Digital Assessment Tools for Teachers

 I have another article posted for the Yellin Center! Below you will find a copy of my latest piece. Enjoy!

Digital Assessment Tools

Assessment is a large, important, and oft-debated necessity in education. The traditional view of assessment hinged strongly on summative evaluations –  assessments after the fact, such as a comprehensive exam or final paper. However, the current best practice in evaluating learning is to deploy frequent and thoughtful formative assessments, where teachers build in “check-in points” during the learning process that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. The goal of this evaluation framework is to inform the educator of what specific needs are present in their students and whether they need to augment their future lessons in response to those needs. It is important to note that the post-evaluation reflection and intervention is the defining feature of a formative assessment. Measuring student performance or collecting data is not formative unless you use the information to help your students.

Continue reading “Digital Assessment Tools for Teachers”

Top Five Resources for Special Education Teachers

IMG_5079The past month I had been asked by a few sources to cull my bookshelves and devise a list of my tried and true manuals for special education.  One list I comprised for my former University will be coming out to showcase 10 exceptional resources.  However, today, for the Yellin Center, I whittled and augment my list down to a mere five texts that make my life as a Learning Specialist a touch simpler. In my article, which you will find below, I elected to focus on technical texts, rather than teaching resources.  The literature detailed in the article are resources on the current research and practical strategies for applying the best practices in learning theory.  I hope they are as helpful to you as they have been for me. Continue reading “Top Five Resources for Special Education Teachers”

Khan Academy is growing and I for one am excited!

khan You might be familiar with Khan Academy as a free, online resource to help students in grade K through 12 master difficult mathematical concepts.  However, Khan is quickly turning into so much more.  Through a series of excellent partnerships Khan is rapidly expanding the breadth and range of topics they cover.  Khan’s latest partnership is with the CollgeBoard to bring free, dynamic, robust SAT prep to anyone with internet access.  The conversation around this innovative, and disruptive resource is that perhaps this will have the power to level the playing fields for all college seniors in the country and better prepare them for college. However, Khan’s test prep ventures don’t stop with the SAT. Khan Academy currently also offers free, digital resources to help students prep for the GMAT, MCAT, NCLEX-RN (nursing exam) and CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam). But Khan isn’t just focusing on standardized test prep in order to help make America’s students college ready. Khan Academy has also curated a wealth of resources to help students navigate the intricacies of college admissions. This takes Khan’s merits beyond the mathematics classrom, making it an invaluable resource for any high school student, guidance counselor or dynamite teacher.

Read more about the great things Khan is doing in my Article for the Yellin Center in New York City.

Article on the Best Learning Apps

1432058554The Yellin Center just released their most recent newsletter.  The spring edition features an article I wrote on my favorite learning apps.  There are so many high-quality, educationally sound learning apps available to parents and educators. However, it can be a daunting challenge to navigate the plethora of tools and cull out the ones that will be of value to a specific child or need. In the article I have highlighted and rationalized my top choices digital tools that build skills in Math, Reading, Writing and early Literacy. Enjoy!

My Side of the Mountain Novel Study

41GI0OcvOZL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Last week we headed to the Catskills for the most perfect, cozy, blissful weekend escape.  My nerdy inner elementary school teacher was as about the relaxation and she was about the setting of Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain in the real.   To give a little context to my unabashed enthusiasm, when I taught grade 5 I devised an entire My side of The Mountain unit plan.  It is hands down one of my favourite novel studies to do with a group of upper elementary school students.  The story is set in the Catskills, and centers around the theme of survival in the wilderness.  So as you know I believe in experiential learning. So naturally when I was teaching in the Northwest I made sure to infuse activities that got my students out in their natural environment to ensure the book really came alive.  It really is one of the best books to create interactive, authentic learning experiences around.  So while away this past weekend,  I snapped a handful of pictures throughout our trip that I can put together in a slide presentation for fellow teachers to use to help their students visualize the setting of My Side of the Mountain.  It is now up on my Teachers pay Teachers store. Continue reading “My Side of the Mountain Novel Study”

Essay Express: A Writing Intervention Software

method=get&s=essay-express-boxshotAnother article is up on the Yellin Center Blog! You might remember that last fall I reviewed FableVision Learning‘s Animation-ish program.  While during my exploration of Animation-ish, I stumbled across a few other awesome resources that FableVision has created.  One of which is an amazing tool for learning how to structure an effective essay called, Essay Express. Crafting an essay requires multiple abilities including, spelling, understanding of grammar and sentence structure, master of written conventions, understanding of semantics etc.  It is an area of writing that many students (all the way into their college years) struggle with and takes time to truly master.  Often students come into the clinic having some of the key abilities in places but weaknesses in others.  Essay Express is an exceptional tool that helps strength a students strengths and fill in any gaps they may have in the writing process in order to teach them how to devise strong written output.

So head over to the blog to read my review, the research that went into creating the program and the amazing aspects of this software that will make it beneficial for both home and school use.

Gift Ideas: Books to Teach Social Skills

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Another article authored by yours truly is up this week on the Yellin Center Blog, and getting lots of traction.  Last week I highlight a few of my favorite developmental learning toys, which would make great gifts for teachers and students alike.  This time around I am sharing some of my favorite books for teaching social skills (We all know how much I LOVE integrating picturebooks into my curriculum).   Social learning can be hard for children to grapple with, and it can be an even greater challenge to effectively teach social skills in an enjoyable, nonthreatening manner.  In my own classroom I often wrote my own social stories, or social building tales based on the needs of the students in my class.  However, a teacher’s time is precious and there are a few remarkable authors out there, like Janan Cain and Julia Cook, who have done all the heavy lifting for you.  So head over to my post, Books to Teach Social Skills, for a list of resources for teaching skills like sharing, controlling your voice, learning when to speak and expressing one’s feelings.  On the Yellin Center Blog you will also find a discussion on why mastery over social conventions is so vital to a child’s overall development.  Happy Reading!

Gift Ideas: Toys for Developmental Learning

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I have another article up on the Yellin Center Blog.  With Christmas just around the corner, my most current piece discusses some of the excellent play-based learning toys created by two of my hands-down favorite ethical toy companies, Melissa and Doug and Plan Toys.  My focus is primarily on tools designed for a special education setting.  However, the versatility of both toy maker’s developmental learning materials means they will benefit every child, regardless of ability.  Every child needs an interactive way to build key developmental skills.  So head over to my article for a discussion of the research that backs each toy’s development, and highlights of some of my personal favorite toys offered by each company.  Whether you are looking to improve a child’s gross motor function, speech and language skills, life skills or cognitive abilities there are a wealth of fun, engaging tools to help you do so. Learning can and should be playful.

plantoys1So whether you are shopping for a gift for your child’s teacher or your own child, you can’t go wrong with any of the exceptional resources created by either Melissa and Doug or Plan Toys. Happy shopping!

Freebie Friday: Find Five Quadrilateral Math Game (+ other geometry activities)

PNG Picture of gameThe Yellin Center Blog showcased another one of my resources this week.  You can head over to my article on the game for the full lesson plan and game play rules, as well as an in depth detailing of how I have used the game in my own classrooms.   An augmented version of the game is also available free for download on the Yellin Center Blog, or the full version is up on my Teachers pay Teachers store.  Continue reading “Freebie Friday: Find Five Quadrilateral Math Game (+ other geometry activities)”

Ed Tech Review of TumbleBooks and The Importance of eBooks and Audiobooks for Reading Development

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Another Ed Tech review is up on the Yellin Center Blog, this time about a suite of eBook and audiobook resources called TumbleBooks.  You can head over to my review to learn about the ages each application is appropriate for, as well as all the teacher and librarian resources that are integrated right into the program.

However, what my review doesn’t elaborate is how vital eBooks and audiobooks are for developing the literacy skills of struggling or reluctant readers.  Beyond being below grade level in reading ability, one additional challenge struggling readers have to combat is a lack of background knowledge.  Often we glean vital information from texts that help us create connections, encode new ideas and enrich our learning experience across curricular areas. However, without exposure to this content struggling readers are unable to build a wealth of prior knowledge which can often lead to challenges in all academic areas.  Therefore, when designing literacy interventions the lack of exposure to new vocabulary, a variety of content and diverse ideas needs to be accounted for.  This is where audiobook and eBooks become an invaluable resource.  These mediums allow students to access the same rich content as their peers, and build their knowledge base without hinging on their decoding or comprehension skills.  I work with a lot of students with reading difficulties, and eBooks and audiobooks are two of my most recommended reading support strategies.  Personally, I have witnessed a lot of success using alternative reading materials, but don’t simply take my word for it because research backs this evidence based practice also. So if you are looking to bolster your students interest in reading, as well as their content knowledge check out TumbleBooks because they offer a great variety of resources across grade levels and genres.