#3rdchat, Digital Learning

#3rdchat Digital Learning Resources

Hey y’all! I know this teaching world is delving deeper and deeper into unknown territory each day. The Crazy Teacher Life blog, in collaboration with #3rdchat on Twitter, wanted to bring some ideas that were recently shared on our Digital Learning #3rdchat Twitter chat the other night. Hopefully you can find some ideas that will help bring you some peace and calm in all of the unknown. The ideas will be broken down by each question topic. With each idea, I have tried to attach helpful resources about remote learning from each resource website as well as free subscription services provided by the resources to support schools shut down due to the Coronavirus outbreak. We know that this can be overwhelming, but we hope that you can find a great starting place as many districts are starting remote learning in the upcoming weeks. We hope that you will enjoy!

Q1: How do you plan on keeping up 1 on 1 connections remotely?

Google Meet and Google Hangouts – This works especially well if your district already subscribes to the Google Suite for Education.

Zoom – Many districts are choosing to use this resource instead of Google Meet, especially since they are offering a free subscription right now and click here for more information on how to use zoom effectively for digital learning. However, check with your district before using. Mine will most likely not be allowing the use of this due to privacy concerns.

Parent Square – A school-home communication platform. See more information about it here!

Screencastify – A screensharing and video recording software that is free for a limited number of videos under 10 minutes each month. I LOVE THIS ONE! I use it daily and have subscribed to the premium version. See how they can help during this time using this link.

Class Dojo – This is a resource I also use to connect with families. It is a school-home communication platform that allows you to also provide incentives and has a variety of classroom tools: timers, music, class organization, student grouping, SEL videos, etc. They have also posted resources for teachers for remote learning.

Google Classroom and Seesaw – These are two learning platforms where you can connect with students remotely to post assignments and provide activities for students to use. Here are a variety of resources Google has provided for remote learning. Seesaw also has resources on how they are helping with remote learning.

Q2: How can social/emotional learning take place remotely?

3 days of learning/2 Days to check in – Depending on your district directives, this idea implies that you give students 3 days (out of 5) to instruct/provide educational activities and two days you would take the time to connect with students and check in with them.

FlipGrid – Use videos to connect and have students respond to a variety of SEL topics you choose to post. Students can respond to both you and each other. See more on how to use this for remote learning here.

BrainPop and BrainPop, Jr. – There are several videos on these sites that can help students understand what is happening and also process their emotions. This company is offering free subscriptions until the end of the school year. They also have provided resources on how these videos can support your remote teaching. They also have a video for students (I recommend for older students) specifically about the Coronavirus.

Class Dojo This classroom management tool has quite a few social emotional learning videos.

GoNoodle Go Noodle is always a great resource to boost energy and keep students active through a variety of videos. I personally love the Flow or Maximo stretching videos for Yoga and Mindfulness.

Simple Check-Ins – Check in with your students via video, call, or even an email to families. The more face time you get with them, the more normal we can make this whole experience for kids.

Online Parties/Virtual Craft Days – Host a virtual craft day or party. Whether your district approves of video meeting software or if you just have the kids send you pictures to share on your school website, these can be fun and connect kids together while they are away.

Smiles and Frowns – See this post here about implementing a simple practice of Smiles and Frowns everyday to check in with students and see where their headspace is at.

Q3: What are some great math resources that you plan on using with your students?

Prodigy– This adaptive, online digital resource “can align with [your] state standards…students interact with other students, have fun, and see math as play,” says moderator Sara Kiffe (@SaraKiffe). I personally use this resource as well for students to play an enhance their math learning. It provides feedback on the skills that students are working on and tells you areas that your students are struggling with. They feel it is a game, but they are practicing essential content at the same time.

Open Middle – Challenging word problems to keep kids thinking and improving their math problem solving skills. See more about this project here and follow on twitter (@openmiddle)

3 Act Math – Dan Meyer’s 3 Act Math tasks provide students with problem solving opportunities for students of all ages. See more about 3 Act Math in this article here and find the 3 Act Math tasks here! The tasks can take a little time to explore, but are a lot of fun for students to solve.

Would You Rather Math Follow #wouldyourathermath on Twitter or visit the website with tasks organized by grade bands. Students practice justifying their reasoning and explaining themselves in mathematical terms. See the User Guide provided on the website for more info on how to implement these tasks. It would be fun to use Flipgrid or Padlet for students to record themselves explaining their reasoning.

Khan Academy – Online digital resource for self-paced math learning on large array of math topics from Pre-Kindergarten to High School. See here how Khan Academy can help with your digital learning.

Dreambox Learning – This is a digital, adaptive online math software designed for K-8 students. Right now they are offering a free 90-day subscription to get to the end of the school year during this Coronavirus outbreak. See more information here!

Freckle – A digital, differentiation tool to use with students in Math, ELA, and Science, and Social Studies. See more about this resource here!

Xtra-MathXtra Math is a great resource to use with students to provide focused, targeted math fact practice at home.

Boom Learning Boom cards are great because you can assign them and they provide instant feedback on how they are doing. It also provides you with information on how they did and how many times they attempted to do the boom cards. Right now they are offering free access for teachers as well. My grade partner and I LOVE THEM! You can search for free decks on Teachers Pay Teachers and then add them to your boom card decks. Super easy and super fun for kids. I plan to use them for “centers” practice at home. Great for ALL subject areas, not just math.

Other Math Ideas – Y’all! This is also a great time to dive into your current math curricular resource to see what it has to offer on a digital level. You can also send card game ideas or YouTube videos to students that can help to enhance their learning.

Q4: Please share your best language arts and reading online resources.

Scholastic – Scholastic has been a life saver for online enhancement with reading to keep readers engaged. See these different Scholastic offerings right now
Scholastic Magazine
TrueFlix and BookFlix – Most states, through their public library, have access to both of these resources for free!

Epic! – This is a digital book library for kids. They are offering free teacher subscriptions for teachers to use with their students to use with remote learning.

Read Theory – Digital, personalized reading comprehension tool to use with students… and it is always free!

Read Works – So many digital passages and articles for students to read. I love this resource and you can use it in a variety of ways. Click here for their suggestions on how to use this resource for remote learning.

NewsELA– This resource is great and is offering free access to their entire product line that includes options for students to interact with the articles and adaptive text leveling! See more information here on how to use this resource for remote learning. I LOVE NewsELA for a variety of subject areas.

Raz-Kids/Reading A-Z – I also love this resource. This is great for providing leveled books and activities for students. They are offering free access to Raz-Kids for remote learning.

Q5: Which science resources do you think will be the most successful with distance learning?

Khan Academy: Imagineering in a Box – Disney and Khan Academy have teamed up to bring this experience to students. Students learn the secrets behind how Disney Imagineers create Disney Magic!

Mystery Science/Mystery Doug – An online, digital science platform. Right now they have free digital resources for teachers organized by grade level. I have already received very positive feedback from families about the high level of engagement with the mini-lessons and full lessons that they offer.

Other Ideas – Now is a great time to encourage kids to go outside and explore, measure with rulers, graph different things that they see, and make observations to share with others. Explore resources that provide science experiments to kids and have them video what they discover or experiment with.

Q6: How can we incorporate art/music into remote learning?

Bob Ross Style – Look up Bob Ross style activities or old YouTube videos and get your #happylittletree game on!

I Love Art for Kids HubFree drawing ideas and videos for kids to create.

Mo Willems Lunchtime Doodles – Join Mo Willems or see his past doodles on YouTube. See more about this here! Follow #MoLunchDoodles to see all of the kids, and adults, who have joined in on this movement as they are finding ways to spend the days.

Silk Art Google App – This app for Google Chrome is fun for kids and adults to play, create and explore with.

Q7: How do we as teachers feel supported and connected during this extended break from school?

THIS IS A TOUGH TIME! It is OKAY to feel sad, frustrated, angry. We are mourning the loss of being with our students and our colleagues. We are uncertain of what is coming. Everything is new and we can’t even plan for it, something that teachers are typically REALLY good at! ALL of this is okay. But if you are feeling this way, so is everyone else. I will self admit, that I broke down in tears from pent up emotions after being given 15 minutes to go into my classroom and grab everything I thought I would need for the unforseen future, fully knowing that the possibility I wouldn’t see that classroom again until the fall was an actual possibility. I called a colleague immediately and checked in on them, because I knew if I was feeling this way, so were others. SO… what can we do?

*Call you colleagues
*Connect via video chat devices
*Schedule Virtual Happy Hour or Group Chat and Mingle times
*Find ways to make this time fun (Several teachers and I are going to do a fitness challenge!)
*Share your feelings
*Seek help if you need it – there are many digital and virtual resources out there if you are really struggling with being home
*Stick to a schedule – I know, I know this one is HARD, but try to not only schedule your day, but schedule your connection time to colleagues and families.
*Create boundaries – This one is also hard for us who have never worked from home like this before. Work and home are blurry right now.
*Hang out with us on #3rdchat on Twitter! What else are we going to do now on Wednesday nights?!

Please reach out if you have any other ideas you want to share. Be safe and we all wish you the best in this Crazy Teacher Life!

-#3rdchat Moderating Team

Digital Learning, Weekly Tech Tip

Digital Learning Resources

What a crazy time we are living in right now? I want to make your life easier by compiling a list of digital resources for students and their families as more and more districts are asking teachers to post digital tasks, activities, and assignments online. Right now my district is on an optional online learning plan, but is asking us to create plans for future digital learning. As I go through this process, I figured I would share some ideas with you.

**I will update and provide ideas as I use them for digital learning at home**

Here are some of my faves and how I plan to use them:

Morning Meeting

Each day I am creating a morning meeting video for my students so that I can connect with them. See my first one here!


Reading A-Z – Digital reading resource with many options for digital reading and learning. Right now, they are offering free Raz-Kids to schools. I will use this to assign and ask questions about texts on each student’s reading level.

True-Flix – Digital book and learning resource. Students can read non-fiction texts on a variety of topics, watch a video, and explore related resources on the topic. If you live in most states, all you have to do is go to your public library website and access using your public library card! PA Residents, go here and scroll down to the bottom!

Virtual #Classroombookaday – I have been posting videos to my families of #classroombookaday to allow kids to hear me reading and to share a book with them. Feel free to use them. I will post some examples here.


Xtra-Math – Online math fact fluency resources. Students can practice from home.

Multi-Subject Resources

Brain Pop and Brain Pop Jr. – Offering free on-line access for schools closed due to the Coronavirus. So many great videos and activities for students to do while home. I plan to share different videos for kids to watch based on what we have learned in school.

Boom Learning – Boom cards are great because you can assign them and they provide instant feedback on how they are doing. It also provides you with information on how they did and how many times they attempted to do the boom cards. Right now they are offering free access for teachers as well. My grade partner and I LOVE THEM! You can search for free decks on Teachers Pay Teachers and then add them to your boom card decks. Super easy and super fun for kids. I plan to use them for “centers” practice at home.

NewsELA – A great resource for articles. As I explore the FREE Pro-version, during this school closure, I will post more ways I plan to use this. For now, I have downloaded the articles to share with students as a PDF and then had them complete the questions in a self-graded google form through Google Classroom.


Mystery Science – On-line science lessons with videos and at home activities to share with families. Right now, they have special lessons specifically designed for school closure and organized by grade! I plan to use this to engage students in science content at home.


Book Day Book Raffle

This is one my my ALL TIME favorite things to do with classes! Book Day Book Raffles! Whenever I send out book orders, I always take a look myself and use my points to get new books to add to my classroom library. When the books come in, it is RAFFLE DAY!

How does this work? All of the books I used my points to purchase are laid out on a table. I put a pocket underneath each book.

The students then write their name on a slip of paper that they will use as their raffle ticket. Whoever wins the raffle gets to read the book first. Students who “win” the raffle are able to keep the book at school for a week before they have to return it to my class library for others to read.

I ALWAYS do a book talk about each book and why I think each book is great. I also tell the kids to try something new, instead of just sticking with the same series/genres they are used to. I do the book talks because the kids often become excited about books that may otherwise be overlooked.

After the book talk, the kids put their slip of paper in the pocket under the book that they would like to read first. Then I randomly pull raffle tickets. If students do not win the raffle, and there are books left over with no “winner,” students with non winning raffle tickets can try again by placing their ticket in the pocket of an unclaimed book. I then pull these tickets.

The kids always enjoy this and understand that they may not always win. It is an exciting way to get excited about reading and build a culture of reading in your classroom. When I’m excited about books, the kids become excited about books… and isn’t that what we all want?

After the book raffle is over, I always give all of the students 5 minutes of silent reading time to start enjoying the new class books or to enjoy an old favorite.

I hope you will try this out the next time you get a Scholastic Book Box! Enjoy reading new books…in this Crazy Teacher Life!

Weekly Tech Tip

Crazy Tech Tip #4

In this edition of Crazy Tech Tips, we will be talking about supporting families at home and how I flip my classroom.

While I do not consider what I do completely flipped classroom, there are definitely benefits to using teaching strategies that use a flipped classroom model. Flipped classrooms are a model of teaching where the student learns from videos, games, and other resources independently and then does the practice with the teacher in the classroom.

Over the past few years, I have differentiated my word work using both the school reading resource (we use Journeys) and Words Their Way. In any given year, I have up to 5 different word study groups! Crazy right?! So, managing that can become nutty. Without a co-teacher, this can become time consuming. So I started creating word study videos for my students. At the start of each week, I post the videos to Google Classroom. In Google Classroom, you can assign items to specific students, so only the students who should have each word list see their own word list. Creating videos has also worked out well because I now also place these videos on my website for students to refer to throughout the week when they are working on their word study homework.

I have also created math tutorials based on our math program to help parents at home. I also post these to my website.

So how did I create these videos? I use two different devices: an IPEVO P2V pen camera connected to my computer and Screencastify (I subscribe to the premium version for $24 a year so that I can create unlimited videos at unlimited lengths). I love these tools because I can focus the pen camera on my table top while I am modeling the sorts and Screencastify captures and saves my videos to Google Drive.

Is it time consuming? Yes, I suppose it is initially. Each video takes about 5 minutes to shoot. However, I can easily do these at home and I can use them year after year. Also, if you multiply 5 minutes per word list times 5 groups plus transition time, I am saving myself AT LEAST 40 minutes each week.

Word study is now a 15 minute block of my time at the beginning of the week in between the Daily 5 where the kids watch their videos, practice their sorts, and put their sorts into their word study notebooks. It works like a charm. Then I can take those 15 minutes and circulate to address any questions or help keep students on task.

So try it out and “sorta” flip your classroom… in this Crazy Teacher Life!

Self-Reflection, Weekly Musings

Weekly Musings: Hmmm…

OOOOKAAAAYY! If you are anything like me at the start of the year, it is utter chaos in literally EVERY WAY POSSIBLE. Sorry for my absence in the past week, but as you know, the beginning of the year is insane. But in the midst of all of the craziness, it is super important to take the time for yourself. Yeah, yeah, I know people say this all of the time.

My hooray for the week: committing to going to yoga regularly again. I am aware that yoga isn’t for everyone, but do something good for your body. Take a quick walk or recommit to going to that fitness class you love. Your body will thank you later.

I have also been enjoying listening to podcasts that I like. There is a short 10 minute drive from my son’s pre-school to my school. Podcasts are perfect for short trips like that one. I can squeeze it in that short time and feel like I am getting some personal time to myself with something that I enjoy.

Most importantly, however, is that you must self-reflect, something that I am finding is really important this week. The beginning of the year is tough, especially in getting to know your students and building relationships, routines, and procedures. Some days, you may just want to pull your hair out or cry in a heap on the floor. But each day, take a moment to ask yourself:

Commit to this everyday, and you will be able to get through a whole lot. Maybe your one good thing is that a colleague came to help you out or a student made you giggle. Whatever it is, use this to energize you, or at least try.

Take some time for yourself and self-reflect… in this Crazy Teacher Life!

Weekly Tech Tip

Crazy Tech Tip #3

Okay, so if you are like me, you probably use the “snipping tool” fairly often to create documents or handouts for students. I often use the snipping tool to highlight something to parents in an email from my website or to share something with the staff at my school.

If you aren’t familiar with the snipping tool, on a PC, the icon looks like this:

The benefits of a snipping tool are simple… instead of using a print screen function, you can just “snip” whatever you want on your screen to insert and use in a document you are sharing. (Disclaimer: If you do so, please adhere to copyright standards and ONLY use for classroom purposes.) I also like using the snipping tool for other purposes that I will share with you in a future Crazy Tech Tip blog post.

Anyway, if you have been looking for how to snip on the Chromebook, it is almost as simple… Here is a quick how to handout:

Click on the image for a PDF copy of this handout!

Enjoy this Crazy Tech Tip and keep on snipping… in this Crazy Teacher Life!


BTSN: Contact the Teacher Magnets

The first year I started teaching, I was given a suggestion that I have used for many years: Contact the Teacher Magnets. These are super easy to do. Parents love them because they can put them right on their fridge. I created a quick document that I reuse every year.

Contact Info Cards.
Contact Info Card example. Apple font courtesy of letteringdelights.com

I print out the document onto regular paper and laminate. Next, cut out each card. Then, I buy some peel and stick square magnets from Amazon and stick them to the back of each contact card. When complete, the cards are a nice addition to the other pieces of information you send home on Back to School Night.

I hope you enjoy this Back to School Edition of Monday Teaching Tips! Get laminating and create some contact cards… in this Crazy Teacher Life!


Weekly Musings

Weekly Musings: Hmmm…

The. Jitters. Are. Real. Even after 10+ years, I still get the First Day Jitters. Not because “I can’t do it” or because “Things are new” since neither of those statements are true this year. When I was a newer, “greener” teacher, the jitters were FOR SURE anxiety and definitely fear! HA!

These days, the jitters more because excitement for what is to come and the undeniable unknowns of each year. I want to make a good impression and make strong connections with my students. I hope to inspire students and engage with families. I hope that I can make a positive impact in my school and help be a supportive teammate, colleague, and committee member to my school district.

I, like many of you, spend hours picking an outfit, prepping lunch, looking over plans, double checking my list of procedures to cover, and prepping my family that summer is over. That last one takes most of my energy, LOL!

Why do I do this? Personally, I have many goals and have some really cool opportunities coming up in the near future. I am excited for the year to come and I’m ready… I think?!

So, on this First-Day-of-School Eve, I say to you: Embrace those first day jitters, because this year will be whatever you make it to be. Get excited for this year and ride that wave of excitement, so when THOSE days (you know what I mean) come, you still have so much to look forward to!

Welcome back to school and enjoy those jitters… in this Crazy Teacher Life!

Classroom Environment, Flexible Seating

Crazy Classroom Tips #1 – Flexible Seating Edition

Flexible seating… is it really just a new teaching fad or is it real? It is real I say! There is a lot of research out there that promotes choice in seating and how flexible work spaces allow students to collaborate effectively. Movement is also an important part of any person’s day. Many Fortune 500 companies provide flexible work spaces to their employees. I cannot imagine sitting in one place all day. We shouldn’t expect the same thing of our students. Yes, there are going to be critics and not everyone is going to agree, but after shifting my classroom environment to flexible seating last year, I am excited to continue to provide options for my students this year.

My students also enjoy flexible work spaces. See their posters below!

Transitioning to flexible seating is, also, not as easy as it sounds. You have to have a lot of patience, planning, and organization to be effective. Organized Chaos, let’s call it. There are procedures for everything and everything has a place. Over the next few weeks, I will share my tips on creating a flexible seating space that works for me.

First tip: Seek out furniture options that are inexpensive:

*Ikea frequently has great options that are low cost and inexpensive (stools, low tables, magazine holders for student folders and notebooks, rugs, cushions, etc.)
*Amazon also has some low cost options for flexible seats (lap desks, stability balls, cushions, etc.)
*Target and Walmart have great deals frequently if you check the clearance sections. The blue ottomans that you see in the pictures I purchased a few years ago when the College collection at Target was on sale. I purchased each ottoman for under $10. The folding blue and purple chair you see in pictures were $3 each at Walmart a few weeks ago.
*Dollar Stores have great bins and clip boards for $1 a piece!
*Consider setting up a Donor’s Choose Project. Many of the larger options, including a low couch from Lakeshore Learning, were funded by posting my projects on Donor’s Choose.

Be on the look out for my next Flexible Seating Tip for organizing your space into comfortable work spaces. Check out my work spaces below.

Keep calm and create collaborative choice… in this Crazy Teacher Life!

PD, Weekly Musings

Weekly Musings: Hmmm…

This year I have been involved in several district PD sessions as a teacher leader. I have never been more excited about the vision my district has regarding Professional Development. In many districts, PD is seen as an “Uggghhhh…” or “Not this again!”, yet I did not feel this way this year. Our district is working toward creating engaging Professional Development with a more differentiated approach. I had the pleasure of being a part of my district’s #knightshift teacher leadership Professional Development earlier this summer. It was the best two days of PD that I have ever experienced. This was one of the fun activities we did!

Teacher Super Powers!

We focused on new initiatives during PD this year, (yes, we have them pretty much every year, too) but also focused on partnerships and creating a welcoming environment for all. On the first opening day, a friend and colleague of mine (follow her @msthinkaloud on Twitter) lead a #StayingGolden activity about finding our “Why”, originally created by Meg Burke, (@megburkeNPSD on Twitter) who is a friend and colleague of mine as well. Finding your “Why” is so important. Why do you do what you do? What are your goals? When the days get tough and it is often hard to remember why you are here. It is then that you need a reminder of why you are here and doing what you do. We created fortune cookies to remind ourselves of our why.

I also co-lead PD about Pathways to Distinguished in Charlotte Danielson’s Framework. One of the activities was a Goose Chase, an interactive scavenger hunt for educators. I have never heard so much laughter and joy as I did helping to facilitate this activity. Creating an environment for learning starts with creating an environment where teachers are having fun and care about one another. That environment is easily facilitated by creating memorable moments.

Last, but not least, Convocation… I really did enjoy convocation this year! There was a LOT of dancing! We do not always have the opportunity to bring the entire school district together, but when we do, it is really amazing how many people work for our district. The bottom line, it was fun! (Do you hear that word?) Check out one of the videos my district produced for convocation below.

So, what’s my point? The reality is, teachers are learners, too. We enjoy having fun and learning should be fun. So why can’t PD be fun? I have enjoyed being a teacher leader and I will continue to do so because I love what I do. I enjoy sharing my passion for education with others.

Enjoy what you do, become professionally developed, and have fun… in this Crazy Teacher Life!