Featured Teacher Sheila Slawiak Transforms Her Classroom with Voki

Featured Teacher Sheila Slawiak Transforms Her Classroom with Voki

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This summer, we asked our Voki community to submit their stories on how Voki has changed their classroom experience. We’d like to share with you the story of Sheila Slawiak, our featured teacher winner, who transformed her students’ attitude, engagement level, and integrity in their work using Voki.

Last school year during Q4 I tried out Voki for the first time.  I teach inner city struggling urban middle school students at a Level 4 school and before Voki, no project impressed them!  Then I found Voki and tried it!  To my surprise, all of my students loved it (from special ed to honors); I had 100% student engagement; and I had a student focused class!  It was a huge WOW! For me and for my students.  Even my most  highly risk students produced their product using my project requirements.  Never did I hear, “this is too  much work!”

I do have to admit, I used a lesson plan from the Voki blog as an idea.  Our school requires monthly written essays that show “citing of evidence”.  I took the idea of writing a persuasive essay about the importance of healthy snacks.  I gave my students a text set of 3 articles regarding the pros and cons of healthy snacks so they could synthesize their essay.  I also told them that their audience were 5th graders so they could feel important sharing what they have learned about healthy snacks.

To my surprise, they were so involved with all the activities in order to produce a talking persuasive avatar.  For the first time, there were no moans or groans inundating the lab, or piercing eyes staring at me. For the first time, I was able to facilitate peer reviews where each student really took an interest in their partners’ work.  For the first time, each student wanted to present their findings. For the first time, each student either scored a 3 or a 4 on my rubric vs. 0-3s. And for the first time, I was rated with high evaluative scores from my principals!  We all won and I attribute these wins to Voki!  Next school year, I’ll invite parents!

Thank you Voki for being so imaginative and for not ever settling!

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Sheila is an Instructional Technology Teacher for grades 6-8. She is passionate about teaching educational technology to both her students and colleagues. Shelia has expressed this sentiment on teaching: “It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that you can encourage all students (no matter what their challenges are in learning) to express their thoughts by utilizing audio applications like Voki that allow students to imagine greatness!”

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The Benefits of Hooks

The Benefits of Hooks

How many of you have found yourself in this situation: it is Saturday night and you are watching TV.  All of a sudden, this intriguing movie trailer comes scrolling across your screen.  It is a teaser about this amazing movie coming out this summer.  You are captivated and memorized.  You have to find out as much as you can about this movie that has captured your attention.  You are hooked, line and sinker.  You will be buying tickets online to see that movie as soon as they are available.  Effective classroom hooks are the same in regards to exciting movie trailers.  A great hook gives students a preview of what an amazing lesson is getting ready to be taught and learned. It can make the difference between the best lesson ever and the worst.

Student engagement during lessons is an area in education that teachers are battling on a daily basis.  Dorit Sasson, author of “7 Ways to Start a Great Lesson”, emphasizes that “the most important part of the lesson occurs during the first five minutes.” What is the trick to engaging students? According to “Shooting for Success!  Madeline Hunter Lesson Cycle”, written by the creator of the “anticipatory set” or “hook”, “the hook should excite students about the subject matter.” Hook activities are short introductions at the beginning of a lesson or even a project.  A hook can be a song, rap, dance, game, acting skit, art activity or even a technology-integrated activity that is directly related to the lesson’s topic. Ms. Hunter also states that the hook should “grab the students not focused upon learning. By having an activity related to what will be learned, it shifts their attention to the learning process. Anticipatory set can also establish a readiness or anticipation for what is to follow. For the “hook” to do so, it must pique students’ interest. Otherwise it might do the opposite and turn students off to the topic.”

I have talked about what hooks are and what purpose they serve during a lesson.  Now let’s talk about the benefits of hooks.  Hooks provide engagement, excitement and a gateway into the lesson’s objective that can prepare and motivate students to learn the content being taught.  Students can focus on creating more productive work and hooks make the learning environment fun right from the start.  These activities can tap into the multiple intelligence approach to learning simply by allowing teachers to be creative with the type of hooks used to kick off the lesson. For example, in Using Hook Stations to Engage Students in a Lesson, Hillary Mills, a 7th grade Science-Geology teacher, uses hook stations to kick off her geology/biology lesson.  The stations are set up just like small group learning stations but incorporated at the beginning of the lesson.  Each of the stations incorporates different hands on activities, with the students acting as geologists studying fossils in each case.

Before I became the Voki Content Development Manager at Oddcast, I was a classroom teacher for twenty years with a Master’s degree in Integrating Technology in the K-12 Classroom from Walden University.  When I reflect on the years I taught in the classroom, the lessons that resulted in the best student engagement were always the ones that kicked off with an awesome hook.  I would always use different style hooks that would touch on the variety of learning styles in my class to meet all of their learning needs.  Of course I was passionate about integrating technology as much as possible into my lessons!  I really wish I had the opportunity to use Voki Speaking Characters as hooks when I taught. It would have been one of the top software integration tools incorporated into my lessons. I truly believe Voki Hooks capture and engage the 21st Century learner.  There are a variety of ways to use these speaking characters and Voki Hooks are just one way.  The Voki Hook activities guided by the Voki speaking characters provide top level engagement at the beginning of lessons. There are over 250 speaking characters to choose from and some fit perfectly into themed units of study. There are also hooks created to celebrate special days of the year like Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, St. Patrick’s Day and National Pencil Day!  Here are some examples of exemplary Voki Hooks—feel free to incorporate them into your classroom lessons:

March Madness Multiplication

http://www.voki.com/presenter/playPresentation.php?id=0eb178c5581f651876fadae5a8980899

Tell a Fairy Tale Day

http://www.voki.com/presenter/playPresentation.php?id=57d2108c6efd565d5bd6b27e4c7e747a

Phases of the Moon

http://www.voki.com/presenter/playPresentation.php?id=494ad0d24e15c7da81c7ea265c7f4cb4

Pencil Day

http://www.voki.com/presenter/playPresentation.php?id=29ec8066dea8748449b852688c46ee5a

Voki also has a product called Voki Teach.  Voki Teach is a library of Common-Core aligned lessons, hooks, and tech project activities in the areas of ELA, Math, and Social Studies. Science and Foreign Languages are coming soon.  Learn more here: http://www.voki.com/teach/home

 

the goldfish and the hook

 

 

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Christina Bazemore is the Content Development Manager at Oddcast.  She was an elementary, high school, technology lab teacher and soccer coach for twenty years.  She received her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education from Georgia Southern University and her Master’s Degree in Integrating Technology in the K-12 Classroom from Walden University.  She is fulfilling her lifelong dream of working and living in New York City.  She has one son, Andy and a dog named Shadow!   Christina is a big Georgia Bulldog football fan!

Voki Teach: Making Lesson Planning Easier

Voki Teach: Making Lesson Planning Easier

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It’s Sunday, but instead of being out and about, you’re perched over your screen opening new tab after new tab. You’re hoping that you’ll land on the site you’ve been looking for, and that your endless hours of research will prove fruitful. But as the clock hands fly in their circular orbit, the only answer you’ve arrived at is, “this is going nowhere.”

For a teacher, weekend lesson planning can quickly replace #SundayFunday with #teacherproblems. Hunting for the right activities to fill your curriculum likely includes a fact-checking process where too many marks are missed: standards aren’t met, technology isn’t integrated, methods are out of line with your teaching style.

But before you peg yourself as a lead-less investigative journalist, we have something that might just solve the problem. Our New Voki Teach Library hosts lessons, hooks, and tech projects all in one spot on voki.com. Voki Teach not only eliminates the blind search in the thicket of the World Wide Web, it allows you to specify what grade and subject area you are interested in. To make your selection process even easier, all of our content is rated by fellow teachers so you can curate the material that is liked by your peers.

Think about your potential school day using Voki Teach. Say it’s National Grammar Day. You can kick off your Language Arts lesson using the National Grammar Day hook and have your students create grammar superheroes that wield special powers and rescue sentence errors (our Voki avatar Fragment Eliminator and Comma Man will show you how it’s done). Having engaged your students with this activity, you can then transition into the other objectives you have prepared for the class.

Fourth period bell rings. Some students are cowering at the thought of learning new math techniques. Our Voki Teach Math lessons incorporate games into the lesson, so multiplying is not so meticulous.

Science time. Learning the states of matter can be confusing. How does a liquid transform into a gas again? Our Voki Teach tech project outlines how a teacher should demonstrate the different properties of matter, and prompts the student to recall what he knows by designing a Voki avatar at the end of the lesson that reiterates the material.

The Voki experience is everything but dull. Research shows that technology integration in your classroom boosts student performance, and talking avatars are proven to engage all types of learners across age groups. Voki activities get students hands-on with their work, customizing their own avatars to deliver the knowledge they’ve obtained.

Wouldn’t you rather hear a lesson from an avatar? Or better yet, have one give your answer?

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Catherine Alvino is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at Oddcast. She holds a BA in English Literature and a MBA with a concentration in Marketing. She loves to write and is proud to work for a company that adds value to learning.

Voki: Changing The Way My Students Learn

Voki: Changing The Way My Students Learn

gurgastudentphotoHow is Voki revolutionizing the way students learn in the classroom? Find out in Gianna Gurga’s

(Our newest guest blogger’s) blog post!

https://fishphilosopher.wordpress.com/2015/03/10/voki-changing-the-way-my-students-learn/

gianna gurgaGianna Gurga is a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at 2 PK-8 schools in Waterbury, CT. She has been teaching for 4 years and has developed a passion for increasing students’ learning abilities by incorporating technology into various lessons and activities. Currently, Gianna is 5 weeks away from completing her Master of Education program in Instructional Design and Technology at Post University in Waterbury, CT. In addition to being a full-time teacher and graduate student, she is a High School Girls Tennis Coach, a ZUMBA Fitness Instructor, and a Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant.

Encouraging students to be creative

Encouraging students to be creative

C1v2-3-300x187Everyone can be creativity, so why limit it in class? Students should be encourage to think outside the box whenever possible and be open to new ideas inside and outside of the classroom. Therefore, educators should encourage them to be more creative. Let’s find out how we can encourage our students to be creative!

Encourage risk-taking.

In order for students to be creative and innovative, risk-taking must be encouraged in class. Teachers must create a safe environment that allows risk-taking. Let your students know that mistakes are acceptable and allow them do redo their work.

Encourage collaboration.

Two heads are better than one.  Allow your students to work together, either in pairs or in groups. This would encourage them to share different ideas and perspectives. Working in pairs or groups can help students develop new approaches to solving problems.

Encourage questioning.

It is important to encourage your students to ask questions. This is how they can learn in class. Give your students opportunities in class to ask questions. Check here for some suggestion form the Voki Team on how to encourage your students to ask more questions.

We would love to know how you encourage your students to be creative in class!

Until next time,

Eva D.

The Voki Team

1560505_10152516453053764_8553617582835278394_nBio: Eva is the Community Manager for Voki and is part of the Marketing Team at Oddcast. She enjoys playing the piano and knitting on her free time. (She’s also a Rubik’s cube master!) She loves to hear your feedback and comments for Voki!

Tips on Teaching Creativity

Tips on Teaching Creativity

dsc00022Creativity is important in order for a classroom to be successful. Every student has the potential of being creative. It is up to the educator to help them cultivate it. So how can you help them in class? Here are some tips that can help!

1. Think outside the box.

In order to help your students to be creative in class, you have to be creative too. Do not confine yourself to the set standards. Be open to new ideas and try to find ways that can transform some of your lessons. If you run of ideas, connect with other teachers and ask them how they teach their lessons!

2. Encourage your students.

Encourage your students to be creative by setting an example of what creativity is. If you show them, they are sure to follow. Always encourage multiple viewpoints and different ideas. There’s no room for creative thought if there’s always a definitive right and wrong answer!

3. Give feedback.

Giving feedback on your students’ work can help them understand their ideas better. Find out how you can provide students with effective feedback.

Many teachers use Voki inside their classroom to help students be creative. Check out our past posts to see!

What other tips do you have that can help teachers teach creativity in class!

Until next time,

Eva D.

The Voki Team

1560505_10152516453053764_8553617582835278394_nBio: Eva is the Community Manager for Voki and is part of the Marketing Team at Oddcast. She enjoys playing the piano and knitting on her free time. (She’s also a Rubik’s cube master!) She loves to hear your feedback and comments for Voki!

Students: Ask for Help in Class

Students: Ask for Help in Class

AskForHelp_Logo_2Asking for help can be very hard but it is very important if you want to learn more in class. Knowing how to ask for help is a very important skill to have. You may have a question about last night’s homework or something you want your teacher to clarify in class. Here are some helpful tips on how you can ask for help in class:

  • It is ok to ask for help.

Remember that it is ok to ask for help. You are in class to learn so asking questions can help you learn more.  If you are afraid to ask your teacher to help, try to ask your classmate to help! If you sit back and not ask for help, you are only hurting yourself.

  • Don’t be afraid.

Being afraid to ask for help is a major problem for students. They are afraid that other students would tease them. Never be embarrassed and do not worry about other students judging you. If you have a personal problem, talk to your teacher privately during a break and they will do their best to help you.

 

Voki Tip: If you are afraid to ask your teacher for help during class, send him/her an email afterwards. You can even create a Voki that can help you out!

Until next time,

Eva D.

The Voki Team

1560505_10152516453053764_8553617582835278394_nBio: Eva is the Community Manager for Voki and is part of the Marketing Team at Oddcast. She enjoys playing the piano and knitting on her free time. (She’s also a Rubik’s cube master!) She loves to hear your feedback and comments for Voki!