With the advent of RTI and Common Core State Standards, I have experienced a growing sense of urgency in my teaching. My goal is to teach my first graders to be independent, creative, deep thinkers. I want to guide them as they set goals and help them track progress towards their goals.
In the past, an absent student would miss out on that day’s learning. Access to technology has changed this completely. An absent student can immediately continue along their learning path upon their return to school. On the flip side, a motivated student can complete lessons at their own pace in the elementary classroom.
I have always struggled to fit handwriting practice into the school day. Teaching students to analyze texts, infer, predict, and provide evidence for their thinking has been a priority for me. I strive to teach my students strategies to comprehend math and explain their thinking. I always thought, “Where does handwriting fit in to all of this?” We would be “fitting in” handwriting instruction right down to the last few weeks of school!
QR codes and the app “Show Me” gave me the platform to create videos illustrating correct handwriting formation. Students then were instructed to set a goal (completing at least 1 page per day), and then were given sheets where they could track progress towards their goals. Since the winter olympics were just starting, becoming an “olympic hand writer” was our theme.
The results were awesome! Students shifted their thinking from just trying to complete the page to trying to do it well. Many students chose to complete more than one page a day and they used any free time to complete the work. They are no longer dependent upon me to teach the whole group lesson. The learning is student driven and at their own pace.
Much of what I do is on my iPad. My husband (and our school custodian) call me obsessed. Call it whatever you like. My iPad is a tool that just makes sense to me and the opportunities it provides for me to organize, share, and evaluate student work are endless throughout the day. When I learned that our new math program (McGraw-Hill’s My Math) has a mobile app, you could say I was intrigued. I jumped in, and with my students’ help, we were able to figure it out and integrate it into our math workshop. Students have the choice to complete their daily assignments using the traditional paper math journals, or they can do everything digitally right on the iPad. Once you learn the apps ins and outs, it works out pretty well.
The “My Math” program has many digital tools to support teaching and learning (found at http://connected.mcgraw-hill.com). The iPad app is a mirror of what you (or your students) see when logged in. The coolest thing is how you can check each child’s work. They no longer have to come up to you, stand in line, and wait for you to look over their answers. You have the capability to check each and every child’s work without ever having them come to you. The “student review” function allows you to select each child’s account and evaluate their work while they are working. You can catch inaccuracies before they are practiced and ingrained. Pretty cool, huh?
You see the “student review” button on the mobile app as well. I have used it and have been able to see what my students are doing. However, you don’t have the capability of writing on student pages and giving corrective feedback. You do have the ability, however, when you log in to connected.mcgraw-hill.com and click on the student journal. Students will be able to see whatever you write.
I have attached the handout that I prepared to share with staff members at my school. You might find the handout handy if you also use McGraw-Hill’s ConnectEd “My Math” program. Enjoy!