Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Reading Apps for Elementary Students

Looking for reading apps to use with young students or struggling readers? Take a look at these:

Reading Raven Vol 2 HD $2.99

Reading Raven presents five extensive lessons, with hundreds of individual activities in total. Parents and teachers will find the multi-sensory learning games to be a great complement to traditional classroom and home-based reading instruction. This app is also fully customizable by age or reading level. The built in read alound and voice recording feature is a nice addition.

Recommended Ages: 3-7

Teach Me 1st Grade $1.99

Teaches four age-appropriate subjects to first grade children: sight words, addition, subtraction and spelling. TeachMe: 1st Grade's unique TeachTech character recognition engine interprets a child's written answers, helping to reinforce writing skills while teaching math and spelling. Students are very motivated to earn coins and spend them at the shape store, fish store and art store. 

Bonus! This app allows different users to be created. Great for a classroom, learning center or home. Children can even take their picture to      
   display it next to their name in the user list.

   Recommended 1st grade (They also have Kindergarten, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade)

Tap the Cat (from Reading Eggs) $1.99

9 playful activities builds and reinforces a different literacy skill – from letter sounds, rhyming words and phonics to coloring, vocabulary, speaking and handwriting. I like the recording feature on this app, students can speak a word and then play it back to hear themselves.

Recommended Ages: 4-6

Eggy 250 HD (From Reading Eggs) $1.99

This app covers the first 250 sight words using a fun and motivating game to keep kids learning. 10 levels with 25 words in each, making a total of 250 sight words.  First 4 levels are unlocked. New speed option on the settings page lets you change the speed to match your child's skill level.

Recommended Ages: 3-6

Friday, September 13, 2013

An Annoted List of Resources for Teaching the Common Core in the Social Studies Classroom

Here are some resources I put together that to help provide structure and focus for teachers transitioning to the Common Core in Social Studies. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but provides some concrete examples and clear ideas to support the transition.

1.  Ideas for Implementing Literacy Common Core in the Non-ELA Classroom - an Edutopia article with links to many resources to help teachers be effective and intentional in teaching and assessing the CCSS

2.  Text-Dependent Questions: Using Evidence - Guides and Checklists from Achieve The Core to help teachers write and evaluate text-dependent questions. These tools can help transition from the old standby "find the answer in the book" questions to higher level thinking tasks

3.  Language, History and the Common Core - Educator Bill Chapman (@classroomtools) demonstrates how to address one literacy standard using three separate documents in a social studies class

4.  Common Core Literacy in History/Social Studies - Close Reading Exemplar Lessons from Achieve the Core demonstrate how teachers can build student knowledge through content rich nonfiction and practice with reading complex informational text

5.  Minecraft History Project -  Shared by Minecraft Educator +Tim Wicks, this student decides to use Minecraft to express learning in his history lesson

6.  Integrating Technology in Common Core Teaching - Jaclyn Karabinas shares on her Institute in a Box website many ways to integrate technology into teaching using tools such as screencasting and blogging, allowing students to share and express their learning

Please share your resources and ideas in the comments!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

3 Ways To Use Google Docs To Schedule Parent Conferences

I believe in efficiency and collaboration. One way to achieve this during parent conference time is to use Google Docs.

1.  One year I created a Google spreadsheet and shared it with my school secretary.  Parents were told to email me or call the school to schedule a time to meet and discuss their students progress. This way parents could plan a time to meet with me even when I was busy in class. Having one, shared spreadsheet allowed both the secretary and myself to have the most updated schedule always available and eliminated the accidental double booking of time slots. Here is a link to my Conference Spreadsheet.

2.  The second way to schedule parent conferences is to create a Google Doc, go to sharing and set visibility so that anyone with a link can edit it. Then send the link to parents and let them sign up in available time slots. A benefit to this is that it eliminates the middle man and allows a parents to view available times and schedule when it is convenient for them.  Also, if parents need to reschedule, they can easily go back to the doc and move their name to another available time slot.  For parents who can't access the doc, they can still call or email and have the teacher or secretary add them to the doc.

This idea came from super-teacher, Matt Gomez who uses this method with his kindergartner's parents. You can see his step by step instructions on his blog post: Using Google Docs for Setting Up Conferences with Parents.  So, what happens if someone gets mischievous and deletes another parent's appointment? Thanks to the Revision History feature in Google Docs, even if a parent accidentally deletes another parents appointment, you can see when the edit occurred and restore it.

3.  I took the shared Google Doc idea a step further and added a form for parents to submit their contact information. It always seems that the contact information in our student information system is not accurate, so having current contact info for students is critical, especially around parent conference time. I added a link to the form at the bottom of the shared Fall Conference Schedule so I can collect information such as the student name, parent name, email address, phone number and whether I can text them at that number.  Here is a link to my Fall Conference Schedule and Parent Contact Form which you can use a template. To use the Contact Form - click the link, go to File--> Make a copy. When you open your new copy you will see a spreadsheet where form responses will be collected. To edit the form click Form --> Edit Form.
To share the form click Form --> Go to live form. This is the link you share with parents. 

My two step process for letting parents
drive the conference schedule

My Google Form for collecting current parent contact information at parent conference time.