Monday, August 31, 2015

Twitter Chat Ahead

If you haven't discovered the incredible world of professional development via Twitter, we invite you to join us as we moderate the Indiana Office of eLearning #INeLearn chat on Thursday (September 3) night from 9:00-10:00pm. Though the chat is geared toward our elementary learners, there will be relevance for all.  Topics will include creation centered integration as well as balancing a blended learning environment.

Use the hashtag #INeLearn to follow along, and be sure to follow us @kindergartenVF and @MrsCoppleSES.

We hope you'll join us!

Check out the INeLearn blog here...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Poetry, Music, and Fun... Oh My!

Show of hands...  How many of you use music or songs to build skills?  I know I use songs regularly, even if they are not actual songs, to teach my little learners skills.

It is no secret that I am pretty much obsessed with EVERYTHING my good friend Deedee Wills creates for the classroom.  I am pretty sure I own all of her products, and trust me when I say, they are worth the investment!  

I have used Deedee's poetry packs for four years.  We use them in whole group as well as during literacy station time.  In a word, they ROCK!

When I found out Deedee was creating a product that would put her poems to music, I was THRILLED!  Knowing how much we sing these poems, and the fact that I wouldn't have to do my best Broadway renditions anymore, I snatched those packs up as fast as I could!

There are endless ways you could use the music to enhance your poetry instruction.  In a whole group setting, you could, of course, burn the files to a CD.  To do that, it does take some technical skill, but this video explains the process beautifully!

Courtesy BestLaoSong's YouTube channel

I do not prefer to use the CD in my classroom; instead, I play them directly from iTunes on either my computer or iPad.  

I also use the music file to supplement my literacy work stations.  Each week, my students visit the poetry station.  While at this station, students have always read the poem, completed the word work activity that accompanies it, and read the poem again.  This is all great, but I was so excited to use the music to really beef up this station!

Here is how I do it:

Our school district uses an LMS called Canvas.  Canvas is used in all grade levels in our district, so naturally, I have chosen to use this with my students.  If your school does not have an adopted LMS, I would recommend using Showbie to push files out to your students.  Showbie is free to use, and pretty easy!

In Canvas, my students download the file to their iPads.  After the file is downloaded, students can listen to the poetry songs right on their device!  I love taking it a step further and having students create a ChatterPix of them reciting or singing the poem of the week!  

Make sure to check out this fantastic resource ASAP!  It's a must-have, for sure!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Building Fluency in the iPad Classroom

There are fewer tasks more important and less daunting than building fluency in young readers. Once a student has mastered the fine art of decoding and word attack skills, they are ready to move toward developing the fluency and stamina needed to tackle higher level reading comprehension.

It’s no secret that the key to becoming a more fluent reader is practice, practice, practice.  When I moved to first grade after teaching four years of third grade, I was suddenly finding myself at a loss for meaningful fluency activities.  I had felt for years that the activities I had completed with students were beneficial for my understanding of student growth, but had failed to provide the learner with activities that both enhanced their understanding of their learning while being engaging. 

I need to preface the following with this statement.  “Techy” that I am, I don’t believe in using tech for the sake of using tech.  Rather, I believe that we should always evaluate our practices for the BEST possible way to enrich our students’ learning.  I started to investigate and play with a few fluency activities that utilized our 1:1 student iPads. The following tips, tricks, activities, and thoughts will hopefully help YOU implement a successful, tech-fueled fluency program in your classroom! Enjoy. :)

The Power of the Camera

Students LOVE to hear and see themselves do just about anything, and teachers love to make assessment and grading as efficient as possible.  When you harness the power of the camera on the iPad, you can combine both of those desires into something pretty great!  Ask a student to read aloud to a teacher or classroom assistant and you will receive a mix of results.  Some students clam up and get nervous while others give an empathetic performance simply to “get it done.”  When you introduce the camera as their audience, things begin to change.  Students see a fluency reading as a chance to have power over their own assessment, and teachers are able to listen (and listen again if necessary) to their students’ reading whenever and wherever convenient.  The ability to listen, listen, and listen again to a fluency recording can hold tremendous advantage for both student and teacher.  Teaching students to listen for inaccuracies, automaticity, and prosody helps them become reflective and ultimately more fluent readers.  

Activity Suggestions  

Cold, Warm, Hot Reads:  Students record themselves on Monday reading a passage they have never seen, heard, or read before.  We suggest including the reading passage as well as recording chart within a digital interactive notebook using Book Creator (view a detailed post here or perhaps a digital fluency notebook.  Students can then read the passage and record an audio clip right in their digital notebook.  Students can also simply record their audio or video and send it to you however they share files in your situation (GoogleDrive, LMS, etc.)  They should repeat a reading mid-week (warm read), and a final read on Friday (hot read).  Students should analyze their growth alongside the teacher. 

Trio Readings:  Students form trios to read a shared passage be it a song, poem, fresh read, etc.  Two students read the passage together while the third member records.  Students should listen to their recording and share advice on how to improve their fluency (automacity, prosody, and accuracy).  The trio will then shift jobs and read/record again.  I witnessed students having meaningful conversations with one another about their reading when participating in trio readings.  Just having the ability to HEAR themselves read is invaluable.

Short Reads/Excerpts:  In this activity, provide students with short fluency phrases or excerpts.  Basically any fluency passage/poem/song under 30 seconds will do.  Using apps like ChatterKids, students add audio clips to fun images of their choosing.  For example, during Dr. Seuss week we read one particular book that was full of tongue twisters (great for fluency practice).  Students chose a tongue twister from the book, selected an image from KidRex (safe search site for kids) of the main character, and recorded an audio clip of the passage.  ChatterKids allows the user to draw a “mouth” over the image which will move to the rhythm of the recorded audio clip.  Kids adore ChatterKids and will flip for any fluency activity that utilizes it! This is a FREE app that can be quite powerful for a variety of activities in the classroom.  Check it out! 

For Struggling Readers:  Something that became quite amazing for students engaged in intervention exercises was the ability to individualize and tailor activities that target their weaknesses.  On Mondays, I would call students to my round table and work through our list of first grade sight words and common phrases.  Those phrases and words they struggled with went into a separate pile.  Together, the student and I created a personalized video reading and discussing their struggle-point words and phrases.  For the rest of the week, the students listened and whispered through the video first thing during intervention block.  On Friday, we would recheck for growth in word/phrase fluency.  I found this activity particularly powerful for ESL students who struggle with proper phrasing. 

It’s my hope that you have gleaned an idea or two that will help guide your fluency instruction in your iPad classroom.  I encourage you to utilize the resources and materials you already have and make them work for your students.  I always find that once my mind has been opened to a new avenue, the possibilities become seemingly endless.  

Happy Reading!


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Not "Just" a Teacher: An Open Letter to Digital Leaders

Dear Teacher,

We see you. 

You're the one with one iPad to your name, but wanting so much more. You've spent your summer paying out of pocket to attend edtech conferences around the country just dreaming about the activities you want your students to experience. You don't just want more. You NEED more. 

Your passion and desire do not escape us. 

You are not "just" a teacher. You have the power to change your classroom. Your hallway. Your school. Your district. 

You may not have the title or every resource, but you can do this. You can be the spark of change, and you can do it from the bleachers. 

There will be persecution. Those that call you a showboat or loner. But you know differently. You know that the motivations behind doing what you do is for the right purpose. 

The kids. 

There will be failures. Those will make the successes sweeter. 

There will be tears. Those will motivate you to dust yourself off and try again. 

There will be late nights and short weekends. The hard work pays off. What's worth it isn't always easy. 

There will be frustration. And moments of feeling under-appreciated. You are oftentimes. 

But in the midst of all that, there will also be laughter, smiles, light bulbs, and JOY. 

So you keep doing what you do. We applaud you and encourage you to carry the torch of change.

You are NOT "just" a teacher. You are a mentor. A facilitator. An empowerer. A behind-the-scenes, doer and implementer of change. 

Your students are lucky. Immeasurably and incredibly blessed by the example you set. 

Now get out there and do what you do because YOU are a digital leader AND a teacher.