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Hooking Reluctant Readers With Series Starters

13 Oct
A blog post sharing a collection of series books to hook reluctant readers. The collection includes a variety of engaging books and novels to motivate young readers to fall in love with reading.

Half of my battle as a Reading Specialist is to help my struggling readers fall in love with reading. It’s a vicious cycle: When you struggle to read, it’s not fun. When you don’t think it’s fun, you don’t practice reading. When you don’t practice reading, you’ll continue to struggle. — This cycle is extremely frustrating for the parents and myself!

I have a leveled classroom library of books the students choose from for take-home reading practice. Fiction and non-fiction. Easy books and chapter books. Each year I watch as my struggling readers choose the short, easy books only. (“Chapter books?! No thanks!”) I think they get intimidated by longer texts. They don’t feel “they’re ready.” They’re afraid of being unable to read it or of getting frustrated. It’s my job to encourage my students to move away from the easy readers (or at least to find a balance), and to help them realize that chapter books are NOT so scary!

To help with this goal, I’m always on the look-out for new books. This year, I’ve been on the hunt for books (level L-O) that would be appropriate and interesting for my 3rd and 4th grade struggling readers. I’m typically a Scholastic shopper (Scholastic Points!) or an Amazon shopper (Prime = 2 day delivery!) when I have titles in mind, but when I am exploring new books, I always need to sit on the floor and actually dive into the books. An hour in Barnes & Noble later… I chose FIVE series I thought my students would love!

“Series Starters” are the best way to hook struggling readers. I always choose the first in the series with the hope that they’ll love the book and want to read more. If I discover a series they absolutely love, I take it on as my personal mission to find more. I’ll check garage sales, Half.com, Amazon, and eBay for used books, or I’ll save up my Scholastic points. I’ve also spent quite a few dollars from my own pocket because a growing, diverse classroom library full of books my kids will actually READ is important to me. (Check out Scholastic’s article “Ten Easy Ways to Get Books for Your Classroom Library” for more ideas!)

Before I share the five series starters I chose, I wanted to share my FAVORITE series find from last year… (or in this case, should I say “favourite?”)

Oliver Moon

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Even though this is not a series I bought this year, I feel it’s great way to kick-off my list. These books are actually the reason I started collecting series starters and have a whole bookshelf dedicated to series “firsts.”

Last year, I fell in love with the Oliver Moon series by Sue Mongredien. I always ask my students what they’re reading at home, and one of my students introduced me to a whole slew of books I never even heard of, including this series. I borrowed his copy of Oliver Moon and the Potion Commotion and proceeded to buy the whole series on eBay that night… only to find out I bought the UK version, not the US version. #teacherfail #sortof. I didn’t realize there were two different versions; however, Barnes & Nobles only carries a few of the Oliver Moon books. I suppose I’d rather have the whole set (Amazon sells them used here: Oliver Moon Collection), but for those who aren’t familiar to Harry Potter, I had to teach them some UK translations (i.e., mum, pyjamas, etc.). Teachable moment, I guess? I still sent the books home with my kids, but with the disclaimer that they would have to use their context clues strategies (or parents) to help them with unfamiliar words. 🙂

Junior wizards with magic and potions? At a level O/P? Yes, please! My 3rd and 4th grade students love these books, and they can enjoy a parallel world to Harry Potter without having to read level X, Y, Z books! (There is a great interactive website of activities to go along with the book series, too!)

The Notebook of Doom

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As for this year’s finds, one of my 4th grade students told about The Notebook of Doom series. This particular student loves graphic novels but was getting frustrated reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid. At a level T, the Wimpy Kid books are OK for some 4th graders, but way above his level! He still wants to read them someday, which is a great incentive for him to practice reading, but this new series is a much better fit for him.

The Notebook of Doom series, by Troy Cummings, is a hybrid of graphic novel and prose, like the Wimpy Kid books, but much more appropriate for my 4th & 5th grade struggling readers. They’re about a new kid, Alexander Bopp, who finds a notebook filled with drawings of monsters and starts seeing these monsters all over town. The series covers his run-ins with these monsters and his adventures trying to uncover the mystery of the monster-filled notebook.

The series starter, Rise of the Balloon Goons, is a level N, but the rest are levels O/P. (Here’s a sample from Scholastic if you want to check it out!)

Shark School

The Shark School series by Davy Ocean is all about the (mis)adventures of Harry, a hammerhead shark, and his under-the-sea friends. Right away, I thought to myself, the boys are going to LOVE this series!

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The series starter, Deep-Sea Disaster, is about Harry wanting to be a different kind of shark, anything but a hammerhead. After a disaster during a class field trip, Harry learns to appreciate being exactly who he is — a great character lesson!

I had difficulty finding extra information or resources on this series (it seems like a spin-off of the Harry Hammer series in the UK), but it looks promising! I feel like it will grow with popularity, especially now that Scholastic offers the series starter as part of their Scholastic Reading Club!

NOTE: I couldn’t find an exact level of these books, but my best guess based on readability is a Level P. (Please email me if you know the exact level. I was comparing to other level P’s in my library!) 

Bad Kitty

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Bad Kitty is a well-developed, popular graphic novel series by Nick Bruel! My students have always loved the picture book (level I), so I decided to check out the chapter books. They are hilarious and do not disappoint. Like always, I started with #1 in the series (there are seven in all).

With the series starter, Bad Kitty Gets a Bath, I know my students will love reading about how the “bad kitty” misbehaves in order to avoid a bath. I was laughing as I was exploring this series at the bookstore, especially since I have a cat at home that would probably behave the same way.

Most of the books within the series are levels P/Q, but a few are R-T. There are many interactive games and activities for this series, as well! I downloaded a mad libs activity for the series starter, which I know will be a huge hit.

My Weird School

Dan Gutman is the author of the hilarious multi-series, My Weird SchoolMy Weirder School, and My Weird School Daze (Level N/O). His books are perfect for reluctant readers, as he draws them in with his silly humor. The idea that there’s a school full of “weird” teachers just makes students giggle. (Let’s face it… we’re all a little weird, right?) 🙂

In addition to his wonderful collection of books, there is a fabulous website for teachers and students: My Weird Classroom Club. I shared this as a link on my classroom website so that my students can explore the author’s “wacky world of weird” before, during, and after reading the series starter!

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(Teachers can download classroom resources and printable activities, while students can explore the website to read about the books, play online games, and so much more!)

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The series starter, Miss Daisy Is Crazy!, is just one of MANY books I look forward to sharing with my students! I just know that I’m going to have to collect them all since my students are already asking for more adventures from Dan Gutman’s Ella Mentry School.

The Never Girls

The Never Girls series is perfect for students who love the world of Disney and Peter Pan. The series dives into the wondrous world of Never Land, filled with the oh-so-famous Tinkerbell and other fairies. Each book is a new adventure of four real girls, who are best friends, in a fairy’s world.

The series starter, In a Blink, is filled with imagination. It’s perfect for my struggling readers who still believe in the magic of Disney and fairies.

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Similar to other popular series, Disney has a whole interactive page of book activities through the Random House Kids website. These activities are perfect for the students who fall in love with this series. I especially like the acrostic poetry page!

NOTE: As with the Shark School series, I couldn’t find an exact level of these books, but my best guess based on readability is a Level P. (Again, please email me if you know the exact level. I was comparing to other level P’s in my library!) 

Reading Series by Level

With so many series to keep track of, I created a Popular Reading Series by Level resource to document the different series options in my classroom library. This would be a wonderful at-a-glance resource for helping students pick out “just right” books. Feel free to download this file for your classroom.

(Don’t know how to download Google Docs? Click the link, or the image below, and click “File” and then “Download As.” You can choose to download it as a Word document or a PDF. If you choose to download as a Word document, you should be able to edit it for your own classroom use!)

Leveling Books

Within each series, the reading levels of books often varies. If you’re looking for the exact levels for specific titles within a series, use Scholastic Book Wizard (FREE website or app) or the Level It Books app ($3.99). Unfortunately, not every title is listed, but it will at least give you a start!

I hope this blog post introduced you to a few new series! My plan is to share a few more later on in the school year, especially as I come across new series. If you have any to recommend, though, I would love to hear from you! Comment below or email me: msjordanreads@gmail.com.

What series do you use in your classroom? Are there any other “Series Starters” I should add to my classroom library? Any that I should add to my growing “Popular Reading Series by Level” resource list? 

Happy Teaching!

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A Harvest-Themed Fluency Freebie

2 Oct


Fall is my favorite time of year, and I love sharing my love of fall with my students!

To help you focus on fluency in your classroom, I’m sharing my brand-new Daily Fluency Task Cards — Fall FreebieThese task cards are perfect for reinforcing fluency skills in the classroom. Students will love the different activities focusing on pace, phrasing, expression and attention to punctuation. There is a total of 24 fall-themed fluency task cards that you can use for the months of October/November. I hope your students enjoy them as much as my students do! 🙂

(NOTE: The resource I’m sharing is an off-shoot of my new Daily Fluency Task Card series. Read more about this series in my blog post here!)

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Read posts from all of your favorite teaching blogs all in one spot!

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**NOTE: This post was originally part of a Harvest Blog Hop with The Reading Crew. Feel free to go back and check out the first stop in the blog hop or head on over to the next blog in the hop sequence, Literacy Loving Gals, to collect additional freebies!

 

Happy Teaching! 

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Fall Fluency Task Cards that you can download for your classroom FREE! | Free printable task cards for fluency practice at school or at home. Students will enjoy the variety of fluency tasks!

Getting Organized for Guided Reading

21 Aug

For teachers around the world, “Back to School” season is especially busy. Between getting READY for the school year (i.e., setting up classrooms, organizing resources & materials, getting lesson plans in order, etc.) and SURVIVING the first week of school (i.e., establishing classroom routines, getting to know your new students, keeping your sanity, etc.), it’s just… C.R.A.Z.Y.

To help manage the “crazy,” I decided to share a few of my “getting organized for guided reading” ideas and resources with you. Hopefully they can help you get started with small group instruction during the first few weeks!

Getting guided reading up and running shouldn’t be an overwhelming, painful task. Some teachers feel they can’t start their small group instruction until they have beginning-of-the-year data on every single student. For those classrooms, guided reading and small groups could be delayed for many weeks while assessments take over and pause instruction. My suggestion is to get started right away, if possible, and to use the spring data that you have. Yes, there may be some summer regression (or a lot, in some cases), but it gives you a starting point. You can always make adjustments as you collect up-to-date assessment data and get to know your students.

Grouping Your Students

Unless I have the past year’s anecdotal records or running records, I try to group the students initially by reading level. Later, I may change the groups to strategy groups or a combination of the two. It’s difficult to guess at which strategies your students will need until you have a chance to read with them or analyze past records.

Use a form like this one (bel0w) to help you map out groups. It’s a 2-page resource – one page is organized by colors and F&P levels, and the other page is completely blank so you can customize your own.

Guided Reading Grouping

You don’t need to meet in a group with every student, every day. Create a rotating schedule and try to stick to it. You could even consider implementing 1:1 conferences versus regular guided reading groups. Pick what works for you and what you can manage!

Picking Texts for the First Week

If you’re not sure what text-level to pick for your groups, and you don’t already have a text in mind, you should consider starting your first round of guided reading with a poem. Poetry is a fun way to kick-start reading instruction at the beginning of the year and allows students to show off what they can do! Plus, most students could use a little fluency practice after a few months out of the classroom. You could even use the same poem for every group but differentiate the instruction. As you observe student reading behavior within the small groups, start filling-out an informal skills assessment for each student (TeacherVision has a great printable form here). A skills assessment will allow you to start monitoring each student’s level of proficiency with different oral reading skills and comprehension strategies. It will also help you plan strategy lessons for students while you’re still collecting assessment data.

If you’re looking for a fun “Back to School” poem to use, check out the partner poem I shared in a blog post a few days ago. A few other options are listed below!

Back to School Poetry:

Independent Tasks for Students

We use Daily 5 in my building, which helps build-up stamina and independence in students. I love this structure because, once it’s up and running, it allows teachers to work with small groups without interruptions. Of course, a structure like this takes TIME to model and practice at the beginning of the year, so your small group instruction may need to be modified for the first week or so. If you are not familiar with Daily 5, consider activities like literacy centers, task cards, or independent choice boards for your students to complete while you meet with your small groups. You could even have them work on back-to-school writing pieces like Hello School Year, Goodbye Summer poems.

Collecting Anecdotal Notes During Guided Reading

A big part of guided reading, especially in the beginning, is collecting and organizing anecdotal notes and informal assessments. Find a system that works for you! Some teachers use clipboards. Some teachers use mailing labels. I use a big binder and create tabs within the binder for each student. This only works if you have a small group table where it can stay (it gets VERY heavy!). I record anecdotal notes for each student and collect running records, sight word lists, student samples, etc. Sometimes I will jot a quick note on a post-it and will later transfer it to the anecdotal page, or I will create a summary page of anecdotal post-it notes for each student.

Download a FREE packet of Anecdotal Notes Forms for Guided Reading:

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If you have access to an iPad, I’ve also used digital forms (Google Docs) or apps (e.g., Notability) that I can take type notes into. For the Google Doc form, once you submit notes for a student, it exports the data into a spreadsheet that you can sort, print, etc. I only used the iPads when I traveled around the classroom to the students (vs. them traveling to me) because the iPad was portable. In the end, I went back-and-forth between this and a sticky note system because I ended up typing WAY too slow. If you’re quick with the iPad keyboard, though, it’s a great way to organize anecdotal notes. (I blogged about how to do this last year! Check out the post here.)

Resources for Getting Started with Guided Reading

Are you looking for some professional resources to help you get started? Here are a few books that I’ve found to be a HUGE help in setting up guided reading in the classroom.


(Update 4/2017 — There is a new version available for teachers with actual videos of Jan Richardson teaching model lessons. Check them out: Next Step Guided Reading in Action K-2 and Next Step Guided Reading in Action 3-6. Also she came out with a Guided Reading companion book called The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading. You can check out the book plus the companion guide below!)


Getting organized and ready to start small group instruction is only half the battle, but dedicating time to create a system that works for you helps with running a smooth reading program throughout the year. I hope these resources help you as you navigate the first few weeks of guided reading.

Do you have any suggestions for getting organized? Feel free to comment with any tips, suggestions, or resources YOU have for getting started with guided reading!

(NOTE: This blog post was originally part of the “Blasting Off to a Great Year” blog hop. Check out all the blog posts in the series by hopping back to the first stop at Reading Toward the Stars, or visit the next blog post in the series with This Little Piggy Reads.)

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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“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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Happy Teaching! 

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“Project QR Code” — Interactive Phonics Game Board

5 Mar

Technology in the Classroom

As with most educational technology, it’s all about finding the perfect balance. I want my students to interact with fun technology, but I don’t want the technology to take away from the focus of my lesson. My goal is to integrate technology effectively, with the purpose of enhancing my lessons and motivating my students. As an RTI provider, I have very specific student goals and a limited timeframe to provide instruction for students to meet those goals. The challenge is to find technology that is easy-to-use but still supports my daily learning targets.

As most of you know from my post last month, I’ve been trying to find more ways to enhance my instruction with QR codes. I’m now referring to this mission as “Project QR Code.” 🙂 Just adding the simple step of scanning a “quick response” (QR) code adds a layer of motivation and engagement to simple instructional tasks. The next few posts I plan to share will focus on some fun ways I’ve been integrating QR codes in the classroom!

QR Code Phonics Game Board

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In one of my 3rd grade RTI decoding groups, we’ve been focusing on various long vowel patterns. This week, my students are reviewing the “Magic /e/” vowel rule. Instead of using regular game cards with a game board, I decided to embed QR codes onto each of the game board squares. As the students move through the interactive game board, they must use the Scan app on the iPads to get their task.

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If you don’t have access to iPads, that’s totally fine! Students can use any type of mobile device, as long as they have a QR code-reading app (there are many options to choose from). I ended up making multiple copies of this game board and sending it home with my students who have mobile devices at home.

Download your FREE copy of my Magic E Interactive Board Game with QR Codes!

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**NOTE: If you like this product, I plan to create a few more interactive game boards for my TpT store. If there’s a specific skill you would like to see as a focus of my game boards, please email me at msjordanreads@gmail.com.

A Few QR Code Resource Websites: 

I would love to hear how you use QR codes with your small groups to reinforce phonics and decoding. Please comment below and share your ideas!

Happy Teaching! 

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QR Codes to Enhance Learning

24 Feb

Today, as I was gearing up for the first week back after a long break (sigh), I came across a great guest post by Nancy Alvarez (from Teaching with Nancy) on the blog FlapJack Educational Resources. Nancy’s post took me out of my end-of-vacation depressed state and truly excited me for the upcoming weeks ahead of teaching.

As many of you know, I’m always looking for new ways to use my set of iPads with my intervention groups, and her post, QR Code Tips, was all about integrating QR codes into your everyday teaching. After reading her post, I realized that I don’t use QR codes enough. I know about them. I’ve used them from time to time, but just not enough. I have no excuse because they are SO incredibly simple to bring into the classroom and there are so many possibilities. 

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QR codes are a fun, engaging way for students to explore content and to share new learning with others, yet the idea of embedding them into my instruction never pops into my head when I’m writing my lesson plans. For example, a few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about using a fantastic ReadWriteThink mobile app for teaching Non-Fiction Text Structures. One in particular was a digital timeline app to help students show their understanding of sequence & order (if you missed it, see the post here!). I thought the iPad app itself was engaging, and I was SO excited that I was able to share it with my students, but in Nancy’s blog post, she shared how some classrooms take this app one step further. Instead of students recording JUST the facts and information, students can make QR codes for each event on the timeline (see the example here). Really… wow! That thought didn’t even cross my mind when my students were using this app, but how fun would it be for students to learn from each other’s timelines using QR codes?!? It was one of those moments where I said, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”

Like Nancy, I’ve attended inspiring technology sessions about bringing technology into the classroom. I really like her acronym, T.I.M.E. (Technology Integration and Meaningful Engagement), and I agree that “it takes time to perfect the craft of embedding new technology seamlessly into our daily teaching.” It is my goal to really try and enhance my lessons with technology. I don’t want it to take over my lessons, and I don’t want to lose the purpose of my lessons, but perhaps it’s just the simple use of using QR codes on timelines.

How do you use QR codes in your classroom?

Please comment below! I would love to explore new ideas for QR ideas (and I’m sure I’ll once again think, “Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?!”). 🙂

Happy Teaching!

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Exploring Non-Fiction Text Structures Using iPads

11 Feb

Happy February! Hope everyone is having a great start to 2014! Since the holidays, my days have been filled with winter benchmark assessments, report cards, parent conferences, building data days, schedule changes, oh… and teaching! 🙂 Needless to say, I’m beyond ready for our school break coming up next week.

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to post this, and I finally found a few minutes to share! Throughout the year, I’ve been trying to find ways to integrate my set of iPads into my small intervention groups. I’ve been finding great apps for my decoding/fluency groups, but not a ton for my comprehension groups. However, I recently came across the (FREE) ReadWriteThink apps for mobile devices, and they’re amazing! These apps are perfect for supporting comprehension and your ELA curriculum. I used them as digital graphic organizers for exploring non-fiction text structures, but you can really use them across the content areas!

Getting Started

Once you download the apps, they’re very easy to use! I haven’t explored the Trading Cards, Acrostic Poem, or Alphabet apps, but I’ve used the Timeline and Venn Diagram apps (links below) with my non-fiction text structure unit (i.e., Sequence & Order, and Compare & Contrast).

All apps require students to create a username so that they can save their projects. It takes only a minute and is very easy for students to do. It’s worth having the students set up usernames, especially since multiple groups use my set of iPads. Plus, students can work on their digital projects throughout the week without having to start over each time.

Venn Diagrams

The Venn Diagram app is very user-friendly. My 4th & 5th graders used this app to record similarities and differences of hurricanes and tornadoes. We then used the graphic organizer to develop “Compare & Contrast” paragraph responses.

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You can print the Venn Diagrams, or you can save them as pictures on your iPad’s Camera Roll. If your school is like mine, we restrict student printing via the iPads, so I have my students send me their .jpg files using DropItToMe, which is linked to my Dropbox. I can then print it for them!

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I’ve only used the app for comparing topics within a text, but I’m looking forward to using it for other purposes as well. We’re comparing fictional characters in one of my 2nd grade groups, and I would love the students to compare the characters using this app. My decoding/fluency group is working on different vowel patterns, and I would love for my students to use the venn diagram to sort the words into the different vowel categories. Students could even use the digital venn diagram for sorting their spelling words!

Timelines

The Timeline app is perfect for exploring Sequence & Order in informational texts. To start, the app provides visual examples of three different ways you can organize your timeline: dates, times, or events. I had my students choose which they thought would be the best way to organize our timelines. They had to preview the text and then set up their timeline.

My 4th & 5th grade students created timelines from the Reading A-Z book The Story of the Statue. They highlighted the key details and organized their timelines by date. Even though there is a short description and long description option to go with each time/date/event you add, the short description is the only one that shows up on the printed timeline. I actually preferred the short description, because it had a character limit. It forced my students to “Sum It Up” and pick key words to go with each timeline entry.

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This app would be great for biography projects or for retelling story events in a fiction text. Students could also use it as a graphic organizer when writing personal narratives or memoirs. There are a ton of options!

I hope to explore more comprehension apps that are out there, and I’m really hoping ReadWriteThink continues to develop more student-friendly apps in the future! Do you know of any great apps for comprehension?  Please let me know if you come across any good ones. You can comment on this post or email me at msjordanreads@gmail.com. I’m hoping to eventually write a blog post to spotlight some of the great comprehension apps out there.

In the mean time, I would love to hear how you use these apps! Please leave a comment on this post if you have a great idea to share. 🙂

Happy Teaching! 

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The Gift of Reading Blog Hop (Stop #20)

22 Nov

Blog Hop Overview:

At each blog stop, you will be gathering literacy-related gifts and freebies.  In each post, you will find a picture of a snowman with a letter on it. Collect all of the letters, record them on your Giveaway Recording Sheet, and solve the mystery quote. You will need this quote to enter the amazing giveaway at the end!

The hop is set up as a loop, so you may start anywhere along the hop, but if you would like to start at the beginning, to make sure you scoop up all the freebies, please visit the first stop: A Day In The Life of A Title I Teacher.  (This is also where you will go after you finish the hop to enter the giveaway!)

Welcome to Blog Hop Stop #20:

“Reading. Writing. Thinking. Sharing.”

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The Gift of Reading:

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The gift of reading is a lifelong gift. Helping the children in your life find the one book, the one author, or the one series they could fall in love with… it could change their lives forever. Maybe it’s the book that hooks them into the world of reading. Maybe it’s the series that motivates them to read moreto become better readers. Maybe it’s the author that helps them relate, connect, and understand life. Whatever it is, help your students understand the power of reading, and show them how it can truly change their lives.

I wish for you a holiday season filled with love, laughter, and MANY wonderful books! 🙂

Enjoy my FREE gift for YOU!

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(NOTE: Starting 8 PM on Sunday, 11/24/13, this item will go back to being a paid item in my TpT store.)  

The Winter Escape” partner poetry product will bring some poetry fun into your classroom! Use the poem to reinforce fluency, and use the comprehension pages to reinforce visualizing, retelling, making inferences, and writing text-based answers. Send it home with students, or use it in the classroom as a literacy center. My students love the back-and-forth structure of this partner poem and the activities that go along with it. I hope yours do too!

My secret letter is:

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Thank you for stopping by! If you’re not already a follower, and you would like to be the first to know about new post, giveaways, and blog hops, follow me on Bloglovin’ (click the image bel0w). You can also sign up for my blog posts via email (see right-hand navigation). 

 
 

Don’t stop now! Hop on over to Thinking Out Loud to pick up another amazing reading gift! If you get lost along the way download the Blog Hop Map here to easily pick up where you left off! 

Happy Hopping &

Happy Holidays!

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