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!

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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!

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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.

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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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Giraffe

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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These headphones aren’t gonna be the ones.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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We ended up with an adorable collection of animals.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.