Spring QR Codes for Counting to 20

Spring QR Codes Cover

We’re still trying to master the teens over here.  As a result, I’ve made a few more QR Code counting activity sheets.  You can click on the image to download the free set of activity sheets.

To see all of our other freebies, visit our Technology In Early Childhood Freebie Page. Read this post to find out how to make your own QR code activities.

I’m linking up to Freebie Friday. You can click on the link to see all sorts of other fabulous Freebies for teachers.

Freebie Fridays
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We finally found some good headphones!

we got headphones

The headphones we ordered from Zulily finally arrived yesterday. I couldn’t be more pleased! They fit all of the children nicely regardless of head size and are so much easier for them to use than the walkman style ones we were borrowing from the older grades. Having our own headphones that go on easily is such a time saver!



The cord is actually covered with woven fabric rather than plastic. It’s plenty long and the headphones themselves seem sturdy.

The only downside is the exercise I’m missing out on by running up and down the stairs twice a day to borrow headphones from other classrooms!

Google Reader Alternatives

Google Reader Alternatives

Did you hear the collective gasp across the internet last night? As blog readers around the internet settled in for the evening to read their blogs on Google Reader, they were informed that things were about to change.  Google announced that it would be closing Google Reader as of July 1, 2013.  What’s more, there seem to be few programs that can do the job that Google Reader currently does.

As I mentioned here,  I rely heavily on Google Reader to manage the blogs that I read.  I currently have over 1000 unread posts that I’m hoping to get to some day, as well as over 50 blogs that I check on a fairly regular basis. Moving all of that content to another, preferably free, provider seems like an enormous task.

A quick internet search last night provided few alternatives.  Fortunately, this is the digital age, and a short 24 hours has already produced a plethora of articles about Google Reader Alternatives.   The ones I’ve looked at so far are below. Click the name of the service to see their website.


Initially designed for fashion blogs, the interface for this service is particularly visual. Most of my favorite blogs, are on my favorites list because of the pictures. Show me a beautifully decorated room or entree that looks incredible and I’m instantly drawn in and ready to see more.  So I like the idea of a blog reader that will make it easy to enjoy my favorite blogs.  I worry about how hard it will be to transfer all of my content to Bloglovin.  I’ve started Google Takeout, as Google suggested when they made their announcement, but importing that content into Bloglovin wasn’t particularly intuitive and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to figure it out.  It seems like a promising option though.  Some of the other bloggers I’ve talked with are excited about Bloglovin.

Update: Bloglovin quickly updated their service and they have made it almost as easy to upload blogs as with Feedly.  All of my blogs were uploaded, but I did have to recreate my categories.  I love seeing the blog post in the context of the original blog, but this did slow things down a bit.  I tend to skim through blog posts and this was hard to do when I had to wait for each blog page to load. I still seem to be doing most of my reading on Feedly, but I haven’t totally given up on Bloglovin.


Feedly is a Chrome product that someone mentioned last night.  It took me only seconds to import my list of blogs from Google Reader.  Unfortunately, it was incredibly slow to import my content. I’m inclined to suspect that the site was over run with Google Reader refugees and that this will improve with time. Now that my content is there, it seems to be pretty similar to Google reader.  I had  to adjust the settings a bit to get it to feel right, but over all, I think  I could get used to it.

The Old Reader

This service is at the top of a lot of Google Reader alternative lists.  It’s supposed to be just like, “the old google reader.”  It looks to be that way, but honestly I never got a chance to try it out.  In contrast to Feedly, which automatically imported all of my content from Google Reader, The Old Reader wanted me to unzip and upload my Google Takeout files.  That’s a lot of extra steps when Feedly does it all for me automatically and I’ve got other things I want to spend my time on.


I really want to like Bloglovin.  Other bloggers I know speak highly of it, and I love the visual interface, but they’re going to have to make it a lot easier for me to import my content if they want me to do my reading over there.   The Old Reader had the same issue as Bloglovin. Getting my reader content into it was not automatic and seamless like it was with Feedly.  Feedly was just so very easy, and I’m all about easy. I’ll keep my eye on Bloglovin, but I’ll be doing most of my reading on Feedly for the time being.  

Giraffes: A Popplet and a Project

It’s giraffe week in our class.  We’re learning all about them! Did you know they only need to drink every few days?  We have a collection of giraffe facts that we always share with our class and thought it would be fun to spice things up a little bit.  I started scrolling through Pinterest and the blogs on my reader to see if I could find a fun way to present all of our facts.  One of the first things I found was this Laura Candler Post, 20 Terrific Presentation Tech Tools for Kids. I clicked on a few of the different tools, and decided to go with Popplet.  It seems similar Prezi, which I’ve seen other teachers use.  The first thing that appealed to me about Popplet was the way that it linked to Flickr’s collection of creative commons pictures, making it easy to grab some giraffe pictures to go with our facts.  It only took me a few minutes to create a short little giraffe Popplet which combined all of our facts with fun giraffe pictures. Here’s what it ended up looking like:

Giraffe Popplet overview

You can click here to see it and interact with it. On the Popplet website you can zoom in and out to see the pictures and text up close.  It’s a very simple, linear presentation. There’s a lot of room to go much deeper and more complex with Popplet.  Hopefully we’ll be able to spend more time with it and explore all it has to offer. When I’m logged in to Popplet, I’m actually able to click on the setting icon to put it into “presentation mode” (under the “view” tab) for a slide show.   That’s how we shared our Giraffe Popplet with the kids.

giraffe popplet


DSCN7081In the picture above, the kids are spreading their legs apart to drink water just like a giraffe might.

After we shared the Popplet with the class, we put the kids to work on our favorite giraffe activity.  One of my very first Pinterest pins was the adorable giraffe painting below.

giraffe pinIt’s a canvas painting that was for sale on Etsy but is no longer available. We loved it so much that we turned it into an activity for our students. They cut out the white head, pink ossicones and pink nose and then paste them on to a piece of 12×18 construction paper.  We have a collection of buttons and ribbons that the children use to embellish their giraffes. They add the eye with a black marker  (and sometimes another nose and a mouth😉  )and we end up with an adorable collection of giraffes for our hallway!



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5 Best Apps for Math and Counting

Best Math Apps for Pre-K & K

As a follow up to my post about writing apps (which you can click here to see) I thought I’d share some of the math and counting apps we’ve discovered. Again, it’s been challenging to find the few jewels among the plain old rocks. I really hadn’t realized how many apps were out there, nor how terrible some of them could be! The ones I list below (in no particular order) are the ones that I like because of their educational value, and that kids like for their entertainment value. Each of these apps (except for Count Sort Match) offers a free “lite” version and a full price version. Click on the title or the picture to see the app in the app store.

Count Sort Match








This app showed up on Free App Friday last week. It’s been a big hit with my class. They find it very engaging. I like that in the “count” area of the game, they ask children to count objects and then teach the numeral (1) as well as the written number (one). (Small pet peeve: I think the way they ask children to write the lower case ‘e’ is off, but since this is a math app, I won’t hold it against them.😉 ) My students don’t find the “Sort” game particularly compelling, but they do like the “Match” game. It offers an opportunity for them to match a collection of items to the numeral represented. Great for reinforcing accurate counting.

Hungry Fish


This app is particularly popular with the boys. A fish comes into the coral reef “hungry” for a particular number. It’s the job of the player to feed that number to the fish. This in itself is plenty of challenge (and entertainment) for some of my students. They love watching the fish grow as he eats each number. What takes the app up a notch is the fact that you can combine two numbers to get the target number and then feed that number to the fish. That concept is a little above some of my students, but they still love the app.

Math is Fun Ages 4-5

math is fun







I review this app here, and it’s still a favorite among my students. As I was trying to encourage them to try out some of the new math apps I’d downloaded, they still kept gravitating back to this one. There are a variety of activities which teach a variety of skills. My students enjoy all of the activities.

Butterfly Math


The kids drag a target number of butterflies into a bamboo cage. They check their work and adjust it if need be. I like that this app allows children to make mistakes, and then fix them. A lot of the counting apps I’ve downloaded only offer the correct number of items to be counted. Often I’ve watched children simply touch all the elements to be counted but not actually count them.

Park Math


It took me awhile to discover the depth of this app. Actually, it took one of my students to show me where all the “good stuff” was. I love how their young brains often see so much more than mine does. There are seven different activities for the child to explore. Those activities focus on counting, sorting, patterning, addition and subtraction. The counting activities were a little too simplistic for my children, but they enjoyed most of the rest of them.

Let me know in the comments what your favorite math apps for the Pre-K crowd are! If you’d like to read about my five favorite writing apps for Pre-K and Kindergarten click the picture below to see that list.

best writing apps

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St. Patrick’s Day QR Codes for Counting to 20

St. Patrick's Day QR codes

We had so much fun with the QR codes the other day, that I decided to make up another set with a St. Patrick’s day theme. Once you’ve made a set of QR codes, it’s pretty easy to re-use them for different variations on the same activity. You can read my post about the first time we used QR codes and I how I set up the activity by clicking here. I went with a shamrock theme this time.


You can download a set for your classroom use by clicking the picture below. Enjoy!

QR Codes for counting

You can also find my original “how to” post for QR codes with another free set of printable QR Code activity cards by clicking the picture below.


I linked up to Freebie Friday at Teaching Blog Addict. Click on the button below to check it out!

Freebie Fridays


QR Codes for Counting

Counting with QR Codes
I linked up to Manic Monday at Classroom Freebies. Scroll to the bottom of the post to download your own set of QR code activity sheets.
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Ever since I discovered how teachers in upper elementary grades were using QR codes in their lessons, I was desperate to find a way to make it work in our classroom.  I think QR codes are just so much fun! I mean really, what kid doesn’t like to scan things? I still get excited when I go through the self check line in the grocery store and get to scan my own groceries.  In case you’re not sure what a QR code (quick response code)  is, here’s a picture:

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You can scan that image with a barcode scanner and the image will give you information. Sometimes it will give you text, sometimes it will link to a website. There are a number of other ways that a QR code can connect you to the internet, but I haven’t figure out all of those ways yet. The QR code above links to text. You can scan it to find out what it says.🙂  All you need to read a QR code is a smartphone. There are a number of free apps that you can download that will allow your smartphone camera to scan a QR code, and also “old fashioned” bar codes.  Search “barcode scanner” or “QR scanner” in your app store to find one. The one that I liked for our ipads was this one.  It was really simple to use and seemed to be pretty reliable.

There are also websites that will allow you to *create* your own QR codes.  That’s when I think things start to get really fun. Here’s a link to the website I used to create the QR codes for this activity. Many teachers have been creating activities where students complete a task and then scan a QR code to check their work.  I knew my preschoolers would love an activity like this but I struggled to find one that didn’t require any reading, adding, or complex math skills. (My students aren’t able to do any of those things.)  Finally I thought of a way to make an activity that would use QR codes and be appropriate for their level. 

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we’ve been working on learning the teen numbers in our class. It takes us pretty much all of the Spring semester to master this, so we’re always on the lookout for ways to spice things up.  I decided that I could making a counting activity that allows the children to check their counting by scanning a QR code.  Here’s an example:

QR code 15

The child must count the kitty cats. Then they write their answer in the space that says “How many?”  Then they scan the QR code to see if their answer matches the one that comes up after scanning. If you scan the code above, it will tell you how many kitties there are. I made cards for numbers 11-20.  You’re welcome to download them for your own use. They are shared here using Google drive. 

One of the tricky aspects of this plan was figuring out which tools the students would use to scan the QR codes. We knew that we could put a scanner app on the ipads, but we were worried that the size of the ipad might make it a bit unwieldy. Turning over our cellphones to preschoolers wasn’t our first choice.  Finally we also had our underutilized ipod. We decided to start out with ipads and the ipod, but be prepared to switch to our phones if the ipads just weren’t working. In the end, there really wasn’t much difference between using the ipads and the ipod.  It was easy to scan with either device, once they got the hang of it. If anything, scanning with the ipads was easier.


What did turn out to be challenging was the multi-step process that this activity required.  When you break the activity apart, it really is a lot for a preschooler to handle.

  1. First they had to count the items correctly.
  2. Then they had to figure out which written number matched the spoken number they had used when they counted. (They used the number line to help with this. Boy Mama Teacher Mama is offering a free number line on her website if you’re looking for one.)
  3. Then they had to write the number correctly.
  4. Finally they had to scan the number to check their answer. 

Most of our kids could do it, but a few struggled, particularly the ones that are still forgetting 11 & 12. They would get bogged down on step 1. Our HeidiSongs helped with step 2. For example if the child counted “sixteen” but couldn’t remember what a “sixteen” looked like, we’d just start singing.🙂 “A one and six is a sixteen…”  There were also a few kids getting bogged down on step 3. We realized that we need to review number formation with a some of our kids. Happily, scanning proved to be the least challenging of all the steps, so hopefully they saw it as a reward. We’re thinking we may go another round with QR codes to see if the multi-step process gets easier with practice!

Click on the picture below to download your own set of QR Code activity sheets:


Update: I’ve made another set of QR code activity sheets.  Click the image below to see them and download your own set.

QR Codes for counting


These headphones aren’t gonna be the ones.


So today before we started centers I remembered that I’d seen some of our older students using headphones when they used laptops. Turns out the upper grades have a whole container of headphones that they use. They are what I call “Walkman style” and were all the rage in the 80’s when the Sony Walkman revolutionized the way we listen to music.  I  borrowed 3 pairs from third grade for our preschoolers to try out today with the ipads.

While good in theory, these headphones just weren’t a good fit for such young kids.  They struggled to get them on, and then struggled to get them to fit properly.   Adjusting each set of headphones for each student took away from learning time, and truth be told, a couple of the kids still found them uncomfortable and hard to wear even after we adjusted them. It was definitely better than last week when we had all 3 ipads “talking” at once,  but I think it’d be even better still if we we’re able to track down the kind of headphones that a lot of teachers use at listening centers.


The kids were just happy to be using the ipads again and weren’t too concerned with the headphones. Engagement was as high as it had been before and boy, were these ipads a motivator!  Each child had to complete a short journal entry before they could use the ipad.  Children who had before taken 25 minutes to finish their work were completing high quality journal work in 15 minutes.

Today we tried out new headphones.

I’ll keep you posted on the headphones.  The yellow pair in the picture above belong to my son and I was able to find them for just a few dollars.  I’m hoping we might be able to find something similar for our classroom.


We are loving HeidiSongs In Our Room!

Have you seen this?

heidi songs

I’m not sure how we stumbled across the HeidiSongs website. It could have been Pinterest, or just plain Google. What we do know is that our class is loving it! (** After I finished this blog post I realized that Heidi of HeidiSongs is actually quite active in the teacher blogger community. Ironically, that’s not how we discovered her!)

Learning the teen numbers can be challenging. Poor eleven and twelve are so often neglected when preschoolers count, and that just messes up the whole counting process. We’re at the point in the year where we usually teach our children “the teens.” This group was struggling a bit more with the concept than others had so we were looking for other ways to help them. That’s when we stumbled across Heidi Songs. After watching a few free previews online, we knew we had to have the DVD.

What our kids love about the series is the catchy songs. It took just one viewing of the DVD and our kids were singing about numbers non stop.  We as teachers loved how the video incorporated so many different learning styles into one lesson.  The children are singing the song, doing a special unique dance for each number and seeing the number.  The number is presented in written form (fourteen) numerical form (14) and with a 10 frame. It’s obvious that someone with a solid educational background created these videos.


Our kids’ favorite number song is twenty. “Number twenty goes first a two and then zero.”


“You better watch out for the twenty or he’ll bite your little bunty!”


We used our document camera, projector and laptop to show the DVDs so the videos were on our big screen. They’d also work well with a TV and DVD player. We’d only had the videos a day when we went back and ordered more. I think Sight Words and Letter Sounds are headed our way.

The highschooler working in our room this week came back to school the day after we first played the first DVD and said, “That song was stuck in my head all night last night!”  My teaching partner replied with a smile, “That’s the whole point!”  To which the highschooler replied, “You know it really would be nice if they still did stuff like this to teach highschoolers.”  I think the highschooler nailed that one.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have multi-sensory instructional videos to teach higher level concepts too?  For now, go and check out all of the early childhood videos at HeidiSongs. I bet you’ll find at least one you like.

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Using the Kindle App for a Lesson: Put Me In The Zoo

Using the Kindle app ipad and document cameraPut Me in The Zoo Stacked Collage2


My teaching partner is incredibly organized. She’s almost always planned and prepped at least two weeks out. It’s a rare day when we have to scramble to come up with an activity at the last minute.  For whatever reason (perhaps the holiday weekend threw us off) that happened this morning.  We’d seen this idea on Pinterest yesterday.

Screen shot 2013-02-22 at 12.34.04 PM


When we clicked on the pin it took us to Kangarooboo.  (They give the detailed instructions for this project on the blog part of the website, but also have an online toy store. I haven’t shopped at their toy store.) We loved the idea of doing this lesson based on the book Put Me In The Zoo by Robert Lopshire and knew it would be the perfect activity to fill the empty spot in our schedule.  There was just one problem: We couldn’t find a copy of the book anywhere! We checked our school library and checked with all of the primary teachers in our school and no one had it!

That’s when we decided that we could solve this dilemma with our ipads. I’ll confess that I am not native to Apple products.  I was “raised” on PCs and my smartphones have always been Android based. So when I started looking for a way to put the book on our ipad, my first thought was to use the Kindle app. We could have gotten the book through itunes, but Kindle was easier because I knew the system, and we were in a hurry.

We quickly downloaded the app to one of our ipads and synced it with our existing Amazon account. We then purchased a Kindle version of Put Me In A Zoo.  We connected our ipad to our document camera with the ever versatile dongle, and we were ready to roll!


dongle close updonglebox

The children settled in on the rug for the story.  We projected the book onto the big screen and the kids loved it. The pictures were far bigger than they would have been had we simply been sharing a traditional book. We were also able to double tap on the pictures to eliminate the text and make the pictures fill the screen.


After the story, we did the activity in a traditional classroom manner. We provided each student with a tray of supplies.Talented teaching partner had quickly sketched up a template first thing in the morning. We were also incredibly lucky to have 2 high school volunteers in our class today who quickly punched out all of the colored spots for us with a paper punch. I’m not sure we could have pulled it off without them! We added eyes and a pom pom nose to each tray, along with brads for the legs, and the usual paste and scissors.


We ended up with an adorable collection of animals.



While I know many of you could sketch up your own pattern in a flash, I absolutely could not. For those of you like me,  talented teaching partner generously offered to let me upload her template.  You’re welcome to download it. I put it on Google Drive and shared it. Click here to see my post about how to share something with Google Drive and Click here to download your own template.

So what do you use to share digital books with your students? Kindle? Ipad? Something else? Let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for ideas!

I’m linking up to Technology Tailgate again. Lots of great techie posts over there.  Click the picture below to check them out.

Tech Tuesday

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Is It Really OK to put Technology in an Early Childhood Classroom?

Is Technology In Early Childhood OK

That’s the unspoken question I’m sensing from other Early Childhood educators. Is it really OK to give ipads to four and five year olds? When you’ve got the American Academy of Pediatrics making fairly strict recommendations about screen time for children under two, it makes sense to consider the question for young children as well. It’s definitely a question I considered before writing a proposal to request the ipads that we received.

I remember a teacher I met early in my teaching career.  She taught kindergarten and was adamant that no technology would cross her threshold. There was no TV in her room and computers were relegated to the hallway. I admired her for taking that stand. Even in those days, so many children were spending far too much time in front of  television, computers and video games. She wanted to make sure her students were doing the things that are so important for development: playing outside, interacting with peers, building sand castles and climbing jungle gyms.


I don’t think the situation has improved in the last 15 years. Children of all ages in this country are still spending far too much time in front of screens. At the same time, I do believe that our country has evolved. Like it or not, we live in a digital age.  It is almost impossible to exist without at least a computer, if not also a smartphone, laptop and tablet. There comes a time when it is foolish to pretend that the world has not changed. The children that enter our classroom today have had their mom or dad’s smartphone at their disposal to entertain them during downtime probably since birth. They were practically born into an ipad age. Technology is a language that some of them speak quite fluently.  If we really want to reach them and meet their needs, we may need to start speaking their language, and that means using technology in their classrooms.

As I started to consider ipads in our classroom, I was pleased to find that the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) had examined the issue of using technology with young children.  I was even more pleased to discover that they saw a place for technology in early childhood classrooms.  In January 2012, NAEYC, in conjunction with  Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College issued this position statement on the role of Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs.  This position statement makes a couple of points that I think are essential to keep in mind whenever one is using technology in an early childhood classroom. 

One of the first points they make is with regard to intentionality. Teachers who plan to include technology in their classrooms must be thoughtful and deliberate in the ways that they invite children to engage with these digital devices. Open access to ipads, while fun and exciting, will not necessarily benefit our students any more than their ability to pick up their Nintendo DS, Nook or ipod touch at home and start playing.  As I stated earlier, children in this day and age are already getting plenty of screen time. If we’re going to invite technology into our classrooms,  we need to consider how we are going to ensure that this is not just more of what our students are already spending far too much time doing at home.

NAEYC also addresses the fact that limits should be put into place with technology in early childhood classrooms. Currently our students have an opportunity to use the ipad twice a week, for up to 20 minutes at a time. It is one of our stations for our learning centers. Those 20 minutes have so far proven to be very rich in learning for the children. They are working at a “just right” level for each of them and getting very targeted instruction. While we may increase the amount of time children are spending with the ipad, we in no way intend to replace our entire curriculum and rely only on digital sources. Our children are still spending the majority of their time at school each week engaged in meaningful, hands-on play and learning. They’re still building those sand castles and climbing those jungle gyms that my colleague believed in so many years ago.

So is it OK to put technology in an Early Childhood classroom? I think that it is, so long as we’re taking the time to make sure that we’re using technology in a way that will actually be helpful for our students. I recommend that anyone planning to use technology with young children consider giving the NAEYC document a quick look, if not a thorough read. It’s tempting to simply grab a few educational apps and throw these amazing, engaging devices at our eager students. They’d certainly be willing to use them, and probably be quite entertained.  But it’s not entertainment we’re looking for.  It’s learning, and learning in a classroom takes careful planning. Whether we’re planning lessons from textbooks or from technology we need to devote some energy to making sure we’re doing it right.

5 Best Writing Apps for Pre-School and Kindergarten

best writing apps

Update: I’ve added a new post to this series about math apps.  Click here to see it.

It’s been about a month now since we received our ipads. In that time I’ve downloaded close to 100 apps. Probably 90% of those are directly related to teaching young children. I’ve been particularly looking for an app to help cement our students’ writing skills. Many of them are still working on letter formation. I’ve honestly been shocked by how hard it is to come by good teaching apps! Some of the apps I downloaded were truly awful. More than a couple were actually saying letter sounds incorrectly. Not just a little off so that a teacher trained in phonics would notice, but really off. One or two were bad enough that my eight year old complained that the app wasn’t making the sound right! Then there were the apps that had students writing letters incorrectly. And finally the there were the ones that turned out to be in another language! (I actually like the Japanese app I downloaded quite a bit. You could switch it to English in the settings, but then I ran into the trouble of letter pronunciation…) So now that I’ve waded through quite a number of letter writing apps, I’m ready to offer up my top five choices. So in no particular order, here are the five apps for practice with writing letters that I like the best so far:

abc PocketPhonics: letter sounds & writing + first words

There’s a free version with some of the letters so that you can try it out and then a paid version to download if you like it. Educationally speaking, I like that the app teaches the formation of the letter with the sound of the letter. I always like instruction to be as multisensory as possible. After the student has traced enough letters, the app guides students into the process of blending and segmenting words. The interface is clean and simple, offering gentle redirection if the student makes mistakes. Finally, I like the fact that there is a locked parent control panel that lets you adjust the settings. My daughter likes the fact that you shake the ipad to clear the screen.


ABC Circus

This app has lots of sound and lots of visual stimulation. Great for some students, not so great for others. Each letter is presented with one of the sounds that it makes. This app takes it a step further by creating an icon to trace which corresponds with the sound of the letter that you are tracing. For example when you trace ‘a’ the icon is an ant and you trace the ants with the finger in the shape of an a. (See the picture below.) For ‘b’ the icon is a bear, etc. These visual cues paired up with both the letter and the sound can be really helpful for some students. Again, there is a free version to try it out and then a paid version. The only thing I don’t like is the line on the left hand side of “other games” available for purchase, even in the paid version. I’ve already had students end up in the app store instead of playing the game.


Crabby Writer: Phonics Read & Write (free!)

This app links up letter writing practice with three and four letter words. It teaches sounds in combination with writing. One unique thing about this app is that it requires the student to trace the letter with the thumb and index finger pinched together. Apparently this helps in building skills that will be needed for proper pencil grip. I’m not sure I buy that, but the app is a useful teaching tool regardless. I actually found myself using two fingers rather than a finger thumb combination. There are rewards offered after a certain number of words have been written. The game is not as intuitive as some, but that’s also because it’s a bit more complex, and more entertaining as a result.


Letter School

Letter school teaches handwriting in conjunction with letter sounds. It presents the letter three times and on the third time, the model disappears and the child has to actually write the letter without tracing, but from memory. Also, I like the fact that this app puts dots on the distinguishing characteristics of the letter. I think that creates strong visual cues that will actually help the children recall the shape of the letter and be able to draw it on their own. There is both a light and free version.


Letter Quiz

Letter quiz is a tracing app that puts each letter on a blackboard just as you’ve written it. After you write all of the letters, you get to put on a little digital fireworks show. The kids thought that was fun. This app also teaches letter identification matching upper and lower case letters. It’s not fancy, but reasonably intuitive and fun. Again there is a light version and a free version.


So that’s pretty much the best of what I’ve found so far.  I know there have got to be some more great writing apps out there for young children.  Tell me about the ones you’ve discovered in the comments.

Update: I’ve written a companion post about the five best math apps that I’ve found so far. Click the picture below to check it out.

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Today I’m linking up with Technology Tailgate for Technology Tuesday. Click on the picture below to head over there to check out some other posts about technology.

Enjoying our 5 Best Apps series? Like us on Facebook or follow this blog to make sure you see the next installment!

Tech Tuesday

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Review of Teach Me Toddler


Teach Me Toddler, while not perfect, is easily the best educational app I’ve discovered so far. Here are the reasons why I like it:

Teach Me Toddler was clearly designed with the educator in mind and is extremely customizable. It allows a whole classroom of students to use a single ipad, and tracks each student’s individual progress. It also has leveled instruction. Each student progresses through the activities, moving forward only when mastery has been achieved. The teacher is also allowed to define what mastery looks like for each student. One of my students really should be using Teach Me Kindergarten or First Grade, but before I moved him on to those levels, I wanted to make sure that he really had mastered the preschool concepts. I didn’t however, want him to have to identify a circle 3 different times just to prove that he really knew it. I went into his profile and adjusted the “#number to learn questions” field to one instead of three. So now he only needs to answer each question correctly once to move to the next level. I also wanted him to be able to move through the material quickly, so I was also able to adjust “number correct to earn reward” field from 3 to 10 so that he could quickly show mastery of the entire program. I have yet to run across another app which allows this kind of customization.

What’s even better is that this app includes “parent controls” (or rather teacher controls. ) Each child’s profile is lockable so that they cannot adjust their own settings. Nor can they go in and play on another child’s profile.


Another thing I love about Teach Me Toddler is its usability. There are verbal instructions which tell the students (and the teachers, for that matter) exactly what to do. There’s also an mouse icon that the children can touch if they’ve forgotten the instructions. Additionally, if the children aren’t yet able to recognize their own name, the profiles contain a space for avatars of each child. They simply need to click on their own face to begin play. Once I had each of my students set up with a profile, they required almost no assistance to complete the tasks set before them. All of this verbal instruction is so important for young children, but it did remind us that we were likely going to need to consider purchasing headphones, as I wrote about a few days ago.

I’ve been shocked by how many apps I’ve downloaded which are supposed to be “educational” but don’t actually teach anything. Teach Me Toddler is not like that. The activities actually do encourage learning, and offer support where the children need it. One of my favorite things is the way that children can touch the objects that they are counting and see the corresponding numbers on the screen. Here they are counting the treasure chests and then choosing the correct number from the choices at the bottom of the screen.


There’s also built in, adjustable, motivation. The child is offered the chance to “choose a sticker” after getting a certain number of questions right. The default number is three, but as I mention above, that can be adjusted. I was surprised by just how key this motivational piece turned out to be for some of my students. They were really excited to earn stickers and place the stickers in a variety of scenes. What was particularly nice was the fact that the sticker/scene reward was just enough to get them excited, but not enough to completely distract them from the learning activities.



Finally, there’s a report page for each student. As a teacher, I can look at the individual progress of each student at any time. This allows me to check in later in the day, when the chaos of the classroom has settled a bit. The picture below shows my “teacher” profile that I used to experiment with the app. When you’re looking at students progress, you actually see the name of an individual student with the progress they’ve made.


It could perhaps be said that the interface for Teach Me Toddler is not as colorful or animated as some. However, I think all of the other features make up for this, and that in fact, a bigger and louder interface just might be too much distraction for some students. We’ve only actually used this app a couple of times, but it was instantly a big hit. The only other drawback seems to be that I may be incurring the wrath of a few parents because their young preschoolers are coming home asking for ipads.

*Teach Me Toddler does not know me and did not have anything to do with the opinions expressed in this review.  The words are my own and are based on my own opinions. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post.

Smart Apps For Kids with Free App Friday

I made a great discovery today! It’s a website called Smart Apps For Kids and each Friday they offer “Free App Friday” where they give away a select number of educational apps for free! Today, they’re giving away Montessori Letter Sounds HD, which I’ve been wanting to try for quite some time. I keep seeing it recommended on some of the different blogs I read, but it’s usually $4.99. Today, it’s FREE! They’ve got 11 other free apps today, and you can even sign up for their free app alert so that you’ll know about any of the free apps they are offering.20130215-103505.jpg


ipod for music


Every early childhood classroom I’ve been a part of has relied heavily on music as an instructional strategy. Our classroom is no different. We’ve got music going all day long. Whether we’re singing to learn our letters at circle time, playing a song to signal clean up time or listening to relaxing music at rest time, there’s almost always music coming from our classroom. After burning out 3 cd players in as many years, we decided to see if we could convert our collection to digital format and begin using an ipod for music instead of an old fashioned cd/cassette player.

The first thing we had to consider was the enormous task of converting all of our CDs, many of which were years old, and adding them to our itunes. Admittedly, that was a large task and we did crash one hard drive in the process. (We’re actually not sure that the crashed hard drive was related to the uploading of discs, but are planning to exercise more caution in the future!)


Once we had all of our music on the ipod we had to think about how we would play it for the children. Our technology coordinator was able to find a set of speakers that wasn’t being used so we simply plugged them into the headphone jack on the ipod. We don’t use a dock and we charge our ipod in our office each night.

Since this is a classroom full of Junior Kindergartners, we wanted to make sure that our ipod was well protected.  Though the students don’t currently use the ipod, it could conceivably wind up in their hands a time or two.  My favorite durable case for devices like this is an Otterbox.


My husband and I have them on our phones and my son has one for his ipod.  They have an underlying rubberized case that is covered by a hard plastic case. A screen protector is also included. DSCN6932-001So far, they have proven to be indestructible. The only downside is that they are quite expensive.  Each case is close to $40. As a result, when we were buying the case for our classroom ipod, I let my budget-minded self get the better of me.  I ordered an Otterbox knock-off from Amazon. Big Mistake. When we went to plug in the speakers, the hard plastic case, which was actually cheap flimsy plastic on the knock-off, blocked the headphone jack. There is no way to use the speakers and have the case on.  For the time being, we’ve compromised and are just using the silicone case.


It looks sloppy and doesn’t protect very well, but it’s better than nothing.  A real Otterbox case is on my shopping list, but now that I’ve already spent money on the knock-off, it’s even harder to warrant spending $40 on a single case.  Let me know in the comments if you have another sturdy case you can recommend.

I feel like we’re under-utilizing our classroom ipod.  It has many features beyond playing music that I’m sure we could implement in the classroom if we devoted some thought and energy to it.  The camera, facetime, and learning apps are just a few things I’d like to explore.  Unfortunately, I think the ipod was overshadowed by the ipads, which arrived just a month or so after it did. Hopefully as we settle in with the ipads we’ll find more ways to use our ipod as well.