Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Summer is approaching. Tomorrow is my last day with students. After several summers of classes and general business, I plan to use this summer as an opportunity to chill out, rejuvenate, and also to catch up on blogs, articles, and give my self some professional development. For this task, I love the app Evernote.

Evernote is a web tool and app that allows you to annotate and save audio, visual, PDFs, web sites, etc. Just about anything! Your clippings are filed in "notebooks" and you can also tag them for easier searching. In all seriousness,  my life changed after I discovered Evernote.

Once you have created an account online, you can download the desktop version for your computer(s) and also the apps for your various mobile devices. Everything is free unless you need a large amount of storage. All of your notes are synced across devices and everything you've saved is at your fingertips, able to be searched and retrieved in seconds.

My absolute favorite feature of Evernote is the web clipper. This allows me to clip part or all of a web page to save. This is how I save ideas and articles I read on blogs and websites. As I incorporate some of these new tips and tools into my classroom next year, I'll be able to easily find them in Evernote.

My other use for Evernote (and maybe the most important) is for RECIPES! I enjoy cooking and baking and have always struggled with how to organize my recipes. I now store them as web clippings, PDFs, photos or text in Evernote. There is an Evernote Food app as well, but I just use my regular Evernote account.

All of the notes are editable, so I can change recipes, add a photo, or add notes to a Spanish-class idea for next year. I love Evernote

P.S. My not-overly-techie husband also uses Evernote for recipes! This would be a great way to get started using Evernote. Good luck!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Reading Skills in Spanish class

Many schools incorporate basic skills across the curriculum. At my school we are required to include reading and math strategies and practice, no matter what subjects we teach. I actually really enjoy it--a math game with Spanish numbers, or pre-reading strategies before a Spanish story... they are good for all students.

We use Accelerated Reader at our school K-12. A few years ago, with the help of the media specialist here, I incorporated a cultural reading assignment in my Spanish classes. I found several books that are in English but center around Hispanic culture and might include some Spanish words. Each quarter my students are required to read one book from the list, take the corresponding Accelerated Reader Quiz, and complete a short project based on a cultural aspect from the book. The books are easy and appropriate for middle school and early high school. Some are more historical than others and all are enjoyable. (I've read them all!) This project is one more way to incorporate some culture in my classes.

Book List 

(Note: I included links to Amazon for you to view the book and description if you'd like.)

Amigas: Fifteen Candles by Veronica Chambers (Any of this series would probably be good but I have not read them all.)
Becoming Neomí León by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez
Breaking Through by Francisco Jimenez
Buried Onions by Gary Soto
Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa
The Circuit by Francisco Jimenez
The Crossing by Gary Paulsen
Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Heat by Mike Lupica
Help Wanted by Gary Soto
The Jumping Tree by Rene Saldana, Jr.
La Línea by Ann Jaramillo
Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojchiechowska
Spirits of the High Mesa by Floyd Martinez
Taking Sides by Gary Soto
The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales 

If you have a suggestion for my list, please leave a comment below. Thanks!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Computer Programming Made Easy

I am not a computer programmer, nor do I play one in the classroom, but I have been trying to learn more about programming (or coding) in the hopes of exposing some of my computer students to it. I was intrigued by the Code.org group that is promoting computer programming in schools. Programming, even in its most simple form, is great for teaching problem-solving skills. I have found several great sources of programming activities and tutorials.

Computer by ytknick - A desktop computer.


If you haven't heard of Scratch you're missing out! Scratch is a computer-programming language created by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab. It is designed for 8-16 year olds but older students and adults may find it fun as well. If you are a parent or teacher, there are many resources available to you at the Scratch website such as the Getting Started Guide and the Scratch Curriculum Guide for educators. There is a whole educational section called ScratchEd.

I have used Scratch in my classes for several years now and it is interesting to see how students do with Scratch. The thinkers and creators really go nuts and fiddle, tweak and work hard. Those who like instant gratification can do it, but only with results that are basic, maybe with some glitches. It seems easy but definitely requires a lot of thinking and problem solving to make a good Scratch.

Coding Classes

Another resource I found recently is Code Avengers. This is a website with short coding lessons. It is easy to use and gives instant feedback and hints if needed. I worked through the HTML course and now am having my students try it out. I can link their accounts to me so I can see their progress. Another similar site I liked was Code Academy. I chose Code Avengers because of the easy way to link my students to me.

On an iPad

There are also a couple of iPad apps that teach simple coding. These are not on the same level as the previously mentioned resources, but are great thinking activities for young students. Daisy the Dino requires a little bit of reading and doesn't have many levels but is a fun way to integrate simple programming and problem solving. Kodable is an engaging app that doesn't require any reading at all. It starts simply but does get more advanced and again, involved those problem-solving skills we want students to practice.


All of these resources are free, at least to get started. Some have the option to purchase additional content. The title of this post "Computer Programming Made Easy" is a bit tongue-in-cheek. Is coding easy? Well, yes and no. These resources make it easy to get started but the possibilities are unlimited.
Coding is a great way to challenge students and individualize--there is no end to what can be accomplished.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

iPad App Review: Educreations

Educreations is one of my favorite iPad apps. It is similar to a whiteboard and allows you to record your lesson as you talk and/or draw. After you've recorded your video it can be shared online at Educreations.com for others (or students) to see. Educreations also allows you to change the background of your video to lined paper, graph paper or a photo (think about a map or a chart!). It is a great app for students to use, too, to show or demonstrate something.

In the new version just released there are several enhancements, including 

  • Erase your handwriting and drawings
  • Restart your recording without losing your work
  • Log in with Google or Facebook account
  • Bug fixes and performance enhancements

You can see a short Spanish verb lesson I recorded here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Web Tool Review: Remind 101

Remind 101 is a free web app that allows parents to keep in touch with students and/or teachers through texting. The really neat feature for educators is that the teacher never has students' cell numbers and the students can't reply. It is meant for announcements and one-way communication.

I have been using Remind 101 for over a year now. It has changed how I communicate with my students, and I have nearly 100% connection rate...meaning more of my students get my messages now than before when I used to use email or post something on the class website.

Here is a screenshot of one of my messages I sent after I learned that some of my students would be gone for math league.

I especially like Remind 101 for communicating with my National Honor Society students that I advise. I don't see most of them in class, so sending a text reminder is so easy and convenient.

How it works:

Once a teacher sets up an account at Remind 101  the teacher enters his or her classes and each class is given a code. Students text the code to a specific number, and an account is created. There are even printable handouts that explain this if you need! Teachers visit Remind 101 or use an app (See the iPhone app here) to send text reminders. A log of your reminders is kept for you, along with a list of the students on each list. So nice!

I know there are other tools that will accomplish the same goal, so use whatever works for you. Remind 101 has worked well for me and I recommend it! I also recommend adding yourself as a student so you receive the texts as well.

Friday, May 3, 2013

OSnap! for Stop-Action Videos

The iPad app "OSnap!" Time-Lapse & Stop Motion is one of my favorites for creating videos with students. It is on sale and FREE for a limited time in the iTunes app store. Find it here.

I wrote a post earlier about Stop-Motion Videos. My students loved doing this project. There are free apps that work great but the paid version of OSnap obviously has some features that the free version doesn't have. I encourage you to check it out!

My blog post on the topic is called, Stop-Action Animation with iPads.