Monday, December 31, 2012

The Handwriting Without Tears Wet-Dry-Try App is Now Available for iOS and Android!


I'm so excited because the HWTears Wet-Dry-Try app is now live!  Having been to the HWT two-day training and teaching the program since I started teaching, I'm over the moon about this app.  

While it's not your content creation magical app like Toontastic (one of my favorites), it's so very powerful for little learners.  Having a four year old, I know what it is like to work on letter formation and fine motor skills.  Even more so, having taught in 1st, 2nd, 6th, and 7th grade, I know the impact that poor grip and improper letter formations can have on a student. It's best to develop good habits early.

Regardless of the handwriting debate, putting pencil to paper will be around for many years to come.  I am a believer in teaching typing and handwriting.  While I don't think the focus on handwriting should be emphasized as much as it may have been in prior years, I do value the importance of being able to properly know how to make letters that form words.  This is an important skill to launch the development of young readers and writers.  

When too much thought goes into thinking of how to make a letter, less thought goes into the flow of creative writing.  This is why I enjoy using the HWTears program.  The language is child-friendly and the formations are simple.  I even use the Livescribe Sky pen to work on handwriting with Jacob, my four year old.  

You can click here to watch the video of the HWTears developer, Jan Olsen, show how to do the Wet-Dry-Try activity using the small slate board, sponge, and paper towel.  The idea is to have multiple practices (without getting the child bored doing the same type of practice) while using the language to construct the letter.  Hence, the multi-sensory approach.

{click here to see the app on the HWTears website}


{click here to see the app in iTunes and here for Android}

Friday, December 28, 2012

Conferring Notes & Student Data (Paperless) with the Confer App - created by a National Board Certified Teacher!

Confer: The app that organizes your conferring notes and student data

Though I'm considered to be a 'tech-savvy teacher,' I still struggle with letting go of certain paper systems I'm use to.  I feel like I've mastered the perfect templates and spreadsheets for so many of my note taking strategies and record keeping binders.  In fact, I've gotten so great at being so organized that I even have templates and checklists to organize my binders.  Scary, right?

As a former interior design major, one of the most valuable lessons I learned was that function must outweigh form.  No matter how aesthetically pleasing the design is, if the purpose is not functional, the concept will fail.  For example, we've all seen the perfect outfit on the hanger only to try it on and realize the awkward fit and uncomfortable design.  Similarly, I will not shop at some of my favorite stores simply because the parking structures are so very inconvenient.  Living in Michigan, with snow and two small children, I avoid such places that make it difficult to get in and get out regardless how wonderful the store and products are.  

My point: though my binders and templates are fantastic, I'm finding that they are becoming cumbersome when trying to access during instruction.  After all, if the point of all of these notes is to drive my instruction and to be able to differentiate activities, I should have an improved system that allows me to view my notes quickly in an organized manner. 

My current system of templates, composition notebooks, binders, and clipboards looks great.  To the observer, I'm sure I appear to be quite committed, detail-orientated, and organized.  For me, I love my hand written notes.  I grab my clipboard and sit alongside a student to start conferring away.  At a quick glance, I can see who I need to meet with and later I can review my notes.  In my head, I know which students have similar needs and strengths.  However, to group these items requires time and high lighters.  

Our literacy coach sent out an email about a conferring app.  I decided to check it out only to delete the email after seeing the high price of the app.  How could one charge $14.99 for an app.  To me, this was crazy!  After all, this could buy two pizzas on the way home one evening.

Later that day, he (the literacy coach) stopped by my room.  Jason (also my husband's name) and I have a similar background and agree with many of the same instructional practices.  He and I are both alumni of the National Writing Project and follow the work of the authors of Comprehension Going Forward very closely.  He asked what I thought about the app he sent.  I was honest and told him that I didn't really check it out because it was insanely priced.  He suggested I give it another look.

So, I went to the website, clicked on the tutorial section, and viewed the video...

I had to have this app!  As I was pulling out my iPad to go to the app store, I noticed the contact tab on the website.  I wondered if I could contact the app developer to do a review of the app in exchange for a free download code.  Usually, I receive several emails a day from people wanting to give me a free code in exchange for a review on my blog.  I typically turn these offers down as they often don't relate to my second grade practice.  This was one of the first times I actually contacted a developer to reverse the process.  It worked!

David, the Confer developer, wrote back:


Thanks so much for your interest in Confer!  I'd be honored to have you review it. :)  I've copied two promo codes below, but just let me know if you need any more.  Thanks again!



Of course, I used one of the codes to try out and shared one with Jason, my literacy coach.  I've spent a bit of time playing around on the app.  So far, I'm impressed.  

I love apps that are simple and user-friendly.  For example, though there are many IWB apps available, I use  Educreations - it's easy, free, and works well.  I prefer it to Explain Everything, Show Me, and all the others.

Sometimes, more is not better.  I think David, the developer, understands this.  He is a National Board Certified teacher.  He gets it.  The app is not overloaded with jazzy features that make it difficult to use.  It's simple... just like your binder!  Only, you can use the information more effectively.

In the end, yes - I would pay for this app.  After all, I spend about $7 per large binder and even more for the divider tabs, Sharpie markers, highlighters, pens, etc... I think it's worth it.  If you're use to using an iPad, want to go more paperless, or are looking to try a new system, I'd give it a try.

It really is easy to set up and use.  I've created a brief, informal video to show you...

My favorite feature is the ability to view students based on the overall student, student groups, strengths, teaching points, and next steps.  These are all of the key points I include in my observational paper notes, now I can sort and view them easily.  This will certainly help when I call a small group for a table conference during workshop or strategy/skill mini meeting for guided reading.

One New Year's Goal of mine is to become more paperless.  Thanks to Claco and Confer, I know this will be an easier transition!

Would you like to try the Confer App?

David mentioned to let him know if I needed any more codes, so I'd like to offer two codes to Kleinspiration readers!  If you have an iPad and think this is an app you would use with your students, please click here to follow Kleinspiration on Facebook.  Leave a comment on Facebook under this posting on Facebook.  I'll post the winners on Facebook on Saturday evening (est).  To make it fun, the first two to guess the year I started teaching will win the two codes.

Web 2.0 Annotation and Bookmarking Tools: A Quick Guide

Web 2.0 Tools in Education Series
Annotation and Bookmarking Tools: A Quick Guide

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a resource that explained, in detail, everything you needed to know about annotating and bookmarking online and socially: what tools were available, how to sign up, getting started, etc.?

There are a lot of great bookmarking tools out there today, and many can save you a lot of time.  Whether it is electronically sharing an idea that inspired you, marking something for further exploration at a later date, or simply sharing notes with somebody that was unavailable, there is something for everybody.  

Personally, I'm an avid user of many different platforms for bookmarking.  Pinterest is a platform that is easily accessible and many feel comfortable with.  I am also very comfortable using Diigo, Delicious, and others.  Each are excellent resources and have been a huge benefit to me.  On occasion however, I sill find that I may need to use a function that I am a novice at, or a colleague wants to use a different sharing platform.  No need to panic - I've got my trusty Web 2.0 quick guide, which can help me sort out the new tool in a snap.

Annotation and Bookmarking Tools
click here to download the free e-book 

Dr. Mohamed Amin Embi (a brilliant mind) has been developing an educational series of web 2.0 tools.  Now, we can all get more comfortable with the language of the collaboration tools we may have been avoiding.  One of his most recent collections in his series is: Annotation and Bookmarking ToolsThis e-book is available for free through Scribd.  You can view it online for free, download it for a cost, and even print a copy to organize in a binder (Scribd members).  The resource is organized into ten chapters.  

Each chapter thoroughly explains what the tool is, advantages of using the tool, ways to incorporate it into education, detailed pictures guiding you through getting started, and references.

The detailed pictures really support understanding the tool:

Once you are on the Scribd site to view this resource, I encourage you to share it with others so that we can all benefit from these tools.  You can download the document or embed it onto another platform.  If you have the following networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, please be sure to click the buttons you will see to the left of the document and share this resource.

Find this book and more on 

He has also made it really easy to access this resource along with many others on his page.  I'm already a follower.  If you'd like quick access to his Web 2.0 Series, click here to bookmark this page.  Be sure to click 'follow.'

{click here to follow Web 2.0 OER on}

Disclaimer: Web 2.0 OER is a sponsor of this site

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays & a Look Back on the Best of 2012 from @KleinErin at Kleinspiration

Thank you all for helping to make 2012 very merry!

This year was filled with so many wonderful ideas shared among colleagues (virtual and face to face), connections made at conferences, and friendships formed through collaboration.  Blogging has opened so many doors socially and professionally.  Most of all, I am thankful for the support we all offer to each other.  

Two years ago, I never would have imagined that blogging would have influenced my profession the way it has today.  When I have a question, YOU have the answer!  I'm blown away by the friends I've made through this experience.  I get so excited connecting with you all though comments, contests, give-aways, conferences, workshops, webinars, Twitter chats, Linky parties, Facebook groups, Pinterest boards, emails, and more.  The coolest part is having Skype dates and even planning meet-ups to have coffee and collaborate on projects together.  

A Few Highlights from 2012

Though there were so many terrific items and ideas shared, below are a few of my personal favorites.  These made my favorite list most likely because they were either free or really incredible.  Also, they probably worked 'just-right' for my second grade class this year.  So, though there may be other more amazing items and ideas that aren't on my 'personal favorites' list, they probably are more suited for a different grade level.  It's that simple.  No hard feelings... or perhaps I just didn't have a chance to run across the great idea or item yet - in which case... please do share some of your favorites in the comments section of this post!  Thanks!!

Fantastic Ways to Integrate Technology

iPads in the classroom: Nearpod

 click here to view

5 Amazing Web Tools for Classroom Collaboration 

  click here to view and listen

New iPad App site by Richard Byrne

click here to view the site and here for the Pinterest board

Organize Your Facts: Citelighter

Store, organize, and share your education and research for free.

click here to view

A few of my favorite sources for having students collaborate and publish work:

 Turn your photos & videos into pure amazing.
Animoto automatically produces beautifully orchestrated, completely unique video pieces from your photos, video clips and music. Fast, free and shockingly easy.

Capzles: Time Captured. All of your media, your life, your stories. Together like never before. Create rich, multimedia experiences with videos, photos, music, blogs, documents and more.

Sonic Pics for itouch devices. Narrate your photos like never before, flipping to each image as you are ready to talk. You choose the timing. SonicPics makes it easy to make slideshow movies on your iPod touch or iPhone.
View Mrs. Klein's seventh grade class projects using itouch technology and Sonic Pics.

Prezi offers a unique format to the traditional slideshow presentation. Prezi is 'the zooming presentation editor.' Start creating astonishing presentations live and on the web. You can directly add video and multimedia into your work while adding flare to your presentation through the incredible design you develop.

Xtranormal turns type (or text) into speech. Students create a monologue or incorporate a dialogue between characters to explain various concepts. Students can retell main parts of a book, report on a historical event, or explain steps in a math problem.
View a language arts example used for our reading intervention class or a seventh grade student's digital writing project example. Also, teachers can use these as engaging anticipatory sets to start a new lesson.

Glogster provides a digital platform for students to create a multimedia poster. Import video (from a file or YouTube) or images. Glogsters are great for book reviews, describing important events in history, showing a detailed description of a novel's setting, displaying images and video from an engaging science experiment... Easy to create - Students love making them!

Storybird has become one of my new personal favorites. This free site allows teachers to create an account and invite students so that projects can be monitored. If you simply decide to allow students to create their own accounts, which is what I did, they can send you the link to their project. Students take ownership in selecting their illustrator's artwork and developing their written work as an author. These beautiful books can also be printed to share.

Fantastic Products

Summary Poster by Megan from I Teach.

click here to download

Genre Posters by Beth Newingham

click here to download

*Another favorite from Beth: Word Study in Action*
click here to view

Character Profiles by Sarah at Permanently Primary

click here to download

click here to download

Fantastic Teaching Ideas

Organize your Anchor Charts for Years to Come by Teaching My Friends!

click here to see the full post

Dry Erase Flash Card Albums

DIY Dry Erase Pom Markers by Amanda at The Teaching Thief

click here to see the full post

Fantastic Bloggers

My Pinterest Board: "Blogs I Love"
- click here


My Google Reader
- click here -


My Twitter PLN
- click here -
- click here

Fantastic Kleinspiration Posts
- My Top 5 of 2012 - 

K-6 Reading Lessons: Common Core Aligned 

click here to view

Breaking News: Remind101 Launches the App!

click here to view

ABCya Games: The Leader in Free Kids Computer Games & Apps for your iPod/iPad!!

click here to view

Beautiful Classroom Design Themes from Schoolgirl Style & a super give-away!

click here to view

Guest Post: Top SMART Board Resources + Free Downloads! by Gena Mathes

click here to view

See More Great Blog Highlights from 2012

Thanks to Christina for hosting this fun Linky to sum up 2012!

Thank you from Erin Klein at!

Follow Me on Pinterest

A Special Thanks to my Readers and my Sponsors!

Please take a moment and visit the sponsor of this site:

- Mastery Connect: (click here)
MasteryConnect makes it simple to share and discover common formative assessments and track mastery of state and Common Core standards. Built-in grading tools save teachers time. (click here) is the leader in free educational kids computer games and activities for elementary students to learn on the web. All children's educational computer activities were created or approved by certified school teachers. All educational games are free and are modeled from primary grade lessons and enhanced to provide an interactive way for children to learn.

Ten Marks: (click here)
At TenMarks, we believe that students learn best when they're engaged, nurtured, and motivated, and that teachers are key to improving math achievement. To help maximize teacher effectiveness in the classroom and to make their lives easier, we've created a web-based learning environment that simplifies assignments, automates grading, and drives student learning through engaging videos and interactive lessons.

- Mind Maple: (click here)
MindMaple® will increase your productivity and creativity by visually organizing your ideas and thoughts onto a mind map. MindMaple® is perfect for working professionals and educators involved in project managing, brain storming, and task scheduling. Experience the difference with MindMaple®.

- Web 2.0 OER (click here)
Open Educational Resources on Web 2.0 Tools in Education 
Curated by Mohamed Amin Embi 

- Remind 101 (click here)
A safe way for teachers to text message students and stay in touch with parents. Free.

- Class Dojo (click here)
ClassDojo is a classroom tool that helps teachers improve behavior in their classrooms quickly and easily. It also captures and generates data on behavior that teachers can share with parents and administrators.  Better learning behaviors, smoother lessons and hassle-free data - and its free!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Top Tech Sites for this Holiday Season

Top Tech Sites for this Holiday Season

It’s possible to find many tech sites during the holiday season that can be used to explore apps, reviews, and games, while also allowing you to make your own presents. Other tech sites are useful for experimenting with different examples of digital design, while some are just fun ways to play around with making fun cards and messages for Christmas. From sites like Glogster that allow you to make posters, through to music mixing sites that can allow you to make the perfect Christmas playlist, some of the top tech sites for this holiday season include:


This website allows you to import files and make up your own posters, blogs, and other media projects. While providing a lot of different projects, Glogster can be used to design posters for Christmas, as well as for creating records of trips and photographs during the holidays season. In doing so, Glogster is recommended for anyone that wants to get familiar with designing and bringing out their creative sides online.


If you just want a bit of fun at Christmas, then ElfYourself is reliable at creating cards that you can send to your friends. Simply add in faces of your friends, and they’ll be animated as dancing elves.

PBS Kids Go

It’s hard to go wrong with PBS, and for anyone who wants to watch and interact with their shows during Christmas, the main PBS Kids Go site is ideal for containing games, contests, and information.


A wide ranging site that offers jokes, Weird Science sections, and recipes for various age types, Funology is useful as a way of filling quieter days during the holiday season. Funology is best for younger kids, although it does offer some more advanced features, as well as more accessible projects based around magic tricks; and recipes that can be used by anyone.

The Toymaker

Ideal if you want to create online toys and cards that can be given to younger children, or even if you just want to experiment with designing and trying out some creative ideas.


A good way of learning about the important of charity and its impact at Christmas, Kiva is a micro-loan site that allows families to send small amounts of money to projects around the world. Kiva also provides information on how that money is being spent.


This site allows you to create books and experiment with different storytelling techniques. While you have to be 13 to register, younger children can register with a parent, and can enjoy building up their confidence.


Anyone looking to create an online mixtape that can be shared with friends and family can do so on Muxtape; the site is designed to prevent messages and chat, putting the focus instead on creating mixtapes that can then be shared.


An extension of Make Magazine, this site provides the tools to try different creative projects, and offers the chance for collaboration and engagement with digital media. With a philosophy that encourages users to put their own spin on media, and cutting-edge updates on new digital projects, Make is an excellent resource for starting new projects for Christmas.

Rob James is a secondary school teacher in the UK. He found his job by looking through GSL Education’s  teacher jobs in London. Over the years he has had many different roles. Rob likes to blog about the different aspects of inspiring young minds.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

16 Amazing File Folder Games for Science!

Grades 2-3: Science File Folder Games by Carson - Dellosa

If you ask my students to name one of their favorite classroom activities, they'll more than likely tell you about our workstations.  During the last hour of our day, each student partnership rotates through a series of three stations.  Our stations range from technology to word work.  Most of our stations have a digital component.  We try to integrate technology as much as possible.  However, if a station doesn't have an engaging gadget, it most likely has a fun interactive component like the Carson-Dellosa science file folder games.  

My students really enjoy the science games included in the kit.  The games are all easy to understand, student-friendly, colorful and interesting, and standards aligned. 

All I had to do was cut the card-stock pieces for each file folder.  Luckily I had a generous parent volunteer that actually did this for our class.  After the pieces were cut, she labeled a medium sized manila envelope and placed the cards inside.  So organized!

The back of the box shows a thumbnail image of all 16 games that cover Earth and space, physical and life sciences, climate, food groups, parts of the body, parts of a plant, solids and liquids, objects in spaces (living and non-living) and dressing for the weather.

The box is very sturdy and doubles as a durable case for each of your file folder games.  Sometimes I encourage my kids to try a specific topic, but they really love the ability to choose from a variety of fascinating topics.  This choice really enhances their engagement while in the center or with their partner.  

Sometimes it's nice to have an artifact of their learning.  The kit includes a variety of corresponding formative assessment pieces to accompany each topic.  The pieces are put into a nice little booklet.  I simply make a few copies of each paper and put them inside of each file folder.  After the students complete the activity, they demonstrate their understanding on paper to submit.  I can quickly gauge areas of understanding for re-teaching.  There is one page per file folder topic.  I personally love the format of the pages.  The page is not crowded with too much writing and there are clean visuals to support the task.  Very nice!

We use several activities in our workstations.  This summer, I plan to put together an organized book/binder for all of our standards aligned materials.  Stay tuned!  

You can click here to check out the NEWly designed Carson-Dellosa website...


Please click here to connect to the Science File Folder games on their website.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ready. Set. @GoAnimate with Creative Kids!

Firstly, a big thank you to Erin for the invitation to guest post on her fantastic blog! Kleinspiration is one of my favourite 'go to' blogs for ideas and 'inspiration'!!! It has been about two weeks since I have begun my blogging journey with the establishment of my own blog, Le@rning Out Loud. It's been addictive to say the least and I am enjoying the opportunity to share and collaborate!


I've recently discovered a fantastic website called GoAnimate, which allows you to create your own animations. It is simple and easy to use and best of all you can access it for free!

Whilst there is a paid ‘upgrade’ version, I use the free version in order to create short lesson introductions for a variety of topics that ‘hook’ students immediately into the lesson.

At my school there has been a big focus on reciprocal teaching strategies. I created the following animation as an intro to the strategy of ‘summarizing’.

Animation Software - Powered by GoAnimate.

There is also paid education version of the program that students can use. However, if your school is unable to purchase the license, you can still create videos together as a whole class or with a small group using your login.

After reading The Magic Finger, by Roald Dahl, this is the animation that my class created to summarize the story.

Animation Software - Powered by GoAnimate.

Creating your own short animation is super dooper easy, using GoAnimate. However, if you’re a bit hesitant or unsure, I have created a simple step-by-step tech tutorial, which can be found on my blog, Le@rning Out Loud.