Tag Archive | Goodreads

Ten Minutes or Less

I remember the first few years I began implementing a workshop model. No matter how much I or the kiddos enjoyed it I always felt overwhelmed. Those of you who do workshop model probably know exactly what I’m talking about. And it had nothing to do with implementing the workshop model.

Every night I carted home twenty or so notebooks. If it was your book shopping day I was collecting your notebooks. Your Readers’ Notebook. Writers’ Notebook. Math Notebook. Inquiry Notebook. About five kiddos book-shopped each day, so about twenty. There’s the obvious strain from the weight of the notebooks on my teacher bag and shoulders.

But the strain I felt the most was on my time. Each night I carted those notebooks home. And each night I would spend hours reading the notebooks. Searching for the most recent work. Reviewing student work. Assessing student work. Hours. And some nights I couldn’t possibly get through all of the notebooks so naturally my work load would increase the following evening.

These last two years, since implementing technology into my classroom, all that has changed. There are numerous benefits for my students, but to my free time…Woah, Nellie! Ten minutes or less. And that is for my entire class. Yes, my entire class. Each day my students read and respond to text. Each day they solve complex mathematical problems. Each day they reflect on scientific, geographic, or historic concepts. Each day my students write. That creates approximately 100 pieces of writing for me to review. But with the technology I use, it takes me about ten minutes to read the writing of my entire class. In about ten minutes I can review my students’ mathematical thinking.

It started last year when I began to implement a blog during Math Workshop and Inquiry Workshop and Twitter during Inquiry Workshop. Using these tools I was able to quickly see where my kiddos were at. The blog I use through Weebly allows me to see all the comments in one shot. Twitter allows me to create a list so I can view a stream of only my students. This year I have been able to expand on this with a couple of other tools.

Goodreads. I can not say enough about this virtual bookshelf. Goodreads is good stuff. not only can my students create bookshelves of what they’ve read, are reading, and want to read but they can also rate and review books. Every day I can see what my students are reading and thinking about the books they are reading. The one thing that Goodreads let’s us do is the thing I love the most. Have book talks. I’ve created a group for my class and pose questions for them to respond to; just like a stop and jot. Just like a blog, all of these get sent to my feed and I can immediately see what’s my kiddos are thinking.

Goodreads also has a writing option, but I am leaning towards Notes on the iPod. First, because Goodreads is working on having that option available on mobile devices as they do in their desktop application. Second, because my students can use Notes as an ongoing Writers’ Notebook, and then email me selected entries that they are working on. In addition to being able to meet with half to all of my students during learning, I can review and reflect on the day’s learning quickly.

-Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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Building Reading Habits

We’ve been talking about what it means to be a reader and reflecting on our summer reading. They have made some thoughtful insights into their reading habits like this:


We were continuing the conversation today during Morning Meeting prompted by a quick poll on the Morning Message.

I asked my students about how much they read each night at home. The class was fairly split with about 1/2 reading 30 minutes or more and the other 1/2 reading less than 20 minutes a night. Before we began Morning Meeting one of my students shared something her family does at home and I could not wait to have her share it with her classmates!

Once we read the message I threw some Lucy Calkins at them (as I’m prone to do). “Remember how we were talking the other day about how the more you read the more you know, and the more you know the more you grow? Well they’ve actually done research that proves this. And do you know that they recommend you read for the same amount of time at home that you read at school?” The children were in awe and eager to see how long we would read today.

And that’s when I nudged my little friend and encouraged her to share what her family does at home. “My family reads together every night for an hour. We all get together in the same room and we each read our own books. Sometimes we interrupt each other’s reading to share. But we do this every day no matter what. Even holidays.” A bunch of hands shot up when I asked who thought they’d like to try that at home. I’m really excited to get my kiddoes thinking about their reading habits outside of school!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

My Teacher Bag

Today began my tenth year of teaching. And in those ten years I have collected a great deal of bags. Teachers seem to like bags, or companies and organizations seem to think they do, and so anytime I attend a conference a new bag is added to my collection.

There must be something to that perception because I have friends and colleagues who walk into and out of work with, at minimum, three bags filled to the brim. Every day. Bags stuffed with papers, books, lesson plans, and grade books.

This year, since June-ish, I have been in a purging mood. Trying to get myself into a ‘less is more’ frame of mind. So I figured that I would start the school year in much the same way. Other than my lunch and plenty of bottled water all I brought into work with me today was this:


It’s really all I need: conferring notes, rubrics, lesson plan notes, access to student work, books… Not to mention I can keep up to date with work emails and memos if needed. It was quite nice bringing home only a bag filled with empty water bottles (will work on that next). And my shoulder thanked me.

Why Use Social Media?

This is a pretty common question that I hear when I speak about digital citizenship, and its usually followed with because the whole point is to socialize.  When I hear people say this I hear a lot of fear.  Fear of losing control.  Fear that their students will engage inappropriately.  Fear of repercussions from administration, parents, and the community.  Understandable, because no one likes to feel afraid, and outside of the fact that you should define social media for yourself so that you have a purpose for using it and then know what you expect of your students while they are using it.  So why use social media when students will be socializing?

Because it is social.  The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.  There is an abundance of research that proves this and it is one of the principles in the Responsive Classroom philosophy.  People, including children, learn best when they are exchanging ideas with others.  It strengthens their understanding, helps them clarify misconceptions, and opens them to diverse opinions and experiences.  All of these things happen in a classroom when students are working in small groups, but provides the opportunity for this to occur in an exponential way when happening online.

Using social media with students gives them the opportunity to practice social skills.  The same social skills we teach and expect students to use when engaged with others in person, we expect them to use online.  At the same time, we have to teach them new skills that involve social critical thinking.  For example: if I say _____ I am trying to say _____, but someone could think I mean ______ so I should say ______ instead.  We are teaching them critical literacy tools that are necessary in the absence of body language and intonation.  We are teaching them word choice, tone, intent, and perception.  But, most importantly, we are teaching them empathy.

While novelty is key in some ages, early adolescents in particular, relevance is important to any learner.  Social media hits both of these.  Using tools that students are familiar with is one important way to engage students in curriculum.  This also tells them that we validate their lives outside of school, creating a sense of significance, and making them more apt to participate in curriculum that could be unappealing or challenging.  Then there is the novelty.  Tools like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more are used by students of all ages for social reasons.  Using them in the classroom is novel because we are using it a way that is foreign to them: to learn. 

Rethinking Film and Television

Many of us already use National Geographic, Disney Nature, and Discovery documentaries to enrich science and social studies concepts. Many of us also currently engage our children in critical thinking activities when we partner books with films. If video is overused in this manner the novelty will wear off.  Rest assured, there are other ways. There are a few sites that I use as my go-to sites (other than YouTube) to sprinkle video in to learning. PBS Kids, Teachers Domain, and BrainPOP Jr. all provide brief cartoons that serve as a means to engage children.
PBS Kids is great for primary (PreK-3) with a wide range of shows that cover an array of topics. Sid the Science Kid (one of my four year-old nephew’s favorites) has videos about a variety of topics from weather to friction.  He models what it means to be curious about our world, question everything, and discover our own answers.  Wild Kratts has entertaining informational videos and cartoons about habitats, ecosystems, plants, and animals.  Between the Lions are short music videos about letters and sounds. 
Teachers Domain has clipped Cyber Chase (PBS cartoon) that can be used to support math concepts. Most of he videos are around three minutes and are focused on one mathematical concept.  For instance, one of the clips poses the problem of neighbors arguing over property and the Cyber Squad has to figure out the area.  Another has the Cyber Squad using fractions to solve a sibling squabble.  And yet another helps explain base-ten concepts.  Teachers Domain also has documentary/informational clips that support a wide range of topics and concepts.  One of my favorite ones to use is the flash video that shows seeds sprouting in different degrees of light.  This video really helps children understand how plant need light and will grow in the direction of it.  Best of all, you can narrow your search based upon criteria you enter!
BrainPOP Jr. is perfect for primary intermediate grades. Their format of including a notebook on the side of the film is brilliant in modeling non fiction structures.  Not to mention how entertaining the kids find Annie and Moby!  Recently, my students choose two ecosystem videos to watch. They noted the elements of each ecosystem, decided which they would prefer to live in and justified their decision.  They have also used the videos to gather additional information about holidays and math concepts.  While there is a subscription cost for BrainPOP Jr., there is an iPod/iPad app that provides you with the free video of the week.  If something big happens in the world, like the tsunami and quake in Japan, they are quick to make the related video available. 
Another way to use video and television is through QR Codes.  My district subscribes to A to Z Reading and there are times when I use the printable books.  I find brief videos online that act as a sidebar for the content/topic and create a QR Code for them.  After printing them out on sticker paper, I place them into the books.  The children enjoy scanning the codes to gather more information about what they are reading.  Even better, they like having the choice of whether or not to scan the code.  This is a great way to enrich the content as well as support reading comprehension (building schema).
I also use film and television to teach critical think, writing, and introduce new concepts.  For example, I’ve used a scene from Wall-E to introduce the concept of culture.  We watched all of those humans being catered on, wheeled around from place to place as their waste expanded, and being told what to wear and eat (just realized this would be great to use with the book The Giver, too!).  I have used a FEMA commercial to talk about character stereotypes; talk about angry kids!  I have two commercials, Embrace Life and Travelers, ready to go for point of view and/or graphic novel script language.  Just this morning I used the first 5 minutes of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl to introduce the idea of a splash page in writing graphic novels.  It really helped the kids understand how to introduce the mood, characters, and setting in their graphic novel. 
Sometimes we think that we have to use an entire movie or television show.  Or that we have to always go to YouTube to find what we are looking for.  But, sometimes all we have to do is dig through our video or DVD collection like I did last night to pull out Pirates (okay, I didn’t have to dig that deep).  Or sometimes it’s just knowing the full capability of our cable subscription.  I can access any of the movies that are on the channels that I subscribe to from any computer (plus did you know about HBO 2 go on the iPad?).  That’s how we have been watching Oceans and accessed Wall-E.  The best part is they are engaged!  They are looking at something they are quite familiar, and sometimes numb to, in a whole new way!

Like Riding A Bike

We are outraged when we hear children are engaged in inappropriate and/or mean-spirited behavior online.  And then we block social networks like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter in schools.  Prohibiting the use of them in classrooms.  A safe place for children to learn how to engage appropriately (and in a new way) with social media.  Children across the country are missing out on empowering opportunities that social media provides. 

My question is, this.  It is an expectation that children learn how to ride a bike (or swim) as a child.  Would we demand that they know how to do this well without ever providing them with access to a bicycle (or water)?  Would we expect them to hop on a two-wheeler without ever having experienced the safety that a tricycle (or floaties) provides?

Power Tools

Whenever you do something in the classroom your intention is that your students will apply it to their lives.  One of the many reasons why I prefer to use technology with my students is for this reason ~ transferability.  We have been using a variety of technological tools in the classroom: netbook, iPod Touch, and NOOKs.  Each are used every day in a variety of ways.  Since using the iPod Touch in the classroom the children have been using a variety of apps.  Sometimes they use them for assigned tasks, while other times they use them as a choice to complete a task or when completing a task. 

There are a couple of students who bring their Touch in to school.  Since using them in the classroom, they wanted to bring their device in.  And not to play the games or watch the movies they have on them.  They bring them in so they can download the apps that we are using in the classroom.  They want to put Easy Chart on their iPod.  They want to put Apples in Hour Hands on their Touch.  This is what I hear everyday, “What’s the name of that app we were just using?”  Once I tell them it is quickly followed by, “Can I take a minute to download it?” 

I was walking around the classroom as the children come in off of the bus this morning.  I see a small group huddled by one of the tables.  Excitedly chattering.  I walk over to see what its all about.  Do you know what I saw?  I saw children hovering over iPods.  They look up as they see me near and say, “Mrs. Mercier, we’re downloading the NOOK app and some free book apps onto our iPods!” 

How great is this?  Children, as young as eight and nine, are seeing the value of technology. They understand how powerful of a tool it is to help them learn.  (Stay tuned to see what they have to say about Twitter…for which they have plenty!)  We really do need to get mobile devices into their hands to have at home and school.  We need to provide it to them as young as possible.  This is when we will see just how powerful these tools are.