If there’s one thing that stresses me out the most about teaching in an elementary Dual Language setting, it’s the amount of record keeping that needs to be done. There is no room for misplacement – once a narrative writing piece is missing, it’s missing for good. Last year, I was tasked with keeping track of 35 students’ reading levels, opinion writing pieces, parent notes, grading etc. That wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to deal with two separate classes (one class had 17 students and the other had 18 students). This year, I will have 46 students: each class consisting of 23 students. The assistant principal at my school was eager to start the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project. Upon reading through the teaching manuals, I concluded that assessments and record keeping were at the pinnacle of what drove the curriculum – I was cringing at the thought of myself swimming in the running record assessments, the writing pieces I had to read and grade with those long rubrics, the conferencing notes I needed to keep track of for each student, and the mini-lessons I would give to groups of students. I made a promise to myself that I would let go of paper – I couldn’t find a system that worked for me last year with all that I had to keep track of. I couldn’t fathom having to hole punch 45 papers only to place them in 45 binders! (My colleague and I used data binders to keep tests and other student work)
So, thus began my hunt for a way to keep all of these records both handy and organized. I went wild reading around the Internet for Apps and programs. If you’re in a similar predicament, or you’re simply looking for ways to reduce the paper load on your desk, here are the top five Apps for the iPad and iPhone, I highly recommend to all teachers:
1. Evernote Scannable. With Scannable, you can scan any document and save it as either a PDF file or an image. Hold up your device above a document and watch as it instantly captures it, converting it into a high quality scan. You don’t even have to click or tap the screen! Upon scanning, you have the option of either emailing it, exporting it, saving it onto your Camera Roll or saving it onto Evernote (a separate App). I highly recommend this App because it’s easy to open and use. After downloading, you’ll need to make a free account to fulfill the purposes of saving documents and exporting or sending them across platforms and colleagues.
2. Sesame Snap. This App would be the answer to my conferencing dilemma. Upon downloading Snap, you’ll need to create a free account. Soon thereafter, you’ll be prompted to create “groups” or sections to populate them with your student roster. I took the opportunity to create two groups for each subject: Reading Workshop, Writing Workshop, and Math. You can also change the color scheme of each section (for those of you who prefer a “visual organization system”). Your general dashboard is called a “Timeline.” When holding your device horizontally, your student roster will appear on the right. You can add a “note” by clicking on the blue “plus” sign at the bottom and decide for which student you want to add the note. You can either add a comment, photo, video, or an image from the library of your device. Once you’ve created the note, you can decide to make it public or private: a feature that is extended beyond the App onto the computer when you visit the website: sesamehq.com. This is helpful for conferencing because I can quickly jot down any teaching points or observations that I make, take a quick picture of the student’s work, and most importantly, the date and time of the conference is recorded. That is only one of the many helpful features of this App (more information provided in another post soon!).
3. ShowMe. Have you ever wanted to teach a student a quick skill with a small dry-erase board and reteach that to another student? Or maybe you’ve even wanted to save it to use again and again. You’ve probably wanted to record your teaching too! This life-saving App is ready to do all this and more! Often times, when I am conferencing with students during writing workshop or working with a small group during math, I teach and show with a dry-erase board. In most cases though, I use whatever blank paper I can find and scribble work all over it. When I move to other groups, I find that they also needed that teaching and I’m left with regret over not calling them over/tossing that piece of paper in the trash. So, I do a quick mid-workshop interruption and redirect student attention to teach the skill – so much time is wasted and so much paper is needed on a daily basis to keep track of those teaching points. ShowMe allows you to write on a blank canvas on your device – you can choose different colors to write, import a picture, and record your voice while you teach. These recordings are called tutorials. You can save the tutorial or you can share it with other ShowMe users. This App has its own following and social aspect to it as well: you can browse other ShowMe videos about various subjects and grade levels, you can “like” videos, and save them too!
4. Levelbooks. Schools who’ve adopted the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project are expected to assess their students’ reading level: they need to keep a track or record of that students’ growth in reading (e.g. moving from a level B to level E by the end of Kindergarten). Teachers do this by performing running records. Levelbooks will keep an organized list of the students in your class with their reading levels and the date of the last time the student was assessed. You can add benchmarks – track the students that are meeting or failing to meet the benchmarks. Students can be easily grouped by color: green meaning those that have met the benchmark, yellow for students who are working towards the benchmark, and red signaling students who need extra support. Additionally, it tracks book titles (not texts) complete with the words read per minute (WPM), accuracy, self-correction rate, and comprehension score (these can be readily edited). When assessing a student, a calculator appears that allows you to “flag” when the student makes an error or tap “self-correct.” Even more amazing is the ability to record the student reading aloud, write a quick note, and take a picture of the running record at the end (no more binders to keep all of those running records!). You can choose the level system used in your school (Reading A-Z, Fountas & Pinnell, Reading Recovery, DRA, and Lexile). If you buy the full version, you can add as many classes and students as you wish. When choosing a level system, e.g. Fountas & Pinnell, an automated list of books will be generated. You can customize the book list by removing the books or adding your own. Levelbooks is a bit pricey ($9.99) but I think that it’s well worth it!
5. Remind. “Remind offers teachers a free, safe and simple way to instantly text students & parents. Teachers can send reminders, homework assessments, or motivational messages directly to their students and parents phones. Messaging is safe because phone numbers are kept private. Teachers save time because they can send quick, one-way announcements, or start a Chat for personalized communication with a student or parent” (Description provided by the iTunes Store). More importantly, you can set up office hours and avoid giving away your cell number.
With assessment and accountability from students and teachers, digital record keeping might be the most crucial piece of evidence we can readily provide. If you decide to download these Apps, let me know what you think in the comments.
Evernote Scannable: https://evernote.com/products/scannable/
Sesame Snap: https://sesamehq.com/welcome
Jessenia Morales is currently teaching 3rd-grade dual language at Southampton Elementary School. Ironically enough, it is the school that she attended as a child. Traveling is at the core of what inspires her to teach Spanish and English as a second language. When she’s not teaching, she is reading books in French, studying video tutorials for cooking recipes, contributing to TeachersWithApps, maintaining her own cooking blog, hiking, and rigorously “googling” answers to the many questions thrown at me about life!