NEW Elementary Collaborative Writing Matches


For one of the most memorable descriptive writing lessons that also builds listening skills, join another class via video conference for a Monster Match.  Before the match, each class draws monsters and then writes the most descriptive paragraph they can.  On the day of the match, each class takes a turn reading a paragraph while the other class’ members draw a monster from the description.  Then – the BIG REVEAL – the monsters are shown! The discussion then evaluates whether the description lacked some parts, needed better words or was right on target.   To see a Monster Match in action with commentary from a third grade teacher, watch the video on The Teaching Channel called “Monster Match: Using Art to Improve Writing”    Interested?  Sign up  at

JOIN a 3D Turkey Exchange Project on November 19 or 20    Carft turkey with ribbon feathers

Sign your class up at

Create a 3D Turkey using simple items only from the list below. Write a paragraph describing your turkey. BEFORE the scheduled video conference, email your description to your partner teacher. Let your partner class read your paragraph and build theturkey. During the video conference, connect to read your descriptive paragraph and reveal your 3D Turkey.
Choose from these items to build your turkey:
empty gallon jug, craft feathers, construction paper, googly eyes, felt, bulletin board paper, popsicle sticks, markers, beans, popcorn, yarn, play dough, pine cones, pine needles, leaves
Grades 2-5 have RELA TEKS for the development of vivid images for descriptive writing, for listening and speaking and for writing procedural texts.
Once you sign up, you will receive a partner teacher’s email with a date and time for your video conference.  You need a computer with a camera and mic.  A projector is helpful but not required.  A link for your conference will be sent to you along with the contact information.  If you want it recorded, you will be sent a link to the recording following the event.


Let their voices be heard!

Watching hundreds of video conferences and webinars over the past few years, I’ve become increasingly aware of a missing element…the voice of students. Some teachers have the students practice, practice and practice what they will say during a presentation and then when the camera is ON and the far site is listening…we all hear the teacher! Students get to talk during their short part of the presentation and then the TEACHERS take over.
Since most video conference and webinar platforms are designed for communication, we are wasting a golden opportunity to nurture, build and refine the communication skills of our students when we take over. When the far site can’t hear the person speaking, have the student move closer to the microphone and speak more clearly. Move the microphone around…it doesn’t have to be “glued” to one place in the room – most have a VERY long cord. Your students will gain a full measure of self-confidence when they can talk directly to the other site. Each and every time a TEACHER starts to answer questions it sends the message that they are more important. I don’t think that’s what we as teachers want to do but we unwittingly say, “I can answer that better than you can” when we insert ourselves into the discussion.
Facilitate don’t dominate…give your students the chance to share their voices with the world! Step back, take a deep breath and watch them shine! Let the students learn “for real” that they need to speak up, that they need to speak clearly, and that if they want to be understood, they need to take the time to rephrase, add description, or otherwise make their ideas clear.
Student voices are beautiful…let’s hear them more often.

– Carol Teitelman

Read Around the Planet

Working with elementary schools that are participating in Read Around the Planet this year has been a joy. Seeing these children take what they have learned during their reading project and presenting to their peers in another state has been a positive experience for all involved.

I wish to thank the Leander ISD technologists and teachers that took the time to call in and practice with their students before the actual conference. This is an excellent way to test camera placement, microphone levels and work with the students on their stage presence. Not to mention confidence building for the timid.

Should you have a student-to-student collaboration, especially with younger children, checking how they are heard from the far end perspective is always a good idea. Schools that do this beforehand make it easier for the far site to hear what is said. Besides, it also makes your students look really good. We are always available to assist your school if you would like to practice with someone.

From Ken

Mobile learning

We have been busy lately working with a new project which allows connections between Android tablets and the video conference bridge.  The possibilities seem endless.  We have made connections to ongoing conferences from the palm of our hands and even used the device to send a regional meeting out to a half dozen schools with good video and exceptional audio.

Using the same software we have had schools that never before connected to statewide events join in.  We are looking forward to having 5 elementary classes join in a Connect2Texas program on Friday from a district that was restricted to one site connecting at a time before this!

So our upcoming challenges will be to keep up with the number of connections that people want to make through our new solution and find the funding to expand if it continues to grow in use.    So far, it’s been a huge success and we are looking forward to having more and more classrooms find out how they can energize learning with connections to the world.’

The next project will be putting these into the hands of high school students in Project Lead the Way classes.  I can’t wait to see what they do!

Questions to ponder…

Coming soon to a tablet near you – video conferences in your hand.  On a smartphone now – video conferences.  Just to date myself, I can remember the video phones shown by the phone companies at the World’s Fair in the 1960’s.    You sat in a booth and saw other people on a grainy black and white screen who were in the next booth.  The possibilities seemed fantastic but the technology was expensive and I spent most of my growing years happily writing letters and talking to people far away by phone.  The impressions of my youth include my mother’s surprise that my phone call from Hong Kong came in clearly and that you had to watch how many minutes you spoke since it was so expensive.  Contrast that with two year olds I know today who walk over to a computer and mouse over to a link that connects them immediately to their parent in the office or to a grandparent in another state.  Think about the implications of toddlers who think they can show any  phones what they have in their hands and that their adoring grandmother will know that it’s a blue bunny with yellow ears!

We are already seeing the push of technorich toddlers, elementary, middle and high school students on the boundaries we have set in our schools.  They challenge every Acceptable Use Policy and guard we have put in place on our networks.  Their creativity, curiosity, and, yes, mischievousness find them working to push out into the world that is generally open to them outside school.

So, the question that has been asked many times is “How do we harness their use of the available technology to support the learning that we think will help them become the best citizens they can be?” comes to mind.  But there are other questions  being asked, “What do we do for the “technopoor”?   Can we have schools without walls by using technology?  Are my students at an advantage or disadvantage if  our school doesn’t have high speed connectivity and new computers?  Will handheld video conferences change who comes to the classroom?

People embracing distance learning are excited about the possibilities …are you?

Just some out-loud thinking….let’s hear from you.