Tiger TV and Hour of Code

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One of my favorite parts of the day at school is Tiger TV.  Tiger TV is my school’s morning news program.  The twist about our morning news program is that it is completely and totally run by our 5th graders!  It is an absolutely amazing production and the teacher that is in charge of heading the program up does an amazing job!

All of our fifth-graders rotate through working every job on our morning news program.  We have two anchors, two teleprompter operators, 2 camera operators, a board operator, a weather student, and two managers.  One of the managers is the floor manager and the other manager runs the computer.  

The two anchors deliver the news.  One of the teleprompter operators runs the mirroring teleprompter that we use for the anchors.  This teleprompter is displayed in mirror font and the operators job is to keep the words on the screen for the anchors to read.  The anchors read a screen directly in front of them – displayed on a mirror so the words are the correct way for them to read (rather than reversed).  The other teleprompter’s job is to put the weather forecast up and run the teleprompter for camera 2 (we don’t mirror this one due to the way our set is configured).  The camera talent is responsible for cueing the anchors and the talent using camera 2 (usually weather, pledgers, tech tip, etc) and responsible for greeting and placing the talent and guests when they come on Tiger TV.  The board operator controls the broadcast out the school. The weather student is responsible for getting the weather to broadcast and then they also are either assigned a scientific fact to discuss or they are allowed to pick their own fact to present.  The floor manager is responsible for directing the entire crew and the computer operator times all of the stories and puts the graphics up for our set (our entire production is green screened).  Both of our manager positions are on the crew for 2 crews – one in which they serve all of the other positions and then because of their leadership they are selected to be a manager for the next crew.  

When a new crew comes on, about every 21 days, they are trained by the crew leaving.  The new crew spends two days learning how to do all of the jobs on the set.  When the jobs are rotated on the current crew the students train each other on their next job (sounds confusing to write, hopefully it makes sense).  Our wonderful leader that manages the entire production writes the scripts and is the supervisor in the room each morning.

Our morning news program started as announcements over the intercom.  Then we got a camera and started with students standing in front of a podium delivering news and now we have an amazing morning production that grows each year!  We use Boinx Software to run our program and send it out to the school.  We had a pretty sharp learning curve with Boinx, but our Tiger TV coordinator has done an amazing job learning all that this software can do.

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It is amazing what Tiger TV accomplishes in a LIVE broadcast, every morning!  I am always in awe of what the kids can do.  It is completely kid run and the kids love it!  It is a requirement in our fifth-grade standards and our fifth-graders cannot wait for their turn on Tiger TV.  If you are interested in checking out more of our daily news show click here.

We used Tiger TV to kick-off our Hour of Code this week.  I do a weekly segment on Tiger TV, entitled Tech Tip.  Sometimes I include students in the tip and sometime I am just giving information.  It is a really nice way for me to talk about technology to the entire school.  We use this platform for a lot of digital citizenship discussions!  This week I had a panel of students that had already participated in the Hour of Code on Tiger TV discussing what they did and what they thought.  Take a look…

Our students, K-5, all participated in the Hour of Code this week, sponsored by Code.org.  The students have had a GREAT time learning to code!  Here is a short video we made with the students that participated on Monday.




iPads and Dyslexia (and just good apps!)

Dyslexia is a learning disability that causes students to be poor spellers, lack fluency in reading, have a hard time putting their thoughts down on paper, and have a hard time with names and dates.  Of course, these are just general guidelines that we look for when we suspect a student is dyslexic.  A formal psychological evaluation will lead to a formal diagnosis. 

The iPad is a great tool to help students with ALL of the difficulties associated with dyslexia.  If my son has to be dyslexic, I am so thankful that he is dyslexic in a time when iPads are so widely used and schools are allowing students to bring their own devices to school.  At the beginning of the school year my husband and I met with Eli’s teachers and the 2nd accomodation we put in his 504 plan was to be able to use his iPad in every class.  The 1st accomodation was extra time – we know from research that the single biggest factor that helps level the playing field for students is extra time on tests. 

Eli uses his iPad for every subject!  The best tool for Eli is the voice button on the iPad.  All Eli has to do is press the microphone on the keyboard and the iPad will turn what he says into typed messages.  This is extremely beneficial to students with dyslexia because students with dyslexia have a hard time getting their thoughts down on paper.  Dyslexics have WONDERFUL and CREATIVE ideas, but encoding them is extremely difficult.  Through the use of this feature of the iPad, Eli is able to dictate his ideas and then go back and edit them later.  The iPad will also playback anything that Eli has typed.  This way he can hear what the sentence should sound like.  Dyslexics have a hard time rereading their work and hearing errors because they are so used to compensating when reading for something to make sense, that if something is incorrect in a sentence – they just make it make sense in their mind.  That is one of their coping strategies (I hope that sentence makes sense to the reader – I understand what I am trying to say, but it is difficult to put into words!).

To use the speech to text feature of the iPad you only have to press the microphone on the screen when you are typing.

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To enable the iPad to read text you will need to go to settings – General – Accessibility…

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Then, go to Speak Selection…

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And finally, turn Speak Selection on…

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This one feature of the iPad has changed the way my son works and writes.  Now he can speak his ideas and they will freely flow from his brain to the iPad.  It does take some work getting used to enunciating clearly for the iPad to know what you are saying.  Generally, we have to edit some of his work, but that is easy compared to trying to write his ideas down!  He doesn’t use this feature in class, just when doing homework and working on papers.  I also want him to learn how to overcome his disability, but these features make writing for him much easier!

Another life saver for us is the app Read2go.  This is an amazing app that is supported by the website Bookshare.  Bookshare offers free audio books (newspapers, magazines, textbooks, etc) for anyone with a print disability.  All you have to do is supply a copy of your child’s or your own psychological that proves the disability.  The Read2go app plays all of the content off of the Bookshare site.  We use this app for ALL of Eli’s independent reading and anything he has to read from his textbook.  The app gives visual support as it reads by highlighting the text and the app reads the text.

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Another amazing app is the AppWriter US app.  This app is a word processing app that is specifically designed for dyslexics.  Students can type papers in this app.  The app allows students to take a picture of any text and the app will convert it to text.  The app has context word prediction and will read what has been typed.  If you couple this app with he text to speech function of the iPad, your student will feel significantly less stress about writing!  This app also claims to use a font this is supposed to help dyslexcis, but the research is very mixed on if that claim is true – the font has been around for many years.

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Another app that is a life saver for us is iMovie.  My son uses iMovie to study.  He creates movies about what he is learning.  This method of studying allows him to use his creativity but also is a great review of content.  I have put  couple of his movies below so you can see how he uses them to study.  The WW1 movie helped him study for a test and the Abe Lincoln movie he made in class rather than doing a paper/pencil assignment. 


Another app that we use quite often is iThoughts HD.  I find that Eli is extremely visual.  If I can show him how concepts go together rather than tell him, he is more likely to retain that information.  Below is an example of a mindmap that we made to help him write a paper.

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We also use iCard Sort to help him study.  We make decks of vocab words and their definitions.  Then we shake the iPad, which mixes up the cards and he has to match the words to the definitions.  The tactile nature of this method of studying helps him retain the information.   And now iCard sort allows pictures to be put on the cards, which makes it an even better app for studying!

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Finally, the last app we use a lot is Strip Designer.  This app makes comic strips.  Eli loves being creative and studying at the same time.  This app also allows him to use his visual memory by attaching pictures to concepts.

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These are the apps we use most for Eli but, I also use these apps all the time in my classroom and the students LOVE them!

Our Dyslexia Story…

Because October is Dyslexia Awareness month I wanted to share my own journey with Dyslexia, through my son and then share some fabulous apps that help my son with his work!

Our story started when my son was three.  I wasn’t a teacher then and didn’t know any of the signs of dyslexia (even though my sister, my dad and especially my granddad were all dyslexic).  My son’s speech was difficult to understand and we lived in TX at the time.  He had a hard time pronouncing words and my husband and I were the only ones that could understand him!  Our pediatrician referred us to the public school where we lived and they did a battery of tests on him and detected a phonological weakness.  He was setup to begin speech therapy at 3 years, but we were transferred to FL and he never started.  The public school in FL didn’t have the ability to do the speech therapy on him, so we just skipped it (big mistake – but we didn’t have the money to pursue private therapy).  He struggled with letter recognition in prek3 and prek4.  

The summer before kindergarten we moved to GA and enrolled Eli in the private school where I would be teaching.  He didn’t do well on entrance exam but they let him in.  Eli struggled with reading throughout kindergarten.  I helped him with flash cards of letter sounds, but he never picked it up and was never consistent with what he missed!  It was very frustrating and I am ashamed to say that he got yelled at a lot for “not trying” hard enough.  After Kindergarten we transferred him to the public school for a variety of reasons, but one of the most important was so that he could get speech services.  His IEP from TX was still good so the public school here had to honor it and we knew we needed to get him help.  At the time we didn’t know he was dyslexic, we just knew that he was struggling with sounds.

In first grade they called us in and told us Eli wasn’t reading well and they were going to give him targeted help through speech therapy and some RTI (Response to Intervention)work.  I continued to work with Eli at home and he progressed well.  My husband and I convinced ourselves he was fine.

At about the same time I was attending a professional development class, led my Brenda Fitzgerald, and she was discussing common reading difficulties.  She asked the class to think about the students in our class as she described a set of characteristics.  I was sitting in the back of the class and just started crying as she described a dyslexic child.  She called me out, from the front of the room and said, “You just thought of one of your students didn’t you?” and my reply was, “No, you just described my son!”.  It was then I knew that Eli was dyslexic.  I got my hands on everything I could read about dyslexia (Sally Shawitz’s book, Overcoming Dyslexia is amazing).  It was then that I also realized teachers have NO IDEA what dyslexia is or how to help a dyslexic child.  Most teachers are trained to not even say the word, much less help these babies that are in their class that have dyslexia.  I have found teachers to be most apathetic where dyslexia is concerned.  Here is a quick guide that I got from a forum with the Shawitz’s from the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity that shows signs and gifts from dyslexia.

IMG_2860 Starting in 2nd grade I told Eli’s teacher he was dyslexic and the school was not happy!  They quickly “graduated” him from speech therapy and took all of the ability away that I had to fight legally with the school (He no longer had an IEP –Individualized Education Plan).  By the end of second grade I requested full psychological testing for Eli.  They tested him and his tests came showing that Eli was extremely intelligent and the school refused to give any services.  He started third-grade and struggled even more due to the writing demands and I continued to fight with his school because his classroom grades and work didn’t reflect what the test had said.    

By the end of third grade we decided to have him independently tested for dyslexia – even though I already knew he was severely to profoundly dyslexic.  When we had him tested the results were indisputable, Eli was dyslexic.  We showed the results to the school at the beginning of fourth-grade and they disputed the results and decided to have a THIRD psychological done on Eli in 1 year and 3 months.  Their testing, yet again, showed there was nothing wrong with Eli and they refused to provide services.  I backed off of my craziness a bit in fourth-grade just to get a feel for how he would do.  He had a terrible fourth grade year, mostly due to his teachers.  We started tutoring with an Orton-Gillingham tutor during his fourth-grade year, but that was all the extra help he received.  His fourth-grade year he failed all but one portion of the CRCT and amazingly the school now agreed their was a problem.  It is a sad world we live in when the school will only give help when the CRCT is failed.

We started fifth-grade with a different attitude.  I met with the principal before school started to get Eli off to a good start.  The school wanted to give him help because of his CRCT performance, but not special classes – just EIP (Early Intervention Program – how is it early intervention when help is only given AFTER a student fails!) help.  We discussed the best teacher fit for him, one that used technology so Eli could use his ipad.  He worked hard, continued to tutor, and I was very involved – especially in working on his writing. He had an excellent 5th grade year and exceeded math, science, and SS on the CRCT and passed Reading and LA.

Eli’s psychological has a line that keeps me motivated every day to help him and other dyslexic children – “It is very likely that Eli feels inadequate much of the time”.  No child should be made to feel that way.  The public school psychologist told us that Eli shouldn’t know he was dyslexic, that he would use that as a crutch (this same psychologist just won psychologist of the year in GA) – that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard – Eli needed to know that he isn’t stupid and that there is a reason he struggles.  We told the school that the psychologist is not allowed around Eli or to have any contact with him – I can’t let people that believe such crazy things to impact Eli or the way he views himself.  At the Dyslexia meeting we went to last week the Shaywitz’s said that students should ABSOLUTELY be told they are dyslexic.  They need to know for their own self worth that there is a name to their struggle.

We consider dyslexia a gift in our house!  Eli is so creative and he is a BIG PICTURE thinker.  He is in 6th grade now and doing very well.  All of the help we got him in elementary school is paying off.  He is still a slow worker and struggles with reversals, reading, and writing but he is able to be successful.  He just made the lego robotics team, which is a perfect fit for him.  I have not doubt that Eli will be some type of engineer one day!

This post is already long enough so I will post again about the apps that my son uses and the apps that I encourage my dyslexic students to use to help them in their studies.

Teaching with Technology is Bad?

I had a teacher tell me today that she wished we could just go back to teaching the “old” way, that technology did not add anything to lessons and it was easier to teach before technology.

This statement reminds me of several things. The first of which was something a teacher said to me many years ago. She said, ” Do you think teachers had this hard of a time when the pencil was invented?” If you thing about that it really does make sense. Teachers probably did grumble and complain when students were getting up all day to sharpen that new fangled contraption – the pencil!

The other thing that this reminds me of is a quote from John Dewey, “If we continue to teach today, as we did yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow!” This was said nearly 100 years ago but it is still so true! We as teachers cannot continue to teach the same way year after year! Like it or not our students need to learn in a way that is applicable to them!

We, as teachers, HAVE GOT TO BE WILLING TO LEARN! I cannot imagine not wanting to learn something new! My principal says all the time that as soon as we quit learning it is time to retire! Why do teachers think they can use the same old lesson plans year after year and still engage and motivate their students (There is a time and place for tried and true lessons – but every subject, every day)? If we as teachers don’t want to learn, what message are we sending to our students? Clearly the message is that we don’t value learning, so why should they?

So, my answer to this veteran teacher is, that we have got to learn technology, because we need to reach students where they are, not where we are.  Students are using technology! Students are wired all the time! If we want to engage and motivate, we need to be wired too!

Sound Decks

One of my jobs as curriculum coordinator is to make sure that my school is aligned with what we are doing through the grade levels.  One thing we found that was not aligned was our sounds decks for our primary grades.

When we taught phonics sounds to our kindergartner’s we may have taught them the “ck” sound with duck, and then in 1st grade we might have used quack and in 2nd grade we might have used lock.  We thought it would be best if we designed sound decks for all of our grade levels that were the same.  We didn’t want to have to pay for sound decks, so I created them.

As part of our word work time each day in our primary grades our teachers spend just a few minutes going through their sound decks.  We find that this quick and simple practice each day is helping our students – especially our struggling readers.  This is the second year that our teachers are using the same sound decks.  I know this is not the fun, exciting part of teaching, but some rote memorization is required for our students.  We try to balance out the rote memorization of sound decks with word ladders, making words, and exciting literacy centers.  We believe that spending a few minutes each day reviewing phonics sounds pays off huge dividends! 

Click on the picture of each sound deck below for the link to download. I made two sets of cards – larger cards with a chevron background or smaller cards that you can print and put on your own scrapbook paper background (or leave plain!). I haven’t gotten the vowel digraphs on Chevron yet – I will do that soon, so that when you click the link they will be in the same folder!

A A-Z Cards

long a Long Vowel Cards


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ai-au Vowel Digraphs

Reward Coupons

I love to use reward coupons in my class!  I also like to give rewards that don’t cost anything – aren’t those always the best kind?  I searched and searched a few years back for reward coupons that I liked but I couldn’t find any, so I made my own!  I did “borrow” some of the ideas from other places and resources but, it was so long ago I don’t remember where I found them (so if they are yours let me know and I will give you credit!).

I give these away as part of my chance ticket drawings each week and I also give entire coupon packs away as Christmas gifts for the kids – they LOVE the reward coupons more than anything else I could give them!  One of the kids favorite rewards is the “Chew gum in class” reward.  The rule in my class is that the kids can’t travel with gum and they have to show me when they spit it out Smile!  I have never had any problems with gum in the carpet or under the desk.  The kids also LOVE to sit in the teachers chair!  I hate it when I have to give up my chair but, the kids love it!  Click on the picture below to download the coupons!  I think the best coupon, that I I would use all the time, is “Listen to Music in Class”. 


If you would like an editable version click HERE for the MS Publisher version.  I liked to edit my border and pictures based on the season.  Especially at Christmas, I would change out all of the icons to be Christmas icons.  I didn’t save them that way, although now that I am typing that I realize how much easier my life would be if I just saved all my various forms for future use!  I guess I will do that going forward and post them for you as well!

Among the Hidden

Among the Hidden is one of my FAVORITE novels we teach in the fifth-grade.  This year we had an issue come up with the book that I wonder if other schools have run into and if so, what are you going to do about!


Among the Hidden is a novel about a young boy that is the forbidden third child.  His family has to hide him, as the country where there are living has a law against having more than two children.  The book also has Population Police that search for and arrest families with more than two children.  Luke, the main character of the book, wrestles with the fact that he is an illegal third child and looks for ways to gain freedom.

A situation that we are needing to address in our school is the students that are in the United States because of a policy, like the one in the book, in China.  Many children (mostly girls) have been adopted from China by families in the United States.  A lot of those children are given up for adoption because of the population laws in China.  We have several children in our school that have been adopted from China and we are trying to be sensitive to those students developmental needs.  When is the appropriate time for these children to wrestle with their adoption history.  Does, Among the Hidden, present a history that children are not able to cope with appropriately in 5th grade OR should we view this as a time for children to deal with an issue that is going to impact them and have the ability to frame the issue for the students?

One key theme that we have played on throughout the book is the population control.  In my fifth-grade class we have a debate over Population Control.  The students are always stunned when they find out that population control actually does exist in our modern society.  We have the students research, using heavily censored resources that we provide (NO GOOGLING ALLOWED in this research project).  The students are assigned sides and they have to debate population control.  Going forward we are going to edit this part of our unit of study out because this is too much for a fifth-grader to be able to process if they are actually a product of the law.  You can find my debate materials and my entire unit plan here. 

We, as a school, are still trying to research our options in regards to this book.  I have spoken with our school counselor and she thinks 5th grade is the appropriate time to deal with these issues.  We also called in the parents and discussed the issue with them.  Their opinion was that it was the appropriate time as well (as long as population control materials were deleted from the plan), although they were understandably nervous! I am going to call the adoption center at UAB (University of Alabama, Birmingham) and ask their opinion on the issue as well.  We are still trying to work out what we should do to protect the interest of these students, but for now our plan is to read the book and be sensitive to the needs of our students at the same time!

Math Curriculum

We are in the process of of changing our math curriculum.  We are currently using Sadlier-Oxford Progress in Mathematics.  We have been looking at all different curriculums while trying to narrow down our focus on the best curriculums.  We are a private school so what we require is a little bit different than public schools.  We are not tied to the common core, but the problem we are experiencing is that ALL of the math textbook companies are writing their books to focus on common core (insert plug for writing our own textbooks using iTunes!). 

We have had to look at our standards, our testing (we use ERB), and the common core to see how they all align so that we can choose the best math curriculum.  We have narrowed down our focus to two curriculums – Math in Focus and Expressions Math.  Both seem to be strong curriculums, without the drama that goes with Everyday Mathematics.  We will be taking a strong look at this two curriculums over the summer and then call in the company reps at the beginning of next year.  Additionally, we will teach some practice units out of both curriculums next year to see how they fit into our classrooms.

The reason I am writing this post is because on the Cool Cat Teachers blog she posted about a new website that has teachers and administrators review curriculum that is used in the classroom!  What an awesome idea!  We have been searching websites for teacher reviews of math curriculum to get an idea of what teachers think.  So far, the only website that really posts much in the way of teacher reviews is ProTeacher.  The new website is called Classroom Window and the section of the website that reviews curriculum is called Teacher View Report Cards.  They are currently calling for reviews about math curriculum and are giving away a $10 Amazon gift card for anyone that reviews their current math curriculum!

Teachers and Technology

In my job as an Instructional Technology Specialist I am in the classroom with teachers every day.  I am teaching alongside other veteran teachers and I really have the best of both worlds!  I get to go into classrooms and help teachers understand how to apply technology, but I also get to learn so much from the teachers I am with on a daily basis!  Every day when I am in a classroom I also learn from the teachers I am teaching with!  I get to see how teachers phrase directions, how they engage with their students, and how they simplify complex ideas!  I love my job in that not only do I teach, but I learn something new everyday – from other teachers and the students!

I have to say that when I took this job I really thought that teachers didn’t use technology because they didn’t want to learn something new.  I do still think there are a lot of apathetic teachers, but I also now know there are a lot of teachers that don’t understand technology!  I was in a classroom yesterday helping a teacher use her ipad.  The kids were telling us tips and tricks right and left!  The teacher was amazed at what the kids already knew about the ipad that she didn’t!  I told her that for the students, the knowledge of computers and technology is intuitive; they don’t have to be taught how to use the technology because they ALREADY know!  She turned to me and said, “I have been teaching for 20 years, you can put me in any grade level and any classroom and I know how to deliver a lesson.  HOWEVER, I have no idea how to use technology, this scares me because I don’t know what to do!”

I think that is really where teachers are right now.  It isn’t that they don’t want to learn, it is that the technology isn’t intuitive to them as it is to their students!  Teachers are not generally clickers – pressing unknown buttons scares them (we are rule followers – only doing what we are told!), whereas kids are eager to know what every button does so they just press all the buttons.  I always give my students “playground” time when I am introducing a new technology.  Playground time is time to just go in and play in the software or application.  I think what I figured out yesterday is that in professional development and working with teachers I also need to give playground time for them to just sit and play with their devices, encouraging them to press all the buttons and see what they do!

Mostly teachers do want to learn, but what they see in front of them with technology is so intimidating they don’t feel like they can press forward.  Teachers – please understand it is OKAY to make mistakes in front of your students and to LEARN technology from them!  I would just say to all teachers, just keep pressing forward with baby steps!

The Perfect Lesson

I was in a first grade class this morning using the activboard to teach a lesson on related facts (I have attached the flipchart here).  As I was planning how to teach this lesson I realized that the perfect lessons do not include ALL technology, nor do they include ALL manipulatives.  The perfect lesson would combine the two in perfect balance – and NOT have too many worksheets (that is a pet peeve of mine).  I was teaching the students addition facts with sums through six.  I used the activboard to model the lesson using dominoes, but then I gave the students dominoes so they could touch and feel the lesson.  Then, we moved on to related facts.  I taught the students related facts on the activboard using cubes and dominoes, but then I gave the students cubes so they could model related facts with the using the connecting cubes.  The student’s LOVED this lesson.  They left the class saying, “Mrs. Daugherty that was so much fun!”.  I think it is so important for students to see and use technology in their lessons, but it is just as important for students to visualize what they are learning – especially in math.  So next time you teach a lesson with the activboard, be sure to bring in some manipulatives for the students as well!