Category Archives: Curriki Tips

Recess in Kansas – Too Short?

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

According to an article this week from the Associated Press, elementary students in public schools in the State of Kansas have only 20 minutes or less for their daily recess.

The Kansas State Department of Education and the state’s Association for Physical Education, Recreation and Dance presented their research findings this month to the Kansas State Board of Education.

The Kansas Health Foundation supported the study. Jeff Willett, the vice president for programs and advocacy at the foundation noted that “Far from taking time from learning, these healthy habits (physical activity) actually help kids succeed in school”. Physical activity supports mental activity and improved learning.

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Children at recess in Hanoi, Vietnam

There are concerns nationwide in the U.S. about childhood obesity and the level of fitness of children. According to the National Youth Fitness Survey in 2012, only one quarter of preteens and young teens are getting an hour or more of physical activity per day.

Teachers and parents should be encouraging sufficient recess periods during the school day.

Lessons plans around fitness, exercise and nutrition can be found here on Curriki:

http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_Group_CurrikiMonthlyThematicCollections/KidsgovExerciseFitnessandNutrition

and also here:

http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_kathyf/FitnessforLife

Classroom Technology for New Teachers

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By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

I had an interesting chat with Educator Ilna Colemere, who helps familiarize student teachers with technology applications they can use in the classroom. Her students love the Curriki site, because they say it “provides a wealth of resources indexed by several searchable tags.”

Ilna Colemere

Ilna Colemere

As Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Office of Teacher Education Services with the University of Texas at San Antonio, Ilna works with about 500 students each year.


How important do you feel technology is in aiding student learning?

Technology adds another dimension that isn’t available with a book or other tangible object. It can be used by one person or shared across a group – and the group doesn’t even need to be in the same room. Multimedia technologies can be very rich, community-driven resources that provide real-time learning.

However, it’s important to remember that the strength of student success with new technology does not lie in the device, software or app. The strength lies in the instructional facilitator and his/her ability to guide and encourage thinking outside the box. The teacher is the key and the technology is another tool.

What do you feel is the single, most impactful technology employed in classrooms today?

There really isn’t one single technology, especially with new technologies coming out every day. Handheld devices and robotics are popular in classrooms today. And there’s a huge push for students to learn coding, which is a valuable skill that involves a lot of logic.

Multimedia is everywhere. It attacks all the senses, and it’s instantaneous. Speaking of multimedia, MIT has developed software that captures the vibration of an object to determine the impact of noise levels on living and nonliving objects – an activity that involves math, science, social studies and technology. If we’re able to apply this to seismic activity, perhaps one day it could be used to predict earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. True example of thinking outside the box!

Technology can be both good and bad. We must make sure the resources are credible and support ISTE standards. Be a good digital citizen.

How has Curriki helped new teachers better engage their students?

The assumption is that all young people are tech savvy, but that’s not always true. We’re seeing all levels of proficiency and exposure – some are technology experts, others struggle. Because our student teachers are new to the teaching profession, it’s difficult for them to look at teaching materials with a critical eye.

That’s why Curriki is so useful. Curriki is a multimedia treasure. All the materials have been vetted by teachers, each with a different voice and perspective. Curriki gives student teachers a good idea of standards and answers their questions: “Is this resource valued?” and “Will this meet my teaching objectives?”

What are your favorite Curriki resources?

I like the technology workshops. And I like the ability to save curated resources in “My Curriki” so that I can easily find them again.

I also use the resources that relate to [state of] Texas, even if we are not Common Core, because they focus on a central core of knowledge and skills.

And finally, I recommend Curriki Groups to my student teachers as a place where they can collaborate on specific topics, get new ideas and share best practices. For example, one group I recommend they join is the STEM Group.

How do you accommodate different learning styles?

Not everyone learns the same way and our new teachers don’t want to have to visit dozens of sites to find the different resources they need. Curriki has everything in one place using all forms of media, from lesson plans and units to curated resources. And because all these resources have been vetted by “real” teachers, Curriki gives these new teachers the confidence in the material to meet instructional needs.

Why do you do what you do?

I’ve been an educator for 40+ years, having taught from pre-K to adjunct at the university. I believe the role of a teacher is to empower students to learn for themselves.

If you could tell teachers one thing about Curriki, what would it be?

Sign up for Curriki! It’s only takes a minute and it’s free. Curriki provides a rich collection of cross-curricular materials easily integrated with the adopted state curriculum. Plus, you’ll be able to collaborate with other teachers and use, share and customize the thousands of resources available on Curriki.

How to Improve Essay Writing Skills with 10 EdTech Online Tools

By Curriki Guest Blogger Julie Petersen JuliePetersen2

Who thought that your education wouldn’t be based solely upon studying and exams? When you decided to pursue a degree, you didn’t expect to spend much of your time on essays, research papers, case studies, and other types of academic papers. Nevertheless, every student is expected to improve his writing skills throughout the educational journey.

Why do professors consider these projects to be so important? Believe it or not, they don’t assign several tasks with the mere intention to torture you. The academic writing practice develops your ability to express your mind, analyze academic and scientific materials, and provide your own arguments supported by facts. These skills are essential for any career you are focused on.

However, you are hardly relieved by the realization that essays are important. You need practical advice that will help you move forward and complete the assignments with success. In the continuation, you will find EdTech tools that will help you do that!

  1. Writing.com

When you need someone to support you throughout the writing process with the right tips and constructive feedback, then this is the website you should turn to. Writing.com is a community for writers, but you don’t have to be a professional author to create your online writing portfolio and become part of the platform. In addition to the numerous writing tools, you will get access to great contests that will inspire you to discover your creative voice.

  1. NovelGuide.com

Are you stuck with a project for your literature class? You’ll probably find the needed resources at this website. NovelGuide offers plot summaries on most novels that are part of the curriculum in high schools and colleges. You will also benefit from the Discussion & Question section available for each book featured at the website.

  1. TeenInk.com

What could be more motivational than an actual paper written by a student? Inspiration can come from anywhere: life occurrences, books, websites, school environment, famous personalities, and much more. The essays featured at this website can serve as an example of creative writing in its best light.

  1. Essaymama.com

This is the online tool that will get you out of the most difficult situations. When you have a close deadline to meet, but you are nowhere near a finished paper, you can rely on the assistance by the writers and tutors at this website. You can get help with virtually any type of paper, regardless of its topic. The team of writers includes experts from several areas of study. Thus, EssayMama can provide you with a piece of advice that will help to complete any academic project, but you’ll also get a valuable lesson on essay writing along the way. The blog section of the website is worthy of attention; check for regular updates with news, infographics and tips regarding academic writing.

  1. Essay Map

When you have a successful plan, even the most complex project will be simple to complete. This online tool will help you stay on track throughout the development of the content. You can use the online version of the tool to create the map, but you can also print the blank map and fill in the blanks if that works for you.

  1. Persuasive Essay Thesis Builder & Online Outliner

Let’s simplify the name of this tool; we’ll call it Thesis Builder because that’s its main function. If you don’t have a solid thesis statement for your essay, you cannot proceed with the process until you develop one. This automated tool instructs you to provide the topic of the paper, your main opinions and supporting arguments. Then, it will produce a thesis statement that you can edit or simply paste in your document.

  1. EasyPunch.com

You have troubles organizing your ideas and expressing them in clear academic writing style? Essay Punch will take you through each step of the writing process. You can use pre-set prompts for descriptive, persuasive, and informative essays. Then, you can proceed with online interactive exercises that will help you become a better writer through regular practice.

  1. TheEasyEssay.com

This is an instant organization program that brings the writing process down to its foundation. The system works for students at any age. It enables you to organize a basic 5-paragraph paper, but you can also expand that structure to a more complex essay of 17 paragraphs. Once you start using this tool, you will boost your communication skills without even noticing.

  1. HemingwayApp.com

When you present a paper with complex structure and lengthy arguments, you expect to impress your professor. That strategy backfires in most cases. Street language is not acceptable in an academic paper, but that doesn’t mean you should write unreadable content that wouldn’t convey a clear message. Hemingway App is a tool that will help you make your paper bold and clear by simplifying the words and sentences. In addition to dense and complicated sentences, the tool will also highlight adverbs, passive voice, and words or phrases that could use some editing.

  1. Read-Able.com

This tool offers a quick and easy way to test how readable your paper is. You don’t want to confuse your teacher with a paper that would consume a lot of his time. With this flexible readability software, you will make sure that the essay you are about to submit is appropriate for your grade level.

Academic writing is not as scary as it seems. Even the most intriguing assignments can be made simpler when you have the right educational tools on your side. Start exploring the above-listed tools and you’ll notice how your writing skills are improving by the day.

Julie Petersen is a tutor and a blogger, who features the latest career and educational trends in her articles. At present time she is working on her first ebook dedicated to online learning. You may see Julie’s latest publications and contact her via Linkedin or Google+ page.

Inspiring Learning: Inspire Self-Inspiration

KimJonesimageBy Kim Jones, CEO, Curriki

We recently ran a survey of our members asking them “How do you inspire learning?”. We appreciate all of the interesting responses we received.

One of our members, Vincent Churchill, provided a very interesting multi-page response, which I would like to summarize here. His response is actually rather profound. Instead of thinking about you as a teacher inspiring learning, think about it one level higher.

That is, quoting Mr. Churchill: “Lead students to inspire themselves”. Think about it – the best inspiration and motivation comes from within as a continuous process, once the student can get to that place. So help them to get to that place where they don’t just draw occasional inspiration from without, but fuel it more regularly from within. And help them get to the place where they will also seek additional external sources of inspiration for themselves.

Here’s some of what Mr. Churchill wrote in his response:

“And the answer is…

My answer is twofold and in starting the first part of my answer, I would have to qualify that it is about leading students to inspiring themselves, with their own motivations and reasons, not aimed at a’result’, reward or specific goal in mind. In short, that they be inspired at a very personal level and for various different reasons… their own reasons! My thoughts on the matter are geared towards a quite few things;

1. … to want to know more about the subject/issue at hand

2. … to be willing to share his/her thoughts about the subject/issue

3. … to find authentic and original examples for illustrating a particular example

4. … to examine, investigate, question and put forward opinions (sometimes of a personal nature)

5. … to be willing to ‘risk being wrong’ by giving an answer

6. … to debate and discuss (even argue) with their peers

7. … to take the classroom experience/material out into the ‘real world’. “

So help students find their own reasons for motivation and inspiration. It’s not enough to be inspired to just get through an exam, but to love the learning process, and the personal growth associated with that.

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The second part of Mr. Churchill’s answer is about individualized learning. He notes that there is no “silver bullet” solution.

“In concluding, my answer takes cognisance of the fact that students can NEVER be seen as ‘just a class’ and that any motivation, inspiration, action or expectation should be based on careful (yes, sometimes erroneous) observations, assumptions and expected outcomes of INDIVIDUALS in the class. The motivation for learning then follows, from the student’s side, because they have a genuine interest and also a reason for wanting to learn.”

So to get to this place one has to look at who the students are as individuals, what are their likes and dislikes and passion? What skills and experiences do they have, what are their strengths and weaknesses? What is their personality, is it shy, is it aggressive, etc.?

As we said in our last blog, about AltSchool, an experimental school in San Francisco – “Not all children are alike.  Not all children learn the same way. AltSchool’s philosophy is very similar to Curriki’s in that we’re both driving transformation from the ‘assembly line factory model’ of education into a new model where the emphasis is on personalization, understanding and critical thinking skills.”

There are over 62,000 resources at Curriki to help support individualized learning and to help students inspire themselves! Please take advantage of these free, open source resources to inspire self-inspiration.

3 Steps to Effective EdTech Implementation

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By Guest Blogger Jessica Sanders, Director of Social Outreach, Learn2Earn

EdTech implementation: the phrase alone makes the process of bringing technology into your classroom sound daunting and stressful. Luckily, what you see isn’t always what you get, and this process can be smooth and stress-free if you look at the big picture, take your time, and remember to be flexible.

Use these three simple tips to take the nerves out of making your classroom future ready.

  1. Look at the Bigger Picture

Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.” – Bill Gates

 It’s important to remember that technology will merely facilitate to your big-picture plan in a way that engages your students and gets them excited about learning. Tools need to supplement your lessons, not the other way around.

Before choosing any tools, answer these questions:

  • What aspects of your curriculum would benefit most from the addition of technology?
  • What are your year-long goals for these students? How does technology fit with those goals?
  • What are Common Core implementation issues that could be solved with technology for you?

Other technical questions to ask yourself:

  • What equipment do I have access to? A computer lab, iPads for all the students?
  • Is there Wi-Fi access in the school? Is it reliable?
  • Will my students be able to access these tools at home or just in the classroom?
  1. Take Your Time

After answering the previous questions you can start your research. Begin browsing apps by genre (Math, Reading), pricing (free, fee-based) or style (gamified, image-focused). You can also browse lists. A few good ones are:

10 Teacher Tools to Techify Your Classroom

Interactive Web Tools for Educators

10 Tech Tools to Engage Students

Once you’ve chosen a few tools to pursue, it’s time to experiment. Spend time learning how it works, and consider how your students will use it in the classroom.

Ask yourself:

  • Will it take them a long time to learn?
  • Will I have to spend a lot of extra time managing it?
  • Will it make me more efficient?

You may love every tool you test—but that doesn’t mean you need to bring them into the classroom all at once. In fact, this may be stressful for you and your students. Choose just one to start with, and once you and your students have mastered that tool, consider adding a new one to your roster.

  1. Be Flexible

 The first few days, even weeks, of using a new tool can be trying. You and your students are getting to know how it works, deciding where it fits in the context of everything else you’re trying to accomplish, and more. During this period, you need to be flexible with time, patience and students. Remember:

Something will go wrong: Sometimes, even the smallest mishap can throw you off. Prepare for this by considering all the things that might not work—students aren’t interested, some students aren’t successful with the tool, it stops working, your Wi-Fi is down—and have a backup plan.

Students might know better than you: Your students have been raised with technology, and know the ins and outs of many programs. Accept their advice if you’re unsure about something; this may be a time when you can learn from them—a moment that empowers them to be leaders.

Bringing new tools into the classroom doesn’t need to be an arduous or stressful task. These tools can make your students more engaged and you more efficient, if you take your time considering what works and what doesn’t.

Look at the bigger picture, test the tools you like, and don’t forget to be patient: anything new takes time to understand and manage, but once you’ve mastered it, you’ll see the time was worth the outcome.

Bio: Jessica Sanders is the Director of Social Outreach for Learn2Earn, an online fundraising platform that allows students to raise money by reading books. She grew up reading books like The Giver and Holes, and is passionate about making reading as exciting for young kids today as it has always been for her. Follow Learn2Earn on Twitter and Facebook, and send content inquiries to social@learn2earn.org.

10 Tips to Equip Your Classroom on a Budget

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By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Almost a year ago, we did a post that was very popular about tips and tricks to help teachers equip their classrooms. We’ve brought several of those tips back in this updated list and broadened the scope beyond just free resources. All to give you several options for supplying your classroom on a tight budget!deskchild

Teachers, here are a few ideas to help you out:

  • First of all, don’t be afraid to ask. Create a wish list and ask the parents of your students for supplies. But don’t forget to also ask local bookstores, or craft and office supply stores for discounts or freebies. Many companies can write donations off as a tax break. Tell them a little about your school and your students and how you plan to use the resource. You may get a donation or at least a discount. A nice gesture would be to send a thank you note to the business with a picture of the item in use. Or post to your social media page and thank the business publicly.
  • Check out eBay and your local Craigslist. There’s a lot of great stuff listed on eBay. On eBay, try to bid on “lot” offers for children’s books, teaching supplies, and craft supplies, instead of bidding on individual items. On Craigslist, look under the For Sale section using the keywords “teacher” and/or “classroom.”
  • Find your local Freecycle group. Freecycle is a network with millions of members that are all about reusing each other’s items. Put up a “Wanted” post explaining that you are a teacher and listing what you need.
  • Use Book Clubs! Clubs like Scholastic Book Club offer free books after you’ve accumulated bonus points.
  • Shop around for Back-to-School discounts at the Office Depot and Target in your area. Sometimes managers will allow you to go over the sale limit for coupons because you are a teacher. Other stores frequently put school supplies on clearance when the supplies reach a certain level.
  • Register your classroom at Adopt a Classroom. Individuals can go to this site and search for a teacher they know, a school they have a connection with, or a subject they’re passionate about and fund it. 100% of their tax-deductible donation goes to the classroom. A similar site is DonorsChoose, where public school teachers can post classroom project requests online. When a project reaches its funding goal, they ship the materials to your school.
  • If you’re at a low-income school, you may qualify for free school supplies from Kids in Need Foundation, which maintains a national network of Resource Centers where teachers can get free supplies for their students who are in need.
  • Love shopping? Here is a list of 80 stores(from Office Depot and the Apple Store, to museums and clothing stores) from Gift Card Granny that offer discounts to teachers.  And you can find other teacher discounts on the Teacher Discounts Pinterest board.
  • NEA publishes a monthly list of 10 FREE Things, which includes “the best websites to find printables, your favorite books, instructional videos for you and your students, lesson plans, and other FREE stuff for your classroom.”
  • And finally, if you’re looking for free, high-quality teaching resources, make sure to check Curriki often as we’re continually adding new resources.

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If you know of other free resources, would you please share?

11 Excel Tricks to Teach Your Students Today!

By Guest Blogger Minnia Feng, Microsoft minnia feng

Excel is one of the most useful tools out there, but some find it complex. Here are some simple tricks to help students excel at using this handy spreadsheet tool. If you don’t have Excel, find out if you and your students are eligible to download it free as part of the Office 365 Pro Plus Benefit— click here to see if you are eligible.

 

1. Never lose sight of row headers by freezing panes

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Freezing Panes is one of the most useful tricks in Excel—with this you can always view your labels for different rows and columns, no matter how much you scroll.

  • If the pane you wish to freeze is the first row, simply go to View → Freeze Panes → select ‘Freeze Top Row.”
  • If it is not the top row, simply click on the cell below the pane you wish to freeze (if you want to freeze row 3 and up, select a cell in row 4), go to View → Freeze Panes → Freeze Panes.

 

2. Give your students the ability to keep track of their assessment through Self-Grade Computation

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Simply click New, then search for “GPA Tracker” in templates —the GPA Tracker template allows students to input their own grades for different types of assignments in each class to get an idea of how they are doing. If your students are on tablets, here’s a tutorial on how to track GPA in Excel for iPad.

 

3. Move back and forth between spreadsheets quickly without clicking anything.

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If you are working with multiple spreadsheets and need to move between them, press Ctrl+Tab to move back and forth between two spreadsheets, and Ctrl+Shift+Tab to move to the previous spreadsheet.

 

4. Use Flash Fill to make formatting tasks a breeze

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Let’s say you have a row of numbers, for example “5554443333”, and you want to change the format to a phone number such as “(555) 444-3333.” Instead of manually typing it out, Flash Fill can do this for you automatically by detecting patterns in your formatting, and works best when your data has some consistency. Works as well with formatting names, dates, and postal codes.

 

5. Use Excel Survey to collect information directly into an organized spreadsheet

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Need to collect data from others and not have it be scattered when you receive it? Excel Survey (found in Excel Online) allows you to create a survey quickly and easily, then compiles the information in real time as it comes in. Great for group projects and surveys.

 

6. Move entire columns of data easily and quickly

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Simply highlight the column you want to move and put your cursor over the border—it will change into a crossed arrow icon, allowing you to drag to move the column freely.

 

7. Select all with one click

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Ever wonder what that little triangle is at the top left corner of your spreadsheet? You can click on it and quickly select all the cells with open simple click.

 

8. Ctrl + Arrow to move to different corners of the spreadsheet

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Working with a particularly long and extensive set of data? No need to scroll—simply press “ctrl” + the arrow key in the direction you want to go. For example, “Ctrl+ →” will take you to the rightmost point of your data, and “ctrl+ ↓” will take you to the bottom line of the data.

 

9. Transpose Data in Rows to Data in Columns, and Vice Versa, with two clicks

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Sometimes you realize the data you had displayed horizontally would make more sense displayed vertically. Instead of copying and pasting everything one by one, copy and paste all the data you’d like copied, then click Home→Paste→Transpose Icon, and the data will display in the new format.

 

10. Find out the average, count, and sum without any formulas or clicks

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Did you know that if you select a set of numbers, the average, count, and sum automatically display without you doing anything? Excellent.

 

11. Combine two chart types by creating a combo chart and adding a second axis

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What happens when you have two different types of data you want to show in a single chart? Excel makes it easy. Simply select the data you’d like for your chart, press the insert tab and click recommended charts, then click all charts tab and select the combo category. If the two sets of data have different scales, simply check the “secondary axis” box for the scale you’d like to add and click ok. Find out more in this in-depth tutorial.