Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Edmodo Teacher Guide

Hey all,

I have been using Edmodo for years now, and I do think that it is a good tool for students to be able to communicate with one another online.  It is an important skill for students to have a firm grip of in today's technology saturated world.

When doing some research for a Digital Citizenship Unit I am doing with my classes right now, I came across a really good resource for those new to Edmodo.  It is an Edmodo Teacher's Guide that shows you (with screenshots) how to set up and manage your Edmodo classes!

(screenshot from link below)

Happy Wednesday,
Ashley :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Peer Feedback Strategies

This year, as an AIG teacher, I am going into my 3rd grade classes to teach a one-week unit to the entire class.  During this unit, 3D Doodles, we create a doodle on paper, and then we turn it into a stuffed doodle (similar to a stuffed animal).  The great part of this lesson is that it uses only materials found in a classroom- tape, kleenex, paper and colored pencils or crayons.

I love everything about this lesson.  It is well worth the $3!  When finishing up the 3D doodle creation portion of the unit, I wanted my students to give feedback to each other, but for it also to be fun.  I came across a few different peer feedback ideas, so I thought I'd share them with you.

Stars and Wishes
I had students fold a piece of paper in half and write Stars on one side and Wishes on the other.  They left their stuffed doodle on their desk with this paper.  Then we had about 15 minutes where we walked around and wrote Stars (things students did well) and Wishes (improvements that could be made- use the statement "I wish...").

I did this with a 3rd grade class and it worked well!  Before we did this peer feedback though, we discussed what types of specific feedback we could give to others about their doodle.  We brainstormed a list and kept it up on the SMARTboard during the Gallery walk around the room. This way, students could use some of the ideas we brainstormed to help them give thoughtful, specific feedback.  Also make sure to remind them to only add kind feedback.

Finally I modeled what a specific piece of feedback would be for one of the student's doodles for Stars and Wishes.  This helped to cement the idea of written feedback.

TAG (Tell something you like, Ask a question, Give a suggestion)
This is a cool strategy I'd like to try with 4th and up- I think it is simple but also effective.  I will still model what it should look like when commenting and also discuss specific feedback with students.

Comments and Questions & The Spectacular Now and Next Time are also great feedback strategies I'd like to try.

What Peer Feedback Strategies do you use?

Happy Tuesday,
Ashley :)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Encouraging Voracious Reading

I love the term "voracious reader."  It sounds almost like you are a rabid animal that loves to read.  In fact, sometimes I feel like that when I have an amazing book that I just can't put down! :)

This is a long post, but worth the read if you want to help your students to read more.  There are a couple of freebies at the end of the post! :)

So many times, I get told by parents, "My child really doesn't like reading," or "My child loves to read, but doesn't read very much."  They always want to know how they can get their child to read more, and I love that they are involved in this part of their child's life.

I think that there are several main reasons why kids (and adults) don't read very much:
-Too much TV, video games, phone time, etc.  There are simply too many distractions for us all these days and it's easy to get sucked into doing meaningless things for extended periods of time if we are not conscious about it.

-Busy schedules and excuses.  I get it.  You're busy. You're student is busy.  We're all so stinking busy!  But take the time to think about how much time you spend on social media sites and ask your students to do the same (every 5 minutes here and there is nickle and diming you to death!), video games, computer time,taking breaks from homework to hang around your room, or how much time your're spending doing things that aren't really necessary.  Books are easy to carry anywhere- read while waiting at the doctor's office, for practice to begin, etc.  Steal minutes back from your day to read!

-Your student doesn't know him/herself as a reader and/or does not know how to find good books they'd really enjoy to read.

How to help your child or student choose a great book:
Talk with your student about
-what they like to think about, dream about, and play at recess and at home
-what they like to do; sports, instruments, drama, clubs, etc.
-what movies and TV shows they like to watch (are they funny, sad, action-packed, mystery, etc.).

From this information, even if you are not knowledgeable about children's literature, you should be able to do a Google search to find a book that your child will enjoy.  Also, find other parents, teachers, or students who read A LOT.  These people are going to be key in helping you to find the right book for this student.

Before you recommend a book to a student, make sure the book is on their approximate reading level.  If you are not sure what their reading level is, try the 5 finger rule.  (Have students read the first full page of the book.  If they make 5 or more mistakes, the book is probably too difficult for them.  After I do this test with them, I ask the student how he or she feels about the difficulty of the book.  If they feel comfortable with it, I will usually let them try it. Use you best judgement.)

Many times, I will do a Goodreads search.  Their lists are GREAT ways to find new books you might like.  All I do is type in Google "books similar to (a book I really liked)" and usually a Goodreads book list will come up that will give you recommendations of other books similar to the book you liked.

Goal Setting
I've taught many different things in my nine years of teaching, but one thing has remained constant, if you don't have a goal, you have nothing to reach toward, and you will not achieve as much as you could have.

This is especially true in regards to reading.  I'll be honest with you, before this year, I never set a goal for myself in reading.  I always read a few books a year (maybe 5-10 books) and I felt ok with that.  But when I realized that my students (whom I was giving class time to read) were only finishing about that many a year or less as well, I got really frustrated with the situation.

Then I realized that it was my fault.  (I hate when that happens!)  I read a book, The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, and she talked about having a goal for your reading each year.  In 6th grade, she suggests 40 books- I think any grades 3-8 can read 40 books in one year, but their level of text difficulty will vary throughout the grades.

Over the summer, I set a goal for myself to read 30 books, and I did! I was so proud of myself, and I read some really great books!  Not only that, but every book I read made me even hungrier for new books.  So I decided to try it with my gifted and talented students this year.

I made a book log (and a genre requirement), and had my students fill out books whenever they finished them.  They choose ALL of the books they read.  I've found this to be key in helping them to enjoy reading.  We also briefly talk about the books we are currently reading each week, and I record what book they are currently on, so that I can also help keep them accountable.

I have students who hadn't finished a book in over a quarter, who've now read 4-5 books in the last two quarters, because I am helping to keep them accountable, and because they have a goal.  Talk about your goals every couple of weeks.  Tell your students where you are at with your goals.  Ask them about theirs.  These conversations will be invaluable to their reading lives.

If you want your child to read more during the year, try these strategies:
1.  Set a goal with your child.  Choose a number of books that they should read during the year.  Allow your child to be a part of the process.  Ask them how many books they think they can read during the year.  (4th grade and up should be able to read 40 books during the school year.  3rd grade may be able to as well, but you may need to back that down to 25 or 30.)

2.  Have your child keep track of the books they read throughout the year.  Keep the list in a prominent place in your home.  (ie: on the fridge, on a bulletin board, etc.)

3.  Encourage your child to read different genres.  Have a checklist- try to get them to read at least 2 books from each genre.  This will help them understand different cultures, time periods, concepts, vocabulary, etc.  This builds their background knowledge in huge ways.

4.  Most importantly, you (the parent or teacher) need to read.  Your students (or children) should see you reading and see that it is important to you as well.  If you've never been much of a reader, admit that to your students.  Tell them that you are taking this reading journey with them.  Set a realistic but high goal for yourself.  Keep track of the books you read and put your reading log in a prominent place, next to theirs.

One of the most important things in a child's reading life is for them to see that adults around them, parents, grandparents, teachers, etc.  value reading.  Talk about books with your students- this will go with them for the rest of their lives!

Happy reading,
Ashley :) 

40 Book Challenge Bundle
Want to try the 40 Book Challenge with your classroom or a small group of students?  Check out my 40 Book Challenge Bundle below.  It has everything you'll need to get started with the 40 Book Challenge!  You can start this challenge at any time of the year.  The first year I did the challenge with my students, we started in December, and we set our own goals.... the cool thing was, most of us read 40 books between December and June!  There's no time like the present to start! :)

Wide Reading

Good morning! :)

I wanted to post something today on a very important topic, Wide Reading.  To me, Wide Reading is the new term for someone who is "well read."

Wide reading is basically reading a lot of texts throughout the year in many different genres.  If you only read mainly one or two genres, you are missing out on a lot!  Wide reading is challenging yourself to read stories, books, articles and texts from genres you would not normally choose to read.

When you do this, you will gain much more knowledge than you would by reading books or texts from the same genre.  Some of the main things you will learn from reading widely are:

-building your vocabulary, background and academic knowledge on a wider variety of topics
-helps you understand life experiences better
-stretches your imagination further
-helps you to understand different genres- text structures, plots, characters, etc.

Below is a link to a handout I created for my students about Wide Reading.  You can also find a basic genre list for fiction and non-fiction.

If you are a teacher reading this, challenge your students and yourself to read outside your favorite genres.  I used to have trouble doing this- I never would have thought I'd enjoy a book about vampires- I have never had a desire to read about them.  But when I opened my mind to reading other genres, I decided to read Twilight, and I LOVED it.  This has happened so many times with books and genres I never thought I'd read.  Keep an open mind, and find a great book from a different genre.  Challenge yourself- you never know what might come of it.

If you are a parent reading this, encourage your child to read more widely- help them find books that are interesting to them in different genres.  Also, if possible, let them see you reading different genres and texts.  This modeling will help encourage them to do the same.

Happy Reading,
Ashley :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

No Name Work

How do you handle wor being turned in with no name on it? 

I've tried a number of different things over the years, some more complicated and time consuming than others. 

A teacher at my school has a simple way of handling no name work- and I love the simplicity of it! 

She has a file folder (stapled shut along 3 edges) taped to her classroom door. This is where she puts all no name work for students to look through. Simple, but effective! 

Do you have a great way to keep up with no name work in your classroom? If so, post a link in the comments below!

Have a great day!
:) Ashley

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Websites & Apps I Use to Stay Organized

Hey Everyone :)

I wanted to share a couple of great websites and apps that I use to stay organized at school.

1.  Evernote 
I cannot say enough good things about this app & website!   I used to be one of those people who had about a thousand sticky notes all over my desk and wall, and at home, all over my nightstand.  My sticky notes contain to-do lists, info I will need soon, etc.  With Evernote, I pretty much rarely use sticky notes any more!

This makes me happy for 2 reasons: 1. I felt really bad for using all of that paper just to throw it away later when my to-do list was completed.  Totally not sustainable.  2.  This year I am at two different schools, and I would have to carry all of those sticky notes with me.  Not sustainable either!

Another reason Evernote is so great is because I keep a tab open on my browser all day on my work computer next to my email tab.  This way I can add to my to-do lists or delete from them when an item is done quickly.

The final reason I love Evernote is because they have an app!  Anytime I am at home and I remember something I need to add to my school to-do list, I can add it right then and there from my smartphone or iPad!  I used to either text it to my email or write it on my notes app and email it to myself.  This saves time and is way easier!

You can organize Evernote in a lot of great ways.  I have one "notebook" for school lists, and one "notebook" for home lists.  I use this app & website daily!  Want to be more organized easier and go paperless for those to-do lists?  Get Evernote!

2.  PlanBook
I came across Planbook a few years back, but was broke beyond broke and couldn't even afford the $12 per year for the membership.  I ended up creating an Excel Lesson Plan sheet (and a couple of other variations on Excel) that kind of mimic the idea of Planbook.

This year I finally purchased a year subscription to Planbook for $12, and could not be happier! You can create your own customized schedule, type up lesson plans, add in Common Core Standards (from a drop down list!), and assign homework all from the website or app!

The amazing thing about the homework portion is that you can put the link to that class' homework on your website, and whatever you put in your Planbook for homework will show up when the student clicks on it.  No double work for assigning homework!

It also saves your lessons from year to year, and if you are out and have a sub, all you have to do is print the day's plans! :)

Another great thing about Planbook is that they have an app! You can write lesson plans and assign homework from your smartphone or iPad! That rocks!

You can get a 1 month FREE trial of Planbook.  I really liked that even though I purchased it halfway through the trial month, they still gave me the free month- so I didn't lose any of my free month by purchasing it early- I like that :)

Let me know what you think about these websites.  What other websites & apps do you use to stay organized?

:) Ashley

Monday, August 25, 2014

Classroom Job Applications- Online!

I love having Classroom Jobs! They are a great way for students to take responsibility and ownership in the classroom while helping you with tedious tasks that eat up a lot of time.

One of my favorite classroom jobs I have is the Classroom Librarian.  I actually have 3 Librarian Positions.  1 Head Librarian, and 2 Classroom Librarians.  The Head Librarian is the person who helps me check books back in once a week before or after school and shelves them.  The other two librarians help students check out books once a week during class on our library day.

I used to have a paper Job Application form that I would have students fill out, but then I figured out an easier way to do that in a paperless way with Google Docs.  Basically, I created a Form and then embedded it into my website.  They fill out the online form and then the answers are sent directly to me! :) Super easy!

I am sharing the form below so that you can edit it as you need.  Please note that I create a different form for each position.  Each month when students would apply for new jobs, I would just delete all of the old information on the forms spreadsheet and use the same Forms again.

Online Classroom Job Application Form 

Here's what the live version looks like:

If you are old-school (as I sometimes am as well ;) and like the paper version, you can visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store for a FREE copy of the form I used.  

If you'd like an EDITABLE version of the form, you are welcome to purchase it from my Teachers Pay Teachers Store HERE.  :) 

Thanks and have a great week! :) Ashley