Wednesday, June 26, 2013

iPads in the Classroom: Planning for Next Year!

This summer, "leaving my kids to their own devices" has taken on an entirely new meaning for my own children. They are very happy to be left to their devices--that is, their tablets! Summer reading is now just as much about finding new and interesting apps and e-books as it is about lugging home a huge bag of books from the library. I love to watch my own kids try things out and experiment with new technology and new books so that I can plan for the upcoming school year.

Over the spring I have had the chance to try out an app called Activity Spot. This app allows me to author my own texts, questions, and activities, and then publish them to the iPad. It's ready for wider testing right now. If you download the app from the iTunes store, you'll have access to just a few texts that I have written. In a few months, teachers will be able to author their own texts. (You can read more about Activity Spot at the Frolyc website, or download it here.)

My youngest son has been fascinated by the entire process. He has read each piece and given me lots of constructive criticism. ("Leopard seals was your best yet!" he told, that is high praise from an 8-year-old.)

Watching him interact with the device has helped me to do some thinking about what I want for my classroom next year. It's fascinating to watch him take the learning to different places--spread out on the couch, in the yard, in the car--and do activities at all times of day.

Accountable independent reading
Right now I only have one iPad. But my students still loved using it during independent reading. For my struggling readers, the questions at the end of the texts in Activity Spot helped them to see how they had understood the texts. Instead of being frustrating or boring, the questions were somehow motivating. The kids proudly brought me their scores or showed me how they had improved from before.

I can't wait to have more iPads to use during independent reading times. They'll be the perfect tool for the "reading vacation" that kids like to take between books. (A reading vacation is something that I let readers do when they have just finished a book or a series and they are not quite ready to commit to something new...a day or two of reading picture books or using the iPad can be very refreshing!)

Building background knowledge
Filling in the background knowledge gaps can be a daunting task for teachers. But the right content can help students to learn new concepts quickly. The iPad is the perfect tool to help students learn about scientific or historical concepts. A quick YouTube playlist can help students to learn about topics of interest. (For example, many of my students had never heard of tide pools. While it's not a topic that we cover, several kids were interested, so I made up a playlist to use next year.) Down times like bus time and indoor recess can become great learning opportunities.

How are you planning to use iPads or tablets in your classroom next year?

Other news
-Spelling is now on Google Drive! Email me at with your Gmail address and I'll add you to the list to view the folder. You can read more about the spelling program we made here. If you have used the Master Word List, please comment or write to let me know!
-Several people have written have written to ask about the Reading Intervention that I made last summer. It is available in four parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. It includes texts, PowerPoints, and activities to build academic vocabulary and text structure awareness.
-If you're looking for an easy introduction to text structure, you might like Introduction to Text Structure. It includes texts on the chinstrap penguin and the peregrine falcon, showing how text structures can be used to communicate different information about the same topics.

-I'd love to hear what you think about Activity Spot!

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