Category: Technology

Thank You!

IMG_8673I was gifted with $150.00 in DonorsChoose gift cards so I was very excited that I was able to get 2 Kindle Fire tablets for the classroom.  We now have 4 tablets which means we have a 1:1 technology ratio in my room.  How awesome?

A big thank you to:

  • My sister, Alison Britzman, for her $50 gift card.
  • Dr. Annette Duncan (under the guise of her dog, Marley), for her $50 gift card.
  • An anonymous donor (which I suspect is again, my sister) for the $50 gift card.
  • Allison Hogan from Dallas, Texas, for finishing off the last $20 on our project.  We don’t even know you so your gift to strangers is greatly appreciated.

We couldn’t have all these awesome things in the room to utilize without your generous donations, so thank you again!

EPS eBooks

IMG_0030I am so geeking out right now it’s not even funny!  I first off just need to send a BIG thank you to Ann Hollingworth from EPS/Handprint Books as she has provided my students with an AMAZING opportunity.  After weeks of chatting with publishers and Ann really getting the ball rolling (no, I didn’t get a book deal, but writing a children’s book would be a dream of mine–Ann if you ever want to co-author anything let me know!), Ann was able to get for us free access to Handprint’s eBooks via their FREE app EPS Books to test out their new app.

I skipped my lunch today to monkey around with setting things up and will be starting to roll this out with some of my Reading Recovery kids.  If you are a parent to one of my 1st-4th graders, have an iPad/tablet at home, and would like to have access at home, let me know as I can create accounts for my kiddos and assign them books they can access anywhere.

For those of you out there looking to get your reluctant readers on board I would encourage you to download the EPS Books (type that into the search bar in your app store) app and get started.  I flipped through some of the books on my iPad mini and my kids will be drooling over getting to read on the iPad.  If you are using the app leave me a comment.  I would love to know how you are using the app and books with your kids in your classroom.

Once I fully roll this app out I will post back on how it’s going for us.  I can’t wait to share with you all!

iPad Accommodations

IMG_1962We are full swing in end of year testing with our kiddos currently.  This can be a really stressful time for our kiddos who have worked REALLY hard all year long and have made so much growth.  It can get easy to focus so much on a number, when we, as teachers, parents, teacher colleagues know there is so much more.

It’s hard to have to tell students they didn’t “beat the timer” for fluency so we have to move to a lower level–especially when these students can accurately read on grade level.  Fluency continues to be an area of focus I work on with many of my students.  It unfortunately holds several students back from technically being considered on grade level.

Some students go into the testing portions of the year already feeling defeated.  I’m blogging today to get your thoughts:

  1. What do you do to help your students go in without the defeated mentality?
  2. What are some possible special accommodations that you utilize with your students during testing times to get them motivated or keep them motivated?

While at one of my CIM (Comprehensive Intervention Model) OPD (On-going Professional Development) (Have I used enough acronyms for you today? Ha!) the Special Needs CIM Coach brought up the idea of taking pictures of the books and having the child be able to read the book from the iPad.  This had never occurred to me as being something I could do.  For one of my students, he really doesn’t want to do the tests.  Despite whatever way I spin it, it just isn’t his forte.  I checked in on him several days with him begging not to go before I suggested to his teacher that we put his books on the iPad.

This seemed to be the trick.  While this isn’t appropriate for all of our students, it’s nice when we can make special accommodations for students to help with incentives and motivation.  I was blown away by how considerably better the reading was on the iPad (for the same exact books mind you) than in December when we had tested previously.

So what are some accommodations you use to help your students during these last few weeks?  It can be a rough time on ALL of us as we are anxious to be outside, some students are anxious to not be at school with the structure, etc.  Let’s all hang in there together!

McElroy Kindle Grant

I have to give a shout out and kudos to my teammate and colleague Gretchen Peterson-Kobriger as she wrote and won a $1,000.00 grant to get 10 Kindles and cases for the rest of our Title 1 groups to use when they come see us.  We now have 15 Kindles to use between us 3 teachers.  Our school district came and interviewed her and posted a really great video on the district website.  I thought I would share the video with you all.  There are lots of great things happening at Lowell!  So proud to have 2 fabulous teammates who help make me better each and every day!

UNI Up-Close

IMG_9561Thank you to University of Northern Iowa’s Ed Tech department through the university’s College of Education (COE) for inviting me to speak via Skype to prospective Ed majors on how UNI has impacted my teaching and gave me the tools I needed to be a successful teacher.  I was very honored to be asked to speak, answer questions, and give advice students and parents had about the College of Education’s programs they offer.

I will be getting another opportunity to speak with students and parents again tomorrow and look forward to doing so.  Thanks again for the invite UNI, with special thanks to Magda Galloway and Dr. Zeitz for arranging everything!!  They actually happened to be two of my professors when I was at UNI.  Here are some photos from the last UNI Up-Close seminar.


I had to say good-bye to my 4th graders as they all made such wonderful progress that they are all on grade level (yay!)  We were lucky enough to have a generous donation of 5 Kindles to my room, which has definitely made learning more fun and engaging.  I sat the kids down on our last day and had them tell me about how the Kindles have impacted their learning over these last 3 months.  Please enjoy!

Caroline ComputerToday a very fun package arrived at Lowell: our new laptop!  One of my 1st graders was able to open the box and be the first to look at it.  The kids in Ms. Acuff’s room would like to send out a giant THANK YOU to everyone who donated to our Donor’s Choose project to help us get a lap top.  As many of you know, Lowell is so amazing that we just keep growing and growing.  We’re proud of all the word we’re doing in this school.  In fact, Lowell is the first school in the district history to meet ALL 5 AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) GOALS FOR NCLB IOWA ASSESSMENTS!!!!  Isn’t that amazing?

But since we’ve been growing we’ve needed more space and unfortunately we just don’t have the space. This year we lost our computer lab to make room for additional staff in our building.  Lowell no longer has a computer lab and the laptops were distributed to the classroom teachers.  Since I am not a classroom teacher, I did not get a student lap top.  Last year I let the kids go to the computer lab to type up final copies of stories they wrote.  This year it wasn’t an option with our Caroline Computer 2computer lab no longer available.  I wrote a Donors Choose project so my kiddos could have their own laptop to use while in my classroom.  So many people were generous and donated to us.

Thank you to:

  • Gretchen Peterson-Kobriger
  • Leanna Frericks
  • Erin Rosburg
  • US Cellular
  • Yellow Chair Foundation
  • Doonsebury matching donation

We are excited to be able to use the laptop to type up some of our stories and also as research.  My 4th and 5th graders have been using the iPad for a dictionary and thesaurus and now they’ll have access to the laptop for this work as well.

IMG_8461Also, a thank you to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier for recognizing the projects in the paper.  We were REALLY excited to see our project had been posted in the paper.  It means so much to have support from so many people.

If you’d like to help our current project please visit:

We are badly in need of some new supplies to help us in the classroom.  We have loved our supplies to the point where we need some new materials.  If you feel inspired to help us, we’d be thankful!

Hey everyone!  I’m so, so, so excited to share with you the newest video we made as a promotion for our bookstore.  It’s absolutely adorable and I hope you love it as much as we made making it!


I’m not sure I would consider myself a technology guru, but I am a technology lover (and I’d like to think a technology innovator) and I’ve had lots of people ask me about the apps I have been using with the school iPad.  I felt the best way to answer this question is to write about it.  Here are some of my app essentials that I use every day.  I’m always looking for additional apps so please feel free to email or comment if you have any good apps you are using with students.

whiteboardThe app I use the most is Whiteboard.  IMG_0075

This is a free app where you can basically use it like a whiteboard.  I use this with my students when I am doing word work time during a lesson.  I can write the word part or the word down and display it for students.

As an incentive I usually allow the student who puts the word together the quickest and with the best handwriting to re-write it on the iPad.  This has gotten some of my students more motivated to put their words together quickly and correctly.

DojoAnother app I use daily is Class Dojo.dojo 2

This is another free app where you can track student behavior, participation, preparation, and a bunch of other behaviors.

As you can see to the right students are either given points or points or taken away based on their behavior in group.  I use this as a way to track behaviors during group.  I have this setting out for students to see, but they know if they discuss/brag/complain about points then I will deduct points as their job is to focus on their work.  Please note that when you download this app you will then need to complete your class profiles on a computer at the Class Dojo website.  You can have as many classes as you want–I have one for each group.  But all changes on class rosters will need to be made outside of the app.IMG_0074

RIMG_0071 - Copyecord of Reading from Clemson University has become one of my very favorite apps.

This is a free running record app from Clemson University and has become my #1 communication tool with the teachers I work with.  It says you can either use your finger or a stylus, but I have not found a stylus that this works with.  Now, I have to be honest that I am much faster at writing a running record with paper and pencil.  So I often do the RR (running record) on paper and pencil first and then transfer it over after school, during lunch, or any other free time I might have.  From there you can EMAIL this running record to anyone in a PDF format or as a picture.  You can also record your student reading (which sometimes I will record the student reading while I take the RR on paper and pencil so I have the words per minute WPM ready and then save it so I can enter in the RR portion later) and anyone with an iPad can listen to the recording via the email.  This app figures out the accuracy, self correction ratio, and fluency for you.  You just have to enter in running words and number of errors and self corrections.  When you tap on error or self correction it pops up the M-S-V automatically for you to highlight.  You can save each running record under a student folder, which is fantastic.  I try to send out 1 running record per student each week to their classroom teacher.  It’s been a great communication tool between a classroom teacher and myself with a student who has been having trouble being successful.  Now she can see every day how things are going.  If you teach reading (which we all do!) YOU NEED THIS APP!

IMG_0072Dragon Dictation is my newest app obsession.IMG_0079

This is fabulous for the writing portion of a reading lesson when you are asking some of your younger students to tell you a sentence or sentences that they’ll be writing about.  How often does a student get 3 words into a sentence before you hear, “Uhhh, Ms. Acuff.  What was my sentence?”  All the time!!  And when you’re working with 3, 4, 5+ kids let’s be honest–we don’t remember!!   Dragon Dictation has been my life saver because you can speak into the microphone and it will type what you said.  This is fabulous because I can’t write quick enough to get their sentences down.  Each student speaks their sentence and I have it right there for me to check if there are any confusions.

It’s quick and the students think it’s like magic.  It’s fun to speak into the microphone and have your sentence pop up.  Plus if you are running short on time and need to continue the writing the next day–no worries!  It’s saved for you and ready to go that next day, or whenever you are able to write again.  Don’t you already feel the stress melting away?

AlphabetIMG_0071 Racing is a great app for helping students with letter formation.IMG_0073

As a Reading Interventionist, I work with a lot of struggling readers and writers.  One of the things I have to work on constantly is letter formation.  It gets old really quick having to practice writing on the white board or the aqua doodle.  This app has made it more fun to work on letter formation.  The students are shown with a little train the proper way to for the letter.  They are then able to trace over the letter.  They have upper and lowercase letters along with numbers.  The beautiful bonus is you can pick your tracing color OR fabulous print–like zebra or pink glitter as your “marker”…my girls absolutely LOVE the pink glitter and surprisingly my boys love the many different animal prints.   The app even says the letter name and gives an example of the letter used.

Cimo Spelling is Cimoa fun spelling app.IMG_0076

Cimo is a penguin on a quest for fish.  He can only get a fish if he is able to cross the ocean on little glaciers with letters.  These letters must spell the given word otherwise Cimo falls into the ocean and he doesn’t get his fish.  Wow!  What a mission.  You can’t let Cimo down!  Cimo doesn’t get to come out and play very often, but it’s nice if there are a few spare minutes.  This would or could be a good center activity if you were looking for student mastery in basic sight words.  I don’t use Cimo very often, but it’s a good app for a game day/reward/possible center.

The above are some of my favorites that I use the most.  Other apps I have are:

  • YouTube–great for recently when my students didn’t understand the venus fly trap and we could see it quick.
  • Word Family–great for word families.  Another possible reward/center app.
  • Photo album/Camera (pre-installed)–used to take pictures of my anchor charts and I can easily flip through the album if I want students to focus on a particular topic.  This is essential for me since I go into the classrooms to teach and am not able to hang up anchor charts.
  • ShowMe–great for wanting to show students a “how to” video on a particular subject.  You can even make your own.
  • Phonics Genius–lots of different phonics examples/ideas.
  • iMovie–($4.99) turn your classroom videos into something a little more spectacular.
  • Reminders (pre-installed)–use this so you never miss a meeting or coverage or whatever!  It will start an alarm at a specific time or GPS when you arrive or leave a certain location.
  • Read Me–stories app which will read stories to students.
  • Splash Pad–projects your computer/iPad onto your promethean board from where you are in the room–so you can work Class Dojo on your promethean while you are at the back table teaching reading groups. (I believe this app is around $5)

These are some of the apps on the iPad I use.  Like I said before, if you have any additional apps you think are worth while please share!