Increasing Rigor with iPads

It is no longer OK to provide the vast majority of America’s children with a fill-in-the-blank, answer-the-questions, read-the-paragraph curriculum that equips them to take their place on the assembly line.-Lucy Calkins, Pathways to the Common Core

ipad and booksI was recently asked to observe in a 4th grade classroom at my school.  She was implementing some new literacy strategies and wanted some feedback.  It was affirming to see the rigor and engagement of her students. It was also a good reminder of the vertical articulation that needs to occur between grade levels.  As a kindergarten teacher, I seldom get to see my students in action after they leave my classroom.

Our literacy activities involve small group work.  In my class, students read and write for a variety of purposes on their level.  These activities include reading on the iPad as well as word work in various apps and some writing on the iPad.  In the class I observed, students were using iPads to research information for a news article.  They were seeking credible sources and the author of the article.  They were jotting down important facts and comparing information.  Later in the school year, my kindergarten students will be using iPads to research information on various topics.  They will be finding facts to incorporate into their writing. I am building up to that now with iPad activities of increasing complexity with my students.

As we work diligently in our own classroom worlds to prepare our students to move up, it is important to keep a broader view.  We lay a foundation in each grade level that is built upon by the next.  It was good for me to step out of my kindergarten world into the world of “big kids”.  What I do each day is important and relevant.  I think we all need a reminder of that from time to time.

Our students face a different world of challenges than we did.  They will approach problem solving differently.  The implementation of the Common Core State Standards emphasize much higher-level comprehension skills than previous standards.  Readers of today are asked to integrate information from several texts, to explain the relationships between ideas and author’s craft.  Previous literacy efforts defined literacy in terms of basal reading programs with emphasis on seatwork.  The Common Core standards convey that “intellectual growth occurs through time, across years, and across disciplines.” While iPads alone can’t meet these standards, having a powerful, technological tool combined with strong teaching, we can meet and exceed these standards.

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Action Words Anchor Chart

Action expresses priorities. -Mahatma Gandhi

Action is something that is never lacking in a kindergarten classroom.  Something or someone is always in motion. In other action news, my students are very interested in action figures.  There was a fairly intense discussion going on at one point about who was more powerful-Spiderman or the Dark Knight. Of course, everyone had an opinion and several offered other action figures that were more awesome than the original 2 being discussed.  How does this impromptu conversation fit into the Common Core Standards?

By taking action, we can turn a random classroom discussion into a learning opportunity.  One of the kindergarten Common Core Standards is that students will participate in collaborative conversations about kindergarten topics with peers and adults. We turned their interest in that topic into an anchor chart.  Afterwards, they used their Whiteboard App to illustrate an action they could perform.  This activity involved using our sight words to construct a basic sentence and an illustration.

The following day I was reading an Eric Carle book, “Rooster’s Off to See the World” as a part of our Eric Carle author study.  As I was reading, without prompting, the children began calling out action words they heard in the story. Our discussion from the day before had carried over into a new activity.  Higher order thinking skills?  You bet.

By being alert to everyday situations, we can take action and turn them into meaningful learning activities.

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