Running Records on the iPad

Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.-Harry S. Truman

Powerful teaching happens when teachers take information gained from observations and assessments of children’s literacy development into consideration when planning instruction.  Since observations can be subjective, it is important to include data from more formal observations as well.

We use running records as assessment tools to assess students literacy progress.  A running record is a tool for coding, scoring and analyzing a child’s precise reading behaviors. (Fountas and Pinnell).  Up until recently, I was using forms from the Fountas and Pinnell kit for running records.  While a great way to take a running record, it requires a lot of copies and paper.

running record imageI have found an app called Record of Reading.  It is a great app…not just because it was created by my alma mater, Clemson University…but because it is an electronic means of assessing reading behaviors.  You don’t need a calculator as it has embedded formulas for accuracy and self corrections.  The app even records the child reading while the teacher simultaneously takes the record. When replaying the record, the oral reading and the record are synced.  The record can be saved or emailed.  There is also a user manual if needed.  You are able to type or write directly in the app and it doesn’t have to be opened in a PDF annotator.  Best of all, it is FREE!.

Running records inform our instruction through capturing progress, assessing text difficulty, matching texts appropriately to students, and seeing and hearing reading behaviors directly.  They also help us group students with similar instructional needs as well as provide individualized instruction where needed.  They give explicit feedback to the student and to parents if needed.

readingWatching my students grow as readers is rewarding.  I love watching them go from non-readers to readers over the course of the school year. Creating successful readers requires knowing your students…knowing their strengths and where they struggle.  It also requires that we know our students’ interests so that we can have texts available to stimulate reading.  By keeping track of our students’ reading behaviors through running records, we can inform our instruction to best meet their needs.

Today, we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

A Reading Buffet with iPads

Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.  -Stephen Fry

Sunday potluck dinners in the South are awesome.  There is always a huge array of church- lady food.  You know the kind I’m talking about…Miss Ruby’s secret recipe sweet potato casserole, or Miss Ethel’s homemade from scratch coconut cake.  You look down the long table filled with amazing choices and hope the blessing is said quickly and that you’ve got enough space in your stomach to hold a little bit of all of it. You walk away with a plate piled high of a little of this and a little of that.  So much better is this than going to a restaurant where you may have a menu full of choices, but you must settle on only one entree.  Invariably, I always look around once the food arrives and wish I had ordered what someone else ordered.

reading choicesHaving choices in reading is no different than that Sunday covered dish luncheon.  My students have the choice of reading regular books, and they can also read from their iPads.  They have many books both hard copy and electronic to choose from.  They can read from a variety of genres and from a variety of topics on a variety of reading levels.  This is a time when more is definitely…well…more.  Already my kindergarten students are referencing author styles, comparing illustrations, and making connections to other texts with their reading partners.  One student recently asked another, “Do you like Eric Carle’s illustrations better than Dr. Seuss?”

Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer states: “People who lose the ability to make choices become disempowered. This is true for adults, and it is true for young readers. When every book a child reads is chosen for them — by parents or teachers — children lose self-motivation to read and interest in reading. Children should choose their own reading material most of the time, but they need exposure to a book flood to determine what books they like and learn how to choose their own books. “

Choices encourage engagement, engagement encourages stamina and stamina teaches the curriculum of time.  Children need to learn to read by reading.  By offering them a veritable table of “covered dish” choices, they don’t have to decide between the sweet potatoes and the mashed potatoes…they can have both.  And isn’t that the best of both worlds?  Pass the gravy y’all…

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Giving Students Choices in Reading

Readers without power to make their own choice are unmotivated. -Donalyn Miller-The Book Whisperer

I’ve stated before that I’m a voracious reader.  I have always loved books and the ability to be transformed by a story.  I particularly love Southern writers.  I’ve never quite understood how others aren’t “readers”. They read only when required and almost never for pleasure.  In order to create readers, we have to identify ourselves as a reader first.  We must “brand” ourselves as readers.  When I read to my class, I share what I like about that particular author. I tell about other books like that book.  I make connections with myself to the text, to others, and to the world.  My students know how much I love to read.

But what about those who struggle? Or those who don’t like it?  Getting to the root helps determine which way to help the child grow.  What don’t they like?  Are there books available that interest them?  How many informational texts are available on their reading level?  I can tell you that as much as I love reading, I would not be as enthusiastic if I were forced to sit and read instructional manuals all day, or books on mechanical things. Those are not my interest.  Taking an interest inventory helps know how to fill your book center or your iBooks shelf on your iPad.  Building an early foundation of excitement about books, whether paperback, hardback, or electronic, helps build an appreciation and love for books.

My students have a variety of genres available throughout the day.  We work to build enthusiasm for our classroom library and for our eBooks on our iPads.  By demonstrating authentic reading behaviors, doing away with worksheets, engaging kids in building stamina when they read, and giving kids choices about what they read, we can develop life-long readers.

Reading is so much more than phonics, sight words, and mechanics.  It is about building discovery, wonder, and awe around the written word.  It is power.  It is peace.

So what should students learn from us about reading?  That drill and practice worksheets aren’t making them better readers.  Reading makes them better readers.  iPads give me the opportunity to practice the mechanics of reading with individual students on their own level, but they also give them a choice of what they are reading.  There are leveled books in their iBooks libraries.  There are high interest books as part of their apps, plus all of the traditional books in our classroom.  The best part of all is that the choice is theirs!

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