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.

1-Logoevernote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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!

July’s 21st Century Tool of the Month: PowToon


July’s 21st Century Tool of the Month is PowToon. This is an awesome tool that really speaks for itself when you see it in action! It is a cool animation tool that gives a very polished look without too much effort. PowToon EDU is great for upper elementary students through high school students and adults. (I had 3rd graders choose to use it this year, but not all of them were ready for it.) If you are a GAFE (Google Apps for Education) school, and your students have gmail accounts, PowToon EDU is an add-on in google drive. This makes it easy for students to create an account. Unfortunately, the free version only allows users to publish to YouTube, so if that is not an option for your school, it makes it difficult for students to share their creations.

Here are some ideas for how to use PowToon:

Introduce a lesson: the enduring understanding.

 

Advertise a workshop.

Create a cover letter for your resume. If your students participate in Ameritown, for example,  they could create a PowToon resume to apply for their jobs.

Click here to see how this 5th grader used PowToon for her spelling homework. (She does have a misspelling–oops!)

Click here to see an app smash: PowToon + Puppet Pals 2

How have you used PowToon? Let’s collaborate! Add your ideas and examples to this padlet.

 

 

Quick Tip: Tellagami + Green Screen = Moving Background!


 

May’s 21st century tool of the month was tellagami. Tellagami is a free iPad app that creates cartoon avatars which allow you to type or record your own voice to make the cartoon avatar speak. Because you can save your 30 second video called a “gami” to the camera roll, you can use it to app smash. You can even use tellagami with green screen!

Tellagami is a really popular app to use for app smashing. Here is an app smash using tellagami and tagxedo to introduce the 21st Century Tool of the Month:

May’s 21st Century Tool of the Month: Tellagami

Here are a few of my favorite examples of app smashing with tellagami that I found on YouTube:

App Smashing with Google Earth, Skitch, and Tellagami

App Smashing with Tellagami

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.