Using Social Media to Demonstrate Reading Comprehension and Content Mastery

If you are an avid user of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms, there is a good chance your students are either using or aware of them as well. Students are using these tools creatively in my class to show their understanding of a literary text. There are also possibilities to apply these activities in any classroom where explaining thinking is required. In ELA I am able to assess if students understand plot, character motives, relationships, etc. all by reading their “texts.” In social studies, students could have discussions between world leaders and/or historical figures across time. This is especially relevant if those figures lived in different eras. Across content areas, students could create the Facebook pages, text screenshots, Snapchats, etc. for inventors, scientists, historical figures, book characters, mathematicians…regardless of time of barriers like language, lifespan, or location. The possibilities are endless.

Screenshots of text messages between book characters

Cinderella's phone Prince-Hey it's the prince, Cinderella-what's up, Prince-I think I found your shoe, Cinderella-Where, Prince-on the steps outside my house, (image of a glass slipper), Prince-Is this yours?, Cinderella-Yes! I must have dropped it when I ran out! I missed my curfew!
Screenshots of fake text message exchanges between literary characters.

In the article, Creative Lessons with Fake Texts, Tweets, Facebook Pages and More by Nick LaFave, the author discusses several  links to social media simulators that you can use with your students. This is not an exhaustive list of what is available, but offers a great place to start! All sites should be thoroughly explored by an adult first. Have fun creatively using social media in your own classroom, without many of the worries of social media access!

 

 

 

 

 

Think Outside the Screencast Box

What’s a Screencast?

I love screencasting. I discussed screencasts in my post: Screencasts-A Doorway to Possibilities, but felt an update was due to reflect new ways I am using them with students. In that earlier post, I stated,  “Screencasts allow us to get first person tutorials as if we were sitting at the computer with the person teaching it. They offer video of the screen of the instructor as they go through the steps of a given task in real time, often with recorded audio for oral instructions throughout the process.” A screencast is an easy way to create a tutorial for something my students (or peers) need to do. However, screencasts can do more than just teach steps. Screencasts can also be used to solve problems, deliver content, and demonstrate understanding within the classroom.Using your devices camera, screencasting allows you to record your screen, yourself, or a combination of both.

What Screencast Creators Are Out There?

I have used both Screencast-o-matic and Screencastify to create screencasts, but there are multitude of options available.

Screencastify is a chrome extension that allows users to save their videos to Google Drive, upload to Youtube, or download to their computer’s hardrive.  In her YouTube video, Screencastify Tutorial, Lauren Newman gives a great overview of Screencastify’s features and uses. It works very well in classrooms that are primarily using Chromebooks, but I have used it with any computer (MAC or PC) that can log in to Chrome, download and access apps and extensions in the Chrome Web Store.

Screencast-o-matic is a cloud-based service that allows you to create and share screencasts online. It does not require Chrome, but does require a login. You can also download it and run it outside of the internet. Screencast-o-matic has a tutorial  video that gives a quick overview at Welcome to Screencast-O-Matic.

Get Yourself a Learning Platform

I use screencasts in my classroom in several ways. Let me preface this by saying that my class uses technology as an every day tool. We are 1:1 this year, but most of these would also work in a rotation station. I use a learning platform for delivering online instruction. It gives a central location where students can go for copies of notes, links, online assignments, and turn in work digitally.  I use Google Classroom, but this would work with any learning platform (like Edmodo, Canvas, Blackboard, etc.).

Tip for success: Make going to the learning platform for activities and instruction routine. Students will keep that routine even when you are not directing them. Even when I post things on the board, I post them on the learning platform as well. Students know to go to the learning platform for copies of notes, classroom and homework instructions, vocabulary word lists, video tutorials, turn in instructions, links etc.

Screencast Outside the Box

Videos of the whole group lesson

When teaching the whole group lesson, I often record a screencast of myself delivering the lesson. You can upload them to a private YouTube channel for absent students, for students needing reteaching, or for flipped learning. You can teach your main lesson in a screencast, have students watch it at their own speed, and start the independent work. As they work on independent work, students can request help as needed.

Video mini-tutorials by the teacher

I film brief tutorials for how to complete a given task so students can use it when they need help, are learning something new, and/or are absent and need to catch up. This especially helpful for complicated tasks or activities with multiple steps. All of my students use these videos, but they are especially helpful for students who need repeated directions or need to chunk complicated tasks into smaller parts. I post the video with a list of timestamps to create “chapters.” Paired with a checklist, this really helps students who need it stay on track.

Examples:

  • Step 1 (00:22)
  • Step 2 (00:47)
  • 00:14 Instructions
  • 02:37 How to cite your source

Sub plans

Post a screencast of the learning and behavioral expectations for the day. Then, explain directions and provide information for any expected challenges. Include instructions for how to access this information in the sub plans (make your screencast link less secure so the sub can go to it). Post it so students can access and refer to it during class. Something about hearing the expectations from their regular teacher helps my students stay on task. It might have something to do with the fact that, in the screencast, I also tell them the rewards and consequences expected for their behavior in my absence.

Video tutorials by the student

When a student has trouble with an online task, I help that student and have them create a quick screencast showing someone else how to proceed. In the beginning this takes a bit of guidance. By the middle of the year, the students start doing it on their own. Teaching someone else is a great way to show mastery!

Demonstrate understanding of the content (for formative and summative assessments)

Go beyond paper, pencils, and paragraphs. The possibilities here are somewhat endless, but a few ideas may include:

  • Have students create podcasts in response to a text read, as part of a literature circle, or to present an on screen presentation with narration.
  • Have a digital poetry slam where students pick appropriate pictures to display as they say they recite their poem (with or without including video of themselves).
  • Have students explain as they annotate a text online
  • Make a video of your response to a question instead of writing it
  • Check fluency by having students screencast themselves reading a text (whether the text is online or offline).

Human reader for tests, quizzes, worksheets, etc. and read along videos for texts

Models of fluent and expressive reading are important. Use a digital version of the text, and read portions of it out loud in screencasts. Struggling readers can follow along to a well-read model.

I also include a screencast of many written materials for students who require verbatim reading of text. This includes my quizzes/tests with a specialized link (so I can modify access to between classes to limit cheating) and lengthy texts. I record it once and use it for all students who need it. Students like being able to rewind. They also like the independence of being in charge of the pace

Conclusion

The usefulness of screencasts are only limited by your (and your students’) imagination. They can be much more than simple tutorials. Screencasts can be used in every part of instruction from introduction to follow up. Now go forth and screencast!

Exciting Times in EdTech: Blended Learning

Once an Early Adopter, Always an Early Adopter…

I am what you call an “early adopter.” I love trying new technologies in my classroom. I am very happy when I get new tech. No, that is an understatement. The day they hung my interactive whiteboard I cried…real tears. When the technology support person surprised me with a Chromebook cart the day we returned from Spring Break, two years ago, I greeted him with a screeched out, “ARE YOU SERIOUS!!!” The moment is now a blur, but I may have hugged him.

I see the value in giving my students opportunities that technology can provide. Anyone who reads this blog also knows that I LOVE anything that helps me to do my job with efficiency. Make it easier and I am on board! Now that I have made the jump from elementary to secondary education, it is even more evident that technology can help us to engage our learners in exciting ways.

Why Blended Learning? Because Time…

As a middle school language arts teacher, I have a wide range of students with varying levels of ability and drive. I serve a large number of students who receive ELL services, students who receive special education services, students who receive varying levels of reading intervention and students who receive no interventions or services beyond my care. Those are very diverse needs. So how does one even begin to meet the needs of such a range of learners? At first glance (as well as glances 2-22) this seems a very daunting task. The key for me has been to work smarter not harder by implementing technology to the greatest advantage.

I heavily rely on the use of blended learning strategies. According to Catlin Tucker, co-author of Blended Learning in Action: A Practical Guide Toward Sustainable Change, blended learning is any combination of face-to-face and online learning. Keeping that in mind, in my classroom, I use technology as a second (and sometimes third and fourth) teacher in and outside of the classroom.

This year, I used rotation models often. Many of my students do not have access to consistent internet access at home. My classroom has 1:1 use of Chrome Books, so I try to use technology often. My class periods are a little less than 50 minutes long. In that time, I can deliver a whole group lesson and two 20 minute rotations or three 15 minute rotations. I can then pull students back together for the last three to five minutes of class. In stations, activities vary greatly. Students may work on follow-up activities related to my whole group lesson or on work that is individualized for their specific needs, be those needs for remedial skills or enrichment skills. Stations may be completely computer-based, jointly taught using teacher and computer, or small groups with a teacher.  They may also receive lessons that pre-teach or front load skills I expect them to learn on their own that I will follow up with later. During rotations, I can also pull students one on one for conferencing or specific individual needs.

Students are able to get some of their instruction directly from me and some from online resources. Using this strategy, I am able to differentiate for all of my learners by providing the opportunity for personalized instruction based on their particular needs, reteach/enrich as needed, teach new content, etc. by incorporating technology as part of my instruction. Blended learning allows me the opportunity to get more bang for my buck by having students complete multiple tasks in a given block. They are always working. They are consistently learning. Blended learning affords me the ability to utilize my limited time with them effectively.

Tools for Delivering Blended Instruction

The best part about using a blended model is the ability to incorporate many tools to engage and inspire learners. The variety of ways students learn and express their understanding in my class helps facilitate engagement. Below I list SOME of the tools that I use in my class. While some are used more often than others, they are all in use regularly in my classroom. (Note: All students regularly use their Google Drive to organize their files and turn in work.)

Hubs/Learning Platforms

  • Google Classroom-learning platform where you can distribute materials digitally and accept completed assignments, have online discussion streams, grade, and give feedback.
  • Blendspace-create lessons/units where all of the resources are grouped for easy access.

Video/Interactive Lesson Delivery

  • Playposit-embed questions into videos to make them less passive, and allow for accountability for the information within the video.
  • Peardeck-online presentation creator that allows you to make interactive presentations with embedded questions, links, and video.

Online Resources

  • MobyMax-online curriculum for grades K-8. Self leveling , tracks data,delivers both instruction and assessment.
  • Canva-graphic creator (make infographics, diagrams, posters, etc.)
  • Screencasts (I used Screencastify)-create video recordings with voice overs
  • Youtube-free video sharing website
  • Vocabulary.com-create a word list, enter text from a book, or use the self leveling activities to practice and expand vocabulary
  • Powtoon– online animated video creator
  • Tagul-word cloud creator

Formative Assessment

  • Nearly all of the above PLUS…
    • Plickers-student response system (ie. clickers)that does not require student devices
    • Kahoot-game show-like assessment tool where creators create the questions and users play the game.
    • Quizziz–game show-like assessment tool where creators create the questions and users play the game.
    • Quizlet-create flashcards and online game based on content