Using iPads for Literacy and Research in Kindergarten

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it? -Albert Einstein

We are finishing up a big unit on the rainforest.  We have learned about the 4 layers, what animals live in each layer, what products we get from the rainforest and how people are destroying the rainforest.  We have read books and watched videos.  As we finish up this unit, the kids are focusing on one animal they want to learn more about.  We have talked about doing research before and we made this anchor chart together:

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 Along the way, they have demonstrated their learning about different animals in the rainforest.  They have used Pic Collage and Drawing Pad App to share this information.
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We even turned our whole hall into a walk-through rainforest.  The kids made animals, rainforest fun facts, vines, leaves, and plants.  This is just one small section.
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So we are now practicing our research.  Another teacher and I created books in Book Creator for their iPads with information about a variety of animals in the rainforest.  We also have rainforest books in our classroom. They had these books available for their research.  We talked AT LENGTH about plagiarism and using our own words.  We talked before hand about what information would be important for them to know. We made a list of things together they should look for when reading. Then they took some notes on their animals.
They had the option of paper or iPad.  This child chose paper.
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Then, using these notes they made a graphic organizer of their thoughts.  They used Pic Collage and Drawing Pad app for this.
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Tomorrow, they will start making their own books in Book Creator about their animal. There has been a busy buzz all day as they have read, collaborated, worked and created.  I am excited to see how their books turn out. They will share them with their classmates when they are all finished.  We can upload them to Showbie and all of the students will have access to everyone’s book!
The Common Core State Standard for this is W.K.7 :  Participate in shared research and writing projects.  There is no doubt these kids are on the right track.  Their excitement and engagement along with their final products are a win-win.
Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!
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More on Augmented Reality in Kindergarten

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.  -John Lennon

One thing young children are not lacking in is imagination.  They have no trouble pretending, playing make believe and suspending reality.  We’ve recently crossed over into the augmented reality arena. Augmented Reality (AR) allows for a digitally enhanced view of the real world. It allows the user to open or create layers of digital information on top of the physical world that can be viewed through a mobile device.  I’ve talked about our first foray in AR with Aurasma app here.  Aurasma is a great tool, and now my student’s are using the Chromville app to create in their own Augmented Reality worlds.

Chromville is a free app in the app store.  To use Chromville, you must first go to their website and decide which village you want to use.  There are 6 to choose from.  After you download and print the pages for your students, they then color the pages. NOTE: be careful that they don’t color over the village name in the corner of the page or else the AR part won’t work.  Once it has been colored, the student opens the Chromville app, selects which village he/she has colored and holds the iPad over the colored sheet.  The entire scene suddenly come to life in 3D and begin to move around.  There is a camera icon to take a screen shot also.  My students began playing around and inserting objects into the  view of the camera such as their hand or their foot and it became part of the scene.  After we took a screen shot, we uploaded the image into another app and wrote about our picture.  Here are a couple of examples.  You can see the items on the paper are in 3D.  On the iPad, these items are moving.

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The great thing about the screen shot is that they appear to be in 3D also which makes it fun for the kids to write about it.  It’s a pretty good day when kids are excited about writing.    Students learn not just by reading and writing. Their learning is enhanced when they create and interact with their environment.

AR is not new.  Remember the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?  It’s gaining new momentum now with the mobile technology available and with the gamification of educational concepts. There are many different Augmented Reality apps available for all different age and ability levels.  You can search in your browser for AR apps and you will have a nice list to look through.

Obviously, there are more advanced uses for AR in older grades, but don’t tell that to my kindergarten students.  They are already exploring, creating and interacting with augmented reality and they get it! They have already given me a few lessons!

Give it a try!

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

 

Using Mentor Texts for Powerful Writing

I think if you really want to write in a powerful way, you’ve got to read powerful stuff…Ralph Fletcher

I have served as a mentor for new teachers over the years and while I want each of them to grow into the best they can be, I want them to find their own methods and their own voice as they grow as an educator.  I provide a framework,  a model for good teaching, and hopefully, inspiration.  Good mentors can shape who we are and who we will one day become.

In the same manner, mentor texts are an important part of my literacy instruction.  I want my students to read and write powerfully and mentor texts serve as a conduit for both.  Mentor texts are necessary to teach our students to think deeply about their own writing.  Students often need to see someone doing something in order for them to do it themselves.  Watching another’s craft gives inspiration, direction and courage to try. Mentor texts inspires us to read and learn more.

Teaching very young children to write requires a lot of modeling, mentoring and a wee bit of rocket science.  Getting students to add detail to their emergent writing is a daily mini lesson in itself.  Recently, we read Lois Ehlert’s Pie in the Sky.  It has a lot of simple sentences describing what the narrator sees in the illustration, but more importantly, it is simply descriptive.  Using this as a mentor text has been tremendously helpful to my students. My students even refer to the book by saying they wrote, “Pie in the Sky” sentences.  Here are a couple of examples of student work on the iPad.  They used their camera to take a picture of something in the room and then they wrote what they saw.

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Some of my students were sharing their work with their friends and I overheard a few offering suggestions about making their sentences more like “Pie in the Sky” sentences.  Peer editing…in kindergarten.

Mentor texts give our young writers not just a framework or reference, they give them a dose of courage to try writing like the author…not using the author’s words, but courage to find their own words.  They can be road maps for powerful writing.  They show students what good writing looks like.

Here is a Writing Workshop sample from one of my students recently:

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Creating good readers and writers is a critical part of teaching.  Mentor texts provide powerful examples for our students.  Regardless of what grade you teach, your students need your guidance while they learn to write, take risks and stretch their literary wings.

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