Category Archives: Teaching Tools

From Service Dog to SURFice Dog

Joelle Trayers’ blog is a frequent resource to which I often refer. She works with gifted Kinders, and shares fabulous lessons and student work examples that never cease to inspire me.

In her recent post, “Not Giving Up on Your Dreams,” Joelle recommends a book that I have just placed in my Amazon shopping cart.  (Read her post to see the title and her summary!)  As a tie-in to the book, Joelle recommended this video, which I had never seen.

Piggybacking on Joelle’s take-away from the book and the video, I would say that both remind me of one of my favorite Zen Pencils posters based on an Einstein quote:

poster by Zen Pencils
poster by Zen Pencils

Except in this case it would be a judging a dog by its ability to ignore the temptation of gloriously exciting birds.

Who could easily stay safe in trees, but apparently prefer to ramble around and tempt dogs.

I’m pretty sure a fish would not have that kind of audacity.

Anyway, have a Kleenex ready when you watch the video.  (And, if you’re one of those odd people, like me, who enjoys crying over inspirational videos, you can fly, swim, or surf over here for more.)

Envision Gifted

While I was looking for resources for an upcoming presentation about Depth and Complexity, I found “Envision Gifted.”  Marcie Griffith’s site offers many ideas and examples for using the Depth and Complexity icons developed by Dr. Sandra Kaplan.  

Be sure to click on the menu items at the top of the page to find suggestions on how to use Depth and Complexity for Math, Language Arts, and more.  Many of the pages have free, downloadable pages to use with your students.

Depth and Complexity does not have to be reserved for use with gifted students.  By integrating these icons into your classroom, you will find that students will apply the icons in ways that reflect their understanding of topics – giving you a naturally differentiated curriculum.

Click here to go to Envision Gifted!
Click here to go to Envision Gifted!

Two other sites I always recommend for Depth and Complexity ideas are: “Byrdseed” (best for 4th grade and up) and “Not Just Child’s Play” (great for primary).


The Brain with David Eagleman

My 3rd grade GT students are studying systems – including the brain.  When I received an e-mail about a new series by that name, hosted by David Eagleman, I was intrigued.

The 6 hour television series will begin airing here in the States on October 14th on PBS.  However, you can view some clips from the show ahead of time – and many of them are the perfect length to show younger students (2-3 minutes).

I showed my students “Inside a Child’s Brain” and we all learned something from that short clip. The thought that a two-year old child has more neural connections than any adult is staggering, but reinforced our learning that if we don’t use those paths regularly they will disappear.

We also enjoyed “Brain City.”  Comparing the brain to a thriving metropolis perfectly explains the interdependence of this system, and the difficulty we have isolating any one of its parts.

My short sampling of clips has told me that I am definitely going to enjoy this series!

image from: PBS
image from: PBS

6 Chrome Extensions I’m Lovin’ Right Now

When using the Chrome browser, it’s nice to snag a few free “Extensions” from the Chrome store to make life easier.  When you add them, they appear on the top right of your browser window.  Any time you want to disable an extension or find details about it, you click on the “hamburger” (3 horizontal lines) on the top right,  choose “Settings” and then “Extensions.”

I have multiple personalities on Chrome, so the extensions I use vary with which identity I happen to be claiming at the time.  Some extensions (like “Share to Google Classroom”) are better suited for School Terri.  And some (like “Pin It”) get utilized more by Home Terri.  Here are some that I’ve been using lately that you might want to try out:

  • “Save to Pocket” – Used by every part of my schizophrenic self on every device I have, Pocket is my favorite bookmarking tool.  On my school and home computers, I can instantly add and tag any website link I like so I can look for it later. (You can find out more about Pocket in my digital curation posts from earlier this summer.)
  • “ URL Shortener” – Instantly shorten and create a QR code for any site.  Great for use on Twitter, sharing URL’s in e-mails, etc…
  • “Tab Cloud” – By the end of every day, my Chrome Browser has so many open tabs that I start hyperventilating.  Some of those tabs need to stay open because they have to do with something I may be planning to blog, or they might all be sites I’m using with my students that day – or every day.  You can instantly save your tab collection by clicking on the Tab Cloud Extension.  Give it a name and any time you want to access it, just click the extension to find your tab group.
  • “Share to Classroom” – This is a relatively new extension that allows you to instantly share a website link to all of your students in any of your Google classrooms.
  • “Page Eraser” – This one is kind of fun.  Let’s say you want to show your students an article on a website, but the site has some distracting ads – or maybe you want them to figure something out so you want to take off some of the items on the page.  With Page Eraser on, you click on pieces of the page and they will disappear.  I will caution you, however, that one of my colleagues tried this on a page she uses a lot, and then couldn’t get the items to reappear.  I’m guessing this had something to do with a cookie trail, as restarting the browser solved the problem.
  • “CraftyText” – This may be my new favorite.  Ever wanted to share something, like a link or a group code, while on a website – but the text is too small?  This extension puts a text box right on top of the website that you can add text to.  Need students to join Google Classroom?  Just stick that group code in your CraftyText box so all can see it! You can see an example below.  (First, I used URL shortener, then clicked CraftyText and pasted into the box.  Then I hit enter so it would appear larger than life.)  When you are done using it, just click on the extension again to make it disappear.
CraftyText used with URL Shortener
CraftyText used with URL Shortener

So, do you have any favorite extensions?  Share them in the comments below!

When I Grow Up

While I was searching for a short video to show my 2nd graders to motivate them to go above and beyond what is expected, I came across this little gem by Colin Hesterly.  It’s 2 minutes long (the perfect length for my 7 & 8 year old audience) and the lovely animation and creativity deliver the message without being heavy-handed.

For more inspirational videos for students, check out this Pinterest Board.

from "When I Grow Up" by Colin Hesterly
from “When I Grow Up” by Colin Hesterly


The last couple of weeks have provided a few great opportunities for me to learn, and I would like to reflect on them in this week’s blog posts.


Last Saturday, I attended my third EdCamp ever.  It was EdCampSA, and it was hosted at Churchill High School in San Antonio by the following wonderful people:

  • James Barton
  • Miguel Guhlin
  • Todd Bloomer
  • Mary Ray
  • Marguerite Lowak
  • Jeannine Freeman
  • Roland Rios

EdCamps are also known as “unconferences.”  They are unique because participants have absolutely no idea what they will be learning about until about 30 minutes after they show up.  EdCamp sessions are created by the attendees at the beginning of the day. The sessions are not presentations, but discussions about the suggested topics.

Several of my colleagues from NEISD attended. One of them had never been to an EdCamp before.  At the end of the day, she commented that she had learned more in one day than at many 3-day conferences she has attended in the past.

You can see the sessions that were ultimately created at this year’s EdCampSA here along with the session notes.  There are a lot of great recommendations for everything from iPads in the Elementary classroom to 3D Printing.

Here are some of the apps I learned about that I can’t wait to try:

  • Pirate Cam
  • News-o-matic
  • Apollo by Atlas Learning (supposedly similar to Nearpod)

Pear Deck and are two other resources I would like to check out.  (The latter one is supposedly similar to Kahoot, but can be self-paced and has fun response memes.)

Another idea – how about taking a look at for great non-fiction for elementary students?

Charlotte Dolat, who is our area director for TCEA, shared that we should search for TASA on iTunes University because it has lots of curriculum lesson ideas with technology integration.  (I can’t wait to start exploring that!)

That’s just a sampling of what I learned at EdCampSA.  It was another fantastic EdCamp experience and I can’t wait until the next one!

If you live near San Antonio, Texas, take a look at the upcoming Tech Field Day on November 7th, 2015.  This is another free conference that promises to offer a great day of learning at Cole High School! Dr. Roland Rios, who also co-hosted EdCampSA, is in charge of Tech Field Day – so I guarantee you will have fun and learn a ton!


Clarifying the Growth Mindset

In yesterday’s post about our Parent/Teacher Book Study on Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,  I neglected to mention that Dweck recently wrote an article for Education Week called, “Carol Dweck Revisits the Growth Mindset.”

In the article, Dweck points out that some who claim to practice and teach the Growth Mindset often don’t truly understand it.  This misinterpretation can lead to actions and assumptions that might actually be more harmful than helpful.  Others have caught on to the trendy acceptance of the term, but don’t actually practice what they preach.

I recommend you read Carol Dweck’s article, as I think it has some extremely valid points.  Those of us who want to effect a positive change in the attitudes of our children and students should make sure we have a deeper understanding of what it means to have a “Growth Mindset” so that we don’t give unintended mixed messages.

For more resources on Growth Mindset, you can click here.

via sylviaduckworth on Flickr
via sylviaduckworth on Flickr