Google Level 1 Certification

Yay! This morning I passed the Google Level 1 Certification! I had obtained my Google Educator certification about 2 years back, and it was valid through November (despite the new criteria coming out), so I finally decided to renew to the new Certifications.

Bearing in mind the NDA, I will simply say that it consisted of questions that are similar to the Training Center and Unit Review questions (within the Training Center), along with performance tasks (like the one listed on these Sample Questions). The majority of my test consisted of performance tasks, and as a regular Google Apps for Education user, I found the performance tasks to be easier than the written questions since they relied more on my procedural memory than my semantic memory (can you tell I love psycholinguistics?). I also ended up completing the test in under the allotted time (180 minutes), but I would set aside the full time, especially if you feel you will need to do some research during the test, as that part can take the longest.

I continue to be unclear on the passing criteria, nor on how Google programmed the passing criteria (for the performance tasks in particular). If you are a regular user of GAfE, I think you need not worry! If you fail, you have other opportunities to succeed (first after 7 days, then after 25 days; see the FAQ). If you fail for a second time, it may be a great opportunity to attend a GAfE training session. I have enjoyed EdTech Team’s summits for their professionalism and engaging presentations, but there are other notable Boot Camp trainers. The summits are also a great opportunity to expand your Personal Learning Network (PLN) to collaborate and learn even after the summit is over.

On to Level 2 later this week!

Noodle articles

I have been proud of the work that I’ve contributed to the education site, thus I wanted to share some of my favorites to this time. These articles are primarily intended for parents, but all of the articles are research-validated and hold specific information that could be valuable for educators, too. If you are a lifelong learner like me, click on each article or series to learn more about learning disabilities and differences!


My 5 favorite Noodle Articles are:

  1. Strengths of People with Learning Disabilities
  2. Talking to Your Child About Having a Learning Disability
  3. LD Resource Guide for Parents (Series)
  4. Who’s Who on Your Child’s Support Team (Series)
  5. 5 Simple Home Modifications for Your Child with a Learning Difference


Which is your favorite?

#SpotDys conference attendees

It was exhilarating to get to speak at Learning Ally’s annual Spotlight on Dyslexia conference. I was wowed by the number of attendees and their expertise. Thank you so much to the attendees of my session for their kind comments (some of which are included below– apologies I don’t have everyone’s name to properly attribute!), and thank you to Learning Ally for organizing this conference to help us all share resources.

  • Loved all the practical tools”
  • “This lady is a gift for her LD students!!”
  • “So excited about this! Thank you”
  • “My son’s gonna love this!”
  • “This is going to really help my 6th grader thank you”

These comments made me feel like this:

(and validated that I’m in the right field!).


For those of you that are here because of my session on Writing with Google, some tags of interest may include:

You can also browse by category (on the right, e.g. Reading Fluency & Spelling).

Thanks for stopping in, and please always feel free to comment, email, or tweet with further questions.

Close Viewing Strategies

Below is an infographic I made on @Venngage, which highlights how to learn from and watch videos as you would any other text. It is heavily influenced by Close Reading research (and sources are cited at the bottom).

Close Viewing Strategies infographic (Click to enlarge)

Close Viewing Strategies infographic (Click to enlarge)

Soon to come: videos with examples of close viewing strategies applied to them.

In the meantime: what are some of your Close Viewing Strategies? What are your favorite YouTube videos to watch again & again?

8 Reasons I Wish I Were a Student Today

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I’ve been playing around with Infographics a lot these days. I’ve primarily been using Venngage (@Venngage) since I like their variety of templates, and they’re fairly easy to use (for middle school and up, although I haven’t used it with students yet). If you’re interested in reading more about the power of infographics, head over to Kathy Schrock’s (@kathyschrock) Guide to Everything Infographics Page, which lists other infographics to use, and how to use them creatively. Below, is mine about why I wish I were a student (at the grade school level) today.

What are some of your reasons? Leave them in the Comments!


A very colorful infographic

A very colorful infographic (Click to view larger)

YouTube Tips for Teachers

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youtube_logo-300x225YouTube is an incredibly useful tool – it can explain information, it can explore worlds that children have never seen, it can increase engagement (don’t get me started on schools that block YouTube).

Approach videos the same way you would any other text: with Close Reading (or Close Viewing?).

As with a book excerpt or article, provide prior knowledge, have the students watch the video multiple times – at first all the way through (with a guiding question or two; avoid “cold” exposure to material), then revisit for a specific purpose (e.g. how was the video made? Why did the cinematographer/director choose to make it that way? as well as content-specific questions).

Below are some additional tips and tricks to enhance your use of video in the classroom.

Turn On Closed Captioning

  • Why? Turning closed captioning on while a child watches video content helps children with hearing or auditory-rooted difficulties, but I also frequently recommend closed captioning for students with dyslexia and other reading-based differences. Sound counterintuitive? It has two goals: One is simply to expose children to text in multiple facets of their life since we don’t want children to encourage any thinking where reading = not fun, and videos = fun. Second, it pairs auditory content with written content, which supports reading fluency (as evidenced by several research studies, summarized succinctly here). In addition, Reading Rockets has a fantastic article about how it also supports engagement, ELL’s, and comprehension!
  • How? On the bottom right of any video, simply click the CC button (not all videos have this; you can specify for your to only select videos with closed captioning. See “Customize your Search” below for how-to). For how to turn on closed captioning for non-YouTube videos read my post about the benefits of Closed Captioning for Literacy


Turn Off Distractions

  • Why? It can be difficult for many to remain focused on the video with all of the content on the highly stimulating YouTube site. Plus, it exposes students to advertisements, which we don’t really want to expose our students to.
  • How? takes away all of the distractions on the sides of the video and does not give you Suggested Videos at the end.


Use only a portion of the video

  • Why? Our time is precious and some videos can be too long or contain irrelevant information, which can derail our students
  • How? Use to select the beginning and end of your video, if you don’t want to play the full video
  • If you want to start at a specific time, within Youtube, you can simply hit the “share” button, which will show you the link to share that video. Underneath that, you can check off the box that says, “Start at” and specify the time at which you’d like the video to begin



2-in-1: Turn Off Distractions AND potentially select just a part of the video

  • How? Use to create videos without distractions. If you click “Customize Video,” you can also choose the beginning and end time of your video


Customize your search

  • Why? sometimes you’d like a video from a particular time, length, source, etc.
  • How? On Google: Searching by length of video: although you can always choose to use only a part of the video, as you do a search (on Google, clicking on Video not through Youtube directly), you can click “Search Tools,” and this will give you options for “duration” (as well as date posted, presence/absence of closed captioning, and source)
  • How? Directly in Youtube: enter your search query. On the left below the search box, but above your results, there’s a button that says “Filter.” Here, you can select the date of posting, presence/absence of closed captioning, and the duration of your videos



Change the rate of the video

  • Why? Many students with language-based difficulties, slow processing speed, and some with hearing difficulties benefit from hearing spoken language more slowly. This may, in turn, tax their working memory, so repetition of a video (or parts of a video) continues to be valuable. Other times, you may want to speed up a video in the interest of time. You may also want to watch a sped up version once you’ve already seen the video at the regular rate (especially for science concepts or other more systems-based simulations)
  • How? Use to play your videos at 1/4 speed, 1/2 speed, 1.5 speed, or double time.


Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD)

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I’ve referenced SRSD in probably all of my posts about writing (and many reading posts, too), but I haven’t written an introductory post about it, which seems silly. As I attempt to share many of my resources about writing interventions, I wanted to define what Self-Regulated Strategy Strategy Development (SRSD) is, what it isn’t, and reference studies (hundreds of them!) that it works.

So what is “it”

Behind the Curtain (Source:

Behind the Curtain (Source:

Let’s break it down: Self-Regulated means that through the process, students learn to look for key components in their writing (see “Strategy Development”), and the teachers gradually release responsibility as the students gain more independence. A lot of focus is placed on the SELF part, though, so even as teachers guide, students begin to be independent with at least targeted parts of their writing early on in order to get enough practice with a type of writing to become independent.

The Strategy Development means that students aren’t going into their writing unintentionally, and nor is the teacher. I’ve spoken to many teachers, and even learning specialists and special educators who are not comfortable teaching writing. Possibly this is because they are uncomfortable writing, themselves, but mainly, they were likely not taught to write in an explicit manner. They can edit (i.e. read for grammar/punctuation), but they may not know how to evaluate structure/content, and they may not know how to teach that explicitly (which is important for all writers, especially those who do not like writing, or whom are having difficulty writing… somewhat of a misnomer once they start receiving clear instruction). The “Strategy” piece also helps build student confidence since they’re not looking at every writing exercise like it’s brand new. You are giving them the tools to be competent writers!

Work backwards

Start with how you evaluate writing – whether this is based on Common Core State Standards, school-based standards, criterion-referenced or normative standards… How do you evaluate writing now? Ultimately, you will work to be as transparent as possible about this with your students, so they know what great writing looks like and what its essential components are.

The phases

Phases, where students become increasingly independent Source:

Phases, where students become increasingly independent

I’ve written previously about six phases, and this is how I was taught from the inspiring folks at ThinkSRSD, but I view the process as having 3 main phases, with several sub-phases in the middle. Maybe I’m overcomplicating it… The essential features of self-regulated strategy development are:

  1. a) Formative Assessment: all effective instruction begins with formative assessment so you can get a sense of where your students are, and show them (and potentially supervisors) how they have progressed.
  2. Once you know what they need to learn (again, you have to already be clear about what you have decided are essential components), you begin to teach. To ensure the “self-regulated” part of the process, you typically most of the following tasks:
    1. Think Aloud “I Do” writing exercise
    2. Sharing models
    3. Sharing models and having students map or annotate this to identify the essential components
    4. Providing simple, simple graphic organizers (which students can replicate independently!)
    5. Provide a mnemonic for the writing so students can become independent and self-regulate
    6. Doing “We do” collaborative writing exercises with the whole class.
    7. Doing “You (plural) do” collaborative writing exercises in small groups/with a buddy
    8. Writing self-talk statements to help students through the writing process (that are individualized to areas where they tend to get stuck/have trouble)
    9. For any of the types of collaborative writing, you can:
      1. Provide a part of the writing exercise to have students focus on another part (and provide a model of the part you provided)
      2. Do a fill-in-the-blank exercise, where you provide the skeleton, but students need to fill in the “muscles”
      3. Fill in a graphic organizer and have students write from that
  3. Independence! Check in with your students regularly, and explicitly

From day one, you will “hype the genre.” This is the cornerstone of authentic writing. From the beginning, you will provide students with real-life models (as well as some you have written) to demonstrate that the type of writing they are working on matters. This will also naturally lead to authentic publishing opportunities. I cannot stress the importance of authentic writing enough, and I believe all writing can be made authentic (and if you can’t – you shouldn’t be teaching it!). This will also make it easier for students to generalize their writing. For example, if you have students write a letter for your class, and they receive a letter-writing assignment in another class, with enough foundational teaching, students will recognize the similarity in assignments and use the tools you provided. Of course, this is also all made much easier with teacher collaboration (and administrator support).

Not a program

All in one, handy box!
(Image modified from source:

To be clear: SRSD is not a “program,” it is a framework. That may not be a meaningful distinction to you, but I value it because it means I can’t just give you a box with SRSD in it and you can’t just be an uncreative teacher when you teach it! It is also an important distinction because it means you do not have to buy anything, it means you the teacher are in charge, and

I’m fairly confident that you are already doing most of what the process entails.

That being said, I am a huge fan of collaboration, so I’ll be sharing many of the writing units I have previously taught using this framework. In the next few days, I’ll be sharing a Google Site that I’m adding to on an almost-daily basis, which has several units.

Framework also means that as students become more independent, they can play around with the structure and make it more and more “theirs” (though even from day one, students have the opportunity to be creative and to make CHOICES to show their VOICES).

Yes, it works

The most comprehensive list that I have seen of research on SRSD is on this page on ThinkSRSD. A quick scroll through the material will reveal that there have been studies on diverse populations: typically developing learners, learners with speech and language delays, learners with dyslexia, learners from diverse Socioeconomic backgrounds, learners with emotional disorders, learners on the autism spectrum, and multilingual/multicultural learners (to name a few).

Some resources

In the meantime, here are some external resources, and oldies-but-goodies from within this site:

Growth Mindset and Learning Differences

I’ve been tinkering around with my thoughts about growth mindset for a while when I read this Salon article by Alfie Kohn about the Perils of Growth Mindset last summer. For me, the main argument was that we shouldn’t simply be encouraging kids to “try harder,” when there are systemic problems within our education system. Relatedly, he argues that particularly for kids who come from traditionally disadvantaged backgrounds, their narrative should not imply that if they are not succeeding, it’s because they have not adopted the growth mindset theory well enough. There are also arguments about the (understandable) differences between internal and external loci of control for various populations, which is interesting in its own right.


Image Source

I agree with all of the above, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater: Last April, I had the privilege of being in the audience at an event Dr. Carol Dweck spoke about her groundbreaking book, Mindset, and all of the juicy, inspiring, recent research she has done that continues to validate the tangible differences between those who adopt a growth mindset vs. those who maintain a fixed mindset. I have worked with students for whom the mindset theory was perspective-changing (and dare I say life-changing). It has been a useful motivational tool, and a failure-acceptance tool. These, along with the explicit neuroscience that comes in the introduction to the Mindsetworks program are all obvious strengths of the theory as a pedagogical tool.

The last mental holdout I had was with using the concept of growth mindset with students with learning disabilities, but I have recently been using it to great success. Read the excerpt (below)

from my new book, Differentiated Reading Instruction: Strategies and Technology Tools to Help All Students Learn to learn how.

On Growth Mindset and Learning Differences

I used to struggle with the concept of growth mindset for students with Specific Learning Differences because I often hear them saying they try really hard but get nowhere. Here, too, the tree metaphor is an apt one: it’s about applying that effort to the right learning style.

You can “water” a tree with acidic water, and it will not grow.

Similarly, some students with learning differences astutely point out that some of their peers do not appear to need to work that hard. Sometimes this is an illusion, but other times, their observations are accurate. To them, I point out that some trees (for example, a Leyland Cyprus) grow only 3-4 feet per year, but grow to be 60-70 feet tall whereas others (for example, a Eucalyptus tree) grow 6-8 feet per year, but grow to be only 30-40 feet tall.

This metaphor aims to show that the rate at which you learn (grow) has no bearing on how much you will learn (grow).

Growth mindset needs to be modeled as well. Students love to see teachers make mistakes (sometimes too much), so I encourage you to embrace these moments to communicate how you noticed your mistake, what self-talk you will use to move on from this mistake, and how you will use this information to become a better teacher/person/learner.


How you care for your tree matters!

How you care for your tree matters! Image source




Project-Based Math 3

Like the previous two assignments (Project-Based Math, Project-Based Math 2), Project-Based Math 3 focuses on multi-digit subtraction. Unlike the other two projects which focused on distance, this project was focused on time. It was well incorporated within a study of the Middle Ages that included studies of daily life and inventions. To get a sense of how much in advance certain events happened, it was important for the students to be able to calculate the difference between years. It was also valuable for them to understand how much (or how little, depending your perspective) time was between then and today.

No, you can't use this to print web pages. Source: Wikipedia (

No, you can’t use this to print web pages.
Source: Wikipedia (

As always, prior knowledge is essential. I would strongly urge that any project-based timeline assignment be housed in a humanities unit about whatever time period you focus on.

Here is the link to the Project-Based Math assignment about inventions and events in the Middle Ages. It also focuses on multi-digit subtraction, but this one has an awesome animation!

Project-Based Math 2

Like the Project-Based Math assignment I posted earlier, Project-Based Math 2 focuses on a list of architectural feats. Whereas Project 1 focused on New York-based bridges, this one focuses on the 10th tallest towers in the world. These numbers are relatively closer together, so in addition to being about a different subject matter (and thereby engaging different students in different ways), it allows students to recognize patterns and potentially short cuts (e.g. it turns into a 3-digit subtraction problem if both buildings are in the same “thousand”).

Shanghai Tower (second tallest building in the world). Source: Wikipedia (,_2014.jpg)

Shanghai Tower (second tallest building in the world).
Source: Wikipedia (,_2014.jpg)

This project lends itself to various types of deeper study and discussion: What do each of the buildings look like? How were they built? Who designed them? What does an architect do? Where are each of these buildings? What do you notice about where they are in the world (Consider building a Google Map with each on there)? Why do you think there are so many buildings located in certain countries? Why those countries?


Here is the link to the Tall Buildings Project-Based Math assignment. It also focuses on multi-digit subtraction.