We had a lot that we wanted to teach kids today and perhaps we tried to take on too much-but each of the micro lessons we taught seemed so essential! We ended up breaking it down into three charts.
First….review the most important icons from book creator. This was a chart we created ahead of time and used simply to review things that kids had discovered the day before. I ran through it quickly asking kids to give a thumbs up for each item they had used the day before and look around so they could see who might be a specialist in the room. We guided students to refer back to it as needed during the creation time and it was very helpful for a few kids who had not been there for yesterday’s lesson.
Next and probably MOST IMPORTANT…Establish explicit guidelines for HOW to work on a book with a partner. This was a really vital collaboration and social emotional lesson that needed to be done up front so that their time together could be kind, helpful, and productive.
Laura and I went back and forth about this chart during the morning. She ended up “winning” and we used photos of kids in action instead of doing the drawings ourselves. A few willing students from an older grade helped out. We co-created this chart with the class as they noticed what they saw the students doing in the photos and talked through what this might look like.
Reflection: Most of our friends did really, really well with this today. A testament to the great instruction they’ve been getting all year, the value of explicit guidelines in how to collaborate, and the importance of thoughtful pairing. A few friends struggled and I wondered about other strategies we might use in this scenerio to help.
The task…Create a book cover for your informational book about chicks. We took a quick look at some mentor covers before heading off to do work. Students identified that we needed to include a picture, the title, and their names. I hung a small page I had made as a digital reminder on the bottom of the chart. We had intended for students to be given a copy of this at their tables and then it didn’t happen, I wished that it had. It would have been helpful to have a visual reminder of their three tasks as some groups went down the rabbit hole of drawing and started to run out of time. You can visit this link to view the document I created.
Like I mentioned. It was a lot to take in, but they rose to the challenge and most groups were able to create their covers, play with some features of the app, and demonstrate thoughtful partner skills as they worked. I am continually impressed and amazed with the thoughtful energy that Kinder kids give to their work. #powertothelittlepeople
This is the second post in a series about launching the use of the app Book Creator in a kindergarten classroom. You can read the first post about our planning here.
So there I was…standing in front of a group of small people, armpits sweating, my eye twitching. Well, not really. Because today I knew they would be great, today we were going to PLAY! Plus, Laura my co-coach would be there to have my back. (A luxury we usually can’t afford, but when working with Kindergarten special arrangements have to be made.)
Before the lesson we talked through what supports students would need to play. As strange as that sounds sometimes kids need permission to just dig in and try things out. So we created this chart to help us focus our lesson.
For this lesson we brought all of the ipads to one room so students would have a 1:1 ratio for play. We felt like this was important so that each child could develop a sense of independence with the tool. (For all lessons to follow kids will be sharing iPads.)
After a very short lesson and some turn and talks we let kids get started and just play. Here’s what we noticed;
About half of students in each class were able to get started right away. The other half were hesitant at first but after some encouragement that they could do whatever they wanted they were able to get going.
Many students went right for the draw function or taking photos and stayed with that one part of the app instead of exploring all of the different things they could do. We addressed this through a mid-workshop teaching point and asking students to share things at their tables. (mostly effective)
Several students showed transfer of learning from Writers Workshop, including drawings, text, and photos on one page.
One students asked permission to take another student’s photo and Laura stopped the class to have a great teachable moment about photography and respect.
At the end of class we revealed our big project and let the kids know they would be authors and they were ecstatic!
This last part is where the real value is in my mind! Real purpose, real audience, excited kiddos. I can’t wait to see how this project unfolds.
In this first post of the series I break down the why, the how, and the what if of using Book Creator in a kindergarten classroom.
The thought of teaching kindergarten makes me sweaty. Give me 32 fifth graders…no problem. But a group of small people all needing their shoes ties or arguing over whose turn it is makes my eye twitch. I used to let Kristin handle all things primary however, in my new role as a coach I work K-5 and it’s been a goal of mine to spend more time with our littlest learners. Cut to an afternoon planning meeting where everyone is sitting in little chairs.
Present: myself, my co-coach for the school, two amazing kindergarten teachers, and a heap of inspiration.
Our question: What’s the best way for kids to use technology to amplify their experience with hatching live chicks?
There is something so wonderfully Kindergarten about having live chicks in the classroom. So when we sat down to plan we talked through what the goals of this learning experience were, what we hoped students would get out of it, and what this might look like in a kindergarten classroom. Overall we agreed that we didn’t want to lose any of the homegrown pieces that the students had done before like making signs and designing by hand. So we decided that creating a book about the experience where they could document both digital and hand done work would be perfect. This would also enable them to take video, record voices, and learn to work in collaborative partnerships due to their one to two ratio with devices. It also served as a way for kids to apply their learning from writing workshop all year and as a powerful sharing piece.
As we talked a loose plan began to form.
First, we would do a launching lesson where students would simply play with the app and discover what it could do. We chose this based on work we had done with first grade and our knowledge about the power of play as a learning tool in the primary grades.
Next, students would learn how to create a book with a partner and practice by making a cover for their book.
Then students would interview each other in order to learn about the video function of book creator and to add some additional content about the book.
After that we would explore how they could learn to be journalists and what types of artifacts they might collect to put in their book. In conjunction with that lesson we would begin to look at mentor texts and mentor tech so they could have a vision for what their book could look like.
Ultimately we would build it page by page, bit by bit, as the eggs arrived and hatched. And somehow at the end of it all we would find a way to share what the students had learned and connect them with an audience for their work.
We also brainstormed a list of possible anchor charts we might want to create.
Common icons of book creator
How to write a book together
How to do an interview
Important content words for the life cycle of a chick
elements of a great digital book
We figured these would just be a start and that we would pay careful attention to what strategies would be support students as they moved along through the process. Next step, get in there and let those kids take charge!
How do we ensure that our littlest learners are equipped to use technology in a meaningful way? We go slow to go fast! I’m very pleased to share this document with you, created by myself and a group of fellow instructional digital age learning coaches. (kindred spirits, overall geniuses, and great people)
The concept came to use as we were working on another document to help teachers roll out the year. Where were the lessons for our youngest learners? Hey, these are people who need to learn how to sit on the carpet. Giving them a $600 device takes a little preparation. So iPad Friends was born. A short sweet document with a teaching point and an image of a student modeling. Our hope is that teachers will take the teaching point and make it their own, then take a photo of their own students modeling these great habits.
Building on our recent digital artifacts discussion I thought we might take a minute to look at the value of using screen casting in the classroom. When I first learned about screen casting my initial thought was “what a great tool to use in math!” I began to create quick tutorials for students to help them learn concepts and strategies. These were shared on our website so that any student (or parent) who needed to could access them. I would use QR codes on class charts to provide quick access to certain tutorials and make the charts come alive. And all of these things were great, but…
I was starting to feel like my own little Khan academy. Sure it was personalized to our curriculum and the learning we were doing directly in class. But I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that this was a tool that should be in the hands of STUDENTS!
You see, unless you can sit and watch kids solve and think through problems there are essential pieces of information that you miss. I would look at papers and see erasure marks, sometimes down to holes in the paper, and wonder what process had taken place to get the student to the end goal. Where was their understanding breaking down? If they caught a mistake in their process how and why and when? I thought perhaps if I could get them screen casting that I would have answers to these questions and I could be a better math teacher. In the end, I was right.
Let’s look at an example of a screen cast from a former student of mine. In this screencast she is doing something that we call an “interactive” screencast. This is where the student is creating the screen cast for an audience and is tasked with engaging the audience to solve the problem, then provide an explanation as to the correct answer. It’s one of the many formats we brainstormed as a class so that students understood that screen casting is not just a digital quiz to be turned into the teacher, but that we often have different purposes and audiences for creating them.
As you watch think:
What does this student already know? What is she able to do?
What questions do you have about her process? What do you assume she had done mentally that we don’t see?
What evidence do you see that she understands the concept? At what level does she understand it? (Is there evidence that her understanding goes beyond just being able to apply an algorithm?)
What feedback would you give this student about her screencast? About her math process?
What are some next steps for this student?
We’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments!
This is the third post in a series about making digital artifacts of student learning work for you as a teacher. In this series we will discuss the types of digital artifacts we collect, how we manage them, and what to do with all of those great pieces of evidence of student learning. You can read the first post in this series here and the second post on ideas for managing artifacts here.
We’ve been exploring using digital artifacts in the classroom. So here are three simple ideas for getting your students started with digital artifacts tomorrow!
Snapshot and Reflection: Ask students to take a picture of a work product that you would like to have them reflect on. Then incorporate this into a reflection artifact by annotating directly on the image (Skitch) or adding some writing (Pages/Keynote/Google Drive) or spoken reflection (Sonic Pics). Students might save this and add to it over the course of a unit or during the week. Or perhaps they share with you immediately for a goal setting conference.
Video Reflection: Using a built in recording program and camera ask students to stop by the reflection book and share something they learned today. If you have multiple devices students can work on a rotating basis. If you only have one then set up a quick recording booth and have students cycle through during the day or week. You might ask them to talk for two minutes about how they applied a reading strategy during independent reading, reflect on their observations from a science experiment, or share a portion of writing where they accomplished a goal.
Padlet Exit Ticket: You know we couldn’t leave Padlet out of this one! It’s such an easy and versatile tool. Ask kids to take a few minutes to share a new piece of learning, lingering question, or even record a quick video right into the padlet. You can guide students with a specific question or leave it more open ended.
We’d love to continue in this series. But what questions do YOU have? Leave us a question or burning issue in the comments and we’ll work your needs into our next post. : )
This is the second post in a series about making digital artifacts of student learning work for you as a teacher. In this series we will discuss the types of digital artifacts we collect, how we manage them, and what to do with all of those great pieces of evidence of student learning. You can read the first post in this series here.
What do I do with all of these digital work samples!?!?!
Unless you are an organizational wizard you probably already have some stacks of papers collecting in a basket or on a table somewhere. It’s only September! Digital artifacts are fantastic but what can we do when we have an inbox full of video responses to view instead of a stack of written responses to read? Digital artifacts can and will often take more time to review, especially at the beginning when you are thoughtfully thinking through how you want to integrate them. However, you don’t have to give up all of your time to devote to these artifacts.
Impose time limits: Students can and will record a five to ten minute video if you let them. Teaching kids how to create a media response is key. We model for them, demonstrate how to plan (or not in some cases) and show how we are mindful of time. In the example below we see a student’s third attempt at creating a short and to the point video that captured her most essential questions from a short video the class had watched. The process of limiting herself forced her to narrow her thinking to the most essential pieces to share with the teacher and class. Additional questions were kept in her notebook and revisited when time allowed.
Reflect on the task: If students are struggling with time limits we sit back and reflect on the task that we’ve asked them to complete. What did we hope to accomplish? What did we hope that students would learn or demonstrate? I’ve left more than one class session thinking “that should have been done in 20 minutes, why did it take 50 and some kids still need more time?” There is a time and a place for using technology as a reflective tool. As you learn more about how and why you want to use these strategies reflect, reflect, reflect. What opportunities provide the most information for you and benefit to students.
Spot Check: Lucy Calkins once said that if she was able to sit down and read everything that her students wrote then they weren’t writing enough. I will confess. I do not always look at every single video, every single time. There are situations in which we might spot check the class for overall understanding or focus in on a core group of students who we identified as possibly needing more support during a conference or lesson. Yes you want to try and look at as much student work as possible, but you also have to be realistic.
Engage Students in Self & Peer-Reflection: We teach students self reflection skills and partner feedback skills to help support kids when we can’t always be present. This feedback is an essential part of the learning cycle as they work with and support each other on everything from giving effective video book talks to math strategies used in a screencast.
We all know teaching is a balancing act. Hopefully, at the end of the day, we can find a system that works well for us and our students. Remember, kids need to own the learning. So teaching them to take on part of these responsibilities is both effective for you and them!
Check back next week for our next post in this series. Three ideas for digital artifacts you can try tomorrow!
This is the first post in a series about making digital artifacts of student learning work for you as a teacher. In this series we will discuss the types of digital artifacts we collect, how we manage them, and what to do with all of those great pieces of evidence of student learning.
What is a digital artifact?
Digital artifacts can be photos, notes, student projects, blog posts, Tweets and just about anything that students create using digital tools. They comprise a mixture of student created and teacher documented artifacts of learning over the course of the year.
Digital artifacts are great supplements, in some cases replacements, to traditional artifacts that we collect in the classroom because they add elements that we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to capture. For example, teachers often collect student notebooks to read through writing, gather evidence about skills learned and applied, and check on the sheer volume of work that kids are doing. Digital artifacts can add student voice and reflection to this.
Instead of attempting to confer with every kid we can capture their voices and thinking through the use of technology tools. We can ask kids to create reflection presentations or portfolios of digital work using screen shots and simple apps like Keynote, SonicPics, or iMovie. Essentially digital artifacts give us more information than we have ever had about our learners.
How do I begin collecting digital artifacts?
I like to the start the year with something simple like capturing photos of students at work and a few notes about the photo in my Evernote account. A notebook for each student holds these notes, snippets of conversations, and other work samples over the course of the year. This is a tool for me to learn more about my kids and to use for reflection when planning.
With students it’s important to discuss what archiving is. We give kids examples of the types of work they might want to collect over time. We discuss how each of these items can be used for reflection on ourselves as learners. We also make time for this process, reminding students at the end of a lesson to capture a snapshot of learning from the day or to tag a post with a special tag like “learning” or “archive” so that they can easily find it later. At the end of a unit or quarter we set aside time to review these artifacts, reflect on learning and growth, set goals, and share with peers and parents.
What types of digital artifacts are the most important to collect?
Although going digital as a teacher has its benefits I believe that the most important artifacts are those that students have created. These might be video diaries/blogs of students sharing learning, short projects or work samples, specific blog posts, exit tickets, or other student created work.
We encourage students to collect a variety of samples across subject areas and those that best showcase their growth as a learner. Times when they can pinpoint how, when, and why they met goals and showed growth.
We empower kids by giving them the ownership over their learning and reflection process through these digital artifacts and set up structures to help students catapult themselves to success. These structures include student checklists, goal setting sheets, and conferences.
Check back on Friday for our next post in this series on managing student digital artifacts. We’ll talk about how to handle all of the new work that you have available to you.
Every March I participate in the Slice of Life challenge created and hosted by Two Writing Teachers. It’s been a great push for me as a creative writer over the years, with some years being more successful than others. Last year I started it with my students and am continuing it with this years class. They often find it challenging and exhausting but exciting and energizing at the same time.
As part of this daily writing I write with them and follow the model that the fine ladies at Two Writing Teachers have set by inviting kids to try different things in their writing each day. Sometimes it’s experimenting with a new format, other times it’s about honing their craft as writers. Along with the “writing” lessons I’m also teaching lessons on digital communities (like how to leave thoughtful comments) and the ins and outs of using Kidblog. (We even get a few lessons in HTML coding thanks to Kidblog’s app)
Here are some thoughts from last year’s class.
Since this year I wrote my first slice about the coffee shop where Kristin and I write our books I thought I’d share it with you. (This is reposted from my personal Slice of Life blog.)
The Kitchen Table
For the past year I’ve been spending most Saturday mornings at a little coffee shop on Damen Ave. with my writing partner Kristin. Over the months our newest book has been taking shape fueled by massive amounts of coffee (what else?), the smell of bacon smoke in the air, occasional 80’s power ballads, and the general feeling that we’re trying to make a difference in the world.
Most of these mornings were spent on a big green leather couch stationed at the back of the room. An ideal place for writing, people watching, and generally overseeing the goings on of the coffee shop. One recent morning I walked in to find that the couch had been moved.
My first thought was “what the heck? why did they move the couch?”
My second thought was “what is in its place?!?” There in the back of the room hogging the space that our beloved couch had once lived in was a retro reddish orange kitchen table. I glared at it in disgust and distrust.
Our beloved green home had been moved to the front of the coffee shop, right in the middle of the chaos and was now joined by another couch. It was an overall unwelcome change. Now chaos abounded around us, other people invaded our space, and our writing mojo was thrown by the constant din of the door banging shut.
“The music is too loud.”
“The light is all wrong.”
“There’s a draft here.”
“It’s too far from the outlet.”
The next week I felt anxious walking in the door. I trudged slowly to the back of the coffee shop and set my bag down tentatively on the table. I unpacked slowly, hesitantly as if the table might blow up at any minute. As I set up my computer I ran my fingers over the tacky laminate surface noting the old coffee stains, the scratches along the edge. This table had history. This table had a story to tell. It was then that I thought perhaps it was fate, that this table was put here for a purpose. A storytelling table for two storytellers.
If you’re interested in finding out more visit Two Writing Teachers. It’s never to late to get started!
This post originally appeared on our blog Inquiry Live in the Classroom on November 5th, 2014. We felt that the content and ideas were consistent with the message of our new blog and that it was important enough to repost.
In her recent blog post Nancie Atwell opens up about the role of technology in her classroom. As a leader in our field of teaching writing, Nancie, suggested that:
I do think classrooms in grades four or five and up should have computers, so kids can experience and experiment with word processing, but I have concerns about them in the younger grades. In fact, I think the trend of iPads in the primary classroom is a mistake.
We’re grateful to Nancie for starting this conversation as districts across the country purchase more and more mobile devices without thinking about the pedagogical practices that must go hand-in-hand, if not lead, how we think about using these new tools. This dialogue is necessary and overdue. Nancie is one of the literacy leaders who has guided our thinking about student writing, the reading and writing workshop approach, and how best to frame our own thinking about the teaching of writing, both of us appreciate and admire Nancie’s work. We respect her opinions about what works in reading and writing classrooms.
We agree with Nancie that many schools are using technology poorly; instead of embracing redefinition as Dr. Puentedura has advocated for, teachers are often misguided and use digital devices for sight word practice, prompted responses and (sadly) weekly assessment and test prep. We recognize that there are poor models of classroom technology out there. We also respect and acknowledge how Nancie employs technology at her school.
However, in this case, we humbly suggest that her opinion on students writing with technology is limited, and we feel compelled to offer a different vision of how students can become digital readers and writers.
First, in the upper grades, we feel that her insistence on computers for word processing is too limiting. Let’s unpack this assumption just a bit. First, though it can feel like our students have their noses stuck in screens for far too long throughout the day, technology is not the enemy here. In fact, word processing is just the beginning of what technology offers to writers. According to leading researchers in the field of K-12 writing instruction, Jill Barshay reports that:
In 83 percent of 30 studies on the use of word processing software, students’ writing quality improved when they wrote their papers on a computer instead of writing by hand. The impact was largest for middle school students, but younger students benefited, too. The theory is that students feel more free to edit their sentences because it’s so easy to delete, add and move text on a computer. The more editing, the better the final essay.
Steve Graham and Delores Perin shared these results in the 2007 Writing Next report, and — sadly — in many K-12 classrooms we still don’t see technology being used for revision and editing in this proven manner. Yet, word processing is just the beginning of what students can, and should, do with computers.
Second, as we dig a bit deeper into Nancie’s claim about using computers only for word processing, we know that there is more to consider. Indeed, we know from our own research, teaching, and professional writing that computers — as well as tablets and smart phones — provide students with countless opportunities for reading and writing. And, when we say “reading” and “writing,” we are talking about both traditional alphabetical texts (books, articles, essays, poems) as well as digital texts including blogs, ebooks, and hypertexts. Our professional organizations — such as NCTE, IRA, and NWP — have been calling for a broadened view of digital literacy for well over a decade. We would hope that Nancie would consider doing so, too.
Now, to unpack the second part of her concern: that “the trend of iPads in the primary classroom is a mistake.” While Troy does not have the benefit of being in the classroom everyday with younger students, Kristin does. And, from this experience, she would argue that the primary grades are exactly where kids SHOULD be using technology as it transforms their ability to create, share their ideas and connect with an authentic audience beyond the classroom. In fact, it is essential.
Let us explain a bit more.
In the early childhood years, many students are challenged by the physicality it takes to produce a piece of writing. Ideas are often generated and lost before a young writer can transmit them to the paper. In today’s digital writing workshop, students can scaffold their own development by recording a video snapshot of the story they want to tell. Once the ideas are captured on video, the child can transfer the story to paper while going back to rewatch the video as many times as needed in order to remember and include all the parts of the story. Video recording tools allow us to meet the writer where he is and nudge him to become a more proficient writer and idea generator.
Using digital publishing tools like the Book Creator App or Little Bird Tales, we find new ways to celebrate active literacy in the classroom as students can draw, write, speak, listen, view and read all within a piece they create. The ease of which a child can add audio to their own book signals to the learner that each child has a story to tell and is the owner of that story. Embedded audio provides a window into the thinking and gives us a picture of what a child knows and is able to do, not merely what their fine motor abilities allow them to produce on paper.
Most importantly, technology expands our youngest learners audience as students publish their writing online. Enhanced eBooks, student blogs and classroom Twitter accounts invite primary age students to move beyond the writing wall in the classroom and into a writing world. Feedback from their families, blogging buddies and experts in the field inspires them to write even more. Students view themselves as important contributors to the global writing community and move beyond learning about writing to living life as a writer.
Moreover, these observations extend beyond the early grades. We can point to numerous examples where teachers in upper elementary, middle school, and high school are using digital reading and writing to support their students’ literacy development. As a point of reference for upper el and middle school, we would suggest that Nancie look at some really innovative educators who teach writing with technology such as Kevin Hodgson, Jeremy Hyler and Katharine Hale.
Finally, we suggest that the concerns Atwell suggests are less about her students’ abilities — as well as the capabilities of the devices — and more about her stance as a teacher. Certainly, we want students to feel positive about their reading and writing experiences: reaching fluency with the written word, providing opportunities to talk about books with one another, holding a well-worn novel or favorite pen in our hands. These are tactile, valuable experiences. As she notes, there are social reasons embedded in writing and reading that make these practices both pedagogically useful as they humanize our classrooms.
However, if as teachers we discount the opportunities that crafting digital writing and engaging in digital reading can offer students, then we are doing our students more than a disservice. We are failing to prepare them for academic, workplace, and real life opportunities to engage in literacy practices. This is not about our personal preferences for or against technology. It is about the ways that we teach students to become literate.
We are grateful to Nancie as a thought leader and for her decades of work, as well as for her blog post in which she invites us all to reflect on the role of technology in our classrooms. However, we disagree with her stance that word processing is the only way to use technology in the writing workshop and encourage Nancie and others to rethink how we engage students as writers. We strongly believe the trend of iPads (or any tech) in elementary (or middle or high school classrooms) is, indeed, not a mistake, but a necessity.