Reflecting on 2016

As the end of the year quickly approaches, I often reflect on what I have accomplished and what I would like to set as my goals for the new calendar year. This year, you may have noticed I did not publish as many posts as I normally do. This is largely due to the fact that I have been working on 2 other websites. I’m happy to say they are both complete and now it’s just a matter of updating them with fresh content to replace older apps and software. I decided to showcase some of the new lessons and ideas that are now posted on these sites.

Rock the Lab

Rock the Lab is a website I maintain for student use. All of the lessons support Texas TEKS and follow the NEISD Scope and Sequence. It took me a year to build, but I finally have all 4 nine weeks complete. Most of the activities utilize free tools, but some require a subscription or license to paid content/software such as Kidspiration or Discovery Education. Every school year I pick out a new tool or website over which to obsess, and this year it was HyperDocs! I’ve tried to incorporate as many as I could in each 9 weeks and the feedback from students and teachers has been very positive. Check out some of my favorite lessons below:

Schoogle Your Content with HyperDocs

As I stated above, my obsession this year has been HyperDocs. I learned about them last year through Matt Miller’s blog post and never looked back. I love them so much that I decided to abandon my fear of public speaking and present on the subject at TCEA in February. I created a site to share what I learned this summer during the HyperDoc Bootcamp, and to house my growing collection of examples created by myself and the HyperDoc community.



Click on the arrows at the bottom of the home page to navigate through the content. Start at the beginning if you are new to HyperDocs or skip straight to the examples if you’re ready to implement. I hope you will be able to attend my session on Wednesday, Feb. 8 from 5:00-6:00.


Thinglink 360/VR 

Dare I say, Thinglink is still my number 1 go to tool for student created projects. This year they introduced a new feature that supports 360 images. I was fortunate enough to be able to create content for their new iPad app. Students can explore 360 images and interact with multimedia content to learn about different places or concepts. 2 of my lessons are now featured within the app: Earth’s Forces and Remember the Alamo!

Creative Writing Challenges

This year I’ve chosen creative writing as an instructional focus. Here are some HyperDocs that have a seasonal or monthly theme. 

PD in Your PJs

Can’t come to a training? No worries! Below are links to resources that provide you with anytime, anywhere, self-paced learning.

Goals for 2017

What does 2017 look like? At the rate things are changing, I have no idea yet. When you’re in this profession, tools are being developed at the drop of a hat. One thing I have learned is good teaching will never change. I think that’s why I fell so hard for HyperDocs. It’s not about the platform or the device. It’s about sound instruction that allows the student to engage with the content. Therefore, my goal for 2017 is simple…best practices.

What Will You Create Today?

The biggest obstacle teachers face when trying to integrate technology is time. There aren’t very many opportunities during the day to explore new tools, think of ways to use them with the curriculum, or actually sit down to write a comprehensive lesson plan. Plus, the implementation of Standard V just adds to the already existing high levels of stress. Fortunately, higher levels of technology integration promote student choice, which means less planning on the part of the teacher. Over the summer, I worked on some computer lab posters that will help guide students in choosing the right tool for their project, and support teachers in their efforts for easier ways to integrate. I chose the theme of a graphic novel (created using Comic Life) to bring a little adventure into the computer lab. The first poster is attached to the door of the lab and asks, “What will you create today?” This represents the cover of the graphic novel. When they enter, each page of the novel gives them ideas and tools to use to accomplish their task. I encourage all teachers to bring their mobile devices to the lab each week, as adding the component of a camera adds to the diversity of projects students have as options. 

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Many teachers may find this amount of freedom somewhat daunting, especially if they are unfamiliar with how to use the software, web tool or app. This provides the perfect opportunity to bring collaboration into your lessons. Allow students to work together to figure out how the tools work, and then let them teach the rest of the class. You can also utilize a QR code tutorial section where students can view videos for quick instructions. I’ve included a link below to the PDF version of the posters. There are some that are very NEISD specific, but hopefully they will inspire you to create more personalized versions for your own students. I’ve also included directions for printing them poster size.

printing poster

Tool of the Month: Board Builder


The Discovery Education Network has long been a favorite source for interactive content to support classroom instruction. Most teachers are familiar with their vast collection of streaming videos, but they also offer additional services designed to accelerate student achievement. One of the most recent additions is Board Builder, a fun and easy way for students to create digital content for all subject areas. This tool is very similar to other web based poster creators such as Glogster or Smore, but differs in that students can add content directly from the Discovery Education media library. They can also upload content they have created such as audio, images, video and attachments from their computer.

NEISD has purchased a subscription to Discovery Education for all students and teachers. Susan Reeves, Educational Specialist, Digital Age Learning for the Education Service Center, Region 20 in San Antonio, has created 2 videos to help get you started:

DEN Team member Jeanette Edelstein created this list of 50 Ways to Use Board Builder that includes links to actual boards. These are great examples that can help you visualize using this tool. Click here for a complete list of resources to help you navigate through the Discovery Education site.

50 Ways to Use Board Builder by lmoore4


Standard V Lesson Examples

Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, NEISD teachers will be required to submit 1 student product that was created using technology. This initiative supports the Standard V requirements as outlined by SBEC.

My El Dorado peeps have been very busy planning with me and wanted to take this opportunity to share some of the projects they will be doing with their students. Many of these app/web tools are cross-curricular and can be applied to different TEKS or units of study. Please contact me if you have an idea for a lesson and need a similar task card to use with your students.

  • Kinder Language Arts K.6A identify elements of a story including setting, character and key events: Facetalk Retelling
  • 1st Grade Math 1.3 The student applies mathematical process standards to develop and use strategies for whole number addition and subtraction computations in order to solve problems: Farmyard Math
  • 1st Grade Language Arts 1.9 A Describe the plot (problem and solution) and retell a story’s beginning, middle, and end with attention to the sequence of events:  BME Summaries
  • 2nd Grade Science 2.5D Combine materials that when put together can do things that they cannot do by themselves such as building a tower or a bridge and justify the selection of those materials based on their physical properties: Videolicious Structures Project
  • 2nd Grade Science 2.5B  The student knows that matter has physical properties and those properties determine how it is described, classified, changed, and used. Matter and Energy Digital Story
  • 3rd Grade Reading SE 3.16 Students use comprehension skills to analyze how words, images, graphics, and sounds work together in various forms to impact meaning.  Students will continue to apply earlier standards with greater depth in increasingly more complex texts: Big 6 Research Project-PDF, Big 6 Research Project-Word 2013
  • 3rd Grade Math 3.11B: The student directly compares the attributes of length, area, weight/mass, and capacity, and uses comparative language to solve problems and answer questions. Perimeter Party
  • 4th Grade History 4.3 The student understands the importance of the Texas Revolution, the Republic of Texas, and the annexation of Texas to the United States: Google Tour Builder
  • 5th Grade Science 5.8 Students will understand that weather represents the short term conditions of the atmosphere by producing a video that explains weather patterns of a specific region over a 3 week period: Videolicious Weather Project



Tool of the Month: Book Creator App

One of my favorite apps for the iPad is Book Creator. It costs $4.99 but they also have a free version that lets you create one free book. There isn’t a limit (as far as I can tell) as to how many pages your one free book can have, so it is possible to use your free book for several different projects. I stumbled upon a wonderful blog post from Tech With Jen where she describes how she uses graphic organizers as the background for student interactive reading journals. This one particular quote really stood out and made me think:

“When students have to write they spend a lot of cognitive energy on composing the message. Because of this, many students tend to choose to write what is easy rather than going deeper. Therefore, why not allow students to record their thinking using video, audio recording, and finding evidence by highlighting text.”

This is the perfect example of how technology can be used to enhance the learning process in a meaningful way. Using graphic organizers is a great way to bridge the gap between what is comfortable and trying something new. Below is a screenshot of one of Jen’s graphic organizers that includes video, audio and text. Notice that she used other video creation apps to summarize and retell events in a story.

Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 10.09.01 PM

There are many free sources where you can find digital versions of graphic organizers:

The easiest way to get the graphic organizer into Book Creator would be to simply take a picture of the printed copy and upload as the background. If you really want to get creative, you could make your own graphic organizers in Pages or PowerPoint and then save as a jpeg. Dropbox or some other cloud storage utility will allow you to import to your camera roll. For more information on using Book Creator, visit their support page or view the video tutorial below.

Digital Vocabulary Activities for Upper Elementary

As part of my “Anchor Activities” series, here are a few digital vocabulary ideas that students can complete during SSR time or in Math/Literacy stations. Have students generate a list of vocabulary words they are unfamiliar with (or assign them specific words from your Math or Science word walls) and allow them to choose from the following activities:

I’ve made some examples of each using the word “condensation”

There are a variety of online vocabulary resources for support in defining and explaining concepts:

Flip Your Classroom With LearnZillion

What is LearnZillion? (Taken from FAQs)

LearnZillion is a web-based application that helps teachers and parents meet the educational needs of every student. They offer 2000 lessons that were built from the Common Core standards and were created by some of the top public and private school teachers from around the country. Each lesson includes a short video, downloadable lesson guide and resources, and coach’s commentary to help with teacher development. They are also a vibrant and growing community of educators working to improve our teaching practice through collaboration.

There are many ways to use LearnZillion. You can use their resources to help you plan everything from an individual lesson to your entire year. Watch the videos for ideas on how to teach a specific topic. Download the lesson slides and present them as part of your direct instruction or adapt them as part of a new lesson plan. Watch videos as a class or in small-groups. Assign videos directly to students or groups to pre-teach or review material or as a way to differentiate instruction in class.

Creating an account is super simple! Just click on “Teachers” in the upper-right corner of any page where it says “Sign Up,” then enter in your name, email and password. If you have a Google Account you can also sign in using that so that you have one less password to remember. Easy and free!

For more information about using the site and creating class assignments, click here.

Here is an example of a 4th grade lesson on locating benchmark numbers on a number line:

  1. Give your students a quick code to watch this lesson ( see what your students will see! ) and have your students take notes to reinforce the concepts.
  2. Send home this letter introducing parents to LearnZillion and telling them how to support their student’s learning at home.
  3. Download the lesson slides and use them to plan your instruction.
  4. Do a deep dive of a Common Core standard with colleagues using this protocol for discussion.

QR Code Storytelling at Windcrest

Mrs. Williams’ 4th Grade students at Windcrest Elementary used 3 digital devices to create their own stories based on the book Dog in Boots, by Greg Gormley. Here is a brief description of the book:

Inspired by his favorite story about a cat with fantastic boots, Dog heads to the local shoe store and emerges with some splendid footwear. But Dog soon discovers that his fancy shoes won t let him do doggy things. He tries flippers, high heels, even skis, but can t find anything that is just right. Could the perfect solution be right under his nose?

The students wondered what would happen if Dog tried on a variety of hats. Would he take on the personality of the hat? What if the hat were occupationally related? Would he still act like a dog or take on more human characteristics? After writing a rough draft in the classroom, students were taken to the library and each given a Neo AlphaSmart unit to publish their story. These word processing units have a built in spell check and Thesaurus tools to assist in the editing and revising stage of the writing process. Once their final draft was complete, student sent their text via a USB cable to, a free website that generates a QR code from many different data types. Instructions for using this site can be found at the bottom of the post. The QR codes were put on display in the library for students and teachers to scan using a QR code scanner app on their iPads. 

Here are some links to more ideas for using QR codes in the classroom:

Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything

Free Technology for Teachers by Richard Byrne


Creating a QR code for student writing

Digital SSR Symbaloo Style

One of my goals this year is to create authentic and productive uses for student desktop computers in all classrooms. I got the idea of Digital SSR from the Teaching the iGeneration workshop taught by Bill Ferriter and combined it with one of my new favorite tools, Symbaloo. It’s not exactly intuitive, so I’ve created a little tutorial for guidance:


Interested in making a webmix of your own? Here are directions. Symbaloo-user-guide


Poetry Palooza at East Terrell Hills

Over the past 6 weeks I have had the pleasure of working with a group of 4th grade students at East Terrell Hills Elementary, San Antonio. We spent 3 days exploring the different types of figurative language poets use as well as the elements of poetry. The students worked very hard to create this “poetry palooza” project using various iPad apps:

  • Inspiration Lite graphic organizer template helped us explain the elements of poetry
  • Sock Puppets was used to create a video of onomatopoeia examples identified in various poems
  • iCard Sort allowed us to categorize  similes and metaphors
  • Corkulous helped to showcase different ways authors use the 5 senses in their poems
  • Songify produced a “Personification Rap”
All of the above apps are free in iTunes except for iCardSort, however, iBrainstorm can also be used for this task. Glogster was used to showcase a digital poster of all completed activities. Special thanks to Mrs. Navarro’s students for all their hard work!