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!

 

 

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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!

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!

 

Digital Reading Resources for Early Literacy

There is an art of reading, as well as an art of thinking, and an art of writing-Isaac D’Israeli

As a kindergarten teacher, my day is spent immersing my students in literacy activities. Regardless of the subject we are learning, literacy is a big part of it. We use Book Creator for our math journals.  I also use Book Creator app and iBooks Author for teacher-created texts for my students’ emergent reading levels. Through continuous literacy activities, we can build fluency. Having 1:1 iPads, my students have many digital books at their fingertips. Research shows digital texts engage even the most reluctant readers and increase reading achievement (see attached references: Research on Using Digital Texts to Enhance Literacy Instruction)

In addition to the items listed above, we use RAZ Kids to track student reading. With parents having access, students can also practice reading at home using leveled texts. RAZ kids allows me to set student reading levels as well as assign assessments such as running records.

My students also have a link on their iPad screens to Unite for Literacy. This website has numerous non-fiction text with audio support and are available in a variety of languages. With diverse images, children are able to relate to their world.

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Our iBook Shelves are filled with teacher-created texts and phonics readers from Hubbard’s Cupboard. There are free e-book downloads on word families and phonics. We have RAZ kids leveled texts and the Unite for Literacy collection. Of course we have a classroom library of a variety of paper books for students as well. The benefit of the digital books are the multi-touch and accessibility features, as well as the durability of them.

There are many online resources for early literacy, but these are some of my favorites. I encourage you to look into some of these to help build your own classroom collection. Here are a few more links to investigate:

Epic

PreKinders

Story Time For Me

Making Learning Fun

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Hour of Code 2015

It should be mandatory that you understand computer science. -will.i.am

Like thousands of other classes, my kindergarten students have been participating in the Hour of Code this week. While you can code anytime, the grassroots campaign takes place the week of December 7-13. All students should have the opportunity to learn how to code. It nurtures problem solving skills and stimulates logic and creativity. Steve Jobs said, “Everyone should learn how to code, it teaches you how to think.” While it’s easy to think this is something for older students only, even the youngest of students are able to learn how to code.

IMG_2448One of the easiest ways to teach young children to code is with the Kodable app.  Kodable is free. It is intuitive and simple to follow. We have been working on this app all week, specifically for the Hour of Code. While it promotes critical thinking and technological fluency, it is simply a great way for students to work both independently and collaboratively to problem solve. Watching my students work in this app this week, I’ve heard great conversations incorporating logic and the kids were building stamina and persistence. Kids who walk away from a task after the first sign of difficulty will sit and persist when working with Kodable. Problem solving, persistence, and critical thinking are valuable work force skills that students need to learn.

One of the additional benefits of introducing coding to my class has been the transfer of learning to other areas. My students have been so fascinated they have developed their own coding “game boards” for friends to build code to complete. The child who created the problem on paper asked a friend to put the arrows in the brown boxes to complete the code and then had the child add up the coins he earned. While watching him draw this, I noticed he counted the turns needed and then put that many brown boxes at the top for the friend add the code…a great example of problem solving for a 5 year old!

coding1

While there are other apps and websites for coding, my students’ favorites are Kodable and Minecraft. They were so engaged, both boys and girls, the Hour of Code could have easily turned into Hours of Code.

You can read more about the Hour of Code here. There are coding activities for Star Wars fans, Minecraft fans, and even fans of Elsa and Anna from Frozen. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to code. Your students will be happy to teach you!

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Phonics Strategies for Young Learners Using the iPad

Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.-Kate DiCamillo

I am sorry for my low profile lately…for the last 10 weeks, I have been taking statistics for my doctoral program and it has owned me! There are only 2 weeks remaining so there is light at the end of the tunnel.

My school year thus far, has been one of the most challenging ones in recent memory. New district required assessments have consumed an inordinate amount of time and their results have generated different progress monitoring assessments for my lowest performing students.

Fortunately, I have iPads to assist in meeting the needs of all students, regardless of their skill level. Never has this challenge been more real than this year. Today’s post is to share some strategies I use with my most challenged learners in their endeavor to meet grade level goals in early literacy.

The majority of my struggling students are younger five year olds, with late birthdays. Their delays are mostly due to lack of exposure to literacy activities prior to starting school. This lack of exposure requires many, many repetitions to create some fluency in those critical phonics skills.

One of the interventions I use is the Wilson’s Fundations alphabet cards. These are cards that with daily repetitions, assist children in learning letters and sounds. We go through the cards each day several times. We say the letter, the picture name and the sound. For example: Bb, bat, /b/. Additionally, I have created a book in Book Creator by photographing each card and adding my voice over on each page saying the letter, picture, and sound. This way, students have the ability to practice throughout the day independently.Wilson's ABC

In addition to working with these cards and interacting with the e-book, we use the Word Wizard app. In our small group time, students open the app, I alternate calling out the letter, the word, or the sound and students find that letter and move it up to the grid. This app reinforces the child’s choice by giving the student the sound when the letter is selected.

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For reinforcement of letter sounds, we also use Starfall ABC’s app. This gives students multiple opportunities to see the letter, hear the sound, and practice interacting with initial sound activities.

Beyond phonics, I create “Just Right Books” for students that are on their independent reading level. These books are created in Book Creator and in iBooks Author. For non-readers, the text is read to the child with supporting picture cues. I have a free book in the iBook Store explaining the process here and blog posts about it here and here.

There are many apps and books available for purchase, but creating simple activities with much repetition is what our struggling students need most.

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September Wrap-Up

We must be deliberate in September-Debbie Miller

We are halfway through our first quarter of school, and at times, it feels like we haven’t accomplished much. But then I am reminded of the wise words of Debbie Miller about being deliberate in September. It is so crucial to go slow now so we can speed up later. Each small step we take now, is a building block for the future. We are front loading procedures, modeling appropriate ways to use our iPads, and learning about workflow.

Sometimes these small steps are difficult, especially when we are inundated with baseline assessments and other requirements. It is easy to overlook the importance of the small details…the procedures that seem like second nature, the instructions we feel we have said 100 times. However, skipping or short-changing these small early steps, often results in frustration for both you and the student.

Here are a few things we have been working on the last two weeks:

We participated in International Dot Day. We read Peter Reynolds’ The Dot and made dots on our iPads in Drawing Pad app. I collected all of the dots through Showbie and created a class Dot Book. We also Skyped with a kindergarten class in the UK, sharing our dots. Here is one of our dots.

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We also spent a week doing an author study of Eric Litwin. He is the author of the Pete the Cat books. We chose our favorite story and drew a picture of it in Drawing Pad. The class loved Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons. Here are a couple of examples:

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This week, we have been reading the Mrs. Wishy Washy series. After spending a couple of weeks drawing in Drawing Pad, we drew our favorite character in Mrs. Wishy Washy, saved it to our camera roll, uploaded it into Pic Collage and worked on a sight word sentence. This was our first app smash!

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The last one is Mrs. Wishy Washy flipping upside down as she slips and falls in the tub from the story Wishy Washy Day.  We made an anchor chart the day before with all of the characters in the story. This way, students used our word wall for the sight words and the anchor chart to write their favorite character. The environmental print in the classroom assisted greatly in this activity. If it seems too overwhelming to draw the picture, upload to Pic Collage and type the sentence, break it up over a couple of days. Draw the picture and save it one day and the next upload to Pic Collage and type the sentence.

Remember, focusing on those all important procedures, taking it slow, being repetitive, and modeling for students, greatly facilitates your ability to have independent student work later.

Let’s be deliberate in September!

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Here We Go Again

How do you restart something that had never been turned off? -Veronica Rossi, Under the Never Sky

It doesn’t matter how long I have taught, I always have trouble adjusting expectations with a new class. Of course I know these young children are new and are not at the same level as the class from the year before…it’s just…well, that class leaves when we are in such a good groove and it is hard for me to adjust a few months later. Summer vacation doesn’t seem to turn off the “old class” switch and turn on the “new class” switch.

No worries, it’s a short learning curve. It doesn’t take long to remind me of the need to start small and slow so that I can speed up later. We just finished our 10th day of school and we are currently using our iPads to enhance phonics instruction in small groups with Pocket Chart Pro, Starfall ABC’s and Magnetic ABC apps. We are also using them in centers as a choice in the math center and the ABC center. We’ve used Drawing Pad to draw a picture of something we like to do. Here is an example. She drew a picture of playing at school.

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In math, we have used Connecting Cubes to count objects.

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As well as experiment with counting and ten frames:

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We have also learned how to take a screen shot so we can upload our work! By experimenting with different apps in the early days, the students have an opportunity to explore and free-play while we are learning the proper way to use the device.

So how do you restart something that had never turned off? In my world, at least, I have to hit the reset button and remind myself to start small. The first few weeks of kindergarten are all about exploring our environment, getting to know each other, and taking things one step at a time!

Here’s to a great new year y’all!

Cheers!

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iTunes U and You

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. -Martin Luther King

itunes uThinking critically and intensively is not reserved for older students. We work diligently to create learning experiences in kindergarten that allow our young students to think deeply about various topics. Having iPads allows us to enrich learning experiences in a way that wasn’t possible before. One of the iPad tools that is often overlooked is iTunes U. Why iTunes U?

  • It is a free repository of classes and educational content
  • Students have access to content anytime and anywhere
  • Content is easily updated and changed
  • Discussion feature allows rich conversation between students

While there are a large number of free classes available on iTunes U, perhaps you should consider creating your own. With the end of the school year only a few weeks away, it seems odd to be thinking of adding new things to your teaching bag of tricks, but this is the perfect time to do so. You can use some of your summer to create your own courses. It is easy to do. Simply log into the iTunes U course manager using your Apple ID and add your content. What are the benefits to creating your own course?

  • Content is more meaningful to students
  • Content can be customized
  • Easy to create, easy to update
  • All resources are in one place: books, documents, videos, images, web links and apps

Here is the link to a Spiders course I created for my kindergarten students as well as one for teachers on Personalized Learning and another course created by a 4th grade colleague about my school and how we innovate instruction using iPads.

iTunes U allows you to customize the learning experience for your students, even the youngest ones. It is also a great way to create a learning portfolio for students. Up to 5 people can collaborate on a course so you and your colleagues can work together and share the wealth. If you aren’t comfortable creating a full course initially, create a chapter and keep adding. It is easy to update any time.

If you aren’t already using iTunes U, consider giving it a try. It will open a whole new world to your students for learning and engaging in content.

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