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August 4, 2014

Thinking Teachers Teaching Thinkers®

Some of you are still at the beach, but in August the mind turns to Back to School. Apologies if you did not want to hear it yet, and kudos to those already in the classroom with students this week. We are back to full speed ahead at TeachersFirst, planning and preparing everything you need to start the school year off right!

 Back to School!
Start your year off right with terrific, reviewed organization tools from the TeachersFirst Edge. Find ways to start yourself, your students, and even parents on track for a successful school year! Speaking of Back to School, check out these resources tagged for back to school, including ways to arrange the seats, ideas to start off well with a new class, and much more! You will also love TeachersFirst’s Getting to Know You ideas for the first day or week of class. Don’t forget to inspire your students with Bulletin Board Hangups, thought-provoking quotes ready to print for your classroom walls.


How we spent our summer...
If you missed our live webcast from the ISTE conference, you can now watch it online. Hear teachers and teacher-leaders share from the conference about what they learned and what they plan to DO with it when they return to school. Learn from ISTE vicariously!


All year long
TeachersFirst is with you throughout the school year with just-in-time resources and ideas for how to use them. The TeachersFirst Classroom Planning Calendar shares resources related to events and observations on the calendar throughout the year. Check it out!


Look brilliant by doing (almost) nothing
Do you share the Featured Sites each week with your teaching colleagues? Make it easy on yourself by adding an embedded Featured Sites widget on your blog or web page. Two styles are available. The Featured Sites widget will change automatically each week, making you a downright genius!


Nourishing Gifted in ANY classroom
You probably have them: the handful of gifted students who can be a real handful as you try to meet the needs of a diverse class. TeachersFirst has some answers in our newest professional pages and resource collection, Nourishing Gifted Through Technology in Any Classroom. Find a multitude of tools, resources, and connections available via technology so you can differentiate academic content, leverage technology to foster student creativity, and allow your gifted ones to join in digital collaborations and extend the curriculum through individual interests, even establishing digital “me-portfolios.” You will even find sanity savers to organize your multitasking class and your oftentimes “scattered” gifted learners. The authors have combined 25+ years of experience teaching gifted students in grades K-12.

August OK2Ask®
August brings our final four OK2Ask® sessions for the summer on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6pm EDT. These free, online sessions for teacher self-directed professional development feature many ways to use technology in YOUR classroom. Please read descriptions carefully to be sure you have prerequisites and/or the appropriate technology comfort levels BEFORE you sign up. Note that ALL summer certificates will be issued at the end of the summer. No exceptions. Learn more about OK2Ask.  Registration is now open:
CCSS Literacy Tues, Aug 5
Common Core Math Ideas K-8 Thur, Aug 07
Guilty about Gifted? Tues, Aug 12
Skype: Bring the World Into Your Classroom Thur, Aug 14


Can't make the live sessions?
If you prefer to learn on your own schedule, why not watch your choice of archived OK2Ask sessions on dozens of technology integration and teaching topics. Although we cannot offer certificates for watching a recording, you could watch and learn some new ideas for next school year. Or plan to watch together with your grade level team or department as a self-structured PD day, and your school might offer you the “credit.” It’s OK2Ask, after all!


Spread the word, get the T-shirt!
If you work with teachers to help them integrate technology and conduct teacher professional development workshops or grad classes, you probably share TeachersFirst as a go-to resource.  If your upcoming workshops feature TeachersFirst, we can help. Complete this form telling us where you plan to feature TeachersFirst. We will send out TeachersFirst cards and an ever-popular Thinking Teacher T-shirt for qualifying sessions. Complete the form NOW while supplies last. You will have to decide whether to keep the shirt or use it as a door prize or incentive.


TogetheRead has a new home!
The August TogetheRead theme is Believe it or Not. TogetheRead now has its own domain name and url at www.togetheread.com. TogetheRead offers a list of books each month for all ages centered around a shared “theme” and accompanied by free or low cost activities for families to do together. The booklists include questions and discussion topics that will help parents build children’s comprehension skills as they read together – or separately. Share TogetheRead with parents of students of ALL ages. Families can take TogetheRead on a smartphone to the local public library to find the books or request them on interlibrary loan. Many libraries even allow loan requests via their web site. Make TogetheRead a regular recommendation for your students and their families. TogetheRead is another free offering from our non-profit parent company, The Source for Learning, Inc. Share the link on your class web page as you begin the new school year.


Our latest CurriConnects theme, Natural Disasters, offers a collection of books that could accompany a unit on earth science, weather, or even communities and government as your students look at how disasters affect people and how individuals or governments respond to adversity. During the hurricane season, this is a great way to connect curriculum, real world events, and curriculum in one bundle. These books would also connect well to a character education or guidance unit about dealing with crisis. CurriConnects book lists provide choices for student independent reading in support of curriculum content. This particular list is rich in “informational texts” you can use for Common Core reading and science literacy. Our CurriConnects lists for over two dozen curriculum areas include Lexile® levels, interest levels, and a short “blurb” to help any student find a book of interest. Share the lists with your school library/media specialist or local public library to locate the books on the shelves or on interlibrary loan. 


Getting Ready
Every family has routines they go through during back to school time. For some, it is new shoes. For others, a final trip to Grandma’s. Share the XW1W question for the week of August 3 how others prepare for the new school year in far off places: What is your favorite back to school tradition? Help your students stop and think about life in other cultures with #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.


Dream or nightmare?
Back to school season is upon us. Do you have back-to-school dreams as the time approaches? Please tell us in the poll on the TeachersFirst home page.


Featured Sites
This week in our Featured Sites, find tools for simple to sophisticated and some great lesson ideas:

  • Math practice for elementary
  • A clever way to motivate
  • Piano!
  • Research step by step
  • Digital citizenship
  • A clever “text” simulator
  • Two cool video tools
  • Civil Rights videos and lessons
  • A trivia map game
  • Vocabulary building
  • A pinterest-like video organizer
  • And more

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are reading this August 10 or later, the link above will take you to the Featured Sites for the current week. Find the archived August 3 Features here, and don’t miss our many additional recent additions from the link at the bottom of the Featured sites page.

May you find back to school excitement and a bit of helpful organization this week.

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