Tag Archives: reading


I think that my brain naturally looks for trends.  Whether it’s on social media, in Flipboard magazine articles, or at education conferences, if I’ve heard about something more than a few times, my brain starts alerting me that I should try something new, already!

Newsela is one of those tools that kept turning up in educational discussions, and I finally decided to take the time to learn more about it.

One of the skills that needs some extra work at our school is summarizing non-fiction texts.  Finding relevant non-fiction at an appropriate reading level for students can be difficult.  This is where Newsela can be a huge help.

As a teacher, you can get a free account on Newsela, and set up an account with classes to which you can assign news articles for them to read.  If you are an elementary teacher, you can choose the option for the elementary version of Newsela which filters out articles that might contain “mature content.”

Once you have a class, you can have your students sign up for Newsela using your class code.  If your students have Google accounts, they can sign in using their Google credentials. (There is also a Chrome app for Newsela that you can add so students can access it more quickly.)

A teacher can find an article on Newsela, and then assign it to the class.  You can search for it by grade level and/or reading standard, or just type in a topic and see what you get.  Newsela also offers articles in Spanish.

After you select an article, you will see an option to assign it to a class at the top of the page.  When the students of that class sign in, they will find that article has been assigned, and be able to access it.

Newsela allows students to read the articles at comfortable lexile levels.  It also offers a writing activity for each article, as well as a quiz.

Another great feature of Newsela is its Text Sets.  These are collections of several articles that support many well-known pieces of literature.  For example, I found text sets for two books I read with my classes, Tuck Everlasting and The Giver.  You can also create your own text sets by using a button at the top of each article.

Newsela Text Sets

The free version of Newsela is limited, as you can’t track your students’ progress on the quizzes, whether they’ve viewed the articles, or annotations they’ve made.  Newsela Pro offers all of these options.  You can view the comparisons of the free and pro versions here. It does not list the price of the Pro version, as you must request a quote from them.  You can get a free trial for 30 days to try it out for yourself.

Newsela Pro


Foster a Love for Reading with ConnectED Bingo

Dr. Brad Gustafson is one of the Engaging Educators that I have had the good fortune to connect with through Twitter and blogging.  This man is a social networking powerhouse who regularly dreams up unique ways to empower students and prepare them as global citizens comfortable with using 21st century tools to create and problem-solve.

image from Adjusting Course Blog by Dr. Brad Gustafson
image from Adjusting Course Blog by Dr. Brad Gustafson

His latest project was posted on his blog yesterday – just in time for February, which is “I Love to Read Month.”  Always the master networker, Brad asked a few of the members of his PLN to contribute activities to this “ConnectED Bingo” card, and the suggestions range anywhere from reaching out to authors on Twitter (suggested by @pernilleripp) to writing a poem based on the Daily Wonder at Wonderopolis (suggested by @JoEllenMcCarthy). If you look carefully, you might see a couple of other familiar names on the card;)

Head on over to Brad’s blog to download your own copy of ConnectED Bingo.  While you’re there, you might also want to check out his World Book Talk project, which ambitiously invites contributors to make 60 minute videos that Brad uploads to Aurasma so anyone can view the videos when they point the app at the book cover.


I was so thrilled to see this post by Richard Byrne (who is one of my favorite Engaging Educators!) about CommonLit.

This is going to be an awesome resource for me to use with my 4th and 5th grade GT students.  I will let Richard tell you the details, but suffice it to say that it is a great way to encourage deep discussion in your class, and offers downloadable texts that you can use to tantalize your students with philosophical questions.

image from CommonLit.org
image from CommonLit.org

I plan to use this with Socratic Smackdown (which I also found out about from Richard).  Socratic Smackdown has been a great success in my classroom and CommonLit will augment it even more.

You might also want to consider using some of the CommonLit themes to enrich your students’ writing if they are participating in this year’s Philosophy Slam (deadline is 3/6/15). The “Social Change and Revolution” theme on CommonLit could definitely help students determine if violence or compassion has a greater impact on society.



A few weeks ago, my daughter received a package in the mail.  It was a book, one that she has been really wanting to read.  What confused me was that it was from a “friend of a friend” and it wasn’t a gift for a special occasion.  No note of explanation.  Just the book.

I told her to contact the friend to find out why the friend of the friend was sending her a book and if this meant my daughter needed to send a book to someone.  We’ve participated in such book exchanges before and usually the book is accompanied by a letter explaining who should receive the next book.  My daughter was completely perplexed that I was demanding a book-giving motive.  To her, a child surrounded by books since she was born, receiving random books is not a problem that needs to be solved.

“Did you text your friend?” I asked the next day.



“I don’t need to do anything.”

“So, you’re telling me that this person just decided to send you a book for absolutely no reason?  That makes no sense!”

I made her write a thank you card.

Two weeks later she got another book – from a different friend of the same friend.  Duplicate M.O.

This.  Would. Not. Do.  People don’t just randomly send other people books, I thought.  There’s something weird going on.

And then I saw this Kid President video and felt pretty guilty. (But the “slides” made me laugh.)

So, there really are people out there who just send books with no strings attached.  And it’s a good idea!

What book has inspired you?  What book do more people need to read?  #bookitforward!

(By the way, if you like this idea of people sharing inspiring books, be sure to check out the Call Me Ishmael project!  Also, there are many more inspiring videos for students to be found on my Pinterest Board.)


Books for Gifted Kids

I’m not really sure about the title for this post – because I certainly do not think these recommendations apply solely to children who have been identified as Gifted.  However, as a teacher of gifted kids, I know that parents often ask me for ideas on reading material.  After reading Wonder, and commenting about it on yesterday’s post, I thought I would share a few other resources for quality books to which you can direct parents.

NPR just posted a list on August 5th called, “The Ultimate Backseat Bookshelf:  100 Must-Reads for Kids 9-14.” The list was created with input from the NPR audience, and includes most of the classics I read as a child.  There are a few new ones, including Wonder, on the list.

For the younger set, the great host of “Not Just Child’s Play” has a couple of posts with lists of book recommendations that you might want to view – “Stories About Real People” and “Books That Celebrate Differences.

Although it is certainly not comprehensive, I have a Pinterest Board of recommendations here.

One book that I would like to mention, in particular, is Heroes for My Daughter by Brad Meltzer.  I bought this book for my own daughter as a gift for her 5th grade graduation.  I took pictures of all of her elementary school teachers and made a collage that looked similar to the inside cover of the book.  Each teacher signed it.  I read a story from this book each night to my daughter before we move on to whatever current chapter book we are reading.  The biographies are short, and usually include a quote that we discuss.  The included heroes are a diverse group – from the Three Stooges to Julia Child, and we both are learning about history as well as admirable attributes that led to positive change in the world.  Meltzer has a similar book, Heroes for My Son, available, as well.

Google “books for gifted” and you will get a plethora of results.  I’ve tried to scale it down for you a bit here as it can be a bit overwhelming!  Hopefully, these links give you some good starting points.

from: http://www.amazon.com/Heroes-My-Son-Brad-Meltzer/dp/B007K4EZNW/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_y
from: http://www.amazon.com/


Storybird (Reblog)

For the summer, I have decided to use my Tuesday and Thursday posts to reblog some of my favorite posts that some of my readers may have missed the first time around:

As a teacher, do you ever have a moment when no one needs your help, and you are standing in the middle of your classroom wondering what you should be doing?  In my twenty years of teaching, I think that’s happened twice:  when I was student teaching and had no idea what I was supposed to be doing anyway, and today.  I showed my students Storybird, which allows you to choose sets of art to illustrate a story that you write.  I meant for it to be a station on some computers in my classroom, but the students who started at that station didn’t want to leave.  So, I started pulling out laptops until everyone was working on their own stories.  For over an hour, there was silence in my room, and every child was engaged in creating his or her own story.  We had been studying Figurative Language, and the assignment was to create a story with a winter theme that used at least 4 different types of figurative language.

After lunch, I thought the students might be weary of sitting in front of computer screens.  I began saying, “Okay, you have a choice.  You can either continue working on your Storybirds or – ” I didn’t even get to finish.  They unanimously agreed that they wanted to continue.

Storybird is free.  Register as a teacher, and you can add a class of students easily.  The students do not need e-mail addresses to register or log in.  You can view their work at any time, and they can also view the work of other students in the class by clicking on a tab at the top.  They can comment, as can the teacher.  It’s online, and easy to share, so they can show friends and family.  The teacher can post specific assignments or the students can just create.  Collaboration on stories is possible, and reading the stories of others is inspiring.  The art work is charming and lovely.

Here is a sample from one of my 4th graders: (I apologize if some of the words are cut off – WordPress does not “play well” with embed codes!)

Speed Booking

Ever heard of Speed Dating?  The concept is to meet with a person for a few minutes, chat, and then move on to another person.  The short discussion with the potential date allows each participant to determine if he or she thinks it is worth pursuing the relationship any further.

The other day, I saw a variation on this idea that, believe it or not, is perfect for education.  It is called Speed Booking, and the students are given the opportunity to learn a little about a group of books so they can decide which ones pique their interest.  If this post piques your interest, check out the details at iLearn Technology!