Archive for September, 2010

Idea #5 – Make a Video!

Today’s idea makes use of the document camera as a convenient digital cameras and video recorders for the classroom.

Consider some ways a camera would come in handy, take a picture of:

  • Classroom notes for students who are absent or need to review them later.  Post that picture on your webpage for easy access.
  • Each step of a process to show the steps involved.
  • A student’s work for use as a sample later on, or to email home with notes on student progress.
  • The white board to record the information presented in class
  • An example project to show how a completed project should look.

Video cameras are also very handy to have in the classroom.  Here are a few examples of things to video:

  • An explanation of how to complete a problem or assignment.  Post it online (teacherweb, youtube, etc) for students to have access to at home.
  • Class instructions for a substitute.   Give the lesson yourself so the teaching continues while you are gone.
  • Lab experiments for absent students.
  • Student presentations – Turn the camera to record students presenting for the classroom.

What could you add to these lists?   Please leave ideas in the comment section below.

Your document camera needs to be connected to your computer with a USB cable and the software should be installed.  Download instructions for creating a video with the Samsung Document Camera 860 – Instructions – pdf

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Idea #4 – Concept Mapping with Inspiration

Want to increase brain activity in your students,  encourage active comprehension and step-up dynamic discussions in the classroom?  It all can be done with one simple activity of concept mapping.

Today’s idea uses  the software Inspiration 8 (installed on all teacher machines on campus) and your projector.  The document camera can also be incorporated as student’s share the maps they have created.

Why use Inspiration?

  1. It’s easy and already loaded on all teacher machines on campus.
  2. Inspiration provides pre-made templates to get the concept map going for the big screen (choose New – From Template to see the options)
  3. Keeps the map organized and easy to read for the class.
  4. Circles can be changed to clip art for more of a visual impact.
  5. Brainstorming is easy with the lightening bolt icon.
  6. Maps and ideas can be easily rearranged without starting over.
  7. Finished products can be saved as Word files and placed online for those who missed the class.

Ideas on How to Use Concept Mapping in the Classroom:

As a reading strategy:

1. Pre-reading:  have students brainstorm what they know about the items listed on the skelton concept map.  Add those ideas in and have students record on their own papers.

2. During Reading – Students then read the assigned passage and add in more details as they learn them.

3. Post reading – Compare maps with the class and add in details students might have missed.  (Use the document camera to show student’s original maps.)


    • Sub-topics can be recorded on note-cards and students can add in more details about that topic as they read/learn more
    • Cards can then be turned into a paragraphs within a research paper.
    • Each sub-topic could become a research topic for the class.

As a note-taking strategy:

  1. Give students a partially filled concept map and have them add to it as you discuss, research, etc. the topic given.
  2. Have students create their own map of the story/event with main characters/main events in ech sub-circle and details surrounding from there.

Getting Started:

Download a how-to guide for Inspiration 8:  How to Use Inspiration 8

Watch a quick tutorial on the software here:

Documentation and research on using concept mapping in the classroom is based from “Classroom Instruction that Works” by Robert Marzano and Project Criss.

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Idea #3 – Read a Children’s Book

Our third idea for using projectors and document cameras in the classroom is incorporating Children’s Picture Books into lessons.

The Technical Side:

Before Doc Cameras:  When reading a book to the class you had to stop and hold the picture up as you walked around the room, or panned the room for all to see.   Most of the meanings in the pictures were lost on the students who could not see the image well enough or long enough to derive meaning from it.

With Doc Cameras: When placing the book under the document camera the entire class can see the pictures as you read the story aloud.   Students can look for meaning in the illustrations and how that meaning matches, or does not match with the text.   With the zoom feature you can focus in on details of the pages they would have never seen before.

Why read picture books in middle school?

Research shows that reading aloud to students is an important way to build their vocabulary, reading and comprehension skills.

Here are some of the highlights of an article written in the Middle School Journal on why you should read picture books in middle school:

  • Provides students with an opportunity to read a variety of texts
  • Increases and enhances the reader’s personal connections with the subject matter
  • Picture books are now being written to address middle school needs and interests.
  • Many picture books can be interpreted on several levels.
  • Students are visually oriented and are accustomed to using visual images to assist in learning new concepts
  • Good activity for English Language Learners – it reduces the word load for students while keeping a high level of comprehension needed

Things to consider when choosing a Picture Book:

  • How enthusiastic are you about it?  The more you like the book and are excited about it, the better reception the students will give it.
  • What are your learning objectives?  Books should always be chosen to help meet those objectives.
  • What is the quality of the book?
    • Does it have rich information?
    • Does it meet high literary standards with it’s vocabulary and author’s style of writing?
    • Look for awards such as the Caldecott for indications of a good book.

A great place to start when choosing a picture book is your library! use the librarians expertise in helping select books that meet the needs of your classroom.

For more details on choosing books for each academic subject area see  A Middle School Teacher’s Guide for Selecting Picture Books – Middle School Journal.   Half way through the article they break it down for each academic area to choose books.    You can also search for “picture books in middle school (insert your subject here).”


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Idea #2 – Word Clouds

Today’s idea uses the projector and your computer connection.  Word clouds are a visual representation of the chosen text.

The more often a word appears in a text, the larger the word will appear in the cloud. Word clouds also fit in nicely with Marzano’s “Nonlinguistic Representation” being a strategy that works in classrooms instruction.


There are 2 internet sites that make word cloud creation very simple:

Wordle: – Creates freeform clouds and can be printed, saved to a public gallery, or you can take a screen shot of the image to use in classes later.

Tagxedo – creates word clouds in different shapes, colors, fonts, etc.  You can create straight from a websites, copy and paste text from any source, or type original text into the creator.  Results are interactive and can be saved as a jpeg or png file.

Ways to use this in your classroom:

  1. Introduce:
    • Vocabulary – enter in the vocabulary for a unit and display for students to discuss what they know, what they don’t know, etc.
    • People –   Take a biography of a famous person and have the student make inferences about what kind of person this is and what important things did they do?  Or have student write about themselves and turn it into a wordle as a way to learn more about them.
    • Unit/ Syllabus – make it more interesting – ask what do you think you are going to learn about in this unit
  2. Analyze:
    • Author’s Diction – Take a passage from the reading and have students analyze word choice before reading the passage.
    • A Reading Passage:  Based on the word cloud have students:
      • predict main ideas
      • write a title for the passage
      • identify vocabulary that is unfamiliar
    • Survey Data – copy and paste survey data in to see what the reoccurring ideas are.
    • Lyrics of a song
    • Current Events
  3. Create:
    • Poster of class rules or school expectations as a way to review
    • Character Map – as a class brainstorm words that describe a character (or historical figure) and create a word cloud for that person.  You can do the same for additional characters and ask  why do we have more information about one character over another.
    • A Word Cloud Word Wall – enter in the vocabulary term multiple times to make it larger and then the definition – print to place on the wall.
    • Poster from an Essay
  4. Summarize a Famous Speech – what ideas are important
  5. Generate Ideas for Research – take an article about a topic and create a word cloud.  From that word cloud have students generate research ideas for further study.
  6. Compare and Contrast – 2 word clouds from two different passages or different points of view
  7. Writing Prompt: Have students being to write based on the word cloud.  Clouds could be based on vocabulary from the unit, a passage, a poem, etc.
  8. Guided Reading: Take 2 sections from a text and create a word cloud.  Have students decide what passage comes first and why.


For more information and ideas about word clouds in the classroom check out:

Idea #1 – Teach Students How to Read the Textbook

With the addition of document cameras and ceiling mounted projectors in the classroom, the challenge is learning to use this new technology to it’s fullest.   This is the first in a series to offer teachers ideas:

Idea #1:  Teach Students How to Read the Textbook

Students do not automatically know how to read any given  textbook.  Each book is different with it’s own structure and style.  Using a document camera and a projector, teachers can teach students to analyze the structure of their textbooks so that they can better comprehend what they are reading.

Students who have more knowledge of text structure learn more from expository material that students who are not aware of text structure.

The document camera makes it easy by allowing the teacher to project the textbook onto the screen for all to see, instead of having to hold up the book and hope students are looking at the same place they are.

The video walks you through the basics of teaching students to evaluate the structure of a textbook and to identify the resources provided.

For more information on teaching students how to read a textbook see:

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