How to choose the right format for your teaching resource

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If you are creating for your own students, following this guide will help you choose the right tool for the task. If you are creating for others, this will help you decide what tools to use for each piece of your overall project. It will also help you develop your Blue Ocean Strategy for your online store.


Step One Table of Contents

  1. Teaching Model/Resource Fit
  2. Choosing the Formats

First, Find the Format that Fits the Role in the Teaching Model

So many digital tools, so little time. You can port your resources to a variety of different formats, but before rushing to do so, ask yourself:

Where in a model of Effective Teaching does each piece I am creating belong?

This will help you determine if you have all the right pieces or whether something is missing from your project concept.

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Let’s say Secanda is creating materials to teach homonyms to second graders. She has made a funny video about homonym confusion, a series of worksheets for students to draw and write each homonym and its concept, and plans to add task cards for matching spelling to concept, and an assessment. Before she sits down to create, she maps them to the Effective Teaching Model.

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After pondering the model, Secanda decides to add a Teacher’s Guide for the novice teacher, and to create two additional deck of task cards: (1) to review first-grade homonyms and (2) to look ahead to higher level homonyms for the early finishers. Now she has addressed review and added cards to increase complexity. In her Teacher’s Guide she recommends her Greek and Latin root words resources for students who are ready for more.


Choosing Your Formats

After thinking about where what you plan to create fits in a model of effective teaching, you need to think about outside constraints. What resources and tools are available to you to make your resources? We’ll talk about video and sound in future installments. For today, we’ll discuss:

Is the format permitted with the clip art I want to use?

If you plan to share or sell your resources and you will be including purchased clip art, you have to choose a format that will meet the conditions of the license you purchased. For most formats (but not all), you will have to take steps to protect images you include from being easily copied or pay extra for a digital license.

Let’s say Secanda loves Melonheadz clip art. She reviews Melonheadz terms of use and discovers that

  • She needs to provide credit
  • Boom Cards usage is allowed with no additional steps or license
  • Downloadables for printing must have the content flattened and be in a locked pdf
  • PowerPoint and Smart Board usage requires that images be flattened as part of a background
  • Can’t be used in App Store apps, Facebook apps, or Tiny Tap apps

She’s not worried about the last item. But she realizes she needs to do some research about flattening and locking. She decides to investigate Boom Cards as an option.

Secanda also likes Glitter Meets Glue’s License. That license says

  • She needs to provide credit
  • Boom Cards usage is allowed (both moveable pieces and background)
  • Distribution in PowerPoint, Google Slides, and other files types requires that the image be inserted into the background so they cannot be lifted
  • Google Drive™ and Microsoft OneDrive™ moveable pieces usage is not allowed

She’s been learning about moveable pieces and is excited to create with them. She loves PowerPoint so plans to do more research on inserting images into the background. She knows some people are converting PowerPoints to Google Slides, but since she has elected to use Glitter Meets Glue images for this project, she decides to try that another day.

Before she moves on, she bookmarks several resources for future reference:

  1. How to export PowerPoint images to Boom Cards
  2. Creative Cloud at Adobe so she can purchase Adobe Acrobat as needed to flatten and secure images into the background
  3. Teaching in the Tongass’ instructions on how to use Adobe Acrobat Pro to flatten and secure the images
  4. Flat Pack for PowerPoint for when she wants to selectively flatten images in a PowerPoint
  5. Study All Knight’s Digital Express App for flattening her PowerPoints to import into Google Slides

Will the format work for my teacher user’s classroom?

After considering your resource constraints, you need to consider your teacher users tool limitations (remember your blue ocean strategy—serve your niche; not every niche). How do you expect your teacher users will use the materials?

  • Projected presentation?
  • Interactive whiteboard presentation?
  • Printed?
  • Print, copy, laminate?
  • Shared tablets?
  • Shared computers?
  • 1:1 computers?
  • Take home/at home devices?
  • Distance education via browser?

Secanda knows her customers are using interactive whiteboards and shared tablets. They are trying to reduce paper use.

Her friend Elem creates for upper elementary. His customers are using Windows netbooks shared with a second classroom. They are 1:1 for part of the day, but no take home use. They also have interactive whiteboards.

Elem’s wife Maddy creates for middle school. Her customers have 1:1 Chromebooks that they take home at night and over the weekend.

Pulling it all together for your project

Let’s look at each of our example teachers and how each might proceed:

Secanda decides to design in PowerPoint to have a consistent look between her task cards and her presentations. She does just the backgrounds for her task cards in PowerPoint and exports them as images to Boom Learning where she imports her moveable pieces and adds drop zones to create drag and drop tasks. She is so taken with making Boom Cards, that at the end creates a Boom Learning “teaching” deck that contains her funny video, an everyday language statement of the learning objective, a few cards to aid the teacher in presenting the material, along with a wrap-up card on meta-cognition skills for homonyms (how to use a dictionary).

Elem also likes Glitter Meets Glue. Some of his customers are die-hard fans of his PowerPoint games so he also plans to create in PowerPoint. After creating, he selectively flattens the clip art, leaving live the items that should be clickable and playable. Elem wants to reach new buyers looking for self-grading features and student reports. So after chatting with Secanda, he also exports his PowerPoints as images and creates Boom Cards versions of his resources. He knows his resources will be used for test prep. So he also prepares a teachers’ guide to explain how to use his decks with reports to selectively intervene using greek and latin root resources he created to correct homonym errors.

Maddy is all about open resources and DIY. She only uses free curriculum, images, free fonts, and prefers to create in Google Docs, using Slides, Docs, and Forms. Unfortunately, class sizes are growing at her school and performance is declining and she needs better information about where her students are struggling. Elem convinces her to give Boom Cards a try. She converts a Google Slides deck to Boom Cards. After importing, she adds text boxes, buttons and fill-in the blanks to enable self-grading. She assigns the deck to the whole class, having them screenshot the final screen. She takes the 5 worst performers and has them play the deck again as logged in students. She learns that three need practice with a few specific greek and latin roots, and assigns those materials improving their performance. Two others have challenges specifically with homophones. After further assessment, she recommends referral for evaluation of possible dyslexia.

Boom! Glorious Chaos Tamed

by Elizabeth Clarke, Poplin Elementary

The Differentiated Classroom

Highly Gifted Girl in SchoolA 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?).

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Student playing Order of Operations-No Exponents by The Big Kids’ Hall

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.

Here’s why:

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.


*Karpinski, Ruth I., et al. “High Intelligence: A Risk Factor for Psychological and Physiological Overexcitabilities.” Intelligence, 2017, doi:http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289616303324.