Posted in Reading

We forget most of what we read…Confessions of a Binge-Reader

“Hi, my name is Beth and I am addicted to reading”…. there I confessed it…my kids are convinced that I need counseling and a support group.  I say….I just need a blog and a book club!  I have been a binge reader since I was a kid and I read so fast that  I can “put down” a novel in a few hours.  So…what’s the problem?  The problem is remembering everything I read.

Recently The Week, my favorite magazine, ran a two page article titled, Why You Forget Most of What you Read.  This article, originally posted at and written by Julie Beck, caught my eye.  As an elementary teacher at a school that is on a mission to get all kids to read and respond to text, I was totally intrigued!  We teach kids to read so they can learn.  We read lots of content text (social studies and science) to help students learn new things.  Certainly I want them to retain what they read.   So, I poured over those two pages not once, not twice, but many times (so many times I have lost count) to glean some tidbits to strengthen my instructional practice.

So what did I learn?  First they talked about how in this internet age we are bombarded with information.  So much information that it is no longer as important to memorize as much as we once did.  As I read that, I thought….”then why hasn’t instruction and assessment, especially in our secondary classrooms and higher education, changed much in the last 50 years?”  The article states that research show that, “When people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself.”  The articles goes on talk about how much of ancient history was passed down in stories from memory but that as they began to be written down we no longer had to rely on memory to pass on and document history.

The next part of the article really intrigued me.  It talks about a study of people that binge-watched tv show vs. those that watch the show once a day or week.   140 days after viewing the show both groups were quizzed about it.  The group that binge-watched the show scored much lower than those that watched it once a day or week.   Beck notes that we are not only bingeing on tv but also the written word.  Each day the average American encounters 100,000 words, even if they don’t read them all and that most of the reading we do is “consumption”; where we read to obtain information.  The implications are simple….read SLOWER and SPACE THEM OUT!

Instantly, upon reading this, I made a connection.  This fall I started reading From Striving to Thriving by Harvey and Ward.  I read pieces of it each night over the course of a month.  I took a lot a way from this book; probably more than I have ever taken away from a professional book.  In fact, I can still months later, flip into that book quickly and point out something to a teacher.  On the other hand, I read the entire book, Disruptive Thinking by Beers and Probst in less than 3 hours (yes, cover to cover).  I even marked it up and used sticky notes throughout.  Wouldn’t you know it…I can barely remember much of what I read just a couple weeks later.  Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a great book…but clearly because I binge-read the book, I did not retain the information nearly as well as I did From Striving to Thriving.

So…what am I taking away from all of this for my instruction?  First I see the important of time and reading.  If we want kids to retain information it is critical that they spend time with it…not just bunches of minutes all at once but…over time.  This is why putting together units of study using the UBD model are so important!  We need to “marinade our students” in topics of study not just dip their toes into a topic if we want them to retain it.

Second, it is critically important that we continue to try to bring our instructional practices up to meet this information age.  Memorizing facts should not be front in center in our teaching….but problem solving to find information we need, synthesizing information, thinking critically, and doing something with information to go beyond facts should be what is driving our instruction in all subjects.

Well…that’s my two cents on the subject.  I hope you are intrigued enough to click the link above and read this two page article.  I hope it will impact you as much as it did me.  I’d love to hear your feedback as well!

Posted in Math

Upside Down and All Around: The Hundreds Chart 3.0

It seems that my first two posts on turning the hundreds charts (grid) upside down has generated a good bit of buzz.  I really appreciated all the feedback from teachers across the country and from the teachers in my own building (special thanks to Andrew Stadel and John SanGiovanni)!  What I thought was going to be a one shot blog post deal has taken on a life of its own.

The great part about being a lead teacher is being in a large elementary school (750 students) with lots of teachers who love to volunteer their classrooms up to me to model and try things out with their students.  So when I pitched this idea to my grade 1 team they were eager to have me try it out.  At that same meeting I came up with the idea of using Steve Wyborney’s digital hundreds chart version to make this into a math routine.  I was able to modify his original hundreds chart into several different upside down versions to use in my routine.

So, the very next day I went off, ipad and tripod in hand, to video myself on my first attempt to Spencer Taylor’s first grade classroom.  Spencer has a group of first graders who have many special needs (a quarter of them already have an IEP) as well as 1 or 2 students who are English Language Learners.   I knew that in our first grade classrooms had spent a good amount of instructional time with place value and using the hundreds chart early in the year.  From our planning the teachers decided to again revisit and expand on their instruction in place value to addition and subtraction in this upcoming marking period (we are really going to focus on those 1.NBT standards).  Spencer warned me that he wasn’t sure how they might respond but, undeterred I forged ahead!

I began by exposing only the 1 and the 100 on the board.  These are what I call the “anchor numbers”; numbers that help students make sense of the board and the arrangement without showing them the entire board.  Then I turned 9 other squares white.  With the students I first just had them simply NOTICE and WONDER about what they saw.  The students quickly able to see that these numbers were in a different place then they were used to but, as you will see in the video, they adapted quickly and were not phased by the change.  Next, for the routine we played a game of the class against me.  I told them that for every  number on the marked spaces, that they could identify correctly they would get a point and for every number that they incorrectly identified I would get the point.  Throughout the idea was that the student identifying the number had to explain to the class how they used their math thinking to determined the solution.

Side note….the video quality is not fabulous (sorry) as the lights had to be off to see the blue outline of the boxes on Steve’s chart.  

What I saw from these students during the short routine was a tremendous amount of thinking and reasoning!  I also saw how easily they could reason through the changes given their knowledge of numbers and patterns. This has spurred me on to think about creating lots of different number charts (with numbers in different locations) and building routines around them to build number sense through reasoning with patterns.

Side note…I would love to create a program where you could have a board with 100 or 120 spaces, fill the smallest number you want into one cell and the largest number into the last cell and then the board would automatically populate so you could use it like the board I modified from Steve or this Classworks board. If this is a skills you have contact me so we can make this happen!  In the meantime I’ll create some different boards on this page and start posting them for teachers.

Something else you might notice from the video is that you will see me try to redirect them to talk to their classmates instead of just me.  Students tend to just respond to the teacher but it is very important for them to communicate with each other instead of just the teacher.  This is something that could easily be built in this classroom through routines and activities.

Even after a successful routine with this group of first graders, I realized that this journey was taking on a life of its own.   First, I’m going to call change the routine name to Number Chart Routine.  My plan is that the boards will have many different configurations.  They may be right side up or upside down, sometimes they will end with 100 and sometimes they will go way beyond that into digits in the thousands or even start below 1 with decimals, fractions, negative number (yes even elementary students can understand that concept), etc…   For now, until I can figure out a way to automate the chart as I mentioned above, I will just begin by creating more variations on the board for teachers use and archiving them here on my blog (and on my school’s google page) for anyone to use and modify for FREE.

Here is the link to the folder that I’m going to continue to add versions of the Number Chart Routine.  I created 10 number charts to start with (5 regular and 5 upside down).  I will be adding more over the next few weeks.  Be sure to drop in again and make suggestions of other variations that you would like to see created!  This post will also be added to a new Math Resources page titled Number Chart Routine.

So…after all of this I hope you will dive in with me and try out this routine and share your experiences, thoughts, and feedback!

Posted in Math

Turning Your Math World Upside Down!

UPDATED!! After this post went live last night, I had some fantastic feedback and thought I would make a few revisions.  Andrew Stadel (Divisible by 3) suggested that I reverse the direction so that 1 is in the right hand column more like a coordinate plane.  What a fabulous idea!!  SO…below you will now find those links instead of my original ones!  

I bet you are wondering what this post is all about!  How could I possibly turn your math world upside down?  As elementary math teachers we tend to use hundreds charts  to help students see patterns as well as a math tool.  Most of you probably use a traditional 1 to 100 chart or a 0 to 99 chart.  My complaint about the hundreds chart has always been that when you start using as a tool to teach patterns in adding and subtracting, well it seems to be visually backwards…

Think about it…on a hundreds chart if you add 29 + 10 you start on 29 and go DOWN one line to find a sum of 39.  Moving down feels like taking something away not adding to something.   The same is true when you subtract you are actually physically moving UP!  No wonder our kids are so confused!!!  Think about this…on a graph 0 is at the bottom of the graph or on a coordinate grid and the scales moves up.  The same is true for a thermometer.

So, why do we do this to kids.  Why not turn that chart upside down????  Check out the image below…now add 29 + 10 again.  Notice that now you move up, just like a graph, or a thermometer.  I just ask you to think about it.  I know that you’ve probably been using that traditional chart forever but maybe this might help our students.

To get you started I am giving you some links to some basic Upside Down Hundreds Charts I have made.

1-100 Basic Upside Down Hundreds Chart LR 2.0

0-99 Basic Upside Down Hundreds Chart LR 2.0

1-120 Upside Down Chart (Grade 1 CCSS) LR 2.0

1-200 Upside Down Chart LR 2.0

Decimal Hundredths Chart LR 2.0

Let me know what you think of this!   I’d love some feedback…do you like this idea, not like this idea, or if you try it out I’d love to hear how it worked!

Posted in Math

Try out a Silent Sort Routine!

When I started teaching math, 22 years ago we always started math with a “warm-up”;  a small set of problems to get kids to review material from previous days or units.  Over the years my thinking on this practice has gone through some radical transformations.  Now the first few minutes of my math time with students is spent using one of many different math routines not just to spiral back to material but to also activate prior knowledge, build number sense, and build thinking skills.

There are many routines that I use on a regular basis; number talks, math strings, Which One Doesn’t Belong, Splat!, Cube Conversations, Geometric Subitizing, Reveal a Graph, Which Would you rather as well as the routine I’m going to share with you today…Silent Sorts!

Silent Sorts are a twist on the “Guess My Rule” type of activity.  This can be adapted for just about any topic in math (or even other subjects).  First the teacher decides on something that could be sorted for math.  One example that was used in my building to introduce first graders to fractions this week involved the sorting of representations of halves, fourths, and wholes.  I created enough representations so that each student would receive at least card.  The teacher divides a piece of chart paper into the number of categories that they will sort into (for this example we divided the page into 3 sections) and then hangs the paper in a place where the class can see and reach it.

Click on this link for the Fraction Sort used in Grade 1.

On the day of the routine the teacher tells the class that they will be given an object on a card.  They will be silently sorting their objects; meaning they will be sorting without talking.  Each student’s job is to look at their card, and based on what they see on the sort, decide where they think their card should go.  One at a time students come up and place their card.  If the card is not placed correctly, the teacher immediately moves the card to the correct location without saying anything.  I make sure that before we begin I tell them that it is ok if I need to move their card.  As each student comes up and places their card they tap another student to come up before returning to their seat.  I tell them that their job is to continually look for what they notice, wonder, and think about what they see.  When we are done, the class will try to beat the teacher by coming up with the rule for each section of the sort.  Before we finish we also name each section.

Today I was able to video tape myself doing this routine (click here to see the sort).  These students in grade 1 and on Monday will be starting to add and subtract within 100 (starting with adding and subtracting tens) next week.  The teacher, Mrs. Hahn, and I thought it would be good to see what they remember about place value and numbers greater than 20 to get them ready for their new unit.  So, I created a sort with 4 sections – numbers with ones, number with zero ones, place value representations of numbers with ones, and place value representations of numbers with zero ones.   We were not sure how well they would do but, if you watch the video you will see that had to move very few cards.  Most students were able to quickly notice the pattern.

Keep in mind that silent sorts can also be used in other subjects.  For example you can sort types of words and particular sounds in reading as well as sorting science or social studies concepts.  The most important part is that students are doing the thinking.  You as the teacher only need to encourage them and give them opportunities to collaborate in their thinking.

Here is a link to the folder in which I will be keeping my Silent Sorts as I create them.  Keep checking back as I will be adding more.  I’ll also add this link to the math page of my blog for future reference.


Posted in Reading

We’ve Got to Move Them, Move Them!

All of us, as teachers, have students who are reading below grade level each year.  Some of these students are not just slightly but some are significantly below grade level.  We, in our county, call these students our ‘striving’ readers; a phrase coined by Stephanie Harvey and Annie Ward in their book, From Striving to Thriving.   Our school has been working and continues to work to move these readers forward.

The first thing we learned was just how important it is to get these kids excited about reading.   We stopped worry about the “level” of the book and were more concerned about whether the student was interested or excited to read the book.  We took a lot of ideas from Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild) and really spent a lot of time in the first half of our year getting kids to actually read during independent time!  We no longer needed “centers” or “rotations” to fill our reading blocks.  We actually have kids reading from PK-5 for long chunks of independent time.  But, even after we had kids excited about reading we knew we had to tackle the issue of our striving readers.

So, for the last few weeks we have been lucky to have Lura Hanks, our Reading & Social Studies Supervisor, coming to model some guided groups with our readers that are furthest away from grade level (students with IEPs, EL students, etc..) .  Lura has come and each time brought a piece of text that was close to or on grade level and each time these students were able to read the text!  Yes…you read that correctly…they read it!    What I saw her doing was not anything earth shattering but the way she taught got students “to do the work” instead of relying on the teacher.  Her techniques gave students the skills and confidence students needed to be more independent.

How does she do it?  What’s the magic formula?  The key, from all I have learned so far it to build up student confidence, “coaching in” with students as they are reading, and helping students build strategies and expecting them to use them independently.

Each time Lura begins a group the students can’t help but feel like they could read anything.  She tells them that “they will read the text” by the end of the week but that on day one she is going to do all the hard work.   Also, Lura expects students to try to read while she supports them by coaching in.  As teachers we want all kids to succeed.  I find that teachers, myself included, have a tendency to help them more than we should because we want them to “get it”.  Therefore students become dependent on us to think, they literally will sit there quietly just looking at the teacher knowing that if they wait long enough they will tell them what to do or say.   Harvey and Ward said it best, “whoever does the most work does the most learning, so like any reader, kids need time to practice, once we show them how.”  Part of learning means sometimes getting it wrong or struggling a bit.   As we know from growth mindset research, people learn best when they have to solve a problem or as a result of what we learn from making mistakes.

Another vital strategy is getting kids to “predict” or notice, wonder, and think BEFORE they ever read a word.  Lura asks them to just “look” at the text for 1-2 minutes before they ever begin to read.  They talk about what they predict it might be about based on the pictures, structure, and text features.  Then they begin to read with the background knowledge and connections they have made.

Today an interesting strategy to help them go off and read a paragraph on their own that they were not going to have time to read together.  She read the subheading of the paragraph to them.  Then she asked them, “Based on this subheading, what words do you think you might encounter as you read?”  This set them up to be able to figure out words based on the context.  In fact before they left several students had found the words in the section that they probably would not have figured out without first connecting to the topic.  I felt like this was a simple but hugely effective strategy.

Accountability is another big part of Lura’s instruction.  When she teaches them a word she has them put their finger on it, she defines it, has them read it and notice what it looks like and then she says, “Now you know the wordinsert word, the next time you see it I expect you to know it!  And…I know you probably don’t believe me…but they do know it!

These are just some basics that I’m picking up but after you watch group after group at every grade level of striving readers reading and understanding passages that are far above their level you can’t help but realize that it’s not about a box intervention it is more about knowing your readers and using the gradual release model to help them “do the work”.  He have to stop holding their hands and start coaching…learning from mistakes and effort.

So…after watching 8 or so groups that Lura has taught I was itching to get my feet wet and try it out myself.  This week I chose a group of three boys from a fourth grade class who all were reading on a I-K level.  I brought a text for them that related to the social studies that they were starting (the Revolutionary War) from NEWSELA (click for the article) that was a 710 lexile (far above their level).   These boys did so well reading this high passage that I posed this to them to set a purpose for their reading:

Later after they have finished reading the text on their own, they will respond to this question:  In your opinion, how could King George avoided the war with the colonies?  Use text evidence to support your reasoning. 

Well…how will they do with the writing prompt?  We shall have to wait and see!  We have several more days this week of touching base with the text before we are ready for the writing piece.  But…if you want to know how it’s going let me know and I’ll try to blog about the process.

Know that this is just the tip of the iceberg of what I have to learn to move our strivers.  I’m learning from Lura and leaning on what I’m learning from the book I mentioned above as well as the Yaris and Burkins book, Who’s Doing the Work.  But…I hope you stay with me on the journey and share what you are learning as well!  We are all made better by learning from those around us.



Posted in Book Reviews

A Little Book with a BIG Message!

On my last trip to the library I sat on the floor (one of the downsides to perusing the children’s section 🙂) and poured through shelf after shelf of children’s books, scooting from one shelf to the next, looking for unfamiliar books that peaked my curiosity.  The one that I thought I would share this evening made me think of my kindergarten friends that are, after 100 days of school, really taking off in their reading.   The book I pulled from the shelf of our little Boonsboro Library was none other than, This is not a picture book by Sergio Ruzier.

This adorable story that starts from the very first page.   In fact if you are reading this book aloud,  be sure to start reading as soon as you open the book.  If you start after the title page you will have missed the opening of the story.  The title page, in fact, is part of the text (how clever)!    This story features a duck who picks up a book full of words…but no pictures.    At first he is outraged and kicks the book, only to quickly apologize and then proceed to read the book along with his little bug friend.  He thinks the words are difficult but soon realizes he knows many of the words and find that some of the words are funny, sad, wild, and peaceful.  In the end he learns that all words, no matter what kind, “carry you away and then bring you home where they stay with you forever.”

After reading this book is would be great have student brainstorm words that are funny, sad, wild, and peaceful and put them on a chart(s) to hang in the classroom to help inspire students when they are writing or reading.  Teachers could also have students talk about the journeys (places) that the books they are reading take them.

In addition to a charming story with a great message this author has paid a lot of attention to detail.  Be sure to take a look at the front and back end papers.  The end papers in front are words that look like gibberish but the back end papers are completely readable (in fact they are the words to the entire story).   This is indeed a little book with a BIG message for our small friends who are learning to read!

Posted in Tech Tools

Blogs, Tweets, Posts…OH MY!

Blogs, Tweets, Posts…oh my…how do we keep up with all of it??  Teachers spend an inordinate amount of time searching the web for teaching material.  Many of us regularly visit blogs and twitter to check for new information or resources.  Over the years I have become overwhelmed with remembering all of the great blogs and websites I like to check and then knowing when they have new content to share without visiting each site.  

These are the collections I have. Each time there is a new post you will see a number beside the collection to indicate the number of new posts. Once you click on the collection you will see all of those new posts in one spot!

The way I have tried to organize these resources has really changed over the years.  For a while I would bookmark those sites and then I used SymbalooEdu to organize them by topics.  With both of these tools I still had to check each link to see if they had posted new material.  So…I went in search of an app to help me out and VIOLA….I found and fell in love with feedly!    

These are all the new posts that I have not read from my favorites blogs. All I need to do to see the entire post is click on the link.

What you may ask, is feedly?  Feedly is an interactive app that allows you to organize blogs and website all in one place.  Each time you open the app you will see the new content has been posted to each site!  So, each Saturday morning (from the comfort of my bed) I can open feedly and read, all in one place, all of the new content that has been posted since the last time I opened the app.

How does it work?  First sign up for a free account.  Next, search for your favorite blogs, sites, tweets using the search box.  I find it is easiest to simply copy and paste the website URL I want directly into the search box in feedly.  Once it comes up in the search use the + to add it to your feedly.  You will be given the option to add each site to a “collection”.  These collections are basically your organization tool.  I have created collections for math resources, reading resources, book reviews, tech tools, etc…  Once you have added some sites you will see all the new posts for those sites when you open feedly.   Once you have viewed and/or read them they will be marked as “read”.  If you want to keep your favorite posts, this app will also allow you to save them directly to your feedly account so you can refer back to them at another time.

Feedly has made my own personal professional development a snap by keeping all of my favorite sites in one place.  Within a few minutes (on Saturday mornings or even while waiting for my kids at sports practice) I can see if there is new material to read from my favorite bloggers whether I’m on my ipad, iphone, or computer!






Posted in Reading

Books to Entice & Intrigue Reluctant Readers

I’m sure as a teacher you have had your share of reluctant readers!  You know those kids…the ones who are always telling you that they don’t like to read, those that are “at-risk” or “struggling”.  From here on out you will see that I will call these students our “striving readers” as I subscribe to the belief that these labels can be harmful to students (as suggested by Stephanie Harvey and Annie Ward in their book, From Striving to Thriving).    Harvey & Ward state, that the best form of intervention is a good book.  But with striving readers, it can be hard to find that good book!  In fact, the older these students become, the harder it seems to find that just right book.

Often, these upper elementary strivers do not want to be seen holding a picture book so, as a teacher I’m always on the lookout for books that look hard from the cover but are easier and not too overwhelming inside.    I can speak, not only from classroom experience but from one of my own boys.  The book that made a difference for my son Ben was Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli.  This was the first book, in the summer between 4th and 5th grades, that he fell in love with.  It was this book that motivated him to read and move from a F&P of O in the fall of 2017 to an R in the winter of 2018!  After years of intervention it was one book that made the difference!  What was it about this book, you ask?  It was written like a poem…in verse but it looks like a really thick chapter book that any 4th-6th grader would read.  A story of twins who have a magical bond and feel like half of the same person but who, as they grow older are learning who they are as individuals.   (Ben was just sad that there wasn’t a sequel).  My son had finally found a book that made him want to read!

This whole experience taught me to always be on the look out for those books that might entice and intrigue my striving readers!  Many realize that graphic novels seem to be something they migrate to but also books written in verse might just be that special book that makes a striving reader a reader for life!  So…what are some good books written in verse?  Check these out and add some to your classroom library.  Another plus, to many of these novels is that they are multicultural!


Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli

This book addresses issues of identity, belonging, family, and bullying in this humorous and heartfelt novel about twins.


The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by  Laura Shoven

This is the current book in verse that I am reading.  This book appealed to me because it is about a school that is closing and will be replaced by a shopping center and is told by the fifth grade class entirely in poems.  I have to be honest and tell you that another reason that I picked it up is because it in an NCTE 2017 Notable Verse Novel and the author lives in Maryland (my state)!


Another Day as Emily by Eileen Spinelli

I just checked this book out from the Maryland Digital Library, started it and finished it in about 2.5 hours.  It was FANTASTIC!!  Emily, who is 11, can’t win.  Her hero brother called 911 after seeing a elderly neighbor collapse and she failed to get a part that both she and her best friend auditioned for.  Suzy sees a kindred spirit in Emily Dickinson, who she studies for her summer project.  So, she decides to emulate Dickinson by trying out a life of solitude.


You Can Fly:  The Tuskegee Airman by Carole Boston Weatherford

This is on my list as my next book in verse to read!   The historical story of the Tuskegee Airman told in a novel in poetic form.  This book is sure to be a book that many boys will want to read!


The Crossover  by Kwame Alexander (Newberry 2015)

This book seems to have it all; basketball, a set of twins, and it is written in verse.  This is a fantastic book with issues around a girlfriend, relationships with their Dad, basketball, and sibling rivalry but we warned as it has a sad ending. I would definitely say this is a great middle school book but could also be appropriate for grade 5.  The sequel to this story is Booked.


 Little Dog, Lost and Little Cat’s Luck both written by Marion Dane Bauer

Two heartfelt stories with animals at the center of the story.  In Little Dog, Lost we see a boy in need of a dog, a dog who needs an owner and a neighbor who needs a community.  If you like the first book be sure to check out the companion book Little Cat’s Luck!


Inside Out and Back Again  by Thanhha Lai

A story of a 9 year old Vietnamese child that immigrates from Saigon to the Alabama at the end of the Vietnam War.



Red Butterfly by A.L. Sonnichsen

A Story of a young orphan girl in China who is adopted at birth by an American living in China.   Soon you discover that she was never officially adopted and as an 11 year old is sent to live in a Chinese orphanage while her adopted mother is sent home to Montana.


Love That Dog and Hate That Cat: A Novel  by Sharon Creech

In the first book, Love That Dog, we see a young boy who doesn’t like to write but has a teacher that makes the class write poems.   This story makes a great read aloud as it is not too long; only 128 pages.


Moo by Sharon Creech

This book is about a families move from the city to rural Maine.  The children in this book develop an interesting relationship with a eccentric senior citizen and her cow!


EVEN more fabulous books in verse:

I would also like to note the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) gives awards each year for novels written in verse and books of poetry.  Many of the books I have mentioned are on their list but it is worth checking out their awards and honors each year at the NCTE site.

Also…if you haven’t be sure to pick up Harvey and Ward’s book, From Striving to Thriving.  It just may change the way you look at and approach those striving readers!


Posted in Reading

Audio as Text?

Why do we need audio resources in our instruction?

Most people think of text as articles, books, or basically anything with print.  But the Common Core includes video and audio recordings as text as well as print resources.  The use of audio recordings of text is apart of the Speaking and Listening Standards for the Common Core (CCSS).   We as teachers have come to accept the use of audio books as a way to help students who need support with reading (so they can hear the text read fluently as they read along) and to engage reluctant readers but not as many teachers utilize audio recordings as a way for students to gain information much like we do through the use of videos.

The “listening” part of the Common Core is evident in Kindergarten through High School standards.  Phrases such as, “listen to others, recount information presented orally, ask and answer questions about what a speaker says” are prominent in the listening standards.  So, if building listening skills is essential, where can teachers find audio resources?

Where can I find great audio resources for my classroom?

There are a couple great, easy to access, and FREE resources that teachers can tap into for audio text.  The first resource is LISTENWISE (  Listenwise is a repository of audio files from National Public Radio for science, social studies, ELA, and current event topics.  Audio files on the site are searchable by subject or keyword and are of varied lengths.  All of the audio files and podcasts included at the site also have a transcript included as well.

If you decide to use the website be sure to checkout their blog ( as they pull together audio resources for current topics such as the timely posts they shared in the last week; Listenwise for Presidents Day and Listenwise for the Winter Olympics.

What are some other great audio resources?

I am a HUGE proponent of Podcasts.  As someone who puts 20,000 miles in her car each year my family and I find that Podcasts are a great way to simultaneously pass the time and learn something.  While not all podcasts are appropriate for all ages of children I find that there are great podcasts that can be used with elementary age children.  My own children have been listening to the Stuff you Missed in History Class podcast for many years.  I will tell you that I do read the descriptions to the podcasts using the description before sharing them and would always recommend listening to the entire podcast before sharing them with your students to be sure the topic is appropriate.  For more podcasts that are appropriate for different age students check out these links:


Posted in Reading

A Cool Tech Tool to adjust Text

Have you ever found yourself planning a lesson with a text that contains the perfect content only to find that the lexile or F&P level is way to far above or below your student’s level?   Have you ever found that perfect article that fits the reading level for part of your class but are struggling to find a similar text for other levels of readers?  This week I ran across a website from a twitter post that can help teachers with these problems;  REWORDIFY (  

REWORDIFY is a site which modifies text to adjust the reading level.  Teachers can copy and paste text and it will automatically adjust the text to be easier or more difficult (you choose in the settings).  Once you copy and paste the text in the changes are highlighted in yellow.  If you want to see what word it replace you simply click on the highlighting and it will show you the original text. 

In addition to being able to modify text teachers can set up a free account and post articles in this website.  Students can then “learn” more difficult words by hearing the difficult words, seeing definitions as well as synonyms.  This website will even track the number of words students have learned over time.

So, if you have a great text but need to adjust the level, be sure to check out REWORDIFY!