Learning With Our Twitter Buddies

We are very lucky at our school to have a math specialist. Ms. Francisco is known throughout the school as a math lover and this year, she created math challenges that brought her love of math to all students in the school. I am going to link her website complete with all the challenges she created at the bottom of this blog post. I highly recommend checking out her site.

This year, we participated in the primary blogging community and connected with another first grade classroom outside of Toronto. We enjoyed blogging back and forth greatly but what was most impactful in our classroom throughout the year, was our tweets back and forth. One day, we were working on the math challenge as a class and my class tweeted how engaging but hard the challenge was this week. Our buddy classroom instantly tweeted back “What math challenge?” We explained and shared the math challenge site with our buddies for the upcoming week. Usually,we worked on the math challenges on Friday’s however, our buddy classroom began tweeting at us on Monday morning–they were so excited by it and couldn’t wait to share their work! The challenge that week was to design the new gym our school will be building in a few years using 60 cubes/squares on graph paper, taking into account what type space makes a good gym. We quickly got out the cubes, iPads, and graph paper and went to work. What amazed me the most were the thoughtful conversations students were having as they designed. While they quickly realized a long, narrow 3 x 20 gym would not be ideal for many activities, they thought it could be fun do timed sprints in! One other thing we did while we shared our answers with our buddy classroom through twitter, we also projected student work up on the project through AirServer. AirServer is one of the more powerful tools we have access to–showcasing different student thinking/work, drives all of our students to create and produce more. Below are some examples of student work, students collaborating and a picture of the great work displayed up on our AirServer.


By using Twitter to share our learning with our buddies and receiving feedback from them, student work was elevated and so was engagement. My students are always excited to work on the math challenge, but when they had another, audience to share their work with, their engaged soared. I am excited to for next year’s math challenges and to share our learning with other authentic audiences through Twitter.


Ms. Francisco’s blog complete with math challenges! http://qaeacademic-support.weebly.com/math-challenges.html



How to use BookCreator in Writer’s Workshop

Molly and I are Writer’s Workshop teachers. We have both taken the Writer’s Workshop training at Teacher’s College (TC) and both of us feel passionately about our students seeing themselves as writers. When we began our 1:1 journey, the possibilities did and still do feel endless with our devices, however, sometimes this endlessness can be daunting. I’ve written about how we use both Educreations and Book Creator in our classrooms (Book Creator and Educreations in the classroom), in this post I want to focus specifically how we use Book Creator in conjunction with our Writer’s Workshop.

We do three-four writing units a year based on the TC first grade Writer’s Workshop curriculum. During our daily Writer’s Workshop, students spend around 30-40 minutes writing and editing. This past year I focused on using BookCreator during the informational writing unit and realistic fiction(2nd and 3rd units). I plan to integrate Book Creator into the small moments (1st unit) curriculum this coming year because it was incredibly engaging to students and allowed them to easily publish their work digitally.

There are a many ways to use Book Creator during the workshop. Sometimes students would publish books they had already written using Book Creator. This was exciting to them because not only did they have a paper copy but they also had a copy they could read and access through iBooks on their iPad. This also made it easy to share their writing through their kidblog as you can save books on Book Creator as a video on the camera roll and upload to a variety of platforms. They also were able to Airdrop their stories to each other’s iPads and create a class library filled with their peers stories.  

What struck me about using Book Creator as a writing tool was how engaged and excited students were to use it even during free choice time. In this first sample, the student wrote about how to care for the classroom fish using skills the student learned during the workshop however, the student wrote the story during free choice. The skills the student was learning in writing naturally transfer to using the Book Creator app.

In this second example, we had been writing realistic fiction series for several weeks when we decided to use Book Creator to write and publish one of the stories in the series. I created a anchor chart to guide students through the process.  


Using Book Creator in our Writer’s Workshop allowed our students to create and publish their stories digitally, share their work easily on their blog and apply writing skills they had learned in the workshop to a digital medium. I cannot recommend using Book Creator in conjunction with your Writer’s Workshop enough!


How We Use BookCreator and Educreations In Our Classrooms

Our first graders love reading and writing. We spend a large part of time reading and writing everyday. Our classroom culture is based on the belief of student centric and student created content. As a class, we write and publish frequently. We write for a variety of purposes: personal stories, informational text, realistic fiction, reviews, the list goes on and on.   As a first grade team, when we were looking at app to add to our 1:1 program, we wanted to ensure our apps aligned not only to Common Core State Standards but that they also aligned with our classroom culture of writing and reading for a variety of purposes. We wanted an app that was easy to use and was easily adapted across content areas. Most importantly, we wanted apps that are creation based and allow students to share their learning in an unique manner.   Our search led us to two apps we decided to adopt: BookCreator and Educreations. Both apps offer slightly different benefits and we felt that both would be well utilized in our 1:1 program.

Educreations was the first app we adopted and worked heavily with. We selected this app for a few reasons. Educreations is a free or very low cost app, if you choose to upgrade to the pro account. It is very easy for students to write, draw, upload pictures into and narrate over. In this video, the student was working on learning the names of 2-D geometric shapes and using the shapes to create new shapes from the composite shapes (CCSS Math 1.G.A.2).  There are some drawbacks to Educreations, students cannot go back and re record if they make a mistake. Additionally, without the pro account, students can only save one draft at a time, which can be problematic if you have students working on multiple projects at once.

BookCreator is an vast app in which students can write, add text, draw, add photos and narrate over books they create. These books are shareable to iBooks or can be shared easily by converting the book to a video that is easily uploaded to a variety of platforms such as youtube or blogs. Bookcreator allows students to share their learning in a variety of different ways. It provides student who may be impacted by the amount they can write a method of sharing their learning through voice over. A student may only be able to write a sentence but can speak a great deal about a topic. Bookcreator provides this outlet for students. Bookcreator has many features that my students were still discovering on the last week of school. In this example, the  student used many features of Bookcreator to create a vibrant, full book.

Whatever app you decide to adopt in your own program, make sure that it has multiple input points for students to access and ensure it is easily sharable in some manner. High quality student work should be shared and celebrated!

What 1:1 Looks Like In Our Classrooms

It’s a Monday morning and my students are filing into the classroom rambunctiously after our weekly assembly. As they settle onto the rug in the front of the classroom, I already have the projector loaded up with twitter and we are looking at the weekly math problem/picture that gets posted from the weekly math talk (#mtgr1). This week’s image is a picture with children and balloons climbing a hill. My students and I spent 5 minutes discussing the various math problems they could create based on the image. We also scroll through the other hashtags and see what other first graders around the country have come up with. Set up around the classroom, there are tables with various tools, paper, pencils, markers, white boards, iPads and math manipulatives. Students are dismissed and they eagerly seek out the tools they will need to recreate their math problem. Some students spend a great deal of time writing various word problems and drawing pictures. Others open an app such as educreations and illustrate multiple number sentences they see in the math picture. About a third of my students reach for their iPad initially, the rest spent time using other writing tools such as pencils, markers and paper. Eventually, all students will use their iPad in the very least to snap a picture of their work to blog about later while some will complete the whole assignment on their iPad.

This example really highlights what 1:1 looks like in first grade.  Students are still using pencils, paper, whiteboards, markers and their iPads are just another tool for them to use. We as teachers are still  teaching kids math, reading, writing, social studies and science.  But because our students have access to iPads they are able to capture and share their learning with others and get immediate feedback.  I often stand back and watch students as they work to figure out a problem and I still marvel at how students approach problems differently.  What works for one doesn’t for another.   So often I will approach students and say, “Wow,I never thought of doing it that way…can I show your work?”   And in a second I can project their work on the classroom projector and everyone can now see a “new’ way to approach a problem.

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Once that happens, the learning is infectious and everyone wants to project their ideas.  And before you know it, students are teaching students and all of us are learning from one another.

It always surprises me when parents or other adults suggest that our youngest students already get too  much screen time and that iPads aren’t appropriate in elementary school.   And then I realize that most people don’t understand that it’s not about giving kids a device and picking an app, and sending them off to work in a corner.  It’s a tool that provides student with another way to show their learning.  Technology gives them so many more choices.  Using creation-based apps students can draw, write, and voice their thinking.  They can add pictures and graphics.  They can upload their work to share on their blogs and they can share their thinking with other first grade students in the classroom and around the world.

When we started this journey, we knew from the start, that we would not be using a lot of apps in the classroom.  And that was hard because there are amazing apps designed to help students practice math facts, learn to read, etc.  Instead, we wanted the focus to be on the classroom and what we were already doing.   We didn’t want iPads and technology to be “one more thing”, one more subject on an already jam packed schedule.   It needed to be interwoven into our reading, writing and math workshops.  It needed to be a place where students could share what they were learning and eventually became a portfolio of what they accomplished in first grade.