If you’re not familiar with #BookSnaps, go to Tara M Martin’s site. In short, students connect with a reading with thoughts, graphics, and images. This year, our district has been virtual (we will be going back the week of April 12, 2021) and this has given us the opportunity to explore different ways of delivering instruction.

NOTE: It has been so nice getting away from curriculum and helping teachers find what works for them and their students. Hello EduProtocols, MathReps, BookSnaps. I hope this trend of giving teachers autonomy continues.

Well, as a TOSA I am often invited into classes to help develop lessons and model some of the new pedagogy. Which I totally love! On Friday, I went to a 1st-grade class to do a #BookSnap. The kiddos did awesome! First, we read a book about ladybugs ūüźě . Then, using Nearpod the students annotated and connected with the reading. I chose a page to upload the image for them. I gave them a few prompts they could answer. And this was the result!

I want you to think about this. How often have we said or heard that 1st-graders can’t do (fill in the blank). They are too young. If anything, this past year proves that students of all ages can do whatever. We need to stop underestimating them. I’d also like to point out, that these students ARE NOT BEHIND. They have acquired different skills than they have in past years. In many ways they are AHEAD.

The Great Lie: Reading Logs

photo of a boy reading book
Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

Reading logs; we’ve all done them at one time or another so this isn’t about shaming. This is about acknowledging the fact that it’s a big lie, a sham. Educators, parents, and students all participate in this lie. We, as educators, assign 20 minutes or pages of reading each night as homework. Students go home, and in general, ignore that aspect of homework. The parents sign off on the reading log, knowing their child DIDN’T read so that there are no consequences at school. Finally, the reading log comes back signed, the teacher is fully aware the child is NOT read at home and ignores that fact because, ‘Hey, the Reading Log is signed.’

Let’s just stop lying! We are doing the child no good by participating and promoting the lie. In fact, we are encouraging them to lie and teaching them ‘How to school’. So now that the first step, acknowledging the problem, is out of the way let’s move on to the next step: solving the problem.

One year at Back To School Night I gave this speech. I first asked parents who had knowingly signed their child’s Reading Log with the full knowledge that no reading occurred. At first, there were many nervous looks. Fortunately, one brave soul raised their hand which led to others admitting to participating in The Great Lie. I then told the room of parents that there would NOT be any Reading Logs. THAT got an applause! It was a relief to those in attendance. One parent even thanked me! What a great way to start the year!

Educators have no control over what happens at home. There are many circumstances that lead to the student not wanting to read at home (or ever). So let’s focus on what we DO have control over; that is our classroom. If we want students practicing and taking a vested interest in reading give students time to read in class. I know, sounds obvious, right? But where to start?

Recently Jen Roberts shared some of her classroom tricks with TLC.Ninja. She strategically monitors her students reading. She gives her students time to read a book of their choice (not their Lexile level or AR level). She can quickly scan the room daily for engagement. She also has them fill out a quick form every 10 days or so to further monitor their progress. She is in control of what happens and can check in with students for any guidance they might need. Check out the Episode for full details.

Another idea is to have students do a Booka Kucha. Marlena Hebern and Jon Corippo have created several Eduprotocols that can be used no matter the topic. Booka Kucha can be given to all students no matter the book they are reading. YOU are in control; YOU are actively monitoring.

Heather Marshall has some fun, quote inspired ideas. One idea is to play Game of Quotes. No matter what book the student is reading, their task is to find a quote that fits a given prompt. For example, students are tasked with finding a quote about “Something you wouldn’t want to overhear in the restroom.” The students look through what they’ve read to find something. Once they have a quote, they announce that they, “Have a quote.” Each student reads their quote (they could easily write them on Socrative or a Padlet) and votes on the best one. She also has her students doing Sketch Quotes. So many great ideas!

These were just a few ideas to help get you away from Reading Logs and into more meaningful engagement between your students and their books. I’d love to hear what you do! (And please don’t say AR!)

2 Truths/1 Lie: Other Grades

map.jpgNot so long ago, I wrote about a year-long project (2 Truths & a Lie) that I will be collaborating on with a teacher from Texas. In short, we are working with States as it is a 5th-grade standard. Students will be researching and recording information on a shared Google My Map.

This got me thinking. First of all, anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE using Google My Maps in the classroom. This lesson design can be used with other grades and topics.


I believe that 2nd-grade studies habitats. Why not draw a polygon around the regions students will be studying and have them create their own 2 truths and a lie on a shared map? Or in 4th-grade for the California Missions, using the draw line tool, draw the Mission Trail and have them create place markers with the information for each Mission. Again, using the draw a line tool, older students can draw the route of armies for the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Or routes and pin markers can be placed on maps to show battles during the Civil War. A class that studies ecology can log information on a map. In ELA, while reading a story, plot points that correspond with locations and practice comprehension using 2 truths and a lie.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the possibilities are endless with this lesson design. It makes students dig a bit deeper and think about what they read and think. They have to be ready to analyze the information given in order to find the lie.

So what sort of lessons will you do with your students using 2 Truths and a Lie?


Finally, today I held my first real BreakoutEDU of the year. I say ‘real’ because I had run Mini Math Breakouts earlier this year. They were a success, but I just didn’t have enough kits to pull off a full class Breakout (I now know it can be done with one kit and tickets).

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-6-13-19-pmHoly Cow! It was a GREAT success. I mean, I knew it would be but it still blew my mind. A few weeks ago I sucked it up and purchased 4 more DIY kits. I had purchased one from the website a little over a year ago and was hesitant to buy more – I’m cheap! Anyhow, today I ran 5 simultaneous breakouts – Grammar Gurus.

The entire class was engaged. Each group had no more than 6 students. They all seemed to work well together. There were a few groups that I had to remind to communicate with one another, but honestly, they did great. In the end, no groups completed the task. A few came really close to opening the last lock.

The really fun part, for me, was watching the students work together, quietly, for 45 minutes. This is something they rarely do – especially lately. In the end, they begged to have more time. Even when I didn’t give them more time to finish the puzzles they asked if we could do it again, WHEN we could do it again, and suggested we do one every Thursday.

When was the last time your students failed a task and BEGGED to do it again, soon? Later screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-6-14-14-pmin the afternoon, I had another group of students in my classroom. They saw the locked boxes and asked what they were. I briefly explained what we did earlier and they asked when they were going to do one.

I’m so excited with the outcome that I will try to plan them more often. I already have one planned for Read Across America Day – Dr. Seuss’ Birthday. If you haven’t tried a Breakout, I highly suggest you do. You and your kids will love it.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

This week we went back to school, after 3 weeks off. My partner teacher and I decided to start book studies on the 17th which left us wide open for this week. Well, we have Benchmark Assessments (I know, who does those the first week back from a break? Apparently, my district). This got me excited. I never feel like there is enough time to study some of the important people and events in our history. That’s when I decided to create a Hyperdoc! I have fallen in love with the model. It’s work on my end in the beginning, but so worth it! The experience and learning are so much richer for the students.

I have shared this out with my PLN and some might be using it. This is what we want! Sharing really is caring. As my students were working on it today, one came up to me and showed me that there were 3 ‘anonymous’ animals on one of the required documents. I said yes, that makes sense since I shared it. He was confused. I explained to him that others were looking for an MLK Hyperdoc and I shared the one I created. He was satisfied with the answer and walked away.

I LOVE that I can model a collaborative mindset for my students. They know I find Hyperdocs¬†and activities online (and am sure to point out the author and give credit even when they don’t know the person). This is what I want my students to do in the future; reach out to others online to create better products and help one another.

If you’d like¬†to use the MLK Hyperdoc, go for it and feel free to pass it along. Sharing really is creating a caring world!

Writing With Literacy Shed

I know I’ve written about this site in the past. I thought it deserves to be talked about again, especially with the beginning of the school year upon some of us. So…. If you STILL haven’t checked out The Literacy Shed, do it. Like right now!

Literacy Shed

What is it?

Simply put, it is an amazing – FREE – writing resource. It will work with any writing program you have going on in your classroom or district. The creator and curator, Rob Smith, explains:

“The aim is to provide high-quality resources that can be used in stand-alone literacy lessons, can form the¬†basis for a whole Literacy unit or can support literacy units that you already¬†have in place.”

Rob has most certainly provided those high-quality resources.

AND, many of the video resources are non-verbal making them perfect for the ELL students.

Why use it?

First of all, it has beautiful quality videos. In addition to the videos, the site has several lesson ideas for each video. This isn’t put together by some corporation or publisher. This was created by a teacher who freely shares his knowledge and ideas.

About the Sheds

There are ‘Sheds’ that are essentially themes. There are so many sheds, and more being added, there is no shortage of resources.¬†I love looking around the site and getting ideas. Word of warning; once you jump into this rabbit hole, it may be a while before you emerge. But it will be well worth it! Currently, I’m looking at the Rio Olympics Shed and getting REALLY excited about the possibilities for my classroom.

One Last Thought

I wish I were in the UK so that I might attend a training. Maybe someday there will be a training here….


Movie Premiere

I have been doing much reflecting, as most teachers do, upon this past school year. To say that there were many ups and downs would be an understatement. However, one of the best Рif not THE BEST Рthing I did this year was to have my students write, direct, act, and produce their own movie. With a full-fledged Red Carpet Event!

Thanks to Dominic and his efforts in A Tale Unfolds¬†my students were able to have an incredibly memorable 5th-grade experience. This was, by far, one of the most fun and rewarding experiences in my teaching career. And I can’t wait to do it again! Throughout the process, I had been writing about this (A Tale Unfolds: Part 1,¬†A Tale Unfolds & Writing,¬†¬†¬†Writing and the CAASPP) and aligning it to 5th-Grade CCSS ELA. And here are the results of their efforts:

Red Carpet Event:

Cast Interviews:


Once again, thank you, Dominic, for creating a high quality, rigorous program.

A Tale Unfolds: Part 1

a tale unfolds Next week I will start A Tale Unfolds with my class. It is an 11 week ELA/ELD/Writing unit where the end product is a movie that the class has written, performed, and taped. As this is a UK Standards aligned unit, I looked over the lessons for the upcoming week and was pleased that on Day 1 ten (5th grade) CCSS are covered. While the lessons are complete on their own, I will be able to enrich them with conversations and expectations.

Along with the lesson plans, there are Promethean Flipcharts and SmartBoard resources, a ‘book’ (2 levels), and in certain cases leveled resources (depending on the activity). The focus of the writing is on quality, not quantity.

Overall, I am excited to get the unit started. I think the students are really going to enjoy it.

Language Monsters

This is what my students are! Several of my students (and myself), have started using Duolingo to learn a new language. Currently I have 5 languages being acquired in my classroom: Spanish (most popular), French, Portuguese, Italian, and English.

duolingoIt all started several months ago with an ELL student. She was still having trouble acquiring English¬†after being here for a few years. One suggestion I received was to have her get on Duolingo. So, we set her up in her native language (Spanish). She took the placement test and began learning English. She loves doing it, and feels that it’s been helping her. In order to have her not feel different during our Silent Reading time, I agreed to brush up on my Spanish. As time has progressed, more and more students have asked to learn a language. Yes, I realize some were asking so they could ‘get out’ of reading during Silent Reading time (SSR). I said, “Yes!” Yup, I’m that teacher that is okay when a student says they hate reading. I know they just haven’t found the right books yet, or it’s hard for them and SSR is no fun. So, learning a new language can be fun – and yes they are reading too!

What really excites me, is that some of the students asking to learn Spanish come from Spanish speaking homes. Some of these students have ‘forgotten’ their first language, in varying degrees, want to speak with their grandparents, or just want to learn the language their family knows. I think it’s all very exciting!

Now my SSR has students reading books – inside or outside; real or digital – learning a new language, listening to a book on CD, or reading a story (and taking a quiz) on Raz-Kids.¬†Will all of them stick with learning a new language? No, and that’s okay. I love their willingness to try and learn new things.