Videos: Test Taking Parody Songs

While tests are a part of regular classroom routine, standardized testing seems to increase the anxiety for everyone -- students, teachers, parents, technology departments. There are a LOT of great parody videos that you can share with your students to help reduce the tension in your classroom. Below are some of my favorites created by schools across the United States.

Feeling creative? Create your own test themed parody and share it with others!

What does the TEST say?

That song from Frozen, you know the one:

I'm a smarty and I know it!

Thrift Shop (clean version, of course)

Younger students may not know this song, but all students should show their best Test Taker Face.

Hey, I've been working hard. Test Me, Maybe.
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Google Maps Street View Games

Google Maps is a frequently used tool that allows many people to get where they need to go on a regular basis. The ability to read, navigate, and use a map (digital, even print) is a skill our students will need. Google Maps, in particular Satellite and Street Views, adds a new layer of usefulness in the classroom. We can even explore the Grand Canyon and the Eiffel Tower without the need for permissions slips (see Treks)!

Below are games built on Google Maps Street View that can help students put into practice their understanding of maps, geography, and culture. In each of these games, players are dropped into Street View with the goal of locating their location on a world map. They can explore the space just as they would in Maps: keyboard arrow keys, on screen arrow keys, clicking a specific spot, and zoom. Players can not move out of Street View.

Students will need to draw on their understanding of the world. While this will be challenging for students limited travel or cultural experience, many players will be surprised at how much they know and are able to infer from the visual cues. Some things to consider:
  • Street signs: language, style
  • Road signs: street/highway or city names
  • Road style: construction, painting, traffic direction
  • Landscape: land formations
  • Horticulture: trees, plants
  • People: physical appearance, style of dress
  • Vehicles: style, licence plates, government stickers (inspection, registration, etc.)
  • Building and other signs: language, style, phone numbers, town names

Depending on your learning goals, allow students to use some or all of their resources: questioning, web search, printed maps, gazetteers, almanacs, and each other. Enterprising students may realize that they can grab a screen capture to use in Google Image Search.

GeoGuessr drops players in random locations around the world (default play). Players can also choose a "map" to narrow the focus: United States, Philadelphia, New York, Japan, Australia, Famous Places, and several others.  Points are earned based on proximity to the correct location which is measured in both miles and kilometers (higher score is best). For an extra challenge, set a time limit for each round (when choosing specific maps). GeoGuesser allows players to create accounts to save scores. For Google Apps schools, students can create an account/login with their Google account.

GeoSettr allows you (or your students) to customize the game. Navigate to the desired locations, grab the Street View icon, and drop it into place (no search capability). Once you have five locations saved you will be given a unique URL to share with others.

Earth-Picker places players in select locations, usually highly recognizable cities, structures, or landforms. The developer invites submissions of Street View images (might be a great project for a class: locate notable places on Street View, explain the importance). Score is determined by the total difference in distance (in kilometers) between the players response and actual location. Lower scores are best in this game.

Locateastreet challenges players to name the town or city in which they have been dropped. Four choices are given at the bottom of the screen, allowing players to . Players can use clues (elevation, street name, remove 2 choices), but it will cost them points. In addition, players lose points for moving around the map (no reductions for spinning).  Choose to play worldwide, within a specific country, or one of the thematic challenges. It is possible to narrow the search to a specific state, county, or even city.

This one is a little different. Included for zombie enthusiasts!
Street View Zombie Apocalypse is exactly what it sounds like: enter an address, drop into that location in Street View, and run from the zombies. Zombies show as pins on an inset map, cartoon characters (not too gory) as they approach on Street View. Students can run for safety in their own neighborhood, historical locations, or anywhere else that has been captured by Street View.
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Videos: All About That Place Parodies

I love musical parodies, especially those that help introduce or reinforce classrooms topics. Today I stumbled across two videos that parody of Meghan Trainor's All About That Bass to reinforce the concept of place value.

This first video comes from the Songs For School YouTube channel which features several other school friendly parodies:

The second video was produced by a 5th grade class and their teacher, Mr. Taylor:

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Tell a Fairy Tale Day (February 26)

The genesis of this holiday is unknown, as are the suggested observation methods. We are simply reminded us to share the stories that have been passed from generation to generation, warning us about villains, reminding us to stay in line, and allowing us to imagine a world where magic can help right wrongs.

Below are just a few ideas to help K-8 teachers consider how to share and celebrate great folklore with your students, regardless of age. But first... What is a fairy tale? How is that different than a folktale, or a tall tale? Review the definitions in the below Quizlet to gain a better understanding.

Information Literacy
  • Where to find fairy tales? Libraries using the Dewey system will have them at 398.2, although some may also be found in the picturebook or fiction sections. This becomes especially tricky when looking for adaptions.
  • Locate fairy tales online. To start your search:
  • Debate the inclusion of tales or books in the genre of folklore, consider the more specific type, using the definitions provided above or your own.

Technology and Social Media
  • Introduce the concept of mail merge by generating Fairy Tale mad libs.
  • Create a Fakebook for fairy tale characters. Who would be friends? What would they post?
  • Create real or fake Twitter/Instagram postings -- what would fairy tale characters post to their accounts? what tags would they use? who would like or comment? who would follow, and with what intentions? Tools to consider: Tweet GeneratorPowerPoint templates for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
  • If fairy tale characters were YouTubers or Viners, what would their pages and videos look like? Create videos to share in class or create real YouTube or Vine accounts to publicly share videos.
  • iFakeText conversations: Consider the conversations that readers do not see in the tales. What would the wicked stepmother and her daughters discuss via chat? What would the Princess from the Frog Prince say to her friends about her new friend?

  • Using a classroom friendly format (paper, mixed media, digital), visually represent a poignant scene from a tale, create a book cover, or design a movie poster.
  • Take the text of a tale, determine the layout, add your own illustrations.
  • Create "Wanted" posters for a story's villains.

  • Using a well known or popular song as the base, write a parody that describes a character, relationship, or entire tale.

  • Read an "original" version of a tale, compare the details of that story to those found in modern picturebooks for children.
  • Practice note taking and paraphrasing using a favorite tale.
  • Turn a fairy tale into a poem. Increase the challenge by focusing on a specific type, such as limerick or haiku.
  • Compare/contrast various retellings of a tale. Consider: Zelinksy's Rumpelstiltskin,  Duffy and the Devil, The Girl who Spun Gold, and A Curse Dark as Gold.
  • Invite students to write their own fractured fairy tale.
  • Story in round -- using google docs, have students take turns adding a line
  • Using mindmapping software or tools to identify common elements of fairy tales, analyze a character, or identify themes.

Social Studies
  • What is the significance of the villain, the victim, the hero, and the bystanders in the originating culture? What purpose did the story serve?
  • Compare and contrast similar stories from different cultures, such as these "Cinderella" tales: The Little Glass Slipper (France), YeShen (China), Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters (Zimbabwe).
  • Write your own modern fairy tale, taking into consideration the social norms and mores of your local culture.


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PARCC: Potential Problems and Possible Helps (Math)

I had the opportunity to observe several grades as they reviewed the PARCC Math computer based practice tests. I noticed some potential problem areas, as well as built-in helps. Following are my quick observations, and some tips for success in navigating this new assessment.

  • Take time to explore the practice questions and test environment with your students, discussing the features and tools. 
  • Remember that the best PARCC preparation is frequent exposure to and interaction with diverse digital learning tools and environments.
  • GTSD staff are encouraged to contact the Media or Reading Specialists with any questions they may have about the PARCC assessment or environment.

  • Students will need to follow directions, pay attention to cues, and be aware of their actions. Without the help of their teacher.
  • Students should not stress, this is just another way for them to share what they know.

Basic tech skills:
  • Browser basics.
  • Navigate web, websites.
  • Interpret screen layout.
  • Locate and using links, menus, buttons, toggles.
  • Mouse and keyboarding skills (typing, drag/drop, click to select/deselect).
  • Know when to use browser navigation buttons vs those on the page.
  • Scrolling (browser, and elements within browser).
  • Move through multiple reference tabs.
  • Utilize video and audio controls.
  • Recognize and read visual cues on a page.
  • Read and respond appropriately to pop up messages.

Question and response areas:
  • Use the highlight tool to mark important ideas, words, or other elements that will help respond to questions.
  • It will sometimes be necessary to scroll to see the entire question or response area (similar to ELA).
  • Pay attention to whether or not a descriptor is needed with answer (eg 4 apples): fields looking for numbers only will not allow letters -- students will see the error message "invalid input."
  • Exhibits can not be moved, they typically open in the center of the screen.

  • Only students who have Text-to-Speech flagged for Math sections (PNP required) will have audio available.
  • Test the volume and headset BEFORE logging in to the test.
  • Know that the reading begins at the top of the page and ends at the bottom. There are no controls to rewind, fast forward, or adjust speed.

Equation editors:
  • Students should be able to recognize and know how to use the characters in the equation editors.
  • These menus may not appear until the student clicks in the response area.
  • Students will need to be able to navigate the equation editor menus, some of which have multiple layers.
  • Access the Equation Editor reference guides on the PARCC site.

  • The menu option for calculators will only appear when students are permitted to use calculators.
  • Calculators have limited mobility on the screen and must be reopened for each question.
  • The "buttons" on the on-screen TI84 characters are small, students need familiarity with the features.

Response areas:
  • Recognize the difference between multiple choice (circles) and multiple selection (squares). Train students to reread the question and verify their response if they select only 1 square. 
  • Read directions and carefully move selections in drag and drop areas. The test interface will allow a claim to be dropped into the evidence column, and evidence into the claims column. 
  • Occasionally the response area includes what looks like a table, but is instead a poorly formatted series of unrelated columns. Students will interact with bad information design in all areas of life, education is certainly not exempt.
  • Google Chrome does not support menu drive copy and paste functions. Students will need to use keyboard shortcuts: Cntrl-C to copy, Cntrl-V to paste, and Cntrl-X to cut.

Error messages:
  • Teach students to STOP clicking and STOP typing when an error message appears. If they click an error message away, it becomes more difficult and time consuming to understand what went wrong.

  • Scratch paper can be freely given and used. 
  • Flag questions that are confusing or unclear. 
  • Review before submitting, the test will NOT prevent students from submitting unanswered questions. 
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Quick Tip: Paste plain text

Most people are familiar with the keyboard shortcuts Control-C to copy, Control-V to paste. We can also use the context sensitive right-click menu to Copy and Paste. In addition, we can drag and drop selected items or text from one part of the screen to another. Each of these copy-paste functions tends to bring more than just the coveted text -- it often brings font and paragraph formatting.

In Microsoft Office products, there is an option on the right-click menu to "Keep text only". In many Google products (such as Gmail, Blogger, Sites), we have a similar option labeled "Paste as plain text." In Google Sheets, "Paste Special > Paste values only" produces the text only.

Oddly, neither Google Documents or Slides includes this option in the right-click menu. Once the text is pasted, we could remove the text and paragraph formatting. One could also paste the text into a plain text editor, copy the unformatted text, then paste this unformatted text into the document.  These workarounds are fine once or twice, but when gathering a lot information and working with a tight deadline, it is simply not efficient.

Today I reached the tipping point in my frustration with this lacking right-click menu feature.

Thanks for the 2010 Google Chrome post,  "Tip: Just the text, please!", I found my new favorite keyboard shortcut: Control-Shift-V

And with all this copying and pasting, be sure to cite your sources!
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Presidents Day (February 16)

This post is an update to the February, 2012 Presidents Day resource post.

About the Holiday

About the People
  • Challenge students to use their best search skills to find answers to these Frequently Asked Reference Questions about the Presidents of the United States. Add the caveat that all responses must have an academic appropriate citation. (5+)
  • George Washing a National Treasure: Designed to enhance history and social studies curricula, these activities and lesson plans will introduce your students to some of the events and issues that shaped George Washington’s life. (4+)
  • IPL POTUS Special Collection: Internet Public Library's directory to information on presidents. Includes basic biographical information, notable events, links to biographies and documents, appointees, as well as presidential election electoral vote results. (3+)
  • Presidents of the United States: Resource Guides: Library of Congress developed guide to finding information about US Presidents through primary sources, exhibitions, and related websites. (5+)
  • Under His Hat: Lincoln Collection Digitization Project, a thematic online-education resource about the United States' 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. Teachers will find lessons and activities based on digitized primary source materials. (4+)

GTSD teachers and students looking for print resources on Presidents Day and the men who held the office will find stories, biographies, and other informational texts in the GES and SMS Media Centers. Browse the catalogs and let the library staff know what they can reserve for you or your class. Staff are invited to contact Mrs. Bond for assistance in using these resources or locating additional materials.
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