Integrating Technology

The resource that I chose for a positive learning experience was a YouTube video. The video is a music video of the song titled, “Love Me Now” by John Legend. The video shows different places in the world that are struggling such as Iraq, Orlando and the Dominican Republic. The song’s meaning is about living in the now and living life to the fullest.

We used it in class to not only integrate social studies but also theme. We were able to apply theme to a different text set besides just a short story or passage.

This fits into my philosophy of teaching because as we were working on finding the theme from this music video we were also building classroom community. The students had to actively listen to each other about their experiences and their connections to the song and the video. It also went along with my philosophy of teaching because it allowed the students to really dig deep with their thoughts and connections in their lives.


Blog Post #4 Fruits from the Field

by Amy Miller

Newsela is an incredible resource that all classroom teachers should be made aware of. For those just starting in the teaching profession, I encourage you to open a Newsela account and receive the daily email that includes the “front page” articles.

What is Newsela? It’s a web-based site that pulls articles written by journalists at “The Washington Post”, “Scientific American”, “The Guardian”, and from the “Tribune Content Agency” and adapts them for students. Articles from these various outlets is presented on the website using five different reading levels: 3rd grade/590 lexile; 4th grade/690 lexile; 5th grade/850 lexile; 7th grade/1000 lexile; and 12th grade. There is no better way to put primary sources in students hands, and it’s all free!

Other features of the site include the ability for teachers to import their class list using Google Classroom and assign readings, track reading history, as well as overall performance of their students. Quizzes and writing prompts can be assigned and shared from the teacher’s account. Users can create their own library of articles and create text sets to be used for specific units. There are Text Sets already created for: Science, Literature, Spanish Language (articles in Spanish are clearly marked ES inside a green circle), Social Studies, State, and Election. Full disclosure, I’m not a fan of adding my students’ accounts to outside sites so I don’t. But I regularly print articles for my students to use. I encourage them to use the site as a resource too. Here’s a list of the topics you’ll find within the site: Opinion, War & Peace, Kids, Money, Law, Health, Arts & Culture, Issue Spotlight, Dream Jobs, Myths & Legends, Biographies, Famous Speeches, Science & Math, Religion & Philosophy, Government & Economics, World History, Sports, and U.S. History. There’s something in there that interests you, right? Relates to the content you’re teaching? Would be of interest to your students?

Differentiation has NEVER been this easy. Everyone can read the same article, but at a reading level that is appropriate for them. I have witnessed struggling readers participate in whole-group discussions with a heightened level of interest, engagement, and pride; knowing everyone has just read a version of the same article. Working to incorporate the amount of nonfiction texts the CCSS expects is both manageable and with the use of these news sources, it’s also immediately relevant to our students’ lives and the world they live in.

Sign up for an account, familiarize yourself with the content, its delivery and how you can save articles of interest to you. It’s definitely something you’ll want to carry forward with you into your own classroom.

Common Sense Media provides a review of this site. Here is their summary of Newsela:

PROS An innovative tool for delivering high-interest, cross-curricular nonfiction texts to students, right at their reading levels.

CONS Expanded search and recommendation features could help kids connect with articles tailored even more to their interests and reading levels.

BOTTOM LINE Up-to-date, high-interest articles meet kids right at their levels: Use this robust tool to bolster students’ nonfiction reading practice.

Fruits From the Field

Fruits From the Field

By, Megan Marquis


  • This is a voice recording website that can be accessed from any ipad, chromebook, laptop with internet connection.

Ways this Resource Can Be Used?

  • Peer Editing, Speech Writing/Timing, Manuscript Editing, Shortening Word Count, Reflecting on Word Choice, Maintaining the Meaning in an Essay while Editing, Presenting, Creating visual infographics/Presentations with sound, Voice Recording Notes, Creating Characters

My Philosophy:

  • Students aren’t always going to have time or access to a peer to edit their work, depending on what field there in, and the knowledge their peers may have about the topic they’re writing about. With this in mind, I believe students need to be able to hear how their writing sounds, in order to be able to make effective choices in editing their own work. By recording themselves reading aloud their writing, they can practice how they may present it in a real life context- and save the file to edit the next day. This gives the writing a time to rest, and the perfect amount of time a writer may need to take a break from what they’ve written so they can come back to it- in a new refreshed way. Using the recording they can listen to the life they bring to their writing, as they emphasize the meanings they’re intended to convery- and keep track of them in the editing process so they don’t accidentally loose the meaning they want to present while removing words or phrases – in order to fit a word count or time limit. They can use this free website, again and again, to reflect on their own stylistic uses of word choice, transitional phrases, descriptive language…etc to improve their writing on their own, on their own time, to grow and become the most effective writers they can be.

Why do we work in groups? -Here’s a Visual Aid to Explain



As a class of future teachers, we’re learning that collaborative learning strategies help to make one of the most effective learning environments for student success. But the big question comes when we’re faced with 30 students that don’t know how to work with one another- so how do we make them care that collaboration is important, enough for  them to actually do it? Then BAM! I had an epiphany.

Last semester, our science education instructor, had given us a question for all of us to think of as we were reading the articles about HIV research- “why did it take so long for people to finally get this close to finding a cure for HIV in 2016, when signs of the epidemic started nearly 37 years ago? Then he gave us several articles to read using a jigsaw technique about AIDS Research and the search for a Cure.


Soon we realized, the researchers had money, they had success with making drugs to treat the symptoms, and they had individual support from many other sectors in our community- but what they didn’t have was collaboration. As seen in this info-graphic timeline, the top medical researchers around the world- didn’t start collaborating and researching together until 2010. And through out 37 years of researching for a way to treat the symptoms, there wasn’t any research that could directly relate to eradicating the virus for sure. They were racing to find the cure individually in hopes for individual success, but little did they know that if they were to work collectively- they would have had a much faster rate of success- where the cure could have been found 31 years earlier, and they would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

With an info-graphic timeline that I created from , I will share the events that follows this pattern, for students to be able to analyze and recognize the trends for themselves. I am also turning this timeline into an interactive one- with a voice over using Capzels, that students could explore with more links to the research I’ve found, so students could examine the articles, my research and piece together there information of their own, so they could answer this question collaboratively, like we had to in our science education class.

If I would have seen this timeline instead of or in addition to reading the articles, I would have been able to develop a better understanding of how long it took and been able to understand the reason why collaboration is important in a much more effective way.

Stay Tuned For More Updates & Innovation


Megan Marquis

Research Used:


Visual Blog Post #3 – Using Mindmup (Amy Miller)

We started this school year with new math curriculum in my district. For the first time since the CCSS was released our students are working towards understanding and applying the grade level expectations; up to this point our curriculum was not aligned. Although I know the mathematical concepts and processes, I am working towards understanding and applying the Mathematical Practices, a new portion of the CCSS. These practices are the same across all grade levels, although their complexity grows as students age.

This is an entirely new layer to students’ mathematical learning. At the start of the school year we have worked on developing the community we need to ensure students are willing to take risks, ask questions, learn from each other and will revise their work with an eye towards both accuracy and efficiency. I introduced Guidelines for Discussions (included in the visual) that have helped to foster the climate that’s needed.

I could provide my students with the text of the Mathematical Practices, read all eight of them and hope that over time they will begin to internalize each of the practices. Using an interactive visual will help ensure a deeper understanding. Starting with the Guidelines for Discussion, students will see text they are familiar with. Within the Mindmup app I layered the eight Mathematical Practices with a question or comment that helps to explain the Practice in student-friendly language. Additionally, each Practice has a weblink attached to it to more deeply explain what each Practice looks like in the elementary classroom.

Using computers to investigate Mathematical Practices will bring a heightened level of engagement. In my math class I have a total of 27 students. Each group will be assigned four of the Mathematical Practices (1-4 or 5-8) to investigate using the Mindmup map. They will create a poster that includes the four Mathematical Practices they’re assigned and examples that embody each Practice. Within our classroom we will have three different explanations for each of the eight Mathematical Practices. Students will be able to make connections to other groups’ interpretations and find differences. Additionally, this very process helps to model the Mathematical Practices themselves (multiple explanations, different applications or processes, shared responsibility, grappling with the work, etc.).

From their “translation” of the Mathematical Practices students will create final-draft posters that include each group’s understanding of the eight Practices. All eight will hang inside my classroom and will provide visual reminders of the ongoing learning they are doing throughout the year.

Visual representations help students organize information in their brain, grows connections and helps ensure engagement. I’ve never used Mindmup before. It was easy to use, but I think there are additional features I haven’t yet discovered. Discovering new apps helps teachers imagine new delivery models for students. This can help ensure learning is engaging, differentiated, and meets students’ needs.

Blog 3- Technology in the classroom

Creating a Kahoot! as a visual would be a nice change of pace for students. They are very familiar with smart phones as well as tablets and computers so integrating this technology into the classroom will really engage them. I would use a Kahoot! as an assessment at the end of the unit but more so as a fun review for them. I used this as a vocabulary review because it requires participation from all students rather than just calling on a single student to give the answer.

Creating this visual showed me how easy it is to integrate visuals into the classroom. It also deepened my understanding when creating it because I was thinking about coming up with common misconceptions that the students may have. If you know the wrong answer that can help with coming up with the correct answer. This also helps with student engagement because they get to see how many of their classmates got the answer correct compared to how many answered wrong. This also helps me as a teacher understand how my students collectively understand the content. If a lot of the students are getting the answers wrong it shows me that they aren’t ready for the assessment and to come back and do some more review.

Creating a simple visual helps with student engagement and student understanding. It shows a different way for students to expand and/or test their thinking.

Amy’s Additional Blog Post

Technology in most classrooms is ubiquitous. How teachers use it to enhance student learning depends on many different factors including: teacher age, professional development linked to technology, access to devices, an understanding of the standards and content, and district expectations. I am most certainly not a digital “native” like my students are. But, I’m the one who sets school-based expectations and norms related to technology and I provide opportunities for my students to access, create, share, and present their learning. When given the chance to do so using technology, there is a heightened level of engagement, from both the students and teachers.

In my district we are not 1:1, but on most days we have access to either Chromebooks or Apple laptop computers. Each type of device has its own strengths and we consider ourselves very lucky to have both. Shorewood is a GAFE (Google Applications for Education) district. Teachers and students use Google Drive and email. I have become a real fan of the convenience and benefits of using Google Drive.

Teachers are able to access student work from anywhere, as long as we have a device and internet access. No more carrying student work between home and school, I simply log in and there’s my students’ work. All changes students make are trackable; I can see what students have accomplished over the course of the project and when. Providing feedback is simple and intuitive. Comments are nested within the body of the text. I can share documents, videos, or other resources with students with a few clicks, through their email. I have regular “conversations” with colleagues regarding IEP goals and student work, using Google Docs. My partner teacher and I write our students’ report card comments within the same document each year. We divide up our class and work on our own comments. But then we ask each other questions and read and comment on what the other person has written, late at night, while we are at home. Here is a link to a webpage that provides 5 ways to use Google Docs and another that includes 32 different ways to use Google Docs.

Additionally, you/teachers can create Google Classroom in less than five minutes. It’s free. You simply need a web email address that ends in .edu. Emailing your students, posting links, giving assignments, creating quizzes and surveys, and providing feedback on student work are just a few of the features. Click here to follow a tutorial about setting up your own Google Classroom.

In turn, students can access our feedback, shared documents, videos, links, etc. through email or, Google Classroom at school or outside of school (with access to a device and the internet). One of my favorite features in Google Docs is that students are able to simultaneously work on the same document. We just finished a project that utilized this feature. I’m going to highlight the different educational apps we incorporated into student learning that allowed them to create high quality work.

As you read on you’ll notice different educational apps in ALL CAPS. They are linked to where they were used throughout this project.

With our 5th and 6th graders we built background knowledge about how trees work and the parts of trees. We visited the Lynden Sculpture Garden to learn from their Naturalist how to notice the differences in trees (type of leaves and leaf type). Then students in intentional groups of three were assigned a tree on our school grounds. They captured what they had learned about trees inside their nature journals. Back inside school, students logged into a Chromebook and accessed an email from me that included a website to help them identify the species of their tree using their observations and other sites to research the unique features of their tree. (GOOGLE EMAIL)

Next, in their groups students began drafting a script. Each person was responsible for their own part, but they had to work together too. Noticing discrepancies, pushing each other to use the relevant vocabulary accurately, and reading their piece holistically was an expectation. Additionally, they had to make sure their piece addressed specific features and structures of their tree. (GOOGLE DOCS) I jumped into every document when their first draft was done to provide feedback to every student. I was very quickly able to see common mistakes or misconceptions which led to mini lessons and the development of a very specific rubric.

After spending about one week drafting and revising their scripts, students were then ready to record an audio version of their script. (iMOVIE) Because my students have grown up using many different types of technology they had no qualms about editing and adding sound effects to their podcast.  Click here to read about how iMovie can be used in your classroom, aligned to Bloom’s Taxonomy.  

Once their recording was finalized, they uploaded their recording to a free website that can turn recordings into QR Codes. (VOCAROO) With a QR reader, anyone with a Smartphone can access our students’ podcasts. Using this site was incredibly easy and no special equipment is needed. Students can use the built-in microphone on their device to create recordings directly on this site. This site lacks the variety of sound effects and music samples available on iMovie though. On this site you can read about three different uses for Vocaroo in your classroom. I would argue that our project also represents a summative product.

If you live near Lake Bluff Elementary School, you can come by and find the 17 trees (15 different species) that have student-made signs on them. Each sign includes the common and Latin name of their tree, the first-name of the group members responsible for the research and podcast and the QR code so you can pull out your Smartphone and listen to their presentation.

Through the use of technology the larger community will learn about the diversity of tree species on our school grounds; how mammals, insects, and birds use trees; the average age and height of each tree; evidence of human impact on trees; how the process of photosynthesis works; different uses for trees; whether the tree is native to Wisconsin or not; and the unique observations students made about their tree.

We certainly could have done this teaching without the use of technology, but I know for certain our students would not have learned all they did as quickly as they did. They collaborated and supported each other and pushed each other to try new things. They were deeply engaged throughout the process. All the while they knew they were creating something authentic that had a much larger audience than their teachers. Education-focused apps allowed this project to come to life.

A word of caution though. Teaching is a demanding job that requires hours and hours of preparation outside the regular teaching hours. If you decide you want to set-up a Google Classroom (or something equivalent), be sure you set realistic limits around when you are “available”. I have colleagues who communicate to their families that they will not answer emails or messages after a certain time in the evening. That’s reasonable!

Lucy Calkins

The way that students write in school varies from classroom to classroom, school to school and district to district. The way teachers instruct writing depends on quite a few things. It depends on which curriculum the district/school uses as well as the teachers philosophy on writing instruction. When I think of my elementary school writing experience, not much comes to mind, which tells me that it probably wasn’t very engaging. The experience I do remember was in third grade we actually did writer’s workshop. We were able to pick a piece of our writing from the school year and revise and edit it and eventually publish it. The books were eventually bound. I even remember what my story was about, my family trip to Florida. This shows me how meaningful writer’s workshop can be to students. It shows them that their writing matters and that it doesn’t have to be boring or not meaningful. At the time, I didn’t know that my teacher was following a curriculum but now it makes me wonder which curriculum she was following. There are a quite a few literacy researchers that find writer’s workshop to be essential in writing instruction. Lucy Calkins has a workshop approach that hundreds of thousands believe in and follow.

Lucy Calkins is the founding director of Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. She believes in bringing writing to life. Lucy Calkins is the author of the best-selling new grade-by-grade Units of Study for Teaching Reading and Units of Study in Opinion/Argument, Information and Narrative Writing (Feinberg). According to Calkins, she is a constructivist that believes children should generate their own texts, using material from their own lives (Feinberg). This is something that I believe in as well. Students will be more engaged in their writing if they have background knowledge and/or are interested in the topic that they are writing about. She believes that writing is a process with distinct phasing. Students should be working in small groups and collaborate as much as possible. Teachers should also engage in conferences with each individual child so they get specific instruction on their writing.

Keeping a writer’s notebook is also essential according to Calkins. Students keep a writer’s notebook and jot down anything that they feel or wonder about. These ideas can then spark their writing. I like the idea of a student keeping a writers notebook. For my future teaching, I would like to have writing stations so I am able to conference with individual students.

Although Lucy Calkins has a massive following and her system is implemented in thousands of schools, there are some concerns that I have. Calkins says, “I tell kids that after they’ve finished writing they should go back and lop off the beginning and lop off the ending.” (Feinberg)

She said that there are no exceptions to this. I am concerned with this statement. If students are in a writing station that they are supposed to brainstorm a great lead for their piece, I don’t think that they should have to cross it off after they have finished writing. There is also some concern that teachers are very scripted when following Calkin’s system.

Overall, I hope to implement writer’s workshop into my classroom. There are a lot of benefits to Calkin’s system and I hope to become more familiarized with her ideas.

By Barbara Feinberg  . (2013). The Lucy Calkins Project – Education Next. Retrieved September 20, 2016, from

Kelsey Linhart

Time versus Quality: Writing Workshops through Lucy’s Eyes

Lucy Calkins- Some say she’s crazy. Others might even dare to say there’s a method to her seemingly organized chaos. Yet, what intrigues me the most is why one of her so called crazy theories is actually working in some cases, more than others. Her idea of the writer’s workshop is working in local cases around schools in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where teaches have begun to implement writers workshops for their students. Here, you might see students spread out in bean bag chairs, or on the carpet writing for an extended period of time- whatever topic they want to write about. This image shows that students are given time during the school day to practice writing and to find their writer’s voice, while practicing a variety of forms that teacher may teach them about in a given school day.  Eventually students tend to build a writing stamina, and seem to enjoy writing much more, because their interests or choices are incorporated, instead of being left out- like some traditional writing programs would do. However, even though these methods work with the students interests and needs, there’s a huge amount of pushback where traditional writing teachers are starting to write blogs and voice reasons why they don’t agree with Lucy’s philosophy of writers workshops.

According to the New York Blog- The South Bronx School notes that Lucy Calkins “favors a “whole language” approach to literacy, which builds on the premise that reading and writing develop naturally in children.” Yet since she doesn’t, explicitly, teach or incorporate the phonetic skills that support “phonetic spelling” as a foundation to build writers workshop skills- students are going to have a very hard time writing their ideas in a way that the teacher would be able to understand them. With this method of writers workshop- students need to be able to apply the sounds they know and are familiar with, in order to be able to write in a more coherent way. Yet, if the students don’t have the foundations of phonetic linguistic knowledge before they begin to write in a writer’s workshop, it is going to be very hard for them to convey their message- in writing.  This blog argues that because there’s argue that this lack of direct instruction leaves many children, especially those who already struggle, at a disadvantage.

In schools where there are more students that need RTI literacy instruction, I can understand why some traditional writing instructors believe that more direct, phonics instruction should be incorporated. However, after working as an RTI literacy instructor in an urban school- I found out that when you work with student’s interests- the student’s frustrations about literacy ease up, they begin to see literacy as something they could do in their free time to express themselves, instead of a homework assignment they have to finish before Friday.  Usually RTI programs, focus on teaching materials that need to be taught through direct instruction- they don’t include the individualized needs that peak students interests to encourage them to develop their intrinsic motivations towards literacy.

Even though we had literacy games in the RTI room- they were never used. It was about the prefabricated lesson- get it done, and move on to the next child. Time was a necessity, and since there wasn’t much of it- the focus was more on what had to be done in the shortest amount of time- instead of the quality of what we were doing. And what Lucy brings to the table- is quality. It’s quality of learning how to write- which takes much more time than a 15 minute lesson about vowels. But because it’s the quality and the implementation of a writers workshop that takes this time- it encourages students to write what they want to- without any constraints and to see writing in a light that compliments them in a way that they might have not have ever seen before.



Second Blog Post (Amy’s)

Katie Wood Ray is a teacher’s teacher. She taught at both the elementary and middle school levels, she moved to the university level, and then spent two years at the Reading and Writer’s Project, Teachers College, Columbia University. “I first learned about genre study from Lucy Caulkins and my colleagues at The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, and everything I am writing now stands on the shoulders of what I learned while working at the project.” (p. ix, Ray) Currently she works for the publisher Heinemann as an author and Professional Developer.

She is passionate about the craft of writing and how to support and guide students, primarily K-8. She cringes at the thought of a curriculum that follows a formulaic delivery; her practice is called “Study Driven”. There are five defined steps to her framework. They include:

  1. Gathering Texts – the teacher gathers mentor texts that represent the type of writing students will be working on.
  2. Setting the Stage – the topic of the study is introduced to students. They come to know their responsibility will be to complete a piece of writing that represents the genre of study.
  3. Immersion – many different texts are read by the students alongside their teacher. Observations are documented about the writing and they discuss the process the author may have used.
  4. Close Study – Comparisons across texts are made. It’s through those noticings that the curriculum (or teaching) for the particular unit is developed. What do students need direct instruction about to support their growth and learning is decided by the teacher.
  5. Writing Under the Influence – Students complete their writing and are able to discuss how they incorporated the features of the genre.

As a teacher of writing I cannot stress how valuable using mentor texts can be. When students are given the opportunity to read many examples of a specific genre of writing, they discover the features of that writing. Ms. Ray raises an interesting point. No one goes into a bookstore and asks to be directed to the expository, narrative, or persuasive sections. She names these as “modes” of writing (p. 54, Ray). When students are learning to write it’s in the study of examples of the kind of writing they will themselves do that allows them notice what’s unique and try new things, with intention.

In this “Study Driven” model reading is as important as writing. Students are close reading, analyzing first how the mentor texts made them feel and what their thoughts and reactions were. After they respond to the texts they are able to notice the author’s craft. This is similar to what we did last week when we read Sandra Cisneros’ “Eleven”. Imagine doing that with between 5-7 memoirs. Students would begin to notice the reflective nature of the genre, the small moment that’s its focus, the use of first-person structure, the deep emotions, a balance between internal thoughts and external action, how dialog brings the story to life, and descriptive language, to name a few features.

Now imagine trying to teach each of these feature as mini lessons without common texts to refer back to. Providing the opportunity to delve deeply into texts provides differentiation our students deserve. Students self-select what they will incorporate into their own writing. Conferencing is often times led by the students when an adult simply asks, “So tell me what you’re working to include today?” Or says, “Show me where you…”

Katie Wood Ray in her 2006 book, Study Driven: A Framework for Planning Units of Study in the Writing Workshop includes “Study Possibilities” (genres of writing) partnered with magazines, picture books, chapter books, collections, excerpts, and newspapers. These resources can help you tailor what you select as mentor texts to meet your students’ interests and reading levels.

There’s nothing like sitting at student led conferences and listening to your fifth graders as they draw the adults in their lives attention to the way their writing is just like a published author’s. Although there is a lot of planning that goes into this delivery of writing instruction, it’s constructivist at its heart. Students experience high quality writing, they investigate its features, and they try their hand at it.

Ray, K. W. (2006). Study driven: A framework for planning units of study in the writing workshop.      Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.