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Most school districts have moved completely to digital learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, so I wanted to share some of mine, and my colleagues’, favorite online tools since we’ve been 1:1 for quite a few years now.

Gimkit is a gamification system created by a high school student. He loved the games in class but his teachers didn’t use them very often, so he interviewed his teachers to find out what would help them want to use a gaming system in their classrooms, and VOILA! He created Gimkit based on their suggestions. I love Gimkit and so do my students.

I use Canva in my personal life and in my classroom. Canva allows you to create posters, flyers, infographics, etc. In my classroom, I’ve had students create book recommendation flyers and infographics. A new feature that Canva has that I cannot wait to try out is Story Boards! This tool would allow for a sequenced creation for so many different classes.
YouTube: What is Edpuzzle?

EDPuzzle allows educators to make interactive videos. The videos can be filmed or an external video can be used. Then throughout the video, you can add check ins, quizzes, etc. for students to complete. Also, you receive a report of who has and has not completed the video and data of how they did on the check ins.
YouTube: Screencastify Overview

Screencastify allows you to record your screen with audio or video of yourself.

Quizizz allows educators to create a quiz or pick from an already created quiz for many different subjects. The quizzes are student-paced yet still a gamification system.
YouTube: What is Nearpod?

Nearpod takes a PowerPoint and moves it to the next level! Create or upload a presentation and add many different options such as videos, quizzes, images, drawing boards, web content, activities, etc.

Quizlet is a study tool that allows educators and students create study guides and flashcards. With each set, there are study games like matching, tests, and educators can even assign a game called Quizlet Live.
YouTube: Getting Started with Flipgrid

Flipgrid is a website where videos are the discussions and assignments. Teachers create grids to allow for video discussions. The grids have topics and students create videos to reply to the topic.
YouTube: How Pear Deck Works

Pear Deck makes any Google Slide or PowerPoint presentation interactive and allows students to see the presentation on their own device. AND it pairs directly with Google Drive.
YouTube: Sutori in Under a Minute

Sutori has so many uses! Students can create timelines or stories collaboratively or individually, teachers can created to share as a lesson, or teachers can create assignment templates for students to complete. This is the tool that my students used to create their interactive timeline about the fight for equal rights in America.
YouTube: Introduction to Padlet

Padlet is like an interactive bulletin board! It has multiple ways it can be set up and can include likes or responses if the moderator wants it to. Padlet is what my class used to discuss focus questions when they were reading the same book as another class in a different state

Any other digital tools you find super useful you want to share?
And good luck for the rest of the year! 



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Typically, our teaching-related posts fall on Tuesdays, but today I feel inspired, so it’s Teaching Thursday! I can’t say enough good things about my son’s kindergarten teacher. She’s so good at her job that she inspires me regularly. Whenever I volunteer in the class, I am fascinated with the ways in which literacy instruction is similar and different for kindergarten.

One of the things she does is called “book in a bag.” All of the kindergarten team uses this method/idea and maybe this is an idea that is common for this age level, but it makes my son very happy, so I thought I’d blog about it from a parent’s perspective! The children each have a bag that is labeled with their name. They bring home a book to read in the bag. Their job is to reread it as many times as they need until they can master the book. The teacher stressed that this should be fun. If the children get frustrated or aren’t having fun, then the program is not serving its purpose.

This is what I love about my son’s kindergarten teacher. She has them doing data analysis on mittens and gloves and she makes learning fun for my son. He looks forward to going to school every day. For me, this is what I want for him—I want him to love school as much as I do. Also, this is differentiation!

So my son excitedly brings home his book and slowly reveals it from his backpack for the whole family to see his next book before dinner. He taps at the door when I am feeding his baby brother and whispers, “Can I read my book in the bag to my baby brother? He’s the only one who hasn’t heard me read it yet.” And he holds up the book to us as he reads it, so we all can see the pictures. The repetition is helping him, and this is rereading at its best. So before we hop into bed to read, he pulls out his book one last time for the day to practice the words and to proudly show off his reading skills. As a parent, I love how happy this makes my kid, and the ownership feels with his book makes him enjoy reading even more. <3

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My students love the Weird but True books by National Geographic, but one thing they don’t like about the books are the lack of information found in the books. Because of this, as we chatted in class, we decided to make a class “Weird But True” presentation with not only the weird and true facts but with extra information and sources! 

All three of my classes all worked in the same Google Slides presentation and built this amazing document of fascinating facts: 

Weird But True
Please view the Google Slides presentation to see the extra information in the Speaker Notes.

This was such a fun and interesting project! It made students check on facts, learn about reliable sources, and learn all sorts of interesting and fun facts!



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Orange County Public Schools’ Innovation Office opened in 2018 to support identified “Schools of Innovation” and to support staff in the implementation and development of innovative practices within and across these schools. My school was lucky enough to be considered a “School of Innovation” when the learning community opened in 2018. Then, in the Spring of 2019, the Innovation Office began recording their Appetite for Instruction podcast, and my colleague, Caitlin Chacon, and I were so lucky to be asked to participate.

Our podcast episode was titled “Unleashing Young Readers,” I’m assuming as an homage to this blog, and we shared what literacy instruction looks like at our school, both in the podcast and the companion write up:

Unleashing Young Readers (Episode 3)

Happy listening 🙂


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In-Class Book Clubs are one of my favorite units that I do in my classes. They are my version of lit circles but with the only job of all students is to read, analyze, and discuss. These book clubs build community, stamina, and reading love in my classroom.

I’ve shared a few times about these in-class book clubs. First in April, 2018 where I went over the basic procedures of the book clubs and then in November, 2018 where I shared my students’ choices for this year’s clubs. Now, I am happy to share how this school year’s clubs went!

I did things a little bit differently this year. I had noticed that students were understanding the basics of the narrative and loving the reading but weren’t meeting the standards. I had to make sure to help guide their thinking but also I didn’t want to make the act of reading tedious. It is a slippery slope that I know I am always going to be reflecting about.

Because of this, I went with thought logs this year. A thought log was a strategy I was introduced to by my teacher friend Sarah Krajewski. Thought logs have four boxes for students to take notes while reading. My thought logs had two constant boxes: 1) Important details & 2) Conflict. Important details allowed them to just take notes on anything important that happened and the conflict box had them track the progress of the conflict. The other two boxes changed for each thought log: Confusion, Characters, Setting, My Feelings, Change, & Theme/Impact. Additionally, I added a bottom to my thought log that asked the students to come up with three open-ended discussion questions. Here’s our first thought log, so you can see an example:

Other than the new thought logs, everything else stayed the same: Students chose their books, I made their groups, we came up with class book club norms, they created their schedule, they met once a week, at the end of the unit I gave an individualized standards-focused assessment, and the kids LOVED it.

Well, everyone stayed the same until the end. At NCTE 2018, I went to one of Kelly Gallagher’s sessions and he shared a way he connects nonfiction and fiction when his students are reading novels: He has the students find nonfiction text features that connect to their novel. I decided to try this with my students, and I loved it!

As a book club, my students found two nonfiction elements (maps, graphs, images, etc.) that would help the reader of their book have their experience enhanced. They then said what page they would place the element and explain why it is important.

Here are some of my favorites:

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Resistance by Jennifer Nielsen

Ravenmaster’s Secret: Escape from the Tower of London by Elvira Woodruff

Reflection: I’m not completely sold on the Thought Logs yet. I don’t want to kill the joy of reading. Ever. But my job is to teach standards, too. Always a conflict within me, and we’ll see what I decide next year! I will say that I loved the nonfiction element, so I think that will stay. Until next year!


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I am in the struggle zone, and I’d love your help. Next semester, I am teaching a co-taught college course with a history professor. Students will be examining several social movements and forms of collective action. The history professor is in charge of the historical background and currency of each social movement, and I am in charge of the stories within the movement. Students will then go on to explore a different social movement of their choosing and read a YA text that relates to the movement. I am VERY excited. 

For three weeks, we will be considering the #metoo movement. For whatever reason, I seem to read more books related to issues of race, immigration, sexuality, etc. than books about sexual assault. I’ve created a list of the books I am considering, and admittedly, I’ve only read half of them. Now that I know it is a weak spot, I am going to fix it. However, I’d love your help in narrowing this list to the books that you recommend that I read first. 

These are the books that I’ve read and plan to include because they offer a lot of opportunities for discussion:

  1. McCullough, J. (2018). Blood water paint. New York, NY: Dutton.
  2. Reed, A. (2017). The nowhere girls. New York, NY: Simon Pulse.

(Also, excerpts from Kelly Jensen’s Here We Are.)

I need to decide on three more titles. Listed below are the books that I want to read in the next three weeks to see if they will work well within a discussion of the social movement. I am looking for books that are very well-written and that will give much fodder for discussion:

  1. Anderson, L. H. (2019). Shout. New York, NY: Penguin.
  2. Blake, A. H. (2018). Girl made of stars. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  3. Hartzler, A. (2015). What we saw. New York, NY: HarperTeen
  4. Kiely, B. (2018). Tradition. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry.
  5. Mathieu, J. (2017). Moxie. New York, NY: Roaring Brook.
  6. Russo, M. (2016). If I was your girl. New York, NY: Flatiron.

I have all of these books on my nightstand, so access isn’t an issue. I plan to read them all within the next couple of months, but I’d love your advice of which I should read first! If I am missing a great book, please let me know. I’d like it to be a book published within the last 3-4 years because students tend to have read books older than that range.

Feel free to message me if commenting isn’t your jam. 😉 Thank you in advance!