Saturday, March 18, 2017

Tech Tools: ReadWorks

Have you used Readworks? If you haven't you really need to check it out!

In today's tech suggestion I'm going to be discussing Readworks and why it is such an amazing free digital tool for teachers.

Last year, I was told by another teacher to check out the site Readworks. I instantly fell in love! This site allows teachers to find texts to use in class based on subject matter, grade level, lexile level, type of text, or even skill. I started using this as a way to choose text and easily differentiate based on my students needs. It has a variety of both fiction and nonfiction passages that are of high interest to students.

This past year I have been using the Readworks Digital option in class. It has been a game changer. In my school we are one to one chromebook devices which makes this digital option an amazing tool. I can create a digital class on Readworks and select a text and questions for my students to answer. I love that it allows me to post it to Google Classroom so students can immediately click the link and log in for their assignment. It also is easy to differentiate the readings based on the students reading level. In some cases you can assign the same reading at different levels. The best part is it automatically grades the multiple choice questions for you. As a teacher, all I need to do is go in and hand grade the short responses. I use this tool when I have substitute or when I'm pulling groups. Students might read the text with me and then do the questions at a separate rotation or even on a different day. I have also given harder texts to challenge my higher level readers. They read and take notes independently. Then when they come to small group we reread and discuss before they begin the questions. Readworks Digital allows students to highlight the text and make notes as they go. I actually taught my class as a whole group how to use these tools using a 3rd grade text. They are so easy for the students to use and allows them to continue to use the note taking skills I teach them even on the chromebook. They love to mark up the text using different colors and even reference them in their answers to questions saying things like "this is shown in the text as I highlighted in yellow." I love it because it makes looking back in the passage fun because they get to use the highlight tool and to some of them just enjoy using technology in different ways.

Making an account is so easy and most importantly it is free. Once you have an account you can save articles, stories, or passages so you can use them later on in the year or even the following year. They have other resources that you can use such as Article of the Day that focuses on reading fluency and note taking skills. They also have lesson plans to go with popular books or novels for grade levels that interweave paired Readworks Texts to support different skills. There is even a way for you to find lessons or passages that focus on specific standards. Need I say YAY! Though I don't teach younger grades using the Readworks Digital you can search for readings that students can have read to them which can be a center in itself. There feel like a million ways you can use this tech resource that I highly suggest you look into it right away!

If you have any questions about how I use Readworks or if you have another tech suggestion feel free to message me on Twitter @teaching_power or email at

Also check me out on Periscope @teaching_power for my Sunday morning coffee talks!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Author's Purpose = PIE

PIE'ED In the Face!

During the year I cover Author's Purpose and the acronym PIE'ED is used to describe the many different types: Persuade, Inform, Entertain, Explain and Describe. This can be a tough concept in the beginning for some of my students, especially when it comes to differentiating between them. It can also be a dull point as well. Students reading passages and just labeling them based on evidence can be daunting or worse yet boring, but thanks to Hope King and some amazing  game creators it doesn't have to be.

About a year ago I saw one of Hope King's blog posts on Elementary Shenanigans that I just had to try out. She turned her classroom into a bakery and during her Language Arts lessons students worked together to sort through task cards with different passages to decide what the authors purpose was of each. In the process, they got to play Pie in the Face. If you haven't had the luxury of playing this very fun and very messy game, the idea is that you put whipped cream on the arm piece and based on a spin of a spinner you crank the little cranks that many times. If your lucky nothing happens, but sometimes you get pied in the face. Hope created this whole lesson to drive engagement in the lesson and bring life the "Bakery" story she created. I decided to use this lesson to inspire my own bakery inside my classroom.

Similar to Hope, I bought colored table cloths at Dollar Tree and got pie tins. I also purchased face wipes, paper towels, and whipped cream for each table. After setting up each table I put one set of Pie in the Face game at each table. I was fortunate to  have four. Lucky for me they were 70% off at Walgreens the last time I went in. I also chose to print out task cards in the form of a packet for ever student. To make the lesson more manageable I had students work together on one page at a time. They had to read through the task cards then discuss the answers. I chose to use task cards that were multiple choice, but you could just use reading passages/ excerpts. Students debated and discussed and once they finished the entire page they would check in with me. I would tell them if they needed to correct one or not. If they had them all correct the Miss Lee's Bakery tradition was before they could move on they must play a round of Pie in the Face to celebrate!

The students had a blast! They loved using this activity to review what we have been studying all week. Following this activity, I created a pop quiz for students which included some questions about authors purpose as well as actually labeling and explaining the authors purpose of five passages. This of course wasn't the most exciting part of the lesson, but I acted as though this was the exam that allowed students to become true bakers. Since I teach all subjects to my students I wanted to make sure the rest of the day followed the morning theme so during math I decided to work on fractions and perimeter and area working through a packet that allowed students to create their own bakery and baked goods. The students really enjoyed it and had a great time working in pairs creating logos, commercials, and designing their bakery. I will say that this required more time than I had for one lesson so it became an enrichment project that students could work on in their free time. Also, I decided to conduct my Mystery Airhead experiment for science which had students work through the observation skills as well as using support to deduce the Mystery air Head flavor.

Overall, the day was long but very exciting for the students and I. They loved wearing their chef hat and aprons and didn't want to take them off when it was time for PE. It was so nice to see such engagement and joy in my students faces and moving forward I plan on building this into my lessons and making this a truly fun filled, learning centered day.

If you have any questions about the lesson or want to learn more feel free to contact me on Twitter or at my email:

Also, many of my lessons are semi homemade and based around Teacher Pay Teacher materials that I find so check out the links below if you are interested in some of the items I used to piece my lesson together. Also, if you are not already following Hope King at Elementary Shenanigans you need to!


Language Arts
Task Cards for PIE'ED Game
Pop Quiz Part 1
Pop Quiz Part 2

Magical Bakery
Mmm Mmm Bakery - Fractions/Multiplication
Breaking Up the Bakery - Fractions

Airhead Lab

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Dr. Seuss Spirit Week


March is coming up fast and this past week our school did a school wide spirit days in honor of Dr.Seuss. This amazing author will always be one of my favorites and regardless of age of the students in my class, I will continue to read to them these classic books because they have such meaning ingrained in them that they speak to all generations.

My first classroom was Dr.Seuss themed and I just loved being able to pull in his books to teach lessons. As I moved grades and was placed in 5th my classroom theme changed from Dr. Seuss to Hockey (another love of mine). Yet, I still tie Dr.Seuss into my school year. I love using Sneetches to discuss the Civil Rights Movement or Lorax to discuss environmentalism. Of course, there is not a year that goes by with out me reading my favorite, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, while the students discuss plot and figurative language. Dr.Seuss will forever be a favorite so I had to make his birthday a big deal. March 2nd is Dr Seuss's birthday which has become a school holiday in its own right called Read Across Amercia Day. Schools celebrate in their own ways and make plenty of time to read on this day in honor of a man who did so much for children's literature.

In the past two years I have celebrated this week with my 5th grade class tying skills or lessons to different Dr. Seuss books. I will always remember the joy of my first year when my students brought pillows and read in the dark with flashlights for "All the Places You Will Glow" Day. My 5th graders were beyond excited to do it and it was refreshing to see them just enjoy a good book. This year I have had a chance to help with House Council (our schools version of Student Council). We created a school wide spirit week to promote school spirit and a love for reading!

Like I said before I love tying lessons and making it relevant for 5th graders:

Monday- Fox and Socks Fluency Read Off: Students practiced then competed to read a passage from Fox in Socks. This works of fluency, friendly competition, and a reminder of growth mindset that we have bee discussing this year.

Tuesday- One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish: Students practiced math skills by "catching" fish from around the room. I have cast out paper fish with different math problems on them, one per fish. Students worked in pairs to answer the math problem on the back of the fish and check with me to see if they got it correct. If they were incorrect they would have to try again, but if they got it correct they got to cast it back out and catch another one. I stole this amazing idea from a fellow teacher in the building who used it to practice for the quarterly assessments.
I have also done the activity where the students have a packet of problems and have to "catch" a fish that only has a number on it, and based on the number they answer that problem in their packet. Either way it is fun for students to enjoy a good math fishing derby!

Wednesday- Sneetches Debate: Students listened to the story The Sneetches and discuss how it relates to the Civil Rights Movement. This story has such strong ties to bullying and segregation that no matter the age I think it can be discussed and related to.
If there is time next year I would like the students to debate to who is more at fault for the segregation the Sneetches or Mr. McBean (the machine owner who can change the stars).

Thursday- Cat in the Hat Day: Students had a set time to read in the classroom and curl up with a good book. I had the students bring in pillows or a stuffed animal. I even took out my flashlights and had the students read in the dark. I wanted to make it a fun, comfy reading day to celebrate Dr. Seuss and his love for reading.

Students Read Around the Room 

Friday- Oh the Places You Will Go: As a class we will discussed SMART Goals and how to think about future. I want students to think about how much work and perseverance comes with going for your dreams. We will practice soft skills like handshake, conversations, and active listening. With any luck, next year I might be able to have a volunteer or two come in and talk about goals while also allowing the students to converse with them in small groups to practice their conversation skills.

Overall, I was really excited to celebrate this week with my students and enjoy the amazing spirit days that go with it! How do you use Dr. Seuss in your classroom? Let me know in the comments below or  tweet me @teacher_power

Hope to hear from you soon!

We Had a Blast on Cat in the Hat Day!

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