Tag Archives: iPads

What do QR Codes have to do with Reading Comprehension?

work on writing
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.


Helping Students Manage Choices During Our Literacy Block

word work plan
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 and Engagement

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.)



Communicating Mathematically

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!

Picture: A screen capture of a student’s work as they explain what it means to add.

Take Your Presentations to the Next Level with Nearpod!

image credit: itunes.apple.com
image credit: itunes.apple.com

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!

Creating a Nearpod Presentation How-To Task Analysis

Going Paperless?


A Great PDF Annotation App
A Great PDF Annotation App


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!

Setting up your iPad to conduct and organize running records

Tips for Making Successful Retellings

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.

Saved Shows Screen Capture
Saved Shows Screen Capture

4.  Your video will be copied to your camera roll.

5.  Log in to your website (or blog).

GSD website page upon log in
GSD website page upon log in

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.)

website screen capture

9. Click “save” to prevent your hard work from being lost!

Achieving Common Core Standards Through Technology

Have you ever had a student who was a very accurate reader but struggled to remember the key details in a story? I know we all have. We know that real reading is more than word solving. It is understanding, relating to, and responding to a story. It is reacting to what the author is saying, and as one of my first graders so aptly described this year, real reading is “when you melt into the book.” My hope is that all of my students experience what it feels like to melt into a book!

According to the Common Core standards for reading, first graders should “retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson (1.RL.2).” An engaging tool to facilitate this is the app “Puppet Pals HD Director’s Pass” for the iPad. I love the app because it allows students to create their own animated retellings of stories they are reading during independent reading time. Opting for director’s pass version gives my students access to a large variety of pre-designed characters and settings. It also allows you to crate your own characters and settings with your iPad’s camera. Students can even insert themselves into the story if they would like!

As a teacher, using this with my class enables me to differentiate my instruction and meet the diverse academic needs that students have. Students who have difficulty communicating their ideas effectively in writing benefit from the oral nature of the task. Retellings are also easily saved to be reviewed later and to document student growth. The whole process is engaging as well.

If you are interested in trying an exciting way to meet the Common Core Reading standards, give this a try! I think your students, and parents, will thank you!

image credit: itunes.apple.com

Have You “Chirped” Today?

Here is an example of the picture that students shared out today.  The Math Stretch was entitled "What's next?" and students had to determine the unstated rule and then fill in the missing numbers.
Here is an example of the picture that students shared out today. The Math Stretch was entitled “What’s next?” and students had to determine the unstated rule and then fill in the missing numbers.

I had an amazing time attending this year’s School Leaders Advancing Technology in Education (SLATE) Conference in the Wisconsin Dells.  When otherwise do you have the opportunity to see what teachers are doing with technology in their classrooms?  You have an expert right there in your midst and you are free to ask questions and clarify points of interest.  I especially enjoyed Naomi Harm’s presentation “Re-energize Your Classroom Practices with iPad Technologies” because I walked away with new knowledge that would help me troubleshoot something I was mulling over in my head since September.

I do morning “math stretches” that are based on the ideas in Laney Sammons’ “Guided Math” book and are aligned with state and common core standards.  (ex. How did your family use math last night? (making math-to-self connections) What’s next? (ex. 11, 13, 15, __, 19, __, __, etc.)  The number of the day. (How many different ways can you represent the number of the day?) ____________ reminds me of… (ex. Number lines remind me of…- math-to-math connections.) Graphing question of the day.)  Traditionally, I have written the whole group activity out on a piece of construction paper and had students add their thoughts using a marker.  I would then lead the group in sharing at the start of our math period.  I kept asking myself “How I can I use technology to engage students more?”

The answer is “Chirp.”  Naomi Harm showcased this app because she knows that not all schools currently have email set up on student iPads.  Chirp is an iPhone app that will allow you to take a picture, note, or link and share it with other iPad or iPhone users that have the app installed.

I taught my students how to take a picture (screen capture) of their work and one by one we uploaded these pictures from our camera rolls and “chirped them out” to the other groups in the room.  Students were able to see first hand what their peers had written and we listened in as students shared their thinking.

The important thing is that first graders were able to do it and our math time was full of excitement because of it.  I am confident that students will remember today because of the innovative way we used technology.

Students just finished sharing their daily math stretch which was done in the new "SMART" app.
Students just finished sharing their daily math stretch which was done in the new “SMART” app.

Nearpod Presentation at SLATE

We are excited to meet those of you who are attending the iPad K-8 Explosion pre-conference session at SLATE this year!  There are a few things that we would like you to do in preparation.

For our “Supercharge Your Elementary Literacy Instruction with iPads” presentation, you will need to have the newest version of “Nearpod” downloaded (available after November 1, 2012).  The newest version is just one app.

The newest version of the app is labeled “Nearpod.” The older version consisted of two apps. One was labeled “student.”

Bring a set of headphones.

Please bring a set of headphones along with to the conference so that you can enjoy our many videos and examples of student work.
image credit: glamour.com

Our group presents from 4:40-5:30 p.m.  Since there are 100 people registered for the session, we are requesting that you do the following in advance to reduce Nearpod connection issues:

*Log in to the Nearpod app prior to the 1:00 pre-conference start time. (The information will be released on the morning of December 3rd allowing you to log in as soon as you get the PIN.)
*Enter the presentation PIN code that will be provided to launch the slideshow presentation (You will receive notification of the unique PIN code via the following ways: 1. by Twitter-follow @BillieRengo to receive a tweet 2. By blog: I will announce the pin here that morning.
*Keep Nearpod logged in.  You may continue to utilize your iPad as normal throughout the day.

Type the unique PIN code in the box labeled “student.”

At the start of our presentation, open Nearpod back up and enjoy the interactive session we have in store.
Due to the large number of attendees, waiting to log in until the start of our session will potentially be too much for the Internet bandwidth to handle preventing Nearpod from working properly.

**Look for our group when you arrive at the conference room to get a special ticket for a drawing to be held at the end of our presentation.  You will need to sign your name on the piece of paper and include your Nearpod username.