Ritter's Recommendations



  • Write About - https://www.writeabout.com/ IF YOU CHOOSE TO USE THIS, PLEASE SET UP AN APPOINTMENT WITH DOUG GREEK TO DISCUSS PRIVACY SETTINGS. One key to improving student writing is to have students write more often. But paperwork is hard to manage, you are limited in how much feedback you can provide, and students often have trouble thinking of ideas. Write About solves these problems, providing students with an online space to write on high-interest topics and get feedback from their peers. Students browse through a growing collection of writing ideas, each one paired with a visually compelling image, and write about them (or use the built-in voice recorder) on the site itself. Finished posts can then be shared with just one class or made publicly viewable (see examples). Students can comment on each others’ posts. Teachers can leave private feedback for students as voice recordings, written comments, or annotations tied to specific sections of the text. A database of lesson plans, genre-specific writing ideas, and other teaching resources is available for teachers to browse. The free option allows for 40 students and a limited number of posts; paid packages offer greater capacity for students and posts. And recently, Write About has added school and district packages that offer greater customization and robust analytics.
  • Versal - https://versal.com/ - If you’ve already experimented with flipping your classroom, it may be time to take it to the next level. With Versal, you can create full courses that live online, using any combination of text, video, downloadable PDFs, multiple choice quizzes, and short response questions. But it doesn’t stop there: Versal also offers a drag-and-drop menu of items that would normally require advanced coding, but don’t in Versal: interactive diagrams, Thinglink images, Quizlet flashcards, timelines, LaTeX math equations, music tools, and even an interactive chess game can be added into a course if the teacher wants it there.

    Accountability is built right in: When you set up a course, you can track the progress of learners who are taking it, with the ability to see which students have taken which lesson and how far along they are. Learner reports also show scores on quizzes.

    Not only would a tool like Versal work beautifully to bundle and deliver your regular content, it would also be a wonderful platform for differentiating instruction for advanced learners, offering training or professional development to employees, or having students create their own courses to demonstrate learning.

  • Noisli - http://www.noisli.com/ - I can’t stop telling people about this one. Noisli is basically a white-noise generator, offering a menu of different sounds you can combine to your liking, creating a nice hum in the background that can help you stay focused. It could help students avoid distraction while they work independently on computers, laptops, or handheld devices, each student choosing his or her own sound combination. Or you could play something for the whole class during silent reading time to help buffer small, distracting noises. There is also a Noisli app for your phone that only costs $1.99.

  • Formative - http://goformative.com/ - In a formative assessment fantasy world, we would be able to look at every student’s work while he or she did it at the exact same time. That way, we could redirect students more quickly and give feedback that is more immediate.

    The people at Formative have brought that fantasy to life by developing a platform that lets teachers see the responses of a whole class at one time—even open-response and hand-drawn responses.

    Teachers create assessments from scratch right in the Formative platform, or upload an existing PDF or Word document and build a quiz from there. Students access the assessments by entering a class code on their own devices. Then, as students take the assessments, the teacher can look at his or her own device and see what each student is writing simultaneously; each student’s work appears in its own little square and fills up in real time. To score assessments, teachers can set up auto-grading for multiple choice questions and manually grade short answer or hand-drawn responses. And as of September 2015, teachers can also give written feedback to any question while a student is answering it. This free tool might finally help teachers defy the laws of physics and be everywhere at once.

  • Prodigy Math - https://www.prodigygame.com/ - Brittany White told me about this one and gave the following description... I first heard about Prodigy Math when the website's creator presented on gamification in the math classroom at this year's METC conference. In case you haven't already heard the buzz about Prodigy, it's an online math game aligned to 1st-8th grade CCSS. It's highly-engaging, very easy-to-use, and provides teachers with bukoos of data--for FREE! The website utilizes a common diagnostic test to place students based on their current level of understanding. The results of the diagnostic test allow the website to provide automatic differentiation, which lets students work on mastering skills at their own pace. The website offers detailed reports, making it quick and easy for teachers to see which standards students have mastered and where they could benefit from some feedback or additional support. The reports also aid in planning for flexible math small-groups during guided math. Creating custom assignments based on reports or classroom assessment is also a breeze! I can create a custom assessment based on real-time data and assign it to one student, a group of students, or the entire class on the fly--in less than a minute! Most importantly, my class LOVES Prodigy! Students have the ability to make their avatars battle one another's, which adds a competitive aspect to the game. The "Leader Board" is the talk of my classroom! They even ask me to assign them Prodigy as homework! Whether I give it to them or not, I can still count on a large number of my students spending a considerable amount of time playing Prodigy outside of school--even during holidays and on weekends. I've been waiting for the novelty to wear off, but my students are just as excited about Prodigy now as they were the day they started...and so am I!

Upcoming Events and Professional Learning Opportunities

  • Fantastic Fraction Progressions! - June 22, 2016 9:00 - 3:00 - Park Central Building, Room 112

    This is not a sit-n-get! Expect to leave with concrete and practical lesson ideas to take back to the classroom! Come have fun learning about the sequence of elementary fraction development! Understanding the vertical alignment of content and having an awareness of the span of fraction learning is important for successfully teaching students! This workshop will demonstrate the content expectations for each grade level from 3-5 and highlight the important conceptual building blocks and pivotal shifts. This workshop is a great opportunity for vertical teaming of elementary teachers as they identify grade-level content as well as develop an understanding of prior knowledge and student next-steps. This workshop is a relaxed, fun, powerful, summer learning opportunity! Register Here: https://www.mylearningplan.com/WebReg/ActivityProfile.asp?D=11005&H=1&I=1998246

  • Making Tech Meaningful! - June 28, 2016 9:00 - 2:00 - Park Central Square Office Building, Room 112

    Joins us for some M&Ms(Making Choices & Meaningful Connections) with this fun-filled blended-learning showcase. Find meaning in the tech choices you make for your classroom! Walk-away with new thinking and tools to revitalize your instructional practices to meet the needs of 21st Century Learners. This is a BYOD(bring your own device)learning exploration! Expect to engage in instructional technology and find out why you need it! Making Tech Meaningful is for all educators and aligns with Missouri Teacher Standards 1-8: Student engagement; Differentiation; Use of Instructional Resources; Classroom Management: Learner Expression; Communication of Student Progress/Maintaining Records; Professional Learning. It also aligns with the the 21st Century Learner Standards and the ISTE standards. The workshop starts promptly at 9:00 am! Parking and Lunch are included! Space is limited, so sign up now for this M&M Tech Adventure! Register Here: https://www.mylearningplan.com/WebReg/ActivityProfile.asp?D=11005&H=1&I=2042910

  • Student-Led Learning - June 23, 2016 8:30 - 3:30 - Park Central Office Building - Room 112

    Formative assessment practices are two-sided, one is that of informing instruction, the other is involving students in being integral participants in the learning and assessment processes. So, how do we teach students to think critically and metacognitively? In this workshop, teachers will explore and engage in a variety of strategies that will assist in developing students who understand the learning targets; know what quality work looks like; set goals and action plans; crafting and using descriptive feedback to advance their learning; revise and revisit their work; and self-assess, monitor, and communicate their learning to others. According to John Hattie in his book, Visible Learning for Teachers, 'Assessment Capable Learners' (prior title of 'self-reported grades') when implemented with fidelity, has the highest impact on student achievement of all the domains. This workshop is designed for K through 12 teachers. A continental "Smart Start" breakfast will be included. Lunch will be on your own. Register Here: https://www.mylearningplan.com/WebReg/ActivityProfile.asp?D=11005&H=1&I=2042923

  • Instructional Tool-Box Training - July 14, 2016 - 9:00 - 2:00 - Park Central Square - Room 112

    Fill your instructional tool-box with research-based, effective strategies proven to increase student learning! This workshop focuses on strategies for differentiating, engaging, and assessing. Leave with the tools you need to personalize instruction and develop students who actively participate in their own learning through goal-setting, reflection, and self-assessment. BYOD(bring your own device) to fully participating in this workshop. Instructional Tool-Box Training meets the needs of all teachers, and aligns with Missouri Teacher Standards 1-8: Student Engagement; Student Goals; Differentiated Instruction; Critical Thinking; Classroom Management; Using Data; Student-Led Assessment; Formative Assessment; Professional Learning. Training begins promptly at 9:00 a.m. Parking is included. Lunch will be provided! Space is limited, so register now to secure your spot! https://www.mylearningplan.com/WebReg/ActivityProfile.asp?D=11005&H=1&I=2042895

  • How to be a Distinguished Teacher! - July 20, 2016 - 9:00 - 3:00 - Park Central Square Office Building - Room 112

    What does it take to be considered a "Distinguished" Teacher in Missouri? This workshop is an in-depth analysis of the Missouri Teacher Standards and the Missouri Teacher Evaluation System. Learn what you need to know and do in order to reach the highest level of teaching distinction on the Missouri Educator Evaluation System. Leave with insights into personal learning needs, powerful resources for self-advocating during evaluations, and a plan for professional growth and development as an educator. This workshop is for anyone seeking professional improvement as a teacher, regardless of years of experience or current level of expertise. Light continental breakfast will be served with lunch will be on your own. Register Here: https://www.mylearningplan.com/WebReg/ActivityProfile.asp?D=11005&H=1&I=1998228

  • SPS Summer Academy - June 14-15 & July 25-26 - Parkview High School (Teachers who are not employees of Springfield Public Schools are welcome to attend this SPS Summer Academy. Keep in mind that some sessions may be tailored to specific challenges or programs used by SPS. Register Here: bit.ly/spssummeracademy16

  • Nixa EdCamp - June 11 - 8:00 - 11:30 - STEAM FOCUS

  • GOCSD Innovation Summit - June 1-2 - University Plaza Hotel and Convention Center
  • What's better than free webinars? This site has over 15 hours of great math professional learning.

Book Recommendations - Summer Reading

General Reading Strategies

  • The Art of Slow Reading: Six Time-Honored Practices for Engagement by Thomas Newkirk
  • Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts
  • I Read It, but I Don't Get It by Cris Tovani
  • The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers by Jennifer Serravallo
  • Revisit, Reflect, Retell: Time-Tested Strategies for Teaching Reading Comprehension by Linda Hoyt
  • Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension to Enhance Understanding by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis
  • Visible Learning for Literacy by Fisher, Frey, and Hattie

Nonfiction Reading Strategies

  • Energize Research Reading and Writing: Fresh Strategies to Spark Interest, Develop Independence, and Meet Key Common Core Standards, Grades 4-8 by Christopher Lehman
  • Making Sense of History: Using High-Quality Literature and Hands-On Experiences to Build Content Knowledge by Myra Zarnowski
  • Nonfiction Matters: Reading, Writing, and Research in Grades 3-8 by Stephanie Harvey
  • Reading Nonfiction: Notice and Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies by Beers and Probst
  • Subjects Matter: Every Teacher's Guide to Content-Area Reading by Daniels and Zemelman
  • Teaching Reading in Social Studies, Science, and Math by Laura Robb
  • Texts and Lessons for Content-Area Reading by Daniels and Steineke

Interpretation and Analysis of Texts

  • Mosaic of Thought: The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction by Ellin Oliver Keene and Zimmerman
  • Teaching Interpretation: Using Text-based Evidence to Construct Meaning by Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen
  • What Readers Really Do: Teaching Moves and Language to Match Process to Instruction by Barnhouse and Vinton
  • What's the Big Idea? Question-Driven Units to Motivate Reading, Writing, and Thinking by Jim Burke

Emergent or Struggling Readers

  • The Fluent Reader: Oran and Silent Reading Strategies for Building Fluency, Word Recognition and Comprehension by Rasinski
  • What Really Matters in Fluency: Research-Based Practices Across the Curriculum by Allington
  • What Research Has to Say about Reading Instruction by Farstrup and Samuels
  • When Kids Can't Read: What Teachers Can Do by Beers

Writing About Reading

  • The Literary Essay: Analyzing Craft and Theme by Roberts and Wischow
  • Literary Essays: From Character to Compare/Contrast by Lucy Calkins
  • Notebook Connections: Strategies for the Reader's Notebook by Buckner
  • Talk to Literary Essays, Grades 3-8 by Angelillo
  • Writing About Reading: From Reader's Notebooks to Companion Books by Calkins and Robb

General Writing Strategies

  • The Art of Teaching Writing by Lucy Calkins
  • Assessing Writers by Carl Anderson
  • How's It Going? A Practical Guide to Conferring with Student Writers by Carl Anderson
  • Lessons That Change Writers by Nancie Atwell
  • On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by Zinsser
  • The Resourceful Writing Teacher: A Handbook of Essential Skills and Strategies by Bender
  • The Revision Toolbox: Teaching Techniques That Work by Heard
  • The Unstoppable Writing Teacher: Real Strategies for the Real Classroom by Cruz
  • Writing Pathways: Performance Assessments and Learning Progressions K-8 by Calkins, Robb, and Hohne
  • Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Clark
  • Writing with Mentors: How to Reach Every Writer by Clark

Writer's Craft Strategies

  • After the End: Teaching and Learning Creative Revision by Lane
  • Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School by Heard
  • Craft Lessons: Teaching Writing K-8 by Fletcher and Portalupi
  • Dialogue: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Effective Dialogue by Kempton
  • The Elements of Story: Field Notes on Nonfiction Writing by Flaherty
  • Finding the Heart of Nonfiction: Teaching 7 Essential Craft Tools with Mentor Texts by Heard
  • Now Write! Screenwriting: Exercise by Today's Best Writers and Teachers by Ellis and Lamson
  • Plot and Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell
  • What a Writer Needs by Ralph Fletcher
  • Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom by Katie Wood Ray
  • Writers Are Readers: Flipping Reading Instruction into Writing Opportunities by Laminack and Wadsworth

Conventions Usage

  • A Fresh Approach to Teaching Punctuation: Helping Young Writers Use Conventions with Precision and Purpose by Angelillo and Calkins
  • Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Fogarty
  • Practical Punctuation: Lessons on Rule Making and Rule Breaking in Elementary Writing by Feigelson

A Vision and Inspiration for Charts: Content, Style, and Form

  • Chart Sense: Common Sense Charts to Teach 3-8 Informational Text and Literature by Linder
  • Chart Sense for Writing: Over 70 Common Sense Charts with Tips and Strategies to Teach 3-8 Writing by Linder
  • Smarter Charts for Math, Science, and Social Studies: Making Learning Visible in the Content Areas by Mraz and Martinelli
  • Smarter Charts K-2: Optimizing an instructional Staple to Create Independent Readers and Writers by Martinelli and Mraz


  • Guided Math in Action K-5 by Nicki Newton
  • Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn, K-6 by O'Connor and Anderson
  • Engaging Children's Minds: The Project Approach by Katz and Chard
  • Teachers - Formative Assessment - Informal Assessment of Students' Mathematical Dispositions by McIntosh
  • Teaching for Mathematical Dispositions As Well As for Understanding by Merz
  • Making Thinking Visible by Perkins (not just math related)
  • How to Solve It by Polya


  • How to Differentiate Instruction in the Mixed Ability Classroom by Tomlinson
  • Fulfilling the Promise of the Differentiated Classroom: Strategies and Tools for Responsive Teaching by Tomlinson
  • Differentiation in Practice: A Resource Book for Differentiating Curriculum Grades K-5 by Tomlinson
  • Engage All Students Through Differentiation by Beninghof
  • K-8 Differentiated Instruction: Different Strategies for Different Learners by Elliot, Forsten, Grant and Hollas