Curriculum Mapping: Cohesive Planning for Effective Instruction; Part 2: The Nitty-Gritty Details

This is a continuation of my Curriculum Mapping series from TMEA 2016.  If you missed Part 1: Curriculum Evolution, click here.

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This is Part 2: The Nitty Gritty Details and that is exactly what we’re going to dive into.  Note: this is the first details section.

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A couple years ago, I had the privilege to serve on the Review Panel for Instructional Materials for the new TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) that came into effect last year (2015).  On the first day of the panel, we were trained in how to review the submitted materials.  Part of this training included identifying the “breakouts” within each standard as seen below.

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Luckily, we didn’t have to do all the work ourselves.  It was done for us and I have the breakouts for four of the grades here so you don’t have to do all that work either.

Disassembling the standards is necessary to really understand everything the standard is addressing.  It is important to look at the words that normally wouldn’t catch your attention: and, or, including, may, etc.

After you disassemble the standards, you can sort the breakouts by concept: pitch, harmony, beat/rhythm, composing/creating, form, expression (tempo, dynamics, articulation), timbre (vocal and instrumental), creative expression, historical/cultural/societal relevance.  These are my concepts but you don’t have to use those specifically.

Curriculum Mapping Presentation.014The concepts become your units.  Of course, some concepts are going to be interwoven throughout every unit during the school year (creative expression, historical/cultural/societal relevance) and some will be used as a stepping stone for others.

My scope for all grades is available here if you are interested.  Again, these are Texas standards but you’ll get the idea even you can’t use it.  Also, feel free to alter it to serve your needs.

The next step is to write the objectives for each unit which can be done simply by adding the words “Students will” or “I can” to each breakout.

For example: Identify beat using iconic representation


Students will identify beat using iconic representation.


I can identify beat using iconic representation.

Each place I’ve taught has different expectations for how teachers write their students’ objectives out.  Currently, mine does not care but I do it anyway for my own knowledge of the goal of the lesson.  I’ll also (try to keep up with) writ(ing) it on the board for students to read and know what our learning will be focused on.

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All of the objectives put together, sorted by concept, creates what I like to call a Curriculum Outline because I can show this a parent or administrator and they have (somewhat of) an idea of what is going on in my classroom.

Have you ever been in this situation:

It is Open House or Meet the Teacher and you have a gaggle of parents and students coming into your classroom.  Some you’ve met before and some are brand new and asks a version of this question: What is my child going to learn in music this year?

It seems so simple but it isn’t.  There is so much that goes on within each year of instruction and I can’t keep it all in my head.  I can’t just recall it out of thin air.  I can give a vague answer but it is better to be able to point the parent to where they can find the information or hand them a printed copy if available.

I’ve presented this document at the grade level orientations and had copies to hand out. I have them on my school webpage for parents to check out if they are perusing the school site.  Of course, if they know nothing about music at all, it will probably seem like nonsense.  It’s okay, it will be a very organized and educational blob of nonsense. 😉

What comes next? You might be asking.  Well, stay tuned for Part 3!

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Curriculum Mapping: Cohesive Planning for Effective Instruction; Part 1: Curriculum Evolution

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Back in February, I presented on this topic at the Texas Music Educator’s Association annual convention.  I’m posting an overview of the presentation here for my faithful readers. 🙂

But first………

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I am no master musician, music teacher, curriculum builder, or anything but I do love to learn and improve.  This presentation is the culmination of trial & error, continuous improvement, and the minds of others instead of just myself.

I started teaching in the Fall of 2006.  I knew I was supposed to teach the TEKS (the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) but, other than that, I was clueless.  Anyone else in that boat?

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Luckily, there were more experienced music teachers willing and able to get me through those first years of survival.  This was the first my first “road-map” of what to teach.  We won’t got into detail about those years…….

A few years later, I was in a different district and the choir director for the high school wanted all the elementary music teachers to teach the same thing at the same time (which, as a side note, is a great thought, however, that is a whole other discussion that I won’t go into this minute).  We were giving a list of skills and vocabulary to be taught to each grade level for each of the six weeks.  It obviously was not a perfect document or set-up, ergo the inclusion in the evolution rather than the culmination.

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Fast forward just a year later and I’m in another new district.  This time, it is the head of Curriculum and Instruction that wants everyone, including fine arts and PE, to create this Year at a Glance document.  This is the template that was given to me to create my own versions for each grade level.

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Although this document seems to work for everyone else, it seemed lacking to me.  Vague.

Then, I met a fellow music teacher who also lived in Texas and taught in the same city as me.  We became fast friends and worked well together fleshing out ideas.  It was her idea first to spread out the concepts across weeks of the school year like a calendar.

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Curriculum Mapping Presentation.008She probably would have expanded her idea even further and presented on it herself if she hadn’t tragically passed away soon after this.

Curriculum Mapping Presentation.009This is what my lesson plans looked like around this time.  My goal was to create a document that would house, not only a Year at a Glance, but my lesson plans as well.

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This is what that document looked like. Below is what it looks like now.

Curriculum Mapping Presentation.011Intrigued?  Want to create your own?

Stay tuned!

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Product Review:4-Beat Rhythm Blocks

Kelly Parrish recently asked me to review her 4-Beat Rhythm Blocks (Connected) and she was so generous!  She sent me a class set of these blocks with quarter note, quarter rest, beamed eighth notes, and sixteenth notes.

Now, I work at a 1:1 school where every classroom (including mine) has a class set of iPads.  We have tech out the wazoo and are expected to use it so I was skeptical about introducing a learning tool that was zero tech but, you know what, the kids loved them!  I forget, with all the technology available, the simple pleasures of hands-on activities.

I used them with Kindergarten and First Grade.  We didn’t use the sixteenth note sides of the blocks because that is a skill for a higher grade.

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Kindergarten is working on a unit including steady beat, beat vs. rhythm, identifying a quarter note as ta, and beamed eighth notes as ti-ti.  The rhythm blocks were perfect for practicing with them.  I projected a rhythm on the board (using the techy-ness) and students reproduced the rhythm using their blocks.  Then, we said the rhythm together and students tracked the rhythm on the beat.  While some students were finishing reproducing the rhythm, the ones that finished were encouraged to practice the rhythm using their inner hearing (fitting in another standard).

Kindergarten Standards (TEKS) for this activity:
K.1.A: Identify the differences between the five voices including inner voice
K.1.E: Identify beat, rhythm using iconic representation (we advance to the first grade standard of using the standard notation 1.2.A)

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First grade started the same activity but then extended it to composing 4-beat rhythmic patterns.  We used the quarter note, beamed eighth notes and quarter rest as a review activity.  Students are currently within a unit of melodic patterns of Sol-La-Mi but we review the rhythms of the songs as well as the melodic notation for each lesson.  This was an excellent hands-on activity.

After reproducing patterns, students paired up to, first, compose a rhythm by themselves and perform it using their inner voice.  Then, students quizzed their partner on their created rhythm and performed their partner’s rhythm in return.  Usually, in Quiz-Quiz-Trade, students then switch rhythms but, instead, students swapped partners and created another rhythm to quiz their new partner on.  Does that make any sense?

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First Grade Standards (TEKS) for this activity:
1.2.A Read, write, and reproduce rhythmic patterns including quarter notes, quarter rests and paired eighth notes.
1.4A Create short, rhythmic patterns using known rhythms

Again, the kids LOVED the hands-on activity!  In fact, here are some kid quotes:

“I like the blocks because they are fun and really math-y.”

“I like the blocks because we can make different rhythms and they are really fun.”

“You can change the rhythm.”

“I liked putting the notes in order.”

“I like the quarter rest.”

They are 6-7 years old.  That’s my disclaimer after the fact.

Anyway, if you want your own set of connected 4-Beat Rhythm Blocks, you can get them at Kelly Parrish‘s Etsy Store: Rhythmically Yours.

Thanks Kelly for being so awesome and allowing me the opportunity to use these blocks with my students.  It was definitely a success.

Thank you, readers, for reading my review and checking out Kelly’s store!

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Zaption Update

Due to the upcoming TMEA/TI:ME Convention this week, I updated my Zaption presentation.  I thought “If I’m going to do a presentation about an interactive learning tool, I should probably use that interactive learning tool.”

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Click the image above to watch (and participate) in the presentation.

After this part of the presentation, I’ll be giving a demo which doesn’t have slides because we’re really going to go through the program.

Then, we go back into Zaption to end with tips and reflections.


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Cara’s Favorite Sites for Graphics

I have a pretty distinct style when it comes to what I create.  My stuff doesn’t usually look like other people’s creations.  I think part of that has to be the graphics I use so I decided to share my favorite sites for purchasing graphics.  Yes, I said purchasing graphics.  Now that I have a store and sometimes do presentations, it’s important (and more legal) to purchase graphics and fonts and follow those terms of use (which could be a whole other blog post in and of itself).

1.) PixelScrapper Digital Scrapbooking

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I absolutely love PixelScrapper because of their incredible commercial use policy.Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 6.38.25 PM

Like scrapbooking kits at a physical store, the graphics are in kits and sets of kits are in bundles.  It is so easy to mix and match this way!

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You can also search single graphics to find something specific you’re looking for.

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As you can see, the graphics in this site are more stylized and “floofy” which I realize isn’t a word but, oh well.

Finally, they offer a lot of freebies for personal use and have a monthly themed blog train.

2.) HungryJPEG

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HungryJPEG is a fun site for both fonts and graphics.  I don’t really go there looking for anything specific but I get their emails and always enjoy what I’ve bought.  This site also does bundles but there aren’t as tidy as the PixelScrapper ones.  Some recent purchases:

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Plus, as you can see, you can tweet for a discount.  Yeah!

They also have freebies but you have to “catch” them.

3. DealJumbo

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DealJumbo is a lot like HungryJPEG.  They have even more freebies than HungryJPEG so subscribe to their newsletter.

4.) GraphicStock

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GraphicStock is a website you have to subscribe to.  They have tons of graphics and photos which is a big thing in graphic design right now (or at least the graphic design that I’m seeing).

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I would not recommend GraphicStock if you’re looking for something specific but if you’re looking for something in a theme or a broad search, then it works.

Handy Tip: If you’re interested in subscribing, wait until they have a sale.  They have sales fairly often.

5.) TeachersPayTeachers: Favorite Stores

EduClips creates adorable people clip-art.  Plus, every new graphic set is 1/2 price for the first 48 hours.  Win!



PrettyGrafik Designs has really cute characters and people.  She has pretty specific terms of use though so read carefully.


I like 3AM Teacher‘s Graphics because they are quite unique.  I especially like her Suess-a-like graphics.


Finally, Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs has great borders.  There are generic ones as well as thematic ones for holidays and such.


I hope this gives you some great ideas for where to find quality graphics.  What are some of your favorites?

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Do You Youtube? Sites & Tools to Enhance Your Youtube Experience

I love Youtube but it really isn’t suitable for teachers to use on the fly. Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 4.50.39 PM.png

Luckily, the above video and side videos doesn’t have anything inappropriate but that rarely is the case for me.  For example, my students wanted to see a commercial using “Carol of the Bells” played by NBA players that they had heard about.  It is a cool video but, the one time I tried to watch it on the fly, there was an inappropriate commercial before the video AND videos on the side that I wouldn’t want seen by my students. I don’t know.  Maybe I’m a little on the censorship side?  It’s only because I don’t want to get in trouble.

DISCLAIMER: Be wary of copyright issues.  Don’t claim anything is your own if it’s not.  These are things I use in my classroom or for personal use.

Anyway, here are my suggestions to enhance your Youtube experience.

1.) Sites to filter out those annoying advertisements, comments, and the like

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Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 4.58.56 PM.png and ViewPure are my two go-to sites for filtering out all that stuff.  Here is an example of what it looks like:

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 5.02.27 PM.png gives you the option to “Dim Lights” like you’re in a theatre which limits the distractions even more.

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 5.03.49 PM.png also allows you to download the video which is pretty great for when the internet isn’t dependable and/or you want to embed them in your lesson plans.

2.) Sites to Watch a Specific Part of a Video and/or Chop a Video

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Youtube Time allows you to pinpoint a specific starting point in a video and save a URL to that specific point.

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TubeChop allows you to pinpoint not only a starting point but an ending point as well.  This works well for long videos or videos that have inappropriate scenes.

3.) Sites to Isolate the Audio of a Video Clip

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YouTubemp3 allows you to download just the audio of a video clip.  This is handy.

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 4.39.20 PM.png also allows you to download just the audio among the many other options.

4.) My Fav Site for Organizing Videos

I realize that it takes a lot of seemingly unnecessary work to find a video, filter it through a website such as SafeShare or ViewPure, and chop to the part of the video you want BUT, if you plan to use the video more than once, the time is totally worth it.  To organize videos, I use Symbaloo.

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I’ve blogged about it before: here, here, here, and here.  LOL!

I use Symbaloo every day for different purposes.  The board above is my Dance board which the kids adore.

I also use it as my homepage with all my starting links for each day: email, ClassDojo, Gradebook, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

5.) Tools for Creating Lessons from Your Videos

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I’ve spoken and blogged about the greatness of Zaption a couple times but it just really is that great.  Zaption allows you to add interactive elements to any video you find on Youtube, Vimeo, and pretty much any video hosting site.  Plus, you get analytics and feedback from the questions you ask and other features of the video.

There are other sites that do this well but Zaption is my go-to.  There is also:

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So, there you have it.  Hopefully, these sites and tools will help YOU enhance your Youtube experience.  What other tools can you add to this list.

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Cara’s Favorite Tech Tools: Kahoot!

I’d heard about Kahoot before (several times in fact) but this week was the first time I used it in the classroom.  I got to say, it was a big hit.  Students were completely engaged in the quiz.  My only complaint is that, they were so engaged, they were a so (and way too) loud.  I know, learning is supposed to be loud but, yikes!  Anyway, I’ve created a tutorial for anyone who would like to create a Kahoot for their classroom.  I’ve also included the links to the Kahoots I’ve already created for your use.

Creating a Kahoot

Creating a kahoot

creating a kahoot

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creating a kahoot

creating a kahoot


I really like the feature to embed a video.  I used the Mission Impossible cover by the Piano Guys and Lindsey Stirling.  The kids loved it!

Like I previously mentioned, you can search for and use Kahoots created by other teachers.  Why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to. 🙂

searching for kahoots

organizing the kahoots

If you’re going to use someone else’s Kahoot, make sure it is appropriate and pertinent to what your students are learning and need to be assessed on.

before the kahoot

before the kahoot

Next, I’ll go through instructions for playing the quiz in the classroom.  You’ll see what will be on the teacher screen (which should be projected for all students to see) as well as what students will see on their devices.  On that note, kahoots can be played on pretty much any format with a modern web browser and an internet connection.  Whether you have a classroom set of iPads, iPod Touches, Chromebooks, or a mixture of whatever you’ve been able to scavenge, this tool can be used in your situation.  If you don’t have enough devices for each student, you can consider dividing the class into groups that will share a device and compete with the other groups as a team.

playing kahoot

playing kahoot

playing kahoot

playing kahoot

playing kahoot

playing kahoot

playing kahoot

This process continues for each question: Question, Answer Graph, Stats.

playing kahoot

after the kahoot

I LOVE the data these quizzes provide.  You can see the overall scores as well as data for each question.  It is even color-coded for you (COLOR-CODED!!!!).  You can also go back and get data from previous rounds of the game.

after the kahoot

If you’d like to test out Kahoot, here are links to the quizzes I’ve already created.  You can preview each quiz to get a sense of what you and your students will experience beyond the loud excitement of your students that will be a special gift in the moment.  Ha!

Star Spangled Banner History and Vocabulary

Rhythmic Symbols Review

Instrument Identification and Families Review

I hope you enjoyed my intro to Kahoot.  If you would like more FAQs, Kahoot has already taken the liberty to answer a lot of the questions that usually come up.

Thanks for reading!

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Don’t Just Watch. Learn! With Zaption

Don't Just Watch Presentation editZaption is a really cool website that allows you to create interactive videos out of anything off youtube and vimeo.  I gave a presentation about this tool last week at MATCH (Music and Technology Conference of Houston) and will be repeating it next February at TMEA/TI:ME.  Check out my presentation below.

Don't Just Watch Presentation edit3Video is everywhere.  It’s definitely everywhere for our students so why not embrace it.  These are two of my absolutely favorite videos.  Are they educational?  Of course not but not everything in our lives revolves around whether or not it’s educational.  Some things are just fun.

Like Beyonce Clown……and the Backin’ Up Autotune the News video.

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Did you know that Youtube is the #2 search engine behind Google?  Or, that the top content categories on Youtube are music videos and “How To” videos?  That right there should be a flashing beacon of why we should be using it…….our students already are!  Our students have had video on since their birth.  It is completely natural to have a screen going at all times.  Plus, video is how we want to learn.

Our brains are hard-wired for video because movement grabs our attention while voices convey richer information than text alone.  Now, don’t think I’m an anti-book girl because we all know that’s not true.  I absolutely love to read but even I learn new tasks better if I can “see” it.  Plus, video allows us to see faces which convey emotions that we want to share with others even if they are small and we don’t realize we’re picking up on them.  How many times is an email misinterpreted because there isn’t tone or facial expressions to “read” as well as what’s spoken?  Too many for this beacon of sarcasm and nonsense to count.  Man, this post just got ironic.

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Video is also a faster way to learn.  1 minute of video = 1.8 million words.  What?!  That blows my mind.  Of course, it makes sense because that 1.8 million words aren’t actually words; they are the small, unspoken movements and expressions mentioned above.

Finally, with video, the learn is in control.  Whether it is faster/slower, rewind, skip, review, listening/watching, the learner is in the driver’s seat and, really, isn’t that what we want?

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Zaption brings in that interactive piece.  Of course, it isn’t the only tool for doing something like this……but it’s the one we are going to talk about.

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So, what now?  I’ve talked about Zaption.  Now, let’s see it in action.  Here are some Zaption Tours I’ve made.

How Does Music Affect the Mood?

Science of Sound (Matter)

Major/Minor Tonality

So, how do you get Zaption?  Well, you can sign up here and get 60 days of the pro features for free.  Don’t worry, after the 60 days, your account will go to a free account and you don’t have to do anything unless you want to pay for the continued prop account.  No strings attached, I promise.  The free features are pretty great (the pro features are obviously more involved) so you can get by with a free account and still do awesome things with it.

Now that you’ve seen a couple Zaption tours and you’ve, hopefully, created an account, let’s walk through actually creating a Zaption tour.

First, click on New Tour on your account home page.

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Next, you have to find a video (or videos with a pro account) to create a tour with.

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Zaption allows you to search from within the site to various video hosting websites including Youtube, Vimeo, and PBS.

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After you’ve chosen a video to use, you can add interactive elements.  With a free account, you can add up to six interactive elements per tour.  With a pro account, it is unlimited.

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The elements left to right are: text slide, image slide, drawing (teacher created), open response, number response, multiple choice, check boxes, drawn response (student draws instead of teacher), discussion, replay, and jump.  Below, I’ll go through and show you each element.

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Text Slide
This is where you can add extra details or reminders to your tour.

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Image Slide
This is where you can add an image if the video references something you want to remind the students of.  Obviously, the one below is just a place-holder.

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Drawing slide
This is where you can add a drawing for your students to see.  For them to add their own drawing, see drawn response below.

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Open Response
I really like the open response questions because it allows the student to put the answer in their own words which can tell me so much more than answering a multiple choice question (though those have their place as well)

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Numerical Response
If you are doing a math flipped lesson (or anything where you need the children to be able to have numerical response), this is the place.  It is a pro feature.  All of the ones before this are free features.

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Multiple Choice Questions
I don’t have to explain multiple choice.  We all know what that means.

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Checkbox Element

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Drawn Response
This is really handy in music because you can have the children draw notation or symbols.  It is a pro feature.

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Discussion Element
This is super cool but I would only use it with older students.  It timestamps the discussion so you can back and forth to see when students commented in the video.  Plus, it adds a whole other layer to the interactivity features.

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These last two are pro features.
The replay element allows you to choose a point in the video for the student to rewatch.

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The Jump Element allows you to choose a point in the video to jump to any location within you tour.

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Element Settings
All elements have their own settings menu but, generally, there are certain things that look similar.  For each element you can set it’s position on the side or on top of the video.  You can choose whether you want the video to pause at the element (like if the answer is going to come right after the question) OR to continue playing the video while the element is active.  Finally, in the event that you choose to continue the video during the element, you can choose it’s duration.

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Tour Settings
For the individual tour, you can set an introductory text for the viewer to see before the tour starts.  You can also choose whether or not to allow the viewer to skip forwards and backwards (full control), backwards only, or not at all.  I would allow at least backwards so students can go back and hear something again.  You can also choose whether or not students have to answer all questions or be allowed to skip.

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After you’re done with your tour, you can PUBLISH it so others can see it.  You can also add it to the Gallery so it is searchable by other Zaption users.

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To share your tour with students, you have several options.  To see those options, click the button that says Share.

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You can share via the link (or create a QR code).  You can share by entering names from a group you’ve created.  Finally, you can embed the code for the tour onto any webpage that you have editing rights to.  If you do the embed option, you can save yourself some hassle of having students typing in a random URL (because that in and of itself can take FOREVER).

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Finally, one last feature of Zaption.  The analytics!

Zaption allows you to see exactly what is going on with your viewers.  Not only can you see data such as viewing time and skipping forward/backward.  You can also see specific answers so, if students were to draw something, you have a record of that image.  All multiple choice questions, open response, discussion, etc; everything is recorded so that you have that data on your students.  You can also see specific viewers.  If students have an account, they can sign in with their own unique username and password.  If not, students can create a name to go by on the tour.  If, for privacy reasons, students can not use names, you can use numbers, initials, or anything as long as you can interpret it (unless, of course, you want the data to be anonymous.)

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Teaching is a goal-directed activity and a Zaption tour should be no different.

What do I want students to learn from this tour?
What is the objective of this tour.

Picking the right videos is crucial in creating an effective tour.  Yes, it takes time but the effort will be worth it.

Use elements wisely so that the elements enhance the video without being distracting.

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Well, I hope you enjoyed my presentation.  If you made it this far, congrats on your stamina.

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6th Grade Meme Rules

Sixth grade is a special age.  They aren’t little kids but they definitely are not teenagers either (and especially not adults).  To better serve them on their level, I created a special rules presentation just for them that cuts out the BS but lays down the law. Enjoy!

Disclaimer:  Although I did put together the presentation, I did not create any of these memes.  They were all found on Google Images.

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I was not able to find the above meme with correct spelling so we had a quick conversation about it.  PS: I was also too lazy to make one the day before school started so I used the incorrect one.  Lol!

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Thanks for reading!

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My Favorite Things Linky

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I’m participating in the monthly Favorite Things Linky at Teaching Trio!

First, I’m loving Summer right now.  Okay, not the hot part but I love the sleeping in, staying up late, wearing comfy clothes, and doing whatever I want!

Second, I may have developed an obsession with fonts right now.  I think it may be serious.

Finally, I’m loving being with my family right now.  I came to pick up my dog but have stayed on.  I guess I have to go back to my home sometime……

Anyway, check out others’ fav things at the link below.

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Thanks for reading!

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