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.

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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:

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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

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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!

Flip Your Instruction for Daily 5: Work on Writing


Thinking Back Thursday

Students become better writers when they have a lot of opportunities to write, but what if they are practicing bad writing habits? In the Daily 5 reader’s workshop structure (or any reader’s workshop model), students “Work on Writing.” One common way students “Work on Writing” in a primary classroom is by adding to class journals about topics such as ‘My Pets,’ or ‘My Family.’ These are great writing opportunities about common themes that students love, but it is impossible for teachers to give feedback on every piece of writing that students do in this format, and it is unrealistic, not to mention un-motivating, to have students polish every piece of writing. So the result becomes an opportunity for students to do a lot of practice writing poorly. And if no one is really reading it anyway, it becomes like the busy work stapled in packets lying in piles around the room.

As a teacher, I philosophically agree with the idea that students need lots of opportunities to write, but giving them opportunities to write poorly feels like a coach that says, “Yes–keep practicing even though you’re doing it wrong. It’s better to practice wrong than not practice at all.” THAT doesn’t sound right either! The philosophy and research behind the structure of Daily 5: Work on Writing is a sound one, so what do we do?

Because many of our littlest (and biggest) writers struggle with the open-ended task of generating a story idea, Daily 5 classroom journals solved the problem by focusing writers on a topic. But what if we take it one step further — students focus on a topic AND a writing strategy. For example, when students write in a class journal about “Things That Scare Us,” their focus can be on descriptive writing and using the 5 senses to describe what it is that scares them.

Then the question becomes, “When will I have time to teach mini-lessons like this for each class journal?” This is where blended learning has earned a growing reputation for being the answer to legitimate concerns like this one. I used Educanon to flip this lesson for the classroom journal ‘Things That Scare Us,” using the book I Need My Monster as a mentor text.

Click here to see it.

You can also give students a more authentic audience by having them publish their class journal entries on a blog instead of in a composition notebook. This gives students the opportunity to have their writing seen by other classmates, parents, and even students around the world! Just like dressing up for the choir concert performance, students will want to “look their best” when writing for a larger audience.

Click here to see my unit plan for Daily 5: Work on Writing Gone Digital

Education in the 21st century is anything but static and constant, but that does not mean that we should throw out everything we know about teaching. I believe that the Sisters’ Daily 5 & CAFE structures and strategies are solid teaching practices, but I saw the need for a 21st century update. Summertime is a great opportunity to slow down and reflect on our teaching philosophy and teaching practices. That is why I decided to start this linky party called:

Thinking Back Thursday

Reflecting & building on past teaching practices

Link up and share how you are updating your teaching practices this year!

TBA's Ultimate Linky Party

Literature + Global Connections + Technology– I Love It When It All Comes Together!


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I love it when it all comes together!

I have some wonderful connections to share that integrate my 3 biggest passions in education: literacy, diversity, and technology! I’ve recently found 3 great learning opportunities through my PLC (Professional Learning Community), and I saw a way that they all fit together. I hope you’ll join me in participating in them! Click on each of the pictures below to check out these great opportunities to learn and share.

ramona recommendsCourtney, from Ramona Recommends, is doing a traveling picture book linky for the summer. In this linky, you can share a picture book about where you live or a place that you have visited. The book you blog about should teach us about that place. What a great idea! (I’m not the only one who collects picture books from my travels!)

Pigs over denver

My book recommendation for this linky is a book about where I live. Pigs Over Denver was written by Kerry Lee MacLean in conjunction with school children from the greater Denver area. It names the most popular places to frequent in the Denver Metro area, as told by students! There are more books in this series such as Pigs Over Colorado, and Pigs Over Boulder, but Pigs Over Denver is my personal favorite!

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Pernille, creator of the Global Read Aloud, has encouraged a global book exchange this year as part of the Global Read Aloud project. If you haven’t heard of the Global Read Aloud, you have to check it out! It’s a wonderful concept–all over the world, teachers read the same book to their students and then connect with another classroom anywhere in the world to discuss the book. Classrooms can write to each other on blogs, through emails, or even do a google hangout with their global epals. Discussing a common book from different global perspectives will give children a whole new outlook on the similarities and differences they share with people from other places. This year, you are encouraged to share a book with your global buddy about where you live to help them learn more about where you are from.

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 4.35.04 PMThinglink is hosting a summer PD set of challenges so that you can get some hands on experience with Thinglink and generate ideas about how you can use it in the classroom. The fourth challenge is to create an interactive map.

Click here to see my interactive map for challenge #4

Here is how I put them altogether . . . Choosing picture books that give information about a place you have visited, as done in Ramona’s Recommendations, is the same idea behind the book exchange with the Global Read Aloud, so I decided to make my interactive map for Thinglink’s 4th challenge a collection of these picture books from around the world. This could be a great resource for learning about other cities, states, and countries through picture books from people who have been there!

This interactive map is open for anyone to edit. I have already added the titles and authors of the books from those who have linked up so far, as well as the link to each blog post, but please continue to add to this map! Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could collaborate and share a resource that acquainted us with the whole world through picture books?

To further redefine a collaborative resource once unimaginable on a global scale such as this, I would love to have students create a book trailer for the book that introduces their city, state, or country and add it to the same Thinglink interactive map. What a great introduction for their global epals, and what a great, authentic learning experience for students to conduct research and determine the most important things to share about where they live. Better yet, students could create their own ABC book about where they live, just like Pigs Over Denver, using their own pictures or illustrations from the places they’ve been in their community and writing about it from personal experience. iMovie or Videolicious would be great tools to use. If small groups of students each created a video about one important place in their community, all the videos could be combined into one ebook using the app Book Creator and then published on iBooks, or Nook!

A project like this could redefine age-old assignments such as “What I Did Over Summer Break” and “Create a Brochure About Your State.” By giving these time-honored traditional assignments a makeover using technology and an authentic global audience, you now have a 21st century learning experience that can help students internalize the value of where they live and share it with the world.

Quick Tip: Thinglink and Screencastify


The 21st century tool of the month for June is google apps. This is a quick app-smashing tip about a free google app add-on from the chrome web-store called screencastify and a free program called ThingLink.

Screencastify is a web 2.0 recording tool that gives you the option of embedding a video web-cam in the bottom right hand corner as you record your screen. ThingLink is a multi-media program that you can access on the computer or the iPad. You can use a picture of any background you choose and add  a little bullseye that contains words, videos, or links to other videos anywhere on the screen.

Here are 2 quick lesson ideas for using these tools together:

If you use Daily 5 in your classroom (or any type of reader’s workshop model), then you probably have all the students in your class create goals around a reading strategy that they are focusing on such as Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, Extend Vocabulary. In the video above, I used the “rate graph” from the book Balanced Literacy 2nd grade (a book published by Kagan). ThingLink is the perfect program to use when graphing progress over time. Because it embeds links, video, and words, you can actually record a portion of a student reading and embed the little bullseye on the correct place on the graph. This would not only give you and the student a record of their reading rate, for example, but it would also give you and the student data of the change in his/her reading fluency over time. A video placed on the scale in the appropriate place would give the student a better understanding of what it means to be a 2 or a 3 on the rate graph. When the student has 5 points of data that have been collected over time, then he/she can use screencastify to record a self reflection on his/her change over time in the area of focus.

This self-assessment strategy would work well for all reading goals or areas of focus. The Balanced Literacy book has more graphs for different aspects of fluency such as phrasing, expression, rate and accuracy. Linda Dorn has wonderful rubrics for comprehension in her book Teaching for Deep Comprehension that I have used with students, and my favorite vocabulary rubric is Vocabulary Rubrics, Templates, & Graphs for Common Core Instruction from Hello Literacy in the TpT store.

Hello Literacy has a great activity on TpT called Describing & Inferring Details with Picture of the Day: Reading Photos “Closely”. Using this idea of practicing inferring with photos, I used ThingLink and screencastify to record my thinking. This is a great way to make thinking visual! Students could record their thinking with these tools in independently or in small groups during literacy stations.

Thinglink is a cloud-based program that creates a url, which means it can be turned into a QR code. Screencastify can be saved directly to google drive or youtube, both of which create urls as well that can be turned into a QR code. By turning teacher modeling or student thinking into a QR code, you make it visible to others as well.

Hope this quick tip was useful! Please leave a comment on how you will use these 2 programs.

Teaching Elementary School Students to Be Effective Writers: Let’s Integrate Technology!


Teaching Elementary School Students to Be Effective Writers: Let’s Integrate Technology! Teachers today, from kindergarten – 12th grade, are tasked with the job of teaching digital natives how to survive succeed in an ever-changing 21st century world. We must prepare our students to have successful careers in jobs that have not yet been invented.  So who […]

April’s 21st Century Tool of the Month: Narrable


21st century tool of the month

Click on the picture or click here for an introduction to Narrable!

Tech Tuesday

Narrable is a fantastic tool to use for storytelling from kindergarten – 12th grade. It’s a great way to allow students to publish their work, and it gives them the option of having a bigger audience to share their stories with. When you create a Narrable, you have the option of keeping your story private, sharing it through email, embedding a link on a website, or even sharing it through social media. Because it creates a url (the www. address), you can turn it into a QR code as well. Then others can use a device to scan the QR code and listen to the Narrable. What a great way to set up a student-created listening center!

I think Narrable is the perfect tool for primary grade students. The simplicity of using it makes it manageable for younger students to do independently, and it gives them the opportunity to put a voice to their writing. If you’ve ever seen a kindergartener or first grader’s writing, you know how important it can be to have a “translation” sometimes! I’ve also seen it as a big success in intermediate grades. The 4th grade teachers at my school were doing a unit on space, and as a formative assessment, they wanted the students to do some research on the solar system and then share what they learned. Because it was a formative assessment, they didn’t want their students to spend a lot of time creating a big presentation, so Narrable was perfect! It allowed the students to create a really nice presentation in just 2 computer lab periods. The first session was just to become familiar with Narrable and find pictures that they wanted to use. The second computer lab session was to record their Narrable. It’s quick and easy but gives students a polished presentation!

I’ll share some ideas about how you can use Narrable here and give you the opportunity to share some of your own ideas too. The creators of Narrable contacted me when they saw a lot of teachers were using it at our school, and they sent me some student examples so that I could share them with you!

1. Click here to see several examples and lesson plans that the creators of Narrable have  shared.

2. Narrate a story: Students can create their own audio book. You can have students practice their reading fluency or read informative books that teach about a topic that you are focusing on. Click here for an example.  Add those student-read stories to your listening library, and you’ve got a great FREE way to beef up your audio book collection! Just use the url or email link that Narrable creates and turn it into a QR code. I like to use QRstuff.com to create QR codes. It’s quick and easy to use.

3. Flip your instruction: Outline important steps that your students might need to listen to more than once. Click here to see the Narrable, “Cite an Online Newspaper or Magazine Article.

3. Write a How-to Story: Have students take a picture of each step of their instructions and then read them for each picture. It makes how-to stories much more powerful with step by step pictures to go along with the words! Click here to see how these first graders recorded directions (although their pictures were not step by step pictures).

4. Persuasive writing: First grade students did some authentic persuasive writing to convince their teacher and principal that they should get a classroom pet! Click here to see the first slide in their Narrable. (The other slides have pictures of their faces, so I’ll just stick to this one to give you an idea!) Note: I saved pictures to a folder in dropbox ahead of time so that the 1st graders could choose from the 3 or 4 choices I gathered. I recommend doing this with K and 1st graders to save a step, and dropbox is an easy, FREE way to share the same pictures on multiple computers at once. I have a school dropbox account set up that I connect all the school computers to so that we can easily share files all year long.

5. Publish a Report: When students write a non-fiction report, have them publish it with Narrable. It makes a great presentation tool, and for the students who struggle with writing, this is a positive way for them to present their ideas clearly to their audience without spelling or handwriting getting in the way. That also makes it easier to assess a child’s content knowledge separate from their writing ability.

6. Field Trip: When you go on a field trip, have each group of students bring a camera, ipad, ipod, iphone–whatever they have access to–and let them be responsible for taking a certain number of pictures during the field trip. You can have each student be responsible for recording something specific that they learned on the field trip. Narrable does have a free app, so if students can use an iphone to take pictures, on the bus ride home, you can have students record their Narrables. It will keep them busy and you’ll have a summary of what they learned by the time you get back to school! Because of budget restraints, you may not have access to ipads or iphones that you can take on a field trip, so let them bring their own! So many students have their own devices, and in elementary school, there is always parent chaperones who are in charge of small groups that can help be responsible for the technology kids bring along. You could also ask the parent chaperone to use their phone. Just give them a heads up when they sign up to be a chaperone that you will need them to bring a phone to take pictures and to download the free app Narrable so students can record as they go or on the way home. Then they can email you the finished Narrable! Note: If you ask parent chaperones to bring a phone with them on the field trip, you should use Remind101 to stay in touch with each group during the field trip. It is a safe, FREE texting service that lets you text parents or students without the need for exchanging cell phone numbers.

7. Digital Class Photo Album: Do you spend hours putting together a slide show that you burn on a CD or DVD to give to the kids at the end of the year? It’s a wonderful, thoughtful gesture, but it just got MUCH easier! Set up a narrable that is your class photo album for the year, and whenever special events or things to remember happen in your classroom, have the students take a picture and add a recording to it right when it happens! You can continue to add to this photo album all year long, but you can have the kids do the work! That will give them ownership, take the work off of your plate, and by having students record their thoughts right after the event happened, you’ll have that excitement captured forever! You can easily email the link to everyone in your class so that they all have the Digital Class Photo Album as a keepsake of your year together!

8. Get-to-know-you Class Building Activity: At the beginning of the year, you could have the students take a picture of themselves and record something special on a class Narrable. This would give you and your class a lasting introduction to each other that they can listen to again and again. Also, if you have new students join your class during the school year, you can give him/her the link to the class Narrable so that he/she can get to know classmates before meeting them. The new student can also add his/her picture and something special about himself/herself so that the class can have an introduction to the new student without the need for the new student to stand up in front of the class to share it (which can be embarrassing for some students!).

9. Center Instructions: Do you use Daily 5, Literacy Work Stations, or Math Work Stations in your classroom? If you do any kind of Reader’s Workshop or Math Workshop, you have probably had a problem with students remembering the instructions at each center, or you’ve spent several days setting up each center and helping students learn the procedures. Narrable can save you a lot of that instructional time. Record your instructions using a picture of your students correctly using the center, and turn it into a QR code and place it somewhere near the work station. Even your youngest students will not need to bother you during reading group instruction to ask you what they are supposed to do–all they have to do is scan the instructions and listen!

10. Let’s collaborate! Click here to add your ideas and examples to this padlet. We can all have a growing bank of resources if we share our ideas here.