Kids Teaching Kids with Book Creator

collageKnowledge exists to be imparted.-Ralph Waldo Emerson

For a short time, I considered that it was highly possible I had lost my mind.  I was going to teach my kids how to use Book Creator on a Friday. Not only that, they were going to teach another kindergarten class how to use it later in the day.  Simmer down…my sanity is still intact.  I worried needlessly.  My iPad proficient five year olds created a 4 page book on Penguins in less than an hour.  They illustrated their pictures in Doodle Buddy, saved them to the camera roll, imported them into Book Creator, typed their text and exported the book to their iBooks app in the morning.  I demonstrated how to do this on the SmartBoard prior to their starting on their own.

In the afternoon, we hosted another kindergarten class to come learn from us.  At one penguin bookspoint, there were 50 kids in my classroom.  They were in groups of 2 or 4, working together.  By the end of our session, the other class had at least the book cover completed and some had their first page finished.  My children loved, loved, loved teaching them.  The engagement was instant.  Their conversations were instructive, relevant, and meaningful.  There were conversations about word choice and details in illustrations.  We even discussed getting back together and sharing our finished books with each other.

My students, in the end, wanted to know if they could show another class how to create their own books.  What a great way for all of my students to have an opportunity to be a leader.  Even the quiet and reserved students, who may otherwise be reluctant to share in front of the group, took a leadership role in the small groups.  While the finished products are going to look great, the process in getting there was priceless.  Not to be forgotten, the science facts they acquired as they wrote about penguins, their life cycle, and their habitats.  Combine that with the literacy aspect and the cooperative learning on the iPads, and I’d say today was a complete success.

Here is a screen shot of one of the book covers:

book cover

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Building Reading Stamina with the iPad

Believe me, my children have more stamina than a power station.-Robbie Coltrane

Building stamina in young readers is definitely a challenge.  Their attention spans are short and their energy level is high.  It is important to know children well enough to link each of them to the texts that will sustain their interest, and won’t be so challenging they get discouraged.  Every good English language arts teacher knows that immersing students in reading is far more important than teaching test-taking strategies. Many are also familiar with some of the techniques for helping their students monitor their reading throughout a reading task. Some use specific lessons and strategies for helping students maintain focus and gain stamina as they read, but finding the best lessons and other resources for teaching such skills is often time-consuming and difficult, requiring more hours than teachers have for seeking out new material.

Using iPads has helped increase my students’ stamina even during the short 57 days we’ve been in school.  As students build confidence in reading short, leveled texts, they are more likely to venture into more difficult texts.  I use LAZ leveled reader apps and my own texts that I’ve created in iBooks Author to supplement the reading materials in class.  As students have a few minutes of free time, or they are in the book center, they have high interest texts to choose from on their iPads.  Having these books at their fingertips makes it easy for anytime reading.  Re-reading familiar texts also increases their fluency.

Another way to use iPads in building stamina is to celebrate progress. Without getting too caught up on the number of minutes spent reading, celebrate the time that is spent reading. Share your favorite parts of books read by reading out loud with a partner on the iPad.  Illustrate your favorite parts in the Pages app and share with your writing group.

Spending longer periods of time reading means fewer interruptions and more time reading what you love. iPads provide resources beyond your regular classroom materials to facilitate this.  As your students move into higher grades, having reading stamina will help them navigate the longer texts and assignments.

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Giving Students Choices in Reading

Readers without power to make their own choice are unmotivated. -Donalyn Miller-The Book Whisperer

I’ve stated before that I’m a voracious reader.  I have always loved books and the ability to be transformed by a story.  I particularly love Southern writers.  I’ve never quite understood how others aren’t “readers”. They read only when required and almost never for pleasure.  In order to create readers, we have to identify ourselves as a reader first.  We must “brand” ourselves as readers.  When I read to my class, I share what I like about that particular author. I tell about other books like that book.  I make connections with myself to the text, to others, and to the world.  My students know how much I love to read.

But what about those who struggle? Or those who don’t like it?  Getting to the root helps determine which way to help the child grow.  What don’t they like?  Are there books available that interest them?  How many informational texts are available on their reading level?  I can tell you that as much as I love reading, I would not be as enthusiastic if I were forced to sit and read instructional manuals all day, or books on mechanical things. Those are not my interest.  Taking an interest inventory helps know how to fill your book center or your iBooks shelf on your iPad.  Building an early foundation of excitement about books, whether paperback, hardback, or electronic, helps build an appreciation and love for books.

My students have a variety of genres available throughout the day.  We work to build enthusiasm for our classroom library and for our eBooks on our iPads.  By demonstrating authentic reading behaviors, doing away with worksheets, engaging kids in building stamina when they read, and giving kids choices about what they read, we can develop life-long readers.

Reading is so much more than phonics, sight words, and mechanics.  It is about building discovery, wonder, and awe around the written word.  It is power.  It is peace.

So what should students learn from us about reading?  That drill and practice worksheets aren’t making them better readers.  Reading makes them better readers.  iPads give me the opportunity to practice the mechanics of reading with individual students on their own level, but they also give them a choice of what they are reading.  There are leveled books in their iBooks libraries.  There are high interest books as part of their apps, plus all of the traditional books in our classroom.  The best part of all is that the choice is theirs!

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