Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Apps, apps, and more apps

I think I am going app crazy, yes, I DID mean to say APP crazy!  Since getting my new iTunes acct 3 weeks ago, I have been using every spare minute I can find, which is usually around midnight when I finally crawl into bed, to look for apps that will coordinate with my 1st grade curriculum or will help me to modify where needed for some of my outlying students.
I have found some great apps, and at this point, everthing I've downloaded has been FREE!!!! I' hesitant to spend my little nest egg all out one time. Trying to be very frugal to make my money stretch as far as I can. 

Some of my favorites so far are:

DoodleBuddy- I am constantly thinking of new ways to embed this app which is simply a drawing app. My original thought was to have my kiddos use it during their Word Work Daily 5 rotation to practice their spelling words.
Today it dawned on me that I could use then in place of my mini whiteboards for my daily review/mental math. The only drawback would be that we are use iPod Touches which gives us a small writing/drawing area compared to the size of the iPad.

My next fave, is not an app, but rather an app developer called GrasshopperApps. They have a phenomenal library of mostly free apps including books and learning games. I am especially in love with their books. The reader has the option to either read the book alone or to have the book read to them as the words are read and highlighted. I am planning to embed these into my Daily 5 rotation as well but am still pondering my main objective for this app to determine if they would better fit into my Read To Self rotation or my Listen to Reading rotation. Maybe I'm thinking too much about that decision..... I'll have to think about that.... LOL
I'm sure I'll be discussing these apps quite a bit over the year as they offer such a great variety of topics that are so appropriate for the youngest learners. I also love, but have not experimented with this yet, that you can customize their apps including using your own voice, removing and adding pictures, etc. What a great way to tailor an app to your specific curriculum pieces (sight words, spelling words, etc) More on that in a future post.

My biggest dilemna that is still out there in front of me at this point is: how do I want to organize all of these apps on my mobile devices now so that kiddos will be able to quickly and easily find the apps I want them to focus on. Right now I don't see this being a huge problem, but as the number of apps increases along with the number of pages, I foresee needing a system.

I am also toying with the idea of how to organize these apps in an effective manner for me to best utilize them for a specific kiddos specific needs. I want to create some sort of a spreadsheet that will allow me to quickly find which app will best fit a certain learning target. I am especially seeing this with apps that cover multiple learning targets. I started to create file that correlated with our math report card goals, but have quickly realized that this format has a lot of limitations in that it will only categorize apps for secure, end-of-the-year goals.
APPS for 1st Grade Report Card Math Goals

Any thoughts from anyone that has used multiple apps with multiple devices?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Writer's Eye

Ok, this isn't high tech, but I am totally loving the start of my writing bulletin board this year. I can't remember where I saw the original idea, but one of my favorite blogs, The First Grade Parade, shared her printables for this bulletin board which I absolutely loved. You can find her printables here. I have many more things/anchor charts that will be added to this wall over the course of the year as it will be a work in progress as needed. I can't wait to create the writer's eyes that will actually go above the bulletin board as the eye catching pop (no pun intended) to grab students' attention.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

iPods abound

Anyone that teaches 1st grade well knows why I haven't blogged lately... just toooooo busy! WoW!! We may be working on building stamina for Read to Self, but I need to build stamina for spending a day with 6 year olds! Whew! Love it, but wow have I been wiped this week!!
Last week we got the iPod touches out for the 1st time. We talked a lot about my expectations for how they should unhook them from the cart, carry them, and use them. We learned about the home button and that each little picture is called an app. Today just to get everyone use to how they work we used the note app and wrote our names, words we knew, etc. Some of the kiddos even started to write notes to each other. It was great to see the excitement and you could have heard a pin drop with the exception of the sharing of sentences. Some of the kiddos even figured out how to get their screens to flip horizontally. I'm excited to see what the future will bring with these wonderful tools in our classroom. The best part is, as of right now, we have 15 students and 15 iPods, so everyone has their own!
From a management standpoint, at this time I have a sticker on the back of each one which correlates to each of my students' math tool kit numbers. My plan is to have a jpeg image with each number as the screen saver but just haven't had the time as of yet. I also found out in a hurry that when having the kiddos put the iPods back into the cart to have them lay them in their corresponding numbered slot facing forward with the home button touching the number on the cart. This puts the iPods in perfect position to plug them in for charging and syncing. At this time, I am plugging them in but plan to eventually have a "Tech specialist" classroom job to help with that task.
I've found several great FREE apps already, including one called, Alphabet Tracing which is a great app for tracing letters.

My kiddos have had no problem maneuvering around the app including changing the color/texture that they wrote in.

This has been a great extension to our handwriting practice and although it may not promote good handwriting witih a pencil, as writing with your finger is a bit different, it certainly helps reinforce the proper formation of the letters, particularly top to bottom.

I'm looking forward to sharing more with you over the coming months! I am so blessed to have this opportunity and my class is all over this with excitement!