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I hope everyone is enjoying their summer!  I am already in back to school mode, as we have only three weeks left of summer break.  I will be out of town for four days, so it's time to get back into the swing of things!

Last year, I blogged about the importance of early observations for reading behaviors, and I shared a reading inventory to track my early observations.  (You can read that post here.)  These observations were so insightful that I decided to try the same assessment strategy to monitor my students' behavior during writing workshop.

This post includes a link to a digital writing engagement inventory.

If you are unfamiliar with an engagement inventory, it is a system to monitor behaviors during workshop time.  As I walk around the room, I mark the on/off task behaviors that I notice.  This data was extremely useful last year as I planned for my first reading strategy groups and conferences.  The inventory really helped me prioritize the early needs of my young readers.  Later in the year, I used the inventory as an ongoing way to document my observations.

My inventory is adapted from the one I read about in Jennifer Serravallo's awesome book, Literacy Teacher's Playbook.   (There is also a book available for intermediate grades.)

For writing, I wanted the observation form to reflect on/off task behaviors, utilizing resources, and well, writing.  Here are the codes I decided to use.

Great suggestions to include in a writing engagement inventory!

I created the form using Google Slides so I am able to fill it out on my iPad as I walk around the room.  Here is what the form looks like.  (The codes are on the bottom.  The font is tiny because I need the space for my 25 students.)

This post includes a link to a digital writing engagement inventory.

I plan on using this form about three times throughout the school year to monitor writing behaviors.  (Possibly more or less often for some students)  Each check point is about 5-10 minutes, depending on the time of year.  That way, I can get a good feel for which students are able to maintain their stamina.

If you are interested, you can access this form here.  Once you make a copy, you should be able to edit it any way you wish, including making the codes work for your classroom.  You can print the form or use it digitally.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

One of my big projects this summer has been to update, add to, and bundle my classroom decor.  I now have six different color combinations bundled with five different decor items.  Each set includes a student number pack, word wall letters & heading, editable pennants, editable binder covers & spines, and loads of editable label and sign templates.  Items are also sold separately if you do not wish to purchase the entire bundle.  In order to celebrate the completion of this project, I have all of my decor items (including the bundles) marked at 20% off through Thursday.  To see the items, you can click here or on the image below.

Thank you!

One of the things that has impressed me most with my second graders this year is their ability to incorporate figurative language into their writing.  I have used a variety of mentor texts to support this, and today I would like to share one of my favorites.

This post shares an awesome mentor text for similes!
(Thank you, Glitter Meets Glue Designs for the sparkly letters!)

Crazy like a Fox is a fun book about a fox named Rufus who goes on a little adventure.  On each page there is a part of a simile.  Students can read the first part and then make a prediction about how the simile will be completed on the next page.  As you can see below, each page also includes additional, fun similes.

This post shares an awesome mentor text for similes!

Another feature I like about this book is the introduction explains to the students what a simile is and gives a few examples.  This sets the students' minds up for what's to come.

This post shares an awesome mentor text for similes!

I read this book to my class as a review of similes as we are working on our final writing project.  For some additional practice, I created this worksheet to give my students as morning work.

This fun simile practice sheet is free!

If you are interested in downloading a copy for your students to create some fun similes, you can do so here.

I can't believe I am getting ready to wrap up my first year of teaching second grade.  As much as I loved teaching intermediate grades in the past, this was the right time for me to make a change.  I hope you had a successful school year and are enjoying the final weeks with your children.

Thank you, and have a great week!

I am on a quest to minimize the amount of paper I use.  This quest serves two purposes: save the environment and save my sanity.  I have worked hard this year to move the majority of my records to an online system or an app.  Today I'd like to share an app I have recently integrated to help me track my students' reading levels, running records and Benchmark assessments.

Levelbook is a great app to organize your reading records!
(All sparkly clip art from Glitter Meets Glue.)

The Levelbook app is very easy to use.  I discovered it late in the year, and integrated it right away.  I will share the process with you using a "test class".

First, add your students.  You will be prompted to put in their reading level.  In the fall, I will use the level from students' end of the year first grade Benchmark assessment.  (You can also select other assessments: DRA, Lexile, PM Reader, Reading Recovery, Reading A-Z.) 

Levelbook is a great app to organize your reading records!

After all students are added, select the student you would like to test.  I selected the Benchmark assessment, so the book choices for that assessment are displayed.

Levelbook is a great app to organize your reading records!

After you select your book, you can record the student reading.  (Great for double checking later!)  At the end of the reading, the words per minute are calculated automatically.  You can track errors by tapping "flag error".  This will allow the accuracy rate to be determined automatically at the end of the reading.

Levelbook is a great app to organize your reading records!

If the student corrects the error, you can tap the designated place to show the self-correction.  At the end of the reading, the app will calculate the self-correction ratio along with the words per minute and accuracy.

Levelbook is a great app to organize your reading records!

I still mark a running record by hand.  I have found that I prefer not to mark errors with a screen tap because it may be too obvious to the students what I am doing.  Instead, I manually add in the number of errors and self-corrections at the end.   (Accuracy and self-correction ratio are still determined automatically.)  After completing the running record, there is also a place to add the comprehension score.

Levelbook is a great app to organize your reading records!

At the end of the test, you can view students' stores at a glance by clicking on their name.  When you do this, all testing data for the student will be displayed.  If you have given multiple assessments to the same student, you will be able to see them at a glance.  (Tapping the edit button will display the screen seen above.)

Levelbook is a great app to organize your reading records!

Other features I love about this app.
*You can easily add notes to each record.
*You can add photos to the record.  I always take a picture of the running record so everything is in one    place.
*You can sort students by first name, last name, date of assessment, or level (great for grouping).
*You can add additional books for running records between formal assessments.
  If you choose to add your own books, the only extra step is to get a word count.  You can make the
  reading as long or as short as you would like.  Once the book is added, it will automatically appear
  on your choice list.  I plan on adding multiple books, so next year my running records will be ready
  to go from day one.

Levelbook is a great app to organize your reading records!

The Levelbook is a little on the expensive side at $9.99.  However, it is well worth it in my opinion.  It's so nice to have all of my records in one place instead of hunting through student folders and conference binders (not to mention the time and money I save on folders, binders, paper, etc.)

How do you like to manage your running records?

Thank you, and have a great week!

We are in the midst of our fairy tale unit, and the students and I are having a ball discovering new versions of classic fairy tales!

Five Awesome fractured fairy tales and how to use them in your classroom

There are loads of different versions of fairy tales out there.  This year, I have really worked on familiarizing myself with new titles as well as incorporating some that I used when I taught intermediate grades.  As I am gradually adding to my stash, I'd like to share some that have stood out with me and my students.

A great fairy tale to teach the influence of setting

An excellent fairy tale to teach point of view

A great fairy tale to teach the influence of setting

A fun fairy tale that is great for character changes

An excellent fairy tale to teach point of view

Not only are these fairy tales loads of fun to read and discuss, but there are tons of great comprehension activities you can do with your class.  

*Talk about the influence of setting
*Point of view activities
*Hold "court" for the villains in the story (after hearing their side)
*Character changes
*Opinion writing
*Persuasive writing

Read Write Think offers a huge variety of activities for using fractured fairy tales.  They offer great suggestions for students in grades K-10.

In addition, I created an organizer to compare and contrast different versions of the fairy tales.

A free organizer to compare fairy tales

You can download this organizer here.

I'd love to here from you.  What is your favorite fractured fairy tale?

Thank you, and have a great week!

My students are in the process of completing student-led conferences.  We had our first round last week, and our second round is scheduled for this Thursday.  I loved doing student-led conferences when I taught fourth and fifth grade.  However, I have to admit that I was quite nervous to try this with my second graders.  So far, they are going very well.  I am extremely proud of how my students have grown to know themselves as learners.

One of our recent focuses has been reading fluency.  I wanted my students to have a way to share what they have learned with their parents.

Free fluency self-evaluation form

I had students select a favorite "just right" book that they wanted to practice for a fluency reading.  They selected a passage from the book (or in some cases the entire book).  Students were given time in class for two days to practice their reading independently and with a partner.  The job of the partner was to give the reader one compliment and one suggestion.  Students had a different partner each day.

After having some practice, I recorded the students using the Smart Recorder app on the iPad.

Using the iPad to self-evaluate fluency

This is a paid app with lots of cool features that I plan on exploring.  However, if you are looking for a free app to record and save students' reading, I recommend Voice Recorder.  You can easily save, organize and share recordings on this app.

After the students listened to their recordings (1-3 minutes), they evaluated their reading based on criteria we discussed in class.  Here is the form they completed.

Free fluency self-evaluation form

During the conference, I played a portion of the reading, and students shared their strengths and goals with parents.  Students were able to explain why they selected their goals.

If you'd like to download this form, you can grab it here.

I hope your conferences are going/went well!

Thank you, and have a great week!

I love YouTube!  I use it all the time for my classroom and when I am trying to learn a new skill.  What I don't love about it is the advertisements, other clutter, and the fact that the next video starts playing automatically.  I have found four extensions that take care of all of these issues.

(Not sure what a Chrome extension is?  Read about them here.)

One solution to these problems is to use SafeShare.  I used this site for years.  You just copy and paste the link and then submit it.  This site allows you to watch the video distraction free.

What I don't like about SafeShare is the extra step.  I know it only takes about a minute, but sometimes I need things on the fly.  Also, if I'm watching a video for myself, I don't want to have to copy and paste the link.

I am going to share four of my favorite Chrome extensions.  If you take a minute to install these extensions now, you will not have to worry about copying and pasting links ever again for school, and you won't have to look at any annoying ads when viewing YouTube for personal use.

(Click on the image to go to the Chrome store and download the extension by clicking on "Add to Chrome".)

AdBlock gets rid of YouTube advertisements.

Distraction Free Extension clears up the clutter on YouTube.

Hide Comment keeps YouTube comments out of view.

NextVid Stopper prevents the next YouTube video from starting automatically.

Once these extensions are installed, you no longer have to worry about your students seeing unintended material on the videos.  All this and no copying and pasting required.

What is your favorite Google extension?

I have just finished updating all of my writing prompts.  Each set has 30 prompts, two different styles, and a wide variety of genres.

30 Fun Writing Prompts for March
Updating these prompts took a while, so I feel the need to celebrate!  All ten sets are on sale for 20% off until this Thursday, February 23, 2017.  (June prompts are available & on sale although they are not shown.)  Just click on the image below to view.

30 Prompts, two styles, and huge variety of genres in each set.

Thank you, and have a great week!

I hope everyone had a fabulous weekend!  I have recently tried using Padlet in my classroom, and I love it! Today I'd like to share how I use Padlet as a formative assessment.  I am going to talk about character traits with my second graders, but you can use it for virtually any topic at any grade level.

This post explains how Padlet can be used as a formative assessment.

During our read aloud of Charlotte's Web, we were immersed in a character study as our literary focus. At the end of the book, I wanted a way to check in on students' understanding of character traits. In the past, I would have used the chart below.  Students could write a trait and evidence on a Post-it note and place it in the square with their number.

Free sign for Post-it Note "Parking Lot"
(Sign available here.)

I liked this system for the most part, and I still use it when I need something fast.  However, Post-it notes don't always stay posted, they get lost easy, and there's no easy way to store them in a data notebook.  I wanted more concrete lasting evidence.

So.... I set up my first Padlet.

To get started, just go to padlet.com, create an account (super fast), and click on "Make a Padlet".  After that, you will see a screen that looks something like the picture below.  To name the Padlet, simply type in the title box.  I type in directions where it says "description".   This is also when you choose your layout.  I have found that the grid format works best, especially when multiple people are typing at once.

This post explains how Padlet can be used as a formative assessment.

Next, you get to choose the background.  There are lots of fun ones to choose from.  However, for this activity, I download a picture of my own.

This post explains how Padlet can be used as a formative assessment.

I searched "Charlotte's Web" on Google and downloaded this pic.

This post explains how Padlet can be used as a formative assessment.

Now, you are ready to go.  I just copy the link and send it to my students through Google Classroom.  Once the students have the Padlet opened, they can double click anywhere and they will
see a box where they can type in their responses.

They type in their name at the top and at least one character trait with evidence in the bottom part of the box.  Here is a sample.

This post explains how Padlet can be used as a formative assessment.

When the whole class was finished, I was able to see who had a strong understanding of character traits and who still needed a little more work on this skill.  I also had a permanent record of this formative assessment.  I just saved the link to my drive.  (Most of my data notebook is digital.)

I do not have a set of Chromebooks in my classroom.  However, there is an iPad cart in our building that we are allowed to check out.  The iPads worked fine for this activity.  (There is a free app that you can download, but it still works without it just using the link.)

When it came time for a more formal assessment of character traits, I made a graphic organizer for the students to use.

Free graphic organizer for character traits!

You can click here to download this organizer.

Since this activity, I have used Padlet in a variety of ways.  I hope to share more with you in the future. There are options to add pictures, videos, and attachments.  There's even a microphone.  I haven't used any of  these features yet, but I would love to hear your experience if you have given them a try.  Right now, I use the free version of Padlet, and it gives me what I need.  There is also an upgraded paid version that I may look into in the future.
I wanted to let everyone know that I will be participating in the TPT BeMine Sale coming up on February 
7 & 8, 2017.  My entire store will be marked 20% off.  You can get an additional 10% off by using the code LOVETpT at checkout.  I love TPT sales, and I am certainly planning to take advantage of this one!

Thank you, and have a great week!

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