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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Using ActivExpressions to Engage students - Cooperation lesson at Stanley P.S.

Using ActivExpressions to Engage Students

As part of the year-long support of Interactive Whiteboard Learning Communities, Home School Program special education teacher Catherine Watson at Stanley Public School recently completed a co-teaching experience with Itinerant Resource Teacher, Andrea Statton.  The lesson focused on the theme of cooperation.  Students had the opportunity to use ActivExpressions to respond to various questions on the Promethean interactive whiteboard. 

As the lesson progressed, students articulated their understanding of cooperation and voted if certain images and situations depicted cooperation. The students were then shown a YouTube video of Kid President’s “20 Things We Should Say More Often” ( and the students were asked to make connections between what Kid President was suggesting and the idea of cooperation.

Next, students were asked to write their own phrase or statement that should be said more often to promote cooperation.  After some think time was given, students texted in their cooperation sayings using the ActivExpressions. 

Once all of the responses had been received, Ms. Watson used “Word Seed” to paste her student’s responses onto the ActivInspire flipchart page. 

Students then explained how their statement promotes cooperation. One student said, “Saying nothing is good sometimes so that you don’t say something mean.”

If you would like more information on Linking to YouTube videos in ActivInspire, check out our video:

If you would like more information on Using the Fill Tool in ActivInspire, check out our video: 

Friday, 24 April 2015

Alternative Access project - using switches to support students - picture book read aloud at Seneca School

Using Assistive Technology to Make Picture Books Come to Life for Students

Most children enjoy visiting their school library and having a picture book read aloud to them. Donna is the Teacher-Librarian at Seneca School and does a great job using assistive technology to bring stories to life and to make library visits a positive experience for the students at Seneca School.

In March, Donna read the story “Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear?” by Bill Martin Jr. to classes that visited the library. But she didn’t just READ the book, she used assistive technology to make the story interactive and  accessible for students with various physical needs.

Here are 5 ways to make picture books (e.g., “Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear?”) interactive and accessible for students:

1.Read the book, bringing the book close to students so they can see and touch the pictures. Record the repetitive line in the story “What do you hear?” into a voice output device (e.g., Smoothtalker or Step-by-Step), every time you get to that part in the story ask the student(s) to press the switch to say that line aloud.

2. There are pre-made PowerPoint presentations of the book “Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?” online that you can download for free. Show the PowerPoint presentation on an Interactive Whiteboard and students can use a switch (e.g., Jelly Beamer wireless switch with the receiver connected to a Don Johnston Switch Interface)  to turn the page in the PowerPoint book. Students can also read the PowerPoint book on an individual computer using a switch.

3. Record the different pages of the story into a voice output device (e.g., Step-by-Step with levels) so that during activity centre time students can independently read the book by pressing the switch to read each page (students may need some adult support to turn the pages of the book).

   4. Find some videos of animals that are in this story, during activity centre time play these videos on a computer. One way you can make video viewing interactive and accessible is to set up a switch to be “left-click” and hover the cursor over the pause/play icon on the screen.  Students can press switch to start/ pause video (a great way to help students learn cause and effect use of switches).

These four ideas can be applied to many pictures books. Enjoy creating accessible and interactive literacy activities for you students!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Using Geometer's Sketchpad to support student learning - Math & AT project spotlight: Lawrence Heights Middle School

At Lawrence Heights Middle School Home School Program teacher Anita Derubeis wanted to have her students actively explore and construct fractions in a number of ways to reinforce their understanding. So, as part of the "I have AT in my class, how do I use it for Math?" project, Derubeis and itinerant teacher Valia Reinsalu co-created a three-part Math lesson using Geometer's Sketchpad (GSP). It was the first time that Ms. Derubeis and her students would use GSP. However, the possibilities to scaffold learning through the use of digital tools and manipulatives and the use of hands-on tech was something Ms. Derubeis knew her HSP students would be up for the challenge.

Minds On
During a previous lesson, Ms Derubeis' class used an activity from the Ontario Education Resource Bank - interactive multimedia lesson about fractions: Pizza Pete. During the Minds On GSP lesson, concepts and vocabulary around improper fractions was reviewed using a screenshot of the OERB lesson as a visual reminder and springboard to discussion.

During Minds On, teacher can customize pages bringing in images and using GSP's text, shapes and drawing tools - in the same way they use an Interactive Whiteboard.

Also during the Minds On, students were introduced to the features and tools of GSP including the specific custom tool for the lesson: halves, thirds, fourths, fifths and sixths. In the photos below a student uses the thirds tool to create an improper fraction using the number line model. She used the text tool to properly label her drawing. The custom "thirds: tool supports fine motor and accuracy for the student who is able to easily and quickly represent her understanding in a visual way.


Students were given a problem "Would you prefer to get 7/4 or  9/10 of a pizza?" and asked to use the GSP tools to share their thinking in a number of ways. They used GSP's segment straightedge, compass, text and marker tools to create drawings to demonstrate their thinking.

Ms. Derubeis' students are also part of the EQAO pilot project - using Read and Write Gold. During the Math lesson students used the word prediction and screen reader tools to support the clarity of their written answer.
To consolidate the lesson, Ms Derubeis had students share, compare and reflect on their responses. She addressed misconceptions and continued their work in the area of fractions.

One of the main goals of the Math & AT project is for teachers to develop and plan exciting ways to use their assistive technology to deliver math curriculum through differentiation and engagement. Lessons are designed to provide students with opportunities to use assistive technology to demonstrate their understanding of mathematics concepts. Thanks to Ms. Derubeis for a successful lesson using Geometer's Sketchpad. 

Ms. Derubeis (right) shares strategies and tools in GSP with observation Math & AT
project teachers Ms. Reiken (left) and Ms. Reid (middle).

Thursday, 16 April 2015

I have AT in My Classroom - How Do I Use it in Math project spotlight: GSP at Scarborough Village Alternative School

As our project entitled “I Have Assistive Technology In My Classroom…How Do I Use It In Math?!”, continues teachers are finding new and exciting ways to use their assistive technology to deliver math curriculum in differentiated and engaging ways while also providing students with opportunities to use assistive technology to demonstrate their understanding of mathematics concepts.

Ms. Polidoro using her Promethean IWB to review vocabulary with her students.

 One of our most recent co-planning/co-teaching opportunities was with Cristina Polidoro from Scarborough Village PS. Cristina co-developed a lesson about angles to start her Geometry unit with her students. Using the Promethean Interactive Whiteboard, Cristina guided her students through a review of geometry vocabulary such as acute, obtuse, right, and straight angles as well as line segment, ray, and vertex. Ms. Polidoro used video clips to enhance and engage students as well as her ActivExpressions to allow all students to respond, thereby honouring each of their voices. Students also had several opportunities to come to the board to measure angles using the protractor tool and engage in discussion on what angles are.

A student in Ms. Polidoro’s class shows how to use a protractor to measure an angle.
In order to consolidate their learning, students then used Geometer’s Sketchpad to create several polygons. As part of their learning task, they were asked to measure each of the angles of their polygons as well as label what each type of angle was. 

An example of a student’s work using Geometer’s Sketchpad.

In subsequent lessons, Ms. Polidoro intends to have her students also use Read and Write Gold’s Vocabulary Builder tool in order to create a vocabulary list of geometry terms as a reference tool.

Monday, 13 April 2015

I have AT in my Classroom, How Do I Use it in Math project update - LC session 2 - Geometer's Sketchup

Our “I Have Assistive Technology in my Classroom...How Do I Use it in Math?” project continued last week with our second learning community session. Teachers that are part of this project had the opportunity to explore Geometer’s Sketchpad and learn how they may use the features and tools of this program to support students’ mathematical reasoning skills.

Teachers looked at how to support their students in geometry through a variety of activities. For example, teachers learned how to construct polygons, specifically triangles, and then measure and demonstrate that the interior angles of a triangle always add to 180 degrees.

In addition, teachers learned how they can support their students learning of transformational geometry through performing flips, slides, and turns of polygons.

Finally, teachers had the opportunity to explore the multitude of pre-constructed activities as well as dynamic manipulatives available to use with lessons that involve student exploration of math concepts and problem solving using Geometer’s Sketchpad. Teachers even had time to begin developing a lesson that they could deliver to their students the next day.

By the end of our afternoon together, teachers left feeling confident that they could share what they had learned with their students and that their students would greatly benefit from the tools and features that Geometer’s Sketchpad has to offer.  In the coming weeks, several teachers that are part of this project will be engaging in co-planning and co-teaching with members of our team and will be using this program in their lesson. We are looking forward to seeing the results!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Feedback about AT project participation from Dublin Heights E.M.S.

“I haven’t been this excited in teaching in a long, long time!”

As a team, we are always looking for feedback to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our participants and to learn what we can do to improve.
Paula Brown, a teacher at Dublin Heights Elementary and Middle School, had the opportunity to participate in two of our projects this year – an Interactive Whiteboard Learning Community and the Alternative Access Project.

Ms. Brown recently shared that her participation in these sessions has been magical. Ms. Brown said, “I haven’t been this excited in teaching in a long, long time!” Part of her excitement comes from the valuable professional development that she has been receiving.  Ms. Brown likes that our session are geared for teachers and so they are “rich in practicality” which gives teachers attending the confidence to start playing with the technology.  Ms. Brown also remarked that the Itinerant Resource Teachers are “dynamic presenters” which helps support teacher engagement during the sessions.
Paula Brown recommends that other teachers should “jump in and [not to] hesitate” to participate in learning communities or other such projects! She also commented that teachers “need support at the school level” from administrators and other teachers, as learning new technology can’t be done in isolation.

More reflections on our projects will be shared in upcoming posts as our projects wind down for the end of the school year.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Tools to try in 2015 - Read and Write Gold part 2

RWG tools to try

In the latest version of Read and Write Gold, the icons may initially look a bit different, but the same powerful tools are available for student use. (In fact, if you prefer, you can change the look of the icons back to the classic look using the general options.)

Tool: Highlighters

Listed under the preset "Study Skills toolbar" the highlighters are a great way for students to organize written information using colour coding. By picking a particular colour for a particular when researching and/or when reading text, using highlighters are an easy way to keep track of key ideas. When brainstorming ideas student have also used highlights to pick out their best ideas to keep and cross out ones they will not use.

Here is a link to one of our Read and Write Gold Curriculum connection lessons showing a simple use of two highlighters: Grade 3 Social Studies Pioneer Life.

Tool: Word Prediction

Word prediction is a great tool to support students with word choice and spelling. Students launch the tool and begin typing what the first few letter and students can choose from a list of words. The prediction feature can help some students cut down on the number of keystrokes they are required to do when writing. For others, since auditory support can be turned on to have the list words read out loud, spelling and word choice is enhanced. The word prediction can be powerful. In some cases a few letters may not bring the student the word he/she is looking for. The student must type out the entire word that they are guessing the spelling of, and the predictor is able to include the word in the list.

In this Read and Write Gold Curriculum connection lesson, students begin with research using the highlighters and collect highlighter feature. They also use highlighters to choose their best answers. Finally, students are encouraged to use the word prediction tool to support their writing Grade 6 Supporting an answer with details from the text

Tool: Voice Note
 Voice note is a new tool for users in Read and Write Gold 11 version. It's easy and quick to use. Students who may have difficulty getting their ideas down by typing can record an oral response and save the file right into MIcrosoft Word (2010 or higher version). Students who may have anxiety presenting in front of peers or who would like to rehearse saying a written work such as a speech or presentation can use Voice Note to record and self-edit their pace, expression and delivery.

The following Read and Write Gold Curriculum connection begins with students gathering information and going through the stages of the writing process using many different Read and Write Gold tools for editing and composition. The final stage of the lesson - oral presentation - can be modified to include the Voice Note Grade 7/8 Point of view podcast/video

We have many other lessons from grade 1 - 10 available linking the use of the various Read and Write tools in context of the lesson. The strategies in embedding AT to meet the needs of the students can still be used even if the content of the lessons is changed or updated. Click here.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Supporting Math learning through AT & activity centres - Northlea E.M.S. spotlight Math & AT project

With such a wide variety of grade level and abilities in her Home School Program, Denise Reiken, who teaches the grade 2-8 HSP at Northlea Elementary and Middle School wanted to explore activity centres with her students as part of the "I've got Assistive Technology in my Classroom, How do I use it in Mathematics." Ms Reiken and itinerant teacher Valia Reinsalu went about planning a way for students to not only have hands-on experiences using technology to solidify their understanding of money concepts, but also to have a fun, practical way to meet all learners needs in the model of differentiated learning.

The class was able to share space with the Library Learning Commons. All three stations or activity centres were set up in designated spaces around the room. Students rotated through the three centres during the morning. Even though they were organized into multiple ability groupings, when they arrived at each centre, each student was given a task that met their readiness and comprehension level. The activities were so engaging that Ms Reiken's students were focused and on-task throughout the morning even though two other classrooms were in and out of the room,

Ms. Reiken stands by the tablet centre. The Adding or Trading Game and IWB were the two other centres which students rotated through during the morning of money value exploration.

The morning's lesson started off with a whole-group Minds-On using the SMART interactive whiteboard.
Students had the opportunity to review what they knew about the values of Canadian coins through the IWB activity.

Then students rotated through each centre spending time to explore their individualized web site or activity.

Tablet Centre
At the tablet centre students were connected to their specific link from the Ontario Education Resource Bank (OERB). The Ministry-licensed site provides multimedia activities which are curriculum links for student uses. (Each school board has student and staff passwords available for use.)
Since the tablets used by the students were touch capable, students went through the activities as if they had their individualized IWB.

Students used a variety of means to go through their specific OERB activity. 
IWB Centre (Northlea's Nutrition Nook)
At the interactive whiteboard students worked in pairs to build menus using digital manipulatives including digital coins and the pen tool to calculate the value of   specific orders.

Students work together to calculate the value of specific orders.
Games Centre
Students used coins, number cubes and game pieces along with addition skills to navigate around a game board.
Students play the Adding or Trading game using different game boards and manipulatives.
Ms. Reiken consolidated the lesson as the whole group gathered to discuss their favourite activity as well as what they had learned about money. To end the lesson, each student completed an exit slip to complete their morning's money exploration journey.