Elementary Spotlight: 3 Ways to Use QR Codes with SAS Curriculum Pathways

As an elementary school teacher, I strive to develop engaging lessons. I am also concerned about differentiation, matching curriculum to standards, assessments, and ... the list goes on.

Creating Quick Response (QR) codes has made planning and implementing resources a breeze. A QR code connects users to a link such as a website, an image, or a video/audio clip. Using a QR code generator when planning has proven a powerful way to connect students to content both inside and outside the classroom. Try these 3 ways to use QR codes with your K-5 students.

1. Learning Centers

When young students can quickly access content independently, they have more time to explore and complete the activity. For your reading and math centers, you can create QR codes that link to a chart, a game, an online book, a video, or a class notes page. Here's an example:

Second graders are learning patriotic songs in music class by rotating through centers. Each center has a QR code that links to Explore! Primary Sources, a repository of primary-source documents.  Each group listens to the following songs: "My Country Tis of Thee," "Yankee Doodle," and "The Star Spangled Banner." Students then answer a reflection question at each center. Cross-curricular connections with QR codes offer exciting possibilities for deeper learning.  

2. Interactive Bulletin Boards, Word Walls, and Notebooks

Many teachers create bulletin boards, word walls, and notebook pages for students to reflect on key vocabulary, examples, and content. You can create a QR code linked to an image or to a video that helps students visualize and remember content. Consider this scenario:

Third graders are learning about how to talk about their families in Spanish. Students bring in family photos to create a bulletin board on which the teacher puts up a QR Code that links to the SAS Curriculum Pathways video called "La Familia."  The teacher also includes the QR Code in the parent newsletter to continue the learning at home.

3. Differentiation

Differentiating lessons becomes easier when using a QR code to connect students to their learning. You can add a QR code to a video or a form that includes remediation or extension activities. Here's an idea:

After speaking to a 4th grader about revising his persuasive essay to include stronger verbs, hand him a Task Card with a QR code that links to the SAS Curriculum Pathways Strong Verbs video lesson. Have the student complete the task before the next conference.

QR codes are especially useful in elementary school because they eliminate the need to type--a developing skill for this younger audience. Went to eliminate url errors and spelling mistakes? Just generate some codes and have students dive right into the content!

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Five Tips from a Successful 1:1 Initiative

The SAS Curriculum Pathways team visits a number of schools throughout the year--rural, urban, small, large, low- and high-performing. Given the nature of our work, we pay close attention to technology integrations. Do teachers share device carts? Are there computer labs? Are students encouraged to use their own devices? Is the school 1:1? More importantly, we take note of how the technology is being integrated. When are students using the devices? What are they doing on them?

Integration quality varies from school to school, independent of technology access. We've sometimes found ourselves impressed by the one-desktop classroom and disheartened by 1:1 integrations. On such occasions, we've observed devices simply being used to entertain students or keep them quiet after finishing their work; we've also seen devices being cast aside, never coming out of students' backpacks.

But no such squandering of opportunity occurs in Patti Donnelly's class at Durham Academy in Durham, NC, which has been 1:1 iPads for the past four years and has earned recognition as an Apple Distinguished School. Although Donnelly admits that the school has travelled a bumpy road, the integration seems flawless to the casual classroom observer: students use their devices as needed while engaged in on-task, collaborative activities.

How has the school learned from experience? Tweaking the integration started with a simple pedagogy-forward goal: "It’s not about going paperless, it’s about enhancing learning," Donnelly told us. Using this mantra as a foundation, Donnelly and her colleagues identified several tips for other schools.

1. Identify a solid team.

Durham Academy's Middle School Digital Learning Coordinator, Karl Schaefer, spearheaded the initiative in 2012 with the help of English Language Arts teachers, Donnelly and Julie Williams. The team decided to "start small and go for it." After experimenting with both iPads and laptops, the team decided the size, durability, and flexibility of the iPad best fit their students' needs. From there, the team expanded their "go for it" attitude when searching for student tools and resources. The tech team and administration encourages teachers to experiment with various apps and report back during the formalized Tech Tuesday, time devoted to sharing experiences with other Durham Academy teachers. 

Donnelly emphasized the school’s adaptation to the ever-evolving app space. "In the beginning," she noted, "Google Apps for Education did not play well on iOS devices, so we turned to Evernote as a portfolio for student work. More recently, however, the Google Drive app improved, and we started to make that transition." Donnelly emphasized communication and said it takes a village to stay on top of new apps and updates.

Donnelly suggests "treating the iPad as a tool, not the centerpiece of learning."

Donnelly suggests "treating the iPad as a tool, not the centerpiece of learning."

2. Prioritize pedagogy PD, minimize tech-focused sessions.

Have you ever been to an education conference where people preach "pedagogy must lead technology," but find sessions titled "10 iPad apps every educator should install"? Donnelly suggests avoiding the lure of a catchy title in favor of sessions aligned to your pedagogical goals and "treating the iPad as a tool, not the centerpiece of learning." Proven, time-tested pedagogical strategies will continue to be effective regardless of technological advances; however, technology can still enhance those strategies. If we learned anything from our observations at Durham Academy, it was the importance of a robust understanding of instructional best practices.  Donnelly reminded us, "The point is not to add more; it’s to take the tool that works best and make the most of it." The takeaway? Start with good teaching, and add technology as appropriate.

3. Engage students in deliberate onboarding.

Effective integration and instruction goes a long way in classroom management; however, the team at Durham Academy is diligent about engaging students in deliberate training. At the beginning of the year, Schaefer and the team lead students in a two-day iPad passport program. During this training, the team not only takes advantage of Common Sense Media's free Digital Compass curriculum, but Schaefer also created and published the school's own Digital Device Passbook iBook, which takes students through Durham Academy-specific guidelines and policies. The iBook culminates with a quiz that students must pass before being issued their device. Schaefer's approach is rounded out by a thorough FAQ document posted publicly for teachers, parents, and students. Donnelly commented, "The book is really as much for the teachers as is it for the students" because it adds structure and policies about training students to use their devices productively.

4. Strive for consistency across classes.

It is not uncommon to walk into a 1:1 school and see heavy iPad integration in one room and unused devices in another. At Durham Academy, teaching students to use technology as a productivity tool is valued; thus, consistency across classes is a priority. Although some teachers are  more comfortable with devices than others, all classrooms use a common space for student portfolios. Donnelly demonstrated their shared folder system via Evernote, commenting on its advantages for supporting a paperless workflow, sharing and communicating with parents, as well as holding students accountable for their work. She added, "When students are using the same system, tools, and resources in each of their classes, less time is spent teaching about the device itself." Additionally, when there is a question about a particular app, instructors can point students back to the Digital Device Passport iBook, which is full of tutorials about the school's most popular apps.

5. Encourage autonomy—trust in safety nets

In order to teach students to view technology as a productivity tool, they need to be able to experiment with different resources and find the ones that work best for their preferences. We, as adults, all use different tools for completing tasks, from taking notes to surfing the web. Durham Academy encourages such autonomy by allowing students to choose their own apps through the school's self-service "store." The technology team uploads school-approved and licensed apps to the custom self-service store, giving students the freedom to select the ones they want to download.

Back in the classroom, Donnelly says she strives to "facilitate on-demand curiosity" by allowing students to use whatever apps they want at anytime during the class. To regulate off-task behavior, she employs the "double tap the home button" method. If a student quickly exists out of an app, they rarely have time to completely close it; thus, by having students double tap the home button, she can see what apps they were most recently using. For repeated off-task behavior, Donnelly and the other Durham Academy teachers can have students refer back to the "Distractions, Organization, and Multitasking" chapter of Schaefer's Digital Device Passport iBook for a quick reminder of the school's policies and strategies for overcoming distractions.

9781118894309_500X500In closing, Donnelly reminded us that  iPads are "just a device," nothing more. Not a replacement for good pedagogical methods. Not a silver bullet. Simply a device. Observing her classroom, it becomes clear that the success of Durham Academy's integration can be attributed to this mindset. Lessons do not revolve around the technology; it exists as a resource among others—just as it exists for the average adult. Through careful planning, a keen awareness of the tendencies of middle schoolers, a strong team, and a priority for high-quality teaching, the model at Durham Academy is a great starting place for other educational institutions.

To read more about best practices for integrating mobile devices, check out our book, Mobile Learning: A Handbook for Developers, Educators, & Learners.

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Five Strategies for Teaching with Virtual Labs

Virtual labs (VLabs) are interactive simulations in which students develop an understanding of scientific processes through experimentation. Students make predictions, follow multi-step procedures, build rich vocabularies, convey data visually, and draw conclusions. VLabs are available in four major branches of science: chemistry, earth and space, biology, and physics. Find out how to engage your students with virtual labs and which browsers work best with these resources.


Visit system recommendations for the most up-to-date list of browsers and plug-ins.

1. Independent Work

All of our virtual labs provide core content materials suitable for independent study. VLabs allow students to view processes and manipulate their components, alter variables to see their roles in processes, or alter reality to discover cause-and-effect relationships. Students can move through interactive resources and tasks at their own pace, guided by individual instructions and targeted feedback. Activity guides, respond sheets, and student answer pages delineate the process and specific tasks.


VLab: Photosynthesis

VLab: Photosynthesis

2. Whole Class Instruction

Teachers can use VLabs for whole-class instruction by projecting the simulation for the class. The VLab: Chemical Equations  teaches students how to balance chemical equations.  Students are introduced to the Law of Conservation of Matter by watching a short video and by reading the journal. As a class, try balancing the chemical equations on Tab 1.

VLab: Chemical Equations

VLab: Chemical Equations

3. Tapping into Prior Knowledge

Teachers can make connections between new content and students' prior experiences with predictions. For example, after giving students ten seconds to observe the virtual lab, teachers can ask students to list as many details as possible, record the list on the board, and have students predict what the lesson might be about. Using the VLab: Evidence for Plate Tectonics , students understand cause-and-effect relationships between earth’s lithospheric plates and geological features. Students explore major interactions at divergent, convergent, and transform boundaries.

VLab: Plate Techtonics

VLab: Plate Tectonics

4. Cooperative Learning

Using the cooperative learning strategy known as the "jigsaw," students determine the impact of pollutants on a body of water. The VLab: Stream Ecology illustrates the relationship between the management of natural resources, the sustainability of human populations, and biodiversity. The virtual lab includes four problems: Scenario 1: To grow or not to grow? Scenario 2: Did they milk the system? Scenario 3: Is diluting the way to address pollution? And Scenario 4: Are you getting into hot water? The class is divided into groups. Each person in the group selects a scenario to investigate. Group members with the same scenario then work together to research and share ideas. Eventually, students return to their original groups to share what they’ve learned. In the original groups, students decide which pollutant has the greatest impact on streams.


VLab: Stream Ecology

5. Student Partners

Think-Pair-Share is a problem-solving strategy to engage students in rich discussions. The VLab: Free Fall demonstrates the effect of mass, size, velocity, air resistance, distance, and gravity on the rate at which an object falls. Begin by reading the Focus Question: When dropped simultaneously from the same height, how can a feather and a hammer hit the ground at the same time? Ask students to think and write down useful information they already know about this topic. Next, have them pair with another student, and conclude with a whole-class discussion. Students could work on the complete lab activity with their think-pair-share partner.

VLab: Free Fall

VLab: Free Fall

Check out all of our free VLabs!

Virtual Labs: Earth & Space
Virtual Labs: Physics
Virtual Labs: Biology
Virtual Labs: Chemistry

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Celebrating Constitution Day (and the Art of the Compromise)

consitution2Most people know it took several sweltering months at that 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia for the 55 delegates (sweating through wigs and wool jackets) to get to this momentous September 17th signing we celebrate each year. What may be less well-known is the strict rule of secrecy the delegates adopted to promote open discussions and encourage a willingness to compromise. They knew the stakes were high and that progress was more important than a perfect solution.

By 1786, Shay’s Rebellion and other internal strife alarmed retired General Washington. Under the existing Articles of Confederation, Congress did not have the proper funds or authority to step in when state powers were not sufficient. As the elder statesmen, Washington and Benjamin Franklin organized the delegation, but the discussion focused on Virginian James Madison’s call for a stronger federal system and New York Governor George Clinton’s warning that a stronger central government would lead to abuses of power. The 1787 convention creating our constitution culminated in a substantive debate between the Virginia Plan and an opposing New Jersey Plan.

Students can explore the Constitution's history and primary source documents with The Constitutional Convention resource.

Students can explore the Constitution's history and primary-source documents with The Constitutional Convention resource.

Anyone who ever wondered why the Senate has two representatives from each state even though the number in the House of Representatives varies by state populations can find the answers in the opposing primary source documents and the concise overview provided in The Constitutional Convention resource. The debate articulated in these two plans was just one in a series of ground-breaking compromises.

As Hamilton: An American Musical fans know from the pulsating Act One finale , "Non-Stop," Alexander Hamilton was New York’s junior delegate at the Constitutional Convention. A fervent nationalist, Hamilton agreed with Washington and Madison that securing significant federal powers was necessary for the survival of this young nation. After the convention Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison wrote the famous Federalist Papers defending the Constitution. The Federalist Papers  led to the Bill of Rights -- more in a long line of passionately debated and thoughtful compromises.

As citizens and history students celebrate the U.S. Constitution on September 17th (and every day!), they can bask in the brilliance of each of the seven Articles and appreciate the dynamic history chronicled by the Amendments. It's also important to look behind the eloquent words and recognize the powerful compromises that allowed the Constitution of the United States to bring this nation toward a more perfect union.

Here are some suggestions if you are planning a special lesson on the U.S. Constitution for September 17th (or any day):

The Constitutional Convention
A Personal Handbook to the U.S. Constitution
Constitution of the United States
Preamble to the Constitution  (great for early grades)
Amending the Constitution
Benjamin Franklin’s Speech to the Constitutional Convention
The Federalist Papers: Advertising the Constitution

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Help Your Science Students Write!

Too often I hear my physics students complain about writing: they think it's important only in English classes. As teachers we know otherwise, but incorporating more writing into our classes can be demanding--especially when we have to get through core content. Working at SAS Curriculum Pathways this summer, I've discovered Writing Navigator, a simple, beneficial, and free suite of tools to support writing in any classroom. Writing Navigator can address science literacy goals because it's accessible and easy to differentiate. Moreover, it improves students' writing abilities while the teachers focus on content knowledge.

Unless scientists effectively disseminate their findings in print, progress stalls--both within a discipline and in society as a whole.  Yet students often fail to appreciate the importance of scientific writing since it's rarely emphasized in STEM fields. According to Cornell University's president, David Skorton, "many ... [scientists] never received the education in the humanities or social sciences that would allow us to explain to nonscientists what we do and why it is important." When researchers talk about key skills for student and professional scientists, however, writing effectively is near the top of the list.

Writing Navigator makes it easy for students to revise their written work, in this case reviewing their use of prepositional phrases.

Writing Navigator makes it easy for students to revise their written work, in this case reviewing their use of prepositional phrases.

Accessible for free for all students on PCs and Macs, as well as on Chromebooks and mobile devices, Writing Navigator offers an effective way to support students' learning and writing. Using Google Docs? We even have an add-on! Students can easily use it in science because all of the supporting material on clarity, structure, and so on can be found directly in the resource itself, which consists of four tools: Writing Planner, Writing Drafter, Writing Reviser, and Writing Publisher. This means the teacher does not need to spend time introducing those skills. Most students have their own mobile device, so incorporating Writing Navigator into the science classroom becomes much easier.

Students at the same level of scientific ability may not necessarily write at the same level. Writing Navigator can help differentiate support. You or the student can use the tools to target specific changes in a lab report or another piece of writing. Feedback is necessary to improve writing, but not all science teachers are trained to give this feedback. Writing Navigator provides this crucial support. Students can receive individualized--rather than generic--writing support. If a student has trouble being concise, the teacher can instruct him to use the wordiness components in Writing Navigator. Other students, perhaps mastering that particular skill, can focus on thesis statements or other key issues. Science teachers can identify content problems and use Writing Navigator to supplement their feedback.

Writing Navigator promotes revision, a key process in scientific inquiry. That skill is easily transferable to and from an inquiry-based lab. For example, students can create a hypothesis, test it, and revise it. This is the same process writers use, and students benefit from seeing those connections. Writing Navigator also helps students write succinctly, a skill crucial to scientific clarity.

Finding the time to teach writing in science can often feel unmanageable, but it is essential if teachers are trying to make sure their students are college and career ready. Writing Navigator is intuitive and benefits the student in all areas of study. I used Writing Navigator for this blog post, and (trust me) the process was much smoother as a result. I know students will benefit from this suite of tools when approaching my writing assignments. Next time you assign writing in science class, try Writing Navigator. You won't regret it!

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Solving Three Common Misconceptions in Physics

As an AP physics teacher, I know physics is a difficult course for many students because it challenges the way they view the world. Teachers inevitably have to battle with students’ misconceptions, which can be rooted in something as simple as the difference between how we define a word in physics and how we define it in everyday language. Below, I’ve listed three of the most common student misconceptions, along with the SAS Curriculum Pathways resources that help address them.

Misconception #1: If an object is at rest, no forces are acting on the object. A force is needed to keep an object moving at a constant speed.

  • Solution: Force Diagrams.
  • Discussion: I like this resource because it provides numerous images of force diagrams and many self-testing options. Questions focus on the basics of forces, which students often breeze past and thus misconstrue. The Force Diagrams resource offers many opportunities to see balanced vs. unbalanced forces and to recognize how they affect an object at rest or moving at a constant speed.  Just because an object is at rest doesn’t mean that there aren’t any forces acting on it; it means the forces are balanced!forcediagrams

Misconception #2: The terms "speed" and "velocity" are synonymous and may be used interchangeably. Thus the speed of an object and its velocity are always the same.

  • Solution: Circular Motion.
  • Discussion: This resource does a good job setting up an introductory understanding of circular motion. It helps students specify what speed is and what velocity is.  Students are forced to revisit these concepts and think about the differences.  The resource even provides external links that further assist in debunking this speed = velocity misconception.

Misconception #3: "Acceleration" always means an object is speeding up and it always occurs in a straight line.

  • Solution: Constant Acceleration.
  • Discussion: This resource uses an external app and provides guiding questions and suggestions on data collection. It facilitates understanding by having students observe different situations and come to their own conclusions. Perhaps as a result of everyday usage, "acceleration" is often misunderstood as simply "speeding up."  This activity provides multiple examples to help students visualize what we mean by "accelerate" in physics.  Revisiting the circular motion lesson from above can also combat any belief that acceleration is only ever in a straight line.

Want to learn more? Check out all 297 free science resources in SAS Curriculum Pathways!

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The Top 5 Lessons I Learned from My Summer at SAS Curriculum Pathways

This was a summer like no other. I was selected for the SAS Curriculum Pathways Teacher Institute, helping to develop, design, and evaluate their lessons, tools, and apps. I'm always looking for better ways to engage my students and explore new resources, so I went in ready to learn more about SAS Curriculum Pathways and the edtech world. I'm leaving with so much more.

Common language

The common language between teachers and edtech developers.

Make a connection. Four other lucky teachers and I arrived the first day anxious to learn more about SAS Curriculum Pathways and ready to share our classroom insights. We met the curriculum specialists, developers, and designers; we were given our individual assignments based on our experience and content areas. The SAS team fully immersed us in the unfamiliar world of data servers, system requirements, functionality constraints, nightly builds, and release dates. As a lifelong learner, I was intrigued by the technical side of developing and maintaining these amazing products. As we dug deeper into the content and research behind these lessons and tools, I felt a bridge connect us, a common language between the initiatives and mission of SAS and the goals and passion teachers have for education and students. We focused on learning targets, differentiated tasks, engaging resources, and data collection; we discussed the realities of student access to technology and the constraints schools face.  Perhaps best of all, we explored edtech tools, their impact on achievement, and their ability to inspire students to be creative problem-solvers and global thinkers.

Think outside the box. Each week, we would critically evaluate a tool or an app. Our assignment was to research competitors, share features we liked, clarify what we thought was missing, and identify pain points or usability issues. We were challenged to think about teaching and learning from multiple perspectives. When evaluating the products, I had to put myself in the shoes of a teacher new to technology or a student logging into Curriculum Pathways for the first time. What if I were a parent who wanted extra practice for my child, content for tutoring or home-schooling?  I thought about the user experience through varied grade levels, different learning needs, and multiple educational settings. I asked myself a series of questions. How SAS Curriculum Pathways could best support student engagement and learning? What are the best practices and latest research behind these skills and how can we build it into these products? How can we build-in goal-setting and metacognitive strategies where students can show growth over time? What new products can be developed? This summer, I was given time to step outside my day-to-day teaching life, think about what was important for me, and reimagine what tools and features could make the most impact on my students.


Myself sharing new reading research and how it relates to SAS Curriculum Pathways products.

Collaboration is key.   In collaborating with SAS Curriculum Pathways this summer, I found that face to face interaction and brainstorming have been the most productive form of communication and growth. As teachers, we were able to share our experiences, discuss the most effective edtech tools, and clarify the reality of a typical classroom today. The curriculum specialists at SAS shared with us the constraints on the edtech side and the process for making product updates and changes. In viewing the barriers from both sides, we forged a clearer understanding of how to move forward together. I came to understand that behind every tool there is a team of specialists, developers and designers putting everything they have into these products. Having this summer to experience the development process firsthand makes me excited to begin using and sharing these tools. I believe the collaboration between teachers and edtech will change our classrooms and help students learn.  

Build your network. SAS Curriculum Pathways Teacher Institute gave me the wonderful opportunity to connect with four incredible teachers and tap into their opinions, values, and areas of expertise ranged though varied grade levels and content areas. Together, the #SASTeacherteam instantly connected through own experiences and our passion for teaching and learning. These amazing teachers taught me how to use social media to connect with a much broader educational network. I learned about many new edtech tools and implementation strategies to ensure those technologies will work in the classroom.  The experience of working with this group was invaluable to my teaching practice. I now realize how essential it is to connect with a wide network of educators for motivation and inspiration all year long.

The SAS Summer Teacher Team

The SAS Summer Teacher Team: Sean Russell, Ashley Snider, Kerri Wadsworth, Allie Solender, Shannon Hardy.

Be inspired and spread the word. As I reflect on my summer at SAS Curriculum Pathways, I am grateful for the time I had to think about my priorities in the classroom and reignite this spark of passion and creativity. I want my students to be curious and have the tools they need to find the answers and explore new ideas. I am passionate about creating opportunities for students to be engaged with their community and to help solve real-world problems. I have been inspired to continue the mission of SAS Curriculum Pathways and continue to advocate for access and equity, community outreach, and the best possible learning experience for students. I can’t wait to spread the word about SAS Curriculum Pathways and all of their FREE resources to my school, community, and network of educators.  My summer as part of the SAS Curriculum Pathways Teacher Institute helped me learn and grow more than I knew was possible.

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Five Ways Reading Records Will Transform My Literacy Block!

readingrecs2As a PreK-5 reading specialist, I know the excitement and challenges a new school year will bring. Teachers are building relationships with students, setting up routines and procedures to create engaging literacy-rich environments that promote student choice and collaboration. During the first month, I'll be working to set up teacher and student accounts for SAS Reading Records and implementing this versatile tool in each classroom. Here's why.

1. More Instructional Time   

Once we have our literacy blocks up and running, students will engage in various literacy tasks: word-study activities, independent reading, strategy reading groups, partner or teacher discussions, and writing tasks. Teachers will set up ways to assess students and administer running records. SAS Reading Records allows teachers to get that same valuable data while saving instructional time. The app enables teachers to listen, observe student behaviors, and assess achievement on their own time. Thus, they have the entire literacy block to confer and conduct small group work.

SAS Reading Records is available for FREE on the web, in the App Store and in the Chrome Web Store. Before getting started with SAS Reading Records, we will model for students how to go to a quiet place in the room to record as they read aloud, retell, and answer the comprehension questions. This modeling will save time as the year progresses, time teachers can use to teach strategy groups, hold individual conferences, and help students set goals and monitor progress.

2. Consistent Data Collection


SAS Reading Recs makes data collection efficient and easy.

Many school systems require teachers to administer benchmark assessments for each student in the beginning, middle, and end of year in order to help teachers identify student strengths and areas for growth. Such assessments are also useful to collect student data across grade levels, schools, and districts to show collective growth and meet large-scale goals and initiatives. I've found that this data helps set school-wide goals and make grade-level plans, but running records and comprehension assessments should happen more than three times a year to enhance student growth.

SAS Reading Records is an excellent additional formative assessment to guide instruction and narrow the focus for each student’s goals throughout the year. Teachers can replay the audio, grade assignments at their own pace, evaluate student progress, and make data-driven plans for the next day.

3. Collaboration with Teachers and Parents

I meet with teams of teachers to celebrate strengths, evaluate literacy needs, and support student growth. To have effective collaboration about student data, we must stay organized and have a seamless way to share progress and instructional strategies for each student.

SAS Reading Records makes it easy to share audio recordings and reports between classroom teachers and resource teachers. This information can also help keep parents informed as their child makes reading progress over the course of the year.

4. Goal-Setting with Students 

kerri11SAS Reading Records stores all running records and voice recordings as an organized student portfolio.  This collection of sound bytes can be a powerful tool for building metacognition within the classroom. During a goal-setting conference, teachers can play the recorded audio and look over assessment data with the student. They will prompt the students to see what he or she notices from the assessment and also support the student in creating a goal. Taking this time to model reading strategies and empowering students to take ownership of their learning can be very effective for our young readers. With SAS Reading Records, student have the ability to share their recorded reading from September through June with teachers, parents, and peers to show their progress throughout the year.

5. Individualized Reading Passages 

With SAS Reading Records, teachers can build unique learning experiences to keep each student motivated and challenged throughout the school year. The library has over 75 passages--ranging from Lexile levels BR-1020--for fiction, nonfiction, poetry, English, and Spanish. Teachers can build in student choice and add up to three texts so students can read what most excites them each day. One of my favorite features is the ability to add text and questions to personalize the assessment experience.  SAS Reading Records has great flexibility and adaptability to meet the needs of a diverse classroom of readers.

Here are some ways teachers can create their own passages and questions to individualize assessment and learning in the classroom.

Here are some ways teachers can create their own passages and questions to individualize assessment and learning.


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Teacher to Tech Transition


I've made many transitions thus far in my teaching career: from an adult grad-student to a first-year teacher; from working with eager and anxious freshman, who are enjoyably transparent, to aloof and stressed juniors, who feel the load of more responsibilities and begin seeing their futures as tangible outcomes. There was the transition from a low socio-economic, rural school where I consistently questioned, “How can I get them to care?” to a wealthy, urban and high-pressure school where I struggle with getting them to care just a little less.

This summer, however, has been one of the biggest transitions yet: from the front-lines of an often faltering public education system to the hallways and conference rooms of one of the best places to work. I have transitioned from a place where supplies are limited and purchased out-of-pocket to being issued a laptop on entry. From indigestion inducing 20-minute working brunches (what else can you eat at 10 am?) to hour-long, subsidized feasts of every variety conveniently located a short walk away in every direction. From a school campus bursting at the seams with buses and students looking for a place to park to a work campus where long-leaf pines outnumber the substantial staff and fawns make regular appearances outside the tinted, glass windows.  

I've only been here a short while, and the depth and wonder of this place — it’s resources, values, people, and policies — are just now beginning to make sense.

I am treated like a professional — like a real person who has something valuable to contribute! — every minute of every day. The other lucky summer-program teachers and I are focal points of every meeting, many of which are scheduled just to talk to us. Our opinions are not suffocated by bureaucracy or administration; they are cherished. Our colleagues seem eager to glimpse into our mental classrooms and encourage us to be curious and creative.

Despite being fortunate enough to be employed at one of the best high schools in the state, this has been a jarring transition. Education, from the top down and from the ground up, has a way of humbling teachers. Because there is so much at stake for our student’s futures, there are many voices to disseminate, and it is far too easy for educators to fall into a static, non-growth mindset. Because of the debates surrounding evaluations, tenure, pay, and so on, it’s easy to question professional value and worth.

For the first time in my career, here at SAS, I have asked myself a different question. How can I use the resources here at SAS Curriculum Pathways to contribute to my classroom, my department, my school, and my fellow educators?  

This has been a transition without blinders and boundaries, and I can’t wait to see where it will take me and, more importantly, my students.

The SAS Curriculum Pathways summer teacher team: (l-r) Allie Solender, Ashley Snider, Kerri Wadsworth, Shannon Hardy, and Sean Russell

The SAS Curriculum Pathways summer teacher team: (L to R) Allie Solender, Ashley Snider, Kerri Wadsworth, Shannon Hardy, and Sean Russell. You can follow their adventures on Twitter at #sasteacherteam.


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Now, More than Ever, Punctuation Rules!


If you’ve been looking for an engaging punctuation tool that students can use on their tablets or phones, your search is over. Punctuation Rules!, one of our most popular web-based resources, has been converted to HTML5 and is now mobile ready.

A new menu structure fits smaller mobile screens.

A new menu structure fits smaller mobile screens.

New Features

The updated tool includes a few enhancements we think you and your students will love:

  • A new menu system helps accommodate smaller screens.
  • Each of the 22 punctuation rules is now searchable, linkable, and launchable.
  • In Practice, an indicator is color-coded to show progress.
  • Also in Practice, correct and incorrect answers are accompanied by audio feedback.
  • All of the videos featured in Punctuation Rules! are also available on the SAS Curriculum Pathways YouTube channel.

The Rules Still Rule!

And don’t worry. You'll still see all the great features that have long made Punctuation Rules! such an effective tool:

  • Students learn the basic rules of punctuation.
  • They demonstrate the connection between punctuation and meaning.
  • They provide specific words, phrases, and clauses to create sentences and apply punctuation.
  • Because we use the same language parser as in Writing Reviser, students learn to punctuate their own sentences, rather than abstract examples in which they have no investment.
  • They complete short quizzes to check understanding.

And coming soon -- iOS and Chromebook Apps!

Finally, there’s more good news. We’re currently working hard to create iOS and Chromebook apps for Punctuation Rules!  These should be ready by late summer, just in time to punctuate the early fall with dynamic instruction to improve student writing.

You can watch all of the Punctuation Rules! instructional videos on our YouTube channel or use the full features of this online interactive tool at SAS Curriculum Pathways.

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