I love my iPad, but I’m a Google girl at heart. Safari works fine, and I have no issues with it. But Google Chrome just fits my teaching so much better. It has several features that just make it super easy to access and perfect for elementary classroom use.
We’ve been working this week on a research project about Michelangelo, the artist, not the Ninja Turtle. (Give me a week – I’ll be posting about that next time.) Being a special education teacher, research projects are normally the bane of my existence. Turns out research projects are tough on a good day, but imagine not being able to spell your search criteria or read your sources. Enter Google Chrome.
1. Google Chrome syncs with all your other Google Chromes – making bookmarks accessible across devices. So let’s say I started a folder with child-friendly Michelangelo resources on my laptop at home and then added another site to it from my school iPad while waiting for a faculty meeting to start, and then found a few more sites after school on my school computer. Since Google Chrome syncs across devices, each of my student iPads now has the same folder with the same content to begin our research with. This means no messy searching, web address typing, or “Is this the right one?” for my students.
2. Google Chrome has a microphone option to search with. It’s tough to research a topic if you can’t spell the words in your search criteria. Unless my kids are typing verbatim from a notes page (and how original is that thought?), chances are they aren’t going to spell their query correctly. Google Chrome removes that challenge. With a little practice enunciating, my kids can ask their own questions as we research. It was great to see where their thoughts went, beyond the general questions. They had some really insightful questions, that I would never have thought to include in an elementary research project. Just another example of why student ownership is so important.
3. Accessibility – okay this isn’t Google Chrome, but fits into the post beautifully. I hope everyone is aware of the Accessibility options on the iPad. In the Settings menu, users can choose to turn on the Speak Selection in the Accessibility menu. After doing this, students can highlight the text they want to have read aloud, and simply tap Speak to hear the narration. We found that we had to slow the voice way down in order to have it read slow enough for us to comprehend and make notes. As a side note, I thought the navigation of tapping and dragging to highlight whole sections of text would prove to be difficult for my fourth graders. Not at all. They were able to do so with ease.
Google Chrome just makes my job a little bit easier. Anything that makes learning more accessible to my students is worth a try. Plus, their research papers are coming out great. Check back next week to see how the rest of the project went.
This is not a tech heavy iLesson, but it is a good example of how a glimmer of a tech really hooks the kids. A while back we were reviewing basic fraction identification. Let’s face it, this can get boring. To liven things up, I paired up my students and sent each pair to a homeroom class to take a class photo. My kids were responsible for getting the whole class together and taking a picture with the iPad. The only stipulation was that you had to be able to see each of the students’ faces.
After returning to class, each pair of students had to analyze their photo and do some fractional observations. Because they used the iPad to take the photo, the students were able to zoom in and manipulate the photo to get more information. The task was to make observations using fractions about the students in the photo. I put very few limits on this project and gave very little guidance. I was pleasantly surprised by the data my kids were able to generate from their photos. Most partners had between 12-15 observations about their image. Some were basic observations like 13/21 are girls and 7/19 have long hair. But some were super detailed and things I never would have thought of: 12/19 are smiling and 4/12 show their teeth in the smile. Because I didn’t give the kids any preconceived ideas, all of the data they generated was completely unique.
The students finished up the project by printing their photo and typing up their observations. They presented the photo and data to the homeroom teacher and had to give a brief summary of their findings. Even though this lesson wasn’t tech heavy, the kids were still hooked. That is one of the beauties of technology – the kids love it. It doesn’t take much to engage them. With the learning in their hands, the kids owned that lesson.
I am super excited to be presenting Friday at the South Carolina Speech Language and Hearing Association convention! A couple of colleagues and I are giving a session called Tying Technology to the Common Core. It will focus on creation based learning using the iPad in both therapy and education. Participants will leave the session with a list of iLesson ideas and ways that they can immediately go back to their settings and begin incorporating tech. We are focusing on just a handful of really well done apps and giving examples of how we’ve used them within our own classrooms. We’ve even talked to the developers of these apps and gotten over 50 promo codes for various apps to give away at the end. If you are interested in checking out our session – join us tomorrow at 2:00 at the Embassy Suites Convention Center in Charleston. Hope to see some of you there – please come introduce yourself if you stop by!
We’ve been working on inferring this week. Whew. Inferencing is not a concrete idea, and therefore it is something hard for my students to grasp. To help them focus on the skill of making inferences, and not on the challenge of reading, I presented activities in several modalities.We began by making observations and using those observations to support inferences in pictures. I loaded five different photos to a shared Dropbox folder and asked students to create T-charts in their interactive notebooks with observations on one side and inferences on the other. I tried to pick high interest pictures that would provoke ideas. The underwater hotel and sand-boarding picture got some great inferences.
Next, we used Kenny Chesney’s song “The Boys of Fall” to make inferences. Given that reading is a challenge for my students, I love using song lyrics as text. Children can listen to the text aloud while also looking at the lyrics. We always listen to music twice. The first time we listen and soak it in, the second time I ask them to write down the lyrics. I always give the students a copy of the lyrics, but I’ve found that if the kids have to write them down, they are focused on the actual words and not on the tune. The task with this song was to infer that the song was about football. Students then had to support their inference with evidence from the text by highlighting portions of the lyrics.We also used the app You’re the Detective to do some small group instruction. This app is full of various cases. We read the written case files aloud, investigated the picture, and then answered questions in an attempt to solve a mystery. In a way, isn’t inferring simply using clues to make a guess? The kids really did well connecting inferring to solving mysteries. This may have been the best connections lesson of the bunch. If you want to know more about this app, you can read my review for Fun Educational Apps here.
Our performance assessment again involved pictures. Each child was given the same image. Students used the app Explain Everything to annotate the image and record their thoughts. Students were responsible for giving me two observations and two inferences about the picture. By recording themselves talking about the picture, I got way better responses than I would have if I had asked them to write.
Just a quick post about an app that is currently free. Oh the Snowmanity! is a super cute story telling about the life of a snowman, through the snowman’s eyes. The rhyming story is written in an engaging font that bounces around the screen and is narrated by an expressive voice. It has a few interactions for readers, but the app is mostly about the story. And the plot is great. It tells the woes of a snowman’s life in a way that readers have probably never thought about. From wondering why he’s got buttons but no jacket, to the horrible thing his new friend the dog does, the story is a really great example of how point of view affects the story.
My Pinterest board is currently full of ideas for winter writing. Oh The Snowmanity would fit beautifully with a writing prompt like “If I lived in a snow globe…” or the prompts about melting snowmen. We used it with our fifth graders today. They’ve just done a writing project on perspective and building a snowman from the ground up. Today we tried a Quick Write and asked the students to write a journal entry from the point of view of the snowman. We used this app to get them started and give an example of point of view. I think the biggest hook was the page of the book that talks about the beauty of the snow fall, but then tells how the snowman was freaked out by the bits of flesh falling on him. It was definitely a light bulb moment for the my kids! If you are looking for a great way to ease into integrating technology, this would be a great place to start. Grab it for free before it goes back to full price.
I’m not sure how long it has been around, but ThatQuiz.org is my new favorite teaching tool. The site is a quiz generating site, one that has infinite customization options. While there are science and vocabulary quizzes available, ThatQuiz focuses on math.
Teachers register for a free account and set up their classes. Then users choose a quiz from the huge variety of pre-made quizzes. The initial menu features Integers, Fractions, Concepts and Geometry. Each of these is then broken down into various skills from Kindergarten to high school. To make life even better, each quiz has many different customization options. For example, in the homework assignment on time skills that I created I had to choose between 10-100 questions, one of four difficulty levels, time limit, order, simple clocks or elapsed time, addition or subtraction of time, converting time, or time zones. Each concept has just as many, if not more, options for editing. If you don’t like the questions featured, you can also create your own. Or browse and download quizzes made by other educators. I’m telling you, this site has unlimited possibilities.
To make this site even better, it collects data on each of your children. When a test is generated you are given a unique test code. As long as the student has this code, they can access the test from anywhere. Once they log in and take the test, you can analyze your grade book to see how the kids do. You can also delete scores to allow children to retest.
This site is perfect for creating quick assessments to check student knowledge. I love using a ThatQuiz as a pre-assessment to see what my students know before the start of a unit. As you can see from our grade book on Time, I have some work ahead of me! I also really like using it for homework. I mostly hate assigning homework, but have certain requirements from my administration. I’ll often assign a ThatQuiz for homework on Monday, but have it due on Friday. Students without internet access then have a full week of homeroom or library time to get the assignment done.
Fractions, fractions, fractions, and more fractions. We’ve finished up equivalent fractions and moved on to adding fractions.
To begin with, I’ve used a variety of fraction apps as station based learning so that I can work in small groups with students. One of my favorites is Slice It!, an app where students have to split shapes into equal pieces. I like this one because of the focus on equal sized pieces. I also like Smart Pirates, as it deals with fraction identification, equivalents, and adding fractions. Another app that the kids like is Fractions+. Matching fractions to pieces and connecting rows make this game-like app a favorite. But one of my iLessons began with the app Oh No Fractions! The full version (worth the money) has equivalent fractions plus all four operations. I gave the students no guidance other than to play the adding fractions game and be able to tell me at the end, how to find equivalent fractions. The app has both a Show Me feature and an I’ve Got It part. It guides children through creating common denominators and then adding. The kids had to turn in an index card at the end of the activity telling how to add fractions. About 40% of the kids found the key before I ever gave any instruction. I love inquiry based learning.
I also created an adding fraction tutorial for my students. As I posted earlier, I love the tutorial idea because it allows my children to access the instruction whenever they want to. While a few of my students access the video from our class site at home, the bulk of my kids use it in class. By having the tutorial accessible on their iPads, students can use the video whenever they need it. Those needing less support can work from the tutorial while I work with a small group who needs more intensive support.
While working on adding fractions, we also did a performance assessment. Students had to use fraction pieces to create pairs of fractions. They then took pictures using the iPads of each pair of fractions. The following day, students uploaded their photos into Doodle Buddy and created number sentences using their own fraction pieces. After solving the problems, they uploaded them to Dropbox for grading. I love it when the kids own their work. I gave them no portion of this assignment. They created everything themselves.