A Busload of Prizes and Surprises!

It's been an amazing summer and I have made many great memories with my own children, but I am hearing the honk of the bus horn!  Why?  Because there's a busload of prizes that just pulled up!

You can also enter the Middle School Mob's giveaway:

You'll get several great tips AND the chance to enter to win several amazing resources PLUS $70 to Teachers Pay Teachers!

and then complete the loop!

And if that wasn't enough Prizes and Surprises for your Back to School excitement, there's also a SALE!

All of my resources, (Yes, EVEN BUNDLES) are the full 25% off with code:  BTS2017

You can get several versions of full week long back to school plans that focus on community building, going over class agreements (rules)/procedures and group dynamics. 

New for this year:

This resource gives you the opportunity to have your students do something with your syllabus instead of just pretend to read it.  ;)

 Students can construct a blank mini-book and fill in all the important information from the syllabus or you can give them a mini-book with all the information pre-printed inside and just have them fold it into a book.  

It is completely editable and comes with a video to show you and your students how to assemble the mini-book.

The best part?  Each mini-book requires just ONE sheet of paper per person!

Well, that's all for now!  I hope this helps you get ready for your best year yet!  

Thanks for stopping by!

Best Practices for Using Video in the Classroom

If you're like me, you are starting to think about the new school year and the concept of using videos is really appealing because you know that they are super engaging and they allow you to monitor the students even better.

However, you want to make sure that what you are using is educationally sound - that it uses best practices.  But what are video best practices?  Here's what I've found:


My biggest takeaway from this pdf is that when using video, there should be no more than 6 minutes of view time before there is an interactive activity.  

I saw this same idea of short videos with interactive activities repeated over and over across the web from various colleges and universities.  I agree that short is better to help keep students focused and interactive is the name of the game!

Vanderbilt University suggests looking for videos have one or all 4 of these items:
1.  Signaling with the appearance of key words
2.  Segmenting of information (aka chunking)
3.  Weeding - the process of eliminating unnecessary extras like odd sound effects
4.  Matching modality - students can see and hear the same concept at the same time.

These four items make a great checklist for anyone when choosing videos for their classes.

And commonsense.org  suggests that transcripts can be powerful tools as students can annotate them.  They also suggest multiple viewings of the videos so as to explore them from different points of view.  

I really like the idea of having transcripts not just for annotation, but also a kind of notes to help students remember what they have seen.

I have tried to incorporate all these things into videos that I make for my own classes.  Currently, I have been working on a step-by-step video to teach my students all the pieces and parts of writing a text-based informational essay.  And you can try the planning part for free! 

You'll get a link to the video portion that comes towards the end of the Full Unit after I have taught all the pieces and parts of the text-based informative essay that shows how to plan the essay.  You'll also get the writing prompt, 2 texts and a planning sheet that are referenced in the video.

Thanks for stopping by!

How I Make Video Lessons In 5 Easy Steps

In previous posts, I shared how powerful video was for engaging my students in my 6th grade ELA classroom and the educational benefits of using video.

As you may know, I decided to make my own videos to maximize the learning in my classroom.  
So how do I do it?  
Here are my 5 easy steps:

1.  I decide on my objectives and write a script.

  • My objectives generally come from my standards, but many times my video theme is something I take into consideration at this point - especially as I write the script.  If I want to teach essay writing in connection with the book Walk Two Moons, my images might be of places that the main character visited in the book, for example.
2.  I record my script with a green screen, soft box lights, and a microphone.  

  •  I record my videos using my iPhone.
  • The green screen really is an important piece as I can place *any* image behind me and really create some very relevant videos for the students.  
  • The lights I use came with the green screen with bulbs!  The bulbs are "daylight bulbs - 5500K" and make all the difference with looking good.
  • Speaking of looking good - remember to record on a good hair and makeup day!  :)
  • I have a lapel microphone that cost me about $13 on Amazon.  You can try to record with just the iPhone microphone and see how it sounds in the room you are using.

3.  I run my green screen recordings through the Green Screen App by Do Ink ($2.99)

  • Next, I take what I recorded with the green screen and run it through this app to put in whatever image I choose behind me! Later, I add what I make in this app to iMovie when I am ready to edit.
  • Note on images:  I only use images that I have made myself or are in the public domain.  A Google search for images will pull up many copyrighted images and could put you in jeopardy of being in violation of the law.  I use Pixabay.com for public domain images.

3.  Determine the objectives and write a script.

  • My objectives generally come from my standards, but many times my video theme is something I take into consideration at this point - especially as I write the script.  If I want to teach essay writing in connection with the book Walk Two Moons, my images might be of places that the main character visited in the book, for example.

4.  Edit all clips in iMovie on my iPhone

  • This is arguably the hardest part.  This takes some time to learn because I have to insert clips of what I recorded, cut out pauses or flubs, add music, titles, captions and maybe even special effects!

5.  Save and upload!  
  • When I'm finished, I first download the movie to my iPhone's video album.
  • Then, I hard wire my phone to my computer so I can put the finished product on a jump drive to take to school. I find that this is the quickest way to get the video from the iPhone.

So that's how I do it!  It's easy once you get going, but if that seems like more than you're ready to tackle, then maybe you'd like to see one of my videos as an example and maybe even try it with your classes.

Right now, I am focused on preparing to take my "rookie" 6th graders through the steps in writing text-based essays, and I am happy to share that first stage of the process with you below:

Thanks for stopping by!  Be sure to stop by Forever in Fifth Grade for some more great Show and Tell!

Top 3 Questions About Using Videos/Visuals in the Classroom

Did you know that a human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than words?

I was truly amazed this past school year when my students paid quite a bit more attention to a video of me than to me in person!

So, I set out on a quest to find out more about using video lessons in the classroom by finding the answers to these questions!

1.  Why do the students listen to me on video much better than to me in person?

This is the first question that raced through my mind when videos really got my students' attention.

So then I began to try to ask the students.  And of course, they all talked about how much they love YouTube (even though my video was not on YouTube).  

When I stopped to think about it, what they were really saying to me is that it is relevant to them.  

Plus, I did some research and found that in many studies, videos engage students because they create an experience and bring things to life  by telling a story.  And everyone loves a good story.  Why?  It's all in the emotions.


2.  Does video truly benefit students educationally?

Consider these facts:

  • "One study found that after three days, a user retained only 10-20 percent of written or spoken information but almost 65 percent of visual information." (source)

  • Video naturally attracts audio and visual learners by itself - that's 2/3 of all your learners.  Add in a kinesthetic piece and you've reached them all!

It seems to me that when I put this all together, video does the hard work of getting my students' attention and then goes one step further to increase their memory.


So naturally, if you're like me, you want to know....

3.  Can I "up" my video skills and get better results? (Does the type of production matter?)

The short answer to this is "no".  I naively thought that the more bells and whistles, the better!  So I dug into various video resources that I shared about last time like NearPod, EdPuzzle and Powtoon and started making other videos for my students.

However, after talking to the students, I found that they preferred videos with people in them over the ones with fancy moving clipart or things like whiteboard drawings.

This was further reinforced through my research in the Columbia University study when a participant said:

Another participant went on to say
"I don't think it's the production value as much as it's the content and the professor getting the point across."

So now that we know that video has our students' attention, contributes to better comprehension and that it needs that human element, there's really a 4th question begging to be answered:

4.  Where can I go to get good quality videos?

This is the toughest question of all because while YouTube has a wealth of informational videos, all that glitters is not gold.

I can't tell you how many times I've looked for a good clip only to have to figure out how to remove parts due to inaccuracies or inappropriate things in the background.  

Not to mention all the time it takes to search, watch and/or modify! 

So, I have decided to make my own.  I am focusing on producing them without any of the fancy online programs since they don't get better engagement or results. Instead, I am just using my iPhone and a few other gadgets and gizmos.

 Next time, I'll tell you about how I make them (including the gadgets and gizmos)!

Until then, get a Free Copy of the Brain Facts for Video/Visuals (complete with their sources) most of which were presented in this post (plus a few extras!):

Thanks for stopping by!

How I *Finally* Got My Students' Attention!

My students listen to me better on video than in person!

It's summer, which means I'm allowing my mind to wander and ponder ideas for next school year.

This past year, I was constantly trying new tactics to increase student engagement.  Like you, I want to make sure my students "get it" and then can remember "it" for classroom and state tests.  

And then an amazing thing happened.  I created something fairly mundane (or so I thought) to show students how to take textual information and put it into an essay plan - on video.

I shared this video with the other four 6th grade Language Arts Teachers at my school and they showed it to all their students.

It wasn't long before students from other classes began to compliment me on the video and asked me if they could re-watch it!  So of course, I obliged, and it was posted on our school site.  Now even absent students could watch it!

(They were engaging with the video of me (not someone "cool") outside of class?!  What?!?!)

Soon students were asking me if I had a YouTube Channel because they follow lots of "YouTubers" and would happily comment on my video and tell about their favorite parts!  

(Their favorite parts?  You mean they actually remembered what I said?!)

This shouldn't have exactly surprised me as YouTube is the #1 search engine for those under 30 and the old saying is that a picture is worth 1000 words...but still!  The power of the video had me in awe because it seemed like I finally got their attention!

So then I really began to think - what is it about this video thing?  Why do my students listen to me better on video than in person?   How does it benefit the students educationally?   Could I "up" my video skills and get even better results?  After all,  that first video seemed pretty boring to me so what would happen if I could make them even better?

Some people suggested I use EdPuzzle or PowToon and many others to get the desired effect.  So I began looking into these and trying them out with the students.   

I like what some of them can do - like the whiteboard effect in Powtoon and making a YouTube video interactive in Edpuzzle. 

Since I am all about simplifying ideas in a practical sense, I even compiled what I found and learned about these tools into a kind of Video Resource Guide and you can get a Free Copy below!

But, as I am sure you suspected, making videos using these tools isn't quite what I expected.  And I'm not sure they really worked as well as my "boring" video.  Why is that?  

Next time, I'll share my research with this question and the ones above.  And let me tell you, all that glitters on the internet for video is not gold!

Be sure to visit Stephanie at Forever in 5th Grade to see some more great Show and Tell!

Thanks for stopping by!

End of the Year Gifts - Emoji Bookmarks!

It's Show and Tell time and I am excited to show you my new end of year gift for my 6th grade students - Emoji Bookmarks!

Great End of Year Gift Idea - Emoji Bookmarks!

Here is the video I made to show you how to make these:

Now here's the written version of the instructions:

1.  Cut a piece of paper in half.  Each half will make one emoji bookmark.
2.  Take one half and fold a corner up to make that rectangle a square.
3.  Cut off the excess paper.  Now you have a triangle.
4.  Fold the end of the triangle up to the point of the triangle on both sides and then unfold.
5.  Fold down the middle to the bottom.  Leave that there.
6.  Fold the ends back up and tuck them inside.
7.  Unfold them and put some glue down on the lower part.
8.  Fold the ends back up and tuck them inside.  Press firmly to get the glue to stick well.
9.  Place a glass that is just slightly larger than your creation top down and on top of your new creation.  Trace the glass's circumference onto your creation.
10.  Cut on the pencil lines being careful to keep some of the top fold intact.
11.  Decorate and enjoy!

Please visit Stephanie at Forever in 5th Grade for more great Show and Tell!

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How I Made Research Interesting!

As the school year or semester winds down, students seem to become "antsy".  They need something that is self-directed so there's no time for them to "zone out" or cause a disruption.  This is when I like to have students work on project based learning.

This year, my 6th grade students are going to work on a research project with a twist - they will research a trip for their Pine Cone Pets!

Research doesn't have to be boring - it can be creative too!

You might know about a famous book character known as Flat Stanley that many an elementary student made a version of and sent off to a faraway relative to see what adventures Stanley could have.  Pine Cone Pets is based on the same idea although we won't actually mail off our pets!  Instead, students will research all the ins and outs of where their pet will visit and combine their information into a PowerPoint complete with budget and bibliography!

You might think this is a zany idea, but zany is exactly what middle school students love about this project!  They loved naming, dressing and making personalities for their pets.

My Procedure:

1.  At least a week ahead of time I surveyed my students and asked them to name one place that they had never visited, but would like to visit in the future.  I also gathered pine cones and glued on googly eyes.
2.  I gathered many travel guides to these places at my local library like Fodor’s Guides, Frommer’s Guides and more.  (we are not 1:1 and getting the computer carts was limited due to testing.)
3.  On Monday, I refreshed their memories of Flat Stanley with a small read-aloud of just the part about when Stanley went on a trip to introduce the Pine Cone Pets.  I explained that groups of students will plan a trip for their new pets.  Then after the students read the project requirements to themselves, I provided an explanation of how they would be graded with the rubric and my fair grading systemNext, students formed groups of no more than 3.  The groups chose a destination out of a “hat” (based on my previous survey).  Then I allowed them to just explore the books and name their pets.
4.  On Tuesday, we went over the due dates which are the steps of the research process These steps are great for chunking for your students with an IEP or 504 plan!  Then I taught a mini-lesson on note-taking and citing sources in a bibliography.  Afterward, students had time to research & take notes.

Note-Taking Mini-Lesson on Biteable.

5.  On Wednesday, students continued to research and take notes.
6.  On Thursday and Friday, we used the computer to begin to assemble the digital products.  
7.  The following week we had another day or so with the computers to put it all together and then it was time to practice presentations.
8.  Finally, students presented.  I graded the entire group using the rubric.

9.  Students reflected and determined points awarded to each group member.

Pine Cone Pets - Research with a Twist!

 The students loved this because they could unleash their creativity not just with their pets, but also with their trip plans.  They really enjoyed investigating new places that now they could talk to their parents about visiting.  Best of all, they were very engaged and learning at the same time!  

If you'd like the complete lesson with all the project directions, rubric, due dates, links to other resources and more, then you might want to take a look at this:

Click here on the image to learn more!

It will be 28% off with code: thankyou17 during the Teachers Pay Teachers sitewide sale for Teacher Appreciation Week on Tuesday, May 9, 2017 and Wednesday, May 10, 2017!

You could also take your chances at winning a $10 Teachers Pay Teachers gift card!

All you have to do to enter is comment below with your e-mail address and respond to this post or tell me what you do for research projects in your class!  

I'll pick one lucky winner on May 9, 2017 - Tuesday - by 9pm EST!  That will still leave the winner the rest of Tuesday and all of Wednesday to shop, shop, shop!  :)

Good luck and thanks for stopping by!