Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Testing, Testing 1,2,3....

Last week we began utilizing the BlueFire app on the iPads so students can record themselves while reading. Ms. Skibba came in again to do whole group instruction explaining the steps and guidelines for doing a fluency recordings. In addition, she created handy step-by-step instructions for each student to use and follow during their time at the center. The instructions are very detailed and help students to independently problem solve before they come to me while I am working with others.

Students read a selection from a book of their choice for 30-60 seconds out loud. After reading the selection, they rewind the tape to the beginning and put on their headphones to playback their recording. They are then able to listen to themselves reading the selection. This is such an excellent tool to give them a whole new dimension of listening to their words and reading. They can hear their voice, inflection, and fluency all within one small selection. Additionally, it allows them to hear mistakes they may be making but not catching while reading.

I have to say I was so impressed by my students and their work with the fluency recordings. I was a tad bit nervous about the noise levels while students were recording, but so far they have handled themselves wonderfully while at the center.

I would also like to say a big thank you to Ms. Skibba and Mrs. Sanders for coming in and helping to get things running last week! We are all so excited to continue learning and utilizing more tools on the iPads.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Reading Specialist Uses the IPads

I LOVE the iPad! Today was my second day using iPads with my guided reading groups. Each day I teach a phonics or word work mini lesson that corresponds with the guided reading book. Today I used the iPads with three first grade groups and a second grade group using the awesome ABC Magnetic Letters App. I demonstrated sounding out three letter words with my beginning readers in first grade. Instead of using a white board to draw each letter as I sounded it out, I used the iPad App to drag the letters on to the screen as I said the corresponding sound. The students were absolutely engrossed in this routine activity! I guess iPads are vastly more interesting to look at than a whiteboard! The students then used the iPads to sound out words on their own. It was wonderful to see how engaged the children were in sounding out and writing words. This App replaces both the whiteboard and magnetic letters that we sometimes use for word work. It can be frustrating for kids to search and search for a magnetic letter they can't find when creating words. With this App, the time it took to complete the minilesson was nearly cut in half because the letters are in alphabetical order and easier to find.

During the minilesson for a different first grade group, we worked on word families, such as hear, dear, and fear. It was so easy for children to write "ear" on the iPad and switch out the first letter to create new words in the family. During my second grade group, I used the iPads to teach about different endings on base words such as s, ed, and ing. The students immediately understood that the base word stays the same, such and the word "jump" and by switching out the "s" for the "ed" and "ing", it changes the meaning of the word.

In all three lessons, the children were excited to be using the iPads, the iPads had a meaningful and useful connection to the lesson, and their use decreased the total time to complete the minilesson. It's a win, win, win!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lesson learned: be explicit!

You know how the first time you teach something you tend to overlook some key details? Kicking off the fluency recordings went sort of like that. By now (day 3), we've worked out the kinks. But it wasn't very smooth on our first try.

We were working with a group of 5 second graders at a time. The kids are using the built-in mics to record, and it took a fair amount of practice to get the students to speak at an appropriate volume, because I hadn't thought to model that. Since students practice being audible when reading to a live audience, they were a bit too audible for their practice recordings. This resulted in a lot of background noise on all the first recordings and general irritation on the part of our second graders. I also had forgotten to point out where the microphone is located and that recording on the iPad works best if they flip it around so the microphone and headphone jack are closest to them. These were issues that hadn't turned up when I tested it alone in an empty classroom -- the reality of a group of students working in a bustling classroom pointed out my blind spots pretty quickly.

Also, I had been so pleased with my lovely Blue Fire Screen Shots I neglected to realize that second graders wouldn't necessarily have the strategies to use a step-by-step guide like that. As with any reading and comprehension of printed materials, you have to be explicit.

Finally, my first attempt at a rubric was a little confusing for some kids. I revised it to make the layout more clear; here's the revised rubric.

Yesterday I introduced the fluency center to a second classroom of students, and what a difference! I modeled the appropriate volume and showed them how to monitor their own volume by watching the size of the "bumps" on screen. I showed them how to think of the headphone cable as an arrow pointing to where they should talk. Maybe most importantly, I went step by step through the Screen Shots and modeled how to use them as a resource when they aren't sure what to do. I also modeled completion of the Fluency Self-Check Rubric after a single recording and how to start again at the beginning for a second try.

I know "teach explicitly" isn't the most earth-shattering advice, but I think it is easy to overestimate what is intuitive for kids about technology, or to forget what issues will arise once the devices are in use by groups of students. I made the mistake of assuming a little too much and not being clear and explicit enough with the kids about the directions and the expectations. I forgot to show everything, not just tell. In an attempt take less classroom time with my explanation, I was less effective.

As a result of better teaching and more modeling, it's no surprise that the second and third days of fluency recordings were a huge improvement over the first. Now, we see the students reading, listening, reflecting, re-reading, practicing, and improving. The students were engaged and excited and genuinely focused on reading the passage better and better each time. We couldn't be more delighted with the students' progress -- as well as our own!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fluency recordings

We're starting fluency recordings this week! We'll be testing out some screen shots we made to help students navigate Blue Fire and a self-check rubric to guide their practice.

Next steps: getting ready for inquiry

Although we are still adjusting to the routines in our literacy centers, we are ready to begin using the iPads in our content area instruction and inquiry. A little background: our faculty has both studied and been featured in a book/DVD series by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey "Smokey" Daniels entitled Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action. Inquiry-based learning has led to increased student choice and engagement, deep and meaningful questioning, and real-world advocacy and action. Our iPad grant proposal centered around incorporating the iPad into all the stages of student inquiry for our first and second graders, in addition to supporting their literacy development. Now that we have a good foundation for using the iPads in literacy centers, we are ready to integrate them into into content area instruction.

Our first step will be to use multimedia to inspire student questioning and build background knowledge. Teachers are preparing slide shows and selecting web sites about their upcoming content area units, and these will be used alongside print resources in the classroom to help guide students as they wonder about the content and plan their learning. First and second graders are visual learners, and the iPads bring them the ability to access, manipulate, and think about images at their own pace. Images inspire wondering and questioning. Questions build student interest and frame future research. Questioning is a key component in the inquiry process, and I think the iPads will make it a richer, more engaging experience for the students.

Students will be using the app Simplenote to list the questions they have as they view the images and slide shows. I have become a little obsessed with Simplenote today -- as the name implies, it's incredibly simple. Students can create their own notes on individual iPads, and the teacher can view them all in real time in a single browser window. I'll post again once I see how it works in practice, but my test runs have been left me very optimistic. And best of all, it's free!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

First Graders rock the iPad

The first graders had been waiting patiently for their turn with the iPads, and this week they got their chance. I modified the sight word video format to include only 10 words instead of the 25 I had given the second graders, and this was a good move. I am going to stick with that format for both first and second graders. It's much easier and more pleasant for the kids to complete a 10 word video and start a second one if time permits than to start a 25 word video and not finish. You can subscribe to download our sight word videos here.

I was especially excited by how the kids are interacting with the content in the videos. They were reading and writing the word, then listening to the word, and cheering quietly for themselves when the movie confirmed that they had read the word correctly. I heard repeated exclamations of, "I read that one right!" and "I knew that one!" It's always tricky to design materials that will have kids engage actively with the content, rather than just clicking along, and it seems that these videos have worked for this group of kids.

I'll also say this about making media for kids: use music. Danceable music. I deliberated about this a little bit, but I found that having a little beat running through these videos really kept things fun and engaging for the kids and seemed to help them focus. Plus, who doesn't like a good beat?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

109 Loves the iPads!

Hello! I am Kelly Johnson and I teach reading and writing with the 2nd graders at Burley in the mornings. My students are so excited about using iPads in the classroom, as am I. I am new to "blogging" so I apologize if my first few appear a bit off-centered and not totally awesome.

We began using iPads in our classroom last Friday. Ms. Skibba came in and talked to our whole class about how we will be using them in class and the proper procedures for use. We were all so excited, we couldn't wait to get started.

In order to get the students acclimated with using the iPads, we began by having them watch a video to practice sight words. Students had to learn how to adjust the volume, pause and play the video and rewind to the beginning.

As a sight word came up, students paused the video then wrote the word on a paper. This exposed them to the seeing a word visually, hearing it in a sentence, and writing the word themselves.

The students worked their way through 25 words and then were able to switch programs and go into an application called "Spell Blocks" to practice spelling words. This gave students an opportunity to practice moving around on the iPad, switching programs, and using their fingers to navigate.

I know my students love having the iPads incorporated into our reading program. I think it gives them the opportunity to to utilize yet another tool for learning. I look forward to updating this blog as we continue to use the iPads and incorporate more tools for the students to use. 109 is so very grateful for this opportunity!