Monday, March 9, 2015

Reading for the Jaded Student & All: Curriculet partners with USA Today

I'm super stoked for today's announcement from Curriculet.

Curriculet has proven its worth and merit as I flip summer and independent reading, PARCC prep, and novel studies. Building on what they already do well--creating authentic reading experiences for students and behind the scenes data for teachers to use to drive instruction--  Curriculet is announcing a partnership with USA Today:

"Now, students and teachers can access relevant and timely news from USA TODAY through Curriculet's dynamic reading platform. In addition to its free on-demand digital library filled with popular books, Curriculet now allows students to read news articles with embedded assessments that develop literacy skills and build subject area knowledge. Known as "curriculets," these integrated checkpoints focus on specific skills and Common Core Standards.

Every day, Curriculet delivers articles curated for classrooms and pre-loaded with interactive layers of instruction that include annotations, rich media and question sets. Every article includes three differentiated layers targeted to elementary, middle and high school reading levels so that each student can interact with the text.

Curriculet’s real-time reporting feature lets teachers track student achievement in every assignment. Teachers can assess progress on standards and literacy skills, track time spent on-task, and identify where individual learning gaps are.
Whereas other news services for students offer outdated news stories, Curriculet’s partnership with USA TODAY makes it possible to supply students with articles the day after publication, in their original form."

Here's why I am excited about this announcement:  Curriculet is providing me with another way to reach struggling readers and jaded students.  To be honest, I'm not worried about my Honors students-- they will read whatever I give them--but, I'm worried about getting and keeping my lower-level freshmen and disaffected seniors reading. Asking them to sustain their attention for a whole novel is a Herculean feat. They often give up before they ever get started, intimidated by the length and preconceived notions about reading for class. But reading one, heck, even two short, high-interest articles a day (and answering a few questions and clicking on a few annotations) will build a daily habit for reading because they can do it.

Curriculet's partnership will enable me to give my students relevant and current SHORT reading pieces that appeal to their interests AND provides me with data on their skills--and I don't have to do any extra work. Like reading the newspaper, I can keep my students up to date on current events, sports, national news, international events, and my favorite category, "Good News" featuring positive focused human interest stories.
Selection of articles updated daily with older ones still available.

My seniors who usually fight me on EVERYTHING I ask them to do can't complain about reading a short article.  My reluctant freshmen who don't feel like they are competent readers can feel competent with Curriculet. There's no harm; there's nothing to fear.  High interest, appropriate reading level-- read it, enjoy it, and answer a few questions for me...  nothing too arduous.  And since each article targets one specific Common Core Standard at a time, I can keep an eye on their skills and alignment to the standards with little effort on my part.

Data on student reading performance:
available by student & question
Beta-testing the USA-Today feature two weeks ago, it was seamless to choose articles and assign them to my students. Clicking on USA Today in the navigation ribbon, I selected and assigned texts the same way as I normally do in Curriculet.   Since the students are already familiar with reading via Curriculet, it didn't seem like anything new to them either. I started off with articles on Mars exploration, high school basketball, and the movie American Sniper.

Whole class progress bar for easy viewing

In each of my 5 classes the same thing happened each day: my better-performing, compliant students got started right away, opened the articles, and I listened to them chat with their neighbors... "Hey, this is cool what the team did for this girl. Reminds me of the Challenger League we have here at Southern... Oh, I want to see that American Sniper movie...  Wow, it is based on a true story?... Whoa they showed this movie in Baghdad? People had to freak!... What?1 There was a contest to go to Mars? That is crazy!... I think it would be cool to be part of that...No way dude, I'm happy here on Earth." 

From the article, What moviegoers in Baghdad think of American Sniper,
students answer questions embedded in the text.

Overhearing the conversations, my lower-performing, not-always-compliant students were intrigued and, not wanting to miss out, opened Curriculet and started reading. I circulated around the room checking in with groups of students and then called the class together for a wrap up discussion. We talked about perspective and audience perception, inclusion of special needs folks, and setting and achieving long term goals.  All of that was accomplished with three short, nonfiction articles. On days two and three of our beta-testing, I didn't need to prod any students to get started, they jumped right into reading new articles and we had a repeat of engaging class discussions.  The positive energy carried into the rest of the period as we switched to reading Hamlet (seniors) or The Odyssey (also in Curriculet).

I really like that I'm not sending my students to another site for nonfiction, digital reading.  Within Curriculet, students can read anything and everything from contemporary YA lit novels from publishers to canonical texts to documents I upload to current nonfiction articles.  With its broad service offerings, Curriculet once again proves to me that is the only digital reading tool I need to get all my students reading.

I envision using the Curriculet-USA Today articles as a daily Do Now/Bell Ringer activity for all of my classes. Students enter the classroom, grab a Chromebook or sign on their smartphones and spend the first few minutes of class reading, answering questions, and discussing the articles with their neighbors. We could continue to do a quick round-robin discussion of the articles and what they found interesting in each. Students are staying informed on current events AND demonstrating valuable life reading skills.

There are so many MORE activities I could do with Curriculet & USA Today!
I'd love to read about your ideas, too. Please comment and share!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Literally Up in the Air with Google Cloud Printing

So I am on my way to the #SxSWEdu conference and I'm typing this post while sitting in seat 34C on a Delta airplane.  In the mad dash to get out of the house on time (ugh, 5:30 am), I didn't have a chance to write up information about family schedules and lunches for my husband who will be running the show while I'm gone.

I splurged ($16) for the Go-Go Inflight wifi access, and thank heavens I did! Working on the plane, I typed up the schedule and notes for school in a Google Doc, shared it with my husband so he could read it on his phone, and sent the doc to our home printer on which I had previously set up the Google Cloud Printing services.  With a quick text message to my husband to make sure the printer was turned on, I sent it off from 10,000 feet in the air. And, wa-la, magically the document was printed!

Google Cloud Printing is literally a life saver helping to make sure things run smoothly at home.