Reading Log with Written Response Choices and Leveled Book Links

As I began thinking about getting ready to set up my classrooms this year, one of my goals for this summer was to make some adjustments to my students’ weekly reading log.  The main changes were to post a link for “Just Right” book lists since I often get the question- “What books should my child be reading and where can I get them?”.

I plan to share this Reading Log with parents via email in a Google Doc for parents to upload and print for themselves at home. I have my finished “View Only” Google Doc link below . You will need to make a duplicate/copy if you need to make changes to it. Hopefully it is helpful to you and many parents. 🙂

Weekly Reading Log with Written Response Ideas and DRA Level

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 8.41.41 PM

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New! Portable Recording Box, Perfect for Classroom Recording

Portable Recording Booths For Classrooms- Two Models

Amazon Link to Black Cardboard Model -$49.99

* This model is our hottest selling of the two. If it is out of stock, please revisit Amazon again a week or two later as we are having trouble keeping up with the demand. 🙂


Amazon Link to Red Linen Podcaster Model With Pouffe Lid & Pop Filter $79.99

Okay, how many of you have finally gotten your tech routines in place and ready to get your students started with recording audio into their presentation projects, only to be thwarted by the frustration of a noisy classroom?

This was a huge issue for my class last year, so this year, I was determined to come up with a solution to my problem! My students wanted to record and share their “Show what they know” audio recordings in Educreations, Google Slides, Tellagami and Chatterkid Pix. They would be so upset if there was background noise in their recording, so they would ask to go down the hall to a quieter room that was often times used for small group intervention. Students being unsupervised was not a smart option for anyone, so I began researching options for an in-class recording booth. They say, “Necessity is the mother of invention”, so I came up with two small, collapsible and portable box with velcro acoustic tiles inside, the perfect size and weight for my students to carry across the room. We have affectionately named them our “Chatterboxes”. They have worked great and my students love to just grab one off of my shelf and take it anywhere in the room or even in the hallway just outside our door. If you are interested in purchasing a “Chatterbox” for your room, you can purchase one from one of the Amazon links above.

Kits Features Includes:

1 Sturdy portable cardboard box with easy to carry handles on the sides

4 Acoustic Soundproofing Foam Tiles that are Class A fire retardant -12” X 12″ X 1″ (Made in USA) 5th Foam Tile not necessary for base surface. Recording device (iPad/Chromebook) lays on sturdy bottom surface to discourage movement noises which produces better quality sound retention.

Velcro tab sets to adhere foam tiles to the inside top, back and sides of the box. 

Easy to follow assembly directions included along with some suggestions for digital tools my students use.

Light enough for even young students to easily carry

Can be collapsable for easy summer storage


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Personalized Learning Rotations/Centers. What Are Kids Doing During Independent Work Times in a Personalized Learning Classroom?

Personalized Learning Stations

We hear more and more about research surrounding the utilization technology and it’s importance in a “Personalized Learning Experience” in our public schools around the country. But what is it really and what does it look like? Wikipedia defines it – “Personalized learning is the tailoring of pedagogy, curriculum and learning environments by learners or for learners in order to meet their different learning needs and aspirations. Typically technology is used to facilitate personalized learning environments.”

No matter your philosophy or how you interpret this idea, we all have a responsibility to prepare our kids for their future. We cannot even fathom what that environment will be like but one thing is for sure, technology will be a huge part of their learning and daily functioning, so we owe it to them to keep pace with the reality of their future education.

I began my own “Tech Journey” when my sweet husband gave me my first iPad in 2011. I began using it for many personal interest ventures, such as banking, easier access to social media and email. Then the magic happened….apps! It was so overwhelming at first but I could see the immense value of utilizing technology for Personalized Learning in my second grade classroom. Since then, I have found myself in a more mature and streamlined approach beyond finding an app to support targeted skills. The tools need to be targeted, easily accessed and collecting meaningful data that I can use to formulate my lessons and flexible groups.

As my previous posts have indicated, I have found many useful tools that really do make my job as a full-time second grade teacher more manageable and engaging for me and my students. This search will continue to require a lot of thought about prioritizing pedagogy over products but the big question that most of my fellow teachers want to know the answer to is, “How do you manage the devices and what are the kids actually doing?” My previous post about how I manage my devices answers the first question for me but the deeper question remains…”What are they actually doing?” I have struggled with this topic for over 20 years, knowing that 1:1 and small group instruction is the best way to differentiate but I had trouble letting go of that accountably piece of what the other students were doing while I worked with my groups. Was it purposeful and were the kids engaged? I can say that it takes training and diligence but with the right tech and routines, it can be done!

My students follow daily routines using a visual rotation board during their independent work time so that I can work with my flexible groups during my Reading Workshop and Math workshop. Creating independence and critical thinking in our students is a pretty high calling but I truly feel that the kids can do it!

Center Rotation Charts for LA & Math with Free Recommended Management App

Here are my charts and checklists that I have created, used and posted in my Teachers pay Teachers Store that includes the evolved version, a visual student checklist for each day, charts for display and even a suggested free app- “Timer +” that I use to run four sets of a previously selected time based on how much time I have for that group. Look for the “Miramba” ringtone. It is a nice, non-startling tone that does not make us all jump when the timer goes off! 🙂

So, I basically adjust my boards once a week and push “Start” in this app and watch the kids go about their work. My previous posts break down in greater detail the digital tools I use in those stations but a quick overview:

Reading-, Spelling, Apps- Fafaria, Epic app and web tool, Word Wizard, News-O-Matic, Hairy Phonics, Lakeshore’s Phonics Tic-Tac-Toe, Short Vowels / Long Vowels app by This Reading Mama, Whooo’s Reading online reading log, and Qr Codes from products I have purchased on TPT that have books read to the kids online. 

  • I do include paper choices too for a “Plan B” when our internet is acting up.

Math-,, LearnZillion Lessons, Apps- Timed Test Arcade, Door 24, Number Frames, Subtilizing, Number Bond Blasters, NumberLine, Teachley’s Addimals and Subtractimals and Math Fight.

5 Rotation Stations Thumbnail TPT jpg Paul Edit.001 5 Math Rotation for Thumbnail 1 small jpg.001

I used these images to create larger boards for display.  You can see that “Post-its” are used assign names to groups so they can be easily changed and you can also see in the pictures below that I have laminated the app tiles and taped down the ones I want them to use in that station for the day. I often use the same ones for a week or so, depending on what the group needs at the time. Since my room is lacking visual space, I have the boards adhered together, laminated and on rings so I can flip over from Reading in the morning to Math in the afternoon. I have finally found a routine and resources that fit the tech available to me. Right now I have 15 iPads that we keep in the room at all times and we share an older set of 30 iPads in a chargeable cart. We also visit a computer lab once a week to work on our “Google Ninja Skills”.
IMG_2182Reading Stations 2015-10-14 10.36.42

  • This recording booth, we affectionately named- “Chatter Box” with acoustic tiles will be available in my Amazon Store after this Thanksgiving, 2015. So, check back then for my detailed post. I have surprisingly had many requests for it. It has been revolutionary for our digital projects. Trying to record audio in a tiny room with 27, 7-8 years old can be a challenge and I cannot let kids leave my room unsupervised. The tiles are adhered using velcro and fully collapsible for greater storage. I have been very happy with their recording results and this year, my students are not coming up to me frustrated about someone talking in the background of their recording.



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Managing Technology in the Elementary Classroom

Managing Tech in the Elementary Classroom

“How do I manage the new iPads in my classroom?” “How do I keep track of the Chromebooks themselves and who has them during the day?” ~ As I continue to invest time and energy in my professional learning endeavors and read other blogs and Twitter feeds, I have noticed these common questions arise when it comes to using new technology in our classrooms.

Device Sharing? Not Optimal but Can Be Managed

If you are fortunate enough to have iPads or Chromebooks in your classroom, more than likely, you do not have a enough for every student, known as a 1:1 ratio and most teachers are even sharing devices with other teachers depending upon how your administration has set up managing those devices. I have my own very strong opinions on this topic and that is that students NEED to have access to the same device everyday. They take a strong ownership role in the maintenance of a device that they are familiar with, like keeping it charged, where to store it when not in use, maintaining the apps, updates and memory limits not to mention how the device is handled everyday. It is also a huge time saver if a previously entered login on a device can be utilized in an app or browser. If not, I have a previous post on what I use to keep track of student logins that may be helpful to you. (See – iPad Management Tag) But even though the accessibility to tech is not always in our control, we do have to be very discerning about what we do with them to best develop our 21 Century learners.

I have found that most teachers are excited about implementing new technology but are highly intimidated by the time necessary to learn how to manage them in a way that works for them and the ability to access experts in a timely fashion or at least someone that has some background to help them along. I can think of many times that I set up a workflow for a lesson, only to have an unexpected barrier come up and no one to ask for help. My “Plan B” is usually a hard copy choice or dry erase group activity. I have certainly learned that no situation is perfect and we all deal with slow bandwidth at times, (My students have named this- “The Waiting Wheel of Doom”) a dead battery and even that same device that just will not complete the task you have initiated at least 10 times. Yes, some of you know just what I am talking about. 🙂

We are all learners when it comes to leveraging technology to best personalize learning for our students, so it can be a daunting task to not only decide how to use them to fit our pedagogical responsibilities but how to keep up with the day to day tasks of who has the devices, when and what are students doing when they have them.  Let me just encourage you my friend, that it is all worth it! The first few months are a bit frustrating at times but when you get to the place that can walk around your room, with ALL students engaged and independent, navigating through programs and helping each other…it is an incredible feeling! Seeing their projects and creativity is amazing to witness.

You Can Do IT!

I myself, have 15 iPads of my own for my second graders in a daily 2:1 situation as a result of a grant I wrote in 2013. I also have inconsistent access to a cart of 30 iPads or for a 1:1 experience at times. I have to say that once you experience a 1:1 situation, it is hard to adjust to anything else. Seeing the efficient use of highly engaged academic time and flexibility of student creativity is irreplaceable! Not to mention the limitless opportunities to differentiate lesson content. On a daily basis, I am reminded that our students are digital natives and thrive in their “Natural Habitat”. Now, please understand that being a primary teacher for over 20+ years, I am a huge advocate of children having hands on writing experiences and face-to-face communication as well but that is another heavy topic for another post. 🙂

Most of my blog posts are curriculum driven, as many other bloggers are doing, knowing that we are our own best asset and sharing with others is crucial to our success. However, I think it is also very helpful to see how other teachers are managing their devices in their classroom. Here is what has worked for me and my iPads but this system can also easily be used for any device.

Device Management- iPads

You can see the chart on my wall that displays a list of partners assigned to an iPad with a numbered background. I have tried stickers with numbers written on the outside and they do not stay on very well so I used an oil based marker that I found at a craft store, to write the assigned number of that device on the outside front cover. There is an “A” partner and a “B” partner. On certain days, I assign either the A or B partner to an independent task or I have them partner up using the splitters that you can get on Amazon for about $4 to $5 each to connect their headphones. The bigger white splitter with green wires connects up to five headphones and is called a “Rock Star” for multiple listeners. As you can imagine, it is the preferred gadget of choice for me and my kids. Now, with 15 iPads and 26 students, that leaves three extra that are not actually assigned to anyone so I use them for that one student that really needs to get on a project or I keep them at my reading table for reading or math intervention activities. I would love to hear how you manage your devices! I am always looking to improve my classroom management. 🙂


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Transfer Your Old Cassette Books on Tape to MP3 Files

From Cassette to MP3

Did you spend a small fortune on children’s books on cassette tapes back in the day? I know I am dating myself, but I guess if you are reading this, you are close to my age as well or maybe inherited old cassettes from an older teacher. 🙂

I had over $2,000 in books on tape collected from my many years of teaching that were just sitting in my basement. It made me sad to see them when I would come across them every now and then, the waste of this resource beckoned a response. I thought I would try to research a way to access these great stories for my students listening station in my classroom. After many hours of searching, I found the answer, a Cassette Tape Converter. Of course Amazon to the rescue! Those of you that know me, know that I am huge Amazon fan. I then waited on the ever notorious sound of the UPS truck entering my neighborhood. This sound usually meant I had been shopping again.

So, you will need:

1. Those old cassette tapes. 🙂

2. Your laptop or computer that you use to access you iTunes account.

3. Your Dropbox account with folders that you wish to transfer the audio files to.

4. Audacity downloaded on your computer.

5. A cassette converter

Here is one like the one I purchased:

Cassette to MP3 Converter at Amazon for under $20

Here are the Step by Step directions for converting cassette tapes to mp3’s. (Hopefully, Audacity has not changed this process since last summer.) You are basically downloading the audio from the tape through the converter, via Audacity. Then using iTunes to store the file and then transfer it to your Dropbox to allow access to students at school.

*I did this over the summer and let the tape record while I did things around the house.

1. Open Audacity and iTunes. Drag the outer frame of each window until you can see both.

2. Rewind & Load tape into Converter

3. Push play on converter 1st- usually long lag at beginning

4. Click red record at the top of the Audacity screen once the audio begins- watch for sound waves to begin.

5. After recording, may need trimmed- click somewhere in the gray band to drop a line, select/ highlight what you want to trim off.

6. After the area turns a darker gray, click the scissors to trim that section off.

7. File-export-save to Music folder on Computer HD- then the inside folder, I named-Audio Books-Type in book title. It will ask again to imbed into file.- click ok

8. Now we need to retrieve it from the computer/folder to upload to iTunes. So open computer file, find that book- click. It should download in the recently added playlist in iTunes.

9. Drag and drop to list.

10. I would wait until you have all files in iTunes before you save to Dropbox. Or practice with one before you try them all?

      You can see my file if you zoom in on the photo above.

11. If downloading more, you will need to click the “X” box, upper left, to close out previous recording.

You may need to practice this process a few times but once you get the hang of it, it is pretty sweet!

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Awesome Digital Lesson Planning –

Online Lesson Planning

Lesson plans,…have you ever wondered what percentage of our day, our week, our careers are based on developing and executing our lesson plans? Would it be safe to say that great lesson plans are a necessary evil to great lessons? So, finding a system and format that works best for us is crucial to our success in our classrooms.

My solution? I have used this online lesson planning tool for the last five years and I have loved it! The best part is when I set up my plans for the upcoming year, all I have to do is select -“Copy” to that upcoming year and everything transfers! Now, I realize that no one does everything the same but it is so wonderful to have last year’s plans as a menu to see what I did last year so I can make improvements to my plans. In past years, I would spend hours each week studying and copying the best parts of my previous year’s handwritten plans to the upcoming year. So now, all I need to do is refine those changes to reflect the improvements. When I have a sub, I can copy or attach to the sub request, that days’ plans with an attachment or a link imbedded. My student teacher was able to access in view only mode to see my plans as well. For a $12.00 a year subscription you can:

This is a screenshot of my plans for the second week of school. Definitely a work in progress but you get the idea.

Planbook Screenshot #1

Also, here are the Tutorials from to help you get started! Try it! You will not be disappointed.


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