Sunday, May 20, 2012

Evernote and Balanced Literacy

Two months ago, after reading a lot about it on Twitter, I decided to download the Evernote app onto my I-Phone and I-Pad. Initially, I wasn't exactly sure how I intended or wanted to use it but the idea of having a note taking app that could easily sync across multiple devices and computers so that the information could be accessed from anywhere seemed liberating (I know, others have known about the power of Evernote for years but cut me some slack, I only joined the Twitterverse in February and most of my recent learning starts there).

Since downloading Evernote in March and spending some time exploring its abilities and capabilities, I am officially hooked! I use Evernote at ever administrator's meeting that I attend to take notes and identify the things that I must take action on immediately and the things that can wait. I use Evernote to gather ideas for my blog and even start writing some of the posts there because they are so easy to transfer onto my blog. I use Evernote to take notes while I visit the classrooms in our school each day so I can document the many activities, lessons and learning experiences I observe during my daily walk-arounds. I can say that Evernote has replaced my writer's notebook, which is hard to admit because I never thought I would be able to go without my physical notebook; but, using Evernote means I can stop and write whenever I want about whatever I want without having to worry about whether or not I have my notebook.

Although this list could go on and on as I have become more aware of the power of Evernote, I recently started to think about when I could share Evernote with our staff so that it was useful and relevant for them on both personal and professional levels. The idea of sharing a note taking app that could be saved in the cloud was clearly powerful but I wasn't sure if it would hook the staff and convince them that Evernote could enhance their craft. In thinking about the fact that it replaced my writer's notebook, it finally dawned on me, using Evernote could really enhance our literacy instruction where we implement a Balanced Literacy model in the areas of reading and writing. YES - that was it! Evernote could make our reading and writing workshop models better than before, which is always the goal.

So, at our Faculty Meeting this past week, I hooked up my I-Pad to the projector (first time I tried that and it was awesome but that is a whole other post) and shared the following ideas about how we could use Evernote as part of our Balanced Literacy model...

1. Use it for conference notes when meeting with individual children - instead of trying to organize all the notes from the many individual reading and writing conferences on different clipboards, notebooks and binders, Evernote could streamline that process for any educator! A "notebook" (or note within a class "notebook") could be created for each child in the class and every time the teacher meets with that child there is a place to record what reading/writing strategies and skills the child is currently using, what things the child is doing well as a reader/writer and what goals should be established for the child so they could continue to grow as a reader/writer. By saving these conference notes to the cloud and being able to access them from anywhere, think about how it could take a parent phone call or a parent/teacher conference to a whole other level. Also, the teacher's conference notes are with them all the time so if they get an idea about a specific child or group of children, they could launch Evernote, make note and access it when they are back in the classroom with their children. (In my eyes, that is AWESOME!)

2. Use it to help organize guided reading/writing groups and strategy groups just by typing a key word in the search box! After an educator has completed one round of independent reading and writing conferences, they could use the data they have amassed to begin grouping children by level for guided reading/writing lessons or by need for strategy lessons. For example, if the teacher wanted to pull all of her strong Level G readers for a guided reading lesson to scaffold them for the transition to Level H books, she could launch Evernote, type Level G in the search box within her class "notebook" and the notes on each child from the independent reading conferences where she included "Level G" would pop up and viola, there are the names for her guided reading group(s). Or, if certain students are struggling with generating a strong lead sentence in their writing, a teacher could access notes in Evernote taken during various independent writing conferences and enter the phrase "lead sentence" in the search box and the notes about the children who either soared or struggled with lead sentences would pop up and BAM - there is a strategy group! I think this is something that has AWESOME possibilities especially considering how important it is to analyze various data points, use the data to differentiate instruction and deliver information in small groups and doses.

3. Use it to record children reading aloud! The Evernote app comes with a recording/microphone feature, which could be used in various ways. For example, while completing a running record/miscue analysis, a teacher could record the children reading an excerpt aloud and go back and listen to the reading again to ensure that all the notes taken during the running record were accurate. Additionally, listening to a child read aloud again could help when working with the parent of a struggling reader to figure out ways a parent can support the child at home. Finally, recording a child reading aloud can be very powerful for the student because they could hear themselves and listen in with the teacher to review what strategies and skills were being used by the reader. Having a child listen to themselves read aloud is also an excellent way to work on fluency and phrasing, which are critical skills as children get older and the texts become more complex.

4. Use it to plan various mini-lessons and small group reading and writing lessons. After reviewing all the above mentioned data and listening to the children read aloud (either in person or through an Evernote recording), a teacher can use this information to help plan out the various mini-lessons for a certain unit of study, period of time or possibly the entire year! Mini-lessons should address various expectations of a unit of study; mini-lessons should also address the CCS; and mini-lessons should meet the needs of the students as measured during various conferences, conversations and observations. Using Evernote will allow an educator to pool all these data points together and then map out the necessary next steps in regards to whole class mini-lessons.

5. Use it to clip and gather a bevy of resources from the web that could enhance the shared reading or writing experience. One of the best ways to expose our students to a variety of genres and text types is through the shared reading/writing experience. By supporting the children through a shared reading/writing experience, we are able to better scaffold them for independent success and support them as they analyze texts. Of course, finding or generating shared reading texts is not always easy but with Evernote, it definitely gets easier! For example, lets say a teacher comes across a great article on a specific child friendly website, the teacher would be able to "clip" that specific page with the desired text within Evernote and then BAM, because Evernote is also on the computer connected to the projector in the classroom (that is what could be happening), all the teacher has to do is launch Evernote and there is the shared reading text!

In addition to the above mentioned ways, Evernote also has many other uses that can empower every educator and instructional leader! Check out these links for other ways to use Evernote...

1. Time Management Ninja - check out this blog for ways that using Evernote can save time!

2. 10 Tips for Teachers - check out this blog posted by Michael Cruz on the uses of Evernote in school!

3. 100 Ways to use Evernote - check out this blog by Andrew Maxwell for a bevy of ideas!

So, as the school year comes to a close and you begin thinking about your reading and writing workshop units of study for next year, remember that Evernote can take the Balanced Literacy experience to a whole other level for you and your students!


  1. This is great Tony. I shared this with my staff. Thanks for the links as well! Vicki

  2. I am getting my feet wet with Evernote. I used it with my fourth graders today. I took notes on them, and I took pictures of them while they were reading. I like this app- I need to explore it further. I LOVE my conference notebook. It's hard to stray from it.

    Also, having readers listen to themselves, and then do a miscue analysis using a sample from the recording WITH the student is very powerful. I talk to the students about balancing all three cueing systems. Readers ask: "Did the error interfer with meaning? Did the error closely match the text? and Did it sound right?" We discuss which cueing system he/she is relying too much or too little on when reading. Having the student analyze their own errors (only one or two) is great for them to think about their reading, to become metacognitive.