Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Our New Adventure

I took the Apple Foundations Training last winter and received one iPad to use in the classroom.  At that time we were told that due to budget cuts there would probably not be any classroom sets of iPads available for the next school year.  I was so disappointed, but still excited to have one iPad to use in the classroom.  My students last year loved being able to use the iPad to create different projects to show their learning (Keynote presentations, Stick Around puzzles, etc.).  At the end of August we found out that the district was able to purchase several classroom sets of iPads, and that any teachers that had completed the training could apply for a classroom set.  I quickly started working on my application.

Reading on the iPad!
We found out at the beginning of September that we would be getting iPads in the classroom.  My students and I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the iPads and were so excited to get started!  We officially became a 1:1 iPad classroom last week!  I can't believe how quickly our classroom has changed!

Working on Keynote
Prior to the arrival of the iPads, I had to figure out the logistics.  I knew I wanted a place to store the iPads at night, and ideally charge all of them at the same time.  After talking with some of the other members of the iPad Academy, I picked a system that would work for us.  All of the iPads are stored in letter trays, and a charger is hooked to each tray.  Students are able to quickly plug in their iPad at the end of the day, and there is even room for the headphones!  It has been working perfectly!

Since we had been using one iPad in the classroom all year, my students were already familiar with some of the gestures (swipe, chomp closed, etc.).  This meant that when the iPads arrived, we didn't have to spend a lot of time learning how to navigate on the iPad, and instead were able to get started right away.

Working on Keynote

In just one short week the students have already started creating using several different apps to show their learning!  Each child created a Keynote presentation to show what they've learned about their reading vocabulary, they created a Popplet to show what they learned about a Native American culture, and are starting a project to show what they learned about a specific Native American tribe.

Sharing a Keynote presentation for vocabulary.

Sharing a Keynote presentation for vocabulary.
Sharing a Keynote presentation for vocabulary.

We have also started using the iPads to improve our math and reading skills.  FrontRow is an excellent app that helps with math.  The students are working at their independent level to enrich what we are already learning in class.  The students that need to be challenged are able to work on more complex problems, while the students that need more practice with a certain skill are able to practice.  Differentiation at its best!  We recently received permission to use Raz Kids with our students.  This app also helps students work at their instructional level in reading.

Reading a book using Epic!

One app that I recently found is called Epic! Books For Kids.  This app is free for teachers and students to use.  There are tons of books available for the students to read on a variety of different concepts.  I can pick specific books that go along with our curriculum to have the students read, or the students can explore all of the books to find a book of their choice.  All I had to do was sign up for a free educator's account on the website, download the app, and then make choices of what types of books I want to have available for the students.  Some of the books can be read to the students, which is a feature that many of my students enjoy.  Practice makes perfect, so Epic! is a great app for students to use to practice their reading skills.

Listening to a story in Epic!

I can't wait to see how my students continue to grow and what they create with their iPads!  I think this is going to be an amazing adventure for our classroom!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A CritterKin Summer Adventure

Summer school is always a great experience in Bellevue Public Schools.  This year was extra special due to our CritterKin friends +Jena Ball and +Marty Keltz!

Listening to Ms. Jena Ball read from Lead with Your Heart.
When it came time to plan for summer school this year, +Monica Evon and I thought it would be fun to create a summer school class centered around one of the CritterKin books written by +Jena Ball.  We had both worked with Ms. Jena in our classrooms during the school year, and wanted to include this experience in our summer school class.  After meeting with Ms. Jena and our wonderful technology trainer +Ann Feldmann, Monica and I started planning our summer school class for the incoming third graders.

Working together!

As a group, we decided to structure the three weeks around Ms. Jena's book Lead with Your Heart.  The CritterKin books are written from the viewpoint of dogs, and are great for teaching children important life lessons.  Using Lead with Your Heart, we were able to talk about the topics of kindness, empathy, prejudice, and what it feels like to be misunderstood.

Drawing with Ms. Jena.
We used the book as our guide for planning, and read 1-2 chapters a day for the first two weeks.  On Mondays and Wednesdays, Ms. Jena joined us virtually through the use of Google Hangouts, to discuss the reading.  Since Ms. Jena also illustrated Lead with Your Heart, she actually spent some time each week showing the students how to draw.  They did several drawing experiences with some of the dog characters from the book, and then we were able to use these drawings to help with the students' writing.  The students took several pieces through the writing process, and then published their writing to our CritterKin KidBlog, where Ms. Jena actually commented on their writing.  As their writing would be read by Ms. Jena and others, the students took their time with the writing and really did their best work.  In the three short weeks of summer school, Monica and I already noticed many improvements in the students' writing.

Showing off her quilt piece and working on the writing activity.
In addition to reading the book and writing about it, the students also created several quilts to tie into the theme of kindness.  What started as an idea to have the kids create a fabric quilt, turned into a fabric quilt, a paper quilt (with videos linked to the images using Aurasma), and a chalk quilt.  The students were able to choose how to create each part of the quilt, and had to practice working together on several of the sections.  This was a wonderful way to take what the students were reading, and create something to show what they learned.

The paper quilt is finished!

The finished fabric quilt!  So colorful!
Working on the chalk quilt.
During the last week of summer school the students worked on a play of the final chapter of Lead with Your Heart.  Each child had a part in the play.  On the last day of summer school, we presented the play to the school, family and friends, as well as the community.  The students were so proud of themselves!  This was also an opportunity to show everyone the fabric and paper quilts that the students had created.  The parents and community were impressed with what the students created!

The CritterKin play.
Using Aurasma to see the students' videos.
By the end of our three week summer school adventure, students had worked on reading, writing, art, and technology.  They worked with an author/illustrator on writing and drawing, and even had the chance to get acting tips from an actor, Marty Keltz's son Jonathon Keltz.  What an amazing opportunity for the students! The kids had so much fun with this experience, and were able to learn some great lessons.  Thank you to Jena Ball, Marty Keltz, and Ann Feldmann for making this experience possible.  We couldn't have done it without you!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Class Dojo

We have been using a new behavior management program since the beginning of April and it has been a WONDERFUL change for our classroom!  We started using Class Dojo after I read about it on Pinterest.  Class Dojo can be used on the computer, iPad, or mobile device, and it's free!  After you set up your class, you can pick positive and negative behaviors that you will be watching for.  Class Dojo comes with some behaviors already set, but you can add or change the behaviors to customize it for your needs.

When you see a student doing a positive or negative behavior, you just click on their name and then click on the behavior.  A chiming sound is made for a positive behavior, and a buzzer sound is made for a negative.  Since starting Class Dojo, I have noticed that I am giving out more positives, and it has had a great effect on my classroom.  The students don't usually know who is getting the positive or negative, so as soon as they hear the sound, they change their behavior.  I am able to use Class Dojo on several devices, so my students know that I am watching their behaviors at all times.  I've used it on field trips, in the classroom, in computer lab, at recess, and even in the hallway.  It has been fantastic!

At the end of each day I project the Class Dojo website so students can see how many points they have earned throughout the day.  Several of my students have been challenging themselves to improve each day, and they are even cheering on their classmates.  It has been great for the classroom community.

I created a calendar where students can keep track of their points, so at the end of each day they fill this out.  Students can save up their points to earn rewards.  On Fridays I have students total up their points and can exchange their points for prizes like lunch in the classroom, a piece of candy, etc.  We also have class rewards for when the whole class has reached a certain number of points.  In order to participate in the class reward, my students need to have at least 80% positive behaviors.

I have a background in special education, so I know the importance of documentation.  Class Dojo is perfect for documenting students' behavior, because it keeps all the information in the reports section.  Whenever students earn a positive or negative point, the time and behavior is recorded.  At the end of the day I just reset their bubbles so that they start each day with 0 points, but all the information is still saved.  I can look back at certain days and see exactly what happened on that day.  I can even add a comment if there is something specific that I want to remember.

In addition to helping in my classroom, it has also increased parent involvement.  Class Dojo is set up to include parents and students.  You can send home a code to parents that they use to create an account on Class Dojo.  Once they have signed up, they can view their child's behaviors at any time.  Class Dojo will also send them an email each Friday with a report for their child.  When we started using Class Dojo, I sent home a letter to all the parents explaining Class Dojo and how to set up an account.

Class Dojo recently came out with a new messaging feature.  I can send out individual messages to parents, or I can send out a whole class broadcast.  I have not used this feature yet, but I can see how it would be extremely beneficial.

My students and I love using Class Dojo.  Hopefully you will enjoy it, too!

If you would like a copy of the parent letter, click here.
If you would like a copy of the calendar, click here.
If you would like a copy of the rewards, click here.
If you would like a copy of the rewards poster, click here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why iPad?

In recent years, many school districts have made the shift to a one-to-one district.  In most cases, this shift has been made with the use of iPads.  I have heard many people question this decision, and wonder why school districts are spending so much money to purchase a toy for students to use.  I am always quick to point out the benefits of technology, and what I have noticed in my own classroom. Our district recently started having one-to-one classrooms with iPads.  Unlike many districts, where teachers are just given the iPads without any training, teachers in our district must go through a 6 day training period and then apply for the iPad Academy.  If a teacher is chosen for the iPad Academy, in addition to receiving a classroom set of iPads, they are assigned a coach from our district technology team.  This coach is available to help in the classroom, answer any questions, and provide any additional training the teacher might need.  Teachers in the iPad Academy also attend meetings once a month where they are able to work together, brainstorm new ideas, and share what is working in their classroom.
This semester, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in an Apple Foundations Training through my school district.  As a result of this training, I was given an iPad to use in the classroom, and will have the opportunity to apply for a class set of iPads in the future.  I have always enjoyed using technology in the classroom, because I've seen how engaged my students become, and it's been a great way to reach those students that tend to "zone out" during lessons.  The AFT trainings have increased my knowledge of the technology available to my students.  Our final assignment for AFT was to create an iMovie answering a driving question that we had about the use of iPads in the classroom.  My driving questions was: How can we, as teachers, differentiate instruction using the iPad to encourage students to continue creating and learning at their level?  We had to find research to answer our question, get teacher opinions about the subject, and record video of students in a 1-to-1 iPad classroom to support our findings.  I was amazed at the information that I found.

The amount of research available supporting the use of iPads in the classroom is astonishing.  I found some wonderful quotes from newspapers and magazines that documented the impact of iPads and technology on student learning.  Here are some of the quotes that I found (sources at the bottom of this blog):

"With innovative instructional design, iPads can work especially well with inquiry- or problem-based learning modules." (Bennett)

"Technology makes it possible to pace lessons appropriately for each student's learning level and can be used to promote learning in the multiple intelligences." (Tenkely)

"It has brought individual technology into the classroom without changing the classroom atmosphere." (Hu)

"[iPads] can deliver content in an interactive way, but on a one-to-one level." (Bennett)

"…technology is seen as a benefit and described as helping to reinforce critical skills." (McKenna)

"Throughout it all, both teachers…saw students become more engaged and 'blossom' into deeper thinkers at a younger age." (McKenna)

"Technology…also takes learning one step further because it can offer so many supplements to plain text." (McKenna)

"One of the major benefits of using technology in the classroom is the ability to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of every student in every lesson." (Tenkely)

"The interactive aspect of the iPad appeals to the kinesthetic learner because the apps motivate students to manipulate the content." (Bennett)

I also looked through teacher blogs from the teachers that are a part of the iPad Academy in our district.  I am always inspired by what I read on these blogs, and came across many great quotes that supported my driving question.  Here are some of the quotes that I found:

"The students have taken over the role of teacher and not only have become strongly motivated to learn new things, but also to make the jump to help each other learn." ~Michelle Boyce

"I was able to work one on one with students that were struggling with the concept, while others that were understanding it moved at their own pace…" ~Jenn Manning

"Differentiation of instruction, individualized and small group instruction, and student engagement happens at its best on a daily basis!  I feel I am meeting all students' instructional needs each day." ~Monica Evon

"I have been using the iPad to work with students at ALL ability levels and have observed excellent growth and progress!" ~Michelle Klamm

"The iPads have allowed me to act as more of a coach, letting the students work on their projects while moving around and guiding them when necessary.  It also allows kiddos the ability to work ahead and move beyond grade level - truly differentiating their learning.  Giving more Project-Based assignments allows each student the opportunity to work at the level they are at.  With the integration of technology into these projects, it allows some students to shine who otherwise may not have had many chances in a traditional classroom." ~Garrett Sims

Finally, I asked the students what they thought about having iPads in the classroom.  Monica Evon works across the hall from me, so I pulled several students from her third grade classroom and interviewed them.  Mrs. Evon's class started the year as a traditional classroom, and received a classroom set of iPads in January, so they have been able to experience both types of classrooms in one short school year.  Here is what they said:

"I think [our learning] has changed because we used to, during our free time, read or do a challenge sheet of math, but now we always have something to do." ~Kaitlyn

"It's changed our learning because of the great creativity and all the...learning we have done." ~Jaxon

"It has changed our learning because everyone is doing the same thing, but we're all on different levels, so it helps with our curriculum in math and science…I feel like more of a teacher…because we're teaching the class new things and new improvements on some apps." ~Madison

"Having iPads in the classroom has changed my learning because on normal paper and pencil I wasn't being challenged enough, but then on the iPads it got...harder for me…I'm being challenged by having harder questions and getting the answer is a little bit harder than it usually was with paper and pencil…with paper and pencil we didn't have all of these apps that let us use our creativity on how we think our learning is." ~Hayden

"…It's changed our learning because we can be so creative, and the iPads challenge yourself.  Everyone is at a different level in our classroom, so some people might be working on addition while some people might be working on division.  It's so great to have these iPads!  It really, really challenges us." ~Natalie

"My favorite iPad app is Front Row.  It's personalized learning math.  Since everybody in our class is on a different level.  I might be on level 27 and everybody else could be…on level 8 or 9, so we all do our different learning level." ~Ava

This final assignment for AFT was wonderful.  I feel like I was able to confirm how beneficial iPads and technology can be in the classroom.  Hopefully this helps others realize the benefits of including technology in the classroom!  If you would like to see my iMovie with video clips of students utilizing the iPads in the classroom, click here

Research Sources:
  • Bennett, Kristin Redington. "Less than a Class Set." 1 December 2011. International Society for Technology in Education. 31 March 2014 <>.
  • Hu, Winnie. Math that Moves: Schools Embrace the iPad. 5 January 2011. 31 March 2014 <>.
  • McKenna, Corey. "There's an App for That: How Two Elementary Classrooms Used iPads to Enhance Student Learning and Achievement." 5 February 2012. Scientific and Academic Publishing. 31 March 2014 <>.
  • Tenkely, Kelly. "Using Technology to Differentiate Instruction." 1 June 2009. Teaching Community: Where Teachers Meet and Learn. 4 April 2014 <>.

Teacher Blogs:
  • Michelle Boyce, Boycetown iPad Class Blog,                 
  • Jenn Manning, miPad Classroom Blog,                                
  • Monica Evon, iPaddling through Third Grade Blog,     
  • Michelle Klamm, iCan iPad in 2nd Grade Blog,             
  • Garrett Sims, Our iPad Classroom Blog,                             

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Exploring the iPad

I am constantly amazed at the number of apps available for use in the classroom! We have continued using Notability, Google Drive, GroupMaker, and TooNoisy, as well as adding on some new apps.

Using Notability to complete our Daily Spiral Review in math:

Using Notability as graph paper to fix a math assignment:

As we do not have a full class set of iPads, many of the things that we are doing can be used on the iPad or on the computer.  I recently downloaded FrontRow on the classroom iPad and was excited to find out that it can be used on any computer with Google Chrome.  FrontRow is a math application that is aligned to the Common Core standards.  Students take a short diagnostic to see what they already know about a concept, and then the computer or iPad sets everything up from there.  The thing that I like the most about this app is the amount of data I receive about my students.  It tells me exactly what concept the majority of my students are struggling with so that I can guide my instruction.  FrontRow also groups the students based on what areas they are doing well in, as well as what areas they need more instruction on.  It even creates practice sheets for each individual student--with answer keys!  I had my students use FrontRow in computer lab the first time so that everyone could access it at the same time.  In the future, this will be an app that my students can use on our classroom computers or on the classroom iPad.

Using FrontRow in the computer lab


In December a coworker suggested trying KidBlog with my students.  This is a great way for my students to practice writing and get comments from other people.  The students enjoy reading the comments from other people, and have been excited to see that people in other parts of the world are reading their blog.  Click here to visit our class blog.  We would love some comments!

One new app that we explored was Keynote.  This is similar to PowerPoint, but it is much easier to use.  Last week I had the students work in groups of three to create a presentation about one of the reading vocabulary words.  They had to write a definition, a sentence, and find a picture to represent the word.  The kids were so excited to include real photos, and enjoyed sharing these presentations with the class.

Working in groups to create a Keynote presentation about the reading vocabulary words.

This week we used Keynote in a different way.  I quickly created a presentation with the reading vocabulary word and definition on a slide, and then we got started with our game.  The students took turns holding the iPad over their head so they couldn't see the word, and then the other students in the classroom had to provide clues so the person could guess the word.  I had them provide definitions, synonyms, antonyms, and even act out the word.  This was a great activity, and the students definitely know this week's vocabulary words!

Playing our vocabulary game using Keynote.

My students finished creating their iMovie to introduce our class to our pen pals in Arizona.  They had so much fun planning what they wanted to include, writing a script, and then recording what they wanted to share.  Click here to see our video.

Last week I had the exciting opportunity to sit in on a Google Hangout with Tony Vincent, the creator of the Stick Around app.  The Stick Around app is used to create puzzles.  This app is wonderful for review activities.  I had the chance to create a measurement review puzzle, and my students enjoyed this new format.  Since I only have one iPad, my students completed it using marker boards and then we answered the questions as a whole group.  It was nice to try a different format for our review, and the students were more engaged with what we were doing.

Using Stick Around to review converting customary measurements.

This week we are finishing up our unit on the West region of the United States.  Usually we review by filling out a study guide and talking through the information.  This time we tried something new.  I used the website to create QR codes with the study guide questions.  I borrowed iPads from many of the other teachers in my building, placed the QR codes around the classroom, and then let me students move around the room to scan the QR codes and answer the questions.  The kids were more involved with the review, and seemed to really enjoy this new format.

Scanning codes for our Social Studies QR code review.

We've had our classroom iPad for three weeks now, and I am amazed by how much it has changed our classroom!  I am loving all the changes, and I know my students are enjoying the new things that we are trying.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A One iPad Classroom: Week One

My name is Brittany Braasch and I am a fourth grade teacher in Nebraska.  This is my fifth year of teaching.  I love working with elementary students and seeing them grow and change throughout their year with me.  I enjoy trying new things with my students, and try to include technology as much as possible.  This year I have had the wonderful opportunity to participate in an Apple Foundations Training where I have been learning about how to utilize my Macbook and an iPad in the classroom.  I received my classroom iPad a little over a week ago and immediately began exploring.  We have just finished our first week of being a one iPad classroom.  I can already say that the iPad has completely changed our classroom.

At the beginning of each day I have my students complete a Daily Oral Language sheet.  This is a great way for students to practice editing and revising, identifying different parts of speech, and improving their language skills.  Over the course of the school year I have noticed that my students are not as engaged with this activity.  When I received my classroom iPad I was excited to try using Notability and AirPlay to project the DOL on the board and then have students take turns answering the questions and explaining their reasoning while using the iPad.  The second I pulled out the iPad, all eyes were on me, and the students were completely engaged.  They loved being able to write on the iPad and explain what they were thinking.  Our discussions about the language amazed me.  Even my quietest students were excited to explain their DOL.

Now came the difficult part…how do I choose who gets to use the iPad next?  Luckily, I have a wonderful coworker across that hall that has a 1:1 iPad classroom.  When I talked to her, she suggested the GroupMaker app.  I downloaded the app, input my students, and immediately noticed a difference.  My students enjoyed watching the app pick names, and were shocked to find out that they could be called on more than once.  This kept the students engaged, even after they had been called on once.  Plus, they didn't question the app like they would question me if I called on the same student more than once!

After lunch my students complete a Daily Spiral Review for our math curriculum.  This review allows students to continue practicing math skills after we have already learned the skill.  This has helped immensely with retention of different math skills.  However, the students were getting tired of going over the spiral review.  I had the same students participating each day, and the students that I was most concerned with continued to struggle with staying focused during this time.  Since I've been using the iPad (again using Notability and AirPlay), the students are once again engaged and the discussions have been amazing.

Our classroom is going to be Pen Pals with a classroom in Arizona.  We are getting ready to write our first letters to the other classroom, but before we started our letters, I wanted to introduce our class to our new Pen Pals.  We decided to make a video to introduce ourselves and show our Pen Pals around our classroom.  Using the iPad we have been able to film ourselves and will then use iMovie to put together our introduction video.  My students have enjoyed creating a script of the important things to include in our video.  We were also able to take a virtual field trip to our Pen Pal's school using Google Earth.  This led to a discussion about the differences in landforms and even the formation of the cities which tied in perfectly to our study of the West in Social Studies.

On Friday we tried a new app: Too Noisy.  During the winter it always gets a little loud in the classroom because the students aren't able to burn off that extra energy outside.  When looking on Pinterest for ideas, I found several references to the Too Noisy app and decided to give it a try.  I didn't say anything to my class, just hooked up my Macbook to the projector, turned on Reflector, and used AirPlay to mirror my iPad onto the screen.  It took about 10 seconds for my students to notice and quiet down.  They knew exactly what it was for!  After a couple of minutes, we talked about what the Too Noisy app is used for, and I challenged the students to transition to the next activity without going above a certain point on the Too Noisy app scale (I just drew a line on the marker board).  The students were shocked to see that simple things like pushing in their chairs would cause the noise level to spike above the line.  This led to a great discussion about how noisy the classroom can become, and how difficult it can be to focus when it is too noisy.  We were able to finish our reading testing in complete silence and the students did so much better on their tests!  This is definitely an app that I will continue using!

So in one short week we have used: Notability, Google Drive, GroupMaker, Too Noisy, Google Earth, and iMovie.  Next week we will be using Tellagami and Keynote.  Students will be working in small groups and creating a Tellagami for the reading vocabulary words.  They will also begin researching a state from the West and creating a Keynote to present to the class.  I can't wait to see what my students create!