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    The #BookYourself Reading Challenge for Teachers

    By Stephanie Affinito and Kris McGee
     | Sep 13, 2019
    BookYourself_w680Teachers have great power in shaping students’ reading identities and reading lives. As the lead learners in the classroom, we model reading habits, invite students into reading with powerful read-alouds, cultivate diverse classroom libraries, and protect sacred, student-led independent reading time in the classroom. But before we can create the kind of vibrant literacy community that readers thrive in, we must first live as readers ourselves. And not just readers, but readers who read wide and diverse children’s literature selections and understand the potential power reading and writing has to change our lives and our place in the world.

    This past summer, we created the #BookYourself Challenge to help teachers think about their reading lives and create the spaces they need to tend to it. Each day, we posted “Think Abouts” across multiple social media platforms to remind teachers to find the time to read daily, connect with other readers and broaden their reading community, and boost their book knowledge to include current and diverse children’s literature. 

    Teachers across the United States came together for 21 days to renew their commitment to their reading lives. The #BookYourself Challenge pushed participants to change their daily routines to include time for reading, explore new titles and genres, and showcase their efforts through screenshots and “shelfies” (a photo of a person with the book that person was reading).  Participants read books in print and online, listened to audiobooks, subscribed to podcasts, explored local bookstores, and connected with the adult and student readers in their lives. The impact was immediate and a strong community emerged, particularly on Facebook and Twitter. This is a community that continues to thrive. 

    The #BookYourself Challenge was so successful that we plan to offer an abbreviated challenge over the winter months to help keep us and our participants’ reading lives strong and to recharge our reading community. Over each day of winter break, we will post daily Think Abouts to help our participants find the time to read and broaden their reading selections using #BookYourself. 

    You can access the #BookYourself Think Abouts on your favorite social media platform (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) or you can choose to receive a daily email sent directly to your inbox instead. You can follow the hashtags, like and retweet the posts, and share the challenge with other educators you think might enjoy the daily reminders. You can even join our Facebook community to connect with other teachers and educators to share book recommendations and to contribute your own ideas for carving out time to read. You’ll find a supportive reading community of teachers and educators who read, waiting there for you!

    Stephanie Affinito is a literacy teacher educator in the Department of Literacy Teaching and Learning at the University at Albany in New York. Stephanie regularly teaches graduate courses on elementary classroom literacy instruction, literacy intervention, and children’s literature. She has researched literacy coaching as part of her doctoral studies and focuses much of her current work on how technology and digital tools can impact teacher learning and collaboration. You can find her on Twitter at @AffinitoLit.

    Kris McGee is an associate professor of Literacy at Frostburg State University in Maryland. She has been sharing her love of teaching and children’s literature for 29 years with children, preservice teachers, and inservice teachers.

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    App Smash With EDpuzzle to Enhance Your Flipping Videos

    By Mary Beth Scumaci​
     | Sep 06, 2019

    girl-on-computer-w680App smashing is the act of combining two or more technology applications for the design and creation of your project. In 2013, I wrote a blog post on the use of creating screen casts to assist with your flipping classroom goals. Now, I’d like to introduce you to a free, savvy app called EDpuzzle. EDpuzzle allows you to upload your content videos to the platform and then add quiz questions to the video, which will engage your viewers, enhance their learning experiences, and increase accountability for instructional video use to support your curriculum goals. Additional perks of the tool include the ability to crop the video to help you focus on the most important content, creating voice-overs, and adding notes. EDpuzzle also offers a library of videos that will spark collaborative sharing with educators throughout the world.

    How does EDpuzzle work? First, you set up a teacher account and upload your videos. You then add your quiz questions, voice-overs, and notes, crop videos, or both. When finished creating, assign them to students within EDpuzzle classrooms, have students enter an access code for viewing, send out guest links, or embed the instructional videos on your websites, blogs, classroom management systems, or wherever else you can embed code.

    Conveniently, when you set up the classroom, the data for the quiz questions are collected on the back end and compiled on a spreadsheet. At a glance, you can see which students watched the videos, how long they spent on the activity, and their answers to the questions you asked throughout the video, which is helpful for facilitating any necessary reteaching. The management options include the ability to not allow students to continue watching the video until they answer the question posed at the checkpoint, which is a useful accountability check and motivator for students to engage with the video content. The videos also come in handy when students need to revisit the content for mastery learning, when students miss a class, when working with families/tutors, or when reviewing for tests and exams.

    EDpuzzle offers a curriculum section that is categorized into three levels for elementary, middle school, and high school needs. You can also filter by topic when searching for videos of interest. With a click of a link, EDpuzzle makes it easy to connect with popular educational channels like Khan Academy, National Geographic, TED Talks, Veritasium, Numberphile, and Crash Course. Need more assistance? Subscribe to the EDpuzzle YouTube channel to learn more.

    I’ve used EDpuzzles in many ways. Most recently, my teacher candidates explored the application for their flipping instructional video projects and to create interactive read-alouds. They had a fun time with the projects and were impressed by how easy Screencast-o-Matic was to use for recording their videos and app smashing them with EDpuzzle. The ability to enter comprehension questions, voice-overs, and notes and to crop their videos in one application was icing on the cake. EDpuzzle is so user friendly, even your students can create them!

    Mary Beth Scumaci is the associate dean for technology education and associate professor of the Practice with the Department of Education at Medaille College in Buffalo, NY. She has a passion for working with teacher candidates to prepare them for the excitement of today’s tech savvy classrooms. Mary Beth instructs technology and literacy courses; is an online courses designer, and facilitates technology trainings for students, faculty, and staff. She can be reached at

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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    Motivating Resistant Readers With PBL in the Reading Workshop

    By Jenny Gieras
     | Aug 23, 2019

    Although I’m sure it exists, I’ve yet to encounter that mythical class of students, the one where every student enters my classroom an avid reader, embraces every genre we explore within the course of our school year, and cheers when prompted to write about their reading. Rather, the norm seems to be that some students would spend their days reading only nonfiction texts or graphic novels if they could, others fight any type of assignment that requires them to write about their reading, and some would be content spending the workshop period not reading at all, just flipping through the pages of a glossy magazine filled with photos of their favorite athletes.

    Although I am a strong supporter of student choice for independent reading, the fact remains that, as a teacher of elementary literacy, I have a curriculum to teach that purposefully exposes my third graders to a variety of text genres (character fiction, mystery, expository and narrative nonfiction, etc.), affording them opportunities to strengthen decoding, fluency, and comprehension skills they need to be lifelong readers and thinkers, as well as—let’s face it—standardized test takers.

    This can be a tough pill to swallow for a kid who just wants to read about sea animals or laugh his way through comic books all day, use her reading notebook to draw cartoons, or in some cases, not read anything at all. That’s where I’ve found a motivator is helpful, and I’ve had great success motivating even my most reluctant readers with interest-driven, technology-enhanced, project-based learning experiences based on students’ in-class reading.

    Literary projects appeal to everyone because of the innate differentiation embedded in them, offering entry points for all learners. They capture the attention and motivation of even the most reluctant readers, giving them purpose as they read, and they provide extension opportunities for those kids who are intent on reading the entire classroom library in a school year. In addition, comprehensive projects like these nudge students to think more deeply about text to ensure what they are sharing or presenting will make sense and appeal to real audiences; they also provide authentic formative assessment opportunities, enabling teachers to monitor student comprehension as they plan, create, modify, and present their projects.

    Following are some of my favorite ways to shake up reading workshop, modifiable across genres, grade levels, tech accessibility, and ability levels.

    Character interviews

    After reading self-selected fiction books in partnerships, students choose a character from the book to critically analyze, citing text evidence to back claims about his/her motivations, traits, and interests. Then, they draft questions they might hypothetically ask the character in an interview. Working together, the reading partnerships write a script between the character and an interviewer, create one or more background(s) that made sense for the book’s setting, and use an app with green screen (we use DoInk) to record a “live” interview “on location.” My students are always eager to share their interview videos with others on sharing apps like SeeSaw, and they put great effort into generating thoughtful questions and answers that would accurately depict the character to their peers. They speak in character and borrow quotes from their books. It’s especially fun comparing interpretations when more than one group chooses the same character to “interview.”

    Book trailers


    In their reading partnerships (I love this for our Mystery unit), students select a favorite text, then create book trailers. (We always first watch a few current movie trailers to get a sense of what a trailer is.) Some kids use the easy-to-use templates in iMovie, others get crafty and create stop motion animations (my favorite tool is Stop Motion Studio Pro) with clay, paper, or drawings, and others write scripts, paint backdrops, and film themselves as characters from their books to entice others to read them. We roll out the red carpet and serve popcorn as a final celebration on our Book Trailer Premiere Day. Students also have the option to create book trailer posters to display in the classroom or school library, which can include a QR code that directs interested readers to the recorded book trailer.

    Comic books based on chapter books

    Graphic novels have been enjoying their moment in the sun. Comic book images not only appeal to our more visual learners, but also lend graphic support to often complicated storylines. Having the opportunity to create comic book versions of chapter books (usually just a portion, but for some more ambitious students, an entire, abbreviated, book) or short stories encourages many students to keep going during periods of marathon reading, such as during our mid-winter Test Prep unit. Some students love drawing their own comics to create homemade graphic novels; others digitize their work with basic drawing tools like Sketchbook which they import into slideshows using Apple Keynote or Google Slides, or by using cartoon creation tools in an app like Pixton. Once the comic books are “published,” we add them to our classroom library, alongside their companion books, for others to enjoy.



    Kids love creating their own news segments and teaming up with peers to create a broadcast. Typically during a nonfiction unit of study, students choose a topic and read several related books, collecting information as they hone their research skills. Creating short news clips provides a great opportunity for learners to demonstrate their understanding and share their learning with a broader audience. One or two students play anchor and introduce the segments, and the whole package can be streamed to the school’s broadcast system (if one exists), or recorded and shared on a learning management system (like Google Classroom), viewed by other classes in an assembly, or sent home to parents in a linked email. To prepare kids to make nonfiction book segments, we watch videos on National Geographic Kids, or perennial favorite The Kid Should See This. We add some snazzy sound bites to liven up the broadcast with snips from ZapSplat or StoryBlocks Audio. For fiction books, the news segments can be reports on what’s actually happening within books (“We interrupt this newscast to tell you that author Wallace Wallis had been reported missing!”), or, with a little imagination, an extension of a storyline. Kids love talking about their characters like they are real people!

    As literacy educators, we know that best practices include matching texts to readers, exposing students to a variety of genres, and differentiating assignments. We also know that, while literary writing is an essential academic skill our students need to develop, the fact is that there are multiple ways to demonstrate comprehension of text. Not every student will need a motivator to read, consider and comprehend, and respond to text across the school year. For those who may need a little motivation, literacy projects just might be what it takes.

    Jenny Gieras teaches third grade at Roaring Brook Elementary School in Chappaqua, NY. She is passionate about student-centered, technology-enhanced, inquiry-driven learning. You can find her on Twitter @JennyGieras.

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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    Where Will I Store This? Using a Digital Repository to Curate and Share Collections

    By Nicole Timbrell
     | Aug 16, 2019
    timbrell-wakelet-2 copy

    One of the great benefits of being future-focused educators is the ability to connect with fellow professionals and education networks on a wide range of digital platforms. In such places we acquire ideas and resources for our students, teaching, and professional learning. Yet, the sheer volume of potentially useful material we encounter as we scroll through these platforms is also one of its greatest challenges. On an average day, a connected literacy educator may encounter streams of potentially useful educational content such as TED talks, news articles, or videos which they may wish to save and use later. Consequently, it is worth sharing ideas for approaches to capturing and organizing such content, especially during the summer vacation when many educators are engaged in self-directed professional learning and preparing resources for the school year to come.

    Although most digital platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, and TED have options for saving posts and resources, such an approach results in a series of disparate collections on multiple platforms, often leaving users wondering, Now, where did I save that? Managing and sharing digital resources is an expected skill of our contemporary world. Therefore, as educators and school leaders, we are called to model for our students and colleagues efficient and collaborative ways to do so. While there are many methods educators could use for this purpose, none seem as user-friendly and visually appealing as the digital curation tool provided by Wakelet.

    Wakelet helps users to quickly store, organize, and share digital content that is relevant to them. Once a free account is set up, the user can curate collections to group together similarly themed digital resources, or find collections curated by other users. Collections can include a mix of weblinks, text, photos, videos, images and files, all of which are able to be titled, annotated and reordered. By downloading the app and adding the web browser extensions, saving digital content to a collection is a matter of a few quick clicks. Wakelet collections can be kept private or made public, are easily shared via a single URL. Additionally, the ability for users to collaborate on collections together amplifies the possibilities for use with students in the classroom.

    Students could use Wakelet to track source material for an independent research task, or as a digital writing portfolio to showcase their best compositions with a college admissions office. Teachers could use the tool for group work requiring the curation of a themed collection (ie: concept, genre, writer), or to have a class co-construct a collection of book reviews and book trailers to inspire each other’s independent reading. School leaders might compile a resource list of educational research articles centered around the school’s professional development goals, or share a collection of resources to promote digital citizenship in the home with their parent community. Visit the Wakelet blog to read more about the ways educators are using this digital curation tool in the classroom.

    Finally, given that it is currently summer break, let’s take a moment to consider the opportunity that digital curation provides to organize our lives for the better. Now you finally have a central place to save and share recipes, travel destinations, and reviews of all those films you’ve been meaning to see. Go forth and (digitally) curate!

    Nicole Timbrell is the assistant head of secondary school at Australian International School in Singapore, where she also teaches English. Formerly, Nicole was a graduate student and a research assistant at the New Literacies Research Lab at the University of Connecticut. She has no affiliation with the Wakelet team. You can find her on Twitter at @nicloutim.

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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    From Craft to Curriculum Design: Experimenting With Maker Education

    By Amélie Lemieux
     | Aug 02, 2019

    Ask any teacher and they’ll likely agree that one of the most significant challenges in their work is implementing innovative material using new technologies or modalities they have not yet learned or mastered. In a recent study I conducted at Mount Saint Vincent University in Atlantic Canada, I asked seasoned in-service teachers to document their thought processes as they engaged in maker activities that were new to them. I was interested in finding out what happens when teachers engage in makerspace literacy activities.

    Most teacher participants in this maker study agreed that the professional development they receive, usually once or twice a year, is insufficient to support them in maker curriculum implementation and development throughout the school months. Ideally, professional development should be ongoing, and schools should support maker activities with appropriate infrastructure. With more studies documenting how materials present both challenges and opportunities for affective, cognitive, and sensory learning, it makes sense to find ways to support teachers in maker-driven initiatives.

    Following are three examples teachers can apply in their classroom settings. You might explore some of these activities and related technologies at home this summer as you gear up for the new school year.

    Maker experiments, design, and genius hour

    lemieux-1If you are inclined to take up material making and work with pencil design and planning, there are benefits to embracing drawing and building as multi-step maker activities. In the picture above, a participant designs a wood stick box and documents the materials she plans on using in her unit on Genius Hour with fifth graders. In this activity, planning and drafting structures become integral parts of making.

    After this exercise, students chose and tested the materials with which to create this box, as the experiment was meant to test whether an uncooked egg would crack depending on the height at which it was dropped. While this type of maker activity does not require technology, it does mobilize maker skills such as design, creativity, and problem-solving.

    Video making and editing

    pic-2 - CopyOther kinds of maker activities require beginner technology use. There are many accessible video recording and editing software products that teachers find useful without specialized training. StopMotion, pictured below, entails iPad play and is ideal for enabling both teachers and students to creatively animate ideas. iMovie is another editing software that requires little prior knowledge for effective use. In the screen caption below, two teachers are making edits to their video—their project was centered around creating tutorials with primary-grade children (how to make apple sauce).


    pic-4 - CopyCoding is also a popular maker space activity. A program called Scratch is one of the most popular coding tools, but software updates in January 2019 introduce a series of changes that require attentive adaptation. Watching tutorials and taking notes can provide some support for learning Scratch, and for those using Chromebooks in your classrooms, you will be pleased to know that Scratch 3.0 is now supported on this platform. Other Chromebook-supported software, such as Blockly or micro:bit (pictured below), might prove to be convenient alternatives to Scratch. Your choice of programming language will ultimately depend on resources, skill level, and adaptability of the software.

    Remember, maker education is all about trying out new things in a fun and accessible environment. Though you may be moderating the activity as the teacher or leader, do not be afraid to learn with your students—embrace the unknown and discover the joys of learning with technology.

    Teacher resources

    • Create 2Learn compiles resources for teachers who want to take up maker education for the first time and are unsure how to start.
    • LEGO Education's engaging, standards-based lessons help inspire curious and creative minds. 
    • Scratch for Educator offers guides to help you prepare and run Scratch classes and workshop as well as plans, activities, and strategies for introducing creative computing in the classroom.

    Amélie Lemieux is assistant professor of literacy and technology at Mount Saint Vincent University,  where she researches digital literacies and makerspace engagement through mapping methodologies.  She can be reached on Twitter at @ame_lemieux. For recent scholarship on maker education, please visit

    This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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