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Available for Purchase Now!

In “Innovate with iPad: Lessons to Transform Learning in the Classroom” primary teachers Karen Lirenman and Kristen Wideen provide a complete selection of clearly laid out engaging open-ended lessons to change the way you use iPad in the classroom.

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Connect, Collaborate and Create with Twitter in the Classroom

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of ETFO Voice.

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Course Description

In this grade two 3-D Geometry iTunes U Course, students will explore attributes of 3-D objects using concrete materials and drawings. Students will also build and construct 3-D objects and models as well as develop language to describe geometric concepts.

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One Best Thing

Discover how to keep parents informed, connect globally and link to your curriculum. This One Best Thing leads your primary classroom students through the creation of a learning network on Twitter.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

From 1 iPad to 20 iPads and How It Has Changed My Classroom

I was challenged to improve my students’ vocabulary and sight word recognition with one iPad in the Fall of 2011. My students were amazingly successful and we only used 4 skill building apps. This minor success developed into a written proposal for 20 more iPads, a MacBook and an iPad cart. Our proposal was fulfilled and we received all of the technology in May of 2012. Skill building has developed into knowledge building through the use of applications on the iPad that harness the power of creation, communication, collaboration and motivation.

 My multidisciplinary approach in the use of the iPads has led to the demonstration of student growth in Literacy, in Math, and in Digital Literacy. The use of applications such as Show Me, Draw and Tell, iMovie, and Explain Everything has been our content creator. Student directed blogging, Youtube and Twitter have been our marketing campaign where we have celebrated our learning globally.

 I am very excited about the results I have seen and the knowledge I have gained. Out of 21 students, I have 10 students at least one year above their reading level for their age, 7 students reading at grade level and 4 who are well on their way.

Students in my class are excited to write because they now have the excitement of an authentic audience. My students’ favorite question is, “Can we embed this onto our blogs when we are finished?” Yes! My grade one students actually say “embed!” We are continually looking for different apps to use to publish their writing. We have used Scribblepress, Book Creator, Book Buddy, Explain Everthing, iMovie, LittleBirdTales, PuppetPals, Kidblog and Toontastic to publish their writing. Can you imagine having these choices as a student? At the beginning of the year, I had many reluctant writers, now, my students are excited to write and always ask for more time to complete their writing.

 Incorporating the iPads into their math stations have provided them with an important visualization and manipulation tool that relieves anxiety and improves engagement. Students are showing their learning by answering math problems using content creation apps. These apps record problem-solving solutions, and are shared with peers for analysis and growth. My students benefit from learning from peers more than when I am instructing. During my math lessons, students are actively using the apps and displaying their math strategies using the Apple TV. This also helps me give instant feedback to my students. I act as a facilitator and their leader.

 Aside from the benefits my students have gained, I have been granted additional benefits for myself as an educator. I have found applications for the iPad (Evernote, Audio Boo) that have been able to augment my assessment and evaluation of students at an entirely new level. Now included in my anecdotal notes are photographs of student work, audio recording of students reading and video of student presentations. These tools enable my students to pause, rewind and replay their learning in order to identify errors and comment on their work, and for me to be able to give them authentic feedback. Much of what is documented is shared via students’ blogs and parents then participate in the celebration of learning successes.

 What started as the success of making a one iPad classroom work has turned my classroom to a knowledge building environment where my 6 and 7 year olds are in charge of their own learning.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Non Fiction Riddles, Video, and the Explain Everything App

Yesterday, my students and I started a discussion about eggs because we are doing a collaborative project about dying eggs naturally Click here to see the project. The discussion morphed into questions regarding which animals hatch from eggs. I pulled out a bunch of pictures of animals and poof, our inquiry was born.   I then spread out the different pictures of animals and on purple construction paper, I scribbled down the headings yes, no and maybe to sort the animals.  Yes, they hatch from eggs, No they don't hatch from eggs and Maybe, they hatch from eggs because we don't know.  I had my students discuss the different animals and give reasons why they thought the way they did.  I was very happy with the conversations that were taking place in my room, the students were discussing how they knew if a particular animal did or did not hatch from an egg.  Two of my students were debating if dinosaurs hatched from eggs and I heard one student say, "I read it in a book." and the other student asked, "Are you sure you read it in a non fiction book?"  
As you can see from the picture, we had 7 pictures in the maybe column.  Students were very excited to  choose one of the animals in the "Maybe" column, write their prediction in their thinking books and went to work trying to find a book in our library to prove if their animal hatched from an egg or not.
After students found the answer, they wrote it in their thinking books.

Day 2

The next day my students were still very eager to learn and talk about all the animals that hatched from eggs. I wanted to continue with the excitement and have them write a riddle about an animal that hatched from an egg.  I read the book, "Chickens Aren't The Only Ones" to my students. This is the perfect book for discovering the variety of oviparous animals and their unique ways of laying eggs.

I then modeled how to write a riddle about an oviparous animal and we created one together as a class.  I then let them loose.  

After the students completed their riddles, we took it one step farther.  I had the students make a video on the Explain Everything app reading their riddle and showing the answer to their riddle.  This was the first time my students used the new video option on the iPad, and for the most part they recorded themselves reading their riddle themselves by turning the camera around so it was facing them as they read their riddle.   My students were ecstatic to see the final result, and of course they posted them to their blogs!  Here is one of my grade one student's videos:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Using Explain Everything in the Primary Classroom

Explain everything is a screen casting and interactive whiteboard app that lets you annotate, animate, narrate, import, and export almost anything to and from almost anywhere.  My students can export their video to our dropbox folder to save it, to our youtube channel to share it and to the camera roll to easily upload to their kidblogs all with a touch of a button.  My grade 1/2 students can easily do all of these functions independently.  In my classroom, we are at the point that I let my students choose the app they want to use to show their learning.  We have many great content creation apps to choose from, however my students are choosing the Explain Everything app more often than ever before.  There are many options with the explain everything app that are not offered on many of the other content creation apps we have on our classroom iPads and I think that is one reason they keep coming back to this great app. 

Here are a few ways my students have been using Explain Everything in our classroom:

1.  I have 6 and 7 year old children in my classroom.  At the beginning of grade one, many students cannot write or draw pictures that I can understand without a little bit of an explanation.  For this particular assignment, students completed a worksheet on time, where they needed to use words and or pictures to answer the questions.  I then instructed them to take a picture of the sheet, and explain their work.  They later posted it to their blogs.

2.  During our procedural writing unit, students had to eat a gingerbread cookie, and write about how they ate it.  They then had a partner take pictures of them eating the cookie and recorded themselves reading their procedural writing.

3.  In science, students were asked to show their learning about the water cycle, here is an Explain Everything done by two girls in my class.

4. This fourth example is a grade one student explaining how she counted her buttons in different ways.

There are so many other ways to use this fantastic app, you can now add new or existing video, you are able to annotate video,  and you can change the background and color templates,  We have been playing around with these new options and it makes this app even more appealing to my students.  

I would love to hear how your students are using Explain Everything in your classroom!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Primary Blogging Community - April edition

I have had a lot of questions pertaining to the Primary Blogging Community.  Hopefully this post will clear up some of the questions for you.

What is the Primary Blogging Community?

The PBC is a community of primary teachers that want to share their students' learning via their classroom blog and their students' personal blogs.  Classrooms will be grouped with 3 or 4 other classrooms from around the globe.  The program is 8 weeks long.  The first 4 weeks will concentrate on the classroom blogs only.  Each week, one of the classes will be the focus class and the other 3 classes will be visiting and commenting on the focus class blog.  The following week, the second class will be the focus class, and so on.   This is a chance for the other classes to see what is happening in your school and class, to discover where in the world you are located and to learn about how to write a good blog post and to watch how you model and work together to write a good comment.  After the first 4 weeks, we switch the focus from your classroom blog and concentrate on student blogs.  The same rotations occur but the focus is solely on your student's individual blogs. 

Why join the Primary Blogging Community?

1.  You will be collaborating with other like minded educators on this project and in return will build your PLN.
2.  PBC creates enthusiasm in reading and writing.
3.  It gives your students a voice and lets them be the teacher to their peers.
4.  Your students will have a built in audience that will provide authentic feedback to what they are writing about on their blogs.
5.  On some days in the last rotation, my students had over 100 comments on their blogs!  The excitement and engagement piece to this blogging community is huge!  

What is the difference between the Primary Blogging Community and Quadblogging?

Quadblogging -  Each week one blog is the focus blog with the other three blogs visiting and commenting during that week. In week two, another school/class blog is the focus with the other three visiting and commenting. This is repeated until each of the classes/schools has had their week in the spotlight. The cycle is then repeated. (from

Primary Blogging Community - Is the exact same as above except the second 4 week cycle we concentrate on your student's personal blogs, not your classroom blog.

What do I need to have to begin?

You need to have a classroom blog and your students need their own personal blogs.  If you do not have an edmodo account, I highly suggest you sign up for one and join our blogging community.  This is where you can ask questions and collaborate with the other teachers in the group.  The link for our group is here.  The code to our group is 5be0kt.  We also communicate frequently on twitter, use #PrimaryBC on twitter and follow me on twitter for news and updates @mrswideen.

Where do I sign up?

Please fill in the google doc here.

When do we begin?

I will be closing registration September 15 and we will begin September 22nd.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cross Country Creature Collaboration Project

I am super excited to announce our next collaborative project.  This project has been on the back burner for months now, and we are finally ready to begin.

Sarah Soltauheller and I have done many collaborative projects with our classes over the past 2 years, and I think this one is the most exciting!  We wanted the project to incorporate writing, science and social studies.  We also wanted there to be an authentic audience for our students to attract more interest and to grab our students' attention.

We decided on choosing an animal or insect to send each other that lives where we live, but does not live where the other class lives.  Sarah's school is on Vancouver Island and we live in Ontario.  Sarah chose the orca whale and I chose (with a little help from my principal) the praying mantis.  We agreed that we would mail each other the stuffy and that we would create a blog for the animal on our classroom kidblog accounts.  Students will take home the whale (named Haley) or the praying mantis (Elroy) over night and blog about their adventures.  After everyone has a chance to take Hayley home we will do an Inquiry about orca whales and answer our Essential Question, "Why don't orca whales live in Windsor, Ontario?  We will then share our projects with each other via Skype.

To add to the excitement of this project, my students will be taking home an iPad with Hayley to document their adventures.  I have already sent a release form home to the parents.
I  have students that do not have wifi at their house, so instead of blogging about their adventure with Hayley from home, they will document their adventures using the book creator app on the iPad.  When they get to school the following day they can transfer it to their blog or just leave it on the book that we are creating on the iPad.  

Here is the note that I created to go along with the iPad and Hayley. 

 You can see the letter more clearly here.

We are currently on March Break,  so the students will begin the project in the next couple of weeks.  I can't tell you how excited they are to begin.  Please follow our learning by checking out Hayley's blog in the upcoming weeks here.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Pocket Zoo App

I am preparing for my literacy stations the week we get back (we have our break next week).  My students are addicted to live animal web cams.  I have created QR codes for the students to scan around the room and when they get a free moment they can scan the QR codes and see different live web cams.  I wanted to create a Research and Discovery station, where the students pick a webcam to view and make observations of the animal.  I found this fantastic app called Pocket Zoo that I am going to incorporate into the station.  The app contains the following features:

30+ Live Animal Cams! Yup, REAL Live video streaming from zoos all over the world 
200+ Amazing wildlife videos! Hours and hours of great video content to explore
50+ Original detailed animal illustrations and a virtual zoo in HD
Beautiful and interactive high definition animal photos
Hear load roars with real animal sounds 
Teacher-approved fun facts and animal details

There are so many great things you can do with this app!  I have created the following directions sheet and Observation sheet to accompany this station:

If you would like a copy of these sheets you can download them here and here.

Have you used this app in your classroom?  I would love to hear what you are doing with it!

iPad Animal Inquiry Project

This year the educators at my school are focusing on impacting our students' writing through the use of non-fiction writing strategies and embedding conversations on metacognition to influence our students self efficacy as learners at my school.

Inquiry based learning is a perfect way to practice non fiction strategies and encourage metacognitive conversations.
My class is not a stranger to inquiry based learning.  We have done many inquiry based projects over the past year and a half.  This time was different though because in the past we have always done the inquiry as a class. This time I told my students that they were all going to produce a non fiction book on an animal of their choice.

Now, I'm not crazy! I didn't just let my 6 and 7 year old students loose and tell them to do whatever they wanted.  The students and I had just completed writing a non fiction book on walruses together.  We went through the Inquiry Stages together so when it was their time to do it independently they would know what I expected.  We also co-constructed our Learning Goal and Success Criteria for the project.

Step 1 - The Wondering Stage

I took the kids into our school library to teach them how to find and locate all the books on non fiction animals.  The only stipulation was that our library had to have a book on the animal they chose.  When the students decided on an animal the sticky notes came out and the wondering began!

Step 2 - The Planning Stage

Based on their questions from the "Wondering" stage, students began to map out ideas.  My students find the " Are, Can, Have" graphic organizer to be one of their favourites to use for mapping out ideas for non fiction writing.  Here is a picture of a generic one I created:

Many of my students were working on the same animal, so they formed groups and each filled out a graphic organizer, then they compiled the most interesting facts and created a popplet together.  Here is one on seals:

Step 3 - The Gathering Stage

Students continued to gather information about their chosen animal and began to write out the information they wanted in their non fiction books.

Step 4 -  The Creating Stage

This is where students created something meaningful to them using the facts and information they learned about their animal.  As a class we chose to use the Book Creator App to create their non fiction books.
Students used many different apps to draw the pictures for their books.  Students used Draw and Tell, Doodle Buddy, and the iluv drawing animals app.  Students also used Skitch to label a picture of their animal because one of the expectations for the book was that they needed to include a diagram.  Here are a few pictures from the various apps:
This picture was created on Draw and Tell then uploaded to the Book Creator app.

This picture was created on the iluv drawing app.
This photograph was labelled using the app Skitch.

Step 5 - The Sharing Stage

As I write this post, my class is still putting the finishing details on their books, so we have not reached this stage yet.  My plan is to store all the books in iBooks and to sync the iPads so all of the iPads have every book on it.  This way, students will be able to read each other's books no matter which iPad they are using.  I am also planning a special "Community Read" so my students can share their books with their families.  I may even ask a few of my teacher friends if we can Skype with them so my students can read their books to a different audience.

Update: April 7th, 2013

My students finished their books, and even went one step farther.... with the brilliant idea from my good friend Karen Lirenman, the children took screenshots of their completed books, imported them into iMovie and did a voice over using iMovie. They turned out fantastic and they posted them on their blogs.  Here are a couple for you to enjoy:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Adding Some "Genius" To My Free Choice Friday

I have a classroom that offers a lot of choices and freedoms.  Chances are, on any given time or day if you were to walk into my classroom, my students are never working on the same task and if they are, they are making their learning visible in different ways.  My students have their own personal work space, however they also are free to sit anywhere in the room and in our Learning Commons next to us.  Sometimes my students need a quiet space to record something, and sometimes they need a space where they can collaborate with their peers.  I encourage oral language in my classroom, and collaboration, I also expect attentive and active listening to whomever is speaking.  My classroom is where I encourage investigation, wonder and inquiry.  

Lately, I have been reading a lot about Genius Hour or 20% Time.  The 20 percent time is a well-known part of Google's philosophy, enabling engineers to spend one day a week working on projects that aren't necessarily in their job descriptions. Google employee's can use the time to develop something new, and or something that they are truly passionate about. 

I wanted to incorporate this into my classroom.  Currently, I have "Free Choice Friday".  The last 40 minutes of the day on Fridays, I allow my students to work on anything they want.  
This is the perfect time for my students to work independently or with peers to practice things we have been learning and doing in class.  When I looked around my room last Friday, a had a group of students that were recording themselves reading non fiction books and taking pictures of the pages they were reading because they wanted to share these books on their blogs.  I had a few students reading joke books to each other and seeing who could find the funniest joke.  I had other students playing the math apps on the iPads.  I had some students creating a castle with lego blocks and another student creating a survey for his peers on what animal they liked the most.  Yes, some people see this as play and think that there are better ways to use those precious 40 minutes.  However, I see it as the stepping stones to independent learners who are deciding what they want to learn about and loving every second of it.  I am promoting inquiry with providing my students time and choice on what and how they want to learn.

I wanted to add some of the things I had learned about from reading about genius hour and incorporate it into my "Free Choice Friday" activity time.

This morning we started the day by watching this video:
We talked about what awesome things they were going to create today.  We talked about their interests and what they wanted to learn about.
We talked about things they wondered about and immediately they made the connection to the Wonderopolis site that we visit frequently.

We discussed things that they would like to know more about.  After they shared their wonderings with each other, I explained to them that I had created a wall on Padlet (formally Wallwisher).  I wanted an easy way for my students to be able to add to our "Wonder Wall" so I created a QR code that they could scan with the iPad to get to the wall.  

Students then got the iPads out, scanned one of the QR codes that were hung up around the room and started adding their wonders to the wall.  Here is our Wonder Wall so far:

Some of my students have not added to the wall yet, they needed some extra thinking time, and that's okay.   They know that when they are ready they can scan the QR code on the wall and add their wonder.  My students are already talking about Free Choice Friday  this week and what they want to learn about.  Will I allow the students that want to write a blog post or read a book with a friend instead of researching one of their wonders?  Of course I will, because that is what personal choice is all about.