We are loving HeidiSongs In Our Room!

Have you seen this?

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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.

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

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

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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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Review of Teach Me Toddler

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.