I love Debbie Miller. I love the “Two Sisters.” I love Regie Routman. I love Ellin Oliver Keene. Now I am really sounding like I spend a lot of time in first grade surrounded by 6 and 7 year olds! The reality is, I do love what these reading gurus stand for. I love teaching my students to take a book from their book box and move beyond “word reading.” Regardless of reading level, I love to teach young children to dig deeper into their reading. The connections, the questions, the predictions, the inferences that result are exciting. At times, they bring tears of joy to my eyes!
What do you do, however, when you spend time introducing comprehension strategies in a systematic manner and students still “don’t get it?” I have never subscribed to the thought process of “Well, I taught it. It’s not my fault they didn’t get it.” I feel like if they didn’t get it, then I didn’t really teach it. (Not well anyways.) That’s when I go back to the drawing board. I try to come at it in a different way.
I have been excited this year about QR codes. I love using the app “Show Me” on the iPad to create a video that captures my thinking about something. I have been using “Show Me” to model different comprehension strategies. My students scan the QR code during their independent work on writing time and then practice the strategy on their own.
The QR code doesn’t take the place of my direct teaching, however. They are meant to reinforce the correct way to do something. Students can watch the QR codes as many times as they need to get it right.
It has been fun. It has also saved me some time. I don’t feel so much like a broken record this year.
Students have more choices than ever. My cabinet is overflowing with teacher made games, games I bought from catalogues, and games that have been given to me. We have computer and web-based games. Add iPads and a plethora of apps into the equation and the result could be confusion for students.
We do reader’s workshop in my classroom. As a result, I try to “guide” students as they make choices. My goal is for them to reflect upon themselves as a reader and choose the literacy activities that will help them achieve their goals. We track progress together and we also celebrate when goals are mastered.
I found, however, after integrating iPads into my literacy block for word work, students began to lose sight of their goals. The range of abilities is vast in my room and so I purposefully chose apps that will meet the needs of all students. There are apps for sight word practice, apps for vocabulary, and apps for grammar. Some apps are meant to reinforce the foundational skills beginning readers need while others are meant to broaden a fluent reader’s vocabulary. I do not want each student using the same apps. They are meant to promote growth. (Not to keep students busy.)
As a result, I took time to develop a word work planning sheet. The sheet has the various research based word work/spelling activities that students need to grow as readers. Students use the sheet over the course of a week and cross out an activity as it is completed. Most students will make appropriate choices. Others, however, need a little more guidance and so we discuss the plan together and highlight an appropriate choice for that day.
You might be wondering what impact the plan sheet had on my class. I am very pleased. Students make deliberate choices during our literacy block and enjoy purposeful learning as a result.
Reflection time…that’s what today offers me. The last month has been bursting with new iPad applications and my students have been loving it. I have been loving it. Our first snow day was the first week of December and I couldn’t help but feel let down. After the roads were plowed and school was back in session, I was greeting my students in the hallway at 8:15 a.m. “Mrs. Rengo,” one little boy said. “There was no school yesterday.” “I know,” I replied. “It was a snow day.” The boy went on to say, “I was so disappointed.” I could relate and that is when I knew that technology not only increases student engagement but teacher engagement as well.
What has been happening in my classroom to keep me so engaged? The answer is simple. AR (Augmented Reality). I had the privilege of attending an iDesign workshop by Naomi Harm. As usual, she delivered a rich presentation. (A link to her blog is found in my blog roll.)
As a first grade teacher, I am accustomed to teaching a skill to a group of 6 and 7 year olds and having some of them “get it” the first time and some not. (Some need even a second, third, or fourth exposure). Aurasma is the perfect remedy for this. I learned that I could transform my word wall and math vocab wall and make it interactive. My students could record videos of science experiments, word work lessons (anything really) and watch them again later.
Once you understand the process, Aurasma is simple to use. It involves capturing a short video, pairing it with a “trigger image,” and then publishing it to a channel to later view on demand. I began by making my own Aurasmas and then moved on to teaching my students how to make their own because I just couldn’t keep up with the demand. Teaching my students how to make their own was one of the best things I have ever done (instantaneous ownership).
Another favorite app of mine is Layar. Layar allows me to take posters that I create using the app Pic Collage and move beyond 2-D. I can add links to YouTube videos and pictures to reinforce a concept.
What was the first thing I made with Layar? Several years ago I made a poster to teach different letter sounds to help students understand bossy e, double vowels, etc. in reading. It was a hodgepodge of hand drawings and clip art but I was pretty proud of it. I thought “What a great way to teach sounds in reading.” That was then and this is now. Now, my students take the amped up version of my sounds poster and use Layar to view different YouTube videos that show reinforce the spelling rules though song. How engaging!
The bottom line is that I now have the tools to help my students practice important skills independently (making the best use of their time AND mine. Yeah!)
(Pictured below: A sound chart and reading strategy poster that I created using Pic Collage on the iPad. I then used Layar to add various videos to illustrate important concepts.)
I am a learner. I am always striving to see what is new in education. As my school is going 1:1 with iPads, I am especially driven to see how technology can enhance the learning experiences of my students. I know that children are more engaged when they use technology and so it just makes sense for me to look for ways to use it more.
As I began this school year, I remembered what my former principal, Katie Coppenbarger, taught me when we began implementing iPads in our elementary school. The goal, she explained, is to find ways that you can use tech to do things that you normally couldn’t do. Instead of merely replacing an activity, (ex. doing the same thing but just on the iPad), we should be looking at things from a different angle and providing opportunities for students to do new and awesome things.
The technology should also enhance the lesson, rather than hinder it, and we should start simple. Making things too complicated from the start will cause confusion and inhibit independence. (You also won’t want to stick with it and are more likely to abandon your attempts.)
In math, the new Common Core State Standards require students to communicate how they solve problems rather than just arrive at the right answer. Our new math program gives students ample opportunities to explain their thinking in writing and tell what strategies they used. This is our first year doing the program and so I know that my first graders aren’t accustomed to doing this. Rather than handing the class their math journals and saying “Here you go. Explain how you solved that.” I am using the app “Screen Chomp” and am modeling how to communicate mathematically.
Steve Dunn, a former teacher, principal, and current literacy educational consultant, once taught me that something needs to be in a child’s oral language before it can be used in their written language. “Screen Chomp” is great because it allows you to draw and record your voice at the same time. You can play it back and listen to what was captured and it works really well for students to be able to explain their thinking. I modeled the process several times and then began to release the responsibility to students in the class. (They love to be the one who gets to record their thinking and share it with the class.) Now, after some time, students are writing their thinking in their math journals. They have a better understanding of how to explain the processes they used.
The first time I asked my students to explain what it meant to add, I was greeted with the response “14.” Rather than throw my hands up in the air in exasperation, I tried to think of how I could use technology to help my students be more successful. It is a process that I work at each day. The results are exciting!
I am a big fan of using Nearpod to create interactive presentations to use with my students and colleagues. You can transform a PowerPoint into something spectacular and grab everyone’s attention by adding some interactive qualities such as polls, quizzes, videos, weblinks, and even a “Draw It” which allows individuals to respond, by writing or drawing a picture, to a prompt that you give. This is perfect for students of any age because it requires them to apply what you are trying to teach them. If you have an upgraded version, you can even view saved reports to analyze individual student answers to questions.
People have approached me and asked if I had anything that would help them learn to create their own. I created a step-by-step guide (complete with pictures) to help alleviate any confusion. After a little bit of practice, I know that you too will be making your own Nearpod presentations to dazzle your students or colleagues. Enjoy!
Are you interested in learning about how you can transform your iPad into a record keeping tool? Would you like to use it to conduct and organize running records? Perhaps you’d like to use a PDF annotation app with your students and have them complete graphic organizers and write directly on the iPad without the need of making paper copies. Whatever your purpose is, the process is the same. With the use of the apps “Dropbox” and “PDF Notes” you can store information at your fingertips while saving paper.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to work with a group of enthusiastic Kindergarten teachers in my district that were interested in uploading the Fountas and Pinnell benchmark assessment forms onto their iPads so that they could record student running record data. Together we went through the whole process, and to help I created the following step-by-step guide. I know from my own experience that the questions come after when I am working on something in my own at home. Hopefully you will find the guide helpful as well.
Whether you are uploading graphic organizers or running record forms, the process is the same. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!
In an earlier post, I described how my students were using the “Puppet Pals” app to create animated retellings of stories that we are reading in class. For those of you interested in giving it a try yourself, I have found the following things to be extremely helpful in the process.
1. Teach students to plan out their thoughts before jumping in and creating digital retellings. To do this, I use the format described in Debbie Miller’s book “Reading with Meaning” as well as in “The CAFE Book” by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. I model the process a few times first, and then release the students to try it with a partner. The following template has proven to be helpful as students organize their ideas. retelling template
2. Be o.k. with the fact that your students’ initial attempts may not be perfect. As with anything we teach, students need modeling and guided practice to become proficient. Start early in the year and take time to revisit the concept (perhaps weekly).
3. Make time for sharing. Our students sometimes learn from their peers better than they do from us. We model, talk, and try to shape student learning. One student will pick it up and then another. Sometimes it is what a child says during share time that “clicks” with another child and “Viola!” they too get it now.
I have begun posting some retellings on our classroom website to keep parents connected to what we are learning. Once I figured it out, the process was fairly simple. For those of my colleagues that are interested, here are the steps below (They may vary a bit for you depending upon your school website):
1. Connect your iPad to your computer
2. Open up the app and click on “saved shows.”
3. Choose “export” and you will get an “Export in Progress” message.
4. Your video will be copied to your camera roll.
5. Log in to your website (or blog).
6. Click on “subsites” to edit your page and add your video(s).
7. I created a page called “Showcases of Technology” to save the videos to. The page “type” is a “document library.”
8. Click on “create new” and choose the file that you want to upload. (I first had to transfer the file from my iPad camera roll to my computer.)
9. Click “save” to prevent your hard work from being lost!