The Hour of Code in Kindergarten


All the world is a laboratory to the inquiring mind.- Martin Fischer

The Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in over 180 countries.  It is designed to demystify code and show that anyone can learn the basics.  Every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science.  It helps nurture problem solving skills, logic and creativity.  By starting early, students will have a foundation for success in any 21st century career path.

IMG_0024Our class has been working with the free Kodable app to learn coding.  It is a perfect way to offer a kid-friendly introduction to programming concepts and problem solving.  With Kodable, kids can learn to code before they even learn to read. In the short time we have been using Kodable, I already see computational and critical thinking, collaboration and perseverance. Some students are working with others, while some want to figure it out on their own.  I also love that they won’t ask me to help them.  Rather than come to me, they are going to others or sticking with it until they figure it out themselves.  This is how problem solving skills are developed and strengthened.  It is also interesting to see that some need to run their finger along the maze for each step to know which arrow to choose, while others can do it quickly in their heads.

 

Here is what one of the Kodable screens looks like:

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The goal is to get the fuzzy ball from one side to the other, while obtaining as many coins as possible. The students have to work on left and right, up and down, but they also have to use the color squares in the coding if they want the fuzzy ball to grab those coins in the middle.

The interest and engagement in this app has spilled over into other areas of the classroom.  The students are building their own mazes and having their friends figure out the code to move across the maze.

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Watching my students analyze and problem-solve, either solo or cooperatively, gives me a good indicator of where they are in the development of these important skills. The kids are completely engaged and their conversations are rich with logic and reason.

If you are thinking about the Hour of Code, give Kodable a try!

Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

Visionary Leadership and iPads

“The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision.”-Helen Keller

Image courtesy of Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Creative Commons

I’ve spent the last 24 hours with Apple and the schools chosen for the ConnectEd initiative.  It was inspiring to watch these very deserving educators receive Apple technology and professional development at this kickoff event.  There was a great deal of discussion about vision and the importance of vision in implementing a full scale technology initiative such as this one.  So many layers of support were evident to ensure these schools are successful.

I was honored to be asked to speak at this event and share what is possible in early childhood education when students are given the ability to create their own learning.  While I was asked to share my experiences, I think I was the one who gained the most.  I saw educational leaders excited about providing their students the very best possible advantages with 1:1 iPads.  They made lists, their minds full of next steps…they started creating a common vision.

Innovation is what distinguishes a leader from a follower.  Leadership requires vision…to think ahead to what our students will need in the future, not just what they need right now.  While we don’t know the future, we do know that technology will definitely be a part of it.  True visionary leadership doesn’t say, “Yes, but…” it embraces the “Yes, and…”  Lack of financial resources will always be an issue with schools. It is here, where we have to look forward and ask ourselves what is the right thing to do for children?  Do we allow the “yes, buts…” to settle for the technology that is “good enough”? Do you really want your own child receiving an education that is “good enough”?  Of course not.  We want our own children to receive the best of what is available.

When I look at what the 1:1  iPad deployment has meant for my kindergarten students, I watch them using the power of this device to maximize their learning.  They are creating content.  They are using applications that are unique to this device to amplify their thinking…to go where they couldn’t go without the device.  They are using the accessibility features that are unique to this device to share their learning when they are unable to write independently.  As your vision for your students is created, you must ask yourself what it is you want to achieve with the technology.  If your needs are internet capability and word processing, there are plenty of devices that do that.  If you want a complete educational ecosystem, a comprehensive learning environment, then iPads are the only answer.

As a teacher, I am able to use applications unique to the iPad to personalize and target their learning.  I am able to reach each child where he/she is and create a learning environment specifically for that child.  As a parent, are you content with your child sitting in a cookie-cutter classroom where everyone receives the same assignment, regardless of ability? I would venture to say no.  Everyone has their own brand of genius.  I can tell a fish to climb a tree and it will spend the rest of its life thinking it is a failure. iPads allow each child to find his/her own genius.

The very definition of visionary is:  Thinking about or planning the future with imagination or wisdom.  When we are short-sighted it limits the potential of students not just now, but in the future.  Let’s find a way to provide our students with a complete education and not settle for “good enough”. Let’s not allow lack of funding to be the stumbling block.  Where your priorities are, your money generally follows.

I mean, after all, isn’t he worth it?

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Aren’t they ALL worth it?

Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

2-Page Spreads in iBooks Author

Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching. -author unknown

Recently, I was presenting on iBooks Author from the Early Childhood perspective along with 2 other Apple Distinguished Educators presenting from the middle school perspective.  I was so excited about their work and was inspired to try my hand at creating a 2-page spread activity in iBooks Author.

The idea behind the 2-page spread is that you don’t have to create an entire book…you can create an interactive experience across 2 pages.  My ADE friend, Sean Junkins has created a short, step-by-step guide for this process.  You can download his book here.

With Thanksgiving coming up, my 2-page spread is about the first Thanksgiving.  I started with creating a panoramic picture in Keynote.

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Then, following Sean’s directions, I created the 2-page spread in iBooks Author.  Once this was complete, I added the pop over widgets and the Keynote widget to deliver content.

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This is page one of the 2-page spread.  The small Pilgrim hats are pop-over widgets that contain information.  See the example below:

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The other pop over widget tells what food was actually served at the first Thanksgiving.  This allowed for good discussion and comparison with Thanksgiving today.  (This also meets our Social Studies standard for kindergarten in comparing lives now and long ago.)

The second page of the 2-page spread has a Keynote widget that when played, shows Pilgrim dress and Wampanoag Indian dress for the feast.  The small hat is the link to the Keynote.

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This is the first page of the Keynote.  The 2-slide Keynote link is below

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As the week progresses, I can add other content to this 2-page spread to engage my students in key facts about the first Thanksgiving.

If creating a book in iBooks Author is too daunting, try creating a 2-page spread or a virtual field trip as mentioned in Sean’s book.  His idea is not just create a book, but to create an experience.

I am excited to try other 2-page spreads to go with our upcoming units.  Remember, as life-long learners, we have to stay thirsty for knowledge.  In this case, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

iPads and Science in Kindergarten

“Love the trees until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year.” -Chad Sugg

IMG_5602Fall is my favorite season, but living on the coast of South Carolina, we see very little evidence of the season.  We experience fall for about a week and a half in late November or early December.  The leaves are green, turn brown, then fall to the ground in that length of time.  So, I was excited to find a few  leaves on the school grounds that were living it up early! Party on…fall!

Talking about fall with my students is almost as difficult as talking about snow.  I say almost, because we do experience a bit of fall, butIMG_5601 we haven’t had significant snow fall here in 10 years.  It’s hard to even talk about the change in weather that fall brings when the high temperature today is 80 degrees. I know, I know…my friends in the north have no sympathy as they’ve already had their first snow fall.  But people, the struggle is real.  So today, in our short sleeves, we left our air conditioned class room to go look for fall leaves.  We discussed why there are so few leaves and the characteristics of the leaves we were able to find.  We made a chart of describing words and then, we grabbed our iPads.

They had a variety of leaves on their tables and they chose 2 or 3.  They opened Pic Collage and used the camera function in Pic Collage to photograph the leaves they chose.  After they added their pictures, they use the text function in Pic Collage to write about the leaves.  Here are a a couple of samples:

 

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Soon, my students will have the choice of which app to use to demonstrate their work.  We use Book Creator for math journals, but it is a great app for science journals, reading response journals etc…For this particular activity, we used Pic Collage, but we can add this Pic Collage image to our science journals in Book Creator. There are so many wonderful creation apps that allow students to create their own content and demonstrate their learning.  The hands-on portion of this activity created a great deal of rich conversation and enabled us to make the anchor chart.

A big part of early childhood education is experiential learning.  Giving children a variety of experiences and enhancing those experiences with the iPads creates long-lasting connections with learning.  The technology extends the learning experience and enriches it.  We spend a lot of time as educators preparing the path for the child, when we need to be preparing the child for the path.

Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

 

 

App Smashing in Math

Math is like going to the gym for your brain. It sharpens your mind.-Danica McKellar

After a full day of teaching kindergarten, my mind could use a little sharpening.  It often feels like mush and I have to work hard to have adult conversation when I get home.  Surely that doesn’t mean I need to do more math…My students like math and they are enjoying working in our math journals that I’ve written about here.

We were working in our Geoboard app today making shapes. It is a free app that allows students to work with virtual geoboards without the hassle of rubber bands being snapped and popped all over the place. We made all kinds of shapes and talked about why we couldn’t make a circle.  We then learned how to do a screen shot of our work.

IMG_1036They had fun creating their shapes and making the screen shots.  My plan was to then have them upload the image into Showbie but a few students asked if we could put them in our Book Creator math journals first.  So, without delay, we immediately opened our math journals and uploaded our screen shots into the math journal created in Book Creator.  Then, I asked them what we should do with it now that the screen shot has been uploaded.  *Crickets* and blank stares.  Finally, someone said, “Aren’t you going to tell us what to do?”  I told them I wanted them to figure out what needed to be done and that they didn’t need me to tell them.  A bit more silence ensued and finally it was decided by a majority that they needed to label their picture.  Here is one that was completed today:

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Most didn’t finish but a few did.  The child used environmental print to write the shape words and then used the Pen tool in Book Creator to draw the arrows to each shape.  Some have decided they will use the recording function tomorrow to record themselves telling about the shapes.

By using Geoboard app and Book Creator, our math app smash was a fun and engaging way to work on this skill.  Don’t underestimate a 5 year old’s ability to handle multiple apps.  They not only understand, they come up with creative ways to do so.

Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

Reading Fluency with Explain Everything

There’s so much more to a book than just the reading. -Maurice Sendak

8435321969_8c5a154a0a_zWe are 35 days into this school year and several of my students are reading.  They are excited when they find words and phrases they know in books and in environmental print.  They love to share with anyone who will listen words or books they can read.  Even at age 5, my students see the treasure that is unlocked when one can read.  The fire has been lit and my fervent hope is nothing and no one comes along and puts that fire out.

We are a classroom immersed in literacy all day long.  Our iPads have certainly facilitated my ability to deliver personalized literacy instruction through the “Just Right Books” I create for my students as well as various apps that we use that adapt to students’ responses. My students also have the choice to read regular books in the book center or books on their iPads.  I want them to love reading and to be able to get lost in a story, so that when the story is over, they will wish it wasn’t.  There are books I have read and when finished, I missed the characters and I thought about them long afterward.

Part of building strong readers includes assessing students, listening to them read, working on fluency, and well…just reading, reading, reading. Having 23 students makes it difficult for me to listen to every child read every day.  The iPads definitely help. I had the students in one of the reading groups open the app Explain Everything and take pictures of each page of a leveled book they wanted to read.  They then used the laser pointer to track the print.  They saved the movie to their camera roll and then uploaded it to Showbie. I am able to then listen to the child read at any time.  I can use it as documentation for running records assessment, see where the child is having trouble and then go back work directly with that child if needed.  I can also email to parents.  This also allows the child to also re-visit the recording, listen and practice along for fluency.  By saving a few of these, you can show growth (or not) at a parent conference.  Here is one example:

Explain Everything is truly a versatile app.  It is definitely one of my go-to apps in all subjects.  Consider trying it for reading.  It engages students of all reading levels and that’s never a bad thing!

Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

 

Book photo credit: Creative Commons

Math Journals with Book Creator

You can be creative in anything – in math, science, engineering, philosophy – as much as you can in music or in painting or in dance.- Sir Ken Robinson

I work with some pretty amazing educators.  These folks inspire me daily to bring my A-game.  I love that sharing ideas is a welcome part of our school culture and I know that it takes a village to educate children.

One of our amazing first grade teachers shared how her students use Book Creator for their math journals.  I was immediately intrigued and of course, we tried it that very day!  It’s no secret how much I love Book Creator, so creating math journals with this versatile app was very exciting.

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We have been discussing more and less in math this week.  We have done a variety of hands on activities and have used the stickers in Pic Collage app to show more and less. The children uploaded this to Showbie earlier in the week.  We also used ten frames and cubes to show how many more we would need to make a “ten”.  We talked about which frames showed more and which showed less.

 

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So, for our culminating activity we used Book Creator to demonstrate more and less in our new math journals on our iPads.  The students used the same cubes to make 2 piles.  They used the built in camera in Book Creator to take pictures of the two piles and then labeled them more and less.  You could also use dice to show this.

 

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The first grade teacher used the dice to show addition.  The children took pictures of the dice and then wrote the number sentence.

 

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With the ability to write and draw in Book Creator, students can use the pen to annotate or show their thinking.  They can also use the recording functionality to tell their thinking if they aren’t able to write.  We will continue to add pages as we work on math skills and at the end of the year, this book can then be emailed to parents.  What a great way to demonstrate growth! It is also a good artifact to be used in parent-teacher conferences throughout the year.

We are excited about our new math journals and look forward to adding to them all  year!

Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

 

 

 

Getting Dotty With It!

Immortality is to live your life doing good things, and leave your mark behind.-Brandon Lee

Today is International Dot Day!  After reading The Dot by Peter Reynolds, we have worked on a variety of Dot Day activities.  We have cut and colored dots, painted dots, made dots on our iPads and then compiled them all into a class Dot book.  We wore our dots. We have written about dots, sung about dots and well, frankly, we’re all a bit dotty at this point!

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The best part of today was Skyping with some other kindergarten classes internationally.  A group of Apple Distinguished Educators gathered at a global institute this past July to work together.  At this institute, several kindergarten teachers formed a cohort and came up with a global iTunes U course designed to connect our classes through various activities all throughout this school year.  The course is Connecting Classrooms Across Continents.  The enroll code is https://itunesu.itunes.apple.com/enroll/KJK-647-TDB if you’d like to join and follow along.  Currently, the course involves kindergarten classes in SC, Maine, Kansas, Italy, Ireland and the UK.  During our Skype today with Marc Falder’s class in the UK, we shared our dots, our writing, and how we plan to “make our mark”.  The kids loved talking with each other and discussing the differences  in our dress (they wear uniforms and we don’t), in time (it’s 5 hours later there) and in speech.  (southern US vs British English).  We found them on the globe and talked about how to get there from here.

 

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The children were fascinated by our global friends and are anxious to talk to them again soon!  Our iTunes U course will give us many opportunities to go beyond the walls of our own classrooms and connect internationally.  We will see that while we are all the same, we are all different.  Cultural diversity at its best!

We love The Dot and the lessons it provides.  We know that all we have to do is “Make our mark…and see where it takes us.”

How will you make your mark?

Today we will do exciting new things. Let’s get to it!

 

Finding Your Inner Teaching Ninja

Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free. -Jim Morrison

The number one rule in our kindergarten classroom is to Be Brave.  This covers so many areas of life that it is an appropriate rule, and truly the only one we need.  It is hard to be brave sometimes.  It’s hard to speak up, step out, or stand alone.

A reader of this blog messaged me not long ago asking if it gets easier letting go and letting young students make choices in their learning.  As a long time educator (like me), she shared concerns about letting children have that voice and choice in demonstrating their learning.  I get it.  Before iPads, I was afraid to let go.  I mean…where is the control in that?   I thought I needed to be in charge.  Of Everything.  After all, that was how I was taught and how I was taught to teach.  iPads changed that.  How can a technological device make such a dramatic change in philosophy?  Perhaps I would be more accurate to say my students using iPads  changed my thinking.  Watching them use the iPad for creation, on their own, awakened me to new possibilities in learning.  Yes, it was scary but what a difference it made.

5258698926_9059e7bfe6_zSomeone once said, “If you are the smartest person in the room, it’s time to find a new room.”  How has your teaching changed in the last 4 years?  If  it hasn’t, why?  Is it because it’s easier to do what you’ve always done?  Is it because, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”  Is it because you just don’t have time/support/resources to make any changes?  Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess is a popular approach to changing professional development to be engaging and interactive.  It helps you kickstart your own creativity and make your classroom experience rich and engaging.  He has a book on Amazon…worth the read!  Another organization dedicated to ongoing learning for educators is Teach Like a Feral Pig.  Their mission is for all educators to continually grow their “edutusks”.  I still want one of their t-shirts!  I often compare teaching to being a ninja.  This site emphasizes several key traits that tie teaching and ninja behavior together (particularly the one about not ever going to the bathroom)…The ninja one is tongue in cheek (slightly) but the point is…stop making excuses and make changes!  If you are stagnant, get a new PLN.  Find a Twitter chat…if you are nervous, lurk and take in the conversation.

Start the new school year with inspiration, the willingness to make some changes, and be a pirate, a feral pig, a ninja…whatever!  Just BE BRAVE!

Today we will do exciting new things!  Let’s get to it!

Photo credit:  Creative Commons

A New Year Takes Flight

This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.  -Taylor Swift

My intention was to write this post a few days ago.  Last week was our first week of school and somehow, between teaching all day and enduring 100 degree heat each day, I came home completely exhausted.  The first week is always tough…getting back into the routine.

Usually, on our first day of school, I am asked multiple times, “When can we play?”  “When is recess?”  I was completely expecting that when someone raised his hand and started with “When can we…”   what I was not expecting was the end of that sentence.  “have our iPads?” So we had to have a little  talk about how we needed a few days to get used to our new classroom and routines before we started using iPads.  The kids did a great job of adjusting the first 3 days so on day 4, I started with iPads in small groups.  photo 3-2

I took their picture and saved it as the lock screen and the wallpaper.  That allows me (and the children) to quickly see to whom the iPad belongs. We worked on turning the device on, navigating screens, identifying the folders I’ve created that hold their apps, and opening an app.  After working a few minutes in one app, we closed it and moved to a different folder to try a different app.  Then we learned how to put the iPad to sleep and put it back in the iPad storage cabinet.  These small groups lasted 15-20 minutes.  Each child had an opportunity to get hands on time with the device.  On Friday, we reviewed the procedures from Thursday and worked on a couple of different apps before putting them away.  Some of the children have iPads at home and were quick to point out they already knew how to “work the iPad.”  I reminded them that they use the iPads at home one way and we use them at school in a different way.  We will spend another few days front loading procedures in small groups and then I will bring them into a whole group math lesson.  Starting out in small bite-sized lessons really allows me to scaffold the procedures and set everyone up for success.  By going slow now, I can speed up later.

What was great to see in these brief introductory lessons was the immediate tendency of the children to be collaborative. They didn’t zone in to the iPad and tune everything else out.   They were helpful to each other and they were having good conversations about what they were doing in the app. This collaborative behavior is at the very heart of how we work and play in our classroom.

Starting school is exciting and a little stressful for both the teacher and students.  I am grateful our first week went smoothly and am looking forward to the exciting things these children will do this year.

School year 2014-15 is wheels-up and has taken flight!

Today we will learn exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!