Posts Tagged ‘apps’

High Five for Friday! 1-23-15

Week 20 – Officially halfway!!! It is the end of Quarter 2, which means grading, grading, graaaaaading. But there were SO many highlights this week! My favorite 5 are below:

ReadBox Kristen Dembroski

1. Readbox – Time for the big reveal – I finally finished my newest bulletin board! My 8th graders have been working on writing book reviews, which I have posted on my classroom wiki. Our school is one-to-one with iPads, so anyone can simply scan the QR code, which directly links to a student-written review. My students were SO excited to have their work posted like this, for anyone to appreciate. 

Donuts (c) Kristen Dembroski

2. Celebrating Success – More good news – we are done with MAP testing! Of my 8 intervention students, 6 of them made a 10-point gain which is the equivalent of gaining a whole grade level. I get goosebumps just thinking about it! Their confidence is soaring. We have been using MobyMax and Newsela to practice reading informational text and looking for text-based evidence. To celebrate, I brought in donuts for everyone. Yippee!!! 

Decide Now App (c) Kristen Dembroski Decide Now App (c) Kristen Dembroski

3. Decide Now App – Found a new app I love. There is a free version, but I opted for the paid version which has more editing capabilities. I made a wheel for each of my classes and filled in the names of all my students. Now, whenever I need help picking a random student, I just roll the wheel! This can be great when I have a lot of volunteers and want to be fair. Here is a link to the app if you are interested. The students really enjoy the anticipation of seeing who will be picked next! 


4. A Time for Justice – To kick off our unit on Spite Fences, we watched “A Time for Justice” this week. It is a great documentary that includes primary sources from the Civil Rights Era. Since we have just finished studying the Civil War and the 15th Amendment in Social Studies, it is fascinating to bring the students 100 years into the future and let them see how things simply didn’t just ‘fix’ or get better overnight like they thought they might. We learned that in one town, 50% of the eligible voting population was black, but only 1% of them voted for fear of retribution. The students are absolutely silent during this film, which I know shocks and engages them on a deeply emotional level. Teachers can order a kit including this video for free from the Teaching Tolerance Organization – just click here


5. NAEP – We had a professional development day for teachers on Monday, during which we explored the NAEP test. Information and sample test questions can be found here. I thought the questions were thoughtfully designed to engage students in deeper-levels of analysis. I just kept wondering – who is gonna grade all this?!? I think this will be a useful piece of data going forward when we do finally adopt the NAEP, but this is in addition to many other forms of assessment we already use in our school. I am always concerned about over-testing our kids – how much data (and what kinds) is enough? 

So how was your week? I’d love to hear about it! 



Vocabulary, StudyBlue, and Reading Interventions

It’s been a while since I’ve given an update on my reading intervention crew. I work with a group of seven 8th graders on a weekly basis who can benefit from an extra reading boost.

We first began with Newsela, which is such a wonderful FREE tool. I’ve been able to track their progress and meet with them to discuss strategies. We read one article and completed the quiz together so that my students could see just how much effort it is to find the correct answer. You have to a) read carefully b) monitor your own comprehension, then c) make sure you understand the question d) [and this is SO important] actually go BACK into the text to find the answer e) use process of elimination to check your answer (make sure the others don’t make sense).

Now, we’ve also added a vocabulary element to our sessions. I started by locating a list of the Top 100 6th grade ‘need to know’ words. Since my 8th graders are each about 2 years behind in reading abilities, this seemed an appropriate place to start. First, I had them simply read the words out loud to me. I marked any they miscued – those would certainly become vocabulary flash cards. Later, I also had them go through the list again and prioritize a list of an additional 10 words they want to learn about.

6th Grade Words 6th Grade Words

As it turns out, each of my students had 4 miscues in common: notorious, ominous, melancholy, and unconscious. These 4 words would become our ‘group words’ that we would all study together. Beyond that, their lists became personalized based on individual needs.

I had my group all download the app StudyBlue, a free app for creating flashcards, review, and quizzes.

StudyBlue App

Next, I gave them a handout with each of the 4 group study words, a kid-friendly definition (retrieved from – set the side bar to ‘Intermediate’ or ‘Beginner’), and a list of synonyms. The lists looked like this on their iPads:

Study Blue Review Sheet (c) Kristen Dembroski

Next, the students had time to use the Flash Card feature on the right. The app gives you a choice of either term or definition. You tell the app if you recalled the term correctly or not, and the app tracks your progress.

Study Blue Flash Cards (c) Kristen Dembroski

Once the students are done studying the flash cards, it’s time for a quiz. There is an option for multiple choice:

Study Blue Quiz Multiple Choice (c) Kristen Dembroski

…and True / False:

Study Blue Quiz True False


Obviously this will become more challenging as we add more words to our set.

I love that this app tracks your progress as well.

Study Blue Progress Monitoring (c) Kristen Dembroski


Once the students master the 6th grade words, we will move on to 7th grade words. We will also continue with Newsela, and I have plans to do some word study as well (such as this Word Tower Greek and Latin roots/prefixes/suffixes activity).

Things seem to be going very well with my group. This is due in large part to the fact that they are great kids and all very motivated to improve. It also doesn’t hurt that I maaaaaaybe bribe them with candy. Hey – it’s a teacher’s best kept secret! I will continue to monitor their progress and find new ways to challenge them and help them boost their confidence and soar in the classroom!




High Five For Friday! 2-21-14

Hello all week 24 survivors! There are so many wonderful highlights from this week!

Sun and Snow (c) Kristen Dembroski Sun and Snow (c) Kristen Dembroski

1. Gorgeous Weather! – This post would be entirely incomplete without mentioning the absolutely gorgeous weather we’ve been having this week in Wisconsin. It’s amazing how 45 degrees in the middle of winter can feel JUST like 75 degrees in the middle of summer. No coat, windows down, tunes cranked – this is living! I went on a walk in the sunshine and soaked up every minute!

2. Symbolism – THEY GET IT!!! These are the moments we live for as teachers, I tell ya. My students recently read “Thank You Ma’am” by Langston Hughes, a short story about a large woman and a frail boy who learn that they have much in common. There is a scene where the woman tells the boy to go wash his face in her sink. I gave my students several close reading and deep thinking questions to accompany the text, and I held my breathe to see how they would answer #3: Explain the deeper meaning of Roger washing his face in the sink. What could this symbolize? On Wednesday, when we discussed the answers in class, students RAISED THEIR HANDS and reported proudly, “It represents him washing away his mistakes and starting over!” HALLELUJAH the clouds opened, angels appeared, and I practically screamed, “YES YOU GET IT!!!!” It’s a proud, proud moment indeed when you realize your students are growing and learning and are able to do new things they could not do before your class. They get figurative language and symbolism, and I’m sending them off soon, ready for 9th grade!

 Arrogant Strict Loyal Serious

3. Phonto – We have been experimenting with a new app called Phonto. The app allows you to put text on image, which means the students can make really neat collages, web memes, etc. We recently used this app to explore personality traits. Students know what personality traits are, but I wanted to elevate their language and have them use higher level choices – words like: ambitious, arrogant, serious, confident, strict, etc. Turns out the students have heard of the words, they have even used them, but they are very fuzzy on the exact definition (and they may have been using the word incorrectly). So I assigned a word to partner groups, then had look up the word, then create a collage of synonyms and pictures to explain the word. The results are pretty cool!

Pie Making Tools (c) Kristen Dembroski

4. The Art of Pie Making – My grandmother was the master of pie making. I dreamed of her Pumpkin Chiffon pie for Thanksgiving. I recently decided it was time for me to take up the art. And when I do something, I go all in. So I’ve got some recipes and I recently purchased some new tools, too. I promised my family I would make then a Chocolate Cream Pie for our March Birthday celebration. Time to get practicing! Oh and I’m certain my husband doesn’t mind being a taste tester 🙂 Pictured: Cook Book, Pie Tin, Pie Weights, Cake Decorating Tools.

Car Wash (c) Kristen Dembroski Car Wash (c) Kristen Dembroski

5. Car Wash – Sing with me now, “Car Wash…. Working at the Car Wash, Yeah, OoOoOoooooohhhhH!!” I know it’s ridiculous and silly that this should be a highlight, but getting my car washed was SUCH an awesome feeling! My poor old Corolla hasn’t gotten a bath in maybe 6 months, and it was becoming dangerous since I couldn’t see out the windows. It was a LOVELY day of 45 degrees, so I went for it. Ahhhh!! You see, this is being an adult. Getting excited over really stupid things like new appliances, a clean house, or a washed car.


High Five For Friday! 12/20/13

Hellooooooo, Winter Break! Oh how much I’ve looked forward to seeing you! Here are the highlights from week 16:

Bungee Tension Bands (c) Kristen Dembroski

1. Chair Bungees for Restless Students: I discovered a really great, inexpensive, QUIET, unobtrusive fidget tool for the classroom – chair bungees. There’s not much to it, you just wrap a bungee cord or some kind of sturdy, elastic material around 2 chair legs. This gives students something to lightly bounce their legs against during class. Hopefully, this won’t disturb their neighbors or make any noise, but will provide sensory feedback for the student and a mindless outlet for fidgety behavior. I like that it occupies their legs instead of their hands, which we need for work!

Week 17 (c) Kristen Dembroski

2. Ready for January! I am all set to come back for break, which is a great feeling. I don’t have any correcting or lesson planning to do over my winter break, which means I can focus my energy on my family and on my dissertation. My calendar and assignment board are all set!


3. Phonics Spelling App – I found a great new app for our students struggling with phoneme-grapheme mapping, sight words, and basic foundational skills. Of course this is only one component of our multi-faceted reading intervention program for students who are reading 2 or more levels below grade level. The Simplex Phonics Spelling App costs $5, so I am working on locating the funds to purchase this app for our small-but-growing list of identified students. My hope is that I can introduce them to the app at school, but they will practice the app at home and with their parents. I installed and interacted with the app for a while, and I liked that it offered lots of support and that it didn’t seem too ‘babyish’ for our 6th through 8th graders. Here’s hoping this is a winner for our students!

Spirit Week (c) Kristen Dembroski

4. Spirit Week! Leading up to winter break, we have had a ‘Spirit’ or ‘Dress-up’ day each day this week. Monday = Pajama Day / Tuesday = Twin Day / Wednesday = Blue Day to honor our custodian with cancer / Thursday = Nerd Day / Friday = Red Day. I love dressing up with a theme, so of course I was on Cloud 9 all week!

Front Page TpT (c) Kristen Dembroski

5. Like a Rock Star: I made the front page of TpT! I was so excited to see this!


So how was your week? I hope you are already (or thinking about) enjoying your Winter Break!!! See you in January 😉


Teacher Approved Apps

Teacher Approved Apps (c) Kristen Dembroski

Let’s be real – when you give a 13-year-old an iPad, they are going to download and play games. Lots of them. During Homebase (Homeroom) time, I look over shoulders and I see a lot of Minecraft and other silly, pointless games. My response is, “you have 17 other hours of the day to waste your brain. I’m not going to allow that during school time!”

My colleagues and I got together and created this handout for our students – 35 Teacher Approved Apps. As it says on the first page of the handout, these are apps that can be used AFTER all other homework is completed and you’ve done your daily required 20 minutes of independent reading. We have vetted these apps and determined that they have (at least some) academic value for our 8th grade students. Feel free to download the hand out here: Teacher Approved Apps KD

Happy Teaching!



iPads Week 1 – Situation Report

Well, we’ve made it through our first full week with the iPads. It’s amazing how different things are. And by different, I mean… more interesting, more engaging, more efficient, more work, more planning, more troubleshooting, and more patience needed. The students are really doing an amazing job with this. We continue to work out the bugs and get every student up to speed (get everyone on the network, equipped with all of our required paid apps, set up with email, Google drive, Infinite Campus, ebackpack, etc.). Despite a few glitches here and there, the kids are working like pros, picking things up very easily. Here they are working in my classroom on a journal entry at the beginning of class.

iPads Week 1 (c) Kristen Dembroski


Each day, at least 1 student forgot their iPad, or forgot to charge it. I think once they experience a day of going without their technology, they will not be doing that again! We do have some extra charging cables and extra iPads that they can check out of the library for the day, but they see how inconvenient this is – the rented iPad doesn’t have any of their ‘stuff’ and settings on it.

BTW, I’ve only had to use my Tech Time Out once!

As the students are becoming more accustomed to their iPads, they are having a lot of fun playing. They explore new apps, find new games, and have something new to share each day. At the start of each class, I have to remind students to exit their game apps and prepare for learning. Currently, we are working on making a list of ‘Teacher Approved Apps’ or apps that can be used when all possible homework is done, and the student has done their independent reading for the day.

iPads Week 1 (c) Kristen Dembroski


So what have we been doing on the iPads all week? Each day, we start class by adding a journal entry to a document that they started in Pages. As we have been reading our first book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey, students are also taking notes on their iPads. I love that we can find images on the internet to accompany their notes, which allows them to think creatively, build connections, and construct a deeper understanding of the book. And let’s not forget that we have the world of knowledge at our fingertips – we can stop and search for any information we may need, use , research real people who exemplify the 7 Habits, and create Educreations videos to jigsaw the reading.

During Homeroom time, students use their iPads to keep up on their academic responsibilities. They are given 10 minutes at the end of each day to:
* check Google Calendars – all teachers keep a calendar of their daily activities and homework
* sync their Google Calendars with Calenmob – an app that makes their calendars available offline
* download their homework from ebackpack
* check and respond to any emails – I’ve sent each of my students an email this week to test
* check Infinite Campus (our online gradebook) to make sure they are current on their assignments – nothing missing or late

With the iPads, students are really in the driver’s seat when it comes to their education. There are no obstacles, no excuses. Even being absent isn’t a problem anymore – everything you need is online!

Things appear to be going great so far this year. Students are looking ahead in Google Calendars to see what we will be doing in class that day, emailing me questions and comments, and doing all of their homework paperlessly. I am so proud of them, and I can’t wait to see what else this year has in store for us!


Virtual Reality Escape in the Classroom

I have an idea that I am excited to try out this fall. Recently, I learned about two new apps that I think will be very valuable in my classroom. Both of them offer a virtual reality experience of sorts. I think this will be ideal for students who need a break from ‘reality.’

Teachers – you know when you have a student who just seems like they need to take a deep breath and start fresh? Perhaps they are overwhelmed, emotional, or anxious. This is when I would invite them to take out their iPad (or borrow mine) and have a 3 minute Virtual Reality escape. This will replace my old ‘go to’ techniques of “Why don’t you go get a quick drink?” or “Please take this (meaningless) super important document to the office for me (so you can calm down and walk it off).” These apps will hopefully occupy their mind and offer them a brief respite from what is leading them to be off task and unfocused (notice I didn’t say ‘naughty?’).

So here are the apps I am thinking of using for Virtual Reality Escape in the classroom. Let me know if you have heard of any others I can add to my list!

1. Sphere (TourWrist) 360 Degree Panorama Photography – by Spark Labs FREE

Sphere App - Virtual Reality Escape in the Classroom (c) Kristen Dembroski

This app is FREE and totally awesome. You can take yourself to some amazing places throughout the world from world famous cathedrals to tropical vacation destinations. As you twist and turn your iPad/iPhone, you get a 360 degree panoramic view of the location – even the sky and ground. I must look like a real fool as I swivel in my chair and contort my body to see every inch of the awe-inspiring views, but I just don’t care! I love looking at Sphere just before bed so I can dream of a vacation.

Of course, there are academic purposes for this app as well. Perhaps there are some locations you are currently studying in the classroom, and your students would love to visit in 3D! My only complaint about this app is that not all of the links work for me all of the time. Hoping some bug fixes are on their way!

2. Sky Guide: View Stars Night or Day – by Fifth Star Labs LLC $1.99

Sky Guide App - Virtual Reality Escape in the Classroom (c) Kristen Dembroski

This app was gifted to me, but normally costs $1.99. I honestly had no idea how much I would enjoy it. Basically, the app helps you to identify celestial objects (stars, planets, constellations, etc.). You simply point your iPad/iPhone at the sky, and voila! The app includes ethereal music to accompany your ‘Out of this World’ experience, but I often turn off this feature. As the title says, this works in the daytime, too. Students can imagine launching themselves into the atmosphere, flying through space, across the universe!

Of course there are real academic uses here as well – be sure to share with your school’s Science department!



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