Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Techies Unite!

I LOVE technology! I can't get enough, and love to use it anyway I can in my classroom. My low income Title One kiddos really need the opportunities to use technology at school, and I try to get as much of it into our day as I can! I have two parts to this post. The first is a technology success, and the second is a technology problem that I need your help with! Long post, so I'll get moving...

My school has a somewhat functional old school computer lab, but no tech teacher. We have a class set of computers, and a few games to play on each, but we don't have a comprehensive program for students to use. Last year I started the search for something meaningful to use during our computer time. Our weekly 40 minute computer block  is really important, but I felt like it was being wasted by just "playing" and not having a purpose.

I finally found what I was looking for! The website/program we have been using is www.raz-kids.com. It is part of the Reading A-Z website. It is an entire online leveled library and reading incentive program. Students listen to and read narrative and expository stories at their independent reading level, answer comprehension questions, and monitor their reading progress.

This is the student view. They can choose which story they want to read, and decide if they want to listen to it, read it independently, record it for a RR, or take the quiz. They earn stars for each activity. More stars are awarded for reading independently, and answering all of the comprehension questions correctly. There is also a progress monitoring bar at the top for students to track how they are progressing towards the next level. Each student must complete all of the tasks (check marks) before moving on to the next level.
 As an incentive, kids earn star points for listening to a modeled story, reading independently, and answering comprehension questions correctly. They can decide to save their star points, or spend them in the "Raz Rocket" store.  (below) It has a really engaging space theme with sounds, animations, and video!
  The teacher interface has so many tools you can use!! It is easy to keep track of all the students and monitor their progress. It will let you track how many minutes students used the program (in school AND at home), how long they spent reading, how long they spent "shopping" in Raz Rocket, what level they are on, etc.

You can choose the reading level for each student when they start at the beginning of the year. All you do is match the reading levels to age, grade, Fountas and Pinnell, Reading Recovery, or DRA. 

You can even view and print reports! It keeps track of all of your students minutes, reading and level progress, and comprehension quizzes.
If you have the headphones with a microphone, students can also read and record running records. It will send you a copy of their reading to assess! From there you can assign specifics books and skills, or move students to a new level if that's necessary.
If you have an extra minute, I would definitely check it out!  You can view many of the tools, and play around with the stories, layout, and gadgets before deciding if its right for your classroom. The package I bought is the one year subscription for 80 dollars. It comes with full use at home and at school for 36 students. Because it is one full calendar year, students can even use it at home over the SUMMER!!! Yahoo!!!!!!!!!!!

This is where I need your help! We have a Wii at home that my husband and I never use. I brought it to school to hook to my SMARTboard. I took all the pieces to school all pumped to hook up the 2 or 3 cords and voila! More awesome technology!
Buuuuut....that's not quite how it went down. I can't figure out how to connect it to my SMARTboard! I submitted a district tech request, but those take forever and I am too impatient to wait. I want my kiddos to be able to use it, like yesterday! I tried for hours and connected it to my TV, VCR, and everything else I could get my hands on. Does anyone know how to successfully hook it up?  I am also interested in any great learning games you know of for the Wii! I don't have anything yet, but really want to make this an engaging and MEANINGFUL tool for my kids. Help!

I also took my old ipod touch into school. I finally got access to the district wireless, and I want to use it as a center. Anyone know of some good apps? These are the ones I have so far:

How do you organize the usage of your special classroom technology? Do you have a rotation schedule for who gets to use what? Do you use it as an incentive? I'm not quite sure how I want to have students use these new pieces of technology. We just got a student classroom computer, and I haven't even figured out how to give everyone a turn on that. It's so hard with only one for 25 students! Now with the Wii and ipod I really want to get a solid plan in place to make this new technology work smoothly for us. I would love to hear ideas from your classrooms! Please!

THANKS for all your help with this long post! I hope you are all having a great week!



  1. I just got raz-kids in the past week and am SO excited to use this amazing tool. I have sent home a letter and the logins/passwords for the parents to see and have asked the kids to try to use it each night for homework. They are doing a great job using this at home!

    I also only have one computer, so at the computer station I have a clipboard with our class roster. When a student is done with his/her computer time (you can have them either read one book or set a timer for a certain amount of time), they should highlight their name and then find the next person below them on the list. If that person is in a guided reading group, then they are to skip them and find the next person. The highlighting makes it really easy to see who has gone and who has not.


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