Monday, July 29, 2013

Preparing for a Paperless Year!

I am in full-blown pre-planning mode. We officially reported back to school on Thursday, and I'll have 27 fourth grade students in my classroom on August 1. It's crazy to think about how fast this summer has gone and how much work is still ahead.

This will be the first year that I will attempt to go paperless from day 1. Last year, we only had 1:1 iPads for the last 6 weeks of school, so it was after we had established many of our routines and procedures for the year. As I prepare for this shift, I'm linking up with the Tune into Technology linky to share my plans for management and organization.

Managing the Students

1. Number the technology
I assign students numbers 1-27 on the first day of school. We use these numbers for everything -- mailboxes, book bins, lining up, etc. We'll also use them for the iPads. Each student will be assigned the iPad corresponding with their number, so they'll always know which one to use and which slot to put it back in when we clean up.

2. Build Classroom Norms and Routines
We'll develop some essential agreements about the iPads before we even get them out. I'll let the students decide on the rules, with a little extra guidance as necessary. The items that we'll need to touch on will include:
  • how to get the iPad out of the cart
  • moving around the classroom with the iPad
  • using the iPad appropriately (following directions, etc.)
  • putting the iPad away
You can read my previous posts on this here and here.

3. Develop a common vocabulary for the buttons and gestures, and teach some basic actions.

We'll talk about the different buttons on the iPad and their functions. We'll also talk about how they can be used together to take screenshots and quickly navigate from one app to the next. For more information about how I do this, check out my TpT freebie (the very first thing I ever made for TpT!).

4. Give time to explore
The first writing assignment my students will have this year will be to write an informational piece (either descriptive or how-to) about an app of their choosing. By giving them this assignment, I'm giving them time to play around with the iPad and explore the available apps while also getting a baseline writing sample. This has the added benefit of cultivating "experts" about the different apps among the students.

We actually start school on a Thursday this year, and I intend to get all of this started during those first two days.

Organizing Myself

As I prepare for my paperless year, there are a few items I'm working on before the students even arrive. This will help me be ready to go on day #1.

1. Create a stack of Evernote notebooks for all of my students.

I'm planning to keep all of my conferring notes, work samples, and other relevant data in Evernote this year. To prepare for that, I've created an Evernote notebook for each student, and I have them clustered together in a "stack" so that all of my homeroom students are together.

Since I anticipate using this system for many years, I'm formatting the notebook names as "2013 - Last name, First name." That way, I won't get confused when I'm quickly looking for the notebooks for this year's students as opposed to last year's. I've also created one additional notebook called "2013-2014 Overview." Listing both years ensures that the notebook will be on top of my stack when they're sorted alphabetically, and I'll use this notebook to keep track of notes and documents that pertain to the whole class. 

You can read more about setting up Evernote notebooks in my paperless series.

2. Create a checklist template for my class.

This will also be done in Evernote.

I like to have a checklist of my class roster available whenever I'm collecting forms or tracking important information. I'll make a blank checklist now, and then I can copy and paste it into future notes as needed. This is a huge time-saver down the road for me.

3. Make sure that my Dropbox folders are set up for distributing student work.

Although there are plenty of learning management systems available, I strongly prefer Dropbox for distributing assignments to students just because it's so easy on my end. All I had to do was create a folder titled "Student Assignments."

Once the daily folders are set up within the Student Assignments folder, I can share all of the folders through a link on my class website, and students can easily access everything they'll need for daily assignments. To read a complete step-by-step tutorial for how to do this, check out my previous post.

Since I set this up at the end of last year, all I needed to do was empty out the assignments I gave to last year's class so that I can start fresh this year.

4. Create a class on Class Dojo.

Class Dojo is an excellent online classroom management app that I'll be utilizing more this year. I'll tell you more about how I'm integrating it with my classroom economy in a future post, but for now, all I need to do is input my student roster and print out home access codes for my students and their parents. Then it will be all set to go.

5. Create a new group on Edmodo and prepare a welcome message.

(Edmodo has totally changed its app icon, btw. Check it out!)

I'll be using Edmodo to collect student assignments, give quizzes, conduct class discussions, and take polls. I'll need to have a group code ready to give students for the first day so they can sign up, and I'll want them to have something to see and do immediately when they log in for the first time.

Once I finish these 5 steps, I think I'll be ready to start the year. I have to admit, I find prepping for a paperless classroom far easier than what I experienced in the past. I'm looking forward to going on this journey with my students this year, and I can't wait to share all of the learning we'll have in store for us. It's going to be a fantastic school year!

Can't wait to read about how others are organizing and managing technology in their classrooms. Be sure to check out the other posts in the Tune into Technology linky, and have a great week!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Word Nerds Book Study - Chapter 7

By the time you read this, I will be officially back to work.

Yes, you read that correctly. My preplanning started today, and I will have students in my classroom on August 1st.

I've been super-busy preparing my classroom and wrapping up summer projects (and lamenting the number of projects that I never even got started). I'm looking forward to sharing more about that in the next couple of weeks. Today, however, I'm excited to participate in the book study of Word Nerds. This book study is being hosted by Sabra at Teaching with a Touch of Twang, and I would definitely encourage you to check out the previous posts at her blog and link up. This is a fantastic book for improving vocabulary instruction.

Chapter 7 - Spreading Vocabulary Wings

This chapter is all about additional classroom activities that can enhance students' vocabulary understandings. The authors make a few key recommendations.

1. Extend Vocabulary Through Morphology
Encouraging students to analyze affixes and roots can build their confidence as they tackle more multisyllabic words. Start with the most common prefixes (un-, re-, dis-, etc.) and build from there. Once students have experienced a few weeks of studying Greek and Latin roots, they can participate in a "Crystal Ball Word" activity in which they look closely at a word's morphology to predict its meaning. For example, with the word "transportation," students can break it up into "trans-," "port," and "-ation" and think of all the words that use the same prefix, root, or suffix. They discuss word connections as they make lists of related words, and from this one word, the students in the book were able to think of 41 words that share a similar morpheme! These sorts of word attack strategies are valuable to students as they tackle new vocabulary on their own.

2. Connect Background Knowledge and Facilitate Comprehension
Drawing on the comprehension strategies of making connections, this section highlights how important it is for students to be able to have a variety of experiences with words when they're trying to make sense of a complex text. For example, as students are attempting to make inferences from the text, they should be explicitly coached to add vocabulary words to make connections based on clues from the text and the student's background knowledge. This gives students an opportunity to practice using the new vocabulary and adds additional layers of meaning to the words they're learning. This could be an especially useful practice if you're trying to connect literature with content vocabulary. The example in the book highlights how some relevant social studies vocabulary (immigrant, culture, destination, etc) could be applied and connected to the book Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say.

3. Extend Vocabulary Development with Children's Literature
Picture books, with their shorter texts, less complicated plots, and amazing artwork, can be tremendous resources for teaching reading strategies. The authors highlight why this is also true for vocabulary instruction, and they highlighted several vocabulary-rich children's books that could be used. Here are a few of my favorites:

Pirate Pete's Talk Like a Pirate by Kim Kennedy tells the tale of a pirate who is looking to build a crew. But while Pirate Pete talks in "aargh's" and plank-walking language, the rascals he's recruiting talk in very sophisticated sentences with eloquent vocabularies. This may be used as a metaphor for how we want to elevate our students' writing and speaking away from "pirate-talk" and into the more elevated words of the rascals. Students practice revising sentences from pirate sentences into rascal sentences, and after several days of study, students can have a "Pirate Party" where they compete to "Talk Like a Rascal."

13 Words by Lemony Snicket takes 13 seemingly unrelated words and interweaves them into an amusing story. This could be a template for a student writing assignment which would require students to select 13 unrelated content vocabulary words and tie them into a story in the style of Lemony Snicket. I'm looking forward to trying this activity with my own students.

Baloney (Henry P.) by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith tells the tale of a boy in space who is late for school and needs to come up with an excuse for his teacher. As he describes his adventures, he inserts a bunch of words that sound like nonsense words (szkola, zimulis, etc.), but they're actually words from different languages. This is a great book for introducing strategies for teaching context clues.

Max's Words by Kate Banks is a great story for building word consciousness among students. It tells the tale of a boy who begins collecting words cut out of magazines and newspapers. He eventually realizes he can rearrange the words into stories, and he becomes the envy of his siblings.

The Odious Ogre by Norton Juster tells the tale of an ogre who has an extensive vocabulary that he uses as he terrorizes the town. Given the number of multisyllabic words incorporated in the text, it could be easily incorporated into studies of Greek and Latin roots and morphemes.

Word Nerds has so many great suggestions for easy ways to incorporate vocabulary instruction. These books were just a few of the ones mentioned, so I would recommend reading this chapter for some additional ideas. And be sure to visit Teaching with a Touch of Twang for additional suggestions and insights in this fabulous book.

Back to pre-planning! Thanks for visiting!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and/or believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Atlanta Blogger Meet Up

Yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting some fantastic teacher-bloggers as part of the Atlanta Blogger Meet-Up.

If you ever get a chance to meet up with other teacher-bloggers, I'd highly recommend doing it! It was wonderful to meet so many sweet and enthusiastic teachers who share similar interests, and now I can finally match names and faces with the blogs that I read all the time.

We met at the Swan Coach House in Atlanta for brunch, and it was wonderful. Amanda from Collaboration Cuties made us each a placemat with everyone's name on it.

And Stacia (the other half of Collaboration Cuties) made us name tags.

Jivey from Ideas by Jivey made us a little goodie jar filled with treats of both the sugary and teachery kinds.

And Elizabeth (Fun in Room 4B) and Brandee (Creating Lifelong Learners) made us this adorable to do list that is dry erase. 

There were 9 of us in all, and I'm so glad that I went. I'm typically a really shy person, but it felt like I was getting together with old friends! I'm so grateful to be a part of the teacher blogger community, and I love learning from other teachers. This group in particular has so much to offer, and if you don't already follow each of these bloggers, you're definitely missing out.

From left to right:
Stacia & Amanda - Collaboration Cuties
Elizabeth - Fun in Room 4B

If you missed out on the meet up, no worries -- I have confidence that this will become an annual tradition. And for those of you who are interested in classroom technology, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is holding its annual conference in Atlanta next summer on June 28 - July 1. Wouldn't it be great to have a teacher blogger meet up around that? 

After lunch, most of us ventured to Ikea where I once again spent too much money on my classroom despite not needing anything in particular. I'd show you all of my finds, but I'm going to wait until my complete classroom reveal. Given that I start preplanning THIS THURSDAY and have students on August 1, that really won't be too long to wait!

Have a great week!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Paperless Mission #12: Collecting Student Work

This is the twelfth installment in my Go Paperless! Challenge Series. You can check out the other entries in the series here. Also be sure to link up with my Paperless Challenge Linky!

Mission #12: Collecting Student Work

Recently, I shared how I distribute student assignments through Dropbox. Today I'm going to share how students turn in those assignments. To do that, I primarily use Edmodo.

Once you've created an assignment in Edmodo, students will be able to see it as they log-in.

If it's just a text-based assignment, they can type the text in the comment section and submit it.

Often, however, my assignments tend to require them to include an attachment of some sort. These can fall into a couple different categories.

Photos & Movies

The Edmodo app allows you to load photos directly from your camera roll as an attachment. Just select "Attach: File."

Documents produced in other apps (e.g., Pages, Keynote, etc.)

This process has a couple extra steps, but it's still easy to accomplish. First, students will need to load the item into their backpack. This is normally accomplished through the "Share and Print" option in the original app. For example, in Pages, you have the option to "Open in Another App."

This will result in the file being added to the student's Edmodo "backpack." Once it's there, students can attach it to an assignment by choosing "Attach: Backpack."

Once the items are selected, students get to rate the assignment using the emoticons and click "Turn In Assignment."

From my perspective, it's a dream. I don't have to worry about receiving "No Name" papers, and I can quickly grade and comment on student work that's turned in.

Apprentice Guides

One of my back to school projects is to make step-by-step tutorials to help students (and teachers) with some of these iPad tasks. The first one is on Turning In Assignments from Pages to Edmodo and you can download a copy of it here.

I apologize that the image quality isn't perfect -- it lost something when I uploaded it to Google Drive for sharing, but it's still very functional. (I'll share higher-quality imaged versions later when I get more completed.)

What programs do you use to collect student work electronically in your classroom? I'd love to hear in the comments section.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

5 Ways to Use iPads in Math

Today I'm linking up with the Tune into Technology Linky to share some ways to integrate technology in Math. Since I teach in a 1:1 iPad fourth grade classroom, I'll focus on how we use iPads in Math.

1. Build a Math Notebook in Evernote

Evernote is my all-time favorite note-taking app, and that extends to math as well. In addition to typing text notes, students can attach documents (handouts, activities, etc) that they've viewed on their iPads and they can also take pictures through the app or attach pictures from the camera roll. That's helpful when they build models with manipulatives and want to archive their work.

2. Reinforce concepts or conduct inquiry research with math movies.


Khan Academy

Two of my favorite apps to use in math are BrainPop and Khan Academy. I often use these to introduce a lesson or to differentiate instruction. I often feel like I get stretched pretty thin during math instruction because I have such a range of skills in my classroom, but these apps help. If I'm working with a student and a second student needs help, I can direct that student to a video on Khan Academy and encourage the student to see if that will help him or her figure out the problem until I can get there. Often the additional examples help the student understand the problem better.

3. Make math movies to assess understanding
Show Me

Explain Everything
I often ask students to show their solution to a problem on an app like Show Me or Explain Everything. There they can model their thinking using pictures or drawings, and they can record their voice as they explain their work. I learn so much about their understandings through their explanations, and it helps to assess the Standards for Mathematical Practice included in the Common Core.

4. Make a Vocabulary Notebook in Keynote


I like to use Keynote for their math vocabulary because we can create slides that use the Frayer Model for vocabulary instruction. In addition to typing definitions, examples, and non-examples, they can draw their own pictures on a whiteboard app, take a screenshot, and add them to the slide. They can also search for real-world examples to photograph and add. Once they're finished, they can easily alphabetize their entries by rearranging the slides.

5. Use QR codes
Our math word wall has QR codes linking to the definitions of each term so students can quiz themselves about the meaning of a term or review terms they've forgotten. If you click on the image below, you can get a freebie example of this for the properties of multiplication.

My complete sets for grade 4, grade 5, and 4/5 combo are available at my TpT store.

We've also written riddles in Geometry where students could scan a QR code to find the answer. You can read my post about that here.

And we've used QR codes to help check homework assignments. I've written about that here.

I'm really just scratching the surface here -- there are so many other possibilities and several math specific apps to use, but I'll save those for future posts. I'm excited to read other examples of integrating technology into math, though, and if you haven't visited the linky yet, you definitely should. I got so many great ideas for reading and writing from it last week!

How do you use technology in Math?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Blog Hunting

Today I was hoping to link up with Laura Candler's Corkboard Connections Blog Hunt, but it seems that linky closed already [sadface].  Still, I want to share a little about what I'm using as my Google Reader alternative and why.

In my mind, this is a battle between BlogLovin' and Feedly.


I'll confess that I didn't move over to this platform initially. As soon as I caught wind a few months ago that Google Reader was dying, I quickly packed up and moved over to Feedly. With all of the recent push in the teacher-blogger community toward BlogLovin', however, I decided to give it another try.

What I like
As a blogger, there are a few features that I really like about BlogLovin'. 

1. Notifications and Blog Finding
I like that I can get notifications when new people start following me. I also like that when I click on those notifications, I can see what other blogs people are reading. I've stumbled upon some great new-to-me blogs that way over the past few days. 

2. Viewing actual blogs
Rather than seeing a stripped down version of someone's blog, I can see the actual website in a BlogLovin frame. This allows for easy commenting when I want to leave comments. It also lets me see how cute everyone's blog is these days.

What I dislike
1. Too many clicks
It seems like it takes forever to navigate sometimes, and I'm constantly clicking to mark things read, jump between blogs, and if I actually leave a comment on a blog, I lose my place in BlogLovin and have to start over with the remaining unread blogs. I subscribe to hundreds of blogs, so I have to be efficient when I'm looking at content. 

2. It's still buggy
I tried to go back and organize the blogs that I read into categories the other night, and I found that BlogLovin wasn't saving my organizational changes for blogs unless I categorized them as soon as I started following them. That was annoying. I also noticed that some blogs that I'm certain I was already following were showing up as unfollowed. Others were showing up multiple times in my reading list. I suspect that a lot of these bugs will improve -- I saw iPad updates for the app yesterday, so I know they're working on it, but I wish a lot of these features were already working better.


Since I've been using this for a few months already, I'll openly confess that I'm a bit biased. It may also be the case that I've got this platform more figured out than BlogLovin, and some of the "advantages" of Feedly may exist in BlogLovin, too. But here's what I've found...

What I like
1. Better app integration
There are several different apps that I like to use when I'm reading blogs (and in this case, I'm talking about web-based apps, not iPad apps).

Pinterest - Feedly has Pinterest integration built in, so I can hover over an image and pin it straight from Feedly. The pin will link back to the original blog.

Buffer - Buffer is an app that I use to schedule Tweets so that they're spaced out throughout the day rather than sent all at once as I read blogs. If I read a blog post that I really like, I'll send it to Buffer to share with others.

IFTTT - If This Then That is an app that sets up certain actions based on commands that I give. For example, if I star an article that I like in Feedly, it will automatically send it to my Evernote notebook with tags that I set. There's a whole list of IFTTT recipes for Feedly here

Evernote - I can send items straight to my Evernote notebook from Feedly as one of the sharing options.

2. Easy navigation
There are lots of easy keyboard shortcuts to use to go through articles when I'm reading on my computer, and it's very easy to organize articles in categories. Even when I'm behind in my blog reading, I can get through it pretty quickly without feeling like I'm missing important content.

3. Marking articles
I know I can "heart" articles on BlogLovin, but I can mark articles on Feedly for later with specific tags that make them easier for me to find. For me, that's a better equivalent to starring articles on Google Reader, and I did that a lot.

What I dislike
1. Somethings get lost in translation
Sometimes the pictures don't get pulled into Feedly correctly (which might not be Feedly's fault), and I probably miss out on some cool content because of it.

2. Commenting is more complicated
I still have to click to go to the external link of the original blog post to comment or read comments. This is especially complicated when I'm using the iPhone or iPad apps. When I'm on a mobile device, I usually mark the article I want to comment on for later and check it out when I'm back to my computer.

And the winner is...Feedly, mostly

At least for now, I'm sticking with Feedly. I still like visiting BlogLovin' to find new blogs to follow, but my new strategy is to follow on BlogLovin', and then I add it to a list called "On My Feedly." Then I add the blog to one of my reading lists on Feedly. Then when I go into BlogLovin', I can immediately mark the "On My Feedly" list as read because I'll know I've seen it all on Feedly. There are a bunch of new blogs that I started following as I was trying out BlogLovin' that aren't on my Feedly list yet, so that will be a process to move those over. It's not a perfect system, but I expected some growing pains in the transition. 

I'm going to continue to use BlogLovin to discover new blogs because that's a huge benefit in my mind.

Where did you land in the Google Reader alternative battle? I'd love to hear what you chose and why in the comments section! 

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