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Professional Development

Professional Development

Owner: Hannah Hobbs

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Use Visual Timers

Online Clock Countdown

A Free flash online stopwatch, quick easy to use flash stopwatch! also a countdown timer!

GAFE Extensions From Lynne Silcock's VLN Page

Literacy support in Google Apps for Education (GAFE)

New technologies we can provide students with flexible and personalised literacy supports that remove barriers to learning. These are especially critical as students move up the school levels where the impact of a reading or writing difficulty can limit access to content and the ability of a student to show what they know.


By providing a range of options for every student to use when they want to, individuals are not singled out for special treatment. Instead, students can learn and show what they know rather than being continually defined by their current literacy skills.


As each student has a personal log on for Google the apps, extensions and add-ons will be linked to their profile and be available whenever they log on and are online. This allows the student to personalise the way that they use Google to suit their own needs and preferences.


The following are a selection of my favourite Apps, Extensions, Add Ons and tools that provide literacy support in the Google Chrome and Google Apps for Education (GAFE) environment. All are free except where specified. If you are not familiar with these types of tools see:


ReadWrite for Google ReadWrite icon Google Chrome  extension

ReadWrite toolbar Google Chrome  extension

This toolbar is designed to support struggling readers and writers and provides a number of literacy support features when you are online. Although the premium version is an expensive option the free version (which remains after the 30 day trial) includes text-to-speech and translation.

The text to speech tool reads text aloud in Google Docs and on web pages. This is an excellent support for any student who want to access text above their current reading age. It can also support comprehension, editing and multitasking (you can listen as you write, take notes, cook or walk).

Once installed it is easy to use and works well. Installation note: On some devices you cannot access the “accept” box for permissions (it gets hidden under your taskbar). If this happens use your tab button to scroll through clickable points and when it reaches the blue accept button press enter.

Voice typing in Google Doc’s (tools menu)Voice typing GDoc tool

Voice typing allows you to type in Google Doc’s by speaking. It is excellent support for those who find writing with a pen or keyboard difficult and for those who have difficulty with spelling. The accuracy of this tool is impressive compared with other options and it offers a NZ accent option.


Although it is only available in Google Doc’s there are plans to add this feature to other apps including Google Slides. I love the way Google has made this option one of it’s everyday tools.


Research Toolbar (tools menu)Research toolbar Gdoc and Gslides

The research toolbar offers many of Google’s great search tools directly in Google Doc’s and Slides. It allows you to locate content and pictures and drag them onto your writing page. Even more impressive, it automatically links and references sources. For more information see Research Tools (Youtube).

The research toolbar makes it much easier to insert images into documents.The dictionary option offers word definitions and synonyms that can be used to develop vocabulary.



SAS Writing Reviser - doc’s grammar add on SAS Writing Reviser Gdoc add on

This comprehensive Add On opens a sidebar in Google Docs and can be used to review writing. Many of the tools would be appropriate for quite sophisticated users but it also includes simple tools like identifying repeated words or verbs.


It identifies items by highlighting them on your page or listing them in the sidebar. The tool includes:

  • sentence economy - wordiness, prepositional phrases, passive voice, relative clauses, repeated words

  • sentence variety - simple sentences, fragments, run-on, subject-verb openings, prep phrase openings, subordinate clause openings, transitions

  • sentence power - all verbs, weak & hidden verbs, verb tenses

  • sentence clarity - cliches and jargon, vague words, pronoun case, pronouns/antecedents, dangling modifiers, misplaced modifiers, parallelism.




Texthelp study skills doc’s highlight and group add on

Texthelp Study Skills GDoc add on

This tool allows you to select text on the page (by highlighting it with a variety of colours) and then create a completely new document with the highlighted text. In the new document, the highlighted text can be created in the original order or grouped by colour. This tool is also one of the premium options on the ReadWrite for Google toolbar (see above).


Open dyslexic font extensionOpen Dyslexic Google Chrome font extension

The Open Dyslexia font extension works on web pages and Google Drive. Unfortunately it does not give you an option to type in doc’s using the font.







Word Cloud wordlists extensionWord Cloud GAFE Extension

The lovely little extension makes word clouds from web pages. This is an excellent and efficient way to create word lists. Word lists can support vocabulary development and spelling.





Announcify - extension to declutter and read web pages

Announcify GAFE extension

Announcify simplifies web pages and reads the text aloud. While reading it masks (blurs) the paragraphs before and after so students can track the current text.


Visor screen masking extension

Visor Google Chrome extension

This extension masks some of the screen, supporting those who find it difficult to track down the page. The colour of the masking can be changed to red, green or blue and the contrast is adjustable. Unfortunately the contrast always leaves the visible text quite shaded (it does not go completely clear).


Fokus screen masking extensionFocus Google Chrome  extension

Focus allows you to focus on one part of the page by masking everything but the window you selected. It also can highlight the text within the window as you read it.




BeeLine Reader sentence colour extension

Beeline Reader GAFE extension

Beeline is an unusual extension that colours the words within eachsentence to give students clues about the start and end of each sentence.



WordQ for Chrome ($18.99) - word prediction app WordQ Extension

This app supports writing by offering word prediction, text to speech and topic lists (including the ability to add and use Māori topic dictionaries). It operates as a separate window (not a toolbar or add-on) and has a very simple clean format. Usage examples of predicted words are available and everything can be read aloud with a choice of high quality voices.


Documents made in the app automatically save in google doc format into google drive. It works online and offline. The word prediction is comparable to the other versions of WordQ.

Lastly a few notes

  • when you have many extensions you may need an easy way to turn them on and off. I use thisSimpleExtManager to quickly enable and disable my extensions
  • please be aware that the apps, extension and add ons change all the time - some that were in the store yesterday may not be there tomorrow.

This is a small selection of the vast number of options available - I would love to hear about your favourites so please add your favourites below :)


Lynne Silcock



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Working Memory Demands in Writing


No matter how motivated you are, it is hard to learn and retrieve key knowledge and skills if you can only hold on to a limited amount of information in memory at one time. Working memory is an executive function that allows us to hold information in mind while working with it. Working memory is critical in the process of storing information in long-term memory. It is also critical in retrieving previously learned information from memory. In fact, most of the “work” in the memory system occurs in “working” memory where information is managed, manipulated and transformed. Working memory capacity differs from individual to individual. Students with working memory difficulties can hold fewer pieces of discrete information in their mind at any given moment. They hear what you said, or see what is presented, but as more information overwhelms their memory system they lose previous information needed to successfully complete the task. Once information is lost it is not likely to be retrieved. It is easy to see how the student can become frustrated and consequently stop paying attention. Working memory difficulties are common among students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), learning disabilities, hearing loss, acquired brain injury and mental health issues.

What Working Memory Difficulties Might Look Like

Students may:

• Have difficulty remembering facts and procedures, such as new vocabulary words, verb conjugations or mathematical procedures. • Exhibit slow retrieval of information. • Fail to follow instructions despite repeated instructions. • Demonstrate poor attention to detail, such as beginning to write a sentence and then struggling to remember all of the words in the sentence, skipping words within sentences, and writing shorter sentences (to reduce demands on working memory). • Make place-keeping errors such as losing track of steps completed or steps yet to be completed and either repeats steps needlessly or constantly has to start over. • Have difficulty starting work. • Demonstrate difficulty staying on task. Task abandonment is a common consequence. • Lose track of belongings. These difficulties have a negative impact on core academic skills of reading, writing and mathematics. They may in turn affect performance in all subject areas.



Currently, we do not have easy approaches to build working memory skills. Skill building does not generalize well to classroom performance. However, there are ways to support students that will help them compensate for working memory difficulties.


• Ask the student to verbalize their steps in completing tasks they often struggle to complete. This can provide important information about where the breakdown is occurring and what supports are likely to work best. • Evaluate the working memory demands of learning activities. A student with working memory difficulties will need more support as tasks get longer, become more complex, have unfamiliar content or demand more mental processing.


• Break tasks into smaller chunks. One task at a time is best, if possible. • Reduce the amount of material the student is expected to complete. • Keep new information or instructions brief and to the point, and repeat in concise fashion for the student, as needed. • Provide written directions for reference. • Simplify the amount of mental processing required by providing several oral “clues” for a problem and writing key words for each clue on the board or interactive whiteboard. This way the student does not have to hold all of the information in mind at once. • Increase the meaningfulness of the material by providing examples students can relate to. • Provide information in multiple ways: speak it, show it, and create opportunities to physically work with it or model it. • Develop routines, such as specific procedures for turning in completed assignments. Once a routine is practiced repeatedly, it becomes automatic and reduces the working memory demand.


• Be prepared to repeat information. • Use visual reminders of the steps needed to complete a task. • Provide opportunities to repeat the task. • Encourage practice to increase the amount of information encoded into memory. • Teach students to practice in short sessions, repeatedly throughout the day. Spaced practice is more effective than massed practice. Have students practice new skills or information in short sessions over the course of the day rather than in one long session. For example, give the student a set of key facts to review for a few minutes two or three times during the school day, and encourage them to review again at home both at night and in the morning.


Use advance organizers and teach students how to use them. For example, KWL (What I Know, What I Want to Know, What I Learned) is a graphic organizer that helps students focus on what is to be learned. This tool activates prior knowledge, helps generate questions to explore and then assists students to connect what they learn to what they already know.


• Teach one strategy at a time in brief, focused sessions. • Teach students when, where, why and how to use the strategy


• Use visual posters, e.g. of multiplication tables. • Create posters of commonly used words. • Provide instructions in written form – could be a handout, whiteboard, or simply a sticky note. • Provide a key word outline to refer to while you are teaching. • Encourage the use of checklists for multi-step tasks (e.g., steps for editing written work, timelines for assignments). • Encourage students to make lists of reminders regularly. • Use graphic organizers to teach new concepts and information. When the student can picture how the ideas are interrelated, they can be stored and retrieved more easily. • Consider educational technology that reduces the demand on working memory, such as calculators, word processors, spell-check devices, grammar-check devices, and voice dictation and text readers. • Use rhymes, songs, movements and patterns, such as ’30 days hath September’ rhyme for remembering the number of days in each calendar month. Music and physical routines linked to fact learning can help students memorize faster and act as a cue for retrieving specific information.


• Stop at least two times per lesson and request a quick summary from students – “what have we learned so far?” – followed by quick notes on the board. Research overwhelmingly indicates that at least 40% of total learning time needs to be spent reviewing new material. • Request students to paraphrase, or have another student paraphrase verbally delivered directions. Research has repeatedly shown that youth are more likely to “hear” and “remember” if they hear their own voice or a peer’s voice. • Allow time for rehearsal and processing. • Allow extra time for the student to retrieve information. These students benefit from advance warning that they will be asked a question. • Avoid open-ended questions.


• Active participation with the material such as repeatedly hearing it, seeing it and moving it, holds the information in working memory so it can move to long-term memory. Let the students move around, use hands-on material and put information on file cards so they can be manipulated. • Wherever possible, use games such as Jeopardy® and Scrabble®, drama and art to reinforce concepts. 


• Physical coding, such as consistent colours for different subject areas, can act as triggers to help students remember information. o Try coding when teaching new concepts: when teaching sentence structure nouns are always red, verbs are always green etc. o Spelling – highlight difficult parts of new words. o Vocabulary – teach new words in categories or families and colour code the categories. o Encourage the use of coloured pens or highlighters (remember, yellow is the LEAST effective).


• Try to get the students to link new information to prior knowledge – encourage drawing, writing and verbal reflection. The use metaphors, analogies, imagery or induced imagery (where the image is generated by the individual, rather than given to them) can help. • Start each lesson with a quick review of the previous lesson – always write down key words as the students recall information to model “trigger words”. • End each lesson with a summary of what was learned.


• Teach students to listen for key words. Post the words in the classroom and frequently use them as cues while you teach. • Often students with working memory difficulties also exhibit word and information retrieval difficulties. They frequently experience the “tip of the tongue” phenomenon, or may produce the wrong details within the correct concept. The student may need additional time to retrieve details when answering a question. Cues may be necessary to help them focus on the correct bit of information or word. 


Executive Function Demands in Writing

Executive Function Demands in Writing

What are some strategies to help?

There are many effective strategies one can use in when faced with the challenge of problems with executive function. Here are some methods to try:

General strategies

  • Take step-by-step approaches to work; rely on visual organizational aids.
  • Use tools like time organizers, computers or watches with alarms.
  • Prepare visual schedules and review them several times a day.
  • Ask for written directions with oral instructions whenever possible.
  • Plan and structure transition times and shifts in activities.

Managing time

  • Create checklists and "to do" lists, estimating how long tasks will take.
  • Break long assignments into chunks and assign time frames for completing each chunk.
  • Use visual calendars to keep track of long term assignments, due dates, chores, and activities.
  • Use management software such as the Franklin Day Planner, Palm Pilot, or Lotus Organizer.
  • Be sure to write the due date on top of each assignment.

Managing space and materials

  • Organize work space.
  • Minimize clutter.
  • Consider having separate work areas with complete sets of supplies for different activities.
  • Schedule a weekly time to clean and organize the work space.

Managing work

  • Make a checklist for getting through assignments. For example, a student's checklist could include such items as: get out pencil and paper; put name on paper; put due date on paper; read directions; etc.
  • Meet with a teacher or supervisor on a regular basis to review work; troubleshoot problems.


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    Started by Hannah Hobbs 17 Aug 2017 11:10am () Replies (1) Last reply by Hannah Hobbs
    1 Using Prizmo on IOS   2 Using Prizmo – desktop   3 Using your mac to create an audiobook for any learner.   4 Read & Write Chrome extension   5 QR codes to help you remember what we played with...

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