Common Sense Classroom

Putting Pedagogy in Practical Practice

Technology Rich Centers

Jennifer Saccoccio uses a variety of technology in her centers.

iPods – Students can listen to books and follow along with the text to  The students can also record themselves reading, then listen to monitor their own fluency. 

Use apps  for  concept reinforcement.  Use flashcards to build sight word vocabulary.  Can also download app to become a response systems.

iPads – can be used in the same way as touches as well as letter formation apps,  abc tracer app, eBooks, fluency work, and concept reinforce concepts taught in class.  Blog about the day’s activities.

Interactive Whiteboard – Target specific skill in interactive way, work cooperatively to complete a task.

Computers – focused tasks, these 2nd graders use twitter to collaboratively post stories.  Interact with other classrooms around the world with twitter.

Delicious pages (organizing safe sites)

Moodle courses – all the teachers on the campus use moodle, they do the course and moodle grades the questions for you.

Classroom Website or Blog – directed links for the students to practice classroom content.

Flip Cameras – Create a trailer for a book, create documentaries for social studies, and science; record reader’s theater; students record other students doing their work.

Teachers can use flip cameras to document student progress throuhg the year, to assess fluence, make your classroom transparent.  Create how-to videos for the parents to use.

Start slowly and build through the year. Train the students how to use the station correctly, then begin adding rotations as the students use it correctly.

Monitor iPod and iPad use

Computers – LanSchool/Remoter allows you to monitor what the students are doing on your monitor.  This can be downloaded on your ipad. Remoter allows you to control their screens.

Funding – Limeades for Learning, Grants, Digital Whishes or Donor’s Choose, Ebay

See Jennifer’s full lesson at the TATN site

Web 2.0 That Works

Stephanie Sandifer, @ssandifer in my twitter PLN presented this highly practical session on using web 2.0 tools within the frame work of the Marzano meta-research to make learning more powerful for students. 

All of her presentation info can be found on this wiki:

If you have a smart phone you might want to check out:

QR codes – bar code reader on your smart phone or device.


Gail Lovely – Talking With Digital Images

Gail Lovely presented another great and practical session on the powerful impact of digital images on learning.  Get cameras in the kids’ hands.

File movement is getting easier. 

Keep the originals separate from copies.  Have a folder of all of  the originals are located and never touch it.

One picture can unlock the memory of the entire event.  Pics can truly connect kids to content in a very powerful way.

Teacher Uses of Images in powerful ways

If you don’t own the image, you site the source, even if it is copyright free.

Awesome site: Check it out!

Modeling Math Problems with Prezi

Kimberly Long from Kerrville ISD has her 3rd grade students use Prezi to demonstrate their understanding of problem solving math problems. She was able to do this in a classroom with 2 computers by using the “each one, teach one” concept.  She trained the 1st student, then had each one train the next student that made a presentation.

Students were given blue prints for solving the problems and numbered the steps so they would be able to go back and make a plan for their presentation. Students enjoy using the zoom in feature in Prezi to make their presentations more dramatic.  Students had to learn how to create a graphic display plan for a presentation, then they make it into a Prezi.

Her lesson is available on the TATN website: Modeling Math Problems

1st Grade Video Tutorials

Jenny Davis from North Lamar ISD uses Microsoft Community Clips that is a finished project, but you can still install the software to use in your classroom with students.

Some tips:

Hold the microphone above the nose to avoid breath sounds!

Community Clips works like Jing, but I will have to check to see if we can use it with our district filters. You can’t stop and start recording in the same movie. These save as .wmv files. 

You can email the videos the kids make to the parents.  You can also post them to your webpage.  These videos show student understanding of concepts taught in class, and give the parents a window into the classroom. This is a great way for the kids to show what they know.

To see Jenny’s complete lesson plan at And the Star is…Your Students

ESL and MP3s

This was the 1st K-2 Session at the TATN Event at the TCEA @011 Conference in Austin, Texas.

Using the curriculum Teaching English Thru Action by Berertha Segal, DJ Sanders, from Fort Davis ISD works with ESL students to build their understanding of the  English Language.

Students take a picture of the vocabulary they have learned throught speak and do activities, as they have learned more English commands. Then they are put in a book, a little like a picture dictionary.  Students cut out printed lables of their pictures to put into their books.  These vocabulary books go home for reinforce vocabulary they are learning. Words are added to the pictures to add to their reading vocabulary.

Students also have downloaded songs about the content on their MP3 players for additional reinforcement. There are also stories that have been recorded on their MP3s to use as listening stations.

Students use Photo Story 3 to make a movie of their learned vocabulary, then it is installed on their MP3 player.  Student and teacher review the vocabulary and check for correct pronunciation.

The students have great success learning English vocabulary using this method. You can also observe students progress as they build English syntactical structures.

This was a great session with some very practical advice for helping second language learners acquire the English language.

You can see DJ’s complete lesson plan on the TATN Website.

Web 2.0 Wednesday PLC 3rd-5th 10-27-2010

Differentiation is the name of the game for this Web 2.0 Wednesday!

In an effort to make our Web 2.0 Wednesday PLC training as practical and powerful as possible, we will divide into two groups:

  • Guided Training Group – which will meet with Mrs. Gustin in Lab 806
  • Self-Extending Collaboration Group – which will meet in small cluster groups in Lab 807

The Guided Training Group will participate in the process of using animoto to create content area video reports with students.

The Self-Extending Collaboration Group will  explore the links to the free Web 2.0 sites found below.  You will discuss specific ways each of the sites can be used by students  to practice and apply understanding of  content area TEKS.  Make sure you go through the process of using the site, so you can help other teachers anticipate any challenges which may need to be overcome by students as they use the site.  Be sure to leave comments on this post sharing the ideas your groups have generated, and practical suggestions to help all teachers experience success when using these sites with students.

I hope that you find this week’s session practical and easily integrated into your classroom content.  Please leave a comment offering feedback and suggestions for making our future Web 2.0 Wednesdays even more powerful.  Thanks for all that you do to make WES the BEST!

Change a Mind, Change the World!

“Meet the Teacher Night” was an amazing success this year! I met the children, parents and some grandparents of all but three of the students on my new class roster.

As always, I became instantly enamored with my new crew.  I found myself daydreaming of the first day when we would all joyfully begin this year’s learning adventure!  As visions of excited, confident 1st grade munchkins danced through my head. . .what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a very reluctant little lady who was literally being dragged through the door by her infinitely patient mother.

This suspicious little cherub took one look around my room -  said, “I’m not doing this!” and ran right back out the door.  Admiration bloomed in my heart for this little mind speaking angel.  I thought to myself, “This one is going to be my very special little friend this year; if I can keep her in the classroom, that is.”

Ready or not, the first day of school came and went in all of its glory.  My special little friend kept a wary, watchful eye on me – daring me I suspect, to give her a reason to bolt for the door.  I cheerfully went about my quirky teacher business, entertaining the troops as we learned classroom procedures and dabbled in content for my sneaky preassessment purposes.  I kept myself positioned and poised for intercept,  should she make for the door.  I ended each day in relief that there was no escape attempt, yet.

As the 3rd day of school commenced, I passed out paper to let the kids have a go at a task I had just modeled.  My little cherub looked up at me, with eyes that had lost their haze of suspicion, and proclaimed loud enough for all the world (or at least everyone in our pod) to hear, “I know I can do this Mrs. Gustin. I can do anything you give me!”

I thought to myself, “I’ve got her! The sky’s the limit for this little girl, and it only took three days!” Little miracles like this are the reason I love my job.

I believe it was Samuel Clemens who said, “I can go for a month on a good compliment.”  The euphoria from this event will likely carry me through the rest of this school year,  if not longer.   There is no greater compliment or award that can even come close to measuring up to the gift this particular child has given me;   her trust.

What had changed for her?   What inspired this new confidence in her own ability to tackle the challenges of 1st grade?   Only one thing I can think of. . . her perception.

What is the moral of this story?  If you can change a mind, you can change the world - or at least your little part of it.

Happy Teaching My Friends!

Lovin’ My Personal Copy Code!

I received an administrative email today that made me shout for joy! All district employees were being assigned personal copy codes that are associated with our district email addresses.  Rarely does a district level email make me want to dance and sing, but this one absolutely made my day! I can’t tell you how long I have waited for personal copy codes. I am stoked!

I have often had the pleasure of serving on teams of teachers who have had very close personal relationships with the campus copy machine. As a result, when my teams have been admonished for the unreasonably high number of copies “we” have made, I’ve been lumped in with the rest of the “worksheet workaholics”. I’ve been silently miffed for quite some time about being held responsible for the number of copies made by others.

The number of copies I make in a typical week often averages less than 100 total.  Occasionally, on weeks when I run a few sets of blank graphic organizers, or book report templates, I may jump up into the 200 range; which seems like a lot of paper to me.  There have been many weeks when the 24 copies of our homework sheet for the week is the only set of copies I have made.  Honestly, if I thought I could get away with it, I probably wouldn’t even make those.

I’m afraid that over the years, I have become somewhat anti-worksheet in my philosophy of effective teaching practices. It’s not that there is anything inherently wrong with a well designed, TEKS focused, practice page; I’ve just found so many other more effective ways for my students to show evidence of their understanding of content area objectives that don’t require me to spend my valuable time waiting in the copy line.

It’s not really my intent here to criticize teachers who make a lot of copies. I’m sure that most teachers can offer a valid rationale for the number of copies they make on a daily basis.  It’s just that in a time when we are all being asked to be more conservative in our use of district resources, I’m thankful to have the opportunity to provide evidence that I’m doing my part toward “going green”.

I realize that the primary purpose for the personal copy codes is to facilitate all of the cool e-options we now have with our fabulous new networked copiers, but the fringe benefit of being able to hold individual teachers accountable for responsible usage of our district resources in the arena of copier usage is definitely the icing on my personal “copy cake”! ;-D

What are your thoughts?

iTouch…iLearn – Implementing the iPod Touch

Ashley Coffman, Kristi Bell and Emily Young from Mansfield ISD shared successes,  trials and tribulations as they have been implementing the ipod touch in their schools.

The PowerPoint presentation is at this link:

The ipod touch puts more powerful learning in the hands of the students.  They engage the students in active learning.  Facilitates all types of learning. This will help you grow closer to that 1:1 ratio with students that we all try to achieve.

They got the original touches with a grant award, and researched how the pods could be used to meet standards and increase student learning.  They went through a long process of identifying the best way to implement applications that could be downloaded that were not necessarily web-based.  You have to consider security, protecting  the equipment from being damaged. Testing all of the devices needed to be done, then teachers had to be trained how to use them.  All teachers received 6 hours of training on how to download apps. and use them for classroom instruction.  There was a lot of oversight and accountability for the use of the touches in the classroom.  They created a Ning for each grade level to share apps that work and don’t work and share strategies and support for the use of the touches with their students.

A link to the new TEA guidelines for a link to the new TEA guidelines for Technology in on a slide in the slide show.