Thursday, May 28, 2015

Summer Teeth

These cuties have summer teeth
I recently learned the term "Summer Teeth." What are Summer Teeth, you ask? Summer here. Summer gone. Hat Tip: Bridgette Murray. 

The same can be said for academic skills in the actual season of sun. Summer here. Summer gone. Most educators look for ways to keep their students engaged, learning, and practicing key skills during the off season to minimize the learning loss. Below are a few options to help students grow their chops and fill the gaps. (Apologies to the pun haters.)



Reading Practice

Teach Your Monster to Read, simply put is an invaluable gift to primary teachers everywhere and any students learning to read. Kids adore it. How could you not love earning underpants and fancy hats for a lovable monster of your own design? The folks at Teach Your Monster  have made it incredibly easy for teachers to set up and manage accounts and keep students safe. They also have provided teachers with letters for parents so that they can log in and monitor progress and track data. Seriously, if you teach Pre-K through grade 3 you simply must check it out. Their new level: Teach Your Monster to Read 3: Champion Reader launches June 1st. 

ReadWorks.org is an exceptional reading comprehension resource. Again, it is free, aligned to the standards, interactive, and research based. Students can be assigned lessons and passages from every genre and based on their current reading level. ReadWorks.org is almost too good to be true. 

StoryShares is aimed at older struggling readers. They are an online hub of stories that are interesting and relevant for young adult readers. With an  interactive design based on best practices, they help support and hopefully inspire students who otherwise would not pick up a book during the summer months. 

Finer minds than mine are always at work at Edutopia. If you want even more Summer reading resources for all age groups please visit Edutopia News Summer Reading Suggestions

You might also wish to ruminate using one of these Seven Slick Current Event Resources for your summer reading practice. Most offer online interactive tools to help students comprehend and dig deeper. 

Math Practice

TenMarks offers free summer math programs teachers can easily manage and assign by standard. They have also created a letter to distribute to parents with log in codes so that parents can monitor their child's data and progress. I am a huge fan of TenMarks and use it with the middle school math class I teach. A word of caution though, most of TenMarks problems are of the word variety and demand multiple steps and mastery of previous concepts. I recommend it more as an enrichment program than a skill practice program. 

Prodigy Math is another free service that is easily managed by teachers. You can assign standards to classes as well as individual students. The program is built into a gaming platform of a virtual, magical realm where novitiates earn spells to counterattack their enemies by correctly solving problems. They can play the game regardless of whether or not you assign problems and the program will send them problems based on grade level. The problems assigned by the teacher get fed into the game. Every K-8 Math standard is covered. The assigned problems are straight forward. Not only do I recommend it for the summer, you may want to add it to next year's math routine. 

MathGames is a new and promising free skill practice service. Again, it is set up so that teachers can assign standards and monitor progress on both a class and individual level. I highly recommend using MathGames but I also recommend testing it out before you assign it over the summer by making a different email account you own as a student and seeing the process from both sides.  This will help you direct students on how to find and complete their assignments. They may require some guidance before they are set loose this summer. I would make a screencast and text directions with pictures. In fact, I may do that later and post. 

STEAM

You can find lots of STEAMY resources in past posts of Eminent Tech. Try one of these on for size:
Fabulous Five Free Apps for STEM

CK-12 BrainFlex A more recent site I've come across that is very worthy of offering your families is CK-12 BrainFlex program which is a combination of math and science. CK-12 has created tutorials, flyers, letters, and basically thought of most everything you can imagine to help make their program a success. They also have a free app in iOS and Android so kids can get their learning on the go.










Monday, May 18, 2015

Academy App Additions

We've added a few new Apps to our Grades 1-5 iPads recently. Hopefully, the middle school teachers will see the value and introduce the ones they find appropriate to their students as well. Four of these apps were featured in our Professional Learning Maker's Fair Day back in April. They also follow up coding skills taught in the computer lab. We start them young here at GPA. Our first graders started learning how to code with Tynker's free online options in the Hour of Code. They moved on to the basics of Scratch programming. Each year students develop greater and great proficiency coding in Scratch which they later apply to programing Lego Robotics and EVO3's.  Now they can practice these skills on their iPads by programming Daisy the Dinosaur, Tynker, CargoBot, or HopScotch. 






Daisy the Dinosaur
This app is suitable for very young programmers. It guides students through various steps that tell Daisy what to do. It is utterly adorkable and a great first step in learning to code. 


Tynker
If you want your students to receive step by step guidance learning to code, Tynker has a subscription service. We are not going that route here at GPA. Nonetheless, I installed the Tynker App on the iPads in Grades 3-5 because it includes a canvas to create with code blocks similar to Scratch. This will give students a great way to practice their coding kung fu when they do not have access to a computer. 


Hopscotch 
Another option to develop ninja-like code is Hopscotch . In fact, this is the most appealing to me personally because it is character driven and coders can create and tell stories. They can also make games. That said, the tutorial is limited and some kids may find that frustrating. If they are willing to work through frustration and like creating stories and games, this is a fantastic app.


Cargo-Bot
This is the last of the new coding apps added. It also develops programming skill but does so in a puzzle-like format. What is nice about Cargo-Bot is that while a solution to a problem might work, it isn't always the best option. (The same can be said for code. This is why I wait to update programs.) Often times, things need to be tested over and over again in many situations before time tells if it was best solution. Cargo-Bot assigns points based on the simplest, yet most rigorous solution. 



Masterpiece for OSMO
I cannot say enough good things about OSMO. Even our fifth graders love the hands on learning and applications of this device. All of the OSMO games build a natural bridge from our Early School Montessori base to effective technology integration. Masterpiece uses the iPad and OSMO gadget to help students recreate artistic masterpieces on paper with the real world media of their choosing. 



Ignite Teaching
Ignite Teaching is an app that promotes collaboration and project based learning. teachers can create and assign groups through the App. Students can then use the app to create multimedia projects on a canvas using images from their iPad or Google Drive. They can add text, graphics, and import videos. It is yet another tool that fits our philosophy that technology is best utilized to create rather than consume. In other words, Ignite Teaching Redefines learning. 

Sushi Monster
We also added one Substitution/Augmentation app called Sushi Monster. Teachers were looking for a more engaging way for students to practice their math computation skills. Sushi Monster by Scholastic was a crowd pleaser at all grade levels. An even bigger bonus is that this app and all of the above are free!