Common Core Standards: Parent & Teacher Resources

With its recent implementation in 45 states, the Common Core has garnered praise and criticism alike.  This article offers a few resources to help dispel some of those worries for both parents and teachers.


 

Resources for Parents

In our experience, worries from parents about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are often due to misinformation from the media.  For example, when my own students’ parents would come to me with CCSS concerns, they were consistently shocked when I told them that the CCSS currently only covers math and English Language Arts.  This is because many articles had led them to believe that the CCSS were requiring sex education (for Kindergarten, no less!) or sweeping Social Studies alterations.  If you, too, have concerned parents at your school, here are some resources to which you can direct them to help clear things up! (Update: Be sure to also check out our newest article, “My Common Core Story, & Why You Should Share Yours, Too“).

→ “CONVERSATION: A THREE-MINUTE VIDEO ON COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS

 

CCSS logo→ MYTHS & FACT SHEET ABOUT THE CCSS

 

talking-to-teacher-467x267[1]→ ARTICLE: “TALKING TO PARENTS ABOUT THE COMMON CORE
→ FACT VS. FICTION BY STATE:

Of the states that are using the Common Core Standards, about half adopted them verbatim; most of the rest adopted them with modifications.  Click on the infographic below for a clickable map of state fact sheets.

Resources for Teachers

The concerns for teachers tend to be more related to implementation.  Experienced teachers are familiar with the constant ebb and flow of new programs and curricula, and the expectation to repeatedly scratch old material and start over.  While it can certainly be frustrating to tackle yet another new curriculum, there’s great news when it comes to the CCSS: for the first time, teachers across the country are in the same boat!  As such, we can now share resources with one another in heretofore unheard-of quantity and quality.  We believe that this is one of many ways in which the CCSS will increase the quality of national teaching practices.  Check out some of these resources below that are designed for this purpose!

LEARNZILLION:


Teacher Boaz Munro described his experiences as a new teacher in this article, sharing his realization that “All of the lessons I planned started with…a modeling of the skill I was trying to teach—and yet I was not watching enough people model the skills I was trying to learn.”  LearnZillion is a resource that allows you to watch how experienced teachers model and explain CCSS-aligned concepts.  Some features include marking your favorite videos to help you keep track, and a sharing code so that you can easily assign students to watch the videos!

KHAN ACADEMY:


Khan Academy is similar to LearnZillion in that you can set up a class account to invite students, as well as lesson videos in both English Language Arts & Math!  However, it also includes a setup that allows students to practice the skills after watching the videos within the lesson set, complete with hints that model the skills again!  This in turn allows you to monitor student progress!  This resource is filled with visual data!

BETTERLESSON:

BetterLesson is unique in that you actually choose lessons from real master teachers.  These are lessons designed more for you as the teacher than for students, and can be very informative as you work to develop lesson plans in math and language arts.

Related Reading:

10 Tips for 21st Century Teachers

Photo Credit: InThePotter’sHands (featured image)

 

Practical Student Blogging

If you’re like most teachers, you have 47 other tabs open besides this one: your grade-book, email, lesson plan resources, and a couple articles on stress management.  So how can you implement student blogging without tipping the scale?


Blogging Benefits

The countless benefits of student blogging are likely what led you to this article today!  Some that we at the Honors Grad U family have witnessed through experience include:

  • Authentic audience: Parents, teachers, peers, and even fellow students across the globe can view, comment, and contribute to the learning!

  • Developing practical tech skills: Besides the obvious benefit of typing practice, blogging is a perfect tool for introducing and practicing skills from copying and pasting to simple HTML editing to maintaining various digital accounts.

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  • Multimedia Literacy:  Growing up, we all made dioramas from shoe boxes, wrote 5-paragraph essays, and crafted posters.  However, 21st century students can and need to also become fluent in an ever-expanding pool of digital resources.  Blogging gives them practice in creating and sharing pictures, Youtube videos, Educreations, Thinglinks, Infographics, Prezi’s, and much more!

  • Engaging Assignments/Projects Through Student Choice & Variety: It can be difficult to keep the passion burning when you introduce a persuasive writing unit.  However, when you also introduce the idea of also including persuasive imagery, as well as actually sharing their work with their intended audience, suddenly things get much more intriguing and personal for each student!

  • Simpler Teacher/Student Collaboration: You’ve experienced the dredge of writing comments on dozens to hundreds of assignments–and that’s only after deciphering questionable handwriting!  Once students have posted various artifacts to their blogs, you can easily type feedback–and depending on your platform, that can even be made private!

  • Easily Accessible Digital Learning Portfolio: Say goodbye to clunky binders with half-ripped-out pages from September by the time you get to March!  If you just consider the use of a few tags, you can already imagine how much easier it would be to navigate the archives of a digital portfolio.

Simple Steps for Success

  1. Pick a Platform:  Spend time exploring your options, privacy needs, and budget.  Most platforms are free on a basic level, but if you want more storage, you’ll want to consider budgeting for your account.  You can even try talking to your administration for some budgetary help, especially if they want to purchase a group package for your school!  Kidblog, WordPress, and Edublogs are all common options that allow you to add users with you as the administrator and moderator!

  2. Permission: Make sure you discuss your school’s privacy policies with your administration before you get started, especially if you’re the first teacher at your school to start student blogging!  You may just need to make a permission slip from parents for each student, or you may find that media permission slips have already been submitted to the school!

  3. Carve out class blogging time: This is probably the hardest step of all!  However, if you are an elementary school teacher, just a weekly 30-45 minute time slot should be enough to get them started!  For secondary levels, you may be able to do more at-home blogging assignments, but you’ll still want to establish at least a little class time for modeling how to use the resources (see below).

  4. Internet Safety & Respect:  Before students enter their blogs for the first time, make sure they are all familiar with basic safety rules, including sharing their personal information (this website is full of teaching ideas).  Also, practice proper etiquette in commenting on paper (see lesson ideas here), before launching into the real deal!  Creating and signing a class blogging contract for future reference is always a plus, too!

  5. Establish clear expectations:  Decide what’s most important to you for their blogs.  If you expect capitalized titles, tags for every post, and a reflection, make sure it’s clear from the beginning.  Let students know you won’t publish any posts missing basic expectations (but make sure they are reasonable for your students’ level as well)!

  6. Choose a few resources: While you’ll definitely want to introduce them one at a time (see below), spend some time beforehand identifying and familiarizing yourself with the main resources you want to teach your students to use.  We recommend choosing one resource for each subject you want your students to be able to exhibit.

    1. Math: Educreations is fantastic resource that allows students to explain their thinking as they draw while also recording their voice!

    2. Reading: You can use Audioboo to have students record their reading skills throughout the year!  Particularly for younger students, it would be powerful for them to literally listen to their progress from September to May.  For a free option (Audioboo maxes out after 3 minutes), you could also use Youtube, even covering up the camera so it just records their voices.

    3. Writing: Obviously, the simple text of a blog post is a great way to share student writing throughout the year. However, you can easily liven things up by introducing a word cloud maker like Wordle.  Not only would it add some beauty to their published piece, but it can also help students visualize their most common word usage in essays!

    4. Art: Older students will likely already be familiar with Photobooth to simply take pictures of their art pieces, but you may need to spend time teaching younger students how to take and upload photos to their blogs.

    5. Science/Social Studies: Thinglink allows students to collect several online articles, videos, and photos into one beautiful interactive presentation!

  7. Introduce one at a time:  Even if it takes several months, it is worth teaching and  practicing just one resource at a time!  Before moving to the next resource, thoroughly familiarize them by allowing them to explore several examples, create a few of their own on their blogs, and collaborate with one another’s work through commenting.  We’ve also found it effective to print and display a board of step-by-step guides for each resource for students to reference in the future.

  8. MODEL, MODEL, MODEL!!  Every chance you get, model how you would like them to use each resource.  Using your own blog account, create multiple examples of each resource for them to reference.  Remember to also model quality comments on their own blogs throughout the year!

  9. Make sure it’s accessible to parents: One of the most rewarding aspects of student blogging is to watch parents connect authentically with their child’s work!  Make sure links to student blogs are available on your classroom blog, and/or email reminders to parents after students have finished blogging projects!

Additional Ideas

Once you get into a groove with blogging, here are a few other ideas to consider to keep things exciting for your class:

  • Student Blogging Challenges: Websites like this one offer wonderful challenges for students to tackle in their blogs!  You can always get creative and craft a few of your own!  For high schoolers, this can even be in the form of working on scholarships, such as our very own Honors Grad U Scholarship, as students share their progress on their blogs!

  • Quadblogging:  This is one of the best ways to connect globally with classrooms just like yours!  Four classrooms form a quad, with each class taking turns being the  highlight classroom, while the other three visit their blogs and leave comments!  One member of our Honors Grad U family has experienced connecting with classes from the U.K. & China!

  • Consider social media: Another way to break down your four classroom walls is social media, including Twitter (Click here for our post on Twitter for teachers)!  Educational hashtags can allow your students to quickly find feedback from around the world.  For example, #comments4kids is specifically intended to post links to student work for others to leave comments!

  • Badges: www.classbadges.com is a fun way to motivate students to work to visually earn various achievements!  You could also use them in conjunction with your student blogging challenges!

Hopefully, these steps allow you to tackle student blogging in a manageable, practical way!  Leave a comment if you have any questions or additional ideas as you get started!


photo credits: DeathToTheStockPhoto (featured image)

Teacher Resources: Ever Heard of Reddit?

Where can you find a community of all different types of teachers who can post all kinds of resources? Ever heard of Reddit? Science, Math, English, College, Adult Ed, Art, and an almost unlimited supply of teachers can be found in this Internet community, and we’ve got a few suggestions of our own…


Reddit, directly from Wikipedia’s definition, “is a social news and entertainment website where registered users submit content in the form of links or text posts.” What does this mean for teachers? It means you now have a one-stop hub for all teaching resources you could need, not to mention worldwide feedback! Another great use for the resources on Reddit is to involve your students. There are a number of educational pages that students could use to reach out to others. See our lists below!

Don’t have an account? One of the best features about Reddit is that it takes just seconds to register an account. In the age of sharing personal information, it’s relieving to see a website ask for only what you want your username to be and what you want your password to be. Registering with an email is optional.

Don’t want to register? Fine! You can browse the site all you want, and unless you want to comment, nothing will be restricted if you simply want to “lurk.”

Now that you’ve joined the community, it’s important to understand that Reddit is divided into subreddits, which are communities of people that fulfill a particular niche. So you’re a teacher, hmm? Allow us to suggest a few subreddits to get you started:

  • /r/education: “The goal of r/Education is to provide a community in which educational stakeholders can participate in meaningful, reflective, and thought-provoking discourse about educational policy, research, technology, and politics.”
  • /r/AskAcademia: “This subreddit is for discussing academic life, and for asking questions directed towards people involved in academia, (both science and humanities).”
  • /r/highereducation: “A place to discuss and share articles related to higher education.”
  • /r/matheducation: “Anything math related that is useful for education, teachers, or students, with emphasis on usefulness for teachers, such as good internet resources, or ideas for how to teach a concept.”
  • /r/ScienceTeachers: “A place for science educators to collaborate on and contribute tips, ideas, labs, and curricula. We seek to encourage the sharing of interesting studies, experiments, videos and articles that will interest students of all ages and promote science and critical thinking in their lives.”
  • /r/teachingresources: “A place to share all your most amazing and useful resources. If we use this well, it could become a very efficient and effective way to enrich many classrooms with everyone else’s resources.”

And more:

And tons more–literally anything you could think of!

Now, get out there and contribute to the education of the masses!

*Obligatory NSFW warning, warning*: Reddit can sometimes have less-than-savory content. Most of the time, this is marked by NSFW, which stands for “Not Safe For Work.” That means you shouldn’t open that link or comments while at work, or you could violate the rules your employer likely has in place regarding Internet usage. You might also see NSFL, which stands for “Not Safe For Life,” meaning gore. If you still want to experience Reddit without these tags, take a look at the Reddit Enhancement Suite. It’s a completely free, open source browser extension that allows you filter out NSFW tags.

 

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Featured Image: Kyle Garrity

Top 8 iOS/Android Apps for Students

Easily one of the most difficult things to get used to in school is getting organized. The top ten apps for productivity and general usefulness are listed below, available for both iOS and Android. Click the images for the app store!


iplanneriPlanner is an app made to help organize all your scheduling and assignments in one area. It’s available on iOS. The Android equivalent would be myHomework, a great app that has the same basic features and ideas.
AlgeoAlgeo is the perfect graphing calculator app, available at the Play Store for Android. Apple phones also have a good free graphing calculator app. This is much easier and better than taking around a bulky calculator.

WikipediaBetter than Google, finding articles with sources for every paper or presentation right at your fingertips. The photo link is to the Apple Store. Here is the link to the Android store version.

Google DriveA perfect place for keeping all your documents in one place. Also, if you are using anything but Gmail for your emailing, you are behind the times and missing out on a great userface. Simple, easy to use, and aesthetically pleasing. The link is to the Android. Click here for the Apple Store.

FlashThis is the premier flashcard app that makes studying easy and convenient no matter where you are. Click here for the Android version.

Mint appThe one-stop banking app that keeps all your finances in one place, helps you to set budgets and tracks your saving progress. A must-have for anyone who has multiple banking accounts or loans. Click here for Apple version.

EvernoteEvernote is the perfect app for keeping track of basically anything you want to remember. You can also search with keywords and find everything you’ve ever written from anywhere. The Android version is here.

duolingoDuoLingo helps you learn a language on the go! It’s perfect for practicing the language you’re taking for your Bachelors in Arts, or for helping to expand your cultural knowledge by learning on your own. You can never know too much! Bonne chance! (iOS version here)

Honorable Mentions:

TED talks (iOS / Android), great to listen to while you eat lunch to keep you involved in the innovations and top minds of today.

Al Jazeera (iOS / Android), one of the least biased news sites. Stream the audio while you drive, or watch first thing in the morning. Perfect for knowing what’s going on in the world and staying up-to-date with current events.

Featured Image: Matt Cornock