Saturday, April 11, 2015

Kahoot! A Game Based, Ad-Free Free Application for Teachers

Kahoot! is a free and ad-free quiz website similar to Jeopardy made with teachers in mind.   Calling itself a game based application, it works like this:  once you’ve created an account, you can either create a new Kahoot! or search for and use or modify one shared by others.  You create the questions and the four multiple choice answers, adding in images if you so desire.  Your Kahoots! are stored in your dashboard and can be edited and used as needed.  I have created three and made them all private, which means other Kahoot! users cannot view, use, or modify what I’ve created.
Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 6.14.12 PM.png

To use with students, you click on Play and then Launch, which shows a unique game pint students type in to enter the game.
To enter the game, students need this pin and either an android/iphone, ipad, or computer with internet access. Working as either a team or individually (you decide), students navigate to, type in the pin, a name (team, nickname, name, you decide), and wait for you to start the game.  As students sign in, their names are displayed on the main screen.  When you’re ready, you start the game.  A question appears and students are given a predetermined amount of time to read and select the answer they believe is correct (you decide how much time students get for each question).  Once either the time runs out or everyone has selected an answer, a gong sound goes off and the correct answer is shown.  Students (or teams) earn points for both correct answers and speed.  Each student’s screen shows them whether or not their selected answer was correct and their ranking within in the group.
Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 6.16.54 PM.png

At the end of the game, the top five scorers are highlighted and students have the opportunity to rate the game (you can skip this part if you so desire).
I’ve played Kahoot! with grades K-5 at both Meadow Ridge and Evergreen.  
Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 6.11.32 PM.pngThe positive:  Kahoot! is a highly motivating game--all grades seemed to enjoy playing and most asked if they could play it again or when they’d get a chance to play again.  A couple upper grade students asked if they could create their own accounts and play with friends (I believe they can with parent approval).  Optional Jeopardy style music adds to the game atmosphere, and the questions and settings were easy to maneuver.  It’s ad-free and as a Kahoot! newbee I appreciated being able to view, copy, and modify other teacher’s quizzes.  Finally, although it’s a bit confusing to students at first, once they understand how to play the game goes smoothly for all grades.  I had kindergarteners pair up and play as teams; with grade 1, I varied letting them play with partners or by themselves and both went well.  Grades 2-5 played as individuals.  

The drawbacks:  the game is confusing at first, and it’s easier to have students enter their pin and nickname and begin playing rather than trying to explain the entire game beforehand.  I suggest creating a practice, no points question at the beginning of each quiz to alleviate stress and confusion.  A few things to remember:

Students need more time than you think for each question.  When setting up your first Kahoot! quiz, give students more time than you think reasonable to answer each question--you can always go back and change these times later.  

Consider reading questions and answers out loud.  This helps equalize the playfield.  I read everything--questions and all four multiple choice answers to all grades.  No one complained or asked me to stop.  

Student screens do not show the multiple choice answers--only the colors (each multiple choice question is color coded and has a symbol on it.  Thus, make sure all students are facing your teacher projector screen.  There is no option to change this. Kahoot! does not as of yet have a feature that reads each questions to students.  This is a downside I would advocate they change (note:  in addition to colors, each choice has a shape, which is important if you have students who are color blind).

Kahoot’s format is only multiple choice.  This may, at times, be a drawback.

Students’ screens automatically shown their ranking after each question.  This can be distracting, especially with older students.  I wish this was optional, but it is not.  

At the end of each quiz, you have the choice to let students evaluate the game.  I’ve discovered that students who do not win often rate it quite low.  Student ratings are automatically shown to the entire class.  However, you do not have to continue this part of the quiz.  

Finally, the term “nickname” is not optional--students are always asked to create a nickname when signing in rather than signing is with a first and or last name.  This can be confusing and distracting.  Decide ahead of time what you’ll require students to enter.  I told students that there would be a prize for the highest scorer, but if they did not play using their real first and last name, I would not award them a prize.  If students play in teams, plan ahead what type of team name you want them to use.  

If you have questions about Kahoot! and/or would like to learn more about how to use it in your classroom, ask your LITS.  

Written by Rachel Peters, LITS, Meadow Ridge and Evergreen Elementary Schools

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Mead Elementary Library Organization Overview

Library Organization Overview for Teachers

Mead elementary libraries organize their books into four categories and housed in a dedicated
area: Nonfiction, Fiction, Everybody, and Biography.

Every library book has a label on its spine that tells to which of the four sections it belongs:
F (fiction), 001-999 (nonfiction), E (everybody), and B (biography).  
Fiction Books have an F at the top and the first
three letters of the author's last name
Fiction and Everybody

Both Fiction and Everybody books are fiction stories.  In general, chapter fiction books are located in the F section while picture books are in the Es.  Both are organized separately by author’s last name.  So if you’re looking for one of these book types, you’ll need to know who wrote it.  

Nonfiction and Biography

Nonfiction books are organized by the Dewey Decimal system

Nonfiction books are organized in the Dewey Decimal system so that books on the same subject can be found next to one another. Here’s a rough breakdown:

000 – General works, Computer science and Information
100 – Philosophy and psychology
200 – Religion
300 – Social sciences
400 – Language
500 – Pure Science
600 – Technology
700 – Arts & recreation
800 – Literature (here’s where you’ll find poetry--the fiction is relocated in the E and F sections)
900 – History & geography

The last category, Biography, is a bit different.  Books here are organized not by author but by the last name of the person it’s written about.  For example, if you're looking for a book on Martin Luther King, Jr., you'll find it under the Ks.

Monday, February 16, 2015


Gooru is a mega collection (millions) of free high quality, CC aligned lessons for teachers. While it's a bit intimidating at first, it's worth exploring. Everything on it, including tools for student and teacher use like quizzes and data analytics, will always be free.  Here’s what else you can do at Gooru:

  • Find standards-aligned multimedia learning materials from highly rated web sites
  • Remix web and original content to create custom collections
  • Save, annotate, modify, and organize teaching resources
  • Once you’ve created collections, you can share them with students, colleagues, and parents, limiting their access to only the files you want to see.
  • Create quizzes for students with instant feedback
  • View quiz results by class and individual
    Monitor real-time student engagement, comprehension, and progress

Search features

Top 10 FAQs for Teachers

1. How are teachers using Gooru?
Every student and classroom is different, and Gooru is flexible enough to fit their different needs. We are constantly awed and inspired by the stories of our teachers who take advantage of Gooru to provide the best possible instruction to their students in a way that is dynamic, engaging, and productive. In our mission to make high-quality educational resources free and accessible, Gooru’s potential is equal to the unbounded innovation and creativity of the educators and students who use it.
Click here to view the stories of some of the teachers who say Gooru has made a difference in (and out of) their classrooms. We hope they will inspire you to use Gooru in your own way and to share your own story.
2. How do I get started?
Visual Getting Started PDF
Welcome to Gooru! Use Gooru to quickly topic-relevant, standards-aligned learning materials from the best websites (NASA, Smithsonian, Khan Academy among others) and organize them into teachable and sharable lists, called “collections” -- all in one place. Best of all, it is free -- now and forever! Check out our walkthrough video for a quick overview. To get started, visit and click “Sign Up” in the upper-right hand corner. Click here to learn more.

3. What is a collection, and how do I find them on Gooru?
A collection is an organized playlist of resources on a topic. As teachers discover effective, open, online resources they can organize these resources into collections and share them directly with students. Click here to learn more.
4. Where do collections come from?
Here at Gooru, we envision a world in which the best education content, experts, and community come together to provide personalized learning experiences and positive learning outcomes for students. The library of Gooru content contains 16 million resources and 1 million questions curated from the best websites on the internet. With a solid covering of subject matter for K-12 educators and students, our catalog of content was originally scaffolded with content from highly recommended educational websites, and further supplemented with resources acquired through our content partnerships. We maintain high community standards for safety, and our team monitors newly uploaded resources to ensure the absence of inappropriate content. Beyond this, we adhere to the "wiki" model, in which our users share a communal responsibility to keep Gooru safe and effective for students who are ultimately our end users. Click here to learn more.

5. How do I create a collection?
Once you’re registered on Gooru, there are two main places you can go to create a collection on Gooru. You can create your own collections from the resource and collections you find in search, on the Discover page. You can also build a collection from scratch from the Organize page. Click here to learn more.
6. How do I share collections with others?
Once you’ve discovered an effective collection, or created one of your own, you can share it directly with others. We make it easy for you to share collections with others via social media and email. You can also make your collection public so that it is discoverable in by others in the Gooru community. Click here to learn more.
7. Can I assign collections to students?
A Class is a dedicated webpage that you can use to create and manage assignments for your class. You can create multiple Classes, which allow you to group and organize assignments for each class, period, subject area, etc. You can share an assignment from one of your Classes with students via a Web Link or Class Code. Both are found directly under the Class cover image in Teach. Click here to learn more.
8. Can I provide my students with assessments using Gooru?
You can add questions to the collections you create to check for student understanding.Click here to learn more.
9. Can I use Gooru with my students on mobile devices?
The Gooru iPad app transforms the studying experience, providing you with a no-fuss way to share collections with your students. Students can instantly access their assignments, and they can study collections or quizzes in the classroom or on the go. Both teachers and students can also easily discover new learning resources using Gooru Search, accessible on the app. We encourage you to create Classes on the web to enjoy the complete benefit of the Gooru iPad experience.

Like the web version of Gooru, the Gooru app is, and always will be free. Click here to download it from the iTunes App Store.
10. Can I add my own files or websites to Gooru?
Already have effective images, handouts, or slides on your computer that you would like to use on Gooru? Gooru allows you to add these files as resources in your collections. You can upload your own resources as you personalize your collections in Organize.Click here to learn how.
(Top ten taken directly from Gooru's page)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Graphic Novels

By Rachel Peters, LITS at Evergreen and Meadow Ridge Elementary Schools

A graphic novel is a book whose story or content is told in a comic format.  Although they they’ve been around since the 1960s, they didn’t become generally well known until books like Pulitzer prize winning Maus (Spiegleman) and Watchman (Gibbons) were published in the 1980s.  Even now many adults are either not aware of or biased against them. Every once in a while a student will tell me he can’t check one out because their teacher or parent has told them reading one won’t count as “real” reading.  I wish to disabuse this notion.
Despite my husband and my love of reading, our son was not a reader of traditional books.  His first two years of school were a challenge for him (and us)--he was behind his peers in reading ability, struggling with reading “the fat cat sat” while many of his classmates were reading chapter books by the end of first grade.  It wasn’t until we introduced him to collections of comic strips--Garfield, Calvin and Hobbs, and The Far Side that motivated him to practice sounding out and memorizing words.  He loved humor, and the pictures and short text were particularly appealing.  

While there’s been a shift in what is assigned reading in upper elementary, middle, and high schools, focusing less on narrative and more on expository text, if you can’t read, you’re not going to be able to decode and comprehend, and teachers can do only so much in the classroom; independent reading for pleasure is necessary to practice, build, and automate skills.  And what better way is there to get kids to read on their own than by finding books they want to read?  
Not all, but many, many children love graphic novels.  Before winter break I moved the graphic novels at Evergreen Elementary’s library out of  the non fiction section into their own shelf at eye level in Fiction, and then gave a brief presentation about them to the third graders. These books flew off the shelf and continue to be some of the most frequently checked out books.  Last year, when I taught middle school English, I gave out a list of the year’s reading before school started and parents were responsible for purchasing assigned books.  My spring reads were the graphic novels American Born Chinese (seventh grade) and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (eighth).  But by the time it came to start them, I estimate that 80% of my students had already read them.  In fact a couple of students told me they’d read their books twice.  

Research supports what I’ve seen and believe strongly:  Graphic novels are real reading and should be encouraged for both reading for pleasure and learning.  A presentation given at the American Association of School Librarians’ Conference 2013 shares these facts about graphic novels:
*Boosted reading interests among students with disabilities (Young, 2005; Gavigan, 2011; Smetana & Grisham, 2012)
* High interest topics / visual support were beneficial to English Language Learners (ELL) (Cary, 2004; Chun, 2009; Krashen,1996; Liu, 2004; Ranker, 2007)
*Help develop a taste for reading/serve as a bridge to other literature (Krashen 1994, 2004, Ugile & Krashen, 1996)
• When given the opportunity to select reading materials, boys often choose graphic novels (Cary, 2004; Krashen, 2004)
It’s been a pleasure to share my love of  graphic novels with students and to let them know that reading them is “real” reading.  High readers enjoy them as much as those who struggle.  Graphic novels range in reading level from non and early readers to adults; their topics include non fiction facts about the Vietnam War and an overview of Medusa to the lives of honeybees to zombies (and everything in between).  They’ve been made into movies (Persepolis, A History of Violence, Hellboys, The Avengers, and Scott Pilgrim vs the World, to name just a few) and television shows (The Walking Dead, Sabrina the Teenage Witch).  Some retell (and make more accessible to struggling readers) classic stories including Beowulf, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Odyssey.
If you’re interested in learning more about graphic novels, talk to your school’s LITS.  They can show you your school’s collection and help you find ones that might interest your reluctant readers. If’ they’ve not done so already, ask them to teach a lesson on them to your class.  And if you’re looking for one in in particular that your school’s library doesn’t have, ask your LITS to help you find a copy.  Finally, if you’re looking for a personal read, consider reading one of my favorite graphic novels Maus by Spiegelman.  It’s not for kids and it’s rough at times but this Pulitzer winning book about one man learning about his mother and father’s lives during the Holocaust is powerful and one of the most well crafted stories I’ve read.   

Kimmel, Sue. "Graphic Novels, Comics, and the Common Core: Using Graphic Novels Across the Curriculum." American Association of School Librarians' Conference. University of South Carolina. , Hartford, Connecticut. 15 Nov. 2013. Lecture.

Moore, Alan, Dave Gibbons, and Inc Comics. Watchmen. 4a ed. Print.

Spiegelman, Art. Maus: A Survivor's Tale. New York: Pantheon, 1986. Print.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Matching Students with Books by Nancy Philips

Matching Students with Books

SRI tests have been taken, and you and your students know their lexile levels. You’ve communicated this information to parents who are eager to find books at the perfect reading level. Now where do you look? Here are some suggestions:

Our Follett library catalog can search by lexile. Choose Reading Programs, select Lexile, and enter your range (100 below to 50 above). Enter a subject in the Find box, or just type the word books and click Keyword. is a website that allows searching for a specific book’s lexile or browsing by subject. allows searching by lexile, grade level, Guided Reading and DRA.