Shorten a Website Address For Your Students

Have you ever tried to send your students to an absolutely brilliant website that you’ve hand-selected that is perfectly aligned to your lesson, the common core, the essential question, and the benchmark exam….but it’s about 100 characters long?  You write it on the board (or on paper) and have the students try to type it in so they can get to this fantastic site that you have planned for them.  BUT…and we’ve all been there…inevitably students type in one teensy-weensy wrong letter, add a space, forget an underscore, whatever – and it’s a nightmare trying to run from computer to computer to see exactly where the typo happened and why the 100-character website isn’t appearing!

There is a solution.  It’s crazy-simple.  It’s been around for a long time, but maybe you didn’t know about it.  There are websites that are specifically designed to shorten URLs. (They are cleverly called “URL shorteners”.)  I don’t know how many there are, but there are three pretty well-known ones that I use all the time, so I thought I’d share those three with you.  Honestly, I don’t think one is better than the other…I just use whichever one pops into my head at the time.

1)  bitly – It’s the one I use most often.  I have no reason except that it’s simple, but they all are.  Here’s a screenshot:


Look at that original URL…ughhhhhh!   Here’s what bitly does for it as soon as you paste the URL into that blank white space:


And seriously, this web address works for the same site.  I’m not kidding.  Try it.  It’s just a shortened version, and SOOOO much easier to write and give to your students!

2) – this is Google’s URL shortener.  Same exact thing, different site.  Wanna see?

I even put the same original URL in to this one.  Different result.  Still shortened.  Still works.  Still much easier to share with kids.  Here’s the new and improved URL via goo.gl 

3) tinyurl:  This is another one, and it’s just as good.  I’m not even going to do the screenshot for this because I know you’re getting the idea.  Tinyurl is another great choice for shortening URLs.

So that’s the long and the SHORT of things regarding URL shorteners.  Try all three and see what works for you.  No matter which one you use, it’s going to simplify your life and make the task of giving websites to your students MUCH easier!  Let me know your thoughts by sharing in the comments on this blog, @kerszi on Twitter or by following My Primary Techspiration on Facebook.

Keeping It On The Down-Low: A Class Volume-Meter to Try

I’m a believer in the value of classroom chatter.  Very often, amazing things happen when we just let kids interact, chat, collaborate, discuss, speculate, pontificate…Yeah, I pretty much am a fan of that kind of classroom.  Most of the time.

BUT, I know and appreciate the fact that there are times when classrooms should be quiet places….during tests, silent reading time, study centers, active writing… you can probably name a few (dozen) more.  Here’s a cool tool you can use to keep the volume on the down-low at times when it matters:  Bouncy Balls  


It’s ridiculously easy, so I’m not going to take much time to explain things here.  Just a few tips:

  • Run this in Chrome or Firefox (it doesn’t seem to like IE)
  • You need a microphone, and you’ll have to click “allow” to let the program access it.
  • Feeling crazy? Switch from bouncy balls to emojis, bubbles, or eyeballs

Ideas for use ~ also super-simple:

  • Challenge class to keep the balls as still as possible
  • You may want to build in rewards or consequences
  • Use a projector or SmartBoard to make it large

That’s pretty much it.  Bouncy Balls is just kind of cool, so I thought I’d share.  Let me know what you think of it.

You can always keep in touch via this blog at, on Facebook at My Primary Techspiration, or on Twitter @kerszi,

Writer’s Workshop Tool You Probably Knew About But Never Thought Of In This Way

My colleague Donna brought her 5th grade class to the computer lab a few weeks ago.  She had signed up for some quality computer lab time for her students to work on publishing their major Writing pieces.  They had been working on their pieces for several weeks, as part of a Writer’s Workshop, and they were creating these on a class wiki (more about wiki writing in a future post)  Anyway, Donna has an absolutely remarkable wiki that the students can access 24/7, and they use computers to do all of their writing.  By the time they came to the computer lab, Donna had taught many mini-lessons on writing this piece, and students had applied these lessons to their pieces as the weeks went on.  Because of the wiki, their writing is also semi-public, at least to the other students in the class, and a LOT of commenting, suggestions, and feedback had already occurred.  Revisions and editing had also happened as a result of the feedback from the teacher and other students via the commenting aspect of the wiki.


    If you are a primary school teacher who teaches Writing, you know that everything I mentioned above is dang-near-perfect, and just the way Writing instruction is supposed to be!  Keep reading – it gets better…..Donna is uber-involved in this Writing process and injects multiple comments and suggestions into her students’ wiki pieces every day.  She also meets with all of her students – frequently, individually, and with quality tips for improving their own pieces.  But……..and Donna will tell you the same thing……

Students are often unable to self-edit or revise, because they inherently auto-correct their own reading.

    So, when they reread their own pieces (as directed) to find errors, listen for inconsistencies, look for areas that could be improved upon, hear grammar mistakes…..the students don’t really hear them or even see them, because they often ‘auto-correct’ as they self-read.  That day in the computer lab, just before final publication, Donna and I could both see that this was still happening.  The students had self-read their own pieces so many times that they were no longer able to hear/see/find areas for improvement.  My buddy Donna doesn’t mind when I jump in a little bit, so I just kind-of threw an idea out to the class, and a whole new world of revision opened up…

Here comes the tool.  Finally. And I urge you to try this if you haven’t before:   Get your students to copy and paste the entire text of their piece into Google Translate.  I could give you the website, but all you have to do, really, is Google ‘Google Translate’ and it comes up. (Okay, I gave you the quick link if you click on those blue words.)  Now, make sure the left side and the right side are both set on English.

googletranslate       Have students copy/paste their written work from wherever they had initial created it – an MS Word doc, a Google doc, a wiki, etc.  They should just paste that text in the box on the left.  The text is automatically (haha) ‘translated’ into English on the right side of the screen.  But look at this screenshot below, and you’ll see two magical things:

googletranslate2     First, there’s that whole “Did you mean:” thing going on below the left box.  This area automatically suggests changes for your young writers, and may get them seeing or thinking about changing things they hadn’t noticed.  But here’s the greatest part of using this web tool: the text-to-speech function!!!   Look at the box on the right.  Do you see the little ((sound)) icon?  When clicked, that actually has a computerized voice (think Siri) that READS the text back to students!  Have your kiddies put headphones on and actually LISTEN to their own pieces read back to them.  Whoaaaaa….

It won’t catch every mistake, but it sure does give students a different perspective to hear their Writing pieces read back to them when there are missing periods, or missplled words, or redundant redundant redundant words you get the idea the kids hear things that they normally might have missed, and it’s just one more AWESOME checkpoint before final publication!  (And yes, I mad these mistakes on porpoise so you culd hear how the sonde in in Google Translate!)

Google Translate.  English to English.  Text to speech.  That’s how 21st century writers roll!

FlipQuiz…Look Out, Alex Trebek!

I stumbled across this site the other day, and I must say that I really do like FlipQuiz for creating Jeopardy-style review games for the classroom.  I know, I know, I know…you already have PowerPoint templates for this.  So do I.  But…this site is honestly just – well – it’s easier.  And prettier.  I like the way the questions appear large & in charge on the screen.   You quickly customize your questions and answers.  It’s web-based, so it’s available on any computer.  Once you set up a free account, your projects are stored online at the site forever…to use year after year.


FlipQuiz is free, but they have a paid option.  Here’s my advice…use the free version at first, and use it a lot.  Once you and your students are very familiar with it, you’ll just know if you need to even consider going to that paid version.  So what do you get for the ‘pro version’?  Well, there are a few perks, but they’re not for everyone, and the free version is honestly pretty good by itself.  The first paid perk is that it’ll keep team scores for you, but I feel like I can easily do that on my own without paying.  Honestly, my favorite “pro” feature is that you can insert images as part of the question.  Click here to find out about the other paid features.

The FlipQuiz site has a demo that you can click on to see how it works.  I really liked the demo – which is why I’m posting!  It’s eye-catching.  It’s user-friendly.  It’s stunning on a SmartBoard or even projected on a large whiteboard.  (Click on the blue word “demo” or the image below to go directly to the demo, which is kind-of fun!  My 16-year-old son enjoyed it!)


I tried to take a screenshot of the inital “create your own” page.  It will look pretty small on your screen, but if you can enlarge or zoom, you’ll see how very easy FlipQuiz is!


That’s pretty much it.  It’s basic.  It’s crazy-easy.  It’s a fun way to review.  It’s free.  I can’t think of a single reason for you not to add FlipQuiz to your handy-dandy teacher tech toolbox!

****As always, I really do love to hear your thoughts.  Is anyone using this?  Are the results positive or negative?  Please share this post by “sharing” on Facebook, retweeting on Twitter, +1 or sharing it in Google Plus, following My Primary Techspiration” blog, or just email it to a few buds!  And hey…thank you so much!

Is It Down For Everyone or Just Me?

This will be my shortest post ever.  The site is literally called: Is It Down For Everyone Or Just Me?  

If you’re having trouble with a website, you honestly just paste the URL into the blank on Is It Down For Everyone Or Just Me lets you know if the whole site is down or if the problem is only happening on your end.

down for everyone

This is a screenshot of the whole site. That’s it.

Might sound stupid or simple, but there are about a gazillion times I could have used this in school.  Still can use it.  Will use it.  How about you?

Studyladder…Free Printables, Core Content Activities, & More

I’m keeping this post simple.  Studyladder.  I think it’s pretty extraordinary, and most of what I can find is free – and there’s a lot of it!

I’m sharing this link now because there are a lot of free holiday, Christmas, and end-of-year (2014, not the school year…sorry!) activities and printable worksheets here that are really quite good (and did I say…free?) .  Click & enjoy the plethora of freebees – no explanation required.


Once you get to the site, though, I encourage you to check out a relatively new feature called “StudyPods”.  These are curricular resources in Math, Literacy, Science, Financial Literacy, Health & Safety, Art, Music, and Language.  Again – there are a lot!  Sign your class up for free, generate an included parent letter, assign items, and let your kids complete StudyPod assignments at school and at home.  Below is a partial screenshot of the list of StudyPods on Studyladder.


Studyladder is one of those sites that you’re going to want to dedicate a little time for exploring, but it’s not difficult.  I think that each teacher will approach this site differently based on his or her grade level, subjects taught, and particular units of study.  Because it’s free, openly accessible, teachers can track students, and there is a substantial amount of content, I absolutely think Studyladder is worthwhile!

Note: Right now, Studyladder is offering a free upgrade.  This confused me, as it seems most of the site’s resources are free.  When I clicked on “Plans and Pricing”, it turns out that there are paid premium memberships, but I think those are primarily for parents.  Stick with the free stuff….there’s plenty!

As always….I’d love to hear what you think!