Category Archives: Technology

Blog Series: IXL in My Classroom

Last year, one of my coworkers kept talking about what I heard her says as “I Excel,” an online learning program she signed up for using one email, then another, then another…as her free 30-day trials ran out.

Seeing as I gave her my email to use at one point, and tending to shy away from things like this, (why, I don’t know!?) I never got on board.

I mean, I was already using Kahoot, Padlet, Quizlet, Quizizz, Skills Navigator, Schoology, and had just started using Google Classroom. Did I really need another reason for my  class to be on the Chromebooks?

Things changed this year when our building was able to buy the full features of the Math and Language Arts curriculum with our 21st Century Grant.

Now I have incorporated IXL into my classroom, as have many teachers in the building.

The big questions though…

  • How should we use it?
  • How much is too much?
  • What should we expect from students?
  • Should it be graded?
  • Should it be homework?
  • How can we keep it fresh?

While this page has lots of inspiration for using IXL, I thought over the next several posts I would share a few of the ways I use IXL in my classroom that seem to be effective, and tell you some of the things that haven’t seemed to work.

Just look at the progress we’ve made so far!

Screenshot 2018-01-21 at 9.59.01 AM

This  graphic represents 111 students I work with throughout the day, including some who are part of our after school program.  It includes ELL students just starting to speak English, IEP students working several grades below grade level, and students working at grade level. This chart represents only the Language Arts topics.  NOTE: October had the most actual “school days” due to holidays and weather.  (I had to think about this because I was shocked to see how the numbers dropped off as we moved through the months.)

Do you use IXL?
What are your favorite strategies and methods?
What motivates your students?
What questions do you have?
Please share your ideas, thoughts, and questions in the comments.






December Padlet with Phrases and Clauses

I’m still playing with Padlet and finding all sorts of uses for it. Right now I see it as a great place to store materials and units If you teach 7th grade, you might be ready to work on phrases and clauses around this time of the year.

If you teach writing, you might be able to incorporate these pictures into writing activities as well.

Again, much like my blog about Padlet and participles, I’ve created a Padlet that houses all of my notes, worksheets, and activities on phrases and clauses, as well as 15 winter picture prompts for December. I am working on adding directions to each prompt, specifically about phrases and clauses, but you could use the pictures as they are.

Padlet December 7

**All of my images were taken from Google images; worksheets and notes are my own.

To access this Phrases and Clauses Padlet, click the link. The password is: jolly

I will be adding and editing this Padlet as I work through December as I am uncertain about the pacing and need for reteaching with my 7th graders.

Hopefully you can find a way to use this Padlet in your classroom!

Tell me all about it in the comments!




Planning a Manic Monday Before Thanksgiving

Tomorrow looks to be a day full of interactive, technology-based assessment in my classroom!

I have a student teacher starting during the 2nd semester, and he’s coming tomorrow to get his hours of observation in.  Last week he let me know that he needs to observe some use of technology to assess students for his current class.

I didn’t want him to watch the same thing four times in one day, so I decided to do a different activity each period.

1st period LA 7 will be completing their first activity on Padlet, which I am super excited about.  They will be writing about various themes from our novel.  I am brand new to Padlet, but I practiced using it with a co-worker Saturday and tested it on school devices, as well as personal devices. Don’t you just hate when you plan a technology-based lesson and the filters suddenly don’t cooperate? Fingers crossed that this is what they see tomorrow at 8 a.m.!

Fish Theme


2nd period LA 8 will be using Plickers to do a pre-assessment for after Thanksgiving break when we start verbals.  It will be short – only 10 questions. I like Plickers over Kahoot for assessments like this, because I get specific results and data to work with. I hope I am surprised that they remember some of the “8th grade secrets” I taught them last year. Even so, this will cover adjectives, nouns, and verbs as well.

Plicker participles


4th and 6th period tutoring will be playing Kahoot to review for their science quiz on Tuesday.  This is an 8th grade group studying “The Restless Earth.”  Kahoot is super popular now at our school. The kids love it. It’s fast paced. It’s fun.

I feel it is imperative I get control of the class after the standings have been posted so we can discuss the question and answer.  I also have a 20 second rule for choosing a school appropriate name.   With those rules in place, I think Kahoot can be a great tool to get kids engaged and review for a quiz or test.

Kahoot Earth's Interior

Follow this link to see/play: (I am not sure which link will take you to the teacher page).

So it likes Mr. Student Teacher will be getting plenty to write about, and it looks like my Monday will be a fun one!

If I don’t post again before Thanksgiving, have a wonderful time with your family!  Teachers, enjoy your much-needed break!

Last Minute Language Arts Cram Session

A few weeks ago I learned about ThingLink, which is destined to become my new favorite thing.

With our Spring Break trip and adjusting to Ian’s new life on an insulin pump, I haven’t had much time to work with it.

But finally, the last few days I’ve been creating a review ThingLink for our 7th grade Language Arts students. I’ve connected it to many of my own Prezis and found some other resources as well. Every little icon you see will take you somewhere new!

Language Arts Review – Are you ready?


This image isn't live. You'll have to click the link above to discover all the goodies hidden behind the icons.

This image isn’t live. You’ll have to click the link above to discover all the goodies hidden behind the icons.

Simile Search

So here is something I accidentally stumbled upon with the iPads and iBooks.

As I was reading through our novel for class, looking for examples of figurative language, I used the search tool and typed in “like.”

And a list popped up…of every use of the word “like” in the novel. Wow. That was easy.

I was going to make a worksheet with these examples, but decided to go a different route.

I had the students work in pairs. They typed in the word “like” and did their own search, clicking on each example to read and determine if it was a simile.


The first page of hits when you type in “like.” It’s easy for us to pull out the similes just from these small excerpts, but a little challenging for my class.

When I realized that they were struggling with the various uses of “like” and this was too broad, I had to adjust my plans.

Instead, I had them search for a particular word. For example, I had them type in “spaghetti,” read the surrounding text, and explain the simile to me. Instead of identifying, we were observing, noticing, imagining, and connecting with great examples of figurative language.


We spent some time recording the best similes, acting them out, and talking about the images they created in our minds.  For homework, they had 6 mentor sentences to imitate – all of which had similes.

The first example we did in class.


The students simply changed it to:

My arms and legs get all tight and lash out like tree limbs

in a hurricane. 

Not a huge variation from the original, but they were headed in the right direction.

This activity opens the door to hundreds of fresh, new examples of figurative language.  Let’s face it, every teacher uses this worksheet on similes and metaphors. You know the worksheet I’m talking about. The first example reads:

“The baby was like an octopus, grabbing at all the cans on the grocery
store shelves.”

It pops up on the first page in a Google search.  The copyright is 2002, with a revision in 2004.   Kids have probably seen this worksheet more than a few times in their life.

And even if they haven’t, these sentences are pretty generic and certainly not authentic.  They don’t really demonstrate, in context, how an author is trying to create a mental image. Using examples from the text we are reading shows how figurative language can make our writing more interesting.

As always, this activity lead me to think of other possibilities…..

  • How about providing students with a list of vocabulary words and have them perform the search to see the words used in context?
  • Students could go a step further and use the “look up” or “define”  tool to write the definitions.
  • Students could take turns finding interesting words or examples and share the key search term with the class and students could easily find the specific example.  (If more than one hit comes up, it become a lesson in skimming and scanning.)

I am sure there are other ways to use this tool.  My students will probably teach me a few of their own!

Have you tried this before?

Do you have any suggestions for activities?

Share your ideas in the comments!

I Gave Schoology a Chance

And I liked it!!


I realize this is somewhat cluttered….but this is how my brain works. If you want to know more about a specific use, just leave a comment.

When our district made a mandatory move from Edmodo to Schoology, I was frustrated.  I had spent a few years building my Edmodo library and was happy there. I didn’t want to move!

Feeling overwhelmed with all the other changes going on in our building, I decided that I was only going to do the bare minimum – post my homework – as we would be required to do during the 2nd semester.

Well, as you can see from above….I didn’t hold myself to that and Schoology has become an important part of my day…every day.

ReadNRespond App

The ReadNRespond App is one I found a few months ago.  This app covers Bloom’s Taxonomy in an interactive way.  Each of the 6 levels shown below (in my handmade bulletin board display) has 20 different prompts/questions.


Yes, that’s a sled in my classroom. Dee needed it for science.

For a few different selections we read, I assigned numbers as you can see in the photo.  Students worked in groups and worked their way down the list from Recall to Create.  For some of my students I just focused on the lower level prompts.


  • There are lots of unique prompts at various levels
  • It’s easy to differentiate and challenge students
  • Students think it’s fun and enjoy the activities.


  • It is very hard for them to go back and edit their work so I can’t offer much in corrective feedback.
  • Some students dislike typing on the iPad.
  • Checking their work is a little tricky to since we aren’t one-to-one.

I tried having them screen shot their answers so I could flip through the photos to check their work. Didn’t really work

The best way I can use this app is put the assignment up on the bulletin board, have them access the activities, and complete them on paper to turn in.

If nothing else, just check out the 120 leveled prompts. You might find something you can modify to suit your needs.

First Impression of Quizlet


It’s almost the end of the 1st nine weeks and I am wrapping up our first novel, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, and moving into an informational text unit.

I wanted to do a review game/activity on the iPads but couldn’t choose an app. I decided this was a good time to try Quizlet, which has been on my “Want to Learn About” list since July.

I created these two set of cards this morning:

Character and Conflict Quizlet

Literature Terms Review

I haven’t upgraded to the $15/year or the $25/year option yet. I want to see how it goes with the class week, but I am optimistic.

First impression: I love how easy Quizlet is to use.

  • You type in the terms and choose from a list of “auto-definitions”  or type your own. I am a very fast typist so I had them done in no time. Actually, after I got started, I realized I could copy and paste from the PDFs I already have.
  • You can switch the terms and the definitions with one click.  Sometimes it is better to present the definition first and ask students to recall the term. Other times, it’s more appropriate to do it the other way around.  I
  • Quizlet has a “Speak Text” option, which will be great for my class. (I just picked up cheap headphones for the iPads. I have issues with a lot of noise and this should help. A few students also have ear buds of their own.)
  • There are hundreds/thousands of sets already created on Quizlet and I spent some time a few weeks ago searching for something that would work.

Now that I’ve realized Quizlet is so easy to use, I shouldn’t have wasted my time searching for an almost-perfect fit, and should have gone this route.  Now I have exactly what I want for my class based on what we have studied. (I used the exact definitions we used in our Interactive Notebooks to be consistent)

I was able to quickly link the two card sets to my Schoology course and I will introduce Quizlet tomorrow after our reading quiz (also on Schoology).

The real trick will be if the kids can remember their logins for Schoology!!

What are your thoughts on Quizlet?

How do you use Quizlet in your classroom? 

Would you/Did you pay the extra $15 or $25 to upgrade?

Maybe most importantly, how do you get kids to learn their usernames and passwords to multiple online accounts? Our students building-wide are dealing with our new g-mail, Schoology, Chrome books, Khan academy and online text books and it’s been quite a challenge!


Eight days in and I am in love.

The iPads are amazing and my kids are amazing when they are using them.

I have my resource room the first two periods and it is a great way to start every day.

What exactly do I love?

They try harder.

They are more resourceful and better problem solvers.

They are more willing to participate, share, and discuss.

They are enjoying learning.

I found on the first day that all of my students have some experience with iPads, iPods, or iPhones. This helped tremendously in terms of basics.

So far in eight days:

  • We have used QR codes and I-nigma to locate Guinness World Record articles online for reading and summarizing. During this lesson, they were asking questions as they read (“How does she find clothes that small? How tall is that compared to us?”) and searching eagerly for answers. And I probably don’t have to tell you how excited I was when students asked to read additional articles they saw in the side bars.
  • We have used Educreations to practice typing, taking photos, and recording our voices. This was a pretty basic activity but it helped them learn how to use the app in preparation for bigger and better things.
  • We have used Notes to type some responses to the morning Bell Ringer (in lieu of journal writing). It seems like students hate to edit and erase on their papers, but on the iPads, it was a whole different game. I found I can easily raise the bar with some of my higher students and ask them to elaborate and do some more difficult editing. I primarily focus on spelling and sentence writing basics with the others.
  • We have used Tools4Students to complete a few graphic organizers (Compare/Contrast, Vocabulary Word, and Problem/Solution). Again, I asked the 8th graders to do a little more. The girls did some extra vocabulary on their own and I showed them how to switch between apps to use the dictionary.
  • We used Grammaropolis in my study hall to review nouns. Talk about motivation to get all your work done!

This week we are starting our novel, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, and will be using Educreations quite a bit as we learn about the new characters.

I am really looking forward to getting the right cords to hook up my AppleTV so they can share their work with each other on the SMARTBoard.

I also need to find an analogy activity for study hall this week.

Another thing I want to figure out is a way to work on fluency and decoding. Something not too babyish for 7th graders. Ideas???

Oh, one more thing and probably the best part…..When I got my roster I had less students than I thought I would. I only have eight students right now and I have the six iPads from the grant and my own iPad. A few students have iPhones so we can be 1-to-1 most of the time depending on the activity. I was not expecting that and am so excited about the possibilities of 1-to-1!

Is anyone else just starting out with iPads this year? How’s it going? What do you love? What’s puzzling you? Share your thoughts in the comments.

My Personal iPad Tech Guy

The fastest way to get your 10-year-old to shower? Tell him he can work on the iPads as soon as he is done!

The fastest way to get your 10-year-old to shower? Tell him he can work on the iPads as soon as he is done! He has totally taken on the task of installing apps for me.

%d bloggers like this: