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.

 


 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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 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.

 

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.

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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”.

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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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Keep It Simple

Simplicity will stand out, while complexity will get lost in the crowd. -Kevin Barnett

American Thanksgiving has just passed and we are on the bullet train to Christmas! How are things where you are…busier than ever I am guessing? With all of the “must-do’s” that come with teaching, it is easy to let content design take a back seat to “getting it all in”. Lesson planning can become rote and robotic if we aren’t careful. Put your quarters in the machine and make your selection…

I have just returned from BarcelonaFullSizeRender 18, Spain. What an amazing experience! I went to work with the early childhood teachers at the American School in utilizing iPads in the classroom. The wonderful staff there was particularly interested in making the best use out of a few iPads per classroom. I taught math and reading lessons in their classrooms and watched the thrill of the young children interacting with their iPads. It can certainly seem challenging without a class set of the devices. My advice to them, as it has been on this blog all along, is to start small and take those baby steps. When starting something new, it is easy to get caught up and get overwhelmed. There is initial excitement but then real-life sets in and it just seems like too much work. Be realistic, but keep moving forward.

The truth is, designing good lessons is work. We are “content architects”. We must look at all of our students and provide experiences that reach each and every one of them. Whether you use the iPad or not in your classroom, content design is work. This work can be easier if we leverage the technology in such a way that students are engaged in student-centered learning. In Spain, we worked with the teacher iPad to demonstrate some new concepts to thIMG_2315e whole class and then worked on ways students could partner up to practice the new learning. We also talked about using the iPad in small group centers and small group instruction. My message to those fine teachers was you do not have to hang the moon simply because you are using technology. Short and simple lessons delivered in an engaging manner are just as effective.

Here is one brief example of an activity we did in Barcelona:

Using the Feltboard app, the 4-year-old students used the 4 Square sorting mat background. They pulled over shapes from the shape menu and sorted them by color and shape. Ideally, the teachers would give the children time to explore the app first without instructions. Then, using the teacher iPad projected up front, the teacher could demonstrate a mini lesson on sorting. The follow up would involve the students working in partners to complete the activity. Using the camera option in this app, students can take a screen shot of their work. Ultimately, this could be uploaded to a math journal created in Book Creator. When sharing iPads, my suggestion for this is to create a separate journal for each skill. This way, each child creates a page in the journal. When sorting is finished and you move on to the next skill, a new journal is created. This works for two reasons: 1. It is difficult for young students to create their own books when sharing iPads and 2: As each skill is finished and a new journal is created, it can be saved to the iBook shelf and students can look at all of their classmates’ work and continually review skills that have already been covered.

IMG_2288So, I encourage you to reflect on your own content design. Can it be refreshed and updated? How can you make small changes that might make big impact?

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Using the Backchannel in Kindergarten

When you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place. So, what we view our role as, is giving people that power. -Mark Zuckerberg

Have you ever had the pleasure of listening to a young child tell you a story or tell you about an event? It is usually fairly entertaining and fairly lengthy. They have definite opinions about everything and don’t mind sharing them, even when not solicited.

We work on giving our children choice in all aspects of their learning. Giving small choices early allows them to have greater voice in activities as the year goes on.  Today, we used a backchannel called Today’s Meet. Today’s Meet is a great for all students. It is also a way for older students to ask questions during instruction or share thoughts and extend the conversation in a blended environment. A first grade teacher in my school uses it to activate prior knowledge with her students. Her question posted on Today’s Meet was “What do you know about bats?” Her students all responded with bat facts. Our first time using Today’s Meet this school year involved answering a yes-no question. We are working on a Monsters unit this week.

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Today’s Meet produces a QR code for your students to scan to join the class discussion. Students simply type their name to join the conversation and then type their answer to the question. Their responses show up in real time and the students enjoyed looking at the other answers.

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Class discussions often result in some students either not answering, or not having a chance to answer due to lack of time and large class sizes. The backchannel gives everyone a chance to have their voice heard. Sometimes, it isn’t appropriate to interrupt a speaker. The backchannel allows a student to share conversation or questions without the bother of an interruption.

We will build on this activity and eventually move beyond yes-no questions as students become better writers. As the lead learners in the classroom, it is our responsibility to see that each student is given the power of their own voice.

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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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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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