Using Songs to Promote Literacy

30 March 2016

As promised from my last post, I am going to share more information about the session I presented at the North Carolina Reading Association. 

One of the topics I discussed was lack of engagement and poor attitude in readers. Students like this are often flipping quickly through books only to exchange one for another, they tend to have an overall lower proficiency in reading, and they tend to have a poor attitude towards reading. 

One of the strategies I presented was using songs to change the attitude in young readers and engage them in reading. I use two very important and helpful things for that. 

My students and I practice this with our National Anthem and pledge every morning, then I use transition songs to get my kids to clean up quickly, sit on the mat, and learn the lyrics to their favorite songs by READING! 

Using these songs has made our days more productive and positive. There's just something about music that nourishes the soul. It's almost like giving our brains a massage not only for my kids, but for me as well since every song is motivational, empowering, and uplifting. 

I have several students who came to me below proficient and have made growth when it comes to accuracy, but they still struggle with fluency and they don't like the way they sound when they read hence the negative attitudes and reluctance. 

Using these awesome songs for our transitions has not only helped my class from wasting time, but it's also helped them refocus on the next task, build fluency, and LOVE READING! 

Here's the link to my transition songs. I add them from time to time to keep the songs fresh and up to date. I'll post more soon, but for now it is Spring Break time. Enjoy! 


Technology in Primary Grades

28 March 2016
Technology is ALWAYS evolving and by the time I finish this post, there will be even more advances in the world of technology. This can be especially challenging when teaching students in primary grades. I know because I have had a 1:1 second grade classroom for four years now. 

Although the students may be familiar with tablets and smartphones, they are very odd when it comes to interacting with four-year-old laptops ("You mean, I can't just open an app to get there, Mrs. Barnett? What is a homerow again? What's a browser?").

My school identified this issue, and my principal ordered each teacher four personal tablets to be used for centers. Now the only problem is... Downloading apps from the district webpage is painfully difficult! The following are some helpful tips I have for when it comes to using laptops and tablets in the classroom. 

1. QR Codes- Will these ever be a thing of the past? I think not. QR Codes make navigating to websites quick and SUPER easy for students... Especially younger ones who may not know how to type let alone identify letters. Identifying the app icon is much easier than typing a webpage for lrimary students, and it saves time for learning and interacting with quality rich websites. Simply copy and paste the link you are wanting students to log onto into a QRCode Generator. Doing this can save you hours of learning throughout the course of the year. 

2. TinyURL- Maybe you have dinosaur computers, like my own, which do not have QR Scanners (aka cameras). I'd like to share with you my favorite: Go to this website, copy and paste the link you are wanting students to log onto into this website, type in a name if you'd like, or let the website generate a irk for you, and you have a tiny, or not-too-long, URL that your students can easily remember. 

3. Safeshare: I love YouTube and I especially love songs on YouTube, but I don't love the Victoria Secret ads or the Jose Cuervo ads that go along with them. Use then copy and paste the url into the page and it will display your video AD FREE! Hooray for no underwear ads! 

4. Plickers: We used to have activotes in my classroom which were like little remote controls that I could take a poll on and my students would answer or vote. These were super engaging and my kids LOVED them! The only problem was that my batteries began to die and anytime I had to get my computer reimaged, the program would wipe out. I knew I had to find a better way to gain formative assessments on my students, so my Digital Tech Facilitator introduced me to Plickers. I printed out these cards for free, and I now use my phone to scan. I don't have to remember numbers or anything, it just shows me who answered what on my phone. The only catch with this is that you have to plan for your questions and type them in ahead of time on the website: So I encourage you to try it out, but also, plan your questions carefully! 

I know that many of you are familiar with most of these, but I'm telling you, these have truly been the best for me and have made teaching using technology so much easier and more pleasant for me. 

Let me know in the comments what technology makes life easier for you in your classroom. I'd love to share some more ideas! 

Warm wishes! 


Motivating Reluctant Readers and Writers

          A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of presenting at the North Carolina Reading Association Annual Conference in Raleigh, NC. I was pleased to see that my session filled up quickly, and it was also relieving to see that I am not the only educator who has challenging students!

     I've had many questions from my friends and coworkers about some of the things that I presented at the conference. So I figured that I'd share! 

    To start with, we have to ask ourselves 'what makes motivation?' It is made up of three parts: interest, attitude, and engagement. Engagement is the missing link for many students. Which brings us to our next question: 'How do we get kids engaged in reading and writing?'

1. Relevant: The books and materials we supply our students with must be relevant to their culture and up-to-date with pop culture. Walk the toy isle of a department store and see what students are being exposed to to gather an idea of what is relevant to their lives. 

2. Accessible: We have to make sure that the books and writing materials are within reach and easily accessible. We can do this in early childhood by keeping materials low to the ground and within reach. We can do this in higher education by just having the materials OUT and available for students to use for their leisure. 

3. Opportunity: Set aside the time to allow students to practice their new skills. Students have opportunity to build on these skills through trial and error. 

4. Choices: We don't all think the same way, so why would we all learn the same way. Offer a variety of activities and give your students choices to practice their skills. This creates an exciting environment where students can creatively take ownership in their work. Not sure how to do reading choices? Do not fret! I have created Daily 5 Tic-Tac-Toe Boards where students can choose their activities. 

5. Social: Give students ample time to read to one another or talk about and share their writing with one another. I have a workout acquaintance who is an author, and she is constantly sharing ideas about her characters and asking what a person like her character would do or how the character would respond. It gets everyone excited about reading her juicy novels. Kids can do this too! My writing block is never dead silent. We are always productively communicating with one another. 

6. Success: Everyone wants to feel successful! Even if you have a student who is reading or writing at a lower level, you must make them feel successful in order for them to make growth. I like to use the sandwich approach. This psychological approach is easy to use and gets the point across easily for kids and even their parents. I start off on a positive note (think bread). Then I add the constructive criticism (think meat), and I conclude with a positive follow up (bread). For example: 'Grace, I love that you are beginning to use the pictures to guess the word, but I feel like you could take a closer look at the beginning and ending sounds of the word to increase your accuracy. If you can do all of those things, I know you are really going to be able to decode those words like a great reader.' 

7. Incentives: These must reflect the value of the lesson. It is okay to use extrinsic rewards with students who have special needs at first, but eventually we want to ween them off. Intrinsic rewards can be anything from sharing work, tracking progress, etc. we use periscope in my classroom as an incentive for students to share their learning with the world. To put it simply, IT ROCKS! Follow our class @barnettsbubbles to see our next Persicope.

I'll be sure to share more strategies on how to motivate reluctant readers and writers within the upcoming week. Let me know if you have any other incentives that you use in classroom that are helpful! I'd love to hear. Post in the below! 

Thanks for sharing,