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5 Ways to Keep the Love of Learning Alive

Step back from the daily goal, and let student curiosity take over.

I had just finished teaching my class of fifth-graders a math lesson, and it started to rain -- not just rain, downpour. The kids were working quietly and really trying to concentrate, which was difficult since the rain was hitting the roof and window with gusto. I could tell it was hard for them to look at their papers and not out the window. What would it hurt if we took a little break to watch this wonder of nature? Could it actually help my students? Any teacher can tell you that there's a definite difference between a kindergartner’s excitement about school and a fifth-grader’s. Somewhere between the very first days of school and those last months of elementary school, many kids lose their love of school. How ca....read more


Teacher's Top Five: August Deshais' Favorite Kindergarten Apps

Five teacher-approved apps for building foundational skills.

I spoke with August Deshais, a Graphite Certified Educator and all around superstar teacher, about his pedagogical style and his five favorite classroom tools. Here's what he had to say! How would you describe your teaching philosophy? As a kindergarten teacher, one of my main goals is to help students acquire the foundational skills necessary for successful lifelong learning. A love of reading, expressive writing, and sound math reasoning begin early, and remain important throughout our lives.  What do you look for when trying out new tools in your classroom? When selecting a new tech tool for my students, the first things I consider are developmental appropriateness and sound pedagogical approach. If I can&r....read more


3 Tips on Teaching Media Literacy Using the Miss Representation Curriculum

Recently, I spoke to a group of parents after they viewed Miss Representation, the Representation Project's documentary film about how mainstream media contributes to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence in America. One father said his 7-year-old daughter was getting teased by boys who thought she was fat. He said, "Just so you know, my daughter isn't fat." It's unfortunate that he felt a sense of insecurity about his daughter's weight. I reassured him, and other parents in the room, that it's important for us to have tools and resources for talking to our children about body image and the ways in which media informs their everyday lives.   American youth consume upwar....read more


Meet the Cast of Digital Compass

Eight quirky animated characters encourage students to make wise decisions online.

Say hello to the newest members of the Common Sense family. Our new educational interactive for middle schoolers, Digital Compass, has a slew of fun and quirky animated characters that will make exploring the digital literacy and citizenship world ... well, a little more entertaining for students. Each humanoid character must navigate a unique digital dilemma reflecting real-world issues and events that shape how our students move through the digital landscape.   Grade 10 | Wallflower Digital Dilemma: Cyberbullying and Digital Drama   Rhoda is known for keeping a low profile with her petals in the books, but she's quickly thrown onto a roller coaster of digital drama when he....read more


Celebrate Earth Day with These 13 Ecology Apps, Games, and Websites

Help students learn about the environment and how to take care of it.

Along with blooming flowers and warmer temperatures, April also brings us Earth Day -- tomorrow, Wednesday, April 22. It's a great time to teach about the environment and the importance of taking care of it. And though mobile devices and computers contribute to pollution and energy consumption in their own ways, they also act as important information hubs to raise awareness about environmental issues. There are a lot of great tools out there, especially for kids, so this week we're shining a light on our perennial favorites. Apps like Plum’s Photo Hunt and Project Noah (both are also websites) take kids on photo missions and scavenger hunts to identify, document, and share the cool stuff they find in nature. Games....read more


Hands-On Learning Goes High-Tech

Design thinking encourages students to engage, expand, and explore.

The sounds of drilling and sawing fill the room. Students design and collaborate on the whiteboard walls while other students are creating, filming, or programming. This may not seem like your typical geometry classroom, but it's a day in the life of the Design Den at the Harpeth Hall School. Harpeth Hall School is an independent college preparatory school for girls in grades 5 through 12 that encourages them to think critically, lead confidently, and live honorably. Our school houses the Center for STEM Education for Girls, and recently opened the Design Den, a place for students to imagine, design, and create. The Design Den is different from any other place on campus, housing 3-D printers, a laser cutter, power....read more


5 Great Video Resources for Middle and High School Classrooms

Add these resources to your toolkit to inspire and engage students.

Videos are a great way to engage students while also bringing a variety of voices and perspectives into your instruction. Both captivating and informative, video is unique among other digital media in the way that it can so readily transcend the walls of your classroom. As the amount of video content on the Web expands, there is of course lots of great educational content that can help you bring the world to your students.    But the Web is a pretty big haystack, and it can be hard to keep up with what's new and find the best content for your class. Nevertheless, searching for great educational videos is worth it -- showing the perfect video or clip in a le....read more


Big Ideas and Key Takeaways from the #GraphiteChat on Project-Based Learning

A collection of top tweets from the first #GraphiteChat, held on April 16, 2015

The Graphite team hosted our very first #GraphiteChat on Twitter last Thursday, April 16, 2015. The topic was something close to our hearts: project-based learning (PBL). And while we were excited, we were also a bit nervous. Do other people love talking #PBL as much as we do? Would anyone even show up? Are we asking the right questions? To our relief, these worries were put quickly to rest. You all -- that is, educators, including a healthy group of our beloved Graphite Certified Educators -- not only showed up, but impressed and inspired us with your perceptive and inspiring understanding of PBL, frank discussion of advantages and challenges, innovative tools and project ideas, and generous tips and tricks for teachers....read more


The Benefits of Interactive Games in the Classroom

An Interview with Dr. Michael Carter

Common Sense is excited to launch Digital Compass, a new choose-your-own adventure interactive for middle schoolers. Coming April 16, Digital Compass helps kids explore how the decisions they make in their digital lives can impact their relationships and futures. On the eve of launching Digital Compass, I spoke with Dr. Michael Carter, a cognitive development expert and gaming guru, on how an interactive like Digital Compass can be beneficial in the classroom. What role can gaming play in a classroom or learning environment? Scholars and practitioners have for decades studied the use of games in classrooms and found that good games that foster learning prove to engage students, particularly disaffected students, in such a way as to imp....read more


Announcing Digital Compass

Common Sense Education’s digital literacy and citizenship resources have played an integral role in addressing the technological revolution that is happening in today’s classrooms. Having touched more than 200,000 teachers who have educated over 5 million students, this forward-thinking program addresses what it’s like to behave responsibly in the digital age.   Our suite of resources gives educators the tools to introduce reliable, research-based information to students about digital media and its impact. Fostering an organic classroom dialogue goes hand-in-hand with access to interactive activities. The conversation moves beyond the classroom by introducing parent resources and educator development opportunities ....read more


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