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.

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.

Voiceover Videos with Snagit

After sharing the awesomeness that is Literacy Shed, the most often question I get is, “How did you do the voiceover?” (See Presentation)

There are a multitude of programs that you can use: Screencastify (Chrome Extension), Screencast-O-Matic (download), Quicktime Apple or Windows (download), or my personal favorite, Snagit (Chrome Extension). If you are using Chromebooks you will need to go with a Chrome Extension РScreencastify or Snagit.

Here’s how my students use Snagit:

After adding Snagit to your (or your students’) Chrome browser, it will appear in the toolbar next to the URL as shown below. Click on it.

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Once you (or your students) choose Snagit, they will see a black sidebar appear on the right side of the screen. Please note that the first time you open the Extension, it will ask you to allow Snagit to access your mic. You must allow. You have the option of saving an image or a video. For voiceovers, you will want to select ‘Screen’ under ‘Video’. Also, note that the mic icon is on.

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This will bring out a pop-out menu in which you will select ‘Entire Screen’. This way, you (or the students) can switch to full-screen mode. With a little editing, they can chop off the first portion.

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Once ‘Entire Screen’ has been selected, you will see a notification at the bottom of the screen, notifying you that the screen is being shared (aka you are now screencasting).

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In YouTube, the last choice on the bottom right is full screen. Have the students chose this. As a side note, I use 2 Extensions with YouTube: DF YouTube and Adblock for YouTube.

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Now voiceover away! Once you are done, select the ‘Stop Sharing’ option at the bottom of the screen.

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This will then open a new tab in your browser. Hang tight. Depending on the length of your video, it may take a while to upload to your Google Drive. Once it is completely synced, the blue ‘Syncing Capture’ will change to green and you can THEN name your video. NOTE: The video will be saved in a folder named TechSmith in the Drive. TechSmith is the maker.

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Depending on your district, you can keep them in the Drive – remember to change the shared setting to ‘anyone can view’ – or upload them to YouTube. My district has the student Drives locked so that anyone outside our district CANNOT see them. If this is the case for you, you have a few options.

  1. Have the students transfer ownership to you. Most district will allow teachers to share items in their Drive.
  2. Have students share the video with you. You then download the video and upload to YouTube. This was the route I took.
  3. Create a shared class YouTube account (from your district) and have students upload it to this (or you upload to this).

The advantage to a class YouTube account is that the students can then go into the editor and chop off the first portion of the video, that is no doubt messy.

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.

The Literacy Shed, ELD, and ELA

For a few years now I have been using The Literacy Shed, based in the UK, as a jumping off point for ELD lessons. These lessons blend seamlessly into ELA and writing. I was first introduced to the site by ELD specialist, Ana Alvarez. Unlike Ana, I was not consistent with its usage until this year.

The Literacy Shed is an amazing resource full of teaching ideas, videos, and in some cases, examples. What makes it so powerful for the ELL, is the simple fact that the videos are all non-verbal. This allows all students access to the idea, theme, and/or concept. The videos are of a high quality and visually pleasing. The site is broken up into ‘sheds’. The ‘sheds’ are “broadly thematic”. Some ‘sheds’ include: Inventor’s Shed, Thinking Shed, and Inspiration Shed.

As I’ve stated, it wasn’t until this year that I began using this site consistently. My partner teacher and I have been planning weekly lessons around one video or another. This week, we were in the ‘Inspiration Shed‘ and doing a lesson based on ‘The Windmill Farmer’ (second video on the page). We decided to have the students write a first person narrative based on the video. Before we let them loose on the writing, we did a lot of talking first. We viewed the video through once in its entirety, then talked about what we noticed. I was impressed when students noticed the music had changed with the seasons. We viewed it again stopping to talk at key points. We paid attention to the mood – based on music, visuals, and body language of the farmer. After viewing it one more time, without interruption, they split into groups of 2 to 3 students. They were to tell their story. As I circulated around, I was struck by how many had difficulty giving a first person perspective. We had discussed the pronouns to be used: I, me, and myself. While they were using the correct pronouns, they still weren’t putting themselves in the role of the farmer. I heard stories beginning with, “If I were the farmer and my windmills were destroyed…” With these groups I then began modeling what a first person narrative looked, and sounded, like.

When I was satisfied that the majority of the students had an understanding of what was expected, I invited students to share their stories with the class – thus further reinforcing what a first person narrative looks, and sounds, like. Their stories were rich with details. One student noted that the ‘chicken thing’ on top of the house “was going crazy”. At this point I did stop him to give a quick mini-lesson on weathervanes. I had front loaded vocabulary, but as it was a minor detail in the video, I didn’t pay much attention to it and failed to front load ‘weathervane’.

It was only after several periods that I allowed the students to begin their writing. This was such a successful lesson, that I am eager to see the results. They will finish their writings this week. Not only am I inspired to continue using The Literacy Shed, but I know that I WILL consistently use this resource for the rest of the year – and probably the rest of my career.

The lessons are not only inspiring, but align perfectly with the new ELD standards (California) and ELA Standards (CCSS). Even if you don’t teach ELL’s, this is a great resource.