LeBron James LOVES stock images of shoes!

So I was looking over my Integrated Technology Unit Plan, and I started wishing that I had written out detailed lessons for the project-based learning aspect of the unit, instead of just the introductory and guided practice lessons. To me, it’s really the core of the unit. Instead of going back and starting over, I decided to just make an example of the project my kids would be doing. I created it in Google Drawing (which I would have as one of several options for the kids to use), and I tried to make it look like a fourth grader made it. I purposely left out an important component* for which this hypothetical group would be docked points. Can you spot it?ImageAfter they made this media message, the group would have to include a brief write-up about the components of their media message in COMPLETE SENTENCES (not that I am a stickler for complete sentences or anything, where did you get that idea?). For example:

  • Our media message is visual because it includes images as well as text.
  • Our target audience is teenagers. We tried to aim it at teenagers by using words like “dude” and celebrities that teenagers like such as famous basketball players. The style of the shoes is also more appealing to teenagers than to kids or adults.
  • Our message is not entirely truthful, but it is because we want to sell our product. We want the teenagers to think that they will be faster if they wear our shoes. We also want them to think that they will be wearing the same shoes as a famous person.
  • We drew attention to the product by using flashy colors and lines that look like electricity. We wanted to make the shoes look like they were full of energy!

The assessment of the media message and the write-up would be rubric-based, and I would probably create at least part of the rubric with the class. When I was student teaching, my mentor teacher created a rubric for a solar system poster by asking the kids what they thought were the important elements of a good poster- correct spelling, neat coloring, and a minimum number of facts were some of the suggestions that the kids volunteered.

That’s all for now- if I get a sudden burst of inspiration and/or motivation later on today, I may just go the whole hog and add a rubric too!



*This group forgot the name of the product! They did everything else beautifully, and would have probably been given full credit for those aspects of the rubric, but one of the things we would learn about in the unit is that in addition to slogans and pictures, media messages have to clearly state the product’s name so that it becomes familiar to the audience. Of course, if this unit and project were real, I would have watched their process along the way and probably mentioned to them that they were missing something- without giving away what it was. 🙂


Mapping out media messages

Media Message

As much as I love making lists, I am starting to warm up to the idea of mind maps. When I first was introduced to them, I found them to be confusing and cluttered, and resolved never to abandon my precious lists with their comforting bullet points and familiar indentations. After seeing my fellow classmates use them for various assignments, I started to see past the confusion and finally understand just how useful they really are!

This map I’ve created is a snapshot of my unit plan about media messages. If I were to use this in the classroom, I would probably refer back to it at least once in every lesson of the unit. We would add and change things as we went along, such as examples and descriptions. I think a finalized media message map would be a great culmination to the unit. It fits especially well because the project I have the kids doing involves making their own media message in small groups, so they could actually refer to the mind map almost as a second rubric.

Much thanks to Jeri over at ThomasParticles for introducing me to http://www.examtime.com!

Media Messages: What Are They Really Saying?

Pretend you’re a fourth grade student and click here for a flipped lesson on media messages!

This is my first attempt at a flipped lesson. It’s not perfect- I recorded a separate audio track for each slide, which in turn has to be clicked manually in order to hear. To be honest though, if I was a student, I would probably prefer it that way. I have tried watching tutorial videos on YouTube and end up frustrated because I need to rewind but can’t find the exact spot I wanted. 

The idea behind this lesson is that it would replace both guided and independent practice in class, allowing for more discussion and project-based learning. The lesson serves as a part of my Integrated Technology Unit Plan, and would most likely be embedded between lessons as an out of class homework assignment. 

In the lesson itself, I don’t give a whole lot of detailed instructions for the independent practice; hypothetically, if this lesson were actually something I used in the classroom, then we would have done several lessons like it before, and the students would know that all of their responses and discussions go into a separate Google Doc. 

Comments and advice are, as always, welcome! 🙂

Math, science, history, unraveling the mystery that all started with the big bang!


While I was watching this TED Talk, given by David Christian, I kept hearing the theme song to The Big Bang Theory in my head. Christian’s TED talk condenses the history of our universe- from the Big Bang to the Internet- into a span of less than 18 minutes. The Big Bang itself takes him about 4 minutes to cover, which I found particularly amusing, given the fact that it took my geology professor a day and a half. Obviously, Christian is paring down history to the bare essentials, but he also includes a very important element that I think is often overlooked when giving an overview of history- people. The human element is shown by Christian to be vital to our “big history”, as he says. When I teach social studies to my students, I encourage them to look at the people who are involved the events we study, because when you think about it, that’s what history is- people making decisions, people making choices, and people affecting other people.

I encourage you to watch this video; it is only 17:40 and Christian does an outstanding job of engaging the audience and balancing complex topics with “user-friendly” narration.

And you should probably check out The Big Bang Theory, too. 😉

ToolZeit – Skip Math!

ToolZeit – Skip Math!

I learned two very important things while watching this ToolZeit podcast about a game called Skip Math. The first thing I learned was how to play the game, some pros and cons, and suggestions for its use in the classroom. The second thing I learned is that I do not like podcasts with video! I was incredibly distracted throughout the entire podcast- I found it impossible to follow what the hosts were saying while something different was happening on the screen. For example, one of the hosts was introducing the basics of the game, but what I was seeing on the screen was the other host taking a screenshot of himself and manipulating the image into an avatar. 

I enjoy audio podcasts, particularly sports-related podcasts, and I could probably handle a video podcast if the hosts used still images over their narration when they were off-screen (think Reading Rainbow, when the kids recommend the books at the end). I realize that not everyone will respond to video podcasts like I did; in fact, I would be highly surprised if I was not in the minority here. I watched a few other ToolZeit videos and I thought it was a great concept- essentially, they select education-related apps or gadgets and review them on camera. Their reviews are comprehensive and helpful, and the hosts are fairly natural in front of the camera, but I just couldn’t get past the distraction of having two different things going on simultaneously. For now, I think I’ll stick to audio podcasts.

Five Best Practices for the Flipped Classroom

I recently read this Edutopia blog post by Andrew Miller about flipped classrooms. I was particularly drawn to this post because I do think it’s important for teachers to take a step back and focus less on how incredible and revolutionary flipped classrooms are, and more on what exactly is needed to ensure that they stay incredible in the long run. Personally, I think they’re a great idea; I do think that they fit more naturally in the secondary classrooms, not the elementary ones, but there are definitely ways to modify and integrate the traditional “flipped classroom” into an elementary setting.

Miller makes many excellent points, including the following:

  • Yes, it’s a video, and today’s students tend to be more comfortable looking at a screen than at a piece of paper, but it’s still a lecture. Teachers need to establish a purpose for their recorded lecture beyond the fact that it’s required material. If they don’t, why are students going to bother watching?
  • Is it fair to require students to watch the videos outside of class time? In certain schools, including the one at which I will be working this fall, teachers are not allowed to grade any homework or projects or anything that is completed outside of the classroom, nor are we allowed to include homework completion as part of any interim grade or progress report grade. Miller believes that making the videos mandatory is unfair to students, and I have to say that I agree. Imagine a student in 5th grade who plays violin and competes on a gymnastics team. Her parents also believe in family dinner at the table, and she has a bedtime of 8:45. Between lessons, rehearsals, concerts, practice, competitions, dinners, and the typical bedtime routine of a 10 year old, how on Earth is this girl supposed to watch a “flipped” lecture that is intended to replace the majority of a 30-45 minute lesson?
  • My biggest takeaway from this article is this one final point: Flipped classrooms are a good step forward, but they are not a solution. It is a great concept, and it may very well become as common a practice in education as the two-finger quiet signal, but only time will answer that question. 

The Legend of the Sun and the Wind

A retelling of the classic Aesop’s fable, with some modern characters thrown in for fun. I created this video using Windows Movie Maker, and I have to say, it is a very easy program to learn. I would not be surprised if a classroom of students could figure it out even faster than I did. If you are interested in learning more about basic video editing and movie making, I strongly recommend you check out Windows Movie Maker. I also recommend reading the fable of the North Wind and the Sun after you watch my movie! 🙂