Incidental Learning

I spent the better part of my day today observing lessons in a variety of fourth and sixth grade classrooms.  While I always enjoy getting into the classrooms (and participating, when I’m allowed!), it’s always a welcome bonus when I learn something new while doing it, either about one of my students, about the subject matter, or about teaching techniques or tools.

Today I learned about two teaching techniques that were new to me.  You may have been using these for years, and if so, I’d like to hear about your experiences with them.  If not, feel free to take and use these as you see fit.


In one class, I initially thought I misheard when students were instructed to take out their “whisperphones” and start reading independently after they finished a task.  I Googled “whisperphone” on my non-whispering phone right there and found that it is indeed an actual product line.  The version I saw was a little plastic “handset” into which students read quietly; my understanding is that the handset (or headset) acts as a voice-feedback device that allows speakers to hear phonemes more clearly.  I can’t say for sure, never having seen this before this morning, but take a look at the company’s research page and come to your own conclusions.

Foursquare Plus 3

In my English teacher days, I used to have students use graphic organizers or plan sheets to organize their thoughts.   Today I learned about a slightly different take on graphic organizers: Foursquare Plus 3.

I’ve written and deleted several attempts at an explanation, but wasn’t satisfied with any of them.  Check this slideshow for an explanation instead (it’s the only result for “foursquare” on Google that doesn’t return something related to the location check-in site).

Do you have any experience with Foursquare Plus 3 or the WhisperPhone, good, bad, or otherwise?  See anything new here you might be giving a try?  Leave a comment!


  • As an elementary teacher, I have used both. When I taught second grade I made my own ” whisper” phones using PVC pipes from home depot. Two elbows and a short straight piece work well. They are great for editing and revising, or just reading aloud.
    In writing I have. Oxidized the four square to be a five square for expository/ nonfiction writing. Each square is a plan for a paragraph in the tradition five paragraph essay.

  • I’ve never heard of either but I will check them both out. Always good to look into new technology!

  • Thanks for the comments, ladies!

    @Meg I wondered how easy it would be to make your own WP, since it seems that’s how the creators came up with it. I bet the raw materials don’t come close to matching the price of the official model.

    @Denisha I agree! Foursquare +3 isn’t tech in the popular sense, though – it’s just a different kind of graphic organizer. Check the linked slideshow for some examples of how young writers use this method to prepare and organize their writing.

  • My teachers love the 4Square organizer (I happen to be in a 4-6 grade school as well), but I am yet to get into a class and see how it works. Your post has shamed me sir! I must get into the classroom this week and check out the organizer!
    Mo´s last blog post ..Assessing students with severe and profound needs

  • Thanks, Mo! For what it’s worth, teachers I’ve worked with love a school psych who takes the time to come into the classroom and observe. Having been a teacher myself prior to becoming a school psych, I also appreciated the psychs & other CST case managers who did that.

  • The idea of the whisper phone. Having students “hear” themselves is crucial to their ongoing development of fluency. I had not heard of such a low tech way and appreciate the find!

  • I thought it was pretty neat, too! In further discussion with folks who have used them, I learned that if you’re even slightly handy you can make your own out of some PVC pipe.

  • […] technology options that may help students.  My own observations and experience with tools such as whisperphones support this; “technology” is a very large umbrella under which many different tools […]

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