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Using Voice Thread to Differentiate Learning #diffimooc

This week the tool that I chose to learn about was VoiceThread. It all seemed so simple when I watched the tutorial. When I actually went to use it I did experience a bit of a learning curve. My class had done a puppet show of Chicken Licken so I uploaded photos and  recorded my student’s voices.  Sometimes what I thought was going to be there when I played it back was not always what I heard. There were several things I had to redo and I learned to edit a bit. My students were excited about it being on the web and are anxious for their parents to see it. It will be fun to see if people put comments on it. To view it click on this link:

Chicken Licken Voice Thread

Here is a screen cast I made about voice thread:

Our school was fortunate to have an “Artist in Residence” this year. Anchorage artist Steve Gordon spent a week working with students to construct their life sized puppets. They began with a foam head which students sawed and shaped a form the worked for their character. Next they added a bill, some paint, cloth, wings, and other accessories. Students were very pleased with their creations.

Even before the artist arrived, each class chose a fable and began practicing it. I found a reader’s theater of Chicken Licken, so this became our act. Before long students were fluent with their reading of the play. It became a bit more complicated because we added characters and the students came up with their own names. In doing the recording, students really learned something about the importance of projection, speaking clearly, adjusting the rate of speech and using expression.

This project was differentiated because it uses different modalities such as the art involved in creating the puppets,  it incorporates movement for the kinesthetic learners, students use their voices to dramatize the story, the voice thread uses visual and auditory senses. It was easy to cancel the recording and start over again if some students needed multiple attempts to get it right. It was very engaging and all were able to participate and be successful. I am looking forward to using it with other subjects such as math.

Another tool I began using this week with my class is the Class Dojo. This is a free behavior management tool. You assign each student an avatars and then the program allows you to give points (or take them away) for specific behaviors. You can customize it to suit your needs. I had read about it this week on someone’s blog and I remembered that I actually had an account last year. Since this is the end of the 3rd quarter and my students are so used to me now that I worry sometimes about becoming background noise, I thought it might be time to try something new. I was able to pull it up, enter new students for this year and my first graders loved it. I found having the visual gave them a strong incentive to meet the behavior expectations.

I have joined a group for project 2. We will be focusing on using the Promethean or Smart Boards to help with differentiation. I have a Promethean Board, so that will be my focus. Our group has been communicating via e-mail. We have a group e-mail so we can all see the ongoing conversations and ideas that everyone has about how to present this next project. We are still in the planning stages, but I have been reading lots of good ideas and I know it will begin coming together soon.


Differentiating the Process #diffimooc

This week the essential question is: What does it mean to differentiate the process (content, strategies for instruction) in the classroom?

The traditional teacher’s manuals all come with ideas for differentiating the content according to level of difficulty or readiness.  There is the approaching level, on level, and above level, activities for reteaching, and resources for ESL. We can adjust the number of problems, reading levels, and amount of time given to complete a task. In addition, to the tiered assignments, we can use flexible grouping to  work with small groups of students for specific reasons. We can also use anchor projects, which are ongoing assignments that students can do if they finish early or that students can work on while the teacher is working with a different group.

But what about the process? What does it mean to differentiate the process?

The process is what the student does to make sense out of the information.We can differentiate the process through interests, readiness, and learning style.

Differentiating the process

Slide taken from

We can also differentiate by asking questions of varying levels of difficulty. This allows all students to be successful. Question and answer sessions can be made more productive if the questions are well thought out, use scaffolding, build on student’s background knowledge, and  include different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I learned that there is a revised version  of Bloom’s Taxonomy with creativity at the top of the pyramid.

And technology? Where does that come in? Many computer programs can be helpful in monitoring student progress as well as providing instruction at the student’s skill level. Programs I have used include Lexia, Moby MathRead Naturally,ThinkCentral, and RazKids. My first graders love the interactive lessons that computers offer and I love being able to individualize the lessons. Web Quests and virtual field trips are also ways in which technology can be used for differentiation.

We may choose to use technology to do a student interest / learning style survey. Once the learning styles and interests are known we can create some controlled choices. I recently learned about choice boards set up in the form of a tic-tac-toe board. The idea is that you incorporate different learning styles and/or different levels of difficulty. One could also incorporate various interests. Below are two examples of choice boards. One I found on Pinterest and simply offers a variety of ways to write words. The other I created to use with my class during a reading/writing workshop time.

Words choice board                            Choice board, centers

I used my document camera and digital camera to take the photos. I used a word doc. to create the choice board, which I copied and gave to my students. I was able to use my document camera to project it on the Promethean Board when introducing it to the class. Since I created it at school, but am writing this blog at home, I used my Dropbox to retrieve it. I found I needed to save it as a jpg. to get it to show up here as a photo. Being able to use photos of the actual classroom materials, makes it easier for my first graders.

This week I saw the completion of the Early Elementary Differentiation wiki I feel very fortunate to have had such a great group of people to work with. I am also happy to find many of them in my group for project 2. We have been communicating mostly via email. I did talk to one person on the phone and also via twitter. The focus for our group is going to be the use of smart boards and Promethean boards. I chose this because the Promethean Board is at the center of my classroom and although I use it every day, I know I am not using it to its fullest potential.

I was able to complete my first story on Storify. At first I couldn’t find my saved drafts, so I final created one and published it without saving a draft. Later on I clicked on something and found my many many drafts. Luckily there was a delete option. It is pretty neat. It makes it very easy to collect things from the web and to share them.

I watched Barbra’s tutorial about how to get your Diigo bookmarks to appear on your blog. If I am successful, mine should be appearing on Sunday.

With my class I am currently in the process of making a recording for a puppet show. We just got done having an artist in residence  at our school and he made life sized puppets with the kids. He suggested we all make a voice recording of our class so the students could focus on moving the puppets during the show. I used a digital voice recorder to record the story.  From there it is a simple matter of loading it onto a computer and burning a CD. I could do this, but then I thought maybe I should add some pauses  and sound effects . Also it would be nice to add some pictures. The file type is not compatible with Imovie. Also you can not record directly from Imovie – at least I didn’t see how. So I recorded again this time using garage band. I would also like to do a voice thread once I get more pictures of the puppets. The show is on Friday, so I better get busy experimenting. If I am successful with any of these, I will post it as an example of varied instructional strategies. My students did enjoy hearing their voices when I played it back for them. Voice recordings can be a great tool for developing fluency and reading with expression.

#diffimooc Favorite Take Aways

What are your overall take-aways from the methods/tools that you might use to differentiate the classroom environment (for teacher productivity and student progression)? Which of these may you use in your classroom in the future?

There have been so many choices, the hardest part of these past few weeks has been sifting through and picking a few to try out. I of course wish I could just use them all at once! I did start a whole new page called Technology to Explore just to have a place to record all the new things I have been hearing about. I wanted to record them so that I didn’t forget them. Now I can come back to my list and explore them as needed.

From a teacher perspective, I have found many useful tools. I have been using Pinterest to search for teaching ideas. I love Evernote and Skitch for recording my own notes about students as well as student “artifacts” (such as artwork, voice recordings and work samples). I was happy to discover that CloudOn brought Microsoft Word to my Ipad and I have learned to use Dropbox.Another potentially useful tool that I am just beginning to look into is the google drive.

With my students, I use various apps. on the Ipad for differentiation. Many are free reading games for developing sight words or phonics. There are fun math games in which I can adjust the level of difficulty depending on who is playing. I have just discovered the show me app. and hope to use it with my students this week. I am also hoping to make a Voicethread of a puppet show my students are doing.

I did read The Dark Side of MOOCS and I am really hoping that I am in the 5% that make it through. I can’t help but wonder if the percentage for completion is so low because so many people sign up. If you are not paying, you are free to pursue other interests as they come up. I wonder if people will join MOOCS like they do Twitter Groups. I sure am learning a lot from our diffimooc. It is fun to hear everyone’s perspectives and different areas of expertise. I have found it necessary to try and focus my energies in the direction of what is applicable to the primary grades in part because that is where I teach, but also just because there is too much to take in all at once.

#diffimooc Tools in the Cloud

#diffimooc How can I use tool in “the cloud” to easily manage and deliver feedback to my students?

This week as I pondered this question, it seemed to lead me to more questions such as: What is a cloud? Where is the cloud? What are the tools in the cloud? As I was reading Ashley’s post, I found this helpful article:

The article explains how different servers are linked together to form a network. This makes it easy to access your information from any computer. So using tools “in the cloud” just means that the tools can be accessed from any computer and the information may be accessible to multiple users. This makes communication and collaboration easier. I think “cloud” is a good term, because I can imagine all the bits of information moving around in cyberspace and touching down to individual computers, just as water molecules move around the earth.

In answering the question about how I use the cloud to manage and deliver feedback to my students, it seemed to make sense to start with what I already have. I already have an online grade book compliments of my school district, but since the Engrade was free, I decided to get an account just to check it out. There seems to be some features that could be useful. For example, I learned that I can create flashcards. Students may be motivated to practice sight words or spelling words this way at home. There are ways to communicate with parents,  ways for me as a teacher to give online assignments and for students to turn homework in online. I am curious about the online features because I so often have students who are absent due to vacations. It seems worth exploring.

I also have a class website, again compliments of my district. I try to use this page to post homework assignments, what we are studying and post pictures of the class. I am still learning about the many features of the webpage. I’m sure I could do much more with it. Other options for creating blogs and wikis with my class would be more appealing if I taught older kids. Also, if I did not already have the webpage, I might be inspired to create a space to share information about my class with parents.

I did put Evernote, Skitch, CloudOn and Dropbox on my ipad. I have used evernote for collecting photos of my student’s work and for making notes about them. Conferences are coming up next week, so this is timely. It will be a nice way for me to keep a copy or a photo of those projects students want to take home. I can have a digital portfolio of every student on my ipad. I love the fact that you can write and draw all over the photos using stitch and that it automatically synchronizes with the Evernote account. CloudOn is awesome, as it allows me to create and read word documents on my ipad. It works in conjunction with dropbox which is a storage space in the “cloud.” Dropbox will also sync. to all your devices if you want it to. So far I have only used it on my ipad and then retrieved things from the web version. Once I gave the dropbox access to my photos and it automatically began uploading hundreds of photos – Yikes! I was able to stop it after only 3 photos. There is a limit to the amount of free space you can use, but at least it allows you some free space to try it out. I can see how it could be handy for sharing documents. It would also do away with the need to email yourself documents or use a flash drive.

As I was reading the mrcromer blog I learned about Good Reader. It is an app. that allows you to highlight and mark on pdf  documents. There is also an audio feature. I found this site helpful in describing the use of the Good Reader App.  It sounded so cool, that I just had to have it. I downloaded it, but have yet to figure out how to get the pdfs into the app. It is going to take more time than I expected to learn to use it.

We were challenged to make a tutorial for others in our class, but I realize that I need to watch the tutorial for how to make a tutorial. I actually found one. It was called How to make a screen cast/video tutorial on a Mac using QuickTime Player. In two minutes I learned how to make a video tutorial. I was successful in creating a short video as an experiment, but then got an error message when I tried to post it here in this blog. I got an error message when I tried to upload it. So… I went to YouTube and uploaded it there. Here is my first try:

So, it seems that my quest for cloud tools has turned me into a lurker. I have been searching through the posted resources on the class website, the internet, other peoples blogs and even found a few on twitter. I have not done a great deal of sharing thus far. Now that I have created my very first YouTube video, I guess I could share that. I have really felt like I have been blundering around this week with not so much to share. So my goal for next week is to share more.

Week 3 Reflections & Tools for Students to Monitor Progress

Since my last post, I have completed two surveys on Survey Monkey. One was an interest/learning style survey for my first graders. I was able to walk them through it in the computer lab. When we returned to our classroom, I was able to project the results on the Promethean board. My students were very interested in the results of their survey and I gained useful information about my class. Since we were learning about graphs in math class, it fit right into the lesson. My students thought this was so neat, we decided to create an interest survey for the staff. We generated an email and sent the survey out. It is due to close on Wed. afternoon. We are looking forward to looking at the results.

Part of my learning this week involved finding the best way to contact the people in my group. We have a group wiki page, a google group, blogs, and twitter accounts. Yet, somehow none of these seemed like an extremely efficient way to communicate as a group. I tried making circles in my  Google account, but that didn’t go so well. Only one person responded. I have more to learn about circles. I decided to try direct e-mails. Ding, ding, ding… contact!  This is a form of communication we are all very familiar with, check often and can respond to when it is convenient. Most people responded to e-mail and we now have a beautiful template for our final wiki page, as well as a “draft” wiki page where we can make comments,  share our thoughts and ideas. I also made a group email so we can all reply to the group if we want. These two ways of communicating seem like a good idea as it is hard to pick a time when everyone is available to do something like a chat. We can explore other cool ways to communicate later on, but at least we have a couple in place for starters.

I learned a great deal from the blogs that I follow and found some great articles in my shared diigo library. I found so many new technologies, that I added a whole new page to my blog just so I could keep track of them all. One particularly helpful post was Moving Your Kindergarten into Web 2.0 with 5 Different Tools (by Özge Karaoğlu) This post had many different example of how to use technology with very young children and explained the benefits of each. Tools for developing language, listening, speaking, and writing.  Another blog mentioned several apps. that may be useful in tracking student progress.

One app. that I just put on my ipad is Evernote. I haven’t even used it yet. I have been watching tutorials. I can see that it could be useful in recording photos of student work (like artwork that they want to take home, or writing). I am thinking digital portfolio to record progress over time. I could add my own notes about their progress.

Other ways that students might monitor their progress may include moving their name tag or token along a continuum as they work through the writing stages, completing steps in a project or move to different centers. I still like the idea of using a choice board and having student work to complete three tasks in a row. It is a personal challenge of mine to try that during reading centers in  my classroom. Students (and teacher) would then have a record of their progress.

My students chart their progress in learning addition facts each day. Various computer programs chart student progress. My students are very motivated by “moving to the next level” on computer programs. I think this comes from gaming. I work with students to set reading and math goals. As I monitor their progress, I share the graphs with them, so they can see how they are doing. I use rubrics (mostly for writing) and share these with students.

I keep track of many grade in paper pencil format, but I also have grades online. I am interested in learning more about students monitoring their own progress. I can see that as students get older, there are more and more choices, as they can do more independently.

Who are my learners?

The essential question for this week is:

What tools might provide me insight into the learners in my classroom and how might I use this information?

I have tools such as AIMSWeb, Lexia, MobyMath and MAP test scores that identify student’s strengths and weaknesses in academic areas. I am very glad to have a variety of testing tools so that I can compare the data and zero in on the academic needs. In sharing the data with students and their parents we can set goals for learning, and monitor progress over time.

Once we have determined the areas of academic strengths and weaknesses, there are some additional factors that we should consider. The emotions of our students sometimes get in the way of learning. You can find a great post on this subject at Azhar’s blog.   Reading Azhar’s reflections reminded me of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is hard to focus on learning if our basic needs are not met or if we do not feel safe.

At this point in the year, I feel I have learned much about my students. However, it never hurts to learn more. A list of suggested resources was posted on our class website. I have read through these and am in the process of trying to create a survey that 1st graders might be able to do. I want to try creating something on survey monkey, just to see if I can make it work. My school has a computer lab and a projector, so I could in theory walk my students through it. An easier and more practical way for me, that would probably yield more accurate results would be to use my Promethean board with the activotes.

Knowing a student’s interests can help increase motivation. Sometimes I can tie the learning to the area of interest. Sometimes I use the area of interest as a reward. For example, if you work hard at this (teacher chosen) activity, then you can read the dinosaur book (student chosen) for the last 5 min. Choice can be a powerful tool in differentiating instruction.

I found a template for incorporating multiple intelligences in our task choices in a packet about choice boards that I  download. I can not seem to make a link to it, but you can find it too by simply typing “choice boards” into your search bar. You will see one of the search results is “(PDF) Choice Boards). There are several nice examples there including this one.

Choice board

The sources sited for this graphic were:

Heacox, Diane. “Promoting Student Independence and Responsibility in Academically Diverse Classrooms. 2005 ASCD         Annual Conference. Orlando, FL. April 2005

Wormeli, Rick. Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessing & Grading in the Differentiated Classroom. Portland, ME: Stenhouse, 2006. P. 65-66.

I found a site that offered differentiated math activities in the format of a choice board.

I also watched the video below. It describes how different colors can be used to show different levels of difficulty or different learning style. Sometimes different boards are created for different groups of learners.  I like the idea of a tic-tac-toe board. I think students would like the challenge of completing three activities that would get them three in a row. I plan to try this in my classroom.

Someone put the link to this video Twitter. I found it very helpful.

What is a PLN?

This week we are supposed to be working on a PLN. We have a wiki assignment, so it seems obvious to me that the people I work with on my assignment are automatically in. But how does one go about forming a PLN? What is it really? Do we send an open invitation to everyone in the world?

There are a few resources I wanted to share that really helped me with these questions. One was a post titled What is a PLN, anyway?   The author talks about how a personal learning network in the 80’s would have been much smaller, consisting of the people you came in contact with, primarily  face to face. In the 90’s people used email and bookmarked websites. But by 2000, we are introduced to social networking in the form of Twitter, or Facebook, social bookmaking tools, discussion groups and more. With today’s technology, the range of our networks seems endless. Our PLN no longer is limited to people we meet face to face. In fact it is likely that our PLNs will include many people that we will never meet face to face.

So how do I go about finding these people who will be part of my PLN? While reading the  #diffimooc Connectivist Daily paper for this class, I found a link to Tom Whitby’s post called Building a professional learning network on Twitter.  I found this especially helpful. He writes, “the people you follow are more important than those who follow you.” This one little sentence seemed to make everything more clear. Everyone has to decide for themselves what information is useful to them. This goes along with the goal of our diffimooc. Everyone will get something different out of the experience. We all have guidelines and assignments to do, but our learning will not be exactly the same. We will try to hold onto the information that is most important to us. As we find people who have similar interest, we will try to follow them, communicate with them, share ideas, and help each other out. I do not need to worry about who follows me, as it is up to the followers to decide if what I am sharing is useful to them or not. Whitby also points out that it is very easy to “unfollow” people if it turns out that the information they are sharing doesn’t happen to fit your current plan.

As I was adding to my list of blogs to follow this week, I realized that my PLN is likely to have subgroups. For example the group I work with on the wiki, perhaps a group interested in math, or a group interested in reading. I watched the video about google reader. I added some blog addresses to my google reader. I wondered if I should be making folders. As I become more efficient with these new tools, I am hoping to find ways to organize my information.

How do I contact people who are in my PLN once I have identified them? I can comment on their blogs, I can search for them in Twitter, or I can post to the google group. I tried creating some circles within my google account. I found this was easy to do with the people who created a google profile, but not so easy for those who did not. I need to learn more about circles. I just figured out how to add an about me widget to my sidebar. Now people will know who I am as soon as they open my blog. They won’t have to search around for it.

I saw some good ideas for organizing information while reading other people’s blogs. I like the way Tracie has links to different blogs in her sidebar. Azhar also has links in her sidebar, as well as a whole page devoted to her PLN. For this she has used! This looks like another good tool for organizing information.

I have much to learn, but I am enjoying the information I am finding through  Twitter, the blogs, the sharing of diigo bookmarks, and discovering new sites like Pinterest.

It is a privilege to be connected to such knowledgeable, dynamic people. Thank you all for being part of my PLN!


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