The Power of Read-Alouds

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I am four years old. I am sitting on my mother’s bed, a large bellowing thing engulfed in a sea of pillows, sheets, covers. It’s night time, way past my bedtime, and I’m begging my mother to read me another story.

“But we’ve already read three books tonight Lindsey,” she says smiling.

“How about just this one?” I say, grasping a book with a yellow cover and silly looking pictures I’ve found tucked next to my bed, a story I’ve read countless times but can’t get enough of.

She smiles, “This one is one of your favorites, isn’t it?”onefishtwofish

I nod.

“Ok, Lindsey, we can read it, but after this, it’s time for bed.”

The book I am clutching in my tiny fingers is Dr Suess’ One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  A book I adore for how my mother reads in a sing-songy voice, the pictures dancing on the page; her voice a musical rhythm in the background.

Emilie Buchwald once wrote,  “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” For me that was so true. With each book read to me as a young child, I became intrigued with the way authors could magically weave stories together; a tapestry woven by endless imagination.

As an educator I am often struck by how much parents or guardians reading to their children means for development in the classroom.  I can say that, without a doubt, my students whose guardians read to them consistently at home came to me with enhanced vocabulary, fluency, and literacy skills; but above all else, a more naturally ingrained curiosity and love of storytelling.

According to Read Aloud 15 Mins, a national non-profit working to help make 15 minutes of reading aloud daily to children a reality, “Reading aloud is the single most important thing a parent or caregiver can do to improve a child’s readiness to read and learn.”

In fact, research has shown us that when parents read-aloud to their children, even if just for 15 minutes a day, it can  help spark invaluable comprehension skills, vocabulary development, fluency, and help instill a life-long love of reading. Reading aloud to young children has even been thought to help spark brain development.

As a special education teacher for grades K-8, and then for high school, one thing each of my students had in common was a love of read-alouds. Since so many of my students struggled to interpret and decode text on their own, they loved when I would engage with them in books, articles, short stories and more; my voice helping capture their interest and satiate a desire for text that may otherwise have been inaccessible.

Indeed, reading aloud to both children and students of all ages is a powerful form of literacy instruction. For some great tips for parents, guardians, and educators for creating engaging read-alouds, read this article “Reading Aloud to Build Comprehension” by Reading Rockets, a wonderful national multimedia literacy initiative offering information and resources to help both parents and teachers with literacy skills for struggling readers.

This past Monday, March 2nd, we celebrated Dr. Seuss’ birthday, which was also Read Across America Day. As someone who has a huge love of Dr. Seuss and all things reading, I was honored to be able to read aloud to several classrooms at Doug Robertson’s elementary school in Oregon. (You can read all about the awesome event here on Doug’s  blog or follow him on twitter @theWeirdTeacher.)

Thank you to the students at Mr. Robertson’s elementary school; It was so wonderful being able to share my love of Dr. Seuss and reading aloud with you! I hope we can help spread the message of how powerful reading to students can be across the country!

#TBookC – Teacher Twitter Book Club

By Lindsey Lipsky, MEd

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#TBookC, Twitter Teacher Book Club Chat Thursdays 8pm CST

#TBookC, or Twitter Teacher Book Club, is an online social experiment designed to bring educators and education stakeholders across the globe together for reading, celebration, learning, and fun. After all, teaching is a tough job, we could all use some down-time and collaboration from time to time, no?

Created in January of 2015, with the help of my amazing Professional Learning Network (PLN) members and friends Lisa Berghoff @LisaBerghoff and Lisa Friedman @JewishSpecialEd, #TBookC has so far been an astounding success with some impressive reads in its first three months.

In the true spirit of online collaboration, all #TBookC books are suggested by group members like you, and then voted on for our monthly read and chat. So far, all #TBookC picks have been highly engaging and divergent in their topics, but with one theme: when people from varying backgrounds, locations, and experiences come together in one place on transformational reads, amazing things can happen.

Here is a look back at some of our #TBookC picks and reads so far for 2015.

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Teach Like a Pirate, Dave Burgess


January: Teach Like a Pirate, by Dave Burgess #TLAP

The January  #TBookC Pick, Teach Like a Pirate,was voted upon by over fifty educators on Twitter for our first #TBookC chat, and helped ignite a #TLAP revolution. Teach Like a Pirate is an inspiring read chalk full of unique tips on engaging educators and students alike in the classroom. Based on a powerful acronym for teaching success (P-passion, I-immersion, R-rapport, A-ask/analyze, T-transformation, E- enthusiasm), the spirit that author Dave Burgess brings is truly contagious!

To read more about the fabulous takeaways from Teach Like a Pirate and our #TBookC January chat, read the #TBookC January Summary here by Lisa Berghoff.

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How Full is Your Bucket? Tom Rath


February: How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath #HFIYB

For February, our amazing group of educators across the globe came together and chose How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath. How Full is Your Bucket? or #HFIYB is an inspirational read that is a fabulous resource for those looking to infuse positivity, collaboration, and effective communication into their classrooms and every day lives.

Not just for educators, this book brings us the power of positivity with the magic 5to1 ratio (we need at most 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction) and the idea of the dipper and the bucket; for every positive interaction with another, we are adding to another person’s bucket, and our bucket in turn.  Stay tuned for our #TBookC February Summary post coming soon!

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Wonder, R.J. Palacio


March: Wonder by RJ Palacio

#TBookC participants voted for our first fictional read, Wonder by RJ Palacio for March.  An eye-opening, tear inducing, heart-warming read, the main character, August Pullman, is a magical ten-year old with wisdom on life, love and friendship well beyond his years. Centering on the message and power of kindness in the face of adversity, in Wonder author R.J. Palacio writes, “Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.”

The #TBookC chat on this inspirational read (for both kids and adults alike!) is sure to make waves, and hopefully change some lives. Join us for the Wonder #TBookC chat starting on March 5th at 8pm CST.


To review some of the amazing #TBookC book chats, check out our #TBookC Storify Summaries– live summaries of our #TBookC Twitter chats.

Want to help #TBookC choose our future reads? Please fill out this google document with title suggestions.  Each month, taking choices from this list, we compile the top 3 suggestions and then vote on them the last week of each month for next month’s read.

Want to join the #TBookC chat and community? Add your name to the #TBookC Google Doc here, or pop in on Thursday nights at 8pmCST/9pmEST. Also, sign up for a #TBookC chat reminder via text or email by visiting https://www.remind.com/join/tbookc and get chat notices right in your inbox.

We can’t wait for you to join us!

Teach Like a Pirate #TBookC January Wrap Up

Wrapping Up and Ramping Up

By Lisa Berghoff, MEd

Well, January is over and many of us have let our New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside.  The good news is that if reading, connecting with other educators, or joining a new Twitter chat were on your to-do list for 2015, it’s not too late!  With January behind us and our new #TBookC chat around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to reflect, touch base, and give a wrap-up of all of the discussions that occurred in January and hopefully entice you to join us in February. Our first month was so fantastic and I feel like we’re just getting started.

#TBookC is the teacher (Twitter) book club for teachers.  It is the brainchild of Lindsey Lipsky (@LindseyLipsky) and is co-moderated by Lisa Friedman (@JewishSpecialEd) and myself (@LisaBerghoff). The plan is to read a new book each month and have twitter chats to discuss what we’ve read, make connections, and drink wine.  Ok, it’s not quite that kind of “book club”, but you’re welcome to open a bottle during our chats if that’s how you roll.

Our January Pick

If you’re an educator and you’ve spent 10 seconds on Twitter, then you have no doubt seen all of the permutations of Teach Like a Pirate, or #tlap out there.  For our January #TBookC first pick, we decided to jump in the pirate waters, don our eye patches, and see what all the fuss was about. We read Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess and I’m happy to say this book did not disappoint.  We divvied up the book into 4 sections for our Thursday January #TBookC chats and crossed our fingers that other educators out there would want to join in the conversation.  Reading in smaller sections definitely enabled us to delve more deeply into the text and be thoughtful about how Dave Burgess’ ideas relate to what we see in our work with students and teachers.

Planning a Twitter chat was actually more involved than I had anticipated.  The process of planning our first #TBookC chat was truly collaborative and I was thrilled to be a part of it.  With Lindsey Lipsky at the helm, Lisa Friedman and I joined in on shared Google docs, GoogleHangouts, twitter messages, and emails in an effort to generate questions that would spark real conversation and thoughtful connection.  I realized that the creation of our first chat was actually an amazing model of a fantastic #tlap lesson for me.  I was jumping into uncharted territory, establishing rapport with my teammates, tapping into creativity and pushing my thinking.  We needed to plan to ensure our participants would feel welcome and want to engage.

The participants for the January chats were wonderful and we were so honored to have Dave Burgess and his wife, Shelley Burgess, joining in on our discussions.  Their comments and contributions greatly enhanced our chat experience.  It was the first time I had ever discussed a book while the author was chiming in!  We also had teachers, administrators, and even some university students who all found common ground with this amazing read.  Many thanks to the participants who shared their creative ideas, epic fails, and thoughts and ideas regarding “piratehood” in education.  The connections that I have made just in our first month alone have been so fantastic and I continue to learn and share resources with many of them.

#Tlap Takeaways

The first half of the book is Dave Burgess’ “manifesto” on teaching.  His passion and enthusiasm definitely seem to leap from the pages and I found myself reaching for highlighters and sticky notes as I read.  There were many aha! moments reading and it’s hard to read this book and not feel pride in what we do everyday as educators. Dave uses the acronym PIRATE to explain each facet of being an amazing teacher and he gives many personal examples of what that looks like in the classroom.  Throughout our chats, we shared many of our own personal anecdotes that show how this plays out in our various educational spaces.  The second half of the book is full of “hooks” and strategies that can be implemented right away into any classroom.  I was actually surprised to learn that Dave is a high school teacher and happy to be reminded that even high school students should be experiencing curiosity and a love for learning.  The chat participants also shared some of the new things we are going to try and the back and forth exchanges definitely helped me flesh out how this was going to work in my classes.

After reviewing the archives, here are the big takeaways from #TBookC’s Teach Like A Pirate “discussion” …

  1. Teaching is all about relationships.  We need to work to establish positive relationships with our students as well as with our colleagues if we’re going to be amazing teachers.  Part of establishing relationships has to do with giving all of ourselves to our students.  They know when we’re faking or not giving them our full attention.
  2. Staying in our comfort zone is NOT where it’s at.  As educators, we expect our students to try new things, experience failure, and learn from their mistakes every day.  It’s important that we do the same and do it out in the open so we can model the important learning that goes on when we push ourselves.
  3. Creativity is not a magic pill!  Everyone can be creative but it shouldn’t be expected to just happen overnight.  We need to be thoughtful and set up a method of nurturing creative ideas.
  4. A combination of high expectations  and fun can, and should, be happening at the same time in our classrooms.  Just because you are incorporating art into your math lesson, does not mean you are lowering standards.  In fact, often utilizing creative activities actually raises the bar for students and forces them to think and explain themselves in different ways.


Be passionate about teaching and learning and surround yourself with others who are also passionate.  Don’t let yourself get hung up in the politics and educomplaints of the day.  Be daring, be caring, and find others who are too.  They will make you better at your craft, which will make kids better learners, which is what it’s all about!

If you are new to #TBookC or considering joining us in February, please take a look at the previous chats on Storify or go here for February Read information.


Lisa Bergoff

As a high school special education teacher for 19 years, Lisa Berghoff has worked with many students and their families to create unique learning experiences and ensure that they are an authentic part of the school community. She  is passionate about collaborating and connecting educators as a means for success for students.  She is also an ed-tech leader, Google education trainer,  and presenter in the Chicago area.  Connect with Lisa on Twitter
@LisaBerghoff.

The T in Twitter Stands for Teacher: Tips for Us!

 You may or may not know it, but Twitter is an educator’s paradise; filled to the gills with educational dialogue, resources, ideas, tips, and best practices. No longer just a tween Bieber playground (Sorry Justin!), Twitter has become sooo much more.

To help you ease into this new (and perhaps scary) world of virtual collaboration,  Let’s discuss why the T in Twitter Stands for Teacher.  Soon you’ll be an #EduTweeter Rockstar in no time!

1. Professional Learning Networks (PLN)
Twitter is, without a doubt, an amazing social tool for connecting people.  Unlike Facebook, Twitter is a universe that allows for open communication across multiple platforms (and even continents). As Mrs. Kathleen Morris states in her great post about Twitter on Edublogs“I find Twitter to be like a virtual staffroom…where I can find advice, give advice, find great links, share my work and engage in general musings about education.”

To begin building your PLN, start following educators and members that appeal to you and align with your ideals/goals as an educator. Some of my current, favorite EduTweeters  (in random order) are:

@ShiftParadigm@justintarte@singoffpitch,@JewishSpecialEd, @LisaBerghoff@TheWeirdTeacher@gcouros@ShellTerrell,   @INISchoolsSpEd@BethHouf@JayBilly2,  @tritonkory@TyrnaD@davidtedu, @RusulAlrubail  @VeganMathBeagle, @FarleyJeffrey @JessLifTeach

(and so many others!)

Be sure to also check out this Google doc of top Educator Twitter Handles by Subject and follow some of the educators who work in your areas of interest for inspiration, connection, and more!

2. Educational Chats
Sue Waters, Working With Web 2.0 Tools EduBlogger writes, “Twitter chats are one of the best ways for educators to connect with other educators, exchange and debate ideas, ask for help and provide assistance, find new resources and take action.” 

Indeed, educational chats are a wonderful way to get involved with a sub-group of teachers and stakeholders who share similar interests as you.  Need help finding the best Ed Twitter Chat for you? Check out this fantastic schedule of Global List of all Educational Chats by @cybraryman1 and an ever-evolving google doc with chat times here: Edu Top Twitter chats.

Some of my favorite chats that I’ve been involved in so far include: #BFC530 (5:30am Breakfast Club), #SlowChatEd #spedchat, #LDchat, #edchat, #tlap (Teach like a Pirate), #satchat, and #sunchat.

Be sure to also check out the Twitter Teacher Book Club, or #TBookC led by myself and the amazing @LisaBerghoff and @JewishSpecialEd on Thursday nights at 8pmCST.

3. Gathering Insights and Inspiration in a Tweet-minute!
Got five minutes to spare in between your lunch and prep period? Hop on to Twitter to find some messages of inspiration, passion, joy, resources, and teaching tips.  Being able to learn and collaborate with your Twitter educators is like a high-tech, low-cost Professional Development session available at your fingertips.

If you’ve chosen the correct people to follow for your PLN, you’ll have a wide variety of amazing content and insight coming straight through on your Twitter feed.  Get ready to be AMAZED!

So, TEACHERS, what are you waiting for? Are YOU on Twitter yet?

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For some great help getting started with Twitter, read The Teachers Guide to Twitter (Edudemic) and Getting Started with Twitter in the Classroom by Carrie Kam and the Teaching Channel.

Teacher Book Club, #TBookC: Feb Pick

Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.

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#TBookC is an online Twitter Teacher Book Club dedicated to engaging with educators and education stakeholders around the globe. The goal of #TBookC is to read 1 book every 1-2 months to help us with our lives, profession, and passions. After all, Teaching is a HARD job; We could all use a little relaxation and connection from time to time, no?

#TBookC started the year off right with an amazing read on Teach Like a Pirate or #Tlap by Dave Burgess (@burgessdave) for January. We had so much fun engaging with new educators on this book! Dave Burgess really brings it with enough enthusiasm and passion to engage even the most disenfranchised classroom teacher. You can read about the #TBookC January chat here.

For Feburary, my wonderful team of #TBookC moderators @LisaBerghoff and @JewishSpecialEd (and votes by you), helped us pick our #TBookC February read…

 Announcing: How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath

How Full is Your Bucket? is a wonderful, short read for readers of all ages.  Based on a simple metaphor of a dipper and a bucket, this book can help change our (and our students’) views and interactions with eachother, as well as help build a more positive and fulfilling world!  Read more information about this wonderful book here and/or follow Tom Rath on Twitter @TomCRath.


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“How did you feel after your last interaction with another person?

 Did that person — your spouse, best friend, coworker, or even a stranger — “fill your bucket” by making you feel more positive? Or did that person “dip from your bucket,” leaving you more negative than before?

 The #1 New York Times and #1 BusinessWeek bestseller, How Full Is Your Bucket? reveals how even the briefest interactions affect your relationships, productivity, health, and longevity. Organized around a simple metaphor of a dipper and a bucket, and grounded in 50 years of research, this book will show you how to greatly increase the positive moments in your work and your life — while reducing the negative.

 Filled with discoveries, powerful strategies, and engaging stories, How Full Is Your Bucket? is sure to inspire lasting changes and has all the makings of a timeless classic.” -Amazon Summary, How Full is Your Bucket?


We hope you will join #TBookC for this powerful read!

The chat starts Thursday, Feb. 5th 2015 at 8pm CST. Please add your name on the #TBookC Google Doc here to join us, or pop in to say hello at your leisure on Thursday nights!

Please note, for this chat we will be reading the “How Full is Your Bucket” for adults, but there is also a lovely “How Full is Your Bucket for Kids” that we’d recommend getting as well if you want help implementing this wonderful practice in your K-8 classroom.

Happy Reading! We can’t wait to see you all starting February 5th, 2015!

Your #TBookC Moderators,

Lindsey Lipsky (@LindseyLipsky)
Lisa Berghoff (@LisaBerghoff)

Lisa Friedman (@JewishSpecialEd)

Today’s Teacher

 Guest Blog Post! The following post was written by my amazing friend and collegue, Natasha Fortis.  She just started using Twitter (after much insistance by me): @nfortis1979 . Follow her! 

By Natasha Fortis, M.Ed.

I am what you might call a “Scrooge” during the holiday season. I abhor Christmas, and cringe in late October when the local business and commerce plays their non-stop rotation of “Jingle Bell Rock” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” There is, however, something I look forward to with child-like enchantment, and that is…the 24 hour A Christmas Story marathon on TNT. Truly, this classic is one of the best Christmas movies of all time, and I delight in watching it every year.  It never gets old to me, as it reminds me of a simpler time in our history with its veritable tableau of childhood innocence and traditional American values. As I sat down to partake in my little tradition this Christmas 2014, I noticed something I had never paid attention to before in this film…the classroom.

Set in pre-World War II Indiana, young Ralphie struggles to convince both his teacher and parents that Santa should bring him a Red Ryder Range BB gun. Amidst the hilarity and fuzzy memories that ensue, we are introduced to the 1939 American classroom, where students sit obediently at their desks with hands folded while they listen to the teacher recite multiplication tables. Although historically inaccurate, there are 2 African Americans in Ralphie’s classroom. Racially integrated classrooms did not occur in Indiana until 1949, but I overlook the inaccuracy, and regard it as one of the many charming anachronisms in this film, including the kid in the classroom wearing a Dukes of Hazzard wrist watch. Nevertheless, the students are all sitting in their seats and listening to the teacher, which is something I never experienced in my tenure as a public school teacher.

There are other subtle reminders of America’s elementary education past in the classroom scenes of ACS, including the 4 rows of seats, each having 4 desks in them. If you studied your multiplication tables just like Ralphie’s teacher, Miss Shields says to, you will determine that there are 16 students in this classroom. When was the last time a public school teacher in America had only 16 kids in their class? Today’s typical public school classroom has anywhere from 25 to 30 students, according to the National Education Association website. That’s almost double the amount of students!

There have been more changes to note despite the student to teacher ratio. A teacher’s fears in 1939 might be an essay from a child desiring a BB gun, whereas today, a teacher has to fear the conceivable threat of a real gun, along with its deadly consequences. Classroom violence is at an all-time high in the United States. In the past decade, 10% of urban school teachers reported threats of violence against them by their own students. The news is filled with stories of school shootings. Today’s teacher has much more to fear than a child’s tongue being frozen to a flagpole.

Aside from violence, many teachers fear losing their jobs as tenure in many states has been eliminated, and teacher performance and job security is based largely on student assessment scores. Maybe this wouldn’t be such a daunting task if we all had classrooms like Ralphie’s. Miss Shields also knows she has the support of her students’ parents. Their defiance both in and out of school is not overlooked, as Ralphie learns when his mouth is literally cleaned out with soap by his mother after uttering a bad word. Sadly, today’s high cost of living has parents, both single and in the traditional marriage unit, working multiple jobs to make ends meet. They count on their kids’ teachers to keep them fed, warm, and safe during school hours. Hopefully, the kids learn a thing or 2 in the process.

Today’s teacher is not only heroic for all of the aforementioned reasons, but also incredibly underpaid, unappreciated and misunderstood. The role of a teacher has come to include manager, entrepreneur, artist, babysitter, disciplinarian, school nurse, social worker, psychologist, police officer, janitor, and so many more. I fear for this country at times, as we do not value the sacrifice teachers make for the love of their jobs. Looking back at the classroom of yesteryears, I only hope we can become that way again.  I strongly feel our country’s prosperity depends on it. Perhaps it isn’t too naïve to think this could be possible, but, alas, in the words of Neal Young, “I’m a dreaming man, yes, that’s my problem”. However, who knows? If Ralphie’s glasses can come back into fashion, then maybe we can resurrect the old classroom to come back as well.


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Natasha Fortis is a former Language Arts teacher and professor. She began her education career as a high school English teacher, but completed her post-secondary licensure in both elementary and secondary Language Arts. Upon completing her Master’s degree in English as a Second Language, Natasha worked as a Title One Reading Specialist in Douglas County Public Schools near Denver, Colorado. She has also taught Writing Fundamentals at Red Rocks Community College. After 10 years actively teaching in various milieus, Natasha now works as a Program Manager for a nonprofit organization that provides audiobooks to students with print-based disabilities. Her hobbies include air drawing and dancing to no music.  

 #EdTechWish: What Tech Do You Wish for in 2015? 

By Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.
This article has been featured on Edutopia with a wonderful post by my friend and amazing PLN Colleague, Rusul Alrubail. Check out the post here.

My brother, Ash, is a computer engineer– which basically means I have absolutely no idea what he does on a day-to day-basis. I do know, however, that he works for a “User Experience Design & Engineering Consultancy” based in Chicago which was recently named one of Inc. 500’s Fastest Growing Companies (fancy!)

Not that I like to brag or anything, but my brother is smart. Like really smart. He designs and creates and prototypes all kinds of technology; Tom Cruise in Minority Report kind of technology.

One night over a wonderful Sushi Dinner, my brother and I were discussing what he does.   After much technical jargon talk (on his part, of course) we got around to the subject of Educational Technology.My question for him was simple: Why does it seem like new technology keeps coming out that “accidentally” works well in the classroom? Shouldn’t Tech Developers (such as yourself) be reaching out to Schools/ Teachers/ Districts FIRST to create and design tech rather than the other way around?

His response? Show us the Benjamins.  (OK, he didn’t really say that, but that would’ve been amazing if he had!) His response was really that there is not much funding in EdTech due to the high costs associated with developing new products around classrooms; often expenses that are too high for many schools/districts to bear.

That got me thinking– What would happen if we went a back way into helping propel new EdTech design with teachers in mind. What if we started by asking a large number of people (educators mostly) what type of tech or design needs they saw in the classroom? Rather than having large Tech giants start projects that just so happen to work well for our classrooms, why not start by asking what educators want first? This idea sparked a hashtag and subsequent chat on Twitter: #EdTechWish and #EdTech2015

See first Tweets below:

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We got an amazing response from educators all over the country discussing their EdTech ideas, needs and problems they needed help solving when facing implementation of good tech in the classroom.

Read the initial Storify and conversation on #EdTechWish here, as well as the #EdTechWish Chat during a week-long #SlowChatEd January discussion.

Also, feel free to keep the #EdTechWish hashtag going by answering this question on Twitter: What tech do you wish for in your classroom for 2015?

Finding Funds for your Classroom

By Lindsey Lipsky, MEd
Before I became a teacher, I had no idea the amount of money I would be spending out of pocket on my classroom.  In over five years of teaching, I have spent thousands of dollars on materials, books, and the occasional pizza party for my students. From engaging posters/curriculum/materials for my units, to furniture in the reading corner, and even a sweater for the student I knew didn’t have one at home, I could not separate my practice from spending.

A recent study by the National School Supply and Equipment Association (NSSEA) found that “99.5 percent of all public school teachers (in the 2012-2013 school year), spent some amount of money out of pocket” on their classrooms, (David Nagel, The Journal). Although it is no secret that teachers spend billions of dollars each year on their classrooms, one of the things that most surprises me nowadays as a teacher trainer working in schools is how few teachers know about online funding projects for their classrooms.

Teachers: Have an amazing classroom idea or project, but not the supplies or funds? Step away from your wallet and into the world of online crowd funding!

Below are some of my top online funding websites for teachers and schools to use in the New Year. Whether you’re looking to add some books to your library, spruce up your classroom with new furniture, or gain updated technology for your kids, head on over to these sites for some amazing opportunities.  You and your students just might have the time of your lives doing it!

1. Donor’s Choose:
DonorsChoose.org is an online non-profit organization that connects public school teachers to essential classroom materials, supplies, and technology. Teachers write about projects, curriculum, and materials they need in the classroom and their project is posted for free on DonorsChoose.org for up to four months. Endorsed by many large corporations, celebrities and organizations alike, the most amazing thing about this website is that donors can often double the impact with match offers and promo codes by large companies.

When your project is fully funded, all materials and items are shipped to your school for free from the Donor’s Choose team.  You can choose from vendor’s like Apple, Staples, Scholastic and more to find what you need; The possibilities are endless!

Want to make a great Donor’s Choose page? Here are some awesome tips by Mr. Andy, an early elementary teacher in New York, who has received over $7,000 in supplies and materials funded by Donors Choose for his classroom.

2. GoFundMe:
GoFundMe is an online fundraising website that can be used for anyone or anything in need of funds.  While not necessarily intended for the classroom, it has proven to be an amazingly effective fundraising tool for schools and classrooms across the country. So far GoFundMe has risen over $630M for various projects, people, and organizations around the country. GoFundMe is totally free and has no end time limits to post about your project.

Getting started is easy; just take the tour to find out how you can create your own page.

Want some tips on how it’s done? Check out this amazing project done by Matthew Arend, the Principal at E.A. Sigler Elementary in Plano, TX, for a School Makerspace.  (Read this Edutopia article here on what a Makerspace is!) This amazing $3,000 project recently reached full funding and will be sure to impact some young lives. Congrats Sigler Stars!
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I hope these sites give you and yours some amazing things for the New Year. Enjoy!

What the Tests Don’t Tell us

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Qualities Not Measured by Most Tests, Image via DyslexicKids.net

By Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.
It is no secret that today’s youth are tested and re-tested at astounding rates.  Ever since the implementation of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) which mandated annual yearly testing for students in all 50 states as a means for measuring progress; teachers, parents, and students have been inundated with a kind of testing mania.Clara Hemphill in her op-ed piece Too Much for Testing to Bear states, “Parents, teachers, and certainly the children are weary of the standardized tests that have sapped so much of the joy from the classroom and pushed so many teachers to replace creative, imaginative lessons with timid and defensive ones.”If you read the messages coming out of public schools today, more emphasis is placed on a child’s reading and mathematics score than on his or her own character, personality, and talents, despite a growing body of evidence that these characteristics are what truly count for life-long success. Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of the Miami-Dade County School District in Florida states, “Right now, this year, we’re facing about 32 different assessments, different tests that our students will have to take, in addition to about 1,200 different end-of-course assessments mandated by both state and federal entities,” (Judy Woodruff, PBS NewsHour).

With such laser focus on high-stakes testing around the country, educators and non-educators alike continue to echo a feeling that adoption of these assessments in schools leads to less time for actual, engaging instruction and has, for many, drained the joy out of teaching. Even worse is how all this testing affects our students with learning disabilities and special needs. (I get test anxiety just thinking about it!)

As many educators go into this new year prepping for our mandated state and national assessments, how can we help reverse the negative effects of over-testing in our classroom?

Watch this video by @TakePart and @Jennyinglee, in Kids Tell All: I Am More Than a Standardized Test and this hilarious video post by Doug Robertson, @TheWeirdTeacher on “THE TEST” (duhn,duhn, duhhhhn!) His message is sure to inspire both you and your students. 

What do you think about high-stakes standardized testing in your classroom?  How do you relay to students that there is more to learning than just what’s on the test? Leave your comments below, or let’s discuss on Twitter @LindseyLipsky

The T in Twitter Stands for Teacher

By Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.
You may or may not know it, but Twitter is an educator’s paradise; filled to the gills with educational dialogue, resources, ideas, tips, and best practices. No longer just a tween Bieber playground (Sorry Justin!), Twitter has become SOOOO much more.

To help you ease into this new (and perhaps scary) world of virtual collaboration,  Let’s discuss why the T in Twitter Stands for Teacher.  Soon you’ll be an #EduTweeter Rockstar in no time!

1. Professional Learning Networks (PLN)
Twitter is, without a doubt, an amazing social tool for connecting people.  Unlike Facebook, Twitter is a universe that allows for open communication across multiple platforms (and even continents). As Mrs. Kathleen Morris states in her great post about Twitter on Edublogs, “I find Twitter to be like a virtual staffroom…where I can find advice, give advice, find great links, share my work and engage in general musings about education.”  

To begin building your PLN, start following educators and members that appeal to you and align with your ideals/goals as an educator. Some of my current, favorite EduTweeters  (in random order) are:  @ShiftParadigm, @justintarte, @JewishSpecialEd, @singoffpitch, @TheWeirdTeacher, @nmhs_principal@gcouros, @ShellTerrell, @SenorG @INISchoolsSpEd, @MittAubs, @msspeducate, @theudlproject, @burgessdave, @BethHouf, @DruTomlin_AMLE

Also, check out this list of nominees from the 2013 Edublog Awards  for best individual teacher tweeters, and this ever-changing list of top teacher twitter names by subject.

2. Educational Chats
Sue Waters, Working With Web 2.0 Tools EduBlogger writes, “Twitter chats are one of the best ways for educators to connect with other educators, exchange and debate ideas, ask for help and provide assistance, find new resources and take action.”

Indeed, educational chats are a wonderful way to get involved with a sub-group of teachers and stakeholders who share similar interests as you.  Some of my favorite chats that I’ve been involved in include, #spedchat, #edchat, #tlap (Teach like a Pirate), #satchat, and #sunchat.  Also hope to check out #LDChat, #UDLchat, #edtech, and #ATchat soon.  

Need help finding the best Ed Twitter Chat for you? Check out the global list of all Educational Chats by @cybraryman1 and an ever-evolving google doc list of top Education Twitter chats.

3. Gathering Insights and Inspiration in a Tweet-minute!
Got five minutes to spare in between your lunch and prep period? Hop on to Twitter to find some messages of inspiration, passion, joy, resources, and teaching tips.  Being able to learn and collaborate with your Twitter educators is like a high-tech, low-cost Professional Development session available at your fingertips.

If you’ve chosen the correct people to follow for your PLN, you’ll have a wide variety of amazing content and insight coming straight through on your Twitter feed.  Get ready to be AMAZED!

So, TEACHERS, what are you waiting for? Are YOU on Twitter yet?

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For some great help getting started with Twitter, read The Teachers Guide to Twitter (Edudemic) and Getting Started with Twitter in the Classroom by Carrie Kam and the Teaching Channel.