A Pinch of PD November 2019

EdTech News & Resources You Can Use on Monday

Issue #9

This is 9th issue of A Pinch of PD, a monthly newsletter for Nursery-Grade 2 faculty at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.

Past issues can be found here.

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If you are looking for other ways to support your literacy program, there are many digital reading resources available to you and your students. Whether your want to create a listening center for a small group of children, encourage independent reading, expose students to real, fluent voices with different expression and intonation, or create a shared reading lesson by projecting text on the white board, digital books can help make text accessible to all learners regardless of reading ability. Many ebooks offer a "read to me" feature that highlights the text as the narrator reads along. Others have built in dictionaries or individual word playback for tricky words. Some of these digital libraries are also great for safe, student research (i.e. Epic includes over 10 nonfiction "read to me" books about penguins and TrueFlix includes 10 biographies). See below for descriptions of what is available to teachers at Lab.


  • Use ebooks for Read Aloud, Shared Reading & Independent Reading Time.
  • Use the "read to me" and audio book features for the Listening portion of Daily 5.
  • Have students compare books by two authors.
  • Students can use non-fiction books for research projects, such as reports on animals.
  • Project text on the whiteboard to teach a specific skill or strategy. Highlight features of a mentor text.

To create a listening center (for up to 5 students) with an iPad, the Belkin RockStar 5-Jack Multi Headphone Audio Splitter is recommended. There are also lots of inexpensive 2-port splitters available if you'd prefer students to work in pairs.

TumbleBooks, Raz Kids and Epic!

TumbleBooks (K-6)is a curated database of children’s ebooks by well-known author and publishers, available by subscription from the Lim Family Library. Ask Louis to put the new TumbleBooks app on your iPads. It has a simple interface and you can stop being bothered by all those open tabs in Safari.

Raz Kids (K-5) is a teaching tool that requires a paid educator account. It offers hundreds of interactive, leveled eBooks that use the Learning A-Z Leveling System. Individual student accounts allow teachers to assign appropriately leveled text to each student and monitor their progress. Some teachers like to introduce Raz Kids to the whole class in the CS Lab before using the iPads in the classroom.

Epic! (age 12 & under) is an online children's book subscription service that is free for educators and it was recently approved by our IS Team for use in the classroom. Teachers can create student accounts, curate collections and assign texts based on genre, interest, or reading level. Epic has a powerful search feature that allows teachers and students to narrow books to specific categories or features. Books are from leading publishers, well-loved authors, series and Epic originals.

Click below for a detailed chart comparing TumbleBooks, Raz Kids and Epic.

BookFlix and TrueFlix

Besides TumbleBooks, the Lim Family Library also has school subscriptions for BookFlix and TrueFlix. Library subscriptions are also available for families to use at home.

BookFlix (PreK-3): BookFlix pairs classic Weston Woods video (fiction and nonfiction) storybooks with nonfiction titles. Categories include Animals & Nature, Earth & Sky, People & Places, ABCs & 123s, Adventure, Family and Community, Celebrations, Music & Rhyme, and Imagination.

TrueFlix (3-5) offers dozens of units to supplement social studies and science learning. Ebooks include primary sources, fiction, videos, audio clips, images, and related websites/articles. Each TrueFlix title gives students a chance to watch a video, read a book (with "read to me" feature) and explore more. Categories include People, Places, History, Science and Nature.

Use your whiteboard to project BookFlix and TrueFlix for a whole class lesson or request them to be put on your iPads as webclips for independent or small group learning. A webclip looks just like an app but is a direct link to the website and takes you to Safari on the iPad.

Storyline Online

The SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning children’s literacy website, Storyline Online, streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. Readers include Viola Davis, Chris Pine, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, James Earl Jones, Betty White and dozens more. Fill out the app request form (linked at the bottom of this page) to get the app from Louis.

PD on Your Time: HGSE's Askwith Forum

The Askwith Forum is a series of public lectures at the Harvard Graduate School of Education featuring a wide range of topics, including early childhood, civic and moral engagement, expanded learning models, educating for human rights, and international education among others. Topics are initiated by faculty, students, and alumni, and aim to address the highest-priority challenges facing education. A recent lecture was entitled, The Power of Playful Learning and moderated by Ben Mardell, Principal Investigator, Project Zero.
Askwith Forum // The Power of Playful Learning

What Happened to Kid President?

Robby Novak is best known for portraying the fictional Kid President in a series of inspirational and funny YouTube videos. Kid President was "on a mission to make grown-ups less boring" and his executive order was for us all to “treat everybody like it’s their birthday,” every single day. The series, created by Novak's brother-in-law, Brad Montague and produced by Soul Pancake, shared simple kid-friendly lessons about empathy, kindness and joy. Kid President ended in 2016 so Novak (now 15) could return to a more normal childhood and focus on school, friends and family.

This month, Novak and Montague created one last pep talk from Kid President and they have started a new adventure called Kid President: Are We There Yet? Find these videos and more at wondersparks, "resources to spark conversations, creative challenges, and continued explorations." Although the Are We There Yet? videos and topics may be better suited for older students, you may find inspiration and ideas for younger learners. In Episode 2, for example, Novak and Montague travel to Selma, Alabama to meet some kids making a difference and a woman who was a freedom fighter during the Civil Rights Movement. Each video includes rich lesson plans with resources/reference materials, protocols (like See-Think-Wonder), and ideas for creating and connecting.

Another video (part of the Brad Story series) is called Smuggling Hope. "This lesson fosters a greater understanding of hope and encourages students to depict their personal definitions of hope. Creating and then sharing their art gives them an opportunity to also share hope." Children were invited to create art depicting what they thought hope looked like, and then Montague and his wife smuggled over 500 pieces of the art into the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Watch and see what happens!

Smuggling Hope.
Finally, Brad Montague has an instagram account filled with creative, tiny, hopeful and inspiring messages to make you think and smile. His latest post is a video called A Very Important Story About Circles, created with his children. It's a nice connection to SEL work. Montague writes, "How can we make the world brighter for each other? Our kids helped me make this video. It’s something I’m trying to teach them (while also still learning myself). May all our circles grow and grow and grow."
Big picture
A Very Important Story About Circles



Click here to request apps from Louis. Bookmark this page for future use!

From Louis: Please make your app requests at least a day in advance. While I may be able to add the app in the system as soon as I receive your request, it can take up to a few hours for the management server to complete the installation and for the apps to be available for use.


Email Louis to reserve time in the Creation Station: lcoronel@ucls.uchicago.edu

Contact Lisa or Reserve the CS Lab

Lisa Harrison

Primary School Computer Science Teacher &

Educational Technology Integration Specialist, Nursery-Grade 2