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6 Tips for Helping Frustrated Writers Learn Dictation

Does handwriting still matter in the digital world? A recent New York Times article describes the importance of handwriting as a tool for learning and memory, and argues it should be taught to kids on a regular basis. This, the authors claim, is because handwriting activates a neural circuit in the brain that involves the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus, and the posterior parietal cortex, facilitating the capacity to generate ideas and recall information. While, no doubt, some students can improve their memory through writing by hand, there's also a large group of kids for whom the process of handwriting is so laborious that they can't adequately or effectively express their thoughts on paper. Many of th....read more


Informational Texts -- Just a Click Away

With the switch to Common Core and its increased emphasis on informational texts, many elementary-school teachers have found themselves having to seek out more non-fiction resources. Common Core Reading standards require that students use a variety of skills to analyze, discuss, and write about informational texts, such as using text features and search tools to locate information, using details and examples from a text in answering questions, and comparing two texts on the same topic. This reading and analysis should be practiced in both print and electronic environments. In fact, hyperlinks, digital sources, and Web pages are specifically mentioned. Luckily, a quick search of the Web will reveal that many sites feat....read more


Teach and Learn the Web with Maker Party

Since its inauguration in 2012, Mozilla's annual Maker Party has become a global celebration of making and learning on the Web. Through thousands of community-run events around the world, Maker Party unites educators, organizations, and enthusiastic Internet users of all ages and skill levels to teach the Web. From getting the hang of HTML to building robots to learning about remix culture using paper and scissors, people have come together to joyfully explore the culture, mechanics, and citizenship of the Web. All this takes place across various types of spaces. Individuals are teaching and learning the Web in hundreds of classrooms and cafes, libraries and living rooms, parks and community spaces. Throughout this two-mont....read more


Shake It Up: Get the Most out of PBL with the 4 Cs

Employing 21st century skills can feel like a nebulous concept in the classroom. Distilled down to the four Cs -- creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking -- these are essential tools students must cultivate to thrive in the complex, challenge-riddled contemporary world. Students must be prepared for careers that have yet to be invented. They must be prepared to experiment and to take risks in order to innovate. Despite this, many teachers feel that integrating these skills into their planning practice detracts from covering traditional content. At Quest to Learn, we have found quite the opposite. Intentionally designing 21st century skills into inquiry-based approaches like project-based learning de....read more


20 Reasons Why Subtext Rocks Reading

If you don't know about Subtext, you and your students are missing out! With an iPad app, a Web version, and integration with Edmodo, Subtext allows all students the ability to read and annotate a text together. Gone are the days of using sticky notes to mark pages and take notes. Take a dive into the 21st century with the most real-time close reading experience available. Teachers and students can annotate questions, quizzes, pictures, and discuss, all within the text using this fabulous tool. Here are twenty ways I use Subtext to rock reading in my classroom: 1. Ask a question. Simply highlight the text, press "Discuss" and you can embed a question for students. Encoura....read more


Ditch the Presentation Myths

We’ve all been there. Assigning students a project and class presentation seemed like a good idea at the time. Now you’re a third of the way through listening to those presentations and you’ve seen enough bad PowerPoint and heard enough monotone reading of notes to last a lifetime. “Never again,” you say to yourself. “Next year, I’m assigning something different.” I’ve found that many teachers still hold ideas about student presentations that aren't true. Here are some myths for you to bust when thinking about your next “presentation” assignment. 1. Presentations take students a long time. This may have been true in the days of 3-fold poster board and glue st....read more


Rethinking What's Possible for Cross-Curricular Teaching

Every spring, I get the itch to start planning next year. With the end of the school year in sight, my mind starts spinning like a centrifuge, separating out what I want to keep and what I want to leave behind in my teaching and learning. Spring is when I reimagine myself and my classroom in response to the success and failures of a year; it's a time to think ahead while stuck in those slow-rolling days of review and testing. Then summer flies, and school begins again. Pre-service week, with its meetings and mad dashes, leaves little time for expansive thought. The room needs setting up, and the materials need sorting, and the Wi-Fi is back up, then down, and up again, while the line at the copier never gets any shorter. It can seem ....read more


Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk: Tools for Persuasive Writing

Every day, we make decisions. Some are easier than others -- “Should I wear the red shirt or the blue sweater?” The more difficult decisions, such as choosing a side of a debate, are multifaceted and much more nuanced. Many different skills come into play: analyzing text, collecting data, identifying problems, thinking critically, drawing conclusions, and more. These skills are essential to an informed, intelligent adulthood, where decisions and debates are undoubtedly more frequent and more substantial. To prepare your students, we’ve highlighted 12 tools -- apps, games, and websites -- that can aid them in developing opinions and expressing ideas in the form of persuasive writing. Quandary and Argument Wars ....read more


Appy Hour Rewind: Khan Academy’s Video-Based Instruction

Khan Academy is a widely used instructional tool that provides thousands of free, self-paced academic videos for guided, adaptive instruction. With a strong focus on math, the site also offers video tutorials on a variety of topics in science, economics, the arts, and computing, as well as prep for tests like the SAT. During this week's Appy Hour for Graphite, we hear from two math teachers who are using Khan Academy with their students. The first presenter is Suney Park, a sixth-grade math teacher at Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto, California, and a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The second presenter is Peter McIntosh, a math teacher at Oaklan....read more


Kindergarten Readiness: Beyond ABCs and 123s

Parents of preschoolers today are as focused as they've ever been on "academic preparedness" -- and not without reason. The current emphasis on standardized testing has forced kindergartens to attempt to teach material traditionally reserved for first grade [1]; and reports about dismal job prospects for all but the most highly educated in today's economy [2] feed parents' fears that their children will be doomed to a life of underemployment if they aren't at least reading and doing simple arithmetic by their fourth birthday. Even progressive friends of mine who believe that “kids should be allowed to be kids” have admitted to trying to coax their preschoolers to complete letter-tracing worksheets.....read more


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