Using Padlet

We’re having a great conversation on our Facebook Book Club about the many uses for Padlet in our classrooms! Join us!

If you’ve never tried using Padlet, then you’re like me! I’m excited to learn how to use it so I can try making some Padlets with links to flipped lessons and digital texts. In our conversation on Facebook, our group has come up with many great uses for Padlet in the classroom including:

  • Exit Tickets
  • A collection of flipped lessons (so no child has to go to YouTube)
  • Entrance Tickets
  • Group Discussions
  • Digital Bins
  • Question of the day

Come join the discussion! Padlet is totally new to me, and this chat has really helped! This is my first Padlet ever: I’m trying to figure it out, and it’s really fun!

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Frozen? Let it Go! (And teach symbolism!)

Still frozen? Wow, we got a lot of snow this week! Sonja got 20 inches and Dana got 15! With all that snow, why not embrace an old classic- “Let it Go!” This song, popular in 2013, was a huge hit with students. Why not use this well-known song to teach symbolism?  Students of all ages can do this rigorous work with a digital text like “Let it Go!” Similar to our post about using the commercial with the miniature horse, students can engage with this digital text in a new way. They can read through the lens of symbolism.

Symbolism– “Let it Go!” is incredible for teaching symbolism! Try these 3 exercises with your students:

Strategy #1- Read the text with purpose. Ask your students to notice important objects that are meaningful to the character while watching the clip.  (Glove, crown, staircase, snowflakes, cape etc.)

Strategy #2- Have students think about these objects. What is the function of a glove, a cape, a crown, a staircase? (Protection, royalty, a climb?)

Strategy #3- Ask your students about these objects and what they might symbolize. Think about their function first and then discuss what it might symbolize. For example, a staircase might symbolize a climb or journey: the crossing from one place to another. How might this relate to Elsa’s situation?

In the work sample below, you can see that the student is thinking about the objects in the clip. Next, she thinks about their characteristics. Last, she considers what they might represent. We’ve found great success using this digital text and graphic organizer with our students to teach symbolism. Let us know your thoughts.

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Originally from Pennsylvania, Dana Johansen is hoping that Punxsutawney Phil will not see his shadow on Feb. 2 and there will be an early spring. In the meantime, she spends her time teaching fifth grade in wintery Connecticut, sitting with her yellow lab on the couch reading YA Lit, and watching the tv show, The Big Bang Theory. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop. She is the co-author of the books Teaching Interpretation and Flip Your Writing Workshop. 

Sonja Cherry-Paul is a member of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee. She has been immersed in reading wonderful books created by authors and illustrators who address themes related to social justice. The best part of this process is sharing these incredible books with her 6th graders and the insightful conversations they spark.  She is co-author of Teaching Interpretation: Using Text-Based Evidence to Construct Meaning and Flip Your Writing Workshop: A Blended Learning Approach. 

Symbols in our Everyday Lives

Well-Known World Brand Logotypes

Sonja and I are always thinking about ways we can strengthen and deepen our students’ understanding of literary elements such as symbolism. In our book Teaching Interpretation we discuss the various ways we can teach our students to identify symbols in texts and interpret their meanings. This work can be challenging for students because it is abstract. Sonja and I are constantly discussing the way that we can concretize this work and scaffold it for students.

Sonja and I like to meet at our favorite Panera Bread each weekend in order to discuss our challenges and successes in the classroom. One topic that we consistently discuss is the use of digital texts (such as the image above) to concretize and scaffold the abstract work of interpretation. After discussing this work and trying it in the classroom, we found that this minilesson helps teach students about symbolism:

Symbols are everywhere! One way to make your study of symbolism concrete is to show your students a collage like the one above. Ask your students if they can identify the symbols in this image. They are logos. They are images that represent companies and brands. This is the important part- this is an image, however, it represents something more.

Talk about the ways these symbols play a role in our everyday lives. Choose one symbol from the collage and discuss its deeper meaning. What do you think of when you see this image? A feeling? A desire? A time in your life? Next, have students try this work. Again, continue to reiterate that this image represents more than purely what it is. This will help strengthen your students’ understanding about symbols and how they represent more than what they are. For example, the Coca Cola symbol might literally represent a soft drink company, however, it might conjure up memories of summer camp, picnics, or sitting on the front porch with a grandparent. It symbolizes more.

This is a great way to kick-start your discussion of symbolism or strengthen the work your students are already doing in the classroom. This work transfers beautifully from digital texts like the image above to print-based texts like chapter books and picture books where the characters have special objects that symbolize more.


Typically found wearing mismatched socks, Dana Johansen spends her time teaching fifth grade in Connecticut, negotiating with her yellow lab about doggy dinner options, and plopping down on the floor in bookstore aisles to find new reads. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop.

Digital Reader’s Notebooks

Screen shot 2014-04-12 at 4.03.32 AMDo you hate loose pieces of paper? Are your students’ reading logs floating in folders or getting lost in back packs? Do you love your students’ reading journals but worry about them being disorganized and chaotic? Do you have multiple organizational systems going all at once for organizing student book clubs? Digital Reader’s Notebooks can help solve these problems.

Reader’s Notebooks are one of the most important components of the reading workshop. I LOVE using reader’s notebooks with my students because they house:

1) Reading responses, reflections, and musings

2) Notes from class, charts, graphic organizers

3) Drawings/ Illustrations

4) Jots, annotations, favorite quotes, text evidence

5) Book Lists

I would NEVER abandon the physical, paper reader’s notebooks, however, I use GoogleDocs in addition to the paper notebooks to create Digital Reader’s Notebooks with my fifth grade students.

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Digital Reader’s Notebooks allow students and teachers to organize the materials that students use during the reading workshop. In the image above, you can see that my students have GoogleDoc folders for each subject area. Inside their reader’s notebook they have:

1) Reading Logs and Book Lists (Titles they have read)

2) A folder filled with images of class charts, flipped classroom videos, etc.

3) Digital Bins (Digital Text Sets)

4) Digital Reading Notebook (Shared Documents, Group Annotating, Blogging)

5) A folder for their book clubs

Digital reader’s notebooks allow students to stay organized. They are an invaluable resource in the reader’s workshop! Let us know if you use them or try using them. Also, if you have any questions, please post them below. We’re happy to share how we’ve used them!




Teaching “Symbolism” Digitally- La Luna

DSC00888I like to think about ways I can teach my reading minilessons with technology and multimedia. A personal challenge of mine is to find ways to teach any reading minilesson with technology. Not that I want to use digital texts all the time, but I like to think creatively about how I might use them and if they offer less, more, or equal value to my minilessons. Ultimately, I like to think about “How can technology support and enhance my reading workshop?”

When I first saw La Luna, a DisneyPixar short film, I knew it would be an awesome text to teach symbolism. First, it doesn’t have any words, making it is accessible to all students. Second, after teaching a quick strategy for finding important objects, students can identify symbolic objects easily in the film. Last, it has a lovely, heartwarming message. I LOVE using it and my students do too!

I usually do this lesson as my third or fourth symbolism lesson- that way students are already familiar with the idea of symbolism. I say something like, “Today we are going to look for symbolism in a text and create interpretations about it. In order to do this, I am going to teach you a strategy for finding symbols. The strategy is to look for objects that repeat over and over OR seem very important. We’re going to try this today.”

Try this together using La Luna. Create a T-Chart and have students list repeated or important objects they see in the short film. (A completed T-Chart is provided toward the end of this post.)

As students watch La Luna, you may want to model creating a list on the whiteboard or chart paper along with them- especially at first. I like to pause the film at different parts in order to model jotting initial thoughts about what the objects might symbolize. For example, you might pause to discuss the symbolic nature of the boat, ladder, hats, or brooms.

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la luna

Have students share their ideas with a partner or with a small group.

At this point, I would stop the lesson— but only for the day. I would want students to go off and try this strategy with the books they are reading. I would circle back to their ideas the next day and teach a new strategy for creating deeper interpretations about the symbols they found (and possibly uncovering themes, too!)

You can use this strategy with other digital texts. This lesson also works well with Disney’s “Let it Go” song from Frozen. OR with Disney’s Mulan