Monday, December 17, 2012

Tis the season to be journaling

iDiary app icon
I'm not sure if I've ever written about this particular app, but it is one of my all time favorites for 1st graders (or 2nd and 3rd graders), it is called, iDiary. It's a $1.99 in the app store but in my opinion, so worth the cost. If you are in a 4-5 iPad classroom, the app will allow you to put up to 6 students on the app. 
From iTunes: " iDiary for kids is a daily journal at its core- kids can express themselves periodically: writing, drawing, decorating entries with stickers. They can easily navigate to their old entries and explore their past musings or post entries for future events through an intuitive calendar navigation system"

I use this app mainly in our Daily 5 Work on Writing time, but on occasion we will use it during our Writer's Workshop time as well.  Today one of my students used the app to tell about Timmy our classroom elf (gosh there's another positive for Timmy- I'm telling you, if you don't have an elf, you definitely want to consider adopting one for next year). The best part was, she was also able to upload (easily I might add) a picture that she took of Timmy to go along with her writing. Once she was done with her entry, she was then able to share it with me via email. Email has been a fabulous tool to give students an authentic audience. After Christmas break, students will also be able to share their writing and projects with their parents via email- talk about motivating, they can't wait!!!

It's the little things like this girls writing and iPad usage that make me smile everyday! I am constantly amazed at what 1st graders really CAN do independently and how technology engages them gets them to work on things that otherwise are considered mundane or hard at times. Writing is not an easy thing for most first graders and is something that requires much practice to be good at, but with the help of apps like iDiary, Bamboo Paper, email, and others, students are excited and sometimes begging for writing time. Technology may not be the end all cure all to learning, but the engagement and time on task that it  brings is a definitely a positive... as the saying goes, Practice makes progress and if kids are willing to practice then progress is right behind!!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Timmy, our classroom elf

It's amazing what an elf on the shelf can do for a rambunctious group of first graders who are eagerly awaiting Christmas break! Our elf, Timmy, has been at the forefront of our learning for the past two weeks. Timmy has helped us to become better picture takers, better email readers, and has helped us learn how to attach pictures to our emails.

2 weeks ago a package arrived straight from the North Pole with a book called, The Elf on the Shelf and a small, cute elf who we have now affectionately named Timmy. As we read the story we found out that our elf will be reporting back to Santa each and every night and that the next day he will be in a different location in our room. We also found out that once Christmas arrives, that our elf will return to the North Pole until next year. For that reason, we decided that we'd better document Timmy's adventures while we had the chance so... each morning when the kiddos come in, they immediately begin to scour the room for Timmy. Once they find him they get their iPad out and take a picture of him. 

Now that we have our email accounts sync'd to our iPads I usually write my kiddos a morning message similar to the one below. Each morning there is some sort of technology task to do such as replying to a question, taking a picture, or attaching a picture to an email. This has been a great way for my kids to practice their technology skills in an authentic way while also improving their reading and writing abilities.

Looking ahead at the big picture, my rationale for having them take a picture each day is that at the end of this "elfie" journey, we will document Timmy's adventures in our classroom by each uploading our pics into the app iMovie. It's my hope to then share our projects on our classroom blog and/or have each child send their project via email to their parents. I had thought about using PicCollage again but opted against it with the number of pictures that we will have and thought that the slideshow format would be better suited.

On a techy, but not really side note, we made these adorable techy Santas today. Being a 1:1 iPad room, these were just too cute to pass up. The kids got quite a kick out of his big black glasses. You can find the project here if you're interested.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

No words....

As a mother of two young boys and a teacher of 6 and 7 year olds, I have been absolutely stunned, horrified, and haunted by the events unfolding out east. I tell my students on a daily basis that my #1 job is to keep them safe. I have reflected over and over again on that statement and how important it is for my students to know that. The teachers who gave the ultimate sacrifice to keep their students safe are heroes in every sense of the word. I can't even begin to imagine what was going through their minds and their students' minds as everything was unfolding. 

Despite the craziness that each new day brings, I am blessed to be able to work with 15 smiling, exuberant children each day. You can bet that each of them will be getting an extra hug and a lot of extra TLC on Monday. As for my own children, they are getting lots of extra hugs, "I love you's" and mommy time today. Life is just too short!

God Bless the families of those that have lost loved ones in this tragedy!!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Read the room the QR code way

I finally got the chance to kid test my QR code sight word activity that I created this summer. You can read my previous post here.  I wanted to wait until I had introduced all or nearly all of our words so that it would be more of a sight word review and my students would be more successful with the technology aspect of the activity. 
This week I began hanging all 45 of the QR codes up around the room. Slowly, the kids began to notice them and started asking questions about what they were. Today, as I began to introduce the project, the excitement built as students started to point out the various places that they had seen them around the room. I didn't "hide" them as I don't want them to take forever finding them, but they are scattered around the room- some high, some low. 
i_nigma app icon
After introducing the recording sheet, I showed the kiddos how to scan the codes using our iPads. If the excitement wasn't high before, it went through the roof when they found out they would get to use their iPads too! I ended up chosing the QR reader called, I-nigma. After testing several different QR code readers, I found this one to be the easiest and most user friendly for a 1st grader to use not to mention the size of the text when it displays what is on the code is the largest that I have found (I'd say probably around 16 pt). I also like the fact that I had the option to turn off the decoding sound. With 15 kiddos scanning we certainly don't need to be hearing the blips and beeps the whole time.
I'm excited, maybe more so than the kids right now, to see how well they do over the course of the next couple of weeks. We'll get a good idea Monday morning as we have 12 visitors from another school district coming to observe our technology at work.
I also found it funny today that they noticed the QR code outside of our classroom door for the 1st time today (it's been there since the first day of school) LOL

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sight Words Tech'd Out

Last week we started using our iPads to practice our weekly sight words. During our Daily 5 word work time each child is practicing their sight words by using an app called Magnetic Alphabet. The sheet you see to the left is what each child uses to help them navigate through the app and to save their work. Before conferences we will take each of the sight words we saved and create a sight word album in our phot area and then add them to that folder. At conferences, students will then share their sight words with their parents by utilizing the slideshow format so in essence we will have a digital picture frame of our words. My kiddos are doing a fantastic job independently changing their backgrounds, writing their words, and saving them!  I introduced the app and the guide sheet in about 5-10 minutes and away they went. I have the kiddos turn in their sheet when they are done so I know they have completed the weeks' words. At the end of the week I send the sheets home for parents to utilize if they wish.