Friday, May 9, 2014

Minecraft and the Law of Superposition

I came up with the idea of using Minecraft over the summer for the current school year. I knew I would be teaching relative dating and the Law of Superposition and wanted to develop a fun and interactive way for my students to learn the concept.  (The idea that oldest rock/fossil is in the bottom layer of a given sample) I originally just wrote the idea down with my other notes and ideas that I wanted to try during the school year, but since I wasn't going to teach relative dating until the second semester of the year, I put my idea on the back burner.

As the time approached for our Change Over Time unit, the idea of using Minecraft crept back into my mind on numerous occasions. I began by starting to play the game on my iPad to get familiar with it. (I was well aware that my students would be better at the game than me)
Archaeology Sites

Students were broken up into groups of three. Each group was given at least one iPad to use for the activity as well as an activity sheet that they were required to fill out during the activity. Students opened the Minecraft App and selected one of five designated worlds. (I created the worlds prior with A LOT of help from some of my boys) In each world, the group found an “Archaeology Site.” Each site was fenced off at the corners so the students would know where they were located.

Within the dig site, students were given the task of digging out each of the seven layers. Each layer contained a chest with one or two artifacts from a civilization that lived there before. On their activity sheets, students recorded the artifacts in each layer and the type of soil/rock that surrounded.

Once students were finished with their dig site, they rearranged the rows from each layer to have a side view of their dig site. This allowed students to have a view of all of the layers they dug up in the previous steps. Students were then able to label and answer questions related to the dating of the objects and what information the students could infer from their locations in the dig site.

Ultimately, I think the activity went well. I did run into a couple of speed bumps along the way. There were some issues along the way of determining how to be able to place objects in the holes so they wouldn't disappear and gathering all of the materials needed. I was extremely fortunate to have several students that offered up their own time after school to help dig holes and gathering materials. I truly owe those boys the world to helping me make this activity successful.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Confessions of a First Time iPad Cart Teacher

I will have to admit I was nervous about implementing a class set of iPads in my classroom this year.  Would I use them enough, would I use them effectively, and how would I manage the students’ use of the iPads?  Despite this nervousness I was very excited for this new experience, and am so glad I have had this opportunity.

One of the first ways I used the iPads was for whole group literacy lessons.  Nearpod is a great way for all students to use the iPads and be engaged in lessons.  I found it very convenient to find power point presentations that were already created online and modify them for use in Nearpod or make my own.  Students could follow along as we reviewed setting, learned about character traits, or conflict in stories.  The quizzes, polls, and other feedback Nearpod allows students to give were a valuable part of the lessons as well. 

Students were able to use the iPads for writing in lots of ways.  For our first quarter writing samples students integrated science in their writing through projects using Tellagami, Popplet, or StoryKit.  Once students had a final draft they chose one of the apps to publish their writing.  We had a variety of samples that I e-mailed to our class account, and then printed.  Some students worked to create their own “Gami” with Tellagami and recorded themselves reading their final project, while others made Popplet designs to present their writing.  Still other students enjoyed taking pictures to add to the pages of their books about the moon, sun, and Earth with the StoryKit app.  These writing samples were great.

In literacy stations students used the iPads to record themselves reading and then listened for accuracy and fluency during Daily Five in read to self or read with a partner.  They also used Tumble Books and News-o-matic (a new favorite I learned about at tech tens) for reading or listening to reading.

During reading groups we would always keep an iPad or 2 on hand to look up vocabulary and science or social studies information for topics we were reading about. 

For math some of our favorite apps were Educreations, KidTime, Geoboard, and a variety of apps for multiplication.  Students were so excited about getting to use the iPads through out the lessons.

I have highlighted some of the ways we used the iPads this year.  I know this is only the tip of the ice berg for the ways to use iPads in the classroom and I hope to have the opportunity to do so much more with them next year!  This has been a great year working together as a class to integrate iPads into our daily activities.

Friday, April 25, 2014

iPads in First Grade?

Be Careful for What you Wish For!

At the end of last year I applied (wished) to have ipads in my classroom for this year.  At the end of last year I was teaching third grade.  I found out at the end of summer that I would be teaching first grade this year.  I was really nervous about moving to a new grade with such little people and on top of it having ipads in my classroom!  It has definitely been a learning process, but with a lot of help from colleagues, I did find fun and engaging ways to implement ipads in my classroom.  I am amazed at how quickly the students learn how to use the apps and I am so glad that I did "wish" for the ipads after all!
Whole Group Lessons

I have used the nearpod app this year for several math lessons.  I take the information from our Math Expressions teacher manual and implement it into my nearpod lesson. What has been great about nearpod is that I can use examples from the teacher manual to see how my students work them out. Since they must share an ipad, they also have to collaborate before they submit their work. I love being able to pull up students work for the class to see.  It really lends to the “math talk” that we encourage so much with common core.  Students can comment on the work of other students by sharing if they “agree or disagree”.  It is such a learning tool for students to be able to explain how he or she came to a solution, or even where a mistake was made.


I have also used  Kahoot! this year. Kahoot is a game based classroom response system which is very engaging! It reminds me a lot of the “clickers” I used to use for whole group review.  Students in my classroom have to be partners, but they love creating a team name.  Once all students have submitted their team name, they put in a pin number and the Kahoot begins. With Kahoot, you can create questions for a quiz or as a survey.  In the survey format, it shows how many “teams” chose a certain answer and it lets me know if the majority of my class is familiar or unfamiliar with a certain topic. I have created a survey in Kahoot as a pre-assessment before a lesson on telling time. I have also used Kahoot in the quiz form for a science review.  It is time based and it has fun music that gets the kids really excited. Kahoot is not an app, but I turned it into a QR code and students can just scan the code to take them right to Kahoot!


Small Group Lessons and Stations

In small group lessons, such as guided reading, I like to use edmodo to upload books for a couple of my reading groups.  The students amaze me at how quickly they go get their ipad for guided reading time and log in to get to their book.  I also have used educreations to follow up on guided reading activities by uploading some of the Reading A to Z graphic organizers, such as the Venn diagrams and the cause and effect boxes.  It saves paper and copies and the kids love it!  It is a bit time consuming for them as they learn how to insert the text box and type, but they are getting faster!

In stations, I love, love love using QR codes!  I have created many math stations with QR codes.  Again, since I don’t have enough ipads to go around, they must share which means a lot of collaborating!  My students know they still have to work out their problems in their math journals before scanning the QR code to check their answers.

During the reading stations, one rotation is to read a book, take an AR quiz (also on ipads), RAZ kids or go to Scootpad reading.  I have recently found “free” QR codes for online reading books.  Once a week, I allow them to scan what looks like a little iphone and it takes them to some online reading sources.  I have them differentiated for students.  One of the resources takes them to articles and stories from the Highlights magazine. They can choose to read it on their own or use headphones and it will read it aloud to them.  If time permits, they are asked to fill in a story summarizer to keep them accountable for their reading.

It has been an amazing year of learning how to implement the ipads, I feel the biggest impact the ipads have made in my classroom, is the ability to differentiate for my students.  If I have a student who is really struggling in an area, I can find something or create something that can give that student extra practice during his/her station time.  Everyone is so busy working on “what is best for their own learning” that students respect what each other is doing.

Monday, April 7, 2014

First Grade IPad Happenings

First Grade IPad Happenings

    In my first grade classroom I am lucky enough to have a 1:1 IPad ratio.  This is my first year with an Ipad classroom and it has been such a wonderful learning experience for me!  In the classroom we use the throughout the day in all subject areas.  Below I have highlighted some of the Ipad happenings in first grade!

    Edmodo has become my best friend for guided reading!  The program allows me to set up an account for every student in my class.  The students are organized within the program into their guided reading groups.  Each group has their own leveled reader for the week on the program. After working with the students throughout the week, they take a reading comprehension quiz on Edmodo. 

    While I am meeting with guided reading groups’ students rotate through reading centers.  Three of the centers I use most often are Scootpad, Raz Kids, and Accelerated Reader.  The Scootpad program is Common Core aligned and the students have their own sign in and account in which they can work on particular reading (and math) objectives. 
    In the Raz Kids program students also have their own sign in and  account in which they read books on their assigned reading level.  I use my Mclass data to assign the child’s current reading level within the program.  The students sign into their account and they have a “bookroom” in which they select a book on their level to read, listen to, and complete a comprehension skill activity. 

    The Accelerated Reader App and program has helped my tremendously this year.  Every year, the number one issue within the classroom has been that there were never enough computers for students to take their AR tests.  However, this year students have their own Ipads to take tests as often as they would like.  I have seen a significant increase in not only their reading levels but their attitude toward reading and taking AR tests!


     North Newton has adopted the Math Expressions math program this school year so we are following the program cover to cover.  However, I have had the opportunity to enrich the students learning experiences by incorporating several math apps throughout lessons. Here are a few math apps I use in my classroom: 

        One App I have my students use is Mad Math Lite.  This app allows students to practice their addition and subtraction facts.  It is so important for students to be able to answer simple addition and subtraction facts automatically and this resource allows them to practice this skill.  

        In the Math Expressions program we just finished teaching the students about ½ and ¼.  The math app Pizza Fractions 1 has helped my students practice the skills they have just learned and it has allowed math enrichment opportunities.  The students work with pizza fractions such as 4/5 , ¾, etc. The students love the interactive “shaking” of the pizzas to identify new fractions!

   I have found my students love playing Rocket Math.  This app allows students to practice many different math skills such as identifying numbers, telling time, identifying amounts of money, etc., while they get parts of a rocket to build. 


        All of the information above explains currently how my students are involved with technology within my classroom.  One of my ambitions with my students is to connect with another elementary school classroom from another country. I am just starting to gather information on how to organize this and go about coordinating it with my students.  So far I have found the Skype in the classroom to be one of the most promising options. I will keep you updated on the progress of our new adventure!


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Math App for Fractions

If you are working on fractions I highly suggest the app (Thinking Blocks Model and Solve Word Problems, Practice with Fractions). This app provides students with a word problem and they are working with thinking blocks to help them solve the problem.  It does a great job of walking students through the process of solving a complicated problem.  Many times with students visualizing different fraction amounts is difficult, and now with the complexity of word problems they are asked to solve; it is essential that students have a clear understanding of fractions.  Another aspect to the problems that students will be solving is fractions of a whole number.  Believe me when I say this can be extremely frustrating to students.  However with these visuals my students are getting better at solving these problems.  This app would benefit 3-6 graders.  Also online there are other concepts that use thinking blocks.  Just go to

Friday, March 28, 2014

Using iPads with Daily 5 in Room 6

This year, I have implemented Daily 5 into my kindergarten classroom.  Each day, my literacy centers consist of the following: Read to Someone, Read to Self, Listen to Reading, Word Work, and Work on Writing.  My students love learning while using the iPads!  If you are interested in using iPads with Daily 5, here are just a few things that happened in Room 6 this week.

Using ScreenChomp to rainbow write s blends.

Students listen and reading and read to self using Raz-Kids.

Picture Coding Eddy Elephant.

Fun with sight words!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

EDMODO and the Irregular Schedule

What a year. As I reflect about the things we have done this year I must say that Edmodo has been a saving grace by which this school year would not have been possible to survive without. Edmodo is an old buddy of mine which I have been utilizing for going on my fifth year now.
The first year I used it as pretty much a tool to quiz and poll the students whenever we had the opportunity to get into one of the computer labs at the "OLD" Middle School, a few of us "techy" (I am pretty sure that is a word even though it is being underlined in red) teachers even moderated a "chat page" for the students but had to shut it down after a few unwise choices of what to post showed up. The second year I utilized it in each of my classes (as I do now) and I found that it was wonderful to connect with not just students but also parents and I have used it since then much like the web-page where assignments and other pertinent information is posted. Also, I could EASILY link websites we used in class and other files so everyone has the capability to access them even if they have become misplaced in the endless pit of the backpack. Last year was much the same except I had the wonderful experience of having the iPads in my classroom so we were able to utilize the site daily.
Now that brings us to the current school year. A school year in which man y of our students have their own devices and I am now sharing the iPad cart with another class. It is also a year in which we have gone to an "A" day, "B" day schedule for Social Studies and Science so I see my students every other day. (unless of course we have an interruption in the schedule because of weather, assemblies, testing, etc...) A tool like Edmodo is wonderful for this situation. Not only can I post the assignments and/or quizzes I can also communicate even if I don't see them through messaging to either a particular student or a whole class.
In my Social Studies classes right now we are reading a couple of novels (half of my class is reading one and the other is reading another) they both deal with the Holocaust. What even my students do not know yet is I am creating special Edmodo pages for each novel where they can answer and discuss questions and what they have read.
This leads me to probably my most selfish reason for using Edmodo, drum roll please, I don't have to hang on to 170 quizzes, homework assignments, etc... Edmodo makes it possible to collect everything electronically (I know there is Dropbox and other ways to accomplish the same thing) but hey, I am almost fifty and it is hard to teach an "old" dog new tricks so when I find something I stick to it. Well I am finished rambling and for those of you who need to know there are ONLY 274 days until Christmas as of the day I wrote this.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Skitching" in the Kindergarten Classroom

When you walk into Room 5 at South Newton Elementary School, you will see 5 & 6 year olds taking their learning to the next level with Skitch. Skitch is a FREE app created by Evernote. This app is very user friendly. My kindergarten students picked up the basics in a matter of days.

How we use Skitch in the classroom:

When learning to use Skitch, we labeled our friends in the classroom. This was a fun activity that taught students the basics of the app. 

*DISCLAIMER: The spelling you see is incorrect. My kinders are learning to spell through inventive spelling! "We rit the sownds we her n wrds" :)

Skitch during Daily 5:

During Guided Reading, Read to Self, and/or Read to Someone students take pictures of the books they are reading with their ipads. They then use Skitch to label characters in the book, highlight sight words they are studying, and label other important parts of their stories. 
  • Word Work
When using Skitch during word work, students are able to write their sight words on basically anything they can take a picture of. Some students will take pictures of our word wall and trace over sight words, other students will take pictures of the white board & write their words on it. However, the MOST popular word work activity is writing on their dear teacher's face. 

Skitch During Math
During Math, we use the program Math Expressions. This is a fabulous program that allows for students to delve deep into number concepts. In kindergarten, this program involves a lot of "Going Further and Homework & Remembering Worksheets" To save copies & trees, we often snap a picture of the daily worksheet on the ipads and complete the worksheet using Skitch during math centers. During a whole group lesson, students will take a picture of the manipulatives they use and label them during a math center. 

Skitch During Science & Social Studies
For every science experiment we do or social studies article we read, there is always a Skitch involved. In Science, we label various science experiments and science read alouds. The student's favorite thing to do is go outside and label the world around them. 

How have you used Skitch in your classroom?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

iPads in Must Do/May Do activities

Hi everyone! Wow, I can't believe it's the middle of March already. When I look back on all the ways I have utilized technology this year, it's amazing to see all the wonderful ways students have been able to present their ideas and also to gain information on any given topic. We have used iPads for research, for presentations, for collaboration in math, and other engaging activities this year! It's been a lot of fun.

One of my favorite ways since January that we have been using the iPads in our classroom is through reading and writing Must Do/May Do activities. Because of Read to Achieve and other forms of testing in third grade eliminating important parts of the day, I wanted to come up with a way to integrate science, social studies, and technology into my reading block. By doing so, my students would not miss out on other important Essential Standards this year. Must Do activities are assignments that students must complete by the end of the week. May Do activities are assignments that students can complete when finished early with their Must Do activities.

I use one Must Do/May Do list for my students and then modify it for students who are lower-performing. They receive less activities and modified activities compared to the main list.

Regular Must Do/May Do activity list

A modified Must Do/May Do activity list

I love that these activities require students to use the 4 C's. I also love that it's a way for students to be grouped by mixed ability while working in stations but I can still pull my reading groups back to work with me based on their reading level abilities.  I am able to provide fun apps and reading websites that allow students to practice further on a skill that week. During their May Do time it allows them to explore topics they enjoy on their own. Students are also able to share what they learned through apps like Educreation and Edmodo and other students can leave feedback.

It's been a great way to provide differentiation and enrichment in a classroom full of diversity and various ability levels!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Using Literature Circles With I-Pads

In my classroom, I like to mix in literature circles during my guided reading block. I wouldn't say that I do "true" literature circles, but it has transformed to being guided reading with some blogging added in. I have taken the traditional literature circle roles and used them with KidBlog to increase my students' literacy performance. All of the students work is completed on KidBlog so that they can collaborate with one another. Here are the different roles that I use. I have found these roles online from various sources and changed them to work in my classroom.

Summarizer: Students will summarize the highlights and key points from the previous readings. Students prepare their summaries on their KidBlog account. Other students are able to comment and discuss the summary that the summarizer has come up with.

Questioner: The questioner lists questions from the reading that would help increase the discussion from the group. The students can answer questions on KidBlog that the questioner has posted.

Illustrator: The illustrator shares their own images and visions of what they visualized while reading.It can be a sketch, cartoon, diagram, flowchart, or stick figure scene. Students are able use Google Drive or Educreations to draw what they visualized and then upload their drawing to their KidBlog account.

Vocabulary Enricher: These students will discuss any words that they found that stood out or were crucial to what they read. Students will post their words on KidBlog, where the words came from in the selection, what they words mean, and why they choose those words.

Literary Luminary: The literary luminary finds parts of the text that are interesting, powerful, puzzling, or important in their opinions. Students will briefly describe the part of the selection that they chose and why they feel that this part is important to the text or reader.

I have found that using KidBlog along with the iPads is a way to engage students in what they are reading. The students are able to collaborate together about what they have read. This is also a way to switch from paper to paperless. I don't waste the paper that I used to when I did formal literature circles. However, I feel that my students' learning has increased from using technology with the literature circles. Ipads make this process simple because students can easily upload pictures or drawings. They are also able to transport the Ipad throughout the room during reading stations. This process is something new that I have begun this year but it is proving to be worthwhile.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

iPads in the Self-Contained Classroom

I am in a self contained classroom at a public separate school. My class consists of eight students with varying levels of academic and physical functioning.  In our classroom we have two sets of iPads.  We have been using the iPads for a variety of classroom activities.  The main thing that they enjoy using them for is free time activities.  We help them navigate to educational apps to learn about math, reading, and science.  We have more involved students that enjoy going on the iPads to watch videos regarding science.  One student uses the iPad as a motivational tool to increase his range of motion.  He has a cause and effect app that he enjoys but in order to make it work he has to reach to touch the screen.  This in turn increases his range of motion because he has to reach to where we place it to access it.  They ask for the iPads every morning when they come in the room.  It has been a joy to watch them increase their knowledge about how to navigate around and find the apps that they are looking for.  Through the use of the iPads several of my students have increased their sight word vocabulary and their communication skills.  Number identification has dramatically improved for another one of my students.  The students also enjoy having the ability to participate in group activities that we are doing on the whiteboard through the use of the Splashtop app on the iPad.  The ability to control a part of their own learning has helped them to not only enjoy school more but also increased their knowledge.

The Ross Bunch

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Using Less Paper with a Few iPads

Often teachers struggle with how to use iPads in the classroom daily. This year I am using a small group of iPads (7) during my reading workstations which helps to eliminate making the many copies that I have made in the past. It also has helped to enhance my students' excitement for learning and has provided access to a wider range of knowledge which is provided through the internet.

My students are using the iPads to complete their reading workstations for the week. I have two google accounts which one is my personal school account and the other is for the students to use and access.  I create reading workstations on my personal school account and copy it to my student account.  I do not want my students to be able to access my original copy.  I currently have four heterogeneous groups in my classroom which are called by the following names: Yummy Yellow, Radiant Red, Brilliant Blue, and Outstanding Orange.  When I copy my workstations to my student account, I make four copies of workstations and make a title with their group names in them.  When the students access the account, they look under their groups names and fill in what is asked of them for that week.  I found that the Google app does not work well on the iPad 1s.  For some reason, they cannot edit the Google documents. The students login through Safari and are able to edit their documents with this method. I no longer have to make copies for each students and each station.  It not only helps me out, but it also helps the students.  There are some students who struggle with keeping up with their weekly workstations papers.  By using the iPads, their group work is saved on the iPad through the Google documents and their do not even have to press save.  This way of doing things helps me and the students. 

Our grade level integrates our Social Studies curriculum into our reading stations.  The students use the iPads to watch videos and answer questions.  They also use the iPads when working on research projects.  We recently started researching some of the battles that took place in North Carolina which led up the American Revolution.  The students have been given safe websites and videos to find information on each battle.  They are also encouraged to use their Social Studies book.  By researching this way, they are having to use higher order thinking skills in formulating their own ideas on the topic and use different types of media to do so. The students are also learning how to work together and collaborate with different types of personalities. By using this technology in the classroom, it has not only enhanced my students learning, but it has cut down on the amount of paper I have to use.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Small Set of iPads and a World Language Classroom

There are many blog posts and articles out there about having one iPad in the classroom and how to make it work. There are also many posts and articles about having a class set of iPads. I have read many posts and articles of both kinds. However, I find myself in a rather unique position. I have a small group of iPads, 6 to be exact. It is more than one and less than a class set, so how do I work with them?
That is the question that stumped me for a while. I have found 3 great ways to use them to enhance my teaching.
Being a Spanish teacher, I am often asked how to say a word. If I’m not asked how to say a word or sentence, then I often find them using Google Translate. I don’t want to be their personal dictionary and Google Translate doesn’t help them decide which word is correct. So I use my projector to introduce them to a website that will help them. In case you are curious, it is This website is a dictionary. It will give them various options for a word, so they need to make the decision which one to use.
Having 6 iPads has made it much easier to tell them, look it up. When we are doing a project and several students need to find various words, I hand out the iPads and they can share them in small groups. Each child can find what they need and pass it along to another one who is looking for information. When students need to look up little bits of information, a small set of iPads are immensely helpful.

2.       Collaboration
Another feature of a world language classroom is that students need to speak together often in order to practice the language. As such, the iPads are a great tool to encourage them to work together and speak. Without the iPads, they fall into the habit of one student doing most of the work, the others copying, and trying to stutter out a few words. With the iPad, they all want to contribute. Instead of assigning 3 activities to be written by hand, I can assign them to be completed with Haiku Deck or VoiceThread or Blackboard. Writing a sentence or filling in the blank is much more engaging when done on Blackboard. Asking a classmate a question and recording their answer is much more interesting using VoiceThread. A review assignment becomes more memorable when done on Haiku Deck.  A ‘boring’ assignment with a partner or a group can be more engaging, interesting, and memorable when technology is added.

3.       Cultural Explorations
Studying cultures are a vital part of any world language program. There is only so much talking a person can do and expect the student to be interested. It is much more helpful to talk about something and show them photos or videos. However, even better is when they can do the talking and showing. They can work in groups to study various aspects of a country or the different ways a topic is approached in different countries.
Of course they will be students for one reason or another cannot participate in a cultural activity. In those cases, the iPad is a wonderful way for them to explore another cultural topic and demonstrate what they had learned. Culture can be a fun part of the world language classroom and iPads make it come to life for these students.

The world language classroom takes a different approach than most other classrooms. However a few iPads can make a difference in a world language classroom and in your classroom too!