Monday, November 21, 2016

Mystery Cards Template

The Best Ideas...

The best ideas come when you least expect it. Awhile back I was visiting with Mrs. Antos and her 3rd grade class from Pleasant Lake Elementary, she wanted her students to work in Google Slides to create Mystery Cards in relation to the plot of the story. It was the first time students had experienced Google Slides; it took them roughly 30-45 minutes to build the template without any clues created. All things considered, they were able to accomplish much in a short period of time!

The idea behind Mystery Cards is that they give three clues to an important event in the text. The next card had the answer to the clues as well as a short explanation. The fun part of doing it in Google Slides vs. on note cards like her original activity suggested is the vast number of images available that students can access. It also makes for a great presentation for students to share in front of the class to introduce a book. What a great way to build and exciting reading culture and learn a bit about the student's understanding of a text! If time does not lend itself to students giving a presentation, these slides could easily be stored on a Class Google Site. Imagine the wealth of information if you had a collection of these about various texts/topics organized on a Google Site. If a student is stuck as a reader, send them to your class collection and let them see if they can find a text that peaks their interest.

An After Thought...

After visiting Mrs. Antos, it got me thinking much about building these templates for students or even having one of your students that needs a little extra challenge to get the job done. Yes, her students needed to have some exposure to Google Slides, but if time does not permit one could easily build the template for the students in advance so that the students can focus more on the text and less on the technology. 

If you would like a copy of my mystery cards template, feel free to make yourself a copy in my slides presentation here: 


Editing the Master

I've written quite a bit over the last year on the topic of 'hyperdocs' because teachers can organize learning experiences all within the products that Google offers. (In contrast to using a learning management system that is not transferable and could disappear at any moment.) Teachers can easily lay out learning experiences that are for solo work or collaborative via Google Docs. They can accomplish the same experience via Google Slides. They can even be made 'indestructible' by using Google Drawings in conjunction with Google Slides. But if the teacher wants to make the template quickly, editing the master in Google Slides in the way to go. It allows the teacher to create elements that the students can and cannot manipulate within the slide. It is also easier to wrap your mind around in comparison to building it first in Google Drawings and setting it as a background in Google Slides. 

As of late, I've been training teachers quite a bit with the workshops I've been running for MSD of Steuben. It is a great way to distribute e-learning/virtual learning materials on the Chromebook in case there are students that have limited Internet access at home. This would ensure that learning materials are easily accessible offline without an abundance of extra steps as Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides can all be synced to the device for offline use. I've also been training teachers to edit the master in my Google Make and Take workshop. Here, teachers are creating graphic organizers and other learning resources that they have ready to import into any learning experience at any time all via Google Slides and Google Classroom. 

If you want to get a feel for how to create one of these templates, I created one for the Mystery Cards template that I made that is linked above. Now you can have an idea of how to build and create your very own templates all through Google Slides!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Reading Recs


Running Records

So much value can be placed on the time that you spend with students doing a running record. You really get to know each student's strengths and weaknesses. Teachers truly understand the individual needs when they take the time to listen to the student read and ask them questions about the text. What's the biggest problem with doing running records? Time! 

Looking back on my teaching experience, I spent a lot of class time pulling individuals back to check their reading performance. Often times, it would take me a week or more of my reading block in order to get through my whole class. As long as you had already established a solid reading culture within the walls of your classroom, the process is pretty smooth. If you have resistant readers, it takes even longer as the teacher may need to do some crowd control from time to time.

So how do we get passed the issue of time constraint? There are some options, but I highly recommend that the teacher of record be the one doing the running records for all the students for a couple reasons. The first I've already mentioned as the time spent with individuals is extremely informative in the growth of individual readers. The second is that people are not perfect. There are inconsistencies between which person is performing the running record as there will be some gray areas from time to time. So a great solution is SAS Curriculum Pathways Reading Recs. 

Reading Recs!

With Reading Recs, the teacher can create a digital classroom, assign passages accordingly, and capture a recording of the student's performance. The teacher can essentially perform a running record at any time and not have to deal with the schedule restraints or the occasional behavior problems that may arise every now and then. While the teacher listens to the recording, the running record symbols are built in for easy access and will automatically pause the audio when marking an error. This makes for a very convenient format for gathering student data!

I created a series of videos on using Reading Recs. I broke it into five viewing sections because the length of the video as a whole was too long and I wanted teachers to be able to find the piece of information they needed quickly. I broke it down into how to create classes, student accounts, and assessments as three separate videos. These are very short, but I also did it on purpose for convenience. I also have a video for what the students will experience. Teachers, feel free to use the fourth video in the playlist the demonstrates the student side so that they know what to expect while completing a Reading Rec. The last video is what the teacher will see and how to respond when students have completed their assignments.



A Couple Issues...

As an educator, I understand the value of a face-to-face conference with students. Students need that personal connection and need to hear straight from you. However, this provides a great, free alternative if you are experiencing time constraints or want to do some additional checks with students between official running records. 

I also understand that there are a lot of digital resources that teachers are already using. Some of these resources might be superior to Reading Recs. However, this one is free. I have heard from many of my teachers that Raz-Kids has the same opportunity for teachers and students. Not all of the schools in my district have Raz-Kids subscriptions. So if you are looking for a free option that anyone can use, give Reading Recs a try.