Technology Integration

Why I Love IXL Math…and an IPAD Mini Giveaway!

iPad Ideas and Giveaway from The Lesson Deli

Hey fellow techie teachers!  I’m linking up with my friends at The Lesson Deli to showcase some ideas for using iPads in the classroom.  Hop through the posts to learn about some useful classroom iPad apps, then don’t forget to visit the Rafflecopter for a chance to win an iPad Mini.

Why I Love IXL Math for iPads and Why You Will Too from The Pensive Sloth

IXL? What’s that? Read on to find out!

8 Reasons to Use IXL In Your Classroom

First, what is IXL?  IXL is a super organized website for students to practice math skills, from the very simple ‘naked’ problems that just deal with the arithmetic to the multi-step word problems that have students apply what they have learned.  IXL is like a bunch of really well developed digital worksheets.  Here’s why I love it, my students love it, and why you will love it too!

1.  INSTANT FEEDBACK FOR STUDENTS–Research tells us time and again that feedback is most helpful when it is immediate (especially for our digital natives).  Students work on a skill, and if they get it right they know!  There is no waiting for you to check their work.  If they miss it, they find out immediately and IXL explains why so that the student can learn from his/her mistake without practicing the wrong way multiple times.

2.  INSTANT FEEDBACK FOR TEACHERS–Let’s say my class needed to practice equivalent fractions.  I could assign a lesson to my students and monitor their progress from my teacher computer.  The beauty of IXL is that it instantly updates you on how many questions a student has answered correctly.  If I notice that little Johnny has answered 20 questions and missed 15, it is time to intervene!  Or, that little Sarah has answered only 6 questions and the rest of the class is almost finished, I might need to help her find a more efficient strategy.

3.  IXL IS FORGIVING–We all make mistakes when learning something new.  IXL recognizes this and rewards students for learning, not just a percent of questions they get right.  For example, students who miss several questions early on still have the ability to recover to earn a high Smart Score because they are learning.  They will have to answer more practice questions to ensure they’ve got it, but they can still score high and be rewarded for their efforts.  Students who already understand a skill won’t have to answer bazillions of questions.  IXL picks up on this, and their score will be equally as high for showing mastery!  There’s no reason to make a student who knows something practice it again and again forever.  IXL catches on quickly so students can show mastery early and move on to something more challenging.

4.  DIFFERENTIATION–Is a great buzzword, but IXL can make it happen easily in YOUR classroom.  If you have students who are below level, you can assign them practice on skills to meet their needs.  If you have students who are advanced, move them ahead.  IXL covers K-12 standards, so the sky is the limit!

5.  ORGANIZATION–I have never seen a math program as teacher-friendly as IXL.  You can search by skill, monitor progress by skill, go up and down a grade level based on your state’s standards, whatever works for you and your students.  I typically would write a lesson on the board I wanted my students to complete based on what we were studying and I even took grades on their work.

6.  SMALL GROUP/MATH STATIONS–Add an IXL math station to your rotation so that you can meet with small groups and still know that your students are engaged in purposeful work as mathematicians.

7.  FLEXIBILITY–IXL worked on my classroom desktops, laptops, and iPads.  Plus, students could work from home if parents requested extra practice!  Once you set up student accounts and passwords, they can use IXL on any device with an internet connection.

8.  BOOST THOSE TEST SCORES–Overall, IXL makes it easy to fill gaps in learning, help students track their progress and see how their efforts produce achievement, and help you target skills students need to be successful on state assessments (whether you follow your state’s standards or Common Core), IXL can help your students succeed on state tests with confidence.

Now, you may be wondering if IXL is free???  The answer to that is NO and YES.  As a teacher, you can sign up for 30 day free trials.  Yep.  I had to sign up for a few free trials.  In fact, my whole grade level used it, loved it, and had so much success, that our school purchased it for the campus this year.  If after giving it a try you decide you MUST have it, talk to your principal, PTA, hold a quick fundraiser, or consider writing a grant through Donor’s Choose.   It is worth every penny!  Oh, and you should know that I am NOT being paid to talk about IXL.  When a friend of mine mentioned it to me last year, I gave it a try and now every time I meet a math teacher, I share my experience with it.

You can learn about MORE iPad apps from the teachers at  The Lesson Deli

iPad Linky for iPad giveaway from The Lesson Deli

Click this image to go to the Linky screen for more great ideas on using iPads and apps in your classroom. Brought to you by the teachers at The Lesson Deli.

 Want to win an iPad Mini?  Of course you do!  Please note that this giveaway is only open to teachers (classroom and homeschool) who are living in the United States or Canada. The winning entry will be verified and proof of eligibility may be required. Please see the complete terms and conditions at the bottom of the giveaway for more information.

Rafflecopter Button for iPad Giveaway from The Lesson Delia Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

–The Pensive Sloth


Shut Up and Take My Money Teacher Style: Circuit Scribe

Circuit Scribe Shut Up and Take My Money Teacher Style Blog Series About Classroom Gadgets from The Pensive Sloth

There is a hilarious site called Shut Up and Take My Money that peddles unusual gadgets and such.  Not all of which are suitable for work, so if you are reading this at school I suggest clicking on that link when you get home.  Well, here’s the first in a series of a teacher-style version of classroom must-haves!

Somehow I happened upon this YouTube video for a product called Circuit Scribe.

Then promptly checked out their Kickstarter page.  They raised almost $700,000 dollars!!!  But… the product won’t ship until August.  Boohoo!  You can pre-order here.  Basically, it allows you to draw circuits that work.  Imagine the many ways you could use this in your science classroom.  Talk about STEM!

You should know that I’m not patient, so I found something similar on Amazon that I can play with until I get my Circuit Scribe!  I ordered this $10 pen that contains nickel instead of silver and I can not wait to  give it a try.  I should probably go buy some watch batteries and LED lights.  I’ll come back and share the fun when it arrives.

–The Pensive Sloth

***NOTE–I was NOT paid and am not affiliated with any of the above groups.  I’m just a teacher-consumer interested in new tools to make learning fun for my students!***

UPDATE:  While this is a really cool product, I don’t see it being affordable enough for regular classroom use.  After playing with it myself for an evening (I was very impressed), I realized that this could get costly with a group of 5th graders and opted to go with a different circuit activity at school.  It required some major problem-solving on my part, with trial and error as I figured out how to fold the paper just right so the positive and negative sides of the batteries connected to my hand-drawn ‘wires.’  I could see middle and high-school students really thriving with this, but my little elementary guys would need to use a lot of ink for their trial/error sessions, and it’s a little pricey for my tastes because you’d have to replace the pens every year.  Perhaps if you wrote a grant? 

Today I Spotted a Digital Native…Texting an Essay

Laptops are in short supply around school.  It’s the end of the year and everyone is in project mode trying to finish end of the year research and such.  Our final read-aloud for the year is “You’ll Like it Here, Everybody Does” by Ruth White and it’s a mish mash of aliens, adventure, and utopian societies.  What fun!

You'll Like It Here Everybody Does Book Cover

Strange start. Stranger story. A school librarian highly recommended this book to me, and I’m trying it as a read aloud. The kids are loving it!

We are about 2 chapters in, so today I asked students to send me a short essay explaining why they do or do not believe in aliens.  They were to use Google docs and share the essay with me.  The problem was that students had to share computers, so a few asked if they could use their own tech.  Of course!  My mind thought tablets, but that wasn’t what one of my digital natives had in mind.  We all got busy and about 10 minutes later I looked over to see him hunched over his phone texting away, and a lightbulb went off.  The conversation went something like this:

ME:  Are you…texting your essay?

STUDENT: Yep. (without looking up or pausing)

ME: Wouldn’t it be easier to wait to type on the computer after you’ve written it out?

STUDENT:  Nope.  I’m much faster with texting than typing.

ME:  Ok.  Good luck!  Let me know if you change your mind.  Maybe look over it later before submitting?

STUDENT:  (text, text, text,…)

And that’s it.  I’m in my early 30s and consider myself pretty tech-savvy, but I didn’t grow up as one of these digital natives.  It would have driven me crazy to text-type my essay!  For this student, it was natural.  He didn’t miss a beat.  By the time he got a computer, he had already typed the essay and just had to do a few format fixes.  The essay was pretty good, too!

@thepensivesloth text my essay meme 5th grade

What have you spotted your digital natives doing lately?

What have YOU spotted your digital natives doing lately?


–The Pensive Sloth



3 Ways to Use YouTube in Your Intermediate Classroom in 2014 (originally posted 1/1/2014)

3 Ways to Use YouTube In Your Intermediate Classroom in 2014

3 Ways to Use YouTube In Your Intermediate Classroom in 2014

NOTE—The songs are totally cheesy! I know this and so do my students. Just go with it. They’ll love it. Sometimes to remove the “I’m too cool to enjoy this” factor I tell them that I have found THE cheesiest song about the planets (or whatever you are teaching) in the history of mankind. I play the song and they usually agree. But, they also ask to hear it again!

1—Play Funky Songs & Raps in Class
Do you want your students to go home and study, go home and share what they have learned, or at least think about what you’ve done in class that day?  Consider using a song or rap from YouTube related to the concept you are teaching.

Why it works– Many kids have access to YouTube from smartphones, tablets, pcs, home computers, and even streamed through a TV!  All it takes is playing the song a few times in your classroom to get them hooked.  There’s something about music that makes learning memorable.  I usually play the songs while we transition from one subject to the next or as a reward while we pack up at the end of the day.  I then add the link on my class webpage and let the magic happen!  Your students will most likely spend some time online when they go home and may just revisit the video you shared in class.

Some of my favorites–

*StoryBots “We Are the Planets” rap

*”States of Matter” rap (This one was made by real-life teachers!)

*StoryBots “I’m So Hot”  rap about the sun

*StoryBots “It’s My Time to Shine” song about the moon

2—Use a Math Strategy Video to Introduce or Review
The brain loves novelty and variety.  Want to make your lesson a little more engaging and unique?  Find a video clip of what you are teaching that day in math to start your lesson or review.

Why it works—Today’s students are tuned-in to technology and a 2-3 minute clip at some point in your lesson adds a little variety.  Not only do they get to see a strategy twice (once from you and once from the video), they are seeing it from someone else.  Plus, adding the link to your site gives students something to refer to should they need a refresher or if they were absent.  When I introduced fractions recently, this was really helpful!  I’ve even used a REALLY good YouTube video as my whole lesson before…but that’s for another post and is a little harder to do effectively.

Here are a few math videos I’ve used recently–

*Simplifying Fractions

*Equivalent Fractions (This one is cool because it explains WHY multiplying a fraction by 4/4 to get an equivalent fraction still doesn’t change the value of the fraction.)

3—This one is just for fun…Dance Breaks!

Sometimes we just need a little break during the day, especially if you are self-contained like me. Early childhood teachers know this and frequently use music and movement with Dr. Jean and Greg and Steve songs.  Our older students love to move as well and they REALLY love listening to their favorite tunes.  Now, I use dance breaks as a reward quite often, and it works great if you use Whole Brain Teaching’s Scoreboard in your classroom, so consider using a “Just Dance” type video to add some fun and give your kiddos a chance to get their wiggles out!

Why it works–It works because it is fun.  Students need to move.  Teachers need to move.  It’s healthy. It brings oxygen to the brain. It wakes you up.  And much more!  If you use it as a whole class reward, students also have something to look forward to when they finish an activity and have worked hard, followed directions, and paid attention as a class.  I choose videos that show the steps rather than just listening to a song and dancing along for two reasons.  First, using a dance video that shows the steps encourages your somewhat reserved students to participate because they can just follow along and not have to invent their own moves.  Second, if you have students whose dance moves might be a little too…um… ‘inappropriate for school,’ you can tell them to stick with what is on the screen.  Don’t worry if not everyone participates.  I call it the wildfire effect, but each time you do a dance break, a few more kiddos join in!  And those that done still enjoy listening to a popular tune and watching their friends get groovy!

CAUTION– You must preview the videos from home before sharing them with your class.  Let me say that again.  Previewing the videos from home and really listening to the lyrics will keep you out of trouble.  There are dance videos specifically for kids, but my students said “We’re not babies” when I tried to use some of those.  They prefer the more popular songs that they hear on the radio, so you have to watch the WHOLE video and listen to ALL the lyrics at home before you use a song in the classroom.  If not, well…not all music on the radio is classroom appropriate!

A few of my faves–

*The “Pata Pata” is an African dance

*One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”