Saturday, January 25, 2014

A QR Code Listening Cener

QR Code Listening Center

My room is much smaller than most primary classrooms. I see pictures of classrooms with reading lofts, dress up stations, play kitchens and multiple art easels and I feel envious of all the space. My room is big enough for a few tables, chairs and three book shelves. I do what I can to make the most of it though.

I do have a CD player where students can sit and listen to books on CD. It is on a wheeled cart so the “listening center” moves depending on the space we need each day. It doesn't get used much though. Not since I started my QR code listening center, that is. Students use our iPads to scan QR codes on the books they want to listen to that day during our Reading Block. They can sit at the tables or on the floor. They can sit near a friend or on their own. This works for my small space since there doesn't have to be a designation “listening center.” It also works for my students who might want to lay down, lean against a cupboard or sit at a table to read. Often when they sit in front of the CD player they have to balance a book on their laps and stay awkwardly close to the machine because of the short spiral cords on the headphones intended for the CD player. Since our iPads have headphones with a longer cord and smaller ear muffs the kids would rather use them. Let's face it though, they would rather use the iPad for just about anything! That is the beauty of this device!

I started by choosing a few books from my classroom library and recording myself reading them. I used an app on the iPad called SoundCloud to record myself reading. This app allows me to post my recording as public to their companion web page
I have a free account on the site that will hold all of my recordings.

After recording the audio I can copy a link for my recording and use to create and print a free QR code. I tape the code to the cover of the book and put the book in a special basket in our classroom library where I am keeping all of the books students can listen to during the Reading Block. Students use an app called I-Nigma to scan the QR code. It will take them to my account page on the SoundCloud site. If I have made the recording public they will be able to press the play button and listen as they follow along in the book.

I figured the kids would get tired of hearing me read all of the books all of the time so I went on the search for other audio recordings for the book in our library. I discovered the Pete the Cat series by Eric Litwin website has audio for all of the books in the series!

I had a couple of those books so I created at code for that website. I used Scholastic bonus points to order the rest of the books in the series.

I still needed more sources so I asked the teachers in my building for help. A few of them visited my room after school and recorded an audio book for me. This added an element of surprise for the kids. They never know who will be reading the book when they scan the code!

My goal is to have a QR code on every book in our classroom library! So far I have about 10 books so it will be a while before I meet that goal! I try to record a couple new books a week.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Drawing Conclusions with K-1 Students

Last week I taught my K-1 class to draw conclusions while reading. I was so pleased with how well they did I couldn't wait to blog about it!

This was the second day we had discussed this reading skill. I used the Read Works web site to plan my lesson. 

Click here to check it out!

I like this site because it gives me a place to start when teaching basic reading skills and comprehension strategies. It has a large library of passages for readers of all levels in both fiction and non-fiction. Everything is aligned with Common Core State Standards.  I use their lessons to think about how I want to deliver the content. I usually end up changing a few things based on the time I have to teach the lesson or the level of knowledge my class needs.

The lesson that inspired me today was this one,  Kindergarten: Drawing Conclusions Lesson 3

I began by reminding the class about the previous days lesson when I introduced them to the skill of drawing conclusions. I mimed some emotions and activities for them to guess to get them warmed up. First, I acted very sleepy, then I acted like I was very sick. Then I pretended to run really fast. They picked up on these actions easily. We had done quite a few charades-like exercises the day before.

In my class we use “talking partners” during whole class lessons. I use name cards in a pocket chart to assign partners. They sit next to one another elbow to elbow, knee to knee. (EEKK) In some discussions I assign students as partner one and partner two. For this lesson I did not feel the need to do that. My class has learned to take turns talking and has been good about establishing their discussion order on their own.

I pulled the first passage called  Ssssssilent Hunter  up on my computer and projected in using my Promethean Board.
The passage describes the appearance and actions of an animal but never states the exact animal.  The students are to use the clues in the passage to determine the type of animal being described. They should arrive at the conclusion that the animal is a snake.

My instructions to the class were to listen to me read the passage trying very hard not to shout out the conclusions they were drawing as I read but to keep them ready to share with their talking partners. As soon and I had finished a dramatic reading of the passage I told them to draw conclusions with their partners. They figured out the animal was a snake very quickly. I called the group back to attention and asked them to show me the evidence in the passage that helped them draw the conclusion about the animal. I used the desktop annotate tool on my Promethean Interactive WhiteBoard to highlight the evidence in the passage as the students dictated it to me. I reread the passage two more times until they had directed me to highlight all of the evidence that proved the animal was a snake. I purposely used the term "evidence" throughout the lesson in an effort to expose my students to academic language.

During the next phase of the lesson I sent the students to the tables with a half sheet of plain white paper. I instructed them to listen while I read them a different passage and told them to quietly sketch the animal they thought was being described. This passage was called In The Night It describes a cat who gets into trouble with a dog.

I was surprised when half the class did not start drawing cats. I assumed the clues were obvious and that they had heard them all the first time I read the passage. Some of them began to draw owls, bats and snakes. I had each person share their drawings with their table mates. Even after discussing their conclusions those that hadn’t chosen to draw a cat were convinced their drawings were accurate. 

I brought them to our gathering place in from of the Promethean Board on the rug,to talk to their talking partners about their conclusions.  Then I reread the passage and had them talk some more. During the second and third reading of the passage I saw students start nodding and smiling. Those who had guessed the animal was an owl, bat or snake began to see the clues they had missed.

I called on specific people, those who had not guessed the animal was a cat at first, to tell me which evidence they heard me read the second time that changed their minds to thinking the animal was a cat. I used the desktop annotate tool to highlight the evidence. By the end of the lesson the students learned the importance of reading closely and paying attention to all the clues in a text before drawing their conclusions. Many of them said things like, “I didn’t hear you say it had paws the first time you read it” and “If I had heard you say it lived in a house I would have known it wasn’t an owl.”

I was pleased with this lesson because other than reading the passage and giving some instructions about where to sit, when to talk to their partners and what to draw, I didn’t do the lions share of the talking. The students gathered the information they needed to learn the skill by talking to one another. In my mind, this lesson exemplified the rigor and depth of the Common Core State Standards through inquiry learning and collaboration. As the week continued students happily reported to me when they had drawn conclusions in other texts. They even cited evidence!  If you drew the conclusion that I am proud of my class--you are right!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Writing on the wall

I put transperancy paper on the wall with clear packing tape so my students can use that space for wiring words and numbers during the Daily 5!

Organizing Word Work and Write the Room Activities

I was getting tired if having messy piles of papers for students to sort through when they did word work pages or write the room pages. I created these binders to organize the papers. 

Write the room pages with abJanuary theme. I foound them for free on 

I copied sight word word searches from a Scholastic printables sight word practice  book I've had for years. 

Students can choose to work on these pages during the Daily 5. They can also choose to use the puzzles, letter tiles, magnetic letters and other hands on tools we have in the room. They can write in notebooks, on an assortment if paper or on white boards a well. Some really like doing worksheets so I always make them an option.