Who am I?

Sarah Allred is the Instructional Lead Teacher at Braxton Craven School, an all 6th grade middle school. She has 15 years of teaching experience at the middle school level. Her educational background includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education earned at the University of NC Greensboro, National Board Certification in Early Adolescent English Language Arts, and a Master of Arts in Education in Instructional Technology earned at East Carolina University. She has taught language arts, social studies, science, and technology. She serves her school in many leadership roles. Her passion is searching for new ways to use technology to improve student learning. Additional roles she fills are mother of two amazing kids, and wife of a police officer. She enjoys reading, gardening, and digital photography.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Using eBooks in Your Classroom

EBooks are accessible with any internet capable device, so you could display in your classroom using the projector, have students access individually with laptops or using the Nooks.  With many of these eBooks, students can mark, highlight, and add notes to the text without having to use up your copies.  Best of all reading on a digital device can greatly increase student engagement!
ClassScape Benchmarks have already moved to online assessment, and soon EOG’s will too.  To fully prepare our students for being assessed this way, we need to have them practice reading this way frequently in our classrooms as well!

Tips for getting started with eBooks:

1- Before you put a student in front of a device, locate the reading material you want them to use, and try it out yourself on the device that you plan to have them use.  See below for a list of eBook sources.
2- Start by reading an eBook whole-class with your projector. Modeling of what you expect students to do is important!
3- Make sure you plan ahead, and test everything out before you hand it over to students – I’m repeating this because it is probably the most important thing to do to make sure this goes smoothly.  It never fails when you are trying out new technology, you run into glitches – don’t let that get you down, the benefits are worth any struggle.
4- Start with a relatively short text, and print out a hard copy to fall back on in case you have tech issues.
5- Check out these websites with more information about using eBooks in the classroom.
Technology and Reading eBooks in Education    http://www.drscavanaugh.org/ebooks/

Sources for FREE Online Books!
There are tons of sources out there, but these are good starting points that I have explored some.

Kids 4 Classics http://kids4classics.com
Access to multiple classic books in eReader and PDF format.

Lists of multiple sites to locate ebooks.

Wired for Books          http://www.wiredforbooks.org/
Poems, stories, plays, essays, lectures, and interviews for children and adults.

Book Pop         http://www.bookpop.com/index2.html
Picture books with read aloud.

Bartleby          http://www.bartleby.com/index.html
The Harvard Classics are among many free texts offered online at this award-winning site. There are also many classic reference works available here.

Free eBooks by Project Gutenberg     http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page
Access many eBooks!  Can be opened as a web page file, Kindle, PDF.  This collection includes books that are out of copyright.

Using the Nook to Read a Downloaded PDF Book
“Golden Advice” – Before trying to use this with your students use it yourself a couple days to get the hang of how it works.

Opening the book . .  .
1.      Press the Ç button to open the menu.
2.      Choose “Library”, then “My Stuff,”  “Files, ” then “Downloads.”
3.      Tap on the book title to open.  (The first time a window will come up asking what you want to open it with. Tap in the box beside “do this every time” and then select using “Reader.”)

Once the book is open . . .
·         Swipe to turn the page.
·         Double tap or pinch out to zoom in
·         Single tap the page to bring up the menu.  This allows you to go to a certain page, bookmark, or note, look up something in the book, and adjust the screen brightness.
·         Touch and hold on a word to bring up the notes menu.  This allows you to highlight the word, add a note, look up the word, or find all of the other places it is used.  Any notes and highlights become searchable for locating later. To clear these, tap the “Clear All” button.

Usage Ideas . . .
·         Vocabulary Instruction: When presenting students with the list of vocabulary terms they will study, instead of making them look the words up in a dictionary, have them use the search feature.  This will bring up all the times the word is used in the text, so students can study the usage of the words and use context clues to come up with the word meaning. You might have them record a couple of the sentences the word is in, write their own definition, and then use the Look Up feature to see the dictionary definition. This will engage students in making meaning of the words rather than just receiving the info from you. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.)
·         Mark in Text: You can ask students to highlight certain things (vocabulary, evidence for an answer, parts of speech, punctuation usage, etc).  You can also ask them to stop and make notes on their thinking at certain points in the text (like our old Interactive Readers). The notes and highlights are saved in the book until you clear it – this will allow students to see what other students are thinking to learn from each other.  If you don’t want students to see what others mark, have them clear the marks before putting the Nooks up at the end of class. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Visions of Common Core and Essential Standards

Now that we are really getting into the meat of the school year, I have been encouraging teachers to reflect on how they are implementing Common Core and Essential Standards in their classroom.  It appears that this has our faculty feeling overwhelmed and insecure, and understandably so.  Those feelings are a good sign that we are attempting to embrace the changes even though it is uncomfortable.

I don't want our faculty to feel disheartened and give up from being so overwhelmed. I absolutely believe we are on the right track, and have begun taking the small steps that will eventually get us where we need and want to be.  This morning I spent some time visiting classrooms looking for evidence of these small steps with CCES to prove that we are doing it, and I want to share some of what I saw.

  • One class had created character portraits for a book they read, and had to include on the portrait a quote from the text with the page number cited which gives evidence for the characteristics they included in their drawing. (adding depth and text based answers)
  • In two classrooms, students were working on a tic-tac-toe choice board to research information about Ancient Egypt. (differentiation and writing from sources)
  • In another class, students were designing human eyes based on radial design, warm and cool color schemes, and accurate eye structure. (working from sources and integrating science)
  • In another class, students were doing research on a particular animal and creating a brochure product using Microsoft Office. (writing from sources and integrating science)
  • Another class was practicing math skills with the activities differentiated to meet the level each individual student is working at. (differentiation and taking ownership of learning)
  • A final class I visited was discussing how to read word problems and translate them into numerical expressions. Students were going to discuss this in collaborative groups. (21st Century Skills and Mathematical Practices 1 & 3) 
These are some great example of how we are rising to meet the expectations of Common Core and Essential Standards!  We can do it; in fact we are doing it!  Remember CCES is not about a one size fits all program or doing a song and dance.  It is about facilitating learning for students and pushing them to greater depths of understanding. 

So,  as a great book which I read often says: "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Gal 6:9 NIV

Monday, September 17, 2012

Teacher Pay Teachers Pays Me $500!

Just 6 months ago I began an experiment to see how Teacher Pay Teachers might work for me.  (see April 6 post).  During my first quarter of participation, my products earned me a bit over $100 -- not too bad for selling teaching materials I had created for my own classroom.  I have continued now through my second quarter, and at this point have 21 resources available in my "store.". This quarter isn't quite over yet,and I have earned over $500!  Wow, this is much more successful than I ever expected! I think I will keep it up!

Right now I have 14 followers for my store and I would love to have more... So if you have an account on Teachers Pay Teachers, follow me! When I reach 50 followers, I will post a new free teaching resource.  If you don't have a Teachers Pay Teachers account create one, follow me, and then try posting some of your own teacher materials for sale! Who couldn't use a few more bucks in their wallet?

One last thing, if you are one of my BCS or RCS colleagues, email me about my special 100% off colleague discount!

Click here to create your own account.   https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Signup/referral:sallred 

Click here to see my store.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Overwhelmed by Curriculum Changes?

It is a daunting task to figure out how to completely implement Common Core and North Carolina Essential Standards curriculum all at once. If you are struggling with this, I would suggest by breaking it down and starting small.  Below is how I would approach it.

1- When planning lessons, take the time to write a “full out” lesson plan like you used to have to do in college until you get the hang of the changes.  Make sure to include an EQ or I Can statement for every lesson, and record which new standard(s) it addresses.
2- For math teachers, focus on using the 8 Mathematical Practices. (I would even suggest picking one a week to focus on until you are comfortable with them so you don’t feel so overwhelmed.)
·         Standard 6: Attend to precision

3- For LA teachers, focus on the 3 Literacy Shifts. (I would also suggest picking one a week to focus on until you are comfortable with them so you don’t feel so overwhelmed.)
·         Build knowledge through content-rich nonfiction and informational text.
·         Reading and writing grounded in evidence from the text.
·         Regular practice with complex text and its academic vocabulary.

4- For all teachers, make sure you add literacy elements as often as you can (focusing on the 3 shifts also).

If you can make a dedicated effort to do these things during this school year, I think you will be well on your way in terms of implementing CC/ES.  It will take some time to learn the curriculum standards and the new approach, and that is expected. The only way you can fail would be to keep teaching the way you always have and using the same lessons you did in years before.  I don’t mean that you have to throw everything out and completely start from scratch, but you should be taking some time with your old lessons and materials and adjusting them to meet the new requirements.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

They Have Arrived!

After spending countless hours during the 2011-2012 school year in professional development, study, and planning for the Common Core and Essential Standards, they are finally here! We've gone through all the build up for this giant shift in education .... Now what? When you walk through the doors of your school and into your classroom what are you doing differently? Could a visitor look in your window and see the changes CC and ES have inspired? What would a visitor see?

I wonder how this transition has manifested itself in our classrooms? Is it totally different, like being in another world? Are there small changes that you will gradually add to? Or are things going on as they always have?

Food for thought.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Data Boot Camp

Tomorrow morning I embark on another adventure on my journey as a Lead Teacher. I'm going to boot camp. . . Data Boot Camp.  Lucky for me, running is not on the agenda for this NCCAT training. Instead I will be learning everything I can about data in instruction - data collecting, analyzing, and planning from it.  The adventure will start even before the training begins.  I'm leaving bright and early to drive to the NC coast where I will catch a ferry for a 2 1/2 ride to Ocracoke (no, it won't be a three hour tour). It's been a long time since I last visited the Outer Banks - I hope I can sneak in some time to see some sights and walk along the shore.  For now, I need to finish packing so the adventure can begin.

Ocracoke Island Welcome Site

Friday, April 6, 2012

Teachers Pay Teachers Update

I posted a few lesson materials on Teachers Pay Teachers about 2 weeks ago, and I am excited to report that I have had several sales already earning almost $10! Not a huge amount obviously, but some cash anyway. I really think its something worth teachers trying out. It could at least earn you some extra bucks for classroom materials. Click on my referral link here to sign up for a free seller account!

Sarah Allred‘s Unique Referral Program Promotion Link:


Good luck selling!

TeachersPayTeachers® is an online marketplace where teachers buy and sell original downloadable educational materials, hard goods and used educational resources.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Teachers Pay Teachers

For several months now, I have been checking out the great instructional resources which can be found on Teachers Pay Teachers (http://www.teacherspayteachers.com).  The site is a pretty ingenious idea.  Members can go there to search for and download/purchase all sorts of teacher made classroom materials.  I have found some excellent resources there, many of which are free or low cost.  The beauty of this idea is two-fold.  First it gives teachers a channel to collaborate and share materials.  Secondly it offers a way for teachers who create their own instructional materials to make some money on the side from their hard work.  Very cool, in the age when teachers in my state are the 48th lowest paid in the country!

So I have opened my own store on Teachers Pay Teachers.  I have posted several lesson materials, some free and some for a small fee.  My goal is to share the best of my work in hopes that other educators (and students) can benefit from it.

So here's my first "official commercial!"  Please visit my educational materials online store and follow me at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Sarah-Allred. Help me spread the word that my work is out there for others to use.  You can also follow me on Twitter where I post links to instructional materials/tools.  @RockstarTchr

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

It's Been a While . . .

You can definitly tell when things get crazy busy at school. . . no posts for a while.  What have I been doing? Feels like I've been running a marathon.  Here a quick rundown . . .
1- More Common Core and Essentials training from DPI.
2- Presented Common Core PD for all the county's ELA teachers - through this collaborative PLC we created a curriculum map, and are now working on Theme Based units for each grade level. (more on this later).
3- Planning after-EOG enrichment and remediation for my school (more on this later too).
4- Planning additional PD for my staff on 21st Century Skills(more on this later too - see a pattern here?).
5- Planning a presentation for parents on Common Core and Essentials to be presented at an upcoming parent night and posted on our webpage. (more on . . . well, you know)
6- Attended NC Middle School Conference

Whew!  That's just the big stuff for the last month and a half!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Blogs as a Collaborative Research Tool

Science and Social Studies teachers at BCS have worked hard to integrate writing and writing instruction into their classroom activities and I recently observed a class using blogs to do this. Blogging is a great way to integrate writing and collaboration into any subject area.

Mrs. H's class was doing research on Ancient Chinese Philosophers, a new topic added to our curriculum by the  Essential Standards.  She provided students with a table to collect specific information about an assigned philosopher/philosophy and students were instructed in how to search online and select information from reputable sources.  Each student was working independently on his or her own research, but as you may know research can be quite a struggle for middle school students, so they often need help.

Mrs.H used a class research blog to allow students to collaborate with each other through writing.  The blog site she used is Kidblog (http://kidblog.org/home.php_) This site allows teachers to create individual student blogs in a password protected environment without students having to have an email address.  Mrs. H introduced the use of the blog by explaining what blogs are, discussing safety precautions, and then describing how she would like the blog to be used.  Students were directed to post comments about their research progress, and questions they needed assistance with. After the comments were moderated by Mrs.H (while students were working) students could go back to the blog to respond to each others questions and see what answers they received.

This was an excellent way to allow student's the use of an online communication tool for learning purposes.  It gave students a chance to feel what it is like to collaborate with others, in real time on a project through the use of technology. This is a real world application of web tools that many adults use in their professional work.  In addition to providing practice in this 21st Century skill, it also assisted students with the research process allowing them to see that others had similar questions and could share strategies to find solutions.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Welcome to Next Year's 6th Graders

It seems strangely early to be doing this, but yesterday we started the tours for our upcoming class of 6th graders.  Since we have 5 different elementary schools feeding into us, these usually run through several different days.  This is for many students, their first introduction to BCS.  So what do we do to make a great first impression, and begin building relationships with our future students?

Groups begin their visit in our school media center.  There they have several people speak to them about what life at BCS is like.  The guidance counselor began by discussing registration for courses. Next, the lead teacher (me) shared some details about how middle school is different from elementary school and answered the BIG questions incomin 6th graders always have. Next, our media specialist showed a short video introducing our school.  This video included interviews with several current students, photos from various school activities, and photos of the faculty and staff.  After the talk in the media center, students were split into small groups and were taken on tours of the school led by Student Council members. On the tour, students got to see all the key locations in the school and ask some questions of current students.

At BCS we feel like it is important to welcome our upcoming students and help make them feel comfortable in the transition to middle school.  Hopefully this visit was a helpful first step in that transition.