Free as in “Free Speech” Educational Software

October 17, 2007 at 11:58 am | Posted in education, free resources, software, technology in education | 2 Comments

If you don’t know about the Free Software Directory, do get acquainted!  These softwares are created by professional developers who believe that software should be free, not making money for already wealthy companies.

There is a list of great educational software there.  I’m testing out gcompris right now and so far, so good!  I’ll let you know more.

Unit Opener Planning Week

October 13, 2007 at 6:52 am | Posted in best practices, education, free resources, Open Court, reading, writing | 1 Comment

Please visit Creating Lifelong Learners by Mathew Needleman this coming week to participate in or get ideas for opening up a learning unit.  This is geared toward Open Court units, but I say, you can always get ideas for your own units and anthologies!  So come along for this exciting collaboration!

I will be participating as well and posting my ideas here on this blog, but there will be many, many teachers and coaches creating excellent ideas all across the web.  Please do consider joining in!

Unit Opener

ABCteach – excellent website with great tools

September 16, 2007 at 3:48 pm | Posted in free resources | Leave a comment

I regularly use ABCteach for lots of stuff, especially vocabulary and spelling activities.  Do check it out.  🙂  Much of the site is free, but the paid subscription is well worth it I think.

New Second Grade Reading and Writing Homework – Tree Map

August 26, 2007 at 8:41 pm | Posted in education, elementary, free resources, graphic organizers, homework, reading, second grade, thinking maps, writing | 3 Comments

I am trying out a new second grade reading and writing homework using the Tree Map.  My goal is for students to prepare students to be able to dissect a story, looking at the characters, setting, problem and solution.  Eventually, I want to transition into using the academic language of “characters, setting, problem and solution” but for now, I’m using scaffolding language.  Take a look to see if it’s useful for you.

Visit my to download the PDF file of the Tree Map.

Updated Reading and Writing Homework for Second Grade

July 8, 2007 at 9:54 am | Posted in free resources, homework, reading, second grade, thinking maps, writing | Leave a comment

I updated my reading and writing homework, which uses a flow map, for second grade.  This is a tentative change for me.  I will observe how my students handle this homework before making more changes.  For now, the changes include some sentence starters to help the students write about their reading.

Please visit my for the pdf file.

How to Really Publish Your Students’ Writings and Drawings

June 23, 2007 at 7:16 am | Posted in elementary, free resources, investigation, Open Court, teachers, third grade, writing | 3 Comments

I discovered about a year ago. is a print on demand company.  You upload a pdf file to their server and can buy your beautiful, professional looking, retail ready book.  You can buy one or a class set or however many you want.  You can set your privacy option so that only you have the right to purchase your book.  You can also set it so that other people (like parents) can purchase the book.  (I would set that function to zero profit, or make it a fund-raiser for the school because keeping profit from your students’ work is kinda sticky business.)

When I first discovered it, I uploaded some gorgeous paintings my students made for the story “Picasso” in the “Imagination” unit of the third grade Open Court Reading program.  We purchased one book to be placed in my class library.  The kids went wild.  They love seeing their work in a real book.

I’m doing it again today.  I’m uploading some seriously amazing pieces that my students wrote as part of their investigation into storytelling.  They collected family oral histories and wrote the stories down, with beautiful illustration.  Unfortunately, we’re behind on the project, so the book probably won’t get here by our last day of school.  I will order two copies, one for their fourth grade class and one for my third grade class.

The students were very motivated to do their best writing and drawing for this book because, well, it’s a real book!  You can’t get more authentic and motivating than that!

I really recommend that teachers look into as one of the ways that students can publish their final drafts for writing, but also a way to publish Science projects, History projects, and anything else really.

KWL Chart – always useful!

May 28, 2007 at 9:50 am | Posted in best practices, free resources, graphic organizers, Open Court, strategies | Leave a comment

Andrew reminded me recently that the KWL chart is always useful, always powerful in helping students reflect on old and new learning.  Visit his blog for a more in-depth discussion of the KWL chart.  Also, Andrew created a KWL chart for anyone’s use if you are interested.

I’ve taken the liberty of adding the KWL chart to the teaching strategies wiki.

Thanks Andrew!

For teachers of the Open Court program, I added a paragraph of how to integrate the KWL chart with your Inquiry Journal at the  teaching strategies wiki.

NEW – Reading and Writing Homework – Using Circle Maps

May 12, 2007 at 9:31 pm | Posted in elementary, free resources, graphic organizers, homework, thinking maps, third grade, writing | 5 Comments

Just created a reading and writing homework using Circle Maps.  This homework would work well with the younger students or at the beginning of the school year.

Visit my to download both as PDFs.

Student Reflection – Ticket Out the Door

May 6, 2007 at 11:32 am | Posted in best practices, elementary, free resources, IWT, Open Court, strategies, Workshop | 7 Comments

Students need to reflect as well as teachers. Reflection allows students to take ownership of their learning and motivate students to work harder at their learning. Reflection also allows students to process information and commit learning to their long term memory.

Ticket Out the Door

One strategy I picked up from Barbara Benson is “Ticket Out the Door”. Students reflect on their learning on a small piece of paper and give it to the teacher on their way out the door.

For third grade and second grade Open Court teachers, I will create tickets for each unit and upload them to the web. (I’ll try to do it in a PDF form as that’s most convenient. I don’t know how to convert files to PDF. The files are available in jpg format in the widget to the right or at my Public Folder. ) Here’s a sample:


These tickets are for the Storytelling Unit. You can tell because of the picture. 🙂

Use with Open Court Program

To incorporate student reflection into a busy Open Court day, simply have these tickets pre-cut and placed in a convenient place. As part of the student’s Must Do during IWT or Workshop time, have students fill out one card and keep at their desk. In order to leave for recess or lunch, they must hand you their ticket.

After perusing the tickets (as the students walk out the door), I plan on putting the tickets on the Concept/Question board. This is an easy way to fill up the board with genuine learning and help students reflect on their learning at the same time.

As a teacher, I will keep an eye on these tickets for any misconceptions I want to clarify or any learning I want to re-emphasize or any teachable moment, or just anything I want to follow up on, individually or collectively.

Today’s Door Question

Today’s Door Question is how I plan to vary the tickets. The question will be relevant to the day’s activity or learning. It should be open ended, interesting, and quick.

-UPDATE 05/10/2007-

I’ve used tickets for the last two days in the class as a Must Do during Workshop time and wow! Student written reflection really allows me to see what they are thinking and what made an impression on them for the day. Today’s selection vocabulary really stood out for them, even though I felt that it dragged as a lesson. Today’s Door Question was “What is your favorite story?”

This student’s comment that she liked the word defenseless really made me laugh.

This student showed an understanding of the word “furious”.

As you can see, my students are not the best spellers, capital letters are flying everywhere…there’s much for us to work on, but I can clearly see that my students are learning!

Here’s a sample from my special ed student.

Recall that my special ed student hated reading at the beginning of the school year.  Now, he clearly has a favorite story (a folktale since we are studying storytelling) and he’s reading independently!

Storytelling Ideas

May 6, 2007 at 10:23 am | Posted in free resources, IWT, Open Court, performance task, third grade, Workshop | 3 Comments

I’m getting ready to teach Unit 5, Storytelling. I did a quick search using google and found this amazing website with hundreds of storytelling ideas. I will scour the site, but I thought I should share first!

Story Arts Online

Here’s another one that I find useful.

National Storytelling Network

And author Aaron Shepard’s site on storytelling is amazing.

-Edit- has amazing resources for Open Court teachers.  One that I’m using is “Tell Me a Story” by Emily Fuhr.  I’m using it as part of our unit opener.  I’ve developed a short performance task that uses the poem.  We will work on this performance task throughout the first few weeks of the unit during Workshop time. Take a look at the pdf that I created for the performance task.

The performance task is:

You are a poet getting ready to perform a new poem with feelings.  You must listen to and read the poem.  You must sequence the parts of the poem in order to create a flow map and then perform the poem to the class.

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