Revive Your Creativity

When I was in elementary school, I played outside almost every day with my next door neighbor. We created elaborate play schemes, including an outdoor “kitchen”, complete with mud pies. We also had fun reenacting one of our favorite books, Harriet the Spy. It was always an adventure and we had no trouble at all tapping into our imaginations. We played outside until dark, when our mothers called us inside. Then….somewhere, in the pre-teen angst of middle school, it all stopped. I moved away, and being cool with my peers was of far greater importance than playing. Self-consciousness ruled the day and “let’s pretend” was no longer ok.

As a veteran kindergarten teacher, I have always loved how quickly my students slip into “let’s pretend”.  I loved their conversations in the housekeeping center (also quite revealing into their home lives), I loved watching them create elaborate structures with blocks or legos and hearing their rich conversations as they did so. It also saddens me how too often in education, we “teach” away their creativity. We push for conformity rather than creativity. We silence the multiple voices and ideas, seeking only the “correct” one.

But, what if we didn’t? What if, instead, we dug deep into our own memories of play, let’s pretend, and creation and experienced those feelings again? What if, we let our feelings of self-consciousness go? What if we grabbed a box of crayons and colored again…or drew our own pictures? What if we silenced the voices that say, “I can’t draw, sing, play a musical instrument, etc…” What if we did it anyway? We tell our students to say “I will try” instead of “I can’t”. Why aren’t we doing the same?

In my last post, I talked about encouraging young children to create. The truth is, they need very little encouragement. They simply need the opportunities.  This post is aimed at YOU…yes, you. When was the last time you created something? I know, I know…you don’t have time. Who does? Do it anyway. You can even create something your students can use so that you kill two birds, so to speak.  I shared the four student-creation books in my last post. In this post, I am sharing a free, multi-touch book I created in iBooks Author. It’s an emergent reader, called Spinning Spiders, in the iBook Store. It also has some teacher resources at the end of the book in case you want to create your own. (See what I did there???)

I’ve written other posts about creating “Just Right Books” for your students. You can see them here, here, and here.  Creating books for your students engages them as readers and allows you to meet them right where they are.

So, as you are gearing up for a new school year, remember, everyone can create-even YOU!

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Everyone Can and Should Create

I must admit, I’ve been in a creative desert for a long time, which has been reflected in my lack of blog posts this past year. I think we can all relate to that feeling of “I got nothin’…” Recently, I was able to spend the week in Austin, Texas  with Apple Distinguished Educators from around the world and our theme for the week was “Everyone Can Create”. We were immersed in creative activities involving photography, drawing, video, and music. It was, without a doubt, a much needed kick in the creative pants!

I’ve always been a firm believer that our children should be content creators and not content consumers. I’ve seen first hand the creativity of the kindergarten students I taught and was amazed at their seemingly endless well of imagination. However, my own creation abilities had layers of dust heaped upon them and needed to be unearthed and energized. The new creation tools in Apple’s Pages and Keynote on the iPad make creation easy for even the most creativity-challenged individual. Using tracing of opaque images and shapes, and adding detail, bring ordinary pictures to life. Here are a couple of my attempts. 

I uploaded a picture of my dog Coco into Keynote, lowered the opacity, traced around her and added the detail. Then pulled the original photo out, which can be deleted. In the second photo, in Keynote, I added the barn shape and the chicken shape. I traced around them, deleted the original shape, and added detail. With Keynote, I can then animate the shapes if I choose.

By incorporating creativity in student learning, we are activating their deeper learning pathways and bringing meaning to their learning. Apple is developing a comprehensive curriculum for creating and it should be available sometime this fall.

As part of my time in Austin, we were tasked to create a project around the Everyone Can Create theme. I teamed up with my good friend and fellow kindergarten teacher, Marc Faulder from the UK.  In our discussions over the years, we found so many people interested in doing some of the more elaborate projects we were doing with our young students but they had not done a lot of the scaffolding necessary to get to that point. Their responses were, “My students can’t do that.” So, our project became the creation of four guides for the teachers of younger children in the areas of photography, drawing, video, and music. These guides serve as a road map and they are divided into activities for the beginning of the year, middle of the year, and end of the year. These activities are adaptable to all grade levels in elementary school and to the particular context of your classroom thematic units. You can access each of the four, free books in the iBook Store or click on the links below:

The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Photography

The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Drawing

The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Video

The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Music Making

You will notice there are some of the same activities across all of the books. This is intentional and is meant to show how the same activity can incorporate a variety of methods of creativity.

So if you are in a creative desert, I encourage you to find the nearest oasis and try your hand at creating. Regardless of our adult shortcomings, kids never seem to tire of creating. We need to tap that source and encourage and develop it so they don’t wander in the wilderness with the rest of us!

Let’s get creative!

Using Clips App for Small Moments and Student Reflection

Many teachers use portfolios to collect and showcase student work throughout the year. These portfolios demonstrate growth over time, provide a means for authentic assessment, promote communication and reflection, and can give some students an alternative means to demonstrate mastery of skills. Portfolios, whether analog or digital, are individualized and promote student agency and self-efficacy.

While portfolios often reflect long-term projects or activities, they don’t necessarily have to. Small moments, ideas, and “aha’s” happen daily. How can these be captured, reflected and expanded on? The Clips app is a good solution. It is an iOS app for making and sharing videos, incorporating text, voice over, music, and graphics. Using the camera on an iOS device, like iPad, students (or teachers) can capture everyday moments as students work individually or collaboratively.

After the images are collected, they are uploaded into the Clips app. The combined clips are saved to make a video. This video can then be viewed by student and teacher, then reflected on. Some questions for reflection might include: “Tell me about your work” “Why did you choose to do it this way?” “I saw you had some trouble, how did you solve the problem?”This reflection helps make thinking and learning visible for students. The final video can be shared with peers and parents as well. To extend the learning, students may blog or journal about their reflections. Here is an example of Clips demonstrating the concept. You can see the video here.

Clips is a free app in the App Store. It is easy to use and can create short videos or students can continually add to existing videos, much like a regular e-portfolio. There are many benefits to using video in education, such as increased student motivation, enhanced learning experiences, development of learner autonomy, and authentic learning opportunities.

Give Clips a try!

 

Character Analysis with Book Creator

Many of you may know I have left the classroom and am now the project manager for a school improvement grant for two priority schools in my district. Part of my work includes providing embedded professional learning for teachers integrating the iPad into instruction in meaningful ways. It’s no secret Book Creator is one of my favorite apps. I’ve written about it numerous times. The appeal is its versatility in using it across all grades and subjects.

This week, I’ve worked with teachers using Book Creator in various ways in their instructional contexts. A favorite activity was creating a character analysis book featuring a character in a recent story. Often, teachers and students need a visual to get started when trying new instructional strategies. Below are screen shots from the book I created to share with teachers. (The image with a ChatterPix video is a screenshot and won’t play, but the video is me sharing what I see as Pete’s character traits.)

This particular example is a more involved project and could take a few days to complete. The apps I used to create this were the iPad camera, Pic Collage, ChatterPix Kids, and Book Creator. Younger students, or students new to using the iPad, could simply create the whole thing in Book Creator, as it allows for multiple images, annotation with the draw tool, video and voice.

Providing students with alternative ways to demonstrate learning in creative ways engages and challenges them. Learning a specific skill set doesn’t have the value in today’s world that it once did. Learning how to be more creative, and therefore, more adaptable, prepares students for life beyond the classroom.

For a different spin on book analysis, read my post here on Book Snaps.

 


 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snap to It with BookSnaps

Who among us, both old and young, has not entertained themselves with the many filters on SnapChat? I tend to gravitate more toward the ones that lighten my face and erase the fine lines and wrinkles…I digress…but the universal interest of SnapChat, particularly in young folks, can be used to engage students in new ways across content areas without even using the SnapChat app. While some educators use the SnapChat app to create BookSnaps, others aren’t comfortable using the app or their district has blocked the use of it.

BookSnaps is quickly gaining interest in many educators’ classrooms. The concept is to encourage more interaction with content in books the students are reading. For very young students, pictures can be taken of their favorite story parts and characters. The student can use the photo markup toolbox in the photos app to highlight areas of interest or focus. In photos, tap the parallel lines (see green arrow below).

From there, tap the three dots on lower right and then tap the toolbox markup. See below. In markup, students can annotate with drawing and text.

In introducing the concept of a BookSnap, it is helpful to students if you model it. Here is mine. I love The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. I took a picture of my favorite passage in the book, used Markup in photos to make a circle around the passage and add text. Then, I uploaded it to PicCollage where I added stickers.


A kindergarten student chose Pete the Cat Rocking in my School Shoes to create a BookSnap in Pic Collage.

The student chose Pete the Cat playing on the playground because this was his favorite part of the book, and his favorite part of the day. He wrote that he liked recess and he used the doodle tool in Pic Collage to circle the words that showed Pete was playing.

A variety of creation apps can be used to create a BookSnap. Here is one done in Book Creator app:

The student took a picture of the front cover of the book and then a picture of her favorite page. She is too young to write a sentence so she dictated it in the app. I added the text for the picture since you can’t hear it. In this BookSnap, the child resonated with the character Vashti because she doesn’t think she is good at drawing, just like Vashti in The Dot. While these are very basic BookSnaps created by young children, older students can definitely create more elaborate BookSnaps.

Using BookSnaps, students can make text to world, text to text, and text to self connections.  They can identify the main idea, parts of speech, synonyms, etc…and reflect about the content they are learning. Older students can collaborate on a book study and create BookSnaps to share what they learned. In Book Creator, multiple snaps can be created to represent several passages in one book, or to create a book of BookSnaps reflecting a child’s learning across several books.

So…snap to it! BookSnaps are fun!

 

 

Using the iPad Camera with Young Students

One of the questions I get asked most often regarding the use of iPad devices in early childhood classrooms is “How do I get started?” If you’ve not used the iPad with young children before, it can seem a bit overwhelming. There are so many things to consider…classroom management, finding the app, making sure they are doing the right thing, ensuring everyone is on the right screen…it’s a bit like… well, frankly,

And if you are a bit unsure of yourself, then it can be totally unnerving. I often suggest starting small by just introducing how to find their iPad in the cart, how to turn on and off the iPad, and how to navigate screens. One of the best apps to start with is the camera app. The camera is truly a versatile tool that can be used across the curriculum. And, with proper instruction in the use of the app, you can curb the number of nostril shots you will find in the photo roll.

The camera can be used to document learning such as demonstrated work in reading and math journals. Such as:

 

It can be used for student introductions with name cards, picture timelines, and help with vocabulary words. Really, its uses are endless. With young children it’s important to give them a brief lesson on how to take a good photo. You can see my Clips projects on that here, and here.

Once you have your basic lesson, you can move on to taking photos with a purpose. There is an excellent blog post written by fellow ADE Marc Faulder here. He has an awesome iTunes U course on using the camera to take photos in early learning classes here.

With a new school year starting here in the United States, explore how you might use the camera with your young students in creative, new ways!

 

Anchor Charts and Book Creator

I love anchor charts! They are so useful in any classroom, as they help make thinking visible. They can be wonderful supports when building new learning and gives the child something to “anchor” their learning when new concepts are introduced. Anchor charts also build a culture of literacy in the classroom. My students refer back to them on a daily basis as they are writing. The print-rich environment surrounds my students all day.

The students and I create an anchor chart for every letter of the alphabet and I like for them to stay up year round; however, there is only so much wall space in the classroom. I started stringing fishing line across the ceiling and hanging them from there, but I know not every school allows that. Plus, there are some charts that are seasonal or thematic in nature and maybe don’t need to take up wall space all year. Having the iPad devices in the classroom has solved this problem for us.

Each time we create a new chart, students open the Book Creator app and snap a picture of the chart…even the alphabet charts that stay up all year.  This allows me to take down charts that don’t necessarily need to stay up all year and it gives the students the ability to look at any chart, any time without having to get up and go across the room to look at it.  In the beginning of the year, I create the book template and send it to every iPad in Showbie. The first page has the title and the chart with all of the students’ names on it. This way they look the same, and they can access their friends’ names when they write.

One of the first charts we create together for Writing Workshop is our favorite foods. This is not a chart that has to stay up all year, especially since they will have it in a book on their iPad device.

This is one of our alphabet anchor charts. It will stay up all year. Because this one hangs from the ceiling, it might be difficult for students across the room to see it. Having it on the iPad allows them instant access at their fingertips.

Creating these books has really freed up some space in the classroom and still gives us the opportunity to introduce new anchor charts all throughout the year. Give it a try!

Using the iPad to Develop Student Agency

Through agentic action, people devise ways of adapting flexibly to remarkably diverse geographic, climatic and social environments; they figure out ways to circumvent physical and environmental constraints, redesign and construct environments to their liking… By these inventive means, people improve their odds in the fitness survival game. -Albert Bandura, 1989

Agency is the capacity to take purposeful initiative. Bandura’s quote above is a timeless reminder of the need for human beings to construct their own environments-including their learning environments. However, agency goes beyond just voice and choice. It is giving students the ability to actually own their education. It means strengthening growth mindsets in our students as well as in ourselves as educators. It means focusing on student learning and not on grades. It means creating a student-centered culture where students have choice in their learning pathways.

In our kindergarten class, we have found using the iPad is a great way to encourage student agency, particularly in literacy. By incorporating choice into our writing curriculum, students are more engaged in their writing across the curriculum. See a video on choice writing here.  When students use creation apps as a way to demonstrate concepts, they are creating new learning in deeper meaningful ways. You can read more about that here. 

Whether students are writing on paper…

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Or on their iPad…

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Or they are demonstrating math or science concepts….

 

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Student agency is encouraged as individuals choose activities and extend their learning. Agency requires collaboration between both student and teacher. This partnership depends on developing meaningful relationships with students. The iPad provides students with opportunities to create learning, expand learning, and share learning with authentic audiences beyond the classroom. This empowers students and encourages ownership.

Look at the ways you are incorporating technology into student learning and determine how much of their time is spent consuming content and how much time is spent creating it. By taking a look at our pedagogical practices, we can make minor changes to empower students and encourage agency.

 

Using the iPad for Deeper Learning

Deeper learning is the process of learning for transfer.  Student competencies that allow for deep learning include cognitive reasoning and problem solving, intrapersonal competencies which involve self-management, and interpersonal competencies which refer to working and communicating with others. When these competencies are in place, students are better able to experience deeper learning.

Math is a natural subject to incorporate these competencies. Recently, we were working on composing and decomposing numbers to 10. Initially, students worked independently to compose numbers using M&M’s and a work mat.

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By working independently, students engaged their cognitive and intrapersonal skills. Next, students were able to work together on their iPad devices to compose numbers in a variety of ways.  Students were able to choose the app to demonstrate learning.

Here are a couple of examples:

unit blocksThe above example is from the Number Pieces app.

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These examples are from the Felt Board app. Do you see the difference from left to right? The pair of students on the left composed 10 in ways that were more traditional. The pair of students on the right were both advanced in their thinking and were able to  demonstrate far beyond the expected standard. All of these examples meet the standard, yet, given the opportunity to have choice in how they demonstrate learning, students often perform higher than our expectations.

Integrating technology into your teaching practice can transform learner outcomes. Through voice and choice, students develop “creating and doing dispositions”. Through inquiry, problem solving, and collaboration both with peers and teachers, students are better able to lead their learning more effectively and transfer their knowledge to their world beyond the classroom.

In what ways are you creating deep learning opportunities in your classroom?

Our One Best Image

“Do your best” by everyone’s mom in the world.

Do your best! Give me your best effort! These are words spoken to children by parents and teachers alike. But, what is “best”?  If we define it by today’s beauty and fashion standards, we would all feel grossly overweight and substandard. Perhaps, we should stress the word your in those sentences…do your best. After all, everyone’s “best” looks different anyway. As educators, we work daily to help children see the best in themselves, to gain confidence in their learning and put forth their best effort to achieve.

With the fall season arriving so very late here, we recently took our iPads on a walk to capture our “one best image”. This meant talking about what that looks like and how we might achieve that goal. As we were walking, several were excited about this leaf or that leaf and took several pictures along the way. Yet, in the end, the decision of their one best image had to be made. Once images were captured and deemed their best, we created a class book in Book Creator. Here are a couple of pages as examples:

fullsizerender-3 fullsizerender-4 Their simple sentence is their rationale for why this leaf was the best of all the ones they saw. Unfortunately, our area is not rich with fall color and we mostly have yellows and browns, but discerning eyes can look beyond the color at the details…and this, we decided, is the most important part of choosing our best.

Having children closely examine, filter, and discern are all important skills. We hope to do another “One Best Image” in the spring!

Give it a try!