Technology Thursday: Engaging Students and Building Background

Technology Thursday with Teaching Trio


I’m linking up this week with the Teaching Trio to share one way I use technology in my classroom.  The use of technology allows me unique ways of reaching my students and increases their engagement and knowledge.   I use many technology tools, but Google Images and YouTube are a staple. 

Using Google Images and You Tube in the Classroom


 I realize this is not a revolutionary idea, but it made a world of difference for my students this past year!  I teach special education students in a Title 1 school, where every student is on free lunch. My students’ background knowledge is severely restricted, since they live and play only in their local neighborhood.  In other words, they know little of the outside world, other than what they are exposed to on television at home.  We all know that most of the current programming leaves much to be desired!


iPad Mini Giveaway!

iPad Mini giveaway


It is that time of year when we are all getting ready for back to school.  In order to brighten your school year, a group of teacher bloggers are hosting an incredible giveaway.  I’m excited to be part of the cohort bringing this  event right to your computer screen!  August 1 through August 9, 2014 you have the opportunity to enter to win an iPad Mini!  Whoo Hoo!  


Since each of us will be sharing technology reviews and tips, everyone who participates will be going home…or back to school 😀 … with something!


I want to share an exciting FREE app I discovered called Tiny Tap.  This would be the perfect app to install on your new iPad  😉 !  This app allows teachers and students to create, play and share interactive games created through its interface on the iPad.  There is even a built in market place where you can play games created by others.  This app was developed primarily for younger students or special needs students, however it can easily be adapted to enhance the learning of any age group.  


This app allows users to:

  1. Create interactive games
  2. Utilize photos on your camera roll or on the web
  3. Import video from your files or the web
  4. Record questions using your own voice
  5. Insert sound effects/music
  6. Insert pre-designed backgrounds, shapes, and clip art
  7. Share your interactive games on the marketplace or email them to yourself/others
  8. Encourage students to use higher levels of knowledge by creating learning games
  9. Reinforce developing skills or study for an exam

I located a brief video tutorial that provides an overview of the app on the Teq website.


Here is my first attempt at creating an interactive learning game:

One other app I am wanted to share with you is Foldify.  This is a paid app available at the iTunes Store.  It has an add on app called Foldify Zoo which would be an awesome addition to an animal or zoo unit of study.

Foldify from Pixle on Vimeo.

Foldify Zoo from Pixle on Vimeo.


Foldify in the classroom

Learning to use Foldify in my classroom.






Be sure to enter the giveaway below and to join me as I make my way through this hop learning some great tech tips from the awesome bloggers featured in this giveaway!

Please note: This giveaway is only open to teachers (classroom and homeschool) who are living in the contiguous United States. The winning entry will be verified and proof of eligibility may be required. Please see the complete terms and conditions at the bottom of the giveaway for more information.
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Burke's Special Kids


Accelerated Reader in the Primary Classroom

Reading in the Park

Photo courtesy:
Creative Commons

Recently our Reading PLC discussed the merits of  a popular comprehension testing program, Accelerated Reader.  Educators have a strong positive or negative opinion regarding Accelerated Reader as an incentive program used to promote reading among primary students.  A great majority feel that the program has no place in developing a life long love of reading.  There is no doubt that if used without careful thought  the program could have detrimental effects.

Several negative effects of the program include:

1. Causing students to read only books that have an attached Accelerated Reader test.

2. Promoting a tangible incentive with regards to reading, instead of developing an inherent love of reading that will last throughout a student’s lifetime. Many of these students revert to non-readers once the reward is removed or loses it value.

3. Using Accelerated Reader scores to formulate classroom reading grades.

4. Perhaps the most controversial, and I feel the largest drawback, is setting a minimum Accelerated Reader level that students may read.  In other words, if you are a third grader, you need to read a 3.0 or higher text.

My collaborating inclusion teacher uses Accelerated Reader with great success.  She does not limit student self-selection of text to their grade equivalency.  Instead students are given individualized guidelines.  For example, struggling students may not read certain chapter books (higher grade level) until they earn a set number of points at a lower level.  Why is this so successful for her?

The reasons are two-fold.  First many students have missed reading quality picture books or easier chapter books in earlier grades.  By allowing them to choose from these books they are exposed to text they can now read and enjoy.  Secondly, struggling readers benefit from increasing their sight word fluency, reading rhyming text, and using picture cues.  As their confidence and success rises, she challenges them with appropriate text at the next level.

Think of it this way.  While the percentages vary according to different sources, they all point to a 95 to 100% oral reading fluency accuracy and comprehension level for successful independent reading.  This is commonly referred to as “good fit” books.  If reading is a constant struggle with limited understanding and engagement, how will our struggling readers develop their skills and love for reading?

What are you reading?  According to the Accelerated Reader leveling system, Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a mere 10.9 grade equivalency.  On the flip side, The Help is set at 4.4, Twilight at 4.9, and Gillian Flynn’s widely popular Gone Girl at a 5.6 grade equivalency.   In other words, for reading enjoyment we read books that would be deemed “too easy” in the school setting.




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