Sunday, August 21, 2016

Creation Apps Are Where It's At (1st grade )

Over the years I've had many people ask me what apps I have on my devices or which apps I feel are the best for (insert content area here). Back when I first started using iPads there were far too many to share as I was a self-proclaimed "App-aholic!"  Over the years though, I've become much more critical of what I feel is a quality app and what I'll put on my devices for my students to use. 

This year, I felt I was finally in a place that I could say I was happy with the apps that I had on my devices and could share the purpose for each of those apps. 

Before turning my iPads in this summer, I spent some time taking screenshots to share with you. I'll start by saying that I spent a fair amount of time setting over the years up my devices so that apps were organized and categorized in a specific way to make it easier for my students to find what they needed quickly so we didn't lose any valuable learning time. Altogether, I have 4 pages on my devices-

Page 1- Creation apps

Page 2- Daily 5 apps

Page 3- Math apps

Page 4- Hidden apps 

Below you will see my main page or what we called our Creation page. This is truly where we spent a majority of our time so it only made sense for it to be the main page. For the most part I have the apps ordered in order of how I introduce them (no, I'm not so structured as to say this is exactly the order we always go in, but it seems that more often than not, Drawing Pad and PicCollage for example are the two that we always start with and so they get top spot.  

I won't go into specifics about each of the apps as you can easily go into the app store to take a closer peek and you've likely heard of many of these but here is a bit of info for you. 

iDress (by Phyllis Brodsky an ADE I met last summer who is passionate about assistive technology) was inspired by her desire to create assistive technology that would lead to great levels of independence for individuals with disabilities. This is not a creation app but rather a great tool for students to better understand how the weather correlates with what they should wear outside. My students enjoy checking the app and have become more independent in knowing what to wear out for recess rather than asking me and then grumbling because they didn't like the answer I gave them. Another nice feature is that you can customize the clothing in the closet to better align with what's appropriate in your region. There are several other great features and ways to customize as well. You can read about them on the iDress for Weather page of Pebro Productions

Drawing Pad is a great drawing tool with a lot of functionality but not too difficult for 1st graders to easily grasp and maneuver around. We used this for drawing our mental images, text-to-self connections and even students doing their own drawings for their informational text books.
Mental image from My Father's Dragon
done in Drawing Pad
Students took pictures showing
the forces of  pushes and pulls
PicCollage for Kids is one of our go-to apps. A great app when needing to use multiple pictures and then label them. Skitch works in a similar way although you are only able to use one picture at time.
Skitch- Labeling the
parts of a penguin 
Book Creator- Love this app! My students used this to create their information text projects as well as during Work on Writing to create their own stories. We also used Book Creator to create our plant journals and journal about our Mystery Skype sessions. Students are able to add text and pictures but they can also add their voice. Book Creator is a versatile tool and definitely worth the money.

Explain Everything and Doodlecast Pro are wonderful apps that work like an interactive whiteboard and you're able to also add audio to both. We used these apps quite often in math to explain our thinking. My kiddos loved the laser pointer in Explain Everything.

Popplet is a mind mapping app. We often used this for our Words Their Way sorts or showing how things were inter-related. I found this to be a wonderful tool to track my reading groups as well. 

ChatterPix Kids and Sock Puppets Both of these apps give students the ability to make things talk. In ChatterPix, students take a picture or use on from their camera roll, add a line for a mouth (all done in the app) and then record what they want their object/picture to say. Sock Puppets is great for collaborative work. Students can choose their sock puppets, you can use more than one, and then act out a social skill scenario or describe a concept.

Down on the dock I keep the apps that we use daily or weekly. The Dog Blog is my classroom blog. I use this as a portal for students to get to certain sites so they don't have to type in url's. For example, when we are doing our research projects and students need to find copyright-free images, they go to The Dog Blog to access the Links for Kids area to go to Pics4Learning. This has been an easy way to get students to various sites and also gets them excited about going on The Dog Blog at home to share things with their parents. It's a Win! Win!! scenario.

Seesaw is by far our most utilized app. Not only do we upload all of the things we create from the apps above into Seesaw, but using Seesaw also allows us to record our voice to apps that don't already have that feature built in (like Popplet or PicCollage) so that students can explain their thinking and what they have learned. Seesaw also allows students to annotate on pictures, has a drawing feature, and so much more and it's FREE. Best of all though, is the ability for parents to be connected to their child's work in Seesaw. Students now have an authentic audience and that is a GAME CHANGER!! 

If you have questions about any of the others or how I use them, feel free to ask.

In my next post, I'll share my Daily 5 page.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Totally EPIC update you don't want to miss!!!! (#EpicPals)

Collaboration is a WONDERFUL thing and Twitter is an amazing platform to bring those collaborative efforts together. 

I've had some amazing people reach out to me this summer and have created some fantastic connections to help me in my new position. One of those people is Bobbi Hopkins (@bhopteacher), a K-6 Instructional Technology Coach from New York. We've had multiple conversations over the past weeks, but yesterday after posting this month's #EpicPals info,  Bobbi contacted me to ask if I would mind if she would put together an intermediate version of #EpicPals. We tweeted back and forth and came up with a plan that we hope will allow more students at multiple grade levels to benefit from this collaborative project!!

So here it is....

Bobbi will be following the same format and will be putting together books for intermediate readers along with the coordinating Padlet boards! We're collaborating on the same Google doc so both projects will be in the same location- 
Click pic to access the GoogleDoc

1 click now = 2 choices 
(a primary and intermediate version)

The primary version will mainly be geared toward 1st and 2nd grade readers and the intermediate version will be geared more for  3rd and 4th grade readers, however, we want you to pick what you feel is best for your individual students as we all know that just because you're in 3rd grade doesn't mean you're a "3rd grade reader".

The format will look and function the same way so if you need to utilize both versions in your class there won't be a noticeable difference for your students.

I'm totally pumped about the collaborative effort behind this project and am so excited that it's able to be rolled out for the new year! 

We hope that you will be too. If you have any suggestions regarding book genres, titles, etc, please don't hesitate to reach out to myself (@smalchow) or Bobbie (@bhopteacheron Twitter with the #EpicPals hashtag.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

EpicPals September is ready to go!

EpicPals is back and ready to go! For those of you who participated with us last year, things are still set up the same way... for now. Just click on the link or the picture below to access this month's Google doc. I did add one read aloud selection this month to give students a bit more support as we start the year out.

*Updates for the near future*
Epic Books is making some wonderful upgrades that will eventually make this project even more user friendly! They recently released the ability to create collections which means that I will be able to put all of the books for the month in a collection, title it ("#EpicPals September" for example) and you will be able to search the collection title and then assign it to your students! This means kiddos will no longer have to type in the title of the book. I did create a collection for this month, however, Epic has not quite released the update which will allow you to search for specific collections. Currently, it just randomly shows up in the collection area... so if you're lucky enough to spot it... grab it and give it a try! Collections are also able to be pinned to Pinterest so I've also created an #EpicPals Pinterest board.  Both of these will be great tools to make the project more efficient however, they are both still in "beta mode" and aren't quite ready. Epic has told me that they are working on it and hoping to have it running more smoothly after the back to school rush settles down. Once it goes live, I will be sure to blog about how to best utilize it! So excited for that to happen!!

Brand new to the project? 
Click picture to access Google doc to print

Here's what you need to know....

First, decide how you want to use the project with your class. Seeing as it's the beginning of the year, you may want to use this opportunity to model finding books on Epic and enjoy them together as a class. Then model how to use the QR code to get to the Padlet board and model how to leave a quality response. (You may also want to cover some digital citizenship skills by reminding your students to only leave their first names and state abbreviation on their Padlet posts.)

As the year goes on, many have used this project as a way to challenge their higher level readers or as part of a guided reading group, or even as a weekly whole group read-aloud and then have students leave their own comments on the Padlet.
*NEW* Intermediate Version thanks to Bobbi Hopkins!!

After you know how you want to utilize EpicPals, click on the picture to the right to access the Google doc and print it off for your classroom wall or make multiple copies for your class or 
specific students. Starting this month,  you will be able to choose from a primary or an intermediate version depending on the reading abilities of your kiddos. Feel free to use one or both with your class depending on individual student need.

When students are done reading the book selection, they will scan the coordinating  QR code on their sheet (no url's for our young learners!). This will take them to a Padlet board specific for the book they read. If you'd rather push this sheet out to your students on your blog, Google Classroom, etc the url's shown are clickable and linked to the boards as well.

As your students begin to post on the Padlet boards, please don't be overly concerned about spelling. This is meant to be a place where kiddos can read and respond to text authentically. I do check the boards every few days to double check content and any questionable phonetic spelling. (The links to these boards are not public or searchable- you must have the link to access them)

How students should respond on the boards?
That's really up to you. What's best for your learners? Are you learning about text-to-self connections, retelling, summarizing or simply writing complete sentences to share your favorite part?  Be creative, utilize the boards to match your learning objectives. Feel free to have your students include images or screenshots or create and upload video reflections- the sky's the limit. Most important, have fun with this!  I will at times put a question on the Google doc or on the Padlet for students to think about but these are simply springboards if needed and are NOT required.

Do we have to read the books on Epic?
If you have access to any of the books in another format, feel free to utilize ti. Books do not have to be read on Epic although I will say my class is so completely engaged when using Epic know that they have the ability to also earn badges for reading (using iOs devices). Gamification is a wonderful motivator and engagement factor!

Do we have to do all of the books and do we have to do them in order?
No, you can do any or all of the books and there is no particular order. Let your students' interest gauge where they start.  Again, make this fit your schedule and your learners. 

Have fun! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me. You can email me at 
or catch me on Twitter-@smalchow

*You can also contact Bobbie Hopkins with any questions regarding the intermediate version. You can reach her on Twitter as well @bhopteacher

If you've not used Epic Kids Books, it is free for educators- so run, don't walk, to check it out!! If you're interested in learning how to set up individual student accounts, click here to access some screen shots that will help you through the process.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

ROLLing into tech integration

The new year is just around the corner (T minus 5 days and counting!) and I'm excited to get started and meet my new colleagues. Although I'm planning to go around and introduce myself and chat with everyone individually, I also wanted to have just a little something to give the teachers in my buildings to start those conversations. After going up and down the candy aisle multiple times looking for the just right treat, I decided upon Tootsie Rolls, because let's face it, what teacher couldn't use just a tad bit of chocolate during these first few days?!

I had these great little jewelry-sized bags that I bought for a project at some point and never used. Finding them in my now "stored in the basement" classroom totes was an interesting endeavor, but I found them and they couldn't have been more perfect. I placed 3 Tootsie Rolls in each little bag and then created the iPad tag to attach to each one. I'm planning to put them in each teacher's mailbox on the first day back and then follow up with my personal chit-chats. 

If you're interested in the cards,  you can access them here or by clicking on the picture. There are two different options to choose from. I printed mine on cardstock, cut them out and stapled them to the bags. The cards are approx 2" x 3".  If you need bags, you can find a variety of them on Amazon, click here.
Click image to access the printable pdf

I'll turn the arrow on this board
to show where I am
One other project that I've been working on is finding a way to let the staff in my buildings know where I am if I'm not in my office (Ok, that just seems so weird to say- I've never had a job with an office before, and quite honestly, I don't plan on spending much time in it either) That being said, the 1st grade teacher side of me will never be gone and I plan to embrace it in my new position as well (watch out everyone!) so I repurposed the "Where Am I?" boards that I used in my classroom last year (hence the dog theme). I'm going to hang these outside of my office space so that if a teacher comes to see me and I'm not there, they know if I'm in there building or not and if so, where I may be. There's nothing more frustrating than having a bit of time to catch someone only to find out that they're not around and you nave no clue if they'll be back in 5 minutes or the next day. With being in 2 buildings on alternating days, I want to be sure that I am as transparent as possible so teacher's can utilize me to the fullest extent. 

On this board I'll move the circles
to the top spot by the arrow
The boards are simply made from cookie sheets from The Dollar Store that I modge-podged some fabric on to. I created the various pieces, printed and laminated them and the hot-glued magnet strips to the back. The arrow has a fatter magnetic circle so that it pops up over the other pieces. I then used E-6000 to attach some extra fabric to the back for the hangers.  The rectangle cookie sheet has neon green Duck tape around the edges.