Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Differentiation and Task Management in the Computer Lab

I have really been trying to find a way to make my computer lab time more meaningful for my students. We visit the lab every other Monday. While they work on the computers, I pull students individually for progress monitoring. While the kids usually enjoy this time, I wanted to make sure that I was really maximizing this as instructional time. I also want to be sure that these sessions are differentiated properly. So, I came up with a menu management tool.  I will explain more below, but first I wanted to show the site that I just found out about!  Maybe you already know about it and I have just been living in a cave, but please bear with me! :)
It is called Turtle Diary. I am totally loving this site! It is full of free games. I found a lot of appropriate content for my RtI 2nd graders under the first grade tab. You can check it out by clicking here! Our school gives the MAP test by NWEA. So, I am loving the interactive features and that there is a speaker icon that functions exactly like the one on the upcoming test!

So, here is how I created my menu management tool. Please forgive me for spelling out each step.. I don't know how tech-savvy you all are. So, if you are up to date on computers and such, feel free to skim!

1. I went to the site and made sure that my screen showed exactly the images that I wanted. On your keyboard (usually up from the insert key and to the left of F12), there is a print screen button. Push it. It will look like nothing has happened. Nothing will print, but it does take a picture your screen. Now, open a new document (I personally prefer PowerPoint), and click paste. Voila! The picture should appear.

2. Now, have fun cropping the image and getting rid of anything you don't want showing on your document.

3. Repeat for whatever other sections you want. It took three screen shots (print screens) for me to capture everything I needed.

4. Once I had everything looking all hunky dory, I printed a class set of my menu on card stock and laminated them.

Here is how the finished project looked.

Now, for the differentiation component. Since these are laminated, I can write on them and wipe them off. So, I can customize each student's menu. I am planning to circle three activities for math and three for language arts. #1 will be a review of previous content or a skill that the student has struggled with mastering. #2 will ask them to practice something we are currently studying. #3 will be a preview of upcoming material. 

I really think that this will prevent students from clicking from one game to another randomly. They are psyched about getting their own custom menu on Monday. We have been previewing one game a day on the SMART Board as an introduction to group time and they are itching to start! One of my kiddos said, "I can't wait to see my menu! I hope she picks Math Blaster for me." That makes me one happy teacher! 

Got a favorite site to recommend?  How do you manage your computer time?


  1. Wow! I have never heard of this website before! Thank you for sharing. It is very visually appealing and has great content. They have some science and social studies concepts we cover in my state too. I like your idea of using individualized menus. Neat! Thank you! :-)

    1. I only recently discovered it, too! I am glad it will be helpful to you. The menus have been awesome so far. They have really helped my kiddos with engagement and accountability.

  2. Will surely come and visit this blog more often. Thanks for sharing.
    Computer Repair Sarasota

  3. How do you have your students navigate to the specific game? Do you have them use the search box on the home page?

    1. When students arrive in the lab, we have them logged in and have pulled up the 2nd grade home page with all of the game choices on it. Then, they just have to click and start their specific game. :)