Monthly Archives: March 2014

Explanation or Excuse?

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ex·pla·na·tion

noun

         1. something that explains; a statement made to clarify something and make it              understandable; exposition

ex·cuse

noun 

1. an apology for; seek to remove the blame of.

In classrooms we hear a multitude of excuses and explanations. The problem is, sometimes it is hard to differentiate between the two.

A colleague of mine has been having difficulty with a student this last week – unmotivated, defiant and ‘too cool’ to participate in many activities. We found out that it’s because his dad is away for work. 

“My dad is away” is an explanation, but it’s not an excuse – we can’t really blame dad for this problem. We all have personal lives that can impact on our work and students are no different. However, it is about encouraging these students to persist, think outside the square and try to gather the skills to needed to solve these problems.

How do we help students solve problems? Problem-Based Learning isn’t just meeting curriculum requirements, it’s about up-skilling our students to be resilient in their lives. The problems that they have are broader than just the classroom walls.

App of the Week#8: i-nigma

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What is it?

i-nigma is a free QR (Quick Response) scanner app.

Why should I download it?

i-nigma can scan QR codes, create an automatic history of your scanned codes and has the ability to save scanned codes as favourites.

What do I use it for?

Use i-nigma in the classroom in conjunction with the QRstuff website to create interactive activities and stations for your students. Turning a website into a QR code avoids students typing the web address incorrectly and points straight to the required website. 

For ideas of how to use it in the classroom, see my previous post: Making QR codes unique.

Another great post to look at is QR Codes in the classroom, by @misskyritsis.

How do I get it?

Click here to be directed to i-nigma in the App Store.

This post is the eighth (and final) in a series, highlighting apps which can be helpful in the education ‘game’.

iPads + Maths for lower primary

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I was asked this week for some junior primary Maths games for the iPad. Games to help consolidate learning, rapid recall and mental strategies. I trawled though the multitude of apps I have on my iPad and this is what I found:

Tens Frame ($1.99) – perfect for small group work, with many uses (addition, subtraction, subitising).

Dragon Math (free version) – basic addition memory match with a dragon-egg theme. Multi-player options, difficulty levels and different mathematical operations are available to be unlocked/purchased, but the simple addition is a fantastic start!

Super 7 HD – join the numbers that add up to 7. Begins simple, gets harder the higher you progress.

Math Bingo ($0.99) – a basic bingo game which allows you to select the mathematical operation and number of players. Of course it features catchy music and sound effects. Get 5 numbers in a row to win the game! Focuses on rapid recall.

Number pieces – interactive MAB blocks. Perfect for making numbers when you don’t have the physical blocks, but with the added function of writing/drawing annotations on or around them. No substitute for real MAB blocks, but a decent effort.

Addimals – funky jungle animals who talk through simple addition problems. It features a number line and various strategies for the user to select such as ‘count all’, ‘count on’, ‘doubles’, ‘tens’ or ‘memory’.

By no means are these a substitute for a core maths lesson, but can often provide some time to consolidate basic maths concepts.

Feel free to share any great apps that you use with a maths focus!

App of the Week#7: Socrative Teacher

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What is it?

Socrative is an interactive assessment tool, where teachers can create quizzes to check for understanding. It is a web 2.0 tool, or an iOs or Android app.

Why should I download it?

Socrative allows you to create a variety of quizzes to use as formative or summative assessment. Not only can it check for understanding, but the program emails you a copy of the results in a spreadsheet format – all scored for you!

What do I use it for?

Socrative can be used as a teacher-paced quiz or student-paced, catering for students of all speeds. It can be used as a team activity with groups of students, as an ‘exit ticket’ assessment, or as feedback. Creating a quiz allows you to choose multiple choice questions, short answer questions or true/false questions, to allow for the maximum amount of feedback you require. Teachers will need to download the Socrative Teacher app, whereas students will need the Socrative Student version. All students need to know to access the quiz is the ‘Room Number’, which you as the teacher create when you sign up and create an account. For more information, click here to visit the Socrative website.

How do I get it?

Click here to be directed to Socrative Teacher in the App Store.

This post is the seventh in a series, highlighting apps which can be helpful in the education ‘game’.

App of the Week#6: Collins Big Cat

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What is it?

Collins Big Cat Storybooks are a collection of free storybooks for young children. Each iPad app is a different story, with 8 stories to download.

Why should I download it?

Collins Big Cat Storybooks have 3 options for reading: Read to me, Read by myself and Story Creator. Having the story read to your child allows them to focus on the words as they are highlighted, whereas Read by myself gives your child the opportunity to practise their own reading skills. The Story Creator option is a chance for your child to retell the story – they get to build the scene, choose the characters and then record their own voice telling the story.

What do I use it for?

Collins Big Cat Storybooks could be used for a variety of activities. There are the ‘Listen to Reading’ opportunities and simply just reading the book, but by working in pairs to use the Story Creator option, students allow themselves to discuss the story. Building the story themselves helps them have a deeper understanding of what has happened, which is perfect for checking their comprehension and reading fluency. Sharing their story with an audience, hearing their own voice is something that most children love!

How do I get it?

Click here to be directed to Collins Big Cat: Around the World in the App Store. Click here to visit the Collins for Education website.

This post is the sixth in a series, highlighting apps which can be helpful in the education ‘game’.

App of the Week#5: RRCalc

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What is it?

RRCalc is a calculator, programmed to work as you conduct your Running Records with readers, to help you calculate your results. The app retails at $1.99 in the App Store.

Why should I download it?

Not only does RRCalc assist you in calculating your results, but it offers an audio-recording option, so you can flag the errors at certain parts and listen back to it later. As you begin, you are able to flag the error and mark it as a self-correction if necessary. Once the reading is completed, you are asked to enter the number of words for the text, which will calculate a Words Per Minute (WPM) score based on the total time taken to read. I find this particularly helpful for those students who may not be making too many errors, but need assistance with their fluency and phrasing.

What do I use it for?

I use RRCalc to calculate my Running Records, but more importantly, the WPM. The audio recording is able to be emailed to yourself, or another person, (or your Evernote account for anecdotal records!) but must be done before you begin another Running Record. Once you hit the ‘Reset’ button, the app discards the previous recording – so emailing on the spot is the best method.  I email these to my Evernote account and organise them in the particular student’s notebook – perfect for listening back to, sharing with parents, or even with the students themselves to help discuss reading goals.

How do I get it?

Click here to be directed to RRCalc in the App Store.

 

This post is the fifth in a series, highlighting apps which can be helpful in the education ‘game’.

Summarising doesn’t need to be boring!

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Each week, both of the Year 4 classes sit down together and watch Behind The News (BTN).

Sometimes we reflect using the discussion questions and on other occasions I create Miss T’s BTN quiz where students work in teams. I integrate BTN into the ‘Listening and Speaking Interactions’ part of the Literacy curriculum. As my class use the Daily 5 and Literacy CAFE program I am always looking for ways to consolidate the new strategies we focus on.  This week’s strategy was ‘Summarise Text’ I thought that BTN would be the perfect platform to practice this skill.

I prepared 5 QR codes – one for each of the news reports in this week’s episode’ and placed them around the room. After watching BTN I asked the students to use an iPad to scan the QR code using i-nigma and re-watch the news report to refresh their memory. I asked them to summarise the report in 2 sentences; to tell the reader what each report was about, in a shorter version.

I have never seen my class so engaged. As my 24 students got to work, there was constant noise as our iPads don’t have headphones. Each student found a space to work at, some in groups on the floor, some by themselves and it was amazing to see their heads down, watching, listening, analysing and writing. There was barely any talking from my students; the noises coming from their classmates’ iPads were tuned out and I felt that every single student was ‘engaged’, or as I like to call it, ‘in the zone’. Some students were able to summarise all five BTN sections, while others focused on one or two.

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What did this teach me? My students like independence. They like clear instructions. A combination of technology and traditional methods can work. Teaching literacy strategies towards the end of the school day can work. No matter how tired my students were, they all managed to produce work.  And last but not least, it taught me that we are not the best at summarising…just yet.

Apps for Early Years Literacy

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One of my colleagues came to me today to ask me about Haiku Deck. Simple question, simple answer – took no time at all. But while she was in my office she asked me if there were any other apps that she could be using in her classroom.

She is confident in using Haiku Deck and Educreations. Great start. She’s confident, her students are confident, but she realised that she needed to take another step.  As the Junior Primary unit have just introduced the Soundwaves spelling program, I showed her how to use the app Popplet to help students segment into their phonemes and graphemes. I found this idea from the Conversations in Literacy blog, via Pinterest. Even though the blog shows how to break words into syllables, this is also perfect for the segmenting stage of Soundwaves. Popplet is not a strict Literacy app, but for this purpose – it creates the boxes automatically and can be easily photographed to record students’ learning. We only have Popplet Lite at my school, but there is a full version you can pay for.

My colleague’s class is also looking at recounts and retells in Literacy. I showed her the app Tellagami – it suits the purpose of retells really well. If retelling the story using their own voice, students only have 30 seconds of talk time. This is a big point to make to just include the most important points. If students are capable of typing in their retell of the story, they only have 420 characters to type. Personalising their Tellagami, or their character, is all part of the fun – using photos as a background, changing their voice etc. These Tellagami’s can be saved to the camera roll as a video, or emailed.

The final app (or collection of apps) that I showed her were the Collins Big Cat Reading apps. These apps have 3 options – Read to Me, Read by Myself or Story Creator. As most storybook apps, the main function is to read the story, or have it read to you. My favourite function on these apps though is the ‘Story Creator’ option. This allows children to retell the story by building the whole book. From choosing the background to the characters, students can recreate the story and even record their own voice as they tell you exactly what happened in the story that they were reading!

I left work with a very happy colleague this afternoon. I was pretty happy too. People are asking for help and happy and grateful for advice. Small wins 🙂

App of the Week#4: Dropbox

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What is it?

Dropbox is a storage program, available online or as an iOS app. 

Why should I download it?

Dropbox creates an easy link between documents on your iPad and your computer. It is essentially one big folder that you can access online, from any internet-connected device in the world, as long as you log in using your username and password.

What do I use it for?

I use Dropbox to access files that I create on my laptop on my iPad and vice versa. I have ‘drag and dropped’ my entire school folder, so that any forms or resources can be accessed at school, at home, on any device, at any time. It is easy to share files from your Dropbox by sending someone a ‘link’ to a file in your Dropbox. Alternatively you can use the ‘Public’ folder within your Dropbox, where students can upload files or submit assessments. For a basic guide, check out How to Use Dropbox on iPad by Ed Ahead on Snapguide. To transfer files to and from your iPad, have a look at iPad+Dropbox by Marlene Hielema.

How do I get it?

Click here to be directed to Dropbox in the App Store.

 

This post is the fourth in a series, highlighting apps which can be helpful in the education ‘game’.