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?

iPad Math Journals in Kindergarten

When I was growing up, I always knew I’d be in the top of my class in math, and that gave me a lot of self-confidence. -Sergey Brin

Math confidence is something I did not have in school. While I am super proud of surviving doctoral stats, I feel the pain of my students when they struggle with math concepts.

This week we are working on 2 dimensional shapes. We have found them in our environment and discussed the sides and number of vertices. We have a couple of apps that have helped us as we work with shapes. We add our work to our math journals that were created in Book Creator app.

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Using the Geoboard app,  the kids made different shapes. Their first inclination is to use a different rubber band for each side. I challenged them to create the shape using just one rubber band. Then, they used the drawing tool to write the number of vertices inside. We had a discussion about why you can’t make a circle using this app.

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We also used the Pattern Shapes app. Students made patterns using shapes and colors.

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Again, using the drawing tool, they numbered the vertices. In addition to the shape and color pattern, they noticed there is also a number pattern.

To reinforce these iPad skills, we have pattern blocks in our math center and real geoboards. During our math talks, we talk about the attributes of these shapes. By bringing in both virtual practice and hands-on activities and putting them in our math journal, we are making connections and developing confidence. During these activities, it became more evident that I have some students with fixed mindsets. While we actively work on having a growth mindset, those who tend to struggle are the ones that give up easily. By providing multiple modalities of learning, engaging in math talks, and reinforcing learning with hands on, the aim is to encourage that growth mindset, even if it means a bit of productive struggle. For many, productive struggle is difficult because the grown- ups in their lives tend to rescue them from it. We work diligently to create independent thinkers and problem solvers.

 

 

 

 

Here’s to a New School Year!


“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” -Arthur Ashe

Well…it has been way too long since I have posted! Life has gotten in the way, but we are back at school and are just finishing up our 20th day. We have been working hard on procedures and routines. These procedures and routines include the use of our iPad devices. We have gotten off to a slow start with them this year as we have had a whole mess of problems with our MDM, but things are getting back on track.

At the beginning of the year, we do not use the iPad for the first full week in kindergarten. I usually like to begin using them the second week, but this year it was the third week before we were actually able to use them. We start off in small groups learning how to open them, navigate screens, find apps, etc. Then we return it to the cart until the next day. As many of my students seem to have an iPad at home, or they were part of our four year old program last year, this was a quick learning curve. We are now able to use them in our math center and in our ABC center. There are two passes in each of these centers. Students are able to choose a pass, if one is available, and work in either the math or ABC folder on the iPad, depending on which center they are in. Each of our apps are grouped by either ABC, math, drawing, or teacher. The teacher folder contains apps that I am not ready for them to access yet.

We’ve used the iPad devices in whole group time to draw a picture of ourselves during our All About Me unit, draw a picture from one of our Pete the Cat books, and we have worked on some math activities with the number frames app. Here are a few samples:

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At this point, we are doing what we can with what we have. International Dot Day is coming up and we will be making our mark and creating our own dots to share with our friends in the UK. You can read about that here.

Remember to start small and slow so you can speed up later!

From Sea to Shining Sea…Connecting Classes Across Continents

I don’t usually have guest bloggers, but Marc Faulder and I, along with some other early childhood teachers have engaged in regular collaboration with our classes since 2014. Marc, an early years teacher in the UK wrote this blog post sharing our experiences.

Connecting Classes Across Continents is a collaboration I began with Apple Distinguished Educators who teach in the early years. We met in San Diego in July 2014 and began planning how we could use FaceTime and social media to build a personal learning network for our young learners, In the beginning we had classes connecting between South Carolina, Maine, Ireland and my class in England. The process is simple, we looked at what we taught throughout the year and found topics which overlapped or linked so that our classes could exchange knowledge over a video call.

Over the last two years my classes have made short video calls to these classes to talk about their place in the world, ask questions about the different places and share stories or festivals from their home country. We have shared Bonfire Night, Thanksgiving, Christmas food similarities and differences and Chinese New Year. Connecting with real children celebrating these festivals made the learning so much more real as we could have genuine discussions with real people involved in these celebrations.Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 6.38.44 PM
The project has grown since then and we now have connected classes in Sweden, Australia and New York. This has added to the wealth of knowledge exchange, giving opportunities to explore languages through song and traditional tales from our different countries. With our Connected Class in Sweden we sang traditional nursery rhymes to each other in our first languages. With our Connected Class in Ireland we have shared traditional food from our countries. With our Connected Class in Maine we have shared in school rules, in a recent call we got to observe The Pledge of Allegiance and compared this to our own Respect Code of Conduct. All of these experiences over FaceTime have given my class a real insight in to life outside of England.
For some of our projects our classes have made work for each other. Between the teachers involved in Connected Classes Across Continents we have shared digital books that our classes have made on their iPads. My class have sent multi-modal books about Bonfire Night and compared this to a book about Thanksgiving from our Connected Class in South Carolina. With our Connected Class in New York, South Carolina and Maine we shared books about our local area. All of these book exchanges have resulted in follow up FaceTime calls to ask further questions about each other’s place in the world. With our Connected Class in New York it was great to compare their playground and ours, as they have a playground on the top of their building in the city!
We have even posted real story books to share in ‘What are you Reading’ FaceTime calls. This kind of connecting takes me back to the days of pen-pals and enhances these kinds of relationships through a more personal and immediate form.

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The impact on my class this year has been huge. In a recent project we made calls to Sweden, Ireland, South Carolina and Maine in one day. We went on a global hunt for lost teeth and our connected classes gave us clues that would help our mission. The project concluded the next day with a video message from our connected class in Australia. When we reflected on the knowledge exchange between all of these places my class could talk about the movement of the sun and time zone differences. This understanding of the world exceeds my expectation of what early years children can comprehend of their place in the world. You can hear their responses here.
When interviewing my class on their time in Foundation with me and reflecting on their learning year in preparation for their transition to Year 1, I asked them who their teachers are. You can hear their responses here.
To my surprise they included teachers from our connected classes. One child even listed Mrs Meeuwse, Mr Milner and Shonette above his actual teachers in our unit! This proves to me that connecting classes across continents builds a Personal Learning Network for early years children. By explaining how they learn and what they learn from these other teachers in their life they clearly appreciate the knowledge exchange beyond our classroom walls.
This year, the second year of Connected Classes Across Continents, wraps up with a special visit from Jason Milner. Jason is travelling Europe before the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute 2016. He will visit our school and work with my class. In the days leading up to his arrival we tracked his flight online. Flying from Sydney has been an exciting two days for my class with them watching his journey take place in real time over two days. The discussions around travel, time zone and connecting places has been incredible to listen to and the children are very excited to meet their first Connected Class Teacher!
 A great place for you to start is by participating in International Dot Day. Find out more about this festival here. It takes place on September 15th every year and is a Foundation friendly text about making your mark on the world. You can connect with a local school, find a friend who you can make a call to on the day. Even if it is another school in your city, the children will make their first connection in learning beyond their classroom.
For your first call talk about your school uniform, school rules, your art work or hobbies. You can show photographs of your school and even share a song together. After the first call you could even find out what each other are working on then report back your findings in a follow up call.
It would be very easy to read this post and see these connections as difficult to achieve, but the links are simple to make. Not every class will get the opportunity to meet a Connected Class Teacher and it might not happen again for a long time at my school. However, these FaceTime calls and knowledge exchanges have proved so valuable to our understanding of the world and they will continue each year!
You can read more from Marc Faulder and see his work in the UK on his blog here.

Focus on the Learning, Not the Tool

The real power of interactive technologies is that they let us learn in ways that aren’t otherwise possible or practical. – David Lassner

Wow…where did the school year go? We have only 24 days remaining! At school, we have been busy going about the business of learning, and in the evenings, I have been busy going about the business of dissertation writing. The end for both is in sight!

I was recently asked for some lesson plan examples from someone looking for ideas to integrate the iPad into instruction. I felt badly, as I had none to send. I love sharing with others (thus, the purpose of this blog), but I don’t write lesson plans around the use of our iPad devices. My lesson plans reflect the content and the standards, but not the tools. My students have the choice to use the iPad or other tools in our classroom to demonstrate their learning, including paper and pencil. I don’t write lesson plans around the pencil, so I don’t write them around the iPad either.

That being said, the quote above concerning interactive technologies is spot on. Using and combining apps to synthesize concepts is only possible with the use of interactive technology. The best part is we don’t have to wait until children are older to utilize these technologies for learning. In my classroom, students choose apps to demonstrate their learning. Here are a few examples where students used the Drawing Pad app to illustrate and then used the Skitch app to annotate.

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As my students use labeling like scientists, they are learning that labeling gives more information about a picture. From here, the kids went on to write about their learning.

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Using a variety of creation apps, students have the ability to create and express themselves in a digital way that they otherwise can’t in an analog way. By focusing on the content, the importance is placed on the learning and not the tool.

Tell your story…do epic stuff!

Using the iPad for Writing in Kindergarten

You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say. -F. Scott Fitzgerald

I’ve always believed we learn to write by writing. My students have a lot to say, but often have difficulty finding topics to write about. We have anchor charts around the room with writing ideas. See a couple below:

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However, no matter how many words we have in the room, some of my students still have trouble coming up with ideas for writing. They tend to write the same things over and over…I went to the park, I play video games, etc… We continually encourage them to stretch as writers and encourage them to think of new ideas.  For those those that have difficulty finding inspiration, we utilize the camera app on the iPad.

A colleague suggested taking a picture of the child during the day and have them write about the picture. This has been an extremely helpful suggestion. Here are a couple of samples of student work using this technique:

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With one of the children, I found him building something in the block center and on his own, he went to get his iPad to take a picture so he could write about it later. He said he would forget his “details” without the picture.

Supporting students where they are is so important in developing strong readers and writers. Student-centered classrooms provide motivation and autonomy. When we have internal motivation we are more likely to persist and attempt new things rather than when we act out of compliance.

I am so glad I have the iPad as a learning tool to extend and enhance learning…and more importantly, my students are seeing it as a tool, and not just “fun”.

Tell your story…do epic stuff!

Poetry Notebooks with Book Creator

Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. -Plutarch

Each Friday, we take a break from our Writing Workshop activities and work in our poetry notebooks. Young children love poems and songs. Every week, we have a designated poem that goes with our unit. I have made a poster out of it and attached a plastic coat hanger to the back. The poem hangs on a hook in the classroom for the week. Each child has a black and white sewn composition book and we glue in a copy of the poem for the week. The children illustrate it and have the ability to go back and read poems from previous weeks. They love going back to some of their favorites and singing them or re-reading them.

Recently, I noticed their joy each Friday as they work in their poetry notebooks, and it saddened me that I don’t have space in the classroom to leave the poems out and let them accumulate. Then, it hit me…Book Creator! So I created a poetry book in Book Creator app that has their poems and I left a blank page beside each poem so the students could go in and illustrate them if they choose. Additionally, I recorded my voice reading each poem to help those who may not be able to read the whole thing themselves. When I finished poems up to where we are currently, I put it in Showbie and the children downloaded it to their iPad. They saved it to Book Creator and this allows me to add more poems as we go through the rest of the year. I will put the new poem in Showbie and they will download it and add it their poetry notebook.

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I am undecided about next year…whether I will eliminate the hard copy and just do electronic. The kids do love using crayons and illustrating the notebook. The best part is, either way, they have poems at their fingertips to read, re-read, illustrate and enjoy!

Tell your story…do epic stuff!

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:

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PreKinders

Story Time For Me

Making Learning Fun

Share your story…do epic stuff!