My Top 10 Blog Posts About Integrating Technology into Reading and Language Arts

My Top 10 Blog Posts About Integrating Technology into Reading and Language Arts


One of my professional passions is finding meaningful ways to integrate technology into reading and language arts. Here are links to my top 10 blog posts of digital reading and language arts activities I have carried out in the classroom over the years.
10. My Favorite Tech Tools for Communication & Collaboration (writing and oral language skills)


How do you use technology to enhance reading and writing instruction?


Julie Smith

Using Typorama to Develop and Reinforce Growth Mindset

Are you at a loss of ways to grab your students’ attention at the beginning of the year? Do you want to lay a foundation for a positive learning experience? With the emphasis on fixed and growth mindset, we want our students to stretch their minds to learn and experience personal success, even though there may be setbacks. Teachers and students can use the design app Typorama to create posters to develop and reinforce a Growth Mindset.

A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.” – Carol Dweck

It’s so important to help our students develop a growth mindset and understand that failure is a learning experience. With the app Typorama, students can design their own posters reflecting a growth mindset. They can research different quotes or just make up their own. This is a perfect activity for the beginning of the year.

Typorama is a free app that’s so easy to use. It takes very little instruction and students will love exploring the different settings. The posters look so professional.

– When you open the app, you automatically see different backgrounds. You can choose one of those or select your own.

– Type a topic in the search window, or select camera roll and choose your own photo.


– Next, you’ll be prompted to select the format for the poster. 

– Then, comes the fun part! Select the text styles, tools for adjustment, filters, and overlays. Your students will love playing with these tools. 

– I recommend saving it to the Gallery (camera roll)
– Then, print the poster. You may want to reduce the size if you want your students to place these on their desks. Or, place them around the classroom throughout the year.
– The posters can even spark discussion on what the the poster and quote means to them.


26 Awesome Common Core Kindergarten Math Technology Activities

kindergarten math websites featured image
One of my favorite pastimes is scouring the internet for digital games for my students. I know, I’m a little weird, but I like it that way. So, the other day I was looking for math activities for kindergarten that align to the common core standards. Now I’m sharing what I found with you because I think you will find them to be really helpful. All 26 games are included in my Kindergarten Technology Lesson Plans and Activities. 
I’ve organized them by topic below. My recommendation is that you link these to your classroom website for math practice at computer centers and at home. They are all completely free games and you students should be able to complete them independently as long as it is a topic you’ve already covered in class.

Counting and Cardinality

Count to Tell the Number of Objects

Compare Numbers

Operations and Algebraic Thinking

Number and Operations in Base 10

Measurement and Data

Do you know of other well-fitting games you would add to the list?

Kindergarten math websites pin

One of my favorite pastimes is scouring the internet for digital games for my students. I know, I’m a little weird, but I like it that way. So, the other day I was looking for math activities for kindergarten that align to the common core standards. Now I’m sharing what I found with you because I think you will find them to be really helpful.


Tips for Successful Technology Sub Plans

Tips for Successful Technology Sub Plans

Tips for Successful Sub Plans (1)

We’ve all been there – you have to be out for a day, but its nerve-wracking. What to leave for a sub?  How to make sure it goes smoothly?  You don’t want to waste a day of class, and you don’t want to come back to chaos the next day.

Here are my suggestions (granted I have mostly taught secondary, but I think these suggestions would work even with upper elementary as well).

You can’t always guarantee who you will get as a sub, or how your students will react, so here are a few suggestions to minimize the stress.

Leave the directions directly for your students

Students are used to receiving direction from you.  They are more likely to give a sub a hard time, or the have confusion. Give the directions to the kids.  If you use a learning management system such as Google Classroom, Schoology, Edmodo etc this is very easy. they are already used to logging in, and can look for their work there.

If not, I have left the kids a very quick and simple set of directions of what they are to do for the class period, and what is to be handed in at the end of class.   I sometimes leave the kids direction in the form of an official looking ‘memo’ with the assignment for the day, when it is due, and what to do if they have extra time.  I photocopy either for each student (even a half sheet is plenty), either as a separate handout, or as a cover page with today’s work that explains their directions for the day.

This leaves the sub free to either tell students to login and read the directions, or the pass out directions, as well as take attendance, monitor behavior, and deal with questions and problems, rather than try to teach/lead a lesson that he or she may not be comfortable with. It also takes out the middle man.  I don’t know about you, but I have heard some strange stories such as “the sub told us not to hand that in” or the “sub never passed that out, etc”

Leave the sub prepared

Make sure the sub is prepared to do the things that you really need him or her to do. Here are some tips:

  • leave attendance rosters
  • leave a class schedule
  • leave a seating chart, if you use one
  • leave directions and contact information for another teacher to ask in case of questions
  • leave directions or a phone number to call for the main office/security in case of a problem
  • clear directions of what work should be handed in
  • leave some type of feedback form, this helps ensure that you will get feedback on how the day way.   There are numerous free versions available by searching for substitute feedback form.  Here is a good resource from the National Substitute Teachers Alliance.

Have a back up plan

As has already been mentioned in earlier posts (5 Computer Sub Plans Must Haves and Technology Tools for Foolproof Sub Plans) it is important to have a back up plan.

My go to backup plan is either a news article summary or a vocabulary activity.  I keep vocabulary lists, and a vocabulary menu of choice activities for students to practice key vocabulary. I also keep a bunch of news articles printed out, with a generic news article response template (I just use the first page).  Even if you don’t keep articles, you may be able to get a few copies of the newspaper or of magazines from the school library.  Again, there are numerous current events summaries available with a quick search, so I would recommend that you find one appropriate to your students.

These are assignments that students can do for extra credit or early finisher activities but they are also great for emergency sub plans, or if the technology isn’t working.  Sometimes there is a sub who isn’t comfortable with the technology or has an issue getting kids logged in. These are a perfect temporary solution.

Tips for Successful Sub Plans

Technology Tools for Foolproof Sub Plans

Sub plans are all about the routines in the classroom

If you want your students to have a “normal” day then the goal is to give the substitute teacher everything he/she needs to maintain the classroom routines.

Provide the sub with a quick video tutorial of the tech in your classroom

When I taught technology, this meant giving a tutorial for all of the technology tools in my classroom. It really helps when you can use the same sub every time, but having a tutorial in place will save you time when someone new comes in to sub. My tutorial wasn’t anything fancy, just a video recording I made of how to turn on the projector, document camera, laptop, and student computers as well as where things were stored if needed. I put this on a flash drive that I left in the sub folder along with a card that had a substitute teacher computer login. I wish I could share the video with you but it had very school-specific details. By the way I just recorded the video with my iPhone and then transferred it to my laptop with the dropbox app. You could also use the google drive app if you have it.

Create a screencast for student directions

This is my favorite tip. Even though it takes time to make a screencast of the assignment directions, they are incredibly helpful to students. You can find an example screencast that I made for my student’s typing unit here. Having a video really holds students accountable for completing the assignment. They can watch it as many times as needed. Absent students can watch it when they come back without you having to take the time to work with them one on one. Videos are also amazing for students with special needs because they can watch the video with the resource teacher or with their parents at home while working through an assignment. I use the software Screencast-o-matic and love it, but there are several options out there. I don’t usually even edit my videos. If I mess up, I just correct myself and keep going.

Keep the classroom routines the same

If your students are accustomed to doing a certain thing when they enter the classroom (mine do 10 minutes of typing) then don’t change that just because there is a substitute teacher. Your students need the consistency and your sub will appreciate that your students know how to get started on their own. That goes for the early finishers, too. In my tech lab the procedures are always the same. 10 minutes of typing, the lesson itself, and early finisher activities. As long as I tell my students which lesson to find on our class website, they can basically work without me. I’m just facilitating their learning and there in case they have any questions. Working this way changed my whole way of teaching.

Give the sub a feedback form so you can adjust if needed

I’m a huge fan of feedback because it makes me better. The stuff I shared with you in this post only came to be because of helpful feedback I received from substitute teachers. I let them know in my notes that I want to know what would have been helpful and ask if they feel like they had a successful day.

Plan A and plan B

For last minute subs (or a TA pulled from a classroom) I always provide a non-tech option. I love a good read aloud book and built a classroom library of tech themed books for early finishers or days when the wifi wasn’t working. The sub can decide to read to the class or just have the students pair up and read together.

What do you do for sub plans that include technology? I would love to hear other perspectives. Please share this post with your teacher friends so that they can try some new technology tools, too! If you loved this post, be sure to subscribe by email so that our blog posts are delivered directly to your inbox.


technology tools for foolproof sub plans pin

Prepping for the Test with Newsela

With the pressure of preparing our students for upcoming standardized tests, we want to be mindful to not focus our teaching primarily on the TEST. When teachers focus their teaching on the test, it affects meaningful learning, lack of motivation, and a curriculum that is too structured without flexibility. By using Newsela for test prep or teaching nonfiction, students are engaged in deeper, more authentic, and meaningful learning. Newsela is a free, reading-leveled, nonfiction and current events website and app.

Technology Tools for Fun and Easy ELA Test Prep

Preparing students for their standardized state tests doesn’t have to be terribly boring and use a whole tree worth of paper. Over the years helping 5th grade students prepare for their science state test in North Carolina, I have come across some amazing online resources for ELA that I want to share with you.

I chose the best 3 because I know your time is limited and you need to work on other test taking skills and subjects with your classes.

  1. Prepdog has common core quizzes for grades K-8. You can have students take a test in a specific standard for ELA, or let them choose what they practice. One of my favorite things about using Prepdog is that it requires students to choose their answer by selecting it from a drop down menu. This is an important skill to practice if your students have to take their standardized tests on the computer. prepdog test prep
  2. Pearsonlongman is another great technology tool for test prep. The reading tests have passages for students to read and then multiple choice comprehension questions to answer. This site has students click on a radio button to select their answer. The reading passages and questions are separated so students also have to navigate the page to find which questions and passages go together. Great practice!
  3. Lumos Learning is my third recommendation. There is a sample question for each of the common core standards and topics. So, for 5th grade there are 41 sample questions! Students select an answer choice and then check to see whether or not it is correct. There is even an answer explanation if they were wrong.

Bonus resource if you need to practice with bubble sheets but want the questions to be online. Testprepreview has you covered.

While I shared these resources for 5th graders, each of these sites has options for the other elementary grades, too. What are some of your favorite websites for test prep?


technology tools for ELA test prep pin

Online Practice for Technology Enhanced Items (TEI)

Testing season is quickly approaching for many of us. Are your students prepared and comfortable with the format of Technology Enhanced Items (TEI) that will appear on their state tests? These are not the traditional type of testing questions. Instead, they are computer-delivered items that drive higher order thinking which involve special interactions for collecting responses. Some examples of TEI questions include:

  • text dropdown menus
  • drag and drop
  • multiple selection
  • label an image
  • numeric entry with units
  • text selection/highlighting
  • editing text
  • equation builder
  • drawing an object
Exposing students as early as possible to these types of questions is important, not just for conquering testing. We need to show how questions that arise in our everyday world do not always require ONE answer. Sometimes we find multiple answers that are correct to everyday problems! Often times answers come in many different forms. Many TEI questions mirror this philosophy and if students do not correctly choose ALL of the correct answers, then the question asking for multiple answers is marked entirely wrong. That can be hard for a little one to understand😔 Therefore, exposure is KEY.
I stumbled upon these AWESOME Google Slide templates on Pinterest that mimic many of the TEI type questions. For those of you who use Google in your classroom, check out {THESE} folders. Templates are available for both math and reading questions.
Thank you Justin Birckbichler @Mr_B_Teacher for creating this awesome resource!
You could easily combine these slides into one big presentation and make your own “test” for students to take and turn into you via Google Classroom or a shared Google folder.
For those of you who are not big Google users, you can still get your students practicing by visiting TEI inspired websites. Here is a list of some of those resources:

Do you know of any others that we could add to the list? If so, link it in the comments below!

I have started a TEI Pinterest board that I will be adding resources to as I come across them. Click below to follow this board:


Julie Smith is an elementary Instructional Technology Consultant from Saline, Michigan. She works with teachers and students in PreK-5th grade. Julie is the author of the blog, The Techie Teacher and is a PicCollage Ambassador. You can also follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest

Streamlining Google Classroom with Topics!

I will start off by saying I absolutely LOVE Google Classroom. Before Google Classroom, I was a huge fan of Edmodo and Schoology, but moving to classroom last year was one of the best improvements I’ve seen in instructional technology, especially now that I’m using more digital resources with my curriculum.

Everything is streamlined into one place, and my only hang up with this was that sometimes students didn’t scroll down far enough to find what they needed. This was especially true when I would get post happy on a weekend. Edmodo used to have a filter feature that I loved that they later did away with. Luckily, Google Classroom already has something similar in place. Enter: Topics!


Now I can organize all of my unit resources into one tag, and students can find that information really easily, saving them time, and me multiple emails.

When uploading any content or assignment, make sure to assign it a topic. You can pick from a list you’ve already created or create a new Topic. I like to create my Topics ahead of time that way it’s easier to go in and choose, and to prevent myself from over organizing. I tend to stick to larger unit topics, unless it’s a special type of assignment. For our study on Allegory of the Cave, we had way more information posted than I anticipated, so I made a Topic just for Plato.

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What is great about this super quick tip is that students can find information quickly, and it filters out distractions of other things that may be in the feed. I’ve noticed my students will give up if they can’t find something within seconds, claiming they just couldn’t find it.

It absolutely amazes me how far we’ve come from creating multiple wikispace pages to filtering out information at the touch of a button. If you use Google Classroom and you aren’t already using Topics, give it a try today!

Changing the Way we Teach using Google Classroom

Ever wonder how you can make learning more meaningful for your students while still differentiating your lessons to meet the needs of the ever growing educational gap? Well, today we are going to take a look at how to set up and organize your own Google Classroom. I have been using Google Classroom with my third and fourth grade students for a few years. I was over the moon when I recently heard that Google has released a new feature on Google Classroom that now allows teachers to select students or groups who will receive specific assignments. So take a look at the steps below on how to set up and organize your classes!

how-to-set-up-google-classroom-1               Step 1: First, click on the the icon that says create classroom.


Step 2: Then name your class ( if you teach multiple section of the same grade  like I do; I usually name the class the teachers name on section I put the grade for that class and for the subject I will add computer lab)


Step 2: Now you are ready to invite your students by adding them to your classroom. Again if you are like me I teach 400 students so I prefer to have each student join their correct class by using the code for that class. I put the class code on the SmartBoard and then as students login to their Google Classroom accounts they will enter the code.


 Step 3: After all students have joined your class you are ready to create your first assignment! ( Hooray,  You are on your way to having a paperless classroom!) You will need to click on the little circle + sign and the other options will appear. Click on the create assignment icon.


Step 4: Now you will name your assignment. Then comes by favorite part by far! (Teachers have been asking for awhile if there was a  way that we could assign assignments to a individual students or a group of students, but not the whole class. Well Google finally listened and has created this AMAZING feature that allows you to do just that! ) 


Step 5: So after you have create the name of the assignment you can click on the name of the students in your class that you want to receive this assignment. The best part ONLY the students who have been assigned that specific assignment will receive it!


  So here is how I am using it in my class. I teach K-4 Computer lab. I see 400 students during the course of a week.  160 of those students are my third and fourth graders. They  are using Google Classroom. I create 3 variations of the same assignment for my students. The assignment appears the same in each assignment heading, but now I am able to select who gets which assignment. My challenging assignment goes to my students who I know have a good grasp on using technology and need to have more rigor and critical thinking activities/ lessons their assignment may have more reading and will be self guided and higher order of thinking.  My 2nd lesson may have some foundational skills, possible some vocabulary at the beginning and several examples before they get started on their lesson. The 3rd lesson would  include a video tutorial of the lesson or activity. It will go at a much slower pace with vocabulary built in as well as repeated practice of the same task. So, as you see my students are all working on the same unit, but because of their unique learning abilities I am to create assignments that are differentiated and build of their strengths!  

If you would like an example here is a presidential Google Research Project that I am doing with my students. There are 3 different Levels. You can click on the on the picture for the link or click on the link down below. Each of these will ask you to make a copy!


Group 1:


Group 2


Group 3