Sunday, September 25, 2011
Saturday, September 17, 2011
My teaching career started in 1998 at the Cooperative Children's Center in Seattle, WA. It is a parent owned childcare center started in the 70's by University of Washington parents and continues to value parent involvement, an anti-bias and emergent curriculum, and teachers and parents utilize positive discipline strategies. At the Co-op I learned about NAEYC standards (National Association for the Education of the Young Child) and DAP (developmentally appropriate practice). During my time there (I said goodbye for the last-time in 2003 and I still think fondly of the staff and families I came to love) I saw the power of child directed play and learning experiences based on child interest and not a prescribed curriculum.
I've been working in Preschool and Kindergarten in a school district setting since 2005 and I have felt the pressure of meeting standards and teaching children of all abilities. I have felt the need to make my classroom look and act like first grade so parents and administrators trust that I'm adequately preparing the precious darlings entrusted to me. Focusing on phonics, handwriting, counting to 100 seemed the right thing to do... but what about play? Creativity? Social skills? Vocabulary development and conversation? All teachers complain about not enough time in the day to teach everything necessary. I have the luxury of teaching all day Kindergarten but it still feels like there's not enough time to fit in "academics" and play and do justice to both.
I was reminded today of a phrase I focused on during my quest to complete my Masters and National Board Certification. Purposeful teaching, powerful play. NBCT's know any lesson is not complete without asking the question- what is the impact on student learning? No matter how fun, engaging or just plain cool an activity is, you are wasting your and student's time if you haven't considered just what the impact on student learning will be. You don't even have to make changes usually (although often I tweak a lesson once I consider the question) to your activity. Simply asking yourself how can I be purposeful while teaching this lesson helps you look for opportunities to ask meaningful questions, guide play, and build on student interest to make a powerful learning activity rather than one that was 'fun'. When play is approached purposefully academics naturally fits in.
website with videos of their apps).
Today I bought the full version of Toca Doctor for her @ $.99- but you can try out the lite version too- she loved it so I decided to pay up!) While I was on a roll I bought the Toca Tea Party for $2.99 (I love tea parties and what a fun way to let Lily play at having one too). I downloaded Toca Hair Salon while it was free awhile back (thanks to Mom's with Apps for their Free App Friday site!) as well as Paint My Wings. Toca Robot Lab is relatively new and I bought it for Lily for $.99 today too. Lastly, I bought Helicopter Taxi (it's just so easy to click install when you have $ in your account!!!) for $1.99.
For Lily, I buy things I wouldn't be willing to buy class sets of. I would however recommend at least buying one copy of Tea Party, Hair Salon, and Doctor for your dramatic play centers (I need to play with Helicopter and robot more before I recommend them). You will definitely need to ask your kids to brainstorm fair ways to share the iPads you put it on, but they should also be clamoring for turns cutting yarn hair, playing with doctor tools and setting up a tea set.
|Lily's Tea Party|
Doctor has little puzzles and activities that have children pick an area of the body to fix. I would love if the app had an option to turn on verbal labels- such as stomach, wrist, and maybe count how many slivers are taken out. But again, this is where the teacher/parent should come in- be there while your child plays and create opportunities to learn through play.
I do have Hair Salon on my class iPads and the kids LOVE it. And honestly, so do I! They make funky hairdo's, show off their creations and talk about the choices they make. You can use vocabulary like short and long, talk color choices (what nice blue and gold hair you've colored there!) and discuss symmetry and asymmetry.
Speaking of symmetry, Paint My Wings is another favorite of my kinders- and is good for discussions about color and examples of how butterfly wings have a line of symmetry.
Here's an idea for you teachers with one or a few iPads, or for when you've only bought one copy of an app. During centers put an iPad in the housekeeping center that kids will use "housekeeping" folder apps with. Put one at the math table with math apps, including some of the fun math apps. In your construction corner put the iPad with a build folder with angry birds, toca robot and more. Encourage the kids to build an example from the game.
There are more apps that are playful I could mention by name, but that would require my daughter giving me back the iPad. But she is still playing- and by the way, after cleaning the sugar bugs off the teeth in Toca Doctor she told me she wants to go to the dentist now.
Study after study talks about the need for creativity and problem solving skills for successful 21st century learners... can the iPad help with that? I think so.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Going successfully, so far, is the Facebook page I've created to share with families about the daily life of my classroom. This idea sounded great to me once I read Matt Gomez's blog about his successful use of FB last year (lots of info and links can be found from kinderchat's blog). He let me look at his page from last year and the quality of information shared as well as his parents responses on the page itself made making my own Facebook page a priority.
Feedback from my own classroom page parents-
Thank you so much! This is really nice. It is a great way for me to see what is going on. I ask a million questions but not much imput back from DS. Love this!
Cute! I love that we can see pictures so fast on what they are doing in class! Great idea!
It's so nice to be able to see our kids' work they are doing. Thank you.
My opinion, so far...
SO far I have posted pictures and videos of kids in class playing and learning, outside at recess and more. I took videos of them dancing to Jack Hartmann's Hip Hop tooty ta song today and asked them to guess what animals we would be studying in science. I enjoy looking for great pictures and video moments during the day and adore how easy it is to upload to Facebook from my phone. 7/20 parents have joined our page since school started (we are on our 9th day today). I really would LOVE if all 20 families actively participated on the page. As a parent I would love if my kids' teachers had a FB page too.
Pro's of Facebook Classroom Pages:
easier to update than school website
immediate sharing of what went on during the day versus a weekly/monthly newsletter
grandparents, and other long distance family can join too
secure- families must request to join page
do not need to be friend's to see page and posts
Some parents may not have easy access to FB/internet.
Some parents might be leery of having photos on the page. We don't use names and the posts can't be shared like most FB posts.
Monday, September 12, 2011
So, after pulling myself away from my new Google+ account, I created notebooks for each student. It was EASY. I look forward to snapping pics of student work, recording them reading, etc to share w/ parents at conferences or the child for self-assessment. Beautiful idea. Can't wait to try it out tomorrow.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
The kids were so excited last week when they saw the iPads in our classroom on the first day of school. I had hoped to have them ready for the first day of school, but priority wise it was not too high. Any K teachers... you know what I mean! Survival is #1 the first days of K! So today was our third day of school and I finally got the 20 iPads all synced and ready to go. I wish syncing was easier... I would do a 'first days' version and a 'all the apps' version.
I'd promised that they could use them today, but due to an assembly, I had less time to introduce them. Instead of introducing them in smaller groups I condensed and had the whole group in a circle and let them 'go' for a few minutes. About 85% got them on and used the slider to get to the dock and folders without assistance (INTUITIVE- love it). The rest figured it out soon enough and I encouraged peer coaching. If I had it to do over I'd probably have them at their tables- they could sit on their hands during instructions!
After a few minutes of exploring I guided the kids briefly through writing their name with Sketchio and using math and reading skills with Teach Me Kindergarten. Afterwards I directed them to use an app from the dock only.
During playtime I let them choose the iPad- 19/20 chose to play on them. One child cried when her mom picked her up early. Many of the kids kept using TeachMe: kindergarten even when they had the chance to play something else. At the end of the day, several kids tried taking them home.
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