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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Confer App: a note taking and data collection app for teachers!

Good morning! I wanted to share my post from our collaborative blog, The Primary Pack. Enjoy!

Today, I must cut right to the chase because I am beyond excited about this new find! I was at a conference in Jacksonville, Florida right before Thanksgiving listening to a 2nd grade teacher talk about differentiation. It was a great presentation, but to be honest, I was thinking "I already do most of these things in my own classroom". That was until I heard her mention "this new DATA COLLECTION APP". My ears perked up! My eyes flew from my notebook to her face. We are in the age of data, data, data. This is perfection!

Really? I can just add my students into this app and log all of my annotations right on my iPhone? NO WAY. Wait what? I can take pictures of their work and add them to each student's personalized file? This was too good to be true.

But it IS true! It's called Confer. I may seem a little too excited about this, but let me tell you - It is worth it! It's available in the iTunes App Store or through Google Play for Android.
There are currently two versions of Confer. Confer (regular) is the full price version. It is $24.99, which may be more than you are used to paying for an app...however, think of it as a portable, digital, never-ending, never full data binder. I don't know about you, but I would pay lots of money for that.

The Confer lite edition is the free one that you can download quickly. Test it out for yourself! However, if you have more than 10 kids in your class (most of us) and you teach more than 2 subjects (most of us), this may not be ideal. Confer lite allows you to store two subjects with 10 students per subject. It also only allows for 5 notes per student.

Take it from me and download Confer lite. You will love it. Now for a closer look...
You can organize all of your information into three major sections: Subjects, Students, and Notes. Once you create an account, add subjects by using the + in the top right corner. Then add students to the subject. Once you add your class list once, you don't ever have to retype their names! To take notes on each student, just click on their names and then click the + in the top right corner.
A sort feature is at the bottom of most screens in the Confer app. My absolute favorite sorting feature is the options for student sorting. Look at the middle picture in the image above. I can always sort by first or last name, but I can also sort by the date, tag, strength, teaching point, next step, level, group, and flag! CRAZY AMAZING. 

I can literally add my students and their levels and simply click sort by level. Ta-da! Reading groups done. Then, if I want to teach a small group lesson on inferences, I can click sort by teaching point or next step and ta-da: focus group is chosen for me. No more flipping though pages and pages of charts! I can also flag students green, yellow, or red in certain subjects or topics, and then group them by flag color so that I can easily see where each student is. Here is a picture from Confer's website that displays the flagged students in each topic.
Once your students are added, adding notes is a breeze!
This next feature sold me instantly! Click on a student, take a picture of their work, and it's stamped with the date and a comment. Easy peasy and PERFECT for parent-teacher conferences, data chats with administration, and RtI meetings.
And just when you thought Confer had wow-ed can export! Yes! Just click the arrow on the far right bottom of the screen to export a file from the app. There are many different options for you to choose from!
Fonts by KG Fonts & Hello Fonts, Graphics by Pretty Grafix & Ashley Hughes

I am SO excited to use this app full time in the classroom starting in January. It will help me to be efficient with my time and to keep everything in one place. I love that I can check Confer at home in my bed or while I'm talking with a concerned parent on the phone. In these data-driven times, we teachers must find ways that truly work to manage our time wisely and help our students achieve their fullest potential. I hope this little tutorial will help you this year! 

Check out a more in depth tutorial on the app or website. For more information and a video from David Lowe, the creator of Confer and a NBCT, click here. Happy data collecting!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Unwrap a Gift from Me!

Are you in need of some low-prep activities to get your students through the holiday season? Check out my newest close reading passages! They are perfect for small group, guided reading, weekly homework, and thematic units. All you have to do is simply download and print! If you are not familiar with close reading you can read more about it in my Close Reading Mini Series.
I'm excited to be a part of The Primary Gal's Unwrap a Gift Linky Party. There are so many engaging gifts for you from some of my favorite teachers. Keep reading for a closer look and be sure to unwrap your gift at the end of this post! 
I have two sets of holiday close reads: European traditions (7 passages) & Asian traditions (6 passages). Each passage is written at an appropriate text complexity level for 2-3rd grade according to the Common Core State Standards. However, it totally depends on your students. I often used similar close reads with my high first graders, and I have a friend who uses them with her struggling fourth graders. There are two different versions of most handouts within each set. Instant differentiation!

Close reading is all about developing a true understanding of the text. Therefore, I make sure that students are rereading many times. One passage will last us 3 days to a full week! Students reread the passages silently, aloud, and to partners. Then, they annotate by highlighting or circling unknown words, numbering paragraphs, and underlining answers in the text. You can have students use any annotation marks that you like (although I recommend no more than about 3 at a time - see the close reading blog series above for in depth information).

After reading, students will respond to text-dependent questions. I ask students to go back to the text and underline or highlight their answers. They are also required to write the number of the question beside the sentence in the text. This is a wonderful skill to start early on! It works wonders on standardized tests! Each passage in my close reading sets has two different sets of response questions which is great for differentiation in class.

I hope you enjoy your holiday season! Click the image below to UNWRAP YOUR GIFT!

Head over to The Primary Gal to unwrap more gifts!

Friday, December 5, 2014

New Look & Giveaway!

Hey everyone! I am beyond excited to share this little blog's brand new look! Thank you SO SO much to Bobbi at Ready to Blog Designs. She is a gem! If you need a great blog designer who is very reasonable and amazing to work with, I highly recommend Bobbi!
I started this blogging/creating/TeachersPayTeachers journey this past April during my first year of teaching. I had been *obsessed* with teaching blogs during undergrad and always thought to myself, "When I have my classroom, I am going to go broke!". I never thought I would be so blessed by this blogging/TPT community. I am beyond thankful for all of the new support and friendships that have grown from this!

Once I started teaching, I felt myself being pulled toward certain products on TPT and certain styles of teaching on teacher blogs. You know those few that you just keep going back to? Those few teachers make you want to spend hours making adorable anchor charts and laminating all types of activities! Today, I'm sharing a few of my favorites with you! {Stick around for a fun giveaway!}

My ultimate goal is to reach each individual student. This is a tough task, and I am by no means a teacher superstar. However, I do try my best to differentiate and enrich as much as possible. I give two spelling tests each week, print two (sometimes three) separate sets of homework each night, and teach reading and math in small group. So, when I stumbled upon the blog by Miss DeCarbo back in the day, I was amazed at those little first graders and their amazing writing abilities! They blew me away! And I kept reading. Ever since that day, I have made sure that I was in tune with everything Christina had to say. If you haven't yet, be sure to check out her Wordless Wednesday Linky Party! It is one of my favorites. A few teachers at my school are loving all things DeCarbo - check out this little one's hard work! Thank you, Christina, for being my first grade writing guru.
Sight Word Fluency Passages for Reading Intervention by Miss DeCarbo
The no prep printable queen of The Moffatt Girls, is another one of my favorite teacher authors. As I read her blog, I think "Please let me be that awesome of a mom/teacher/homeschooler/blogger/author one day!" Annie does it all! Her No Prep math and literacy packs are brilliant for Sub Tubs, independent work, and extra practice. I used her Word Work Bundle this summer while teaching deaf and hard of hearing students. It was great for the 1st and 2nd graders who need repetition by sight because they are not able to hear letter sounds. Thank you, Annie, for inspiring me by teaching your two sweet girls with such engaging activities!
Word Work Bundle by The Moffat Girls
If you know me well, you know that I am in love with {ALL} the products from Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd. Let's just say I've bought almost all of her new products this school year, and I am not even in a classroom full time. What does that tell you? She is amazing. Her style is so unique, I just look at a product and can tell you if it is hers. Thank you, Ashley, for being so sweet, personable, and happy to help!
Blo(r)ganizer Binder by Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd
Ever since high school, I have been a bit crazy about color coding my planner. I used to have a highlighter for each subject just for my planner. Each day, the order of the colors would rotate. When I finished an assignment, I would highlight over the listing with that specific matching color. OCD? Maybe. Organized and wonderful? Definitely! You can only imagine my excitement when I learned about the genius behind A Modern Teacher! Oh. My. Word. April creates adorable customizable planners that are updated yearly! You heard that right...updated YEARLY. That means, once you buy the planner, you have a new one each year! I just can't get enough of mine.
Teacher Lesson Planner by A Modern Teacher
These ladies have changed my life for the better! They inspired me to put my creativity to the test to help my students stay engaged and succeed in all that they do. I am extremely grateful for the collaboration that has come about from TeacherPayTeachers. It makes me smile daily.

Today, I am pleased to announce this fun giveaway brought to you by the amazing teacher-authors listed above. Christina, Annie, Ashley, and April - I cannot thank you enough! Enter to win the amazing products listed below! Giveaway ends Monday at midnight.
Fonts by KG Fonts

Happy Teaching!

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