Monthly Archives: August 2013

Interactive Writing Program Helps Students Read Closer

Have you heard the buzz about Close Reading? Or maybe you’ve felt the pressure to implement Common Core into your classroom? How does a teacher, who already has a jam-packed schedule, possibly fit Close Reading into the day?

In2Books, an interactive pen pal program, has been helping teachers do just that for 13 years. International Reading Association’s “Reading Today” recently wrote an article on using In2Books to teach Close Reading.


The program matches students in grades 3-5 with adult pen pals around the country. The pen pals must go through a background check before being accepted into the program and all messages are first screened by the teacher. A class will delve into 5 units throughout the year, ranging from fiction to science to biographies. Each unit comes complete with lesson plans, rubrics, and vocabulary games.

The program has been gaining national attention. In fact, Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. recently did a study of the effectiveness of In2Books. In a study entitled “Data Analytics and the Assessment of Student Writing“, it was found that students in my class gained an average of 1.6 grade level equivalents in their writing scores over the course of the 5 units.

In the 4 years that I implemented In2Books, I had many experiences where the students were motivated by their pen pals. They read their books diligently in their Daily 5 rotations; sometimes in Read to Self, other times in Read with Someone. They most definitely wrote, rewrote, and typed in Work on Writing. It was in their Literature Circles that they returned to the text for close reading. They returned to ask “What does the text say?”, “How does the text work?”, and “What does the text mean?”; all critical questions in Close Reading.

In2Books is still accepting classrooms (and adult eMentors!) for this coming school year. I encourage all teachers in 3rd through 5th grades to participate in the program.

If you are a teacher in the Whiteriver Unified School District, Susan Rodriguez is an approved Teacher Mentor for the district. Send a message to Susan ( for assistance setting up your classroom.


Getting Set up With Your Online Textbook – Glencoe and McGraw-Hill

The White Mountain Tribal Fair and Rodeo has arrived, your classroom roster is set, and September is here.  If you have a Glencoe or McGraw-Hill textbook it’s also time to get your online resources set up through the ConnectEd website.Connected
Not sure if you have online textbook resources for your classroom?
WUSD #20 has online textbook resources for Reading and Literature from 2nd to 8th grade.  Social Studies textbooks for 7th and 8th grade have also been added this year.

If you’re new to ConnectED, there is a great resource  entitled, “Intervention Tools: Treasures Connected” that has all the information you need to take you through the steps of setting up your class, adding students, and assigning work.  This resource is set up as a class in Moodle, so you will have to enroll with your username and password.
However, you do not need to do the assignments- simply watch the videos and follow the 5 steps to setting up your class.

If you want to take the course for 301 credit, email me, and I’ll open up the course  if there’s enough interest.

If you’ve used ConnectEd before you will only need to go set up your class.  If you’ve switched grade levels you will need the mastercodes for your new textbook resources.  To get the secret mastercodes click here.  Yes, you will have to use your username and password to login.  They wouldn’t be very secret if you didn’t.

Online Magazines

Digital magazines can help teachers by providing materials to help in literacy stations. For instance, I have used Scholastic magazines in my classroom for a few years. Last year, they launched their online, interactive magazines.


Here are a few reasons I really enjoyed Scholastic:

  1. Introductory Video: I found that many times, my students didn’t have background knowledge on the nonfiction text they were about to read. Yes, I could have spent hours searching TeacherTube or Discovery Education, but it’s so nice that the video is already there.
  2. Words to Know: Each issue had about 6 vocabulary words. When the students click on “Words to Know”, they are directed to a slide show where the students hear the word, see a picture of the word, and hear the word used in a sentence.
  3. Text to Talk: This is perhaps my favorite component. I have seen online magazines before, but they are really just glorified pdf files. However, the text to talk function reads the text to my students (Listen to Reading).
  4. Text Difficulty: With the click of a button, the entire article changes reading level. No more hunting down magazines from different grade levels. No more having disengaged, frustrated readers.
  5. Digital Sticky Notes: By now, we all know that Common Core is asking the students to return to the text and provide evidence. Many teachers utilize sticky notes on their traditional books already. The digital sticky notes allow the students to still return to the text and make notes, even in a digital format.
  6. Drawing Tool and Highlighter: These functions serve as additional tools to help students return to the text and provide evidence.
  7. Interactive Maps: Students may click on the maps, photos, and diagrams and they zoom in. The students may then interact with them to work on specific standards.
  8. Embedded Common Core Questions: Each issue has a specific Common Core focus and will embed questions into the articles.
  9. Instant Feedback: We are all familiar with the “test prep” on the back page of a magazine. In years past, perhaps you had the students pencil in their answers, turn in the magazine, and you graded it 4 weeks later (if you were lucky). Now, the feedback is immediate.
  10. Searchable Archives: Perhaps the issue 2 months ago was about hurricanes, yet your curriculum map tells you to teach hurricanes next week. No problem! Go to the archives and pull up the hurricane issue. It’s that easy. No more stashing piles of magazines that you just might use one day.

Want to try it now? Go to:
and select your grade level from the Classroom Magazines drop-down menu.

Which digital magazines have you used?

What in the world is LearnZillion?

What is it?
Image LearnZillion is a free website available to you that combines video lessons, assessments, and progress reporting. Each lesson highlights a Common Core standard.
It’s only been around for close to two years but thanks to millions of dollars funding they currently have 2,000 lessons based on Common Core standards. Currently they are employing over 100 teachers to develop screencasts of lessons and assessments. If you’re familiar with Khan Academy, think of it as a kind of Khan Academy structured around the Common Core standards with videos created by master teachers across the country. Below is a screenshot of a LearnZillion lesson:ImageA Little History.
Here’s a quick history of LearnZillion lifted from their website, “We started LearnZillion at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. because we wanted to solve a problem. We knew what lessons our students needed but we didn’t have enough time to teach each student the right lesson. To create more time, and to share best practices across classrooms, E.L. Haynes’ teachers began to capture their expertise on screencasts. We posted them on a homemade website and coupled them with a short quiz to help us track student progress. Soon the idea grew. What if teachers from across the country could contribute to the site? What if new teachers could learn the new Common Core standards from the wisdom of experienced teachers? What if students could get a playlist of lessons that matched their needs? What if, over time, the video lessons got stronger and stronger, as more teachers contributed and the data showed which lessons had the biggest impact? Thanks to funding from the Next Generation Learning Challenge, New Schools Venture Fund, Achievement Network, and others, we are about to find out!” Here’s a link to a Marketplace article if you want to learn more.

Is it Really Free?
That’s the question I had. Yes, it really is free for teachers as well as parents. You do have to set up a username and password and agree to terms and conditions that require you to login every time you use the site. They make money by providing professional development and premium and customized features to school districts. However all of the content is available for free.

How Can I Use It?
LearnZillion has a couple of nice features. One is that you can “assign” a particular lesson. When you click the “Assign” button you get a unique number code. You can then post this code on your LMS page or give it to you student. When they enter the code in any search bar a student version of the video appears for them to watch. These links and codes can easily be embedded in your online classroom. If you find that you really want to use this resource for RTI, you can actually set up an entire class which gives each student their unique code that gives them access to the multiple lessons you’ve assigned them.

I see this as not just another web resource, but a common core resource that will integrate nicely with WUSD’s use of Galileo benchmarks, and the review of those assessments. It can be used in addition to the Galileo Intervention Tools.

Great Websites for Kids – Over 500 Categorized Sites (K-8)


Jacqui Murray aka Ask a Tech Teacher, has once again updated her list of over 500 tested sites for kids Kindergarten through 8th grade. The advantage of this site is these links and resources have been tested, and the links are categorized by grade as well as topic. Jacqui recently updated (8-16) the site list for this school year. Also available on her site is a list of 149 online resources for teachers. If you don’t know where to start looking for online activities to reinforce learning in your classroom, this is a great place to start.

Teaching with Moodle: An Introduction

Following-up on Catalina’s post about the many uses of your LMS-


Registration opens today for a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) aimed at teaching teachers how to use the Moodle LMS.

Teaching with Moodle: An Introduction is a the first official class offered by Moodle. The course lasts four weeks from September 1st to October- and is expected to take 2 hours of work per week.
If you would like to learn more about how to teach with your online classroom website this is an excellent opportunity. You will receive official documentation when you complete the course.


I have already registered for the course and will be taking it. If you have questions about assignments or feel uncomfortable taking an online course I will be available to help.

PS- Already this morning there were hundreds of teachers who have registered from all around the world.

Here’s a snapshot of the learning goals:

I hope to see you in the course!

Learning Management System


Learning Management Systems is not only a software application to delivery course content or a depository for class material. It can be a very powerful learning tool. You can reach your students in different ways. It is also a great way to get your students to collaboratively build knowledge. Most importantly it helps your student learn how to become self-learners. Now that’s empowerment!

Web What? WebQuests!

Have you heard the buzz about WebQuests?  Do you find yourself asking, “What is a WebQuest?”  Well, you’ve come to the right spot.


WebQuests are well-developed units, housed on the “web”.  They are project-based learning in nature and usually require students to work collaboratively.  Although some WebQuests may require students to use print resources, many utilize digital resources.  Almost everything about WebQuests scream “21st century skills”!  There are also many wonderful ways to incorporate Common Core Standards into the lessons.  For more information on WebQuests, read Dr. Christie’s excellent explanation.

Looking for a pre-made WebQuest?

There are several sites.  Of course, one could always “google” a search term with the “webquest” tag.  However, I have found myself coming back to two sites consistently.  The first,, is the author site of WebQuests.  They claim to have over 20,000 WebQuests housed on their site.  Another site,, at present have a reportedly 164,638 WebQuests!  That’s a lot of WebQuests!

Wish to write your own WebQuest?

But, what if you just can’t find exactly what you are looking for?  That happened to me and I finally decided to just write my own WebQuest.  It is easier than it looks.  Using one of the two sites listed above, you are given a template and access to tools (rubric maker, quiz builder, etc.).

Click here to be directly linked to the WebQuest I created in an afternoon.


“Every archaeologist knows in his heart why he digs. He digs… that the dead may live again, that what is past may not be forever lost, that something may be salvaged from the wrack of ages, that the past may color the present and give heart to the future.”  Geoffrey Bibby

Many people do not know about the contributions the ancient Southwest tribes have made to our modern society.  We need your help to teach them about “the old ways”.  But first, you must learn about the ancient tribes and their contributions.

What are your favorite WebQuests?

Welcome Back Discovery Education!

deThe Tech Ready Team is excited to announce that the district has purchased access to Discovery Education.  If you have never used Discovery Education, it is a treasure trove of educational resources.  You can view media, create presentations, find lesson plans, and tons of other great activities.  Be on the lookout for an email from your tech coach with information on how to access your account.  There will be a tour of the website in one of your upcoming trainings.

To get started with some great ideas on how Discovery Education can impact your classroom check out the link below.

50 ways to integrate

iPad apps for K-2: Toontastic


Toontastic is a digital story telling app that students can use to re-tell stories and also to write their own stories.  I was able to see this app in action this week and am really excited about it now.  Susan and I had a group of first graders, who were struggling with their sight words, come to our office this week.  We read them a story and then asked them to re-tell the story.  They were having a difficult time with this at first.  We gave them a piece of paper and had them make a four square to assist them in re-telling the story.  They still were struggling with this but we continued to offer them support.  We then took out the iPads and their interest suddenly grew.  We helped them get started on the app and then 45 minutes later we realized it was almost time for them to go back to class.  The excitement on their faces as they watched the story they created was overwhelming.  I looked at a group of students who could easily re-tell this story and wished that their time wasn’t up and thought… this should be happening all over the district.

I want to be able to address other apps that you all are interested in!