Procedures and iPads

“It is greater work to educate a child, in the true and larger sense of the world, than to rule a state” -William Ellery Channing

Well, if this quote isn’t the very truth, I don’t know what is.  As we have exited our honeymoon phase in our class, the real work has begun.  We are making good progress in many areas, and needing to back up and start over in some others.  Veteran educators know these first 6 weeks are procedures, procedures, procedures.  The mistake is when you cut this time short thinking everyone has it.  And. They. Don’t.  Oops…

IMG_0005We worked really hard the first 10 days on our Code of Cooperation.  We still review it daily.  We have talked extensively about what the expectations look like.  My students used our White Board app on their iPads to illustrate some of the expectations. As they made their illustrations, they shared with their groups which expectation they chose and what their drawing represented.  It was gratifying to hear them incorporating the language we used in creating the code in their discussions.  Note all of the happy faces in their illustrations…wouldn’t it be awesome if we were always so smiley??

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Through our continued discussions on our code (and by continued, I mean my 15,624 references to it daily), we have discovered that we omitted some things.  In our morning meeting, someone said, “We left iPads off of our Code of Cooperation.”  We discussed what we should do about that and what we should add.  Many ideas were thrown out there, but my personal favorite was the one who suggested we add, “Do not pick your nose and then touch your iPad, because that is totally gross and disgusting.”  Can I get an amen, sister?  But of course, we went with the more politically correct, ” Use clean hands on your iPad.”  The others, while less exciting, were no less important:  carry with 2 hands and be gentle.

So, as we forge on through these first 6 weeks and instill routines and procedures, don’t cut them short, no matter how tempting.  It makes life a lot easier in the long run and allows your students to really take charge of their learning environment once all expectations are understood and owned by everyone.  We are adding iPads to our centers this week, which increases student voice and choice in their learning.  We will be adding some new procedures as we do this.  Remember, teaching IS rocket science.  It can be difficult, messy and exhausting…but with proper attention to procedures in the beginning, the rest of the year will be a real blast!

PS…If you care to check it out, I am featured on the Apple Education website!

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

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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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Exploring Science

Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Young children are curious about the world around them and eager to explore it. This curiosity is reflected in the numerous questions that children pose in everyday conversations at home and in school. However, at the beginning of school, young children are afforded few opportunities to engage systematically and thoughtfully in learning science. On average, less than 10% of instructional time is spent on teaching science in the early grades.  Time is a precious commodity in the classroom…so how do we fit it all in?

One of the ways we incorporate science is through our thematic units.  We also explore science themes through informational texts.  One of my reading groups was reading a leveled book on weather.  The informational text was written on this group’s reading level.  After reading the book and discussing different kinds of weather, we used our iPads as both a reading response/science journal.  Using our Whiteboard App, the children wrote about weather.  Kaylee wrote about a sunny day.  This was their first experience using the iPad keyboard.  They were excited about creating this assignment on their iPads.  There was a lot of good discussion among the children about which type of weather they would choose and how they would represent that on the iPad. One of the best ways to incorporate scientific skills in young children is to help them verbalize what they have observed.  Doing this activity in the small guided reading group made it very manageable.  The children already knew how to use Whiteboard in its basic form, how to change their colors, draw, erase, and save…but had not used the keyboard function before.  We had to discuss a few keyboard basics-space bar, backspace to erase, and how to hide the keyboard when finished.

Carl Sagan, the famous astronomer and writer, said that all children start out as scientists, full of curiosity and questions about the world around them.  We can tap into that natural potential by engaging students in hands-on activities, and in class discussions that help students discover simple but amazing facts about the world around them. The iPads serve as a tool to facilitate and extend the learning.

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In the Dark: What Happens When You Lose Electricity?

Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out. -John Wooden

And then there was darkness…a recent school-wide power outage left us without the use of my laptop, the Smart Board, overhead lights, air-conditioning…all of the things we take for granted every day and that are absolute necessities in my book.   An announcement was made that it was uncertain how long we would actually be without power.  Hmmm…what do we do, now that we can’t see to move around our classroom, and can’t use our Smart Board? Our technology-dependent classroom came to a screeching halt.  As I am using my iPhone flashlight app to move around without stepping on someone, it occurs to me that all is not lost.  We may not be able to see to read or write in the traditional ways,  but we do have iPads.  Our wonderful back-lit devices allows us to carry on even in darkness.  We can read, write, spell, add, subtract, complete patterns, count, draw, sing, do yoga, learn a foreign language,  ok…you get the idea.  We all sat on the rug and played a favorite spelling game.  Using our White Board app, I called out words and they wrote the words on their iPads.  They held them up to reveal their answers. The glow of the back-lit screens even contributed to the ambiance in the room.  Everyone lowered their voices and it was almost like we were in a really nice restaurant.  Almost.

We played our spelling game and before we knew it, the power was back on.  That 20 minute outage could’ve seemed like an eternity but we “powered” through with iPads.  The kids were disappointed when the lights came back on.

The Multi-touch White Board app by Shifting Mind is a very versatile one.  We use it for multiple purposes and in all subject areas. You have the ability to have up to 9 white boards in use at once.  It is also possible to type in text rather than write or draw.  It uploads nicely into the Pages app and eBook Magic.

We made the best of things on that day. The kids thought it was an adventure and even ask if we can turn off the lights in the classroom whenever we do whole group iPad activities on the carpet.  It seems to keep them quiet so I’m all for it!

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