For the love of reading…


Love ReadingI wasn’t a reader of books as a child. In fact I despised reading. I only remember reading Ramona Quimby Age 8 and a book about Mary Lou Retton. I never participated in the reading competitions where you had to fly your rocket to each planet for every hour you read. Only once did I participate. It was because my teacher made me. And I wasn’t happy. I wandered library shelves looking at covers, wasting the time until our teacher told us to line up. Then I’d grab something last minute then shove it in my desk until the day it had to be returned. I just didn’t have time to read. I needed to run, ride by bike, and do cartwheels. But that wasn’t the problem…

If you knew me now you’d laugh at that story of my childhood. I now love books. They are shoved into every nook of our home and my classroom. I talk about books like they are my friends, saying things like, “This book will change your life forever.” I can’t walk into a bookstore without walking out with a new adventure in my hand. I scavenge thrift stores and the Friends of the Library store for new books to add to my collection. I’m embarrassed to admit that once, my husband found me in a thrift store with a stack of books in my arms that I was preventing from falling by holding my chin down on them. My husband laughed at me and said, “No way… we are on a road trip and there just isn’t room in the car!”

My daughters’ rooms are littered with books as well. Just two days ago my youngest daughter cried when we weren’t going to have enough time to get to the library for her to get the next book in her series. My oldest soaks up books and is left craving for more at all times. In fact, I might even say she has read more books than me and she is only 11 years old!

Why is it so different for my daughters?
Why do they love to read?
Why didn’t I have that as a child?
And more importantly, how can we as educators continue to inspire my daughters’ love of books?

Please read this post by Pernille Ripp, titled The Five Truths of Reading.

Let’s help children find a love of reading and nurture that.

This week for Share #YourEdustory, we were challenged with sharing a book that has inspired us as our summer reading. I constantly refer to The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. Her book justified my philosophy of keeping the element of choice alive in your reading program. Nothing kills motivation more than being told you MUST read this book. In addition, Donalyn speaks to the journey of finding books that inspire children. We must actively get to know our students so that we can find the books that hook the readers in our classroom. Because sometimes it just takes one book or one genre that will hook that reluctant reader in your classroom. It may be just one book that sparks a love for reading.

Share #YourEdustory.


Lose the Binder: Use Evernote in Your Classroom

It’s been almost three weeks since my first ISTE conference and the wheels continue to turn or better said, spin wildly! This is by far the largest and most inspiring education conference I have ever been to and has resulted in creating new life in my ed tech world. While I spend a lot of time reading blogs and professional articles and following extremely inspiring educators on Twitter, I was able to take all the ideas I have been gathering and really plant some solid seeds into next year’s plan for my classroom. Another plus, was actually meeting and networking with some of the very same teachers I follow and network with on Twitter.
     Now I have been formulating all of the ideas into my head for long enough and it is about time to put them down on my blog. This will be a series of blog entries because as I sit here and think about everything I want to write about I find myself overwhelmed with writer’s block. So as a cure to this, I am posting in smaller chunks. I hope you enjoy and can take at least one new piece of edtech awesomeness away with you!
Lose the Binder: Use Evernote in Your Classroom
Remember the good ol’ days of getting your brand new Trapper Keeper? You stuffed it full of tabs, pencils pouches, and fresh clean college ruled paper. Then after a year of sub-organization, with papers falling out, you place that Trapper Keeper on the bookshelf never to be looked at again. Now imagine the world for our students where Trapper Keepers and binders were considered a blast from the past. Imagine a world where your students carried their digital binder from grade to grade collecting work from their past years of schooling. Essentially, collecting a history of learning and a digital portfolio all at the same time. That time has come and Evernote is that digital binder of the future.
     If you use Evernote for your personal use, then you know all too well how wonderfully simple and amazing the Evernote app is. When I first began using Evernote, I downloaded it so I could take notes there rather than using the iPhone/iPad’s built in notes. I was amazed how easily it synced with my iPad, iPod, iPhone, and desktop. Then as I began to dig deeper into Evernote’s capabilities I began to see the potential of this app in the classroom.
Here are the functions that make Evernote amazing for use in a classroom:
  • Note taking (word processing)
  • List maker
  • Audio recording
  • Snapshots (take pictures)
  • Tag notes for searching and filing ease
  • With the Premium version you are able to search items in all notebooks (including words in images and handwritten words)
  • With the Premium version, students can share work with you (but not in real time like in Google Docs)
     The first thing that came to mind was to use Evernote as my student’s word processing tool. I have a 1:1 iPod classroom and this made writing and publishing of student work a fun and easy process. However, after listening to Nick Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) speak about his full integration of Evernote into his high school English class (at #ISTE12) I was inspired on a whole new level. He is part of a 1:1 iPad program and claims that once he introduced Evernote to his students they took to it immediately and wanted to use it for all of their classes for note-taking and word processing. He explained how Evernote is like a binder that a student can carry with them from year to year. Each year a student can collect all of their learning in one location and essentially, indirectly or purposely, compile a digital portfolio.
     Nick has so fully integrated Evernote into his teaching that he is now paperless! He has scanned all of his assignments and teaching tools and has them stored in notebooks in Evernote. Nick said last school year he made only 240 copies! In addition, instead of carrying home crates of writing projects to grade each day, he just walks on out with his iPad. That is truly phenomenal.
Instantly my mind was turning with new ideas to integrate Evernote into my classroom. Here they are:
  • Have students create notebooks for their projects. They can then email me their entire notebook as their final project.
  • Create digital writing portfolios
  • Use Evernote to capture pictures of their artwork (from our art program). Students can include either a written reflection about their piece or an audio recording.
  • Students can use the audio recording to record their final fluency practice. This can be turned in with a written reflection (using a kid-friendly rubric).
  • With the premium version (teacher only) I will have students share their writing with me. I will then be able to comment on their work or attach an audio recording of my reflection of their work. Imagine the time I will save and the documentation I will be able to gather!
  • Students can access their work on their iPods, in the computer lab, and even on their devices at home.
  • Students can email their work to you.
  • Teach my students to take notes using Evernote fully utilizing snapshots.
  • Use Evernote to document my Daily 5 reading conferences. I can even use the audio recording to record students reading aloud. Read this blog for more information: Evernote as a Reading 1 on 1 Conference Tool 
Great Evernote links from other amazing educators:

If you have more ideas to add, please add them into the comment area! I love hearing what everyone else is doing.
Thank you,
Jo-Ann Fox

Talking Book Covers Using Mad Lips


I have been sitting around with my daughters this summer break and playing with this hilarious app called Mad Lips(for the iPhone and iPod). The girls and I have been making short movies and rolling around on the ground laughing hysterically. And then BOOM! I thought, if we are having this much fun, so can my students!

That is when I came up with Talking Book Covers as a refreshing new way to do a book review, character analysis, or short and to the point book report. Talk about making a book report a fun (yes… I said the F-word.. FUN)! Remember, never take the fun out of reading and, boy, do regular old book reports do that.Now you can use the Mad Lips app (free) to take a picture of a favorite book and make a 15 second summary or book review. Here is how:

1. Read a book! 🙂

2. Write and practice a quick summary or book review. Here is my example using one of my all time favorite books, Because of Winn Dixie:

Here is what I started with:
Hi, I’m Winn Dixie. Yep, I am named after a grocery store. Its really a funny story. You should read this book and find out how I got my name and how I became Opal’s best friend. I came into Opal’s life at just the right time and little did she know all she needed was a dog to help her find her way in her new town. This is a great summer adventure to read during your summer break!

Here is what I had time to say:
Hi, I’m Winn Dixie. Yep, I am named after a grocery store. Its really a funny story. You should read this book and find out how I got my name and how I became Opal’s best friend. This is a great summer adventure to read during your summer break!

3. Open up Mad Lips app and take a photo of your book by selecting NEW.

4. Then select VIDEO and record. Be sure to hold your iPod steady because if the camera moves too much your lips will move out the “lip zone.” After you have recorded, resize the oval to match the size of your lips. When set select DONE.

5. Now adjust the size of your lips to match the character you wish to have talking. You can change the size, rotate the mouth, and even blend to make it appear more realistic. You can also change the sound of the voice but the free version only has three choices (geek, normal, or creep). Not my idea of great choices. So I just keep it normal.

6. Then select DONE. At this point select SAVE and SHARE, then SHARE again. You will then need to write a title (I would have my students put their name here) and a frame. Then select DONE.

7. It will create your video and save it to you photo album.
8. At this point I would have my students post their project on Edmodo, email it to me, or share out on the overhead as a class.Here is my sample:

Free version has ads. You can upgrade to the Pro as an in app purchase for $1.99. I haven’t purchased the full version so I cannot review that part of the app. It looks as though you can add different voices, create a movie without a pre-selected frame, and will probably get rid of the ads. This only an iPhone or iPod app.
How else can you use this app? Please share and don’t forget… have some FUN!
Jo-Ann Fox

Dr. Seuss Day Goes Digital: Freaky Friday!


“You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may. Try them and you may, I say.”

Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham

Objective: Students will be able to create a Storyrobe or SonicPics presentation detailing the main events of their favorite Dr. Seuss book. They need to include a summary of the beginning, middle, and end. They also need to give their opinion of the book in the form of a book recommendation.

California Common Core Standards

Reading Standards for Literature

  • Key Ideas and Details (1-3)
  • Range of Reading and Level of Complexity (10)

Listening and Speaking Standards

  • Presentation of Knowledge of Ideas (4-6)


  • Conventions of Standard English (1)

Supplies: Class set of iPods, iPads, laptops, or other hand-held devices. Ability to email final project to you.


Green Eggs and Ham

Horton Hears a Who




Dr. Seuss Day Overview

Dr. Seuss Day has finally arrived! I sure hope you have found a lesson (or two or three) that you would love to implement today in your classroom to make Dr. Seuss Day Go Digital. The great news is that Oceanhouse Media (the creators of the Dr. Seuss apps) announced that Dr. Seuss apps will be on sale from March 2-8! The Lorax book is discounted to $0.99 and the Lorax Garden game will be FREE! Their other Dr. Seuss books will range from $0.99-$2.99. Collect these fabulous apps now while they are discounted!

Today we are going to get a little freaky with Dr. Seuss activities! I happen to go a bit over the top on Dr. Seuss Day. Although, I am planning digital lessons for my classroom, there are some old favorite activities that I still love to do. In the morning, after reading Green Eggs and Ham, I am taking my class to the cafeteria for a freaky food surprise! I am treating them to a Green Egg and Ham breakfast!  Also, at the end of the day (and after read Bartholomew and the Oobleck) my class and I will make some freaky green goo… Oobleck! This is a great science activity and the recipe I use can be found on my teacher website. Follow this link.

And of course, it wouldn’t be Dr. Seuss Day without participating in Read Across America. So we spend much of the day reading, reading, reading! All of my students bring in their personal and much loved collections of Dr. Seuss books and we spread out all over the classroom with our books surrounding us. My students love trying to read Fox in Socks without messing up. They love revisiting old favorites like the Cat in the Hat. They even begin to enjoy some of Dr. Seuss’ more serious and longer books like Horton Hears a Who and the Sneetches. We keep track of how many books we read on a reading log and we try to read more books than last year’s class!

Digital Storytelling Lesson

After my students have spent a good portion of the day reading their favorite Dr. Seuss books, they need to narrow it down and pick their absolute favorite book! Follow these steps for this activity:

  1. Model how to create a Storyrobe or SonicPics presentation. I have blogged about Storyrobe in the past. Please refer back to this blog for more details. I love SonicPics even more than Storyrobe because it allows you to use more than 3 pictures. Basically both apps allow you to create a presentation using pictures. You can voice record over the pictures to create a digital storytelling presentation.
  2. Have students take at least 3 pictures from their book using the built in camera. Have them select the best 3 pictures that would summarize the beginning, middle, and end.
  3. I usually have my students do a quick-write about what they plan on saying during their presentations. They need to be sure to plan what they will say for each picture. Therefore, if they have three pictures, they should brainstorm 3 sentences or 3 paragraphs (depending on the level of your child). Then have them practice their retelling before they begin recording.
  4. Students will then insert their pictures into Storyrobe or SonicPics and record their presentation. You may want to record in shifts or have students move to a variety of locations during recording time. Depending on how many students you have in your class this portion can get a bit noisy!
  5. When their presentation is complete, I usually have them email their final presentation to me. This time I plan on posting their presentations onto Edmodo so everyone can view them and comment on them.

If you have never used digital storytelling apps like Storyrobe or SonicPics I highly recommend them. They can be used in a variety of ways and in all academic areas. These apps lend themselves easily to project based learning activities and have become a regular routine in my classroom.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Dr. Seuss Day! Remember, “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”

Please share with me a couple of “thinks” you have about how you celebrated Dr. Seuss Day.


Dr. Seuss Camera- Make Dr. Seuss Day Memorable


Okay, so I admit. There isn’t anything directly educational about this app. But I feel compelled to share this with all of you because when I used it last year on Dr. Seuss Day it was such a hit! Every year on March 2, my class and I participate in the annual National Educators Association’s Read Across America Day (also know as Dr. Seuss Day). This day was created to promote an excitement for reading and to honor Dr. Seuss on his birthday.

Last year on Dr. Seuss Day all of the Dr. Seuss apps went on sale. I took advantage and purchased a bunch of his interactive books (created by Oceanhouse Media and which I highly recommend). I also purchased the Dr. Seuss Camera (also known as the Cat Cam). This app allows you take pictures of your students and add their image in the face of several of the Dr. Seuss characters. You can have your students look like the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1, and 14 other adorable frames that are all Dr. Seuss themed. You can save the images to your camera roll. Last year, I printed the pictures out for my students to keep in their student portfolios. I was also certain to add these images to our class movie that we make as a digital memory book. This is a fantastic way to capture the great memories you made with your class on Dr. Seuss Day.

This year I plan on taking these images a bit further by having each student write a story about their image. Here are some writing ideas:

  • What do you like to do on a rainy day?
  • What kinds of games would you play if the Cat in the Hat came to play at your house?
  • How would you trap Thing 1 and Thing 2?
  • What kinds of mischief would you get into with Thing 1 and Thing 2?
  • Write a letter to the Cat in the Hat. Thank him for coming to play.
  • Write a letter to Dr. Seuss and tell him about your favorite Dr. Seuss book.
  • Pretend you are the fish. Write a letter to the children telling them what he thought about the Cat in the Hat.

AppStore Link: Dr. Seuss Camera

Check out a few of the adorable frames:

Ever year on Dr. Seuss Day my second graders and I learn facts about the author who creatively changed the way children’s books are written. We all bring our personal collection of Dr. Seuss books to school to share and I have been known to sport a Cat in the Hat costume once or twice. After filling our tummies with a delicious breakfast of Green Eggs and Ham we spread out all over the carpet area and READ! READ! READ! The kids love exploring their “old favorites” and looking for all the different pen names Dr. Seuss used. This year on Dr. Seuss Day, as a special treat, the movie The Lorax will be released in theaters. I hope this movie turns out to be as great as the Horton Hears a Who movie.

Happy Dr. Seuss Day and happy reading!

Jo-Ann Fox


Use Google Forms and Go Paperless!


If you are looking to spend less time waiting in the copy machine line and more time planning engaging and innovative lessons, keep reading! You won’t have to visit the Apple Store in order to use one of the best strategies with your classroom set of iPods and iPads. All you need is a Google account and your teacher creativity. So have I kept you in suspense long enough? No? Well, perhaps I should mention that you will also be helping the environment by going paperless.

One of my very talented and tech savvy colleagues, Chia Grossmann, has become an expert with using Google forms in her classroom.  I have utilized her idea of creating a simple Google “Response Form” that can be used over and over in all curricular areas. Chia’s “Response Form” is a simple form to create, since it only has a place for the student number, name, and a written response area.

Here is what the “Response Form” looks like:

Keep reading if you would like step-by-step directions to create this form:

If you have never created a Google form, the process is rather simple. First and foremost, you must have a Google account. If you don’t have one already… get one. You won’t be sorry.

Then once you have logged into your Google account, click on “Documents” at the top of the page. Then click “Create.”


Once you click on Create you will see a pull down menu. Select “Forms.” An untitled form will pop up, along with the first question ready for you to edit.

Title your form “Response Form.” You can add directions about the form below the title if you like. I typed, “Please remember to write complete sentences.” My advice is leave the directions very vague because you will want to use this form for many different activities.

Now we will begin to edit question 1. This will be for student numbers (if you use nick-numbers). Title it “Student Number.” I am not including any “Help Text.” We are going to change the question type to “Choose from a list.” Now begin typing. Chia recommends typing the first name on the list as Anonymous. Then add student numbers. When you have finished, click the box next to “Make this a required question.” Last, click “done.”


 Now we will make question 2. Select “Add item” at the top of the screen (it is next to the green plus sign). You will get another pull down menu. This time select “text.” Title it “Name.” Click the box next to “Make this a required question” and click on “done.”

Now for the last step for question 3. Select “Add item” again and this time on the pull down menu, select “Paragraph text.” Title it “Response.” Click the box next to “Make this a required question.” Last, click “done.”

Now you have a completed form! If you like to make things fancy then select a new theme at the top of the window. I selected the “blue bird” theme and this is what my live form will look like. When you select apply, it will take you back to your “edit form” page. You won’t see the your cutesy theme, but don’t worry it is still there.

Now that your form is compete you have several options. You can email this form to yourself so you have a link to it. But this is what I do… I copy the link at the very bottom of the page. Then I visit a QR code maker website and create a QR code for my students to get to the form quickly. I have also put a link to the form on my school webpage. Either way, you need some way for your students to link to this form on their iPods.

Once your students have accessed the “live form” on their iPods, have them make a web clip of this link (hold home key and sleep button at the same time). This way you can have your students access this same form over and over for a variety of different activities. I bet your next questions is how do you use this form with students?

This is the part where teacher creativity and innovation takes over. Here are some quick ideas for you to mull over:

  • Have students respond to a question about a book you are reading.
  • Have students write an opinion about a topic or story you are reading.
  • Have students share facts they learned from their social studies or science lesson.
  • Have students share with you their topic sentence for their new piece of writing.
  • Have students write a “7 up” sentence.
  • Have students explain how they solved a problem in math.
  • Use this as your way for students to “TATTLE.”
  • Use this form as an exit ticket.

After your students have completed their “Response Form” from an assignment you have given them, their responses will appear in the form of a spreadsheet. To access this spreadsheet, go back to your original “edit form.” Up at the top right hand corner is a tab that says “See responses.” Select “spreadsheet.” You will then see the responses from your students. In the following picture you can see the answers that I filled in on the form.

When my students are completing a “response form” assignment, I will quite often display the spreadsheet on the docucam so everyone can review others’ responses. However, I do slide the form over so the names and numbers cannot be seen so that the responses are still private. If you do this, keep hitting the refresh button to update the form as students submit their work.

If you want to save this work on the spreadsheet, select “file” from the menu bar and download it to your desktop or make a copy. When the assignment is completed and you have saved your spreadsheet, then delete the information on the spreadsheet so you can reuse this same form for another assignment.

I bet you can think of at least a thousand ways to use this simple Google form in your classroom. Not only will you be able to receive valuable written responses from your students, you will be helping to save thousands of trees by  going paperless! I would love if you would share your ideas with everyone. Don’t be shy to reply!

Jo-Ann Fox

Thank you for inspiring me, Chia Grossmann!