Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Spelling Debate

Do you have the spelling debate at your school? I have had it several times in my teaching career. "Does spelling help the students?" "Which words should we use?" "Spelling is statistically the most supported by parents." Etc....  At my current school we have done different lists and different programs and finally decided to compile our own lists based on phonics, high frequency words and content words. It was effective last year and we plan on doing it again this year. I really question the spelling debate so I thought I would do some research. Does spelling matter in a digital age with auto correct? Does it help our students?

Here is what I have found:

Spelling Matters This article makes the argument that spelling does matter in your day to day. Writing I totally agree with this point.

No Friday Spelling Test This article is a suggestion of what a teacher does instead of a weekly spelling test. I agree with the points made as well. If the students are only memorizing words for the test there is not a benefit. The spelling ability needs to be able to carry over into their writing.

Why Learning Spelling is Important This article was one of the few that I could find that makes the case for spelling tests. I think there are several good points here as well.

I feel like I am back to square one on the debate after reading all of these articles. I still plan to give spelling. I do Friday homework packets so they have the weekend (if they want it) to practice and I try to make the spelling homework  and class work meaningful and fun. I also think compiling lists that are words that used in day to day teaching are valuable.

Weigh in! What do you think about spelling? How do you handle it in your school?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Music Monday with Sue McTigue

Hello from Sue McTigue at Teach Me With a Song! 

Music in the Elementary Classroom - Why, How and When?

Do you use music in your classroom?  If you're an elementary school teacher, the answer is probably a definite yes!  Even many middle and high school teachers use music in their classrooms in some way.
Why, How and When does music fit in to you and your student’s school day?  

During my career as a music teacher, I have had the pleasure of seeing the amazing way classroom teachers use music every day.  Though I am a music teacher, I learned a thing or two from these classroom teachers and borrowed many of their ideas.

Why do teachers and students use music in their classrooms?

…is a huge motivator!
…creates atmosphere and mood.
…helps to manage the energy of  a class.
…helps to create bonds between teachers and students  
…is a vocabulary builder.
…helps to teach the structure and rhythm of language.
…makes sometimes dull or boring concepts exciting!
…encourages risk taking and confidence.
…is fun - kids love to sing!

When do teachers and students use music in their classrooms?

Transitions between lessons and activities:
…at the beginning or ending a lesson such as using the same recorded music at the beginning of a lesson as a cue to students that it is starting.
…when cleaning up.
….when making a circle.
…at the beginning of the school day.
…when the class as a whole needs calming or energizing.
…when learning a new language
.…when learning concepts and skills as part of the learning experience: 
  • counting songs
  • color songs
  • geography songs
  • science songs
  • math songs
  • alphabet songs
  • animal songs
How do teachers use music in their classrooms?

Teachers and students use music by:
…using technology.
… creating digital stories.
…writing poetry.
… teaching concepts, skills and content.

Music and Content:
There are many songs that help teach many subjects including social studies, math and science.  I love science, especially geology! Don’t all kids love to hunt for cool rocks?  I have a song about that!

If you are needing music related to the rock cycle, minerals, gemstones and earth changes, look no further!  My music program based on national science standards is perfect for a basic geology unit.  This musical with 7 songs, script, orchestrated accompaniment and rehearsal tracks has already been performed in several Colorado schools and schools in other states.

I hope you enjoy this short preview of the opening song, "Rock Concert!"

If you'd like to know more about "Rock Concert!" visit the informational site at:

Music can transform a “so-so” learning environment to a “Wow! I love school!” engaging space. Think of the ways you use music now and add a couple more during the first week of school.  I think you’ll find that your classroom will come to life!

Contact me for song ideas and questions about getting started with using music in your classroom!  
Please Visit: 
my store: Sue McTigue at Teach Me With a Song
Sue's Facebook Page
Sue's Pinterest

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Multiple Response Strategies

Happy Thursday! It's Lori from Live, Laugh, Love Second, and I'm so excited to be writing my first blog post for Resources with Altitude! It's so great to be collaborating with so many fabulous Colorado teachers. You can check out my blog by clicking on my button below!

Before I dive off into the land of Multiple Response Strategies, let me tell you a little about how I came to be where I am today. I was born and raised in Texas. I married a soldier young, had a baby boy, and moved overseas, where I was a stay-at-home mommy. We had another baby boy and moved back to Texas. The following year my husband was killed in Iraq, which set off a chain of events that ultimately brought me to Colorado, where I finished my degree. I got my first teaching job, married my now-husband, and had a baby girl. This fall I will begin my 6th year of teaching second grade, which I love! Even though my life definitely took me in a direction I did not expect, I am so happy that I made the decision to move forward. I really can't imagine not being a teacher!

And speaking of being a teacher-I've had Multiple Response Strategies on my mind lately. We use these in order to get as many answers as we can as many times as we can from students. I thought it would be great to share all of my personal favorites and throw in some new ones I've recently discovered.

I made these clip cards when I was struggling with some *peeking eyes* in my class. It didn't matter how many times I told them I would be happier with an incorrect answer than a dishonest one, it still happened. This was my solution. Everyone got a card. There were 4 different colors and 4 different answer sequences.  They held the card in their laps, clipped, an answer, and then revealed on my call. They loved the clipping, I loved the honest answers.

Ahhh, Plickers. My most favorite app this school year. If you haven't tried it out, you must. I made this image extra big so you could see the screenshots. Basically, it works like this: It syncs a computer and your device (I used an iPhone). You generate your own questions into a bank, which will show on your computer screen, which I then projected for kids to see. Kids have cards with varying QR-type codes. Depending on which way they hold the card, it represents a certain answer, like A, B, C, or D. (Picture on right) You then scan the room with your device, and it registers each student's card. You can actually see their names pop up on the camera screen as it registers the specific card. Students name turn green on the device and are checked off on the computer screen when their answers have been registered, and you can see a bar graph showing the class's answers as a whole. (Picture on left) You can also change screens on your device and see which answers students picked. My kids LOVED these cards. Instant data, guaranteed engagement.

I got this idea from my assistant principal. My students sat in pods of 4, so every so often I would stick a little note under 1 chair at each pod that said "HOT SEAT". After a table discussion, I would ask for my friends in the "Hot Seat". Everyone would get excited (okay, some were terrified they were in the Hot Seat!) and quickly look under their chairs. (And yes, the first time we did it was CRAZY and CHAOTIC, but they got better.) Whoever was in the Hot Seat had to report out for their group. Pretty simple.

I had a large A, B, C, and D posted in different spots in the room. Usually after writing answers on their whiteboards, students would then have to move to the corner that showed their answer. The whiteboard piece kept them accountable for *their* answer, so there was no switching corners just because more people were at another. It was great for a quick reteaching or correcting a miscommunication.

Pretty self-explanatory. Each student at the table had a push light. They had to explain how they knew their push light was the correct answer or why it was not the correct answer. Then, they would push the light if they thought they were correct. Sometimes 2 lights were pushed and more in-depth discussion occurred, which was awesome!

Table talks enable all the students to share their answers with someone else. I would pair up colors for think, pair, share or have them work in a situation similar to the Hot Seat, having a specific color being responsible for the group's answer.

Of course the list could go on and on, but these are some of my old and new favorites! In fact, I want to share with you the updated clip cards I made for this year. Click on the picture below to download the template for free! Simply print on colored card stock, laminate for stability, grab some clothespins, and you're set!

Have a great week!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

6 Education Theorists Every Teacher Should Know

Hi There!  It's Hannah, from The Classroom Key.

If you're not asleep during staff meetings, you've probably heard the phrase "research-based practices" thrown around a lot.  Do you silently ask yourself, "Sooo, which practices are research-based anyway?"  I don't know about you but it's been a little while since I originally learned about the people that did some of the major research in education.  Lucky for all of us, I have put together a cheat sheet.

Education Theorists

All of these guys did a lot more work than what is mentioned in this graphic.  I just tried to pull out what was most relevant to teachers.  The cool thing is, you probably recognize a lot of these practices as thing you're already doing.

Lev Vygotsky - How do you decide the level at which to instruct your students?  Vygotsky says to determine their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).  This means the skills that are just a little bit beyond their reach.  When you are working with a small reading group, don't pick books that kids can read perfectly.  Pick ones that are just a little bit challenging, that students will need some support to read.  Eventually a student's ZPD bumps up higher because they have mastered the skills you were supporting them with.  

Scaffolding is not a term that Vygotsky actually used but it's a concept that developed based on his work.  When you scaffold a student, you give them support to complete a task that they can't quite do on their own.  For example, at first, students need to be walked through every step of long division.  Gradually the scaffolding can be reduced.  Maybe they just need a couple of reminders at tricky spots.  Eventually the scaffolding can be removed because the student can complete the task on their own.  

Jean Piaget - Piaget was a constructivist which means he believed that kids learn by manipulating, modifying, and otherwise working with concepts.  They construct their own learning rather than just being told something.  Piaget worked with the idea that the things people know are organized into schemas.  When a child learns something new, they either assimilate it into an existing schema, change their schema, or develop a new schema.  Do you activate background knowledge before a lesson?  You're helping students tap into their existing schema!

B.F. Skinner - When I taught second grade and my class was on the wrong track, I would look for the one kid doing the right thing and say, "Wow, I love how Jesse is standing with his hands to his side and his voice turned off."  As I positively reinforced this behavior with praise, other students would jump on board, too.  This is the heart of behaviorism.  It's the idea that praise and rewards positively reinforce a behavior and encourage kids to continue with it.  Punishments discourage students from a behavior.  Beyond following rules, there are learning actions we can reinforce.  If you display quality student work, praise students for using strategies, let students publish on cool paper when they have their writing perfect, etc. you are using behaviorism to guide students toward the behaviors and actions of successful adults.  

Jerome Bruner - If you have decent curriculum to use, you've probably seen Bruner's idea of spiral curriculum at work.  Elementary students can't design roads and bridges but they can begin to learn about the physics of how the slope of a ramp effects the speed of a ball rolling down that ramp.  Each year they can revsit and build on their previous learning. 

Benjamin Bloom - You may have heard of Bloom's Taxonomy.  It's a hierarchy of intellectual behaviors.  The lowest level is remembering facts.  The highest level is using your knowledge to create something new.  With the new Common Core standards we've heard a lot about increasing rigor for our students.  One way to do this is to make sure we're involving our students in higher order thinking activities at the top of Bloom's Taxonomy, not just in memorizing facts. 

Howard Gardner - Gardner found that people have more than one way of processing information and that a typical IQ score doesn't completely measure intelligence.  He created the theory of Multiple Intelligences.  In the classroom we can engage multiple intelligences by singing educational songs, allowing students to work through concepts verbally, through art, through writing, with partners, and through movement.

I bet a lot of these theories already guide your teaching and now you know the researchers to connect them to.  Pin the image above for handy reference!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Technology Tips

This past week I attended InnEdCO.  It is Innovation, Education, Colorado and used to be known as TIE (Technology In Education) and it is for Colorado educators by Colorado educators. It was a wonderful conference. I have not attended for several years and I was so happy to go back. I want to teach you a little bit of what I learned. A three day conference could make for a VERY long blog post so I will just highlight a little bit of it!

Google Forms:

If you are like me, I see google forms everywhere used for everything, in the classroom out of the classroom etc. I was not sure how to dress them up before the conference and now I know what all they are capable of!

1. You need a google account.
2. From your google drive you will choose new and then scroll to more and forms is the first option there.
3. Next you can change the setting of who can view the form at the top. If you want it public on the web you will uncheck everything. 
4. Fill in your questions and add photos or youtube videos. If you want a personal video you need to upload it to youtube and then use that url. You can add graphs and tables too. You can select the option from advanced settings. 

5. Dress it up by adding a theme. You will go to the top and change the theme. 

6. Once you select customize you can add your own image on top, change the font and font color. 

7. There are several add ons that you can use to make your teaching life easier. My favorite is Flubaroo. This add one will grade the google form for you. From your drive you will choose the responses of the google form. This will be a spread sheet. You will choose an add on from the top. It will prompt you to use one as an answer sheet. You should do the form yourself and use that as an answer key. Then it will grade for you! One teacher at the conference said she forwards the scores to the parents by email. They use forms and Flubaroo for their spelling tests. 

I hope you feel like you can use forms better in your classroom! 

I also learned about Class Flow. This website will unite any device into one classroom. You can create different surveys with different types of questions. It is a live class and could be used for tests and classes. I thought it was really neat because it works with any device for any student. 

The last thing I wanted to share with you is the Level It Books App. This app allows you to scan books barcode and it gives you the reading level. That way students can choose books that are right on their level. 

I really look forward to using all of this technology in my classroom! I hope you are able to use some of these tips too!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Technology Thursday: Tips for Using iTechnology in the Classroom

Hellllooooo! Sara here from Mrs. P's Special Education Classroom.

I'm starting a new blog series for our Colorado Teacher Collaborative Blog: Resources with Altitude. The series will focus on using iTechnology in your classroom. 

While some of these tips might already be in play in your classroom, it's amazing how many teachers are presented with technology without any sort of professional developments or guides.

Today's session will be how to create custom wallpaper for your classroom iPads & iPods and how to install it. I have seen many classrooms use the wallpaper and lock screen as a way to keep track of the devices. In my classroom, I had an iPad for each student (I only had 4 students last year....lucky me!). I didn't need to keep track of which iPad was which, but I did need to create wallpaper so that students did not tamper with it (I taught Middle School...............).


I started by opening a document in PowerPoint. 
Click File then Page Setup.

Once you hit Page Setup, a pop up will come on your screen. Set your width to 4 inches and the height to 5 inches. 

Once you click OK, your document will look like this. 

Now comes my favorite part of this process!

I use digital scrapbook paper that I have purchased as backgrounds for all of my products and designs. When I create my backgrounds I like to add them as Backgrounds instead of pictures so that the paper does not move while I'm creating. To do this, I click Theme in my Home Bar. I then go to the far right and click background which will bring a drop down menu to your screen. Select Format Background.

A Pop Up will come on to your screen. At the top of the Pop Up, you will have 4 options. Choose Picture or Texture. Then choose Choose Picture. This will give you the opportunity to locate the specific scrapbook paper or picture you want to use as your background. Once you have selected your photo, click Apply. 

Your document will look similar to this (with whatever design you choose). You will not be able to move your background, but if you want to make another choice, just go through the steps again.

Once you have your background, you are free to add text boxes and insert clipart into your document, just as you would if you were designing a product for TPT or your classroom.

Once you have finished, click File then Save As...

Save your document as whatever you want for the name. I ALWAYS save to my Desktop then move it to where I need it after I have finished posting or sending it. For the format, click the arrow that will pull down a drop down menu. Click JPEG. This will save your document in a Folder on your desktop. 

ONce you have saved your document, it's now time to transfer your iTechnology background to your device. If you have a newer mac, you can "Airdrop" your document to your device. It means that you're sending your document over your personal network. Before "Airdrop" was available to me, I would either send it via text message or email. 

Once on your document is on your iPad, open up your Pictures App. Touch the document you want to use as your iPad Wallpaper. In the bottom left hand corner, there will be a box with an arrow pointing up. Press that box. 

When you press the box with the arrow pointing up, Options will be brought up on the bottom of the screen. On the bottom row, you will see an option to Use as Wallpaper. Touch the Option. 

The last step in this process is to choose if you want the wallpaper to be used as your Lock Screen or  your Home Screen. The Lock Screen is what you will see when you wake your iPad up from sleep by pressing the HOme button. The Home Screen will be the background that is behind your apps after you have put in your passcode. 


Look for other tips and tricks in this series in TWO WEEKS! We will be focusing on how to lock a student in a specific app -----> A GODSEND FOR LITTLES AND SNEAKY SNEAKERSONS!!!!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Hello! From Music a la Abbott

Hi there!!!  My name is Amy Abbott of Music a la Abbott.

I also am a blogger on a collaborative blog called Kodály Corner.

About me:
I am a PROUD Colorado native.  I was born in Denver and when I was one we moved to Lafayette.  My parents are also Colorado natives, my mom is from Louisville and my dad from Englewood.  I have a young brother, Aaron, who lives now in my Granny's old house in Louisville and my parents live in the house that I grew up in.

I am also a PROUD University of Colorado alum, GO BUFFS!!!!  After I graduated with my Bachelors in Music Education in 1998 I moved to Salem, OR and taught there for three years. Teaching wise, it was the BEST situation I could have asked for but personally I really missed my family. So, in 2001 I moved back to Colorado.  That summer at my brother's wedding I was re-introduced to the man who would become my husband.  Reintroduced?  Yes, we went to high school together!  In fact, I had both of his parents for teachers in high school (his mom was my freshman Language Arts teacher and his dad was my Phys. Ed. teacher for two semesters).  I also received my master in music education with a Kodály emphasis from Colorado State University and hold Kodály certifications from both Portland State University and Colorado State University.

We have been blessed with two amazing kids, Noah and Hannah.  Here's a picture of my wacky clan:

My family is composed of teachers, both my in-laws were teachers, my mom and brother are both music teachers (my little bro is the band teacher at Centaurus High School), my husband is a teacher at Monarch High school, my brother's wife teaches at a middle school in my district (both she and my hubby are history teachers) one of my brother-in-laws teaches 4th grade at Flynn Elementary in Adams 50 and my other brother-in-law just quit his engineering job to go back to school to become a teacher, he's getting certified in math, science and art.  Phew!  Yes, we "talk shop a lot".

I have been teaching in St. Vrain Valley School district for 14 years, with the last 4 at Red Hawk elementary.  It's quite an amazing school and the best part is my own two kids go there! Noah will be in 3rd grade and Hannah will be in kindergarten.  Noah's been known to walk by on the way back from recess and say hi:

And Hannah has been there for two years already, attending preschool and sitting through many choir and handbell rehearsals.  When she wasn't sitting through rehearsals before school she was pretending to lead them:

At Red Hawk I see over 800 kids a week, seeing all the preschool-5th graders. Before school I teach choir 2 mornings a week and handbells two mornings a week.  I do get to see my preschoolers as I volunteer my prep and lunch times to see them.  I'll get into this a little bit more a little later.  

Last year we did our first musical, Seussical!  It was so much fun!  A 2nd grade teacher (who has a bachelors in theater), a parent volunteer (who has a doctorate degree in musical theater) and I collaborated:

We had so much fun that we're tackling this one next year:

Finally, I also teach in the summer!  I'm the level 2 Kodály Pedagogy, Folk Song and Analysis teacher at Colorado State University with these two lovely ladies who teach level 1 & 3 with me: Tanya LeJeune, who teaches in JeffCo and Karla Cherwinski, who teaches in Ohio:

Music and collaboration
Now, enough about me! Phew, I don't usually go into that much detail.  One more thing I will share is I believe strongly in the power of music education.  We all know, or we have heard, about the impact that music has on other subject areas, which is what I'm going to touch on in this post, but more so I believe that music education has tremendous value and importance in education without depending on how it affects and impacts other subject areas (not to say this in not important too!).  Music teaches children how to express themselves, how to find their voice, how to relate to the world around them and most importantly, it brings joy and expression to their lives.  My number one goal is for my students to become singers and musicians, for them to be able to express themselves in a safe and supportive environment and for them to learn to take musical risks.

That all said, one of my professional goals this year is to collaborate with my preschool and kindergarten teachers to use common materials in my class and their language arts classes.  Being a Kodály teacher (for those non-music folk, Kodály is a philosophy of teaching music in which the heart of it lies that music is for everyone, singing is the basis and the folk music of the mother language of the child is the basis then branching out into music of other cultures and art music), nursery rhymes and chants are used a lot in my preschool and kindergarten classes.  So, we will be discussing what they use, how I can teach musical skills with the common materials and what they can teach for literacy (and even math).

This week I met with one of my preschool teachers and they use LRI in their classes.  So I'm going to be using the nursery rhymes that they will use each week in class when I come in for music to teach musical skills such as beat, vocal exploration, rhythm, etc., and they will use it to teach rhyming and sight words.  I'm making them visuals to use, including cue cards and "rhymes on a ring" that they can use for the students to chose which rhyme they want to say but also some sight word worksheets for their littles, like these two examples:

I'm so excited to be a part of this collaborative blog and sharing some ideas with you related to music and classroom connections!