Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Using Technology in Small Groups: Writing

This was going to be my last installment of the series I've been working about using technology in small groups and centers but I will have one more post focusing mostly on centers.  I hope to bring you more posts about technology. It is definitely a passion of mine. I strongly believe we have to engage our 21st century learners with whatever means we can and technology is not going anywhere. This post will focus on writing activities using technology.

The first activity I want to share uses two apps, Magnetic ABC and Show Me.  I have the paid version of the magnetic ABC and I think it is worth it. There are tons of picture magnets that kids can use for writing. 
I made a video of doing the activity. I hate hearing my voice on videos but I think it is the best way to show how this activity works. 



To check out one that a student made, click here. What I loved about this activity was it gave her a chance to change what she had written. It is important when writing to teach students to go back and read their writing. By having them record themselves reading their writing, it gives them some motivation to read over the writing. I would do this in small groups before moving it out as an activity for centers.

The next writing activity uses the app Pages. You could do the same thing in google slides but you wouldn't be able to publish it. (or at least not as easily).  At the end of the year I had my students pick a picture from the folder I had made in google drive. I just uploaded all my photos from my phone into a specific folder in drive and it made finding class pictures really easy. The inserted their pictures into the app and then wrote a sentence. When we were done, I could save it as an ePub file, email it to myself and add it to my iBooks. So now the book is on the iPad and they can read it. Here's another video that explains it a little better. 

I hope you can try one of these ideas this Fall as you start back to school and are looking for ways to incorporate technology into your small groups. My last installment of the series will focus more on technology in centers. Be sure to check out parts 1, 2, and 3 to get more ideas for using tech in centers. 
How do you use technology to work on writing?

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Using Technology in Small Groups: Comprehension

I didn't forget about my series on the blog. I just have been busy this week. I started off the week at a Google Apps for Education training. It was really good and gave me a lot to think about. I'll hopefully be posting about this at a later date. I'm working on creating and updating some of my resources to be Google Classroom compatible. Hopefully I'll get access to it when school starts. It would be even better if I had more technology but that doesn't mean I'm not going to work on it with what I have. Anyway, today's post is about using using tech in small groups and centers with a focus on comprehension.
The activity I'm going to share is one of my absolute favorite activities I did with my kids last year. Retelling is a big skill for kindergarten. We practice whole group using a variety of strategies. I decided to try to do it with tech twist and the iPad. It was Dr. Seuss week and we had been reading The Cat in the Hat. I took pictures of the book with my phone and then used airdrop to drop them on my iPad. Then I had the kids use the app Show Me. (It is free from Apple app store but does have a paid option.) This is an interactive white board app where students can import pictures, take pictures, record themselves, and write. I made a video off an example using this app.
You can check out the retelling show me that my kids did here. I love that I can share links with parents and they can see what their kids have been up to in class. I send my weekly newsletter home through email each week. I only have had 1-2 families that don't receive it that way. I can include this link in my newsletter and parents can see it. How would you use this app with your students?
I'll be back in a few days after the fourth to finish up this series with information about writing and more information about centers. I  hope you have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Using Technology in Small Groups: Phonics and Word Study

While you are reading this, I'm at the beach. Hopefully having a great family vacation with my whole family. I'm sure we're having a wild and crazy time with three kids 5 and under. But it is definitely needed.
I can't believe I'm actually able to post two blog posts in a row. I've set my goal of posting once a week. If I post once a week for the next few months, I'm going to reward myself with a facelift to my blog. I have missed blogging. I enjoy having something to share and focusing on the content rather than getting caught up in the whole "business" side of the blog. There is so much pressure through social media to be a certain way and to keep up with the newest trends. When I couldn't keep up because of my sweet girl, I kind of gave up on blogging. But I am finding my groove again and I'm remembering why I started the blog to begin with.
Anyway, moving on from that tagent. This week I'm going to share a few activities to use in your small groups that have to do with phonics and word study.

The first activity uses the app Post-It Plus. This is a free app from Apple iTunes but I wasn't able to find the app on the Google play store. I learned about this app from the Apple Education event I got the opportunity to go to in April. It was a great training and I learned about several great activities. This app is used organize and sort information. The app is billed as a way to capture information from collaboration sessions and then share it. There are so many applications for education. You take a picture of the post its and then you can move the post its and create different boards.
In the small group, we had been working on short vowel words. I had post its with different words on it. The students took a picture of the post its and sorted the cards by medial sound. We did it with words but you could do it with pictures as well, provided the pictures are the size of a post it.

You can move the post its into several different groups within the app. Yes you can do this with the post its and not add the tech component. But technology offers a little higher engagement for students which gets them more into their learning. When I first saw this app, the first activity I thought of was a can, have, are chart. Once completed as a class using post its. Students could reorganize the information during a center and create their own chart. I plan to try this next year with my first graders. 
The ABC - Magnetic letter app that I talked about in part one can be used for phonics as well. You can use the letters to build words from a word family. What I liked about this, is there is a line magnet that students could use to underline the rime and onset of the words. Here's an example using the -ot family. 

You could also use the Doodle Buddy app like I suggested for the sight words for word work.

I really want using the iPad to be more intentional that just getting on apps and playing. But there are some great apps out there for students to use to practice skills that they need practice with. I use this time during small groups to show students specific apps that I want them to practice on. For example, there was an RTI group that I was working with that was really struggling with rhyme. I had this app Bud's Rhyming Words that I showed the kids and we worked on some games with. Then they knew when they were using the iPad during center time I wanted them to work on this app.
This is a paid app. It costs $3.99. But one of the things I like about it, is that kids can have their own username on this game and you can track what they are doing.
Here are a couple of other phonics apps that I like.

  • Montessori Crosswords - Fun Phonics Game for Kids to learn sound letters and alphabets ($2.99)





  • Alpha Writer by Montessorium - $4.99 - So this one is expensive but I like it because it has all the digraphs, blends and other vowel teams already in chunks for kids to work on.




Thursday, June 9, 2016

Using Technology in Small Groups: Sight Words

I am brave to be posting something and then adding part 1. That means I'm promising at least at part 2.  But I'm passionate about this topic and I hope you can learn something. I had the opportunity to present at the East Tennessee Technology Association - Instructional Technology Academy yesterday.  It was my first time presenting to a group of teachers. Oh my. I was so nervous but so excited. I have tell you a story about when I was in fourth grade. For 4H we had to do a food demonstration. I demonstrated making a carrot salad and placed first in my class. So, I got to go on to "compete" with other schools in the county. Well, I got up to do my food demonstration and I was done in like 5 minutes. According to my grandmother, the carrots were flying and I was sitting down before it could settle. So I haven't quite lived down this nightmare speaking event. I tend to get nervous and talk really fast. The room filled up quickly yesterday and there were even people sitting on the floor. Then two of the teachers recognized me from my teachers pay teachers store. So, I sped through the first half of my presentation barely taking a breath. But hopefully, some of the participants got something out of it. I am going to attempt to break down my presentation into several blog posts.

Technology is definitely a passion of mine. I would love to have a class set of iPad for my students but the reality is that I have 1 iPad, 1 iPods, 2 computer and an interactive white board. So I do the best I can. I love using the iPad during my small group time. I really wanted to work this past year on doing more with technology than just putting kids on apps and on websites. I wanted them to learn to create things using technology. By using the iPad during small group time, I am able to teach students to use different apps to practice skills and create with them.
During small group time, I tend to focus on sight words, phonics/word study, comprehension and writing. If you haven't read, The Next Step in Guided Reading: Focused Assessments and Targeted Lessons for Helping Every Student Become a Better Reader, you need to. It really helped me to focus my small group instruction. On this post, I'm going to share a few ideas for sight words.
The first app I like to use is ABC- Magnetic Alphabet for Kids. There is a lite version that is free and the paid version is $1.99. I paid the $1.99 because I wanted lowercase letters and some pictures. This app is available on the apple app store and on google play.
It is a simple app that works just like magnetic letters. There are different backgrounds to choose from and other pictures.
We use this app to build sight words, find missing letters in sight words and unscramble them. These sight word routines can be found in The Next Step in Guided Reading. (Read my post about these routines here.)



The next app is Doodle Buddy for iPad.  This app is free on iTunes. I wasn't able to find the exact same app for android but there are similar apps. It is basically just like a white board. But I like to change things up and this allows students to chose what colors they write with and the medium they write with. There are also stars and shapes they can use to illustrate sentences. So we practice writing sight words and writing sentences with our sight words. 


The last activity I wanted to share using the app Show me Interactive Whiteboard.  This is a free app on iTunes and I wasn't able to find this exact app in the google play store. There are other interactive white board apps. For this activity, you have cards with the sight words that you are working on. Students pick a sight word, take a picture of it, then write the word and record themselves using the word in a sentence.  This is what it looks like. 
You can check out the show me by clicking here and hear the sentence that she said. I didn't have any of my class doing this activity saved so my niece who is going into first grade next year did it for me. She loved helping me with technology for my class.  The kids love this activity because after they each get a turn to record a sentence, they like to listen to each others' sentences. 
After students have practiced these activities in small groups, you can move these activities into centers. You can even move the magnetic letter app and sight word routines into a center. I have my students in partners for centers. They can "quiz" each other by removing letters and scrambling the words. 
I made a handout for my presentation that has a list of all my favorite apps I use with my kids. I'll be honest, a lot of them are paid apps. But I have found you get what you pay for with somethings.
If I can get my act together and utilize nap time appropriately, I'll be back next week with part 2 of this series. We're going to the beach with my family so I'll need to get on it and get  a post scheduled. I would love to hear how you use technology in your small groups, leave me a comment with your favorite apps and activities. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Finding the good in the difficult

Blogging has definitely taken a back burner this year. This whole being a working mom is hard and I have not adjusted as well as I would like. Of course, it doesn't help that my child doesn't sleep through the night consistently yet. It seems that I have used blogging this year, to help me process some of my bigger issues. So here I go again. I'm going to be as honest as I can be.
I have one of the best classes I have ever had this year. Sadly all my husband has heard is me complaining out the things that go on outside of my classroom.  As teachers we are faced with so many challenges that are beyond our control. I love the school I work at. I think the teachers there are great and work hard. But I see them everyday beaten down by systems that we can't control. More testing. More mandates. More policies that don't seem to have the best interest of our students at heart. I love my students and I love being there for them.  But this year I have felt strongly called to be there for my fellow teachers. I have worked at trying to improve morale and be a positive light in the school. I am blessed to be able to maintain the prayer list at our school. Almost my whole school joins together in prayer for each other and shares our prayer concerns over email. It is such a privilege to me that I get to facilitate it and it is totally a God thing. He called me to this role. He calls me to send out encouraging emails to my co-workers.
This past week as a staff we endured some difficult things. We were told some things that weren't true about ourselves. Lots of us felt guilty about things that we should never feel guilty about. I have been processing this all week. I have gone from sad to mad and back again. I know that we can't be the only group of teachers to beaten down in this way. So here are the conclusions I have come to in this difficult time as teachers.
What is clear to me is that God is present in all things. One of his names is El-Roi, the God who sees, and he sees us.  He sees you when you give that child a hug that no one else wants to hug. He sees you when you listen to a child tell a story over and over. He sees you when you bring dinner to a co worker who is going through a rough time. He sees you when you are having a rough day in your personal life but you put a smile on your face for your students. He sees you when you sit down to grade papers or plan lessons after providing your family a meal and everyone is in bed. He sees the excitement you have when your student who has been struggling all year finally gets it. He sees that coffee your bring your co worker when they have a hard day. He sees you when you share the treats you bake with your fellow teachers. He sees you fighting everyday for your students.  The great thing is God sees us as we really are.
Not only does God see but our co- workers and students see it too. I want to challenge you this week to uplift one of your co workers. Show them you see the little things that they do that are meaningful. Show them you believe they are so much more than how the world sees them.
 Some days it feels like our education system is crumbling around us. But we keep on for our students and we need to keep on for each other. We need to encourage each other. We have to lift each other up. We have to stick together.  Be a light in your school!


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Teaching Matters

Since becoming a mom, life has been different. My sweet girl turned 1 on Sunday and it has been an amazing year. I was lucky enough to be able to take time off and be with her. Going back to school in August was challenging in a way that I wasn't prepared for. It is hard being a working mom. (It is hard being a stay at home mom too) Teaching has always been something I've poured myself into. So finding the balance between being a mom, wife, teacher, friend, and blogger has been hard. I've missed blogging. I've missed reflecting on my teaching and my life through this medium. I'm hoping now that I have a semester under my belt, I can do more. It helps that my girl is sleeping a little better finally. Energy was definitely not high on my list this past semester.
This semester was difficult for other reasons too.  My husband told me one day that maybe I needed to find another job because I was complaining so much. When I stopped and thought about it, I was sad that they view I was giving my husband was I didn't like my job. Because I truly have a great class. The kids have made huge progress in the time we've been together. But the other stuff of teaching has clouded my view. Things that I have no control over like county and state mandates. Other people's negativity. Public perception of our school. After this conversation with my husband, I tried to refocus on what is important.
But by December my energy was really depleted. Any positive thoughts I had were gone. My sleep was minimal and that makes a huge difference on your outlook. I was feeling very under appreciated and over looked at my school. Basically, I was in desperate need of Christmas break. Over the break, I started to think maybe I wasn't in the right place. Maybe God didn't really want me to be a teacher and to leave my sweet girl everyday. I'm trying to be real and this is what was really going on in my head. I was starting to dread the return to school.
Back in July, I started a new Bible Study app called First 5. It is through Proverbs 31 ministries. The premise is everyday you wake up and give God the first 5 minutes of your day. They started with the book of John and since then we've studied Genesis and Matthew. This past week we started Exodus. While on maternity leave and struggling through being a first time mom, I really came to treasure my bible study time. When school started, I needed this time even more. I need to spend some time with the Lord everyday to get focused for the day. This week, the topics of study were so timely for me. They were about having confidence in who God says he is rather than who we think we are (Exodus 3) and about the doubts we have about the tasks God has given us (Exodus 5).
I felt like God was talking directly to me. I was doubting that I was where I was suppose to be. I was doubting that I was a good teacher or a good mom. But this helped me to realize that God has given me what I need. I only need the confidence that he is who he says he is and he will e
 Then yesterday morning God gave me further confirmation that I was where he wanted me to be. My assistant principal told me that one of my students had told him a couple of times that when he came into class after the break that I told him I missed him and hugged him and it meant a lot to him. This student worried me all over the break. I was afraid he wouldn't be back when school started again. He's homeless and his life is so unstable. But it mattered to him that I said I missed him. It mattered to him that I gave him a hug. It mattered to him that his friends all said Good morning to him in morning meeting and were happy to see him. It matters what I do everyday. I need to keep my focus on the kids not the mandates or the testing. But the kids.
Teaching matters. It matters to the kids that they get a smile and hug. It matters that the kids know someone cares about them and misses them when they are gone. As we start a new semester, remember that what you do everyday matters to the kids we serve. When you've had a rough day of dealing with the negative of teaching, remember the kids you serve need you. Other teachers need you.



Saturday, September 26, 2015

Five for Friday on Saturday

Well I survived the first six weeks of school. Unfortunately, my blog did not. But I took some pictures this week and my sweet girl is sleeping so I thought I would share a few things from the week. I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for her weekly party.

1. This week was all about pets. We used Jennifer at First Grade Blue Skies Directed Drawing pack to draw pictures of dogs on Friday. I think they turned out great. This is a great pack if you haven't checked it out. The week before we did dinosaur but I forgot to take any pictures. We have been working on the sight words I, like, and the and writing sentences with spaces. So we wrote a sentence together to put on the picture.



2. Since we were talking pets and my husband is a veterinarian, he came to talk to the kids. He brought a few animals for them to check out too. It was great. They got to pet a dog, see the cat Martha and the parakeet Beaker. The kids really enjoyed it and bragging on my hubby he does a great job with the kids.



3.  This week the kids got to do a science lesson on germs with our eighth grade students. I teach in a K-8 school. I love the opportunities that can be created for students. The eighth grade science teacher is a former primary teacher and her daughter is in Kindergarten this year. So she asked k-2 teachers if they wanted to participate. It was fun and the 8th graders did a great job. They used glitter and lotion to show the spread of germs. Then they colored their own germ and pledged to wash their hands. I think the plan is to try to do these lessons once a month. 
4. This picture of our door is from a week or two ago. We had our book fair and the theme was monsters. So since my class theme is superheroes I went with The Hulk. Well actually my husband went with the Hulk. He made the door for us. I'm all about kids making stuff like this but I just couldn't handle it at this point in the school year. I had too much going on. I did let them color books.


 5. So I have been on the GoNoodle bandwagon for a while. But I was on maternity leave last year when Pop See Ko was released so this past few weeks have been my first pop see ko experience. The kids love it and I love anything that gets their energy out. We are crazy about GoNoodle!

I'm going to leave you with an extra picture of my sweet girl. I took a selfie of us yesterday before I went to school and she went to a friend of ours. She stays with some friends on Fridays. She loves it because she gets to hang out with her bestie. My friend has 3 girls and the youngest is 2 months younger than Sus.


Hopefully I'll be back again to share some more about what we are doing in the classroom. I would love to know what you are doing. So be sure to check out the linky party at Doodle Bugs!