Common Core Connections: Halloween Writing

The Common Core Standards identify six instructional shifts necessary for effective implementation of the ELA/Literacy strand. These instructional shifts provide a framework to help us understand the big picture before diving into the specific individual standards. 

CCSS Shift 5, Writing from Sources, calls for an emphasis on analyzing and synthesizing information from multiple sources to reach a conclusion or make an argument. This type of writing requires students to construct knowledge through research and present evidence that is accurate, precise and clear. Regularly engaging students in this type of writing will foster the development of essential skills to help them succeed in college and beyond. 

Halloween – An Engaging Theme

It’s fairly safe to say that many teachers use the Halloween theme to launch creative writing activities that focus on stories and personal narratives. Perhaps with a little twist, teachers can take advantage of Halloween writing activities that focus on gathering information from sources through research to present information about haunted places, dispel or defend myths, and present conclusions that are based in fact to support the CCSS Shift 5. 

Explore a sample launcher for a CCSS aligned Halloween writing project that has been embedded here.

Tools to Power the Learning Experience

Use an Essential Question to Fuel the Inquiry

An essential question can be a very effective tool for guiding research and tapping into students’ enthusiasm for inquiry and learning. These questions provide students with challenges that allow them to invest in the learning process as they make decisions about their own learning. Since essential questions do not have one correct answer, students can choose flexible learning paths to find success and demonstrate learning.

Use a Google Custom Search Engine for Safe Searching 

A topic like this could send students on searches that lead them to questionable websites. A traditional work around might be to publish a list of acceptable websites for students, but perhaps a better solution is to create a Goggle Custom Search Engine for use with this type of project. 

Searching involves critical thinking and it is an important skill that needs to be taught. The Goggle Custom Search Engine Tool allows teachers to easily build your own search engine that is customized with content you choose to be appropriate for your grade level or for a particular unit of study, This tool provides teachers with the ability to bring relevant and reliable sources into the classroom while also teaching students how to conduct a search and it can be embed into any  blog, wiki, or site for easy access.

Use a Padlet Board for Collaboration

Padlet is the tool I used to launch this project. It is a free tool that allows you to create an online collaborative board of online sticky notes for use in the 24/7 classroom. In addition to text, the notes can include images, links and videos. One of the best features about Padlet is that students do not need an account to log in, making it an efficient and useful tool for a variety of learning tasks.

Use the Common Core App by Mastery Connect to Design a Rubric

To make sure to cover specific writing and research standards for your grade level, consider creating a rubric with the guidance of the Common Core App by Mastery Connect. Use the app for quick and easy access to standards that are presented clearly and provide snippets of relevant information without overwhelming. With the information at hand, you can fine-tune the learning experiences to target many specific standards in one project.

Use Google Docs to Create and Publish

If your school is using Google Docs, there are plenty of opportunities for students to collaborate, brainstorm, write, research and publish their work. Use the document for written papers or try the presentation to express learning in a multimedia format.

A Writing Project Toolkit

Explore this Interactive Image, created with ThingLink


6 Tools for Connected Educators on

October is Connected Educators month. If you’re reading this post my guess is you are already a connected educator to some degree because you are, at the very least, someone who is opening the door to the ideas of others. It’s quite possible  you stumbled across this post
on TwitterScoop.It or Pinterest. And it’s likely that you might pass it along to others through the various networks  in your own Professional Learning Community.

6 Tools for Connected Educators

Explore and share this interactive image and read the full article on


Collaborative Learning with ThingLink – Wagon Wheel

Yesterday I created an interactive image to demonstrate how easy it is to engage in collaborative leaving with ThingLink. If you explore the live image, you will discover the Padlet online board that is being used to assemble collaborator’s thoughts. I’ve pulled some of the ideas together and have been adding them to the ThingLink to define the song through multimedia. Now I am digging deeper to connect standards and design a student driven learning experience. 

I recently added instaGrok to the bulletin board for one click access to a useful interactive learning tool and search engine. I used the Mastery Connect App to quickly reference the CCSS and  demonstrated a way to use Wordle as a starting point to engage students in a CCSS aligned vocabulary activity. 

Let’s not forget Digital Citizenship. All images are linked back to original sources and credit is given. Creative Commons Share Alike Licenses are always appreciated.

There are many untapped learning opportunities to be pulled out of the song. I am looking for resources to make good learning good connections. Feel free to tap on the Padlet and add ideas and links or suggest learning connections you see. Stay tuned and watch it grow.

The Wagon Wheel is growing nicely! 

Webinar: Unpacking the Common Core -Technology Powered Projects

Thursday, June 13, 2013
10:00 AM EDT
Technology can be a powerful tool to help us meet the Common Core Standards and prepare our students for success in school and beyond, and a great way to use that technology is with student projects. 
Join us for a look at how to use free and user friendly digital tools to design and facilitate Common Core aligned, student-driven learning experiences that provide students with flexible learning paths and extend the walls of the classroom.

Twitter – Powerful Bursts of Information

Twitter is a resource I often tap into. I am not a Twitter expert, nor do I utilize Twitter to it’s greatest potential, but it is certainly one of my go to tools when I’m looking to share and learn from the ideas of others. 

Many people don’t understand how Twitter can work efficiently. Many people don’t think they have time for Twitter.  Perhaps they don’t. We all have different learning styles and preferred methods of information gathering. We must all choose the tools that work for us and Twitter is in my toolkit because it works well for me as an efficient and effective tool for collaboration!

Twitter has allowed me to connect with many amazing, talented and connected #EdTech stakeholders across the planet. Twitter is efficient. Words are well chosen, the language is constantly reinvented, and of course links to resources are the treasures.

I recently had a quick Twitter conversation with Naomi Harm, a talented innovative educator and EdTech consultant from Minnesota.  Naomi and I have never met face to face, but we are certainly connected. We learn from each other, we share each other’s resources and ideas, and we collaborate quickly and efficiently. I’ve known Naomi to be an iPad expert for many years and since I have just jumped in to the iPad journey in my school, I grabbed the opportunity to ask Naomi for her for guidance. 

Here is our 15 minutes conversation, filled with treasures. Ah, yes…the things I can do with this information! Thanks Naomi. Keep on Tweeting!

Hello Naomi. Can you share your best iPad advice in 140 char or less? iPads are coming my way and I value your expertise.
Hi dear friend! Utilize the iPads as collaborative literacy tools & creative stations 4 students need to be co-creators/publishers
iPad literacy tools to empower student learning and creative/critical thinking/publishing: Book Creator, Skitch, Write About This
iPad literacy tools 2 empower student learning and creative/critical thinking/publishing: Primary Writer, Max Journal, Group Maker
Tap into the app repository of Appitic iPad Lessons for brillant ideas. Take care!
Thx for advice Perhaps a mantra: iPad literacy tools 2 empower student learning creativity and critical thinking. Amazing resources!


Back to Mac

It’s been 3 years since the school district that employees me switched from Mac to PC. After the initial shock of the sudden change subsided, I had no choice but to embrace Windows 7. It didn’t take very long for me to become a highly knowledgeable and high powered PC user, although It never felt quite right. 

I’m fortunate to be a chameleon who can adapt easily to change and I believe this is one of the reasons I have been successful at using technology as a tool for learning. I’m happy to be able to have learned to work seamlessly between platforms to facilitate tech integration, but I’m really glad that my school district is going back to Mac!

Although I have always preferred Mac over PC, I do recognize some positive changes that resulted from our 3 year long switch to Windows 7. We were able to put cost efficient mobile carts of netbooks into our schools, greatly increasing our student to device ratio. We have had a sufficient supply of netbooks to be able to launch the implementation of Google Docs as an efficient and effective collaborative instructional tool for students and staff. Cost efficiency of the netbooks allowed us to increase the number of projectors in classrooms too. Although we had the best of intentions when we tried to save a few trees and encourage teachers to grade papers online through comments in Google Docs, the enormous and heavy Dell “laptops” teachers were given for their use were much heavier than a pile of papers, so that initiative has not worked so well up to this point. 

But, like the title says, it sure looks like we are going back to Mac! We have provided each school with a mobile lab of MacBook Airs for use in the classroom. Teachers will have iPads and Apple TVs in classrooms this week and we are hoping to kickoff a 1:1 iPad rollout starting this fall. Teachers will get MacBook Airs and students will gradually get iPads and ownership of their own devices. Ah, this is going to be an exciting and fun challenge!

Resources for students and staff to introduce our mobile labs of MacBook Airs.

And what a great time for this! iPads have been successfully rolled out in many forward thinking districts and the process is now streamlined and efficient. Districts who have had successful experiences are eager to share their guidance and expertise with us. We recognize the need to collaborate and appreciate the opportunity to be connected .

In house, we finally have a team of instructional technology coaches in place to help teachers find their comfort zones, set goals, and have fun as they personally move through the stages of tech adoption and begin to shift instruction. It will be exciting to be able to help teachers facilitate Common Core aligned learning experiences with the help of interactivity, digital supports and multimedia.

So, I must say that I am ecstatic to be back to Mac and excited about a new journey that will ultimately lead to a lot of learning for myself and others. I am looking forward to the near future when our teachers and students will leave school at the end of the day with a lighter load and some powerful portable personal digital tools for teaching and learning to use whenever needed. This initiative will definitely help extend the walls of our classrooms.

What I will miss about Windows 7

I made the switch back to Mac a few weeks ago. Right away I noticed how comfortable the Mac feels with it’s lighted keyboard and intuitive interface. But, I’d like to note a few things I do miss about Windows 7 as I put this chapter to rest.
  1. The snipping tool I take a lot of snapshots. I know how to do it on a Mac of course, but the process is not nearly as slick as the handy snipping tool on Windows 7.
  2. Snap WindowsI appreciate the ability to work between two active open windows side by side and snapped into place on Windows 7, a feature I used every day.

    Build Vocabulary Cards with Google Presentation

    There is a wealth of research to suggest that vocabulary knowledge is the single best predictor of student academic achievement across all curriculum areas. Experts agree that vocabulary development is an attainable goal. If given the opportunity to receive effective vocabulary instruction, most students can acquire vocabulary at rates that will improve their comprehension and also their chances for success in school. Technology is an effective and engaging tool that can be used to improe vocabulary acquisition for all learners and engage them in the learning process. Google Presentation offers some features that make it an attractive tool for a lesson in which students work collaboratively to construct knowledge about vocabulary by creating vocabulary cards.

    Lesson: Use Google Presentation to Build Vocabulary Cards
    In this activity students use the template found at the bottom of this post to guide the learning. The template includes formatting which allows students to focus on content rather than  technology. An added bonus of this template is that it includes a Help Page with links to resources and video tutorials about how to complete certain tasks when using Google Presentation.
    Help Page with links to tutorials

    Students work in groups of three.  Each group works on a copy of the template that has been shared with members of the group. Each student within the group has a job to do.

    Jobs: Click on the images to jump to a page with tutorials and resources

    Finds and inserts a video to illustrate the term using the handy feature that lets users preview and insert YouTube videos without leaving the presentation.

    Find a copyright-friendly image or use the drawing tools available to draw directly an illustration of the term directly on the slide.

    Use dictionary tools to compose a definition.

    Create a Slide: Each student contributes to the slide, using the Help Button, if needed.
    sample student card with jobs

    sample student card completed

    Create a Quiz Card:

    After students create the vocabulary card, they use the animations feature available in  Google Presentation to turn their cards into a Quiz Card for review and practice when studying the terms

    Vocabulary Card Template:

    Get Template:
    You must be logged in to a Gmail account to copy and use this template.