Small Steps

The day before school, I was ready. Ready to jump into the adventure that is first grade. And then we went on strike. When we eventually went back to school, I felt scrambled and rushed, it was the middle of September already!  Today was our tenth day of school and suddenly I realized what was going on in my classroom.  I was rushed and my students knew it, so they were rushing to keep up with me.  I knew what I needed to do.  I needed to slow way  down and start taking small, focused steps.

Last week I tried a math lesson with iPads. It was not a complicated lesson at all, in fact the concept of making tens with unifix cubes was developmentally right on for my first graders. My plan was for students to create an Educreation project with three different slides showing the different groups of ten they created. In my haste, I forgot got that my new first graders had limited experience with Educreations in Kindergarten. Needless to say, the task was much too complicated for most of my students. This project had way too many steps and tools to navigate for students to begin with.  So I took a step (or two) back. And began again.

Today after my mini lesson in word work, students had the choice to graph sight words from a weekly sight word list, make words with letter tiles or write words using white boards. Whatever they chose, they needed to show their learn through pictures and words. I asked students to use the app Pic Collage to take three pictures and write a sentence about their word work. This was a simple task, however, it reinforced many skills my students will need for larger, more complicated projects. Students practiced taking clear photos, selecting a font, typing in a text box and saving their work to the photo library. Pic Collage is a very simple to app to navigate and every year it is one of my students favorite apps to use.

 I realized today that what I had forgotten in my  rush to develop independent first graders was  the small steps we take daily  to lay the foundation for the future work ahead.  And the need to start with simple tools that help are students be successful from the beginning.  That’s how we grow the independent, self directed learners that leave our classrooms in June. My goal going forward  is to slow down and remember to keep taking small, focused steps forward. We shouldn’t be in a hurry.

–Alicia

Student documenting the words they built to use in a Pic Collage
Student documenting the words they built
Graphing sight words from a favorite book
Graphing sight words from a favorite book

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!