Fun Times! Watch Out! Shark Sighting at my School!

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A Great White Shark was spotted at my school recently!  We recently had an interactive science assembly at my school sponsored by our PTO.  The Aquarium of the Pacific, located in Long Beach, California, brought their mobile assembly to the delight of our students.


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The assembly was done in two parts.  The first part was an assembly in our multipurpose room in which we met some marine biologists who recounted their scientific exploration trip around the Pacific Ocean. The presentation focused on animal adaptations, which was perfect for my third graders who had learned that back at the beginning of the year.  The biologists visited Alaska and Palau, before returning to California.  The students were shown videos of the animals encountered on the trips, including the walrus.


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But wait, they brought a walrus with them! Not really, it was an inflatable walrus. But first, the students had to guess which animal it was from the clues the biologists gave.  The biologist gave adaptation clues until the students guessed it was the walrus.  Then, they inflated the walrus.  It is actually life size, and those animals are huge!

When the biologists returned to California, more studying of California's ocean coastal animals, including the Great White Shark.  Did you know these animals have a sixth sense?  The inflatable Great White was also life size!


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The second part of the experience was a 20-minute activity touching tide pool sea creatures brought on their mobile tide pool truck.  It is a specially designed vehicle that holds tide pool tanks, keeping them oxygenated with moving water that simulates a tide pool.


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Students went in in groups of four to dip their hands in the water and touch starfish, anemones and even baby sharks!


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More Amazing and Inspiring Children's Literature Books

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As we approach Mother's Day, I wanted to share some books that showcase some amazing and inspiring women.  Women that lead the way or pioneered the way to inspire girls and women to live up to their potential and to dream big.  I've used these wonderful children's books as read alouds to for a unit on Women's Suffrage and Rights.

When I speak to students, it's obvious that they have no clue how restricted, controlled and demeaned women and girls were until about the 1970s.  Did you know that before the 1970s, a woman could not get a credit card on her own?  We've come a long way, but there are still wage disparities, glass ceilings and push backs.  I feel it is important to let those girls sitting in our classrooms how fortunate we all are that these courageous women fought for a woman's right to an education.  And it's important that the battle continues!


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Susan B. Anthony.  By Dona Herwick.


This is the perfect, short biography to introduce students to the probably the most influential woman of her time and maybe the most influential American woman of all.  Susan B. Anthony was a Quaker, and this book explains in very accessible language the philosophy of the Quakers and how it influenced Susan B. Anthony's outlook on life.  Her parents taught her all people are created equal and that every adult should have the right to vote.


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What I really enjoyed about this book, is that it details Susan B. Anthony's early life as a child and young woman.  As a Quaker, she believed in hard work and simple living.  Did you know she had to bake 21 loaves a day for her family?  It's an eye-opener for kids who don't know about life without all the modern conveniences we have today.  Life, in general, was harder back then, but it was even worse for women because they had little to no options to life outside of being married and having many, many children.  The book is non-fiction and has many photographs and illustrations.  A timeline is included.  Susan B. Anthony changed the world, and this book is an excellent starting point for young children to learn about her life.


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Bloomers by Rhoda Blumberg.


I think most girls looking at this book would think that the dresses worn by women back in the 19th century look like princess's gowns.  They were anything but!  Before reading this book to my class, I show them some pictures of a corset, petticoats and those long heavy dresses.  I ask them how much do they think it all weighs together?  Did you know that it weighed about 25 - 30 pounds!  Imagine trying to clean, care for children and cook with 30 pounds added to you!  Now you know what women had to endure back in the 19th century and before.


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This book is about Amelia Bloomer, the woman who invented the bloomers (pants worn with a short dress).  Of course, wearing bloomers, as they were soon to be called, was very improper for a proper lady.  She even got Elizabeth Cady Stanton, her cousin,  to wear bloomers for a time.  But Amelia did more than just invent the bloomers, she was editor of The Lily, a journal that at first promoted temperance but later expanded with the writings of Elizabeth Cady Stanton to promote equality for women.



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Marching with Aunt Susan. By Claire Rudolf Murphy


This story is based on the true story of Bessie Keith Pond who lived in California.  Did you know that California granted women the right to vote in 1911?  This story though was from the first campaign to give women suffrage in California in 1895.  It details how Bessie met Susan B. Anthony, who had come to California to campaign on behalf of the women.  The author states that she researched about women's suffrage in the Western states and came across Bessie's journals, letters and newspaper articles by her suffragist aunt, Mary McHenry Keith.  Bessie lived from 1886 - 1955.



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I believe that one aspect of the Women's Suffrage movement that is apparently overlooked is the pushback these women faced. Many of these girls and women suffered violence at the hands of men.  This book gives one example, but I also show my students real life examples of what happened to the protesters outside the Wilson White House and the Pennsylvania Ave Parade and March.  This book also has a short biography of Susan B. Anthony, a timeline of Suffrage History and photographs of newspaper articles about the Suffrage Movement.


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Amelia and Eleanor Go For a Ride.  By Pam Muñoz Ryan


I had no idea that Eleanor Roosevelt had a student pilot's license!  This book is also based on a real story of the night Amelia Earhart took Eleanor Roosevelt on a night time airplane ride over Washington, D.C., over the objections of the Secret Service.  First off, the black and white illustrations are fantastic (illustrator is Brian Selznick) and lend an air of 1930s black and white films to the story.  Amelia is invited to dine at the White House with the First Lady.  There the conversation turns to flying.  The First Lady asks what it feels like to fly at night.  That's when Amelia comes up with the idea of flying that evening.  And of course the Secret Service objects!


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As Eleanor points out, if Amelia can fly across the ocean by herself, she can take a short night time flight to Baltimore and back.  Reporters were waiting for them as they landed back in Washington, D.C.  Of course, the questions sound very condescending in today's world, but they were still asking if it was safe for a "girl" to fly a plane!  I always use this opportunity to point out to the girls (and boys) that calling a woman a girl is condescending and demeaning.  Would you call your dad boy?


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Cool Women.  By Dawn Chipman, Mari Florence, and Naomi Wax.


This book is a non-fiction book that details over 50 women who were pioneers or just plain cool!  From women pirates to women baseball players.  From women scientists to women artists.  The book is not just about American women, but women from all over the world and from all historical periods.  There are even portraits of goddesses, queens, and femaleSoviet Flying Aces.


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With the advent of Title IX, more and more girls and young women are given the opportunity to play sports and be part of sports in general.  Before that though, women athletes were not even considered on par with male athletes.  During WWII, the shortage of manpower to fill major and minor league baseball teams brought about the All-American Girl's Professional Baseball League.  There's that "girl" label again.  Even though these women were certainly pioneers and proved that women were just as capable as men to play baseball, I do have a discussion with my class about the sexist treatment these women endured to play the game they loved.  From the ridiculous uniform skirts they wore to the even more ridiculous team names (Milwaukee Chicks?), these women had to look coiffed on and off the field.  And of course, there's no crying in baseball.


What are your favorite books about inspiring women? Share below in the comments!

And Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms out there!


Beautiful and Amazing New Children's Literature Books

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I hadn't bought any new children's literature books in quite awhile until I discovered these beautiful and amazing new children's literature books.  I'm using these books with different units in my class as well as, for inspiring my students to take their education seriously.

For the Right to Learn:  Malala Yousafzai's Story.  By Rebecca Langston-George ©2016


Let's start with the incredible tale of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani young woman almost murdered by the Taliban in her home country just for wanting to be educated.  We learn that Malala is the daughter of a teacher (her father) who believed everyone should receive an education, including girls.  But when the Taliban moved into Pakistan's Swat Valley where Malala lived, they started intimidating the populace and implementing their archaic views of the world in which NO females should can be educated.


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But Malala persisted.  She began blogging for the BBC and became known worldwide.  Her outspokenness and fight for girls to be educated put her on the Taliban hit list.  On a school bus, Malala received a bullet in the head, but with the help of the international community, she survived by being flown out of the country to England.  She continues to fight for a girl and woman's right to an education.  She has received the Nobel Peace Prize and spoken at the United Nations.  As she says so eloquently, "One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world."


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This book is one of my all-time favorite books to read to children.   It worked itself right into my unit on Women's Suffrage.  It also worked perfectly to motivate my students for State Testing which started this week.  Imagine what this young lady had to go through just to get an education.   I tell my students that it is because of people like her, they are sitting in my classroom receiving an education.  Let's not squander that opportunity or waste it! Let's do our best!


Martin's Dream Day.  By Kitty Kelley ©2017 


My school recently had a book fair, and that is where I found this fantastic book with even more amazing photographs.  The story is all about the famous March on Washington back in August of 1963. It tells how Martin Luther King, Jr. had a speech prepared for that day.  But, those famous words....I have a dream... were not actually in his original speech!  That part was all ad-lib!


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But what really sets the book apart from other stories about Martin Luther King, Jr., are the beautiful black and white and color photographs used.  It is as if the entire day, August 28, 1963, was recreated in those pictures.  The photographer, Stanley Tretick, is the same photographer who shot the iconic picture of John F. Kennedy, Jr. playing under his father's desk in the Oval Office.  There are also photographs of Martin Luther King, Jr. meeting with President John F. Kennedy.  It is a very inspiring book that makes history come alive.


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The Youngest Marcher:  The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist.  By Cynthia Levinson. ©2017


Did you know that children as young as nine were jailed during the Civil Rights Movement?  And that more than 3,000 children were arrested in Birmingham, Alabama for protesting?  Yes, and this story about Audrey Faye Hendricks is the actual story of one of those young children who went out to protest segregation.


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The plan was to fill up those jails so that not one more person could be arrested for demanding their rights. And it worked!  But the story also recounts how African-Americans were treated in Birmingham during that era.  The story also details the week Audrey spent in Juvenile Detention.  But in the end, Birmingham integrated, and her work for integration succeeded.


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Separate is Never Equal:  Sylvia Mendez and her Family's Fight for Desegregation.  By Duncan Tonatiuh. ©2014


If you're a teacher, you know about the Supreme Court ruling of Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka.  It's the 1954 Supreme Court decision ending segregation in schools.  But did you know that there was actually a court case BEFORE that ruling that ended segregation of schools in California in 1947?  Yes!


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This book is the story of a young girl named Sylvia Mendez who moved with her family to Westminister, California to farm.  When her aunt tried to enroll her children and Sylvia at the local school, only her light skinned cousins were allowed to register, while she was told she had to go to the Mexican school, because it was the rule.  Eventually, Sylvia's family and several others filed a suit.  The book retells the court proceedings and the very racist testimony of the then Superintendent of the Garden Grove District.  After a year, the judge ruled for the Mendez family.  The district though appealed the ruling, and it made it to the Court of Appeals in San Francisco which eventually ruled in favor the Mendez Family again.  That same year, the Governor of California signed a law integrating all public schools in California.



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I think too many times the story of the battle for integration neglects the fact that in other parts of the country like California and the Southwest, those of Mexican or Latino heritage also were victims of segregation.   As a California teacher and teacher of mostly Latino students, this book is essential to teaching about this troubled time in our history.

What are some of your favorite new children's literature books to use with your class?  Leave a comment and let's spread the word about these books!

How to Easily Integrate Technology with Guided Reading Groups Part 2


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As my school has acquired more and more guided reading materials (little books in sets of 6), I had more resources from which to choose from for each group.  But we now live in the digital age, and it has opened up, even more, resources to use with students.  

Instead of reading from a traditional little book, my guided reading students read a text on the iPad.  What is exciting about using the iPad is that I can select ANY text passages that I find (within copyright limitations and Fair Use) and put it on the iPad for the students to read.  There are several ways to do this.  Any document or text that is a PDF or JPG (picture format) can be displayed on the iPad.  You can also download the PowerPoint App to use PowerPoint presentations as well.   So, the possibilities are endless. 


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Getting Text or Materials onto the iPads


Once the file (PDF or PNG) is in the Google Drive folder, I can now download it to the PDF Expert App because the App will sync with Google Drive, DropBox, OneDrive or nearly any other cloud service!  Another reason to get PDF Expert is that if you want students to annotate on the PDF file, you will need this App.  

Other Apps can annotate, but in my opinion, PDF Expert is the best one for annotation.  PDF Expert also has the capability to create documents as well!  So you can create your own text and save it as a PDF file.  Please note, I have no affiliation or contact with the company that produces PDF Expert.  I just really love this App!

Here's how I get the passages onto the iPads.  For this, you will need a Google or Dropbox account synced to each iPad.  I've created a folder on my iPad Pro to store the passages I want.  This folder is on my Google Drive.  I've also purchased the App PDF Expert.  I've written about how I use this fantastic App before. Once you've purchased it, install it on every iPad.


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Can I Copy That?  Fair Use Doctrine


If you're going digital, most copyright holders would require that you upload these documents to a secure, private location such as Google Drive account or DropBox account so that it is NOT available to anyone else EXCEPT your students.   Please be a good digital citizen and DO NOT upload copyrighted resources to just any location.  With Apple products, files can also be shared wirelessly through AirDrop.  

I pick resources from PDF documents I have created or found through Google Search (free, but copyrighted resources that are offered to teachers for use in their classrooms).  Sometimes I use free and paid resources I have found on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Always check the Terms of Use of the copyright holder to see what is and what is not allowed.  


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Teachers, under the Fair Use Doctrine, may copy a story for student use though the amount varies depending on story length.  I am NOT an attorney nor a legal expert, so please make sure you understand the legal ramifications before you start.  If you already have existing copies of a text for your students (let's say six copies of a guided reading book), and you are digitizing the book to use on the iPads, Fair Use seems to cover this use.  However, if you are making copies of the book because you only have six and need 10, then Fair Use does not apply because you should buy the extra copies from the publisher.  If you already own sufficient copies or have a license to use a resource, Fair Use applies.   The best solution for finding PDF resources is to use resources from publishers that offer digital content such as:


Reading A-Z. (paid site)

Classroom Aid (website with links to free e-books and PDF digital libraries)

Sundance Publishing (an example of a publisher offering print and digital versions)


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Why Bother?


Why do this if I already have copies of the books?  Because in PDF Expert, the students can use the tools to annotate or even zoom in on words.  Again, please make sure you understand how the Fair Use Doctrine applies to educators as well as, reading the Terms of Use of the copyright holder.

Once uploaded to the Google Drive folder, I open the PDF on the iPads.  PDF Expert syncs with many cloud services.  So it's just a matter of finding the folder in the Google Drive folder and it quickly uploads to the iPad and opens in PDF Expert.  You're now Ready for Guided Reading!

Then I conduct a guided reading group as I normally would, but instead of giving them a book, I hand them the iPad.  When you first start, you will have to do a separate lesson on how to use the tools in PDF Expert or whichever App you will be using. This way, when they are in the guided reading group, they can concentrate on reading and not get stuck with the technology.



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Using the PDF Expert Tools

  • Highlighter Tool
Depending on the group, I may have them highlight unknown words using the highlighter tool.  Unknown words are words that the students do not understand but can read.  Many times I have seen students highlight the same word, so those words become teaching points or mini-lessons on using context clues for word definitions.  Teaching students to use context clues is one of the most critical skills students need to be successful at comprehending text.  I can also use my teacher iPad (or the students can do this on their iPad, too) to search Google Images for the word for further clarification.

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  • Dictionary Tool (define)
Tap and hold any word, and you get an option for define.  Great again for learning unknown words.  Sometimes though, the definition are geared for adults, so they are not kid-friendly definitions.


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  • Draw Tool
If a student can't read a word, I have them circle it with the draw tool.  Then I quickly copy it on my iPad using the ShowMe App, and I start prompting the student to use different strategies to solve it.  The ShowMe app allows me to use different colors so that I can even write parts of the word in various colors (great for finding the known such as sight words within bigger words).  

  • Note tool
This is such a great feature of this app. Originally intended to use for marking up PDFs, this handy tool allows students to answer questions, make predictions, add their own information, or any other task. Think of it as an electronic sticky note!


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  • Arrow Tool
This is a handy tool which is part of the shape tools can be used for students to point to text features.  Have students make an arrow to show headings, titles, captions, hyperlinks, etc.  Or you can use the arrow key to point out specific academic vocabulary (describe, explain, infer, etc.). 

  • Shape tool
This tool allows the student to make squares, rectangles, and circles.  Use it to have the student box or encircle key paragraphs that contain evidence.  


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  • Text tool
As the name implies, you can add more text with a textbox to any part of the PDF.  You can use this in place of the Note Tool or have students make connections or predictions.  

  • Sound Tool
You can add audio to PDFs!  Just simply tap and hold on the PDF, and you will see an option to add sound.  This is a great way for students to practice fluency, intonation, and rate.  They can record themselves reading directly from the iPad.  Then play it back to hear.  Upload a Reader’s Theater to use so students can practice reading with expression.  When the student record’s himself/herself, it automatically keeps track of the time to show how long of a recording.  That’s a great feature to use to practice rate.  Beat your time!


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  • Text to Speech

Yes, it has a text to speech function!  Located in settings.  You can also just tap and hold a word to get the option for speak.  It will speak aloud the word.  I prefer students NOT use this feature as it takes away the possibilities for word solving.  However, if the student is reading something independently, then it’s a nice feature to have to help students complete the reading without getting hung up on words.


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In short, this powerful App brings guided reading into the digital age.  I predict that more and more publishers will not only offer their guided reading materials in digital format but create Apps that integrate many of the tools found in PDF Expert.

How are you integrating technology with guided reading?


How to Easily Integrate Technology with Guided Reading Groups

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In this two-part post, I will demonstrate how using iPads (both mini-iPads and an iPad Pro) can bring guided reading into the digital age.  I was fortunate that over the years I have been able to get iPads in my classroom through district grants.  I now have eight iPad minis.  The iPad Pro is my personal iPad that I use daily in teaching with my Apple Pencil.

But first, let's review what Guided Reading is and is not.  

Part 1

What is Guided Reading?


Guided reading is a small group intervention.  Guided reading groups (from 1 to 6 students) are formed based on several criteria:  student need, student reading level, or student interest.  A teacher may work with a particular guided reading group on a daily basis or less frequently based on needs.  The groups are fluid and as students improve they are reformed again based on need and reading levels.



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The teacher is the guide in guided reading.  She is expertly noticing reading behaviors of the students in the group and intervening at moment of difficulty - not to give the word or answer, but to prompt the child to use a strategy to read the word.  It is teaching on the fly, with sometimes predictable and sometimes unpredictable reading behaviors by the students.



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Guided Reading is NOT round robin reading or choral reading.  It is not teaching the basal lesson to a small group (though you can use basal readers as a resource for guided reading).  It is not an unplanned lesson.  It is not teaching a lesson just based on a standard, but those do include those if appropriate.



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Procedure for Guided Reading


I have been implementing guided reading in my classroom for 20 or more years.  The method or the process of guided reading has not changed.  I still form guided reading groups based on reading level and student need.  Once created, I chose the book for the group to read.  I preview the book and design an introduction for the book based on the group's need.  Once the students begin reading, I monitor and step in at a point of difficulty and prompt the student to use a strategy.  Once the reading is complete, I follow up with a brief mini-lesson that I had planned OR based on student need that I saw while they read.



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Many years ago, I developed a Guided Reading Planning Sheet that I shared with teachers in my district.  I used to be a full-time Literacy Coach, and part of my duties involved providing professional development to new to the district teachers and staff.  The Guided Reading Planning Sheet is helpful for planning successful guided reading lessons. It will help the teacher to focus on the student needs and design appropriate book introductions to make the students successful.  You can download it HERE.  It comes as a PDF in two versions:  print and fillable form.


As for taking notes during guided reading, I just flip over to the blank side the Guided Reading Planning Sheet and take notes on individual students.  I store these in the same folder for the group so I can go back and review notes and figure out the next steps.  Since it's blank, there's also enough room to take a Running Record on a particular student as well!



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The Teacher Using the iPad During Guided Reading


Sometimes I am the only one with the iPad during guided reading.  I will have my group use traditional sources (little books) as their book, but I use my iPad to teach.  For example, I use a whiteboard app called ShowMe which is available for both iOs, Android and Chrome OS.  It has many uses (including the ability to record audio to explain concepts, lessons, etc.), but I mainly use it as a blank board to write on instead of my little white board.



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Here's an example.  When a student has a point of difficulty on a word, I can just copy it in large letters on my iPad using the ShowMe app.  There I can prompt the student with specific prompts such as:

  • what word would make sense here?
  • you said ________, does that sound right?
  • what parts of the word do you know?
These are just some general prompts I use.  The iPad allows me to instantly change color to highlight parts of words.  Essentially, it's a whiteboard without the markers!

Using the ShowMe app, I can also do a quick mini-lesson on word families, such as -and.  The group can brainstorm initial sounds that will make words with that word family.  The ShowMe app is so versatile that you can even import pictures from the web, Google Drive, DropBox or even your own photos.  This is particularly useful when teaching English Language Learners who need a visual for clarification.  



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For comprehension work or story retelling, you can use the ShowMe app to write a collective retell of the story or to ask basic who, what, where, when, why questions.  I sometimes use it to provide a scaffold for retelling.  Retelling is an important skill that must be explicitly taught, especially if you're district uses the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) as a benchmark.  Without being able to retell orally (and also in print), you can not pass a DRA benchmark.


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One skill I am continuously practicing with my lowest or neediest guided reading groups is learning how to answer a question as a constructed response. I have been modeling the RACE strategy since the beginning of the year.  RACE is an acronym that stands for:
  • (R)estate the question
  • (A)nswer the question entirely by
  • (C)iting evidence from the text
  • (E)xplain or give examples of the evidence

As a follow-up lesson to the reading, I use my iPad to model answering using a constructed response. Then I have the students practice the same.  The ShowMe app is ideal for modeling this procedure as it allows color coding.



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But the iPad also has other uses as well.  Sometimes in my book introduction, I know that some of the vocabulary used may be unknown, especially to English Language Learners.  For instant clarifications, I use Safari on the iPad and Google images of the word.  Then we discuss and see how it is utilized in the text.  

Another app you can use during guided reading is Record of Reading App.  It is an app that allows you to take running records on students using a template.  The teacher fills in the identifying information on the student, book level, date, etc., and takes the running record on the iPad.  You can also do the miscue analysis on the app as well.  Then when completed, the app allows you to email the running record as an image or PDF file.  There is also the capability to take pictures, and it has a built in timer.  Here's a tutorial for the app.


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In Part 2, I will explain how I use the mini-Ipads as the text resource for the students to read and annotate using the PDF Expert app.  





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