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March 17, 2014

Thinking Teachers Teaching Thinkers®

The winds blow strong during March as we are buffeted by testing, snow make up days, and a very long stretch before any breaks ahead. Before you become a windblown lion of March, try some of the refreshing new ideas from TeachersFirst to bring in spring.


Growing interests
Gardens are the perfect way to make science real at any age. After a long winter, any student would be happy to put hands in dirt and see plants, soil, and other organisms up close and personal. If your elementary school is considering a school garden this spring—or you simply fantasize about getting outdoors—we have just the article for you. Inch by Inch, Row by Row: Read-Alouds for Gardens connects literacy, Common Core, and science to GROW learning! Gardens, gardening, and farm-based education provide a myriad of opportunities to integrate curriculum and solve real-world problems.  Plan now for a super spring with this read-aloud and the many activity ideas and resources it includes at the intersection of dirt and plants. Our contributor and school library/media specialist Kathy Lawrence shares the article from frozen Vermont in hopes that gardens will eventually spring to life this year!


Moving write along
Getting students to write beyond the bare minimum is always a challenge, whether it is for a history essay or a persuasive paragraph. Yet we know that writing is learning. TeachersFirst has just the right stuff to get them started. TeachersFirst’s collection of writing prompts shares visual, verbal, and unusual writing prompts you can use in any subject area or grade level. Even teachers tangled in Common Core implementations will find ideas to help. For more specific ideas about writing and Common Core, don’t miss our upcoming OK2Ask® session on this topic.


In motion
Our new CurriConnects leveled book list for student independent reading is out. In Motion includes books, both fiction and nonfiction, featuring real world applications of Newton's Laws. You won't have to force students to read when there are so many choices! Incorporate these books during units on forces, motions, gravity, physical movement (P.E. or dance), and more. Reading and interest levels extend from early elementary up through high school. So even a physics class can join in. Newton would be proud.


March is Music in our Schools Month and Women’s History Month. This week the leprechauns are leaping for St. Patrick's Day. Turn to the TeachersFirst Classroom Planning Calendar for the rest of March and many awesome April occasions (like Poetry Month!).


Learning snacks
Spring ahead with professional learning in “bite size” snack sessions from OK2Ask®, our free, online professional development series. Please be sure to READ the descriptions to be sure you have the prerequisites (if any) and/or technology comfort levels: Choose your favorite “snack session(s)” and register NOW (all at 7:00pm Eastern Daylight time).

  • Google Series (Part 5): Google Earth and Maps Tues. Mar. 18
  • Common Core Math Ideas K-8; Mon. Mar. 24
  • Introduction to Writing with Common Core; Thurs. Mar. 27
  • Specialized for Special Needs: Ideas and Tools for Learning Support, Speech/language, Emotional Support, and more; Mon. Apr. 7
  • Google Series (Part 6): Cool Tools; Tues. Apr. 15
  • Gifted Resources Galore: Tips and Tools for Meeting the Needs of Your Gifted Students; Tues. Apr. 29
  • Ready... Set... Summer: Student Tools to Stay Fresh and Teacher Professional “Refreshments”; Thurs. May 8


Information made visual
Common Core calls for students to “Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.” Why not integrate infographics into your lessons this spring? TeachersFirst has a rich collection of Resources for Infographics, including a thorough article on implementing infographics in middle school and up: Now I See! Data and information will never look the same.


The Big Apple
Geo and Meri are in New York this week on Globetracker’s Mission. Read new posts every Sunday to learn standards-based geography, landforms, and major U.S. landmarks in grades 2-6. Vote each week, telling the teens what to do next.


Safe or sorry?
Every parent and teacher worries about Internet Safety. Our students probably do not think about it much, if at all. Find resources to make Internet Safety and related issues of digital citizenship real in this collection from TeachersFirst. Share your favorites with parents to get everyone on the same page and support wise decision making by savvy young tech users.


Go green?
Small customs give a small glimpse into our culture. What we wear for special occasions is part of that culture. Share the XW1W question for the week of Mar 16: Do you wear green for St. Patrick's day? Help your students experience life through the eyes of others in distant places through #XW1W. Share with classrooms around the world. The Across the World Once a Week (#xw1w) project uses simple tweets or blog posts to share the responses to a weekly question and help you “see” what life is like in other places. It all works because of something called a hashtag. Get started now with these simple directions and FAQ.


Aiming high
How do you motivate students to do their best on high stakes tests? Share your strategy in the poll on the TeachersFirst home page.


Featured Sites
This week in our Featured Sites, find

  • A dynamic duo of history collections
  • Math times two
  • Shapes for symmetry folding (virtually)
  • Words, words, words
  • A terrific web site “tester”
  • An online magazine creator
  • Healthy habits for young ones
  • Glorious sites for school and home gardens!
  • Annotation tools for videos
  • And more

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are reading this Mar 23 or later, the link above will take you to the Featured Sites for the current week. Find the archived March 16 Features here, and don’t miss our many additional recent additions from the link at the bottom of the Featured sites page.


Try just one new idea with your class this week. It will sprout into a garden before your eyes!

Your “teacher to go,”
Candace Hackett Shively
Director of K-12 Initiatives