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.

Conclusions

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! 🙂

Popplet

Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/popplet-lite/id364738549?mt=8

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

Try using it for…

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Vocabulary / concept mapping

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

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

Book Creator

Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/book-creator-for-ipad/id442378070?mt=8

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.

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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!

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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

Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gro-guided-reading-organizer/id1053697098?mt=8

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

Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/word-wizard-kids-learn-to/id447312716?mt=8

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

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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!

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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!!

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Epic!

Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/epic!-unlimited-books-for/id719219382?mt=8

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,

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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!!

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Wrap-Up

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: http://digital.readworks.org/
  • Set up a new account (I kept my login info the same as mine from ReadWorks.org, 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.

Groups

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!

Calendar

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

Students

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 info@gro-app.com.

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!!




MobyMax Giveaway!

Hey everyone!  I have super exciting news to share with you today!!  I was recently offered a free account with MobyMax, AND another free account to give away to one of my awesome readers.  Keep reading to find out about this awesome online educational tool, and to enter for your chance to win!

So, you might be wondering…what IS MobyMax?  Well, MobyMax is an online curriculum tool that provides assessment and instruction for students in Kindergarten through 8th grade.  Students take pre-tests so that the program can get a sense of what they know and what gaps may need to be filled.  It covers math (including math fact fluency and number sense), reading (language, literature, informational text, vocabulary), and writing.


The image above is part of the teacher/parent dashboard that you see when you login.  Click on “Roster” to set up all of your kids – that is all you have to do to get them started!  Give them their login information and passwords, tell them to get started, and they can work completely independently!


When the kids log in, there is often some funny little cartoon or image to catch their attention!  Then, they see this:

When they’re first getting started, they take a placement test that allows the curriculum to adapt to meet their specific needs.  THIS is the part that’s so exciting to me.  When I had an entire classroom of students, I found it really challenging to try and meet all of their needs.  MobyMax is such a powerful tool for differentiation – it can really change the game for your students, especially the struggling ones.  

After students have taken their placement tests, they can start in on the lessons.  One great feature is that the lesson tells the kids what they will be learning before the computer starts teaching.

The lessons include images and the computer reads aloud the text to students (at least it does in the younger grades, anyway, which I was experimenting with):


Colored highlighting (such as for the word “who” above) helps draw students’ attention to key words.

In addition to being engaging and fun for the students, MobyMax is also easy to use for the teacher.  You can get lots of helpful reports about student progress, like how they are doing and how long they are spending on MobyMax (great if you use it as a homework assignment/option).

I could go on, because there are a lot of other cool features, but I want to let you enter to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
{You can enter to win without doing any blog post commenting or Pinterest following, but doing so will earn you more entries}

Good luck!  I’ll announce the winner next Monday, November 24th, on my Facebook page.




K5 Learning

Happy Saturday!  It’s finally looking a little like spring here, and the end of the school year is coming up quickly!  At the end of each year, I try to reflect on things that went well during the past year and things that didn’t go so well.

One challenge I dealt with this year was what to have my struggling readers do during their independent time.  At my school, we don’t do literacy centers.  Kids are supposed to be either responding to reading through writing, or reading independently.  This year I had one second grader who started the year reading at a level C (a Kindergarten level) and another who started the year reading at a level F (a middle of the year first grade level).  They often couldn’t write very much in response to texts.  I tried to keep them supplied with lots of independent reading materials, but kids go through those lower leveled books so quickly.  I was going to the local library, our school library, and raiding my own classroom library on a weekly basis, just to keep them supplied with new reading material.  Despite my efforts, after about 15 minutes of independent reading, I would usually find them off-task, or reading a book that was way too hard for them.  Of course I still wanted them to spend part of their independent time writing and reading, but those 2 activities just weren’t enough.  And I wanted to make use of every minute I had with them – they were so behind that wasting time just wasn’t an option.

I struggled with this issue throughout the year.  In December, I began using RAZ-Kids with them, but again, they went through the books quickly.  Then, in March, K5 Learning, an online reading and math enrichment program for kids, emailed me. They offered me a free 6-week trial period of their online program in exchange for me writing a review.  Sure, I thought.  Why not?  I looked at the program a little more closely and got to thinking that this might be just what my 2 struggling readers needed.  I set them up with accounts.  I hoped it was going to engage them, because sometimes they got a little bored with RAZ-Kids.  We have two computers in our classroom, so I logged them both in one afternoon.

As they were working, I met with a guided reading group.  We were talking about a text when suddenly I heard giggling.  I looked up.  One of my kiddos was smiling and laughing at her computer screen.  This seemed like a good sign.  After independent time was over, one of the girls came up to me and said, “That is SO fun!”  Success!

They both thoroughly enjoyed using the program and became more engaged during independent time.  I still had them spend time reading and writing of course, but K5 Learning was a great supplement.  K5 Learning is more than just a fun program.  It’s a super valuable tool for both teachers and parents.  Here are some of the great features:

1.  You can easily specify what you want your child / student to work on (this is the home screen that pops up when they log in).



2.  From the parent / teacher dashboard, you can provide even MORE specific parameters about what you want your child to work on (certain spelling words, skills, etc).

3.  You can look at really specific data about how the child is doing, how much time he/she actually spends on-task, etc.


This is a super comprehensive, easy to use online learning program.    It’s great for classroom teachers who want to differentiate instruction, homeschooling parents, or any parent who wants their child to give their child a fun way to practice math and reading.  Click on the image below to check it out!



I am still in the process of giving my two little girls their end-of-the-year reading assessments.  Right now it looks like they will both be just 1 or 2 Fountas and Pinnell levels below where they should be.  Given where we were at the beginning of the year, I will consider this a relative success.

Happy teaching!