All posts by Katie

Day 5: Strategies for Working Together

This is the fifth post in a series about launching the use of the app Book Creator in a kindergarten classroom.  You can read the first three posts by clicking on the links below.

Today’s blog post is written by guest blogger Laura Meehan.  Laura is an Instructional Digital Age Learning Coach with a specialty in math and science. You can follow her on Twitter @LauraMeehan04


IMG_5198.JPGNext up in the “Katie & Laura are overwhelmed by kindergarteners” series…Strategies for Working Together!

We’ve been noticing over the past four days that our kindergarten friends are so excited to work on their devices that they are forgetting the basic rules of working with a friend kindly. Sometimes it’s just instinct for a five or six-year-old to grab an iPad from their partner and hurt a heart along the way so we felt like today was the day to bring back some reminders about collaborating on our devices.

We started with an anchor chart with three strategies for working together:
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We shared each strategy and then provided some dramatic interpretation of the strategy, performed by me and Katie. While the kids were quick to point out that we weren’t actually making a book on our screen during our performance, they were also quick to pick out that we were being kind, making compromises, and sharing. Before leaving the rug, each set of partners chose a strategy for working together and then head out to their iPads to get started.

The students found so much value in their work today. Their partnerships created a system of checks and balances that provided some needed accountability in this process. They identified the features of their science books that were missing because they were focused on what they would do when it was their turn. Also, Katie stopped them for a mid workshop teaching point to share her own science book about chicks. This check-in prompted the students to push their own thinking by adding audio buttons when they couldn’t express themselves effectively enough through writing, and to vary the size and quantity of photos for different purposes. To wrap up, we had kids complete a short Google Form to reflect on their work and choose the working together strategy that was their favorite using the stick figures from our anchor chart. So far, they like “talk & type” the most.

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My super favorite part was when some little guys who struggled earlier this week with partner work found comfort in the structures provided. The “stop, think, agree” strategy gave them the right to say, “We are arguing too much and we should stop touching our iPad and talk it out.” The “talk & type” strategy gave them permission to speak up to help with spelling and creativity. The “I do, you do” strategy gave them each a chance to have their voice heard 100% without the partner squashing their thoughts.

We’re going home this weekend feeling like a million dollars. P.S. Kindergarten teachers deserve a triple salary, a personal massage therapist, and bottomless Starbucks.IMG_5184.JPG

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Days 3 & 4: Interview A Friend


This is the fourth post in a series about launching the use of the app Book Creator in a kindergarten classroom.  You can read the first three posts by clicking on the links below.

During planning we thought that a great way to get the kids going would be to have them interview each other.  We wanted them to have an opportunity to talk about and connect with learning that they were already doing and to share some questions they had.  This was also a way to get them into book creator before their was much action with the chicks.

Day 3

I did a simple illustrated chart to try and support their efforts.  We discussed a few guidelines for contents and agreed that each student should say three things they knew about chicks and one to two things they wondered.  Our send off directions were “Think, Practice, Record,” and we chanted it a few times together before partners went off to their working spaces.  We also discussed what it meant to be professional so that they could elevate the quality of their work.

The recording was a bit bumpy at first as it was the first time they had recorded another student.  They found themselves rerecording a lot because their initial attempt was too quiet or focused on someone’s feet.

This is my terrible chart.  Luckily Kindergartners are very forgiving.

The most exciting part of Day 3 was that one of the eggs started to crack!  The students gathered close looking at the crack and trying to take a picture for their book.

The first egg begins to hatch
Students work as a team to edit a page in their book.

Day 4

Several students still needed to record by day 4 and we also wanted them to go back and look at their work to see if they had done what we had decided on.  Laura typed up this little editing checklist for teams to use as they went back and reviewed their videos.  Many students found that they had said three things they knew but forgot to share a wonder.  To avoid frustration we suggested they just make a second video on their page with their questions.  This was also a helpful strategy for students who were struggling to get the whole thing done in one sitting.

A checklist for video revision.

By the end of day 4 most students had completed their videos, revised their covers, and were excited to see that some of the chicks had hatched!  Just in time for us to get some content for our book.

The first hatched chicks!  Complete with decorations for the box.

We identified two areas to go next; partner work and content.  Partner skills were getting rusty at this point and we found ourselves mediating a lot of disagreements.  On the other hand we also felt like it was important that they begin to use their knowledge of nonfiction features to get some meaty content in their books.  We discussed it with the teachers and they agreed that the social stuff needed to come first.  So we were left wondering…what strategies could kindergartners use to help them work together?

Come back tomorrow for a guest post by Laura Meehan, iDal Coach and my daily work buddy.  She will be blogging about Day 5: Strategies for Working Together.

Day 2: Create a Cover

This is the second post in a series about launching the use of the app Book Creator in a kindergarten classroom.  You an read the first two posts by clicking on the links below.

We had a lot that we wanted to teach kids today and perhaps we tried to take on too much-but each of the micro lessons we taught seemed so essential!  We ended up breaking it down into three charts.

First….review the most important icons from book creator.  This was a chart we created ahead of time and used simply to review things that kids had discovered the day before.  I ran through it quickly asking kids to give a thumbs up for each item they had used the day before and look around so they could see who might be a specialist in the room. We guided students to refer back to it as needed during the creation time and it was very helpful for a few kids who had not been there for yesterday’s lesson.


Next and probably MOST IMPORTANT…Establish explicit guidelines for HOW to work on a book with a partner.  This was a really vital collaboration and social emotional lesson that needed to be done up front so that their time together could be kind, helpful, and productive.

Laura and I went back and forth about this chart during the morning.  She ended up “winning” and we used photos of kids in action instead of doing the drawings ourselves.  A few willing students from an older grade helped out.  We co-created this chart with the class as they noticed what they saw the students doing in the photos and talked through what this might look like.

Reflection: Most of our friends did really, really well with this today.  A testament to the great instruction they’ve been getting all year, the value of explicit guidelines in how to collaborate, and the importance of thoughtful pairing.  A few friends struggled and I wondered about other strategies we might use in this scenerio to help.


The task…Create a book cover for your informational book about chicks.  We took a quick look at some mentor covers before heading off to do work.  Students identified that we needed to include a picture, the title, and their names.  I hung a small page I had made as a digital reminder on the bottom of the chart.  We had intended for students to be given a copy of this at their tables and then it didn’t happen, I wished that it had.  It would have been helpful to have a visual reminder of their three tasks as some groups went down the rabbit hole of drawing and started to run out of time.  You can visit this link to view the document I created.

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Like I mentioned.  It was a lot to take in, but they rose to the challenge and most groups were able to create their covers, play with some features of the app, and demonstrate thoughtful partner skills as they worked.  I am continually impressed and amazed with the thoughtful energy that Kinder kids give to their work.  #powertothelittlepeople

Day 1: Let’s Play

This is the second post in a series about launching the use of the app Book Creator in a kindergarten classroom.  You can read the first post about our planning here.

So there I was…standing in front of a group of small people, armpits sweating, my eye twitching.  Well, not really.  Because today I knew they would be great, today we were going to PLAY!  Plus, Laura my co-coach would be there to have my back.  (A luxury we usually can’t afford, but when working with Kindergarten special arrangements have to be made.)

Before the lesson we talked through what supports students would need to play.  As strange as that sounds sometimes kids need permission to just dig in and try things out.  So we created this chart to help us focus our lesson.

Chart creation is credited to Laura and her very neat handwriting.

For this lesson we brought all of the ipads to one room so students would have a 1:1 ratio for play.  We felt like this was important so that each child could develop a sense of independence with the tool.  (For all lessons to follow kids will be sharing iPads.)

After a very short lesson and some turn and talks we let kids get started and just play. Here’s what we noticed;

  • About half of students in each class were able to get started right away.  The other half were hesitant at first but after some encouragement that they could do whatever they wanted they were able to get going.
  • Many students went right for the draw function or taking photos and stayed with that one part of the app instead of exploring all of the different things they could do.  We addressed this through a mid-workshop teaching point and asking students to share things at their tables.  (mostly effective)
  • Several students showed transfer of learning from Writers Workshop, including drawings, text, and photos on one page.
  • One students asked permission to take another student’s photo and Laura stopped the class to have a great teachable moment about photography and respect.
  • At the end of class we revealed our big project and let the kids know they would be authors and they were ecstatic!

This last part is where the real value is in my mind!  Real purpose, real audience, excited kiddos.  I can’t wait to see how this project unfolds.


Launching Book Creator with Kindergarten: A Blog Series

In this first post of the series I break down the why, the how, and the what if of using Book Creator in a kindergarten classroom.

The thought of teaching kindergarten makes me sweaty.  Give me 32 fifth graders…no problem.  But a group of small people all needing their shoes ties or arguing over whose turn it is makes my eye twitch.  I used to let Kristin handle all things primary however, in my new role as a coach I work K-5 and it’s been a goal of mine to spend more time with our littlest learners.  Cut to an afternoon planning meeting where everyone is sitting in little chairs.

Present: myself, my co-coach for the school, two amazing kindergarten teachers, and a heap of inspiration.

Our question: What’s the best way for kids to use technology to amplify their experience with hatching live chicks?

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There is something so wonderfully Kindergarten about having live chicks in the classroom.  So when we sat down to plan we talked through what the goals of this learning experience were, what we hoped students would get out of it, and what this might look like in a kindergarten classroom.  Overall we agreed that we didn’t want to lose any of the homegrown pieces that the students had done before like making signs and designing by hand.  So we decided that creating a book about the experience where they could document both digital and hand done work would be perfect.  This would also enable them to take video, record voices, and learn to work in collaborative partnerships due to their one to two ratio with devices.  It also served as a way for kids to apply their learning from writing workshop all year and as a powerful sharing piece.

As we talked a loose plan began to form.

  • First, we would do a launching lesson where students would simply play with the app and discover what it could do.  We chose this based on work we had done with first grade and our knowledge about the power of play as a learning tool in the primary grades.
  • Next, students would learn how to create a book with a partner and practice by making a cover for their book.
  • Then students would interview each other in order to learn about the video function of book creator and to add some additional content about the book.
  • After that we would explore how they could learn to be journalists and what types of artifacts they might collect to put in their book.  In conjunction with that lesson we would begin to look at mentor texts and mentor tech so they could have a vision for what their book could look like.
  • Ultimately we would build it page by page, bit by bit, as the eggs arrived and hatched.  And somehow at the end of it all we would find a way to share what the students had learned and connect them with an audience for their work.

We also brainstormed a list of possible anchor charts we might want to create.

  • Common icons of book creator
  • How to write a book together
  • How to do an interview
  • Important content words for the life cycle of a chick
  • elements of a great digital book

We figured these would just be a start and that we would pay careful attention to what strategies would be support students as they moved along through the process.  Next step,  get in there and let those kids take charge!

Practical Amplification Series: The Lesson

This is the fourth post in a short series about using SeeSaw as a tool to amplify classroom practice in order to help students meet instructional goals.  If you haven’t read the first three posts I recommend starting with the first one and working your way through!


Today was the day!  We did it!  Digital reading, jotting our thinking, and trying to write long.  Instead of writing about the play by play I’ll organize my thoughts into things that worked well, things that I didn’t anticipate/need to address, and next steps.

Things that worked well

The Digital Anchor Chart: While I could have done this on paper, the kids seemed really interested in the digital chart and I saw several refer back to it during the lesson.  This is really more about the good instruction on how to use charts they’ve had from their teacher than it being digital.  However it seemed to work nicely and it gave me some food for thought as to how we might offer a way for kids to get back to digital charts and the uses of digital charts vs. paper charts.  But that sounds like an entire other series!

The Flow: Students responded well to the gradual release model, they were able to follow directions, and I didn’t have any of those teaching moments were I start tugging at my hair thinking “Why is this happening to me?!?”  I will say that I had to pull myself back and remember that I was working with second grade and not fifth grade, this is my struggle always!

fullsizerender-6Things I think worked well

The six box page:  This seemed like an easy to use tool for students, however I will need to get some feedback from the classroom teacher on how their use of this page compares to other ways that they jot their thinking. Most of them used the sentence stems to get themselves going and that was a goal of ours.  I’m not certain that I see evidence that they chose ONE to write a lot about.  However, I didn’t give them a clear strategy like marking or highlighting those items so that could have been improved.  Next time!

The other piece to that is that I’m not certain the text asked them to do the task I had in my head.  See below.

Things I didn’t anticipate/need to address

Kids don’t know diddly about the Inuit: Yeah, I should have seen that coming, rookie mistake.  I guess I chose the article in part because of that-I knew it would be high interest! However, the text inspired them to ask a lot of questions and so they had challenges writing long off any one idea because they had so many new ideas buzzing around.  And they did include many of these ideas.  So while they didn’t all do exactly what I was modeling they did accomplish writing a longer response and there was visible pride in the room at the sheer volume they were producing.  So maybe we work on volume and then massage the quality?

This also presents a great opportunity to build a quick text set for the kids to look at during independent reading and address some of their questions.  Which I did by tossing a few resources on a Padlet and checking out a few books from the school library.


The typing…Oy Vey!: I’ve been able to witness in action how long it takes for kids to type their thinking out.  I’m super conflicted about it.  Of course they need to practice to get better and writing about reading is an important skill-one that it’s a huge plus to have the authentic digital audience to.  On the other hand we have to miserly about giving up any minutes spent reading.  A few things we discussed to address this;

  • Balance; sometimes kids type, handwrite, audio record, or video record.  They can also play with the speech to text function.  Although anyone who has ever read a text message by me knows the pitfalls of that.
  • Sending it home; we discussed how we might ask kids to do some of this work at home, with some education for parents as to how to coach and not correct.  This way we might redefine some homework tasks and give kids the opportunity to practice typing.
  • Practice App? Typing instruction, like handwriting, is a debated topic.  I’m not a fan of practice for practice sake.  However I’m going to tell you that I am a fast typer.  I mean fast, and accurate.  Granted I practice a lot, but I learned from the old Mavis Beacon typing tutor game.  So maybe I have an old fashioned bias for some rote practice in this area.  Granted just because it worked for me doesn’t mean it’s the right thing.  But I do think we need some more research in this area.  If anyone has any app they love I’m open to suggestions.  Must be AMAZING!

Next Steps

Revisit our goals, examine student work, plan based on needs: Sara and I were able to talk through some of what we noticed in the comments that students left and make some plans moving forward including; working on the thinking behind the writing to help kids know when they have more to say.  i.e. How do I know which thought it I could say more about?  And how do I do that? How do I say more about each type of jot I might make? Since Sara is starting a new read aloud next week we’re going to use that shared text to do some of that work with students.

For tomorrow we’ve decided to give kids time to explore more about this topic of Inuits and give them some space to answer their questions!



Practical Amplification Series: Planning for Instruction Part 2

This is the third post in a short series about using SeeSaw as a tool to amplify classroom practice in order to help students meet instructional goals.  You can read the first post here, and the second post here.


I couldn’t stop thinking about my terrible bookmark tool all weekend.  I could spend several paragraphs critiquing it, but I won’t belabor the point.  That clunky bookmark is out and I’m keeping it simple.

One digital anchor chart to help students with the procedure and remind them of a key teaching point.  (This is where I had to go back and really ask myself “What is it that we want students to practice and apply in this lesson?  We want them to write about their thinking!)  Normally I build charts with students, however in some cases I prepare something ahead of time.  The digital format makes it easy to adjust to add student thoughts and ideas.

You can view the full size document of this chart by clicking on the image.

One sheet to hold thinking.  This is my six box sheet.  A very simple layout.  I added four more boxes on the back and the sentence stems from my original book mark. (shudder!)  I figured that was the most important scaffold and one that we have seen some students use with success.  I don’t know if this will help all kids or hold them back, but time will tell.

The front of the six box sheet.  This replaces sticky notes and is a little neater.  You can see the full document with the back by clicking on the image.


One digital tool-SeeSaw.  Students will access articles via SeeSaw and gather ideas into a comment underneath the article that they chose to read.  I like to offer several options for text so that students have some ownership and choice in the work they are going to do.

So I’m feeling a lot more prepared now that I’ve dumped my confusing tool!  Tools should help, not hinder kids.  Simple is often best!

So my instructional plan for tomorrow is going to be to use a gradual release model with some guided practice before releasing kids to do this work independently.  My goals are to;

  • Teach kids a simple, yet effective, procedure for reading and responding to digital texts.  This is to give kids more authentic work to do during workshop time, gather formative assessment data, and help them build stamina while the teacher works with small groups.

*Just as a note this isn’t the only tool we will put in their toolbox.  It’s the first of many.  But this tool and strategy meets our immediate goals based on what we are seeing kids can  do and where they need to go.

  • Continue to reinforce a series of lessons designed to boost students’ ability to capture their thinking about text and expand that thinking in a variety of mediums.


Please visit on Friday to see the outcome of this lesson, look at some student work with me, and think about where we can take these kiddos next!


Practical Amplification Series Post 2: Planning for Instruction and Customized Tools

This is the second post in a short series about using SeeSaw as a tool to amplify classroom practice in order to help students meet instructional goals.  You can read the first post here.


Over the years we’ve learned that there are times for play and exploration and there are times when students need careful guidance.  The “right” way is usually a blend depending on your students, your tools, and what you’re trying to get accomplished.  But one thing is for sure, you’ve got to put your student hat on when trying out new things.

Those of you that have been using technology for awhile will probably find this process similar to one that you use before launching something with students.  Essentially, I dig in and play around looking for the most efficient, simplest route to get the job done.  Since this class already has SeeSaw up and running it was a natural choice for them.

Challenge #1: Get a digital article to the whole class.

I first played around with ways to share the digital articles.  The easiest route seems to be to post a shareable link to an article that I’ve put in a Google Drive folder.    For an online article this would work the same way.  I was able to do this very easily in See Saw.  I could also post a QR code, or Airdrop it to the kids.  However, since we will be using the comment function on my posted article- posting the link is the best way.  Challenge solved.

Challenge #2: Find a way for kids to capture their thinking while they work.

I explored a variety of options.  My best was to export the article to Notability, but it wouldn’t work for some reason and it seemed like a lot of steps.  I asked myself at this point;

How will kids annotating the article digitally be better than using paper and pencil?

I didn’t really have a good answer.  So I decided to just have students use a six box sticky sheet (a piece of paper with six sticky note sized boxes on it) to gather their thinking.  Truth be told. I think this will actually work better for students as they work to balance their thinking and writing.  Challenge sort of solved.

Challenge #3: Encourage students to develop their writing about reading skills by commenting on the digital article.

This challenge connects back to our overall goals of wanting to get kids writing more and writing longer, but in a meaningful way.  This is also where I’m going to need to come up with a strategy or custom tool to help.  The idea of custom tools and micro-progressions for learning has been on my mind a lot lately after reading Kate and Maggie’s DIY Literacy book.  So what do I know about these kiddos?

I know that students can write about their thinking when given support, encouragement, and accountability.

I know that the support they respond to best is visual and personalized.

Support: Their teacher has been using custom book marks with goals as a tool to help students remember what they are working on as readers.  I decided to stay within this framework and offer something similar in addition to an anchor chart.

This is my first attempt at a tool to use with students during our lessons next week. I’d like to say I had a fancy process for determining what to include but in reality I skulked around their classroom taking photos of anchor charts so that I could build on lessons they had already had this year.   I should say that I’ll be hoping for some additions from the kids and I’d like to update/replace these tools with their ideas and words going forward.  I also haven’t run this past their teacher yet so she will probably have some great insights as to how we could improve it.  And even as I’m posting it, I don’t love it.  It doesn’t feel personalized and it seems not so user friendly.  If you have suggestions for something better please leave a comment!  Help the children!



Encouragement & Accountability: The hope is that having an authentic audience will be a huge boost to both encouraging kids to up their game as well as hold them accountable.  But I’m also planning a mini-debrief with their reading partner to have some face to face feedback on what they did well and some reflection.

I guess I won’t know if we’ve met this challenge until we look at student work and reflect on the lesson.  Come on back on Friday to see how the lesson went, where we’re going next, and what we’ve learned.


Practical Amplification Series Post 1: Building Literacy Skills With SeeSaw

This is the first post in a short series about using a familiar digital tool (See Saw) in a new way with a group of second graders in order to help students meet instructional goals.


This morning I spent some time exploring See Saw and thinking about how a group of second graders that I’m working with could do some more writing work with it.  (Thank you Sara for opening your classroom to do this work together!)

But first some background.

What we noticed: After a little digging we noticed a few things.  Students had built a lot of stamina to do this work since the beginning of the year, but weren’t able to sustain reading for as long as we’d like in order to confer and meet with small groups.    We also noticed after giving a small group of students an independent reading assessment by Jennifer Seravallo that we think now would be a good time to push kids to do some more intense work with their writing about reading.

Students can stop and jot, they are ready to capture more thinking and less jotting about the plot of the story.

Students can stop and jot about their thinking, they are ready to look for big ideas and start to write long from a sticky note.

Our Goal: Keep kids engaged with reading, thinking about reading, and writing about reading during the workshop.  Keep it interesting, authentic, and connected! No busywork.

Our Plan: Utilize digital tools to amplify the works students are doing in the following ways.

  • Offer more digital texts.  By giving kids a second reading task during the workshop we hope to inspire them to read more, engage with new topics, spiral back to strategies and skills, and get excited about new topics. (They are already doing partner reading mid-workshop but seem to be losing steam with this strategy, we need to pull some more from our toolbox.)
  • Offer digital texts in a way that kids can interact with.  Since the class is already using See Saw we noticed that it’s easy to share a digital text in PDF format with students in this way.  (We are using supplemental texts from the Primary Comprehension Toolkit.) While we would like kids to annotate digitally, none of the tools they are currently using supports this easily, so our plan is to have them stop and jot on a six sheet sticky note page (Harvey & Goudvis) and then use those stop and jots to write long in a comment.  This way kids have an audience of their peers for their work.
  • Use the digital tools to engage kids creative brains, build community around books, and infuse a little fun into our workshop. Because See Saw has some options to use photos with labels we can also have students add a quick three word book review to “sell” their longer writing to peers.  This also circles back to some lessons previously taught during the year.
  • Differentiate and Practice. One of the classroom teacher’s concerns with digital tools is the amount of time it takes kids to get something written down. This will provide the students with some good practice typing on their device, as well as offer differentiated tools like text to speech, and video recording.


Stay tuned for the next post in the series on planning for instruction and creating custom tools to help kids be independent!  



I’ve Been to the Other Side

Have you ever watched a presenter and thought to yourself, yes that’s a great idea BUT… What follows is never good.  Fill in the blank; not with my students, I don’t have time, we don’t have devices. When I present I love to show real work from the classroom.  Students in action, photos, student work, and videos that kids have made.  I select these carefully to represent students of all learning abilities.  I never show just the “smartest” students.  That’s not authentic.  Yet there has never been a time when I haven’t looked at evaluations and seen the accusing phrase that goes something like “but my students are English Language Learners, or have IEP’s, or are low income.”  My students were all of these things.  The work you saw, the clips you viewed were low income students and students with IEPs, students with no label who still struggled, students somewhere in the middle, and yes sometimes the more accomplished.  I’m not kidding I’m really not.  


But that’s not why I’m writing this post.  I’m writing because I want to address the other comment.   The comment that went something like “How can I do this without 1 to 1 iPads?”  These comments were much more prevalent.  They were from naysayers to teachers who really did want to start tomorrow but just couldn’t wrap their minds around how to make it work with what they had.  I’m writing this post to tell you I’ve been to the other side.


Last year I left my classroom, 30 ipads, and ten years worth of books and furniture grants to a very lovely teacher.  Now my job is to coach people in literacy and technology and lots of things in between.  Next year they will all have iPads but this year…yuck.  Shared carts of old netbooks that take forever to boot up and even longer to log in.  Missing keys, odd trackpads, unfamiliar programs.  No shiny iPads, no quick fixes.  I’m living in the other side.  I’ve seen your BUT. I get it.


And yes it’s hard, it’s challenging some days and sometimes I see in the eyes of teachers that they want to give up and go back.  But then they see their students light up and give a little more, and help each other out, and do something amazing. Then they learn something new and feel that spark, that fire again! I’ve been to the other side and we aren’t letting it stop us.  We can do it!  You can do it!  Let’s just try.