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EducationCity Feature Focus: Topic Tools

Wednesday, March 9, 2016 -- Madison Michell

Whether you are just beginning your experience with Topic Tools in EducationCity or have been using them in your instruction for years, there’s more to learn about this versatile resource. Topic Tools are open-ended, virtual manipulatives designed to help you explore new concepts with your students and reinforce learning. EducationCity’s rich bank of Topic Tools provides educators with flexible and interactive resources across a variety of subjects, including Language Arts, Math, Science, and Computing.

Today, we will take a closer look at three Topic Tool applications that will help you reimagine how EducationCity can be applied to deepen your students’ understanding, build critical thinking skills, and encourage exploration.

Guided Practice in Instruction

During guided practice, the flexibility of Topic Tools allows you to steer classroom questioning and learning tasks according to the varying academic needs of your students. As you model learning and explore new skills in a collaborative learning environment, students are able to test their knowledge with your guiding hand confirming and correcting their understanding along the way.

Below, we’ll take a look at how this could play out using an example of a 1st grade Math Topic Tool called the Number Line. Here, you may choose to begin by assessing your students’ prior knowledge. You could launch the Number Line with some of the numbers filled in, allowing students to come up to your interactive whiteboard and fill in missing digits. This quick refresher also gives you an opportunity to discuss strategies for counting, sequencing, and plotting numbers on a number line before your students move forward. 

EducationCity Number Line Topic Tool for Guided Practice

From here, you may choose to formatively assess their grasp of this concept by passing out small whiteboards and markers to your students so that they can build number lines independently. Then, refer back to the Topic Tool displayed on your interactive whiteboard to review the process with your class and provide clarification as needed.

Station Rotation Model

If you’re already using classroom centers or stations, Topic Tools are a perfect resource to insert into one rotation for meaningful practice of a particular skill. The open-ended applications of Topic Tools allow you to develop differentiated tasks to meet your learners’ varying needs.

Let’s take a closer look using our number line example. Perhaps several learners are ready to practice using a number line to demonstrate addition and subtraction problems. Another group of learners is solidifying more concrete skills, such as building a number line and sequencing numbers. Both groups could use the Topic Tool to complete a series of differentiated tasks posted on the board or printed in different stations.

EducationCity Number Line Topic Tool for Station Rotation

Small-Group Learning

In a small-group setting, Topic Tools may be just the thing that your students need to work through difficult concepts under your care. As any elementary teacher knows, this valuable time is often where learning begins to really click. Students of similar abilities are able to discuss and ask questions freely in an uninterrupted setting of focused learning.

Using the Number Line Topic Tool, you may be looking for ways to push learning forward for a group of high achievers. Perhaps they’ve mastered sequencing numbers 1–20 and are no strangers to the concept of skip counting, so today’s time allows you to combine these tasks into building and plotting numbers on a line that counts by fives.

With the help of student tablets or perhaps just a teacher laptop, Topic Tools are ideal for small-group learning. As the number line changes, you are able to ask critical questions about what students see, how the line has changed, and how they might plot the missing numbers that aren’t displayed. With a few changes to the Topic Tool settings, you’ve now elevated the task at hand to meet your students’ needs.

Topic Tools are just one of the great content types available in EducationCity! Interested in learning more about how EducationCity can support instruction in your classroom? Check out our blog post on Developing Engaging Content for the Elementary Learner!