Creativity and Inspiration with iPads in Kindergarten

A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.-Brad Henry

I would love to say today’s post is about an awesome lesson I taught, or an amazing activity I had my kids do. The most credit I can claim is allowing voice and choice in the classroom and giving my students time and opportunities to create.

Today, during their free time, two girls were playing school. They were pretending to teach each other. One was teaching math, the other, phonics. I was working with some small groups of children and did not see the “work” they had given each other to do until later. The one teaching phonics, had her “student” use the Feltboard app and Pic Collage to create this:

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The phonics teacher had the student create the C page in Feltboard app, save to the camera roll, import into Pic Collage and label the items. The one playing the math teacher had her “student” create this:

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She had her student use Feltboard app to demonstrate how many ways she could make 10. Hmm…why didn’t I think of that?

Our students love learning. They love creating their own learning and they love teaching each other. The truth is, they come up with some pretty amazing things on their own when we give them the opportunity. When we schedule every minute of their day, there is no room for creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, making, doing, or being. Giving our students time to think, collaborate, and create allows them room to grow and room to be.

Another child chose to spend her free time writing today. Here is what she wrote:

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Do you set your classroom and students up for success? Do you open up parts of their day to create, to have voice and choice in what they do and how they do it? Do you enable and environment of curiosity rather than compliance? When we do these things, richness flows as even the youngest of students demonstrate they are quite capable of doing some pretty amazing things.

Are you the great teacher that inspires hope, ignites hope and instills a love for learning?

Today we will do great things. Let’s get started!

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The Choice is Yours!

Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand. -Chinese Proverb

Would you want to work in a place that gave you no voice? Would you want to teach in a school that allowed you no autonomy in how you teach? What if your every day was prescribed as to what you would do, what you would say and how you would say it…

medium_2699584043As professionals, we become offended when the “higher ups” in education make decisions that affect us without including us in the decision making.  Even professional development is terribly ineffective when we just “sit and get” without any input.  Would an artist paint very often or very well if the subject of the painting was always assigned? Of course not. So why are we so reluctant to give our students choice in how they learn?

Choice.  It’s meaning is clear: an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities. Choice.  It’s not just for adults.  Alfie Kohn writes a good article here about choices for children in learning.

To be clear, there is a difference between choice and free reign.  Without some control and teacher facilitation, it can be pure anarchy. Setting up the learning environment to allow for student choice is critical.  You would never open a closet to a 3 year old and ask them what they want to wear.  You would ask, “Do you want to wear this or this?”  In my room, we begin with simple choices and through a gradual release of responsibility, students eventually have multiple choices all throughout the day.

Last week we were working on the pumpkin life cycle.  By Friday, everyone was ready to show me what they had learned.  They were given 2 choices.  They could show me in Pic Collage or in Explain Everything.  Later, they will have other choices, but for now, 2 is all they need.

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Instructions were on the Smartboard and everyone was hard at work!

photoThis is one of the examples from Pic Collage.

This is one of the examples from Explain Everything.

When given choices, students engage and take ownership.  By learning how to make choices and make decisions at a young age, they are better equipped at these skills as they get older.  When children learn to think for themselves, they are also less likely to be easily led by others whose choices may not be as desirable.

We want our students to love the content…to love learning.  By giving choices we lessen the chance of burnout (for both students and teachers), and we increase the chances of engaged, independent thinkers.  None of us like to be told, “You have no choice in the matter.” Instead, let’s work toward, “The choice is yours!”

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

One Way Sign Photo Credit:  Creative Commons

 

It’s Personal!

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…Dr. Seuss

Who doesn’t love some Dr. Seuss? I believe his book Oh! The Places You’ll Go! could almost be a manifesto for Personalized Learning!

IMG_2012In my last postI mentioned that I was building that Personalized Learning plane while I fly it.  I have been working on setting up data notebooks for my students and thinking a lot about how to approach it.  Each child is different and unique, therefore personalized practice is necessary for personalized learning.  Student ownership and use of their data is essential to maximize learning. With student-maintained data folders for academic and behavioral goal setting, we can have a shared monitoring of progress through conferencing. Since data drives my instruction, there will be ongoing personalization of instruction to help meet student goals.  For each skill, students will determine their goal and will maintain their goal sheets after each assessment.  These folders will be accessible to students all the time so they will always have access to their progress. The folders will originally contain the usual assessments we give in the beginning of kindergarten…letter identification, naming letter sounds, beginning sight words, number recognition, rote counting, and shapes.  As students master these early skills, we will move on to the next set of skills.  Each one moves on as he/she is ready.

I was already doing this the last few years with high frequency words.  As students demonstrated mastery of one list, we added to the list.  We continued to add words as their abilities increased.  The last 3 years, all of my students completed 100 kindergarten sight words.  Most finished first and second grade sight words and even a few more finished third grade words.  I stopped at 3rd grade because comprehension begins to break down at that point.

But wait…I teach kindergarten.  How in the world will these young children be able to handle keeping track of data folders?  It is all in the way you organize your environment for learning and the expectations you set.  By working with each student, they will learn to take ownership in their learning.  By shared monitoring, they will learn how to make adjustments in their goals and articulate what they are learning.  You see, the key concept here is that they will learn.  As my students learn to create content with their iPads and create digital portfolios of their workflow, they will grow in their ability to discuss concepts and ideas. 

Part of my job as the lead learner in the classroom is to teach them how to be a stakeholder in their learning process.  And yes…even 5 year olds can handle it! After all, “Things may happen and often do to people as brainy and footsy as you!”

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