Tag Archives: Literacy

Using iPads in Literacy Rotations

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Many classrooms use the concept of Literacy Rotations in their classrooms, but struggle to find a way to keep each group engaged while they work with a focus group.

Below are some iPad-based ideas for Literacy Rotations, which of course you would use with a combination of non-iPad rotation activities, we know that just because you can do things on an iPad doesn’t mean it’s better!

  • ReadTheory – free to sign up, create classes and individual student logins. Students start with a pre-test to assess their initial reading level, by reading short passages and answering comprehension questions. By getting questions correct, students earn points and badges and teachers can consistently monitor progress. Fantastic for independent reading time. A colleague has been using this in her Year 8 English class and the students are loving it!
  • Pobble365 – free to use without an account, this website features a picture prompt for every day of the year, with a Story Starter for students to continue, or Question Time for students to answer questions about what they’ve just read. For independent Literacy Rotations, I would use either of these sections for the students to visit on their iPad – they could copy and paste the Story Starter into a Google Doc to continue writing, or create a Google Slide with their Question Time questions and answers. If students work in pairs, they could create an interview using the Camera app & iMovie, with one student being the interviewer and the other the interviewee.
  • Book Creator – there is a web version of this coming out soon, but the app works well for almost any subject! I loved using this in Literacy Rotations after the students had done a Guided Reading with the teacher to create a Book Quiz, for the other members of the group to answer. Students would take photos of the book, insert them into their book and then type their quiz question on the page. I then asked students to use the audio recording function to record the answer, so students completing the book quiz could find out the correct answer if needed. We often talked about Head, Heart & Hands comprehension questions to encourage more critical thinking. I also like the idea of creating an interactive dictionary using this app, by students recording words that are new to them, or really interesting words and using the audio function to record their definition, or explanation in their own words – plus images if they need! Other ways I’ve used Book Creator can be found here.
  • Popplet – I’ve used Popplet in so many different ways, from brainstorming character qualities, to spelling. I love Popplet as you students can use the pen function, insert images from the camera roll and export their finished Popplet. In my lower primary class, I use it to help segment words into their individual sounds.

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  • PicCollage – I used this for descriptive writing, in this blog post, but have also used it to create a collection of words that all start with the same letter, by taking photos, or looking for the same sound in magazines and newspapers.

This is just a tiny drop in the ocean of the multitude of different ways that you could integrate iPads in the Literacy block!

Digital Technology Mentoring

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Part of my role this year is to meet weekly with each Primary School teacher for mentoring them in the area of Digital Technology. Last week was my first week actually carrying this out and I found it so exciting!

What does it involve? Anything the teacher wants – whatever sort of technology skills they are hoping to improve, or implement in class with their students

As a GAFE school, the focus on using GAFE properly is high. I helped one teacher create a Google Doc, name it, locate it in her Google Drive and create 2 folders for different subjects. Within the Google Doc, she inserted a table AND merged cells. And boy, was I proud of her! She didn’t write the instructions down, because she made 3 Google Docs and we’re going to continue it this week. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

I chatted with another colleague about where she’s going to fit the Digital Technologies into her weekly timetable. Her class will have 1:1 iPads and we looked at integrating them into problem-solving in maths, through coding. She told me that she didn’t really know much about coding, so I directed her to the Hour Of Code. We talked about using ReadTheory in the classroom as well, which some of her students used last year.  For those higher achievers in Literacy groups, I suggested using Book Creator with the task of creating a book quiz to promote higher comprehension thinking skills.

One of my colleagues was busy running the SRC last week during our meeting time, so I’ll be meeting with her for the first time next week. She got started with Google Classroom last year and I’m excited to see what plans she has for it this year, especially as her co-teacher in the adjacent classroom has Google Classroom on her agenda – how can she use it, what can she do with it, etc. That’s her goal, so I’ve been busy delving through Alice Keeler’s blog and emailing her some links for her to check out before we meet next.

Unfortunately Primary School swimming interrupted my meeting with another colleague, so we’re taking a raincheck. It’s her first time teaching the year level she’s got this year, so she’s looking for new ideas and ways of doing things – I’m keen to see where this takes us.

Which leaves me with one colleague – the lady I’m co-teaching Prep with this year. We’ve already set up ClassDojo purely for the Class Stories feature, instead of sending home a paper newsletter full of photos from the week. We’ve already had most parents join and interacting with the photos. I started the week of by uploading the photos myself, but my colleague uploaded photos herself yesterday – win! Last year, she was logging onto the 4 classroom computers for the students – but this year, we’re going to get the students to do it themselves. Yes, it will be slower to start, but upskilling them in the process. We also discussed the BigCat book iPad apps for Literacy groups, and Book Creator for creating a book about numbers to 10.

What else is on my agenda? I’ve been encouraging a few staff to check out the Google Certified Educator Training – not necessarily for the ‘title’, but for the skills. I’ve also been given a timeslot at our weekly staff meeting to talk about technology – new apps, websites, ideas…and hopefully getting staff to present at these too!

I love my new role!

The power of Classroom Connections

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In my second year of teaching, I began a classroom blog. That was my first adventure into classroom connections using modern technology…penpals had been a less than successful experiment in my first year!

In my fourth year, I was still blogging and came across @misskyritsis on Twitter. I have a feeling that we connected our classrooms using a Mystery Skype format and then a few weeks later, we connected with another Year 4 class to discuss and share our Christian Studies presentations about Religious Festivals. We Skyped @misskyritsis again, plus another class to share our Genius Hour ideas and progress. Kids love talking to other ‘real’ kids!

My Year 4’s began participating in the 100 Word Challenge (#100wc), giving and receiving feedback on other students writing. How powerful!

Last year, I was still blogging, Skyping and sharing comments and blog posts with classrooms all around the world. My Year 2s helped me write draft comments, reply to other blog visitors and broadened their geographical knowledge of country location due to the variety of people visiting our blog!

This year, I teach Preps on a Thursday afternoon. We do a poem and craft related to the sound of the week and then visit the library. Throughout the year, I stumbled across a Prep blog, which I showed the class. They loved seeing other ‘real’ Preps’ work and writing, so we began commenting. We Skyped them and their teacher @kaz_phi and talked about the similarities and differences between our school – their school is near a beach!! During our Bookweek, they Skyped us to share a picturebook that they had reflected in their artwork…so we listened to the story and created our own artwork too!

Yesterday was my birthday and the highlight of classroom connections is receiving a gorgeous audio message of a class of Preps singing Happy Birthday to me- we’ve never met in person, but it was so beautiful to hear it!

Why SHOULD you connect with other classes?

  • geography skills
  • authentic speaking and listening skills
  • to share ANY aspect of your learning
  • to learn from another class
  • to widen your audience for class presentations
  • debating purposes

Why AREN’T you connecting with other classes?

This weeks absolute gems!

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This last week I attended 2 seminars at my local TAFE – one on Dyslexia and another about supporting readers through the use of phonics.
Both sessions were filled with scary data, thought-provoking questions, numerous definitions and last but not least, lists of apps and websites.
Yes, like always, there are a few different aspects to consider when given a list of resources to use with students:

A) Is it free?

B) If it costs, is there a free trial where I can access EVERYTHING?

C) Does it suit the technology I have available to me?

D) Is it actually going to benefit the student?

There are 2 (so far – I’ve barely had time to check any out!) that I rate quite highly.

  • Oxford Owl is a website that provides free eBooks for students, at various age levels and genres. Yes, they have provided audio (with expression!) and the books are actually interesting! I discovered this site through the Spelfabet website, under a list of decodable book resources.
  • ReadTheory is a website that I also heard about at the seminar (from the girl sitting next to me, rather than the presenter!) – free, online, engaging comprehension texts, with questions to match, based on the Lexile Reading Scale. It does refer to Common Core, but Aussie teachers can still benefit! The girl next to me said her students in Year 4 were loving it, as it strikes up a bit of friendly in-class competition while still being matched to each child’s ability. I did a little bit of extra reading about ReadTheory here.

Double bonus, both of these resources are iPad-compatible! Yay! I’ve linked QR codes to both of these sites, printed them (along with student log-in details for ReadTheory) and popped them up in the classroom I worked in today.

Can’t wait to hear the feedback from the students!

 

 

EdTechSA presentation

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For all those who were at the @EdTechSA conference in Adelaide and were in my workshop, you’ll know we had some technical difficulties – ha, yes – at a technology conference.

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As we all know, flexibility is the key, so after 15 minutes of me talking with a blank screen, various cord changes, menu options, adapter swaps…we had lift off!

If you’d like the links to the resources I talked about in the presentation (ipad resources, apps and websites, please feel free to download the PDF version. You’ll notice that I’ve removed the videos and photos which had identifiable students in them – sorry, I don’t have permission to share them further than the conference.

Enjoy!
P.S. The lovely @JessOttewell actually filmed 11 minutes of my presentation – so if you want to experience some of it…you guessed it, jump on to Twitter, search for (and follow) Jess and you can see for yourself!

Struggling readers

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Today I used phoneme unifix blocks to help a Year 5 student with initial & final blends. It was a struggle for her and required a lot of repetitive oral language cues. Simply reading through the collection of initial blend blocks brought about an uncomfortable posture as she confidently read ‘ch’ and ‘tr’, but recoiled at the sight of ‘gl’ and ‘sw’.

She can read, but not to the level of her classmates, but her spelling is in a whole other realm. The words below are by no means tricky; we were just experimenting with a range of blends!

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Then I came across this infographic, which I found delightfully interesting – I thought you might too!

Inside the Brain of a Struggling Reader: infographic

See the original infographic at http://www.scilearn.com/blog.

Books for boys…who desperately want to read novels.

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I’ve been doing some research (and by research I mean lots of browsing in book shops!) into books that are at the right level for the Year 3 boy I am tutoring. Most of his friends read short novels, but believe me, he’s not quite there.

Based on his fluency, word attack and comprehension, I’d say he’s around early Year 2 level. So when he began bringing out books like ‘Despicable Me – the novel’ and a few ‘Goosebumps’ newbies, I felt like I was bursting his bubble when I had to tell him ‘I think these are a bit too hard’ and suggest ‘Let’s do the 5 finger test to check’.

So, I bought ‘The Big Fat Cow That Goes Kapow‘, by Andy Griffiths. Silly, repetitive and obviously boy-ish…it was a big hit. It was such a hit that he was determined to read the WHOLE novel in one sitting. And boy, was he proud.

Here are the books that are next on the list:

The Cat on the Mat is Flat – Andy Griffiths

Barky the Barking Dog – Andy Griffiths

Ten Unlucky Pirates – Andy Griffiths

Hey Jack! – a series of books, by Sally Rippin

Gigglers – a series of books, by various authors (I’ll be at the library, choosing the most boy-ish ones!)

Aussie Nibbles – a series of books, by various authors (yet again, I’ll be choosing the grossest, silliest ones)

I’d love to hear your suggestions for any other books that are novel-like, but have a significantly lower word count on each page!

My teacher was a poor speller – so what?

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Two days ago, my sister tagged me in this photo from Sunrise on Facebook:

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Based around a spelling test that no teachers got a perfect score, it raised the question that maybe getting into a teaching course is too easy.

I replied to my sister, on my teaching high-horse, that I disagreed. I was a brilliant speller, spelling words like restaurant and rhinocerous in Prep (proven by the fact that my mother has kept my spelling book all these years!). My Year 3 teacher was a terrible speller. I recall her asking me constantly to help her correct my classmates spelling in their writing. When writing on the board, she would often ask for my input when spelling trickier words.

As I thought about this it got me thinking. Was she really a bad speller? Was she trying to get me to feel important or trying to extend me? Was she differentiating her teaching so that I wasn’t getting bored? I learnt a lot from that teacher – she inspired me to become a teacher. It is purely her influence on me that brought me to the idea of teaching.

English is a really hard language, even for those for whom it is their native tongue. Why are we judging the ability of teachers based on one area of learning? I couldn’t guarantee that I could get all of the words right on that test, nor am I sure that I would pass a test on division and fractions.

Sure, spelling is important. Despite this, there are other factors that influence a teacher’s ability – how about their nurturing disposition? Their passion to make a difference? Their love of children and learning?

So what if a teacher is a poor speller? What is important is that the students are still learning.

Choose Your Own Learning Adventure

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We’ve all read, or at least seen, these type of books – a storyline that has a variety of paths, complications and resolutions – all with the aim of the reader finishing the book. I decided to try my own style of this, as a Learning Adventure.

Our school had a variety of photos being taken today which meant that multiple students, or whole groups of students would be absent for my room from 10 minutes up to 50 minutes at any given time. Trying to teach my regular lessons would be frustrating – trying to explain and introduce an activity over and over again didn’t really seem all that appealing to me.

This morning I wrote 4 learning tasks on the whiteboard, underneath the title “Choose Your Own Learning Adventure“.  They covered a variety of subject areas, but as the morning is predominantly our Literacy block, that was the overarching theme. Each of the activities explained where the activity needed to be completed (book, computer, iPad) etc. 

We made a deal that by lunchtime, each student would have at least 3 of the activities completed. This allowed for time out of the room for photos, as well as our 30 minute library lesson. In total, they had two hours and fifteen minutes to complete them – in any order they liked.

This was a Learning Adventure for me as well – watching my students self-monitor their learning, their choices of who they sat near and which activity they chose first and last – gave me great confidence in being able to trust my students and spend lots of time with each of them one-on-one. The activities were a combination of paper, books, computers and iPads – it goes to show that a little bit of everything goes a long way!

Technology Tuesdays – iPads for Assessment

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Today’s Technology Tuesday session is about using iPads for Assessment purposes in the Early Years.

It is an amalgamation of two of my previous posts, Evernote and RRCalc.

Evernote can be a tricky app to master, but I found that when I set it up on my computer, the iPad app became a lot easier to use.  It allows me to have a Notebook Stack for my class, with each student having their own Notebook. Within each student’s Notebook, I have created Notes for different categories.  For example, in Brad’s Notebook, I have 3 Notes so far – Behaviour, Maths and Literacy.

I have created a handout for the session, with links to videos which help explain how to use Evernote in conjunction with the RRCalc, to keep track of reading progress.  The handout can be found here: iPads & Early Years Assessment.

Other apps that I use for my assessment are

  • Numbers – like an Excel Spreadsheet, with a different sheet for each topic (Spelling Results, PAT Maths, Project Partners etc).
  • Record of Reading – very similar to the RRCalc, but this app allows you to photograph the running record with the words to follow along.
  • Skitch – I will often photograph a rubric in Skitch and then annotate for various students. There’s probably a much easier way…I’m still learning and trying!