iLesson: Talking Book Covers

Have you had the chance to play with the app Mad Lips?  If not, it’s a great product-based app that has the students working on that highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy – creation.  Using any photo as the background, students superimpose their own lips over the picture and record up to 60 seconds of narration.  This app has limitless possibilities as far as the types of projects you can create using this as a performance assessment or an alternative to traditional publishing.

We have been studying literature genres in our fourth grade inclusion class.  Students were exposed to a variety of literature genres and had to create clues to help them remember each one.  See my earlier post on our Literature Genres iLesson here. As our performance assessment the end of the lesson, students were asked to create a Talking Book Cover.  There are some great blog posts out there about using talking book covers as book reports, book trailers, and other writing tasks.  I took some of these ideas and developed my own.

Students were asked to make sure they read their library books the night before our project. They were then asked to write a three sentence description of the library book.  Students had to include the title of the book, the genre of the book, one general example of how they identified the genre (usually from the cover), and one specific example of how they identified the genre (from the actual text of the book).  Students edited their short book blurb and practiced whisper reading to themselves three times.  I find it is important when doing a project where the students are recorded reading or speaking that they practice whisper reading to themselves at least three times.  Using the Mad Lips app, we took a picture of the cover of the book.  Students were recorded reading their blurbs using the app.  All that was left was resizing and positioning the students’ lips to make our book covers come alive.

The students did great with this activity.  Attached at the bottom is the rubric I used to grade the performance assessment.  I was really happy to see how many of the students could apply the literature genre knowledge to their own books.  By having the students actually use the skills they’ve acquired to create a product, the students are showing a deeper understanding of the skill.  Additionally, they are having a great time!

Talking Book Cover Rubric

iLesson: Literature Genres

In my fourth grade inclusion class, we started the year by studying the characteristics of literature genres.  The general education teacher and I did some pre-assessments and determined that our students had almost no knowledge of the different genres.  In order to address the Common Core Standards relating to the comparison of genres, we needed to make sure our students knew what the genres were.

Students note-make using a Literature Genres podcast.

The unit began with the students having to note-make using a podcast on literature genres.  (See blog post on note-making.)  With no prior knowledge of the word genre, it was easy to set the purpose for the note-making.  On their side of the interactive notebooks, students were to first define the word genre.  The second responsibility was to list the nine literature genres and a clue or hint for each genre.  All of this information was clearly stated in the podcast.  Following the note-making procedures, students watched the podcast twice.  The first time just to watch.  This allowed students to watch the entirety of the podcast without trying to write notes.  The second time the timer was set for 20 minutes and students were reminded how to pause the podcast to make notes.  They were off and running.

This was the first note-making experience for nearly all of these kids.  With this in mind, I stopped the timer after about 7 minutes to model my own note-making.  On the board I illustrated how I would organize my notes into a T-Chart.  I listed the first genre on one side and the clue for that genre on the other side.  However, I also was sure to state that this was how I would note-make, not necessarily how they needed to do it.  The beauty of note-making is allowing the students the freedom to create notes in whatever format is going to best help them.  After modeling the note-making and answering any questions, the students fell right back into their own note-making.

This was also my co-teacher’s first experience with note-making and podcasts.  She was stunned at the engagement of the students.  For nearly 40 minutes (20 minutes was not long enough for the students to complete the task) 100% of the students were 100% engaged in the lesson.  There were no disruptions, no behavior problems, and no off task behaviors.  All in an inclusion classroom with half of the students receiving special education services and during the last period of the day.

We finished off the lesson with a student led discussion detailing each of the literature genres and the clues associated with them.  As the teacher, I actually gave very little instruction.  It was completely student driven based on the information they gathered from the podcast.  Anticipating gaps in the note-making, and ensuring that every child got the correct information into the notes, students were given a grid of the literature genres and their clues to glue onto my side (the teacher side) of the interactive notebook.  This also served as an accommodation for my students with larger handwriting or for those who didn’t quite get all of the notes completed.  Giving students a clean copy of the notes is often an accommodation we use on the IEPs.

The unit continued with a quick look at each of the literature genres using a variety of teaching strategies, trade books, and apps.  Stay tuned as I’ll be posting an iLesson detailing our final performance assessment featuring Talking Book Covers later this week!  Attached below is the literature genre podcast and a copy of the notes that were handed out at the end of the lesson.

Genre Notes

Genre Podcast – This is a link to my class site.  The podcast is linked under the Files section of the page.  It is already in .m4v file – ready to upload to an iPod.

Sequences – A great new iDevice app

In addition to being a huge tech-dork at school, I also share my enthusiasm with the world by writing app reviews for a great site called  Fun Educational Apps.  If you are looking for educational apps appropriate for all ages, this site and its sister site, Kid’s Apps Deals, are great resources.  They feature educational app reviews with detailed summaries and notifications of when great apps go on sale or are free.

I recently was asked to review a new special education app called Sequences.  This app was created by special educators and therapists to address both the skill of sequencing steps in a process or story, and also to build students’ communication skills as they retell a story.  The app offers scaffolded three, four, and five step stories of familiar tasks or scenes.  Each piece of the story offers a sentence fragment  to help build communication skills.  While I liked the varying levels of skill needed to sequence these stories, what I really loved is that the app is fully customizable.

This app allows the user to create unique sequences using photos and text.  Immediately I thought to use this to create visual schedules.  Instead of holding up picture cards or the those velcro task schedules, students could actually play with their schedule in a puzzle-like atmosphere to not only familiarize themselves with what comes next, but to potentially verbalize the schedule as well.

I also thought about all of those social stories that our Social Behavior Therapists create.  Instead of getting the bound and laminated photo stories to use to reinforce positive behaviors, we could instead create the social stories as a Sequence.  By having students work with their social story in a game like setting, we are creating a much more engaging atmosphere for learning.  I’ve always struggled to get my students to attend to a social story.  There just isn’t a good hook to reel them in.  Doing it on the iPad or iPod would be just the spark I need to engage my students.

I also plan to use the app to practice academic skills with my higher functioning students.  In Science, I’m going to create a Sequence about the scientific method for my fourth and fifth grade students to practice.  In Social Studies, I think it’d be neat to have the students create the Sequence by finding photos of the key causes of the Revolutionary war.  In Math we can use screen shots of the different steps of long division to practice that procedure.  Also, I think our class for students with Moderate Intellectual Disabilities could easily use this app to practice weekly recipes.  This app truly has endless possibilities.

Overall, this app is one of the best special education apps I’ve had the chance to review.  I love the versatility of the app and the way that my brain keeps coming up with ways to use it.  I invite you all to check out the full Sequences review at Fun Educational Apps and hope you will find it as useful as I did.

Don’t Forget the Routines

Another year is upon us, and as usual, I’ve completely forgotten how much training and instruction goes into the simple rituals and routines that in May seem so commonplace.  As I thought about what I could write a post about this week, I decided to focus on the little lessons that are essential, but easily overlooked, in a technology rich classroom.  For those teachers just rolling out iDevice classrooms and for those like me trying desperately to get back into our own routines, don’t forget some of these important lessons.

Be Consistent .  It is imperative that when teachers begin incorporating iPods or iPads into the classroom, that they only be used for education.  The minute kids learn that they can get away with playing other apps, listening to other music, or searching other sites during instruction, they will take every advantage.  I am very strict about my One and Out policy.  I tell the kids in baseball they get three strikes; in iPods they get one.  I will give you one warning about misbehavior with the iPods, and then you are out.  I take the iPod, and you get book work or a worksheet on the same topic.  It generally takes one or two kids being out, and I don’t have a single behavior problem again.  But, the kids have to know you are serious and consistent.

Create a function button anchor chart for easy reference. Include the video/music function buttons as well as other common icons for your class.

Teach Function Buttons.  I assumed that all kids know which button is play and which button is pause.  Turns out, this is not always common knowledge.  On the first day you use a podcast, video, or music, be sure to plan time to review the function buttons (rewind, fast forward, play, stop, pause, and record).  For younger grade levels, create an anchor chart for easy reference of the function buttons.

Never “Play.”  A teacher doesn’t ever plan to just “play” at school.  Everything you do has educational relevance.  The same should be true of the times you plan to use the iPods/iPads.  I never refer to the kids “playing” on the iPods, and my students never ask to “play” on them.  We “use” the iPods, we “explore” with the iPods, we “learn with” the iPods; we never “play” with them.

Plan a Free Explore Day.  Kids will be kids.  We know this, so we need to plan for this.  Avoid the inevitable fight when the kids go off task and start using the apps by planning a free explore day.  Plan for and lead a day where the kids get a chance to use a variety of apps and give them a chance to do a little exploring on their own.  Go into the free explore day with a handful of apps you think the kids will love and actually teach them how to use them.  After making students independent at the use of these handpicked apps, you can trust that if you ask early finishers or small group stations to work with a particular app, they’ll know how to and won’t need additional instructions.  Don’t forget to give the students some time to explore the apps on their own.  They are going to do this eventually – you might as well plan a time to do it, instead of having them free explore in the middle of a lesson.

I love, LOVE, teaching with iPods and iPads.  Part of why I love it is because of how smooth my classroom runs and how little classroom management I have to do when I have the devices out.  This ease of use comes with practice of our routines and procedures and consistency all year long.