Tuesday, November 27, 2012

iPad App Wish List - Free Apps

Last week, I shared that my school is going to become a 1:1 iPad school, and yesterday I shared a bit about my role in preparing for that process. Today, I want to share my top 10 list of free apps that I hope we'll have next year. (To see my top 10 for paid apps, click here.)

1. Show Me
This is an interactive whiteboard app that can also record audio and screen actions. It's great for making tutorial-type movies as I previously shared here.

2. Evernote
This app lets you take notes, capture photos, record audio and organize ideas in a user-friendly, easily accessible way. I use this extensively to organize my anecdotal notes and ideas, and I have ideas for how my students would be able to use this next year as well.

3. BrainPop
The app version of the website. My students love Tim and Moby, and I think the quality of the BrainPop stuff continues to get better and better. They've developed such a large storehouse of videos that deal with so many different topics in all subject areas. To me, this is a must-have app if your school already has the paid subscription to BrainPop.

4. Rover
This app was created for educational purposes, and it's a cloud-based Flash player/web browser that allows Flash-based websites to run on iPads. While it's not always the fastest app in the world, it's much better than realizing that the lesson you'd planned won't work on the iPads just because Adobe and Apple don't get along better.

5. Google Earth
The app version of the website. My students could explore this app for hours. It's great when we're exploring topics in history or literature, working on real world math problems, or looking up locations for current events.

6. Adobe Photoshop Express
Allows students to make minor tweaks to photos -- including cropping, eliminating red eye, adjusting color, etc.

7. QR Code Reader and Scanner
I've integrated QR codes into several classroom activities such as interactive word walls, geometry riddles, and general differentiation; students would need this app for its functionality.

8. Khan Academy App
Videos and tutorials for a large variety of math and science topics. I love using this app to differentiate instruction. When I'm working with one group, I can send students who aren't understanding a concept to this app to watch a video that might help them until I can get to them. In addition, it's great for my advanced kids who are ready to move on to more advanced topics.

9. NearPod - FREE (for now)
This is a newer iPad app that allows teachers to create presentations that are broadcast to students' iPads with built-in interactive questions and activities. I haven't used it yet, but it looks amazing. There are several videos about it at https://vimeo.com/nearpod. The basic edition is free, but if this is something we like and want to explore further, we may need to contact them for pricing about the school edition which has more features.

10. Virtual Manipulatives
This colorful app has manipulatives for fractions, decimals, and percents -- a big part of the 4th and 5th grade math curriculum.

Honorable Mentions (a.k.a. If they're free and useful, do we really need to stop at 10?)
* VoiceThread - records audio over pictures; students may have familiarity with it from the K-3s.
* The Weather Channel app - we study weather in 4th grade, and it's helpful for data collection, etc.
* iTunesU - free access to courses from universities and other schools -- great for advanced students
* Edmodo - allows student-teacher interaction, assignment submissions, polls, etc.
* Spelling City - games and activities to support differentiated spelling instruction

What are some of your favorite apps (free or paid)? I'd love to hear about them in the comments section!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 26, 2012

iPad App Wish List - Paid Apps

As I shared last week, we're becoming a 1:1 iPad school next year, and we're now in the early stages of determining what apps to purchase and how to roll out teacher professional development. One of my first tasks in this process was to create a list (in rank order) of the top 10 apps that I thought we should have. When I first read that task, I decided that if my list is limited to 10, then perhaps I should make a list of 10 paid apps and 10 free apps. What follows is the current version of my paid app wishlist.

(All of the prices listed assume individual purchase of the app. I'm sure we'd get lower prices with volume purchasing.)

1. GoodReader - $4.99
This app is a very robust .pdf reader that allows students to read and annotate texts using a variety of annotation tools. It is easy to use, and it works with a large variety of document formats. It would be a vital app to have if we were trying to go relatively paperless.

2. KeyNote - $9.99
In addition to being a presentation tool, this app could be used for students' word work and word study journals. I had students build illustrated math dictionaries and journals using the slides in KeyNote.

3. iMovie - $4.99
While it doesn't have all of the features of the computer version, this is still a great app for student use.

4. Book Creator - $4.99
A fantastic app for writing that allows students to design, write, and publish their own eBooks that are compatible with other eReaders. Easy to use with amazing design potential.

5. Explain Everything - $2.99
I haven't had the chance to play with this one yet, but it shows up on virtually every educator's top 10 list that I've seen. It appears to be a design tool that lets you annotate, animate, and narrate explanations and presentations. In that way, it may be similar to Show Me or ScreenChomp, but it appears to do more. I've also read that the clips produced through this app can be imported to other apps (e.g., iMovie).

6. Pages - $9.99
A versatile word processing app for the iPad that will be useful for publishing student work.

7. Dictionary.com - $4.99
Yes, there's a free version of this app, but this one is ad free and will work offline.

8. GarageBand - $4.99
Music and sound editor that can be used for creating student podcasts.

9. PhotoSync - $1.99
Allows wireless transfer of photos and videos between devices -- iPads, computers, etc. May be very useful for having students turn in their work.

10. WolframAlpha - $3.99
Great reference resource for quick information about many cross-curricular topics. Probably safer and more reliable for quick answers than sending students to Google.

There's my list of paid apps. Tomorrow I'll share my wish list of free apps.

Are there other paid apps that you use in the classroom? I'd love to hear about them in the comments section. I still have about a week to revise my list before it's officially due to the powers that be!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ordering Adjectives and Other Obscurities

This is the first year that we are implementing Common Core at my school, and one of the first surprises to me was the specificity of the list of language standards. Take this one for example:

4L1d. Order adjectives within sentences according to conventional patterns (e.g., a small red bag rather than a red small bag).

Okay, fair enough. I know that we don't say red small bag, but I couldn't articulate why. And if I couldn't articulate that, it seemed like I would have a hard time teaching it. Hence began one of many research projects for this year.

As it turns out, there are actual rules for ordering adjectives! Whenever you have a list of adjectives, according to most sources, they should be put in the following order:

  • Number - e.g., many, few, seventeen
  • Opinion - e.g., beautiful, silly, annoying
  • Size - e.g., big, small, gargantuan
  • Age - e.g., old, young
  • Shape - this one is tricky! It can be shape like "round" or shape like a condition - e.g., dusty
  • Color - e.g., red, blue, yellow
  • Origin - think countries, directions, religions, e.g., Canadian, northern, Catholic
  • Material - e.g., plastic, wooden
  • Purpose - e.g., sleeping as in a sleeping bag
The wheels started turning with this new knowledge, and slowly the lesson plans came together for this topic.

For the first day, I made a PowerPoint about the order of adjectives and my students made a foldable to record their thinking. 

On day two, we looked at some examples that I pulled from the books they were reading in their book clubs, and I gave them the task at looking for more sentences that used multiple adjectives together. They recorded their sentences, and we shared some of the examples as a class.

Days 3 and 4 involved some word sorts. I made some cards with adjectives on them, and they sorted them by what type of adjective they were. Then they put some together to make sentences. 

On Friday (day 5), we took a short assessment that had students identify the correct order of adjectives in some multiple choice questions, and then write their own sentences.

Overall, I was happy with how the unit turned out, and we all learned a lot about adjectives that we hadn't known before. By getting the students to play with adjectives more, I also noticed them using more interesting word choices in their writing. Win-win.

I've put together all of the resources that I used (and then some) into a unit over at Teachers Pay Teachers. It's one of many units I've been working on to deal with some of the more obscure standards introduced by Common Core, and I hope you'll check it out.

It will be on sale Monday and Tuesday for 28% off with the TpT Cyber Monday sale if you use the code CMT12

What are some of the more interesting/challenging standards you've encountered with the Common Core? I'd love to hear about it in the comments section!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Word Walls

I devote a fair amount of wall space in my classroom to a word wall. I know that not all teachers do this, and I've read plenty of criticisms in the past about why word walls are impractical (too large and overwhelming to students, not used by students, etc.). But I want to share how I use a word wall in my classroom to counter some of those criticisms.

At the beginning of the year, I put up a large empty word wall.

Each week, on a separate area of our whiteboard, I'll introduce some content-area vocabulary on word wall cards that are color-coded by subject. For some -- like the math vocabulary -- I have QR codes linked to each word so that students can look up the definitions. Others are just the word. We'll do a variety of vocabulary-related activities throughout the week, and then once the words are learned, we'll move them to the big wall. Here's an example of that with some of our math vocabulary words (green & blue background with QR codes) and an International Baccalaureate Learner Profile Trait (green and polka dotted background).

The big wall serves a couple purposes. First, it acts as a record of all of the learning that we've done. It's exciting for my students to see all of the new words and concepts we've learned throughout the year, especially since the board moves from being completely empty to practically bursting at the seams by May. I think that's valuable affirmation of our hard work, and it's worth dedicating the space to me.

The second way that I use the wall, however, is even more important. We use it as a source of constant review throughout the day. During many of our transitions, I'll choose a word, share the definition or a related concept, and the students have to use the wall to figure out what word I'm referring to. I'll have students do this to earn spots in line, transition to get materials, or as a sponge as we wait for other teachers to arrive, etc. As students get better with this routine, I have them start to give the clues to each other so that they're remembering the vocabulary and using it regularly. I hardly ever do test prep throughout the year, and by constantly revisiting these words, I don't think we need to. The word wall is a great visual reminder to me about the words they need to know and the concepts we've talked about.

Don't get me wrong. I think there's a lot of value to having personal word walls and smaller, focused word walls for particular units. But in the best of worlds, I think kids benefit from both.

I've spent a lot of time working on creating durable word cards for my word wall this year, and on Monday and Tuesday, all of my word wall sets at TpT will be 28% off with the code CMT12.

These card sets are normally priced between $3 - $8, and I have them available for the following topics:

Math - All Common Core aligned and embedded with QR codes linked to the definitions:
International Baccalaureate PYP
I'm working on some new sets for additional grade levels in math, more science units, and some new Social Studies cards with QR codes. Stay tuned for those.

Do you have a Word Wall in your classroom? I'd love to hear how you use it in the comments section!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year, and as I recover from my food coma, I have many school-related things to give thanks for this year!

1. Listening to Reading Grant
Every year, my school's PTO offers grants to teachers who have projects in need of funding. As I was thinking about all of the things that I need for my classroom (and my wish list is never-ending), I decided that I wanted to create an opportunity to add the fifth part of the Daily Five into my classroom - Listening to Reading. We had all of the other components going, but I didn't have any access to grade appropriate audiobooks nor did I have a way for them to listen to them. Then I saw someone pin this on Pinterest, and the wheels started turning:

I had two first generation iPhones sitting in a desk drawer waiting to be repurposed or recycled, and it occurred to me that they could be used for Listening to Reading -- especially with one of these headphone splitters. So I typed up a grant proposal, shopped the iTunes catalog for audiobooks, and crossed my fingers. A couple of weeks later, I was alerted that my project had been funded!

We recently started using the audiobooks in the classroom, and I have to say that I'm really pleased with how it's going. I created a schedule and gave the students a list of titles of audiobooks to choose from, and each group picked their own book to listen to. They've loved it! I was a little worried that there might be fights about volume controls since the headphone splitter doesn't allow individual volume control, but there's been none of that. Just a bunch of kids contentedly listening to extraordinary readers share books the kids love. I especially like it for some of my struggling readers because they're able to tackle texts that they wouldn't be able to handle on their own. 

So far, I've just been having the groups summarize the chapters as they listen, and that's been working out well. Eventually, though, I'd like to design some activities that they could do at the listening center. Any suggestions or resources to share?

2. We're becoming a 1:1 iPad SCHOOL!
I know. Huge, right? I thought about leading with that, but I didn't want overwhelming jealousy to color your reading about my grant. Like I said, I have LOTS to be thankful for...

As I think I've mentioned before, I teach in a building that's just fourth and fifth grades, but it's a big school -- 550+ students, 10+ homerooms per grade level and growing. Last year, I was one of two pilot classrooms with 1:1 iPads, and I loved it. This year, I've had to share the iPad cart with my floor while we waited to hear what was going to happen with funding for iPads. (I have not loved the sharing part at all for a variety of reasons, but that's a different post...). Last week, our school board voted to approve a lease that will eventually roll out iPads to grades 4-8 in our district, and starting in April, we'll have an iPad for every student in our building. (They'll get them in grades 6-8 in later years.)

I could not be more thankful for this decision, and I'm so excited about the possibilities!

In the meantime, I'm on a team that will be responsible for teacher professional development with the iPads as we figure out what apps to get, what teacher training needs to be done, and so forth. I'm really looking forward to this process, and be sure to stay tuned as I expect to have LOTS of future posts about iPads.

3. Blogging and TpT 
Finally, of the many school-related things that I'm thankful for this year (and I could keep this list going for quite some time!), I'm particularly thankful for discovering so many great teaching blogs and learning about Teachers Pay Teachers. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when I was getting pretty burnt out on teaching and seriously considering a career change. If I left the classroom, I knew that I would stay in education (maybe get a PhD or something...), but I can genuinely say that those feelings have subsided. Blogging has given me an outlet to write -- something I truly love to do -- and TpT has inspired me to be more creative. It has also given me a little bit of extra income so I can invest in my classroom without feeling like I've short-changed my family in some way. So for all of you in my extended blogging family or those of you who have supported Eberopolis in one way or another this past year.

As a small way of saying thanks, I'll be participating in the TpT sale on Monday and Tuesday. Be sure to check it out!

Have a great weekend!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...