EXCELLENT RESOURCES TO HELP YOU INCORPORATE UDL!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Apps for #Self-Regulation: Breathing Zone App

In the world of educational technology, we often focus our attention on websites and apps that focus on creativity and  assessment; however, what about technologies that can help students with self-regulating their behavior?

Self Regulation: 

When we think of the term self-regulation, we often think that students with learning disabilities or emotional difficulties; however, self-regulation refers to the strategies and tools that we can provide students to manage their behavior, set goals, and even self-reflect.

Yoga in School? 

Several years ago, I was introduced to the story of an elementary school in Chicago, who had a significant number of discipline problems - especially after lunch. The principal began to have her students practice Yoga breathing techniques in the morning and after lunch. Ironically, discipline problems were reduced significantly.

This example made me think about the power of teaching students breathing and relaxation techniques as a coping mechanism; however, we often do not have the time to do so.

Breathing Zone App:

Although there are many different apps that teach breathing, I have come to like the Breathing Zone App on the iTunes and Google Play stores. It provides you with a simplistic interface makes it easy to utilize. This App combines customized voice commands (or vibration) with graphics, to help you focus on simple breathing techniques. Anyone can learn how to use it from elementary school to high school to even adults.

There are also tools embedded into the App, which customize the amount of time you spend practicing and track your breathing goals. This is the perfect tool for helping students cope with stress, manage their behavior, and even help with test anxiety.

Normally I do not promote paid Apps, but this is a good one! If you are tight on funds, there are many free alternatives on the iTunes store too.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Helpful Literacy Tools for Students: Newsela

The Common Core State Standards has emphasized that our students need to read more non-fictional texts; however, finding appropriate articles to meet the needs of our students can be difficult. Just this past weekend, I was introduced to Newsela by a friend of mine, who has used this in his elementary classroom; however, this tool could be used in any middle school or high school classroom too!

What is Newsela? 

Newsela is a free (and paid) current event resource with articles that adapt to the needs of the students. There are dozens of articles related to science, money, law, health, and sports. Teachers have the ability to customize each article to fit the needs of your students. There are five different versions of the same article that are divided by reading lexile level, which provides the appropriate amount of challenge to meet the needs of our students (Multiple Means of Representation). There are also several interactive components, where you can embed quizzes and writing tasks within the article for students (Multiple Means of Action / Expression). 

How Does it Work? 

After creating your free teacher account at www.newsela.com , you will be asked to create a "class." Students will be able to sign up for this class by creating a free account and entering an enrollment code. Creating a class will allow you to share articles, create assignments, etc.; however, you do have to have the paid version of the website to view student progress. 

I totally understand that companies have to make money; however, I was disappointed that had to have the Pro (paid version) of Newsela to access many of the advanced features. You are given a free trial period; however, 30 days is certainly not enough time to experiment with your classes. 


How Can I Use the Free Version for My Students? 

Even though many of the great features (like viewing student progress) Newsela are only available if you pay, there are still many useful ways of using the free version with your class. 

  • You can have students read the article and choose their own lexile level. Not great, but still very useful. 
  • Choose your lexile level and use the Print feature of the article to generate a PDF version of the article, which can be printed or saved as a PDF. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Ultimate Grammar Checker: Register to Win a Free Premium Grammarly Account!


There is nothing worse than posting something to a discussion forum, posting to social media, writing an email, or even making a blogpost AND you make a spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistake. Many of these platforms have spell check, but they are NOT grammar checkers!


Grammarly can help save you from embarrassment or even save your grade, providing you with valuable grammar advice. Want to learn more? Click here.

Way's to Use Grammarly: 

There are several different ways to use Grammarly:

  • You can visit Grammarly online and upload your document to the Grammarly editor. 
  • You can copy and paste your text into the Grammarly editor. 
  • You can install the Grammarly Chrome extension and add it to your Chrome Browser.
  • There is even a Windows plug-in! 

This free online tool will suggest spelling, punctuation, and 100 points of grammar edits.  Many of our students struggle with grammar. This tool not only provides suggestions, but give students an opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

There is a free version and premium version of Grammarly available. Want a chance to win a free 3 month premium account? I'm giving away one premium membership for free! Register here by Friday, March 20th

NOTE: I mistakenly wrote 1-year membership in my initial post.

Why does grammar matter? Check out this excellent infographic by Grammarly! 






Sunday, March 1, 2015

Instapaper: Save and Access Anywhere on Any Device!

There are literally dozens of different ways to bookmark your favorite articles and websites like Diigo, Delicious, Draggo, and Symbaloo; however, accessing them across multiple devices can be challenging. 

With Instapaper, you can save your favorite articles, videos, and even emails, then read them online, an iPad, iPhone, Android device, or Kindle.  With a clean look and an easy-to-use interface, saving your favorite web-content is easy.


Options for Saving?

  • You can add content directly to your Instapaper account by forwarding to your personal Instapaper email address.
  • You share links from your mobile device by sending them to Instapaper.


Premium Version to Help Students with Learning Disabilities

There is an affordable paid version of Instapaper, which provides highlighting options, text-to-speech tools, and a full text search of articles.

Conclusion:

I am currently using the free version of Instapaper and have found it to be a great tool for both students and staff. It can help students with the supports they need to locate and access resources.