Thursday, October 24, 2013

Oral Language and Reading Fun with iPads and QR Codes

My classroom has been fortunate to have the use of three iPads. This is the first year that I have had this option. We have had so much fun using them!

One of the ways I have been using the iPads is to develop oral language for my kindergarteners. When we do the calendar during circle time, I let the students take turns being the "weather person". I let students be the "camera man" and use the iPad to video their classmates weather report. The weather reporter say their name, get to choose what channel they work for, and the time of the news. They then tell what today's weather is and put all the appropriate pieces up on the wall. They then "forecast" what tomorrow's weather will be like and put up pieces for that as well. One of my students is so shy, he was a bit uncomfortable doing this. I encouraged him to try and I helped him do his part. He was shy, speaking quietly, and wanted me to tell him everything he needed to say. He barely whispered his part. I then replay the weather report videos back to the class and they LOVED it!

Next, we used the app called Little Bird Tales. Using this app is a great way to make an interactive digital class book. To get the students familiar with how to use the app and manipulate the buttons, we made a collaborative shape book. I let the students choose whether they would like to drag and draw a square or a circle. They got to choose what color it was outlined in and what color it was filled in with. They then dragged the shape across the drawing space as large, small, skinny, wide, tall, or short as they liked. Then, using the microphone, they would describe their shape: "This is a large, purple circle with a pink middle." It was a simple way for them to begin to learn to use the app. Every time a new student made a page, we just added a page to the book so that the final result was a collaborative class shape book. We then played back and listened to the book. They watched each page and loved identifying who the author illustrator of the page was! My little shy guy was becoming a bit more adventurous and spoke louder with this project.

We then used the app called Photo Booth. I let the kinders choose what "look" they wanted to use to have me take their picture. The X-ray and heat wave look was very popular. I then took their pictures. I loaded the pictures into iMovie. I then had the students speak into the microphone. They said, "My name is XXX, and this is my friend, XXX." I adjusted the length of the audio so that as the student said their own name and introduced the next person, the next person's picture showed up. When you play back the movie, it begins with one student introducing themselves and then introducing their friend. It ends with the last student introducing me. They LOVED all the different looks their friends chose for their pictures. My little shy guy practically shouted his part for this project!! The iPad has truly given him so much confidence in developing his oral language. I am so thankful! He has a voice and he's not afraid to use it!

The most recent activity we have used the iPad for is to practice reading. I downloaded a QR code reader onto the iPads. I created a packet that can be purchased in my TpT store called "Scan & Read, Spell & Write". I created QR codes for vocabulary in the classroom that I use to introduce initial sounds as each new letter is introduced in my classroom during phonics using a QR code creator called QR Stuff. If you'd like to look at what I offer in the packet, please click on the cover page.

I have designed cards for all 26 letters. Below is an example using only 4 of the letters. The four picture cards are cut apart and placed in a center or in different places around the room. Students scan the QR code. Students then copy the word that shows up next to the same picture in the writing space. 

Or, students can use the worksheet below. They can attempt phonetic spelling on the top line. They then scan the QR code for the individual picture and check their spelling. If it is correct, they write it one more time on the lower picture. If it is incorrect, students correct their spelling on the second line.

I have also created the cards with the real vocabulary word under them. The vocabulary cards can be used as a matching game with the QR code cards. 

These can be used as worksheets and they can be laminated and used with white board markers in centers. The pictures are large enough to be colored, developing student fine-motor skills.

If you'd like to see more about how to use QR codes for reading, please visit this blog post I wrote awhile ago: Use QR Codes to Teach Reading.

I would love to hear how you are using iPads in your classroom!


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fun Letter Writing Practice

We use Saxon Phonics in our kindergarten classroom. Every Tuesday and Thursday, we do a "sound test" to see if the students have mastered the sounds and can identify the letters that we have introduced to that point. I put the letters that we have learned up on the board for them to refer to during the tests.

At the moment, we have introduced the letters, l, o, g, h, t, p, n, and a. Students take 2 file folders and place them, standing up on their desk to make "privacy offices" to work in. I do this so that students sitting next to each other can't just copy off of each other's papers. They are supposed to pull in their chair and slide their standing folders to the edge of their table. I have tried this for the last 8 years with little luck. Those little guys still manage to lean back and peak around the folders and copy the work of their friend. Outside of assessing them individually, (which I do), it gets tricky trying to see who really does actually know these letters. I have even tried to just have them use their hand to cover their work after they write an answer, but some still forget to do that too.

I finally came up with something that I love and so do they! A simple post-it piece of paper has made a great difference in so many ways!

I call this piece of paper their "secret note" and it adds an air of mystery, just because of the name. They stick the paper over the area they are writing on. When I ask them to write the letter that makes the sound that says, "/n/", they lift the post-it, write their answer, then let the post-it drop again. It REALLY helps cover the work they have done and hides it from their neighbors, so it takes away the copying problem!

While they are sitting their waiting, and possibly waiting more while I repeat the sound, they used to get off task. They have something to do now! While the students are waiting, they look at the letters I have put up on the board and can practice more writing by writing the letters or making words with the letters on their "secret notes". (Most of them haven't figured out how to make words yet, so they just practice writing the letters.)

They can earn a sticker for their chart if they participate. The stickers on their chart earn prizes, so of course they all participate. The bonus is that I then have another current rendition of their writing style that I can pull off their paper and include in their portfolio that I go over with parents during our fall parent conferences. I can show the parents whether students are creating their letters correctly or not. This exercise has definitely shown improvement in writing for many of my students!

Here is my newest favorite iPad app that I also use for letter writing practice!

It is a simple tracing app that WILL NOT let the student draw the letter incorrectly. We do write with a D'Nealian style in class, but this font is pretty good still. In the picture above, you touch the animal head and pull the animal head down to "eat" the food, or sometimes, a tractor picks up hay or a whale eats food or a crab walks too. It's fun and interactive. It includes tactile sound as well. You can use a free version or update to a pro version for $1.99. A really nice option for this is that you do not have to go through the entire alphabet. In my case, I can simply scroll across the screen to get to the 7 or 8 letters I am currently covering.

I have 3 iPads in the classroom, so when my students finish their morning work, they can go to the iPads to practice those letters we are working on. The writing in the classroom this year has really improved, thanks to these few changes I have made this year! We love it and hope you do too!

On Mondays, I use the page from this packet I have created for morning work:

On Wednesdays, I use the page from this packet I have created for morning work:

A final result of all of this letter writing practice has been that students are now creating their own "secret notes" for their homework. They are having their parent tape papers to their homework and they are bringing in little sheets of paper with extra letter writing on them! I loved it so much, I reward these with stickers too. I have not announced this as something to do, but students have noticed others doing it and now a lot of the kiddos are bringing these sheets in every morning!

What do you do for letter writing practice?

Enjoy the ideas!

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