One Minute Reader: Fluency, Vocabulary, & Comprehension App!

Over the past four months, I have been regularly integrating the One Minute Reader app into my tutoring program. This app offers a fantastic digital platform for students to improve their reading abilities for fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. I have recently shared the One Minute Reader App in the Cube for Teachers Database as a Language Arts curriculum resource. Generally, I would say this app is for grades 3 to 6, but it could definitely be used in lower or higher grades if you have students who are working at these reading levels. There is a placement feature, which I will explain below, that supports teachers in determining what level of books students are working at.

As I have stressed in previous blogs, there are certain features that I believe all apps should encompass. The following information explains how One Minute Reader has a variety of features that speak to the digital learner and enhance traditional literacy skills.

Differentiated Instruction: One Minute Reader is designed with 6 different levels for students to work between. Each level has multiple book packages that you can purchase within the app. Each book package comes with five non-fiction stories all based around a theme (i.e., Amazing Athletes, Cool Creatures, Fun Festivals, etc.). Multiple students can work within the app on different book packages that meet their learning needs. This is a really simple way for teachers to differentiate instruction within an app so that students are challenging their reading abilities at appropriate levels. Furthermore, all of the stories look the same besides their colour and level number. The differentiation is therefore not as noticeable for students to recognize.

Choice: A great feature about this app is how students can choose from a variety of book pages in the Book Store (as seen in the first picture at the bottom right). Students can choose book packages based on a theme they are interested in. All stories are non-fiction.

Curriculum Connections: One Minute Reader has three different components that align with the Ontario Language Arts Curriculum. Once students select a story, they practice this story throughout the app to build fluency (speed & accuracy). The app times students' at the beginning, then reads the story with the student, and finally times the study again to determine if their fluency has improved. One Minute Reader also has a vocabulary component. After students read the story for the first time, they are able to click on the highlighted vocabulary words to hear how it sounds and a definition for what it means. Students also hear the word within another sentence. As students work through their book packages, they can continuously fill in the crossword puzzle with all the vocabulary words from that package. The last component of Language Arts that One Minute Reader focuses on is comprehension. At the end of every story, the app has students complete 3-4 comprehension questions. Usually, I have found these questions focus on the big idea of the text. Some questions are also about the meaning of a particular word in the story, which is usually challenging for students because the words chosen always have multiple meanings depending on the context.

Immediate Feedback- Immediate feedback happens continuously throughout One Minute Reader. Right after students complete the 'cold read,' students are given their fluency score immediately after. This cold timing score is calculated by timing students for one minute and having the student tap the last word they read. The only issue with this app is that it does not account for accuracy. It does not deduct the words students missed or read incorrectly. This is something you may want to keep track of yourself. After the fluency number is calculated, the app visually depicts the number as a thermometer for students to see how many words they initially could read (this is the blue part of the thermometer in the last picture above). After some scaffolding to practice the story, students are then told to read the story again while they get timed for one minute. Students can time themselves as many times as they would like until they are pleased with their score. Once the student has selected the score (hot timing) they are happy with, the app immediately shows the difference between the cold timing and hot timing. This is done by showing the thermometer again and increasing the difference with red (as shown in the picture above). This immediately shows students how they have progressed after working on their fluency throughout the app.

Scaffolding: My favourite component to the app is how it scaffolds students to practice fluency. After the initial cold read, the app practices the story with students by reading the story out loud. This section is called Read Along because students are expected to read along with the app. To support students with keeping up and not loosing their place, the app highlights what sentence the app is currently reading so that students can still see the words they are trying to read along with (see middle picture above). It is a fantastic feature and has really supported my own students' fluency development. After reading along a few times, my students' fluency scores go up about 20 words. It is a great way for students to hear how to fluently read and to practice many high frequency words within the story. This feature also supports independent work since the teacher does not have to be the one reading the story with a student. The app has a voice built in and programmed to read the story.

Reward System: One Minute Reader has a unique reward system. Students can first earn some points throughout the app, but I have not yet discovered what students can use these points towards. I am assuming they are just to encourage students. On top of these points, students are working to earn letters towards a joke jumble. This reward system is just for the comprehension component. Each book package has a joke question and whenever students get a comprehension question correct, they earn another letter towards the joke's answer. I have found this reward system to be really engaging and motivating. It also gives students a good laugh at the end of their package!

Assessment: One Minute Reader further provides a lot of data that can be used to assess students on the spot or assess students' reading progress over time. Each story ends with immediate feedback for students and teachers to view. It shows the cold timing, hot timing, and other scores students received while practicing. It further shows the score students received for comprehension. This is shown in the last picture above. After a whole book package is complete, the teacher can then see the data analytics from all five stories to compare how students progressed throughout the package (as shown below). I found this chart to be extremely helpful to see how my students were improving between their cold timings (the initial read without practice). Both of the students I tutor jumped about 10 words between their first cold read and their last cold read in the book package. I also compared these numbers from the whole book package to the numbers from a previous book package that one of my student had completed. I discovered that this student had jumped about 25 words from the very first cold timing to their most recent cold timing! I have only been using this app for about 4 months, and this is the fastest improvement I have ever seen with my student.

Overall, I highly recommend using the One Minute Reader app to build your students' reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. You can also purchase this app based on individual levels if you know you are only working with students at that one level. However, I recommend downloading the general One Minute Reader app so that you can differentiate and easily move students between different levels. Click the icon below to discover more about the One Minute Reader App!

2015 Mapping the New Knowledges Conference @ Brock University

I am excited to announce that I will be presenting my research poster at the Brock University 2015 Mapping the New Knowledges Graduate Student Conference on April 9. This event will take place between 3:20 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Carins Complex Level 3. My research will highlight the pilot study I conducted on how tablets can enhance 21st century skills in Science and Language Arts. Through an innovative methodological approach, I studied specifically how students are collaborating and constructing their own knowledge through touch-based technologies (iPads). I hope to see you there!

Get Yo Body Movin! 21st Century DPA

Do you find it hard to fit movement breaks into your classroom schedule? Are you ready to enhance your Physical Education classes with technology? Do you find your classroom transitions need more structure? Are you noticing periods of the day when your students need a brain break to increase energy? Are there times when you think your students are too energized and need time calm down?

These are questions I am sure many you (educators) are faced with throughout the day. It is sometimes difficult to anticipate these moments in the day and even more difficult to have a backpack of ready to use activities. Every class is different and every day is different in the classroom. Students' energy levels are always changing depending on the class, time of day, or even the day of the year. GoNoodle has one of the best resources I have ever seen to support educators committed to movement breaks throughout the day. I have recently shared this resource in the Cube for Teachers database as a curriculum resources for Health and Physical Education.

Recently, I have noticed more teachers and schools in general seeing the importance of movement breaks in the classroom. The traditional model of education is very structured and does not naturally allow for movement breaks. Many educators do a great job incorporating movement into their lessons. However, it is not always possible to incorporate movement into every lesson! Movement breaks or "brain breaks" have been a trending component to teachers' classroom routines. Daily Physical Activity (DPA) is further a specific curriculum expectation in the Ontario Health and Physical Education document. It is therefore crucial that educators find creative ways to incorporate movement into their daily schedules.

Okay, now that I have stressed the importance of DPA, lets get movin!! GoNoodle is free for any educator to set up! Once an account has been created, all you have to do is name your class. This class then shows up on your dashboard (as seen below). You can add multiple classes, which is beneficial if you are a prep coverage teacher and teach different groups of students throughout the day. The videos range in difficulty so there are videos that will engage and get any grade moving!!

Furthermore, if you are an Occasional Teacher, you may want to create a class for each school you supply teach at. This way, students in the whole school can continuously work in the same "class." This may even lead to a whole school project to increase DPA and a sense of community within your school!

Once you have created an account and set your class up, students are then able to choose the character they would like to workout with (as shown below)! This character interacts with the students through motivational points, jokes, or questions. Students get to know their character as they work through different exercise activities. I will explain the characters' role more below.

After meeting their character, students are then able to choose from a wide variety of movement videos. This is where the 21st century learning comes into play. GoNoodle incorporates technological literacy with health literacy. Students are able to interact with the SMART Board by selecting the video they want to move to. Furthermore, students are interacting with their character to watch it build muscle just like they are! The digital touch-based technology of the SMART Board is therefore utilized during movement activities. Students are further responding to devices that enhance their learning in the digital age.

The videos range from energizers to de-energizers. I have been using GoNoodle with the grade 1 class I have been teaching for the past few months. They absolutely love it! As shown below, there are different types of movement videos that students can choose from. The grade 1s have really loved some in the GoNoodle, Zumba, and Koo Koo Kanga Roo! folders. Many of these videos are really upbeat and give your students a great movement break. If you are finding your students need to bring their energy levels down like after recess or after a physical education class, use the Maximo videos! Maximo is a hilarious monkey that takes students through Yoga exercises! Basically, what I am trying to say here is that there are so many options to choose from based on your students current energy levels and what types of movement breaks you are trying to integrate.

As I mentioned, Koo Koo Kanga Roo! is one of my students' favourite folders to choose from! They absolutely love Get Yo Body Movin' to dance to. CAUTION: It will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day! You can see some other Koo Koo Kanga Roo! videos below. I have found that because a lot of these videos get students singing the song, it reminds them to ask for GoNoodle when THEY need a movement break. Students know themselves even better than their teachers. It is therefore great when students love a DPA program enough to remind the teacher about it!!

From a teachers perspective, I have also really enjoyed incorporating some of the videos that have curriculum connections. For instance, Koo Koo Kanga Roo! made a Skip Counting video (as shown below) that has students skip counting by different numbers up to 100. This has been a great warm-up for math and has further provided a great transitional video between language arts to math! I believe that GoNoodle has more videos if you buy into the program, but it would be fantastic if they would create even more free videos that connect to curriculum expectations other than DPA!! For instance, Koo Koo Kanga Roo! could really rock a Doubles Rap to help students remember their doubles facts!!

As mentioned above, students choose a cute little character to workout with! However, this character does not stay the same throughout the program GoNoodle. After students complete 10 levels of GoNoodle videos (some videos are worth 1 level while others are worth more depending on their length), students can watch their character Go to the Transmogrifier where their character transforms into an even stronger creature! I noticed more of a sense of community among my students as they worked together to earn the next 10 levels and build up their character! This is a fantastic reward system to keep students motivated and engaged with DPA exercises! Below is an example of how a character transforms! It is so funny how excited they get when they are waiting for their character to transform.

Once their character has developed a lot of muscle, students are awarded a certificate with their classes name and the date they won it! I then send this PDF to myself and print it from a colour printer at my house. I then laminate it and tape it to the wall so that my students remember all of the characters they have earned while moving! The one below is our latest character so my students are very excited to see this posted after the March Break!! Note, once students have earned a character, they can then move on to building up a new character. There are a bunch of different characters for students to choose from.

Overall, GoNoodle offers a creative and EASY way for educators to incorporate movement breaks into their busy daily schedules. I highly recommend using GoNoodle in your classroom to enhance movement through technological devices! Students respond to digital technologies more than a teacher standing up at the front of the room instructing. They love the interactive nature of digital tools, and GoNoodle offers this type of technology for a component of the curriculum that is often difficult to incorporate (DPA). Click the icon below to check out GoNoodle for yourself and GET YO BODY MOVIN!!!

CSSE Poster Presentation @ Congress 2015

On Monday, June 1, 2015 from 10:00 to 11:15 a.m., my research will be displayed at the University of Ottawa during the Canadian Society for the Study of Education (CSSE) 2015 conference. I will be presenting a poster during the Canadian Committee of Graduate Students in Education (CCGSE) gathering (session 8 on second day of conference). This poster will display my recent study on how tablets can enhance grade 5 students' knowledge construction and collaboration in science, language arts, and literacy. I hope to see you there!

Create. Interact. Share. Educreations Interactive Whiteboard App!

Educreations is an interactive whiteboard for students to use on tablets. I have recently shared this app in the Cube for Teachers database an interactive whiteboard tool. Much like a SMART Board, Educreations is a learning platform that enhances the multi-modal features of touch-based technologies. However, as an app, Educreations allows individual or small groups of students to personalize work from tablets. Students are able to upload pictures, label concepts, write thoughts with ink tools, record thinking or communicating in groups, and share work through links or emails. Educreations further allows for multiple slides within the app so that students can expand their work beyond one screen of a tablet.

I cannot stress enough the capabilities this app has for formative assessment measures and student collaboration. After students work on Educreations, teachers can play back the whole video and audio recording showing students' progression towards their end product. As long as the teacher explains to students that they are to keep the recording feature on, Educreations is much more than a Power Point slideshow. The teacher can see students self-correcting or problem solving throughout their work. They can even see how students are editing and revising their work.

Educreations can essentially be a digital platform for students to work on in any discipline. It is not a content specific app so students can complete anything from a science lesson (as shown below) to a math lesson through the Educreations app. One way Educreations can be useful in the classroom is for problem-based math lessons. Teachers are realizing more and more the value of understanding the strategies students are using to solve math problems. Eduators are further understanding the importance of students sharing their different strategies to teach one another about how they solved a math problem. Educreations allows students to not only write their solution to a problem on the app's whiteboard, but it further allows students to playback their audio and video data so that other students can fully see how they reached their answer. I can see this being very helpful for some students who may forget all of the steps they took to solve the problem. It can be used to enhance a verbal explanation. Educreations also provides an alternative way for students to share their thinking and communicating if they are too shy to speak in front of the class. Some students may know how they solved the math problem, but just struggle to share their strategy in front of the class. Educreations essentially provides assistive features to support these students.

Overall, Educreations has the potential to support teachers' and students' needs across the disciplines. Please visit the Educreations website to learn more by clicking the icon below.

Engage. Assess. Digitize. Socrative!

Digital tools have been key to data driven real time assessment. Many schools have bought into class sets of clicker response systems so that teachers can set-up their own virtual assessment or assess instantly on the spot. Now that schools are buying into more high-tech tools such as tablets, app developers like Socrative have designed a digital platform for tablets to have the same, if not more, features as these clickers. I have recently shared the Socrative app into the Cube for Teachers database as an assessment tool. 

Socrative is designed between two apps. There is a student view and a teacher view. The teacher view, as shown below, allows teachers to assess students in different ways. Educators are able to formatively assess students throughout a lesson by choosing the Quick Question option. The Quick Question option allows for on the spot polling to instantly get feedback regarding students' thoughts and opinions. This means that students would enter their classroom on the student Socrative app and respond through multiple choice, true or false, or short answer questions. The type of question students answer depends on what the teacher has selected. 

Teachers can further create their own assessments by clicking Manage Quizzes. Teachers just need to choose the type of question (multiple choice, true or false, or short answer), type in the question, and add an explantation to provide immediate student feedback. The explanation is optional. Teachers also have the option to add an image to go along with a question. When the teacher is ready, all they have to do is click Start a Quiz, select the quiz, and have students enter their classroom from the student Socrative app. 

Socrative is extremely straight forward and easy to use. This app is a valuable teaching tool for educators since it is able to assess students on any knowledge across the disciplines. Socrative is just as meaningful for a Science teacher to use as it is for a Language Arts teacher. Students can be assessed on anything and at anytime within Socrative! 

One of my favourite features of Socrative is the Exit Ticket feature. This is an efficient way to formatively assess students on their understanding of a lesson. The Exit Ticket is just like an exit card system where students are given three questions to answer at the end of a lesson. Two of the questions are pre-set, and the third question you pose to students before they complete the Exit Ticket. Teachers can then use students' responses to the Exit Ticket to determine what the next steps are in their unit. For instance, teachers may notice students are not understanding the concept after completing the Exit Ticket and may need to backtrack in their unit. Here are the questions students respond to for the Exit Ticket:

1. How well did you understand today's material? 
    A. Totally got it.
    B. Pretty well. 
    C. Not very well.
    D. Not at all. 

2. What did you learn in today's class?

3. Please answer the teachers question. (I suggest writing this question on the board)

Socrative also has a really cool feature called Space Race (as shown below) where students can join a team based on colour, answer the quiz questions, and race against other groups to answer the most questions correctly. The teacher can then have students view their results of the Space Race and see what team answered the most questions correctly! I believe this activity would be a great way to review concepts or even prepare for a unit test. 

As an assessment tool, Socrative provides a lot of student data to determine how students are progressing with concepts. As shown bellows, teachers can see what questions students responded correctly to and what questions they got wrong. These data can then be sent (second screenshot below) to your email, Google Drive, or downloaded. You can also just view data in the app itself.

Overall, Socrative takes assessment to a digital level and enhances teachers' ability to monitor and track student progress across the disciplines. Take a look at the Socrative website to discover more ways of using this digital assessment tool by clicking the icon below!

Students DITCH the Pen & Pencil with Penzu Classroom!

Digitize journal writing! Teachers have encouraged journal writing for years. This has always been a key component to any Language Arts program as it enhances critical thinking and reflection. Journal writing encourages students to self-assess their own understanding of concepts and potentially extend their construction of knowledge on a topic. For teachers, journals give key insight into student understanding and provide a great way to formatively assess student progress. They can further be incorporated into any subject since reflection is a key component to learning no matter what the topic is. Whether you are teaching math or drama, journals are always a great teaching tool/strategy to encourage student reflection.

HOWEVER, what student wants to sit for 20 minutes and write about what they learned in a little school notebook? Let's get real. Although journals are great for teachers, are students really utilizing them to reflect and engage with the journal writing process? As we move more and more into the 21st century, teachers need to start thinking of ways to make learning more meaningful and relevant to students in this digital age. As technology rapidly shoots into schools, teachers should find ways for EdTech to enhance their current teaching methods. Lets filter out the old ideas and replace them with new! 

Penzu may have an answer for teachers. I have recently shared this app in the Cube for Teachers database as a technology writing tool. Although high-tech tools like tablets can be daunting to teachers, Penzu's simplicity is easy for any teacher to begin incorporating digital tools into the classroom. This app offers a digital platform for students to write journal entries and add "paper clip" pictures to the entry. As shown below, the app looks like a simple piece of lined paper (much like the ones in school notebooks) where students can type their journal responses instead of writing with pencil and paper. This simple interaction with a digital tool is usually enough to hook and motivate our current generation of students. As mentioned before, this app can further be used across the disciplines and is not a content specific app. It is extremely versatile, which makes it a very useful app to download on your school's tablets! 

Some other fantastic features of Penzu include:
  • Organizing journals based on classes
  • Grading and commenting features 
  • Managing entries by marking them as read or unread
  • Sharing entries with your entire class
  • Managing individual student entries
  • Creating and sending assignments to students within the app
  • Submitting entries via email
  • In App Notifications of entries
Overall, Penzu provides a simple digital platform to reinvent the traditional teaching method of journal writing. To find more information about the Penzu app for classrooms, click the icon below!