Quick Tip: Bluetooth Mini Speaker


I just got this amazing little Alpatronix speaker from Amazon, and it is one of the best $30 purchases I have ever made! It fits in the palm of my hand, so it is easy to carry, and it has a really good sound. There is bluetooth capability, which means you can play your iPhone, iPod, or iPad without plugging it in! The range is up to 30 feet. You can plug it into your computer too.

The battery life is supposed to be great, and it has a rechargeable battery. Just plug the speaker into your computer with the cord that comes with it. There are some other cool features too, like a microphone for making calls and more!

Whether you’re in the classroom, speaking at a conference, or at a party, this cool tool is a must have!

21st Century Tool of the Month for August: Thinglink

Thinglink is one of my new favorite 21st Century tools! I’ve been finding new ideas for how to use it in the classroom, and the more I use it, the more versatile I find it to be!

What is Thinglink?

Click here to see a Thinglink which explains what Thinglink is!

Here are some of my favorite ways to use it:

Task Library:

Collect resources for a project or unit of study using thinglink. This shows a task library for a teacher, and a student task library is embedded (a backward plan is also embedded in this thinglink). Students and Teachers can collaboratively add to it.

  Click here to see a post I made about the essential question, “How are people transformed by their relationships with others?” using thinglink to create a task library.


Gameboards: I have used a few “game boards” for classes that I have taught for teachers this summer, which you could easily adapt for classroom use. I used Pages to create the pictures and uploaded them to thinglink. Click on the pictures to see the interactive multimedia embedded.  

Maps: I made this map using lucid chart and thinglink to create the furniture layout I was requesting in a grant to create a 21st century learning lab. I could see this idea being used in the classroom as a seating chart with student pictures and different areas or centers in the room. Students could create little mini movies that describe and/or explain the procedures for different areas in the room and attach it to the map. Then you could turn it into a QR code that guests or new students can scan to learn more about your classroom.


Geography teachers, thiinglink is the perfect tool for you! Interactive maps are one of the best uses for thinglink. Click here to see a post I made using maps and thinglink.


Digital Storytelling:

Thinglink can be used for digital storytelling too. Check out this great thinglink (not created by me) that turns a comic strip into an interactive story.


Here is a resource I created using pages and thinglink for a class I taught about digital storytelling.

Click here to see a post I made about using Thinglink and Screencastify.


Graphic Organizers:

Thinglink is a great tool to use with graphic organizers. Here is how kindergarteners used thinglink to interview their teacher.

Here is an example of first graders who used this thinking map to show the cause and effect in a book.


Share social media:

I have also used thinglink to help people stay connected to me!

How will you use thinglink?


Thinking Back Thursday: Organizing Record Keeping

Thinking Back Thursday


Reading gurus Debbie Miller and the Sisters, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, are some of my go-to experts when it comes to reading instruction. They are masters at creating a Reader’s Workshop, and their strategies have proven to be essential for many of us over the years. While keeping those strategies intact,  the time has come for a 21st century update.

Reading with Meaning

The Daily 5 & CAFE















There is no doubt among these experts that the greatest power for teachers in a reader’s workshop lies in conferring with students. The tricky part is organizing the notes you take from these conferring sessions. In her book Reading With Meaning, Debbie Miller states, “I’ve experimented with many different ways of record-keeping, and have finally settled on small 4-by-6 inch notepads that I keep in a basket near my desk. There is a notebook for each child, and every day before our literacy workshops, I scoop up four or five from the front of the basket. Throughout the work sessions, I confer individually with these four or five children and make notes about what I’ve learned about them as readers, writers, and learners. Entries might include words the child wrote on a sticky note, oral responses, a quick running record, and/or strategies the child uses for decoding and comprehension. I also make note of a child’s specific strengths and areas where he or she needs more support. Listing specific examples from conferences and observations keeps my comments real and in context, and puts me back in the scene when I need to refresh my memory. ”

In their book, CAFE, the sisters write, “In this age of accountability and increasing diversity, we need records that document how we are assisting each child with exactly the skills and instruction he or she needs.”  They state that one of the core elements in the CAFE system is conferring: “Children meet with the teacher during literacy workshop conferences to be assessed, to receive focused, explicit instruction, to set goals, and then to follow up on progress. The teacher keeps track of progress on the goal sheet in the notebook and schedules the next conference on the calendar, and the child posts his or her goal on the class CAFE chart.”  They call “the notebook” they refer to a pensive, like the one Dumbledore uses in Harry Potter to keep all of his important thoughts in one place. In their notebook or pensive, they explain that, “Each child has his or her own section of the notebook so that we can easily flip to that child’s name when we meet with him or her in conferences or record notes after a small-group session.”

Debbie Miller, Gail Boushey, and Joan Moser all state that they have tried MANY different ways to keep track of these anecdotal notes–me too! And if you are one of those people who are really organized and make sure that you file each paper in the right spot by the end of the day, you’re probably thinking, “What’s the big deal?” If you’re like me and the phone call from a parent, the lingering student who wants to chat, or the text from your husband distract you before you end up filing that paper with important conferring notes, you are swimming in papers! Enter technology solution . . .

Even if you are one of those people who can keep your conferring notes organized, upgrading to a tech solution will benefit you too. Not only can you keep track of your anecdotal notes, but you can keep recordings of a student reading, pictures, and videos of each child right at your fingertips. Then you can share that information with other colleagues who work with that child.









There are A LOT of tech solutions out there for organization, and I’m going to share 2 that I have tried with success. Fetchnotes is a great place to start if you are a beginner when it comes to technology. It’s very simple and straightforward, but it will simplify conferring notebooks for you. You can organize your fetchnotes by #hashtag. That means you can create a label for each student like this:

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 6.45.23 AM


You won’t have to worry about flipping to the right section in a notebook–just start a new note with #Nani, for example, and start typing. Then move on to the next student by starting a new note with #(their name). You can make a separate fetchnote each time you confer with the same student. When you want to see all your notes about that student, just click on his or her hashtag and name on the left and it brings up all the notes labeled with that hashtag. Simple!

Fetchnotes will let you attach a link or picture, but if you want the power of filing anything (like videos and recordings) in a simple way, Evernote is the tool for you. It is the cadillac of note-taking tools. Even the free version of Evernote gives you more options than fetchnotes. You can set up a note for each student and search for it in a similar way to fetchnotes, but Evernote is a much more robust option. Click here to see the website review from graphite. If that seems a little intimidating, fetchnotes is a great place to start. I still use it for keeping notes at conferences.

Both Fetchnotes and Evernote are free on the computer and on the iPad. Using the iPad version gives you the mobility to walk around the room and confer with your students, which is more convenient than a paper notebook! It also gives you a much simpler way to review your notes when filling out report cards or deciding on next steps for a student. Both tools also allow you to easily share your notes with someone else if you have other teachers who work with that student, or if you are having an RTI meeting.

I know there are MANY more great organizational tools out there, so I started a list on List.ly: Organizational Tools for Conferring Notebooks. Please add a tool to the list, or link with your own post below!

An InLinkz Link-up

Teacher Mama: Sticky Sand

Sticky Sand

A rainy day in the middle of summer is a blessing and a curse. The trees love it, but my 2 year old cutie is not so happy about it! So today I’m sharing a teacher-mama activity that I found on pinterest thanks to Growing a Jeweled Rose. We brought one of my son’s favorite outdoor activities inside–sand! Thanks to the recipe I found on Growing a Jeweled Rose, we turned our normal sand from the sandbox into amazing sand-art! We pulled out the play dough tools and other molds to make some awesome sand sculptures. My son’s favorite part was knocking it all down of course!

image (2)


The texture was interesting . . .

image (3)This must be how they make those amazing sand castles on TV because they hold their shape very well!

photoIndoor fun on a rainy day!


Sticky Sand Recipe:

5 cups sand

3 cups all purpose flour

1 cup vegetable oil

This is great for toddler sensory and discovery. I wonder if we can find a use for it in the classroom too? Any ideas?



Quick Tip: More Back to School Organization with Google Forms

This is my second ‘Quick Tip’ post about using google forms for organizing back -to-school info. First, I made a post about using google forms as an easy and efficient way for parent volunteers to sign up, which you can read here. But you don’t have to stop there! You can also use google forms to recruit volunteers for classroom parties. If you have a room parent that organizes your classroom parties, with a google form (like the one below), all you have to do is hand them the spreadsheet with responses from a form like this and you are done! Click here to make a copy of this form for yourself. This link will take you to the spreadsheet of responses where you can make your own copy and change it to fit your specific needs. See the first ‘Quick Tip’ post for using google forms here if you need directions on how to do this.

Using a google form is also a really easy way to collect parent information. Caryn, from Mathtechy, commented that she will turn her google forms into QR codes that will be hanging around the room during Back to School Night, and iPads will be available if they don’t have their own devices to scan with. Great idea! In my district, all the information for parents and students is housed in Infinite Campus, but it would be worth the time to create a form where parents submit their email address into a form so that you can easily create an email list without the need for looking them up one by one. Click here for a quick tutorial on how to use a google form to create an email list in about 2 minutes. You could do the same thing for students (if they know their email addresses) to create a student email list!

I hope this helps you organize your back-to-school info!