Posted in iLesson, iPod and iPad Implementation, Screencasting

Area, Perimeter, and Student Created Tutorials

We’re moving into the downhill slide of school, which means geometry and measurement in math.  I like that these units fall toward the end of the year because they are more hands on, and typically more engaging.   We started with area and perimeter a couple of weeks ago.  While we did the standard practice activities, including marking out shapes in the hallway to calculate perimeter, I augmented with a couple of iLessons to keep the kids engaged.

Jungle GeometryAt the start of the unit, I taught the kids how to use the app Jungle Geometry.  This is a great app, with a wide variety of different geometry and measurement tasks.  My students used the area and perimeter tasks in the app this time, but we’ll use this app again when we do more of the geometry standards.  Jungle Geometry is a favorite of mine because I can customize the levels, measurement units and tools, and differentiate for each student within the app.  There are a ton of customization tools, making this perfect for my multi-level group.  You can read more about Jungle Geometry in my review here at

By far my favorite activity was the students’ performance assessment.  Students were given the task of creating a tutorial for how to find area and perimeter.  I had already created my own tutorial that the students utilized for a note-making activity.  Now it was their turn.  Students were given a rubric of what needed to be in the tutorial: definitions of both area and perimeter, formulas, examples and directions for solving problems, and example problems with pictures.  Students could work in pairs or alone – with the stipulation that I had to hear both voices if students worked together.  The results were amazing!

My students are very familiar with the app Explain Everything, so we used that as our platform for creating the tutorials.  Students utilized the shape and drawing tools, the text features, and even added some photos they took of the shapes we had measured in the hallway.  Narrations went from 40 seconds to 9 minutes.  And they all were great.

As a teacher, one of the best things about students creating tutorials, are the videos that aren’t right.  I had a student who kept calculating perimeter wrong every time, and I couldn’t figure out what he was doing.  Because he created the tutorial and had to explain his thinking as he did it, I was able to analyze his errors.  He was adding every side twice, because in the examples of rectangles I had given the class, each short and long side was added twice.  So when he found the perimeter of a pentagon, he added each side twice.  I never would have figured this out if he hadn’t explained his thinking in the tutorial.  It was an easy fix.  I just needed to know where the problem was.

Area and Perimeter Tutorial Rubric

Posted in Apps, iLesson, Paperless

Inference iLessons

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.

 inference pics underwater hotel
kenny chesneyNext, 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.You're The DetectiveWe 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.

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 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