One of the most common questions we are asked is how our library of digital content supports the Common Core.  The easy answer is that our entire library has been aligned to the Common Core standards, so teachers can find resources related to each standard.  The more complex answer is that there are many pieces of content that can be used in flexible ways to support each individual standard, and it is up to teachers to choose the content that best supports their lesson and their students.

Here are five pieces of digital content a teacher might choose from our library to support and enhance the teaching of: CCSS.Math.Content.2.G.A.3

Partition circles and rectangles into two, three, or four equal shares, describe the shares using the words halves, thirds, half of, a third of, etc., and describe the whole as two halves, three thirds, four fourths. Recognize that equal shares of identical wholes need not have the same shape.

A teacher could use this virtual manipulative with students on laptops/tablets/Chromebooks or an interactive whiteboard to introduce the concept of fractions in the context of a real-life problem.  Choose 3 friends and 4 cookies.  Ask your students how they will share them equally and still be friends.

Visual Fractions

A teacher could use this virtual manipulative with students on an interactive whiteboard.  This manipulative demonstrates that a fraction will look differently depending on the whole being divided.

A teacher could use this virtual manipulative with students on laptops/tablets/Chromebooks or an interactive whiteboard.  Students can explore dividing different wholes into parts and shading parts to create fractions.

Virtual Geoboard

A teacher could use this virtual manipulative with students on laptops/tablets/Chromebooks or an interactive whiteboard.  Students can explore dividing the same wholes into parts in different ways. (Choose 3, Geoboard: Fractions)

A teacher could use this resource to check for student understanding.  The activity challenges students to sort equal fractions with different shaped wholes into three groups.

(This post is a continuation of our 12 Questions series.  The first two posts can be viewed here and here.)

#7 Who created these resources?
It is important to consider the source of content you use in your classroom.  Verify that the resources you are considering are research-based.  Find out whether they were created by educational publishers, teachers, researchers, or a software company.  Would you want a software programmer or graphic designer with no education degree teaching in your classroom?  Is it logical that a researcher should be designing lessons for fifth graders if they have never taught fifth graders?  Educational content written by educators with recent classroom experience may contain effective strategies and methods learned only by teaching concepts directly to students.  Content designed by educators is usually organized and presented in ways that are simple and intuitive for other educators and students.

Equally important is the country in which the content was created.  Find out if the content was created by educators in your country based on your standards and benchmarks or if it was created in another country and had to be modified to fit your country’s curriculum.  If it was modified, check what modifications were made to language, vocabulary, and teaching strategies as they vary greatly from country to country.  If considering purchasing resources that were developed in another country, look closely at their user statistics and research.  Does the product have a customer base and research on effectiveness in your country?

#8 Can I search by standards?  Can I search by my publisher-based curriculum?
At the very least, a product should provide a way for you to view which state and/or national standards are aligned to each of their resources.  At the very best, a product will provide a way for users to search and find content aligned to each specific state and/or national standard. (This is particularly helpful when searching for interventions based on results from standardized testing.)

A hard-to-come-by but very useful time-saving feature is the ability to search and find resources aligned to each unit/lesson/chapter in specific publisher-based curriculums.  In addition to being a time saver for teachers, this search validates the digital content by closely tying it to your district’s specific curriculum.

#9 Do these resources include voiceovers?
Voiceovers add value and increased functionality to interactive content.  They help to differentiate instruction and to engage auditory learners.  If voiceovers are present in paid content, they should sound professional, be of an appropriate accent for your country, and preferably offer the option to be turned on or off depending on the needs of specific students.

(This post is the third in a series of four.  Stay tuned for more questions to ask!)

Meet Julie Ahern.  She teaches at Andrew Cooke Magnet Elementary School in Waukegan, Illinois.  Here is her StarrMatica story:

Our fine arts magnet school is located in a vibrant and diverse community where I have taught 3rd and now 2nd grade for 22 years. Although we are in a high poverty district, our school has been able to retain our fine arts magnet status. However, it has been a challenge to find the funding for technology and effective computer programs. Although we have a computer lab in our building, which the students visit once a week, I have worked very diligently to obtain laptops for all of my students so that we are a 1:1 classroom. Therefore, with my remaining available funds I wanted to make sure that I obtained the most effective research based programs out there.

Last year I submitted a DonorsChoose project for StarrMatica and found it to be everything and more that I needed for my students. StarrMatica allows me to introduce a new skill on our projector and then have my students go into the related interactive games and lessons on their classroom laptops. When needed, I can differentiate lessons by directing students to certain games/lessons in the K-2 section and even challenge others to work in the grades 3-6 section. I also value the included search option to find lessons and activities so that we can extend our learning.

My parents appreciate that they can have their children continue our lessons at home. At the end of our units, I have my students complete the assessments and then share that information with my parents. This is my second year of using StarrMatica.  After having such a positive experience with this program, I made sure to include it in our line-up for the school year 2014-15. Our district is asking us to implement the Common Core standards yet has not provided us with a reading or math curriculum to do so.

Therefore, I appreciate having access to StarrMatica as it has provided me with the reading and math Common Core content that I need. It also has saved me time searching for relevant curriculum because the StarrMatica program does an excellent job of offering content on so many levels. I will definitely seek a membership to StarrMatica next year as well!