Five Ways to Use Epic! in the Classroom (That You May Not Have Thought Of!)

If you’ve heard me talk about literacy centers before, then you probably know that I think the website Epic! is amazing for the listening center!

Epic! is free for teachers, and it gives you and your students free access to fantastic books that they can listen to and read.

Epic! is a digital library of children’s books, and I love the way that the site presents book choices to students. Kids can choose their interests, browse by category, and see eye-catching book covers. Epic! makes listening to and reading books incredibly appealing.

Even though I usually recommend Epic! for use in the listening center, there are SO many other great ways to use it. In this post, I’m sharing five OTHER ways that you can use Epic! in the classroom!

Epic! is great for a listening center in Kindergarten, first grade, or second grade. But this educational technology also has SO many other uses! Read this post for 5 great ways to use Epic! in the classroom.
Photo Credits: NIRUT RUPKHAM, Shutterstock

Note: This post was written in collaboration with Epic!

#1: Research Projects

Every year, my students LOVE the opportunity to do mini-research projects. They read about a nonfiction topic and then write about what they’ve learned.

However, a big problem has been a lack of nonfiction books at lower reading levels. Maybe I can find one book at the library that’s at a reading level appropriate for some of my students, but a true research project requires more than just one book!

Epic! makes doing research easy, even for students who are beginning readers. They can listen to books on Epic! to help supplement any print books you can find for them.

My students always feel so proud to share what they’ve learned—and Epic! is a great help for giving them access to information.

#2: Fluency Practice

Epic! is also a great tool for developing students’ fluency. When they listen to a book read aloud on Epic!, they’re hearing strong fluency modeled.

Then, students can read the SAME book a couple of times (clicking through the pages without turning the audio on). Rereading the same text repeatedly builds fluency.

Students can then read the books to a partner or to their parents at home (if they have access to technology).

#3: Teaching Visualization and Listening Comprehension

Epic! now has a section for “audio books.” These audio books include a text read aloud, but you can’t see any pictures or inside pages of the book.

While you can always find a print version of the book and show students the pictures as you read, an audio book by itself is a GREAT tool for working on visualization.

You can give students a little background on a story, start the audio book, and then pause it periodically. Students can discuss and/or draw what they’re visualizing (you will want to model this first).

Although I love picture books for readalouds, these audio books are super useful for practicing visualization and working on listening comprehension.

#4: Engaging Your Reluctant Readers with Comics

Some reluctant readers are hesitant to read “regular” books but love reading comics! Epic! has quite a few comic books available.

I also teach my students to make comics as part of the writing center or our writing units. Speech bubbles, thought bubbles, and other components of comic writing can be easily transferred to “regular” writing. Kids love making these comics, but they also need to see some examples first. Epic! has a number of examples that you can use as mentor texts!

#5: Narrow Reading

Vocabulary knowledge and background knowledge play a huge role in a reader’s ability to comprehend a text. The more we can develop both of these areas, the better our students become at reading comprehension.

Narrow reading is a great way to develop students’ vocabulary and background knowledge. Narrow reading is reading about the same topic across multiple (usually nonfiction) texts.

Narrow reading gives students multiple exposures to some of the same vocabulary words, which makes it more likely that students will actually learn the words.

Narrow reading also exposes students to similar content, which builds deep background knowledge of the topic.

But it can be difficult to get access to multiple books on the same topic—especially if you’re looking for books at certain reading levels or appropriate for a certain grade level.

I’m always requesting books at the library, searching through my own stacks…that takes a lot of time, and sometimes I just can’t find the books I need.

I’m thankful that Epic! gives me access to many more books, and all I have to do is log in! Epic! is a great tool for having your students engage in narrow reading, because there are usually a couple of books available on a topic, and you can supplement with print books of your own.


Do you use Epic? If you have other suggestions for how to use this awesome site, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

And if you’re a teacher who hasn’t signed up for a free account yet, what are you waiting for?! 🙂Sign up for your free account HERE.

Happy teaching!

MAP Reading Fluency: A Faster Way to Test Students’ Oral Reading

If you know me, you know I love running records! Taking running records of students’ oral reading (and asking them comprehension questions) is a fantastic way to learn about students’ decoding abilities … fluency … comprehension … and even vocabulary knowledge.

All of this information is fantastic and helps us plan instruction. The better we know our students as readers, the more successful our teaching is!

But if you’re a classroom teacher, then you probably know all too well how long it can take to assess students’ oral reading in a one-on-one setting.

Of course, you can make running records a part of guided reading, like I do, but sometimes you need a more formal assessment. Maybe it’s required by your school. Or maybe you just need to see where students are at.

So you start pulling your students, one at a time, for an oral reading assessment. And it takes forever, right?!

You lose instructional time, struggle to keep the other students on task, and maybe the student you’re assessing gets distracted by everything else going on in the classroom.

Assessing students one-on-one is definitely worth it, though it’s certainly not easy by any means.

But what if there was a faster way to test students’ oral reading?

What if you could test ALL your students at once, rather than one at a time?

And what if the results were scored FOR you?!

Sound too good to be true? That’s what I thought when I first learned about the MAP Reading Fluency assessment—a tool that accomplishes all of that and more.

But honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by how useful the assessment is. And my students actually enjoyed taking it, so I wanted to share what I learned about MAP Reading Fluency with you. (This post is in partnership with the assessment creators,

What if you could test all of your students' oral reading at once? What if the results were scored for you? The MAP Reading Fluency assessment for Kindergarten, first grade, and second grade does all of this! Read the blog post to learn more.
Photo Credits: Duplass, Shutterstock

MAP Reading Fluency is an online assessment for Kindergarten through 3rd grade that measures students’ oral reading fluency (or pre-reading skills, depending on your students’ level).

In the assessment, students read a short picture book and complete some timed, silent reading activities. The test is adaptive, which means it uses the students’ performance on that first task to decide what activities to present next.

The test records students’ reading (which is SUPER useful to have; I don’t know about you, but I rarely, if ever, audio record when I’m doing running records).

It scores students automatically and provides data about the number of words read correctly per minute + comprehension results. It also offers ideas for instructional “next steps” for each student.

AND as long as you have a device and headset for each student, all your kids can take the assessment at the same time—in about 20 minutes.

Right now, you might be thinking, “Hmmm…sounds good, but is it kid-friendly? Is it easy to set up?”

I was wondering that too, so I decided to try it out with a student!

The Test

The test itself was very easy to set up and very kid-friendly. It honestly felt more like a game than a test, which makes me especially happy since I work with primary. There’s a talking worm and a talking green dot. Here’s a little screenshot:

I also liked that the layout of the digital text was like a book that students would be accustomed to reading. With primary students, sometimes having a lot of text on one page (like in a digital passage) can be overwhelming for them.

The Bottom Line

As I said at the beginning of this post, I was a little skeptical of this assessment at first.

I don’t believe that any technology can ever fully replace a teacher, and I’d still never completely give up my one-on-one assessment time with students.

I think it’s a bit of a different experience when a student is working directly with you vs. working independently on a computer…some students may even perform a bit differently with a human assessor. And a computer can mis-perceive a word a student read (but then again, so can we as human assessors).

That said, MAP Reading Fluency isn’t trying to replace teachers with robots. 😬 But what it CAN do for us is incredibly helpful. It gives us a quick way to assess students’ oral reading accuracy, fluency, and comprehension.

And that can be super helpful between assessments—you know, during the stretches of the school year when you aren’t doing a lot of in-depth, one-on-one assessment (because you need to, you know, TEACH!) but you still want to monitor students’ progress.

Another important thing to know is that MAP Reading Fluency is advertised as a screener. And a screener is NOT the same thing as a full-blown assessment.

Screener data is kind of a “first look” at how our students are doing. We can then use that information as a starting point for other assessments and follow-up. For example, seeing students’ performance on MAP Reading Fluency might help you decide what book level to start them on when you do a more comprehensive assessment.

In my opinion, MAP Reading Fluency is a useful tool when used appropriately and as part of a larger assessment plan. The short length (20 minutes!!!!) really can save you time, and time is the one thing we never seem to have enough of!

Try It Out!

If you’d like to share information about this assessment with your administrators, you can find a fact summary sheet HERE.

Or to request a demo, click HERE.

If your school already uses this assessment, I’d love to know what you think of it!

Happy teaching!

GRō: My Favorite Guided Reading and Small Group Planning App for Teachers

Do you wish you could spend less time planning for guided reading? Easily save your lesson plans for future reference? Have student data at your fingertips?

If so, you are going to LOVE the GRō app!!Looking for a guided reading app? This one is the best! What is GRō?

GRō is an app designed just for teachers! It began as a guided reading app, but it can also be used to plan and organize lessons and assessment data for any type of small group instruction (guided math, anyone?!).

What makes GRō unique?

One of the things I love most about this app is that it was designed by a real teacher, Amanda! She was trying to keep her own guided reading lessons and data in order, and she wasn’t having much luck with general organization apps. She needed something JUST for teachers…so she created it. Amazing!

To learn more about Amanda’s story and how GRō can make your life easier, check out my interview with Amanda:

What all is included in the app?

Want to see more? Amanda created a video to walk you through the different features. You can check that out here:

Questions about GRō? Feel free to leave a comment, and Amanda or I will get back to you! Happy teaching!

10 Great Apps for Literacy Centers in K-2

Looking for some great apps for literacy centers? In this post, I’ll share 10 apps that I love!

These apps are great for kindergarten, first, or second grade, but they can probably be used at other grade levels too.

You’ll notice that I’ve chosen apps that are not specific to a certain skill or skill set. There are tons of great phonics, sight words, and handwriting apps out there, for sure. But I decided to focus on these 10 apps because you can use them for a variety of purposes!

Also, I want to mention that, at the time I’m writing this, I use iPads with my students. The apps listed here are available for iPads, but there may be other versions for different devices.

If you have questions about pricing, how an app works, or a problem you’re having with the app, please click on the links I’ve provided to learn more about them.

Now let’s dive in! 🙂 Love these apps for literacy centers in Kindergarten, first grade, or second grade!!Photo Credits: patat, Shutterstock

1. Seesaw

I wrote all about Seesaw in last week’s post! There is SO much you can do with this app during literacy centers. Here are just a few ideas:

    • Assign students specific passages to read or activities to complete
    • Have students take photos of their work (i.e. word making with magnetic letters) for accountability
  • Have students “write” on digital documents or photos

Click HERE to read more about Seesaw.

Love these apps for literacy centers in Kindergarten, first grade, or second grade!!

2. Book Creator

Book Creator is exactly what it sounds like — a digital book creator! But it has some cool features that make it very different from creating a paper book. You can have students:

    • Record their voices reading the books they create
    • Take or find photos and add them to their books
  • Listen to Siri read their book aloud

Click HERE to read more about Book Creator.

Love these apps for literacy centers in Kindergarten, first grade, or second grade!!

3. Sock Puppets

Want to get your kids to love retelling practice? Sock Puppets is the app for you! This app allows students to record their voices and have digital sock puppets act out their stories. Such a fun independent or partner reading activity!

Click HERE to read more about Sock Puppets.

Love these apps for literacy centers in Kindergarten, first grade, or second grade!!

4. PowerPoint or Keynote

PowerPoint and Keynote on the iPad are more kid-friendly than they are on a desktop or laptop computer (in my opinion). Kids can create presentations about topics they read about. Like Book Creator, they can insert photos and add other media. I love using these apps during a nonfiction unit as an option for kids to present their information to an audience!

Click HERE to read more about PowerPoint or HERE to read more about Keynote.

Love these apps for literacy centers in Kindergarten, first grade, or second grade!!5. Epic

I’ve written about this app several times before — because I LOVE it!! A subscription is free for educators, and it gives you access to tons of great children’s books. Kids can read and/or listen to the books using the app. You can even assign them texts and track their progress!

Click HERE to read more about Epic.

6. Shadow Puppet Edu

This is a great, kid-friendly app that students can use to share their learning through videos. They can record their voices and add text and images.Love these apps for literacy centers in Kindergarten, first grade, or second grade!!

Click HERE to read more about Shadow Puppet.

7. Children’s Countdown

This one is a little bit different from the others…it’s a visual timer!

Sure, many iPads come with timer apps, or you can easily find them in the app store. But I like this one because it slowly reveals a picture. Our little guys don’t always have a sense of how long five minutes is, even if they see the numbers counting down. This app makes it very clear!

You might use this app to show kids how long they will be in a center, how long they should do a particular activity in a center, or to have them “race against the clock” while reading a passage or words.

Love these apps for literacy centers in Kindergarten, first grade, or second grade!!

Click HERE to read more about Children’s Countdown.

8. Felt Board – Mother Goose on the Loose

I started out my teaching career in Pre-K, so I am very familiar with storytelling and retelling using felt boards! The only problem is that it takes FOREVER to make felt pieces. Or if you buy them, they can be super expensive!

This app provides a great, low-cost alternative. Kids can move felt pieces to retell or listen to nursery rhymes and songs. It’s probably best for preschool, kindergarten, or first grade.

Love these apps for literacy centers in Kindergarten, first grade, or second grade!!

Click HERE to read more about the Felt Board app.

9. Popplet – reading or writing

This app provides a simple, kid-friendly way for students to create webs and organizers. They can use Popplet to plan out a piece of writing, take notes while reading a text, brainstorm ideas, and more.

Love these apps for literacy centers in Kindergarten, first grade, or second grade!!

Click HERE to read more about Popplet.

10. Explain Everything

Last but not least, we have Explain Everything! There is soooo much you can do with this app.

You can have kids read, highlight, and write on poems. You can have students explain concepts that they’ve learned through images and voice recordings. You can send students projects or templates and then have them add images, text, and voice recordings. It’s a super versatile app!

Love these apps for literacy centers in Kindergarten, first grade, or second grade!!

Click HERE to read more about Explain Everything.


I hope you found at least one new app to try! Do you have any other great apps to add to this list? Please leave a comment below!

How to Increase Engagement and Accountability During Literacy Centers with the Seesaw App

When it comes to literacy centers, have you ever wondered…

  • How can I motivate students to consistently create high-quality work?
  • How can I hold students accountable for tasks that don’t involve a recording sheet or paper-and-pencil work?
  • How can I cut down on the amount of prep work that I have to do?
  • How can I easily differentiate centers tasks?
  • How can I incorporate technology that’s easy for students to use?

If you’ve ever thought about or struggled with any of these issues…I have GREAT news for you!

There is an app that can help you solve all of these problems!

It’s called the Seesaw app, and I have my friend Janet to thank for getting me hooked on it. 🙂

The description of the Seesaw app explains that it’s “a student-driven digital portfolio that empowers students of any age to independently document what they are learning at school and share it with their teachers, parents, classmates, and even the world.”

Sounds awesome, right?

It is!

There are SO many different ways that you can use the Seesaw app. In today’s post, however, I’m going to focus on how we can use it during literacy centers.LOVE the Seesaw app for literacy centers! Read the post and watch the video to learn more!

Photo Credit:  Samuel Borges Photography, Shutterstock

During literacy centers, you can use Seesaw to:

  • Have students take photos of their work (accountability!)
  • Have students videorecord their reading, retelling, etc. (accountability + they can share it with the class, which is highly motivating!)
  • Replace certain paper-based tasks with digital forms that students can write on and add audio recordings to
  • Assign different students different tasks
  • Quickly and easily collect and review student work
  • And much more!

Want to learn more and see it in action? Watch the video below!

So, have I convinced you yet? This app is the best!

Click HERE to find out how you can download it.

Happy teaching!

5 Great Literacy Apps for K-2 Teachers and Students

There are a lottttt of apps out there!

Years ago, I helped pilot a 1:1 iPad program with my Kindergarteners. At that time, there were fewer education apps available (so much changes in 5 years!). Still, there were sooo many to choose from.

And honestly? I went a little app crazy! I downloaded more than my kids really needed.

Since then, I’ve learned that less can be more. 😉 Sure, I like to give my students new and different app options. But I also limit the number of apps I download on my own devices and on my students’ devices. It takes time to teach kids how to use an app. Having fewer apps enables students to learn how to use a select group of apps well (instead of learning MANY apps not very well)! It also makes it easier for students to locate the apps.

In today’s post, I’ll share 5 great literacy apps that I think are must-haves for any primary classroom. If you want to (or have to) limit the number of apps you download, I think that these 5 apps are a great place to start!

Love these apps for teaching reading! They're especially great for guided reading and centers in Kindergarten, first grade, and second grade.

Photo Credits; In Green, Shutterstock

Important Notes

Some of these apps are free, some are paid, and some have a free version AND paid version. In this post, I’m not mentioning prices or whether an app is free – these things change all the time and I don’t want to provide incorrect information!

Also, I have tested these apps on an iPad. All of the links are to the Apple Store. They may exist for Android, too – however, I have only used iPads in the classroom and can’t provide any information about using them on Android devices. Please do a Google search for the app name if you are having trouble locating one!

One last thing – if you are having tech troubles with any of the apps, I recommend contacting the creators/app support. I am not super techy and most likely can’t help! But when all else fails, exit out of the app, restart the device, and try again! 🙂



This app is so simple but so versatile! It’s basically a visual mapping tool for words or ideas.

Try using it for…


Vocabulary / concept mapping


Character traits (or any other comprehension skill that requires text evidence – see how I put each trait and an example in the same color?)


Planning for writing (especially great for opinion writing or informational writing)

Book Creator


If your kids need a little motivating during writing time, this app is a HUGE help! I used it as a reward for staying on task, completing writing projects, etc. We usually worked toward a class goal – for example, if everyone writes quietly for 20 minutes on Monday through Thursday, on Friday you can start a new book on the Book Creator app.

One thing I love is that kids can either write (with a finger or stylus) to create text. Having taught Kindergarten, this is a big deal. I want the kids to learn how to type, of course, but sometimes writing is just faster.


This app is pretty simple, but your students can get really creative with it. I love the fact that you can easily insert photos! You can have students use Safe Search for Kids to find photos about a topic. Then, they can write an informational book about it. Or, students can take pictures during a special experience in the classroom, and they can then write a book about it. Inserting photos is easy!


Do you see that little part of the dropdown menu that says “Add Sound”? Students can even record their own reading of a book!! This is great when your students are working on spelling traditionally (aka you can’t really read their writing yet 😉 ).

I love this app!

Guided Reading Organizer


I actually wrote a whole post on this app, so I won’t go too in-depth here. I recommend reading the complete post HERE.

In a nutshell, this app is fabulous for planning small group lessons (guided reading, math, etc.). You can put in all your students, record their levels, keep track of anecdotal notes for each student, keep track of your groups, easily pull up lessons, share lessons, re-use lessons, and the list goes on. It is AWESOME!!

groups-watermarked-357x500Word Wizard


This app has quite a few different functions. You can get kids to practice unscrambling words, spelling words, and taking quizzes.


However, my favorite use of this app is for guided reading!!

Magnetic letters and letter tiles are great. I love using hands-on materials with my kids. However, sometimes I just don’t have time to make little baggies of all the letters the kids will need a certain day!

Instead, I give each child an iPad and have them open the Word Wizard app. I have them turn off the sound and then touch the part of the screen that says “Talking Movable Alphabet.” They can then manipulate letters to make words!


In addition to the regular alphabet, there are also some spelling chunks and patterns kids can manipulate (check out the bottom of each of these images). Love this feature!!





This app really is epic. 😉 It’s full of free, high-quality books that students can read! And it’s free for you and your students!

You create your own login and a login for each of your students. Using the app (or the desktop version), you can assign texts, make quizzes, and monitor how long students spend time reading books in the app,


When kids log into the app, they see a different screen – with assignments, recommendations, and more. The design is great (kind of like Netflix) and the images are so eye-catching. Very motivating for our little readers!!



These are some of my “must-have” literacy apps – what are yours? I’d love it if you shared your favorites in the comments below!!

How To Use ReadWorks Digital To Create Engaging, Differentiated Independent Work For Your Primary Students

Finding independent work or centers activities for the primary grades can be really difficult!

Sure, there are plenty of great ideas out there. But it’s not always easy to find something that a) students can complete independently and b) is meaningful and engaging.

And I’m a big believer in having students read and write as much as possible during independent work time.

Sight word games and word work practice are definitely beneficial! But since my ultimate goal is to get my students reading and writing proficiently, I want to give them lots of practice with real reading and writing activities.

So when I learned about ReadWorks’ newest website, I was super excited!!

I’ve used ReadWorks’ awesome articles with my students for the past few years. But now the articles are available for students to access digitally, AND the new site makes differentiation easy – even for students who are pre-readers!

I wanted to show you how to get set up with the site, so I decided to make today’s post a video. In the video, I’ll be sharing the following with you:

ReadWorks's FREE new site lets students access articles digitally! The site is great for differentiated, meaningful independent work or centers.

I’ll show you exactly how to set up your students with their own login accounts, find great passages, and use the resources to assign meaningful independent work activities!

In A Nutshell

  • Access ReadWorks Digital here:
  • Set up a new account (I kept my login info the same as mine from, so I wouldn’t forget it)
  • Create a new class and input your students (you can use their Google accounts, if they have them, or simply their first names)
  • Start assigning articles to your students!

If your students can read traditionally, you can have them answer the comprehension questions. They’ll type some of the answers in, and others will be multiple choice questions (scored FOR you – yay!).

Beginning readers and pre-readers can listen to articles and then draw/write about them. You might have students…

  • Draw a picture and write a sentence about an article or articles that they listened to
  • Listen to several articles and then write a persuasive letter/picture to a friend recommending the best article
  • Create a book using information from several different articles
  • Create a video to share the information that they learned

If you can’t already tell, I love the audio function that reads passages aloud to students!! 🙂

Sign Up Now!

Even if you’re not quite ready to try it yet, I’d still encourage you to sign up for a free account! Then, if you’re ever crunched for time when preparing centers, you can quickly find some articles and assign them to students. OR if you are out sick, you can give students assignments from your own computer in bed!!

Please also share this post so that other teachers find out about this incredible free resource. You can pin the image below or share it to Facebook. Thanks for sharing!!

ReadWorks's FREE new site lets students access articles digitally! The site is great for differentiated, meaningful independent work or centers.

Photo Credit: espies, Shutterstock 


GRO: The Must-Have App For Teaching Guided Reading

When Amanda Duke told her husband about a strategy she’d learned for taking guided reading notes, he was shocked.

Take notes on sticky notes and then attach them to sheets of paper? It didn’t sound practical or professional to him.

And Amanda agreed. As a Kindergarten and first grade teacher, she’s always loved teaching guided reading. Amanda sees the incredible power of working with kids in a small group setting.

But she’s always struggled to find practical solutions to guided reading organizational challenges (so have I!). She wanted an easy way to switch up her groups, keep and reuse lesson plans, and take notes on her students.

When Amanda went looking for technology that would do this, she didn’t find any apps that quite fit the bill. Sure, there’s Evernote and other great organizational apps. But none of them were designed just for teachers.

So Amanda set out to make her own app. She drew up some plans and talked with other teachers to get their input. She and her husband worked with local developers to create a model, and they continued to revise that model based upon input from other teachers.

And that’s how Guided Reading Organizer (GRO) was born!

When Amanda shared her story with me, I was so impressed with how much time and thought she (and other teachers) have put into this project. But what’s even more impressive is how awesome and practical this app is!

In this post, I’ll show you how you can use the app in your own classroom to make planning for guided reading faster, more efficient, and more effective. I’ll also show you how to use the app to easily take notes and keep data on your students’ progress.

I love this guided reading app - it was created by a teacher!! GRO helps with guided reading organization and anecdotal note-taking. It allows you to re-use lesson plans so you save a TON of time! You can even use it for teaching other small groups, like math. SO worth it!

Before we dive in, I do want to mention that guided reading isn’t the only thing you can use this app for – it works great for small group math lessons or any other type of small group instruction.


The first thing you see when you open up the app is your groups. You can use different colors and group names to keep them all straight. I love that you can put in the kids’ photos to see your class at a quick glance!

I love this guided reading app - it was created by a teacher!! GRO helps with guided reading organization and anecdotal note-taking. It allows you to re-use lesson plans so you save a TON of time! You can even use it for teaching other small groups, like math. SO worth it!

Tapping on one of the groups allows you to name it, add a color, set the meeting days and meeting times, add a level, and write notes (like a group focus).

This is so handy because we have so many different groups to keep track of. If a student teacher or other support teacher comes to work with one of the groups, you can easily send them a screenshot like the one below.

I love this guided reading app - it was created by a teacher!! GRO helps with guided reading organization and anecdotal note-taking. It allows you to re-use lesson plans so you save a TON of time! You can even use it for teaching other small groups, like math. SO worth it!


Next up is the calendar tab!

The calendar feature is a dream come true if you are as scatterbrained as me. 🙂 I can never remember which groups I’m supposed to see on a given day.

As you can see in the screenshot below, the groups you have scheduled show up as colored dots. This really saves time when you need to call a group to your guided reading table. Instead of having to find your binder or clipboard and search for the right paper, you just open the app, tap on the calendar tab, and immediately see the group colors. SO fast and easy!

I love this guided reading app - it was created by a teacher!! GRO helps with guided reading organization and anecdotal note-taking. It allows you to re-use lesson plans so you save a TON of time! You can even use it for teaching other small groups, like math. SO worth it!

You might be able to tell from the image that you can also go right to your individual lesson plans from the calendar view. Again, this saves a lot of time.

Before I had this app, I first had to find the correct tab in my binder and then flip to the correct lesson plan. I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I’m much happier spending those minutes teaching instead of searching!

Lesson Plans

Speaking of lesson plans, this tab is probably my favorite part of the whole app. You can choose to create a general lesson plan (for any type of instruction) or a guided reading lesson plan. I’ll focus on the guided reading plan because, well, I’m a reading specialist. 🙂

As you can see from the screenshot below, the parts of the lesson plan are clearly customized for teaching guided reading. When you open up the plan to teach it, there’s a timer BUILT INTO the lesson screen! Could you ask for anything more?!

I love this guided reading app - it was created by a teacher!! GRO helps with guided reading organization and anecdotal note-taking. It allows you to re-use lesson plans so you save a TON of time! You can even use it for teaching other small groups, like math. SO worth it!

But my favorite thing is that it allows you to re-use lesson plans!!

There’s nothing more annoying than realizing that you are basically re-writing a plan for the Red Group that you taught to the Orange Group 2 months ago! (But of course by the time you search for and find that original plan, you may as well have re-written it anyway.)

When you use the GRO app, you don’t have to deal with this anymore. Of course you can customize the plan to meet the needs of a particular group of students. But when you have a text intro and strategy focus that work SO well with one book – why not use it again? And again, and again. 🙂

When you are in the lesson screen, you have the option of pulling up student notes. You tap the correct student in the group, add a note, and you’re done. Again, no more flipping through binders trying to find the right kiddo – or in Amanda’s case, no more keeping data on sticky notes!!

Lesson Plan w Notes vertical


The final tab in the app is the “Students” tab. This is actually where you’ll want to start after you download the app. You can put in your kids’ names, photos (if you like), as well as lots of other data.

As time goes on and you take more and more notes on a child, you’ll be able to quickly scroll through them and see progress or patterns.

You can also keep track of the student’s reading level – and the app graphs level changes over time!

I love this guided reading app - it was created by a teacher!! GRO helps with guided reading organization and anecdotal note-taking. It allows you to re-use lesson plans so you save a TON of time! You can even use it for teaching other small groups, like math. SO worth it!

Even though this is all electronic, it’s simple to get paper copies of all of these things. The app has a “share” button” that allows you to easily export lessons and data. You can email documents to yourself, a special education teacher, the reading specialist, or even parents. I love this option because it is nice (and sometimes necessary) to have hard copies.

Get The App

This app makes my teacher heart SO happy, and I know it will make your life so much easier! You can get GRO for your iPhone, iPad, or iPad touch.

Before I give you the link, I do want to let you know that the app is not free. It costs about as much as 2 coffee drinks at Starbucks.

It’ll save you time, help you take better notes, and enable you to easily share information about your students. And that is infinitely more valuable than 2 shots of caffeine. 🙂

You can purchase the app HERE – and note that I don’t receive any sort of benefit when you buy it. Amanda was kind enough to let me try the app for free, and I’m sharing it with you because I honestly think that it’s wonderful and will make your literacy instruction better!

If you have any questions about the app or need help once you’ve downloaded it, you can send an email to

Comment below to let me know how you like the app! Happy teaching!

3 Ways to Save Time In The Classroom with Trello

One of the things I love most about teaching is the variety. Every day at school is different. Especially working with primary kids – you know there is never a dull moment!

That said, there are still some things that, as teachers, we have to do over…and over…and over. We make copies, assess kids, grade papers, organize data, and so on. I’m always looking for ways to spend less time on these repetitive tasks.

One free program I use to maximize my efficiency with these repetitive tasks is Trello. Have you heard of it? It is super handy! Keep reading, because I’m going to show you exactly how to use Trello to save precious minutes of prep time!

Trello is a FREE tool that you can use in your classroom!  Use it for organizing student data, anecdotal notes, and your to-do lists.  The best part is that you can also use it on your phone and tablet!

What is Trello?

Trello is basically an interactive, digital list builder / organizer. To get started, create a board for a multi-step or multi-part task that you want to accomplish. Then, break up the task by creating lists and adding “cards” under each list. You can easily move and rearrange the lists and cards.

Okay, that probably doesn’t sound like anything new or thrilling. But let me show you some of the cool ways you can use it to make your life easier! Watch this video to see how I use Trello to eliminate my lengthy and repetitive to-do lists, organize my students’ assessment data, and easily take anecdotal notes for grouping students:

Okay, so let’s recap. In the video, you saw that I use Trello to…

1.  Keep track of the planning / prep work that I do repeatedly. The example I gave in the video was planning a unit. I know that I always have to align the unit to our standards, check out books from the library, plan assessments, find internet resources, and write lesson plans. So that I don’t forget any of these steps, I keep a board called “Unit Planning” in my Trello account. I keep the name of each unit on a card and move it through the stages as I go through the planning process.

2.  Organize student assessment data. I can organize just about any type of assessment data in Trello! First, I decide what my lists will be (I gave the examples of Fountas & Pinnell reading levels and MAP RIT bands). Then, I make a card with each student’s name on it. I place the cards under the correct lists and can easily move them when the data changes. It’s such an easy way to see how everyone is doing at a glance!

3.  Record anecdotal notes and plan future small group instruction. I can make a board for each subject I teach (i.e. writing). Within that board, I can create a list for each major skill we are working on (i.e. putting a period at the end of each sentence). Since Trello can be used on a phone or tablet, I can walk around a classroom with the app open while students are writing. If I notice that a student needs to work on a certain skill, I create a card with her name on it and place that card under the applicable list. After repeating this for multiple students, I have ready-made topics and groups for future small group instruction! I can easily see who is still struggling with a certain skill, and then group those students together for an extra lesson on it.

As you saw in the video, Trello is super simple and easy to learn. And you can use it on a desktop / laptop computer, phone, or tablet!

There are a lot more cool features that I didn’t show in the video. You can add/tag other Trello users on your cards (like your teaching team members!), write notes on each card, add attachments…the list goes on. Trello comes with a free guide to help you figure out all the neat extras.

Have I convinced you to try it yet? Really, you should, because as I mentioned, it is totally FREE! Click here to give it a go.

Let me know what you think!!

Make Your Own E-Books with UDL Book Builder!

The other day, I was reading my April edition of Reading Teacher (yes…I know it’s November…I’m a little behind!!) and I came across an article by Bridget Dalton.  The article is called “DIY E-Books,” and it describes a free website called UDL Book Builder.  The website, explains Dalton, can be used to find free e-books to read, as well as create your own.  I was totally intrigued and decided to sign up for an account!  And wow am I glad I did!

I used to teach in a Kindergarten classroom where every student could use (and even take home) an iPad.  I had thought about making e-books for them but never really got around to it.  If only I’d known about this site!!

When you log in, this is what you see.  I first decided to click on “Model Books.”  The purpose of this feature is to see good examples of books that people have written, and get tips for writing your own books.  You can search with keywords, or by grade level, content area, genre, or language.  

There are also “Public Library Books” that you can search through.  

Here is an example from a very simple page from a social story that teaches kids how to deal with winning and losing at games:

At the bottom of the page, there are “coaches” that you / the child can click on.  The coaches (“Miss Shelley,” “Bot,” and “Molly,” in this case) can ask questions about the text.

Within the text, you can have the words read aloud and highlight specific words/phrases.  

After I looked at the model books, I started playing around with the book maker.  It seemed pretty simple and easy to use, and you can create your own “coaches” to appear at the bottom of the pages.  The coaches can ask the child questions as he/she reads. 

I was really impressed.  If I’d had this when I taught Kindergarten, I would have made books for each alphabet letter and some math concepts (like shapes), and I would have made a book for each science/social studies unit.  The design of the site is simple, nothing fancy, but I think it’s a great resource for finding e-books and for making your own.

Check it out here and let me know what you think!!