CIA Review

From the Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment

Edition 13 March 18, 2016

Spotlight on Strategies

Myth Bustin'

MythBusters, a popular show on the Discovery Channel, tests popular myths in order to confirm or bust them. This strategy takes the idea of myth busting and applies it to content students explore though digital media. By providing students with a list of statements to “bust” or “confirm,” we are providing explicit cues about what students are about to learn. These cues help students focus on important information we want them to have, as well as trigger what they may already know about a topic.

This strategy is an effective way to help students focus their attention on important learning, develop critical thinking skills, and learn how to support their opinions and decisions with sound evidence.

Download the pdf or watch the strategy in action below.

Myth Bustin'

Green Screening with Do Ink

Ever wonder how the broadcast meteorologists on TV get those weather maps behind them? They use green screen technology! Your students can use the same technology (with the Do Ink App) to create videos demonstrating their understanding of various concepts. Creating a green screen is as simple as hanging green butcher paper up on the wall, or using puppets and a green-painted pizza box. Here are some ways you can use Do Ink and a green screen with your students:
  • Research presentations (animals, biographies, places)
  • Book reports
  • Story retelling
  • Character traits
  • Retelling from a specific character's point of view
  • Persuasive writing commercials
  • Informative writing presentations
  • Narrative writing- plays
  • Holiday projects (news reporters)- President's Day, Groundhog Day, Earth Day
  • Math problem tutorials

Make sure you check out the Pizza Box Green Screen and the video below.

Easy-to-Use Green Screen by DoInk App Enables Creation of Green Screen Effects on iPhone and iPad
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Teaching ELA and Math Students to Use Their Brains in Similar Ways

In this article in Kappan, former ELA teacher Nancy Gardner and math teacher Nicole Smith argue that the Common Core standards form a natural bridge between the seemingly disparate subject areas of English language arts and math. The similarities:

  • Grit – In both subjects, the new standards emphasize perseverance – sticking with a task, especially a difficult one. In ELA, this manifests itself in getting students to read more-difficult texts. “We want all students to have a productive struggle with texts,” say Gardner and Smith. “Sometimes this means more time devoted to shorter passages” – for example, spending two weeks delving into just two chapters of Frankenstein. In math, Common Core ramps up the importance of solving word problems with real-world relevance. “Teaching perseverance depends heavily on the questioning skills of teachers,” say the authors. “Teachers need to understand the how and why of good questions so they can help students dig deeply and avoid superficial responses.”
  • Supporting claims – In both ELA and math, Common Core standards involve using claims, reasons, and evidence to back up arguments. In ELA, this means returning again and again to the text for actual evidence, versus the previous emphasis on relating texts to one’s own personal experiences and opinions. In math, students are asked to show the steps of solving a problem or completing a proof. “This means students start to articulate why a given answer must be true – or how a logical conclusion can be reached,” say Gardner and Smith. “In both ELA and math, the focus shifts from finding the what answer to how to find the best answer and why that answer is best. The conversation may even continue to include whether there is a best answer.”
  • Precision – In ELA, this includes close attention to grammar and word choice in students’ writing and in the texts they read – for example, why did the author use the word catastrophe rather than problem? In math, students are called upon to know what level of precision is necessary for a given task – for example, is the best unit of measurement centimeters or millimeters? – and debating with classmates about the most efficient and elegant way to solve a problem. “The importance of precision goes beyond being right,” say the authors, “to a deeper understanding of how right or how effective something is or isn’t.”
  • Structure analysis – In ELA, why did the author use particular images or rhyme schemes? Why did the writer choose this extended metaphor? Why was the argument constructed this way? In math, students need to learn how to step back and look at the big picture as they analyze mathematical structure, looking for similarities, differences, and patterns. “This helps students make formulas their own and reach past the superficial level of memorizing a formula,” say Gardner and Smith.
  • Using tools strategically – Common Core standards ask students to use vocabulary and grammar with skill and careful intent. This is essential given the way students are bombarded with words and ideas from the Internet and other sources, and the challenging nature of tasks they will face in the years ahead.

“Math and ELA Meet at the Common Core” by Nancy Gardner and Nicole Smith in Phi Delta Kappan, March 2016 (Vol. 97, #6, p. 53-56),; Gardner can be reached at

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Projects During Testing Season

We dive into testing season after Spring Break. All the computer labs will be booked from April to June and schedules will be a little crazy with different classes testing at different times. Here are some ideas of short, fun projects to re-engage students during testing season.

Cardboard Challenge

Inspired by the short film, Caine’s Arcade,’ students create whatever they desire out of cardboard.

Marble Run

Kids create roller coasters out of paper plates.

Mini-Rube Goldberg

Students use their desktops to create a device that is deliberately over-engineered to perform a simple task in a complicated fashion, which includes a chain reaction. The expression is named after American cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg.

Pipecleaner Challenge

Students will use pipe-cleaners to build the tallest, freestanding tower.

Spoon Catapults

How far can a marshmallow fly?

Go outside! Play kickball, steal the bacon, capture the flag. Anything to give the kiddos some fresh air!