Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to School Give-Away

5 Days Left to Enter 


Back to School Give-Away

sponsored by: ClassConnect

You could win gift cards to the following stores:

- Target

- Starbucks

- iTunes

Winners will be selected via Random Number Generator and chosen on Monday.

How to Enter:

First, click this link.  Once on the page, scroll down until you see the gift cards.  The directions are posted under "How to Enter for this Give-Away."  Best of Luck!  Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Revolutionize your Teaching with Class Connect! Sign up today and get entered for our awesome Give-Away (Starbucks, Target, and iTunes)

*Special offer and Freebies offered at the end of this post*

I am SO excited to share this site with you.  If you never read another Kleinspiration post again, be sure to at least read this one and watch the embedded video segments.  I just know you'll be as thrilled as I am!

First, enjoy this special video from the founder himself, Mr. Eric Simons... genius!

Why am I crazy about Class Connect?

Besides the inspiring story that gets one excited to support, ClassConnect enables 21st century learning to transcend into a tangible lesson in which can be applied within the classroom framework to enhance current pedagogical practices.  Stated differently, ClassConnect is a super easy way to streamline your teaching so that it becomes more interactive, naturally incorporates technology integration, and because all of your multimedia and digital content is housed in one simple spot, you never have to open new items, wait for things to load, or search for anything.  Thanks to ClassConnect, you can cover more content,  assess your students in real time, and actively engage all learners via the medium of your new lesson!

You're going to love this... especially around the 1:45 time... get ready!
I've never seen anything else like it.

My Personal Favorites that ClassConnect Offers

- Eric Simons is amazing, talented, and driven
- The entire ClassConnect team is willing to support you
- I never have to worry about forgetting files on my school computer, I just login from anywhere to ClassConnect (anytime, anywhere)
- It's easy to use... click something and drag it and it moves
- I never have to leave the ClassConnect site because all of my content is in one nice spot
- I never have to wait for pages to load... they're already in my lecture
(yes, actual websites!  not just long url links - real and interactive websites!)
- No need to be 1:1.  I can use this with my projector or IWB/SMART Board
- The quiz feature embedded within LiveLectures offers real-time feedback

Additionally, ClassConnect offers a user-friendly gradebook (click here) and an attendance feature!

Why is Filebox cool?

I'm the nut that has an account for: Delicious, Diigo, Pinterest, ScoopIt, Evernote, DropBox, etc...

So, why would I use Filebox?  Because I can save ALL of my content (websites, videos, files, etc) and directly drag and drop them from their prospective filefolder in ClassConnect and place them in my lecture, or presentation I'm developing.  I never have to download or upload files... awesome!  Just try it, you'll see!  If you'd like a quick tutorial, click here.

My Final Words on ClassConnect...
(a teacher's perspective)

*Special offers and Freebies*

Tons of Chances to Win!  Sign up for your free ClassConnect account to be eligible. 
 Prize # 1: Target Gift Card
 Prize #2: iTunes Gift Card

Prize # 3: Starbucks Gift Card

Eric is hosting a give-away for Kleinspiration followers.  
So, to participate, be sure you're a follower of this site to be eligible for your prize!! 

How to Enter for the Give-Away

For each entry (bullet point) leave a separate comment to increase your odds
Random Generator will select 3 winners on Monday, September 5, 2011.

  • Sign up for your FREE ClassConnect account today!  Click Here 
***This one is a must, if you aren't signed up for ClassConnect, your entry will not be valid.***
  • Follow this blog 
if you already do, leave a comment stating that you're already a follower
if you aren't a follower, join this site (to the right side scroll)
  • Add my button to your page
my code is located on the right side scroll
  • Blog about this give away (3 entries - leave 3 comments for yourself)
  • Subscribe via Email (click the envelope pot up top
7 potential chances to win great prizes
Be sure to leave your email on one of the comments so that I can contact the winner!

Now Hosting Spots for Sponsors!

Due to the exponential growth of Kleinspiration, I am now accepting sponsors. 

Due to limited space, I am only accepting those who have a  quality site on a first come basis.

Click Here to Express your Interest!

A back to school favorite: Study Jams!

From all of the sites I used last year with my students, Study Jams would be in the top five for most popular and best academic quality.

Jazz up any math or science lesson with a brief interactive component whether it's a video segment or quick quiz questions to support a concept.

You'll love the way Schoolastic breaks abstract concepts down in an engaging and easy to understand manner.  Best part - it's Free!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Remind101: Text your Students and Parents without ever giving your Number out! Brand New EdTech Company...

Create a Class. Share your Code. Send a Message

I've been speaking with Brett over the past few weeks about his new company, Remind101.  Brett and his brother, David, started this company together in effort to make it super simple for teachers to connect with their students and their student's parents.  I can honestly state that not only is Remind101 a tool that I'm VERY excited to start using, but also Brett is one of the sweetest and most genuine guys I've had the pleasure to work with - plus he's a graduate from MSU (Go State!).  

Click Here to 'meet the brothers,' see their photos, and find out why they started Remind101.

In my experience, some aspects of technology can be cumbersome.  This being stated, some avoid the use of tech integration simply because it isn't user-friendly.  Though I am a huge advocate for technology, I always stress to not get caught up in the sparkle of it but understand the objective you're working towards and then determine whether technology can become a tool to support your process.  

Remind101 does just this.

We all have to communicate with our student's families.

Imagine being able to send real-time messages to either your students or their parents... with the click of a button... fast, safe, easy!  No paperwork, lost sticky notes, messages that never reach home... 

Remind101 also stores your messages within the website.  No more stuffing file folders or recording notification logs or binders.  Now, you can simply have Remind101 do the work for you - and store/file the information for you.

That's my kind of tech tool!! Click Here to learn more and click here to see their blog.

After watching the short one minute video, I'm sure you're excited to sign up now!  Please click here to get started and sign up for your free account.  You'll also love that they've included a PDF file you can print off to send directly home with student's so that parent's can register, for free.  I love that I don't have to create this document... they guys have done it for us.  How sweet!

A brief bio from Brett...

Remind101 was started by brothers Brett & David Kopf, you can read about us here. Brett graduated from Michigan State University and David graduated from Depaul University. We recently moved the company to Palo Alto California and are focused on creating an exceptional product for teachers, so if there are any questions please don't hesitate to email Brett ( After speaking with 100's of teachers, we learned that there was no easy and safe way for teachers to stay connected with students or parents outside the classroom. We worked hand-in-hand with K-12 teachers and college professors to craft a product that is simple and fast.
Feel free to reach out!

I know Brett and David would be anxious to hear your feedback.  Please feel free to leave a comment below, and you can check out teacher testimonials by clicking here.  Be sure to sign up and get started... you'll love telling your friends about this, too.  They will be so thankful that they can also now send out mass messages with just one click and connect with their students, student's parents, or both - you pick when you click.  Enjoy! 

If you enjoyed this post and would like to receive more related posts or edu tech tips, be sure to add yourself as a follower on the right side of this blog.  Also, follow me on Twitter and like our page on Facebook.  We're also on Google+!  Be sure to click the flower pot on the top of this page that has the envelope so that you get our news delivered straight to your inbox... this way, you can check the postings at your leisure and forward them to your friends or save them if you'd like!

Don't forget to vote, please!  :-)
click here, each vote counts.  Thanks!!

ClassDojo: Your Simple Class Solution for Active Engagement K - 12!

We're making ClassDojo, a way for teachers to boost classroom engagement and build positive behavior really easily, by awarding recognition and providing feedback in real time, instantly in class.

Everything is logged in real-time, with just one click.

In a "Nutshell:"

  • Improve student behavior and engagement by awarding and recording real-time feedback.

  • Print or email beautiful behavior reports to easily engage parents and staff

  • Save time by recording behaviors and accomplishments right in class, with just one click: NO extra data entry required.

  • Plus, it's FREE... click here to get started!  

    This is one tool you'll wonder how you ever taught without! 

    Click Here to take a tour of their amazing features!
    (once you've signed up for a free account)
    A big problem

    The start of the school year brings many challenges. One of the greatest, and most daunting for many of us is quickly building that engaged, well-behaved classroom community that leaves you feeling in control of your classroom. A lot of teachers I’ve spoken to have struggled with this - and given how much theory there is out there about how to manage and improve behavior: intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation, PBIS, RTI, Alfie Kohn, Doug Lemov, Lee Cantor - its amazing just how few tools there are available to help with it. In fact, struggling with classroom behavior is often cited as a big reason teachers leave teaching, and is what a lot of instructional time in class ends up being spent on. I found that the term ‘classroom management’ (or ‘behavior management’) masks many, many sub-issues. Here are just four that kept coming up:
    1. Engaging students is painful: too often new teachers get met with blank faces and disengaged students, and have to go through a long, painful process to engage them. What’s more, low motivation and engagement in class have consistently been linked to increased dropout rates and reduced levels of student success.
    2. Even where teachers have successful strategies, these create a lot of admin work both in and out of class: administering these systems in the classroom (e.g. moving cards and marbles around in class) and out of it (e.g. entering data - if at all - on to spreadsheets etc) distracts from instructional time, and adds work after school. In many cases, the extra work means data doesn’t get recorded: the lack of data generated by these systems makes it difficult to effect permanent improvements in behavior over time.
    3. Most tools focus too much on the negative: these tools make 'behavior' equate to 'discipline'. Rather than allowing teachers to focus on building the positives, they enforce a focus on logging referrals: by which point its too late to intervene effectively.
    4. Time-consuming for teachers to engage parents and administrators: engaging parents and other teachers becomes a chose, involving lots of phone calls or emails, and sucking up a lot of time after school.

    Essentially, ‘behavior management’ seemed to be a painful, punitive, time-consuming process, and one where very few tools have been offered to support teachers.

    One solution: ClassDojo

    The good news is that recently I happened to come across one new tool coming out of Silicon Valley that tries to fix these and many other problems: ClassDojo. ClassDojo is an easy, quick-to-use tool that is completely customizable, but also lightweight enough to be deployed in an individual classroom in under 2 minutes - no need to wait for a lengthy pilot. Oh - and its free to use for beta users (sign-up and find out more here: The team are two British entrepreneurs, former teachers, who have just moved to the US. Just to show yo you how they’re fixing the problems above:
    1. Engaging students easily: ClassDojo allows teachers to recognise positive behaviors and accomplishments and provide real-time feedback instantly in class. It also has engaging visuals that set up engaging real-time feedback loops that encourage students exhibit desirable behaviors, and build intrinsic motivation over time.
    2. Reducing admin work in and out of class: teachers can award or take away points for desirable behaviors or accomplishments with one touch of a smartphone or laptop button: there is no additional data entry required, and it is all done in real-time. This allows teachers to actually get real-time data on what's happening in their class, allowing them, for the first time, to objectively track and improve behavior - it feels a bit like magic.
    3. Focusing on the positive: ClassDojo actively focuses teachers on the positives, allowing teachers to track and improve positive behavior over time, rather than waiting for a referral to happen. ClassDojo is also completely customizable to specific classrooms or activities.
    4. Engaging parents and administrators: ClassDojo automatically creates behavior reports, charts and analytics, and allows teachers to share these with parents, students and administrators with just one click - eliminating the need for laborious emails and phone calls.

    Talking to the ClassDojo team, they tell me that they realized that behavior management is in fact a subset of something much bigger: building positive character. In fact, extensive research by Nobel prize-winning economist James Heckman (read more here) suggests that building character - and in particular, the ability to control oneself (cf the Stanford marshmallow experiments!) - is the key to really, really huge improvements in a whole slew of socioeonomics indicators: from average income, to health outcomes, to incidence of substance abuse, to likelihood of criminal prosecutions: multiple studies* have shown that self-control is one of the single biggest predictors of these in later life, have shown these findings too. The good news is: self-control can be built - ClassDojo’s big vision is to fix this neglected 'other half' of education: they want to make it easy for parents, teachers and students to measure, track and build the ‘intangibles’ - like self-control - that are even more important than good grades for academic and lifetime success (and incidentally, are critical for improving grades, too!).

    * Including the HighScope Perry pre-school programme, and the Dunedin studies by Professor Terrie Moffitt.

    Some background on us:

    The founders of ClassDojo are two British entrepreneurs, Sam Chaudhary and Liam Don. Sam was a high school teacher, and subsequently worked in the education practice at management consultancy firm McKinsey & Co in London. Liam was previously a games designer at Jagex, the creators of Runescape, and recently took a leave from a PhD in the Technology Enhanced Learning group of Durham University. The two boys moved from London to Palo Alto to help improve US education, after receiving funding from investors running an education technology incubator in Silicon Valley.

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    We are on Vacation!

    Greetings from Florida! Please view our video below. More photos to come on our Kleinspiration Facebook page. Click this link to like our page and see what we are up to...

     Also, get great edu tech tips!
    (see the link below the video, too!)

    Please Click Here and "Like" my aunt's magazine, Ocala Style - it's great!

    Thanks bunches!!

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    Guest Post: First Grade Word Study and Technology by: First Grade Adventures

    One of my favorite websites is . I must tell you that you have to become a member to use the site. Many districts get a district membership for all teachers and staff to use.

    Reading A-Z offers leveled texts that can be printed out for students. Each book is given a level from A to Z and that level is then correlated to DRA, Reading Recovery, and Fountas & Pinnell Guided Reading levels. The book we will look at today has this correlation chart attached:

    As you can see, the age and grade level are also included. This makes it easy for a teacher to find a book that will be at his/her student’s instructional or independent reading level. Many books listed have the letters ML next to them. This indicates that there are multiple levels of this book. The pictures may be the same, but the text is more rich and dense in the upper levels. Today’s book, Hibernation, is a multilevel book that is offered at levels F, I, and M. This is especially useful if you are teaching a particular topic and want students to read similar content at their own reading level.

    For those of you who are not familiar with this site, once you are logged in, you click on “All Books” which will open up a page that lists each book title by reading level. As you click on the title of your choice, the next page will show the cover of the book. You can preview the book by clicking on any of the print options. On this same page will be the correlation chart. Under the book’s cover, there are options for the printed versions and lesson resources. The lesson resources range from fill in the blank to venn diagrams and comprehension work.

    Initially, the purpose of the website was for teachers to print out books at a student’s individual reading level that the student could take home; quick and easy access to leveled readers that children could keep at home and reread for practice. This was a great idea that led to a fabulous idea. Reading A-Z made their books projectable.

    In the Smart Board era this was pretty smart of them! Next to the links for the printable versions is the projectable option. By clicking “projectable” you will open the projectable version of the book.

    The projectable version looks just like the printable book. At the bottom of the screen are tools: pen, highlighter, stamp, and text. The pen and highlighter come in a variety of colors and are great for marking words. The stamp has several options including a stop sign. The text enables the teacher to add instructions on each page. In addition to this, the teacher can frame or cover content if they wish.

    Typically, I begin using the projectable version with the whole group. I want the students to be comfortable using the pen and highlighter. We do this by identifying words that have a digraph and underlining the digraph (digraph could be substituted for another word structure, like suffix, vowel, blend, etc). I also ask students to highlight sight words we have learned. Another reason for introducing this to the whole group is the add-ons the teacher can include. I want my students to be able to recognize the text I can add to each page. I want them to know that when they notice my text, it is a direction to do something. For instance, I may write, “Find the word with the suffix S and mark it,” or “Can you think of another animal that hibernates?” or “Find the two syllable word and scoop the syllables.” The student reads my instruction and uses the pen or highlighter tools to complete the task.
    I can also add a stamp, like the stop sign, if I want the student to stop reading on a particular page. The teacher can print out the page, including all the marks added by teacher and student, to send home.

    In the image above you can see the blue text that I have included. 
    The red marks are the student’s response.

    Once my students are comfortable with the projectable books, we use them on lab computers. I may have my first graders working individually or with a partner. As I mentioned before, if we are studying something like hibernation, we have access to three different reading levels for the text on hibernation. 

    The students all read similar content but at a reading level that is just right for the individual. Using the computer mouse, they use the pen and highlighter tools we practiced on our Smart Board. Again, I can print a page out if I want to send the work home to share with families. This activity is great because you get a lot of bang for your buck! Students are working on word study skills while reading connected text, building science knowledge, and becoming more flexible with technology.

    If I wanted a student to work on a book at home, I could open the projectable version and add the instructions for all or some of the pages. Then I could print out the whole book and send it home for the student to work on. This would be great for families who want to know how to help their children build skills. The lesson resources are also projectable. This is great for teaching children how to complete a venn diagram or a comprehension activity. They could also be turned into at-home activities.

    This is how I use this website with my Smart Board to help students practice word study skills with reading. I am sure some of my more techy friends out there could come up with even more ideas for using this site!

    Please check out my site: click here!  Thanks so much!!
    I just started blogging and I'd love your support.
    Follow my blog here!

    Also, please support Kleinspiration and vote for her blog... each vote counts!

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Guest Post: Free Web Tools for your Classroom by: TJ Houston

    Today we have a guest writer on the blog. His name is TJ Houston. TJ is an edublogger at and you can find him tweeting away about new technology and offering tech help via @tjhouston. Tj is also the technology director at Huron City Schools in Huron, Ohio. 

    Today we are going to showcase 25 webtools that you may or may not have heard about. The tools within this presentation are all free, and they apply to all different grade levels.

    This is just an introduction to these tools. 

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Asking for your help, please...

    Kleinspiration was nominated for Parents Magazine

    "Best Mom Tech Blog"

    How can you help?

    - Click Here to Vote

    If you wouldn't mind, it would be fantastic if you could publish a quick post on your blog asking your audience to also support this contest, I'd really appreciate it.  Thank you so very much!

    Please also support my sister site, Teaching Blog Addict: click here to vote!

    Winners will be announced mid-October.

    Thanks so very much!!

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    This Week's Most Popular Posts:

    Be sure to check out this week's most popular posts:

    Most popular post of all time:

    Build a Positive and Powerful PLN via Pinterest by Plumdoodles author, Amanda Plum

    Hi there! I am very excited to be a guest blogger on Kleinspiration today! 
    Not only is it a wonderful blog, it is written by one of my dearest friends!  :-)

    By: Amanda, 1st grade teacher and author of
    Please Click Here and visit my Site!

    If you’ve read anything in the blogging world lately (and I’m assuming you have, because you’re here!)
    you’ve probably heard of Pinterest.

    According to the “What is Pinterest?” page located on their website, “Pinterest lets you organize and
    share all of the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings,
    decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes. Best of all, you can browse pinboards created
    by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from
    people who share your interests.”

    And WOW…can you get inspiration! Pinterest is filled with an amazing variety of pinboards, pinned
    by an amazing variety of people. At first, I was reluctant to join Pinterest, because I could see it easily
    becoming another “time waster” like Facebook and games can sometimes be (Bejeweled, anyone?
    ). However, I am so glad that I gave it a try, because I have discovered that Pinterest is becoming
    an important component of my Personal Learning Network (PLN). It is also helping me to organize
    the many great ideas I get from fellow bloggers and websites. Below is a screen shot of some of my
    Pinterest boards… feel free to 'follow me' and click here to see my boards!

    Expanding my PLN is one of my goals for this school year. I have committed myself to blogging regularly,
    connecting with other bloggers, and I plan to explore the benefits of Twitter (at Erin’s request!). I
    never imagined that Pinterest would become a way for me to meet and connect with fellow teachers,
    but I have been pleasantly surprised! I love that I can follow the pinboards of other teachers, and stay
    abreast of the most current trends and ideas in education. It’s also exciting to see other people pinning
    ideas that I share on my pinboards. I have been able to connect with other teachers in my county who I
    don’t normally get a chance to work with, as well as teachers from across the country who I admire. The
    ideas I have gathered are amazing, and I can’t wait to implement many of them in my classroom.

    The other major benefit of Pinterest is the organizational aspect. My blog roll is huge, and I come across
    so many wonderful ideas on a daily basis that I begin to lose track of them! I have tried starring items
    that I would like to use later, saving things to my flash drive, or even immediately printing and filing
    the activities. However, no matter how organized I tried to be, I would undoubtedly come across an
    awesome Halloween activity on November 1st, or a great silent e activity just as I had moved on to vowel
    teams. Pinterest to the rescue! Now when I see a great idea, I click “Pin it” on my toolbar, and then pin
    it to the corresponding board. The best part is, you can create as many boards as you’d like – so I have
    separate boards for teaching math, Daily 5, classroom d├ęcor…the list goes on and on! I’ve even created
    an “I Did It!” board to showcase the Pinterest inspired creations from my DIY board. I feel much more
    organized, and when I am looking for a particular activity, all I have to do is click on one of my pinboards
    and there it is.

    Would you like a Pinterest Invite?

    Right now, Pinterest is by invitation only. If you are interested in joining Pinterest or becoming a part of
    my PLN, please feel free to email me at I will send you an invitation so you
    can get started. Please be sure to click here and follow my blog, and click here to follow me on Pinterest!  Happy pinning!

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    Published Student Authors

    "If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow" -- John Dewy

    Troy Hicks, friend, mentor, and author has been a blessing in my teaching practice.  His book, The Digital Writing Workshop, has helped me to not only to get interactive ideas to include into my workshop but also to understand the sound pedagogy behind what digital tools offer to a workshop model.  

    As a middle school writing teacher, I always try to capture the authenticity of writing - and, a digital writer's workshop model enables me to support the creative choice and individual craft of budding authors.

    Technology as a Tool:
    In my classroom, I have:
    • a SMART Board
    • 4 iPads - yes, the new edition (coming this Fall)
    • 6 iPods (new edition)
    • flip cameras
    • wireless mice
    • an available lab across the hall with 32 fully functioning computers and a laser printer
    My point is not list technology resources... for I'm sure there are many districts far more equipped than ours; however, I'd like to bring up a few points.

    1.  My district has a strong commitment for technology integration.
    2.  Teachers use technology not as a teaching supplement but rather a tool to enhance their instruction.
    3.  Students utilize the technology as much as the teachers (even during lessons!).
    4.  A sufficient amount of our technology was purchased through grant funding.
    5.  Our middle school had the number one MEAP writing score in the district.
    6.  3 years ago, the primary 'technology tool' in our district was: the overhead projector/transparencies
    7.  Teachers are having fun 'learning through trial and error' when using foreign devices in their rooms.

    Along with digital writing, our students usually have a 'purpose' that is meaningful and personal to guide their writing processes.    One of my favorite platforms for digital writing is via blogging.  Jon Schwartz does an AMAZING job of this with his forth and fifth grade students.  I encourage you to click here and check out his site.

    He lists nine fantastic reasons why blogging works for his classroom:

    1. Kids want to share their work with a real, authentic audience.
    They end up with lots of writing and artwork that gets stuffed into folders in their desk. There needs to be a better way of quickly and efficiently sharing their work with their parents, relatives, peers, present and former teachers, and principals. Kids will be motivated to write when they know their work is being valued and appreciated, and blogs enable this to happen.

    2. Kids need to learn how to write and present their work in an organized fashion.

    3. Kids need to learn how to use the internet and become digital citizens. They need to know how to submit work online, do internet research and create word documents and multi-media presentations. Online coursework is part of the college experience and the quicker they learn these skills, the more prepared they'll be.

    5. Kids benefit from creating organized work portfolios that they can easily access from a variety of locations.

    6. Writing is a higher order thinking skill, as it requires the author to synthesize information and thoughts and present it in a coherent fashion.

    7. Teachers need to give students timely and meaningful input on their work, but that's hard to do when the work is all handed in at the same time. Blogs enable the teacher to access the student's writings and art work at any time on their mobile d
    evices, laptops, or desktops. The teacher can then add praise and constructive comments on the student's blog, and the student can read the input on a mobile device, laptop, or desktop at home. It's real-time work submission, review, and teacher input.

    8. Busy parents can read their children's work at their convenience, offer praise, and share it with relatives and friends.

    9. Kids can share their work with their peers and comment on their peer's work. They can read their peer's work as soon as it's created, when school is not in session, such as on the weekends, after school, and during vacations. They can also submit comments to the blog moderator (the teacher and/or parent), and these comments will be visible to the author if and when they are approved by the moderator.

    A Few of my Favorite Places to Publish Student Work

    Click Here for a List of Web 2.0 Sites that are engaging and user-friendly

    Click Here for Kids Write: an online anthology for young authors and readers

    Click Here for Ink Pop: a creative writing site where teens can find writing tips, get reviewed by HarperCollins Editors and win chances to get published.

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    Guest Post: Top SMART Board Resources + Free Downloads! by Gena Mathes

    Hello fellow teachers! I'm so excited to be a guest blogger on Kleinspiration today!
    by: Gena author of The Techy Teacher

    I have had a SMART Board in my classroom for a couple of years now and it has completely changed the way I teach. My students are more engaged in the lessons, and it really organizes my lessons nicely. I have heard several teacher bloggers mention that they are getting a SMART Board this year. With so much out on the web, you don't have to create all new lessons! I thought I'd share my favorite resources for SMART board lessons so you don't always have to recreate the wheel. Be sure to PIN these sites on Pinterest!

    This is SMART Technologies site where teachers can post their notebook files for others to download. The search is awesome and you can preview each file before deciding to download. On the main page, you will see the most downloaded files. I just love this site and can always find something to fit the lessons I'm teaching.

    This is a fabulous wiki with SMART board game templates and other resources.

    SMART Board resources organized by month -- great for primary grades!

    This is Teacher Love SMART Boards -- and it's a great resource for games, tips, and tutorials on the notebook software.

    WOWIE! These math SMART downloads are top notch! The Function Man is one of the favorites in my class!

    In addition, I have created some lessons of my own that I'd like to share!

    This first one is a great activity to do on the first day of school. Students pop a balloon (with sound 
     effects -- cool!) and answer the question. Too fun! 

    click here

    This is a fun game called Tic-Tac-Know. I set it up using sight words, but feel free to change the text to fit the needs of your class. Directions are included on the pull tab in the file. So easy and such a fun way to review. 

    Good luck with the upcoming school year!

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Guest Post: Keyboard Classroom by Carrie Shaw


    “Johnny” from Massachusetts was your typical 10 year old.  The oldest of four, his
    mother “Susan” had carefully followed his program of study. She attended conferences,
    read magazines and blogs about upcoming curriculum ideas, and spent a small
    fortune on books and games that would give Johnny the skills he would need to lead a
    successful life as he got older.

    Early on, Susan recognized the importance of the computer to her son’s education.
    She realized that computing is a way of life today. The key to success when living
    in such a computer-centric world is to develop keyboarding skills. There was only
    one problem. Johnny didn’t know how to type. So, Susan went out and bought a
    popular learn-to-type software program. It was filled with fun exercises, flashing
    lights, sound effects, and typing games, and Johnny was able to advance at his own
    pace, “completing” the course in less than a week. He still didn’t know how to type.

    Think of an athlete. Hitting a baseball, throwing a football, or kicking a soccer ball is
    effortless... a result of repeated practice. They perform basic skills naturally, without
    thinking. It’s the same with any skill, even typing.

    Along with educators at the renowned Ben Bronz Academy in Connecticut, we’ve
    studied students in various learning environments for over two decades, watching
    and developing methods to improve the learning process. We concluded that young
    people with and without learning issues, can succeed more effectively through the use
    of computers. And when they learn to touch type, they are able to channel their focus
    on what they’re learning. Their fingers actually become an unwitting extension of their

    It’s all about muscle memory. Great typists, like great athletes, need to learn the
    fundamentals by practicing them day after day, building new skills only after they master
    something less difficult. An effective keyboarding program should be systematically
    designed so a student must truly master a skill, before advancing to a more challenging
    one. To make this program more productive we have developed a unique product
    called Finger Guides.

    Finger Guides attach to a standard computer keyboard with
    velcro pads and guide a student's fingers to the correct keys, allowing them to learn
    touch-typing without incorrect, error-prone moves.

    In a lot of ways, we’ve just gone back to basics, creating a structured but simple way for
    students to learn how to type… a skill they’ll use nearly every day for the rest of their

    By the way, Johnny has been using his new typing program for six months, practicing
    his keyboarding skills for just 15 minutes every day. Susan wrote us a note last
    week telling us he’s now fluent at 35 words per minute and she’s noticed a marked
    improvement in his other work as well. Now she says, “Johnny knows how to type.”

    Carrie Shaw is an educator and the President of Keyboard Classroom, one of the fastest growing learn-
    to-type software programs in America. Her website is and she can be
    reached via email at

    Do you check your blog or website stats?

    My mom nails it on the head when she says I'm a dork (with compassion of course).

    I started my blog on January 31, 2011; this was my first post. When I started, just 6 months ago, I believe by Alexa rating was around the 20 million mark.  Now, I'm around 622K.  Once I read somewhere that a site under 500K was good.  I never thought I'd even come close.  Now, my goal is to be under 500K before school begins.

    What is an Alexa Rating?

    The Alexa websites states, "The Alexa Traffic Rank will show how popular the site is compared to yours, including Reach, Pageviews and more."

    I've downloaded the Alexa Toolbar so that I can see the rank of each page I visit.

    Want to see more stats for your site?

    My sister shared this site with me today:

    You can check your Google Pagerank.  This page offers more about your score, once you've entered your site in the site above.  I thought it was fairly insightful.

    Have fun checking out your site!

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Guest Post: How to Turn Passive PowerPoints into Interactive Lectures by: Chris Machielse

    Avoiding “death by PowerPoint” can be as simple as making class more interactive.

    In many circles, slideshows are notorious for so-called “Death by PowerPoint.” The same criticism is applied everywhere from corporate boardrooms to classrooms. For many students, PowerPoint is synonymous with uninspiring lectures, and therefore passive learning.

    Despite the passive nature of a slide-based lecture, PowerPoint and PowerPoint-like formats are likely going to stick around for quite some time. While slides often lead to tendencies like lecturing and overloading slides with too much information, a well-done presentation makes it easier for students to follow along.

    In the past, instructors outlined important points on the chalkboard, but computers have made PowerPoint and Keynote presentations ubiquitous. Slides make it easier for instructors to logically organize their key points and to share relevant photos, diagrams, and charts. To promote active learning, however, the challenge is to make otherwise monotonous content and instruction more interactive.

    There are three keys to a truly interactive PowerPoint presentation, and despite “Death by PowerPoint,” each can be made easier with instructional technologies.

    Student response systems can help students self-assess their learning, keep them
    engaged during lecture, and make PowerPoint slideshows more interactive.

    Instant assessment and student response systems

    Clickers are one classroom technology that has been around for quite some time.  With Internet access moving towards ubiquity, next generation student response systems are moving beyond the basic remote-like devices and allowing students to participate using their cellphones, laptops, or other Internet-enabled devices.

    Nobelist Carl Wieman found that interactive lectures taught with student response systems not only improved student engagement, but also student learning. New student response systems promote discussion and identify misconceptions with more question types, rather than simply fostering recollection of material. In large classes, it is easier to hear from a variety of students using a student response system. Students also prefer to respond to questions posed by their instructor using technology.

    Many student response systems integrate with, replace, or work seamlessly with PowerPoint, making it simple to poll and engage students during a lecture.

    Making Q&A a two-way street with the backchannel

    For many instructors, posing questions to students is an obvious way to test understanding and make class more interactive, but nearly as important is opening channels for the opposite direction: allowing students to communicate with their instructors.

    In a smaller classroom, it is easy for students to raise their hands with comprehension concerns, but in larger classroom or class sessions with a lot of slides to cover in a limited timeframe, opportunities to ask questions are rare.

    Technology allows students to submit questions when they arise, rather than waiting for a good opportunity. It also empowers the shy student to ask questions, and allows instructors to see precisely which concepts are confusing.

    Many solutions exist to open the classroom backchannel, though some are more elegant than others. In his book, Derek Bruff noted one college classroom where students could text their teaching assistant questions, and the TA would stop the professor if a particularly “good” question came in. Other instructors use Twitter with a class-specific hashtag. Again, some next generation classroom technologies integrate this type of interactive exchange with the instructor’s slideshow.

    Monitor comprehension

    Posting questions to students and opening up Q&A could be considered explicit interaction, but a third type of implicit interaction is necessary to teach effectively with PowerPoint. For instructors who spend a lot of time teaching in a lecture format, particularly with many slides to cover, it can sometimes be difficult to know if students are understanding any of the material.

    Utilizing student response systems are great for engaging students with material, facilitating peer instruction, and providing a self-assessment tool. Opening up Q&A allows students to relay specific concerns and to learn from their classmates’ questions. But monitoring overall comprehension is paramount – it allows instructors to modify class on-the-fly and adjust to student learning.

    This type of rapid feedback cycle by nature creates a more interactive classroom and provides more opportunities for student learning as instructors attack problems in new ways when students get stuck.

    Chris Machielse is an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan and interns for LectureTools, a web-based interactive presentation tool designed to minimize distractions created by cellphones and laptops during lecture while allowing instructors to teach with real-time feedback.

    Olivia's Story: a personal story from friends in Michigan, Kelly and Zach Sebastian

    My husband, Jason, shared the newsletter, "A Little Something Extra: Opening a World of Opportunity for People with Down Syndrome," with me this morning.  Our close friends, Kelly and Zach, are proud parents to the beautiful little girl, Olivia.  Kelly and Jason work together here in Michigan.  We've shared many celebrations and held hands tightly over tougher times.  

    As fellow readers of this blog, most of those in the field of education, I know this story will touch your heart.  If you'd like to join me in helping to support this cause, please scroll to the bottom of this post for further information.  In advance, thank you for opening your hearts!

    Here is the story of one sweet little princess, Olivia...

    One Family’s Experience with Atlanto Axial Instability 

    Our daughter Olivia is a 5 year old vibrant little girl with Trisomy 21. Diagnosed after birth, Olivia had no major health problems and we considered ourselves blessed. After she was born, we moved from Auburn Hills, MI to Grand Blanc, were she started attending school at the Genesee Intermediate School District at age 2. Olivia has acclimated well and was only receiving speech therapy at school due to reaching her goals in physical therapy. Last fall we welcomed our second child into the family, making Olivia a “big sis.” Around the same time, we noticed that Olivia was acting peculiar and becoming increasingly frustrated. Olivia currently only says about 50 words and struggles at communicating, especially feelings and emotions. We couldn’t tell if she was having a hard time adjusting to the new baby or if there was a deeper reason behind her sudden change in behavior.

    We first noticed that Olivia was favoring her neck; holding it back and tipping it side to side. She would also cry whenever I put the slightest amount of pressure on her head and neck; specifically bathing and dressing, putting hats on and brushing her hair.  Around the same time, Olivia also lost her balance and fell down a flight of stairs, which was very abnormal for her. Olivia couldn’t communicate if she was in pain or felt discomfort, and after the fall, we decided to take her to the doctor who ordered an xray of her cervical spine. We were told the x-ray looked fine and although we were confused with the results of the x-ray, we continued to monitor her closely.

    The weeks went by, and Olivia slowly began regressing and acting out of character. A little girl that used to get up, go down a flight of stairs and wake us up every morning, couldn’t even make it out of her own bedroom. I would find her lying on the floor in her room asleep. She could not turn the door handle or muster up enough energy or coordination to get back in bed. We also noticed that she was falling more frequently. We originally thought she was being stub- born, and her teacher and daycare staff also noticed the change in behavior. At school, Olivia would fall to the ground and start crying during the day when asked to participate. Our daycare provider informed us that Olivia had started separating herself from the other children, and would find a corner, sit down and cry. Olivia was still tilting her head back, and side to side and had started rubbing the back of her neck.

    The last week at home before Olivia was hospitalized, she had extreme fatigue. Olivia would also have episodes where she would cry, out of nowhere, and the crying would last for only a few seconds. During the last week, I had to dress Olivia in bed as she would not stand up by herself.

    Olivia has always been a tough kid, never fussy or temperamental, eager to please and very affectionate. She is the type of child who rarely cries and has a very high pain threshold. Although we were told the x-ray came back fine, we were starting to have our doubts as Olivia’s crying spells and other symptoms had us very concerned.

    At her weekly Speech therapy session, Olivia lost movement in her right arm. When this occurred, we were called into the room, where Olivia was sit- ting down playing with toys. The therapist said Olivia
    started crying out of nowhere and fell to the floor. She only cried for a few seconds, and then the Therapist noticed Olivia (who is right handed) was only playing with toys with her left hand. Her right arm was limp and cold and she was holding it close to her body as if protecting it. We decided to take her to the Pediatrician the next day.

    The following morning, her condition worsened and we noticed she was experiencing weakness in both her right arm and leg. She could only take a few steps without falling and her balance was off. On the way to the Pediatrician, Olivia had another crying spell in the car, and then again at the office while being examined. The pediatrician failed to diagnose her properly and we had to take matters into our own hands. Fortunately, we found an opening at a Pediatric Neurology clinic near our home, and it took the Neurologist only minutes to detect that something was seriously wrong. Olivia was rushed to Mott’s children’s hospital where doctors initially thought she had a stroke and ordered an MRI, which inevitably spotted the spinal cord compression. At this point, Olivia could not move her right arm or leg and was in extreme pain.  Several days later, Olivia had an occipital cervical fusion and was placed in a halo and stayed in the hospital for several weeks undergoing rehabilitation. Shorty after she was discharged from the hospital, the halo was removed and replaced with a neck brace.

    Olivia continues to do outpatient rehabilitation and she has 6 more weeks left in the neck brace. The Neurosurgeons at Mott’s are hoping her bones will fuse together before the hardware breaks down. Olivia requires 24/7 supervision and we try to restrict her movement as much as possible. She is able to walk and has regained mobility. During our last follow up, the physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor was very pleased and impressed with Olivia’s progress.

    Looking back, the regression happened so slowly that we overlooked signs that normally would have been red flags. After the first xray came back “normal” we didn’t think the symptoms could be serious. Olivia had an x-ray of her cervical spine when she was less than a year old, and then again at 4 ½ years. We thought all our bases were covered as we have always followed our Pediatrician’s recommendations and guidelines for treatment and care.

    The thought of Olivia being in severe pain for months and still being her sweet little self just makes us realize how special she truly is. It has been very hard for us to digest that she was in pain for so long without relief. The Neurosurgeon reported that these “crying spells” occurred whenever she looked down, and essentially shocked her body. The surgery itself was a risk but we had no choice. Had this gone undetected for a longer period of time, Olivia could have easily become a quadriplegic. We were so fortunate to have opportunity to get Olivia the care she needed, and we were at the right place and the right time.

    We are very grateful that things have progressed so well and are happy to share our story. We hope that, by writing this article, parents with children who are showing any signs of symptomatic Atlanto Axial Instability (AAI) will take their children to the doctor immediately. It is important to note that Olivia was never diagnosed with AAI and had we known the diagnosis prior, it is possible we could have prevented her right sided weakness and the pain she endured.  However, not all symptomatic AAI cases are caught on xrays and it is imperative that you watch for signs and symptoms. It is very important for the x-ray to include flexion and extension views. Olivia was not diagnosed until we received the results from the MRI, and I would strongly suggest following up with a Neurologist and having an MRI done if you are seeing these symptoms in your child.

    Classic symptomatic AAI symptoms include: neck pain or persistent head tilt, intermittent or progressive weakness, changes in gait pattern or loss of motor skills, loss of bowel or bladder control, increased muscle tone in the legs, or changes in sensations for the hands and feet.

    For further information:

    Click Here to visit the homepage: Down Syndrome Guild of Southeast Michigan

    Click Here to read more about making a contribution/donation

    Thank you for sharing your story with us.  Olivia will forever be in our hearts!