Thursday, August 25, 2011

1:1 iPads in my Kindergarten class! Yippee!

I found out today that I am for sure getting a class set of iPads. Last September I saw an iPad for the first time... by November I had begged, pleaded and nagged until I got 5 for my classroom. By March I had 7. In May I got up to a total of 11. Then I started begging, pleading and nagging about a class set for September. Lo and behold... my wish was granted! I am expecting 21 students, and will have 21 iPads. I also have one iPad2 that will be used for video and photo projects by all the kids.

I am trying to plan for how the iPads will enhance or improve the day. For management purposes I am leaving off the 'FUN' apps- angry birds, motocross, jelly car'- at least for now. I may add those on later. Maybe.

After the first few days the kids will be able to use any app prior to school starting.

When the bell rings the children will open Sketchio and draw/write. Later in the year they can choose from other 'digital ink' apps but for the beginning of the year less options result in less issues.

I will use my iPad as an interactive whiteboard using Splashtop's Whiteboard app during group time.

Instead of whiteboards the kids will use Sketchio to write letter/words as a group. (No more passing out boards, pens or erasers. no ink on clothes, skin or the floor. No stinky dry erase markers that dry out and squeak.)

I will continue to use iPads as learning centers for math and reading- it will just be much easier to differentiate.

I will still use the dock for 'the best' apps for learning. I will still have a plethora of books in folders for the kids to read on page one, as well as apps (like Sketchio) that I want the kids to have easy access to.)

Issues I need to address before school starts:
how to store safely, but with quick access for the kids?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Best Free Literacy Apps

Why 'literacy' and not reading or writing?  "The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines literacy as the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society."  I find that reading and writing are so interwoven (and that they should be) that it's difficult to classify some apps into just reading or writing.  The apps I am listing include phonics, writing, handwriting, sight words, literature...  literacy skill builders for Early Childhood.

Please forgive  me for not taking the time to describe all of these.  I hope they are still free if you're reading this and you'll try them out on your own.  AND I will add more as I reload my class iPads... these are the ones on my personal iPads for my sweet daughter to play with.

So, the best free reading and writing literacy apps are, in my opinion, as of today:
Pocket Phonics Lite- you'll want the paid version after trying this!  It's not super fancy, but the format is great. 

Anything by Preschool University... the ABC Magic series.  I dislike how all the apps' icons look the same, but the apps themselves are great.  Always check out the developer website button in the top right of the app store in the iPad... you can find more great apps that way.

Sketchio  is a great app to use as digital paper/whiteboard.  I love that you can move back and forth between pages and it's real basic... not so many features as Doodlebuddy, but that's a good thing at carpet or center time.  others to get (I like letting my students choose from a variety of digital writing apps, just as I do various "real" tools)  Kidslate and Penboard

Skill builder spelling.  two fun games with word lists you customize.

PB Phonics 1-3 is free with 18 phonemes and 3 levels.  Interesting format. Has additional phonemes for purchase.

Grasshopper Apps has a lot of word work and alphabet recognition apps.  Some are free, some are not.  I like them because they are customizable.  I am going to add a couple of links here, but be sure to go to the developer page too to find any others you might like.  Sight Words  ABC Alphabet   I like book

StoryKit  Read or create books.  My favorite free app for creating stories with drawings, pictures, text, audio.

Best Apps for Kindergarten and the Teacher

Note, I will update when I find more apps that are worth paying for.  Check back for the updated list.  I will post a best of the free apps list with links and descriptions later as I load them on my class iPads.

There are so many wonderful free apps (THANK YOU DEVELOPERS- you are helping to change the future of so may children through putting quality learning activities in their hands!) that choosing the ones to pay for is difficult.  My classroom budget has been cut the last few years and my family budget is going to be taking a big hit this year too.  So, I do not take choosing which apps to pay for a class set of lightly.

My criteria: Needs to meet my definition of a Teaching Tool.
*Teaching tools should improve traditional learning activities by:
1.)  saving time.
2.)  allowing for differentiation to meet each child's learning needs.
3.)  motivating reluctant learners.
4.)  make learning fun.
+Ease of use. Ie. Intuitive
+low price (even with VPP it adds up so quickly!)
+teaches and/or reinforces
-lite versions, or in app purchase versions
-obnoxious noises, and even worse 'wrong' buzzers
-expensive... Even with 1/2 off via VPP a set of 24 apps still adds up, quickly.
-Complex menus...
-tells their answer was wrong, but the correct answer is not shown

Recommended paid apps for Student iPads:
Montessori 100 board
Well thought out 100 board, students can place tiles in order counting by 1's, and by 2's odd or even.   They have a new app out too apparently that has skip counting by 2's-10's that I haven't tried.
Park Math
I love the varied activities and three levels of difficulty.

Word wizard
WOW!  A moveable alphabet that reads what the child (or adult, as I have fun with it too!) writes.  It highlights words that are misspelled or spelled correctly.  You can also do spelling quizzes.  I need to try the full version, I have only used the beta so far but it was amazing.
Pocket phonics
I really like the format, and combination of letter writing and sound pronunciation.  The word games are great phonics practice too.
Montessori crosswords
By the same maker of Word Wizard.  Simple crossword puzzles and a movable alphabet I've used for making words lessons. Has three levels of difficulty and great scaffolding support.

Teach me K, or maybe Teach Me: 1st
for a measly $.99 this is a powerhouse app.  Works on phonics, math skills, sight words, etc.  Best of all it actually teaches and provides support if the child doesn't answer correctly.

Recommended paid apps for Teacher iPad:
Stick Pick 
Throw away your Popsicle sticks!  Pick a student randomly.  Gives ideas of questions to ask and allows you to evaluate and track student answers.
Decide Now!
Make your own spinners
no more paper planners... use this instead
Creative Genius
fun fun ideas to spark discussions and creative activities
I would like to put this on student iPads (I would if it was free!) but plan on just having it on mine for now.  Has a neat way of presenting ABCs for letter names, sign language and letter sounds.
I may pay for a class set of this, after I test it with students.   You should definitely have a copy for your students who need fine motor practice.
by Splashtop Lets you control your computer from your iPad and use it as an interactive whiteboard.  You still need a projector but you don't need a $1000 whiteboard anymore.

So many apps, not enough space! Or, how to choose the bast apps.

My iPad tells me at I've tried out well over 800 apps so far. Despite having a 32 iPad2 I find myself having to delete apps to make room for new downloads. (wishing I had bought a 64!). It is a painful process, choosing apps to delete.
Apple's changes to the app store helps, of course. I can always go to the purchased section, not on this iPad, to find an app previously purchased, and deleted. But still, I find myself agonizing over which apps are worthy of my coveted space.
Even worse, my classroom iPads ONLY have 16gb's. Soon I will have to pick and choose from the 800+ apps to decide which apps are going to make the cut.
My criteria:
+educational- a broad term, I know.
+Ease of use. Ie. Intuitive
+Free! (I will be much more selective of which ones I'll choose to pay for a class set. Some add up quickly!)
+Skill specific or easy to navigate. Ie. Work on short vowels only or clearly defined sections. This is important when choosing which folders to place them in.
+teaches and/or reinforces
-lite versions, or in app purchase versions
-obnoxious noises, and even worse 'wrong' buzzers
-expensive... Even with 1/2 off via VPP a set of 24 apps still adds up, quickly.
-Complex menus...
-tells their answer was wrong, but the correct answer is not shown
Apps I will pay for:
Montessori crosswords
Montessori 100 board
Park Math
Word wizard
Teach me K, or maybe Teach Me: 1st 
Pocket phonics
See? Already just these six apps would cost a lot. Cost/2*24=yikes. I really want developers to make money... But my husband will only let me spend so much of my own money, and now that I'm in charge of the budget I can see why. Food for my family or apps?
I really wish the buy an app-put it on up to 5 devices rule applied to Education. I would still be buying 5 copies of the app and would be likely to get so many more.
So wish me luck. And if you have a list you've already made up, send it to me. I'd be curious to see if you've found any hidden gems. I will be sure to use to share my final classroom iPad apps for fall 2011.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tweet this!

I am relatively new to twitter, @I_teach_k by the way, feel free to follow me and see who I follow. I began to use it regularly in May then got busy and forgot it for a while. I especially like it for hearing about good new apps. Today I came across #kinderchat, apparently a hashtag to follow Mondays @ 9pm ET.

The best this is that their blog has a newbies guide to tweeting! So check it out #kinderchat

This week it appears they are going to discuss an article about self-regulation...

One of the things I like about twitter is the sense of community... Something I lack here in my one class per grade small town. So kinderchat sounds like a great idea to me!

By the way, I'd love it if you share your favorite posts from my blog to twitter or Facebook... There's a link at top left.

I get a lot of enjoyment out of seeing how many people read my blog...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sosh App for Social Skills Development

I am thrilled to have won a promo code for SOSH from SOSH and Teaching All Students! I am looking forward to using it with my oldest son and in class next year as needed.
UPDATE:I got the free code (THANK YOU! SOSH and Teaching All Students)and I've begun using it with my boys. I expected to use it only with my oldest, who has ADD and undiagnosed mental disorder, but actually used it with my youngest son first. He has been in a terrible mood lately... Easily angered, instigating arguments, nasty temper, etc. When he started to lose his cool again the other day I opened the SOSH app and used some of it's features with him. He really responded to the deep breathing prompts, the perspective tool and the block it out feature. When I used it with my oldest tonight, he loved the shredder and liked rationg how the different problem solutions worked or didn't work for him tonight. I love that I had pre personalized the block it out feature with one of their own favorite songs... Got them singing along and letting go of some anger.

I am looking forward to using more features. Be sure to follow the link bellow for a great review of SOSH.

About SOSH
SoshTM is a new approach to social skills development. The Sosh methodology breaks down social functioning into five essential areas: Relate (Connect with Others), Relax (Reduce Stress), Regulate (Manage Behaviors), Reason (Think it Through), and Recognize (Understand Feelings). These 5 R's serve as a roadmap for individuals who struggle with social skills and also serve as a guide for parents, teachers, and therapists.

I loved the review of the app on Teaching All Students blog... Check it out here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Great websites for teachers

I started this blog because teachers kept asking me about my experiences using technology and I wanted to "pay it forward" to say thanks for all the amazing websites that have freely shared wonderful ideas and resources during the past 15 years I've been in the teaching field.

Tonight, instead of sleeping, I've been working on letters to my new kindergarten families and looking online for new teaching ideas. So, I wanted to share a few of my favorite sites/blogs in case you haven't found these ones yet. They are not all tech related... but they do have great ideas, so check them out!

Teaching Blog Addict- my newest find

LadyBugsTeacherFiles blog-great ideas and downloads

Ana-White's terrific furniture plans for the DIY teachers

Florida's Reading Resources, search for reading skill activities

Reading Rockets-Good literacy info for all

We Give Books...Read books, and they donate books to needy kids

A4CWSN... App reviews, iPad fundraising, App Parties oh my!

Tony V's Ultimate mobile learning site

Wonderful list of apps sorted by skills/IEP goals.

Tech in (Spl) Ed site... Loved by me for free app Fridays.

Love Brainpop... free video a week or subscription

Littlest Learners blog- Great ideas for organization- the area I am most lacking in!

Storyline Online-Stories read by Actors

ESGI Online Assessment for K/1 (not free)

AWESOME Art Projects For Kids

Oswego Online Math Games

K Kove-SF Reading Street for K

Kelly's K for you open court teachers, plus great games and homework

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