August 24, 2012

Fun Countdown Timers for the Classroom

Time management was one of the most difficult aspects of classroom management for me. I loved having my students actively engaged in a hands-on lesson, but those types of lessons are very time-consuming. A quick 30-minute activity would often evolve into an hour-long lesson! A big part of the problem was my lack of time management skills. I would give my students a simple task, intending to allow 5 minutes before moving on to the next step, and the next thing I knew, 20 minutes had passed.

Luckily, my time management skills improved after I had an interactive whiteboard installed in my classroom. I discovered that the built-in Smartboard timer app was a great help, and before long I also discovered a wonderful FREE website with a variety of creative and fun timers. Online Stopwatch has over a dozen timers for counting up and counting down, including the countdown timers shown here. I would assign a task, set the timer to count down, and turn my attention back to my students. Even if I was caught up in an activity and didn't notice the time passing, the online timer would let us know when time was up.

I love these timers because they're fun as well as effective for classroom management, no matter the age of your students. After you set the total time and click the start button, an action occurs on each timer to show the passing time. For example, in the clock timer at the top, the hand on the clock moves and the clock changes from yellow to black. In the bomb timer, the fuse becomes shorter and shorter as it slowly burns towards the bomb. The candle slowly melts as the wick burns, the fuse burns to the bottle rocket, and the sand trickles down through the egg timer. In each case, when the time's up, the timer sounds off dramatically. The only problem with these timers is that they are so exciting that they might actually be distracting! Fortunately, Online Stopwatch does have a few plain timers, too. You can even create your own custom countdown timer by choosing a timer, the ending sound, and other features. I suggest visiting the Classroom Timers page on their site to see the full selection of timers. If you're interested in more classroom and time management strategies, visit the Classroom Management page on Teaching Resources.

Which online timer is your favorite? How do you use timers in your classroom?
Laura Candler

August 22, 2012

Power Reading Workshop and The Daily 5

Comparing and Contrasting Two Models 

"How does Power Reading Workshop fit with the Daily 5?" 

I've been asked that question several times recently, so I decided to tackle it in a blog post. I feel fortunate to have been a part of a summer book study that examined The Daily 5, an outstanding resource for teachers written by "the sisters," Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. After participating in that book study, I feel more confident about exploring the similarities and differences between Power Reading Workshop and The Daily 5. Both programs empower students to become better readers by allowing them to select and read books of their own choosing. In both programs, reading instruction takes place through mini-lessons, independent conferences, and small guided reading group lessons.

My response is a bit lengthy, but this question is important and it deserves an in-depth answer. As a part of my response, I’ll also dig into the two follow-up texts, the sisters’ CAFÉ Book and my own Graphic Organizers for Reading: Teaching Tools Aligned with the Common Core.

Discovering the The Daily 5
I first read The Daily 5 shortly after it came out in 2006, and I was impressed by the sisters' inspirational writing style and by the program itself. Their book outlines the five components that make up their literacy program, describing a learning environment in which students are responsible for their own growth as readers. Their methods surpass the basic reading workshop approach described in many other books. However, I experienced two big stumbling blocks when it came to implementing the Daily 5 model. First, as a 5th grade teacher, I didn't have two or three hours to devote to literacy instruction, and I wasn't convinced that my students needed all five components. The other problem was that the examples in the book were from primary classrooms, and the strategy descriptions did not include enough detail for me to understand how to implement the program in an upper elementary classroom.

Step-by-Step with Power Reading Workshop
As much as I enjoyed the book, I didn't feel comfortable implementing reading workshop that year. However, I did continue to search for more information on the topic. I was inspired by two more books, The Book Whisperer and Igniting a Passion for Reading, but what I really wanted was a set of step-by-step directions telling me how to get started.

Eventually, I jumped in and started implementing the reading workshop model in my classroom. I tweaked some of the strategies I had been reading, and I developed some of my own, creating the program I now call Power Reading Workshop. Within just a few weeks, it became obvious that these methods were working extremely well and that my 5th graders were starting to love reading. After the first quarterly benchmark test, it was obvious that they were becoming better readers, too! It was at that point that I started writing down everything I was doing and compiling it to share with others. It took several years of working with the program and getting feedback from others teachers, but eventually I published Power Reading Workshop: A Step-by-Step Guide, the first reading workshop guide with easy, step-by-step directions.

Comparing and Contrasting Approaches

Let's look at the Power Reading Workshop (PRW) and The Daily 5 (D5) programs in more detail.
  • Both PRW and the D5 are based on students selecting and reading their own books, and both programs provide large blocks of time in the schedule for independent reading.
  • Both programs deliver instruction through mini-lessons, individual conferences, and targeted reading lessons in small guided reading groups.
  • PRW was designed for students in grades 2 through 6 who are already minimally proficient in reading. The D5 program can be modified for use with these age groups, too, but the examples given in the D5 book are from primary grade classrooms. 
  • PRW is a simple, streamlined, step-by-step approach for starting a reading workshop and adapting it to meet the needs of your students. PRW does include many components of the D5, such as reading to self, listening to reading, and reading to someone. However, word work and spelling are not a part of the PRW model because writing and spelling are often taught separately in upper elementary and middle school classrooms. Since PRW only focuses on the reading components of literacy instruction, it can easily be implemented in an hour a day. The D5 program includes five different components of literacy instruction, including word work and spelling, and it requires several hours a day to implement.  
Exploring the CAFE Menu System
The CAFE Book is the follow up to The Daily 5. Apparently, the sisters received so many requests for more detailed information that they ended up writing The CAFE Book. It's interesting to note that while they were writing this book, I was developing Power Reading Workshop to address the same need for step-by-step instructions! I just read The CAFE Book last month, and I LOVE it! To my amazement, this book has many of the missing pieces that I was looking for in The Daily 5. The CAFE Book outlines a literacy menu of reading strategies for Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, and Expanded Vocabulary. I was particularly impressed with the detailed information about how to conduct individual conferences and guided reading groups, as well as their huge appendix of specific information about how to teach reading strategies. I highly recommend this book as a supplement to Power Reading Workshop, because the CAFE menu approach can easily be integrated into the basic Power Reading Workshop model after the first 10 days of instruction.

Graphic Organizers Aligned with the Common Core
The final piece of the puzzle can be found in Graphic Organizers for Reading: Teaching Tools Aligned with the Common Core. I've always loved using graphic organizers in my teaching, and when I began implementing reading workshop, I realized how easy it was to create mini lessons from graphic organizers. The book was first intended as supplement to Power Reading Workshop, but then I began learning about the new Common Core State Standards, and realized it could be much more. It occurred to me that all of the reading standards could be taught by using a graphic organizer to frame each lesson! I organized the chapters in the book to align with Common Core State Standards, so the mini-lessons provide an easy way to make sure you are meeting the standards for your grade level.

Complementary Reading Workshop Models
The way I see it, Power Reading Workshop and The Daily 5 have many similarities. Both programs are designed to empower students with a love of reading and to provide them with the tools to become better readers. The components of each program can be integrated together and adapted to meet the needs of your class. I encourage you to learn more about both Power Reading Workshop and The Daily 5 because both programs include strategies that will enrich your reading instruction.

Power Reading Workshop and Graphic Organizers for Reading are both available on, and if you click on those titles, you can read the reviews there. If you are interested in the digital copies of these books, you can get the digital versions for FREE when you order the print copies directly from my publisher. Just go to this page on Teaching Resources and follow the links.

I also invite you to visit the Reading Workshop page on Teaching Resources where you can find these books and other resources to guide you on your reading workshop journey.

Laura Candler, Teaching Resources

August 16, 2012

Pinning on the Go

I've been using Pinterest for awhile now, and I love the way it allows me to organize my teaching resources. However, my biggest frustration has been not being able to pin and repin from my iPad. Until recently, Pinterest only had an iPhone app, and you couldn't use it for browsing and pinning directly from the web. I tried a few other apps, but none of them worked very well. That all changed this week when Pinterest came out with a brand new (FREE!) app for the iPad! I also heard that they have a new app for the Android, but I don't know if it works the same as the iPad app.

What I love about this new app is that it lets me do everything on my iPad that I can do on my computer. I can view all of my Pinterest Boards and pins in one place. I can see my Pinterest feed and repin directly from there. I can even browse the web from within the Pinterest app and pin new content to any of my boards. I love it! Now I can indulge my Pinterest addiction on the go!

I've organized my blog posts and teaching materials from many sources on Pinterest by category or theme. I even created a visual archive for Corkboard Connections on Pinterest so you could see everything at a glance! In addition, I contribute to a number of wonderful collaborative Pinterest boards.

Here are just a few of my Pinterest boards that you might want to follow:

By the way, you can follow these boards individually, or just follow all my boards! If you do that, you'll be added to any new board I create! Happy pinning!
Laura Candler

August 13, 2012

Graphing Oral Fluency Freebie

Oops! The bad news is the blog post and freebie you're looking for have moved to another page on Corkboard Connections.

The good news is that I've updated the Graphing Oral Fluency freebie and it now looks like the one shown here! Even better, it's still 100% free!

Click over to How to Track Oral Reading Fluency to read the article and learn where to download this freebie!
Laura Candler

August 9, 2012

Your Wishes Can Come True!

Back to School Pack and a Freebie!

For the past few weeks I've been working on project, and I'm excited that it's finally ready to share with others! Back to School Super Start Pack is a mega pack of strategies, printables, and activities to help you get your school year off with a bang! After 30 years of teaching, I tweaked my "back to school" routine until it worked perfectly. I learned the importance of teaching a variety of lessons to create a caring classroom while at the same time establishing the rules and procedures needed for effective instruction. I discovered that starting the year with these lessons virtually guaranteed that the rest of the year would be terrific! I also learned how to reach out to parents using strategies such as the Wish Upon a Star freebie shown here.

Wish Upon a Star Display
As you set up your classroom this year, I'm sure you'll find yourself wishing for many things to make your room more inviting or productive. It's not always the big things like the iPads and the Smartboards. Sometimes it's the little things like tennis balls to make "chair socks" so you don't have to hear the constant scraping of chairs all day. Or having extra pillows or a beanbag chair to make a cozy reading corner.

What you need is a way to let your parents know what you want for your classroom. The Wish Upon a Star display shown here is similar to the Angel Tree concept you've seen at Christmas. I post the title on a board and surround it with stars displaying the individual items I'm requesting. During Open House or on the first day of school, I invite parents to take a star and return it attached to the item. I'm always sure to include a variety of items on the stars, from inexpensive items like tennis balls and extra tissue to larger items like folding chairs, bean bags, or gift cards to a local book store. Many years I've received everything I wished for!

Wish Upon a Star is a part of my Back to School Super Start Pack, but you can also download it as a free sample of what's inside. I hope that you and your students have a super start to the 2012-2013 school year! What items do you plan to include on the wishing stars on your board?

Laura Candler, Teaching Resources

August 5, 2012

Pinterest: The Price Tag Dilemma

Whether you're a Pinterest newbie or a Pinterest junkie, you probably follow someone who pins products to their boards. When you see an item with a price banner in the upper left corner, you can click through to a page where you can purchase that item. Perfect! Maybe you assumed that items without price tags were free, but I'll bet it only took a few minutes of clicking through on unlabeled pins to find out that not all products are marked with price tags. So what's the deal?

Pinterest is a fairly new social network, and it's a work in progress just like other social networks. When I first started, the accepted Pinterest etiquette was to put a price tag on an item if your pin linked to a product page. I also learned that it's not polite to use Pinterest as a huge online advertising billboard for your products, but that you should pin lots of free content, too. I've religiously tried to follow both of those Pinterest guidelines, and maybe that's why I have accumulated over 10,000 followers in less than a year. All of my boards are school-themed, so if you like to see teacher materials in your Pinterest feed, feel free to check out my Pinterest boards!

The Dilemma
However, as much as followers like price tags, Pinterest users have recently begun to realize that putting price tags on pins is a flawed system. Why? Well, when someone repins that item to their own board, the price tag is permanent while the actual price of the item may change. Imagine that next month I revise one of my ebooks, add a lot of new content, and raise the price. But the 200 people who already repinned that item to their own board are going to see the old price, and they might be disappointed when they click through later and realize it now costs more.

Because of this problem, I'm adopting a new policy regarding how I let my followers know that one of my items has a price. Instead of adding the exact price to the description which automatically generates a price banner, I'm just going to put a plain $ sign in the description to let you know that it's not free. No, I'm not trying to be tricky! However, I don't want you to be disappointed later if my prices change.

One thing I will not be changing, though, is that I'll still be posting a lot of free content from my website and blog on my boards, and I'll be repinning other great free content from teachers I follow on Pinterest. If you don't already follow my boards, click this link to get started! What are your thoughts on the price tag dilemma?