• How Non-Tech Savvy Teachers Can Survive Working Remotely

    COVID-19 has forced teachers to work from home. Teachers are working remotely and some are having a hard time. Not all teachers are good at integrating technology and right now, that is a major problem. Remote learning will be how students and teachers finish the school year. Get tips on how teachers can successfully work from home. #remotelearning #digitallearning #elementaryremotelearning

    COVID-19 has forced teachers to work from home. Teachers are working remotely and some are having a hard time. Not all teachers are good at integrating technology and right now, that is a major problem. Remote learning will be how students and teachers finish the school year. Get tips on how teachers can successfully work from home. #remotelearning #digitallearning #elementaryremotelearning

    I haven’t shared this with you all, but I’m a Google Certified Educator, Level 1. I love to integrate technology into my classroom.

    I once was the Digital Ambassador for my campus. Which meant I was in charge of helping other teachers integrate technology. That position made me see that a lot of teachers struggle with using technology in the classroom, and honestly, it’s not their fault.

    I’ve only worked for one district that offered professional development throughout the year on technology tools and integration. And the classes were optional. Which meant, all the tech nerds (people like me) went to the PD, and those lacking in tech integration never signed up.

    Every educator is not comfortable using technology in their classroom, even the presumed tech-savvy younger teachers. This pandemic has forced teachers who don’t consistently use tech in their classrooms to start without warning. This has to be causing more stress and anxiety for many teachers. 

    Here are a few things non-techie teachers can do to relieve some of the pressure added to this challenging (at least for me) school year. 

    Be honest with parents and your administrators

    Telling parents and administration that you struggle with technology is the first step you should take. Just remember being honest doesn’t give you an excuse not to learn. It just means you’re asking for grace and time to learn.

    Through these conversations, I’m sure you’ll find that you’re not alone. Many parents don’t have a clue about what apps or programs are used in some classrooms. I’m sure them knowing that you’re not a tech guru will provide them with some comfort to see you’re still doing some things the “old” way. 

    Your administrators will appreciate this, too, even though they probably already know that technology isn’t your strong suit.

    Focus on one thing at a time

    Rational parents and administrators aren’t expecting things to be perfect. So, take the time to learn. Pick something to focus on each week and learn how to use it. If your district uses Google products, focus on making assignments on Forms one week and Slides the next. Play around with one program or app until you’re comfortable. You’ll never master or be great at a bunch of different apps if you don’t focus on one or two at time. And guess what, you don’t have to know how to use several apps or programs. One or two is just fine.

    Don’t overwhelm yourself with multiple programs just because your teammate knows how to use them. Like that toddler in the viral video said: “worry about yourself.” That’s the only way you’ll get better. Remember, comparison is the thief of joy. Focus on the best resources that will give you the most bang for your buck and master those first!

    Be willing to make mistakes and welcome support

    Even when you’re a pro at integrating technology, things still don’t always turn out the way you envisioned them. You’re bound to make mistakes, and that’s the only way you’ll learn. I’m not a perfectionist, so this is the best part. Once I make a mistake, I know how to make it better next time. 

    Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to your more experienced teammates and instructional coaches. Don’t expect them to do it for you, but ask them how you can make something you’re already doing run smoother. Ask them what features in the program they love to use. Let them give you ideas on how to make whatever technology you prefer to use your own.

    We have found ourselves in a stressful situation, and we don’t know how long it will last. If you’re uncomfortable with this drastic change, be honest, start small, and give yourself grace. Right now, remote learning is a new challenge for all K-12 educators. Take your time and do what you can.

     

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  • Publishers’ Read Aloud Guidelines During COVID-19

    Publishers’ Read Aloud Guidelines During COVID-19. Teachers, Librarians, and other Educators, you don't have to stop doing read alouds for your students during this crazy time! Publishers are giving us temporary permission to keep reading to our students. This post contains some publishers who have given permission and their policy. #keepreading #readaloud #readalouds

    Publishers’ Read Aloud Guidelines During COVID-19. Teachers, Librarians, and other Educators, you don't have to stop doing read alouds for your students during this crazy time! Publishers are giving us temporary permission to keep reading to our students. This post contains some publishers who have given permission and their policy. #keepreading #readaloud #readalouds

    Hey, y’all! This is a quick post! I just wanted a quick way for everyone to access a list of publishers that have given us (teachers) TEMPORARY permission to record ourselves reading. It’s extremely important that you read each publisher’s expectations. They do vary. 

    Abrams Kids

    Candlewick Press

    Chronicle Books gave me permission, but I emailed them. They responded within 24 hours. 

    Email: hello@chroniclebooks.com

    Harper Kids

    Lee and Low Books

    Little Brown Young Readers

    Penguin Random House

    Scholastic 

    Simon and Schuster

    I’ll add more as I see publishers post their policy! I’ve emailed some of the smaller ones and I’m waiting to hear back from a few. Keep Reading! Let’s try to keep some normalcy during a crazy time.

    Do you do daily read alouds in your reading block? Have you tried interactive read alouds? Interactive read alouds are a great way to engage your students while you’re reading. You can use interactive read alouds to teach or reteach reading skills from your lesson. More importantly, interactive read alouds are great way to trick your students into learning reading skills! #interactivereadalouds #readaloud #readalouds #readaloudtips

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  • How Teachers Can Safely Report to Social Services

    How Teachers Can Safely Report to Social Services. Protect yourself, report all suspected abuse.

    How Teachers Can Safely Report to Social Services. Protect yourself, report all suspected abuse.

    The heartbreaking Netflix series The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez inspired this post. I just finished the episode that features his teacher and classmate. Although I have never lost a child from parental abuse, I’ve definitely felt the same hopelessness the teacher felt after repeatedly reporting to Child Protective Services (or whatever they call it in your state).

    Every district has its own steps and procedures for mandated reporters, follow that! This post is NOT about how to report. This post is about how you can report to keep yourself, physically, financially, and legally safe.

    Report, Even if You’re Unsure

    There was a time I called social services to report child neglect. I was unsure if the facts that I knew would be taken seriously by CPS, but I wanted to report just in case they would. The lack of care of this child concerned me. They were being neglected. Even if CPS didn’t take it seriously (and they didn’t), I knew I would have a record of my concerns. If something serious happened to the child after he was no longer my student, I had a clear conscience. I knew I tried to let somebody know there was a problem.

    Don’t Investigate

    Don’t ask questions to get extra details. Let the professionals do it. I know I made this mistake the very first time I had to call social services. My student was giving me so much information; it was only natural to ask more. When I told my principal, she, like the principal in Gabriel’s case, told me not to ask questions. It’s tough not to ask but don’t.

    My understanding is when you ask questions, you could be interfering in the possible future investigation. And sometimes that can lead to the dismissal of a case, even if there’s abuse. If they are being abused, you don’t want to be the reason why they don’t get the help they need.

    Report Anonymously as Possible

    Every single time I’ve called CPS, I’ve attempted to report anonymously, but the social worker lets the parents know, even though they aren’t supposed to. Or the child will tell their parents when questioned. I no longer give my name. I say I’m a school employee; I don’t even say, teacher. Sure the parents can figure it out, but they won’t know for sure. I’m fearful of retaliation. In my mind, if they can do things to hurt their child, why wouldn’t they try to do something to me. In my opinion, there’s no real way to report anonymously but try.

    Document Your Report for Your Records

    When you call, make sure you document all the details to keep for your record. I recommend putting the information in a Google Doc that isn’t on your school account. Why? Because a lot of us change districts, and once you leave, you no longer have access to the document. You never know when or if you will need it. I’ve always kept the information in a notebook, but notebooks can be misplaced. Going forward, I’m using a Google Doc. Write down the time and date when you called and who took your information. If they give you a case number, write that down too.

    Repeatedly Report if Necessary

    If you feel that there is repeated abuse, don’t stop reporting. Unfortunately, Gabriel’s teacher repeated calls to the social worker did not save him. But it should have. Remember, you are a mandated reporter, so you have to report for each incident.

    Get the Counselor Involved

    Don’t go at this alone! Make sure you have support. Notify your school’s counselor immediately. Sometimes they can help in ways that a classroom teacher cannot. Once you report, there’s not much you can do, but the counselor can emotionally support the student.


    I honestly believe that Gabriel’s teacher did everything she could to protect him. Although she still feels guilty, I don’t know what else she could have done. I believe that only because she reported the signs of abuse repeatedly, that it saved her from being held liable for his death. It is heartbreaking that the system failed this child.


    Children dying because of abuse is rare, but let his case be a reminder that you must report all suspected abuse. We are mandated reporters, and it is our job to help keep our students safe. Don’t get yourself into legal trouble because you didn’t report.

  • Why Reading Teachers Should Do Interactive Read Alouds & Tips on How to Implement Them

    Why reading teachers should do interactive read alouds and tips on how to implement them

    Do you do daily read alouds in your reading block? Have you tried interactive read alouds? Interactive read alouds are a great way to engage your students while you’re reading. You can use interactive read alouds to teach or reteach reading skills from your lesson. More importantly, interactive read alouds are great way to trick your students into learning reading skills! #interactivereadalouds #readaloud #readalouds #readaloudtips

    I love reading to my students, but I didn’t always see the benefits. Before I started reading daily to my kiddos, I would read to them maybe once or twice a month. Of course, I was reading stories from the textbook or passages, but no one taught me the benefits of read alouds with a book.

    In 2016, I went to a Comprehension Toolkit Training that explained how to do interactive read alouds. I bought in once I saw the presenter show us how to do an interactive read aloud with students. We went to a classroom and saw her implement our training. It was teacher life-changing! Now I do interactive read alouds daily! Check out how and why I changed how I teach reading.

    Why I Do Read Alouds

    I stopped caring about the state test and began caring more about exposing my students to books. I wanted them to know reading is more than preparing for a test. Reading is fun! Before doing read alouds daily, a lot of my students didn’t enjoy reading. Why? Because we were reading passages daily. They thought that’s what reading is all about.

    Also, many of my students struggle with standardized tests because they aren’t able to make connections, and they need exposure to more vocabulary. At one of my schools, the constant complaint was that our students lack the background knowledge to understand what they’re reading. Well, reading the right books helps expose them to more vocabulary and builds background knowledge.

    Why Are the Read Alouds Interactive?

    I want my students to apply what we’re learning in class to books. There is a disconnect when we only use passages and the textbook to help students learn reading skills. They have a hard time applying it to books. Asking them questions and letting them use the skills we are learning in class helps them see the real-world application.

    I also like that students respond to my questions by writing down their answers. So my students don’t just sit and get; they are actively involved in the read aloud. Those students that don’t like sharing their responses to the class still have to have an answer. No one gets to opt-out. But, if you ask engaging questions, you’ll be surprised, even your quietest student will want to share.

    Interactive read alouds also allows students to discuss books. A lot of students don’t know how to talk about books other than saying they like a book or don’t like a book. Interactive read alouds allows them to make connections and think about the reasoning why the author wrote the book in a particular way.

    Do you do daily read alouds in your reading block? Have you tried interactive read alouds? Interactive read alouds are a great way to engage your students while you’re reading. You can use interactive read alouds to teach or reteach reading skills from your lesson. More importantly, interactive read alouds are great way to trick your students into learning reading skills! #interactivereadalouds #readaloud #readalouds #readaloudtips

    How Do I Pick Books?

    I sometimes have a theme (women in science, sharks, Black History Month,etc.). Having a theme is a great way to reinforce an idea, culture, etc. that you want your students to know.

    Sometimes I pick books I’ve seen on Pinterest. I’ll usually search around my theme, or I’ll search read alouds for upper elementary. Using Pinterest is usually how I find my books.

    I also pick books based on students’ interests. Student interest is essential because this allows students to be involved in book selections. My current students want to learn more about the world. So this year, I’m picking books from places around the world simply because it’s what they want.

    I also select books appropriate for my students’ grade level. Sometimes I’ll put a book back if it is too simple or too hard. Sometimes, you can turn a simple text into a complex activity. Overall all though, your books should be age-appropriate.

    The last thing to think about when choosing books is to have a variety of genres. Don’t only do fiction or nonfiction every day. Mix it up; this helps keep your students engaged. I made this mistake when I first started doing interactive read alouds. I was doing too many nonfiction, and my students were getting burnt out. On the flip side, if you do only fiction, your students will have a hard time enjoying a nonfiction book.

    How Do I Address Standardize Testing?

    Since the interactive read alouds use more instructional time than traditional read alouds, I like to make sure I’m addressing the standards that are tested. So, I use question stems to write the questions. I don’t use the question stems as a script, but I use them so that my students are familiar with the language used on the tests.

    How Long Do Interactive Read Alouds Take?

    I spend 25-30 minutes doing a read aloud. If it were a regular read aloud, they would only take 10-15 minutes. Since it is interactive, I frequently stop while reading to ask questions and allow discussions, and this uses a significant amount of time. Since I use a lot of instructional time, my book choices and questioning are essential. If a book is too long, I’ll find a place to stop and continue the read aloud the following day.

    How to Prepare for Your Interactive Read Aloud?

    Pick your books and make sure they are relevant and grade appropriate for the grade you teach. Scan the book to make sure you can ask meaningful questions. If the book isn’t a good fit, don’t force it. Return the book or read it for fun!

    Next, read your books at least twice. Multiple reads allow you to understand the text and help you write the best questions. Remember, since you are spending a nice amount of class reading, you want to make sure you maximize what you can do with the book. When you think of questions on the fly, you miss a lot of opportunities to ask thoughtful questions.

    When you’re ready to develop questions, try to stick to 4-5. Try not to ask more than 4-5 questions because you don’t want to spend more than 30 minutes reading a book. If you have a longer book, ask 4-5 questions one day and ask more the next day you continue reading. When you write your questions, put them on a sticky note and put them on the page where you want to stop and ask questions.

    I hope all of this information makes sense! Check out my YouTube video all about my why & how I use interactive read alouds daily! Comment below for any tips for me or others! Sharing is caring!

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  • How to Meet the Needs of All Students

    How to Meet the Needs of All Students

    How to Meet the Needs of All StudentsIn my previous blog post, I talked about why it’s crucial to meet the needs of all of your students. In this post, I’m going to share some simple tips on how to do just that! Let’s get straight to it!

    Use Educational Websites

    A lot of teachers think it is difficult to differentiate instruction for their students, and initially, it is. I like to use supplemental resources to provide differentiation. 

    Reading websites like Achieve3000, Raz-Kids, and Istation are excellent ways to not only give each kiddo what they need but also for monitoring their progress. Check out my tutorials on how to get started with Raz-Kids. I also wrote a post about why all elementary teachers should use Raz, so check that out too. 

    There are math websites that will also deliver instruction on each kiddo’s level and monitor how they are doing. Prodigy (it’s free) and Imagine Math are my favorites. 

    Using these websites as a center is an easy way to make sure at least one of your centers is differentiated. The other great thing is that the kiddos can log in at home. Create contests to get students to log in and work on these websites at home. 

    Learn Their Interests

    Some of you may be slightly confused about why this is important. Knowing students’ interests allows you to make sure your kiddos are engaged. This school year, I have a class that is into ancient societies, so I’m going to make sure we learn more about them. 

    If you have a math class that is really into multiplication, make contests, and have competitions in class to help them practice that skill. 

    When you use what they’re interested in and infuse it with the curriculum, the students don’t need convincing to buy in what they’re learning. 

    Grab your free RTI Intervention Tracker!

    Be honest about where they are academically

    Students should know where they are at the beginning of the year and the appropriate levels for that grade. I know some teachers don’t want to tell students that they are below grade level because they don’t want to discourage them if they’re behind. 

    In my opinion, students and parents should know. You don’t have to be demeaning about it, but you should be honest. I like to tell my students, who are significantly below level that we are going to work together. Once they realize that they will get help, the students and parents worry less.

    And I’m not blowing smoke we make gains! My students who are grade levels behind grow so much during the school year, and it encourages them to continue working hard the next school year.

    Set Monthly goals

    If you tell students where they are at the beginning of the year, help them set goals to make sure they get the maximum growth for the year. Have them pick one goal to work on the entire month so they can be actively involved in their progress. 

    Meet with them regularly to check their progress to make sure they stay on track. I know many of us set goals at the beginning of the school year, but wait until the middle of the year to see if they met their goal. This is ineffective. My students rarely reach their goals if we don’t make them smaller and meet about them at least monthly. Grab the Class Goal Setting Guide, to make goal setting a breeze.

    Meeting students needs isn’t as complicated as we make it in our mind. We can start with simple steps and add more as we get more confident. We shouldn’t rush differentiation, but it doesn’t mean to wait the whole year to get started. If you want to see academic and behavioral changes in your students, you need to meet each student’s needs. 

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  • Why it is Important to Meet the Needs of All Students

    Do you want to see more student growth? Do you know how to differentiate your lessons? Do you know why it is important that you differentiate your lessons? Differentiation in your classroom is how you can meet the needs of all your students. Learn why all teachers need to meet the needs of all students Get tips and tools to help you get started with differentiation in your classroom today. #differentiation #differentiate #studentneeds

    Do you want to see more student growth? Do you know how to differentiate your lessons? Do you know why it is important that you differentiate your lessons? Differentiation in your classroom is how you can meet the needs of all your students. Learn why all teachers need to meet the needs of all students Get tips and tools to help you get started with differentiation in your classroom today. #differentiation #differentiate #studentneeds

    Do you make sure you help all of your students each school year? Are there students so low in your class that you think there’s no point? Do you have special education students that you think get all the help they need from the Sped teacher? While I think most of us would answer no to the last two questions, some of us would say yes. I know differentiation is hard work, but if you’re in it for the kiddos, then there’s no other way to teach. There are numerous reasons why meeting the needs of all your students is crucial; here’s my top four.

    It Prevents Students From Falling Behind

    Each year I get students who are behind at least two or three grade levels. Sometimes four. How is this possible? It is because not every teacher is differentiating their instruction. Let’s be honest and real. There’s no way all teachers are differentiating for all their students, and the students are still severely behind. 

    Some of us are doing a great disservice to our kiddos by not giving them what they need. Just one teacher making choice not to meet every student in their classroom’s needs can put that child grade levels behind. Now, making it a situation where their future teachers have to make up for the loss and try to catch them up. Just imagine if this child has two teachers in a row that doesn’t differentiate. This is how students get behind. 

    The only way we can prevent this is meeting students where they are when they arrive in our classrooms.

    It is Best Practice

    The days of spending the whole class period in front of the class lecturing are over. Giving students only one type of instruction does not ensure that all kids are learning. We know all students are different. Not only do students learn differently, but they also have different interests and different personalities. 

    As teachers, we have to understand that and make sure that every student is supported. I’m still surprised when I hear teachers complain about differentiating their lessons or centers. Yes, it is a lot of work meeting each kiddo on their level, but nobody ever said teaching was easy.

    5 Reasons why you should Differentiate your lessons

    It is the Only Way to See Consistent Growth

    We all love to see students grow! If you want to see growth every month, you have to meet students where they are. If you teach 3rd-grade but have kids on a 1st-grade level, when you meet with them during small group, their work should be on a 1st-grade level. The only way they will be successful in 3rd-grade is if they master 1st-grade.  

    Your kiddos that are on grade level or above will take more time to see growth, but those who are below level should be growing much faster. 

    It Benefits the Whole Class

    When students start growing, they become more independent. The closer they get to grade level, the easier things become from them, and depending on how low they were, the less they’ll need extra support from you. 

    For example, one year, I had to write out everything on the board because over half of my students were behind two grade levels. They could barely read, so I had to read instructions everything. Because I was providing so much additional support, we never had time for anything extra. I would use every ounce of time in my schedule on remedial tasks.  

     The next school year was the complete opposite. I was able to give my students extension projects weekly because there were only one or two students who were below grade level. It made my class more engaging. I didn’t feel the pressure of playing the catch-up game. I could spend time expanding on their interests instead of worrying about how I was going to get kids to grow three grade levels in one year. 

    Some of us have to do a better job of meeting our students where they are. Initially, it is incredibly time-consuming to plan your instruction so you can focus on everyone, but once it becomes a habit, you’ll be able to do it in your sleep. If you are an educator resistant to this idea, think about how you would feel if you had a child that needed extra support, and their teachers didn’t want to put in the effort to help them grow. For those differentiating kings and queens, encourage a resistant teammate to do better!

    Check out the Class Goal Setting Guide to help you and your students make tremendous growth this school year!

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  • The Only 3 Things New Teachers Need to Know

    Being a new teacher can be hard. All veteran teachers have been there! You'll find tons of tips for new teachers and some are good and some are unnecessary! As a new teacher you'll get tons of advice but there are only a few things you need to know before accepting a position! Are you a new teacher? Find out what you need to know now!! #newteachers #newteachertips #newteacheradvice

    Being a new teacher can be hard. All veteran teachers have been there! You'll find tons of tips for new teachers and some are good and some are unnecessary! As a new teacher you'll get tons of advice but there are only a few things you need to know before accepting a position! Are you a new teacher? Find out what you need to know now!! #newteachers #newteachertips #newteacheradvice

    As a new teacher, you’re going to get tons of advice. It will be hard to figure out what you should listen to and what you shouldn’t. In this post, I’m keeping it super simple, and sharing three easy tips that will help you survive your first year or two. Let’s get straight to it. 

    Don’t Take Work Home…Regularly

    It is tempting. I think most of us more experienced teachers have done it. Taking work home is something I would have done less of when I first started teaching. I was that teacher that took a bag full of work home. Papers to grade, lesson plans to create, and paperwork to complete. I’ve done it all!

    I felt so accomplished, and I felt like I was on top of it!. But, by November, I was exhausted. By March, I was utterly drained and didn’t know if teaching was for me. It was because I was always working. Even on the weekends, you could find me in my room getting stuff done. I’m not saying don’t do it, do it in moderation. Teaching can be crazy, so there will be times when you have to take work home, just don’t make it a habit. 

    Go Into Work Early Or Stay Late, Don’t Do Both

    Going into work early or staying after school, will help prevent you from taking work home. I am a morning person so; you can find me in my classroom bright and early. By the end of the day, I’m exhausted and ready to go home.

    If you’re not sure what works best for you, try them both out! Then, decide during which time do you get the most work done. Some of you may know that you’re not a morning person, so staying late might be your thing. 

    Remember, don’t do both!

    Back to School Guide for Teachers

    Be Patient

    You’re not going to be great at a lot of things your first year. Don’t compare yourself to the other new teacher down the hall or the veteran teacher next door. If you walk in the door having it all together, how can you possibly grow?

    The first couple of years will be hard. There’s no getting around it. You won’t know what you’re doing until year 4 or 5. Teaching is hard work. Some people enter it thinking that got it and soon realize that they don’t. It’s okay because, to become an excellent teacher, you have to make mistakes.

    Set goals and work on one thing at a time. By taking your time and learning things one by one you’ll retain information better and be more successful.

    I recommend you pick something that you’re interested in and learn everything you can about it so that you can become the campus expert. For example, at one point, I was really into technology integration. I attended a Google Education event, attended multiple technology training’s, became a Google Educator, and found different ways to implement technology in my classroom. Over time I became the go-to tech person on my campus. Once I found what I was really good at, it helped build my confidence, and made it easier to learn new things.

    Being a new teacher is going to be challenging. Just remember that your work is never done and you need to make sure you are making time for yourself. You will make plenty of mistakes, and you won’t be a rock-star teacher after your first year. You will be much better than you started if you’re patient and willing to learn from your mistakes. Don’t worry about being an expert. Each year you’ll grow and become a stronger educator. Be even more prepared for the new school year and grab my Free Back to School Guide. Remember, you’ve got this!

     

  • 4 Reasons Why All Elementary Reading Teachers Should Use Raz-Kids

    Are you using Raz-Kids in your classroom? Did you know it is an easy way to differentiate your reading block? Learn why all elementary teachers should use Raz-Kids in their classrooms today! #razkids #differentiation #differentiatedcenters #teachertips #teacherresources

    What if I told you there was an easy way to do running records every two weeks? What if I told you there’s a tool that can help you document student progress? Are you looking for a simple way to differentiate your centers? Do you want to make sure your students are reading books at home that will help them grow?

    Guys, there is one resource that does it all. Raz-Kids. We have all used those printable books from Reading A-Z, but have you tried their digital product? I first found out about Raz-Kids from another teacher, and once I activated my free trial, I was hooked. Then I was shocked that more teachers weren’t using it. My district did not have the program, so I bought it. Currently, you can purchase it for $110. I know it sounds pricey, but tally up how much stuff you buy from TPT every year that you only use once? Think about the pizza, snacks, and rewards you purchase? We can easily spend $110. Buying a Raz-Kids license was hands down the best purchase I made the whole school year. I used it every day, the entire school year, and my students loved it!!! Luckily my new district has a license for Raz-Kids, but if they ever decide to get rid of it, I definitely will purchase it on my own. It is seriously that good. Check out the reasons why you should start using Raz-Kids now!

    It is an Easy Way to Do Running Records

    Raise your hand if you enjoy doing running records? I imagine nobody raised their hands. Who has time to stop small group or guided reading to test students? I know I don’t. A lot of us know when our students are making progress and know when it is time to move them up levels, but a lot of schools want documentation. 

    With Raz-Kids, all you have to do is assign them a running record, and the kiddos can complete it on their own. Each student has an account, and when they sign in, their running record is waiting for them. Once the kiddo clicks to complete the assessment, it starts recording. The student reads the passage out loud while it records what they say. Once the kiddo is done, it will ask them to summarize the story while it records their response. Lastly, they’ll answer a few questions that will check their comprehension of the story. Once the student hits done, their work gets sent to you. 

    Now you have their running record! You can check it when you have time. I listen to their running records during my conference time. They have an app you can download on your phone, so you can grade their running record anywhere.

    It is an Easy Way to Document Student Progress

    Not only does Raz-Kids have running records, but it also has digital books. When you first use the website, you will assign your students their reading level and books. Each leveled book has comprehension questions that the students will complete after reading. When they submit their quiz, the results get sent to you, and it breaks down the questions by concepts.

    Maybe Karen got all the inference questions wrong but, missed main idea. So, you can see how they’re doing and what they need more practice on. The program will flag students and let you know if they’ve missed a lot of a concept so that you know they need more practice.

    I like this feature because it’s another for me to see if a student is getting better on specific skills. The results of the quizzes and running records can all be printed off to document student progress.

    It is An Easy Way to Differentiate Instruction

    We are continuously told that we need to make sure we are differentiating instruction and centers. Raz-Kids makes differentiation a breeze. Since each kiddo is assigned their own reading level, they are getting books just for them. Depending on their reading level, the website gives them different tasks.

    Students who are reading at a kindergarten to 4th-grade reading level will have three things they do with their book. They have to read their books twice. During the first read, the program reads the book to the kids. The second read the student does alone, and lastly, the kiddos complete the comprehension quiz. The students who are reading at a higher level don’t get their books read to them. They read their book independently and complete the quiz. Also, their books are significantly longer.

    It is an Easy Way to Grow Students

    Since Raz-Kids makes it easy to give each student what they need, they will grow! Especially your struggling students. Parents of my struggling kiddos always ask me what can they do at home, and I tell them to log in to Raz-Kids. If they log on at home, they are getting more differentiated practice. My students that use Raz-Kids at home grow much faster than those that don’t. 

    A few years ago, I had a third grader who was reading at a first-grade level. They used Raz-Kids at home, and by the end of the year, she was reading on a third-grade reading level. If you use Raz-Kids consistently, your students will grow! The students who are on level or higher get an opportunity to get pushed further too.

    As a reading teacher, this is hands down my favorite supplemental resource to use. You can meet the needs of all of your students by just using this website. Hopefully, your district or school has a license for Raz-Kids. If they don’t, I promise it is worth the purchase. This has made my teaching life so much easier, I don’t have to stop instruction to do running records anymore. My kids are engaged and are getting exactly what they need to help them grow. Most of all, I can still make sure they are getting differentiated instruction when they go home. Has anyone else fallen in love with this website? Let me know in the comments below

  • How to Grow Students in a Low Performing School

    All students deserve a quality education. If you work at a low performing school, then you know how hard it is to get your kids where they need to be. Low performing schools are under more pressure than any other schools. A lot of time, they expect you to work a miracle without the resources you need. To turn a low performing school to a high performing school, you have to focus on other things besides test scores. We know that we are held accountable for our students through test scores, but to get the scores you want you have to focus on some key things first. Although it is a challenge, it is possible. Here’s how.

    Build Relationships First

    I know you’ve heard this a million times before, but it is true, you have to gain your students’ trust and respect before they will work hard for you. They’ll give you more effort if they know you care about them. Children are the most intuitive humans walking around Earth, so they can tell if you really care about them. I suggest you use some of your instructional time to get to know your students.

    In the mornings we do something called Good Things. During Good Things, we go around the room and share something good. The only rule is it has to be something good! At first, it is a struggle to get them to share something personal. But, after a few weeks, they’ll tell you and the class all about their soccer game, the book they’re reading, or what they did over the weekend. My kiddos love Good Things! I mean, who doesn’t like talking about themselves? My shier students usually pass during Good Things, but when I talk to them during small group, they open right up.

    Just don’t build relationships with your students or kiddos in your grade level, get to know students across the campus. Doing this will make it easier to bond with those kiddos if they ever become your students! This is something I do, especially with the grade level directly below me. Trust me, this works! Build relationships now!

    Meet Them Where They Are

    In a dream world, all of your students would be on grade level. But, the reality is if you are working in a low-income neighborhood, a lot of your kiddos are behind. So suck it up, stop complaining and come up with a plan to grow your kiddos. I think sometimes we can focus so much on where they should be, we don’t focus on where they are. If you meet them where they are, they will grow much faster than if you try to make them get ahead without the background knowledge they need. Focus on making small gains because small gains will lead to tremendous growth. Student growth is what turns schools around. 

    Set Goals

    When you meet them where they are, you can then set goals to get them where they should be. Goal setting is so important. This gives the kiddos an idea of how hard they need to work during the year. In my experience, when students know their goals they put more effort in class.

    For goal setting to work, we can’t just talk about their goals at the beginning, middle, and end of the year. We have to discuss them regularly for them to be more meaningful. That is something I’m definitely working on this school year.

    Have High Standards

    Just because several of your students are at a first-grade reading level in third grade, does not mean you can just give them packets. Hold all of your kiddos accountable. Your lowest students have the most potential to grow if you give them what they need. They should be the students making the most gains. If you don’t push them, they won’t reach their potential.

    Encourage Them

    Every year I have students that don’t meet their goals. Or always bomb district tests. No matter what I still encourage them.If they got a 50% on one test but a 63% on next one, that is a win! Celebrate their gains!

     I like to give my kiddos notes throughout the school year to encourage them. Your students that struggle the most are the ones that need the most motivation.They know they’re behind and they need people around them who will encourage them to keep going.  Find a way to let your kiddos know that you believe in them.

    Your students can and will grow. You just have to be persistent and consistent in your efforts. On the day that you think what you’re doing is pointless is the day that one kiddo is going to get it and motivate you to do more. You have to believe in yourself and your students if you want them to grow to their fullest potential.