Archive for category reading

Finding My Passion

Since late October I have not really enjoyed going to work.  It was a chore and I did my duty, looking forward to my exit time at the end of the day.  I realized yesterday why this has happened.  It has been about the “stuff” lately and not about the learning or the people.   This was a necessary evil as it was my campuses time to get new computers.  New computers are a blessing and a curse, but for me it took my attention away from what I love about my job.  So now with winter break approaching I am desperate to find something to hold onto to take me through the long spring semester.    I stumbled upon a pin on pinterest about a “Genius Hour” that a 5th grade teacher was implementing.  I was fascinated.   I want my kids in this classroom.  But more importantly I want to be this kind of teacher!

I started searching for more information about Genius Hour to see what I could find.  I found run by Chris Kessler (@iamkesler) and started reading.  I am hooked.  I am not sure how to implement this strategy as an Instructional Technology Specialist, since I don’t teach in a classroom.  I also think those I work with are overwhelmed, but maybe they are not. Maybe they need a fresh take as I do.  It doesn’t hurt to ask, and I plan on asking after the Christmas break.

I began asking myself, what would be my passion project?  What would I investigate?  That is when I think about the last few months on the job and the focus on the “stuff.”   I want to investigate how to get away from the stuff and focus on the learning and the people.  To start on this journey I purchased one of the books suggested on the Genius Hour website – “Teach Like A Pirate” by Dave Burgess.  Okay – so I first looked at the book because I liked the title and my college mascot is a pirate, so it spoke to me.  Turns out Pirate stands for traits in a good teacher.  P is for Passion.  Passion can come from the 1)Content, 2)Profession and 3)Personal.

I got stuck trying to answer the question “What is it about being an educator that drive you?”  This should be an easy question, but it wasn’t.  I could not pinpoint what it was that I enjoyed about my profession, especially the technology side of things.  I was having fun in the classroom when I took this position 13 years ago.  Why did I take it?  Why did I leave?

  • I took it because I wanted to help teachers reach students in new ways.
  • I liked helping teachers make sense of how technology could fit into their classrooms.
  • I wanted to impact more students that I could in my own classroom.

I did not take it because I love laptops, tablets, desktops, chromebooks, android, google, apple, windows, office, web 2.0, or any of the other “stuff” out there.    This answer has been freeing to me.  I am looking forward to learning more about how this is going to look in the coming semester and the impact it will make.

I also am contemplating the future of this blog.  So far it has been about how to work the tools, but I really want to focus on the learning that happens with the tools.  I have tried to jumpstart the blog for the past year or so without success. Does it need a new name?  Has it served it’s purpose and it’s time to move on?  We shall see.   For now I am going to use it to journal my thoughts  and ah-ha moments as I move through the book and through my own search to find my passion in my chosen profession.



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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 #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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