Posted in Apps, iLesson

Eating Equivalent Fractions

With the introduction of Common Core this year, many of our math standards have changed.  My fourth grade students have spent weeks working with fractions.  (Seriously – weeks.  I’ve just come back from maternity leave and they are STILL working on fractions!)  In order to augment the classroom instruction, my students did some iLesson work with equivalent fractions.

Equivalent FractionsTo begin with, we used several apps on the iPods to independently practice identifying equivalent fractions.  McGraw Hill makes a great app called Equivalent Fractions.  It is a paid app, though McGraw Hill is known to make its apps free a few times a year.  The gameplay is a cross between a solitaire game and a matching game.  Players match cards with images of equivalent fractions and draw from the pile when they can’t make a match.  I like that the students had pictorial images to compare, especially as we were beginning instruction on equivalencies.

squeeblesAnother app we used was Squeebles Fractions.  This one is a little bit more fun as it involves cake.  Students have to feed the Squeebles pieces of cake based on fractions.  The catch is that students have to know equivalent fractions to be able to divide the cake correctly.  The app does a nice job of making student apply their knowledge to feed the Squeebles.

The students’ favorite activity however involved candy bars.  I always use food as an example when talking about fractions.  Who wouldn’t want 4/5 of a candy bar instead of 2/10?  However, on my teacher salary, I can’t afford to buy the amount of candy I would have needed to let everyone cut candy bars into pieces.  Instead we used our Ken-a-Vision Flexcam and the Educam app to split candy bars into equivalent fractions virtually.

Students used the Educam app to complete a performance assessment.
Students used the Educam app to complete a performance assessment.
Students cut candy bars into equivalent fractions virtually.
Students cut candy bars into equivalent fractions virtually.

After sending an image of three Snickers bars to the iPads, students were asked to choose a simple fraction, split the candy bar into the correct amount of pieces, and label the fraction.  Students then had to figure out two equivalent fractions (open ended – students could find any equivalency they wanted), split the candy bar into pieces, color in the part they were going to eat, and label the fractions.  Students uploaded their images to Dropbox and I used this as a performance assessment to show whether or not the kids could find equivalent fractions.

Students had to show the process they used to find the equivalent fractions.
Students had to show the process they used to find the equivalent fractions.

I also used this lesson with a group of students working on modified standards.  We took the same idea, but used two Kit Kat bars.  With this group, I required them to show me the math calculations they did to find the equivalent fractions.  Using both the pen and typing tools in the app, students split, calculated, colored, and labeled their candy bars.  I used this group’s uploaded images as an assessment as well.

I loved the engagement level of this assessment, and the mastery that kids were showing when they applied their knowledge.  However, I’m sure that the students will tell you that the best part of the equivalent fractions was when I let them eat their math lesson.

Posted in Apps, iLesson

Descriptive Writing using Digital Postcards

I find that teaching writing is one of the hardest things to do.  I know there are awesome teachers out there who excel at writing instruction – but wow, this is a struggle for me.  Teaching writing is such an individualized type of instruction (especially in my class) and honestly, it is not even close to a favorite with my students.  As always, I ask myself, how can I make this more engaging?  I’ve found that varying our publishing tactics to be a key to writing engagement.

Traditionally, publishing work results in a final copy being written on notebook paper or typed in Word.  I do both of these things.  However, we’ve explored a variety of other ways to publish this year.  Most recently we worked on descriptive writing.  The writing prompt was to write a solid two paragraph composition describing, in vivid detail, the student’s favorite food.  The catch?  No where in the writing could they actually tell me what the food was.  I had to be able to figure it out from the description.  The hook?  When students finished writing and editing their rough drafts, they would be publishing their work as a digital postcard.  I think they wrote faster than I’ve ever seen them write in their lives!

Bill Atkinson Photocard
Bill Atkinson Photocard

We used Bill Atkinson Photocard app on the iPads to publish.  The app generates a digital postcard with an image on the top and your text at the bottom.  Students can even send the postcards via email to whomever they choose.  The buttons are really easy to navigate and typing was easy to do.  After typing and editing their final drafts, we did a safe search on the Internet for Creative Commons images to use as the photo part of their postcard.  The final products were simply outstanding.

photocard 2

Photocard 1

In the end, I printed the postcards out and cut them apart so that the image was on one side and the text on the other.  I strung them up with yarn and used them as an interactive bulletin board outside my room.  Viewers could read the descriptive writing and guess the favorite foods before flipping the postcard over to see if they were right.  So this activity not only engaged the students, but also gave me this month’s bulletin board…excellent!

bulletin board

Posted in Uncategorized

Alliteration – iLesson style

We’ve been working on figurative language the past few weeks, and I have to say that tying technology into figurative language has been a lot of fun!  With my love of creation based apps, these activities have been a perfect match.  I hope to post several small iLesson plans in the near future showcasing some of our great projects.

ImageWe started with alliteration as our first skill.  To start off the lesson, we of course did some note-making.  Instead of using a podcast this time, my students explored the app Baby’s First Monsters: ABC.  The app features the Alliteration Academy.  Each letter of the alphabet is represented by an alliteration about a mythical monster or legendary creature.  After making sure that my students knew that I didn’t want to know anything about the actual monsters, they were given the purpose of defining the word alliteration using just this app.

Locating alliterations in Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”.

Our next activity hooked my students immediately because they got to listen to music. Using the iPods, students had to listen to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”.  The rule, as always, is to listen to the song twice.  The first time is always just to listen.  The second time students played the song, they had to write down as many alliterations from the song as they could.  I set a timer, and allowed them ten minutes to do this.  After coming up with a few – and the obvious title of the song – I put a copy of the lyrics up on the Smartboard.  Students used highlighting tools to identify the alliterations they heard and any others that we missed.

ImageOur last activity used a new app that I just discovered,  iFunFace.  The app uses pictures either from an album or using the camera feature and creates talking bobble heads.  The students developed their own alliterations and then created mini-movies of their talking heads.  While the app I used is the full version, there is a free version available – it just has less of the accessories and voices.  Students chose to either use a photo of themselves, or to locate a Creative Commons photo that represented their alliterations.  The results were hilarious!  Check out a couple of our videos:

Fox alliteration 

Crocodile alliteration 


Posted in Apps, iLesson

Creation Based Performance Assessments

I had the app-ortunity to write a guest post on Creation Based Apps and Performance Assessments for one of my all time favorite ed tech blogs this week.  Techchef4u has been an inspiration for iLesson ideas, solid tech advice, and great teaching tips.  For a look at our number pattern iLesson featuring the Educam and Doceri apps – check out her blog

Students had to determine if the pattern was increasing or decreasing, the rule of the pattern, and complete the hundred chart.
Students had to determine if the pattern was increasing or decreasing, the rule of the pattern, and complete the hundred chart.
Students use the pen tool on the Educam app to complete the chart.
Students use the pen tool on the Educam app to complete the chart.
Posted in Apps, iLesson, iPod and iPad Implementation

Coordinate Grids

The week or so before the holidays is always a little… most teachers can fill in this blank with any number of words!  Because of this chaos, I typically try to do something highly engaging and honestly, something not too terribly hard.  This year we worked on coordinate grids.  Of course, I tried to include as much tech as I could, to hold both the students’ and my own attention.

2013-01-11_2130We started the mini-unit with a note-making activity.  Students watched a video segment from called Rectangular Coordinate System.  (Searchable with the tags: coordinate grid, grades 3-5 – it is a video segment lasting 11:34).  The video segment does a great job of showing the parts of a coordinate grid and giving examples of how to find ordered pairs on the grid.  The purpose of the note-making activity was to define the vocabulary words: x-axis, y-axis, coordinate grid, and ordered pair.  They also had to tell how to find an ordered pair on the grid.

2013-01-11_2135After some instruction and practice in our interactive notebooks, it was time for a little bit of independent work.  Of course, there’s an app for that!  I used the app Butterfly Brunch as our independent practice app.  (This app is also available as part of a set of apps in Maths Attack Vol. 2.)  Students must move a butterfly to a given ordered pair to feed him his snack.  It’s a simple game that allows for students to correct wrong answers.  It is best used in a small group where the teacher can monitor the accuracy of the butterfly feedings.

Our performance assessment featured my new favorite classroom tool, the Ken-a-vision document camera and Educam app.  I posted before the holiday craziness about getting to test out this great device (see here).  Lucky for me – I get to keep using it!  With this unit I put a blank coordinate grid under the document camera and and sent the image to the students’ iPads.  I worked with students to begin identifying ordered pairs.  The students were given a list of ordered pairs to plot on the coordinate grid using the pen tool, and then uploaded their saved images to our Dropbox folder.  The assessment itself was to simply plot the points.  The fun part of the activity was after uploading the completed grid, students had to go back and connect the dots, in the order that they were plotted.  They loved the finished product!  And it of course lent itself to the season.

Students had to plot a given set of ordered pairs using the Educam app and upload their image to our Dropbox.
Students had to plot a given set of ordered pairs using the Educam app and upload their image to our Dropbox.
Next, they had to connect the points in the order in which they were plotted.  They were quite happy with the results!
Next, they had to connect the points in the order in which they were plotted. They were quite happy with the results!

We did have one other, completely not techy, activity that the students loved.  We played a game called Candy Grab – using a blank coordinate grid, students placed M&Ms on each of the intersections in the grid.  Working in pairs, they took turns rolling dice.  The red die was the X-axis coordinate, the green die was the Y-axis coordinate.  Students had to find the ordered pair and if there was candy at the point, they got to grab it.  There was candy involved, I’m sure you can guess how well this game went over!  We do recommend using plain M&Ms though – turns out the peanut ones roll unpredictably!

After rolling dice to create an ordered pair, students got to grab the candy if they could plot the points!
After rolling dice to create an ordered pair, students got to grab the candy if they could plot the points!

Overall, the unit went great and was a nice way to round out our math instruction before the holiday.  It kept the students focused, well behaved, and addressing standards – all difficult tasks the week before the holiday break!

Posted in Apps, iLesson

Teaching Time

We’ve been doing a telling time unit the past week or so, and I thought I’d hit a few of the highlights of the unit.  First of all, teaching time can be pretty boring.  How many ways can a student practice either using a manipulative clock to show a time, or reading clocks to tell time?  Finding a hook to reach the students is essential to keeping the students engaged.  Here are a few of the ways I incorporated technology into our time unit.

I started the unit by teaching my students a really specific way of telling time in a step by step fashion.  To help clarify the procedure, I used a great screen casting app called Educreations.  I created a quick two minute video that detailed the steps and posted it on my class webpage.  This allows my kids to access it if they need to, but more importantly allows my students’ parents to see exactly what the procedure looks like.  Check out the instructional video here: Telling Time to the Five Minutes.

I also used two apps on our class set of iPods (though I could use them on the iPads as well).  The first is a very simple time app good for beginners.  Wooly Wormies: Tell Time Lite has several practice games including a parent/child game, a change the analog clock game, and my favorite a matching game.  I had my students practice matching digital times to analog clocks showing times to the quarter hour.  My first group of students used this app to self check and practice their skills.

A much more in depth app is Mathtappers: Clockmaster.  The app has three difficulty levels: time to the quarter hour, time to the five minutes, and time to the minute.  Players either change a digital clock to reflect the time given on an analog clock, or turn the hands on an analog clock to match a digital clock.  After ten chances, the app gives a score out of fifty points.  This makes an easy informal assessment grade if you need it.  The app stores information for up to four students per device, making this a good progress monitoring app as well.

Overall, I was really just looking for some quick ways to hook my students into a unit that can at times seem boring.  The only way to learn to tell time is to practice the skill repeatedly.  With digital clocks making analog clocks outdated, it’s even more difficult to engage the students.  These few activities brought a little life to what could definitely have been a dry unit.

Posted in iLesson

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

Posted in iLesson

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.