Posted in Apps, Osmo

## Osmo – My Favorite Ed Tech Tool

Have you had a chance to play with Osmo? If not, I’m about to change your world.

The Osmo system is a series of apps for the iPad that utilize the camera to create a hands-on workspace in front of the iPad. Using the base and a variety of Osmo manipulatives, the work space moves to the table, instead of on the screen. Digital learning becomes hands-on with these games. The Osmo system has several great games, and the promise of more to come. Words, Numbers, Tangrams, Coding, Pizza, and those are just the games I own. Today, however, I’m going to focus on Osmo Words and how it will completely revolutionize your vocabulary instruction and practice.

Osmo Words is a word guessing game that puts an image on screen, and corresponding bubbles for how many letters are in the word. Students can play in teams or together to figure out what the picture represents. Players guess the word by throwing letters into the center of the table, and the score is calculated by how many red or blue letters are correct. Points are taken away for incorrect letters.

So how is this going to change your vocabulary practice? While Osmo has a bunch of pre-made albums to use in class, it is also completely customizable (and shareable). Teachers can create PowerPoints that can be converted to Words albums very easily. So the sky is the limit on what you do with the albums. We use Osmo Words in all four subject areas in my fourth and fifth grade classes. In ELA, we use the Osmo to practice our Greek and Latin roots. I’ve put together a couple of huge review albums that have images that represent the roots. For more targeted practice, I’ve also got a series of albums that practice a specific Greek root. The pictures are of words that have this root at their base. In math and science, we practice our content vocabulary. For each unit, I’ve put together albums that have images that represent specific vocabulary words. For instance, the landforms unit has images of a variety of terrestrial and aquatic landforms. In math, the albums may show different geometrical shapes. In both science and social studies, instead of relying just on pictures in the albums, I’ve also added short review questions. We review for major tests using these review question albums.

Osmo is perfect for learning stations. It easily engages groups of 2-6 students, letting you, as the teacher, focus on more direct or guided instructional groups. The cool thing is that all of the albums I’ve made are in the Osmo MyWords database, so they can be shared with anyone. Teaching is a team sport!

My albums are all geared toward upper elementary students. However, there are a bunch of great albums online that focus on early literacy skills. In fact, I’d hazard to say that the majority of albums are geared towards early elementary. Simple sight word practice, word families, and guessing games are easy to find and download. My family particularly likes the United States geography album.

Osmo Words is only one of the awesome games in the Osmo system. As I’ve tried to limit my gushing here, I’ve gotten more and more excited about pulling out my Osmo this year. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions on how we use the Osmo!

Posted in Apps, website

## TenMarks.com – A great math intervention site

I’m in a new school this year, and serve in a few new roles. I couldn’t be more excited, though it’s definitely taking a toll on my free time (and therefore my blogging). One of my new roles is as a Student Intervention Team representative. While I’ve sat on SIT teams for years, I’ve never had to manage folders or be as involved in the intervention process. I’ve been doing a ton of internet reading on effective interventions and wanted to share this free one that has been making a regular appearance in my classroom.

TenMarks.com is a math site made for teachers. Teachers can sign up for a FREE account, input their classes, and assign online tasks based on grade-specific common core standards. Each grade level has activities and assessments geared toward the standards. Simply click on the standard and assign a task. The standards are grouped for easy access and teachers can check out sample questions before building an assignment. There are several reasons why I love TenMarks.com:

1. You can put in as many groups as you need. (Read: differentiation for small groups)
2. The app gives you reports on how the kids do on each assignment and stores the scores in a digital gradebook. Teachers can view the final score, how many hints were used, how many instructional videos were viewed, and so on.
3. The questions are a good mix of rigor – basic calculations, but also error analysis and explanation questions in each standard. (Example: Given two student examples, which student got the answer wrong and why?) Also, some questions have more than one correct answer, making children do more analysis than a typical pen and paper assessment.
4. My all time favorite part – if a child doesn’t understand a question, they can click on the video tutorial. Each question has a video explaining how to solve that style of problem. It’s the perfect reteaching component!
5. If they still don’t get the question, they can utilize three extra hints.
6. At the end, students are given a score and then given a chance to go back and fix the questions they got wrong or got partially wrong to improve their score. Who doesn’t love a second chance?

We are using this app at my school as a math intervention for struggling students. The video tutorials give that essential reteaching component. Additionally, since students get individual logins, they can access the site from home and work with parents on the same type of problems. I’m also using it for some on-grade level data collection for my own students.

A few notes:
-The tutorial videos work on any device – including the iPads.
-Kids can access the site from anywhere, but there is a free app to go along with the program that streamlines everything for students.
-There is a Jam Session area where kids can practice skills without doing teacher assignments.
-There is a paid version of this. When teachers get the free version they can only assign tasks from the grade level specific standards. If you upgrade, one of the features is differentiated assignments – allowing teachers to assign any level standard to a class. I did not pay for anything – I’m happily using the free version.

Some of you may have already seen this site. It got sent to me in a mass email that I initially tossed into the trash folder. A big thanks to our reading coach, for telling me to take the time and check it out. Hope some of you find this app useful.

www.TenMarks.com

Posted in Apps, iLesson, Paperless

## Save My Neck! Persuasive Thanksgiving Writing

I’ve found Thanksgiving to be the perfect season for…persuasive writing.  This year’s writing prompt involved point of view and persuasive techniques.  Students wrote from the perspective of the turkey with the task of convincing me not to chop off their head and eat them for Thanksgiving dinner.

Our initial writing used the OREO graphic organizer for persuasive writing.  I found the idea and graphic organizers on Our Cool School.  The premise is simple: each paragraph has an Opinion, Reason, Explanation, Opinion.  We of course Double Stuf or Triple Stuf our Oreos to create multi-paragraph essays!

I motivated my students to finish this writing quickly by giving the kids two options for publishing.  They could either publish using the iFunFace app or Mad Lips.  iFunFace creates a talking head using whatever image the user uploads.  Mad Lips asks the user to record their own lips on an image.  Both of the apps allow the student to record themselves reading their work.  Below I’ve uploaded the video we spliced together of each students’ work.  Their persuasive reasoning was hysterical.  From turkeys who stink because they wash gym shorts daily to turkeys who are diseased from running around without shoes, this writing was the best example of voice I’ve gotten from these kids all year.  I loved being able to hear their expression as they read aloud their written work.

Posted in Apps, Augmented Reality

## Next Year’s Valentine’s Day Apptivity!

I cross my heart, this is my last augmented reality post for a while.  And it’s just a quick hit.  I found the Heart Cam app and just wanted to share.  This one is just for fun.  Simply print out the trigger image and let the kids pose.  It’s an easy and fun way to incorporate augmented reality.  My plan is to use this one for Valentine’s Day next year.  Maybe a writing activity: Dear Teacher, You stole my heart… and ask the students to write a love letter to their favorite teacher?  We might use the app and take pictures with our favorite teachers stealing our hearts!

Do you have a way to incorporate this app?  Comment below and give us some great ideas!

Posted in Apps, Augmented Reality, iLesson

## Bringing Writing to Life – Literally!

In the last post, I gave you a great free app to get you started on augmented reality.  Are you ready for the next step?  This was my first big iLesson that incorporated AR and the kids LOVED it.  This began as a plain old writing lesson, inspired by a picture I found on Pinterest.  It morphed (as good teaching usually does) mid-lesson into an iLesson.

Students were given the task of beginning a story from this picture from Headproduct on Tumblr.  I found the image on Pinterest and had saved it for a writing prompt.  Students had to begin the story from the point where they saw the dragon in their hand.  It had to incorporate narrative writing characteristics and had to ultimately tell the reader what happened to the dragon.  Otherwise, there were no constraints to the task.

After students edited their rough draft, they published the piece in Word, with a twist.  I used the washed out picture settings in Microsoft Word and loaded a lighter version of the image as the background for the written piece.  Creative publishing is always an easy way to hook writers.  As if that weren’t enough, I decided to have my first go with adding augmented reality to the kids’ writing.

We gave augmented reality a try using the app Aurasma.  It was ridiculously easy to use! Students created a trigger image by taking a photo of their published dragon narrative.  We then selected a dragon Aura from the images provided by the app.  Some came up as just images, but other belched fire or flew across the screen.  After saving our auras, we were done. It was just that simple.  Now, using the Aurasma app, viewers could scan the students’ written work and watch it come to life.  Literally!

The work I got from my students was some of the best writing I’ve seen this year.  But, the best part about this entire assignment?  It was finished in two days.  By two days, I mean two writing classes.  By finished, I mean from rough draft, to edited, to published, to augmented.  Two class periods.  That was it.  A writing task like this easily takes us five days.  Because my students couldn’t wait to add their auras, they whizzed through the assignment (and the typing) faster than they’ve ever worked.  That is just another reason why technology is such a great tool.  In this lesson, it served solely as the ‘hook’.  It was the aspect of the project that kids most wanted to get to, so they worked hard to get there.  And their work paid off!  I’ve uploaded a few of my students’ finished pieces for you to try out.  Feel free to load the documents and scan them with the Aurasma app.  For the best results, make sure to get the entire page into the screen – Enjoy!

Dragon Narrative 1

Dragon Narrative 2

Posted in Apps

## Getting Hooked on Augmented Reality

So obviously, I didn’t make my goal of one post a week for the remainder of the school year…Ha!  So I’m going to post all of my iLessons from the end of the year during the summer months.  When teachers actually have time to write and read blog posts!

I spent the spring getting hooked on augmented reality.  For those who haven’t gotten hooked yet – just  try it.  Seriously.  Augmented reality is basically using your iPad to add depth, dimension, sound, or even video to a two dimensional object.  There are some great apps that deal with augmenting reality, but this post is just a quickie to get you started.

If you’ve never experienced an app that deals with augmented reality, try PBS Kids’ Cyberchase Shape Quest.  First of all it’s free.  Secondly, it’s educational.  Third, it’s awesome!  The app focuses on manipulating shapes to complete a path.  Teachers read: shape identification, shape rotation, and combining shapes to create larger images.

To begin with, you’ll need to print a game board here.  Then simply open the app, point it at the game board, and follow the directions.  The game comes to life right in front of your eyes.  Users need to help Buzz and Delete save the animals and transport them across the board.  Unfortunately, the path is broken.  Players must pick up the correct pieces and rotate them to fit the path.

This app kept my fifth and sixth grade boys busy for weeks!  I did use it, legitimately, one day during a geometry lesson.  The boys were obsessed and used every free moment to beat the levels.  And we’re talking end of the year chaos time… it was awesome.  The “Wow Factor” kept them actively engaged in an educational game, and I couldn’t have been happier.  I’ve also used it with my five year old, but he still requires a bit of hand-over-hand to manipulate the pieces.

If you haven’t given augmented reality a try.  Download this one and give it a go; you won’t regret it.

Posted in Apps, iLesson, iPod and iPad Implementation

I love my iPad, but I’m a Google girl at heart.  Safari works fine, and I have no issues with it.  But Google Chrome just fits my teaching so much better.  It has several features that just make it super easy to access and perfect for elementary classroom use.

We’ve been working this week on a research project about Michelangelo, the artist, not the Ninja Turtle.  (Give me a week – I’ll be posting about that next time.)  Being a special education teacher, research projects are normally the bane of my existence.  Turns out research projects are tough on a good day, but imagine not being able to spell your search criteria or read your sources.  Enter Google Chrome.

1. Google Chrome syncs with all your other Google Chromes – making bookmarks accessible across devices.  So let’s say I started a folder with child-friendly Michelangelo resources on my laptop at home and then added another site to it from my school iPad while waiting for a faculty meeting to start, and then found a few more sites after school on my school computer.  Since Google Chrome syncs across devices, each of my student iPads now has the same folder with the same content to begin our research with.  This means no messy searching, web address typing, or “Is this the right one?” for my students.

2. Google Chrome has a microphone option to search with.  It’s tough to research a topic if you can’t spell the words in your search criteria.  Unless my kids are typing verbatim from a notes page (and how original is that thought?), chances are they aren’t going to spell their query correctly.  Google Chrome removes that challenge.  With a little practice enunciating, my kids can ask their own questions as we research.  It was great to see where their thoughts went, beyond the general questions.  They had some really insightful questions, that I would never have thought to include in an elementary research project.  Just another example of why student ownership is so important.

3. Accessibility – okay this isn’t Google Chrome, but fits into the post beautifully.  I hope everyone is aware of the Accessibility options on the iPad.  In the Settings menu, users can choose to turn on the Speak Selection in the Accessibility menu.  After doing this, students can highlight the text they want to have read aloud, and simply tap Speak to hear the narration.  We found that we had to slow the voice way down in order to have it read slow enough for us to comprehend and make notes.  As a side note, I thought the navigation of tapping and dragging to highlight whole sections of text would prove to be difficult for my fourth graders.  Not at all.  They were able to do so with ease.

Google Chrome just makes my job a little bit easier.  Anything that makes learning more accessible to my students is worth a try.  Plus, their research papers are coming out great.  Check back next week to see how the rest of the project went.

Posted in Apps, iLesson, Paperless

## Inference iLessons

We’ve been working on inferring this week. Whew. Inferencing is not a concrete idea, and therefore it is something hard for my students to grasp. To help them focus on the skill of making inferences, and not on the challenge of reading, I presented activities in several modalities.We began by making observations and using those observations to support inferences in pictures. I loaded five different photos to a shared Dropbox folder and asked students to create T-charts in their interactive notebooks with observations on one side and inferences on the other. I tried to pick high interest pictures that would provoke ideas. The underwater hotel and sand-boarding picture got some great inferences.

Our performance assessment again involved pictures. Each child was given the same image. Students used the app Explain Everything to annotate the image and record their thoughts. Students were responsible for giving me two observations and two inferences about the picture.  By recording themselves talking about the picture, I got way better responses than I would have if I had asked them to write.

Posted in Apps, iLesson, iPod and iPad Implementation

## Oh The Snowmanity! A Great App for Teaching Point of View

Just a quick post about an app that is currently free.  Oh the Snowmanity! is a super cute story telling about the life of a snowman, through the snowman’s eyes.  The rhyming story is written in an engaging font that bounces around the screen and is narrated by an expressive voice.  It has a few interactions for readers, but the app is mostly about the story.  And the plot is great.  It tells the woes of a snowman’s life in a way that readers have probably never thought about.  From wondering why he’s got buttons but no jacket, to the horrible thing his new friend the dog does, the story is a really great example of how point of view affects the story.

My Pinterest board is currently full of ideas for winter writing.  Oh The Snowmanity would fit beautifully with a writing prompt like “If I lived in a snow globe…” or the prompts about melting snowmen.  We used it with our fifth graders today.  They’ve just done a writing project on perspective and building a snowman from the ground up.  Today we tried a Quick Write and asked the students to write a journal entry from the point of view of the snowman.  We used this app to get them started and give an example of point of view.  I think the biggest hook was the page of the book that talks about the beauty of the snow fall, but then tells how the snowman was freaked out by the bits of flesh falling on him.  It was definitely a light bulb moment for the my kids!  If you are looking for a great way to ease into integrating technology, this would be a great place to start.  Grab it for free before it goes back to full price.

Posted in Apps, iLesson, Paperless