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

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My Top 55 “Must Have” Apps & Webtools for a Personalized K-3 Classroom

55 Must Have Apps

After four years of implementing a personalized classroom environment, I am often asked about my favorite apps and web tools to match our Common Core subject areas. This is just like asking a teenager what their favorite song is or asking an 8 year old what their favorite movie is. We are always evolving and changing our “Favorites”. So, I was finally able to narrow down a list in a clickable Google Doc below that includes my top 55 “Must Have” apps and web tools. This is by no means a conclusive list. It took me hours to prioritize my original list of 112. I know, I have issues! 🙂 I cannot help myself, I absolutely love finding and trying out new technology that will make our jobs easier and engage our students. Enjoy!

Here is my View Only link:

55 Top Elementary Tech Resources Used in High-Tech K-3 Classrooms

Coding for Young Children- Not Just for Big kids!

Teach Coding To Young Children- Loopimal

Loopimal- This App Will Be Your Favorite, Too!

Loopimal App

I just had to write about my favorite coding app for young children PreK-2nd- “Loopimal” by YATATOY, available on iTunes for $2.99. It basically introduces sequencing, necessary to coding skills by allowing children to assign patterns of hilarious movements and music to each animal highlighted on the screen. Up to four adorable animals can be dancing at once. I guarantee that you will be anxious to try it out on your own children or grandchildren and even for yourself! I played with it for over an hour the first time I opened it. 🙂

The “Geeks With Juniors” Blog, has a more in depth review along with a quick one minute video demonstrating what the app looks and sounds like.

They have recently updated the app with even more choices of cute animals- Mammoth, Yeti, Octopus, Bear, Bird, Pig, Sloth, Hippo and a Panda.

Loopimal Animals App2016-06-15 12.00.49

I would highly recommend YATATOY’s suite of other creative apps-

Drawnimal app          Miximal App

Drawnimal- iTunes- $1.99                Miximal- iTunes- $1.99 – This app is not only great fun but teaches kids syllabication.

Personalized Reading for Elementary Students

Personalize Learning for Elementary Reading Using Booster App #2

A New Way to Personalize Reading- Place, Pace and Path

The only thing I love more than finding a great resource that fits a Personalized Learning Path, is sharing it with other teachers! So here it is, Reading Comprehension Booster app by John Stump for $3.99. My class has been using this app for a few years now and is one of the few apps that I keep going back to. This blog- Ideas For Educators.com has some great screenshots and a video to show the kids how to navigate through the app.

Students select a “Just Right” book, and follow the series of Bookmarks to track student comprehension skills. As you can see in the image above, my student selected a “Little’s” book and recorded the story elements as she read through the book. We used paper books and ebooks, like Epic! or Farfaria. (See other posts in my blog feed for many other awesome digital reader resources.) She had the option to type and even record her voice on each Bookmark page. I love this because it holds the kids accountable as they read and allows for differentiation including non-readers. My students were so engaged and eager to share their “Booster” with each other. All I did was monitor those that had trouble selecting a “Just Right”book, funny how it is always the same kids, and helped a few kids answer questions. It is truly amazing to watch our little digital natives navigate through digital resources intuitively! I learn from them everyday! Each Bookmark page, shown below records- Prediction, Characters, Setting, Story Sequence, Main Idea and extended responses like Connections and Create Your Own Story.

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Recording in a noisy classroom can be a challenge but we used a “Chatterbox” Portable Recording Booth (Also shown in the image above) that you can find on Amazon. This allows the kids to stay in the room where I can monitor and support them more easily. My students used to ask to leave the room to find a quieter place to record. Is that even possible in any elementary school? I think not! 🙂

I would love to answer any questions or comments you have, so please leave a comment and possibly your email address.

Using Spelling City with Gifted Spellers- A Two Week Study Plan

Spelling City- Gifted Students Blog Post

Help with Word Study Differentiation? Yes, Please!

It would be very difficult for me to fully express how much I love using Spelling City in my classroom because this digital resource (App and web tool) alone has truly made differentiating word study for my students so much more manageable for me and more engaging for them. Those of us that are implementing the “Words Their Way” word study program by Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton & Johnston, have found a variety of ways to manage the daunting task using station activities and paper resources, which I do use as recommended in their book. As primary educators, we know that hands on activities and opportunities to work collaboratively are extremely important, especially for our “At-Risk” students. They need more targeted and frequent practice along with solid phonemic instruction, which Spelling City offers plenty of digital support for these students.

I used to use the free features for Spelling City but when I saw the advantages of the premium subscription, I was hooked and better yet, so were my kids! Right now and subjected to change, Spelling City’s yearly subscription is about $55 for up to 25 students and prorated after that but so worth it! I cannot imagine running my personalized learning stations without it. Spelling City gives my students independent opportunities to practice their own individualized list at school and at home using engaging activities that model necessary language skills in context, take practice tests with immediate feedback to monitor their own learning behaviors and allows parents and I “real-time” results to see progress! 

The focus of this post however, is to specifically address how I use Spelling City to enrich and motivate my higher performing students in the area of Word Study. At the beginning of the year, many of my students were performing beyond the “Primary Inventory” level and ready for the “Elementary Inventory” level skills. They quickly mastered the Within Word and Syllables & affixes stage. By mid-year, they needed more vocabulary development and their engagement level needed to be revived. Our standardized test scores also showed vocabulary development as an area of deficit for all of our kids.

That was when I decided to allow my advanced level word study group of five students to select their own words to work on, each student selecting five words. The engagement level and skill challenge increased 100%! It was fun to watch them at first, selecting the biggest words they could find and smiling with pride as they presented them to the group as optional words for their two week study. They quickly realized that not only was it was too hard for them to keep up with the expectation of spelling all 25 of those words but it was also a huge challenge to have the added expectation of knowing their definitions as well. Experience truly is the best teacher. 🙂

Here are the steps we came up with and have happily followed ever since. Basically, students spend two weeks on a list so the first week they select their words and spend the first week on vocabulary development/meaning and week two on actually spelling those words correctly, ending the week with a digitally administered test.

Day 1- Students Select Words- Students collaborate, select and write down their five words from various resources, mostly paper and digital dictionaries. I also ask them to try to choose at least one challenging word from our content units like “investigation” or “evaporation” depending on our current Science or Social Studies unit. You can see the actual picture of my students’ written list on the picture above with their words under each student’s name. I then check over the list to see if it is ready for Day 2.

Day 2- Day 5- Words Entered Into Spelling City & Begin– I train one student to enter the newly selected words into a new list on our class Spelling City account for me. From there, they happily train each other to complete the next list. Day 2 also brings the first day of developing student vocabulary acquisition of the words on their list through the Vocabulary and Language Arts activities located on the “Activities and Games ” page in the rows on the bottom right hand corner of the premium section show below. Looking over the menu of activities, they are sorted by content areas, Phonics, Spelling, Writing, Vocabulary and Language Arts.

Spelling City Vocab. Screen Shot

Here is a screenshot of one of my favorite matching activities from the vocabulary activites:

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Day 6-Day 13-  Students select from several activities to practice by hearing their words in context, sorting spelling patterns and applying what they learn. All activities are monitored in “Real Time” (Okay, I just keep refreshing my browser) by percentages in the “My Records” tab for Parents and the “Results” tab for myself. Day 13 brings a practice spelling test which we have affectionately called a “Gray Button Practice Test” that can be taken as many times as they want but students can only take one final “Red Button” spelling test on Day 14 that can only be deleted and retaken if the teacher deletes it so the student can retake the test for a better score. I require my kids to pass with an 80% before considering them to be ready for the next list.

Day 14-  “Red Button” test day! The beauty of using Spelling City on this day is that the kids get immediate feedback on their score and a huge time saving feature for me. Now, reverting back to the belief that our young kids still need to handwrite their work, I alternate a digital test with a written test every other list, so grading a paper word sort once a month is so much better than twice a month. In my initial picture above, you can see a student playing his auditory list on his iPad and writing the words sorted in the correct columns, also a huge time saver for class time. Kids do not need to wait their turn to hear me orally give four to five spelling tests. Pretty amazing!

I have received a great deal of positive feedback from students, parents and my colleagues on this study plan. I would love to hear your story as well! 🙂

Awesome Digital Nonfiction Resources For Elementary Reading and Research

Digital Nonfiction ResourcesFor Elementary Students

It is a huge challenge to find nonfiction resources that are appropriate for our young readers and writers, so I have a great collection of resources that I am excited to share with you that I hope will inspire you and your students!

Most of the time, reading levels are too difficult and the content can be way above the understanding of a typical 5-9 year old. The nonfiction resources I have used in my own classroom below have “Read to Me” capabilities if the reading levels are too challenging. They also include high engagement content and pictures. Our higher students typically have interest levels that exceed their reading comprehension ability, so it is not always the lower readers that may need this content support.

To get any website to your student devices, I recommend two options:

  1. You can have students scan the QR code using a QR code scanner app on their iPad. On your Smartboard when you display the site in Chrome, you can use the “Qr Code Extension” that can expand the QR code large enough for students to walk up and scan.
  2. You can also load the website’s link into the feed of your LMS- Google Classroom or Edmodo.                           *Please message at the bottom of this feed or email me (robinlimpert@me.com) if you need help with this. It was a huge “Ah-Ha!” moment for me.

Webtools-

Wonderopolis

Wonderopolis.org– FREE! Primarily for interest driven topics beginning with a guiding question. Students can click to have the text of a “Wonder” read to them, watch a video and clickable vocabulary words that will display definitions too!

Epic eBooks

Epic! Digital eBook Collections– App and webtool. Epic is by far my students favorite digital resource. It has an awesome ebook collection with over 10,000 books to choose from. You will be amazed at some of the popular titles. Many are audio books or have “Read-to-Me” capabilities. Teachers set up an account online for free student access at school in the teacher’s account and students may pay a monthly fee of $5 a month to access this account at home. 

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facts4me.com – This is an awesome site and one of the few lower level readability of common topics for early readers. It does require a very reasonable subscription of $20 per year for one teacher and it is limited to school hours. You can also show the kids how to have the text read to them online using a great Chrome extension – Speakit!

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Brain Pop Jr.– App & Webtool- High interest, Common Core Lesson Videos for K-3 students in all subject areas.  Some free resources but a subscription is $160 for Classroom year subscription and $1,350 for a school but well worth it if you can convince your administration to help you. The lessons are very relevent and on target for standards. There is also “Homework Help”, leveled quizzes, games and activities for kids. My kids literally show a subtle cheer when I announce their assignment on Brain Pop Jr.. No Kidding!

Scholastic Mag. app    Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 11.49.41 AM

Scholastic News Online– If your school has a subscription, you just have to login and get a password for students to access either on the app or online. All the great things we have known about Scholastic over the years has not been wasted on this resource either! Awesome content, videos, photos and even interactive comprehension page just like the paper articles.

Apps- 

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 News-O-Matic – Free version & Paid Version -$5.99 available. Mostly Social studies topics and has “Read to Me” capabilities.

Farfaria    2016-02-13 12.10.59

Farfaria is a free app to download that is mostly known for it’s fictional genres but it also has some wonderful nonfiction topics that can be searched for in the “Home” screen. St. may view one book a day for free. It is $50 a year for a teacher subscription but think about how much more cost effective it is to have this versus paper copies that get lost and worn down. All kids can have their own copy for groups. I will say that the books do have DRA reading levels posted on them which are a good guide but a few of them I did not agree the level it was given. Another great feature is to search books by DRA level! We absolutley love this app!

 

Martin Luther King Jr. & Harriet Tubman Compare and Contrast Techie Style Using QR Codes

Martin Luther Black History Thumbnail.001

Here is a fun Black History web quest for your students to easily utilize 21st Century Skills for researching Martin Luther King jr. and Harriet Tubman Biographies using your iPads. I have detailed directions for the students, “I Can” statements to check off, differentiated options and directions to the “Text-to-Voice” capability tool on your iPad for your lower readers. All you have to do is adjust your settings on your iPads, to allow text to be read to your students, which is a five click adjustment into your setting tab, download a QR Code Reader app if you don’t have one already, print the task card with the student data recording sheet and monitor their progress. Students will need to have a lesson on scanning QR Codes which is imbedded inside the “QR Reader” app suggested in this bundle. I have also added a second differentiated page for those higher readers that need more challenging content. This is what each student page looks like.

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So, all students need to do is:

Scan the QR Codes, Listen to the text, and Write what they learn.

My Teachers Pay Teachers MLK & Harriet Tubman Web Quest Using QR Codes ($5.00)

Enjoy!

Great Audio Recording tools for Students and Teachers

Audio Tools for iPads & Chromebooks

Why Record Student and Teacher Audio Files in Our Classrooms?  I can tell you why….

#1. Because many of our Common Core “I Can” statements for Language, Reading and Technology involve skills that many of us are still learning how to teach and hold students accountable for mastery. We see standards that include words like, read fluently and with expression, sound out new words, retell in correct sequence just to name a few. We then also see words like; explain, answer, describe, retell, and identify all of which indicate the importance of verbal communication.

Speaking and Listening Standards-

SL.2.5. Create audio recordings of stories or poems; add drawings or other visual displays to stories or recounts of experiences when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.”

Then for writing-

W.2.6. With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish student work, including in collaboration with peers. ”

So, how can we collect that data or even share this data with a colleague or parent? You guessed it! Record your students’ performance using whatever technology you have access to.

#2. Audio and visual recordings utilize technology to engage students and make our jobs more enjoyable and a bit easier. In the last few years, as I have taken steps toward integrating new technologies into my classroom, I have found that on several occasions, I wanted to preserve an audio recording. 

*To document and share what a student has learned or show mastery of a skill.

*To allow a non-reader to understand content and so that they can participate in classroom activities with their peers.

*Further develop my students’ language skills by hearing stories read to them by other readers and to record their own thoughts for an authentic audience.

What Tools do I use?

Depending on your tech resources, I would recommend the following apps that I have used myself.  Click on the links below to see the iTunes App description page.

iPads: 

Tellagami -Free   Tellagami

Educreations – Free  Educreations- New

ChatterKid Pix – Free   Chatterkids

DropVox – $1.99   Dropvox  This app records the audio and save it directly to your Dropbox account.

Literably– Free   Literably App I love this app/webtool! It records students reading a leveled book and scores it for you!

Notability – $.99 – $3.99 (Price can Vary)  Notability

Book Creator – $4.99   Book Creator Creates an actual ebook. There is a free version but only allows one book to be stored at a time.

Draw & Tell HD – $1.99    Draw & Tell

RecorderHQ – Free   RecorderHQ I use this when the kids want to just record an audio file. It can be uploaded to their Google drive.

Google Keep – Free  Google Keep Note taking with a new audio capability. I was super excited about this. You can see my other post about how I use Keep for student portfolios.

Shadow Puppet EDU – Free Shadow Puppet

Sock Puppets–  Free  sock_puppets_main_icon_07

 

Chromebooks or PC-

Google Slides   Google Slides (Free) create content, go into the PRESENT mode and then have students create the “ScreencastifyScreencastify Ext video (Also free)  using the Screencastify extention from the Chrome web store. This is awesome for Google Apps for Education districts because there is only one sign in and once the extension is added to a student’s Chrome account, there is automatically a Screencastify folder created that saves each recordings upon completion. No lost or unsaved work and it can be shared with peers, teachers and even parents.

Recording Booth -Chatterbox Blog Post Image  Need a quiet place to record audio any of these projects in your room? Try my Chatterbox for $45.99!

How I Record Quality Audio in My Noisy Classroom

Recording In Noisy Classroom- Chatterbox

I had a problem…my students wanted to record their voices for their digital projects that they were working on in my classroom but like any other elementary classroom, it was too noisy to get a good recording. I thought “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a recording booth right here in our room?”. I have since then invented a solution, “The Chatterbox“, a small recording box designed specifically for our high-tech classrooms. 

Here are two examples of what I used to do – Tina is sitting at her desk and Paul is sitting in the corner of my room. On both occasions, I tried to walk around the room and keep the class as quiet as possible so that they could record. As you can imagine, my instruction had to stop to manage student behavior to get this to happen, not very practical. We know that using technology to get students to a high level of engagement is pretty easy these days, but keeping that engagement where you want it remains a challenge. My kids were working so hard on their projects but getting discouraged about not being able to hear their voice and I began to see the engagement decline so I had to think of something to keep them motivated.

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Now I use my “Chatterbox” and you can too! See my link below.   2015-10-14 10.36.42

I created this small and portable recording box that has really given my students the confidence to record their voices in any digital project they choose. They love being able to grab the Chatterbox off of my shelf and find a place in the room or in our hallway to record without any intervention on my part. Surprisingly, in this process, I discovered that many kids are a little shy about recording out in the open room as well, so the Chatterbox has encouraged these hesitant participants to record in this private space without distractions from their peers. Using digital recordings of student work is also taking a step closer to that final “Redefinition”step in the SAMR Model of tech integration in our 21st Century Classrooms.

Several of my wonderful “High-Tech” colleagues were kind enough to test my invention and the results were very encouraging. One teacher in my building stated that when her students presented their projects, they could tell a big difference in the volume and clarity in the students’ work when they followed her direction to record using their own classroom “Chatterbox”.

I have been amazed at the response I have received in my district so, now I have my Chatterbox available for $45.99 in Amazon for anyone that is interested in purchasing one for their classroom.

Chatterbox Recording Booth- Amazon Link

What tools am I using to record on my iPads and Chromebooks? –

Coming Soon! I am currently working on my next post- “Awesome Digital Recording Tools for Students” to use when audio recording, saving and sharing digital work. This has been years in the making and certainly a work in progress even as you read this post. Parents are accustomed to getting papers in their student’s backpack to understand what was taught that week so many parents feel uninformed when it comes to understanding what their child’s digital work looks like. I will give you a hint~ Google Apps for Education

I welcome your feedback at anytime to improve my product. ~ Thank you!!