In our modern, highly mobile culture, standards give students a relatively uniform exposure to content when they move between states. Most states have adopted some form of standards derived from the AchieveAmerican Diploma Project. Both the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and the Common Core State Standards have their roots in Achieve’s work.
Whichever set of standards your state uses, a survey of high school graduates indicates that setting high expectations and pushing all students to take advanced coursework results in students feeling better prepared to face the challenges of work or college, whichever they choose after graduation.
The textbooks in your classroom may be everything you need for at-level work (or not). But, for your students who are ready to reach higher, or your students who need more repetitions, you’ll want to supplement. Boom Cards supplements, with their self-grading elements, give you actionable data so you know who is ready to move on, and who needs more practice.
We talked about proficiency and mastery in this blog. The best-prepared students have not merely mastered the data, but are proficient: they can respond correctly, quickly, and without hesitation.
Watch and learn how to read Boom Cards reports to track progress towards mastery and proficiency.
Differentiating with Boom Cards Decks
Standards-based Boom Cards decks allow you to combine rich student reports with dialed up or dialed down content for specific standards. Here are just a few examples of how you might deploy Boom Cards for differentiation.
4th Grade Place Value
I heart 4th Grade creates standards-based supplements for her classroom. She has materials aligned to third, fourth and fifth grade standards. When teaching place value you can use a combination of her decks to assess, practice, differentiate and intervene to get your students to proficiency. Here is a sample pathway through some of her materials for Numbers in Base Ten:
Students who show they’ve mastered 4.NBT.1 can be quickly moved on to 4.NBT.2 with Compare Numbers (using place value). You can use the deck for independent work or clustered groups.
English Language Art Language Standard 5: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use
Using the search “CC.ELA.L.5” in the Boom Learning store provides a variety of materials spanning up through eighth grade. Many authors in the ELA area offer bundles that span the evolution of a standard across grade levels.
For example, Rachel Lynette’s Context Clues bundle spans third to sixth-grade levels. Students can move from one level to the next as they demonstrate mastery and proficiency.
Try a search or two to find materials you can use for your classroom.
A differentiated classroom is a remarkably busy place. Children can be seen working several different objectives and doing any number of activities: games, small groups, online activities; it runs the gamut. Somehow, a teacher keeps her thumb on all of it, keeping the work at a steady hum.
In addition to being a differentiated classroom, mine is also the gifted education room. I teach compacted math and above-grade level reading to identified-gifted fourth and fifth graders. All of my students have aptitude scores at or above the 90th percentile and achievement scores (generally on state tests) at or above the 93rd percentile in their area(s) of service.
So, yeah, in some ways my job is easier. My kids pick up concepts pretty quickly. Most of them like school because they’ve been successful with it. On the other hand, I’ve got a challenge because my standards reach across three grade levels and, like any other teacher’s class, I still have a range of learning speeds with a variety of kids’ issues. I differentiate because, my kids, despite being gifted, are still different from one another (… and what’s the point of having pull-out instruction if some are still sitting in class, bored because they’re waiting on others to get it?).
Teaching my math standards in a way that allows my sharpest kids to continue moving forward while not rushing my thoughtful-and-methodical (and quick to stress themselves out, because AIG kids have a real knack for that) students has been my biggest obstacle. I also need to know that the practice is appropriate for each child and whether he or she is actually succeeding with it. My highest fliers often feel pressure to keep up the appearance of knowing everything, and would rather do just about anything than ask for help, including being less than honest about their progress, looking for a way to cheat, or avoiding the work altogether.
Enter Boom Cards
As a 1:1 district, my students come to class equipped with Chromebooks. When my students finish a ‘level’ or grouped set of objectives, they complete a sheet that asks them to consider which of the activities they did during the level helped them best learn the content. Boom Cards regularly appears on those lists. I think they’re a game-changer.
They can be assigned individually.
The obvious plus here is that I can assign different decks to different groups, but this feature also allows me to set practice for an individual who is missing a requisite skill or re-assign one that isn’t yet grasped on the down-low. A chunk of my kids, despite lots of talk about growth mindset and ‘my size fits me’ education, fear the perception of failure. I can set up a video lesson and a Boom Cards session for a kid and allow him or her to get caught up without drawing unwanted attention. Paper task cards mean I have to sit just with that child at my table and everyone can hear the conversation. Not cool.
They give my students –and me – instant feedback.
Self-grading Boom Cards let the kids know right away if they’re right or wrong. I can access a report showing progress, accuracy, and fluency with each skill for each child. Mine is a data-driven district, so this is a must for me.
Boom Cards are inexpensive.
Again, I teach across grade levels, so I’ve got a lot of standards. I can typically buy a set of Boom Cards for half of what a similar set of paper cards would cost, and that’s before I print and laminate. The wide variety of sellers offering Boom Cards means I can find quality resources whether I’m working with an elementary or a middle school objective.
I can make my own.
My district uses Singapore Math as its base curricula for AIG students. Singapore works with numbers and asks questions in a unique way, and it’s not easy to find supplemental work for that. Boom Cards’ studio lets me create decks that better prepare the kids for Singapore assessments. The process for building a deck is reasonably intuitive and well-explained through video tutorials.
The kids think they’re fun.
Okay, this one I don’t get, since they really are task cards, which aren’t my students’ favorite activity. Somehow, though, the little ‘you got it right’ bell and watching their progress through the set turns it into something else.
They can be done from home.
Yes, ‘the gifted kid is an allergic wreck’ idea is a stereotype, but it may be a true one.* Fall and spring allergy seasons seem to hit my class harder than others’, and my parents are pleased that this is one way they can keep their children on track.
Adding Boom Cards to my classroom routine has allowed easier, more effective differentiation for my students. Better yet, they have made it simple to meet the quirky nature of my students without sending me to the poor(er) house. My classroom hums along nicely, which means I can too.
“I think autumn is such a wonderful time of year! It is so easy to find ways to make learning fun for our students. The changing leaves and shorter days provide the perfect opportunity for science discussions. Candy collected on Halloween can be used for graphing activities, and the vibrant hues of autumn are the perfect inspiration for artistic creations. Halloween-themed task cards on Boom Learning are also sure to motivate students to engage in learning and practice!”
The ghouls have been working hard in the pits of code. They’ve put together tricks and treats for your Booming pleasure.
In the Library view for a deck, you have new options now. You can take a number of actions, including contacting an author with general feedback.
Don’t forget to take some time and “Rate” products you use. “Contact Author” is a private conversation between you and the deck author. “Rate” is a public review of the product. The “Feedback” option in deck play is also private. Use it to comment on a particular card.
“Delete” will remove a product entirely. Choose wisely as you will need to repurchase any product you delete.
Report Sorting and Data Resets
In the Reports view accessible from the Library you can now sort using the header fields. Below I’ve sorted by the number incorrect, but you can sort by any of the bolded title fields.
“Reset All Data” does just that. It wipes out all student data recorded to date and resets the deck as if students had never taken it. Choose wisely, you can’t recover the data once deleted.
The “Caption Pic” widget in the studio is the one to use when you want to have a specific word stay with a specific picture when randomizing.
The Fractions widget gives you a jump start on formatting fractions. Both are “container” widgets that combine elements of other widgets.
You can direct your students to Boom.Cards for simplified login. You can also post Fast Pin or Hyperplay links (available in the Library) in your LMS to take your students directly to their assignments. Although the video is titled Boom Cards + Google Classroom, you can use the tips in it about Fast Pins and Hyperplay links in any LMS.
Your students probably already know about this, but in case you don’t: students can now choose from a selection of avatars that includes some … hipper versions.
While younger students are getting into the swing of curriculum, older college-bound students are doing final preparations for SAT and ACT scores. Prep courses, practice tests, and flashcards are all useful tools in preparing to take a college entrance course. Boom Cards resources provide on-the-go practice (available on iOS, Android or Kindle) for students preparing for these tests.
Here are some specific resource collections to help your students prepare.
A variety of materials is available for the student who needs to extend understanding of areas of social studies, history, science, and the humanities to have the foundations to perform expected critical analysis.
Beyond test prep courses, test prep booklets, Boom Cards supplements, flashcards and other tools, make sure students also develop habits to make studying effective: prioritizing quality sleep, regular exercise, and a distraction-free studying environment. Attention to these preconditions for success will make enable students to get better results from their preparations.
Today we are talking with Amy Brown Science, The Lab (Liezel), and Kristin Lee Resources about combining technology with hands-on science instruction in secondary. Science teaching resources are among Boom Cards top sellers!
What is your favorite part about teaching science in secondary?
Kristin: The best part about teaching middle school is seeing how much growth there can be in such a short time. They come to you a little unsure about themselves and what this new experience will hold for them – and you get to watch them grow more confident and sassy every day! They grow into these funny, independent, whole people right in front of you. Teaching them science is amazing because you can see it absolutely ignite some of them, the way it did for me back then.
Liezel: One thing that I love about teaching high school is being able to go into more detail in the lessons. High school students are amazing to work with. My students are mature, motivated and hard working. They love to really explore the topic we are studying and always come and share examples and stories that they have found.
Amy: I have always been a high school teacher of mostly juniors and seniors. I love teaching this age group because they are at a point in their lives where anything is possible. They act all grown up and so sure of themselves, but they still love a compliment, a smile, and a hug just like they did in Kindergarten! Juniors and seniors suddenly realize they have decisions to make about universities and majors, and that they will soon be on their own. It is an honor to help guide them through these times of their lives.
Science is such a hands-on field. How do you incorporate virtual learning into your teaching without losing the hands-on aspect?
Amy: I am by far the oldest in this conversation. As a result, I have seen many strategies come and go over the years. An effective teacher does not use one strategy exclusively. Teaching requires an arsenal of techniques and tools, and multiple ways of implementing them. Virtual learning is just one more tool in my teaching arsenal. My students are in the lab at least once, but usually twice, a week. Nothing will ever replace the hands-on labs I do with my students. Virtual learning gives me another way to teach, review and reinforce the concepts I already teach.
Kristin: Like Amy said, it’s important not to rely on a single teaching tool too heavily. The more tools you can use to build knowledge on a topic, the more multi-faceted your teaching will be. Technology has opened up avenues of learning I hadn’t thought were possible! It will become increasingly important as our students come to us more tech-savvy and connected than ever – just not as a replacement for a hands-on lab experiment, dissection, or engineering challenge.
Liezel: I teach in a very small school (only 19 high school students) so it is not always possible to do practical work for all topics due to limited resources. Virtual labs, etc. are crucial to overcoming this problem.
What are some of the ways you have used Boom Cards decks with your students?
Liezel: I mainly use them for review work before exams. My students are currently busy with their Cambridge exams and Boom Cards decks are perfect for them to go through topics at home, identify problems and then come to me for help. They are now sending me requests for decks that they want!
Amy: One thing I love about Boom Cards decks is that I can assign them for homework. Students hate homework, and many of them never complete it. Students like the idea of virtual homework because they are already on their mobile devices anyway, and it is a unique way of assigning homework.
Kristin: I’m not currently in the classroom, I’m home with my young son. But until I get back, I am really excited to start using Boom Cards decks with my tutoring students! They are great for test prep and review, to assess prior knowledge, and to gauge the effectiveness of my tutoring. I also include them in nearly all of my middle school science units to serve several different functions; some reinforce science vocabulary, some assess concept comprehension, and I’m even working on some that will deliver content in a student-led capacity. There are so many possibilities!
What is the most exciting thing that ever happened to you in a science classroom?
Amy Brown: My high school and another high school a few miles away are big rivals. We have a competition between the two schools called “Battle of the Brains.” Students are required to identify an ecological problem and develop a possible solution to the problem. My proudest moments as a teacher is seeing the amazing ideas that come from my students. They believe that anything is possible!
Liezel: I will never forget the day that my science teacher showed us the properties of alkali metals. He took a big piece of potassium and threw it into a pond. From an ecological point of view, probably not a good idea, but it made for an awesome chemistry lesson!
Kristin: My first year teaching was in 8th grade science. Eighth-grade students, in particular, presented lots of challenges on top of first-year teaching struggles. Their time and focus are being pulled in many different directions as they prepared for a big transition to high school. I wasn’t feeling like a particularly effective teacher by the end of the year, but I returned from the graduation ceremony to find a note on my desk. A student wanted me to know what a great year she’d had, and how she felt empowered to pursue a career in the STEM field. I always hope I’ll run into her one day so I can tell her that she empowered me and maybe the reason I didn’t quit teaching after that first year! I’d love an update on how she’s doing.
Get started with Boom Cards self-grading homework by trying a science FREEBIE today!
Amy Brown resides in Tennessee. She is married to her husband of 35 years and has two incredible daughters. Amy loves nature, the environment, and tries to spend as much time as possible outdoors. She loves to travel with her family to national parks and other outdoor locations, trips which her family lovingly refer to as “Mom Adventures.” Amy has 31 years of teaching experience in the biology and chemistry classrooms. She joined Teachers Pay Teachers as a teacher-author in 2006, shortly after the site was launched. She recently started making interactive Boom Cards products. Amy’s hands-on approach to teaching science instills a love of science and nature in her students and encourages them to make science a part of their everyday lives. In Amy’s words, “I just love to get kids hooked on science!” For more teaching tips and ideas about how to make science come alive in your classroom, visit Amy on her blog, AmyBrownScience.com. You can also keep up with Amy’s activities on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram.
Kristin Lee combines creativity and scientific literacy to craft classroom materials to support students and teachers in their science classrooms. Prior to launching her online teacher-author business, she spent many years working in education outside of Chicago, IL. When not creating new ways to get kids hooked on science, Kristin enjoys playing with her young son, technology, and other wibbly wobbly timey-wimey stuff. You can find her on Boom Learning, TeachersPayTeachers, Pinterest, Instagram, and her website KristinLeeResources.com.
Liezel Pienaar lives in Somerset West, South Africa. It is about 40 km from Cape Town. Shee has a degree in Biochemistry and have been teaching for 15 years. She met er husband while they were both working in the UK. They have a 5-year-old daughter, Maja, and a Jack Russell Terrier named Milo. She teaches Biology, Chemistry, Geography, and Maths at a Montessori school situated on a wine estate! It is one of the most beautiful places in the world, with the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other. Her husband is the Facilities Manager and my daughter attends the pre-school. “It is amazing to all come to the same place every day.” Liezel authors science resources as The Lab on Boom Learning and Teachers Pay Teachers. You can follow her on Instagram (@thelab_by_liezelpienaar), Facebook and in her newsletter.
“In kindergarten, our kids need a variety of practice with learning math skills. It may take multiple months for kids to become secure in their understanding of counting and cardinality. By using seasonal resources we can keep the lessons exciting and engaging. Although the skills remain the same, by using seasonal themes the lessons feel different. ” Della Larsen.
When a child is at standard a teacher’s work is done. Correct?
The work is done when a student is proficient, you know, able to respond correctly, quickly and without hesitation. At that point, the concept has been so deeply ingrained that only a wee bit of brainpower is needed to retrieve the knowledge. That means more oomph to learn new things!
Proficiency training is for everyone. Seniors maintain or build connections. Career changers revive atrophied proficiencies or develop them for the first time. Middle school and high school students remove barriers to tackling advanced materials. Upper elementary students solidify math facts and word attack skills. Primary students need to learn, learn, learn!
Proficiency for the Win
Proficient learners have several advantages over non-proficient learners.
Less easily distracted.
More brainpower to apply to new tasks.
These advantages are particularly apparent when students tackle tasks for which the proficient skill or knowledge is a component.
What are some examples of proficiency?
The ability to read aloud without conscious attention to adding expression.
The ability to recall and apply a math fact when performing advanced operations without hesitation.
The ability to drive from home to school without having to think about each turn and stop.
Overtraining without Injury
How do you get to proficiency? Overtraining.
What is the downside of overtraining? Boredom.
Sustained, ongoing practice of materials can get dull. Learners need to practice a skill when it is taught, and at regular intervals. Research shows that materials must be studied for three to four years to get 50 years of retention. Otherwise, the skill is lost within three to four years. Yipes!
Variation for the Win
Offering the same lesson in novel variations, ranging from theme to answer types, builds proficiency without turning students away from learning. With Boom Cards decks, you can find resources ranging in skill level from simple single answer multiple choice, to drag and drop, to multiple response, to fill in, allowing you to gradually increase the challenge and vary the presentation.
At this time of year, there are an abundance of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and fall-themed Boom Cards resources available. “My students always get so excited when October comes in anticipation of Halloween! I like to direct that enthusiasm by creating Halloween themed activities for them,” says Boom Cards author and teacher Linda Post.
Sheila Cantonwine finds that students can be excited and distracted during the holiday season. She uses themed resources to keep them on track academically while spiraling math topics and providing more practice where needed. With Boom Learning’s reporting tools, teachers can see if the students are gaining proficiency.
Read about resources for K-Middle School in our newsletter or shop our store for current seasonal items.
Novel studies are a traditional, yet sometimes controversial, classroom practice. Why should teachers do novel studies in their classrooms? There are several reasons why I believe it is important to incorporate novel studies, but first, let me tell you when and why I became adamant that novel studies would be an important part of my daily classroom routine!
Why I Believe in the Power of Novel Studies
I taught first grade for many years. My favorite part of the day was the morning read aloud and book discussions. I love reading to students and engaging them in wonderful stories. Then I was moved to second grade, and I had trouble selecting stories that they probably had not heard repeatedly. Although there is a great benefit in hearing the stories repeatedly, we all know that we enjoy that first reading much more.
After just two years in second, I was moved to third grade! The DREADED testing year! My principal told me from the beginning that this was the year that made kids HATE to read! And once I got into the curriculum, I could see why!!! All the testing and boring short stories and passages…. ICK!!!!
I quickly decided that I would strive to engage my students in wonderful novels and series in which they would become hooked on characters, experience emotions, and thrive on the suspense. Since that time, I have been creating novel studies for my students that I use in a variety of ways.
My students have been welcomed into third grade and comforted by the story of Suds in Third Grade Angels. They experienced his emotion as he strived to be perfect, fell short of the goal, and accepted the outcome without giving up. This novel helped build community in the classroom and establish a growth mindset as well.
Currently, my students are experiencing the sheer joy of life that Wilbur has as he builds friendships in Mr. Zuckerman’s barn. They are left in suspense at the end of almost every chapter, eager to learn about the next adventure or the next word that Charlotte will craft for her dear friend. My students are also building vocabulary and learning to use context clues for decoding… and they enjoy it in the novel study!
When you see students enjoy books like this, and even ask to take the book home to read on ahead, you know you are doing the right thing!
Why do whole group novel studies?
There are educators who don’t approve of the whole group novel study, as it is cumbersome and they believe that “for students who struggle with reading, it doesn’t help them be more confident. For those that do not struggle, it limits their reading experience in school.” However as noted, “there is powerful learning—academic, social, and personal—that can happen when a community of students experiences the world of a novel together and studies it” says Ariel Sacks on EdWeek. I believe in that powerful learning of the whole group novel study and harness it periodically throughout the year.
Boom Learning aside: One of our accelerated readers would read an advanced book and listen to the novel study. The other would draw and listen. Both expanded their reading choices through exposure to genres they would not have chosen themselves.
The most important teaching strategy with whole group novels is that you provide the right level of support for each student. In the beginning of the year, I just read the novel to the students and have them follow along. We do the questions as a group while I teach them to refer back to the text for answers. After that, I would have students who are independent with that book level read it on their own, readers who are instructional with that level would meet briefly with me for any needed clarification and to summarize for me, while readers who would greatly struggle at that level would require me reading it to them. There would be no round robin reading in the whole group setting!
Benefits of Novel Studies:
Builds community in the classroom.
Engaging characters and plots keep students interested in reading.
Develops vocabulary and decoding skills.
Helps build stamina.
Expose students to different emotions, experiences, and environments to build compassion and background knowledge.
Develops writing skills by studying the author’s craft.
Can novel studies be used in guided reading?
Incorporating novels as part of your guided reading is another way to help establish a love of reading. Using novels, instead of basals, passages, or leveled readers, keeps your students interested and wanting to read more. Debbie Diller suggests that teachers “choose a book for small group that is at students’ instructional level.”
In the guided reading model, you create small groups based on ability and choose a text at their instructional level. The teacher introduces the novel and then listens to individuals read from their copy of the text, prompting students to integrate their reading processes. Finally, the teacher will engage students in a discussion about the text. When using a novel, my small groups read one chapter or an average of about ten pages in one sitting.
Making the Most of Your Novel Study
My novel studies are planned in advance with Boom Cards questions ready to go.
You can easily check student progress and monitor comprehension with the Boom Learning teacher dashboard.
Students enjoy the digital platform and the Boom Cards moveable pieces keep students engaged and focused, rather than just clicking an answer and going on.
Students earn coins, gems, and pulses for correct answers. Teachers can develop a reward system for the points earned playing Boom Cards novel studies.
There are six comprehension questions for each chapter (short chapters are sometimes combined) that provide vocabulary, context clue, and comprehension skill practice.
The questions are text dependent, rigorous, and common core standard based.
The questions are great practice for end-of-year standardized testing.
In the beginning of the year, I use these novels as read alouds and let the students follow along. I do the first one or two Boom Cards decks with them following each chapter so that they understand the format, and so that I can teach them how to search the text for answers. Try out the first deck for Charlottes’ Web FREE!
Once I have done some beginning of the year testing, I have student reading levels and am able to group them. Then I select a novel at their instructional level. See my reading rotation schedule and when I meet with groups by clicking here. On Book Club days, students meet without me and read a chapter with their group. They are allowed to help each other with the Boom Card questions as I want them talking about it and searching the text together. On Meet with Teacher days, I start our time by asking the students to summarize the book and tell me about the setting, characters, problems, and possible solutions. Then, I will address any commonly missed questions from the Boom Card decks that they have completed thus far. Before reading, I ask if students have any questions for me about the story. Next, students take turns reading from the next chapter. Finally, I may do discussion questions with them or guide them through the boom deck for that chapter.
Students will continue to read the novel until they are done. Upon completion of the novel, I give students the opportunity to be creative and collaborate on a concluding project such as a booksnap or Give me 5.
I always start new novels on the group’s Meet with Teacher day so that I can introduce the novel and build anticipation with the group.
Novel Studies for a Lifelong Love of Reading
Are you ready to give novel studies a try? You can help your students develop a lifelong love of reading and improve their comprehension and test-taking skills at the same time. Don’t let boring passages and testing ruin reading for them. Try a chapter of Boom Cards forThe Chocolate Touch FREE!
Teaching reading is extremely rewarding. Seeing the delight in children’s eyes when they discover new ideas, new people, and new worlds is an extreme joy for me. The goal in teaching reading is to help students develop a connection to the text and understand the meaning the author is trying to convey. The best way I have found to do this is to use a balanced approach in teaching reading by incorporating auditory training, decoding skills, and whole language.
Children first respond to literature when it is read to them. Parents snuggling up with their children before bedtime is usually the first time children are introduced to reading. It helps children realize that the words on the page can come alive in an expressive way. This experience can be extended in the classroom using story time and “listen to reading” centers with books on tape or CD, and even some on video. Audio books can also be found in libraries, and even in online resources, such as mycapstonelibrary.com or storylineonline.net. Listening to reading benefits all readers and even nonreaders by:
modeling fluid reading,
introducing new vocabulary,
developing critical listening skills,
demonstrating expressive reading,
introducing students to books that are above their reading levels,
providing a bridge for discussions of new ideas, and
and introducing new genres that students might not have normally considered.
Once children understand the benefit of reading, they need to be taught decoding skills. Phonics is a series of rules that should be taught incrementally. After rules are taught, students need to be given time to practice using those rules. Using skill sheets or games are good. Many of these can be found on boomleaning.com and teacherspayteacher.com. After learning some phonics rules, students need short reading selections that highlight the rules that have been taught. This helps them to feel successful.
I feel it is important to have rules presented in a story that is short enough so that students don’t get fatigued, but long enough that the story makes sense. Rock ‘N Learn has developed Boom Cards stories in which students can practice using the phonics skills they’ve been taught, and then check themselves by pressing a blue play button to have the sentence read. If children are having difficulty with particular words they can tap each word to hear it read aloud. Words that cannot be sounded out using the rules are taught at the beginning of each story and are called memory words. These Phonics Easy Reader Boom Cards can be used as an intermediate step if a child is not quite ready to read independently.
Boom Cards decks are an excellent solution for both teachers and parents because they are device agnostic. This means that virtually any device with a browser can run these interactive digital stories and lessons.
Today we are talking with Karen Busch and Belinda Vickers Givens.
Boom: Technology has entered the classroom with a vengeance. What has been your experience with technology in the classroom?
Karen: Without prioritizing technology funding, you can’t successfully integrate technology. My last year in the classroom was 2014-2015. My kindergarten classroom had three desktop computers and a smartboard that was no longer smart due to an installation error. We had one computer lab for just under 1,000 students. Kindergarten to third classrooms could sign up for once-a-week 30-minute lab sessions. Fourth through sixth shared a rolling lab.
When our kids had to take NWEA Maps tests, the computer lab would be unavailable for three weeks to accommodate all the classrooms. The first two times our kinders took the test was really hard. The kids had no idea how to drag and drop or which mouse button to click. It took forever to get them all logged in. School had just started and they couldn’t even recognize the letters in their name yet.
The year I left, we adopted My Math. The presenter showed us how you could use a tablet and smartboard to monitor and teach while walking around the classroom. We all sighed. A district representative was in the room and we begged her… can’t we AT LEAST get ONE teacher tablet per classroom? The answer was, simply, “There is no money for that at this time.”
Belinda: I currently work as a Speech Teletherapist which allows me to remotely serve students PK-12 via a secure internet connection. When I was in the public school setting, I LOVED incorporating technology into my therapy sessions but was limited to the use of my iPad. Now that my students are being seen via the computer, the sky is the limit when it comes to technology. I personally have been busy creating fun, engaging, interactive digital materials to use within a teletherapy platform. I find that when I incorporate the interests of my students into our sessions, outcomes are better, so everything I create is inspired by my students and used during our sessions. Teletherapy is a growing service delivery model and for this reason, there is certainly an increasing demand for digital resources.
Boom: Why should schools prioritize technology adoption?
Karen: Kids are comfortable with touch screen technology. They’re always using their parents’ and older siblings’ smart phone or tablet. Additionally, we didn’t like being tied down to the front of the classroom. We wanted the freedom to walk amongst our students while teaching and displaying on the smart board.
Belinda: I want what’s best for my students. In the 21st-century classroom, technology is an absolute must to effectively prepare our students for careers. The reality is kids love technology and I use this to my advantage. Learning should be fun, engaging, and challenging. I’m able to keep my students engaged and capitalize on their strengths while addressing their weakness through the use of technology.
Boom: Karen, based on your experience, what shouldn’t schools do?
Karen: They shouldn’t prevent teachers from using technology. We couldn’t even use our personal tablets because our district blocked us from connecting ANYTHING, even our cell phones, to their internet Wi-Fi. We can’t teach our kids how to use a mouse, a keyboard, or how to navigate online or inside apps or web pages without access to computers. My district let their teachers and, more importantly, their students down.
Boom: Belinda, you have students who must have technology to participate. How do you use that to improve outcomes?
Belinda: I have a number of “go to” apps in my inventory and in the past, I would utilize iPads to incorporate them into my face-to-face sessions. Now through the use of teletherapy platforms, I’m less limited and I’m able to share my screen with my students to use a wide variety of educational apps. When my students are engaged, their outcomes are always better. When I customize my sessions to incorporate their interests, I have seen increased gains in a shorter amount of time.
Boom: Both of you have recently started creating Boom Cards teaching resources. What needs do you think they meet?
Karen: I think they meet the need of having kids get the practice and intervention they need with immediate feedback. If my district had enough PCs for all students, then Boom Cards would also meet the needs of allowing my students to practice drag and drop and which button to click with the mouse when selecting an answer.
Belinda: Boom Cards are a fun, interactive way to engage my students. Not to mention that they are self-grading and fully customizable! I can address so many targets and my students really enjoy them.
Boom: Karen, if you were in the classroom today, how would you use Boom Cards?
Karen: I would use them on the desktop PCs when we visited the computer lab once weekly. I would also use them on my smart board and allow kids to take turns selecting the answers by using my laptop which was hooked up to the board. Ideally, I would have enough desktops, tablets, or other devices in the classroom to have at least a group of five or more kids using the Boom Cards during RTI to work on their individual needs. I miss the classroom.
Belinda is a Speech Language Pathologist. Practicing for 11 years, she is licensed in Florida, California, Washington, and Vermont. She currently is a teletherapist serving pre-K to twelfth-grade students. She is the co-owner of Infinity Rehabilitation, LLC and the creator and owner of BVG SLP, which creates digital therapy materials for use either for teletherapy or face-to-face therapy. Passionate about literacy, Belinda wrote The Adventures of Demdem the Garbage Truck: Watch Out For the Bumps. You can get her Boom Cards decks at a discount with her bundle.
Karen Busch taught elementary for 16 years at three different schools within the same large district in Southern California Her principal wanted more non-fiction reading activities. Karen found the five and six years old in her kindergarten class didn’t have the attention span to sit through a non-fiction read aloud. Determined to meet their needs, Karen would create easy-to-read non-fiction Powerpoint slide shows for her students to read each day in class. Her team loved them so much they urged her to open a store at Teachers Pay Teachers and sell them. Although this is her third year out of the classroom, creating helps her stay connected to teaching. She has recently started creating Boom Cards resources. For fall, try her Beginning Sounds October theme (includes sounds).
If you are anything like me, you see something new and inspiring and you instantly try to figure out how to incorporate that into your classroom. We all want to offer our students the best we can. Now in the age of social media, we can glimpse into thousands of classrooms every day. I don’t know about you but this can both be inspiring and downright overwhelming.
This spring our district was offering a series of book studies and I of course hopped in both! Reading a good professional development book can refresh you and leave you ready for action. July hit and I looked over at my stack of personal and PD books and decided to take Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom by Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke with me on our first summer trip. Though I may have been looking forward to the quick summer read I also brought along, I decided to give Amplify a go. I am so glad that I did.
You Don’t Have to Do It All, Even Though You’ll Want To!
I will let you know I consider myself to be pretty “tech savvy” and up to date on most educational trends. But, within each chapter I found new tools, approaches and activities. This is when I got out my favorite flare pens and started jotting down all the new approaches I was going to somehow incorporate into my classroom. I mean who wouldn’t want to set up a recording booth that allows readers of all levels to review the latest book they’ve read? And that was only Chapter One! As I read deeper into the text what I found was less of the “big ideas” and more on how I can make technology work in my classroom: ME… not my teammate, not the tech leader at the school, me. WOW, that was refreshing, what do you mean I don’t have to do it all?
So, this is what made this book different for me than many of the others I have read. The authors ask you to foster your own “growth mindset” and learn along with your students while simultaneously telling you not to do everything. …“just because we can do something innovative, doesn’t always mean we should.” Implementing technology into our classrooms is important, but we should do it in a way that is meaningful to our students and, frankly, to us. Within each chapter, Amplify reminds the reader of the importance of literacy, critical thinking and independence and how, within these foundations, we can incorporate technology.
Growing Your Technology Mindset
Each chapter has a focus that will support your growing development as a teacher and learner of technology. A few examples are “Developing a Mindset for Technology”, “Connecting Technology to Existing Classroom Practice” or “Foundational Lessons for Independence.” Each chapter provides multiple avenues to reach the goal set forth. Depending on your experience level, there is an option for you and an option to try something out of your comfort zone. Real-life stories and examples are shared as well as additional resources to take your learning further. At the end of each chapter are “three things to try tomorrow.” These were things we, yeah I said we, can do!
For example, in Chapter Two the reader is challenged to
“Set aside thirty minutes a week for you to discover and play,
Carve out classroom time for students to discover and play”
Sign up for a conference, webinar or Edcamp.”
Overall, Amplify will leave you feeling inspired and confident to hit the ground running with ideas that resonate with you. Whether it’s implementing the various activities or trying different approaches to teaching and learning technology, you will walk away knowing yourself better as a learner, leading you towards the best next steps in your journey.
My First Amplification: Tech Troubleshooting Mini-Lesson
One of the first items I am going to implement is a student-friendly resource for technology troubleshooting. If I can give my students tools they need to independently walk through basic issues, it can lead to more time in the actual program and an increase in their confidence. I plan to do a troubleshooting mini-lesson, review the different approaches to solving tech issues, and allow the kids to attempt each one. Front-loading this information will pay off for me. We have all been there: ten hands in the air and only one you or a kiddo who needs help at the tech center while you are leading a small group. Imagine how much further we could get in our lessons if students were empowered to independently take on basic fixes. You can get my printable resources for this mini-lesson free at Teachers Pay Teachers.
Kacie Brown sells teaching resources as Having Fun First on Boom Learning and Teachers Pay Teachers.
The Common Core standards place significant expectations on younger students to read and comprehend nonfiction texts. Struggling to find age appropriate material, Kacie Brown started writing her own products. She is now making her nonfiction texts for primary students (kindergarten, first, and second) available as Boom Cards decks, with built in comprehension checks.