Teaching Tip Tuesday: Powtoon!

Powtoon is giving away 50,000 free classroom accounts to teachers!  It is an online tool for creating animated videos.  Although I didn’t know much about Powtoon, I thought it sounded fun and decided to try it out.

I clicked on the link here:  http://www.powtoon.com/lp/toonup/

After I registered and entered the promo code, I started playing around.  I created a video to advertise my coaching services in my new school.  Overall, I found this website fairly easy to use, and I think teachers could find some creative ways to incorporate this tool into their instruction.

 Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 8.39.14 AM

Here’s my video! (You can click on either link below.)


This was my first attempt with this online tool, and I look forward to exploring it even further!


Teaching tip Tuesday: Technology to Flip Your Classroom

I am by no means a technology expert, but I am trying to learn more as I discover new ways to increase student learning. Recently, I have been playing around with various ways to flip classrooms using technology.  A few teachers have asked me about websites or apps to capture screen shots or create videos.  Although there are a lot of different resources, websites, and apps out there, I have found a few that I think work well.  I’ll share a few starting points for you, but I will also provide more resources that you can explore yourself.

What is a flipped classroom?

A flipped classroom is a reversed teaching model that delivers instruction at home through interactive, teacher-created videos and moves “homework” to the classroom. Moving lectures and low-rigor and engagement activities outside of the classroom allows teachers to maximize class time with more rigorous tasks that will extend student learning.

Here are some resources I have used:



You can record the screen of your computer, along with your voice, for up to 15 minutes per video. This website allows you to decide how much of your screen you want to record, and you can also use your computer’s webcam to have a small video of yourself in the corner as you teach the lesson. You can download and install a program for your computer, or you can start recording from the website. You can publish to their website or to YouTube.



Screener is a very simple & easy-to-use tool for creating up to five minutes for each screencast video. You can select how much of the screen is shown in the video. You don’t need to register, but if you want to save your videos you need a Twitter account. After you create your video, you can publish to twitter, YouTube, or download.



ScreenCastle is a web-based screencast creation tool.  Go to their website, click the start button, and you can start recording.  You can record your voice and the screen. Then your video will be saved through their website.

Some apps that allow you to create a lesson or video from your ipad or smart device:

Explain Everything (2.99)

ShowMe (free)

Educreations (free)

By using a free trial, the two websites below will allow you to create your own professional-looking videos or lessons:

Camtasia(free trial)

Active Presenter (free trial)

Video Apps


Explain everything

Green screen

Story robe

Coach my video/coaches eye

Art with animation

Sock puppets

Imovie trailer


Movie FX

Funny Movie Maker

Tube Box

Animation HD



Book Creator

Action Movie

If you want to learn more, here are a couple of links to some teachers’ blogs who know WAY more about this than me. They have ideas for excellent technology resources that you can use in your classroom.

17 Free Tools for Creating Screen Capture Images and Videos


20 Ways to Use ONE iPad in Your K-12 Classroom


Do you have other resources that you find helpful for a flipped classroom?

Teaching Tip Tuesday: Fake Texts

Here is a quick & fun way to engage your students.  You can create screenshots of fake texts using ifaketext.com!  You could get creative and have fun with this!

shakespeare text

You could use this fun format in various ways: 1)  You could present new information to students 2)  You could pose discussion questions or essential questions to students  3) You could grab their attention at the beginning of a lesson 4) Students could present their understanding of a topic 5) Students could answer questions that you have posed to them

How to create a fake text:

1.Go to : http://ifaketext.com/

2.Enter your name.

3.Choose a carrier.

4.Enter the conversation (Be sure to use the format they show you.)

5. Click “Create your screenshot.”

I am not a very funny person, but I know many of you fabulous teachers could make some funny stuff. I also know that our kids are very creative, and they could create some awesome fake texts.

If you wanted your students to show their understanding of vocabulary words, you could create texts like the following examples:

function text

lil wayne function

Other classroom activity ideas:

Students could write dialogue between…

•Two characters from a scene in a story or novel

•Two concepts (including some facts about them)

•Two historic figures

•Two friends discussing a book, movie, event, or concept.

And here is a pdf of a “TableTexting” file, which does not require any technology.

What other ideas do you have? How can you use fake texts in your classes?

Teaching Tip Tuesday: Spinners

Spinners are a fun way for students to engage in learning.  I have run across a few ideas of how to use them lately.  Usually, I see them used in elementary classrooms, but with anything, they can be adapted for our high school classrooms.  Add more complex tasks to the spinner and it will fit into your curriculum and will raise engagement and rigor.  These are a fun way to mix things up in your classroom and add a little more excitement and unpredictability to your lesson.

Vocabulary Spinner for Smartboards



Students will uncover hidden vocabulary words from under the shapes. Then students will spin the spinner on the Smartboard.  The space on which the spinner lands is what task the students must complete. There will be a variety of tasks for which students must use and demonstrate understanding of the selected words. This spinner could be adapted to include other tasks: example, non-example, drawing/picture, personal connection to the word…

Check out this page, which shows you how to create your own spinner on Smartboards.  There is also a library of spinner files.


Responding to Reading Spinners

Download and print out the fiction and nonfiction spinners here:

fiction & nonfiction spinners

2 spinners

Students will spin a paperclip under the tip of a pencil. Watch this video to see how it is done: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4g1FV_bhTo  Where the paperclip lands is how they must respond to the text after reading. Students could use these in small groups.  Students could stop at the end of each section of a text and respond.

spinner with paperclip

Teaching Tip Tuesday: TodaysMeet

TodaysMeet is an excellent online tool that that allows you to create a digital discussion board that you can project to your class.  If you use this free, easy-to-use technology tool, you will increase your engagement and rigor very simply.  TodaysMeet helps you embrace the backchannel. Encourage your students to use the live stream to make comments, ask questions, and give you feedback.  TodaysMeet is an excellent tool to encourage students to chat about what they are learning.

todaysmeet home


What is backchanneling? A backchannel is a space in which secondary conversations happen during a presentation or delivery of content such as lectures, videos, or panel discussions. You can turn passive listening into active discussion. Rather than students whispering comments or texting each other during a presentation, you can give them a space to place information, make connections, ask questions and extend learning.


How it works

1)      Go to http://todaysmeet.com

2)      Name your room & give your room a shelf life & click “create your room.”

3)      Your page is ready to use.  You and your students can post questions or comments from smartphones, ipads, or computers.  No usernames or passwords are needed. You can project your page on the screen or smartboard for the class to see.

To see how easy it is for students to post comments or questions, visit the room I created.  Try posting comments or questions there!


msb todaysmeet

 How TodaysMeet can be used

1)      For frequent formative assessments to gauge student understanding, pose a question to the class. Every student can post their answer on the discussion board.

2)      While you are lecturing or teaching a concept, students can post their questions or comments to the page.

3)      Use it as a do now, exit slip, or homework activity.

4)      Have a virtual discussion or debate.  Students can discuss a topic in your virtual room, and even the shy students can be involved and voice their opinions.

5)      Show students an educational video, and students can respond to your prompts online as they watch.

6)      While reading a text, students can make connections, ask questions, or write their reactions.

Teaching Tip Tuesday: worksheetworks.com

This week I am giving you another useful website.


On this website, you choose the type of graphic organizer you wish to use in your classroom.  Then you can customize it and add headings and titles. The worksheets are created in a pdf format.

You can see the variety of graphic organizers below:

If you click on Frayer Model, you can customize it with the word that the students need to explore:

It’s very simple and easy to use!  Many of the graphic organizers are compare/contrast, so they will fit right in with MSB’s instructional strategy of identifying similarities and differences.

Teaching Tip Tuesday: Diffen


Here is a website that you might be able to use with your students as they compare and contrast, finding similarities and differences.


DIFFEN – A simple comparison tool. It’s a wiki, inspired by Wikipedia, that gives users basic and quick information. Enter your two topics: __ vs. ___ and see the results. Select to view all attributes, differences, or similarities.

If we search Obama vs Romney, the website displays over 20 topics and categories with information about each to show how they compare. Here is an example of what some of the comparison information looks like:

How do you think you could use this tool in your classroom?  Let me know what ideas you have, and let me know how it goes if you use it.

Lastly, don’t forget about our Tier 2 Word of the Week!

Spring Break Boredom? Try Pinterest!

If you need something to keep you busy over spring break, I have the perfect idea for you!

Pinterest.  It seemed everyone was talking about it, but I didn’t know what it was.  A few weeks ago, I finally caved and asked Mrs. Mathews to send me an invitation, so I could check it out.  If you don’t know what Pinterest is, I’ll tell you now just how awesome it is!

According to their website, “Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.  Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people.”  What does this have to do with teaching?  You can get creative ideas for your classroom from other teachers, and you can save and organize all of the educational ideas you find on the internet.

When I first log into Pinterest, this is what I see.  I see “pins” from other people I follow on Pinterest.  I can follow friends or people with similar interests.

When I go onto my page, I see my own pinboards.  You can see that I’ve organized my pinboards into different categories.

If I click on my pinboard for school, I can see all of my pins of the great classroom ideas I found and saved.

In Pinterest, you can also search for a term and find pins that match.  For example, I searched for “Classroom Organization” and these are all of the items that matched.

If you are already on Pinterest, you can find my page with this link:


If you haven’t been on Pinterest and need an invitation, I can send you one.  Just let me know!

If you wish to share your own Pinterest page with everyone, feel free to share in the comments below.

Teaching Tip Tuesday–Blogging!

Welcome to the MSB Instructional Coach Blog.

The purpose of this new blog is to give MSB teachers one spot to find instructional ideas and information.  I’m new to the blogging thing, so I’m still trying to figure this out.  I will be adding useful links and documents to my blog over the next few days. If you want to find resources that I distribute to the staff, bookmark this page.  I will continue to use my blog throughout the year.

For your instruction, you can create a FREE blog through either http://wordpress.com/ or http://edublogs.org/  You can add links, resources, documents, videos, photos, and assignments for students.

You can also create blogs for each of your students.  http://kidblog.org/  Using this FREE service, you can create classes and add students to each class.  Students can write blogs and comment on each other’s blogs, and you will have full access and control over what they post.

This week Mrs. Mathews and I have set up teacher and student blogs for her iPad activities.  The students haven’t used them yet, but you can see how the blogs are set up.  Mrs. Mathews’ classroom blog is mathewsmsb.wordpress.com.

If you would like help with using blogs in your instruction, let me know.  I would be happy to help!  You can also post comments or questions below.