Sunday, August 13, 2017

Language Arts in Elementary Schools

I am familiar with the VocabularySpellingCity adoption by schools, districts, teachers, and parents across the country.

It started with the automated spelling test.  What a gas! Kids were finally empowered to really test themselves and not have to ask for help to practice their words. And, the test itself and all the practice activities were gamified so the kids stopped complaining about practicing their spelling words and started learning them.  

Teachers were like Oh WOW, I don't have to grade and record a spelling test this week? Or ever again.  Suddenly, after years of fighting technology, somebody has actually introduced some technology that simplified their life and saved them class time and effort. How much do teachers LOVE VocabularySpellingCity? So Much.  Other activities have come along which have also made a huge difference.

For nstance, the site introduced tens of thousands of word lists ready-to-use on almost any topic. Want to have a vocabulary test on top European countries?  Third grade geometry words?  1st Grade Compound Words?  8th grade level analogies and metaphors.  The site has a veritable Swiss Army knife of possibilities.  Want help finding the right materials for your grade? Start with the info on your grade level. Here:

Kindergarten Word Lists;
1st Grade Word Lists
2nd Grade Word Lists
3rd Grade Word Lists
4th Grade Word Lists
5th Grade Word Lists
6th Grade Word Lists

Lastly, the site has a serious number of great learning games. I won't list them here but still, fantastic materials. Enjoy! It's only $2.25 per student per year for schools!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Phonics Prereading skills

Homeschool moms: pay attention to the sequence of learning to read. While there is much to debate and which doesn't relaly matter, afew things do.

What may or may not matter. Letter names. Plenty of kids have learned to read without knowing the names of all the letters. I fyou think about it, knowing what the name of the B or the D is does not help you to read at all. It arguably gets in the way since its name is a useless fact. Of, you could argue that knowing the name makes it easier to deal with letters.  Many countries such as England and France do NOT teach letter names until later in elementary school after the kids have learned to read. They, by the way, have less problems teaching kids to read that the Good Old USA!

What does matter. Phonological skills. The kids who do not learn to discriminate between p and b, or m and n, and so on, have a very difficult time with both verbal and reading skills.   From early on, parents should play games and find software that helps kids build these skills. Examples:

Sound It Out - A great Phonological Skill Building game. Her'es a detailed description of how these phonological prereading skills are developed by it.  And here's a link to a collection of prereading phonics-skill building games.

Why are these phonological skills important? 

Building early literacy skills begins with phonological awareness, the key element in learning phonics. Once they can begin to understand phonics, the system of sound and letter correspondence, beginning readers can accurately decode words and writers can spell them. Word recognition also includes the automaticity of word meaning. Developing good spelling and vocabulary skills is essential for effective written communication as well. Vocabulary development also promotes fluency by building background knowledge and concepts necessary for reading comprehension. Developing these skills over time achieves the ultimate goal of reading and writing fluency.

For English Language LearnersSound It Out is exceptionally useful.  As background, we all know that one of the challenges for ELL students is mastering the phonological skills of distinguishing the sounds (both for hearing and for speaking) that exist in English but not in their original languages. For instance, native Spanish speakers need to learn to distinguish the English /v/ from the /b/ sound.  Other English sounds that are difficult for native Spanish speakers include the /l/ sound, the short /i/, and the /ch/ sound. But with Sound It Out, these tough sounds can be listened to and practiced, sound by sound, giving them the power to pursue proficiency.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Education Is Fun

As Marshall McCluhan reportedly said, "If you don't think entertainment can be educational, you don't know the first thing about either one."

We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us. 

Here some images that I'm going to post temporarily as part of a tech test project. Stay tuned. Plus, I need to look up Marshalls name....

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Education and Games

An Opportunity for Game Developers to Pool Sales and Marketing Efforts
I received this email last week and I assume it's a marketing come-on in which I pay fees for marketing under the auspices or guise of a "collaborative." Or maybe it is some brave sole trying to create a new channel and visibility for educational games. Maybe I'll check it out. Of course, a lot of our educational marketing is for Susan's homeschoolers.


You probably know that one of my passions has been finding a way to increase the use of game-based learning in schools. And you probably also know that the sales channel has been the single greatest challenge in the education market.

I am now creating a sales and marketing collaborative so that education game companies can pool their sales and marketing resources, and have a better chance of selling into schools.

If you know of games companies that might be interested, or if you want to find out more, please let me know. I'll be at FETC next week, so if you're there, we can find a time to talk.

Thank you, and hope you have a great 2017,

Academic Business Advisors

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Instructional Design, Game Design, User Experience

There are three broadly overlapping disciplines which we need to reconcile as we design our student interactions and activities for our educational software.

1. Instructional design. Our goal is for the students to learn.  We all know that being told something is quite different from learning it.  There are many theories and models on how student learning and instruction works.  Most are, from the point of view that I care about, very flawed. Here are a few articles on the topic:

Why do I say that they are flawed from our point of view?
 The questions that we wrestle with are how best to help build literacy skills in elementary students using technology.  This puts us smack dab in the middle of the ongoing "Reading Wars." (See also the Atlantic Article on Reading Wars).  Simplistically, there are people who stress the fact that as students are given reading experiences, their minds will figure out the patterns and they will learn to read.  There are plenty of students for whom this works.  This is the Whole Word method. There is a another camp that says that if the students are given proper instruction in building phonics skills, they have the tools to learn to decipher text and learn to read.  There are many students for whom the phonics instruction approach works.  In the real world, a blended approach with both memorization of sight words, phonics instruction, and some broad exposure is generally adopted but the wards have raged for decades on what balance and sequence should this blend be built on. Common Core seems to have titled toward phonics but only slightly. Instead, CCSS emphasizes rigor and that the comprehension skills should be far more rigorous than previously expected. This assumes mastery of basic reading skills so it's not so involved in this age-old debate.

None of the educational models are directly applicable to this high stakes intense question of strategies for teaching reading.

2. Game design. Engaging students in education through the use of the techniques of video and computer games is the holy grail of much of edtech. As a former designer of Playstation games (I went Platinum back in teh PSX 1 Days), I am both a huge fan of this  idea and I come at it with some real understanding of the limits and difficulties of this approach.

3. User Experience. UIX. How to streamline and simplify and make navigation and use of a computer program as intuitive and pleasurable as possible. 

An important question underlying all of this is what grade and levels of students are our target audience? Here's the answer

Friday, February 26, 2016

Classroom Spelling

In classrooms, spelling is a perennial subject and challenge.  How best to organize the weekly spelling and vocabulary word lists?  There is really only one great choice for how best to organize a weekly or daily program for classroom spelling.

SpellingCity! It's the best! Key features:

  1. Thousands of list by grade!  There are compound words, frequently confused words, math words, science words, social studies words, and so many types of words. Did I mention literature-based word lists?
  2. Over 35 different learning games for spelling and vocabulary for your classroom
  3. Classroom management for learning spelling and vocabulary. Automated grade book, differentiated instruction, The entire spelling process of words and tests is automated for your classroom.
So there's only one choice for classroom spelling support, that's the service!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Educations 2016, What's New?

There's a lot of news:

The Federal Govenment finally moved on from NCLB & Race to the Top to ESSA. Teh big changesa re a shift towards state control of the testing and impact of failing the tests. The only Federal government is that the testing be at a rigorous level.

Another big change is lots more money for K, PreK, and 1st. This is really great to counteract all the focus on 2nd-5th where principals poured in resource since they tended to worry about THIS YEARS TEST!

There's no new money yet for early Science education but we can always hope. I'm hoping that a tech-based approach to elementary education based on the 5E educational model will be adopted by all the Title I schools around the country.  Here's some info on that:

The first part of the 5E model, Engage, introduces the new science concept by determining the student’s’ prior knowledge while revealing student misconceptions. Our online Engage activities include an interactive digital notebook followed by a short video clip, an additional follow up digital notebook activity and then students will hear listening comprehension questions. The offline Engage handout is a hands-on activity that can be used in whole group, in centers or 1:1.
Following the Engage is the Explore. When kindergarten, 1st grade and 2nd grade students Explore, they are provided with an opportunity to “play” as they identify and develop their current understanding of the foundational science concepts. While generating new ideas, elementary students will begin to develop their own questions. The offline Explore worksheet is called, “Take it a Step Further.” This handout provides students with a hands on, inquiry-based science activity that further enhances their ability to ask questions.
During the Explain phase, elementary students are provided a clear, concise description of the new concept which will include formal labels and essential vocabulary through a fun and captivating video clip. Within the Explain segment is a “Show What You Know” game-show-like assessment that checks for student understanding. The offline handout is a graphic organizer or mind map that also determines mastery of the foundational science concept.
The Elaborate phase of the 5E Instructional Model is meant to provide in-depth learning experiences. This is also where Science4Us blends in literacy, technology and engineering components through game-based activities. Kindergarten, 1st grade and 2nd grade students can swim in the science and enhance the overall experience by adding in cross-curricular fun. Offline handouts include many literacy concepts such as compare and contrast, fluency, categorizing and classifying and creative writing.
The final phase of the 5E model is the Evaluate. This was designed to assess overall student understanding of the foundational science concepts and the progress made towards learning the science objectives. The online interactive science assessment is graded automatically for teacher viewing. The offline assessment is specialized for kindergarten, 1st grade and second grade and it includes a standardized test prep version.

And the SAT has given up on the idea of beingg some sort of aptitude test and now it tests academic skills like everyone else. Prepworks won all the awards again this year for SAT adaptive test preparation software.

Prepworks explains that the new writing section on the new SAT is option. "The Redesigned SAT gives students the option of completing an essay. This essay is scored separately from the Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing sections, using a scale of 2-8 points. The essay prompts students to analyze evidence and explain how the author builds a persuasive argument. As compared to the old SAT, the new test gives students twice the amount of time (50 minutes) to complete the Essay."

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Free Educational Resources Curated by Social Media

I've been surprised by Symbaloo's success.  
Symbaloo is really really popular particularly in education.  
Users create collections of resources which get rated based on how many people download and use them.  A webmix can be saved onto the desk top of a computer, built into a webpage, or simply used as a webpage. Enjoy. And pass them on...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Symbaloo Webmixes for Each Elementary Grade Level

I've found a collection of learning games for each elementary school grade.  They're fantastically done webmixes!  Free curated lists of learning games for each grade level!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Science4Us is a mission-driven project designed to address an ongoing weakness in elementary science education. For interested educators and parents, there are great free elementary science resources to give you a sense of the interactive part of the curriculum. There are also great materials for teacher PD and several hundred lessons for hands-on real world exercises in the curriculum for early elementary school students.

Science4Us was developed to address the need for a curriculum to deliver an investigative educational experience for early educational experience.

The development of Science4Us was started in 2010 with the goal of creating a science curriculum based on the 5E Instructional Model which could realistically be implemented in all schools across the country.

 The goal was to use technology and best practices to provide support for teachers and educational activities for students without the prohibitive costs for out-of-class teacher training and extensive kits. A
fter three years, countless trials, millions of dollars, Science4Us, a K-2nd digitally-delivered science curriculum, was introduced at NSTA in San Antonio in April 2013.

 In 2013, the Dept of Education, IES provided an SBIR Grant for game-based learning to support the refinement of the educational model of Science4Us.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Symbaloo Webmix on early science education, free

For those of you who don't know about Symbaloo, I have some fun news.  Bookmarking, or social bookmarking, has gotten really fun and simple.

Symbaloo is simply a way to save links and to share them. A collection of links in Symbalooland (I made up that word) is known as a webmix. Here's one made up of free science educational resources such as online exercises, interactive lessons, and science songs. It's aimed at kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. Enjoy. Download it!

Here's three more webmixes that I'd recommend:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Literacy Learning Gifts to Teacher and Students

What's new you ask? Try this, all the Fry Word Lists are now available to use with 35 different interactive learning activities.  True!

As background, sight words  or high frequency words are the words that fluent readers must recognize instantly and with little effort. These words appear most frequently in reading and writing in the English language. 
  • Dr. Fry's research findings:
    • 25 words make up  one-third of all published text.
    • 100 words comprise 50% of all of the words found in publications.
    • 300 words make up 65% of all written material.

The Fry list is one of many lists of sight words.  The other popular well known list are the Dolch words.

It is said that the Dolch word lists inspired Dr Suess to try to write an entire book of high interest but using all the simple Dolch word list. The result is the Cat in the Hat.  True or urban academic legend?

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Learning, Games, Simulations, and Such

A decade or so ago, it was a novel idea to suggest that learning could happen through playing electronic games and simulations.  

Of course, teachers have created competitive situations for years and made all sorts of fun games for students.  But the entry of digital technology really changed the stakes.

Some games such as SimCity and Civilizations introduced the idea of how powerful these tools could be. But it doesn't seem like the discussion has greatly advanced. 

There seems to be a general confusion between simulations and games.  Simulations are technology based models or simulations of reality. Often they give the students control over some variables.  What is or isn't a simulator is an endlessly interesting question.

Take the PHeT simulations and the ExploreLearning Gizmos for instance. They are both great tools for students to explore how math and science works. Not games, simulations.

Is a music synthesizer a simulator? What about the Digital Frog and other digital tools intended to supplement or replace actual dissections?

Games are games. They have scores, competition or competitive play, immediate feedback, and often dramatic touches to enhance interest. Try playing PacMan with the sound-off and you'll see the importance of pucca pucca.

VocabularySpellingCity claims to be a game-based learning site. Their focus is on using elements of popular games and casual games as a way to motivate students to focus on their vocabulary and spelling words and the letters involved.  Their most popular games:
Word Search, Unscramble, Parts of Speech, Hangman (HangMouse), Crossword Puzzle, Handwriting Printables, Word-O-Rama Game Show Aim-2-Spell , Test and Teach , Coackroach Spelling , Letterfall and Word Find.

Game elements include: high score tables, immediate feedback on mistakes or successes, sound effects, and clever animations. 

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Angela Ma iers & Larry Ferrazo #CE13

This isn't an article, it's just notes from a #CE13, online chat of connected educators.
Choosing to matter.  #youmatter
Telling me that they matter because their contribution is needed. Everyone's genius can and should contribute.  It's not about inspiration or ego or self-esteem, it's about helping them find their passion and asking them to contribute with their genius....
Angela points out that students don't want to be passive.
It's not inspiration. It's a reality. People are needed.....
More about Choose2Matter: Choose2Matter - K12 Online education connector.

Many book clubs in connected educator...

Larry was a community organizer for 19 years prior to being a teacher. The nexus is the drive to find a way to get people to drive themselves. Helping people find motivation....Look for intrinsic motivation.

My themes.
I'm a total education radical. The system as it now exists drives me nuts. Like Geoffrey Canada, I'm angry.  Teachers teach classes saying that its aimed at passing the AP test.  Courses are built around tests. It's all tied up in this circular accreditation thing which has long stopped meaning anything to most of the students going through it.

I became a radical by listening to my Dad.  I became a radical by going to HBS.  I 

An old community organizing principle.  The people most affected by a problem are often best positioned to know how to solve it.

Book Clubs:
Teacherpreneurs by CTQ (Barnett B et al)
The Connected Educator, by Sheryl and Lani 
Invent To Learn, by Sylvia Martinez

What School Leader NeedTo Know About Digital Technologies by Scott McLeod

donnaroman - that was awesome.  I can use that:  What do you want us to notice about you....?

angelamaiers  - Yes Jean---Consider my blog as an open inviation to share your genius with the world community! I try to highlight a teacher, student,leader doing work that matters!

Judy Willis - Ignite
John Medina's book-Brain Rules
Never do anything for others that they can do for themselves...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Charter Schools in South Florida

Wow, these charter school things are multiplying.  Here's a list that I just ran across of Miami/Broward Charter School Chains:
Endeavor Schools - President Ricardo Campo, Brickell Ave, Miami 
CharterUSAFort Lauderdale, Florida 33308
Imagine Schools - local offices and schools with some major functions in South Fl. HQ in VA.
AcademicaMiami, Florida 33143

About Florida's Charter Schools from

Charter schools are public schools of choice. They are very popular—and among the fastest growing school choice options in Florida. Charter schools are largely free to innovate, and often provide more effective programs and choice to diverse groups of students.
Since 1996, the number of charter schools in Florida has grown to over 615 in 2013-14. Charter school student enrollment now tops 229,000 students.

In contrast, Kentucky has zero charter schools.

National Resources

Florida Charter School Growth from .