I was introduced to this website last year when asked to lead a multiplication study group for some fourth graders at my school.  We started off using paper flash cards and I saw some success because the students enjoyed competing against one another to see who could shout out the answer first.  As some of the students in my group progressed, I had a few who still struggled with the beginning facts (2s, 3s, & 4s).  I needed something that would allow me to still track my students' progress but would also be individualized.  One of the fourth grade teachers suggested that I try multiplication.com.  This website was a lifesaver for me and my multiplication study group.  It allowed my students who were learning their facts quickly to move ahead while I worked more with the students who were still struggling.  When you first visit the website it looks a little confusing, so I am going to give a quick overview of the features available: 

1.  Quick Flash Flash Cards:  These flash cards are listed in the Games section.  I like to start students off using these (or the Fun Flash Cards which are much easier).  The Quick Flash cards allow students to go through each set of facts 5 times before moving to the next set.  They have an allotted time to answer each question.  If they answer the question incorrectly (or don't answer it quickly enough) the card will turn red.  This could be played alone or in pairs. 

2.  Quizzes and Tests:  After students have had time to familiarize themselves with the fact families (and hopefully spend some time studying at home), I give them a pre-test.  This is available in the quizzes and tests section.  There are also post tests along with tests for each fact family in this section.  I usually have them work on one or two fact families at a time.  For instance, I would have students start with 0s & 1s.  They would use flash cards to learns these fact families and then take a pre-test.  This lets me know how much more work they need to do with these particular families.  If they master the pre-test they can move on to the next family.  If they do not, then they move to step 3.  

3.  Games:  This is really the best part of the website.  The kids love it and so do I!  There are so many games to choose from.  What I like about the games is you work with a fact family or group of fact families.  In the beginning I have students work with individual fact families, but as they progress, I have them work with groups of fact families to better learn the material.  Some of the games are multiple choice, which is helpful for students who are still struggling with their facts. 

4.  Once I see that students have mastered a particular fact family within the games section, I have them go back to the Quizzes and Tests section to take the post test.  If they successfully pass the post test, they can then move on the the next fact family.  When students have reached their 5s, I have them take a post test combining facts 0-5. I also do this when students reach their 10s with a post test testing facts 0-10.  This shows me whether they are retaining the information from previous fact families. 

Donors Choose

 So... You have all of these great ideas for implementing technology into your classroom or library and no way to pay for them.  You have tried asking for more money but have had no success.  What do you do next?  You could definitely apply for a grant and if the technology you want requires big bucks (like more than $1,000) you probably want to go the grant route.  But, if you are wanting technology that is a little less expensive you should try Donors Choose

How does Donors Choose Work? 
1.   Register with Donors Choose.  You will have to confirm that you are a full time public school teacher an not an administrator.  Donors Choose is only for full time teachers.  
2.  Upload a photo of yourself or of you and your students (you will also have to send home a photo permission slip for parents to sign).  
3.  Select what you need for your classroom using the Donors Choose system.  
4.  Type up a description of what you need and why you need it.  This is where you sell yourself and your class.  Why do you really need this more than the next teacher?  Make it good!  
5.  If your project is funded, it will be shipped to your school along with a thank you package and camera.
6.  You will have students write thank you notes and take pictures of the project in action.  

Note:  Donors Choose suggests that projects under $400 get funded most often.  This is true sometimes.  I have used Donors choose a couple of times.  I had one project funded and one not funded.  The one funded was under $400 and the one not funded was $800 (Elmo projector).  That being said, I have a friend who had a laptop funded for her classroom.  It all depends on what you want and how you describe it. 


How many of us love the Wii game system?  I will be the first to raise my hand.  It has become extremely popular since it came out in 2006.  The Wii is different from many other game systems because of its wireless remote and unique interactive games.  That being said, even though the Wii is a game system and game systems are many times shunned in the school setting, there are actually many ways that it can be used to enhance student learning.  Here are just a few ideas: 

1.  Wii Fit-  Physical Education Teachers can use Wii Fit.  While this may not work with large classes, it could definitely work with smaller class sizes.  This would also be great to use with Autistic children.  Wii Fit allows users to maintain their own settings and keep up with their progress. 

2.  Wii Endless Ocean: Dive and Discover-  I was blown away by this game.  Students are introduced to new species and habitats as they explore this virtual underwater world.  One teacher has been using this extensively with his students and has created weekly lessons to go along with the game:   http://edte.ch/blog/2009/09/19/using-endless-ocean-wii-in-the-classroom-weeks-1-and-2-dive-and-discover/

3.  Wii Wild Earth:  You are the photographer.  You job is to photograph specific animals while on your African Safari.  You also have a tour guide who gives you information about the animals throughout the safari.  

This is an easy but fun game to play with students as young as 7.  Check out the trailer:

5 Great Math Apps for Under $5.00

Jungle Time ($.99, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)

This is a great app that helps kids learn how to tell and set time.  As a teacher, I have noticed that many kids are not learning how to tell time on analog clocks.  This is still an important skill to learn.  This app allows kids to learn this skill in a fun and interactive way.  The clocks within the app are animated and come alive (they even roar) when kids tell time correctly.  Kids can shake their device for a new time or move the hands on the clock to set the time themselves.  Note:  While you can buy the $.99 version for iPad, it is a small iPhone like screen.  There is a iPad version as well for $2.99. 

Mad Math 2  ($1.99, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)

This is a basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division flashcard drill app.  I like this app more than some of the others like it for a couple reasons.  Mad Math allows you to input and keep up with multiple users.  This is a great resource when using the app in a classroom setting.  Mad Math is also appealing because it does not have multiple choice answers.  While this is sometimes, I think it is good for children to occasionally figure out the answers on their own.  Children input answers into a screen that looks like a calculator but they are responsible for coming up with the answers.  This new version also has a couple new features like Math Bingo and Bubble Math.  

Math Tutor ($.99, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)

Math Tutor is an app that covers a wide range of skills.  It begins with basic integers and progresses to more difficult fraction and decimal problems.  This app can be used to review basic math facts but also to learn or review more difficult concepts.  The app offers a test mode to test your math level and also progress tracking to keep up with your progress while using the program. Math Tutor features in the Top 5 Game Educational Apps in the US iTunes Store.   

Rocket Math ($.99, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)

Rocket math is a cheap but great app.  It incorporates two basic math skills (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) with money skills.  When children begin using the app they choose a rocket and are given $100.  They can begin using that money to purchase accessories for their rocket.  They have to decide what they should and shouldn't spend their money on.  To earn more money they must complete a series of problems using basic math skills.  This is really a fun game and you would be surprised how much kids enjoy doing this kind of thing.  

Math Drills ($1.99, iPhone,  iPod Touch, iPad)

This app allows up to 10 students to work on basic math skills (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division).  I specifically like this app because it uses on screen manipulatives to help students successfully solve the problems.  The app uses number lines, wooden blocks, and offers facts and hints to helps students.  I think this would be a great app to use with students who are struggling to learn basic math facts.  Since you can only have 10 users, this could be used as  a remediation tool to help those struggling learners.  The app also offers accuracy and speed graphs so that you can track student progress. 


Become a Moocher

What in the world is BookMooch?  

 BookMooch is a fabulous website that allows you to trade your old or already read books with other users.  You basically post books that you no longer want and then other moochers request them from you.  Once you send books out (shipping to send books out is all you have to pay), you receive a point.  With each point you can pick books to mooch from other users.  If you are familiar with PaperbackSwap, then this is a similar idea.  Before BookMooch, I used PaperbackSwap for about two years.  PaperbackSwap was definitely one of the first sites to come up with this idea of book swapping and make it work successfully.  BookMooch, on the other hand, seems to have worked out some of the kinks that you will still find on Paperback Swap.  

Why is BookMooch better?  

1.  Easier interface
2.  You don't have to print mailing labels
3.  You not only get a point for every book you send, but you get 1/10th of a point for every book you make available to other users.  So if I post 10 books to be mooched by other users, I get a point.  If someone mooches one of those books, I get another point.  For each point I have I can mooch a book from other users. 
4.  You can choose when you send the book (as long as its not months from the time you agreed to send it).
5.  Not as many ads

How can educators and librarians use BookMooch?

BookMooch is a great way to get rid of books that you are weeding from your collections.  As long as the books are in decent shape, you can post them on BookMooch and then request more books for your students.  While the books you are receiving may not be new, it could be a great way to get multiple copies of a popular book or copies of books for literature circles.  

Take a minute to check out BookMooch:  http://bookmooch.com/


Geocaching in the Classroom: A Few Ideas

1.  Break students into small groups and hide flags that represent different countries based on the number of groups you have.  Give students coordinates for a specific cache and then have them look up information about the country their flag represents.  Social Studies

2.  Hide different caches throughout your town based on historical events and markers.  Within each cache provide a brief narrative about the location and coordinates to the next cache.  Only give students coordinates to the first cache.  Social Studies 

3.  Hide a variety of caches on school grounds near different types of plant life.  Have students find each cache and identify the plant life where they are located.  Science

4.  Break students into groups and then hide caches in different locations on the school grounds.  Give each group coordinates to one of the caches.  Once the cache is found, students should write a description of what they see when they are facing a certain direction (South, North, etc.). Geography/Language Arts

5.  Create questions based on a novel or selection students have read in class.  Hide a number of caches (5-6) on school grounds that each contain questions and 4 note cards that list a possible answer and possible coordinates to the next cache.  Students must choose the correct answer to receive correct coordinates to the next cache.  Make incorrect coordinates take students to locations that could obviously not contain a cache (i.e. concrete sidewalk).  Language Arts

6.  Place math problems in a number of caches and hide them on school grounds.  Break students into groups and provide each student with a clipboard, scratch paper, and an answer sheet.   Give students coordinates to each cache.  As students find each cache, they should solve their math problem and record answer on their answer sheets.   Math

Classroom Geocaching in Action: 


Geocaching Basics

What is Geocaching?

Geocaching Dictionary:

Cache- what you seek to find, a shortened term for the word geocache
Geocaching- a worldwide game of hiding and seeking treasure
Muggle-  any non-geocacher
Travel Bug- a tag that is trackable.  These are attached to items within a cache.  

Click here for a complete list of terms. 

How do I get started?  
1.  Visit geocaching.com and register for free.   
2.  Explore the website.  Find caches near you or watch videos of other geocachers looking for treasure. 
3.  Take a look at their recommended GPS devices or download the geocaching app for your smartphone
4.  Pick a cache and do a trial run with a friend or relative before introducing this activity into your library or classroom setting. 
5.  Once you become familiar with finding caches, you can hide them as well. 

Why Geocaching?  
Geocaching is fun and educational.  It is practically free (besides the initial purchase of a GPS device and gas to get to the cache site) and usually involves some sort of team effort.  Geocaching is a great activity for families and is also great for instructional purposes in classroom settings. 

Up Next:  Educational Uses for Geocaching


Audiobook Review: Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Synopsis: Gemma, a 16 year old girl traveling with her parents, is kidnapped by a very handsome man  during a layover in the Bangkok airport.  He drugs her, disguises her and puts her on a plane to Australia.  Gemma awakes to find that she is in the middle of the Australian Outback surrounded by nothing but desert.  Ty, her captor, has created a new existence for them.  He treats her kindly and soon reveals that he has taken her because he cares for her and wants her to be his companion.  

The book is written as a letter from Gemma to Ty.  In it she shares her perspectives and feelings of the entire kidnapping.  Readers get a first hand experience of what Gemma's psychologists diagnose as Stockholm Syndrome.  
Audiobook:  Audiobook narrator, Emily Gray, has a voice that fits this story well.  Her British accent matches well to what would be perceived as Gemma's.  I did have a slight issue in the beginning believing that Gemma could be 16 because the narrator's voice seemed much older.  As the novel progressed, I came to realize that it fit the story well because Gemma grew up a lot during the time she was captured.  To be able to write the letter that she wrote to Ty, she has to think through many things that normal 16 year olds would not have to deal with.  As this book was written completely from Emma's perspective, Emily Gray did a great job of presenting that perspective in audiobook form. 

What's Next:  Lucy Christopher has a new book, Flyaway, hitting stores in the US this October (2011).  Check out a synopsis of this new book on her site:  http://www.lucychristopher.com/flyaway.  Also, I had the great honor of meeting Christopher at the ALA (American Library Association Conference) in New Orleans in June.  She hinted that she is now working on a new book that will be "darker" and more like Stolen.  

Recommended for Grades 9-12.  
Click here to purchase: Amazon


5 Great Language Arts Apps for Under $5.00

Boggle ($.99, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)
This has been one of my favorite games to use in the classroom since I began teaching.  Not only do I love it, but my students have always loved it as well.  It is a great game that incorporates fun, spelling, and critical thinking.  And the best thing... no letter die  scattering all over the floor when the kids get a little too excited.  All they have to do is shake their device to mix up the letters.   

Learn Sight Words ($.99, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)

Okay... this might seem too simple for a list that includes only five selections, but trust me it is a lifesaver.  I have found this app to be great from Kindergarten all the way up to fourth grade.  While hopefully most kids will know their sight words by the end of first grade, that is not always the case.  There are many different scenarios where upper grade teachers have to teach their students basic sight words.  Oh, and this is especially great for ESL students.  This app displays the words on the screen, pronounces them, and allows students to mark words they have missed until they have successfully worked through all 300 words.

  Word Magic ($.99, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)

This app would be most useful for younger students (preschool-1st grade).  Basically, a picture is shown and students then select the missing letter for the picture.  Settings determine whether the missing letter will be at the beginning, middle, or end.  After the missing letter has been correctly placed, the word will be read aloud for the student.  There are also challenge settings where multi-syllabic and short vowels will be used.  

Story Patch ($2.99, iPad)

Have trouble getting your students interested in writing?  For many kids, writing may seem boring and laborious.  This app allows students to create their own pictures books using an iPad.  Students write the text for each page of their story and then create the illustrations to go along.  They can create illustrations by searching through the app's database, creating their own customized characters, or importing photos.  To find out more about this app check out: http://storypatch.com/.  

Sentence Builder ($3.99, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)

As a former teacher, I think this is a much needed app.  Before students can write an effective story, they must be able to write a complete sentence. This app helps them do just that.  The object of this "game" is for  students to build a sentence to go along with each picture they are given.  They must choose the correct subject, verb, and any other parts of speech that need to be included in a given sentence.  

These are just a few great Language Arts apps that I think work well with kids.  What Language Arts or Reading apps have you found to be helpful? 



As a Harry Potter fan, I was very excited to hear J.K. Rowling's announcement about Pottermore.com.   Pottermore is being created to foster an online experience centered around the Harry Potter stories.  Readers will be able to purchase audio books from the site and also be able to purchase Harry Potter eBooks for the first time.  The eBooks will be exclusive to Pottermore.  In her press release, Rowling suggests that Pottermore will be a place for readers to share and rediscover the Harry Potter stories.  She also states that she will be active on the site, sharing information about the world of Harry Potter that has yet to be shared.  Pottermore will be open to users in October 2011.  I am looking forward to seeing how Pottermore might be used to engage kids who may have been reluctant to pick up these fantastic stories before.  

Here is Rowling's Press Release: