21st Century Tool of the Month for August: Thinglink

Thinglink is one of my new favorite 21st Century tools! I’ve been finding new ideas for how to use it in the classroom, and the more I use it, the more versatile I find it to be!

What is Thinglink?

Click here to see a Thinglink which explains what Thinglink is!

Here are some of my favorite ways to use it:

Task Library:

Collect resources for a project or unit of study using thinglink. This shows a task library for a teacher, and a student task library is embedded (a backward plan is also embedded in this thinglink). Students and Teachers can collaboratively add to it.

  Click here to see a post I made about the essential question, “How are people transformed by their relationships with others?” using thinglink to create a task library.


Gameboards: I have used a few “game boards” for classes that I have taught for teachers this summer, which you could easily adapt for classroom use. I used Pages to create the pictures and uploaded them to thinglink. Click on the pictures to see the interactive multimedia embedded.  

Maps: I made this map using lucid chart and thinglink to create the furniture layout I was requesting in a grant to create a 21st century learning lab. I could see this idea being used in the classroom as a seating chart with student pictures and different areas or centers in the room. Students could create little mini movies that describe and/or explain the procedures for different areas in the room and attach it to the map. Then you could turn it into a QR code that guests or new students can scan to learn more about your classroom.


Geography teachers, thiinglink is the perfect tool for you! Interactive maps are one of the best uses for thinglink. Click here to see a post I made using maps and thinglink.


Digital Storytelling:

Thinglink can be used for digital storytelling too. Check out this great thinglink (not created by me) that turns a comic strip into an interactive story.


Here is a resource I created using pages and thinglink for a class I taught about digital storytelling.

Click here to see a post I made about using Thinglink and Screencastify.


Graphic Organizers:

Thinglink is a great tool to use with graphic organizers. Here is how kindergarteners used thinglink to interview their teacher.

Here is an example of first graders who used this thinking map to show the cause and effect in a book.


Share social media:

I have also used thinglink to help people stay connected to me!

How will you use thinglink?


Lesson Idea: How are people transformed through their relationship with others?

edmodoTo keep up with teaching and learning in the 21st century, I believe that every teacher needs a PLC (professional learning community) to stay connected and to collaborate on ideas in education because we simply cannot (and should not) do it  all alone. Surprisingly, edmodo is not just a place to connect with students; it is also a great place to connect with other teachers from around the globe. It is a very diverse and  active community, so if you ask for help, suggestions, and ideas, you are likely to get it!

In the ‘Language Arts’ edmodo group, Katie Meece, a teacher from Ohio, posted the following question: “I am looking for short reading selections in any genre to fit with one of my 7th grade units. The essential question is: How are people transformed through their relationships with others? Suggestions?”

I was one of 9 teachers, elementary – high school, from around the world to reply to Katie’s request for suggestions. She got advice from Justin Foreman in China, Tammy Owen in Texas, Melyssa Quintana in New Jersey, Marie Wallas in Washington, Deborah Bobo in South Carolina, Amanda Arlequin in New York, Trimonisha Singer in California, John Vallerga in California, and me, Emily Stout, in Colorado. I was so inspired by Katie’s essential question and the world-wide collaboration that was happening, I wanted to craft a lesson around these suggestions for my students too.

First, I created this thinglink as a reference library of all the suggestions Katie received for her request for short reading selections that fit her essential question. (Click here or click on the picture to view the embedded interactive media in this thinglink).

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Later I discovered the Global Read Aloud project, which is a program that uses one book to connect the world by connecting classrooms globally to discuss the same book. There are different books chosen each year, and when I saw The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane on the list, I knew it was the perfect story for the essential question: How are people transformed through their relationships with others?

Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer, discusses the habits of life long readers in her most recent book Reading in the Wild. One of the life-long reading habits is: “Share books and reading with other readers. Readers enjoy talking about books almost as much as they like reading. Reading communities provide a peer group of other readers who challenge and support us.” The introduction to this book states, “. . . the real purposes of reading include personal connections— that books can touch us all deeply and elicit laughter, tears, and other reactions. These connections are part of the very heart of wild reading.” In my elementary classroom, I want to use connections from the Global Read Aloud to create a diverse community of readers, and  then use this essential question to help students focus on the theme, or heart of a story and share the essence of that story with others by creating book trailers and/or book reviews.

In her book Reading with Meaning, Debbie Miller teaches her students how to synthesize a book instead of simply retelling it. One of her first grade students explains synthsizing like this: “At first it is a little bit of thinking. Then bigger thinking comes and you add and add on and you take your old thinking and your new thinking and put them together.” Using the strategy of synthesizing a book, students have to dig deeper into the meaning of the story instead of simply retelling surface details. I think creating book trailers is a great way to get at the heart of the story and truly synthesize it. A good trailer should be no more than 2 minutes long, which means you have to focus on the theme of the story to really engage your readers, not just the surface details we typically ask students for on a story map. It’s not that students don’t need to know how to identify the characters, setting, events, and the conclusion—they do, but to get other wild readers to connect to a story and want to read it, it has to go deeper than that. Here is my synthesis of the book The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.

Debbie Miller showed us that her first grade students were more than capable of creating a synthesis like this for books they read together in class, and Donalyn Miller emphasizes the importance of connecting with other readers and discussing and sharing books. With the right tech tools, even first graders can create a book trailer based on their synthesis.   I created a backward plan for how I would implement The Global Read Aloud project in my classroom and how I would integrate technology using App Flow. You can check it out by clicking here. For more resource suggestions, you can follow my board on graphite called “App Smashing & Making Multimedia Projects” by clicking here.

How else have you used edmodo or The Global Read Aloud?

Literature + Global Connections + Technology– I Love It When It All Comes Together!

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I love it when it all comes together!

I have some wonderful connections to share that integrate my 3 biggest passions in education: literacy, diversity, and technology! I’ve recently found 3 great learning opportunities through my PLC (Professional Learning Community), and I saw a way that they all fit together. I hope you’ll join me in participating in them! Click on each of the pictures below to check out these great opportunities to learn and share.

ramona recommendsCourtney, from Ramona Recommends, is doing a traveling picture book linky for the summer. In this linky, you can share a picture book about where you live or a place that you have visited. The book you blog about should teach us about that place. What a great idea! (I’m not the only one who collects picture books from my travels!)

Pigs over denver

My book recommendation for this linky is a book about where I live. Pigs Over Denver was written by Kerry Lee MacLean in conjunction with school children from the greater Denver area. It names the most popular places to frequent in the Denver Metro area, as told by students! There are more books in this series such as Pigs Over Colorado, and Pigs Over Boulder, but Pigs Over Denver is my personal favorite!


Pernille, creator of the Global Read Aloud, has encouraged a global book exchange this year as part of the Global Read Aloud project. If you haven’t heard of the Global Read Aloud, you have to check it out! It’s a wonderful concept–all over the world, teachers read the same book to their students and then connect with another classroom anywhere in the world to discuss the book. Classrooms can write to each other on blogs, through emails, or even do a google hangout with their global epals. Discussing a common book from different global perspectives will give children a whole new outlook on the similarities and differences they share with people from other places. This year, you are encouraged to share a book with your global buddy about where you live to help them learn more about where you are from.

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 4.35.04 PMThinglink is hosting a summer PD set of challenges so that you can get some hands on experience with Thinglink and generate ideas about how you can use it in the classroom. The fourth challenge is to create an interactive map.

Click here to see my interactive map for challenge #4

Here is how I put them altogether . . . Choosing picture books that give information about a place you have visited, as done in Ramona’s Recommendations, is the same idea behind the book exchange with the Global Read Aloud, so I decided to make my interactive map for Thinglink’s 4th challenge a collection of these picture books from around the world. This could be a great resource for learning about other cities, states, and countries through picture books from people who have been there!

This interactive map is open for anyone to edit. I have already added the titles and authors of the books from those who have linked up so far, as well as the link to each blog post, but please continue to add to this map! Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could collaborate and share a resource that acquainted us with the whole world through picture books?

To further redefine a collaborative resource once unimaginable on a global scale such as this, I would love to have students create a book trailer for the book that introduces their city, state, or country and add it to the same Thinglink interactive map. What a great introduction for their global epals, and what a great, authentic learning experience for students to conduct research and determine the most important things to share about where they live. Better yet, students could create their own ABC book about where they live, just like Pigs Over Denver, using their own pictures or illustrations from the places they’ve been in their community and writing about it from personal experience. iMovie or Videolicious would be great tools to use. If small groups of students each created a video about one important place in their community, all the videos could be combined into one ebook using the app Book Creator and then published on iBooks, or Nook!

A project like this could redefine age-old assignments such as “What I Did Over Summer Break” and “Create a Brochure About Your State.” By giving these time-honored traditional assignments a makeover using technology and an authentic global audience, you now have a 21st century learning experience that can help students internalize the value of where they live and share it with the world.

Teaching Elementary School Students to Be Effective Writers: Let’s Integrate Technology!

Teaching Elementary School Students to Be Effective Writers: Let’s Integrate Technology! Teachers today, from kindergarten – 12th grade, are tasked with the job of teaching digital natives how to survive succeed in an ever-changing 21st century world. We must prepare our students to have successful careers in jobs that have not yet been invented.  So who […]

A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas

A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas.


On April 10th, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were released as a final draft. Although they are still finishing the links to the CCSS, you can see the 3 dimension frameworks that are in place k-12.

I think it will be good to have these common standards, but now we have too figure out where to begin digging into them! I suppose we start by looking at them . . . So click on the link above to dig in!

Does anyone have suggestions for good professional development or resources to help us get started with this?

Help Me Win A Grant by Voting Now!

Please help me win a grant by voting for my idea on WeAreTeachers!

I am participating in a contest sponsored by ING and an online community called WeAreTeachers.
I submitted a teaching idea answering the question: What are your ideas for teaching students about personal finance and financial literacy?
The 5 teachers with the most votes win an iPod Touch and $200 for the classroom!

The recipients are selected through an online voting process. SO — If you have a moment, I’d really appreciate you going online and voting for my idea.

It would really mean a lot to me to have your vote and support!

Just go here and type my first & last name, Emily Stout, into the “Enter keywords” box “by Author.” My project idea is called Kid Town.

Today is the last day to vote! Thank you so much for your help!

Monday Made It DIY #3: Discovery Journals and a Color “Wheel”

I’m a little late this week because we’ve been out of town, but I did make some things before we left! Thanks to Monica at the Schroeder Page, I discovered that office stores can cut composition notebooks in half!

Office Depot only charged me $3 to cut 12 composition notebooks in half (which gave me a total of 24 mini notebooks). Staples wanted to charge me $3 per book!

This is good news because my 2nd graders NEVER use the whole book. They are usually intimidated by the number of pages in the book and the lines that are so much closer together than in 1st grade. Some kids ignore the lines altogether and write all over the place! I’ve had 2nd graders flip to random pages to write things down, and then they never find it again. Needless to say, I’ve learned that 2nd graders need explicit instruction about how to use a composition notebook! So here is how I plan to use these mini notebooks that will be so much more manageable for my 2nd graders.

First, I thought they looked kind of funny cut in half, so I covered them with duct tape. This should make them nice and strong too! (I picked a color that I thought boys and girls would like, but there are a TON of varieties to choose from!)

Walmart had the the cheapest tape that I could find at $3.50(ish) a roll. It is called “Duck Tape,” and it comes in a variety of cool patterns and colors!

Next I made a label for the front and directions for organizing the notebook that I pasted on the inside cover. We will go over how to use our discovery notebooks in class, but I thought a reminder would help! (Click on the picture of the directions to pick up your freebie!)

We use our notebooks to make notes, observations, draw pictures, etc. in all subject areas, so we divide our notebook into different sections. I’ve tried using sticky notes to do this, and it doesn’t even last a week for most students. They get torn off or they stop sticking, so I’m trying something new this year. I’m going to modge podge labels onto foam tabs, and I duct tape the tabs on. I hope these will last all year — I’ll let you know! Has anyone ever tried anything else that lasts?

I did another project for my son that he won’t be able to enjoy for awhile, but at least that gives me plenty of time to put on the finishing touches! I saw a really cool way to display crayons and colors on pinterest, and I knew that would be the perfect addition to my art room! (I am planning on making a section of my art room kid friendly.) I started with gathering buckets for the colors.

I got my buckets from the dollar bin at Target and from amazon.com, but I don’t suggest it! Ikea has galvanized buckets that are MUCH sturdier and cheaper too! I had already bought mine, so it was too late, but I wish I had gone to Ikea first.

Ikea had this REALLY cool lazy susan that I decided to use for the color “wheel.” I spray painted the lazy susan white and each bucket a different color. I am going to modge podge color labels on next. I also put bigger buckets in the middle to hold paint, pens, pencils, etc.  My husband bolted each bucket down, so you can spin it to the color you want! I’m so excited to put it in my art room and let my son use it (someday)!

Featured Book Friday: Teammates

Teammates by Peter Golenbock

The book is about the friendship between PeeWee Reese and Jackie Robinson, during the first season Jackie played baseball with the Dodgers.  Peewee Reese was the only teammate to stand up for Jackie when no one else would.

~Book review written by Laurie Foote

Curriculum Connection: Social Skills/Rules

The lesson ideas for this featured book is by guest author Laurie Foote. Check out more great ideas from Laurie at her website: http://chickadeejubilee.blogspot.com

It seems a strange book to start the year with, but I love baseball and the Dodgers, so it helps my kiddos make a connection with me as well.
We are then able to discuss how we are all different…because of where we are from, what we like/dislike, and so many other things, and yet work together as a team, within our classroom.  Students pair up into “teams” and make venn diagrams comparing the differences and similarities they have.  Then, like Peewee, we talk about how our “team” stands up for each other and what that might look like in daily life at school.

Fairy Tales and Fables Unit

I love it when it all comes together!

Weaving a strand of learning throughout multiple areas in the curriculum is a smarter way to teach and a more powerful learning experience for students.

Developed through the study of experts like Linda Dorn, Lucy Caulkins,  Lori Octzkus, and Debbie Diller with some of my own twists thrown in, this unit aligns to the Colorado state standards.

(Click here for the standards link: ‘Why teach a fairy tales and fable unit?)


(click on the books for more information about each title)

Fairy tales: start with the original version

You may be surprised how many of your students are not familiar with classic fairy tales. I purposely do not use the Disney version of fairy tales because they typically do not appeal to boys. I look for award winning books (because it fits in nicely with our book awards), and versions that are as close to the original Brother’s Grimm fairy tales as possible. The books above are some of my favorite versions.

Let your students in on the ‘secret’ about fairy tales. There are specific structures and patterns that make fairy tales easy to identify and easy to write. Students love it when you let them in on secrets that adult authors use! Use the fairy tale text map to identify these patterns and structures. (click here for the Fairy tale text map)

  • Setting— Fairy tales purposely do not reveal a specific setting. They take place ‘long ago,’ ‘far away,’ or ‘once upon a time.’ They do not reveal the time and place so that it can apply to anyone, anywhere. Write the first sentence of the story in the ‘setting’ box to show this vague time and place. My class refers to this as the “Once upon a time . . .” box.
  • Main Characters— Fairy tales usually have very clear ‘good guy(s)’ and ‘bad guy(s)’ because the good guys are very good, and the bad guys are very bad. The story reveals this through their appearance, actions, and words. My class refers to this as the “good guys/bad guys” box.
  • Problem–The problem in fairy tales are very big problems that usually involve death. For example, in Rumpelstiltskin, if the miller’s daughter does not spin the straw into gold, the king will kill her. In Jack and the Beanstalk if the giant catches Jack he will eat him. My class calls this “A Deadly Problem.”
  • Repeated events/words— There is a pattern of 3 that occurs in fairy tales– three little pigs, Goldilocks and the three bears, three times that Jack climbs the beanstalk, and three times that Rumpelstiltskin spins the straw into gold. The discovery of this pattern is always a favorite among students. They always find patterns of 3 that I have never noticed before! We call this “The pattern of 3.”
  • Magical Element— Fairy tales always include some sort of magic. We know that fairy tales are fictitious because they contain something magical that could not happen in real life: the fairy godmother in Cinderella, the magic mirror in Snow White, or the frog that was put under a spell in The Frog Prince.
  • Solution–Even though fairy tales usually include “a deadly problem,” there is always a way for the “good guy” to avoid it. In Sleeping Beauty the evil fairy casts a spell that will kill Aurora, but one of the good fairies changes the spell to put her to sleep instead. She will wake up if she is kissed by a prince. In Rumpelstiltskin, the queen will not have to give up her child if she can guess his name. We call this, “A Way Out.”
  • Ending–Fairy tales always have a happy ending. The ‘good guys’ win and they live the rest of their lives ‘happily ever after.’  For instance, in Rapunzel, she finds her husband, cures his blindness, and they find his kingdom where they will rule as king and queen. In The Three Little Pigs, the third little pig tricks the wolf, has wolf stew for supper, and was never bothered by a wolf again. Write the last sentence (or few sentences) in the “Ending” box to show how the good guy wins and the rest of his life is happy. My class refers to this as “Happily Ever After.”


Fables are similar to fairy tales, but they have some distinctive differences in their patterns and structures. (Click here for the Fable Text Map)

  • Moral/Lesson: Fables teach a lesson that the reader has to infer because the story usually doesn’t come right out and tell you, which means the ending is not always  a happy one. For example, the moral in Henny Penny is ‘don’t believe everything you hear,’ and she and her friends get eaten in the end. In The Magic Fish, the moral is ‘don’t be greedy’ and the fisherman’s wife loses all the wishes she was granted.
  • Character/Trait: The characters in fables are almost always animals. In order to make the lesson more powerful, fables use animals to avoid pointing the blame at a certain kind of person. Instead, the animal has a distinctive trait that the reader can relate to. For instance, Henny Penny is easily fooled, the fox is clever,  the Little Red Hen shows a lot of perseverance, and the dog, cat, and pig are lazy.
  • Problem: There is an obvious obstacle in fables that the main character has to overcome. The three billy goats gruff have to get over the bridge to get to the grass on the other side, the little red hen needs to make the bread, the frogs in It’s Mine! have to find a safe place to sit during the thunderstorm.
  • Solution: This is how the story is wrapped up. Use the ending to help you infer the moral to the story.

Author/Illustrator Study

Award winning author and illustrator Leo Lionni is considered a modern day fable writer. His main characters are critters that he was fascinated with as a child such as frogs, lizards, mice, and fish. The morals are easy for children to relate to.

It’s Mine: share

-Swimmy: teamwork (swimmy video)

-Fish is Fish: the grass is not always greener on the other side

-Fredrick: everyone has something important to contribute to the group (Frederick video)

-Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse: caring, selflessness

Standing on the shoulders of Leo Lionni, students can write fables using the same kind of characters and morals. They can also illustrate their stories using collage in the same style as Leo Lionni.

Paint blank white paper earthy colors using different textures and brush strokes. (I did some of the painting myself.  I also sent an email home asking for students to paint plain white paper at home and bring it in for our collages. It seemed too messy to let the kids do it in class!) Using these painted papers, students can cut and tear the characters for their stories or poems. Click here for a video from Leo Lionni on how to make a mouse.

Fractured Fairy Tales

Fractured fairy tales are different versions or different view points of original fairy tales. Most kids are familiar with the word ‘fracture’– they know it means to break something (because it has usually happened to at least one of them!). That’s how I explain fractured fairy tales to students. Using the same patterns and structures as the original fairy tales, one piece on the fairy tale text map is “broken” and changed. For example, in the story The Tortoise and the Jack Rabbit, the setting was “broken” and changed to take place in the desert. That caused a ripple effect in the rest of the story. The character had to be changed into a jack rabbit to fit the desert setting. The same fracture happens in the setting of different Cinderella stories around the world. The country where it takes place is “broken” and changed which causes a ripple effect culturally throughout the story. In the story The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, the characters were “broken,” and the “good guys” and the “bad guy” were reversed. Fractured fairy tales are fun stories for kids to read and write. It gives them an opportunity to do some creative synthesizing using the structures and patterns they’ve learned about fairy tales.

Guided & Independent Practice

After reading aloud different fairy tales, fables, fractured fairy tales and modeling how to fill out the text map, let your students try it. Using easy to read versions of the same fairy tales and fables you have modeled will help make these stories more accessible to everyone in your class. Students can read these stories and fill out their own fairy tale text map. Eventually they can use fairy tales and fables you haven’t already read to them. Here are some easy to read stories that I like to use:

I included e-books from Evan Moor in my list of easy to read fairy tales and fables. One book includes 8 different fairy tales and fables that are written at a 2nd-3rd grade reading level. The other e-book includes 7 fairy tales and folktales written for a K-1 audience. They are printable stories that include activities with each story. Although I would not use all the activities included in these books, I thought it was worth purchasing for the printable stories and the puppet templates.

Felt Board Center: During our fairy tales and fables unit, I include easy to read and familiar fairy tales and fables with felt characters. At this ILA (independent literacy activity) students reread one of their favorite stories, then retell it using the felt characters.

Buddy Reading Center: I make/collect multiple copies of familiar fairy tales so students can read them together. I also include reader’s theater fairy tale plays so students can practice reading different parts.

Listening center: Students listen to fairy tales and fables from an audio book. You can easily create your own audio books and include a guided lesson! Check out Listening Center Plus for more information. Click here for a sample of The Three Little Pigs.

Library Center: Students reread the fairy tales and fables you read aloud to the class and fill out their own fairy tale or fable text map.

Writing Center: Students write their own fairy tales or fables using the text maps to plan out their story before they begin writing. They can also write a poem about a character in one of the stories you have been studying.

Creation Station: Students create puppets for their favorite fairy tale or fable and use them to retell the story. In the style of Leo Lionni, students can cut and tear characters  using painted paper to construct their characters (see the example on the left).

All of these activities can be recorded on video or a podcast  for students to share. See the Make Them Movie Stars post for more ideas.

Cross-Curricular Collaboration

Don’t forget to collaborate with your specials teachers when you have a big unit of study, so they can link their expertise as well. Talk to your art teacher about illustrating like Leo Lionni. Our art teacher has a Leo Lionni unit that she teaches which covers how to create collages in a much more comprehensive way than I ever could. Our music teacher has a play that the students perform based on the book Swimmy by Leo Lionni. The librarian and computer lab teacher will be able to create a lot of connections for your students as well.

Wrapping Up the Unit

Now that your students have become experts on fairy tale and fable structures, it’s time to celebrate with a fairy tale ball!

Start by having students send a formal invitation to their families. Thanks to the creativity of some parents in my classroom, the students crinkled up invitations printed on brown paper to make it look old and worn, then (the parent helpers) hot glued sticks to the top and bottom of the invitation to make it look like a scroll. The students rolled it up, tied it with a string, and brought home their fancy invitations for their families.

Next have your students prepare the entertainment at the fairy tale ball. The activities that they did during ILAs (independent literacy activities) such as retelling stories with felt board characters and the puppets that they created, reading reader’s theater plays at the buddy reading center, writing their own fairy tales, fables, and poems at the writing center, and the Swimmy play they learned in music make great entertainment for the fairy tale ball! This year we are video taping all these activities (rather than making it a live performance) so we can all watch them together. We are hoping that it will make orchestrating the entertainment a little less stressful on the day of the big ball!

Contact parents for help organizing food and decorations for the big feast. Try having a fairy tale feast theme with (plastic) goblets, chicken wings, and fairy tale napkins! Click here for some ideas on making a fairy tale feast and decorating medieval style.

On the day of the fairy tale ball, be sure to have everyone dress in their fanciest clothes. Take pictures of the families for a wonderful keepsake of this special celebration! (Check back soon for more pictures of the latest fairy tale ball)