Thursday, January 30, 2014

Looking for Common Core-aligned lessons? Try CC.BetterLesson!

I just ran across a resource I couldn't wait to share with you. It's called CC.BetterLesson and it is a searchable database of over 3,000 Common Core-aligned, classroom-ready lesson plans, complete with resources. Lessons are available for all grade levels from kindergarten to high school.

The lessons have been created by master teachers from all over the country. The site is very well-organized, and you can search by grade level, subject, or even a specific Common Core standard. The lessons and units are easy to follow and often contain reflections by the teacher who created them. These teachers are part of the NEA Master Teacher project and they are sharing their lessons to the CC.BetterLesson site as they teach them. By the 2014-15 school year, CC.BetterLesson estimates they will have 16,000 CC-aligned lessons. Personally, I can't wait.

The site also contains a section for community discussion. There are not many posts yet, but I know that won't be the case for long.

CC.BetterLesson is free to use. After I had looked at several lessons, the site did ask me to register, but the registration is free. When I logged in, I found options to save and schedule lessons, as well as to post on the community discussion board.

Next time you have a few minutes, head over to CC.BetterLesson. You'll be glad you did!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Managing Mobile Devices in Your Classroom

Last month, I was lucky enough to attend a seminar put on by the Bureau of Education and Research on using iPads in the classroom. The speaker, Zachary Walker, shared many valuable ideas and resources to help the attendees make the most of their classroom iPads. He also shared some easy to implement classroom management techniques to make sure that the mobile devices in your room have a positive impact on learning.

One of the reasons we like to use iPads and tablets with our students is because these devices are so engaging, but the engagement factor is a double-edged sword. When we want the kids to stay on task, it's usually our friend, but when we are ready to have students pay attention to something else, the siren call of a colorful iPad screen can be a problem. Here are some suggestions from Zachary Walker that you can use to manage your classroom and help your students stay on task while they are using mobile devices:

  • Dock Your Device: Have students to put their device face down on the far right corner of the desk. This ensures that they are not distracted by whatever is on the screen or playing with them under the desk while you would like them focused elsewhere.

  • Screens Up (or Apples Up): When you say "Screens up," students should immediately hold up their iPads/tablets with the screen facing you. This allows you to do a quick scan of all the devices to make sure students are on an appropriate app or website.

  • Hands Up: Students should leave their devices face up on the desk and put both hands in the air when you say, "Hands up." You can continue talking while you walk around the room and scan the devices to make sure everybody is on task.

  • Time the activity: Let the students know before they begin how much time they will have to work on the devices. Use a timer so they can keep track of how long they have. Any timer you can project for them will do. Try typing "2 minute timer" into Google or, for a more entertaining interface, install the free application Howler Timer on your computer.

  • Noise meter: Finally, if you have your own iPad, install the Too Noisy app. Put the iPad where students can see it or project using your Elmo or Apple TV. Let the students know that if the noise level gets too high, the mobile devices will have to be put away, and let peer pressure help keep the volume at the level you have set as acceptable.

Zachary Walker's website,, is an excellent resource for mobile learning ideas and lesson plans. I highly recommend checking it out. If you are on Twitter, you can follow him @lastbackpack.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

CyberSmart Students

Students with laptop Image credit: Flickr user superkimbo

LVUSD's CyberSmart week will be held February 3-7, 2014. While the activities are aimed at elementary students and their families, we encourage all teachers to spend some time this week talking about cybersafety and digital citizenship. The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires schools to "provide for educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms, and cyberbullying awareness and response."

Elementary teachers should plan on spending about 10 or 15 minutes each day discussing these topics with their students. To make the task easier, the media specialists have created a new website containing grade-specific activities and lesson plans for each day. In addition, the website contains pages with teacher and parent resources. Secondary teachers will find that the teacher resources and site source pages contain a wealth of information that they can draw upon. Even after CyberSmart week is over, we will continue to update the site as we find quality resources to share.

As we have for the past few years, we will be using Woogi World, a virtual educational community created to teach elementary students about cybersafety. Teacher login information will be posted on the CyberSmart Week website as soon as it available.

Visit the LVUSD CyberSmart Week website.

Click here to access the LVUSD's Teacher Guide to Cyber Safety in the Classroom.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Timeline Creators

Timelines are a great way for students to conceptualize and understand events.  They allow students to visually depict a sequence of events over a period of time. They can also be used for project management where users can collaborate and set due dates and goals. Using a digital timeline creator has many advantages. First there is always the need for more space.  I am sure all of you have had that timeline handed in on a piece of paper where the student has run out of space so the events get smaller and smaller and unreadable.   Using a digital timeline will alleviate that problem.  There is infinite space for students to work with.  Digital timelines also allow students the ability to collaborate and share their work via the internet.  Students can work from their own home on the same project. They can also add videos, photo's and links to the timeline. Digital timelines are easy to use and easy to update if needed.  Teacher's can also comment and grade the timeline online and link them to their website easily.  There are many timeline creators to choose from so I have chosen my top three,=.  Each one has a different look and feel so they lend themselves to different projects.


Dipity ( offers interactive collaborative timelines that allow users to easily create events. Events may consist of images, embedded video, links, text and mapping features.

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Timetoast ( is a place to create timelines that you can add to your blog or website. You can create historical timelines of important events, or build a timeline of your vacation.

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 11.15.17 AM



TikiToki (  is a great application for multimedia timeline making . It allows its users to create stunning animated timelines. TikiToKi is very easy to use and above all its basic version is completely free .

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