Friday, June 24, 2011

Finding Apps for Second Grade

Here is a list of  Recommended Apps for Second Grade, my colleague is looking forward to getting her first iPad for her classroom next week, so I searched through my apps and used to make the list for her.  I wanted to share it with YOU too.  I would love suggestions if any second grade teacher knows of a great site I haven't found yet.

If you are starting out for the first time in the App store I highly recommend NOT paying for any Apps at first, unless it's been highly recommended to you by another teacher.  Apps add up quickly, and there are many free apps available.  I found that my criteria for what makes a good app in my opinion changed dramatically over the past 9 months- I am sure yours will too.

Also, for those new to the app store, here is my recommendation for finding great apps among the multitudes. Sometimes it feels like finding a needle in a haystack.

First, on your iPad, go to the App Store.  Open the categories section.  Type a specific skill or subject into the search box on the upper right (ie: vowels or addition).  You will get two groups of apps, iPad or iPhone that match your criteria.  I usually only look through the iPad section unless there is a limited selection, then I browse the iphone section too.  Remember ipod/iphone apps work on the iPad too.  Click on "show all."  If you get a lot of apps that match your subject you need to weed out the ones without good ratings and/or free or paid apps using the options above.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Apps on my iPads

Here is a handy list of most of the apps I've got on my personal, classroom, and my kids' iDevices.  I will work on making a whittled down list of my recommended apps using, but for now here's almost 600 apps I've tried out at some time.   If you open the url, you can click on the link to see the app in itunes.  Sorry it's partially in Deutsch- the site is in Beta testing.

Please note that these are not all great apps- some are marvelous and others on this list are simply OK.  I leave it to you to decide if you want to try them out.  I will make another list that only includes my absolute favorites soon.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Apps for children with special needs

If you have, or work with, children with special needs I hope you've already discovered or

Be sure to 'like' his Facebook page: every so often he holds an app party, with free codes to give away. There's also good reviews of apps on his site.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dear Sync Letter

Dear Sync,

I'm sorry, but I just can't stand you anymore! I'm abandoning you today, as you are too complicated and can never quite meet my needs. You take way too much time and interfere with my enjoyment of my iFriends.

If you have to know, I am going to be with iCloud now. He's easy to be with, dependable, and is there when I need him, no matter where I am.

Sync, I hope you and I can still be friends. We may see each other from time to time, especially around ios4. Once ios5 is ready for iCloud and I we will probably never see you again.

Love, Digitalkindergarten

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Kindergarten Angry Bird Competition!

Trying out the launchers

I will always advocate for full day kindergarten. My first year of teaching K my class was split into am/pm and I hated it. I was very limited to reading, writing, math and I always felt rushed. The afternoon kids were drooping, and so was I. I hated repeating the same thing I'd already done in the am. The kids were already staying all day, just with an enrichment teacher (a para Ed) for the time they weren't with me. By February I'd had enough and combined my kiddos... And It was amazing. Suddenly I had time to do projects I'd felt guilting fitting in before. So, for the next 4 years I've begged to keep all day kindergarten no matter the class size. and I've loved it.

However, the kids are so tired by Friday I have instituted 'Fun Friday'. We stick to routine M-Th and then change it up on Friday. I have a parent volunteer in the morning, so I do messy projects and things I won't tackle on my own with so many busy kiddos. I try to plan special events on Fridays and save the best ideas for Fridays... One of which was our own game of Angry Birds.

When I first got the iPads I downloaded Angry Birds for my family to play, and of course we all loved it. I left the free version on the class iPads and of course my students loved it. Recently I decided to take 'non educational' apps off the class iPads, including Angry Birds. Yes, I know, many teachers will insist that the game teaches physics, strategy, and other worthwhile skills. I however, think it's pure fun and would rather have my students use apps that are more meaningful during learning times.

Then, normally kind students started arguing over the iPads I hadn't changed (erased the fun games on) yet. A parent of a somewhat emotional child told me he'd cried at home because I was taking Angry Birds away. The kids were using blocks and plastic counting bears to build Angry Bird style structures.

So I finally decided to cave in, and put Angry Birds on all the iPads again. I also started planning a way to play Angry Birds in class after seeing the intricate structures they were building.

Then this Blog Archive » Using Angry Birds to teach math, history and science came to my attention and I knew it was time to go hog wild (pun anyone?) and embrace the craze. After all, it is my job to captivate young learners and make curriculum to fit their interests and the standards.

My favorite homemade launchers

How we played Angry birds in K:

First, I let the kids play the game on the iPad or other device. I also showed a few YouTube clips of lifesize angry bird games and one stopmotion paper recreation.

Then I printed off the piggy targets (targets available if you follow the above link). I printed and attached them to tissue boxes for the practices and then plastic cups for the competition (easier to knock over). I collected various materials for the launchers and angry birds. For the launchers i had some wooden parts; shims, popsicle sticks, blocks and tape, small plastic frisbees, straws, plastic spoons, rubber bands, thread spools, pipe cleaners. For the birds a student suggested eraser caps, I wrapped styrofoam eggs in tape, and we also used large white dried beans for the birds.

I put the kids in groups of their choice, but that didn't work well as the kids all wanted to make their own. Then I let them work alone or as a group. I did ask them to talk about and draw pictures of their designs. Some were great depictions of what they actually created.

After they'd had time to create, we went outside to practice using targets made from tissue boxes and the pig targets I'd printed off. Then I gave more time for adjusting their launchers, and then for practicing shooting at the targets, which were now taped onto plastic cups. We assigned points: 10 for a small cup being hit, 100 for a knock over. 50 for a big cup, 500 for a knock over.

I announced the competition would be held the next week, with school made and homemade launchers. Suggested Rules for homemade launchers: kid directed and assembled, with some parent help, No store-bought (one child did bring a professional slingshot) or touching the "bird" allowed.

Our local stores did not carry any angry birds merchandise so I bought a $4 slingshot from Fred Meyers and three slingshot airplane gliders as prizes. I also printed off copies of the targets for all students so they could play at home. Each child was given 3 shots of 1-3 angry birds of their choice. They got two chances, for a total of 6 shots.

I think this was the coolest project I've ever done in K. The kids had so much fun and were very creative. The 1st-4th graders who observed us practicing were so jealous I hasn't done it with them when I was their teacher.

Video to follow... Hopefully this weekend :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Best apps for end of the year kindergarten

Here are some of my favorite teaching tool* dock apps for use by most end of year kiddos. While not an exhaustive list... These are apps I feel improve on some more traditional activities, or they provide personalized feedback that I just can't do in a class of 23.
Apples in Hour Hands
Line 'em Up
Find the Sum

Park Math (not pictured)

Talking Memory 123
Montessori 100 Board

I teach the kids how to adjust the settings to make it harder if they are ready for it, and most love the challenge.

Preschool University's Reading Magic apps
Grasshopper's Little Reader and Little Speller apps (I personalize these a lot).
Word Bingo
Little Speller
Skill building spelling- this is great to target specific words for specific kids.
Pocket Phonics and Dot to Dot Number Whiz are good ones too.

This Is My Story

Writing...Story Kit, Kids Slate, Pen Board,

Misc... Teach me first grade

*Teaching tools should improve traditional learning activities by:
1.) saving time.
2.) allow for differentiation to meet each child's learning needs.
3.) motivating reluctant learners.
4.) make learning fun.


I am feeling very appnoxious today. I am drooling over a few new apps. Due to a recent fraudulent use of one of our cards I don't want to add money to my account right now... Someone used our Paypal card (which is tied to our bank account) to order things from Apple, including, apparently a $100 itunes card. I am hoping to wait until it's all straightened out or I can buy another gift card (in my usual $10 or $15 dollar denominations from Fred Meyers.)

I talked with a parent tonight about how awesome iPads are in the hands of young children. I am becoming more sold on an AppleWorld as I have my students use them more and more. I have 11 now for my class of 23 students, so I've been having half use the iPads while I work with the other half, or with one student while the others are doing a project. It is amazing how excited they are to use them to practice sight words and math skills. In the mornings I have let them choose from books on the iPads or the reading and math apps I have placed on the dock.

For anyone new to this blog, I use the dock for apps that meet my criteria of a teaching tool.

*Teaching tools should improve traditional learning activities by:
1.)  saving time, because we never have enough educational time, or prep time.
2.)  allow for differentiation to meet each child's learning needs.
3.)  motivating reluctant learners.
4.)  make learning fun.

These are apps that, if anyone were to come in and say that my learning time was wasted on apps, I could laugh and then show exactly how the apps are sometimes the best use of learning time, when it's just me and 23 kids of various levels and with challenging behaviors.

I would swear that the iPads have saved my sanity this year. So, I am sorry if I come across a little appnoxious... It's just that until I can clone myself and hire a personal and classroom assistant I never want to be/teach without my iPads or the awesome apps on it ever again.

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