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New Article in Creative Educator: Authentic Audiences

17 Sep

“Beyond waiting “To Grow Up”

For too long, our students have worked tirelessly for an audience of one: their teacher. When class assignments assume that work is simply preparation for some future “real world,” this singular audience makes sense. But in the course of a 21st century school year, if a class of students never produces anything worthy of being showcased for a real audience, the students’ potential has been both overlooked and under-realized.

Brilliant solutions to problems, insightful compositions, and entertaining performances are not unique to grown-ups. I have watched a fourth grader write a short novel that hit number seventy-five on an Amazon bestseller list, and a kindergartener execute a talent show performance that moved an audience to tears. In 2012, people across the nation marveled as 15-year old, Jack Andraka won the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with research likely to revolutionize pancreatic cancer detection.

Each of these examples is the result of quality 21st century educational experiences… the result of experiences that allowed students to set personal goals, take ownership of their own progress, engage a real-world situation, and make an impact on a community significantly larger than an audience of one….”

Read the rest of my article and contribute to the conversation on the Creative Educator website.


7 Ways Technology Can Enhance Your World Read Aloud Day Celebration

2 Mar

With World Read Aloud Day just around the corner, it’s not too late to use your technological resources to enhance your celebration and bring reading to life for your students. Here are seven ways to do just that!

1. Guest Readers & Audiences – Using Skype, iChat, Facetime or other applications, classes can bring in virtual guest readers. Guest readers come in all shapes and sizes. LitWorld and Kate Messner both provided a list of published authors who are willing to Skype with students on WRAD, which you can find at
Yet, guest readers can also be students’ parents or grandparents, volunteers from local businesses or organizations, or even students and teachers at other schools. If you would like to connect with other educators who are interested in Skyping for WRAD, visit this wiki created by John Schu and Shannon Miller –
By the way, don’t miss out on the opportunity to allow your own students to serve as the Guest Readers for other classes or schools as well!

2. Podcasting – Get your students excited about reading by using voice-recording applications to record themselves reading aloud. or the Voice Memos app on various iDevices are simple ways to implement this… or use a more robust program like Audacity, Aviary or Garageband, which would even allow students to add mood music or sound effects to their productions. Play these finished masterpieces for the class or publish them online to share with others!

3. Talking Avatars – Using the voice recording function at, students can use their voices to create an avatar that can read aloud to the class. Whether Abraham Lincoln is reading the Gettysburg Address or a cat is reading Carl Sandburg’s famous Fog poem, this activity will delight students of all ages.
Bonus: Students can read their own poems and compositions aloud as well! Check out this elementary Voki project by Samantha Lewis that promotes literacy and writing through Dr. Seuss inspired rhyming poems.

4. VoicethreadVoicethread is a dynamic digital media tool that will allow your students to write or record comments. For World Read Aloud Day, create a Voicethread with slides for various figures of speech or genres and allow your students to read aloud to audio or video record examples that they discover in literary works. (Learn more about this tool’s potential at

5. Digital Storytelling – To celebrate both reading and writing, consider allowing the students to create Digital Storybooks using the Web 2.0 application, Little Bird Tales. This application allows students to compose a written piece, draw original illustrations and record themselves reading the book aloud. Best of all, they are easy to share with the class, e-mail to parents or paste on your class website.

6. Puppet Shows or Reader’s Theater – Lights! Camera! Action! Bring reading to life with a little drama! Use your document camera to create live or recorded Read Alouds of Reader’s Theater or other works with engaging images of student-created popsicle stick avatars, finger puppets or other manipulatives. For example, read Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar with a large popsicle stick avatar of the caterpillar and real versions of the red apple, two green pears, a cupcake, a single leaf and more.

7. Video Book Reviews – Students can use a webcam, Flipcam or Doc Cam to record a review of a favorite book, including sharing illustrations and reading their favorites passages aloud.
Bonus: Upload these video book reviews online and connect their URLs to QR codes ( that can be printed and affixed to the cover of the book for other students to watch throughout the school year!

Using Technology, you can easily use your World Read Aloud Day event to ignite a passion for reading in your students and allow it to spread far beyond your classroom walls.

World Read Aloud Day takes place on Wednesday, March 7th. For more ideas, activities resources, visit You can even download their original picture book, New Day, New Friends, to share with your class!

The 5 Fave: Time Management Tools for the Creative Mind

20 Feb

Time Management – The linear organization of all things.

The Creative Mind – The sprawling, tangled web of all things.

Perhaps you can imagine the problem of aligning the two?  Perhaps even have the problem?  I certainly do.  And if you’re anything like me, you may appreciate these 5 Fave tools that help get me through the day.

#5 – Google Calendar

What’s great about the Google Calendar is that it can be collaborative and accessible from anywhere.  I set up a Google Calendar a couple years ago to manage the use of the computer lab at school.  By sharing the log-in and a common calendar, teachers can easily see when the lab is available and sign up for their desired time in the lab.  The best part for me is that I use Google Calendar Sync, which automatically sends an event to my Outlook calendar.  Plus, you can even set it to e-mail you with reminders!

#4 – Outlook Calendar and Reminders

I love having a calendar attached to my e-mail management.  Every date and event that is sent to me by administrators, teachers, parents, and students can quickly be added (of course, with strategic reminders to keep me on track).  You probably use a calendar in this way, too.  But have you considered creating events and reminders for regularly occurring activities as well?  This has been so helpful.

For example, I set up a reminder for my elementary staff and me to send in our lunch counts and orders each morning.  You would think I would remember to eat, but as any teacher knows, once a morning gets rolling, it’s like a semi-truck heading down a mountain.  Without something disrupting the momentum, we’re heading to the cafeteria before we  know it.

Perhaps the most embarrassing to share (and yet powerful) reminder I’ve set is one that pops up each morning telling me, “You make a difference in kids’ lives!  Be amazing today!”  This chance to remember why I do what I do and to focus on what’s important is a great way to start my days. (I’m not the only one who gets this reminder at my school, by the way.)  🙂

#3 – The Peaceful Progression Wake-Up Clock

Yes, an alarm clock makes the list.  My creative mind loves working at night, staying up late, sleeping in, and waking up to sunshine. Even living in Florida, that is not the reality of my teacher’s schedule.  This clock is a life-saver.  Beginning thirty minutes before the alarm time, the clock simulates the sunrise. Fifteen minutes before the alarm, you have the option of adding nature sounds (I prefer the birds).  Within a few days, your body’s natural alarm clock will wake up on its own before the traditional buzzing alarm even begins.  (As an added bonus, if you’re anything like me and you still snooze it after this miracle and need the back-up of tool #2, you’ll at least get to wake up to soft light instead of the darkness of early morning.)

#2 – Cell Phone Alarm

I use this not only in the morning, but for reminders throughout the day – what I need at the grocery store, what I need to bring to school for tomorrow’s new project, etc.  The one tip I have to is find something soothing to wake up to.  My favorite is the first 30 seconds of “Hearing Damage” by Thom Yorke.  It’s like waking up to white noise.

#1 – The Non-Planner Datebook

I have never had much success with calendars and planners.  Prior to getting this datebook, I had barely made it a month before losing or discarding the dozens of them I’d tried.  But this datebook by Keri Smith is perfect for the creative mind.  Not only does it have monthly calendar pages, but it also has attractive spaces for lists, doodling, journaling, or writing any of the ideas you have that go with the events on your calendar.  For the first time in my life, I’ve kept a planner for seven months straight.

These five things keep my days in order.  You may not need them or need them all, but for those of us who struggle to straighten the tangled web, they may be just what the doctor ordered.

Use other ideas or tools that you’d recommend?  Share them with us!