Technology Archive
BreakoutEDU Review

Hi everyone!  It’s been a long summer since I’ve written, but it’s been so busy around these parts!  The Teacher Anchor has been flying out of my office and into the hands of teachers who are ready to have their best year yet!  As of right now, we have less than 100 left until we are sold out for the fourth year in a row!  Yahoo!

Also this summer, I taught my 9th course at the collegiate level.  I taught Integrated Literacy at a local university within their pre-service/in-service teachers education program.  Over the four years that I’ve been teaching in higher education, I’ve continued to try to introduce my students to new ideas, new resources, and new ways to build community and present content within their classroom.

Earlier this summer, a colleague told me about BreakoutEDU.  It’s like the Escape Game, but for the classroom!  “Breakout EDU games teach critical thinking, teamwork, complex problem solving, and can be used in all content areas.”  I just knew that I had to introduce it to my students who teach every subject and every grade from kindergarten through 8th.  So, here’s what you need to know before trying it in your classroom:


BreakoutEDU provides two ways to get your hands on a kit.  1. You can buy directly from their website  2. You can order everything individually off of Amazon.  When I priced out both options (and yes, I have Amazon Prime, so that helped), I found that the open source option came in at $20 cheaper, strictly because I didn’t have to pay $20 for shipping.  Otherwise, the cost of the kit and the cost of the supplies were almost identical.

Once you have your kit, you find a game that matches your age level, group size, and content area.  The idea is for students to use their research skills to learn more about a topic in order to unlock various locks throughout the game.  Once all of the locks (usually 3-4) have been opened, they have “escaped”.  The catch is that there is a 45 minute time limit, so it’s a race against the clock!  Here are an example of some of the games.  My class played Time Warp (we had 12 students).

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So, once you have all of the supplies that you need to play the game*, you can literally play ANY game!  This was the biggest benefit that I presented to my students.  As a teacher, we are so strapped for funds and supplies.  It’s nice to know that once you have all of the materials for one game, you have materials for them all.

*You must sign up for a Beta account in order to gain access to the password to unlock the games.  But I’ll preview Time Warp here!

Time Warp Game

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As you can see, you get a brief synopsis of the game.  I read this “story” to my students before starting.  Also included once you choose a game, is how to set up the room (see below… FYI this is not the full instructions, just a sample).

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I liked how explicit they were.  Not to mention, it was so quick to set up!  The entire process took me less than 30 minutes to prepare the room before my students arrived.  Also included with each game is an overview video.  This specifically walks you through the entire process and allows for you to visually see how the game will work.  I’m a visual person, so this was so awesome.  I probably watched it three times!

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Once the room was set up, I let my students come in.  I gave them a brief preview of what exactly BreakoutEDU was (since this was a teacher education course) and then I turned them loose!  I left out 8 hint cards and let them know that they had the option to use them if they got stuck.  Unlike the Escape Game that we play here in Nashville, there is no time penalty for asking for a hint.  For our students, they should be encouraged to ask for help during times when they are at an impasse and I really stressed that it wasn’t punitive.  Another great thing I love about this game!

My students ended up breaking out with 9 minutes to spare!  Afterwards we had a discussion from both an educator and student perspective.  What went wrong, what could they do next time, what was hard/easy, how would we use this in our classrooms, when would we use this during the year, etc.


A few notes:

  1. My students did NOT communicate enough.  I think this was a breakdown in the sense of community in the classroom.  I had two different groups of grad students in class (pre-service and TFA) and they gravitated towards their own cohort and didn’t intermingle with each other, despite this being the 8th week of class. 
  2. Because their communication was poor, they spent a lot of time on mundane tasks in the game.  So when they asked for a hint, the one I gave was to “TALK TO EACH OTHER!” 
  3. Students need to have access to technology for this to work.  Elements of the game included Google searching, emailing, and can even include a digital lock option (should you choose).  In classrooms where tech is limited, you may have to allow them to use your own personal smart device(s). 
  4. Reading comprehension also needs to be high for some of the tasks.  My students were reading a lot of advanced web pages and Wikipedia pages, which we know have higher reading comprehension.  Although there are games for elementary, I’m sure all of them include some type of reading/researching.  This would be a great culmination of a research unit where you taught appropriate research skills and activities to your students.

Overall, I LOVED this.  I plan on introducing it to my next class at the beginning, instead of the end.  I think that will help build a sense of community and encourage more communication.

I hope you’ll think about incorporating BreakoutEDU into your classroom!  What a great way to allow students to control their learning opportunities and increase collaboration and fun!





I’m trying to love… research projects.

Just kidding, I already love research projects.  🙂  But I’m always looking for new and wonderful ways to teach non-fiction in the classroom.  As we know, there’s already a strong non-fiction emphasis in the Common Core and local state standards.

In an excerpt from an Educational Leadership article (December 2012/January 2013 | Volume 70 | Number 4
Common Core: Now What? Pages 80-82), the author states that “one reason reading nonfiction may be so important is that it helps students develop their background knowledge, which itself accounts for as much as 33 percent of the variance in student achievement (Marzano, 2000). Background knowledge becomes more crucial in the later elementary grades, as students begin to read more content-specific textbooks (Young, Moss, & Cornwell, 2007) that often include headings, graphs, charts, and other text elements not often found in the narrative fiction they encountered in the lower grades” (Sanacore & Palumbo, 2009).

It’s important that we are incorporating non-fiction reading into our classrooms in an engaging and unique way, in order to capture the learners attention and get them interested in non-fiction for a lifetime!

One of my best colleagues, Sarah, came to me with this recent research project that she had done with her students during library time based off of the book, I’m Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton.  This story is told from the narratives point of view as she learns new facts about spiders in an effort to convince herself that she likes them… to no avail!


As the readers goes through the text, he/she is constantly learning the good, bad, and gross facts about spiders… and in a playful way!  Barton uses lots of non-fiction features such as labels, captions, and comparisons to engage the reader.  For example, when I read this to my 3 1/2 year old, he was able to relate (and laugh) at the fact that spiders don’t chew well – and neither does his sister!


So let me set up the lesson for you and how you can do this with your elementary students (K-6)!

Lesson Overview

This research lesson encompasses many of the Core anchor standards for Reading and Writing:


Key Ideas and Details:


Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Craft and Structure:

Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.


Text Types and Purposes:

Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

Grades K-2 Implementation

This project was done in whole group for Grades K-2 and individually for grades 3-6.  In the younger grades, upon reading the mentor text, I’m Trying to Love Spiders, the students then voted on topics to research.


Anchor Chart to show student group brainstorm session for research


Circle Map graphic organizers for each class were hung in the library throughout the duration of the project.

Students were put into small groups and encouraged to research their topics using various print and digital sources.  Some of my favorite digital resources for research include the Internet Public Library, World Book for Kids, and Wonderopolis)  Each student published the facts that they thought were most interesting.  In first and second grades, those students then chose one type of nonfiction text feature to publish along with their fact (a “feature” meaning a comparison, diagram/label, timeline, table, graph, etc). And they were compiled on one large “page”.



Grades 3-6 Implementation

The upper elementary grades read the mentor text with the teacher.  They then chose their own topics and used  World Book Encyclopedia online as well as online periodicals on the Tennessee Electronic Library to research.  Each class voted on how many facts and text features they thought were appropriate for one published page in the book.  Most classes agreed that around six “dash facts” and three to four nonfiction text features (want to know what a “dash fact” is?  Check out my Wonder Bubble unit here).  Each of their individual pages were compiled into one published class book that will be barcoded and circulated in the library.




Other mentor texts to use


Barton only has published, I’m Trying to Love Spiders, but there are other non-fiction mentor texts that can be used in a fun and cheeky alternative to basic non-fiction fact research.  Here are some of my new favorites and tried and true favorites as well:

I, Fly: The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are by Bridget Heos

What If A Shark Had a Party? by Alexsei Bitscoff and Camilia de la Bedoyere

I (Don’t) Like Snakes by Nicola Davies

The Disgusting Critters Series by Elise Gravel

What If You Had Animal… Series by Sandra Merkle

Earmuffs for Everyone by Megan McCarthy

The Fly Guy Presents… Series by Tedd Arnold

Diary Of A… series by Doreen Cronin

I’d love to see your student work if you try this in your classroom!  Tag me on Instagram @cjayneteach or tweet me @CJayne_Teach!  Also catch the replay of the Periscope I did on this topic where I preview all of the titles listed above.

Thanks for reading!


[All images in this post are copyrighted by the Author/Illustrator/Publisher.  Images of student work are copyrighted by Sarah Svarda and C. Jayne Teach, 2016 and may not be used without credit back to this original post.  All Right Reserved.]

Bad Kitty: Mentoring Students To Becoming Authors and Illustrators

[All images seen in this post are © Nick Bruel.  Purchase all the Bad Kitty books at]

Have you seen the new Bad Kitty book by Nick Bruel?  My friend Sarah introduced it to me (as she does for all good literature) and I was so excited about it!  My first graders LOVED Bad Kitty.  I couldn’t keep the series on the shelves.  And now Bad Kitty: Drawn to Trouble is the perfect book to use in your writers workshop for grades 1 and up.  I’ve outlined an amazing lesson that your students are sure to enjoy and of course I’ve aligned it to the CCSS for you.

Nick Bruel Author Study

To start this unit, I think it would be awesome to dive into a full on Nick Bruel author study.  You can find information about Nick here on the Bad Kitty site or visit his author page on Macmillian publishers.  I especially enjoy Nick’s interview with Bad Kitty herself and it would be great to share with your students to model what to do (or not to do) in an interview.  Also you can click on the image below to see a great trailer of the Bad Kitty Series to drum up interest in your students.  And you can stock your library with the previous nine Bad Kitty books too (the books range in GLE from 1-3)!  Plus check out the games and extras that would be perfect for another indoor recess activity or morning work!

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Once your students are familiar with Nick (and he seems like such a cool and friendly guy!) then you can introduce them to his latest book, Bad Kitty: Drawn to Trouble.   One thing I love about this book is that Nick is introducing all of the story elements in each chapter (see image below).  This allows for you to read the book together as a class, chapter by chapter, and stopping to discuss the story elements as you go.


Writing Activity

For first grade, I’d create a class book on the chart paper, but for 2nd and up, I think you can give them their own blank books and allow them to create their own stories.  As you work through Drawn to Trouble, you can discuss various story elements with your students such as: author, illustrator, protagonist, foreshadowing, setting, antagonist, plot, problem, solution, and the MacGuffin.  Wait.  What’s a MACGUFFIN?!?  Well, the MacGuffin is what a character in your story really wants.  Your students take control and decide where they want the story to be set, what the plot will be, who is causing problems and what their solution is, etc. all with Bad Kitty as their guide.  Look at the following image to see how Bruel uses his conversational style of writing to talk to the students.  The author is truly becoming the mentor in this situation, because it’s as though he’s sitting in your class, conferencing your students as they work.

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As you walk your students through the step by step story creation/publishing process, you can easily differentiate and scaffold their learning.  This set up really lends itself to the students authoring and illustrating a story at their level, plus as you conference with them one-on-one you are able to see which story elements they grasp and which ones they may need a little more help with.  As far as assessment goes, this could not be easier to take anecdotal notes as you meet with each writer and gently push them along in their process.

Sarah did this actual lesson with first and second graders at the Discovery School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  And she’s shared some of photos of the process they went through as they worked through the story elements as a group and also as individuals.

First up, the first graders wrote a class story together.  And they wanted to create their setting of their Bad Kitty story in the world of Minecraft!  With little prior knowledge about the topic, Sarah enlisted the help of the 5th graders to work on the illustrations.  This offered a unique opportunity for students to collaborate and the 5th graders were able to step into a mentoring role to the younger kids and work as the “experts”.


The continued to work on their book through the week.  Here are some additional examples:

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Some students were so excited about their class story, that they went home to create their own.  When they brought them back to school, they not only were able to share with the principal but also emailed them to Nick Bruel himself!  How wonderful (and exciting) is that?!

This story was written by a first grader.  Ah-mazing what personal interest can do to students writing skills, right?


Common Core Connection

This lesson hits a plethora of Common Core Standards too.  I’ve included the Anchor standards for Reading, Writing, and Language that all tie into this lesson, but more detailed in depth standards can be found at the grade level you will be working with.


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.


This is a great lesson to work on at this point in the school year because students writing is more developed, plus it allows students to be creative and work on something fun, all while learning the elements of a story.  And having a real author as your mentor is imperative as you model with your students of any age “what good writers do“.  So a big Thank YOU to Nick Bruel for his contributions to the world of reading AND writing.  You make our jobs just a tad easier.  😉



The Literacy Series: Part 2 (Comprehension, CCSS, and Technology)

Hello!  First thing’s first: congratulations to Brian Floca on his Caldecott medal for Locomotive!  I still feel like Mr. Tiger was robbed without even an honor mention, but I digress.

Next up is that things have been quiet on the blog for two reasons.  The first is that we are in the process of moving.  With the craziness that is buying/selling a house, blogging takes a backseat.  The second reason is that I decided that in 2014, I wasn’t going to limit myself to blogging x amount of times a week.  I want to only blog when I have some amazing things to share.  This way the content is rich and meaningful and not watered down just for the purpose of posting.  And luckily, today is a pretty awesome post!

As I prepped for the Lit class I’m teaching this semester, I started to thing about technology.  My 19 month old son can work an iPad like a pro.  What will he be like as a kindergartener?  A 4th grader?  When he’s in high school!?!  I can’t even imagine the limitless technology he’ll have on his hands.  I think it’s so important that students really learn to incorporate technology into their learning and as teachers we do them a disservice every time we don’t use a piece of technology.  But what does this look like in terms of literacy instruction?  I feel like in the world of the books we are so anti-technology at times that we really become our own worst enemy.  So I’ve compiled a few comprehension activities that tie into the Common Core standards and activities that use technology to synthesize student learning.

All these activities are centered around the theme of equality.  I always made equality and freedom our focus for February as we celebrated Black History Month.  In addition, it is a great time to also discuss the Civil War because of Lincoln’s birthday falling in February.  So the following activities will fall under the “Civil Rights and Equality” tag and are most appropriate for 4th grade and up.

Activate Prior Knowledge

Applicable Common Core Anchor Standards for Reading

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Applicable Common Core Anchor Standards for Writing

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

As you begin to study the Civil War (or any topic for that matter), you want to gauge what information your students already know.  For this, my suggestion is to play “My Favorite No“.  This pre-testing strategy (shared by my friend Karen) will help you plan where to begin your lesson from and also to help clear up any misconceptions that students may have before you begin.  The way it works is this: you propose a question to your students.  I like something broad and general (“What do you know about the Civil War?“) then they write down one answer anonymously on a slip of paper.  Once you collect these, sort them into correct and incorrect answers.  Out of the incorrect answers, choose your favorite.  Discuss with the class why this answer is your favorite no.  For example, let’s say a student writes down, “The Civil War was fought between England and the United States“.  This is a perfect opportunity to not only clarify for this student but also to begin to discuss the definition of a Civil War and how our own country was divided.  Also it lets you know that you can’t assume that they all know that this war was between the North and the South.  [this activity is originally done in math class, but it works wonderfully in literacy as well.  Check out the full video here.]

Once you’ve clarified their wrong thoughts or pre-conceived notions, it’s time to get your students to dive into the research.  What better way than to take a look at two different perspectives within the Civil War.  There are lots to choose from: the North v. the South, Abraham Lincoln v. Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee v. Ulysses S. Grant, or even Harriet Tubman v. the Slave Owners to name a few.  Ask your students to study and research each perspective.  A great book to model their research after is The Split History of the Civil War (part of the Perspectives Flip Book series.. an amazing series by Capstone that also includes titles on the Civil Rights Movement and the Battle of Gettysburg).


Have students write their own perspective flip books as they give the point of view of two separate sides of the era of the Civil War.  This activity will allow students to synthesize their information and for you to see how well they comprehend and present the information.  BUT don’t stop there!

You can take it a step further by having students create text messages or Instagram accounts for the two sides.  For example, here is a text message I created between Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant using the SMS text message generator.  I used what I knew about Civil War battles and each of their roles within the war to create the following text:

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And I saw this amazing blog post from Kleinspiration about creating Instagram accounts of historical figures (Erin Klein’s blog post is awesome and includes the free Instagram template too!).  But also, you could tie this in with your study of primary sources.  Students would need to use various websites to find primary sources from the time period.  Then use the photos to create an Instagram account of that historical figure.  I would take it a step further and ask students to create two opposing Instagram accounts that must include a geographic location, as well as a caption and additional comment to go along with their primary source.  See my example of Jefferson Davis’ (President of the Confederacy) Instagram account and the comment by Ulysses S. Grant (general of the Union army). InstagramAcct

Some of the primary sources websites I looked at for this topic were, The Civil War @ the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress Civil War archives, and the American Memory Project.  But there are lots more resources out there for you if you just start looking.

Also there is a great website called FakeBook that allows students to create their own fictitious Facebook accounts for historical figures, which may be something that they would really be interested in doing since some of your students may already have their own Facebook accounts.  Here is Abe Lincoln’s:

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If you want, you could even take out the writing piece that I suggested before the technology and use what the students write for their texts and Instagram comments as the writing portion.  But I never think extra writing is a bad thing, so I’d have them do both.  Plus you can get a better comprehensive idea of their comprehension level by looking at their research through their writing and their synthesis of information through the technology.

Digging Deeper

Applicable Common Core Anchor Standards for Reading

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

Applicable Common Core Anchor Standards for Writing

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Sometimes we need to get students to dig even further into the text.  My friend Sarah shared the Fishbowl activity and I was able to incorporate it into this theme.  The PDF of the activity is here, however, I used a different poem and extended the activity a tad further (read on…)

First, you choose a poem for students to analyze.  I chose “O Captain, My Captain” by Walt Whitman, written on the night of Lincoln’s assassination, five days after the Civil War had ended.  Here is some background about the poem from the Library of Congress website:

Whitman had lived in Washington for most of the war and was a great admirer of Lincoln, whom he felt embodied the American virtues of plain-spokenness, courage, and “horse-sense.”  Lincoln’s death inspired Whitman to write one of his most memorable works—a simple, three-stanza poem of sorrow that bore little resemblance to his other, more experimental writings. “O Captain! My Captain!” was published in New York’s Saturday Press in November of 1865, and was met with immediate acclaim. The poem’s evocation of triumph overshadowed by despair spoke to readers throughout the shattered nation, and it was widely reprinted and published in anthologies. “O Captain! My Captain!” became the most popular poem Whitman would ever write, and helped secure for him a position as one of the greatest American poets of the 19th century.

Have your students go through the fishbowl activity where they analyze the poem using the primary analysis tool and look critically at the poem.  Have them think about one question that will drive their discussion in the fishbowl: How does this poem express Whitman’s feelings about the culture of America post-Civil War?

Some guiding questions to further their discussion may be:

  • Explain the contrast between the sailor and the people on the dock.
  • Does Whitman think the country will heal from the wounds of the war?  Cite a line from the poem that supports your evidence.
  • “O Captain!  My Captain!” is an extended metaphor, as Whitman symbolically connects the death of the captain to the assassination of Lincoln.  What else do the following represent in the poem: “our fearful trip”, “the prize”, “the vessel”, “the swaying mass”?

Once the students have analyzed the poem, allow them to write their own pieces of poetry based on the research they have done about the Civil War.  OR use this poem to illustrate how Whitman was feeling after the end of the Civil War and have your students write a poem that reflects the feelings of the country after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 60s.  Have them continue to research this period of history as they use similes and metaphors to evoke mental imagery throughout their poem.

And as a fun side activity, to tie in the technology piece, have students play the game “Who’s Cell Phone is this?”  I love this activity because it dives deeper into the lives of prominent members of historical society.  It goes as follows: Choose a historical figure.  If you are extending the learning from the Civil Rights poetry your students have written, choose Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson or Rosa Parks as an example.  Complete the activity to show what would be on this person’s cell phone.  First, what wallpaper would be on their background (use those primary sources to help find photographs to use).  Explain why this image is important to this person.  Next, write two fictitious emails that this character just received.  Who would they be from?  What would they say?  Finally create a playlist of three songs that would be on this person’s iTunes.  Explain the reasoning behind your choices.

Here is an example of Scout Finch’s phone from To Kill A Mockingbird.  Although she is a fictional character, her message and cell phone would tie right in with this study of America in the pre/post Civil Rights Movement era.  It would even be fun to have students create their cell phones and have students guess who’s phone it was before they revealed the answer.

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[This activity was created by Laura Randazzo and can be purchased here.]

Again by synthesizing their learning and digging deeper into the content that we’re studying, we’re extending students comprehension and furthering their knowledge base.  And that’s precisely what the Common Core encourages us to do.

Questioning and Determining Importance

Applicable Common Core Anchor Standards for Writing

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Finally we want students to be able to take their questions and their research and organize it in a way that will determine importance to their audience.  Of course, I can’t say enough about the Wonder Bubble™ research project for any of the elementary grades.  It is the perfect unit to guide your students from wonder questions to full presentations that encompass all the features and elements of non-fiction.  But how can you pull in the technology piece?

QR codes!

QR codes are digital codes that you scan on your smart phone or tablet and it automatically takes you to a website or video or primary source!  It’s perfect for pairing with this type of assignment and can be used to further students research.

I used this QR code generator to create codes that fit perfectly with this Wonder Bubble™ about sharks.  Download a free QR scanner from the App Store and scan these (go ahead… these ones really work!)


Fun, right?  And you can add QR codes to any theme or topic wonder bubble.  Think of the possibilities you can tie in with QR codes for this our theme of “equality” – watch the “I have a dream” speech or listen to the Gettysburg address, see letters and telegrams that were sent during the Civil War, and watch real interviews from people who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement, including Rosa Parks.  The possibilities really are endless.

This second half of the year is the perfect time to incorporate some of these more detailed and research oriented projects.  It will prepare students for the state tests and allow them to have fun and be interested in the process.  Plus all of them lend themselves to the students presenting their research and synthesizing their learning.

Do you have other creative ways you tie in technology with comprehension strategies to teach the Common Core?  I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Happy Researching!

Social Media + Your Classroom = More Involvement

We live in quite the social media age.  If you are an “in-touch” teacher, you may be wondering how to incorporate social media into your classroom in a positive way.  You may also be wondering how to maximize the interaction between you and the parents of your students (or maybe even the students themselves).  School can be a place full of “extra stuff” like reminders, notes, forms, photos, and tons of parent-teacher communication.  Social media is a way to strengthen those parent/teacher lines of communication while also keeping them in the loop.  When I taught first grade, even some of my students had social media accounts*.  So it’s something that you can use at basically any age for either your students or their parents.  Here are some ways to use it to your advantage for both types of audience.

*I don’t advocate first graders having social media accounts, but it’s a fact.  All of these suggestions below, however, are more appropriate for you to use with the parents of your students or with your students if you are a middle school/high school teacher.


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[This is a fake account I created to show my college kiddos.  I was demonstrating the power of this social media tool in the classroom.  See the lock next to my name?  That means it’s private, so only those who I confirm can see my tweets.]

Twitter is a great way to get direct messages to parents and students immediately.  By signing up for a private Twitter account, you can have your parents or students subscribe to your Twitter feed to get reminders and updates.  Then all you have to do is tweet from your computer or your mobile device when you have a reminder or a message to relay to them.  This is also an invaluable tool in an emergency.  The town I used to teach in was hit by a tornado during my first year there.  Thank goodness we weren’t in school that day, but if we had been, I could have easily updated parents via Twitter that we were okay and were in our safe space.  It’s also a great way to post links to your class newsletter or class blog for them to easily click on and refer to. (Follow me on Twitter @CJayne_Teach)


When I was in the classroom, I had a class blog, but to be honest, I would post the newsletter and would often neglect to post photos.  It was a pain to upload them from my camera or my phone and I felt guilty that the parents weren’t seeing what awesome pics I took of their students in the classroom.  If only I had created a private class Instagram account!  Most teachers I know are snapping photos on their iPhones during an activity or lesson, when they want to take pics.  How awesome would it be to upload a few during your planning or at the end of the day for the parents of your students to see?  You could write a quick caption and allow for the parents to gain instant access to all of the fun!  Genius.  Plus, like Twitter, you can lock your account so you must approve people before they follow you.  This would allow you to only give access to the appropriate people.  (Follow me on Instagram @cjayneteach)


So if your parents or students aren’t tweeters or ‘grammers, don’t worry.  I’m almost 100% sure that they have a Facebook account.  Some teachers can opt to not do either of the first two options and put all of their reminders and photos directly into a private Facebook group.  I like Facebook for the reason that you can created a “closed” group or a “secret” group.  The difference is that both are private and people must be invited to join, however, a “secret” group would not show up on your NewsFeed or on your Timeline.  A closed group may.  So it can be extra secure, which is nice. (see image below)

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Facebook is good because you can post entire albums full of photos and not just one at a time, like Instagram does.  So if you took 95 pics at the pumpkin patch, go ahead and upload all of them!  Also Facebook has some cool features in their groups like “Ask a Question” where you could poll your students.  The “add an event” feature is where you could create a calendar event, such as the Valentines Day party, and it immediately gets added to the group members iCal.  You can add files and documents so that if you need to quickly get a document to your parents (like a flyer you forgot to pass out or the newsletter) then you can upload it right to the group.  And you can also add video which is fun!

The downside is that other members of the group can also post.  I believe that you can disable this feature (and I would) so that you can have complete control over the content.  Personally I think a Facebook group would give you the most subscribers, allow you to get the widest variety of content and media to them, and in the most compatible way.  You can see an example of my page below.  (And click here to like C. Jayne Teach on Facebook!)

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Remind 101

I’ve mentioned this app before, but Remind 101 is a really awesome tool to use.  We all know that I don’t recommend giving your cell phone number out.  So this tool allows for you to communicate with your class via text message without actually giving out your number.  Here’s how it works:  the parents text a number (that is provided by Remind 101 and is NOT your actual number).  They sign up by typing in your keyword (mine is @mrsverbic) and their full name, so you know who it is.  Once you have a full list of subscribers, text away!  They can get reminders and messages easily and immediately and this would also be really helpful in case of an emergency to get a hold of parents quickly.  But the best part is that they don’t have access to your cell phone or your free time otherwise.  🙂

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Here’s a sample of what Remind101 looks like on your phone:


I’m always anxious to hear how you use social media in the classroom.  So please comment below with any good suggestions!

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