An Insider Look Into The Brain of Struggling Readers (Poster)

September 22, 2014
There is a wide variety of factors that affect students literacy development. These factors can be divided into external and internal factors. The external part relates to things such as home environment, access to books, the social and economic standing of the family…etc. The internal factors relate to attitudes, emotions, psychological make-up and most importantly, the physiology of the brain.

As is shown in the beautiful visual below created by We Are teachers, struggling readers have certain brain peculiarities that are usually not found in normal students. These brain differences are part of why these students are struggling readers after all, but the great thing about this is that science proves that these brain differences can be redressed. The infographic below captures some interesting facts about the brain of struggling readers, how it works, and the different ways to help struggling readers become better readers.

Here are some of the facts that stood out to me from this visual:

  • Struggling readers suffer from an underdeveloped left brain part which is mainly responsible for phonological processing (creating connections between letters and sounds or phonemes).
  • For struggling readers, the WERNICKE'S Area (the area responsible for storing vocabulary and sounds) shows less activity and may even get inactive.This means that for some kids, every word they come across is a new word for them.
  • Auditory-processing problems might be behind some of the problems struggling readers face. When something interrupts the brain's ability to process sounds, it can be difficult to distinguish between words like rock, rocks, and rocked as an example.
Access the full downloadable version of this graphic from this LINK.

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20 Charts to Help You Teach Close Reading

September 22, 2014
Close reading is a  much debated topic in the world of academe. I have recently attended a seminar on this topic and it seems like several teachers are still missing the mark concerning what and how to go about teaching students to be close readers. Close reading is definitely a "survival skill" particularly in a world drowned in information. Close reading is all about reading differently. It is reading for deep understanding; it is  paying attention to what others would normally overlook. Being a close reader entails focus and dedication to your reading material. It empowers readers to delve deeper into the latent meanings of text searching for cues that make the reading a totally different experience, one that resembles the detective work. Close reading is also about critical reading, reading that does not take things at face value but rather probes into what is hidden between the lines.

Here are some great anchor charts from We Are Teachers to help you better teach close reading to your students. I invite you to have a look and as always share with your colleagues. Enjoy

Click Here to access the full list.

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Tools to Help You Integrate Gamification in Your Students Learning

September, 2014
Teaching to early learners means teaching fundamentals in a supportive and engaging way. It is no surprise that many learning tools for young students include some element of gamification. Here are a few that teachers recommend.

Want hundreds of FREE math activities for grades K-6? Look here! 
The 20+ math games for young learners in this app also include many accessibility options.
 Teach your students about US money in this interactive visual game.
 English learners and ELL/ESL students may find these word games engaging, such as Scramble and Hangman.

Reading Kingdom 
 Created by a developmental psychologist, this comprehensive reading program even has Cindy Crawford as a customer.

Want more? Check out these collections of tools .

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Web Tools to Enhance Kids Creativity

September, 2014
We are all makers, whether it's a clay pot, apple pie, paper airplane, digital movie, personal essay, or computer program. Watch any toddler with a set of building blocks and you will see its earliest incarnation. Educators play an important role in fostering these skills. Here are a set of tools that will help you create an environment of makers.

Teach programming in your school with a Kodable School Plan. Get 30% using this link.

 Make everything from soap to leaf jewelry to sound-activated electronic signs in this student-friendly community.
Bring computer science to your high school students with video tutorials, code examples, and coding puzzles.
Add audio tracks to ebooks, like sound effects, music, or even spoken words to make the stories come to life.
Convert your video files into animated GIF images, which you can use on your blog or tweets.

Want more? Check out these collections of tools.

This selection is  curated by technology activist Kim Wilkens.
This one is curated by high school district librarian

New Feature in Google Docs- Creating Automated Lists

September 20, 2014
Google has recently released a new handy update to Google Docs to make it easier for Docs' users to create automated lists. What this new feature does is that it detects the type of list you want to create and it automatically provides it for you. For instance, let's say you want to create a numbered list. If you type in number one for the first line, it automatically creates a numbered list for the rest of your data  and the same applies to other list genres.

There are different permutations to this feature which you can discover when play around with it. You can also disable the automatic detection of lists in Google Docs by going to tools, preferences and uncheck "automatically detect lists".

Watch the video below from Google Guru to learn more about how to use the automated list feature.

40 Essential Books for Elementary Students

September 20, 2014
Here is a great find I discovered today on my Pinterest feeds. The visual below features some of the best books for grades 3-5. This list of books has been created by We Are Teachers via a poll in which more than 200 teachers participated. The end result is a collection of diverse must-have books for your classroom library.

As you can see from in the visual below, this collection of books is divided into different categories such as read aloud books, fiction books, mystery books, fantasy and science fiction books, historical fiction books, biographies, science books, history books, poetry books, humour books, and reference books. If you are looking for books to add to your classroom library, this collection is definitely a must have. Enjoy.

Click HERE to check the full list of books.

books for grades 3-5
Courtesy of Fourth Grade Friends

Here is How to Set Up A Flipped Classroom

September 20, 2014
Here is one of my favourite videos on flipped classroom. In this funny and insightful video, Keith Hughes explains the idea behind the flipped classroom and provides some excellent tips for teachers who want to integrate the flipped teaching methodology in their instruction. The video is a little bit long (24 minutes) but is really worth watching.

Flipped Classroom is an inverted method of instruction where teaching and learning take place online outside of the class while homework is done in the classroom. Advocators of this approach believe that this is the ideal method of instruction in our digital age. They basically build their judgement on the following facts :

  • Flipped Classroom shifts the learning responsibility and ownership from the teacher's hands into the students'.
  • Students tend to perform better when they control when, where and how they learn.
  • Teachers no longer dispense knowledge but rather guide and direct while students are the real active learners 
  • Teachers create animated videos and interactive lessons and lectures and students access them at home in advance of class even. In this way all students can re-watch the video tutorials whenever they want.
  • Classroom time can be geared towards data collection, collaboration, and application.
  • Class becomes a place for students to work through problems, advance concepts, and engage in collaborative learning.
  • Flipped Classroom also "allows teachers to reflect on and develop quality and engaging learning opportunities and options for internalization, creation, and application of content rather than just fluff or time filling assignments."
Watch the video below to learn how to set up a flipped learning classroom