3 Awesome Sources for Funding Your Classroom

teacher funding
Mr. Gregs Class



One of the most common things we hear from teachers is: “Wow! Your product is amazing! I wish I could afford it!” We understand the dilemma teachers and educators face: getting funding for all the cool stuff they know their students need.

Because we are so committed to helping kids, we are sharing three resources for you to get the funding you need to give your students the best education tools!

1. GetEDFunding.com
(For Public and Private Schools)
Get ed funding



This resource curates thousands of free grants and places them in one convenient spot for you to peruse. They provide tips and ideas on how to apply for and write grants. You can also get an email update of new grants delivered right to your inbox! After you register, you’ll be able to search specifically for a grant that fits your needs. For example, if you are looking for boosting literacy in your classroom, you will search within your grade range and click on “Literacy K-12.” It will then bring a list of potential funding options for which you can apply! Also, we have some free templates here on how to write the best grant request possible!


2. DonorsChoose.com
(For Public Schools Only)
donors choose



This is one of the most popular funding options for teachers, and one that we have seen many teachers get funding for our products. Donors Choose makes it easy for any generous donor to help a classroom in need!

When setting up a Donors Choose project for our products, here are some great tips:

  • Choose Kaplan Early Learning as the vendor.
  • Have a captivating picture as your photo. You will want a clear picture that conveys exactly what you are trying to achieve.
  • Send out an email to all your contacts when you first launch your project to help get some initial funding. You can email friends, family, and communities you are a part of. Learn more about developing a great email campaign here.
  • Share your project over social media. Other than email, social media is an effective place to let people know about your project. You can even send out funding updates and remind people to help with a donation! Facebook has been known as the top, most effective place for online fundraising, but Instagram and Twitter are also good places too! Donors Choose has a great video with more in-depth ideas on how to make your project soar!



3. AdoptAClassroom.org
(For Public, Private, and Charter Schools)
adopt a classroom



The third online resource is AdoptAClassroom.org. Very similar to Donors Choose, teachers and school districts can start and share projects to find donors. You’ll simply create a page for your classroom with details of your needs and people can donate right there! Read more about the process here.

Some helpful tips when using AdoptAClassroom.org are:

  • Create a compelling page! Adopt a Classroom does “pages” instead of “projects,” like Donors Choose. Create a page with excellent pictures, a clear goal, and one that tells your story. People love to give support to compelling stories!
  • Share! This means making your page public and sharing it with people so they can learn about your needs and possibly help. There are also convenient templates to make page creation a breeze!
  • Read all their tips on fundraising. Adopt a Classroom has extensive information on effective fundraising for your classroom!

What other methods and tools have you found to be successful in raising funds for your classroom? Comment below and let us know!



4 Ways to Engage pre-K Students

using technology to engage pre-k kids

Preparing pre-K students for kindergarten and keeping them engaged is a huge undertaking. As pre-K teachers, our goal is to build the basic foundations for early reading and math concepts, beginning their social-emotional learning, and working with them on physical abilities such as motor skills. Adding to this challenge is the fact that pre-K teachers also need to attend to students who’ve likely never been in an academic setting and don’t understand the mechanics and expectations of a classroom. Providing a highly-engaging learning experience every day helps us accomplish everything we need to with our pre-K students.

1) Identify students who are (or aren’t) engaged.
When I think about student engagement, the first thing that comes to mind is a child who actively responds, both visibly and audibly, to what’s going on in the classroom—and whose body language is consistent with active involvement in the lesson.

On the contrary, I also think about the very quiet students who are definitely engaged with their learning but demonstrate it in a different way. Some people just have a naturally quiet disposition, of course, but the classroom environment is also pretty scary for our youngest students. It can be very overwhelming and intimidating. They go from being the center of the world in their families to this big classroom with 20+ other kids and two adults whom they don’t know. They’re going to new places and experiencing activities they don’t know how to play, and they’re unsure of how they’re supposed to be communicating in this new environment. All of this lends itself to various ways to express their engagement.

using technology to engage pre-k kidsThe idea of going from a self-centered environment to feeling like a speck in a big world where I don’t know my place seems intimidating to me as an adult, so I can understand why they’re quiet. I have one little girl in my class now who didn’t really start having conversations with me or most of her classmates until Christmas. Building their confidence is just another element we use to help students develop in order to make sure they’re ready for kindergarten. Fortunately, students tend to develop confidence as they learn both academic and social skills before moving into kindergarten. These are skills such as identifying letters and their sounds, the understanding that letters make words and words make sentences, the ability to count individual objects up to 20, and so on.

Engagement (or lack thereof) may be difficult to spot with such young children as they become accustomed to school, but it’s still at the center of a successful pre-K classroom. By providing a variety of fun and exciting learning opportunities, we can be sure we’re reaching even the shyest students.

2) Create an engaging classroom layout.

Activity centers are a great way to provide that variety of experiences. One way I try to make these activities as engaging as possible is by thinking through the layout of my classroom. I set up one side of the room to be louder and more playful, while the other side is quieter and better suited to concentration. On one side of the room we’ll have blocks and a kitchen play area next to math manipulatives. If you keep walking in the same direction, you’ll find art and science areas, then a station for iPad use and writing, and then a library space.

We also spend lots of time practicing transitions and other classroom routines. It takes some time upfront, but it pays off so well once everyone gets into the swing of the school year and the students know exactly how to move around the classroom. It saves me a lot of time picking up manipulatives and other classroom objects, too, because the students know where they go and are well-practiced at putting them away

3) Look for fun classroom tools.

Like any teacher, I’m always on the lookout for fun new tools to add to my classroom. One of my favorites this year is Letters alive. It’s an early literacy program that teaches the foundations of reading by using 26 zoo animals that spring to life in 3D! Students use letter, word family, and sight word cards to build words and sentences while interacting with the animals.

These 3D animals are so exciting for the students, of course, but one of the things I like about the product is that it doesn’t just live in a piece of software. using technology to engage pre-k kidsWe use the cards as traditional flashcards, and there are also student journals that can be taken home to work on the same literacy concepts with their parents on mobile devices. The free mobile app turns the journal into a magical 3D animal adventure! A big part of engaging pre-K students and ensuring their growth is parents who are committed and engaged in their children’s education.

4) Take plenty of breaks.

Children in pre-K are just too young to sit still for long stretches of time and remain mentally engaged. They need breaks, and they definitely need to move. Kids love songs, so I firmly believe that anything with a tune and educational value belongs in a classroom. I can’t sing, though, so I’ll often play songs via YouTube videos and playlists that incorporate our learning objectives. It gives students a little mental break, but it also reinforces the concepts we’re working on as a class. I like to use GoNoodle, a service that combines physical activity in the classroom with educational activities, too. It gets the kids moving while they learn. It’s a great way to get students alert and attentive without sacrificing instructional time. Alive Studios also has an awesome alphabet song for introducing the 26 animals in their zoo. The kids love it!

Got Students Who Don’t Like to Read at All?

blog-deb-atchison

#HelpShiftHappen Blog Article by Deb Atchison

Got students who don’t like to read at all? Augmented Reality books can change that!

As a former student that hated reading, but turned Reading Specialist, I’m astounded by the statistic from the National Report Card that says that only 37% of our 4th graders are reading proficiently. This is crazy! If a little over a third of our students are reading proficiently, what does this mean for the future of our country? This is scary when you really think about it. I know many students are like I was in school and don’t like to read at all. Thankfully, that is not the case any longer for me and I really enjoy helping students learn to read better. I think perhaps because I struggled with reading, I can empathize with those that do and can help them to become better at it and dread it a little less.


Many times, students haven’t found anything that interests them and therefore they don’t want to put the time into reading some “boring ole book!” Or, they are too embarrassed to check out books that are on their reading level and way below what they should be able to read. Well, I have a solution for these reluctant readers. And, if it works on my own teen boys whose native language is Russian and not English, then it should work on your reluctant readers too. What I’m talking about are AR books. Not Accelerated Reader books, but Augmented Reality books. You know, books that come to life right before your very eyes! Augmented Reality or AR books have images that when scanned with a device and a specific app will literally pop right off the page.

There are many AR books out there for young learners. Kids of all ages love to read and experience H.C. Anderson’s original fairy tale about The Little Mermaid who swaps her fishtail for human legs to be able to follow her heart. The great thing about this book is that it lies flat, making it easy for the young reader to hold on to the iPad while experiencing the book. Some of my other favorites for young readers are the Arbi books, https://www.arbibook.com. These storylines are exactly what our kids need to hear. Teamwork, friendship, getting along and working together are skills that are so important and they are valued and the focus of these stories.

Rocks In My Socks, is the story of Gracie, an adorable pint-sized pink triceratops, who learns about acceptance through some unexpected visitors that show up in her favorite pink and white striped socks. There are 13 activities that can be played manually with colors, markers, or pencils. Learn about colors, matching, recognition, colors and music associations, and even some of Gracie’s favorite dance moves.

Holo Pop Ups, https://holopopups.com/ has a handful of books that foster learning in an innovative way – vocabulary, spelling and science all become part of the fun! The characters leap out of the page, living, breathing and speaking to you. And, who could forget the Color Alive Coloring Books from Crayola. They give kids the opportunity to see their coloring pages come to life right before their very eyes!

student assessment journals with augmented reality
And, of course, we know educators of the little ones swear by the Alive Studios’ My Letters alive Journals, which help early readers with letter naming, letter sounds, and letter writing. Alive Studios also has a super cute story that teaches the value of being on time, Amos Arrives at the Airport. You definitely need to check those out if you haven’t yet. Even if you are a parent of little ones and not a teacher, you will love how easily your kiddos can learn their alphabet with them.

I love all the great AR picture books and I’m still very excited over those, but I’m really pumped for the books for older readers that are interactive and engaging! For example, the company Anomaly World, http://www.experienceanomaly.com, has many books that will particularly attract those that are interested in science-fiction, fantasy and comic books. Their flagship book, Anomaly, is an epic tale of deception, redemption, and unity set on a strange alien world and the longest original full-color graphic novel ever published. With lush illustrations, action-packed storytelling, and awe-inspiring interactive features, Anomaly is a must-have multimedia experience for any reader, especially the reluctant one. They have several graphic novels and comic series that use augmented reality to engage their readers. The most exciting part for me is that these books and many others are becoming more and more sophisticated, not just in the artistry and AR, but also in the content of the storylines. There are more and more graphic novels and even novels for young adults that are incorporating AR. I’m really pumped for these new books for older readers that are interactive and engaging!

When my, then 17, year old son was looking at the @AnomalyWorld AR graphic novels for the first time with me, we were both blown away by the digital graphics along with the intense and interactive AR that was popping off the pages. I knew this company was onto something, when he said, “Wow, I can’t wait to read this book to see what this (AR character popping off the page) is all about! I want to learn more about him!” What? A 17-year-old, non-native English speaking boy wants to read a book? Yep, pretty powerful stuff if you ask me!


Personally, I really liked the Anomaly Productions illustrated novel, Between Worlds. It’s a story of misfit teens that wander off during a school field trip to the forest, on a dare to find a local legend, The Wishing Tree. But they get more than they bargained for when they find themselves in Nith, an alternate universe. Along with amazing new powers and furry friends, Nith holds danger and intrigue. With the help of the mysterious Aaron, these two friends try to find their way back home. But some of the inhabitants of Nith have other plans for the teens… Together, Mayberry and Marshall must learn to control their new powers, escape their enemies, find their way home, and come to terms with their growing attraction. This book reminded me of novels I would read as a teacher to my middle school students. Yes, I made it a common practice to read aloud to my teen students who were often reluctant readers. You should too! The storyline is great and very engaging and about every two or three chapters, you get to an amazing illustration in the novel that you could scan with your mobile device and app to see that character come to life. My son couldn’t wait until he got to one of those pages to scan and neither could I. The anticipation of the next one, kept us both reading.

I also like that the AR in books for all level of readers is becoming more and more interactive! Not only is something coming out of the books, but you can actually interact with and control some of the AR content. Seeing is believing, but holding it in your hand and manipulating it, is way better!


This same company has a new book releasing this coming summer that I’m very excited about, called Creative Creature Catchers! I’ve been lucky enough to preview it and it’s incredible, but designed for younger readers. The story is basically, that there are lost baby creatures all around us who just want to go home, and they need your help! Welcome to the Society of Creative Creature Catchers! You’ve been chosen to join the CCC because you’re smart, caring and REALLY fun! Your mission is simple: Find and learn about a variety of fantastical animals who have ended up lost in our world and it’s the reader’s job to send them home to their families! Some hid in the curtains. Others hid under the bed. Don’t worry. They won’t hurt you. They’re scared, and their parents are worried about them. But this is just half the story. Creative Creature Catcher isn’t just about reading. It’s about doing. Anyone can read about these unfortunate animals, but Malcolm will teach you how to get personally involved and will even read the story to reluctant readers. I can’t wait to be able to use the interactive hide and seek game with students.

If we are going to get and keep students reading and advance that percentage of proficient readers, our first step is to actually get them reading. Giving students books that initially pique their curiosity is a great start. For more AR books that I’ve previewed and used, check out http://tiny.cc/ARbooks. If I can help you introduce these and many other great AR books to your students and colleagues, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Deb Atchison
www.debatchison.com
debatchison@gmail.com
@debatchison on Twitter

Gwinnett County Public Library Introduces Learning alive

Gwinnett County Public Library Introduces Learning alive

The first multi-branch library rollout in the United States! Check this out from District Administrators:

Gwinnett County Public Library Introduces Learning alive™ Kits for Early Readers

Thanks to a generous donation from the Atlanta Retailers Association (ARA) that was matched by the Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia, Alive Studios (https://bit.ly/2zvt5tF) is equipping all 15 Gwinnett County Public Library branches with its evidence-based Learning alive™ kits.

Alive Studios is a Gwinnett-based software developer that creates mind-boggling learning experiences to increase student engagement and improve early literacy. Students are motivated and inspired as they interact with 26 virtual zoo animals while learning the essential fundamentals of reading and math. Alive Studios’ programs use a technology called augmented reality (3D without glasses) to bring lessons to life. The learning kits are currently being used in more than 3,500 classrooms around the country.

“We’re very excited to be the first public library in the country to roll out this program,” said Shelly Schwerzler, the development manager at Gwinnett County Public Library. The library system plans to make this highly engaging learning experience available to children all around Gwinnett. “Our youth services team will be incorporating this new way to learn about letters, words, and sentences into our existing early literacy programs,” Schwerzler added.

The Learning alive Plus kit that will be donated to each library branch includes 26 letter cards, 97 sight-word cards, and 84 word-family cards. Each card is interactive and triggers multiple 3D animations depending on the word or sentence that is created. While learning to identify and sound out each letter, children are able to hear, see, touch, build, and speak throughout the lesson. This multimodal approach appeals to a broad range of learning styles and abilities, increases long-term retention, and is especially effective with at-risk students and English language learners. Also included are three Interactive Stories and a full, supplemental math program aligned to state standards for kindergarten.

“We are so thrilled to partner with Gwinnett County Public Library and have Learning alive available to so many children around Gwinnett,” said Cynthia Kaye, Alive Studios’ CEO and Chief Zoo Keeper. “What a generous gift from the ARA and Community Foundation!”

Library staff will be installing the learning kits this summer and will receive training on how best to use the reading and math supplemental curricula within their programs. “Our plan is to introduce Learning alive in a couple of our summer programs and then do a full rollout this fall for back-to-school,” said Schwerzler. “We will be using an online assessment tool to monitor the program’s effectiveness and to help us provide the best service for our community.”

How Augmented Reality Engages ELLs

THE Journal Engaging ELLs with Augmented Reality

Need an effective solution for ELLs? Check out this great article from THE Journal:

A kindergarten teacher pairs his research-based curriculum with 3D animals to teach and delight his kindergartners.

I teach at a Title 1 school and have 21 students in my kindergarten classroom. My students speak six different languages, and 95 percent of them are English language learners (ELLs). My approach to teaching is “relationships first.” I teach students, not curriculum, and I believe in creating high-quality lessons and curriculum and delivering that material in a FUN and engaging way! I have high expectations for my students and encourage risk-taking, exploration and fun!

When it comes to technology, the kids use iPads, laptops and Kindle Fires, as well as our Smart Board. For about two years now, we have used the augmented reality platforms, Letters alive and Math alive, and they have been a huge success in our classroom. A couple of months ago, we took things to the next level and started using the Sprout Pro G2 Learning alive Station. The station combines the 3D augmented reality cards of Letters alive and Math alive with the Sprout’s built-in high-res document camera and 20-point Touch Mat to give my students a highly interactive, cross-curricular 3D experience.

Implementation of the Sprout was seamless. With just the touch of two buttons, I was up and running. There are no cables to connect, and everything is contained in one piece of equipment. This eliminates a lot of the tech issues for the kids and teachers and means they can use it on their own. I love that the mat is like a second screen. The activities and interactive buttons project onto the mat in vivid color for kids to touch and explore! And makes the Sprout experience more like a touchscreen tablet that our students are so familiar with! This, along with the manipulative flash card sets, help with learning letters and letter sounds as well as word and sentence building; not to mention the math skills.

One of our favorite things to do is build words with Letters alive. I’ll say a word and students find the letter cards and spell the word. Then they push the button to hear the sounds and the word. This provides them with scaffolded practice with phoneme segmentation and blending their sounds into words. Once the students are familiar with this activity, it actually becomes an independent learning center that my students do on their own. They use picture cards and build the words on the card using Letters alive, and then write the word. This gives them a multi-modality approach to word work! For our classroom, this ability for students to use the technology is vital because it’s their classroom and their technology and their learning, and I want my students to have access to everything in their classroom!

A Research-Based Literacy Bootcamp

We first introduce Letters alive to each class during our 26-day ABC BOOTCAMP at the beginning of the year. ABC BOOTCAMP is our research-based curriculum for learning letters and sounds. We use the Letters alive animal cards to introduce the letter and sound before the class creates a circle chart for the letter of the day. The 3D augmented reality animal associated with the letter of the day really gets the students excited. Learning about the animal while learning the letter ties in science and connects this system to our STEM initiatives.

With Math alive, we use the interactive games to bring our greater than/less than lessons alive with Amos Alligator. The students predict which number or group will be bigger, then they move the symbol and we see which number Amos eats. This game on Math alive makes the students so enthusiastic and truly brings this skill to life for all types of learners!

One of the benefits I see to using augmented reality with my kindergärtners is that it brings abstract skills and concepts to life in a concrete way. This shift from abstract to concrete makes the skill and learning more accessible to our students.

The results are clear, too. At the end of ABC BOOTCAMP we have an average of 90% mastery of all letters and sounds. When using Learning alive as a supplement to our ABC BOOTCAMP curriculum, we’ve seen literacy scores improve—and the laughter and squeals of excitement are sure signs of the learning and engagement happening!

Our next project with the Sprout will be integrating it into our learning centers time so the students can use it 100 percent independently as a center choice. They will be able to set up their own augmented reality station and connect with their favorite animals, all the while working on word building, sight words, letter sounds and sentences.

Engaging Kindergarteners with Technology

Cool Cat Teacher Podcast Augmented Reality for Kindergarten EdTech

Check out this great PodCast from CoolCat Teacher featuring Greg Smedley-Warren of Kindergarten Smorgasboard!

ENGAGING KINDERGARTNERS WITH TECHNOLOGY: AUGMENTED REALITY, IPADS, QR CODES AND MORE

Listen to the actual PodCast here!




Vicki: How can we engage kindergarteners with technology?

Today we have a kindergarten teacher from Nashville, Greg Smedley Warren @kindersmorgie, or as his students call him, “Mr. Greg.”

He does a lot of work on the Kindergarten Smorgasboard.

So, Greg… How do we engage kids in kindergarten with technology?

Keep it Simple in Kindergarten
Greg: Hi Vicki. Thanks for having me.

So, I’m all about keeping it simple. I’m always on the lookout for very simple ways that I can engage my kids with technology — ways that are easy for them, but also easy for me so I don’t spend a lot of time fumbling with technology trying to get it working and set up for the kids. So I’m always on the lookout for really simple ways that the kids can interact with technology.

Vicki: OK. Give us some of those ways.

Ipads and Augmented Reality
Greg: One way is iPads. Most of the kids are completely familiar with iPads and tablets and phones, so we have some iPads in the classroom with some folders. We have a reading folder and a math folder full of apps, so the kids know they can grab those iPads, open those folders, and use any of those apps.

We also use Augmented Reality in the classroom. We use a program called Learning Alive Plus from Alive Studios, which is an augmented reality software that works with letters, phonics, and word building. So we use that a lot. The kids actually use that during Center Time, so they’re working with that augmented reality to build words and sentences.

Vicki: Describe for us how that works, because I know there are a lot of people — even though we’ve had some shows — they might not know what augmented reality is.

Greg: Augmented reality is basically 3-D without the glasses. So when the kids are interacting with the software, the images are coming alive in 3D on the screen for the kids.

Vicki: It’s just floating in space, or somewhere in your classroom.

Greg: Yeah… it’s on the screen. So it’s on the monitor, or if you’re using a projector it’s projected on the screen or a SMARTboard. The best way to describe it — which I think everyone can relate to — is Pokemon Go. So if you’re kind of familiar with Pokemon Go, that’s augmented reality. That’s kind of what it looks like when the kids are using it in the classroom.

iPad Apps to Help Children Learn to Read
Vicki: What are some of your favorite “go-to”s for reading?

Greg: For reading as far as apps, we do Letter School, which is great for letter formation and letter recognition.

Montessori Words for Kids is my favorite, probably, of all for reading and literacy. It’s great for sound identification, segmenting sounds, word building, and decoding words. It’s very interactive. The kids love it. They work on their letters, and once they build a word, then they get 10 seconds to play and draw before they go onto the next word. So there’s almost that instant reward every time they build a word. The kids love that.

Ipad Apps for Math
For math, I’m a big fan of Monkey Math School, because it’s not just focused on one skill. It’s a constant review of all the kindergarten math skills that we work on.

My kids’ favorite math app is called Subitizing Tree, which works on that all-important math skill of subitizing, which is basically number fluency. The kids love that. I hear them all day long, jumping up and down and screaming and cheering because they were able to subitize with that app.

So those are some of my favorites.

Vicki: Cool! So you have iPads, you have all of these things, you’re doing Alive Plus, which is augmented reality.

What else?

QR Codes and Kindles
Greg: We also do a lot with QR Codes. We use Amazon Kindles with our QR Codes. I’ve found that the Kindles work great with the QR Reader. I’ve never been impressed with the KIndles as far as using a lot of apps, but they work great for QR Codes.

I’ve created several sets of QR Codes for math and literacy. The kids use the codes, they scan the codes, and an image of a document pops up. They might be doing sounds or counting or shapes or word building. The kids really love that they can use the QR codes around the room and interact with technology that way.

Vicki: It’s kind of like passing out digital papers. Is that how you would kind of summarize the QR Codes?

Greg: Pretty much. My kids use them during Center Time. A lot of teachers actually post them around the room, so the kids are walking around the room with their tablets, scanning the QR Codes and working on them that way.

Vicki: Yes. And I believe that QR Codes are now built into the iPAd iOS for Apple devices.

Greg: Awesome. Oh, that’s good to know.

Vicki: Yeah! New little tidbit. I just read it, like last night.

Greg: (laughs)

Vicki: OK. Lots of cool things. What else?

Interactive WhiteBoard Uses in Kindergarten
Greg: Like I said, I’m a big fan of keeping it simple. So that’s really what we use, as far as technology.

We do have an interactive whiteboard in the classroom as well that we use a lot for whole group instruction. The kids use the SMARTboard during centers, so they’ll be doing some word building and word writing, and those kinds of things.

One of the things that I use my SMARTboard for is a lot of teacher things. So like in the morning, we take attendance. As the kids come in each morning, their pictures are on the SMARTboard. They move their picture from home to school, to show that they are at school.

And then I have what I call my boombox, which is a PDF document that has clipart linked to songs and videos that we use on YouTube. Whenever I want to pull up a song for the kids to use, instead of typing in the name or something, or searching for it on YouTube, I’m able to just touch on that boombox, and it will immediately open that song or video. It just makes my life a little bit easier as a teacher and keeps things moving.

What Mistakes Do You Make Using Technology with Kindergarteners?
Vicki: Have you ever made a mistake when you started using technology with kindergarteners?

Greg: Oh gosh. All the time.

Of course there’s always that inevitable, “The technology fails.”

But my biggest issue is always with YouTube, it seems like. One minute YouTube works great, and the next minute nothing will load. Or you pull up a video and even though it is a kid-friendly video, a kindergarten video, the ad before it is something inappropriate, so you’re scrambling to try to turn if off or make it stop.

That’s really where I struggle with technology — just, “Is it going to work today, is the internet going to work today, and then something inappropriate popping up on YouTube which is unfortunately not a lot that we can control.

Vicki: So what, Greg, is advice that you have for kindergarten teachers who feel a little bit scared of using technology in their classroom?

Greg: I get it. It’s new. It kind of seems like it’s more to have to do. So I would just say start slowly. If you’re comfortable with a technology, try to bring that into your classroom. Kind of build on it from there.

I always tell teachers, “We expect our kids to show up every single day and take risks. As teachers, we need to be willing to do the same thing.”

If technology is an area that we’re kind of scared of, maybe that’s a risk we need to take. We need to bring in some more technology into the classroom.

I always just say, “Go for it!”

The worst that can happen is that it cannot work. It can fail. And we can have great conversations with our kids about how, even as adults, we fail. Now we can learn from that, and we can be better.

I’m all about taking risks, so I always just say, “Jump in and go for it!”

What To Do When Technology Fails?
Vicki: Oh, that’s so great!. I have to ask this. What do you do when the technology just crashes and doesn’t work? That strikes fear in the heart of teachers!

Greg: (laughs)

It really does. But you know, I think as our kids are getting so much more used to technology, they’re now used to technology not working.

I think it’s gotten a little bit easier, because the kids are like, “Oh, it’s not working.” Or they’ll immediately say, “Oh, the internet’s not working.” They just kind of roll with it, and we move on.

Of course, they’re going to be disappointed. But we just kind of move on to whatever’s next, try to keep going, and not let it completely derail the lesson or derail the whole day.

Vicki: Really, though… what percentage of the time does it actually not work?

Greg: Probably 5-10% or less.

It’s not a major everyday occurrence, but it does happen. And of course, it always happens when you’re being observed and evaluated by administration.

Vicki: (laughs)

Greg: Never fails.

Vicki: (laughs)

Oh my goodness! That is what happens, isn’t it?

My principal always seems to come in when I have the wildest, craziest things happening, and I’m just like, “I don’t even know how you’re going to evaluate me on this.”

Greg: Exactly.

Vicki: And then you’re so scared about what they’re going to think.

Greg: Right.

Vicki: OK. So Mr. Greg has just shared lots of great ideas for our kindergarten classrooms. But here’s the thing. If he can do it in kindergarten, you know you can do it with any age.

It’s part of being a remarkable teacher. We’ve had so many fantastic ideas.

Get out there and try some of them today.

Volume Bonus for School Districts

school district pilot program

Below is a recent Press Release announcing our Proficient by 3rd Grade District Level Volume Bonus Program:

Alive Studios Helps School Districts Win the Reading Challenges for At Risk Students

Alive Studios is introducing a Proficient by 3rd Grade Volume Bonus program for school districts to test and prove the Letters alive early learning reading program.

Alive Studios has structured a program that allows school districts to test and prove the effectiveness of teaching with Letters alive within eight classrooms. “We encourage districts to test and compare student outcomes between classes using Letters alive and those not using Letters alive.” stated Cynthia B. Kaye, CEO and Chief Zoo Keeper of Alive Studios. The volume program comes with a full-year of free online digital assessments for measuring, tracking, and reporting the progression of students. The generated reports can be shared with teachers, principals, and even parents in English or Spanish. The Alive Studios’ team will also come on-site and trains the participating teachers how to most effectively use Letters alive with their students and how to track their outcomes. Says Kaye, “We’re convinced that once districts try the bonus program and see the results for themselves they’ll want to make this available to all their at risk students.”

“We’ve been busy spreading awareness of our game-changing supplemental reading program, Letters alive, by introducing it to teachers around the country.” added Kaye. “What we’re finding at trade shows and during demos is that teachers love our solutions, but 74% of them don’t have the purchasing authority to obtain it. We realized we needed to take our solutions to the district level.”

at risk studentsAmerica has a literacy crisis among our early learners and serious solutions are in demand. “An alarming number of children—about 67 percent nationwide and more than 80 percent of those from low-income families—are not proficient readers by the end of third grade. This has significant and long-term consequences not only for each of those children but for their communities, and for our nation as a whole,” cited Ralph Smith, Managing Director of The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

With almost 7 out of 10 students not proficient in reading by 3rd grade, early intervention with a proven solution is crucial for establishing the foundations for high school graduation and career success. Alive Studios’ difference maker is a mind-boggling technology called Augmented Reality. It creates a 3D experience without glasses and provides off-the-charts engagement that increase student outcomes. Now, over 1,500 classrooms are learning letters, letter sounds, sight words and sentence building in a revolutionary way.

The program is especially effective with At Risk students including ELL, ESL and Special Needs. Independent Research has proven a 48% increase in letter naming fluencies and 112% increase in letter sound fluencies by implementing Letters alive in the classroom. “My students love seeing a new animal each day and their reactions to the animals coming to life is priceless! Letters alive brings a whole new engagement level to our ABC BOOTCAMP!” stated Greg Smedley-Warren, Kindergarten Teacher at JE Moss Elementary, a Title I school in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Proficient by 3rd Grade Volume Bonus Program is available to any school district. Interested teachers and principals are encouraged to inform their district leaders about the program. Details about Letters alive and the bonus program can be found at www.AliveStudiosCo.com/beta/program-2.

Content is King for Classroom Technology

Content is King for Classroom Technology

So, after a long wait and a lot of pleading you finally got that new computer, or that new smartboard. Now what? Do you have the really cool content you need to engage students?

As we make the trade show tour, we have the pleasure of seeing all the latest educational technology; fast, streamlined computers and big, crystal-clear displays. Like kids in a candy store glaring at the shiniest and most colorful lollypop, we all fall into the “I have to have this” category. But when we get it into our classrooms, we realize it doesn’t solve any of the major problems we face with early learners. Are they now learning letter sounds and letter naming more effectively? Does the new tech reach both ends of the learning spectrum? Are At Risk students now achieving better results? Can ELL students grasp the English language any quicker?

One common void we discover amongst the hardware tech crowd is the lack of content. content is king for classroom technologySure they offer the ability to do “it” quicker, bigger, and with more wow.. but do what? It’s the content ON the device that makes the difference. It’s the software application that brings the device to life and solves problems in classrooms.

It reminds me of a story about a little boy who had a $5 bill and wanted to buy a wallet. After shopping several stores, he found the perfect one. It fit his pocket, it felt good in his hand, and it only costed $5. You can guess the rest of the story. Having spent his $5, the little boy had nothing to put into his new wallet. Just like the wallet with no money, a new computer or smartboard just isn’t that impressive without content.

So, if you’re given the green light for new technology, remember to save some funds for engaging content that will help make a positive difference in your classroom.

Will Your Summer Program Prevent the Summer Slide?

summer slide
Some experts say early learners lose up to two years of knowledge retention through the summer months. Make it a summer to remember with our fun, engaging programs for reading and math!
Consider adding Letters alive and/or Math alive to your Summer Curriculum:

Imagine teaching Reading like this: (90-sec video)

Letters alive augmented reality in education

Or, teaching Math like this: (2-min video)

Math alive video of augmented reality in education

Will your Summer Program prevent the Summer Slide? Our engaging software solutions are as exciting as field trips and slip-n-slides! ;P



Are We Hamsters on the Wheel of Illiteracy?

illiteracy rates in america

We see it in our inboxes. We read it in our news articles. We can Google it and find countless studies and blog entries. The issue isn’t awareness any longer, the issue is how are we going to address our country’s literacy problem. Like hamsters on a wheel, this summer could mark the beginning of the United States’ 11th year with unchanged illiteracy rates.

For the record and to springboard into a discussion about solutions, let’s recap some dismal US literacy facts:

  • 67% of students are not proficient in reading by the end of 3rd grade.
  • Students who are not proficient by the end of 4th grade are 66% more likely to wind up on welfare or in prison.
  • Students who don’t read proficiently by the 3rd grade are 4 times likelier to drop out of school.
  • Students who are retained to repeat a grade will cost a District an average of $10,000 each.
  • The US illiteracy rate hasn’t changed in 10 years.
  • 85% of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.

illiteracy in america
Prior to fourth grade, our educational system’s literacy plan is about learning to read; from that point, it’s about reading to learn. The basic system doesn’t cater well to deviations. Therefore, we have a countless supply of data around the failures. However, we do not offer many solutions to the crisis.

Unless you have lived under a rock, or have spent the last five years on your own private island playing Naked and Afraid, you know these stats about the lack of reading proficiency among our early learners and what the consequences are if not addressed. What you may not have heard is there’s a growing tribe of solution seekers looking for answers to the problem.

America has a plentiful supply of entrepreneurs hungering to invent the next widget that successfully resolves a problem; but not many who are aggressively pursuing the literacy crisis. Educators are increasingly looking for actions they can take in PreK to 1st grade as a proactive measure against failing academic and social futures; yet, they’ve been stifled by lack of funding, lack of solutions, and lack of proven curriculum.

illiteracy rates in usIt’s hard to solve any issue without finding, defining, and exposing the root of the problem. Teachers commonly cite student engagement as a major contributor to not learning and not retaining the presented information. In their personal lives, today’s children are exposed to so many neurological stimulants in an average day that a typical classroom curriculum simply doesn’t hold their attention. Therefore with low engagement, learning is hindered and retention of information is minimal. Studies show that the average attention span is now around eight seconds – and that is for adults.

A second, more challenging contributor to the literacy crisis is the variation in students’ individual learning styles and abilities. Some students learn by seeing; some by hearing; and others by doing. If curriculum is not presented in a blend of these learning styles, the inevitable occurs and the students enter the path to failure. Yet more often than not, a lack of resources can restrict a teacher’s ability to cater to and catch those who are falling behind.

As a mother of four, including two adopted sons from overseas, Cynthia has personally experienced the struggles with teaching children how to read. She tried everything on the market to help them but nothing worked. Faced with this challenge and in search of a “better way,” she was able to pull from her career experience as a CEO of an educational products provider. Having been introduced to Augmented Reality (3D without the glasses), she knew this could be the secret sauce we needed to capture young imaginations and increase engagement.

After two years of R&D, Letters alive was released as a Supplemental Reading solution for Pre-K to 3rd Grade and was our small contribution to the mission of improving literacy rates. Unfortunately, by the time the solution was ready, Cynthia’s youngest son was entering his teen years and becoming another illiteracy statistic. Cynthia knew then that we had a mission much bigger than herself and made a vow to do everything in her power to prevent this from happening to other children.

We aim to equip educators with engaging solutions that help young learners become proficient in reading and math by 3rd grade. We celebrate any other solution providers who can also deliver effective tools towards this cause. This is a nationwide crisis and requires a united effort to bring about literacy improvements.

Ultimately, we can research ourselves into oblivion hashing through the consequential social failures that occur as a direct result of not addressing this crisis; but until we get serious about tapping into innovative solutions that make a positive difference, we are just hamsters on the wheel of illiteracy.

Will You be Someone’s Favorite Teacher?

favorite teacher

Will You be Someone’s Favorite Teacher?

I was recently asked to name my favorite teacher. favorite teacherNow, considering it’s been over twenty years since I’ve had a teacher, it took me a minute to think. But even after chewing on it for a bit, I realized not only did I not have a particularly favorite teacher, I barely had any memorable teachers at all. Thinking through my 17 years of schooling, I could only recall about six teachers by name even though I’ve had well over 50. I remembered them because they were creepy, crazy, or creative… not necessarily because they were favorites.

What makes a teacher a favorite? I think the answer is pretty simple: a favorite teacher is one who singles you out with positive, individual attention and gives you a few direct compliments that are specific to your gifting. I’ve asked several people this question. Most people actually do have a favorite teacher; and their reasons are mostly the same. This singled out educator held a coveted position because he/she gave individual attention and directed words of wisdom and encouragement specifically to the student.
Why are most teachers forgotten? I think that answer is equally simple: most teachers are forgotten because they teach classes, not individuals. The students are treated as one body, with very little, if any, individual attention. I reflected more about my 17 years of schooling and certainly confirmed this fact in my own experience.

Throughout our school years, we are but mere chalkboards (showing my age) on which teachers can mark with wisdom. Some marks are beautiful, cherished, and protected from defacing. Other marks are scribbled, softly written, and blow away with time. Yet, there are also marks that are deep, hurtful and scar through the years. Teachers hold this power. They can shape, mold and build, or they can simply have no lasting effect at all. The best teachers, the ones that are recognized and remembered, know this to be true.

Will you be remembered? And if so, how? loving on a teacherWho was your favorite teacher? Why were they special to you? Think about this and make these next few days/weeks count for each of your students. Leave a beautiful mark. Tell each of them how special they are and that you believe in them. You may be the only person to ever tell them this.

Teach, lead, love.