Favorite iPad Apps for Middle and High School: Notability

iPad Apps for Middle and High School Classrooms - www.traceeorman.com

Notability: A Favorite App for Middle and High School Classrooms
As our school transitioned to iPads this year, I've had the opportunity to try out new apps with my students. I have found Notability to be one of my favorites.

Use Notability to annotate text or create original content

Annotate Documents
Notability allows students to open any document and annotate it. And not just annotate. They can add videos, respond with a voice recording, insert pictures, and so much more.

Notability app: Embed videos, images, web links into any document
Embed videos, images, text, web links, audio, etc. into
ANY document using the Notability app.

Create Original Content
In addition, they can create their own original documents and share with others for feedback. Students can use this app to take notes (either by typing or writing) and add pictures, doodles, web links--pretty much anything--to their document.

iPad Apps: Create original documents for note-taking and collaboration in Notability.

Record Audio
One of the best features is being able to record audio, which is linked to the note. During a lecture, students can record the lecture as they take notes.

Students can record themselves reading their essays or other texts to check for fluency (as well as to help with editing--they catch more mistakes when they read their work aloud).

iPad Apps: Record an audio response on any document in Notability.
Record audio, such as lectures or personal feedback, within Notability.

So Many Uses For Teachers, Too
Teachers can also use the audio recording feature to give personal feedback messages back to students. We all know sometimes it's much faster to say it than type it out. Plus, students can hear our tone and better understand our comments.

Teachers can take text they want to share with students and insert web links and videos to enhance learning. For example, you can share text (a story, article, novel) with your students and add links to definitions of words they may find difficult. Use the audio and pronounce the word for students.

If a story has an allusion to a famous painting, you can embed a photograph of that painting or commentary about it to deepen understanding.

Share PDFs You Purchased on TpT
For anyone who has purchased PDF resources from my store on TeachersPayTeachers, you have my permission to use Notability for those documents so you can share them securely with your students and they can respond directly on the page.

Compare/Contrast Any Text
Instead of printing and writing, you can share PDFs
through Google Classroom and Notability for a
paperless alternative. From Compare/Contrast ANY Text.

Any PDF can become a digitally interactive document in Notability.
Turn any PDF into a digitally interactive document on Notability.
From Common Core Reading Graphic Organizers, Grades 9-10.

We use Google Classroom in our district and though we had many challenges this fall, it is nice that we can share Notability documents directly through Google Drive/Google Classroom. Use the "upload" icon, which is a square with an arrow pointing upward to get to the sharing menu.

Sharing Notability documents through Google Drive.

It's OK to Take a Break From Technology
When technology is working, it's a great thing. But, it's always best to prepare for when it's not working. Besides, it's OK to take a break from technology. We all need to put the devices aside and just communicate in old fashioned ways each day. At the end of a class period (when your students are wanting to pack up anyway), let them put their devices away and just talk to one another. I like to share humor with them and discuss it just for fun. It reminds us all that no matter how great technology is, nothing replaces face-to-face communication.

Technology can't replace the benefits of face-to-face communication.

Suggestions? Questions? Your Favorite Apps?
I plan to continue this series, highlighting additional apps such as Google Classroom. Let me know if you have suggestions or questions.

Also, please post below with any of your favorite apps for tablets OR websites you use in class. (We love No Red Ink and purchased a district license this year. More about that in another post!)

By the way, I am not affiliated with Notability at all, nor was I asked to write a review. Actually, I hadn't even heard of it until last spring when another teacher at my school asked if we could purchase the app for all students. This post is my opinion based on how I've used it so far this year.

Thanks for reading and have a great week!

Mrs. Orman's Classroom - www.traceeorman.com

Laptop or Tablet? Transitioning from MacBookPros to iPads (and the frustrations of using Google Classroom)

technology in the classroom

Laptop or Tablet? Transitioning from MacBookPros to iPads and the Frustrations of Using Google Classroom

For almost seven years my school was a 1:1 MacBookPro school. We loved the laptops, but the expense for repairs and replacing new ones for all students in grades 6-12 was becoming too costly.

MacBookPro laptops in the classroom
Students writing poems on MacBookPros.
Photo: ©Tracee Orman, 2011
Normally schools would upgrade from tablets to laptops. And here we were last spring being told we were going to downgrade from our MacBookPros to new iPads. Teachers would keep their laptops and have a new iPad; students would only have iPads (with the exception of our computer instructor, who has a lab of laptops for his classes).

Questions We Asked
Of course, we had a lot of questions, such as:

• How will our students type essays on an iPad?

• How will our students use websites that use Adobe Flash Player?

• Will our students be able to make movies using iMovie?

• Where will students store all of their Pages files, Keynote presentations, and other documents?

• Will they be able to back up files onto a flash drive?

• Will all of our online lessons, quizzes, and tests open on their iPads?

• How will we monitor their use?

• Will students be able to print?

• How many apps can we get? How will the students get those apps on their devices?

and so on...

Google Classroom Launch & {FAIL}
We had already been using Google for Educators for several years. Our students all have Gmail accounts, which comes with a Google Docs/Drive account and unlimited storage. So one of the deciding factors for our administration was the launch of Google Apps for Education (GAFE), which includes Google Classroom. They *hoped* it would make it easier for students and teachers to exchange digital files, collaborate, and communicate. We were assured that Google Classroom would work seamlessly with the iPads. And last Spring, it seemed to be working just fine.

Google Classroom Teacher's Page - www.traceeorman.com
Sample Google Classroom stream of announcements
and assignments from www.traceeorman.com.

Well, it hasn't been as easy as promised. Hardly any of my students could watch an introduction video I linked from YouTube, nor could they open documents I attached and assigned. Google Classroom is still working out kinks, but it's getting a little better. At the beginning of the school year at least half of my students could not access anything from Google Classroom. Now, I have about five or six students who continue to have the problem. It's better, but still frustrating. This means I have to share content with them in alternative ways, including having a print source.

Google error message in Google Classroom, GAFE
Error message when students try to access files in Google Apps.

Docs is Back...But Drive Is Still Here?
In addition to the Classroom problems, Google's relaunch of "Docs" while maintaining "Drive" is causing much confusion with students. One feature Docs now offers is the ability to work on items offline. We are not sure if this feature is the root of the problem or not for our students, but we know there are several who will try to locate their documents and they will not show up. Sometimes they appear when they click out of the app and go back on, but when they try to share it via Classroom, *poof* all their documents disappear again. Again, we were told Google is working on fixing the kinks.
Using iPads for Video Parody Project
Students use iPads for a video parody project.
Photo: ©Tracee Orman, 2015

One of the biggest frustrations as an English teacher is the lack of features in Google Docs. Students are unable to add a header or footer in the iPad app (either I have to provide them with a template--which defeats the purpose of them learning how to format a paper themselves--or they have to find a laptop to create the document on first). So much for assessing them on how to create an MLA-formatted document!

The Pages app is much better for typing papers, but it is glitchy and does not work well with Google Docs and Classroom on the iPads.

So Which Is Better: Laptops or Tablets?
Having laptops also had its fair share of frustrations. Those problems have not gone away with the introduction of iPads. For example, these continue to be a challenge:

• Students play games instead of staying on task.

• Students communicate answers from tests via screenshots, messaging, or logging into a friend's account and taking the test/quiz for him/her.

• Students are easily distracted with social media and constant notifications.

• The internet is never fast enough.

• Printing from the device is not always reliable.

• Students are impatient with the devices and easily frustrated when they do not work properly.

We have only had the iPads since August and we had our laptops for almost seven years, so it's hard for me to recommend one over the other at this point. I see a lot of potential with the iPads and have really been impressed with some of the apps our district has purchased. 

Favorite Apps, Coming Soon
I plan to post a series of articles featuring some of these apps and what they can do. (Surprise: one is even about GAFE and Google Classroom.) Check back for my posts, which will be tagged with this image:
iPad Apps - Favorites

Is It Worth It?
Is technology even worth it? The Wall Street Journal reported on this topic recently, citing a study that disproves using technology increases scores in math and reading.

That said, we still need to prepare our students for an ever-changing world in technology, so, YES, I think it's worth it. But it's important to use technology in moderation; going 100% paperless isn't realistic.

There are times when students need to write with paper and pencil.

There are times students should read from a book.

There are times when your students need face-to-face interaction with one another.

And there are times when your device will fail for one or more students in your class and you better have a paper back-up ready!


Apparently, Summer Is Over #TeacherProblems

Apparently, Summer is Over {Funny Teacher Memes-click for more}

Apparently, summer is over. I mean, it is over for me. As I type this, I am procrastinating going to bed, knowing in a few short hours my alarm will be waking me up for my first day back to school for the 16th straight year.

In remembrance of this summer–which ended much too soon–I made some funny memes so at least we can laugh about having to go back to the long hours of endless paperwork and lesson planning. Hope this helps ease you back into your school year!

But I don't wanna go back to school yet. #teacherproblems
I am simply not ready! 
(But I never am. Maybe a year off might help me get caught up on summer projects.)

First-world #TeacherProblems
I know I should be happy I have a job. Getting fresh paint (and new carpet this year, too) may have caused me extra work, but I am truly thankful for my job and the wonderful people who work on it all summer.

One does not simply get her classroom ready in a day. #teacherproblems

Sadly, it takes me a long time to get it back in order.

Lesson plans... #teacherproblems
I wish this were the case. :(

Seriously, how do our feet get out of shape so quickly in the summer?

Buy ALL the school supplies! #teacherproblems
Let's add HOARD ALL the school supplies, too!

When you get your new class lists... #teacherproblems
Admit it, you've felt this way a time or two.

Have a great school year? Challenge Accepted.

I hope you all DO have a great year!


Free Back-to-School Resources for Teachers

Free Back to School Resources for Teachers

It's back-to-school time! Which means it's time to bring you a collection of resources from teachers to help you get back into the swing of things at school.

Each page in these eight Back-to-School resources sampler includes a back-to-school tip, a link to a free downloadable resource, and another resource (priced) that you can check out if you like that teacher's style.

We wish you the best school year and hope you find many great ideas, tips, and freebies to help you get through this school year!

You can download all of the books here:

Grades 7-12 Back to School Science Sampler 

Grades 7-12 Back to School Math Sampler 

Grades 7-12 Back to School Social Studies and Foreign Language Sampler

Grades 7-12 Back to School English Language Arts Sampler

Grades 5-6 Back to School Sampler

Grades 3-4 Back to School Sampler

Grades 1-2 Back to School Sampler

Grades PreK-K Back to School Sampler


Are You Ready for Back-to-School?

Back-to-school time: Parents vs. Teachers (from www.traceeorman.com)

Going back to school in the fall is always a mixed bag of emotions: excitement, anticipation, nervousness, and, yes, overwhelming stress. There is a reason teachers need breaks throughout the year: the planning, grading, and performing in the classroom for the toughest audience out there is both mentally and physically exhausting.

Welcome back to the overwhelming workload... (from www.traceeorman.com)

But part of your workload and stress can be diminished.

Instead of spending your entire prep time altering your textbook lesson to work for your students, why not try materials that have been tried and tested in the classroom already by real teachers?

I've posted many new resources in my store this summer, with a lot more to come. You can check them all out here: Tracee Orman on TpT

I've also collaborated with my friends at the Literary League, which is a group of secondary language arts teachers, to let you know we'll be having a sale starting tonight and running through August 4th. Don't miss out on it! Use the code BTS15 at checkout to get an additional 10% our already-marked 20% off stores!

Back to School Sale - The Literary League

Visit their stores here:



Go Set a Watchman By Harper Lee Close Reading Activities

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee - Teaching Resources www.traceeorman.com

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee will be published in just a couple of hours. While it's not exactly a new book, it is new writing for fans who have been clamoring for something--anything--from their beloved author. And I am one of those fans.

To Kill a Mockingbird is still (and will probably always be) my all-time favorite novel. So to get another look at my favorite characters from a different perspective (an older Scout), I was ecstatic. Then I read the first chapter and realized why she spent two years rewriting and revising the work.

It is important to understand that while the publishing of Go Set a Watchman (GSaW) is “new,” this novel is not new. It is Harper Lee’s first draft of her only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird (TKaM), submitted to her publisher in 1957 and asked by her editor to rewrite the story, using a child’s perspective. It took Lee two years to revise and rewrite it. In 1960, TKaM was published as the final version. Therefore, GSaW is not going to be as polished; it was her initial offering, and one that needed much revision. Readers should expect some of the characters will be different, and perhaps not as likable.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee - Teaching Materials www.traceeorman.com
The beauty, though, of having her first draft to analyze, is that readers will be able to see where the characters and events originated. Readers will see how her writing improves with revision. And, hopefully, readers will be enlightened by the publishing process: how hard work, perseverance, and meticulous revisions are requirements in creating a classic novel. In today’s world of instant gratification, it’s important to look at the process and stages of a work that took years to develop and write.

Which is why I created a resource for my students to compare the two works. I am going to have them read closely the first chapter of GSaW and re-read the first chapter of TKaM and analyze how the author improved the story in various areas.

If you are looking for teaching resources for using GSaW in the classroom, you can find my materials in my teacherspayteachers store. All of the activities are aligned to the Common Core State Standards for reading, language, and writing.

I'd also love to hear what you think of Go Set a Watchman. Comment below with your thoughts/feeling. Thanks for visiting!

Go Set a Watchman Literature Resources for Teachers


TeachersPayTeachers Site-Wide Sale for Teacher Appreciation Week

Teacher Appreciation Week Sale! https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Tracee-Orman

Super Secondary Appreciates Teachers!
Super Secondary collaborators are eager to "thank you...thank you very much..." for ALL that you do to make the world a better place! So shake, rattle, and roll on over to these TpT stores on May 5th and 6th to get up to 28% off on fantastic resources! Don’t forget to use the promo code: THANKYOU

My resources will be marked 20% off. You can see all my latest uploads clicking here: Tracee Orman's Most Recent TeachersPayTeachers Resources

The following sellers will have their stores marked down, as well:

The Classroom Sparrow

Room 213

Darlene Anne’s ELA Buffet

Danielle Knight (Study All Knight)

Michele Luck's Social Studies

Teaching FSL

Juggling ELA

The SuperHERO Teacher

James Whitaker's SophistThoughts

Created by MrHughes

Lessons With Coffee

Leah Cleary

Addie Williams

Linda Jennifer


Kristin Lee

Lindsay Perro

All Things Algebra

Mrs. Brosseau's Binder

Tracee Orman


Teaching High School Math

Pamela Kranz

FisherReyna Education

Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy

Lovin Lit

ELA Everyday

Teaching Math by Hart

The Creative Classroom

For the Love of Teaching Math

Kesler Science

Live Love Math

To the Square Inch- Kate Bing Coners

A Space to Create

Science and Math with Mrs Lau

Brain Waves Instruction

Literary Sherri

Created for Learning

2 Peas and a Dog

Making Meaning with Melissa


Teachers Are Heroes Sale on TeachersPayTeachers


We all know that teachers are heroes. Every day there are countless acts of heroism by teachers: complimenting the student who has a low self-esteem, providing a snack for the student who forgot hers, giving an encouraging smile to the shy student as he begins his speech, stopping a bully from picking on another student, standing up to and speaking out to an administrator or board member about an unfair policy, grading 150 essays in record time, and so on. 

Teachers often don't realize how these small acts can make a huge difference in the lives of their students. And it's time to give back to all of those who work hard to make each and every day in a child's life worthwhile. 

That's why TeachersPayTeachers will be having a site-wide sale Wednesday, Feb. 25th. Use the code HEROES at checkout to receive 10%, plus get an additional 20% off from the following secondary sellers' stores. (See list, below.)

I will also be having 20% off EVERYTHING in my store. If you haven't checked out my newest resources, please do. I think you and your students will enjoy them!

Check out all these great Secondary teacher-authors, who will be having a sale in their stores on Wednesday:


Informative and Explanatory Writing: Prompts and Resources for Teachers

Common Core Informative and Explanatory Writing Bundle

Have your students take a writing road trip! 
When it comes to the writing process, students tend to groan, roll their eyes, and start formulating an escape plan. Why not make it more fun for them by appealing to their interests? I just uploaded a new writing bundle for informative and explanatory writing (also known as expository or informational writing). It includes over 70 pages and slides with instruction, tips, exercises, and tons of examples for students to follow and practice as they write their essays.
Common Core Essay Writing Materials

Examples of MLA Formatted Essays and Works Cited Pages

I included MLA formatting guidelines and examples, as well, so it can be used to teach your students how to research. In fact, these are all the types of writing assignments this resource covers:

  • Compare and Contrast essay
  • Cause and Effect essay
  • Definition and/or Example essay
  • Process/How-To essay
  • Research paper

For teachers who need practice for the PARCC assessments or other standardized tests in which the texts are already pre-determined, this resource offers great practice. I included links to text-based writing prompts for grades 6-12.

If you are looking for resources for argumentative/argument writing, I already have a resource for you. I posted this almost two years ago and it continues to be one of my best-sellers:

Common Core Argumentative Writing Unit

For a collection of writing prompts, check out my Pinterest pin board, appropriately named "Writing Prompts":

Links to Tons of Writing Prompts for Teens

All materials and resources are copyrighted © 2015 by Tracee Orman. All clip art, icons, and phrases used in the writing resources are created by and copyrighted by Tracee Orman. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


New Year Freebie & Half Way There Teacher Resources Sale

  We are half way through the school year, so a group of secondary teachers are celebrating with a 20% off sale on our teaching resources from December 31st through January 1st. Arm yourself for the new year with great teacher-created resources from your favorite sellers on TeachersPayTeachers.

*Click on the image of your favorite seller (above) 
to go right to their store.*

Special thanks to Gina from All Things Algebra for the image!

Tracee Orman on TpT http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Tracee-Orman

My New Year gift to you: a free activity to start the year 
(or semester) off right!

I included both traditional handouts AND interactive notebook activities:
New Year Creative Writing Activities Freebie http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/New-Year-Writing-Goals-Activities-for-2015-Free-1551635

2015 Goals Activity Free DownloadInteractive 2015 New Year Writing Activities Free

New Year Goal Setting Activity

Stay tuned for some NEW writing resources in my store in the next couple of days! For those of you who love my Argument Writing pack, I've been working on additional resources for Informational Writing.  

Have a great second half of the school year, 
my Teacher Friends!


Gifts for the Book Nerd, English Teacher, Bibliophile, Librarian, or Grammar Nazi

50+ Holiday Gift Ideas for the Book Lover Bibliophile

The problem with buying gifts for the book lover is that you never know which books they have already read and own or whether they will even like them. I'm offering suggestions because I am a verified 100% book nerd English teacher myself and my husband finds me incredibly hard to buy for. Hopefully this will help you find the perfect gift for your loved one! Click on each picture below to go to the website to purchase (most are on Amazon).

Who wouldn't love these literary-inspired stocking stuffers?
(Images courtesy of Amazon.com, unless otherwise noted)

This just seems completely appropriate for those of us who love words:
The Best Christmas Word Search Puzzle Book

Help your loved one keep their Kindle, iPad, smart phone, or other reading device's screen clean:

Scrabble Slam Cards: Taking your favorite board game to another level:

Inspire the book lover with a Magnetic Poetry Kit (Book Lover edition, of course!):

Every book nerd knows you can never have too many bookmarks. Get these cute punctuation magnetic i-clip bookmarks:

Or elegant Harry Potter Hogwarts Houses bookmarks:

Keep Calm and Read On:

Sometimes you just want one hand free while reading. These Thumb Things book holders come to the rescue! (Great for read-alouds or snacking while reading.):

As long as they don't think you are sending them a hint with this Edgar Allan Poe-inspired air freshener (perfect for their car, classroom, office, library, etc.):

Or perhaps they would like Jane Austen's better:

Every teacher should keep bandages in her drawer for those pesky paper cuts. Keep it real with Shakespeare's Insults Bandages kit:

These ultra-cute sticky notes are perfectly shaped for annotating books:

Or these "Sticky Fingers":

A teacher (or writer) can never have too many pens! These Pentel gel ink pens are my favorite for grading papers, writing notes, doodling, whatever. And they are reasonably priced:

Harry Potter candy is always a fun treat:

If your book nerd friend doesn't have a mockingjay pin yet, this would be a great stocking stuffer:

Gift cards are perfect stocking stuffers! Get cards from favorite book stores, coffee houses where your loved one likes to hang out, or teaching resources sites like TeachersPayTeachers:

Image courtesy of TeachersPayTeachers.com


The Complete Far Side by Gary Larson: Considering this book collection was just released November 25th, perhaps your loved one doesn't have it yet. Chances are, they will cherish this for years to come:

Book nerds will drool over this new release of the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales. These are the original stories translated into American English:

A reading journal for the book lover: seems perfect, right?

I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar; for a great laugh, your Grammar Nazi will love this:

Any book by Grammar Girl is the perfect gift for the grammar lover. I love her website and her books are great to have on hand for easy reference:


Big books are the best. "I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie" tote:

Is that special someone you are buying for a Jane Austen fan? How about a Pride and Prejudice inspired tote:

Blue Q's bags are great for carrying books:

Or cover multiple books AND make a statement with this Banned Books tote:

How about a phone case inspired by the book? (This one is for the new iPhone 6, but they make them for many different brands/models - just click on the link):

How about a recycled book purse?
Image by Etsy.com

Gone With the Wind pouch:


It's a black pen, a red pen, a pencil, and a stylus--all in an elegant shell:

Vintage card catalog-inspired notecards; they are straight from the Library of Congress:

These beautiful journals are sure to please anyone on your list who loves to write:

Tree of Life journal:

In spirals:

Cute vintage-looking roll-up pencil cases:


This reading light is my all-time favorite. Make sure you get the LightWedge brand (the quality is far superior than other brands, though Verilux now makes one and I love their reading lights but haven't tried their book light):

Here's a classy-looking plush book stand (other colors available):

Does your loved one need a hands-free laptop stand for their nighttime reading or working?
This stand makes it easy:

Or how about a hands-free stand they can use for reading on their Kindle, iPad, or Nook? Did I mention they can lie on their back without fear of dropping their device on their face?


How about a beautiful infinity scarf straight from a page of her favorite book? Check out Storiarts on Etsy:
Image: Storiarts on Etsy.com

While you are visiting Etsy, check out one of my favorite shops: the Boolady. Her To Kill a Mockingbird inspired jewelry is awesome (favorites of mine from last year!):
Image: Boolady on Etsy.com

Every bibliophile would appreciate these Book Lover Flip Flops for their trips to the beach...or anywhere:
Image: CafePress.com

More big books:

Just to keep going with the theme...

And for the book junkie:

Alice in Wonderland inspired necklace:

"So It Goes" Necklace, inspired by Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse V:

Thoreau-inspired t-shirt:

Or The Great Gatsby:


I love the look of the card catalog cabinets! Here's a beautiful piece to add to give your loved one for home, office, or classroom (holds CDs, DVDs, etc.):

For the Harry Potter fan: a Marauder's Map blanket to keep your book nerd warm this winter:

The grammar nazi in your life will appreciate these dishes:

It's always time to read with these clocks:

Book ends are always useful:

Vintage typewriters:

Magnetic arrow book ends:

For the Doctor Who fan:

From A to Z or @ and & book ends:

Shakespeare book ends:

The only bad thing about this Hunger Games Mockingjay book end is that it only comes with one!

Because every book lover will continue to acquire new books, give them a place to keep them all:

Front view of swivel bookcase.


Here's a beautiful and easy way for bibliophiles to label their books:

Because most book berds are creative themselves--because this game does take some creative-thinking--I offer up the Cards Against Humanity game. This is a game for horrible, terrible, rotten people who laugh at the expense of others. And it's highly addicting. Oh, the humanity:

Need more ideas? Check out my Pinterest pin board for more gift suggestions:

Gifts for the English Teacher Pinterest Board

What are YOUR favorite gifts to receive? To give? Post them below with a link!

Happy Holidays from Mrs. Orman's Classroom