Monday, March 19, 2012

Virtual Flashcards with Quizlet

Teaching vocabulary and need some help motivating your students to study? Quizlet could be a good answer for you. It is a great site for creating your own flashcards, using the existing database of flashcards, using powerful study tools, and playing study games. Best of all, it's free!


It is very simple to create your own flashcards with your own vocabulary and definitions.  After you have created your cards, users can utilize the 4 different Flashcard Modes: 

  • Flashcard Mode helps you get used to the material
  • Speller Mode - great for auditory learners who have to type what they hear
  • Learn Mode is a great way to "quiz" yourself and keep track of correct / incorrect answers
  • Test Mode creates different types of tests, which you can customize

There are also 2 study games your students can use: 
  • Scatter, which is a matching game where answers are dragged and dropped, while you race against the clock
  • Space Race is a way for your students to beat the clock, while they quickly type in answers

Excited yet? Check out this video! 


Thursday, March 15, 2012

PSSA Time? Educational Game Time?

Take a walk outside and you will see spring flowers, birds singing, blue skies, and kids on their way to take Pennsylvania's PSSA Test. It's often during this time of year when everything else shuts down, schedules become modified, and teachers are scrambling on what to do.

I came across some educational game ideas that you may want to try out.


  • Flash Hangman for ESL Students has many different categories of words for ESL and English speakers alike. This may be a great game for the class, to "guess" the word and then have a discussion or activity to define it. 
  • Prongo is a good site for kids ages 6 to 12. It has a variety of games for learning science, math, and vocabulary. 
  • The Problem Site contains games that require strategy and thinking for our students. This is a great way to develop our students' logical thinking during this "testing-overload" time period. I like the game called Entrapment, which involves strategically placing checkers in different spots. 
  • Want to have your kids complete an interactive crossword puzzle on The 50 States? Infoplease.com has  a way for your students to learn about all 50 states in this interactive puzzle! 
  • US Geography Games contains over 100 quizzes for students to learn more about US Presidents, States, and the United States.
  • Who Wants a $1,000,000 for Science Trivia is a "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" type of game with trivia about chemistry, biology, and physical science. 
Even if you don't use these games during this onslaught of testing, you can easily incorporate them as an activating strategy or end of the class activity. You don't need laptops for every student. The great thing about these games is the fact that all you need is a laptop and projector. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

POST # 100 - I'm "Flipping" Out!

Have you ever felt like you were a broken record? That may be an expression that our kids have no idea what it means! Maybe we should say "like an iPod stuck in repeat."

That is how I felt a few months ago. I was becoming very frustrated and felt like I was constantly repeating myself over and over again. I was assigning chapters, but my students weren't really "getting it." I was showing my kids how to do the work and they couldn't connect the dots. I was explaining the same things over and over, but not really helping my kids learn anything more. We were stuck and not moving very far. 

I decided to take the idea of the "Flipped Classroom" and apply it to my situation. In the past, I have mentioned Khan Academy where students watch a lecture at home and complete the work at school. The teacher then turns into a support rather than a broken record!

I took a different approach with my one Accounting course. Each week, I record myself instructing my students how to do a problem through Screencast-o-Matic, which allows you to teach and record what is on your computer screen through a screencast. Everyday, my students come in, put on headphones, and complete the lesson at their own pace. My role then switches to that of a support / guide. I can now actually "teach" my students to use higher-level thinking skills, rather than repeat information. 

My students are performing much better on their tests and assignments, all because they are able to learn at their own pace. We are covering chapters at a faster clip than in the past, because we are able to learn more efficiently and effectively. If my students have a basic question, they can rewind the video. If they have a higher-level thinking question, then I can help them find the answer. This has really worked well with my students, who have appreciated the adjustment. I am still working as hard as I did when lecturing to the class the entire period, because there is more leg-work outside of class. I am constantly checking in with my students during class, which helps me put on a few extra hundred steps on the pedometer!  In all seriousness, I really enjoy this new approach! It has changed my teaching style, allowing me to focus on developing a better understanding of content and higher level thinking skills. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Questions to Ponder for Effective Lesson Plans

Universal Design for Learning or UDL is not a new concept. In fact it's been around for quite awhile. Developed by CAST , it evolved out of the idea developed by the late Ron Mace from North Carolina State University. Mace pioneered the idea of Universal Design in architecture. Instead of making accommodations for disabled individuals after the fact, why not design a building from the beginning with these considerations already made? It's cheaper and makes more sense. For instance, if you take a trip to your local mall, you walk through automatic doors, which are helpful to people who don't want to open doors, pushing strollers, or navigating a wheelchair.

In the same way, accommodations should be made to our curriculum before students with or without different learning challenges enter our classrooms. According the UDL, curriculum should be flexible, so that students can access it and it does not become a barrier. What makes it even more challenging is, that the way we learn is as different as our DNA, finger prints, and social security numbers!


"UDL focuses educators on developing flexible curricula that provide students with multiple ways of accessing content, multiple means for expressing what they learn, and multiple pathways for engaging their interest and motivation. This, in turn, allows teachers a multidimensional view of their students as learners, and offers teachers unique insights into assessing student’s knowledge, interest, and understanding (Howard, 2004)."

In other words, we should think about the way that we represent material within our lessons. By tapping into our student's senses and learning styles, we create authentic learning experiences. We should also think about the way we have our students express what they have learned, which often motivates and recruits the interests of our students. Although not always possible, it may be plausible.

So what do I want to leave you with? Well, as you are designing your lessons, think about the following questions as stated by Howard (2004): 

1.  What is the basic idea that the students need to learn?
2. What are different ways to learn this idea: demonstration? games?  shared experience?
3.  If there is reading involved, do they have to read it by themselves, or can they use other tools and strategies to get the information?

When you think about assessing your students:


4.  Is a test the best way to find out whether students learned the information?
5.  In what different ways can students show their understanding? Which will be meaningful for them?


For more information on Universal Design for Learning, check out: