Creation for Early Learners Using the iPad

One of the greatest misperceptions about our youngest learners and meaningful technology use, is they “are too young” to be able to do that. Since the beginning of this blog, I’ve had hundreds of visitors in my kindergarten classroom to see my “littles” in action creating and demonstrating learning with an iPad. I would present and share their work to a variety of  educators, who would often respond, “My kids can’t do that”. My nearly 30 years as an early childhood educator have proven to me that isn’t the case. Our youngest learners are alive with imagination and creativity. I’ve watched them turn a stick found on the playground into a magic wand granting fairy wishes or into a rocket ship blasting off into space. I’ve watched them play football with absolutely nothing but a pretend ball and 4 boys who were sure they were the ones who caught it. I’ve seen paintings described by the young artist in minute detail that would stump the most astute Rorschach interpreter. Yes,  my friends, our young children can create. But, how often are we allowing them to explore this creativity? When do our students stop “pretending” or “imagining”?  When we prescribe worksheets or other standardized activities with rigid learning outcomes, we rob our students of the ability to create their own learning. When we get “busy” with teaching standards and ensuring compliance, we can stifle imaginations and communicate the not-so-subtle message of my way or the highway. This also creates a crippling effect in our students of needing affirmation every step of the way for fear of doing something wrong. (Is this right? Is THIS right? What do I do next?)

Recently, I was given the very great honor by Apple to provide appropriate learning activities for young learners in the areas of drawing, photography, video,  and music. I worked with another good friend and Apple Distinguished Educator from Canada, Gillian Madeley, to create project ideas, as well as cross-curricular activities in these same areas. The project was recently published as Everyone Can Create Teacher Guide for Early Learners. You can download the book free here.

This guide is a companion to the Everyone Can Create series also found in the iBook Store for grades 4 and up. Here is a screen shot from the Early Learner’s Teacher Guide:

The guide provides easy to follow lessons for teachers of young children to engage them in the creative process. Each section builds to a culminating project. There are also ideas for cross-curricular ideas in each medium. You don’t have to be an art teacher, media teacher or music teacher to incorporate these ideas. You just have to be willing to try some new things and give your students an opportunity to explore their creativity,

Take a look and let me know what you think. I would love your feedback!

Kristi

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Revive Your Creativity

When I was in elementary school, I played outside almost every day with my next door neighbor. We created elaborate play schemes, including an outdoor “kitchen”, complete with mud pies. We also had fun reenacting one of our favorite books, Harriet the Spy. It was always an adventure and we had no trouble at all tapping into our imaginations. We played outside until dark, when our mothers called us inside. Then….somewhere, in the pre-teen angst of middle school, it all stopped. I moved away, and being cool with my peers was of far greater importance than playing. Self-consciousness ruled the day and “let’s pretend” was no longer ok.

As a veteran kindergarten teacher, I have always loved how quickly my students slip into “let’s pretend”.  I loved their conversations in the housekeeping center (also quite revealing into their home lives), I loved watching them create elaborate structures with blocks or legos and hearing their rich conversations as they did so. It also saddens me how too often in education, we “teach” away their creativity. We push for conformity rather than creativity. We silence the multiple voices and ideas, seeking only the “correct” one.

But, what if we didn’t? What if, instead, we dug deep into our own memories of play, let’s pretend, and creation and experienced those feelings again? What if, we let our feelings of self-consciousness go? What if we grabbed a box of crayons and colored again…or drew our own pictures? What if we silenced the voices that say, “I can’t draw, sing, play a musical instrument, etc…” What if we did it anyway? We tell our students to say “I will try” instead of “I can’t”. Why aren’t we doing the same?

In my last post, I talked about encouraging young children to create. The truth is, they need very little encouragement. They simply need the opportunities.  This post is aimed at YOU…yes, you. When was the last time you created something? I know, I know…you don’t have time. Who does? Do it anyway. You can even create something your students can use so that you kill two birds, so to speak.  I shared the four student-creation books in my last post. In this post, I am sharing a free, multi-touch book I created in iBooks Author. It’s an emergent reader, called Spinning Spiders, in the iBook Store. It also has some teacher resources at the end of the book in case you want to create your own. (See what I did there???)

I’ve written other posts about creating “Just Right Books” for your students. You can see them here, here, and here.  Creating books for your students engages them as readers and allows you to meet them right where they are.

So, as you are gearing up for a new school year, remember, everyone can create-even YOU!

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.

 


 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 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.

Share your story…do epic stuff!

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.

Building Vocabulary with iPads

One forgets words as one forgets names. One’s vocabulary needs constant fertilizing or it will die.-Evelyn Waugh

In working with young children all day, I find that my vocabulary sometimes is lacking when having adult conversation.  I’ve caught myself saying “Put on your listening ears” in regular conversation. My “cool factor” is definitely a big zero at times.  Interacting with 5 year olds most of every day definitely requires me to work at maintaining my end in an adult conversation.  I work crossword puzzles, play the ubiquitous Words With Friends, and I read.  If don’t work on it, then “criss-cross applesauce” is likely to spring forth the next time I sit with a friend for some coffee.

FullSizeRender 2Our students are no different.  Vocabulary development is an on-going skill that needs practice.  Young children are building vocabularies each day.  Misconceptions are prevalent.  As a child, I thought a “chest of drawers” was “chester drawers”.  One former student called her “backpack” a “pack-pack”.  Listening to my students stretch and grow in their vocabulary development is interesting to say the least.  One child said he loved “arts and craps”.  Yes, friends, it is something we work on every day.

 

A recent activity with the book Snowmen at Night was particularly good for vocabulary work for my students.  First, we live in an area that has almost no snow in the winter.  Sledding, snowball fights, ice skating are all things my students read about, but don’t usually get to participate in.  After discussing the story, we thought of things a snowman could do at night.  We used the app ChatterPix to let our snowmen tell about themselves.  Here is a short one.

 

We also used the story during our Writing Workshop time to write about what a snowman might do at night.  Here is one sample:

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Vocabulary knowledge aids in activating and building background knowledge to make connections to text, and having vocabulary knowledge can increase reading comprehension and fluency while reading. Using word walls, mentor texts, non-fiction texts across all subjects, and especially creation apps on the iPad give students many opportunities to interact with new vocabulary.

We have used Pic Collage, Explain Everything and Drawing Pad in other vocabulary activities.  Consider using creation apps on the iPad to help develop student vocabulary.

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

 

 

5 Stars and Two Thumbs Up!

One is rated by others as he rates himself.-French Proverb

Ratings…an important part of our culture… They tell us what movie to see, which books to read, what car to buy, and what restaurants to eat in.  Making informed choices is part of being a responsible adult.  The more an item costs, the more likely we are to pay attention to reviews and ratings.

We had a lengthy discussion one day about the merits of some of our apps.  They liked this app because it did certain things or didn’t like that app because it didn’t do other things.  They expressed their ideas about what they would change or add to apps and we talked about how some apps are free and some are not.  I showed them a screen shot from the app store and they asked me about the stars and what they meant. We talked about how people gave the stars as ratings for how much they liked or didn’t like an app.  Then we looked at Amazon.com and looked at some children’s books they knew.  We saw they had stars also.  Of course, they wanted to channel their own Siskel and Ebert and rate their favorite apps.

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So there you have it.  Kids really do have their own opinions about what they like and don’t like.  They know why also.  Part of giving kids voice and choice is really giving them the “voice” part.  Learning how to articulate what they want, what they like, what they don’t want or like is an important skill.  We have had to work hard to move away from liking something simply because it’s “cool”.  In giving voice to a writing piece, they are also expanding vocabulary and ideas.  Writing for a variety of purposes is  an important skill.  There’s no time like the present to begin!

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

 

Digital Storytelling in Kindergarten

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. -Confucius

I’ve been trying to find ways to incorporate more photography in my classroom.  It is a recent passion of mine and I think there is a lot of value in incorporating pictures into student work and writing… not my pictures, but their own.  After all, young children have a unique perspective on the world.  Their pint sized view lets them see things from different angles than adults.

Their iPads have cameras and they love using them to photograph everything from a spider in the room to their left nostril.  We have used the iPad cameras to document their work and their learning. For a change, we used my Olloclip on my iPhone.  You can check out the Olloclip here and here.  I’ve been using it to take several macro shots of foliage, but the fisheye lens was very intriguing to my students when I showed it to them.  After a few days being cooped up inside with rain, we took to the outdoors to try out a few shots.  I put their pictures in Showbie and they downloaded them into their PaperDesk Pro app.  This is a great app for journaling.  Once their photos were downloaded into their notebook, they wrote about what they saw.  Here are a couple of samples:

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Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 12.53.03 PMThis takes a little while so we are doing a few each day until everyone gets a turn.  Because it was different from our usual writing workshop, the kids were excited to write about their picture.  They wanted to take more pictures and write about them.  Because we offer choice in our classroom, some children are taking screen shots of their creations in Blokify and are importing them into Paper Desk Pro and writing about them.

While some young writers struggle with traditional literacy, using digital storytelling engages students and encourages them to employ different kinds of literacies to complete their final product.  The PaperDesk Pro app allows you to add voice notes so students who have difficulty writing can dictate their story, or students who want to read what they have written may record themselves doing so.  Simply generating text can be daunting to a child.  Incorporating images, speech, or even music enables students to create in a way that they couldn’t otherwise.  The technology allows us to redefine the way we learn.

As we move into the final 45 days of school, I want my students stretching and exploring, learning and creating.  We will be app-smashing, building, photographing, experimenting, and continually redefining what it means to be literate in today’s digital world.

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

Using iPads to Supplement Reading

We shouldn’t teach great books; we should teach a love of reading. -B.F. Skinner
“Seriously!  Do I have to do ALL the work around here?” This is a quote from a child in my housekeeping center recently that made me laugh.  She was definitely channeling another adult in her life…but it is a sentiment I’m sure we have all thought, expressed, or hollered at some point in both our personal and professional lives.  Wouldn’t it be great if the great Work Fairy came down and waved her magic wand?  Wait…wouldn’t it be great if there WAS a great Work Fairy???
C0010258 StudyingAs educators, our  “In-Basket” tends to overflow with things we want to do, have to do, and need to do.  It is hard to find time to do it all.  With reading and literacy as a huge focus in early childhood classrooms, it can be difficult to meet the needs of each child.  We use the Fountas and Pinnell guided reading approach but I supplement with extension activities on our iPads.  This helps me reach all of the needs of my students.
My students are homogeneously grouped for reading.  These groups are small (4-6 students) and are flexible.  They change with the particular skill we are working on.  With my struggling children, we use games, manipulatives, flash cards and apps to immerse them in phonics skills.  Some of the apps I’ve been using that have been helpful are Starfall ABC’s, Starfall Learn to Read, Word Wizard and Montessori Crosswords.  These apps provide strong emphasis on phonics skills.
My middle group and top groups are working on sight words, blending sounds to read words, and integrating strategies to read unfamiliar words.  They are reading on Level A at this time.  I have several level A readers in my room, but I’ve created some to go on their iPads in Book Creator so they have them at their fingertips when they have a few minutes to read or when they go to the Reading Center.  Here is one using sight words
This is a PDF version since not all of my readers have Book Creator.  Some of the books I’ve made include me reading the text.  Students can touch the speaker icon on the page and hear me read the story to them.  The I Can See Book does not have that feature.
By using the iPads to supplement skills in reading, I’m able to work with students on various levels and let them move on when they are ready.  This actually reduces my work load considerably and frees me up to have conferences with individual students and work with individual students in a more meaningful way.  Work Fairy or not, less teacher work and more time with students is a beautiful thing!
Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!
photo credit: Creative Commons