5th Grade Math Challenge Project with Minecraft

Over the last month or so I have been teaching in a 5th grade classroom.  We rolled out a new math program (Houghton Mifflin Expressions) so I am going into the classrooms and helping the teachers work on the program.  For this 5th grade class I gave them a pretest – which I think is extremely important.  Pretesting shows exactly what the students know and what I need to teach.  Using the information I gained from the pretest – I was able to cut the unit down from 21 days to 12 days.  I taught only the concepts the students needed and then gave the chapter test.  All but one or two of the students made an A on the test! The power of using the pretest is amazing!  It gives us the opportunity to teach what the students need and then be able to challenge the students with the rest of the time. Pretests also allow you to group students in flexible groups within the class.  If not all the students need the unit – give those students challenge work while you work with a smaller group of students that need more help.  This also helps with classroom management because your students that already know the material aren’t bored and distracting other students.

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Because the unit was over multiplication of whole numbers and decimals, I wanted to pick a challenge project that would allow the students to use their new skills.  The unit introduced exponents, so I wanted to be sure the project I picked had some exponents.  I chose to have the students do a project on the National Debt.  The students and I spent two days finding the National Debt and discussing what it is.  We also discussed the types of services the government provides and has to pay for with tax dollars.  We talked about taxation and issuing new money.  It was a great two days of discussion and the students asked SUCH great questions!

Then we moved on to the debt clock.  This is a clock that that shows the National Debt in real time.  It shows how the National Debt is increasing, literally by the second!  We also researched the US population so we could use LONG DIVISION to figure out the national debt per citizen.  The students were NOT happy about long division in the trillions place by millions!  I worked part of them with them and then challenged them to figure out the rest.  I wish I could say that the students rose to the challenge, but they didn’t.  I did have ONE students that worked it out all the way, by hand!  I let the rest use a calculator – clearly our long division skills need work (another reason these projects are great is because you do see what skills your students need work on)!  Additionally, we calculated the national debt owed by all of the citizens in our state (GA) and in our class.  We also used scientific notation to write the debt and discussed how scientific notation is used.  The last part of this phase of the project was to check the debt clock at three different points in time (we did this over several days) and use the change formula to calculate the change in the clock of the three different time periods.

The last part of the project was for the students to show a representation of the National Debt.  I found this website which showed a representation using dollar bills for the national debt (I scrolled quickly through the girl on the couch in the racy outfit!).  The kids were amazed at the amount of $100 bills it would take to represent the national debt (I used the website and not the youtube video because I didn’t like the women on the couch and knew I could have control of the content).

I knew I wanted to students to show this type of representation, but also understand it would take a LONG time that I didn’t have.  So, instead, we used Minecraft.  I loaded minecraft onto our iPad carts and let the students use the blocks to represent the money.  The students had to figure out how many blocks they would need based on the amount of money they made the block.  In general, most students had a block equal 1 billion, so they still had to place 17,000 blocks!  The students had to show the National Debt, Georgia’s portion of the debt and the Classes portion of the debt.  We presented our projects to the class and I graded the project with this rubric.

I think the representations are AWESOME!  I am so proud of the work the students did!  I have linked some of our projects below (Sorry about the quality of the video – you can’t screen record on the iPad).



Tiger TV and Hour of Code

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One of my favorite parts of the day at school is Tiger TV.  Tiger TV is my school’s morning news program.  The twist about our morning news program is that it is completely and totally run by our 5th graders!  It is an absolutely amazing production and the teacher that is in charge of heading the program up does an amazing job!

All of our fifth-graders rotate through working every job on our morning news program.  We have two anchors, two teleprompter operators, 2 camera operators, a board operator, a weather student, and two managers.  One of the managers is the floor manager and the other manager runs the computer.  

The two anchors deliver the news.  One of the teleprompter operators runs the mirroring teleprompter that we use for the anchors.  This teleprompter is displayed in mirror font and the operators job is to keep the words on the screen for the anchors to read.  The anchors read a screen directly in front of them – displayed on a mirror so the words are the correct way for them to read (rather than reversed).  The other teleprompter’s job is to put the weather forecast up and run the teleprompter for camera 2 (we don’t mirror this one due to the way our set is configured).  The camera talent is responsible for cueing the anchors and the talent using camera 2 (usually weather, pledgers, tech tip, etc) and responsible for greeting and placing the talent and guests when they come on Tiger TV.  The board operator controls the broadcast out the school. The weather student is responsible for getting the weather to broadcast and then they also are either assigned a scientific fact to discuss or they are allowed to pick their own fact to present.  The floor manager is responsible for directing the entire crew and the computer operator times all of the stories and puts the graphics up for our set (our entire production is green screened).  Both of our manager positions are on the crew for 2 crews – one in which they serve all of the other positions and then because of their leadership they are selected to be a manager for the next crew.  

When a new crew comes on, about every 21 days, they are trained by the crew leaving.  The new crew spends two days learning how to do all of the jobs on the set.  When the jobs are rotated on the current crew the students train each other on their next job (sounds confusing to write, hopefully it makes sense).  Our wonderful leader that manages the entire production writes the scripts and is the supervisor in the room each morning.

Our morning news program started as announcements over the intercom.  Then we got a camera and started with students standing in front of a podium delivering news and now we have an amazing morning production that grows each year!  We use Boinx Software to run our program and send it out to the school.  We had a pretty sharp learning curve with Boinx, but our Tiger TV coordinator has done an amazing job learning all that this software can do.

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It is amazing what Tiger TV accomplishes in a LIVE broadcast, every morning!  I am always in awe of what the kids can do.  It is completely kid run and the kids love it!  It is a requirement in our fifth-grade standards and our fifth-graders cannot wait for their turn on Tiger TV.  If you are interested in checking out more of our daily news show click here.

We used Tiger TV to kick-off our Hour of Code this week.  I do a weekly segment on Tiger TV, entitled Tech Tip.  Sometimes I include students in the tip and sometime I am just giving information.  It is a really nice way for me to talk about technology to the entire school.  We use this platform for a lot of digital citizenship discussions!  This week I had a panel of students that had already participated in the Hour of Code on Tiger TV discussing what they did and what they thought.  Take a look…

Our students, K-5, all participated in the Hour of Code this week, sponsored by Code.org.  The students have had a GREAT time learning to code!  Here is a short video we made with the students that participated on Monday.



Wordfoto and Grandparents Day

Today we wrapped up our poetry unit in 3rd grade reading.  I promise another post with my lesson plans, because I thought this was a great unit and I really enjoyed teaching poetry.  We used a lot of technology and I want to share some of our iMovies and Comic Strips with all of you in the future.  

As a culmination of our unit, we wrote poems for our grandparents for our annual Grandparent’s Day Celebration at our school.  Each student wrote 10 words that described their grandparents and then we used the app Wordfoto to put the words on a picture of the grandparents.  I LOVE the result!

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Think about all the ways you could use this app in class!  The students could find a picture of the Civil War and write ten words to describe that particular battle in the Civil War.  The students could find a picture of a plant and label the picture names of each part of a plant.  They could load a math problem and write the words that describe the problem such as factors, equal, factor pair, product, etc.  I think the opportunities are endless with this app and certainly creative! 

Caught Off Guard!!!

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I attended the Georgia Educational Technology Conference (GaETC) and I have to say I have been caught off guard!  I consider myself pretty knowledgeable regarding technology in the classroom and how it is used!  I was on the cutting edge of using technology in the classroom, I brought BYOD to my school two years ago, I trained and rolled out iPads for all my teachers, etc.  I really thought I had a handle on educational technology.

A few weeks ago I even showed this video at a faculty meeting that caused quite a ruckus in our faculty because of the premises in the video!

When I showed this video at the staff meeting our teachers were all in a buzz, convinced that educational reforms weren’t going to hit home and we didn’t need to gear our instruction toward individual children, but rather still “teach to the masses”.  We had a great discussion over the future of education and what our classrooms would look like in the future.  The ADHD discussions from the video were intense and very thoughtful, as teachers definitely had strong feelings about the implications of medicating (that is for another post).  We talked about the “Date of Manufacture” line in the video and why we group our students by age, rather than interest.  I don’t believe in everything in the video but I certainly think the video gave excellent food for thought.  We even decided that we are going to watch more video like this at our staff meetings because the video stimulated conversation and the more we discuss issues as a staff the more we will become aligned in what we believe.  The more aligned we are in our beliefs, the stronger we are as a staff.

AND THEN, I came to this conference and was completely blown away.  When I showed that video to the teacher’s I thought individualized education was YEARS away, but coming here I realize that individualized education is ALREADY HERE!  I know I keep writing in caps, but I am truly shocked at what I have discovered at this conference.

I have been to this conference for many years and nearly did not come this year because I thought it would be more of the same – discussions about BYOD and how to use iPads in the classroom.  While there is some of that, I have sensed a real shift in education – the shift to online and blended learning.  I didn’t realize how close this was to reality until coming to this conference.

I live in Georgia and according to the Keeping Pace report we are really ahead in our approach to online education.  It is law in GA to provide students with an online alternative if the class that they want to take is not offered in their school.  This service is provided through the Georgia Virtual School.  The school has to provide the class and the time during the day to take that class!  I was shocked!  I didn’t know this was the case.  As a private school, my school will need to keep pace with the offerings of the public school.  This is a game changer for us.  Luckily, my school is already researching these options now.

Also, new to me was the concept of MOOCs.  MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course.  MOOC’s can be offered by anyone and they are usually sponsored by colleges and universities and they are FREE!  I was amazed at the number of MOOC’s available and ANYONE can join and participate in them.  I am going to participate in this MOOC by Kennesaw State University this winter and it is FREE, I will receive PLU and I could also potentially receive graduate course credit.  I am sure there will be a small fee for the graduate course credit portion, but can you imagine how MOOC’s will change education?

Even in elementary school I can see big implications for online and blended learning.  I think this type of learning will first impact elementary school with our students that need enrichment and remediation.  I can see a Orton Gillingham certified teacher being made available to more students that need reading help through and online provider.  Our babies that need explicit reading instruction, taught by a highly trained teacher, would be more available through online resources.  I can also see a teacher online for our babies that need enrichment.  Our students that need more of a challenge could gather together with other like-minded students and be enriched by a robotics teacher or a higher level math teacher.  I think then after these needs are filled we will see the online and blended learning trickle down to the average classroom.

I think this opens up amazing opportunities for our students.  I also do not worry that this is going to replace me in the classroom, but I do know that my job may look different in the future.  We know the single most important difference in learning is a highly skilled teacher – so I think as educators we are all safe, but I think our role and what it looks like may drastically change over the new few years!

iPads and Dyslexia (and just good apps!)

Dyslexia is a learning disability that causes students to be poor spellers, lack fluency in reading, have a hard time putting their thoughts down on paper, and have a hard time with names and dates.  Of course, these are just general guidelines that we look for when we suspect a student is dyslexic.  A formal psychological evaluation will lead to a formal diagnosis. 

The iPad is a great tool to help students with ALL of the difficulties associated with dyslexia.  If my son has to be dyslexic, I am so thankful that he is dyslexic in a time when iPads are so widely used and schools are allowing students to bring their own devices to school.  At the beginning of the school year my husband and I met with Eli’s teachers and the 2nd accomodation we put in his 504 plan was to be able to use his iPad in every class.  The 1st accomodation was extra time – we know from research that the single biggest factor that helps level the playing field for students is extra time on tests. 

Eli uses his iPad for every subject!  The best tool for Eli is the voice button on the iPad.  All Eli has to do is press the microphone on the keyboard and the iPad will turn what he says into typed messages.  This is extremely beneficial to students with dyslexia because students with dyslexia have a hard time getting their thoughts down on paper.  Dyslexics have WONDERFUL and CREATIVE ideas, but encoding them is extremely difficult.  Through the use of this feature of the iPad, Eli is able to dictate his ideas and then go back and edit them later.  The iPad will also playback anything that Eli has typed.  This way he can hear what the sentence should sound like.  Dyslexics have a hard time rereading their work and hearing errors because they are so used to compensating when reading for something to make sense, that if something is incorrect in a sentence – they just make it make sense in their mind.  That is one of their coping strategies (I hope that sentence makes sense to the reader – I understand what I am trying to say, but it is difficult to put into words!).

To use the speech to text feature of the iPad you only have to press the microphone on the screen when you are typing.

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To enable the iPad to read text you will need to go to settings – General – Accessibility…

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Then, go to Speak Selection…

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And finally, turn Speak Selection on…

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This one feature of the iPad has changed the way my son works and writes.  Now he can speak his ideas and they will freely flow from his brain to the iPad.  It does take some work getting used to enunciating clearly for the iPad to know what you are saying.  Generally, we have to edit some of his work, but that is easy compared to trying to write his ideas down!  He doesn’t use this feature in class, just when doing homework and working on papers.  I also want him to learn how to overcome his disability, but these features make writing for him much easier!

Another life saver for us is the app Read2go.  This is an amazing app that is supported by the website Bookshare.  Bookshare offers free audio books (newspapers, magazines, textbooks, etc) for anyone with a print disability.  All you have to do is supply a copy of your child’s or your own psychological that proves the disability.  The Read2go app plays all of the content off of the Bookshare site.  We use this app for ALL of Eli’s independent reading and anything he has to read from his textbook.  The app gives visual support as it reads by highlighting the text and the app reads the text.

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Another amazing app is the AppWriter US app.  This app is a word processing app that is specifically designed for dyslexics.  Students can type papers in this app.  The app allows students to take a picture of any text and the app will convert it to text.  The app has context word prediction and will read what has been typed.  If you couple this app with he text to speech function of the iPad, your student will feel significantly less stress about writing!  This app also claims to use a font this is supposed to help dyslexcis, but the research is very mixed on if that claim is true – the font has been around for many years.

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Another app that is a life saver for us is iMovie.  My son uses iMovie to study.  He creates movies about what he is learning.  This method of studying allows him to use his creativity but also is a great review of content.  I have put  couple of his movies below so you can see how he uses them to study.  The WW1 movie helped him study for a test and the Abe Lincoln movie he made in class rather than doing a paper/pencil assignment. 


Another app that we use quite often is iThoughts HD.  I find that Eli is extremely visual.  If I can show him how concepts go together rather than tell him, he is more likely to retain that information.  Below is an example of a mindmap that we made to help him write a paper.

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We also use iCard Sort to help him study.  We make decks of vocab words and their definitions.  Then we shake the iPad, which mixes up the cards and he has to match the words to the definitions.  The tactile nature of this method of studying helps him retain the information.   And now iCard sort allows pictures to be put on the cards, which makes it an even better app for studying!

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Finally, the last app we use a lot is Strip Designer.  This app makes comic strips.  Eli loves being creative and studying at the same time.  This app also allows him to use his visual memory by attaching pictures to concepts.

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These are the apps we use most for Eli but, I also use these apps all the time in my classroom and the students LOVE them!

Our Dyslexia Story…

Because October is Dyslexia Awareness month I wanted to share my own journey with Dyslexia, through my son and then share some fabulous apps that help my son with his work!

Our story started when my son was three.  I wasn’t a teacher then and didn’t know any of the signs of dyslexia (even though my sister, my dad and especially my granddad were all dyslexic).  My son’s speech was difficult to understand and we lived in TX at the time.  He had a hard time pronouncing words and my husband and I were the only ones that could understand him!  Our pediatrician referred us to the public school where we lived and they did a battery of tests on him and detected a phonological weakness.  He was setup to begin speech therapy at 3 years, but we were transferred to FL and he never started.  The public school in FL didn’t have the ability to do the speech therapy on him, so we just skipped it (big mistake – but we didn’t have the money to pursue private therapy).  He struggled with letter recognition in prek3 and prek4.  

The summer before kindergarten we moved to GA and enrolled Eli in the private school where I would be teaching.  He didn’t do well on entrance exam but they let him in.  Eli struggled with reading throughout kindergarten.  I helped him with flash cards of letter sounds, but he never picked it up and was never consistent with what he missed!  It was very frustrating and I am ashamed to say that he got yelled at a lot for “not trying” hard enough.  After Kindergarten we transferred him to the public school for a variety of reasons, but one of the most important was so that he could get speech services.  His IEP from TX was still good so the public school here had to honor it and we knew we needed to get him help.  At the time we didn’t know he was dyslexic, we just knew that he was struggling with sounds.

In first grade they called us in and told us Eli wasn’t reading well and they were going to give him targeted help through speech therapy and some RTI (Response to Intervention)work.  I continued to work with Eli at home and he progressed well.  My husband and I convinced ourselves he was fine.

At about the same time I was attending a professional development class, led my Brenda Fitzgerald, and she was discussing common reading difficulties.  She asked the class to think about the students in our class as she described a set of characteristics.  I was sitting in the back of the class and just started crying as she described a dyslexic child.  She called me out, from the front of the room and said, “You just thought of one of your students didn’t you?” and my reply was, “No, you just described my son!”.  It was then I knew that Eli was dyslexic.  I got my hands on everything I could read about dyslexia (Sally Shawitz’s book, Overcoming Dyslexia is amazing).  It was then that I also realized teachers have NO IDEA what dyslexia is or how to help a dyslexic child.  Most teachers are trained to not even say the word, much less help these babies that are in their class that have dyslexia.  I have found teachers to be most apathetic where dyslexia is concerned.  Here is a quick guide that I got from a forum with the Shawitz’s from the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity that shows signs and gifts from dyslexia.

IMG_2860 Starting in 2nd grade I told Eli’s teacher he was dyslexic and the school was not happy!  They quickly “graduated” him from speech therapy and took all of the ability away that I had to fight legally with the school (He no longer had an IEP –Individualized Education Plan).  By the end of second grade I requested full psychological testing for Eli.  They tested him and his tests came showing that Eli was extremely intelligent and the school refused to give any services.  He started third-grade and struggled even more due to the writing demands and I continued to fight with his school because his classroom grades and work didn’t reflect what the test had said.    

By the end of third grade we decided to have him independently tested for dyslexia – even though I already knew he was severely to profoundly dyslexic.  When we had him tested the results were indisputable, Eli was dyslexic.  We showed the results to the school at the beginning of fourth-grade and they disputed the results and decided to have a THIRD psychological done on Eli in 1 year and 3 months.  Their testing, yet again, showed there was nothing wrong with Eli and they refused to provide services.  I backed off of my craziness a bit in fourth-grade just to get a feel for how he would do.  He had a terrible fourth grade year, mostly due to his teachers.  We started tutoring with an Orton-Gillingham tutor during his fourth-grade year, but that was all the extra help he received.  His fourth-grade year he failed all but one portion of the CRCT and amazingly the school now agreed their was a problem.  It is a sad world we live in when the school will only give help when the CRCT is failed.

We started fifth-grade with a different attitude.  I met with the principal before school started to get Eli off to a good start.  The school wanted to give him help because of his CRCT performance, but not special classes – just EIP (Early Intervention Program – how is it early intervention when help is only given AFTER a student fails!) help.  We discussed the best teacher fit for him, one that used technology so Eli could use his ipad.  He worked hard, continued to tutor, and I was very involved – especially in working on his writing. He had an excellent 5th grade year and exceeded math, science, and SS on the CRCT and passed Reading and LA.

Eli’s psychological has a line that keeps me motivated every day to help him and other dyslexic children – “It is very likely that Eli feels inadequate much of the time”.  No child should be made to feel that way.  The public school psychologist told us that Eli shouldn’t know he was dyslexic, that he would use that as a crutch (this same psychologist just won psychologist of the year in GA) – that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard – Eli needed to know that he isn’t stupid and that there is a reason he struggles.  We told the school that the psychologist is not allowed around Eli or to have any contact with him – I can’t let people that believe such crazy things to impact Eli or the way he views himself.  At the Dyslexia meeting we went to last week the Shaywitz’s said that students should ABSOLUTELY be told they are dyslexic.  They need to know for their own self worth that there is a name to their struggle.

We consider dyslexia a gift in our house!  Eli is so creative and he is a BIG PICTURE thinker.  He is in 6th grade now and doing very well.  All of the help we got him in elementary school is paying off.  He is still a slow worker and struggles with reversals, reading, and writing but he is able to be successful.  He just made the lego robotics team, which is a perfect fit for him.  I have not doubt that Eli will be some type of engineer one day!

This post is already long enough so I will post again about the apps that my son uses and the apps that I encourage my dyslexic students to use to help them in their studies.

Technology in Reading Class – Part 2

Word Work is a very important part of reading class.  We spend a few minutes a couple of times a week making words and it is one of my centers.

When we make words as an entire class I print a page with letters on it and the students cut apart the letters at the beginning of class.  Then, I call out a series of words and the students have to make the words out of the letters they have.making words

For the letters above the first word would be “is”, then when would make “it”, then they would change “it” to “kit” and so on.  We go through making maybe 10 words.  The goal of the activity is for the students to figure out the word they can make with all of their letters.  In this case the word is “tricks”.  I use a book called, Making Words, to generate this activity.  This has been a difficult task for the students and it has been very enlightening for me as a teacher.  I walk around and  keep notes of the students having difficulty and if I have time I make note of the words they are struggling to make to see if I can find a pattern to their difficulty.  If I can find the pattern, then I can offer specific help.  This is a great activity because the students are manipulating sounds and matching letters to the sounds.

I also have a word work center.  I am switching between playing Boggle, which the kids love, and playing a game I found for the iPads, Moxie 2.  The kids LOVE Moxie more than Boggle.  At first I thought the game would be too difficult for them, but they love it!  They are begging to play in their free time now and I don’t have the heart to explain to the them that they are LEARNING while playing!  Moxie 2 gives the students three rows of letters and then pops up new letters.  The students have to insert the new letter into one of the three rows of words to make a new word!  It is brilliant!



I made this recording sheet for the students to keep up with the words they make and their point total at the end of the game.  Click on the picture to get the form.



Teaching with Technology is Bad?

I had a teacher tell me today that she wished we could just go back to teaching the “old” way, that technology did not add anything to lessons and it was easier to teach before technology.

This statement reminds me of several things. The first of which was something a teacher said to me many years ago. She said, ” Do you think teachers had this hard of a time when the pencil was invented?” If you thing about that it really does make sense. Teachers probably did grumble and complain when students were getting up all day to sharpen that new fangled contraption – the pencil!

The other thing that this reminds me of is a quote from John Dewey, “If we continue to teach today, as we did yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow!” This was said nearly 100 years ago but it is still so true! We as teachers cannot continue to teach the same way year after year! Like it or not our students need to learn in a way that is applicable to them!

We, as teachers, HAVE GOT TO BE WILLING TO LEARN! I cannot imagine not wanting to learn something new! My principal says all the time that as soon as we quit learning it is time to retire! Why do teachers think they can use the same old lesson plans year after year and still engage and motivate their students (There is a time and place for tried and true lessons – but every subject, every day)? If we as teachers don’t want to learn, what message are we sending to our students? Clearly the message is that we don’t value learning, so why should they?

So, my answer to this veteran teacher is, that we have got to learn technology, because we need to reach students where they are, not where we are.  Students are using technology! Students are wired all the time! If we want to engage and motivate, we need to be wired too!

Technology in Reading Class – Part 1, Book Trailers

One of my favorite things is to use technology in whatever class I am teaching.  However, when I use technology I want to be sure that I am using technology in meaningful ways to enhance my curriculum.  There are a lot of ways to use technology that do not enhance curriculum and just replace what we did before.  For example, a lot of my fourth-grade students last year decided to start using their iPads for their Reader’s Notebook rather than a spiral bound notebook.  I allowed the students to do this and didn’t have any problem with them using one form of technology to replace paper and pencil – HOWEVER, this is not meaningfully using technology as a tool to help my students retain more information.  

I want my students to love reading and I want them to love to come to reading class.  I also want my students to really work with texts to understand mood and theme of the text.  One way to do this is to have students use technology.  My FAVORITE way to use technology is having students make book trailers. Book Trailers are an incredible way to grab students attention and love of technology and combine it meaningfully with reading!  The students LOVE making book trailers.  When making a book trailer students have to think about the most important parts of the book and relate them to the viewer.  The students also have to think about the mood of the book.  I always tell my students that I should not hear Disco music if the book was a serious book!  The students have to match music and pictures to the mood and theme of the book! It is a perfect way to use iPads in the classroom!  iMovie even has pre-made book trailers in their library for students to use! Photo I allow my students to use the templates in iMove for the first couple of book trailers and then they have to graduate to making them from scratch in the expanded form of iMovie.  You don’t have to use iMove, you could use any video app or software that you have.  

I have used book trailers in 4th and 5th grade.  This year I am teaching a 3rd grade reading class and I am going to attempt book trailers with them as well. Below is an example of a book trailer from the book Hatchet.  Here is a link to my dropbox folder on Book Trailers.  I have taken some of these templates from all over the web – all free.  I have adjusted them to suit my needs.

I will continue in this series of posts about technology in reading with how we have used Puppet Pals in reading class. 

Sound Decks

One of my jobs as curriculum coordinator is to make sure that my school is aligned with what we are doing through the grade levels.  One thing we found that was not aligned was our sounds decks for our primary grades.

When we taught phonics sounds to our kindergartner’s we may have taught them the “ck” sound with duck, and then in 1st grade we might have used quack and in 2nd grade we might have used lock.  We thought it would be best if we designed sound decks for all of our grade levels that were the same.  We didn’t want to have to pay for sound decks, so I created them.

As part of our word work time each day in our primary grades our teachers spend just a few minutes going through their sound decks.  We find that this quick and simple practice each day is helping our students – especially our struggling readers.  This is the second year that our teachers are using the same sound decks.  I know this is not the fun, exciting part of teaching, but some rote memorization is required for our students.  We try to balance out the rote memorization of sound decks with word ladders, making words, and exciting literacy centers.  We believe that spending a few minutes each day reviewing phonics sounds pays off huge dividends! 

Click on the picture of each sound deck below for the link to download. I made two sets of cards – larger cards with a chevron background or smaller cards that you can print and put on your own scrapbook paper background (or leave plain!). I haven’t gotten the vowel digraphs on Chevron yet – I will do that soon, so that when you click the link they will be in the same folder!

A A-Z Cards

long a Long Vowel Cards


bl copyBlends

ai-au Vowel Digraphs