Posted in Uncategorized

Library Extras

School has officially started, and I’m exhausted. Remember when all those social media posts in May said, “There’s no tired like end of the year teacher tired.” Turns out “start of the year teacher tired” is almost as bad. We just forget about it by the time the end of the year rolls around. But I digress.

My classroom library is ready for student check-out. I got a ton of great books this summer at the used book store and the library sales. Plus, one of my Donors Choose projects got funded this summer. I just got a delivery of Horrible History books as well as the complete Science Comics collection. A few of my students are in the after school program and stopped by after school to help me unbox them. They were calling dibs left and right.

Dibs was an easy fix. I created a sticky note template so that I could print sticky notes that just say (Name) calls DIBS on (Title of book) on (date). I print several sheets of these sticky notes and keep them on a clipboard on top of one of my bookcases. When students want a book that is already checked out, they write their name, title, and date on a sticky. When the book is checked back in, I can just put their Dibs sticky on the cover and set it aside. It is so much easier than trying to remember all the verbal dibs I hear in a day!

Have you ever printed sticky notes? It is a total game changer!

Book Reserved For sticky notes

While I was on a sticky note printing binge, I also made Book Reserved For sticky notes. These are for when I come across or read a book I think a student (or teacher) will like. I keep the Reserved sticky notes on a different clipboard. I can easily write down the name of the person, then stick a Reserved For sticky note on the cover of the book and set it aside. I always get a grin, from students and my co-teachers alike, when a Reserved book ends up in the conversation.

These sticky notes were such a quick and easy way to liven up something that I was trying to do mentally or with a million lists. Besides being fun for the kids, they make my library run smoother. Plus, I don’t end up breaking promises about what book I said students could read next!

Happy Reading.

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Posted in Books, Classroom Library

Ode to a Scanner Gun

Whenever adults ask me about why kids like to check books out of my classroom library, I always give the same response. Sure, I could say it’s because I love graphic novels and have bookshelves full of them. I could say that my rules are lax, and I’m not a huge stickler for timelines and due dates (I don’t actually have due dates). I could say it’s because kids like to kill time in my room during lunch. I could say it’s because I’m friendly and will spend time talking about book suggestions. But I personally believe the main reason kids are drawn to my classroom library is because they get to control … (insert drumroll) … the scanner gun.

USB Wireless Barcode Scanner

I bought a barcode scanner gun when I decided to organize my classroom library using Booksource. I chose a wireless scanner so that kids weren’t tied to the desktop when checking in or out books. This also allows us to add books to the library and shelve them at the same time. While Booksource has a great app that uses a phone or tablet camera to scan books, the scanner gun has been a game-changer.

(Sidenote: when time is short, I still rely on the Booksource app to scan books using my phone, so that I can get kids back to class quickly.)

When students are ready to check out a book, Booksource makes it super easy. Students simply click their name, select Checkout, then after clicking in the search bar use the scanner gun to scan the barcode on the book. That’s it! The book is registered and students simply click Check Out to finish checking out the book. The operation works in reverse if they want to check in a book. Often, my students just drop the books in a return bin and my son uses the scanner gun to check all of the returned books in at the end of the day. It really is incredibly efficient. Plus, you know, kids get to play with a scanner gun. On the teacher end, it also makes adding books to my library extremely quick and easy. I’m not ashamed to admit this is one of the best (and most inexpensive) tools I’ve purchased for my classroom.

Posted in Books, Classroom Library

My Happy Place

No, not Disney World, though that makes me pretty happy. My Happy Place is my classroom library. After reading books like Kids Deserve It and Game Changer, I took a close look at my own classroom library and what I needed to do to make it a happy place.

Knowing that I’m a special education teacher, with a half-size classroom for pull-out groups, and knowing that I actually spend most of my day in my inclusion classes, you might be asking yourself, what classroom library? Why does she even have a classroom library? I have a classroom library because reading is important. Reading choice; reading books you love is important. I want to be the teacher who knows what books you love.

I’m proud to say my room houses over 1,100 books for kids to check out (but there’s a new book box on the way, so that number will go up). I’ve spent the past two years carefully curating a collection of high-interest books that kids are eager to read. I have books from all of the genres, formats, and reading levels I can think of, to ensure every reader has books that are accessible to them. Students from my two co-taught homerooms check out books almost daily. So do students in the other two homerooms on my fourth and fifth grade teams. So do students in my one pull out group. So do random students who ask if they can check out books. Anyone and everyone is welcome to check out a book. Students drop in any time I’m in my room (normally on their lunch or recess) to check out books.

Because my library is my happy place, I can talk for hours about it. Feeling a need to narrow this post to just one aspect of the library, I’m going to talk about how I organize my collection. There are tons of ways to organize and keep track of your books and I’ve read dozens of blog posts trying to figure out how to make this work. I settled on organizing my library by genre-ish and using the free website Book Source to catalog my books.

The Teacher Dashboard gives you a quick glance at the status of your library.

Guys! Book Source is amazing. I can’t believe it’s free. I was able to scan all of my books into the system (with the exception of a few I had to enter by hand). The books can be scanned via a bar code scanner (which I will write a love letter about in a later post) or using the Book Source app and camera on a tablet or phone. Once all of your books are scanned, you can easily inventory or check titles through the teacher dashboard.

But wait, there’s more! You can also create individual accounts for all your students! Students can then check out/check in the books they borrow independently. The teacher dashboard allows you to print a list of what is checked out, so you can do a pulse-check with students about the books they are reading. The site is truly amazing as a student management tool as well. (Again, more on that later!)

Before I go down the rabbit hole of Book Source awesomeness and create the world’s longest blog post, let me wrap it up. If you are looking for a way to easily catalog and manage your classroom library, you should check this resource out. It’s super user-friendly and entering your books is easy enough that my fourth grade son scanned the vast majority of mine. It is by far the easiest check in/check out system I’ve ever used. This website really has completely changed the nature of my library.

*Disclaimer – I got no kickbacks from Book Source for writing this post. In fact, they don’t even know I exist. I just wanted to share this resource with teachers that might be looking for the a great (and free) organizational tool.

Posted in website

Why start blogging again?

I never forgot about this blog. It tumbles across my brain space every now and again, a reminder of a time when I didn’t have quite so much on my plate. (Wait – there was a time like that?!) So why start blogging again? For real this time. Not like that time a couple years ago where I wrote two whole posts…

Last summer, we book-clubbed Kids Deserve It. If you haven’t read it yet, go now, click that link, and get yourself a copy. It’s an easy read that will completely revitalize your drive to be awesome. It’s a book that nails the why behind teaching. It’s a neon light reminder that kids are the reason we do what we do. It’s also a big reason I’m coming back to blogging. I want to share the amazing things we’re doing in class in hopes of helping others reclaim their joy.

But at the root, I want to talk about what we’re doing. I have some incredible co-teachers that inspire me every day. We are teaching some amazing lessons and I want a place where I can talk about what went well and what we’ve learned. I want a place to collaborate and share. I want to talk about teaching.

So here I am. Blogging again. Thank you Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome for inspiring me! #KidsDeserveIt

Posted in Apps, Osmo

Osmo – My Favorite Ed Tech Tool

Have you had a chance to play with Osmo? If not, I’m about to change your world.

osmo

The Osmo system is a series of apps for the iPad that utilize the camera to create a hands-on workspace in front of the iPad. Using the base and a variety of Osmo manipulatives, the work space moves to the table, instead of on the screen. Digital learning becomes hands-on with these games. The Osmo system has several great games, and the promise of more to come. Words, Numbers, Tangrams, Coding, Pizza, and those are just the games I own. Today, however, I’m going to focus on Osmo Words and how it will completely revolutionize your vocabulary instruction and practice.

osmo wordsOsmo Words is a word guessing game that puts an image on screen, and corresponding bubbles for how many letters are in the word. Students can play in teams or together to figure out what the picture represents. Players guess the word by throwing letters into the center of the table, and the score is calculated by how many red or blue letters are correct. Points are taken away for incorrect letters.

So how is this going to change your vocabulary practice? While Osmo has a bunch of pre-made albums to use in class, it is also completely customizable (and shareable). Teachers can create PowerPoints that can be converted to Words albums very easily. So the sky is the limit on what you do with the albums. We use Osmo Words in all four subject areas in my fourth and fifth grade classes. In ELA, we use the Osmo to practice our Greek and Latin roots. I’ve put together a couple of huge review albums that have images that represent the roots. For more targeted practice, I’ve also got a series of albums that practice a specific Greek root. The pictures are of words that have this root at their base. In math and science, we practice our content vocabulary. For each unit, I’ve put together albums that have images that represent specific vocabulary words. For instance, the landforms unit has images of a variety of terrestrial and aquatic landforms. In math, the albums may show different geometrical shapes. In both science and social studies, instead of relying just on pictures in the albums, I’ve also added short review questions. We review for major tests using these review question albums.

Osmo is perfect for learning stations. It easily engages groups of 2-6 students, letting you, as the teacher, focus on more direct or guided instructional groups. The cool thing is that all of the albums I’ve made are in the Osmo MyWords database, so they can be shared with anyone. Teaching is a team sport!

My albums are all geared toward upper elementary students. However, there are a bunch of great albums online that focus on early literacy skills. In fact, I’d hazard to say that the majority of albums are geared towards early elementary. Simple sight word practice, word families, and guessing games are easy to find and download. My family particularly likes the United States geography album.

Osmo Words is only one of the awesome games in the Osmo system. As I’ve tried to limit my gushing here, I’ve gotten more and more excited about pulling out my Osmo this year. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions on how we use the Osmo!

Posted in Uncategorized

Real Life

Hello all! For those of you that are still hanging around, either through email subscriptions or reader programs, thank you and I apologize. Real life happens. For the past three years, real life has happened, and blogging got put on the back burner.

BUT.

I’ve decided to focus more on my personal professional growth this year. (Is personal professional a thing?) I’m talking about growing myself professionally – on a personal level. Not through mandated professional development or plans. Basically, I want to focus on the parts of education that make me happy, feed my soul. Self-driven, it’s-important-to-me, kind of growth.

So please stay tuned. I’ve got great things in the works this year!

Posted in Apps, website

TenMarks.com – A great math intervention site

tenmarks

I’m in a new school this year, and serve in a few new roles. I couldn’t be more excited, though it’s definitely taking a toll on my free time (and therefore my blogging). One of my new roles is as a Student Intervention Team representative. While I’ve sat on SIT teams for years, I’ve never had to manage folders or be as involved in the intervention process. I’ve been doing a ton of internet reading on effective interventions and wanted to share this free one that has been making a regular appearance in my classroom.

TenMarks.com is a math site made for teachers. Teachers can sign up for a FREE account, input their classes, and assign online tasks based on grade-specific common core standards. Each grade level has activities and assessments geared toward the standards. Simply click on the standard and assign a task. The standards are grouped for easy access and teachers can check out sample questions before building an assignment. There are several reasons why I love TenMarks.com:

DSCN04231. You can put in as many groups as you need. (Read: differentiation for small groups)
2. The app gives you reports on how the kids do on each assignment and stores the scores in a digital gradebook. Teachers can view the final score, how many hints were used, how many instructional videos were viewed, and so on.
3. The questions are a good mix of rigor – basic calculations, but also error analysis and explanation questions in each standard. (Example: Given two student examples, which student got the answer wrong and why?) Also, some questions have more than one correct answer, making children do more analysis than a typical pen and paper assessment.
4. My all time favorite part – if a child doesn’t understand a question, they can click on the video tutorial. Each question has a video explaining how to solve that style of problem. It’s the perfect reteaching component!
5. If they still don’t get the question, they can utilize three extra hints.
6. At the end, students are given a score and then given a chance to go back and fix the questions they got wrong or got partially wrong to improve their score. Who doesn’t love a second chance?

We are using this app at my school as a math intervention for struggling students. The video tutorials give that essential reteaching component. Additionally, since students get individual logins, they can access the site from home and work with parents on the same type of problems. I’m also using it for some on-grade level data collection for my own students.

A few notes: tenmarks app
-The tutorial videos work on any device – including the iPads.
-Kids can access the site from anywhere, but there is a free app to go along with the program that streamlines everything for students.
-There is a Jam Session area where kids can practice skills without doing teacher assignments.
-There is a paid version of this. When teachers get the free version they can only assign tasks from the grade level specific standards. If you upgrade, one of the features is differentiated assignments – allowing teachers to assign any level standard to a class. I did not pay for anything – I’m happily using the free version.

Some of you may have already seen this site. It got sent to me in a mass email that I initially tossed into the trash folder. A big thanks to our reading coach, for telling me to take the time and check it out. Hope some of you find this app useful.

www.TenMarks.com