• How to Use Prodigy Game as Differentiated Math Center

    Prodigy is my go-to tool when differentiating in math. It makes it easy to address each students' needs. Using Prodigy Game, in combination with my guided math lessons, makes student growth a breeze. Don't stress over making differentiated math centers start using Prodigy today! #mathcenters #differentiatedinstruction #guidedmath

    Prodigy is my go-to tool when differentiating in math. It makes it easy to address each students' needs. Using Prodigy Game, in combination with my guided math lessons, makes student growth a breeze. Don't stress over making differentiated math centers start using Prodigy today! #mathcenters #differentiatedinstruction #guidedmath

    Did you know that Prodigy Game can be used to differentiate your instruction during guided math? I love using it as one of my math centers while I’m working with a small group.

    Prodigy gives students a placement test when they first log in; this test identifies students’ strengths and weaknesses. It’s pretty darn accurate too!

    Based on the result of the test, Prodigy will recommend what students should work on next. The program makes it simple to assign individualized work for your students. 

    With consistent use, Prodigy Game is an excellent resource to use to see student growth. Keep reading to see how!

    To Fill in Gaps

    The placement test shows you what specific skills each student needs. Using the results of the test, you can assign assignments to help students fill in gaps. 

    I like to assign work that we will work together on in small group so that the students see the skill more than once. Just like in our guided math lessons, once they master a skill, we begin working on another. 

    If you are meeting with them in small groups and assigning work on Prodigy, those gaps will disappear quickly.

    Here is what the results of the placement test look like. This is a mock class, these aren’t real students. The grade level is set for third grade.

    To Support On & Above Level Students

    We tend to spend a lot of small group time with our lower-level students, leaving those on grade level and above to work more independently. In the past, pushing my stronger students has been challenging, especially if they are performing above grade level. 

    Prodigy is a great way to help students who have mastered grade-level content move forward. Use the placement test as a guide to help you figure out what they should work on next. 

    To Check for Understanding

    Did you teach a new skill earlier in the week, and you’re looking for an informal way to see who gets it? By assigning the new standard in Prodigy, you will get the data you need to see who needs additional support.  

    Use Prodigy as an engaging way to spice up your exit tickets or informal observations. Your students will be eager to show you what they know. 

    Prodigy is my go-to tool when differentiating in math. It makes it easy to address each students’ needs. Using Prodigy Game, in combination with my guided math lessons, makes student growth a breeze. 

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  • Why Math Teachers Should Use Prodigy Game

    Are you looking for math center ideas? Do you need help with differentiating math? Prodigy Game is a great supplemental resource to use during guided math. You’ll never have to worry if your guided math groups are working while you’re doing small group instruction if you use Prodigy! Check out why Prodigy is a must-have in your classroom! #guidedmath #differentiatedinstruction #smallgroupinstruction

     Are you looking for math center ideas? Do you need help with differentiating math? Prodigy Game is a great supplemental resource to use during guided math. You’ll never have to worry if your guided math groups are working while you’re doing small group instruction if you use Prodigy! Check out why Prodigy is a must-have in your classroom! #guidedmath #differentiatedinstruction #smallgroupinstruction

    Prodigy Game is a completely free math program for students that you MUST use in your classroom this school year! I love using it as a way to differentiate instruction. Students are so focused on playing; they don’t realize they are learning! It is a win-win!

    If you teach math, creating a Prodigy Game account will be one of your best decisions this school year. Here’s why you should go create an account right now!

    It’s Fun

    My students loved it when it was their turn to get on Prodigy. They could not wait to battle their classmates. This is what makes Prodigy such an effective supplemental resource. Students want to get questions correct so they can increase their level and get bragging rights as the student with the highest level. The only way for students to win battles and to level is by showing what they know. 

    It Can Help Fill in Gaps Or Push Students Further

    What I love most about this program is that you can tailor Prodigy Game to fit each students’ individual needs! I use Prodigy as a simple way to differentiate centers. Once students take the placement test, Prodigy identifies their strengths and weaknesses. You can use their results to assign students work that either fills in gaps or pushes them forward.

    It Can Give Students Extra Practice for a New Skill

    I also use Prodigy to give students extra practice over newly taught skills. This helps reinforce my mini-lesson and helps new content stick in their brains. It is also a great way to see who gets it and who needs small group instruction for more practice. 

    It Can Be a Spiral Review for Standardized Testing

    When I was a standardized testing teacher, I LOVED using this feature. I’m not a teach to the test kind of girl. I hate the weeks before for state testing, but Prodigy’s spiral review was a fun way to review the skills I taught my students throughout the school year. My students were having so much fun; they didn’t know they were doing test prep!

    It Can Be a Resource to Use at Home

    Going back to my first point, Prodigy is engaging. Students will want to use the program at home, especially if you acknowledge that they are logging on. I have fun optional contests over the breaks and throughout the year to increase logins from home. It is a great way to keep them practicing math at home!

    Parents can purchase memberships that give students more features; this is how Prodigy gets their money and why it is free for teachers. 

    If I haven’t convinced you to check out this amazing FREE program, you’re nuts! Prodigy is THE way to get your students excited about practicing math!

     

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    HOW TO USE PRODIGY GAME AS DIFFERENTIATED MATH CENTER

     

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  • Do You Boo! Why I’m Keeping it Simple in My Digital Classroom

    This blog post is about how I feel about my digital classroom. If you're assigning hours of work, buying digital lessons, spending hours creating digital lessons, that's your business, and do you boo. I'm doing what is best for my students and me. Check out why simplicity is the route for me. #remotelearning #remoteteaching

    This blog post is about how I feel about my digital classroom. If you're assigning hours of work, buying digital lessons, spending hours creating digital lessons, that's your business, and do you boo. I'm doing what is best for my students and me. Check out why simplicity is the route for me. #remotelearning #remoteteaching

    I’m a creative teacher. I’m always trying to figure out how to make my class more engaging. Lately, with everything going on, I still have that creativity flowing through me, but I’m choosing not to put it into my digital classroom. To give you some background about me, I’m a fifth-grade reading, language arts, and social studies teacher. My students are pretty independent but are struggling in our new setting. 

    Here’s an example of my weekly schedule. The read aloud is for reading, the BrainPOP video is for social studies, and the writing prompt is for language arts. Raz-Kids and IXL are optional assignments.

    I’m giving my students a total of 45 minutes of work each day. I’m keeping it pretty simple in my digital classroom for several reasons, mainly because our students didn’t sign up for online learning. We are going through a pandemic, and we all have been thrown into an unexpected, chaotic mess. I’m learning; it is entirely irrational to finish this school year with the same expectations as if we were still in a physical classroom.

    I also didn’t sign up to be a digital teacher. Of course, I’m giving my 100%. I’m a tech-savvy teacher, but I realized this is not how I want to implement those skills, especially when it isn’t equitable for my students. 

    This blog post is about how I feel about my digital classroom. If you’re assigning hours of work, buying digital lessons, spending hours creating digital lessons, that’s your business, and do you boo. I’m doing what is best for my students and me. Here’s why simplicity is the route for me.

    Students Should Be Able To Complete Assignments Independently

    Before the schools closed, my students were on different levels, and of course, that hasn’t changed. Some students have parents or older siblings that can help them at home. Some of my students are new to the United States, and their entire family is learning English. I have parents who are working from home and parents that are essential workers. Long story short, I don’t want to assign complicated lessons that aren’t accessible to all of my students.  

    I’m pretty active on Pinterest, and there are tons of digital activities popping up everywhere, I haven’t seen a single one that is advertised as differentiated. So this means, if I were to buy those products, I’d still need to differentiate them somehow. 

    In my mind, it makes more sense for me to create things that I know all of my students can do. For example, I know all of my students can listen to me read a book. I know that students can respond to a creative writing prompt (even my ELL can write a sentence or two). I know they can all watch a BrainPOP video. 

    Parents are doing the best that they can; some are overwhelmed and stressed. I want to make my lessons simple enough so that the kids are still learning, but students can do them independently.

    Unplanned Online Learning is Inequitable 

    Last week students at my school had the opportunity to get devices, and some were lucky enough to get a hotspot. I’ve used a hotspot before, and sometimes they can be flaky. They’re a temporary fix for when you don’t have internet access. So, that means websites may load quickly one day and slowly the next. 

    Think about if there are multiple kids at home using one hotspot. While I would love to take advantage of all of these free websites that are available right now, I don’t think it would be a good idea for my students who don’t have consistent internet access. There are some great websites available for free right now (and I LOVE that companies have stepped up to help), but I don’t think it would be fair for my students who are already struggling to get online, even if it is just one.

    My school also made sure that families who requested devices received at least one, so not every child in a family got their own. In some households, multiple students are using one device. I can only imagine trying to manage who and when each child gets to use the device. Creating a technology schedule can be a complicated task for me, but imagine trying to plan it out when each child has hours of work to complete.

    I Want to Make Sure I’m Not Overworking

    I don’t know about any of you, but I feel like I’m working harder at home than I was in my classroom. I’ve had to find some boundaries. Just because I’m working from home, doesn’t mean I want to work a bunch of extra hours that I wouldn’t typically work.

    My district made a schedule that clearly says we get a break and planning time, but I spend most of my day interacting with students or parents. I barely have time to create my simple lessons for the week. I don’t have time to do more. Sure, I could create bomb interactive lessons that look amazing, but I don’t want to work off the clock to get it done. 

    I Know My Students

    I’m going to say this as nicely as possible. I have THE most unmotivated students I’ve EVER HAD this school year. You know you shouldn’t listen to what the previous teachers say about students, right? Everyone deserves a fresh start, but y’all they weren’t lying or exaggerating! It’s been a challenging school year. As a whole, it has been a struggle consistently getting quality work from them. Moving from a physical classroom to a digital classroom hasn’t changed them. They are still the unmotivated crew lol. 

    I’ve created fun and engaging activities all school year that have left me frustrated when only my usual few get it done. Lack of technology has made digital learning difficult for some, but many of my students are the same unmotivated children I looked at with frustration daily lol!

    I will not frustrate myself by creating the elaborate plans, and only a sprinkle of my students get it done. I’m just being 100% real. 

    I Was About to Do The Most, But Then…

    Before I realized I needed to chill out, I had big plans in my head. Remember, I’m tech-savvy. But, I had a few situations that made me realize, now is not the time to flex those skills.

    I was planning on doing weekly Zoom meetings with my students until I found out it caused a lot of confusion and frustration with the parents. I have 48 students, and only 9 attended my first Zoom. When the meeting was over, my inbox was full of parent emails saying that they were having issues logging on to the platform. Some parents contacted our parent liaison because they were worried that their child missed the meeting. My students were blowing me up on Google Classroom. Our Zoom meeting did not turn out as I had hoped.

    Some other things I didn’t realize until I logged on to Zoom was that parents had to stop what they were doing to help students log in. If parents are working from home, my Zoom meeting was taking away from their work. I didn’t think about that at all. My students with parents that couldn’t step away from their work to get their child set up on Zoom missed out, which is unfair. I wasn’t making this experience as fun as I thought I was. 

    I was also giving out awards (by email) for students who were getting all their work done. I created a really cute certificate, email template for parents, and I planned on making weekly video announcements.

    Then I got a DM from an Instagram friend; she was upset that her son’s kindergartner teacher was publicly shouting out kids who did all of their work, which included the optional assignments. She was upset because she was doing the best she could while working from home. They were completing the mandatory work, but she didn’t have time to complete the extra assignments.

    I was doing the same thing as her child’s teacher. I thought it was an excellent way to motivate my students. I had no idea how it would make parents feel. Yes, I have older students, and they should be able to get their work done independently, but I realized now is not the time to have competitions when everyone’s home life is different. So, I stopped. The last thing I want to do is make parents feel like they aren’t doing a good job. I need them right now.

    It has taken me a few weeks to understand what is going on. I decided last week to let go of everything I can’t control. Nobody is ending the school year how they expected, so I decided to let it all go.

    I love going all out in my classroom, but I realized that right now isn’t the time. I’m honestly just thankful that I’m still able to read to my students daily. My book hoarding finally paid off. To see my basic lesson plans, check me out on Instagram. If you’re going all out in your digital classroom, do your thang boo, it’s just not for me.

     

     

     

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  • How Elementary teachers can remotely differentiate Reading Using Raz-Kids

    HOW ELEMENTARY TEACHERS CAN REMOTELY DIFFERENTIATE READING USING RAZ-KIDS #remotelearning #elementaryremoteteaching

    HOW ELEMENTARY TEACHERS CAN REMOTELY DIFFERENTIATE READING USING RAZ-KIDS #remotelearning #elementaryremoteteaching

    Are you looking for a way to differentiate your reading class remotely? It is possible with Learning A-Z’s Raz-Kids.

    If your school does not have a subscription, that’s okay! The Learning A-Z family is offering free subscriptions for the rest of the school year. Raz-Kids is an excellent way to differentiate reading in your digital classroom! Keep reading to find out why.

    You Can Assign Leveled Books

    I’m sure you know all about Learning A-Z’s printable books. But, you can assign those same books digitally. I like to assign books below, on, and above students’ reading levels. By assigning multiple levels, you give students more opportunities to practice, which results in student growth.

    You Can Assign Audiobooks

    Raz-Kids gives you an option that allows the program to read books to students. I love using this feature because, when I assign books that are above their reading level, it will enable the students to hear and see all the words first. As the computer reads the book, each word is highlighted so the students can easily follow along.

    You Can Assign Running Records

    If you want to check your students’ progress, then you can assign running records. Once you assign the running record, it goes straight to the student. When the student gets the assessment, they will record themselves reading the book or passage, and then it gets sent back to you! I have a YouTube Tutorial if you want to check it out!

    You Can Assign Sight Word Testing

    Have you’ve been working on sight words this year? Well, you can still have students practice their words. Give them the words you want them to practice and then assign them a High-Frequency Word Assessment to track students’ progress.

    You Can Address Foundational Skills

    If this unexpected break in school interrupted your phonic lessons, use Raz to keep going. There are books for decoding, letter recognition, and other phonic skills.

    You Can Assign Fluency Practice

    What elementary teacher isn’t looking for fluency practice? If you’re looking for an opportunity to have students to practice fluency, you can assign poems, songs, and rhyming books.

    Student growth doesn’t have to stop. Check out my Raz-Kids tutorials to see if it’s the program for you (I already know it is).

     

  • 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. 

    UPDATED 8/2/2020

    I checked all of the publishers on this list on 8/2/2020. The publishers who have updated or changed their permissions is marked as updated. 

    Abrams Kids

    Annick Press

    Boyds Mills & Kane

    Candlewick Press

    Chronicle Books

    Disney Books 

    Harper Kids Updated 8/2/2020

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

    Lee and Low Books

    Lerner Books

    Little Brown Young Readers Updated 8/2/2020

    Penguin Random House Updated 8/2/2020

    Scholastic 

    Simon and Schuster Updated 8/2/2020

    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!

    FREE RESOURCES YOU WOULD LIKE

    Interactive Read Aloud Guide

    Accommodation Tracker

    RTI Intervention Tracker

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