Thursday, May 28, 2015

ORGANIZATION 101: Student Index Cards

Today, my blog post is a screencast. I love screencasting! (I'll talk more about that in a future post.) Today, I'm sharing one of my favorite tips for getting organized. This screencast requires Java. For best viewing, use Internet Explorer. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Today's post is a screencast tutorial on how to use the website to turn all of your Quizlet flashcard sets into crossword puzzles and word searches. I use this website all the time to create review packets for my students, especially during final exam time! Happy viewing!

This video requires Java. For optimal viewing, do not watch in Google Chrome.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

QUIZLET FLASHCARDS: Studying & Differentiating Made Easy

I love QUIZLET! You love Quizlet! We all love Quizlet! But I'm surprised to find that some teachers (and students) are not aware of all of the amazing features that Quizlet offers. This year, I don't think that I would have survived without Quizlet. It has been my go-to resource for creating study guides and review materials, for differentiating instruction, and for creating multiple versions of tests and quizzes. If you have never used Quizlet before, it's well worth your time to set up an account. It's a website that allows teachers to create sets of flashcards online (it's available as a phone app, too), and then share them with students. It's absolutely free and it will become your best friend! Let me show you my 3 absolute favorite features.

1. Making Practice Tests. I love using Quizlet to create review materials. My honors students begged for study guides as we went through our mythology unit. They were having some difficulties remembering all of those Greek and Roman names and needed multiple exposures to them, so I created sets of flashcards on Quizlet, and then printed multiple (practice) tests in different formats: write response, multiple choice, matching, and true/false. Here is a sample test containing each question type.

A sample test with all four question types

2. Differentiating/Adapting Your Assessments. You can completely customize your test to suit your needs, or the needs of your students. For example, if you want to use a Quizlet-generated test, you might give most of your students a written response test, but print a multiple choice test for students with testing accommodations. I like to give multiple practice tests, starting with something easy (like a true/false test) and then making them progressively more difficult (written response) as a scaffolding technique to prepare students for the actual test. And, each time you click on the "Create New Test" button (shown in the above picture), Quizlet creates a new version of the test, so you can make as many different versions as you need. This year, my student desks were arranged in pairs, so I create two version of everything. Quizlet saved me so much time!

3. Providing Instructional Scaffolding. Quizlet makes it so easy to share materials with students. By clicking on the Share option (shown below), Quizlet creates links for you to share your Quizlet set on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. It also generates a short URL address that you can give to your students (which can be shared through email, posted on a class website, or texted to students and parents via Remind). When you share, you're not just sharing flashcards; you're sharing access to practice tests and review games, too. I once had an honors student who was really struggling on weekly vocabulary quizzes, until he started using my Quizlet sets, and then he aced every single vocab quiz for the rest of the year. He would come in early every morning and play review games until he had mastered the week's vocabulary words. All he needed was access to resources that would empower him to succeed!

The Short URL is perfect for sharing with students.

Do you love Quizlet, too? How do you use Quizlet in your classroom? Tell me about it in the comment section below. Next time, I'll show you how to turn your Quizlet sets into crossword puzzles and word searches!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

BANISH BORING SENTENCES! My Favorite Grammar Exercise

Sometimes I think of grammar as a "necessary evil." It's typically not fun to teach, mostly because students would rather watch paint dry than identify nouns and verbs. I remember spending countless hour in seventh grade diagramming sentences on the board. Luckily, grammar came fairly easily to me, so the grammar unit in every year of school after that was a time that I could sit back and "coast." But I know that I was one of the few. I know plenty of adults who shudder at the thought of subject-verb agreement, or second guess their choice of who verses whom.

I think it's necessary to make grammar relevant.  My preferred method of grammar instruction is to deliver a concentrated dose of grammar in the form of a mini-lesson, followed by writing application. Students might argue that they will never need grammar again, but I haven't had many tell me that they won't need to write well after high school. 

One of my favorite mini-lessons involves replacing forms of the verb "to be" with more specific action verbs. I have a set of "boring sentence" cards that I made, printed, and laminated. (You can grab them in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.) I pass them out to students and then I ask them to show, rather than tell what the card is saying. For example, one of my favorite cards is "The chihuahua was scary."

I point out that the sentence contains a form of to be: was. It would be a much more interesting read if we were showed the dog was scary, rather than just being told. (After all, if someone told me they saw a scary chihuahua, I would want proof!) As a class, we brainstorm details that would show us that the chihuahua is scary: Are his eyes bulging? Is he foaming at the mouth? Did he just chase off the Mastiff down the street? Once students have the hang of it, I turn them loose to expand their one-liners into detail-oriented paragraphs. If we have time, we share some of our paragraphs. Students like trying to guess the original sentence each of their classmates was given.

What is your favorite grammar lesson? Leave your answer in the comments!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

BOOST PARENT CONTACT WITH REMIND's landing page (as of this posting)
One of my very favorite online tools in I discovered Remind a couple of years ago when I was looking for ways to increase my parent contact. As a secondary teacher with 100-150 students each year, I wanted a quick and easy way to reach out to parents and let them know about upcoming events and deadlines (tests, projects, etc.) makes this incredibly easy and completely free!

Remind lets teachers send text or email reminders to parents (and to students) while keeping everyone's personal information safe and private; I can text students about the date of the next test while respecting each other's privacy: they never have access to my phone number and I never have access to theirs. It's an opt-in service, so parents who do not want to receive notifications won't receive them. It only goes to the people who choose to sign up for it. That way, the people who want or need that extra reminder get it, but people who don't want it aren't bombarded with emails or texts.

Sign-up is incredibly easy. Once you create an account and create a class, Remind will generate an invitation that you can print and distribute to students and parents. I allow students to take out their phones on the first day of class to sign up for Remind. I also send hard copies home to parents. They make great handouts for Open House and Parent-Teacher Conferences. If your school uses the Danielson Framework for teacher evaluation, using Remind is a great artifact for Domain 4!

Sample Printable Invitation to Remind
Once you have students and parents signed up, you can begin sending reminders. You can even schedule reminders to be sent at a later time. Recently, Remind also made it possible to attach documents to your messages, so you can send study guides, permission slips, etc. You can also send links to websites. Take a look at this handout from Remind's website:

Another recent addition is that you can now enable "chats," which means that parents and students can chat with you (still protecting your privacy by not sharing either party's personal contact information). This seems like it would be great if I only taught a few students, but I think that I'll stick with email if I need a back-and-forth conversation with specific parents. I don't want to offer immediate access to me (through chat mode) and then disappoint people if I can't respond right away.

Overall, I think that Remind is a great service and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to increase parent contact (or student contact)! I'm looking forward to using the new attachment feature next year. If you're using Remind, please let me know about your experience in the comments.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


On my Me and My Laptop blog, my most popular post by far was my original visual of Bloom's Taxonomy, with the HOTS (higher order thinking skills) on top in warm tones, and the LOTS (lower order thinking skills) on the bottom in cool tones. I added a brief explanation  (in simple terms) of what each level is asking the student to do, and simplified action verbs. I had tried explaining the pyramid to my students before, but often the verbs were too complex for them to really grasp, so I knew I needed a more accessible visual (one not just for education students) and I knew that I'd probably have to make it myself if I wanted it to fit my specifications. Right now, I have this as a poster hanging on my classroom wall. Next year, I plan to spend the first week of school explaining Bloom's Taxonomy to my English I Honors class, explaining that, as honors students, our class will spend the majority of class time focusing on the HOTS. If you would like to use my visual, please feel free, but I'd appreciate it if you give me credit or link to either this blog post or the original post.

Welcome to My Blog

Photo by Cindy Gullo-Pettibone

Hello and welcome to my new blog! My name is Jessica Pilgreen (pronounced PILL-green), and I am a have been teaching high school English for twelve years in Southern Illinois. For the past several years, I have been blogging about educational technology at Me and My Laptop, but I recently decided to begin a new blog, where I can broaden my subject to include topics beyond technology--although I'm sure I will still write A LOT about technology! I also want to try out using Blogger, and compare it to other blogging platforms that I've tried out in the past. I'm really excited about beginning this adventure, and I hope that, in the process of sharing my experiences, I'll be able to meet and help other teachers as well! If you like my blog, please like my Facebook page, visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store, or leave me a comment!

Happy Teaching!