Monday, March 28, 2011

Imagination Soup: Playful Learning for Inquisitive Kids!

I came across Imagination Soup recently and was saddened only because I hadn't found this site sooner.  It's simply amazing.  Melissa Taylor offers her audience a wealth of resources put together in the most charming of ways. 

I was overwhelmingly impressed by her knowledge and sense of creativity that I asked her to prepare a guest post for Kleinspiration so that our readers could get a taste, or appetizer, of Imagination Soup.

Guest Post: Imagination Soup author, Melissa Taylor (award winning blogger and former classroom teacher)

Do you know that kids need to be taught what good readers do? It’s true. Even good readers can be better readers. One of the most basic things you can teach your child is to connect to what they’re reading.


To start teaching what good readers do – you must do it out loud.

1. You say when you’re making a connection in your life to anything in a book or otherwise. For example, “Oh, that _____________ reminded me of _______________.”

2. 2. When you’re reading out loud to your child, stop and make connections out loud. “This part about rainbows makes me connect to ________________ (when we saw a rainbow) (when we read another story about rainbows).


3. Ask your child “Do you have any connections to __________ part?”

4. Build this together as you read and live. You can have life connections all day long – it doesn’t have to be with books.

5. Talk about what kind of connections you are having. Is it a connection to something in your own life? In another book? Something you know about in the world? Often, literacy teachers call these: Text (aka. book) to self, text-to-text, text to world. You might find out what your school calls the connection or do your own thing.

6. Give your child a pack of sticky notes to “notice” his or her connections. Have him jot a quick note of what kind of connection he made and stick it on the page.


1. Talk about your child’s connections. Praise the thinking! “Good readers make connections in the text, I notice that you’re thinking about your connections.”

Sticky notes make everything fun!

Encouraging children to be conscious about their thinking will benefit them in comprehension,

It’s also quite important for when they find difficulties comprehending their reading material. It’s pretty challenging to comprehend text if you have no background knowledge to connect to. When it happens, you’ll be able to encourage your child to make choices about how to respond – either read something else or build up her background knowledge first.

For all the reading comprehension strategies, visit

Bio: Melissa Taylor is a mom, writer, blogger and teacher with a M.A. in Education.

She blogs at Imagination Soup,, a playful learning blog for inquisitive kids.

Thank you so much, Melissa!  I know Kleinspiration readers will adore your site as much as I have. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Schoolbinder: Class Website and Management System

Organize Your Education with Schoolbinder:

Schoolbinder is a fantastic online management system that provides powerful resources for both student and teacher.  With its secure and user-friendly interface, Kleinspiration readers are invited to receive a FREE Pro Account with Schoolbinder.  

As a benefit of subscribing to Kleinspiration, Schoolbinder is teaming up with us to give you access to their premium benefits - for FREE (a $50 value).  As long as you enter your email address to the right ('subscribe via email') and click submit, you will receive email updates every time Kleinspiration posts a new blog entry.  Additionally, you will receive special offers as an added benefit to being a reader.

You can also follow Kleinspiration on Facebook by clicking here and selecting 'like.'  
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Scroll down and on the right margin, you can add your photo to be a follower of the Kleinspiration blog!

What makes Schoolbinder great?


Use the Common Core standards, or your state standards, as a template to easily set long term goals and milestones for you students. Monitor how your class is mastering the standards or progressing toward their goals. Using Schoolbinder Goals you can help students see their educational expectations as small achievable milestones. Reflection and Metacognition are the pathways to learning.

Discussion Forums

Get to know your students and let them demonstrate mastery in their own words. Allow students to interact and learn from each other, which is a central component of the pedagogy behind Schoolbinder. Giving your students the opportunity to reprocess information and then articulate it according to their understanding helps to strengthen the connections in the brain and promote a greater depth of understanding.

Video Integration

Allow your students to learn from experts in nearly every field imaginable by embedding videos in the discussion forums. Moderate the discussions on Schoolbinder and keep the students off of the, sometimes unwieldy, comments sections of the public websites.

Class Calendars

Give your students one location to get all of the information that they need to be successful. Share assignments, exams, projects, and all other class news with your students and parents.

Class File Manager

Place all of your important files in one place where they will always be accessible by the students and parents.

Assignment File Manager

Allow you students to upload their work to a specific assignment location. Rest assured that all files uploaded by students are private and only visible by teachers.


Bookmark nearly anything in Schoolbinder: discussions, grades, files, and more. Prepare and stay organized for meetings. Bookmark a students work and discussions to show evidence of learning.


Post assignments online and give your students and parents a way to visually plan and prepare for their studies. Post homework, exams, projects, and anything else you can think of.


Help parents and students understand how close the students are to mastering a concept, idea or standard. Make grades accessible in a transparent way and help students keep track of their own progress. Keep parents in the communication circle and help them fully act as a partner in helping their children.


Conveniently keep track of your students’ attendance using the absolute easiest online attendance tracker. Absent? Click. Late? Click, click.

SMS Reminders

Never forget an event! Set SMS text reminders or email reminders for assignments, exams, etc. Display reminders on class pages. Teach your students the importance of organization and allow them to set their own SMS text reminders.

Class Announcements

Communicate important information with students in a timely and visible way. Class announcements and SMS reminders give students more opportunities to be successful.

Truly, Schoolbinders is a system that includes everything your classroom needs and wants - all in one place!  Imagine connecting your students, their families, and the school to keep everyone united and informed.  Best of all, Schoolbinders has an ongoing development tool to ensure you always get the best service possible!  
So subscribe as a Kleinspiration reader today and get a free premium subscription to Schoolbinders!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Are you a Bucket Filler?

So, as I'm stilling at McDonald's to work on a few items in need of Wi-Fi (because my service is down at my home), in walks Jan and Donna from The Buck Filling Team!

Being quite familiar with Carol McCloud's first two books, I was so excited to spark up a friendly conversation with the two ladies.  As a former first grade teacher, I know how powerful and inspirational Bucket Filling can be for a school.  During my time as a first grade teacher, we became a Bucket Filling School - how exciting!  The positive language and celebrations the children became a part of truly transformed the culture of our elementary.

After moving to the middle school, I enjoyed hearing the Bucket Filling language continue as our students would still use some of the lingo.  However, I wished that there was an extension of Bucket Filling that could continue into the older grades.  Of course, we could still use it; however, I knew it would be more 'age-appropriate' and receive more buy in from the older kids if we could tweak the program a bit to fit our adolescent aged kids.

Introducing...  (drum roll please)...

Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness: Three Rules for a Happier Life by Carol McCloud

Jan and Donna were so kind as to give me a free copy of their newest book - a chapter book for ages 9-14!
I couldn't be more excited!  So, as I return to school tomorrow - you bet I'll be showing my students my new treasure.  If you're not familiar with the influence and power these books unleash, you simply must check it out!  What a great extension blog piece to follow Brian's work on Alfie Kohn's philosophy of intrinsic motivation.

Thank you Jan and Donna and safe travels to Grand Rapids,

Erin Klein

Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness: Three Rules for a Happier Life
Sequel, 88-page full-color chapter book for ages 9 - 14
Published 2010
Available in paperback


Growing Up is a more mature message that teaches "tweens" three important rules for keeping their buckets filled and feeling good about themselves.  It teaches the intrinsic benefits of kindness while resolving one of the most threatening social problems in schools today:  bullying and its negative, and too often, tragic effects.

Growing Up is filled with terminology that will resonate with preteens and early teens:  "group bucketfilling", "long-handled dipping", and "using your lid".  It focuses on being kind and compassionate and accepting responsibility for your words and actions, while showing how doing the right thing and making good choices fills your bucket.

Winner of Four Awards:

2010 - New England Book Festival, Honorable Mention (Young Adult/Teenage category)
2010 - London Book Festival, Honorable Mention (Teenage category)
2010 - Los Angeles Book Festival, Honorable Mention (Young Adult category)
2011 - NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Award (Best Books in the Category of Children's Interest)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

iPlay iLearn: Fisher-Price Toddler ipod case

I'm so excited for July 2011 when Fisher-Price rolls out their Toddler ipod carrying case for around $15-$20.

Thanks to Leslie Fisher for showing this great and trendy tool at the recent Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) conference.

The three most important features are:

  1. plastic screen cover (this way, babies and toddlers do not directly touch the screen with fingers freshly pulled out of their mouths)
  2. lively colored, rubberized case with handy handles and cute rings for better handling and protection from impacts, in case it gets dropped on the floor
  3. the “Home” button can be safely covered to avoid accidental calls or e-mails

Guest Post: Brian Barry

I was so excited when Brian Barry, @Nunavut_Teacher, agreed to do a guest post for Kleinspiration.  Brian is a math and science teacher in Canada for his 9th grade students.  Brian is also a edublogger for his personal site, Against the Wind.  Brian's posts are always engaging and thought provoking.  I've enjoyed reading his 'short conversations' with professionals who have been an inspiration to him and his teaching practices.  I invite you to follow his blog and build your PLN.

The biggest influence on me as an educator has been Alfie Kohn.  I first heard of Alfie Kohn’s work three and a half years ago. I was  attending a seminar and the speaker discussed Kohn’s book,  Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes.   I still remember the first time I heard that rewards were like  punishments. I was told by the speaker who was quoting Kohn that,  “rewards and punishments are just two sides of the same coin -- and the  coin doesn't buy very much.” I was repulsed by this idea.  I thought,  “How could rewards be like punishment?” What I did not realize at the  time, however, was that rewards and punishments were being used for the  same thing: to control students.

Once  I pondered and accepted Dr. Kohn’s thesis on rewards and punishment, I explored more ideas by Kohn. First, I was challenged on my views about  awards. I began to see awards as extrinsic motivators.  The joy of  learning, however, comes from doing something for which a student truly  has an interest.  Learning
should not become, as Kohn has noted, “just a  prerequisite for getting that public pat on the head.” Moreover, when  one person wins an award, it makes all others feel like users.

Another  point that challenged my thinking was the way  I conducted my class. I always thought that a teacher should be the one that conducted the class absolutely.  Indeed, I believed students should not have input into the  way a class is conducted. I learned that the more input, choice, and  ownership students have, the more successful they will be.

Alfie  Kohn has challenged my views on teaching.  It comes down to one thing really: intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation. When kids are intrinsically motivated, there is a deeper understanding. Extrinsic motivators are  just a way to control kids.

I  will leave the last word to Alfie Kohn on extrinsic motivators: “It’s a  way of doing things to kids, and ultimately there’s no substitute for  working with kids if we want them to become proficient learners and  decent people.”

--by Brian Barry

I hope Brian doesn't mind, I'd like to add a video from one of my favorite shows, The Office.  I found this clip and thought that it could demonstrate what my words couldn't do in two minutes: (great post, Brian) - Thanks!  Erin

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sophia: Free Social Teaching and Learning Network

Thanks to Richard Byrne, author of Free Tech 4 Teachers, for posting about Sophia, a free platform for teachers and students to get additional information for specific content areas. 

What a way to engage all learners and extend the opportunity for learning beyond the typical classroom time.  I could really see Sophia helping with differentiating instruction by including many multiple intelligences: use of audio, visual, and written word.

You may also like: Qwiki (it's like mixing Wiki, Google, and YouTube all together!)

Tiny Tech Tips

Tiny Tech Tips is a 'New Page' on Kleinspiration.  Click here to view it, or simply select the page from the header list on Kleinspiration's home page.  Each week, you will find engaging ways to integrate technology into primary classrooms.  Please view the Tiny Tech Tips page to read more on how this venture began. 

Below, you can preview an example of my first grader, Riley, doing a presentation for her science experiment.  She used Sonic Pics, an app found through Apple.  Click here to view it on itunes and click here to see middle school students using Sonic Pics.

View my full post on Sonic Pics here and get additional ideas for integrating this app into your classroom.

Monday, March 14, 2011

"It's a Book" by Lane Smith

Recently, while enjoying coffee with three amazing voices in education (Troy Hicks, author of The Digital Writer's Workshop; Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer; and Heidi Miller, Madison K-3 Literacy Coach), a wonderful resource was shared.  This short YouTube segment is cute beyond words.  Donalyn, thanks so much for sharing this at Starbucks and Troy for pulling it right up for us to enjoy (your tech. skills are so handy and appreciated!).  Love the new friendships!

Listen to more of our conversation through our Cinch Cast here as we discuss some of our favorite sites for students.  Enjoy!  Click Here to Listen.

Guest Post: Sal Pellettieri

Academic research indicates that students have under-developed group working skills and that faculty guidance can help greatly. is a free resource created to help solve this widespread problem.  

Students often don’t have sufficient training in project management and enter the working world with inadequate collaborative skills. The site empowers students and teachers with a platform to manage their group projects and virtual classrooms. We provide users with a wide range of tools to enable sharing, project management and communication.

The site allows students to create private pages for their group assignments where they can have a shared calendar, instant messaging, email, a project outline, task management and much more. Since most students have never had any training in project management we provide tools like a project checklist and lessons learned document. There is also an extensive library of articles that help students learn how to break work into tasks, schedule meetings and other project related topics.

The virtual classrooms feature enables teachers to expand their classroom. They can invite students to join and use the site to share files (like readings, syllabi and assignment details), share a calendar (to inform students of tests, guest lectures etc.) and post assignments. Teachers can also create polls and post ideas or respond to student questions. A virtual classroom enables students to engage with each other and their teacher by starting conversations, asking questions and answering polls. Having all the class information on one page also enables students to be more organized, which will make the instructors life easier. Students are more likely to be interested in a class if it’s fun and there is a feedback loop with the teacher and other students. In other words, students are more likely to be engaged in a class when there’s online discussion, collaboration and debate.

The benefit of having both a projects and classrooms features is that students can keep track of all their classes and class projects on the same site. This makes it easier to monitor work and connect with classmates.

Beyond a place to work, is a place for students to interact with friends and provides them a place to get their lives organized. The site has a blogging feature, to-do lists, personal calendar as well as a twitter feed and Q & A forum. 

For more information on the classrooms application, check out this article - or this article on the projects application -

It’s free to sign up for and navigating the site is very easy so check it out.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Michigan Reading Association 2011

Erin Klein and Heidi Miller, present at MRA 2011.  Click here for their featured piece on the MRA website.  Also, add MRA to your Twitter and Facebook.  Kleinspiration is also on Facebook and Twitter.
If you'd like any additional links from the Prezi presentation, please leave a comment below. 

Guest Blog: Barbara Blackburn, author

Rigor is one of the hot topics in education these days, but many of the calls for increased rigor are unclear about what rigor actually looks like in a classroom. Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels (Blackburn, 2008). In other words, students are expected to learn and grow!

One way to demonstrate high expectations is to craft assignments in which students are challenged to move beyond a basic response. For example, a fairly typical assignment is for students to write about a person, either a character in a book, or a historical figure. Several teachers I’ve worked with use technology to motivate students to be more creative and more analytical with this assignment. They ask students to create a Facebook page for the person instead. Using sites such as, students are required to know and use basic biographical information, but they also must apply that knowledge to create comments the person/character might say. This can include actual examples and those the student has inferred. Not only is this more rigorous than a standard paragraph or report, it is more motivating for students.

Providing support for students can take a variety of forms, such as modeling for students, chunking information, providing a timeline or outline or steps, and using graphic organizers. A math graphic organizer (use the drop down template menu to choose) allows students who are struggling with math word problems to break down and analyze the key information. Using the Visual Thesaurus ( can help students see the connections between words.

The final key part of rigor in the classroom is that each student demonstrates learning. Instead of one student responding to your question, look for opportunities for all students to respond. Low-tech options include pair-share, the use of individual dry-erase boards, or asking for thumbs-up/thumbs-down responses. In high-tech classrooms, clickers are an especially valuable way to give each student in your classroom a way to answer, as well as providing teachers immediate formative assessments.

Ultimately, rigor is more than curriculum standards, or the class a student is assigned to. Rigor is also what teachers do everyday to help students learn!

Barbara R. Blackburn is author of 11 books, including Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word ( She blogs regularly at and tweets as BarbBlackburn. Her website, contains downloadable resources for teachers.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Voki for Education

Jazz up your anticipatory segment for your lesson to hook your students right away with Voki for EducationCreating a Voki allows you to develop your personal avatar and share it with others via your website, blog, or even through email.  Vokis are simple and quick to create.

  • Motivate Students to Participate
  • Improve Message Comprehension
  • Introduce Technology into the Classroom
  • Explore Voki as an Effective Language Tool
  • Inspire and get Inspired by Other Teachers

While exploring the Voki Website, gain information on how you can use Voki within your classroom, learn how to get started, visit the teacher's corner, and search Voki lesson plans by subject and grade level.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Digital Writing: Make Beliefs Comix

Make Beliefs Comix is a web 2.0 site that allows individuals to select their own characters and add their own creative dialogue for each section of the comic strip. 

Make Beliefs Comix is not simply for elementary school children but could also be used to motivate reluctant writers, support comprehension for reading as students process the plot, and serve as a digital writing piece that one could submit online to share or could share with classmates as a part of their project, or presentation.  Regardless of the media outlet, Make Beliefs Comix is a simple and entertaining way to engage all learners in the art of writing.

Also, check out these additional comic strip creators:

Print Radar's 19 Places to Make Comic Book Strips

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Schoology: Your Digital Classroom

I recently did a post about Edmodo, a social networking site for teachers and students.  Then, I was introduced to Schoology by Mr. Fachler.  This free site is also a secure platform to enhance your classroom experience.

If you would like future updates of great, free sites for your classroom, subscribe via email.  Simply enter your email to the right of this post.  Also, you can 'like' Kleinspiration on Facebook for daily updates.

Features include:

  • Announcements
  • Events
  • Blogs for Discussion
  • Assignment Uploads
  • Gradebook
  • Online Quizzes

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Edmodo: Social Networking and Connecting with Students

    Edmodo is the fastest growing social networking site for K-12 educators.  Extend your learning time outside of the classroom by connecting with your students on the web.  This web 2.0 application allows students to share ideas about a lesson, upload video segments to enhance content areas, embed files for homework, and even check class grades for each child.  Click here to read more great features Edmodo has to offer for teachers, students, and parents.  Learn how it's shaping the way we teach and how students are learning in the 21st century.  If you can Facebook, you can Edmodo!