Posted in common core, informational text, social studies, uncategorized, writing

Using Thinglink to Engage Students in the Inquiry Process

In grades K through fifth, social studies is incorporated into the reading standards. The standards require students to read informational text in social studies and engage in the inquiry process. Community, state, national, and global studies help students to understand current and past events. The standards also require students to use maps as well. This project explores some ways elementary students can use technology to learn more about social studies content and write to learn from informational texts.

I created an interactive map of the country of Norway using Thinglink *. The map can be used as a model for students doing a study of particular countries or other types of regions. Before I explain its application in the classroom, I will describe my writing process with this project.

*Thinglink has greater capability on the iPad or iPhone.

The process

At first, I did not do any prewriting for this activity. Though prewriting is a part of my ‘normal’ writing process, the exercise is especially helpful when using Thinglink because it crashed a few times. When I started to redo the project, I revised details or added new tags. This, I think, is one example of how the writing process and its instruction is recursive. I show my students my own writing process so they can see the recursive nature of writing and the strategies that writers have in their toolbox.

Note about Thinglink: each time you add something to an image, you create a “tag.” The tags look different depending on what information you include on the map.



The result (click on the map to see the tags)

Note: you must be on the blog page to access the icons.



 This project model is most applicable to sixth grade standards. To see what else can be done with Thinglink, refer to their website or search Google for more examples.

In creating this project, I used information from the CIA World Factbook, Random Facts, YouTube, OpenClipart, and Pixabay.


Classroom application

Common Core State Standards: Social Studies in Grades 1-6

Grade Content
K Community
1 Community
2 Local to international
3 Town of Connecticut
4 United States Geography
5 United States History
6 World Geography


Students can create an interactive map of the United States, an individual state, an individual country, and even their town or classroom. Students might do the fact-collecting in groups to make the project more manageable. Having the students read a portion of a text aloud and record a video is one way to make the project more manageable for younger students. Of course, this will need modeling so students know how to select their favorite facts to share.


The inquiry process

Students need to see the process of making the project, but it is also helpful and inspiring to see what can be created with this technology. Here are some suggestions for implementing this project in the classroom based on experience:

  • Show students your inquiry process as you Think-aloud and ask questions about your region of study. Later, have students try out a quick version of the project and have students ask and answer their own inquiry questions. For some learners, it may be helpful to use a KWL chart as an instructional strategy and whole-class activity. What students already know about a particular place can be a part their interactive map. What students want to know can help with the inquiry process.
  • Show students your pre-writing process as you think aloud, plotting the key points on a blank map.
  • Show students your construction process as you rework your prewriting guide and transfer the information to the technology.
  • Think-aloud helpful reminders such as, “Don’t forget to save!” Show students that you are excited about using this technology. It may not be easy for all students, but modeling self-regulation strategies may help students to see “failure-as-enhancing.”


Just a few ideas for the inquiry process:

  • What is the topography in this region like?
  • What are the major imports and exports?
  • What sports are valued the most in the region?
  • Who are the leaders of the region?
  • What type of government is in place?
  • What major events do the people of this region look forward to?
  • What unique plants and animals thrive in this region?
  • What inventions came about in this region?
  • Who are some famous people from this region?
  • What scientific discoveries where made by people of this region?
  • What do scientist like to study in this region?


Technology tips:

  • Have students create a back-up document with all the links and images that they will be using for their map. An electronic copy can make it easy to copy and paste links when adding tags to the map.
  • Save, save, save! The app may crash a few times, but it keeps everything you save. From my experience using the technology, it has never crashed while I am adding a tag.
  • Prior to the lessons, compile a list of resources for your students to use for their internet search. Consider whether your students need guidance or information for finding credible sources.




  • Here are some suggested guidelines students can follow:
    • Specify the number of tags required.
    • Label the major cities or sites.
    • Include 1-3 videos no longer than 6 minutes length (Four minutes or less is ideal).
    • Present your Thinglink to a classmate or the whole class. Share your project with a sibling and guardian or ask an expert on the region for advice.



I hope to have the opportunity to use Thinglink with my students. I enjoyed creating the map and I think students would also like the activity. has some more ideas for using the application. Additionally, Teachers can use Thinglink to present information to students in an interactive way. Younger students might enjoy creating a Thinglink as a whole-class activity.




Posted in comprehension, genre study, writing

Teaching Text Structures for Comprehension and Writing


The chapter on Essential Elements of Fostering Reading Comprehension provides teachers with several questions for reflection . The following question made me think about my experiences teaching students in elementary through high school:


“Based on your experience in schools and classrooms, which of these elements are most neglected, and what factors do you think contribute to their neglect?” (Duke, 2011, p.85).


Based on my experience, I think that instruction in sentence-level text structures is most neglected. Instruction in text structures includes the teaching of structures at the sentence level, paragraph level, and text level. Examination of structures at all levels can be especially helpful for student writing because problems at the sentence level may also occur at the paragraph and text level. Upon reflection, I think my teaching needs to include a wider range of the different text levels. While we cannot or should not teach every text structures for every genre, students need to know two things:


  1. Text has a structure and
  2. How to analyze text structure as a part of a genre or meaning of a text

(Duke, 2011, p. 71).


Genre study  is one way to incorporate study of text structures from the word level to the text level. One of the benefits of genre study is that it supports many of the other essential elements described in the chapter. In genre study, both implicit and explicit teaching are at hand: students are immersed in the works of the genre and, with teacher support and scaffolding, they make conclusions about the genre. At the sentence level, sentence combining is an effective teaching practice. A useful resource is Bruce Sadler’s  Teacher’s Guide to Effective Sentence Sentence Writing (2012). It is filled with exercises that help to practice different sentence structures.


Schools are providing students with more texts from different genres; student access to a range of texts is one of the ten essential elements listed in the chapter. This shift is promising because skilled readers are experienced with texts from different genres. Yet “reading success does not necessarily transfer between different genres” (p. 59). Explicit teaching of text structures should help students to read different texts differently. Moreover, this should help students with genre writing.