Monday, May 18, 2020

10 Reasons You Should Be Using Boom Cards

Boom: The sound made when a teacher discovers a 
whole new type of wonderful resource.
-- Susan at The ESL Nexus

Do you know what Boom Cards™ are?  Boom Cards are digital task cards.  Just as printed task cards can include all sorts of activities for students, Boom Cards can also teach a wide variety of concepts and include different kinds of activities.  They are great for English Language Learners because they incorporate multiple modalities for learning.

I’d heard about Boom Cards a few years ago but didn’t look into them until very recently.  But now that teaching has been transformed and distance learning – or remote learning if you prefer – has become the norm for so many, I took a deep dive into what they are.  Read on to learn more about Boom Cards and why you should use them.

Learn what Boom Cards™ are, why they are great for distance/remote learning, and how ELLs can benefit from using them | The ESL Nexus
There are many advantages to using Boom Cards; source: The ESL Nexus
Hosted on the Boom Learning℠ teaching platform, each Boom Cards resource is called a deck.  Get it – like a deck of cards.  (It took me a while before I figured that out.) There are quite a few free decks available.  Of course, you can also purchase decks.  Unlike on TeachersPayTeachers and elsewhere, you must first purchase a certain number of points, then you use those points instead of money to buy the decks.  The more points you purchase, the bigger a discount you get.  For example, if you buy 225 points, that costs US$3.00 but if you buy 10,000 points, that costs US$98 and saves you 27%.

Benefits of Using Boom Cards

* They exist only online: You’ll save paper because you don’t need to print them.
* They are visually appealing: Since they are digital, they are in color and you don’t have to worry about using up printer ink.
* They are low-prep: You’ll save time because students just need an internet connection and a device to use them.
* They are self-grading: You’ll save time assessing students’ work because the cards automatically indicate right and wrong responses.
* They are interactive: Students must engage with the cards in a game-like manner, which helps keep them motivated.
* They are self-checking: Students will immediately find out if their answers are correct or incorrect.
* They can be used as a whole class activity on an interactive whiteboard or individually if students all have a device.
* You can assign Boom Cards with Google Classroom™ as well as some other platforms.
* Depending on the type of your Boom Learning account, you can get reports that track how your students did when they use decks.
* They work on computers, tablets, and smartphones which offers greater access if you don’t have enough computers for each student; it also means they can be used at home as long as students have access to a smartphone.

Types of Boom Learning Accounts
There are 4 different account tiers:
* The first tier is the free account, called Starter; it’s for a very limited number of students and you can only create 5 decks yourself. 
* Next up are the Basic and Power tiers which are reasonably priced (currently US$15 and US$25 per year, respectively) and have more functionality. 
* The highest tier is the Ultimate level, which is the most expensive at US$35/year but has the most options available and also enables you to sell decks in the Boom Learning store.

Right now, Boom Learning is offering free membership to qualifying educators through June 30, 2020.  I took advantage and have been creating decks that complement my TpT resources.  I’ve been focusing on making decks that teach the vocabulary words in my holiday word search and crossword puzzle resources.  I’ll soon branch out and create other decks as well.  All my decks so far have audio added so they can be used by ELLs at lower levels of language proficiency who might have a hard time reading the text on some of the cards.

Learn what Boom Cards™ are, why they are great for distance/remote learning, and how ELLs can benefit from using them | The ESL Nexus
Different types of vocab cards in my Boom resources; source: The ESL Nexus
FastPlay allows teachers to assign decks to students for a limited number of days.  All 4 account tiers have access to FastPlay.  Both free and paid decks can be played with Fast Pins, which are the codes you need to use FastPlay.  For a comprehensive explanation of what Fast Pins are and how to use them, I recommend watching this free short video from Della Larsen’s Class.

Navigating the Boom Learning Website
Once you are on the platform, at the top of screen you’ll see icons/links for the following: Classes, Library, Reports, Store, Studio, and Help.
* Classes is where you input a list of your students in each class.  This is also where you can assign decks for students to do and where you can see data about their work (if you have a paid account).
* Library is where all your free and paid decks are located.  If you create any decks, you will also find them there.
* Reports is where the results from students’ work with decks can be found.
* Store is where you can search for decks to use.
* Studio is where you can create your own decks.  You can keep decks you make private or publish them to the Boom store for others to purchase if you have the Ultimate membership.
* Help is where to go if you need support with an aspect of Boom Learning.  There is a FAQ section and you can also send an email to them if you can’t find an answer to your question in the FAQ section.

Since one of the major advantages of Boom Cards is the minimal amount of preparation needed to use them in your classroom, they are ideally situated for remote (distance) learning.  You can find my Boom Cards in my Boom store or in my TpT store.  Each resource has a Preview that lets you see the first few cards in each deck.  Take a look and give them a try!


Monday, May 4, 2020

Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week with These Deals & a TpT Sale!

"I'm embarrassed every time I look a teacher in the eye,
because we ask them to do so much for so little."
-- Phil McGraw

(Updated Monday, May 4, 2020)

This year, Teacher Appreciation Week is being celebrated while most teachers in the U.S. and many throughout the world are teaching students remotely.  I've heard the word unprecedented so often it almost seems trite to say it but it truly is the best way to describe the world we now live in.

Many of the chain restaurants that used to offer deals during this week may still be doing that but they aren't advertising it on their websites.  It's totally understandable and, personally, I'd rather recommend that you support your local eating establishments.  For the past few weeks, every Saturday or Sunday I've been ordering take-out from restaurants near me to help them out a tiny bit.

Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week 2020 with a TpT Sale & these deals! | The ESL Nexus
Main image created by Trace Mercier; purple text & border by The ESL Nexus
I am pleased to let you know that TeachersPayTeachers is having a sale on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 5th and 6th, 2020.  For the past several years, TpT has had a sitewide sale during Teacher Appreciation Week and this year it is again.  In fact, many of the teacher-authors, including me, have been converting existing resources and creating new ones to try and help teachers out in this new normal.  As usual, all the resources in my store will be 20% off.  Please use the promo code ThankYou20 for an additional 5% off at checkout, which means you can purchase all my resources at a 25% savings.  Other TpT stores will also be on sale for up to 25% off, depending on the store.

For flyers, certificates, and social media images to promote Teacher Appreciation Week, check out the National PTA materials on their website.  They've added materials that are appropriate for distance learning contexts.  They also link to OfficeDepot/Office Max, their sponsor, for deals at their stores on select items good through May 9th.

Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week 2020 with a TpT Sale & these deals! | The ESL Nexus
Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week with these special offers! source: The ESL Nexus
As you'd expect, there are fewer deals and discounts available this year since so many businesses are experiencing steep losses of income.  The places listed below are ones I found that are offering special deals this May.  Many other businesses offer discounts to educators throughout the year but I did not include them in this round up.  Just click on the green links to go to their websites for more information.  (I looked at all the websites to verify the info and it was accurate at the time I wrote this blog post.)

For the past several years, Breugger's Bagels have offered some kind of deal to teachers this week; it's nice they are still doing it.

Breugger's Bagels
What: $10 off any catered order over $75
When: May 6th - May 10th
How: Use promo code TENOFF75 when placing your order

Other Special Deals
Below are a couple more ways teachers are being recognized in May.
TESOL International Association
What: 10% off self-study courses and upcoming professional learning programs
When: Now until May 31st
How: Use promo code ELT10 and click this link for info about courses
Also: Click HERE for links to free webinars and social media images

What: 20% off all items, including sale items
When: May 3rd - May 9th
How: Use your Michael's Reward Card and click this link for more info 

Finally, for a little levity in these dark times -- though we all know it's true -- here's Shonda Rimes' tweet expressing her appreciation to teachers.

Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week 2020 with a TpT Sale & these deals! | The ESL Nexus
Got that right!  source: @shondarhimes
Wishing you all a wonderful Teacher Appreciation Week!  Take care & stay well!


Monday, April 20, 2020

Activities for Teaching about Earth Day and the Environment

"The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard."
-- Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day

Earth Day is on April 22nd so I’d like to devote this blog post to sharing a few teaching ideas and resources about the holiday with you.  I’m including both online and offline activities in case you have students who don’t have access to the internet.  Although these ideas are geared towards Earth Day, they can be done anytime you are teaching science.  I’ve also written some blog posts you might find useful and I’ll link to them at the end.

Find ideas for online & offline activities for teaching about Earth Day and the environment in this blog post. Links to other blog posts about the environment also included. | The ESL Nexus
Download a free resource HERE; source: The ESL Nexus
The first activity requires internet access. I’ll also include an offline alternative as well as a couple related activities.  this activity is based on a timeline created by  National Geographic of notable environmental events, beginning with the first Earth Day in 1970.  Click HERE to go to the timeline.  Below is an activity students can do using information in the timeline:

Create a Poster Based on the Nat Geo Timeline
* Access the timeline.
* Read all the events presented in the timeline.
* Choose 1 event from each decade, for a total of 5 events.
* Create a poster that illustrates those 5 events.  The poster can be created digitally using PowerPoint or Keynote or websites like Glogster or Adobe Spark for Education; students can either download images from the internet or draw the images themselves.  Or students can create posters using posterboard, construction paper or even just several sheets of regular plain white paper taped together.  If creating a poster on paper, they can draw pictures or source them from magazines if available.
* Students can share their finished posters by posting digital creations on a class website (if available) or sending the link to you and their classmates.  If the poster is an actual physical creation, they can send it to you if your school district is sending materials back and forth; another option would be to take a photo of the poster with a smartphone and share it that way.

Offline Alternative Timeline Activity
* Give students a list of pre-selected events from each decade in the timeline.  A suggested list is available in the free downloadable resource and includes 2 events from each decade.
* Students chose 1 event from each decade, for a total of 5 events.
* Students create posters using posterboard, construction paper or even several sheets of regular plain white paper.  Students draw pictures or source them from magazines if available.
* Students can send their finished posters back to school with their other work.

Related Timeline Activities for Writing Practice
* For each event selected, students do research online and write a paragraph about it: When it happened, what happened, why it was important and what happened as a result.  Students can also write a composition or research paper using the information discovered during research based on their grades and language proficiency levels.
* For each event selected for the poster activity, students can rank their event events in order of importance: Students decide which event was the most important to the least important.  They list their events in order and undernearth the list, they can write a paragraph or composition explaining and defending their opinion about why they ranked the events that way.
*     *     *     *     *
The second activity is about National Parks.  You can find U.S. National Parks on this website; other countries also have national parks and you and/or your students can do a search for parks in the country you are interested in.  After the online-based activity, I’ll offer a suggestion for doing a related activity that doesn’t require the internet.

Visit and Describe a National Park
* From the website, choose a national park you would like to visit.
* Read the information about the park and take notes to help you remember important details.  Some parks offer virtual tours which students can also do.
* Write a composition/paper about the park that includes as much of this information as possible (not all parks will include the same type of information since there are different types of parks): Location of the park, size of the park, why it is special or what it is noted for, plants and animals that live in the park, when it became a national park, special activities for kids, other interesting facts about the park.
* Tell students to send their written work to you.  You can assess it however you wish; you can also distribute the work among your students and ask them to peer edit it, then send it back to you and/or the author.

Offline Alternative National Park Activity
* Explain what a national park is (a place that is special in a particular way and is therefore preserved and maintained for visitors so they can experience it for themselves; there are national parks for nature and wildlife regions and about historical events, people, and places.)
* Tell students they are going to design a national park.
* Tell students they must draw a map of the park (students can draw it to scale if they know how to do that).
* Tell students to label features such as: A visitor center, hiking trail(s), where to find animals and plants, any other special sites in the park.
* Tell students to write a description of their park, which should include the same information as that in the online activity; i.e.: Location of the park, size of the park, why it is special or what it is noted for, plants and animals that live in the park, when it became a national park, special activities for kids, other interesting facts about the park.

The National Park Service also has a website about Earth Day, which you can find HERE.

You can download and print out both activities HERE.  Please note that you'll first see a screen that prompts you to make a copy; after you click on the blue button to do that, then you'll be able to access the resource itself.

Find ideas for online & offline activities for teaching about Earth Day and the environment in this blog post. Links to other blog posts about the environment also included. | The ESL Nexus
Grab this free resource HERE; source: The ESL Nexus
*     *     *     *     *
Below are previous blog posts that I’ve written with environmental themes; they all include links to various kinds of resources:
* Climate Change (links to websites for kids about climate change)
* Let it Rain (about weather, with a link to a free resource)
* National Parks (about a visit to a national park in Arizona, with a link to a free resource)
* School Gardens (ideas and resources about school gardens)

I’ve also created a gift guide with lots of ideas for teachers and students.  It’s available HERE.

Happy Earth Day!


Sunday, April 5, 2020

Take Advantage of the TpT Sale on Monday and Tuesday!

TeachersPayTeachers is having a sale on Monday and Tuesday, April 6th and April 7th, to help educators, parents, and other caregivers find resources they can use with students who are now learning remotely.  The sale begins at 12:00am Eastern on Monday and ends at 11:59pm Eastern on Tuesday.

Find great resources at The ESL Nexus for teaching students remotely during TpT's April 2020 sale!
Resources at The ESL Nexus are 20% off & when using the promo code, will be discounted another 5%!  To go to the store, click HERE
As usual, all the resources in my store, including my already-discounted bundles, will be 20% off.  Also, TpT is offering an additional 5% discount when the promo code FORYOU is used during the checkout process.  Many other stores will also be participating in the sale so you can save up to 25% depending on how those stores set their discounts.

In my TpT store, you can quickly find resources that students can use at home by clicking on my Custom Category called Unexpected School Closing & Distance Learning Resources.  They include a mix of Google Drive™ and printable resources suitable for distance learning.  In the product descriptions, there is an explanation of how you can use each resource for remote learning with students.  You can see what that looks like for my most recent resource, US Elections Vocabulary, Reading & Writing: Independent Work, Distance Learning, which is both an online resource and one that can be used by students working independently on their own.

Enjoy the sale!