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This week, the wonderful people at Orbotix sent me a Sphero to try out and play with. HOLY COW, I haven’t had so much fun with a new toy in a long time. The better part of today was spent learning about the Sphero and stealthily “driving” it into classrooms (much to the delight of...

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SNAP Learning Close Reading System

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Spelling, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 16-09-2014

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Recently, SNAP Learning invited me to review their Close Reading Portfolio. Wow! I’m so glad they did! The SNAP Close Reading Portfolio is really great.

Close Reading

What it is: SNAP Learning Close Reading Portfolio is a complete online program comprised of a series of interactive exercises that guide students in the meaning of words and sentences, how sentences are sequenced and arranged, and how ideas are developed in a text. The books online are engaging and all of the tools are so well integrated that students learn about strategies that should be employed while reading and are not just left reading text that is online. As a teacher, you can create student groups and assign reading collections to groups based on their needs. Online books can be filtered by Lexile level, FP level, grade level, fiction/non/fiction, etc. Create a collection for students easily and assign it to them so that they can choose a book that interests them within the parameters of their reading needs.

Close Reading

Close Reading

 

How to integrate SNAP Learning Close Reading Portfolio into your classroom: This online program is a fantastic addition to your literacy program.  When I taught 2nd grade, I loved getting to meet with small reading groups throughout the week. My goal was to meet with every group of 4 students twice in a week so that I could guide reading and help students build skills on a more one-on-one basis. While I led these small reading groups, I created tub work that students could work on independently to help build literacy skills (basically literacy centers that came to the students). At the beginning of the week, I would introduce this tub work for students. Each day of the week the tubs rotated to a different group and students would complete the activities. (To read more about how I organized tub work, read this post.) This was a great way for me to keep my students learning even though I was unavailable for guided learning or direct instruction because I was working with a reading group. I would have LOVED adding SNAP Learning Close Reading Portfolio into my rotation on classroom computers. SNAP Learning Close Reading Portfolio leads students step by step through close reading; it helps them build skills to help them understand a text. Students can highlight words that are difficult (that automatically get added to flash cards that help them learn later), answer main and supporting detail questions, and reflect on what they learned through the reading. The greatest part is the way that the program does “guided” reading and reads aloud to students while highlighting words. Truly, this is a great way for students to learn the skills necessary for reading and comprehension. As an add-on to your reading program (and certainly as a rotation for students to do while you work with individual students) it is awesome! The other benefit is all of the data collected for you. You can assign students stories to read, and see which words they highlighted, and all of their written responses. You now have some great background information for when you meet with students one-on-one.

SNAP Learning Close Reading portfolio makes it infinitely easier to collect information about how your students are reading when you aren’t able to sit right with them. This makes it a great companion to any reading program. I like the idea of using it as a center rotation (in classes with one or two computers) or independently in a 1-1 setting. While students are working through the close reading activities, you can work in smaller reading groups or one on one with students. The SNAP Reading portfolio keeps you and your students organized!

Because SNAP Learning let’s students create word lists while they read, each of your students could have a customized spelling list each week. A step into individualizing your curriculum for your students.Close Reading

Tips: There is all kinds of customization within SNAP reading to fit the needs of your classroom and each child. For example: when you assign reading, you can also assign reading timers for first, second, third, and fourth close reading.

You can request a demo of the close reading portfolio here- www.snaplearning.co/request_demo

News-O-Matic: New non-fiction delivered to your classroom every day!

Posted by admin | Posted in Geography, Government, History, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 14-07-2014

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News-O-Matic: New non-fiction delivered to your class every day!

What it is: Press 4 Kids, News-O-Matic is both a subscription-based app and a free daily email delivered in pdf format. News-O-Matic is a fantastic current event, news source for elementary students. It is a great resource for fresh, non-fiction material for your classroom. Recall, discussion, and comprehension questions are included in each News-O-Matic. You can purchase an app subscription for your class in the 1:1 iDevice setting, or you can subscribe for the FREE daily school edition which is delivered by email. The PDF can be printed out to share with your students, or to keep your class paperless, you can share it on an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.

How to integrate News-O-Matic in your classroom: News-O-Matic delivers a daily newspaper written especially for elementary-age students. Each edition comes with 5 current-event, news stories that cover the latest news, science, sports, and wacky kids stories. Students get a chance to not only read the news, but also rate articles, submit questions, and submit their drawings. News-O-Matic is  a great way to keep your students reading regularly. Each day they will get engaging non-fiction reading that helps build a global perspective. Use News-O-Matic daily, as a class discussion starter. Challenge your students to make connections between the current events they are reading about, and the learning they are doing in class. Integrate geography study with reading each day. If you have a classroom map, put a place marker on it each time you read an article that is location specific. This could also be done virtually with Google Earth. This practice will help students visualize where each event takes place, while at the same time building geography skills.

Tips: All publications are ad free, so you never have to worry about inappropriate content.

The school app edition of News-O-Matic is $9.99 and can be found here.

Summer Learning: reading, creativity apps, serving with kids

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Character Education, education reform, inspiration, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 27-06-2014

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If you are an educator, you are aware of the dreaded “summer slide.” Summer break is a much-needed change of pace for educators, but unfortunately it can mean two months without any reading, learning, exploring, etc. For some kids, summer means hours spent in front of the TV, outside play (which is happy!), or hours spent trying to beat the next level of Flappy Bird. Many parents feel ill-equipped, or at a loss for how to keep their kids learning over the summer.

I created the following publication, “a thing or two,” for Anastasis families. I thought that you all might enjoy it as well! Please feel free to pass this on to your own students and families. In this issue there are ideas for summer reading, a review of my favorite 3 creativity apps, and service learning ideas for the summer.

 

Happy Learning!

Library for All Six Degrees of Education

Posted by admin | Posted in education reform, Grade Level, inspiration, Language Arts, Teacher Resources | Posted on 24-06-2014

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I greatly appreciate people who recognize a problem and work in new, innovative ways to solve it. Today I learned about Library for All, who has just launched a truly innovative campaign to eradicate illiteracy in the developing world. The campaign is called Six Degrees of Education. Library for All is building on the theory of “six degrees of separation” to reach some key donors and influencers, such as George Lucas and Queen Rania. People who can help achieve the mission of providing access to books for millions of children in developing countries through the Library for all digital library.

Check out the Six Degrees of Education Library For All page and let’s see how our six degrees of separation can help spread literacy virally! Share on social media sites, when you are chatting with friends, or networking at a conference. According to the the six degrees of separation, if everyone who read this blog participated, we could help Library for All reach this goal in no time!

I relish the summer time because it provides me the opportunity to read, learn, and read some more. Everyone should know that gift! We can help, join me in spreading the word about Library for All’s Six Degrees of Education Campaign!

EDpuzzle: Like Video in the Classroom 2.0

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Art, Classroom Management, Create, Evaluate, Geography, Government, History, Inquiry, Internet Safety, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Music, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Video Tutorials, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 06-02-2014

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EDpuzzle- Making video better: iLearn Technology

What it is:  EDpuzzle is a neat new educational site to help you better utilize video in your classroom for learning.  You can find and crop video to use only what you need, add audio notes within the video or do some voice over work for a video, and you can embed questions throughout the video to track student understanding. EDpuzzle collects data as students watch and interact with the video.  You can see if and when a student watched the video, and see the progress of all students through the answers to embedded questions.

How to use EDpuzzle in your classroom: What makes EDpuzzle great is the level of freedom given in cropping, sharing, and tracking video use in the classroom. EDpuzzle enhances the “flipped” classroom by allowing you to embed formative assessment directly into your videos. As students watch, you can check understanding and ensure active watching vs. passive watching. In a flipped scenario, this gives you the ability to completely tailor a lesson the next day based on the formative assessment results you get from homework. This is truly utilizing assessment to inform instruction (which is the point of assessment!).

EDpuzzle can be used in conjunction with videos that you have made for your students, or with videos that you find.  I like using video to introduce students to a brand new topic or idea.  Well-created video has the ability to quickly and succinctly help students dive into new learning and formulate new questions and lines of inquiry.  For example, when Anastasis Jr. High started our last inquiry block about “How the World Works” and explored the topic of food and farming, they started by watching the documentary Food, Inc.  This was a great way to launch their thinking and lines of questioning about where our food comes from.  Out of that video, students chose different lines of inquiry to explore and research.  EDpuzzle would be a good way for students to help others see where their line of inquiry started from.  Students could grab the clip of the documentary that intrigued them, and embed audio to show their thought process as they watched.  Sort of a Saved-by-the-Bell Zack Morris “Time out” moment where they can describe their line of thinking.

For primary teachers, EDpuzzle could be used as part of a guided reading center.  YouTube has lots of great read-along videos. (You can also create your own based on class reading!) Use these videos along with EDpuzzle to check for comprehension.  As the video plays, embed questions to check for understanding.  Students can independently go through the guided reading (or Close reading) activity, while you work one-on-one with other reading groups.  Rotate the reading groups throughout the week so that each student gets the opportunity to go through the EDpuzzle guided reading activity, and each group gets one-on-one time with you.  This is a fantastic way to maximize your time and get valuable feedback from all student learning.  EDpuzzle could also be used in this way as a science center (with a video pertaining to an experiment or new learning), a math center, etc. I love using center rotations because it ensures that I have time to work closely with each group.

For secondary students, use EDpuzzle is a great way to check for understanding.  It is also a wonderful way for students to create and demonstrate understanding.  EDpuzzle would be ideal for sub days.  I always dreaded being away from the classroom because it was essentially a lost day.  Even if the substitute did EXACTLY what I asked, I missed the opportunity to see my students work and think.  EDpuzzle would give you the ability to “teach” remotely and embed the same questions and promptings you would give if you were live in the classroom.  While you won’t get to hear all of the discussion, you will have some feedback to better understand how your students were thinking.

With documentary-type videos, EDpuzzle can be used to embed writing prompts.  Record a prompt throughout the video so that students can pause and write out their reflections and thoughts.  I find that good documentaries are often SO packed full of good things that by the end of the video, only the last 10 minutes get well-reflected on. The documentary Baraka would be an incredible video to do this with!

Have you seen Vi Hart’s YouTube channel?  I am obsessed! I love the way that she goes through math in a casual stream-of-conscious type approach.  Embed related practice math problems based on the topics that Vi is sharing in her videos.  As students get those light-bulb moments of, “oh, that is how that works!” capitalize on the new understanding by giving them a place to put it into practice and try it out.

Do you record your students learning? EDpuzzle could be a fantastic way to record audio feedback to the videos that they upload.  These can then be shared with parents and students for review.

Tips: Don’t have access to YouTube at school?  No worries! You can still use EDpuzzle with your students. EDpuzzle lets you search for video by topic, or pull video from Khan Academy, Learn Zillion, National Geographic, TED, Veritasium, and Numberphile as well.  LOTS of incredible learning just waiting to happen!

 

Degree Story Teacher Contest

Our Little Earth: Global News for World Citizens

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Character Education, Geography, Government, History, Inquiry, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 20-11-2013

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iLearn Technology- Our Little Earth international newspaper for kids

What it is: Our Little Earth is a great international online newspaper for kids.  It is delivered every two weeks directly to email and best of all, it is free!  Past editions of Our Little Earth can be found on the site for students to read and explore.  Each issue helps students stay informed about what current events are happening in the world around them.  Every edition has a map showing students where the news came from for the issue.  The articles are easy for students to read and do a great job of offering enough background information so that students can make connections to the text and better understand it.

How to integrate Our Little Earth into your classroom: I really like Our Little Earth kids news, it is simple in its delivery, but packs a substantial punch of great information.  This is a fantastic source for students to read just-in-time, non-fiction text, at a level that is accessible to them.  Subscribe to Our Little Earth and read through a story-a-day for the weeks following.  Make sure to model for kids how to explore the themes, politics, geography and history that is related in each article.  This is also a great starting point for kids to fact check, make connections, and confirm the reliability of a source.  The news is current, so there is always something fresh!

I love using current news with students, it keeps the classroom relevant and touches enough transdisciplinary themes that students can make connections to other reading and learning they are doing.  Combine Our Little Earth with @angelamaiers What Breaks Your Heart project.  As students are more informed, they will be able to better articulate things about the world they would like to be a part of changing.

Use Google Earth to help students learn geography at the same time.  Create a pin on the map for each story read.  Ask students to come up with a title for each story (or use the title provided) to help them remember what they read about that location. Add to the same Google Earth map all year-long so that students can begin to see common themes by geography.

Tips: Use the search feature to help students dig even deeper into events and themes.  What happened a year ago at this time?

What do you think of Our Little Earth?  How do you plan to use it in your classroom?

The Spotlit Collection- 50 of the best books for every grade level

Posted by admin | Posted in Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 18-11-2013

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Scholastic Spotlit Collection- 50 of the best books for every grade level

What it is: Scholastic Reading Club Spotlit Collection is a fantastic place to find outstanding books for preschool through middle school students.  Teachers, librarians, and book professionals came together and considered thousands of books to create a diverse list of award-winners, classics, and dynamite contemporaries.  Each grade level includes the 50 top favorites selected for that age group.  The result is a great place to start when you are searching for books to introduce students to!

How to integrate Spotlit Collection into your classroom: Scholastic’s Spotlit Collection has a wonderful selection of 50 books for each grade level in preschool through middle school.  This would be a great place to determine what you would like in your classroom library, which books to help your students hunt for in the library, and which books to introduce for classroom book groups.  If you have students reading above grade level (or several levels above/below) the Spotlight Collection can help you guide students towards appropriate books.

Challenge your students to read 10-20 of the books in the Spotlit Collection before the end of the school year.  Keep the collection handy by bookmarking it on a classroom computer.  When a student laments that they, “don’t know what to read,” they can quickly pull up the collection for some great new recommendations.

Tips: While you are visiting the collection, sign up for the Scholastic Reading Club!

What do you think?  How are you using the Spotlit Collection in your classroom?

Fluency Finder App: Updated with new features!

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, Interactive book, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 21-08-2013

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Normally I post all of my app posts at my other blog, iPad Curriculum.  Because iDevices are becoming SO common place as a technology in the classroom, I’m going to start posting them here as well.  If you just want apps, head over to iPad Curriculum and you can search apps only!  Just like iLearn Technology, you can search any app by Bloom’s Taxonomy level.  All of the websites I share on iLearn Technology are completely FREE, the apps I review tend to be a mix of free and paid apps.  At the bottom of each post, I share the cost of the app.


Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 2.29.31 PMFluency Finder

What it is: In the US it is back to school time!  I love these first days of school when you get to meet a new group of students and uncover their passions, strengths and weaknesses.  Fluency is one of those measures that is great to have from the beginning of the year because it means that we as teachers are armed with the background knowledge to help build reading confidence in students.   You can easily find and track fluency rates so that you have more time to help students strengthen reading skills and find books that are confidence-building and enjoyable for them.  I have written about Fluency Finder before (here), but I’m writing about it again because they have just come out with some great new features worth another mention!  Fluency Finder now has a data-sharing email function so that you can share fluency results with all stakeholders easily.  Comprehension questions have been built-in so now you have a one-step fluency and reading comprehension assessment.  Very handy!  Reading passages are being updated with a snapshot list so that you can quickly compare passages.  32 brand new passages are also being added from literary classics for 1st-8th grade reading levels.

 

I like Fluency Finder because of the way that it instantly calculates results and then stores them in your Student Record for instant access.  Really handy when you are in the library with students and want to quickly remind yourself of their current fluency levels to assist them in selecting the perfect, not-to-hard-book that will keep them reading with enjoyment.

How to integrate Fluency Finder app into the classroom:

Fluency Finder makes it simple to assess reading fluency in 1st-8th grade reading levels.  To get started:

  • Add students to the app
  • Select an appropriate grade level passage for the student to read
  • Print the passage from the www.fluencyfinder.com website (students could also read from their own iDevice or computer if you want to save paper)
  • Begin assessment, start the app timer as the student begins reading
  • Student will read from printed passage as you follow on your iDevice marking any mistakes
  • Tap the (+) button when student makes a reading mistake
  • Tap the (-) button if the student self-corrects a mistake
  • End the timer when the student finishes
  • Tap the “finish assessment” button to instantly see results

Now instead of focusing so much on keeping track of the fluency and score, you can focus on what actually matters: listening for fluency, comprehension and expression.

Being a paperless school, we are LOVING this option for helping students choose books that are at a level that is “just right.”  It gives us the opportunity to help students hunt down the perfect amount of challenge and really focus on a story they can love.  We are all about encouraging an absolute love of reading!

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 2.29.58 PM

Tips: Target Fluency Rates

First Grade: 60-70 wpm

Second Grade: 80-95 wpm

Third Grade: 100-120 wpm

Fourth Grade: 120-135 wpm

Fifth Grade: 130-145 wpm

Sixth Grade: 140-150 wpm

Seventh Grade: 150-160 wpm

Eighth Grade 160-175 wpm

Cost$6.99 (iTunes link)

Compatible with: iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Fluency Finder in your classroom.

Rewordify: help kids understand what they read

Posted by admin | Posted in Evaluate, Inquiry, Interactive book, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain), web tools | Posted on 14-08-2013

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Rewordify-understand what you read iLearn Technology

What it is: Rewordify is a neat online app that helps struggling readers, ESL/ELL students, etc. improve their reading comprehension and vocabulary development.  Students can copy and paste a difficult passage into Rewordify and it instantly transforms the text by highlighting words it has substituted with more common/easily understood, language.  Students can click on the highlighted word to view the original word that was replaced.

Teachers can use Rewordify to create vocabulary activities from any high-interest reading passage, make over 350 classics more accessible, and show students how to surf the web the way a strong reader does.

Settings within Rewordify let students adjust how they interact with difficult passages based on their own preferences and learning needs.

How to integrate Rewordify into your classroom:  Rewordify is a fantastic web app for struggling readers (or any reader!).  Often, non-fiction can be difficult for students to read and understand.  Even strong readers can struggle with the new vocabulary and terms used.  Rewordify simplifies the text so that students can read through it successfully for comprehension.  It doesn’t stop there!  Since all of the words that were reworded are highlighted, students can see new vocabulary in context.  Rewordify can help students build up the ability to recognize context clues and how to use them to increase comprehension.

Anastasis is inquiry based.  We do a LOT of research, even with our youngest students.  The Internet is packed with fantastic resources for learning, but these resources are typically not created with student readers in mind.  As a result, students may struggle through a text and lose out on some of the rich learning in the process.  Rewordify is a great solution for us because students can quickly copy and paste text into Rewordify (works on iPads too!) and instantly read a more student friendly version of the text.

Classic literature is classic for a reason.  This literature holds timeless truths, superior storytelling and enchanting characters.  Students rarely choose to read the classics on their own because the language can add a difficult layer to the reading, causing the story to be lost in the frustration.  Rewordify has more than 350 classics built-in to be read directly on the site.  Students can choose a book to read, modify their settings of how they would like to view the words, and jump right in.  Students can choose to have the words default to the easier, modified word; can ask Rewordify to highlight words that it would have changed so that they can click on the word if they need an alternative; or see both versions of the word in context side by side.

ESL/ELL students will enjoy this site for the way that it allows them autonomy in their reading and vocabulary development.

Rewordify is also a great way for students to learn and practice vocabulary and discovering new synonyms for words.  Any text can be added to Rewordify, high school students could plug-in their own writing to determine if they have used interesting language.  If nothing is highlighted, there could be some work to do on word choice.

If you only have one or two computers available to students in your classroom, why not set up a bookmark to Rewordify that students can visit as needed during research, reading, etc.?  Students will be empowered to read anything they encounter with increased confidence.

Tips: In addition to the classics, you will also see a variety of news websites and articles that work well with Rewordify.  Whole pages of the site are automatically reworded for ease of understanding.

What do you think of Rewordify?  How do you plan to use it in your classroom?

Oxford Owl: free ebooks (with audio!)

Posted by admin | Posted in Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 23-07-2013

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Oxford Owl free ebooks: iLearn Technology

What it is: Oxford Owl is an incredible collection of free children’s ebooks for kids ages 3-11.  Each ebook has accompanying audio so that students can choose to read along, or read independently.  The books also have activities that focus on reading comprehension and story recall.  There are several options for filtering the ebooks so that students can find just the right story including by age, by book type, and by series.  In addition to the ebooks on the site, you can find fun activities and recommendations for each age group, games to print and play, and online games with characters from the books and site.

How to integrate Oxford Owl into your classroom:  I am a big fan of books.  Huge even.  It doesn’t matter where they reside, books make me happy.  It makes sense then, that Oxford Owl would be a squeal worthy site for me.  Free ebooks with audio you guys!  This site reminds me a little bit of Lookybook...I’m still lamenting its demise.

Oxford Owl is a great way to instantly expand your classroom library.  Books are leveled by age and include both fiction and non-fiction.  You will find biographies, dictionaries, fiction, myths and legends, non-fiction, phonics, picture books, poetry and books for struggling readers.   The stories that I went through were truly fun to read!  Use the books on Oxford Owl during reading time on classroom computers.  Students can choose a book to go through as a read along (SO very helpful when there are students who really need to read with a buddy, but the buddy situation is limited).   If you only have one or two computers in your classroom, get a headphone splitter and let students read together in small groups.  The related activities are a great way for students to self-monitor comprehension.  Students can also read these stories independently.  When I taught 2nd grade, I had a voracious reader who quickly read through all of the classroom books and was ready for more.  He was only allowed to check out from the library once a week (and usually those books went home) so I would have him use Lookybook.  Oxford Owl would open a whole other world of books for them to read!

We all have days where a few extra minutes to deal with a problem, set up for the next activity, etc.  Oxford Owl could be connected to your interactive whiteboard or projector for students to listen to a story while you get things sorted.  The whole class can enjoy the story together.  My students loved books on the IWB because they could all see the pictures and read along.  Oxford Owl is also ideal for that time of year when the germs settle in and the voice has gone on strike.

One of my favorite things to do in the classroom was reading with small groups of students.  It gave me the opportunity to give them the individual attention that they really deserved and let me get to know them as readers better.  But…what to do with the rest of the class?  I assigned tub work that students could complete independently.  The tubs were centers related to what we were learning during the week.  Each tub contained all the necessary materials that students would need.  This was independent learning they could work on while I was with the small groups.  Oxford Owl would make a great addition to the “tub” work.  Students could visit the computer center and choose some books to read and play the associated games.

Tips:  Now for the unfortunate news: Oxford Owl is flash-based.  BOO! Not ideal at all for a classroom full of iPads like we have at Anastasis.  Luckily, there is a solution.  There are several Flash Browsers that you can download for the iPad to view flash content.  My favorite is Rover (because it is filtered and created for kids!).  If your network is well filtered, I would also recommend iSwifter and Photon.

P.S. We Give Books is another outstanding place to find free ebooks!

P.S.S. Hat Tip to The Techie Classroom- an outstanding blog to add to your reader if it isn’t already there!