instruction I would be happy to give them one on one tutoring. That worked for juniors and seniors. That won’t work for freshmen.

Since I’ve designed my vocabulary units to give students repeated exposure to the same nine Greek and Latin roots over a five-week period, I can use Animoto as an assessment tool or as a review activity before unit tests or the summative vocabulary exam during finals week. Here’s a basic idea of what that’ll look like:

  1. Break students up into nine different groups.
  2. Assign each group one root word from that unit.
  3. Students then must use Animoto to explain how that root word operates within words we use in different contexts.
  4. I can then take all of the videos, use iMovie to squish them together, then share them with the rest of the students to use as a study guide before the big exam.

Reader Chair Share

Many teachers have had their students use Animoto to create a book trailer for something that they’ve read in class. While I think that’s a great idea, I don’t want to watch 150 Animoto trailers on the same book.

Instead, I might modify their idea a bit, and have students create a book trailer on something they’ve read for fun outside of class. If a student is reading Harry Potter outside of class for example, they can make a book trailer on Animoto and use that to sell the rest of the class on the series that their crazy English teacher is obsessed with. I might set aside time for students to present their Reader Chair Share videos, or – perhaps when we have a little extra time at the end of class, or when the students’ brains are zonked from endless standardized testing in the spring – I can play a few student-created book trailers to encourage them to read for pleasure outside of class and over summer break.

Creating a Teacher Account on Animoto

If you’re interested in using Animoto in your classroom, you’ll want to set up a teacher account so you can have free access. Since we live in a society where teachers make plenty of money to spend on their students and their classrooms (note my sarcasm), Animoto has made it a bit difficult for teachers to get free access for twelve months. If you’re going to set up an account, make sure you follow the directions below:

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Unfortunately, Animoto thinks that most teachers only have fifty students. Ha! That’s why I’ll either have students work in groups, or students in different classes will have shared accounts. Digital citizenship lessons are imperative to any modern curriculum!

That’s all I’ve got for you today! If you want to read more about strategies using technology and the SAMR Model, check out my post on using PollEverything in the classroom. You can also read the first post in this series here.

Check out my next post on making Flipped Videos with EDpuzzle!