National Poetry Month: It’s a Bigger Deal than You Think

poetry monthEvery so often I like to amuse myself by scrolling through a website that identifies special days, weeks, and months during the year that honor a person, event, product, or virtue. For example, we all know that April 1 is April Fools’ Day, but I was surprised to learn recently that April 2 is National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day. If you are so inclined, you can celebrate Winston Churchill Day on April 9 and National Pecan Day on April 14. And who wouldn’t want to host a party on April 17 for Bat Appreciation Day?

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Exploring Poetry about Families features poems by Robert Hayden, Lucille Clifton, and Tim McBride.

April is also a time for commemorating a number of important (and maybe a few not-so- important) occasions. This is Keep America Beautiful Month, but it also happens to be National Welding Month. No wonder, then, that someone had the good sense to designate it National Humor Month as well.

If you love reading or writing poetry, you probably know that April is also National Poetry Month. It was established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, whose website calls it the “largest literary celebration in the world.”

Every year, teachers and students are joined by poets, bloggers, librarians, publishers, art organizations, government agencies, and education leaders to honor poetry and the people who create it. The Academy has a free National Poetry Month poster you can order, and offers a list called 30 ways to celebrate national poetry month. Their suggestions range from reading about different poetic forms to signing up for a poetry workshop or starting a poetry reading group.

SAS Curriculum Pathways offers over 60 resources to heighten your celebration of poetry—in April and beyond. Middle school readers might enjoy the poems of the three American poets featured in Exploring Poetry about Families.

With resources such as Lines from Canterbury Tales, high school students can read and study great poems by Shakespeare, Chaucer, Keats, Yeats, and other poets in our English poetry series. Students learn about techniques the poets use to make the sound of the poem enhance its meaning.

Rhyme scheme of the opening lines from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Rhyme scheme of the opening lines from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

They analyze visual elements and respond to questions in preparation for constructing interpretive statements about the poem.

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So National Poetry Month is indeed a big deal. That’s because poetry is, or at least should be, a big deal. To read a great poem, to be moved by its beauty or power, is a remarkable experience worth celebrating year round. Here’s how Emily Dickinson described it: “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.”

Check out these additional poetry resources from SAS Curriculum Pathways:

Exploring Poetry about Nature
Exploring Poetry about Sports
Strategies for Reading Poetry
Latino Poetry Café

 

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Getting Your Homeschool Account Up and Running

homeschool3SAS Curriculum Pathways is available to all educators and their students at no cost—and that means homeschools, too! As a homeschool educator you can quickly register as a teacher using the online Sign-Up application.

Once you have registered for a no-cost account and verified your email address, the next step is to get your homeschool account set up. This allows you to add your students and get access to support materials. Here's how:

  • Log in with your teacher credentials
  • Click on your name in the upper right corner
  • In the drop down menu, select Connect to your school

 

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It is easy to create your homeschool account and assign your students.

 

  • Click the blue Connect to my school button and choose your country from the drop down list
  • Enter your zip or postal code
  • Enter a few random letters for School Name to initiate a search. Can’t find my school should appear
  • Click on Can't find my school, and you will see Are you a homeschool? Answer Yes and submit.

And... you are done!

A new school titled your name + homeschool has been added to our records, and your teacher account is automatically associated with it.

Now, select the Student Accounts option from your profile window; follow the instructions to get your teacher sign-up code. This will help you  set up individual student accounts under your homeschool.

If you have previously indicated another school but want to modify that to a homeschool, select the Edit account settings link. When your profile window opens, you will be on the School Info page.

You can contact us directly to request access to support materials. Of course those are free also.

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Math Awareness Month: The Poetry of Logical Ideas

mathhead“Mathematics has beauty and romance. It’s not a boring place to be, the mathematical world. It’s an extraordinary place; it’s worth spending time there.” – Marcus du Sautoy.

I agree, there IS beauty in mathematics, and I genuinely love math! Math is vital to everyday life from young kids learning to count to young adults learning to balance a checkbook. Math can be simple, and it can be complicated; it can be easy, and it can be challenging. Math is logical; it’s clever. It can take you on a journey. It turns you into a problem solver, into a fighter. Despite the negativity that tends to follow mathematics, it should be appreciated.

April is Math Awareness Month! That’s right, there’s an entire month dedicated to how math impacts our lives, and this year’s theme is Math Drives Careers. What an excellent theme! Many careers involve mathematics: statistics, health care, finance. But did you know that careers in computer science, biology, manufacturing, national security, ecology, architecture, actuary, forensic science, geography, web development, nursing, just to name a few, also involve key mathematical skills? Many of these jobs involve not only computational skills, but also require analytical, communication, and reasoning skills as well as perseverance. Learning mathematics can help students acquire each of these skills.

“Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas” – Albert Einstein

Let’s start with a concept as simple as the order of operations. What an idea, what logic, what poetry! By understanding and using the order of operations correctly, chaos is prevented. The expression 8 + 9 – 10 has one answer because there’s an order, a script to follow.

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Simplifying Expressions Using Order of Operations QL# 1319

But is there an order or a script to follow when we move into solving equations such as 2x + 6 = 10 or
x2 + 2x + 1 = 0? Sure there is. There are multiple ways to solve each of these equations! And that’s when math gets scary for some. But in life we take on this challenge daily. For example, you may need to find a different route to work due to an accident on the main road. In either case, logic is always on your side. Analyze the problem. Use logic to determine the unknown, to undo the problem. Reason with the solution. Show your persistence, your tenacity, your determination. These are the skills that math delivers, which is why Math Drives Careers!

So let’s celebrate mathematics!

“The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple.”  – Stan Gudder

Check out these SAS Curriculum Pathways math resources:

Simplifying Expressions Using Order of Operations
Solving Simple Equations
Solving Quadratic Equations

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Women's History Month: Recognizing Pioneers

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Why is the history of women singled out and celebrated with Women's History Month? Dr. Myra Pollack Sadker, a pioneer researcher who documented gender bias in American schools, summed it up well when she noted that “each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history, she learns she is worth less.”

The “womanless” history Dr. Sadker refers to is the mainstream approach to U.S History, one that most often overlooks the many accomplishments of American, particularly multicultural, women. When people talk about women’s history, they are largely referring to the study of women’s roles throughout history, including the growth of women’s rights, historically significant individuals and groups of women, and the effects that historical events have had on women. Advocates of women’s history believe that traditional historical perspectives minimize or ignore the contributions of women and the effect historical events have had on women as a whole.

Much of the scholarship regarding women’s history is westernized (coming from the US and Britain) and highly influenced by second-wave feminist historians. Eager to learn more about the lives of foremothers, women’s liberation activists found it very difficult to find pertinent information. The existing historical texts were largely written by men for male audiences about men’s public activities – politics, war, administration. In these narratives, women are excluded or relegated to gender-stereotypical domestic roles.

The truth is that women have been major contributors throughout history and key voices in many of today’s most notable historical events, discoveries, and inventions.

  • Ever heard of Rosalind Franklin? She was a British biophysicist whose work led Watson and Crick to develop their double helix model of DNA. Lise Meitner? She was an integral part of the team that discovered how nuclear fission worked but it was her colleague, Otto Hahn, who was awarded the Nobel Prize.
  • What about the six women – Kay Mauchly Antonelli, Jean Jennings Bartik, Betty Snyder Holberton, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Fran Bilas Spence, and Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum -- who programmed the first electronic general-purpose computer, the ENIAC?
  • Have you ever grooved to Rosetta Tharpe, gospel’s first recording star and one of the earliest rock and rollers?
  • Did you read Susie Baker King Taylor’s memoir of her civil wartime experiences? She became literate by attending secret schools taught by black women and eventually established a school for freed children in Georgia after the war.
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Two women operate the ENIAC's main control panel while the machine was still located at the University of Pennsylvania.

The contributions of these women, and countless others, remain relegated to the periphery of history. This is, in part, because as a discipline, history remained a male-dominated profession until the 1960s; women’s narratives had little currency in the field. Gerda Lerner is often cited as the first professor to offer a regular college course in women’s history in 1963. Socially, women made significant progress achieving equality throughout the 1960s, but it wasn’t until 1970 that women began to be integrated at scale into history departments within graduate programs.

The regular observance of Women’s History Month didn’t actually begin until 1987 when the National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress to designate March as Women’s History Month. The Month’s origins date only as far back as 1981 when Congress passed legislation authorizing and requesting the president to proclaim the week of March 7, 1982, as Women’s History Week. Since 1995, after years of legislative work, Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama have issued annual proclamations designating March as Women’s History Month. The National Women’s History Project has long spearheaded the efforts behind Women’s History month by providing informational services as well as educational and promotional materials that recognize and celebrate the diverse and historic accomplishments of women.

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History + Women = Accuracy

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As you celebrate Women’s History Month, consider the prescient advice Abigail Adams gave to her husband John. She could have saved us all that time getting the 19th Amendment passed.

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency—and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors.”
                                                                       Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams (March 31, 1776)

Fast forward almost two-and-a-half centuries to the March celebration of voices like Adams’, and note that generosity is not the focus of Women’s History Month. It’s about accuracy; expanding our historical perspectives by celebrating the ideas and accomplishments of women.

Consider Anne Hutchinson, an astonishingly courageous voice from the early colonial period.

Ann Hutchinson preaching in her house in Boston c. 1630s

Anne Hutchinson preaching in her house in Boston c.1630s

Puritan ministers preached a strictly enforced code of religious standards based on the idea that salvation could be earned by good behavior. Hutchinson believed that forgiveness by God’s grace alone led to salvation. She had the tenacity to discuss these conflicting ideas in a small group meeting in her home.

In 1637, Puritan leaders convicted Hutchinson of violating the laws of family, church, and colony and forced her to flee the Massachusetts Bay Colony: banishment. Using The Trial of  Anne Hutchinson resource, students can review primary-source excerpts from her compelling self-defense and decide for themselves if her banishment was warranted.

We have used this same case-study approach in several other women's history questions.

In Comparing Powerful Medieval Women students investigate a trifecta of medieval female leaders to answer the question: Was Empress Theodora more powerful than Eleanor of Aquitaine or Joan of Arc?

In Peronism in Argentina, 1946-55, students explore post-colonial Argentina, the rule of Juan Perón and his wife Eva—Evita!—to answer this question: Was Perón good for Argentina? Eva Perón's manipulation of the masses and self-aggrandizement in the context of social welfare made her the subject of both romantic idolatry and scornful criticism.

The 19th Amendment features prominently in several SAS Curriculum Pathways resources. In Voting Rights for Women, students explore a historical narrative that presents key people, events, and issues related to this focus question: Why did it take so long for women to get the right to vote? Throughout the resource, documents and interactive activities highlight the ideas of pioneers like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and Carrie Chapman Catt.

The long road to voting rights is also examined in Woman Suffrage: Pre-19th Amendment Voting. In this activity students explore significant events in the woman suffrage struggle,  identify states that adopted voting rights for women prior to the 19th Amendment, and create a map to illustrate the pattern of voting rights adoption for women.

So celebrate Women's History Month—with accuracy!

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Transitions Make Your Sentences Spring to Life

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It’s late March, and I can see signs of spring everywhere I look. The dingy snow piles that lined our streets and highways in February have finally melted away. If I look closely, I can make out the first traces of tree pollen that will gradually coat our cars and outdoor furniture in a bright yellow film.

When I think about these signs of seasonal transition, I am reminded of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Ode to the West Wind” and its famous last line: “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”

Of course, we all know that transitions are a vital part of life and can take place in various ways. For example, the movement of one season to the next, like the flow of days and years, happens in time.  Other transitions involve the movement through time and space. Think about your journey from home to school or work each day, or your movement from one room to another as you make your way through your house.

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Our inContext resource shows six types of transitions.

Transitions are critical in writing as well. Well-chosen words and phrases help you logically connect ideas, sentences, and paragraphs. And like the transitions we all notice in the natural world or in our daily lives, transitions in writing clarify matters of time, space, rank, or relationship (comparison, cause and effect).

Several resources in SAS Curriculum Pathways help students understand the importance of using effective transitions in their essays. In the writing section of inContext, for example, students can explore six different categories of transitions.

For each category, students review sentences that show how transitions make logical connections. They can then demonstrate their learning by creating their own model sentences.

Writing Drafter targets areas where transitions might be needed.

Writing Drafter targets areas where transitions might be needed.

Writing Navigator, our suite of writing tools, targets places in students’ writing where transitions might be useful. In Writing Drafter, these locations are highlighted. Students make judgments about whether transitions are needed and, if so, what categories can be applied to make logical connections.

A poorly written paragraph can be like a new car covered in a cloud of pine pollen. You know there’s a beautiful car parked there in your driveway, but you’ll need a bucket of soapy water and some elbow grease to make it sparkle again. And if you want to make your cloudy sentences sparkle, try soaping them up with some great transitions and watch them begin to glow.

To learn more about using transitions, check out Connectives: Using Prepositions and Conjunctions.

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Reading & Writing Tools for Your Chromebook

We've shared at length our resources for your iPad, but we're happy to announce our new Chromebook apps!

SAS Reading Records

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SAS Reading Records is a flexible tool designed to support many methods for conducting running records. By utilizing the numerous features of Reading Records, educators can do the following:

  • Select passages from our built-in library, which offers more than 75 fiction and nonfiction reading passages at various reading levels. All passages have multiple-choice and open-ended comprehension assessments. Students can also work on their own devices.
  • Grade assignments at their own pace and without necessarily being one-on-one with a student. The Reading Records system actually records students as they read aloud, allowing instructors to pause and replay portions of the audio to ensure all reading behaviors are captured.
  • Analyze performance using the data-visualization tools that update in real time. Graphs and charts update automatically whenever you grade an assignment or modify students’ reading levels.
  • Use the data as a centerpiece for student instruction and parent conferences. The interface not only provides an organized portfolio of the student's work, but also recordings of the student reading aloud.

With the student interface, young readers can do the following:

  • Complete assignments using the student-friendly, streamlined design. In fact, the assignment-creation interface lets teachers provide up to three passages from which students can choose a passage that aligns with their individual interests.
  • View their results complete with dynamic charts and graphs, a recording of their session, and the marked-up passage.
  • Listen to previously read passages to reflect on performance, hear reading behaviors, and perceive changes.
  • Monitor and share progress with teachers and parents from anywhere.

SAS Writing Navigator

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SAS Writing Navigator is a suite of four tools, one for each step in the writing process: planning, drafting, revising, and publishing. Each tool offers numerous instructional features that help students create an effective plan, draft well-constructed sentences and paragraphs, revise their work in thoughtful ways, and prepare their written work for sharing with an audience. The flexibility of Writing Navigator makes it the perfect fit for any classroom: primary grades, secondary, and Advanced Placement courses. We also provide a number of English Language Arts lessons that utilize Writing Navigator for grades 3-12.

 

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From Virtual Experience to the Natural World

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Like Henry David Thoreau or E.O. Wilson, students and teachers love to step outside the classroom for hands-on experiences in the natural world. Science teachers generally expect that a fun outdoor activity will guarantee student engagement.  Fulfilling that noble intention, however, demands that you answer these two questions:

  1. How do you focus student learning in this new setting?
  2. How do you assess and document what students learn?

In the Classroom

Before you leave the classroom, prepare students to understand what they will see. Make sure they are familiar with any new terms and concepts they’ll encounter beyond the school walls. Technology can be extremely helpful in this regard.

Let’s say you are working on a water quality lesson. Ultimately, you’d like students to identify bio-indicators to determine the health of a lake, stream, or pond. But how will they know what to look for? How does the presence or absence of certain organisms give us information about water quality? How, in other words, will you establish the prior knowledge that is crucial to learning and that shapes both what we perceive and how we perceive it.

Ideally, you’d want students to complete an in-class lesson that covers the same material they’ll encounter in the field.

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In VLab: Stream Ecology, students use this data sheet to record their observations.

SAS Curriculum Pathways has a wide range of virtual labs to do just that.

For the water-quality example, you’d have students complete the Stream Ecology virtual lab in SAS Curriculum Pathways. Using this simulation, students explore the effect of various pollutants on stream health, collect data, and draw conclusions based on that data.

At a time when many people imagine a sharp divide—or even an antagonism—between technology and nature, here we see precisely the opposite:  the virtual experience prepares students to more fully appreciate and understand the natural world.

In the Field

To assess and document learning in the field, teachers often create an artifact, such as a worksheet, for students to collect data. Again, technology can make the process more efficient—and more fun.

If your students have iPads, you might consider using an app like SAS® Data Notebook, which lets students take control of their learning and monitor their progress. Students and teachers will benefit from built-in templates for field-trip goals, checklists, plus/deltas, spelling lists, and histograms. Data Notebook even includes a scratch paper template where students can load pictures, create drawings, and more. A new text page enables students to take notes, keep a journal, or perform any other writing tasks organized in their notebook.

Students can also add sections in order to set, monitor, and reflect on individual goals by subject. Notebooks can now be emailed to teachers, parents, or friends—who may recognize in the pages the work of a budding Thoreau or Wilson.

Consider some of our other virtual labs that help bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world.

VLab: Carbon Cycle
VLab: Free Fall

VLab: Tides
VLab: Seasons
VLab: Eclipses

 

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Hey Pre-service Teachers! We're Here to Help

Dear Pre-Service Teachers,

Congratulations on deciding to become a teacher. Yours is a noble calling, "not the filling of a pail," as the Irish poet W.B. Yeats said, "but the lighting of a fire" in the minds and hearts of your students.

As a pre-service teacher, "lighting a fire" begins with devoting time to one of the most important elements of the profession: planning and creating lessons and units. SAS Curriculum Pathways is here to help you with these crucial activities!

Although lesson plans take a variety of formats, most contain common elements that highlight:

  1. What to teach (lesson title)
  2. How to teach (lesson objectives and procedures)
  3. What and how to evaluate (assessment)
what to teach

Each resource in SAS Curriculum Pathways contains a detailed Lesson Guide.

Let's take a look at how SAS Curriculum Pathways can help you plan at each step of this process.

What to Teach

To start lesson planning, identify the instructional goals and the content students need to master. The best place to begin is standards. State and Common Core State Standards (CCSS) – academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA) – are used by districts and schools to outline learning goals (i.e., what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade). Other resources, such as pacing guides or district- and school-level documentation, might also be available.

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Each resource is directly aligned to individual state standards and Common Core State Standards.

SAS Curriculum Pathways provides standards alignment in two helpful ways. First, you can search all of your standards, whether state or Common Core, to find specific resources. Second,  the Lesson Guide of each individual resource provides specific standards alignment.

Put simply, you can find SAS Curriculum Pathways resources by searching standards and within each resource see specific standards alignment. No longer do you need to cross-reference state or district websites to identify standards for a lesson. We've done the work for you!

How to Teach

Every plan needs lesson objectives that provide the best instruction. Objectives often take the form of action statements that imply a certain level of thinking and understanding. Perhaps the most popular reference for writing objectives is Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy. The taxonomy assigns levels of understanding and cognitive processing implied by certain verbs. Other useful guides have applied Bloom's taxonomy to instructional scenarios such as teaching with technology.

The Lesson Guide, an integral feature of each resource in SAS Curriculum Pathways, provides specific objectives for that lesson. For example, the Lesson Guide for Punctuation Rules! suggests the following objectives:

Students will:

  • Identify the most common punctuation marks and their uses
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the basic rules of punctuation
  • Demonstrate the connection between punctuation and meaning
  • Provide specific words, phrases, and clauses to create sentences and apply punctuation
  • Use assessment information to check understanding

Just as with standards identification and alignment, our resources provide the specific information necessary to support good lesson planning.

In preparation for a new theme, topic, or chapter, you need to identify what students will do over the course of a unit. For example, students might take notes on introductory information, participate in class discussions, write essays, work through problems, conduct hands-on investigations, read and analyze pertinent information, and demonstrate learning through various assessments.

The SAS Curriculum Pathways Plan Books provide a model for effective resource integration. Each is animated and offers a glimpse of a week’s instructional plans that reflect best practices while satisfying a variety of learning styles.

We offer sample plan books for each of the disciplines.

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Plan Books detail a week of instruction that includes SAS Curriculum Pathways resource

What and How to Evaluate

Too often we hear assessment and we think test or exam, but effective assessment involves much more than that. Throughout the lesson, you'll want to monitor student progress (formative assessment), and at the end of the lesson, you'll evaluate students' overall understanding (summative assessment).

SAS Curriculum Pathways provides a variety of materials to help with both forms of assessment. In particular, check out the Lesson Guides in each resource for worksheets, scoring guides, online quizzes, and other materials.

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This Lesson Guide from Punctuation Rules! provides these rules and examples along with a scoring guide.

In addition to the resources described, SAS Curriculum Pathways has a wealth of other materials to help with lesson and unit planning. At A Glance documents list subject categories and resource titles. The Information for Preservice Teachers document from our Tips & Tricks page walks you through the process of identifying a standard, selecting a resource, differentiating instruction, and integrating a resource. It also offers links to discipline- and technology-focused organizations for teachers.

Good luck future teachers, and remember, we're here for you!

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Flash Cards Redesigned for iPad and iPhone

One of our most popular apps, SAS Flash Cards, launched today with a brand new look-and-feel. This release responds to many helpful recommendations, suggestions, and questions we've received from users. We hope you like it, and we hope you let us know your thoughts as we begin planning the next version. In addition to the face lift, you'll notice that we've added the following:

accountsAccounts

One of the most requested features was to sync flash cards across devices. To do this, log-in using your SAS Curriculum Pathways account or create your FREE account today. Learn more about signing up for Curriculum Pathways in this post.

PrintMixed Decks

Another popular request was the ability to mix card and question types in a single deck. Decks can now include any combination of text, images, sound, or math cards with true/false, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, or plain question types.

 

PrintImproved Editing

We improved editing, so it's now easier to make changes or fix a typo. You can change the title of decks you create at any time. You can also fix any card in your deck and add or remove cards at your leisure.

 

sharingInstant Sharing

You can now easily share decks of flash cards with friends without waiting for deck approval. And you can make decks public, unlisted, or private. Public decks can be accessed by any SAS Flash Cards user. Unlisted decks can be shared using a link provided by the app and therefore are visible only to users who have received the link. Private decks can be accessed with your account only.

 

 

 

To complement the use of SAS Flash Cards on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, we've also launched a web version in our IdeaLab. This is a pre-release of the web version that will come out later this spring. Your flash cards are synced across mobile devices and the web with this update. You can take the web version of Flash Cards for a test drive here. Let us know what you think of the web version as we continue to fine-tune the final details.

 

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