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Using the B.R.E.A.K. Strategy for Text-Based Responses

31 Mar

In an effort to encourage students to use text-based evidence in their written responses this year, the third grade team in my building started using the B.R.E.A.K. writing strategy. Kudos to my colleague Jill, from Differentiated Drake, who came up with this acronym and strategy. She has some wonderful classroom posters and materials to reinforce this awesome writing strategy, and it has helped our students tremendously!

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Similar to the strategy R.A.C.E. (Restate, Answer, Cite, Explain), the students are prompted to read, understand, and provide text-based evidence in their writing. The students spend extra time BREAKING APART the text and digging deeper into text details. I like this particular strategy because students are encouraged to include more than one evidence detail, and it reinforces paragraph structure!

B – Begin by Reading the Question

R – Restate the Question

E – Evidence Detail

A – Another Evidence Detail (or two!)

K – Key Closing Sentence

Jill (being the fabulously, generous person that she is) decided to make her easy-to-use graphic organizer FREE for all of you. Be sure to leave feedback and check out her other strategy resources. She offers bookmarksposters, and an additional version of her graphic organizer!

(Download the FREE graphic organizer HERE or by clicking the image below.)

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Our third graders are now at the point where they write B.R.E.A.K. at the top of their pages and use it as a cross-off checklist. After completing the response, they also search for each element of B.R.E.A.K. in their own writing and mark the elements with the specific letters.

Below are some examples from a writing response my third graders completed a few weeks ago. The students used the free iPad app Skitch to take pictures of their first drafts and mark-up their responses to show each element of B.R.E.A.K. Later, we transitioned to marking these elements with just our pencils. The Skitch app was a motivating, first-step tool in the revision process for this strategy. (Want to learn more about Skitch? Check out my previous post about this wonderful tool!)

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NOTE: You’ll see that many of the students used “+” symbols for additional evidence-based details. This is helpful for students who include more than two details from the text. 

Students had a menu of sentence starters to use and were encouraged to also use non-fiction text features as evidence to support their answers. Grab my FREE sample of text-based evidence sentence starter cards to use with your students. This is part of my larger Common Core Booster product.

(Download this resource by clicking here or the image below!)

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PLEASE SHARE! — How do you teach students to include text-based details in their writing? Comment below or send me an email! I’m always looking for new ideas! 🙂

Happy Teaching!

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My Paperless Classroom Journey: Notability for Teachers

15 Mar

Slide3If you’ve been following my paperless journey, this is the third post of my Notability blogging mini-series! Over the past few months, I’ve received some wonderful feedback (thank you!), including a bunch of emails from readers asking about how I use Notability as a teacher. It took me a little while to write this post… but here we go!

(Feel free to go back and check out my “Getting Started” and “Digital Resources” posts first, especially if you have NO idea what Notability is!)

Notability for Teachers

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I use Notability in a different way than my students do. On my teacher iPad, I use the app more for data collection and progress monitoring – collecting informal assessments, archiving student work, and recording anecdotal notes. All my students have their own color-coded folders in my app, and I organize the folders by RTI tier and grade-level. You can organize the notes any way that makes sense for you, but I find it’s a great one-spot digital binder of student work samples, audio recordings, and progress notes. I use the notes for parent conferences, data meetings, and quarterly progress reports. It’s much lighter than my 4-inch binder I used to use for data collection, and now I can easily bring my files home with me each night.

Setting Up Student Folders

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Using the “+” symbol at the top of my list of notes, I set up individual folders (“subjects”) for my students, and use the dividers to separate my groups.

Photo Mar 14, 10 47 34 PMYou can edit and reorder the folders, which is especially nice if your groups change, and you can also change the color of the folders. Additionally, I created an extra folder to organize my RTI schedule, group rosters, and student passwords (for easy-to-access information!).

Archiving Previous Progress Notes

Once my folders were set up, I converted my previous notes to a digital format. Some items I scanned and converted into PDFs, but I just took a photo of the remaining items. This allowed me to get rid of my ridiculously hefty data binder and have all my progress notes together in one spot.

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Next year, I will happily skip this step since I intend to start off the year “paperless.”

Student Work Samples

Part of my data collection includes student work samples.

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I snap photos of writing and anything that has not yet made it to my paperless world; however, now that we’re in March and more of my program is paperless, I have students submit screenshots of the work they do on the iPads (e.g., graphic organizers, notes, annotated texts, etc.) via DropItTOMe. I can easily save the student work I wish to archive by importing files from my “DropItTOMe” folder in Dropbox.

Monthly Anecdotal Notes

I typically create a new “note” to record anecdotals each quarter per student.

Photo Mar 14, 10 48 53 PMEven though it adds to the number of notes in the student folders, I’m easily able to find my progress notes for each marking period (which is especially helpful when writing report cards, etc.). It also saves me from having to sift through one giant progress notes document.

Student Assessments & Running Records

I complete most of my diagnostic/skill assessments and progress monitoring digitally on Notability using PDF forms. These include phonemic awareness screenings, sight word assessments, F & P optional assessments, phonics word lists, fluency speed drills, and running records.

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Administering digital running records is my favorite perk of using Notability for data collection. Not only am I be spared from making hundreds of copies of running record forms, but I can use the microphone feature to record the audio of each student reading, as well. While recording, the app keeps track of the time it takes for the student to read, so I can calculate a quick wpm score in the end, too. The students can listen back on their reading to self-assess and reflect, OR you can use it for your progress notes. It’s a powerful tool for analyzing and comparing reading skills quarter-to-quarter.

(NOTE: If a PDF running record form is not available, and I’m doing “on the fly” running records, I just snap a photo of the text and mark errors/substitutions right on the digital image of the page!)

Sharing Notes

With Notability, you can share specific notes via email, Dropbox, or Google Drive. This is helpful for me when I want to share progress notes with a student’s classroom teacher. To do this, go to “Settings” and “Manage Accounts.” It will prompt you to “Log In” to your accounts and then “Accept” the app sharing permissions.

If you choose to back-up your notes to Dropbox (see below), you can also share the specific destination Dropbox folder with other teachers. This will allow them to view or print your notes at any time, without YOU having to share one file at a time!

Backing-Up Your Notes

I set up my Notability folders to automatically back-up to my connected Google Drive account. If the app ever crashes, or my notes somehow “disappear,” I’ll always have a back-up copy of my progress notes. The app saves each note as PDFs to your choice of Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive.

To do this, go to “Settings” and “Auto-Backup.” It will ask which location you wish to back-up your files to. You can also customize your back-ups to only include certain folders and file formats. (You need to already have your accounts set-up through “Manage Accounts” to turn on this feature!)

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As I mentioned above, by backing up your files to Google Drive or Dropbox, you can easily share and add collaborators to your destination folder, or even to specific student folders within the back-up folder. It’s an easy way to collaborate!

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iCloud Syncing

If you have multiple teacher devices, you can easily sync your Notability accounts by turning on the “iCloud” feature under “Settings.” Be sure to do this only with the devices your students do NOT have access to. This is great for teachers who collaboratively work with the same group of students. If you choose to do this, keep in mind, you’ll need to be signed into the same iCloud account and all of your files will be accessible to the other teacher.

Importing Files from Dropbox

So where do I store all my running record and assessment forms, you ask?

Easy, peasy! I use Dropbox to store all my files, and then I import the files from within the Notability app. This cloud-based storage is a great way to keep files accessible, and it’s just a few clicks to import the file into a student’s folder. The best part is, I can choose to import specific pages of a file so that I don’t have keep or sift through 200 page documents in their folders for just the ONE assessment page I need that week. If it’s a page that I plan to use for multiple students in a group, I can duplicate the page in Notability and drag it into each of their folders (saves a lot of time!).

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After you import the pages you need, you can rename the files to better organize your progress notes. For example, if I import just page 2 of my phonics word lists, focusing on just DIGRAPH words, I can rename the file from “Phonics Word List” to “Bobby_Digraphs Word List_3.15.15.”

(NOTE: You can’t have two notes with the same name in Notability, so be prepared to use student names or “_1, _2, _3” at the end of names if necessary. So far, this hasn’t been a problem for me!)

My Dropbox Files & Forms

Running Record Forms — I take pictures of text pages for most of my informal running records, but if you have an LLI kit, you can download the forms from the “Online Resources” website or the DVD’s. If you have a Reading A-Z account, you can download the Benchmark and Fluency running record pages into Dropbox, and then import the pages into Notability, as needed.

Assessments — In addition to running records, I have many diagnostic assessment pages I use throughout the year to monitor student progress.

Here are just a few of the ones I use:

Word Lists & Graphs — I keep all my progress monitoring word lists in Dropbox for easy access. I also keep the blank forms and graphs for keeping track of student progress. (Students also have access to the graphs for their own folders in Notability.)

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Here are a few resources that I use pages from regularly:

I hope this helps you on your paperless journey! Please continue to share your questions and comments at the bottom of this post or via email (msjordanreads@gmail.com). 🙂

Happy Teaching! 

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Navigating Digital Texts With Skitch

28 Feb

Navigating Digital Texts with Skitch - Blog Post by MsJordanReads

This month, as I continue my journey toward a more paperless classroom, I’ve been exploring a collection of new apps for interacting with digital text. As many of you know, Notability has been my app of choice lately (check out my latest post), but I was looking for an app to implement with an entire class of third graders for text annotating, using our building set of iPads. Notability will most likely be our next tool, but I wanted to start off simple with a “stepping stone” app, to teach this larger group of students the foundations of how to annotate text. Enter my new favorite app (drumroll)… Skitch!

skitch

Skitch is fabulous. It is a FREE app from Evernote (available on most devices) that allows students to draw, mark, and annotate images. I don’t actually use with app with Evernote, but apparently the two apps work well together. With this app, students can sketch ideas, mark-up photos, make diagrams, create/label maps, and even annotate text. Really, the possibilities are limitless, and I have more ideas for integration than I know what to do with! (See some of these ideas below.)

Introducing Skitch: 

The Skitch app, which is very user-friendly, enables students to snap their own photos or upload images/screenshots from the web. Personally, I found it easier to start with the camera feature, even if their images were sometimes extremely blurry, cut-off, and not-so-fabulous. Eventually, I will show them how to take screenshots, upload files, and access shared assignments from Dropbox, but for now… simple is better. 🙂

Before jumping into digital texts, I spent some time introducing the students to the app itself. We went over the annotating tools and spent a solid two days just exploring. We practiced taking photos using the camera and practiced using all the tools. We talked about appropriate tools for specific tasks and how not every tool will work for every assignment (as much as I’m sure they’d just love to doodle and draw on everything!).

Download my step-by-step Intro PDF slideshow below to introduce and guide students through capturing images and annotating them. You can display these slides during your introductory lesson and even print student handouts (under “printer preferences,” just select four-to-a-page!).

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For the “Introduction to Skitch” 2-day lesson, I gave the students a choice board of activities. The students had fun creating treasure maps, Skitch selfies, classroom maps. They also went on word hunts within their “Read to Self” books. I modeled each activity and referred to it as “Skitch Tic-Tac-Toe.” Like with many choice boards, the middle square was the must-do activity. I saved that activity for later in the week and used it for our ELA unit lesson of using non-fiction text features to help us understand texts more deeply.

Download this choice board for free by clicking the image below!

Skitch Choice Board_MsJordanReads 2:28:2015

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Introducing Skitch for Text Annotating:

As much as making treasure maps and taking Skitch selfies were fun, we were ready to take Skitch to the next level and use the tool with non-fiction texts. We started with a lesson on labeling non-fiction text features.

Navigating Digital Texts With Skitch (MsJordanReads)

(CREDIT: The image above is from the Scholastic article “Leading the Way” from Scholastic News, Weekly Reader, Edition 3, March 2015 issue.)  

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After labeling all the non-fiction text features, the students used their Skitch-labeled texts to respond to comprehension questions. The idea was for the students to actually use the text features as evidence in their responses. Students also had to make a connection between each text feature they labeled and how it helped them understand the text more deeply.

Download my step-by-step Text Annotating PDF slideshow below to guide students through capturing text images and annotating them. You can display these slides during your lesson and even print student handouts (under “printer preferences,” just select four-to-a-page!).

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TUTORIAL NOTES: I included slides at the end of both slideshow files (“Intro” & “Text Annotating” tutorials) for how to upload Skitch files to Dropbox. This will only be helpful if you have a Dropbox account already linked with your iPads. If you don’t have a Dropbox account yet, you may want to set one up for students to share files.

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Be sure to follow my student directions for uploading to Dropbox because Skitch doesn’t let you rename files, and all the student files will have the SAME file name (definitely a HUGE glitch on their part). I’ve been having an issue with Dropbox overwriting all my Skitch files because Dropbox doesn’t allow two files with the same name in the same folder. Students will need their own folders in Dropbox so that every file can save otherwise it will only save the most recent file uploaded. If this happens, don’t panic like I did — you can still find the files (within 30 days) by clicking on the ONE file and selecting view “previous versions.”(See screenshot below.) You’ll just have to tediously right-click and save each image one-by-one via a desktop computer. {Feel free to email me at msjordanreads@gmail.com if you have this issue. I’d be happy to help, especially since I’ve already ripped my hair out over how to work around this issue!} 🙂

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Additional Ideas for Using Skitch in the Classroom: 

Maps/Diagrams:

  • Create diagrams (e.g., parts of a flower, stages of a life cycle, planets in a solar system, layers of the rainforest, etc.)
  • Create a map of your classroom/school
  • Create a treasure map using all the features of a map (i.e., key, scale, symbols, routes, geographical features, etc.)
  • Label of blank map of the continents or a map of the country

Text Annotating: 

  • Take a screenshot of non-fiction articles (e.g., Scholastic News, Time for Kids, etc.) or snap a photo of text from a newspaper, magazine, or book to annotate for active reading (e.g., thinking tracks, text coding, close reading annotations, etc.)
  • Take a photo of student writing to mark-up (i.e., label parts of a paragraph, highlight writing conventions, locate text-based evidence, etc.) — great for self-assessment!
  • Label fiction story elements
  • Label non-fiction text features (see my lesson above)
  • Highlight key words that show non-fiction text structure

Vocabulary: 

  • Capture examples and make content vocabulary come to life (snap pictures, sketch, label, etc.)
  • Use with your ELL students for building English vocabulary

Math: 

  • Deconstructing word problems (snap a photo & mark it up!)
  • Showing work for constructed response math questions (you can use Skitch as a whiteboard)

Additional Resources for Skitch:

I would love to hear how YOU use Skitch in the classroom! Please comment below or send me an email (msjordanreads@gmail.com). I’m excited to explore new ways to use this app and would love to do a follow-up post on a few of the ideas!

Happy Skitching!

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My Paperless Classroom Journey: Digital Resources

25 Jan

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In my last “My Paperless Classroom Journey” post, I introduced a wonderful app for going paperless in your classroom – Notability. I provided an overview of the app features and a general summary of how I integrate the app into my RTI instruction. Now, it’s time to dig deeper into the content! (Did you miss Part I about getting started with Notability? Go back and read it HERE!) 

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Notability is a note-taking app that allows you to take notes, annotate PDFs and photos, collect student work, and capture voice recordings. It’s the perfect app for practicing literacy skills and a fabulous digital alternative for paper-and-pencil activities.

As you can imagine, downloading and setting up the app is just half the battle. Implementing the app into your instruction effectively is the other half. Sure, your students can just use the app as a notepad; but that’s like buying a Smartphone and only using it to make phone calls. Don’t ignore the amazing features it has to offer!

As I mentioned in my last post, the PDF annotation feature is the element I use the most. Of course, in order to annotate PDFs, I need quality PDF files that are accessible and ready to use. Enter, my digital resource toolbox… Dropbox.

So, where do I get the PDFs that fill my Dropbox? 

Most of what I use comes from my own creations, but my collection of PDFs definitely includes some valuable resources from other websites, programs, and other educators. My Dropbox holds a nice balance of new materials I developed for this purpose and materials I already had in the classroom. Not everything I had was ready-to-go, so it took some time in the beginning to convert files and “go paperless.”

NOTE: The PDFs I upload to Notability are for personal use in my classroom, and I do NOT share the files publicly. Depending on the product license, and the “terms of use” for particular resources, you need to be careful about how you manage and store your files. You tread a fine-line with uploading files to digital folders and importing the files onto your devices. It is my recommendation to read the “terms of use” first and to look into the copyright policies of resources. Be especially cautious with how you use school-purchased materials and programs, and definitely do not share your files. (Sorry… necessary disclaimer!)

That being said, it’s easy to create PDFs to use with Notability. Any word processing document can be converted into a PDF, and you can easily scan or take pictures of documents that you’ve created, as well. You can upload non-PDF files, but formatting can sometimes become an issue.  A PDF is a common file type and much easier to work with!

A Sample of PDF Resources

For those of you just getting started and looking for ideas, below is a sample of free and paid resources that my students interact with using Notability. Some of the resources are ones I created, some I purchased with my own money (i.e., TpT resources), and some of the items were purchased by my district (i.e., Reading A-Z, Toolkit Texts, etc.). I wanted the list to reflect the actual digital resources I use day-to-day, not just my MsJordanReads products (although, I do use those products a lot!).

COMPREHENSION

Non-Fiction Articles — Actively reading non-fiction is a great way to kick-start PDF annotation. I upload ReadWorks articles (free), Toolkit Texts (paid), and Reading A-Z skill passages (subscription) for my comprehension students to close read, mark, and highlight! One Stop Teacher Shop also has a great list of FREE resources for Non-fiction texts.

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Finding Text Evidence —  My students love finding and highlighting text evidence using Notability. When I discovered Luckeyfrog’s Super Text Detectives resources, I knew they would be perfect for practicing this skill. I took the plunge and purchased the whole spring bundle (LOVE it). Now I have to go back and buy the other bundles for next year! The passages are short and perfect for my RTI comprehension groups. The students use the highlighter tool with the different color options to find the text evidence. (Check the resource out here!)

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Graphic Organizers — For FREE comprehension graphic organizers, check out FCRR, ReadWriteThink, and TeacherVision. You can also create your own graphic organizers (using Microsoft Word or any word processing program) and convert to a PDF to annotate.

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FLUENCY

Daily Fluency — Many of my fluency students complete a Daily Fluency page each day for fluency practice! There are 20 pages for each month and two levels of difficulty in the series – Beginner & Intermediate. (Check out a sample here!)

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Daily Phonics — Some of my decoding/phonics students complete a Daily Phonics page each day to practice breaking apart words and identifying phonics patterns! They use a stylus pen for these activity pages. After trying out a whole bunch, I decided to purchase a group set of Musemee Notier Prime stylus pens for my classroom. (Check them out through my affiliate link.) Just like Daily Fluency, there are 20 pages for each month. (Check out a sample here!)

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Fluency Booster Pages — My fluency students complete Daily Fluency Booster Packs to reinforce specific fluency skills! These are great follow-ups to my Daily Fluency warm-up pages and help students practice one fluency component at a time: Accuracy, Pace, Phrasing, and Expression!

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Fluency Passages — I use Fluency A-Z passages (subscription only), but you can really use any short reading passage for fluency practice. Students record their voice, mark their errors, calculate their wpm, and graph their progress for two different readings of the same passage (cold/hot). Students can record their progress on fluency graphs to track progress throughout the year. For RTI, the students work with me for this “fluency coaching” intervention, but you could easily have the students work in partners in your classroom.

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Fluency Speed Drills — Students can read lists of words, phrases or sentences multiple times to build fluency. They mark errors and mark how far they read on a list using the annotating tools. They can also record their progress on fluency graphs!

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Fluency Practice Pages — I’m obsessed with The Moffatt Girls’  I Can Read! NO PREP products. They’re fabulous, and I use them with many of my fluency/decoding groups. I recently purchased the bundle of all 3 sets and the activities are perfect for extra fluency practice! You will still need dice and printed spinners, but students can complete activity pages digitally on the iPad. (Check out the resource here!)

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PHONICS

Phonics Word Sorts — As an alternative to word sorts that they have to cut and sort, students can color-code and sort words into the different categories. I have some of my decoding/phonics groups complete Color & Sort Activity Pages to reinforce specific phonics skills.

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Phonics Word Hunts — Students can use PDF texts to hunt for specific phonics spelling & sound patterns. My students love going on word hunts in my partner poetry series (“The Winter Escape” is shown below!). I have them highlight specific patterns using the highlighting tool and then record the words on a word hunting graphic organizer. You can use the graphic organizers with real books too!

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The list above is just a sample of PDF resources to use with Notability. It does not reflect the other ways I practice annotating texts with my students (there is still a place for sticky notes and paper!), and it does not reflect the other ways I use the app (e.g., voice recording, notepad for word work/writing, web quests, etc.). Working with PDFs is a great way to start using Notability, but there are plenty of other ways to use the app throughout the day. (That may be an additional blog post… perhaps Part III?) 🙂

Also, please note that Notability is just a small part of my instruction and only for some of my groups. There are other apps that I integrate into my teaching and there are still plenty of interventions I use that are completely iPad-free. There are days where we don’t even touch technology! I strongly believe it’s all about a balance.

It may be a while (if ever) before I’m 100% digital, and as the year continues, I definitely will continue my journey toward a more paperless classroom. I hope to follow-up and share more of my experiences soon. In the mean time, though, I would love to hear what resources you have in your digital toolbox! Comment below or email me your suggestions (msjordanreads@gmail.com). Feel free to share your experiences and thoughts on going paperless, as well!

Happy (Paperless) Teaching

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My Paperless Classroom Journey: Getting Started

22 Jan

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Are you 100% digital in your teaching? 

If yes… you’re my hero. Seriously.

I’ve always been intrigued by 1:1 classrooms – the organization of them, the day-to-day management, the student accountability… all of it. It seems to be a direction that many schools are moving toward, and I can’t help but wonder if it will soon be the norm. Will all my students be completing their work on computers or iPads in the near future? Will our copy machines soon start collecting dust? (Will that mean I don’t have to make any more copies?! YES!)

The idea of a paperless classroom is exciting, but I’ve always been curious about “the back-up plan.” What if you show up to school one day and you don’t have an internet connection for the whole day? What if there’s an issue with the classroom management system? What if all the iPads break and your students start climbing the walls? Well, maybe that last one’s a bit dramatic, but I feel like my teaching nightmares would include ALL of those things.

Having one too many bad experiences with “technology fails” (i.e., losing the internet connection during STAR screening week, having a SMARTBoard crash during an observation lesson, etc.), I must say I’m nervous about relying on technology 100%. I suppose once our school’s renovation project is complete, which promises WiFi in every classroom and a more reliable internet connection throughout the building, I may be less hesitant. But for now, our school’s just not there yet, and therefore, I’m not 100% there yet. (At least that’s what I’m telling myself this year.)

After taking a few PD courses, reading countless blogs, attending conferences, and actually speaking with teachers who are in the trenches with a 1:1 program, I decided to take the first step. I have six iPads (5 student, 1 teacher), and I’m working toward integrating them into my day-to-day teaching. Slowly. The goal is for my students to use the iPads independently and for the tablets to be interactive tools for my students to practice their reading skills. The year is half-way over, and I must say – it’s going pretty well! 🙂

Notability

notability

Last year, I learned about a great app called Notability which I downloaded for my personal use. I needed a note-taking app for my 101 meetings, and it was perfect for recording, organizing, and accessing my notes. I then started using it as a digital student binder for my classroom, to collect anecdotal notes and student data (more about this at a later date!).

This year, I started using Notability with my students. It has proven to be, by far, the best $2.99 I’ve ever spent on iTunes. (NOTE: This is not a product review. The opinion is completely my own and based on my own experiences with using the app!) I’m yet to find another app that I love more for my reading instruction. I will share a few FREE options you can explore, but if you have a few bucks to spare, it’s totally worth it. (Again, entirely my opinion.)

Features of Notability

Here are a few of the app features that I found to be most helpful to my RTI instruction:

  • Annotate PDFs – Students can underline, highlight, take notes, and complete activities using the Notability tools
  • Voice Recording – Students can record their voices reading for fluency
  • Response Writing – Students can type or handwrite a response to a question or image
  • Snapshots of Text – Students take pictures of objects or text to annotate, highlight, or add a written response
  • Submitting Work – Students can export and share their “notes” as PDF files via DropBox, Google Drive, Email, etc.

Want to learn more? Read more about the features of Notability on the app’s developer website here!

Getting Started with Notability

Each student is assigned an iPad when they work in my RTI groups. With only five iPads, it’s pretty easy to manage. I don’t have my Notability accounts synced up, so students need to use the same device day-to-day. I created a student folder for each of them on their assigned devices, but you can easily use Notability without assigning student iPads. (NOTE: You could also easily connect your account to the iCloud to sync and back-up all your folders/notes across devices as another option.) Once the students open the app on their assigned device, they find their personal folder and open it up to access their “notes.”

Annotating PDFs

Annotating PDFs is my starting point with all students. They love underlining, highlighting, and taking notes on PDFs. I have many intervention activities that I’ve uploaded for student practice (check out the examples below!).

I link all the iPads to my teacher Dropbox account, and then I allow the app to access my account. This allows students to import PDFs easily to each of their folders. (You may want to do this part for them first until they’re able to navigate Dropbox successfully!)

The best part is you can select specific pages of a PDF to upload to a student folder. If it’s a 50 page packet, I can upload a single page or a smaller range for them to complete. This keeps the student work organized sequentially, AND the students don’t have to search through large files for the task pages they need to complete.

Annotating Tools

For most of the activities, my students use a fine tip stylus pen. After trying a handful of stylus options, my favorite to use with students is the Musemee Notier Prime from Amazon. The rubber tip ones work too but just won’t give you as fine of a tip for writing. I have six for my classroom, but obviously it’s more expensive to purchase a class set, so feel free to have students use their fingers or knuckles. If you’re just having them underline or highlight, a finger works JUST fine!

Submitting Student Work

With just five devices, I could easily go into each one to access student work, but that’s time-consuming. I have students export select “notes” to a shared Dropbox folder. I don’t need to see every page they complete, but every once in a while I like to see a sample of their work. They can send a screenshot (which automatically syncs to my Dropbox account), or I’ll ask them to pick a page to send me via the sharing buttons. Once the files are sent, I can access the files from my computer or teacher iPad without having to go into the five individual devices. This also allows me to add the work samples to my digital binder of student work samples and progress monitoring notes.

Some teachers with 1:1 classrooms use management systems like Edmodo or Schoology. These Learning Management Systems (LMS) allow you to post assignments and collect student work via an app or website that functions the same as many social media sites. Students can shift back-and-forth between the LMS and Notability to complete assignments and then submit using the linked Dropbox account. (This structure is great for students who use their own personal devices or if you’re unable to assign devices to each student.)

Looking for Step-by-Step Directions?

Below are a couple of resources I found helpful for navigating and getting started with the app. The tutorials introduce you to the features and provides directions for how to use them!

  • Notability AWESOME! (A Review & Tutorial)
  • Notability Tutorial (PDF includes diagrams of note-taking screens & app buttons. The app price is outdated, but the visual tutorial is aligned with the current version of the app!)

Are you on the fence about whether or not to take the first step?

A few Pros & Cons to consider (for whatever they’re worth!) —

PROS:

  • I’ve saved a TON of time and paper with not having to copy every packet for every student!
  • I have copies of ALL my students’ work in one spot! (This is great for monitoring progress and making instructional decisions.)
  • Students are SUPER motivated to complete tasks and activities!
  • Students are now tech-savvy 21st century learners!
  • I’m becoming technologically “fluent” (and so are my students!)

CONS:

  • It takes time to “go digital” — scanning pages, uploading PDFs, organizing folders, creating a management system that works for you, etc. (TOTALLY worth it, though!)
  • Students will need TIME to learn how to upload documents, annotate PDFs, submit work, and function independently on the device. It’s a lot of upfront modeling and practice, but once the students pick-up the skills they are pretty self-sufficient. (Many students have devices at home, which helps with basic device navigation!)
  • Technology access. A paperless classroom only works if you have access to technology (obviously). When I push-into different rooms for reading support, or if my groups are larger than 6, I’m stuck.
  • It’s hard to share my archived student work samples at the end of the year with other teachers who are NOT tech-savvy
  • Technology let-downs. (Let’s face it… technology isn’t always reliable and “technology fails” will happen.)

Notability Alternatives (FREE)

In my efforts to find FREE alternatives to Notability, I came across a few websites that review the features of each. As you will see, there are MANY great free options to try out and explore before making the decision to purchase an app. Some of the reviewers prefer those apps OVER Notability. I have not explored enough of them to share my comparison feedback, but they’re definitely worth checking out for yourself!

Here are some of the FREE Apps for Note-Taking: 

Stay Tuned for Part II!

This weekend, I’ll be sharing different interventions I use with my students that are perfect for Notability. The list keeps growing, so I’m sure there will be many follow-ups to this post. In the mean time, follow me on BlogLovin‘ or subscribe to my emails so you don’t miss my next one! 🙂

(Update 1/25: Here’s the LINK to the next post in the series about the Digital Resources I use with Notability. Continue following my journey!)

Happy (Paperless) Teaching

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FarFaria App Review

30 Aug

As many of you know, I’m always looking for new literacy resources to help support my struggling readers, especially ones that can I can use with my classroom iPads. A few months ago, I was given the opportunity to try-out a great app for kids – FarFaria. I was not familiar with the app, and I typically don’t do a lot of product reviews, but I was curious to try it out and explore what it had to offer!

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Although FarFaria is designed for children (ages 2-9) with bedtime routines and story time in mind, I would recommend the app as a perfect resource for classrooms too! If you are a teacher with a limited classroom library, or are looking for eBooks to use with your iPads and devices, this app would definitely be for you!

Getting Started

The FarFaria app is a free download from Apple or Google. With the download, you’ll have access to ONE free story a day! I like that the company gives you a chance to explore the stories and experience the app without feeling obligated to buy a subscription. If you are interested, you can buy a subscription which includes unlimited access to all the book collections (over 750 stories!). The best part is they add FIVE new stories each week, so the collection is always growing and changing!

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The app itself is very student-friendly, and it allows students to read independently. This would be perfect for DEAR time or for “Read to Self” during a Daily 5 rotation. If you only have a few iPads in your room, students could take turns using the app during your scheduled literacy blocks. You would need a set of headphones, but the students could sit at their desks (or pretty much anywhere in the classroom) to interact with this app!

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Classroom Perks

I can see many perks for owning this app as a parent. The number one perk would be the unlimited reading opportunities. You could bring your iPad in the car, share a story at bedtime, and provide iPad time during downtime throughout the day. Completing at least 20 minutes of reading every day would be no problem! It’s like having a children’s library in your pocket (well, maybe not your pocket… but maybe your purse or backpack?).

As a teacher, I really enjoy the variety of texts. The FarFaria collection includes quality books that cater to the interests of every child. With eleven categories of books (e.g., fairy tales, animal stories, adventure stories, classics, etc.), the children in your home or classroom will have many different genres and topics to explore.

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Each category includes books at different levels. The levels range from 1 (Pre-Readers) to 4 (Fluent Readers). Your children can pick a “just right” book and read on their own, or they can choose an easier book to read for fluency practice. They can even choose a challenging book and read along with the app! For the classroom, you can have students complete individual “FarFaria Reading Logs” so you can check-in on the levels and genres they’re choosing.

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The “Read to Me” feature is probably my favorite part of FarFaria. From my experience with read along books, I would assume it would be the kids’ favorite feature too. Kids love story time! They love being read to. Similar to RaZ-Kids and the B&N Nook (color) “Read to Me” books, though, I always encourage parents to make sure there’s a balance of using the “Read to Me” feature and having their children read on their own. Listening and following along with a story is great for modeling fluency (and great for bedtime!), but it’s even more powerful if the children listen to the story and then read it on their own after. If the text is to hard to read independently, parents can encourage their children to listen to a story that’s challenging and then pick an easier text to read and practice their fluency. Reading on their own allows kids to practice reading with good pace, phrasing, expression, and attention to punctuation. They can challenge themselves to “read like the iPad” and use it as a model for good fluency!

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Another great feature is that the FarFaria app allows the children to choose stories to read when they don’t have WiFi or internet access. By selecting a story as a “Favorite,” it allows them to access the text offline. This is great for when you’re traveling and you want your child to read in the car or during those in-between times when you don’t have WiFi. Again, I’m not sure how this could work with a whole class using one device and selecting favorites, but it’s great if you only have one child or a small group using it.

FarFaria Resources

Check out the FarFaria blog if you get a chance! Not only do they share new books and app features on the blog, but they also share awesome literacy resources, such as homework tips and literacy games you can play at home. There are many strategies and ideas for encouraging your child to read beyond the app!

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Happy Teaching!

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Make-Your-Own Trading Cards Using iPads

27 May

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Creating Trading Cards

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Download the Trading Cards app from ReadWriteThink!

After the app is downloaded to each iPad, students need to create an app username, similar to the other ReadWriteThink apps I blogged about a few months ago. (Check out the post here!)

Once students have a username created, you have to choose what kind of trading card you want your students to make. They can choose from seven different categories: Fictional Person, Real Person, Fictional Place, Real Place, Object, Event, or Vocabulary. If you’re looking for a few ideas, students can create trading cards for book characters, historical events, content vocabulary, and can even create a card for themselves! (Perfect for a fun beginning of the year “Get to Know Me” autobiography project!)

trading

Students will select a category and then will be prompted to add a title. Each trading card has two sides (you have the option just to print the front side if you wish). Students will type information into each of the information sections, so it’s important for students to plan out their writing. I created graphic organizers for students to brainstorm or research, and this really helps with the writing process.

Download the GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS I created here:

Once all the information is input into the sections, students can choose a trading card design and add a picture. If it’s a trading card about themselves, students can take a “selfie.” If it’s a trading card about an object, students can take a picture of the object (use the camera icon on the trading card). You can also upload a picture from your device’s Camera Roll (use the picture icon on the trading card). If you need to upload pictures from the web, save them to your Camera Roll and access the pictures that way.

Just a reminder, make sure the students hit “Keep It” at the bottom of the card to save the draft throughout their project (this will prevent any accidental erasing of trading cards before you get to print or share it). After editing the trading card, students can print or share it by clicking “Share It.” If a printer is directly connected, you can “Send to Printer,” but if it’s not you can “Save to Photos” and upload it using Dropbox or DropItToMe (this allows you to print from another computer).

Make sure you grant the app permission to access your Photos (this will be a pop-up request prompt when the FIRST student using the app clicks “Save to Photos”). If a student accidently hits “no,” you can always change permissions settings under your iPad Settings (click “Privacy” and then go into “Photos” to make sure permission is turned on!).

NOTE: If this project takes a few days, you’ll need to make sure students are using the same iPad each time, since the usernames are connected to a device.

Here are a few student examples for a historical event project we did: 

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The pictures above display how each trading card prints (it’s a one-page file). You can cut out each page, fold it down the middle, and then laminate the folded page so it’s a two-sided cards (There are directions right on the page so your students can do this part!). The picture at the top of this post are the trading cards we created (not yet laminated). My students wanted their cards to be larger, but you can print them any size.

I’m already brainstorming the possibilities for using this app next year. There are so many! I would love to hear how you use this app in the classroom. Just leave a comment below! 🙂

Happy Teaching! 

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Hello Spring! — Poetry Writing Using iPads

14 May

I meant to write this post for Poetry month in April, but as usual, life just gets in the way! Better late than never though, right? Here’s an idea to tuck away for next year.

A few weeks ago, I came across a blog post from Grade ONEderful about students writing Goodbye/Hello poems. She completed this writing activity with her first graders, but you could really integrate this idea with any grade-level.

Pic Collage Poetry

I decided to take it one step farther and use Pic Collage for the students to publish their poetry.

I’ve used Pic Collage for other projects, including my QR Code Summary Posters (tutorial for Pic Collage is included in that blog post!). I like the idea of using technology and iPads to publish writing. It was a fun 1-2 day activity for my students. Not only was it great for vocabulary practice, spelling, and visualizing… but students were able to take home a poem that THEY wrote and were proud of. We also practiced reading them for fluency for a Poetry Showcase during few minutes at the end of the week!

Here are two examples:

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A few additional blogs and websites that share ideas and templates for writing your own Goodbye/Hello poems in the classroom:

If you’re interested in a web-based template, here’s one you can use for creating your poems. I personally prefer for my students to brainstorm ideas in their writing notebooks (see below), but you can use whatever format works best for you.

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Even though this idea is too late for the end of winter, Goodbye/Hello poetry would be a fun end-of-the-year writing activity to celebrate summer. Goodbye Spring, Hello Summer? Goodbye School Year, Hello Summer Vacation? Goodbye Stress, Hello Relaxation? (Oh wait, that one is just for the teachers!) 🙂

P.S. New blog post about using the Trading Cards app from ReadWriteThink coming soon!

Happy Teaching! 

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“Spring Has Sprung” Poetry Blog Hop (Stop #5)

28 Mar

PoetryBlogHop

Spring Has Sprung!

Welcome to Stop #5!

I love spring, and I love poetry, so of course I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the “Spring Has Sprung” poetry blog hop! A HUGE thank you to Rebecca Reid, from Line Upon Line Learning (Stop #1), for organizing this fun, blogging opportunity. Really…I can’t think of a better way to kick-off National Poetry Month than with poetry freebies. Can you?!

Poetry Month = Fluency Month

Poetry is the perfect ingredient for building fluency, so one way to celebrate National Poetry Month is by turning “Poetry Month” into “Fluency Month!”

Students love poetry and they love performing, so think about integrating activities that would combine the two with a fluency focus. The Performing Poetry strategy from ReadWriteThink is perfect for this! Each week, you can introduce a new poem for students to practice fluency with. After modeling and going over any new vocabulary, students can practice throughout the week and put on an end-of-the-week poetry performance! The article by ReadWriteThink suggests having a culminating poetry event such as a Poetry Parade, Poetry Day, Poetry Theatre, Poetry Cafe, or even a Poetry Night with parents!

Using iTalk to for Poetry Performing Practice

One way my students practice their poetry performance throughout the week is by recording their poetry reading on the iPads using a voice recording app. Audio recordings are powerful, as it allows students to hear themselves as another person would. I use the iTalk Recorder app which is offered for free through Apple. Students love using this app to record their voices and listen to the recording afterwards. It’s very easy to use… for both teachers and students!

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Students can save their recordings to compare before/after readings, reflect on their fluency, and set appropriate goals. The app also times the students, so it allows them to calculate a words per minute (wpm) rate of reading. Students can try to improve their wpm rate with each practice. (NOTE: You can save the recordings and use them as informal running records, too!)

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If you don’t have iPads in your classroom, consider using Audacity on your classroom desktop computers or laptops. It’s free and easy to use, as well!

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Poetry Theatre

I love the idea of Poetry Theatre as a form of “Poetry Performing.” While many define “poetry theatre” as a general performance of poetry, I have a different definition in my classroom. I’ve developed a series of partner poems that are like Readers Theatre plays, where students have a specific part they play in the poem. Each part is a different perspective (also great for teaching point of view!).  The partner perspective poems I create are have a back-and-forth structure, and students love changing their voices to sound like the two characters. These poems are great for fluency practice because students have to think about character voice and expression, while reading their lines with good pace, phrasing, and attention to punctuation. Just like with any poem-of-the-week, students can perform these in a culminating event to show off their fluency skills!

Are you interested in bringing “Poetry Theatre” or the “Performing Poetry” strategy into your classroom?

Blog Hop Freebie for Performing Poetry!

Scoop up my newest partner poetry packet for FREE below!

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(This poem will go back to being a paid product on 4/2/14)

 This poetry packet also contains comprehension activities to reinforce visualizing, character perspectives, story elements (see picture below), and answering text-based questions. (Supports CCLS!)

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It’s FREE for four days only, so hurry up and download your copy during this great blog hop event! 🙂

MsJordanReads Poetry Giveaway

To celebrate National Poetry Month, I’m giving away a copy of The Complete Partner Poetry Book to THREE lucky winners. This collection of partner perspective poems would be perfect for Performing Poetry. The collection includes 12 partner poems (including my newest poem above!).

CompletePartnerPoetryBook

If you have iPads in your classroom, you can open the PDF file with iBooks and the students can read it like an eBook! You’ll need to get the files onto the iPads using email or Dropbox first, but after you click “Open With iBooks” it stays on the shelf until you delete it. I’ve created quite a library of digital poems and PDF files on iBooks this way, and students even create their own PDF “eBooks” and poems to read and share with the class!

Just like with any eBook in iBooks, students can highlight text and look up specific word definitions. Students can also use the highlighting feature of iBooks to go on phonics word hunts and find evidence in the text.

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Enter For Your Chance to Win This Product! 

(NOTE: This giveaway has ended!) 

Winners will be chosen 4/1/14 (7:00 PM EST) and will be notified that evening.
Submit your entry by clicking the form below!

Congratulations to Janet Hegg, Stephanie Chambers, & Kamala Schuster!

You are the three winners! I emailed you the poetry product. 🙂

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Hop Over to the Next Stop

Thanks for stopping by!

poetry blog hop next button

Head on over to Practice Makes Perfect!

Happy Teaching!

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“Project QR Code” — QR Code Summary Posters

19 Mar

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For most of my RTI students, summarizing is a challenge, especially when it comes to identifying key details and boiling our summaries down to the most important information.  More often than not, text summaries become text retells, and students lose focus of what’s important. So how do students “boil it down,” and more importantly, how can we make it FUN?

Becoming “Summarizing Superstars” doesn’t happen overnight,  so it’s always a challenge to come up with motivating tasks to practice summarizing – tasks that can potentially keep students motivated over the course of a few weeks!  High-interest texts are a start, but I try to make the actual tasks fun and engaging, as well. How? Insert: TECHNOLOGY. 🙂 

Project QR Code” continues with this next technology integration activity.

I gave my students a challenge — we would be creating QR Code chapter summaries for a non-fiction text about mysterious Sumatran tigers, BUT each summary would have to fit on a post-it note and would have to include the five most important key words from the chapter. We would then turn our post-it notes into QR codes and create a summary collage. The students seemed hesitant, but excited with the idea of creating their own QR code summary posters!

“Sum It Up!” Comprehension Strategy

To help students identify what’s most important in the text, I use the “Sum It Up!” strategy. As always, I model the strategy, guide (guide, guide, guide some more), and THEN see if they can do it on their own. It’s the typical “I Do/We Do/You Do” model with a gradual release of responsibility. My RTI students need a lot of hand-holding at first, especially when they realize they’re choosing the incorrect words nine times out of ten. It’s a slow process, but their beautiful summaries and sense of accomplishment in the end makes it all worth it!

With the “Sum It Up!” strategy, students have to first identify key words (5 maximum). This is the hardest part, and we often start in our notebooks so we can brainstorm a list of words without the pressure of choosing just FIVE. To get started, the students first jot down any important words that pop into their head from the chapter. We then revisit the text and hunt for key words. Highlighting and marking up the text are great strategies for spotlighting important words, just as long as the students aren’t “highlighter happy.” In the beginning, I usually do this part with them, or just have them stay away from highlighters so the markings can be erased. (NOTE: If you do close reading with your students, you can make a connection to the “highlighter hunts” you do with close reads!)

I provide students with guiding questions to help them with identifying key words. Students ask themselves the following questions:

  • What is the chapter title? (This is a huge clue! Students discover that key words are often hidden inside title since authors create titles based on main ideas!)
  • What is this chapter mostly about?
  • What words do I see repeated throughout the chapter? 
  • What are the most important details (vs. the supporting details)?
  • Is there background information, extended examples, or author anecdotes that can be left out?
  • Is the word I found important to understanding this chapter?
  • Could I leave this word out and still understand the chapter?

Once we have a list of potential key words, we look at each one, discuss WHY we think it’s important (students have to defend their words), and then we slowly narrow it down by crossing words out. What’s left are the five most important ones that we can connect together to form a summary.

For the summary-writing stage, I always have students start in their notebooks so they can cross-out and shrink their summaries. The ultimate goal is for it to fit on a post-it note. The post-it note forces students to “boil down” their summaries down to the most important information. (Be patient… usually it takes many tries and a HUGE pile of post-its!)

After, the summaries are successfully recorded on post-it notes, I have my students underline the key words inside their summaries. Their post-it notes are sometimes a mess, so I may have students transfer their summaries (again) to “Sum It Up” graphic organizers (see pictures below). Underlining acts as a self-check to make sure they included all five. (It’s important to note that sometimes there will be less than five key words! It depends on the length of the text or chapter you’re summarizing.)

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I often have my students create their own graphic organizers using blank paper so that they know how to develop graphic organizers on their own for future note-taking tasks.

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Download this FREE “Sum It Up!” graphic organizer to use with your students! (Click on image)

Eventually, students will be able to do many of these steps in their heads, but until then, it may take lots of step-by-step instruction, drafts, re-writes, and re-teaching. The big thing is for students not to get frustrated!

Creating QR Codes

The culminating QR code project was the “light at the end of the tunnel” for many of my students, so I made sure to leave plenty of time for students to create their QR codes and complete their poster collages.

My favorite QR creator to use with students is QR Code Generator (http://goqr.me/). There are a TON of QR code creator websites out there. Just find the one that works for you!

Using my teacher website, or a bookmark on the iPad, students go to the URL and follow the directions. I have students create the QR codes on the iPad.

Here’s a screenshot of the directions on my classroom website:

QRCodeSummaryDirections

Using PicCollage

Students love PicCollage. It’s extremely student-friendly, and it’s a fun way for students to show off their understanding! Students can add their QR codes, photos from the web, text captions, titles, and so much more. Each collage can be customized very easily by the students. Once they are happy with their collages, they can save, share, or email the files. Since my students can’t print from the iPads, they submit it to me via DROPitTOme. The collage can be saved to the iPad’s camera roll, so if you use the DropBox app on the iPad, you can save it there as well.

PicCollage

Looking for a PicCollage tutorial?

Final QR Code Summary Posters

Here are two more examples of posters my students made. Feel free to scan the QR codes to see their summaries. The chapter summaries are not perfect, but we’re definitely on our way to becoming “Summarizing Superstars.” 🙂

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SumatranTigerPoster2_MsJordanReads

Happy Teaching! 

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