Using Booktrack in the Classroom

“There’s so much more to a book than just the reading.” By Maurice Sendak

Booktrack aims to improve student literacy through encompassing technology and Common Core Standards. It can be used two different ways: One is students can read stories, poems and other texts that are associated with a ‘movie-style’ soundtrack or two, students can create Booktracks, using their own writing.

How does it work?

You choose a book. As you read, you’ll see an arrow going down the right-hand margin of the page. This arrow moves down the page as you read so that your reading speed goes with the soundtrack. If the arrow moves too fast or slow, use the plus and minus icons at the bottom of the page to change the speed.

If you want students to create their own book, they can do so in a few easy steps:

1. Click on the icon create

2. Type the story

3. Add the sound track by highlighting the text you want to each part of the story from the library of over 20,000 sound clips.

4. Preview and then publish!

Here are my ten reasons why I like Booktrack:

1. FREE

2. Lesson plan library created by teachers, for teachers

3.  It is easy to create a class account. To enroll your students into your class add their name and select add or just upload a CSV file – Booktrack will set them up for you.

4. Books for all levels of students elementary, middle and high.

5. If you have any questions or need assistance just click on “Help” in the upper right hand corner. There are video tutorials to help guide you as well, which makes it very user-friendly.

6. Works on all devices! (Great for BYOT classrooms)

7. The books are all labeled with genre, type, language and ratings.

 

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8. Students can create their own books and publish them so others can read as well.

9.  The sound track can distract some students but you can mute it and read it just like a regular e-book.

10. Teachers can use the books as their read alouds; modeling on an eReader can help promote 21st century digital literacy skills.

Articles about Booktrack:

Booktrack Raises $3M To Add Soundtracks To E-Books, Launches Classroom Version

Booktrack – Create and Listen to Soundtracks for Books

 

No Summer Slide Using these Resources

“If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads.” By Sherman Alexie

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What happens when young minds sit idle for three months…it’s known as the “summer slide”. How can we prevent the summer slide with our students? By informing our parents about what it is and giving them resources like the ones below to help them. 

Reading Lists:

Scholastic Keep Kids Reading All Summer Long: Book List By Age

Barnes and Noble Summer Reading List for Kids

Teacher Vision Summer Reading List

Summer Reading Logs:

http://www.reading-rewards.com
https://www.biblionasium.com
https://readingglue.com

You could also use Google Docs and the students nor parents would need an account. What you can do is create a Google Form, then make the spreadsheet public with link- to do this you click the box at the end of the form that says make public for all. They could see what others filled out plus themselves. You could also make it into a competition and see who reads the most books, pages and/or genres etc.

Other helpful resources:

Ink Think Tank (Great free non-fiction!)

Collaborative Summer Library Program (Libraries nationwide)

What Can Families Do to Keep Children Reading Over the Summer?

Summer Reading Tips From Librarians

 How to Make Summer Reading Effective

Please share any sites that you use with your students or parents to prevent the summer slide.

Reflections on Balanced Literacy

“It always seems impossible, until it is done.” — Nelson Mandela

I found it appropriate for my two year anniversary for blogging that today’s post would be my first guest bloggers post by Jessica Mize-Wilson. (@jmizewilson)

Recently, I joined a new learning community, The Teacher’s Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP). I had the privilege of attending a TCRWP Homegrown Institute this summer and loved all the “Ah!” moments! It was affirming and satisfying knowing we were teaching readers and writers strategies to master skills that are so broad they can be applied to any type of reading. We are moving from a hybrid basel/reader’s workshop model reading program to full implementation balanced literacy. Balanced literacy, as defined by Cowen, states “A balanced reading approach is research-based, assessment-based, comprehensive, integrated, and dynamic, in that it empowers teachers and specialists to respond to the individual assessed literacy needs of children as they relate to their appropriate instructional and developmental levels of decoding, vocabulary, reading comprehension, motivation, and sociocultural acquisition, with the purpose of learning to read for meaning, understanding, and joy.” Teachers cannot implement balanced literacy alone, in silos! We must share and collaborate! Teaching teams will be most excited about the “instructional synergy” coming into the classroom. Teachers will see how each piece builds on one another and a community of learners (both teachers and students) begin to work together, feeding on each other and a “buzz” about our learning develops!

When I read the units, I begin to see each teaching point build on one another (something I always felt highs and lows with in my hybrid model of reader’s workshop.) I begin to hear and see opportunities for shared reading, interactive writing, word study, conferring, strategy groups and guided reading groups….oh my! Now I am overwhelmed! Not really, but it is easy to do because balanced literacy is about responsive teaching. A lot of decisions cannot be made until the students walk in the door! This fall, as a Literacy Facilitator, I will be coaching teachers in implementing balanced literacy and thought there were a few Ah! Ha! moments to share. So, here goes…

1. The components of balanced reading! Balanced literacy is a complex, dynamic teaching approach. If we want students to become risk takers, we must also take risk. Set your own goal! Choose one component to focus on and get really good at it first. Seeing the big picture and knowing the components of reader’s workshop will help you choose your goal! All of the components work together and offer a balance for students to transfer learning to all areas of their lives.

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2. The mini lesson! Can it really be a mini and not a “maxi”? Yes! The TCRWP shared the architecture of a mini lesson and several conversational moves to keep the lesson at a brisk pace. Using the architecture of a mini lesson accomplishes three goals: planning becomes easier, teaching becomes more efficient and students come to know what to expect so they can better focus on what we’re teaching (builds trust in us!) Sending a message of, “We’ve got this!” load and clear. The mini-lesson is a invitation to try a strategy and the architecture of a mini lesson clearly defines what and how students can become successful readers.

3. Conferring! What am I suppose to talk about that will move students along their current text band and propel them forward to the next text band? It is going to take a lot of balance between mini-lesson instruction, strategy work, guided reading groups, partner work and conferring! Conferring catches a student at the cutting edge of their learning, at the cutting edge of greatness! A lot of times teachers think it is easy to confer with students, until you start! The key to conferring is not talking but listening! Coaching into the greatness is the hard part and it takes a lot of practice. The architecture of a reading conference helps move the conversation along.

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Other Ah! Ha! Moments…
1. Reading Toolkit — teaching into readers needs!
2. #tcrwp chats on Twitter
3. The different types of small group work!

Bridging Coding and Common Core with Tynker

“Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.” by  Michael J. Gelb

Tynker is a great new  FREE web tool designed to teach students computational thinking and coding skills. It is similar to Scratch but you don’t need to download and it works on multiple browsers which is great for schools that are bring your own technology (BYOT). It is easy to set up a class and only takes minutes.

What I like most about Tynker is it balances the left and right side of the brain while using 21st century skills. The students have to critically think about the challenge that you give them, collaborate with others and create using coding skills. Below you can see a screen shot of what is shown in Tynker once you have completed one. My challenge to myself,  so I could help learn coding, was to have at least 1 actor, 2 costume changes and a background.

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You can give your students challenges that are similar or you can have them use certain coding blocks such as you must have 2 ‘if, then’ statements or you must use 1 coordinate grid code. You can also have them use different coding block themes for a challenge such as 3 events, 1 flow, 2 motions, 2 stage changes. You can also use it to help differentiate because you can assign different challenges to different students.

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Below the students challenge was a little different, the students had to reinvent the game ‘Pong’ so they could play it. There is a backpack button in the top right corner that also lets you store coding blocks so you can ‘favorite’ ones you like to use a lot or if you want to ‘steal’ someone else’s coding block to learn how to do it, you can. The possibilities are endless with Tynker and the students are having fun, problem solving and using many of the common core skills such as computation, angles, coordinate grids, physics, digital story telling, cause and effect and if, then statements and much more.

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You can create lesson plans inside Tynker along with using ones that are already created for you. You can also view other’s Tynler projects to gain ideas about how you want to use it in your classroom. When visiting schools recently, I have watched 3rd graders recreate the ‘mouse trap’ game. Fifth graders created interactive ebooks that explained force and motion. While in a 6th grade classroom, their challenge was to create a 1 min screen that had to sync 5 actors with music to the Harlem Shake.

Here you can see how Common Core 3.NBT is met with this project that is in the lesson plan section.

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I would love to hear how other educators are using Tynker in the classroom. Please share in the comment section. Below are some other articles about Tynker that have been in the news that also have great examples of how it can be used in the classroom.

Code Alert: Tynker Wants to Teach Your Child to Tinker With Tech

From Animated Animals to Algorithmic Art

Check Out This Learn-To-Code Platform Just for Kids

Discovery Education: Changing the Classroom with Techbooks

“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children.  One of these is roots; the other wings.” by Hodding Carter

Discovery Education has been a wonderful tool in my classroom and in our district. A few days ago, Discovery Education announced at the NSTA conference, that any teacher in the country may have free access to their Techbook from now until the end of June.  This is exciting for many reasons! Techbooks are going to change the classroom and offer students more interaction then just a regular textbook. Another great reason to start this free trail even though it is towards the end of the school year because it is a great way to review for the end of year tests your state has without teaching to the test.

This is the link for the DE Techbook free trial. It is very easy and DE helps you walk through the steps. Once you begin your free trial there is a 4 min video tour before you begin your exploration.

Great Features of the DE Techbook for the Teacher: 

– Curriculum correlates with State Science Standards (Ex: NC 2.L.1.1 – Summarize the life cycle of animals)

– 5E plan with essential questions with built-in prep and big ideas (To learn more about 5E see previous blog post)

– Lessons are broken down into time segments to give you, as the teacher, a rough idea about how long that portion of the lesson should take

– Easy navigations and can add lessons into ‘My Content’ to stay organized

– Offers Hands On Activities suggestions with directions

Great Features of the DE Techbook for the Student:

– The students can highlight and take notes and interact with the text

– You have the option of having the techbook be read to you

– Embedded videos and interactive glossary for the students use.

I highly suggest you check out this free trial from DE. They also offer Free Webinars to ‘dive deeper’ into how to use Techbook in the classroom. They also offer Quick-Start guides, that you can download for the Techbook you want to explore more. I hope you enjoy DE’s Techbook as much as I do!

* I am also excited to learn more about DE’s ideas when I attend Discover Educator Network Summer Institute (#DENSI13) this summer in Vermont.

Applying 21st Century Skills with Common Core and Trading Cards

“Critical thinking is thinking about your thinking while you’re thinking in order to make your thinking better.”  by Richard Paul

My new favorite FREE tool for the classroom, for grades 3-12, is Trading Cards; which is an iOS App and also web based  by ReadWriteThink. This tool is user-friendly  and allows students to practice 21st century skills with integration of Common Core Curriculum. The Trading Card tool gives students a choice to demonstrate their literacy knowledge by creating a trading card about a real or fictional character.

When you use this tool in the classroom, the learners apply all their 21st century skills. The students  have to….

– critically think about the information they need to write in each section. The sections have guiding questions to help the students if they need it.

– communicate the information in 120 characters or less per section.

– create the card adding a picture of the character they are describing.

– collaborate if you have the students work together.

The tool is user friendly and the creator can chose different backgrounds/designs and can also organize the cards by putting them in different collections. My favorite feature is that you can also share the cards multiple ways. One way is you can download them to your camera roll and then upload them to Edmodo or Gaggle accounts and have class discussions about the cards. Having students create cards based on characters in their books help them think about perspective in a creative way. This is also a great way for students to reflect on a biography they have read to synthesize the information.  There are a lot of lesson plans already created for grades 3-12, check them out here.

Here is the one I created on Steve Jobs on my iPad, then saved it to my camera roll.

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If you have used ReadWriteThink- Trading Cards in the classroom I would love to know how; please share in the comment section.

Connecting Common Core with Comics Using Chogger

“Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking we can get on with creating the future.” James Bertrand

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Chogger is a new website to me and I learned about during a #21stedchat a few weeks ago. I have been ‘playing’ and exploring with it and think it is a great new web tool for the classroom.

Creating comics is engaging and inspires creativity within students. Creating stories in comic board format helps scaffold students. In Chogger, you have 10 layouts/formats to choose from. You can choose to upload pictures from your computer, webcam, draw your own, or google search right inside Chogger.  This program is easy to use, and the possibilities are endless. Did I mention it is FREE!

Creating comics also promotes 21st century learning skills such as creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration (if they work on the comic with partners or small group.) The best part is you can easily connect many ELA Common Core Standards with Chogger. You can have the students…

  • Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson (RL.2 or RI.2)
  • Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events. (RL.3 or RI.3)
  • Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language. (RL.4 or RI.4)
  • Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. (W1)
  • Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content. (W2)
  • Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences. (W3)
  • Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.  (W6)
  • Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.  (SI.5)

You can also connect Common Core with Math; as students can create ‘how to comics’ for any topic such as fractions, “How do you add and subtract fractions with like denominators.” If you are in NC, you can also connect the NC Essential Standards for example with Science by having the students create a comic that is about ‘The day in the life of a water droplet’ for the water cycle or any other RAFT activities.

Check out my Chogger Comic here

I am really excited that Chogger is coming out with an educators version! Making it a safer place where students can create web comics, share with their friends, and have fun learning. http://classroomcomics.com. I do wish they had an app! That would make it even better!

Chogger has other great features such as Chog it! Bookmarking to learn more: Click Here

If you have used Chogger in the classroom, I would love to hear how, as I know the possibilities are endless.