Written by Casey Keyser, MSEA Third Grade Teacher
Let’s chat about technology! Integrating technology into the classroom is my passion. It is an amazing way to engage your students in the content and to complete activities you wouldn’t have the means to do otherwise.
My first pro-tip about tech in the classroom is this… DO NOT use technology just for the sake of using technology.. I will also never advocate for technology to be used 24/7. Technology needs to be purposeful and planned to help build the lesson up, not be the center of the lesson. Well, unless you are teaching a lesson on how to use a search engine on the Internet (which by the way, needs to be explicitly taught.) If the lesson you are planning is better served with a paper/pencil, journal, or hands-on manipulatives… do that instead.
If you are not familiar with the SAMR model, please take a moment to check it out here.
Now let’s dive into some technology uses for classrooms. I have a few favorite categories I like to use technology for. These are not content or grade-level specific so they can be used for any topic. We’re going to chat about integrating music, video, reading, and assessments tech tools into your classroom. If you use these categories when you are planning lessons, chances are, you will fill your classroom with engagement and excitement.
First up… Music technology.
Let’s talk about the amazing website Flocabulary. This incredible company creates educational hip-hop songs, videos, and additional educational materials to use in the class. They have topics anywhere from Reading and Science to Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). You can find songs to teach topics in all grade levels Pre-K to 12. They are so fun and engaging to learn with your students in a whole group setting or assigned to them individually. You are able to have a FREE 45-day trial of Flocabulary the first time you sign up, it is totally worth the try!
If you, your school, or your district subscribes to Flocabulary, I highly encourage you to check out this Flocabulary Accountability playlist. This template is used when students complete a Flocabulary Playlist online. You can either print one for students to use or have a PDF option for Kami or Google Slides online. This allows students to have a paper/note-taking option to build their planning skills. As a teacher, it also makes grading their assignment a lot easier because I can see their work while they work through the lessons. Integrating music into any content is a great way to help students remember what they are learning and become creative enough to write their own lyrics.
Next up… Video technology.
My student’s favorite tech tool is Flipgrid. This tool is a simple, free, and accessible video discussion experience for learners and families. You can start a discussion and engage students and their community with one click of a green plus sign. Your students get to add personalized touches by adding a selfie cover photo and stickers to help support the topic. To learn more about Flipgrid check out this super helpful Getting Started video.
I never let my students go live on Flipgrid unless they have planned out their script beforehand. I use these quick and easy templates to help them get organized and started. Grab these easy-to-print Flipgrid Video Templates here.
Another classroom pro tech tip, is to never let students use a new piece of technology for academic purposes first. They will not be engaged in learning the intended content or feel successful in learning how to use the new tech tool. Instead, ALWAYS onboard your students by having a fun intro activity to the tech tool/website. For example, have the students complete a building community activity such as Two Truths, One Lie using Flipgrid first. That way, they become familiar with the tool and not necessarily on the content at hand. This also allows the other students to watch their classmates’ videos and respond. All the practice is learning how to use the tech tool so that when it comes to your next lesson, they are ready!
Third in the queue… Reading!
When I want to add a reading component in my technology rotation, I look to the Book website to help provide my students with book collections curated for them on any topic. You can add books, audiobooks, video,s and read-aloud books to a collection and assign them to your students. I also want my students to be able to create their own collections of books. First, I have them create collections of hobbies and favorites to share with their classmates, and then I have them create book collections on topics we are currently researching. I use my Epic! books collection sheet to have them write down all the books they find on a topic.
Using keywords and search tools are just a few essential skills students should learn about researching. Not to mention, Epic! books can help foster a love for reading and exposing them to all types of genres.
On to Assessments… yay!
There are so many amazing assessment tools out there, but I wanted to give examples of both high and low tech.
My new favorite tech tool is called Factile; this website has a free and paid version. As a teacher that NEVER pays for ANY tech tool, I love being able to have up to 5 teams for free. Here is a little trick to have your entire class be able to all play at the same time.
Split your class into 5 groups and assign a team leader to be the reporter of answers. Give every student a piece of blank paper and an invisible ink pen. I get the ones that have the black light on the top of the cap and I buy online in bulk and they last forever. Then the entire class writes down their answers to the assessment questions as we go and only the reporter turns in the answer. This way students can’t see each other’s answers and won’t be embarrassed to try each question. Pro tech in the classroom tip, you can use this trick with most of the online assessment tools.
I know that most teachers have already heard of Kahoot!, however, I have been able to add a little spin on it. I am always looking for ways to give my students more control over their own learning, so why not have them create the Kahoot!?.
I have my students use this template (paper and digital option) to write their own Kahoot! Assessment questions for any topic. They have used this template for Science, two-step word problems, main idea comprehension questions, phonics and so much more. The sky is the limit with what they can create.
I also use my low-tech printable Kahoot! buzzers to allow the class to play on days we don’t have access to our devices. You can start an online assessment as a whole class on one teacher projector and have them tap their fingers on their decks to answer each question. I walk around the room with a clipboard to tally up an idea of the student’s understanding. You can find that Kahoot! Template and buzzer here!
Don’t let barriers, like thinking ‘I’m not a “techy” person’ or ‘my school doesn’t have the technology available’, block you from trying a new tech tool in your classroom. I challenge you to try one new tech tool the first month of school. Let your students (and yourself) explore the tech tool first in a fun way, then dive right in with your content. You got this!
Casey Keyser is a third-grade teacher at Butterfly Ridge Elementary in Frederick County, Maryland. She was recently recognized as the national winner of the NEA Foundation’s 2021 Teaching in Excellence Award. Casey is the proud owner of the Education Resource Blog, Fair Winds Teaching, and loves to connect with her education community through her TeacherPayTeacher’s business.