Top Ten Signs You Might Be an Avid Reader

This post is inspired by Peter Johnston when he spoke at the Wisconsin State Reading Association conference this year. He suggested we measure student reading engagement with questions that identify what happens when someone truly is a reader. I left the last three slots open. What would you ask?

Top Ten Signs You Might Be an Avid Reader

  1. Do you get upset when a teacher or parent tells you to stop reading and go to another activity?
  2. Have you ever accidentally walked into something while reading? (Johnston)
  3. While reading, did a large amount of time pass without you realizing it? (Allington)
  4. Have you purchased both the print and digital version of the same book, just in case you need to reference it at any time?
  5. Are you reluctant to mark up the pages, for fear that the person you lend the book to will not appreciate it?
  6. Do you sometimes refrain from reading before bed, because you may stay up too late?
  7. Do you have at least two books on deck?

I Say Let Them Read

This post is actually a comment I left on Annie Murphy Paul’s blog, on her post titled “Teens Are Choosing Books That Are Too Easy For Them”.

Where I agree with the concerns of this report is that secondary students do need more guided instruction. By guided, I mean the teacher conferring with readers on a regular basis, asking them questions about the text and giving support in the form of strategy instruction. And I am not against reading the classics and being challenged as a reader from time to time. But the job of the teacher is to scaffold the students’ experiences with the text so they are successful, with strategies such as questioning and graphic organizers. It shouldn’t be left to the parents.

That said, this report fails to cite any research that would give any validity to these concerns. What research says about reading text that is “easy” for students is very clear:

- The most effective teachers provide text for students they could easily read (Allington and Johnston, 2002; Keene, 2002; Langer, 2001)
- High levels of reading accuracy produce the best reading growth (Ehri et al, 2007)
- Reading comprehension predicts reading volume and reading comprehension performance (Guthrie et al, 1999)

You can read more about this research in the excellent resource What Really Matters in Response to Intervention by Richard Allington. I also recommend his article Intervention All Day Long, found at http://goo.gl/lTWuH. In the article, Dr. Allington actually goes into a secondary school and concretely shows the fallacy of matching readers with text that is too difficult.

Where some seem to see a problem in students not selecting challenging texts, I see this issue as a success story. Students are reading! Who here reads books because they are challenging? I don’t. I choose to read text that is interesting, engaging, and meaningful to me as a reader and a person. Sounds like this is what these students are doing. For the most part, I say leave them alone and let them read.

Questions Readers Ask Other Readers

In my school, reading intervention for 4th and 5th graders very much resembles a book club. There are a) lots of books that the readers are interested in, b) not a lot of tests or assignments, and c) lots of time to read. In fact, we call it “Howe Book Club”. The word “intervention” is not in the students’ lexicon. It takes place both during the school day in the afternoon and after school twice a week. It was designed this year based on a post from the Stenhouse blog.

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Now in full swing, we are tweaking things here and there to keep the kids reading. Example: Students were becoming less engaged in the paperbacks we had purchased for them. In response, we allocated some funds to purchased eReaders and allowed the students to choose the digital books to be downloaded on the devices.

Another area identified for growth is to encourage better conversations between the students about what they are reading. In her book The Reading Zone (2007), Nancie Atwell provides some excellent openers kids can respond to as well as questions they can ask each other. On page 83 in Chapter 7 (One-to-One), she suggests some of the following prompts:

I liked the way the author…

This book remind me of…

I’d say a theme of this book is…

I couldn’t understand…

Why did…?

She also shares many questions she asks her students as she “roams among readers” (92). I think many of these would be just as applicable when students talk to their peers about what they are reading:

What page are you on?

What do you think so far?

How is it so far, compared to his or her other books?

What genre is this one?

Why did you decide to read this one?

Where did you find this book?

Is this one worthy of a book talk?

What are you planning to read next?

The plan is to put some of these questions and prompts on a handy reference card and on a poster in our library where the intervention takes place. This skill will first need to be modeled by the interventionists, which consist of current and retired teachers. They could do this at the beginning of each session, where time is set aside for the adult to read aloud a favorite book to the group.

Once the students get the hang of speaking like readers, they can facilitate conversations both in person and online. There is time built in for each student to share something that resonated with them from what they are reading in their small group. We will also have them set up in a class on Edmodo. This will allow students to continue their conversations beyond the official intervention time.

These activities we are facilitating for our students are authentic and engaging. They are doing what real readers do – read books, write and share about what they read, listen to others talk about their experiences, and then find more books to read.

A Takeaway from the Wisconsin State Reading Association Convention

This is part of a post I shared with my teachers this week on our staff blog. It is a summary of what I took away from the excellent WSRA Convention in Milwaukee on February 7-9, 2013.

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The Wisconsin State Reading Association conference was an excellent experience. I attended very informative sessions and had great conversations with other educators. You can read all of the tweets associated with five of the keynotes and sessions on my Storify page. I plan to share more both formally and informally.

One of the common threads during the conference was the Common Core. But not in the way I expected. Instead of hearing how schools should be addressing these standards in everything we do, the presenters encouraged us to take it slow. Focus on the students. Consider what engages them. If we can continue to make school a place of joy and allow students to achieve their personal learning goals, the Common Core will take care of itself.

Not to say that the CCSS should be relegated to the sidelines. Many well known educators and researchers such as Jeff Wilhelm and Regie Routman encouraged everyone to use what is laid out in the Common Core, but as a resource instead of a focus. These standards are not what students come to school for every day. They attend to our instruction and their learning because they want to become better readers and writers, and they believe you can help them along the way. Let’s stay the course and not get too excited about what is coming. What we know to be best practices will carry us through.

Feedback After an Evernote and iPad Workshop

I recently hosted a one hour technology session for district staff. The topic: Using Evernote on the iPad to Confer With and Assess Readers.

Afterward, I emailed each participant a survey via Google Forms to gather feedback. The last question I posed was, “What is one way you see using Evernote with the iPad in your current teaching position?” Here are their responses:

“I plan to have students read and record them, then play back. I am working on fluency with a lot of kids and I would like them to hear themselves. I’m not sure on the conferencing part/note taking yet, but we’ll see as I mess with it. With things like this I don’t make plans, I just jump in and see where it takes me.”

“I plan on recording students’ one minute reading fluency assessments and then embedding a picture of the actual passage they read with miscues and self-corrections marked. I am also going to take a pic of a page in their independent reading book and record them reading as part of my ‘running records on the fly’”

“I plan to record running records and allow students to hear themselves read, both immediately after reading and later on in the year (to show growth).”

“Photograph and save student work samples using hash tags so that I can easily access them later.”

“During running records: record students’ reading of the selection in order to score/check the record at a later time. This allows for me to focus on fluency during the assessment as well as have documentation of the students’ reading at that point in time.”

“I plan to use this when I conference with my students. It is my hope to try this today!”

“I could see myself taking a picture of what a student is working on and sharing it with the classroom teacher.”

“In Reading Intervention, I could record a students’ reading of a passage and replay it for them to hear. Together we could discuss strengths and weaknesses and set goals for improvement.”

“I plan to use Evernote by making notes as I meet with students during guided reading groups. Each group is reading a different book that they were able to choose. I will use it to create a notebook for each group. – Jot down their predictions and record audio of students reading and/or our group discussions at the end of each chapter.”

“I don’t have my own iPad, so I don’t see myself continuing with this. Maybe having your own iPad should be a requirement for this course.”

“I find this to be effective for my guided reading. I can keep all of my notes together instead of having a post-it here and a post-it there. I can view my notes from home too without having to bring my notes home with me.”

“I started using Evernote the next day. I took pictures of student tradition writing and them recorded their voice reading it. Next I am going to use volunteers to display on reflection and go through the process of editing on the SMARTboard.”

I am scheduled to run this workshop again for Central Wisconsin reading teachers in January. This information is invaluable to me as I think about how I will change my instruction to better meet the needs of the participants.

Examples of Practice: Using iPads and Evernote When Assessing Readers

All K-12 teachers are reading teachers. The school, grade level and content area we work in does not matter. In every classroom, a random group of students will come in with varying degrees of reading ability. And their levels of ability can and do differentiate based on which skill we choose to focus on. That is why it is so critical that teachers have sound understanding of where there students are at in their ability to decode and comprehend text. When we know them as readers, we are better at helping them choose books for themselves, we tailor instruction to meet their specific needs, and we know when to release the learning responsibility to the student so they can become independent readers.

I share this because in a few days I am going to make a case to approximately 20 or so K-12 teachers that using Evernote on an iPad can enhance their abilities to better assess their students’ literacy skills. Two things I have learned through exploring technology is that a) the “why” needs to come before the “how” and the “what” (Sinek, 2010), and b) the technology should support best practices in the classroom. Form follows function.

The “Why”

Dr. Ruben Puentedura developed a framework to help educators understand the place of technology in the context of learning and education. It is titled SAMR, which stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition.

SAMR_model
(Image retrieved from http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/)

This framework shows how the various levels of learning can be raised with the appropriate integration of technology. This bears the question: Is a student not able to reach their potential in the absence of these tools? I don’t know that yet. However, if there are ways to enhance learning in the classroom and we choose to not leverage it, this may be irresponsible of us as educators.

The “How”

The iPad is a computer in the loosest of terms. Yes, you can use it to type a letter, email a friend, and post something on Facebook. What separates it from other computing devices such as the desktop is its mobility, the engagement factor, content creation and integration.

Mobility
Any teacher can use tools such as Evernote to store student information. What makes the iPad (and other mobile devices) a better fit is it can travel with the teacher. No longer do students always have to come to the bean-shaped table for small group and one-on-one instruction. The teacher now comes to them. If you think about it, this is big. The student is not singled out, the conferring and assessing can happen anywhere the student feels comfortable, and the technology allows the teacher to teach and assess concurrently.

Engagement
I don’t know what it is about these devices that just captures the students’ attention. An example: I was using the Reflection app to mirror the iPad screen to the whiteboard. Second graders and I were using Notability to compare and contrast the book and eBook version of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. I started the Venn diagram, then handed off the writing responsibility to the closest student. With the iPad on their lap and stylus in hand, he wrote one of his ideas down on the screen. There was no hesitation on his part. This might have been different had I asked him to go to the board and write in front of peers. What was also interesting was that the entire class was reading the words as this student wrote them.

Content Creation and Integration
The compare and contrast notes the second graders and I made together could be a start to other projects. We could use these notes to write a persuasive essay on Pages and then publish it on a classroom blog. We could create illustrations on Drawing Pad and then use them in an iMovie to highlight the elements of a story. I could go on and on. The possibilities that come with the iPad are multiplied because so many of the applications work in concert with each other. With a simple multi-finger swipe, I can switch from one app to another as I put together a project.

The “What”

Here is how I see teachers using Evernote on the iPad to assess readers. For a framework, I am using the “Assessment to Instruction” steps outlined in The CAFE Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. After each step I also identified the step’s level on the SAMR ladder, based on how the technology would be used to enhance practice.

Two things before getting started:

  • I recommend setting up an Evernote account prior to using it in the classroom. Create a notebook for each student. Also, find out what your Evernote email address is so you send information to a specific notebook with ease.
  • With each step, put the step’s description in the title of the note. Create a new note for each step of the assessment process.

1.  Assess Individual Student (Augmentation)

Take a running record of a student. Then take a picture of it with the iPad and email it to Evernote using your Evernote email account. To put the image of the running record into that student’s notebook, put the notebook title in the subject line of the email message preceded by the @ sign (i.e. @Mike). To add tags, use the same process, only put a hashtag in front of each key word (i.e. #September #BB16 #GR18). If your assessing skills are a little rusty, I highly recommend Peter Johnston’s Running Records as a quick resource.

For older kids or when a running record is not enough, Janet Allen offers a variety of ideas that could also be used to assess readers in her resource Yellow Brick Roads, such as surveys, observations, checklists and sentence completions.

2.  Discuss Findings with Students (Modification)

What Evernote provides is the ability to record audio while taking notes. A teacher can go back to this recording and listen again for what the student said. The student could also be given an opportunity to listen to your discussion of the findings later in the year. Seems like a great opportunity for both teacher and student to reflect on their growth as a reader.

3.  Set Goal and Identify Strategies with Student, and

4.  Student Declares Goal on Menu (Augmentation)

With a copy of The Literacy CAFE Menu in front of you, create a new note to document this information. If the strategies and goal are also included as tags in the note, they will be more easily accessible when needed. Also, as a teacher plans for guided reading, he or she can quickly search among tags for a specific strategy to work on. This could greatly enhance the concept of flexible grouping. The same process might take a bit longer with a three ring binder. In addition, snap a picture of their goal and add it to the note for a visual component.

Quick iPad tip: Tags are added by selecting the circle button with the “i” in the middle, located on the top right.

5.  Teacher Fills Out Individual Reading Conference Form (Augmentation)

Again, using tags to note the students’ strengths, goals and strategies will make his or her information easier to find later. Once conferring commences, I could see a teacher using this one note six times before creating a new one. This would involve adding the categories outlined in the CAFE Reading Conference template each time (date, touch point, observation and instruction, next steps).

6. Teacher Fills Out Strategy Groups Form (Modification)

If a teacher is looking to start strategy group instruction based on similar skills (found through tags), he or she can pull students together based on need by creating a Notebook Stack. As far as I can tell, this can only be done on a PC. Just drag one student’s notebook over another and a stack is created. Once a student has shown proficiency in that strategy, he or she can be pulled out of that stack to another group.

But where do the strategy group notes go? My suggestion would be to create a whole new notebook within the stack to house these notes.

7.  Instruction (Redefinition)

This is where Evernote can be a real game changer. The whole point of assessment is to inform instruction in order to impact learning. If I were still in the classroom, I could imagine pulling up my students’ notes as I planned for future literacy instruction. Instead of hunting for each student’s individual goals and strategies, a quick search in Evernote will pull up what you need to know in a matter of seconds. Groups are quickly formed. They aren’t based on reading level either; instruction is tailored to meet specific needs. Students can receive guided reading instruction at the appropriate complexity level without feeling like they are in the “low” group.

Embedding formative assessment in the planning of instruction tends to get lost in the process when everything else needs attention too. Evernote and the iPad are tools that have the potential to both increase productivity and enhance the instructional practices of teachers.

Resources Cited

Allen, Janet (2000). Yellow Brick Roads. Stenhouse: Portland, ME

Boushey, Gail and Moser, Joan (2009). The CAFE Book. Stenhouse: Portland, ME

Johnston, Peter (2000). Running Records: A Self-Tutoring Guide. Stenhouse: Portland, ME

Puentedura, Ruben (2012). Building Upon SAMR. Slideshow retrieved from http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/

Sinek, Simon (2010). Start With Why. Video retrieved from http://www.ted.com/speakers/simon_sinek.html

Examples of Practice: iPads in the Primary Classroom

In a recent post in Education Week, Justin Reich (@bjfr) strongly encourages teachers who have iPads in their classrooms to make their teaching visible. He recognizes that schools are quickly adopting this tool for instruction, but is concerned that teachers are not sharing what they are doing with others through social media. Justin goes on to say that in order to develop a vision of how iPads can be effectively used in schools, we need to see how other teachers are augmenting their instruction and then discuss these strategies.

I couldn’t agree more. Even though I love my iPad, I have been somewhat hesitant to just throw them in classrooms and see what happens. (I recently wrote a post about my experience piloting these devices last year.) We are somewhere in the middle on technology integration; our school is not 1:1, but all teachers have an iPad and more are possibly on the way for students in the form of a mobile lab and classroom workstations. The approach I have taken in my school is to teach the teachers first on how to use them, in addition to encouraging them to explore the possibilities. You could break this learning process down into two categories: Model It and Celebrate It.

Model It

I recently discovered the app Felt Board and instantly recognized the potential it has in the primary literacy classroom. I could share this app through email, or even download it specially for teachers whom I think would benefit from using it in their instruction. However, the best approach I have found for introducing technology tools to teachers is through interactive modeling.

For example, I recently used part of my regular read aloud time in my kindergarten classrooms to recreate a part of a story I just shared. I used a document camera and asked students to help me develop the scene, incorporating both visuals and words. Once completed, I snapped a photo of it to the Camera Roll. Then we used iMovie to record one of the students reading the text from the board. Picture and audio were uploaded to Vimeo and we were then able to share it with parents at home through the web link. Here are three we created so far.

I Must Have Bobo! by Eileen Rosenthal
Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
I have also used iMovie on the iPad to create book trailers. Here is my son sharing one of his favorite books and why he likes it.

For more information, Matt Gomez (@Matt_Gomez) wrote a post about Felt Board and how he uses it in his kindergarten classroom. Like the app, it is well worth a look.

Celebrate It
My staff are starting to use these devices in highly effective ways, without a lot of support from me. It is exciting to see what they come up with. For example, when I walked into my school’s library this morning, I saw a display set up by one of my second grade teachers, Mrs. Heyroth (@MrsHeyroth). She and her students wrote a classroom book based on the story There Was an Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything. Better yet, she used GarageBand and iMovie on her device to create a digital version of their book. Each student was recorded reading one of the pages. I recognized her efforts by pulling some pictures together and sending her a collage using Frame Magic.
I also plan to share this with the rest of my staff. They can see what is possible with mobile devices such as iPads and apply this example to their own classroom.

Using iOS Apps to Develop and Sustain ePortfolios

“First, look at your current literacy initiatives and set goals for how to improve them.”
- From Pathways to the Common Core by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth and Christopher Lehman

I am fortunate to have inherited an elementary school last year that had a reading-writing initiative already started. This year we are taking the next step and setting new goals connected with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). To help us in this process, we have started using professional learning communities. One of our collaborative groups that meet once a month are vertical teams focused on writing. A teacher from each grade level (K-5) plus specialists will come together, bringing student writing samples and rubrics aligned with CCSS. They will use this information to assess our learners, analyze data and make instructional decisions. Additionally, staff are using iPads to create two-way communication with parents, by housing student writing in Dropbox as an ePortfolio.

How it will (hopefully) work: Each student will have their own file in Dropbox. This file can be shared with his or her parent(s) and other teachers by using their email addresses. Families and staff can then view the contents of that student’s file, make comments and even add more samples of that student’s writing. As the year progresses, teachers will periodically visit each student’s writing ePortfolio, both individually and with the student. As a team, they will decide what writing pieces best displays their learning as well as the student’s areas for more growth. When the school year is done, next year’s teacher can move their new students’ writing to their Dropbox files from the previous year’s teacher’s files.

It is both exciting and scary when I think about the shift we are making to improve this part of our assessment system. Although portfolios have never been this accessible by parents and multiple staff members, the concept itself is nothing new. Richard Allington devotes a whole section of his book Schools That Work to this tool for measuring student learning. He describes multiple types of portfolios to use for different purposes. The type we are using are called progress portfolios. They show growth over time by housing pre- and post-assessments, periodic student surveys, interviews and reflections on goals, quick writes, several drafts of the same writing project, running records and retells.

At this point you may be thinking, “Get to the apps already.” But without a framework for using these technology tools, we would most likely end up with a fractured, inconsistent system for collecting and assessing student work. One process I like, also promoted by Allington, is by Allan DeFina in his resource Portfolio Assessment: Getting Started. Here are the steps he recommends for implementing portfolios in schools, followed by my school’s actions in parenthesis:

1. Explain and educate (both teachers and parents).

2. Decide how to and when (with mobile technology, collect one piece of writing per student per month).

3. Demonstrate and decide (model using ePortfolios at staff meetings and parent nights; decide as a staff what standard(s) and genres we will focus on).

4. Establish the role of portfolios in grading (student information is being stored in a third party application, so grades will not be assigned).

5. Rethink the classroom environment (in the cloud; accessible from any Internet-enabled device).

6. Organize (block out time during the school day for students to conference with their teacher on their portfolio’s content).

I can remember teaching not that long ago. Portfolio conferences would be coming up and, later than we should have, the students and I would throw together some semblance of a collection of their work. I generally refer to this dance as the “portfolio shuffle”. By conference time, the portfolios looked great, but they were just for show. Very little reflection and subsequent learning occured during the process. I know, I know, I should have been better about taking time during the year to have students reflect on their writing periodically. But I got busy. And I wasn’t working in a professional learning community, which would have helped me stay more on top of this assessment process.

With that, the goal of this initiative, with regular collaboration, is to develop and sustain online student portfolios in order to see growth in student learning over time while it is happening. Today’s parents want to be more involved in their child’s development at school. It is well explained in Why Social Media Matters by Kitty Porterfield and Meg Carnes. Parents now have multiple devices in which they can access this information. The authors also point to research that shows prior education, background and income level of parents are not as prohibitive for families to connect online as one might assume. All the proof you need can be found in the parent waiting area in your school, just before dismissal. This change to ePortfolios is timely with emerging technologies.

The apps pictured below are the tools we believe will help us achieve our goal.

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The Hub
[huhb] a center around which other things revolve or from which they radiate

Dropbox

You may already be familiar with Dropbox, so I’ll save the description. But why Dropbox and not Evernote or Google Drive to house student writing? Several reasons, specific to our building:

1. Dropbox is the easiest application for both teachers and parents to use. The files in Dropbox more resemble what the teachers see in their shared drive through a district server. The leap from their computer files to Dropbox is a shorter one.
2. Dropbox can accept all types of files without altering their original format. Evernote and Google Drive can also do this, but there is some maneuvering involved to be sure they stay the same.
3. All three allow the teacher to share files with parents. Unfortunately Google doesn’t play well with Apple. Evernote is much better, but requires a lot more training to understand what a “tag”, “notebook” or “stack” is.
4. Both Google and Evernote have a “for Dummies” book written for it. Universal truth: If you have one of these books written about your product, it is not ridiculously easy to use. Dropbox is. The initial goal here is to better communicate student learning, not necessarily to learn a new technology.
5. Each student can have a file assigned to them in Dropbox, along with several files within it for the different months, again to show growth over time.

Easy Portfolio

Developed by physical education teacher Jarrod Robinson, this app provides an easy-to-use interface to document student work. This is not limited to photos or documents only. Links to blog posts, audio of a student retell and video of a group presentation can all be recorded and uploaded to Dropbox. There is a companion app by the same company called Easy Assessment. It allows the user to create rubrics and score students on their work. Because we are just starting ePortfolios, we won’t be using that tool at this time.

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Essential Apps
[uh-sen-shuhl] absolutely necessary; indispensable

Camera and Photos

These native apps are used to snap a picture or take a video of anything and save it on the device. Dropbox connects with your camera roll in Photos and can upload this information. That means a teacher can take a picture of every student’s writing and then save it in Dropbox for later reading. No more heavy bags filled with stacks of papers to take home. As well, students can now either take their writing home if completed right away, or post it on a community bulletin board. The teacher no longer has to run a copy of each piece so he or she can grade one and post the other.

Snapseed and Skitch

Whenever a teacher has a few minutes to score some papers, these apps allow the user to adjust the pictures (Snapseed) and write feedback plus a time stamp right on the photo of the student’s work (Skitch). Save it back to the camera roll and upload it again to Dropbox.

Pages

Now that iOS 6 has arrived, Pages allows the user to upload documents to Dropbox. This update sealed the deal for me. Pages is so versatile in creating documents such as reports and newsletters. So how would a teacher use this to document student writing? At the primary level, the teacher could do some shared writing and save it in each student’s file. It can then serve as a strong example of what that type of writing should look like. For older students, they could email a Word document to their teacher, who can then open it in Pages and subsequently upload it to Dropbox.

iMovie

Speaking and listening are also a part of the CCSS. Even though Easy Portfolio has the capacity to take video of student conversations, iMovie has a lot more functionality to develop presentations. Both photos and video can be combined with text and audio to create movies that can be shared not only in Dropbox but also through YouTube and Vimeo. This may be the only app needed to assess students in their presentation skills.

Other Valuable Apps

Dragon

This dictation tool uses speech-to-text technology that allows students to say what they want to write and literally put it into words. Then a student can copy and paste their now written words into a word processing app such as Pages for revision and storage. Especially helpful for younger kids and students with disabilities.

iCardSort

You can put students’ names and notes on separate cards and sort them based on specific academic skills you are working on with them. Guided reading and math groups can easily be organized and monitored. Although a set cannot be uploaded to Dropbox, a teacher could easily take a snapshot of the current group make-up (home + power) and save that photo in a separate file.

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Evernote, Penultimate and Notability

Evernote is widely used by other schools and districts for student ePortfolios. It seems to be utilized more often at the secondary level, although I know many elementary reading teachers use it successfully to take notes when conferring with a student. Penultimate is the handwriting app that works in concert with Evernote. Notability is another excellent tool for recording and documenting important student information. It is an app that talks with Dropbox. I recently wrote a post about all three applications for assessment.

Book Creator and iBooks

Book Creator allows students to do just as it states: Create their own books. Pictures, text and narration can all be incorporated to write original eBooks. It can be saved into iBooks with the sound still a part of the book, and stored in Dropbox as a PDF. Even if your classroom has only one device, a teacher could write a shared story or nonfiction text to show students the writing process.

Keynote and GoodReader

The CCSS asks students to analyze and respond to multiple texts from different sources and genre. Teachers can model this with Keynote and GoodReader. With Keynote, a teacher could create a slideshow displaying multiple examples of original student work on a singular topic. He or she could then think aloud the process of comparing and contrasting the writings and generating common themes and understandings found. This could be a very effective strategy at the primary level. For older students, GoodReader could serve the same purpose. Original documents related to the content areas such as history can be marked up, highlighted and annotated. GoodReader can also connect with Dropbox for uploading purposes.

Skype (or Google+)

With the video conferencing capabilities of these applications, authors, scientists and other professionals can visit classrooms at a fraction of the cost of an in-person visit, many times free. If the chat is displayed on the interactive whiteboard (IWB) using mirroring technology such as Reflection, the discussion could be recorded and saved for later viewing and research.

Calendar and Reminders

I throw these tools in because it is important to schedule assessment during the instructional day. Calendar can be synced with your online schedule, and Reminders serves as a “to-do” list with built-in alerts.

Final, and Initial Thoughts

In Leading School Change, Todd Whitaker wisely states, “I have spoken about leading change. However, I hope your efforts really involve leading improvement.” As the principal, I will continuously point out that we are learning together throughout the process. We have built in time to showcase our successes and celebrate small victories along the way. As well, we are not changing just because we want to present ourselves as 21st century educators. The concept of ePortfolios has the potential to allow us to better connect with our families, to more closely align our instruction and assessments, and to develop highly collaborative teams to improve student learning. The possibilities that this technology provides makes it an exciting time to be an educator.

References

Allington, Richard and Patricia Cunningham. 2002. Schools That Work: Where All Children Read and Write. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Calkins, Lucy, Mary Ehrenworth, and Christopher Lehman. 2012. Pathways to the Common Core. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

DeFina, Allan. 1992. Portfolio Assessment: Getting Started. New York: Scholastic.

Porterfield, Kitty and Meg Carnes. 2012. Why Social Media Matters. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Whitaker, Todd. 2010. Leading School Change. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.

Engagement as a Reading Intervention

What would happen if, rather than focusing on teaching reading strategies, we focused instead on getting students engaged?

Peter Johnston provides this lead to one of the best blog posts I have read. Titled Reducing Instruction, Increasing Engagement, he describes a group of 8th graders who were given edgy fiction to read and discuss with peers during school. It seemed more like a book club instead of 7th Hour English. At the end of the year, assessments revealed that these students, with only one to three copies of each text, scored very well on achievement tests. At least as important, student behaviors decreased, trust among peers increased, and they reported being more happy.

Shortly after discovering this post on Stenhouse’s blog, I found out that my school could not host our computer-based after school reading intervention program for 4th and 5th grade students this year. Instead of canceling it all together, we are attempting to simulate the same set up that Peter describes. We are going to purchase limited copies of age-appropriate, high interest books. The only expectation we have for students is they show up, they read, and they share what they are reading with their peers in a way they prefer most. No tests. No book reports. Just lots of reading and enjoyment.

The adults must also think this looks like fun, as several staff members have already signed up to facilitate this reading intervention/book club. My reading resource teacher and ELL aide are waiting patiently for their purchase order to arrive so they can go to our favorite book store, Book Look in Plover, WI, to pick out the reading materials.

My question to you is, what books would you recommend for 4th and 5th grade reluctant readers?

Please share your suggestions in the comments. My interventionists look forward to your recommendations!

My Teachers’ Checklist for the Beginning of the Year

I am sharing this checklist with my staff on Wednesday, six days before students arrive.

Within First Day

Give students a tour of the school
Know all their names and get to know each other
Explain school expectations and start to build classroom rules
Provide a classroom environment conducive for learning and success
– Physical (light, temperature, space, noise)
– Adequate Planning
– Structure
– Scheduling

By Friday of First Week

Build a community of learners (RC, Tribes, other team builders)
Teach Cool Tools, fire and tornado drill, Code Red and Yellow
Ensure success for all students on first academic activity
Set academic goals with students and/or families
Identify students’ strengths, interests, needs (Maslow)
Start content area instruction with pre-assessments

Before End of First Month

Post learning targets as a grade level
Structure classroom so kids are reading and writing 50% of the time
Differentiate instruction as needed so all students can be successful
Observe and practice collaboration skills (whole staff)
Communicate positively, two-way with your families
Plan to meet regularly on building teams (grade level and vertical)
Start developing classroom look-fors for literacy and numeracy
Build relationships with students, knowing their motivations and triggers
Develop a Plan B when students don’t respond to regular instruction
Read “Six Elements for Every Child” by Richard Allington

Questions I Have

What is missing?

What have I left out that should be missing?

Are my expectations too high?

Are my expectations not high enough?

What should be added?

What should be subtracted?