Technology in Reading Class – Part 2

Word Work is a very important part of reading class.  We spend a few minutes a couple of times a week making words and it is one of my centers.

When we make words as an entire class I print a page with letters on it and the students cut apart the letters at the beginning of class.  Then, I call out a series of words and the students have to make the words out of the letters they have.making words

For the letters above the first word would be “is”, then when would make “it”, then they would change “it” to “kit” and so on.  We go through making maybe 10 words.  The goal of the activity is for the students to figure out the word they can make with all of their letters.  In this case the word is “tricks”.  I use a book called, Making Words, to generate this activity.  This has been a difficult task for the students and it has been very enlightening for me as a teacher.  I walk around and  keep notes of the students having difficulty and if I have time I make note of the words they are struggling to make to see if I can find a pattern to their difficulty.  If I can find the pattern, then I can offer specific help.  This is a great activity because the students are manipulating sounds and matching letters to the sounds.

I also have a word work center.  I am switching between playing Boggle, which the kids love, and playing a game I found for the iPads, Moxie 2.  The kids LOVE Moxie more than Boggle.  At first I thought the game would be too difficult for them, but they love it!  They are begging to play in their free time now and I don’t have the heart to explain to the them that they are LEARNING while playing!  Moxie 2 gives the students three rows of letters and then pops up new letters.  The students have to insert the new letter into one of the three rows of words to make a new word!  It is brilliant!



I made this recording sheet for the students to keep up with the words they make and their point total at the end of the game.  Click on the picture to get the form.



Technology in Reading Class – Part 1, Book Trailers

One of my favorite things is to use technology in whatever class I am teaching.  However, when I use technology I want to be sure that I am using technology in meaningful ways to enhance my curriculum.  There are a lot of ways to use technology that do not enhance curriculum and just replace what we did before.  For example, a lot of my fourth-grade students last year decided to start using their iPads for their Reader’s Notebook rather than a spiral bound notebook.  I allowed the students to do this and didn’t have any problem with them using one form of technology to replace paper and pencil – HOWEVER, this is not meaningfully using technology as a tool to help my students retain more information.  

I want my students to love reading and I want them to love to come to reading class.  I also want my students to really work with texts to understand mood and theme of the text.  One way to do this is to have students use technology.  My FAVORITE way to use technology is having students make book trailers. Book Trailers are an incredible way to grab students attention and love of technology and combine it meaningfully with reading!  The students LOVE making book trailers.  When making a book trailer students have to think about the most important parts of the book and relate them to the viewer.  The students also have to think about the mood of the book.  I always tell my students that I should not hear Disco music if the book was a serious book!  The students have to match music and pictures to the mood and theme of the book! It is a perfect way to use iPads in the classroom!  iMovie even has pre-made book trailers in their library for students to use! Photo I allow my students to use the templates in iMove for the first couple of book trailers and then they have to graduate to making them from scratch in the expanded form of iMovie.  You don’t have to use iMove, you could use any video app or software that you have.  

I have used book trailers in 4th and 5th grade.  This year I am teaching a 3rd grade reading class and I am going to attempt book trailers with them as well. Below is an example of a book trailer from the book Hatchet.  Here is a link to my dropbox folder on Book Trailers.  I have taken some of these templates from all over the web – all free.  I have adjusted them to suit my needs.

I will continue in this series of posts about technology in reading with how we have used Puppet Pals in reading class. 

Non-Fiction Unit, with iPads

Last year I taught a fourth-grade reading class.  One of the units we worked on was Non-Fiction.  I have to say, this might have been the most painful unit I taught last year.  For years our school has used a basal reader and last year we switched to a reading workshop model of teaching reading –  and that was a HUGE change!  I think one of the greatest areas of weakness in a basal reader has got to be the non-fiction section.  Actually, in our basal readers, I don’t remember a section on non-fiction!  That means the only area that the students received instruction about non-fiction would have been in science and SS class!

Because we were basically starting from scratch and our students did not have a large knowledge base on the subject matter we started very slowly!  Our first few days were spent on trying to help the students understand that when we read non-fiction we have to take a “Sit up and learn” mentality, rather than a “Sit back and relax” mentality.  I read a lot on how to teach non-fiction from Lucy Caulkins and her Units of Study.  I took this anchor chart directly from her materials.  I used this anchor chart over a couple of days because it is a lot for students to transition to non-fiction reading.  I wanted them to be excited about learning new content!  We bought a variety of non-fiction books so that students could choose a book to read that was interesting to them and was on grade level.  The students could choose to read one book or all of the books during the genre study. 

Anchor Charts P13After we spent a few days on revving ourselves up for reading non-fiction I started teaching about text features.  I wanted the students to understand the setup of a non-fiction book.  I used this anchor chart to teach text features.  I apologize for the poor picture!

photo (3)After we talked about text features we had the students go on a text feature scavenger hunt!  I gave the students the list of text features and they used the iPad app Strip Designer to search through the non-fiction books and find examples of the text features.  The students took a picture of the text feature and put it in comic strip.  Then, they labeled each text feature they found.  I think when I do this activity this year with my third-grade students I will have them also tell me how to use the text feature.

Below is an example of one of the pages from a students work.  This activity allowed me to see if the students understand the different types of text features in a variety of different books.  The camera on the iPad makes assignments like this so easy!

Ben's Text Features 

iPad Carts, Year 2

Last year we introduced iPad carts into our offered technology for the classroom.  We had a mass push to give all of our teachers iPads, allow our students to bring their own technology to school, and put iPads in the hands of our students.  We choose iPads very specifically.  We thought about many different technologies, however, at the time the iPad was head and shoulders above the rest.  The main reason we chose iPads, especially in the lower school, was because of the iTunes store.  We felt it was extremely important that the apps we use and the devices we put in front of the students have an extra level of security on them.  The security I am referring to is the fact that the apps have been rated and approved by Apple before being put in the iTunes store.  For android devices, anyone can post an app to the store – we wanted the assurance that if a student went to the app store and downloaded an educational game, that the game would really be educational and not something we didn’t want our students to see.  As students move into middle and high school I could see an argument for android devices – especially in programming classes.  For our school the iPad was the best choice – although if our students bring their own device, they may bring whatever device they have.

We started last year with three iPad carts.  I used the Apple Configurator to setup the devices, along with the Volume Purchasing Plan for apps.  I have had many frustrating moments with the Apple Configurator and I managed to erase student work many times last year with the configurator.  I know their are other ways to monitor and deploy iPad carts, but right now this seems to be the best option for us.  The configurators latest version, appears to be much more user friendly and I have reimaged and deployed four iPad carts this year with ease.  I am hoping that Apple has decided to put a little more effort into the configurator and the software will continue to improve.

A few notes about the configurator – DO NOT unplug a device while it is updating with the configurator – even if it appears to be in a loop – this will erase the device (I know from experience!).  The configurator also automatically loads the last setting for the device you are updating when you plug in the device again.  Be sure that after you have updated your device, BEFORE you unplug the configurator that you put the settings where you want them to be next time you plug in the device.  For example, if you are loading an image that restores a previous iPad, make sure that you change the setting to “Don’t restore Backup” and apply those settings, before you unplug the cart.  This way, next time you plug that cart in the configurator won’t erase everything the students have put on the iPads.  I only know this because I have had to explain to little second-graders that I erased their Puppet Pals creations.  Nothing can make a person feel worse than explaining to a 7 year-old that you made a mistake and cost them their work :-(.

Image 8 20 13 at 7 21 AM

This year we added a 4th iPad cart and I haven’t had any of the trouble with the configurator I did last year.  During last year I stopped updating the iPads because I was worried I was going to erase more work! Over the summer the I restored all the iPads to a “backed up” image, to erase them and begin fresh.  I added Tony Vincents backgrounds to our iPads, so that as soon as the students open the iPad, they know the iPad slot number and the cart.  I used sketch, to add the iPad cart letter (our carts are labeled A-D) so the first iPad on the cart A, has 1A as the background.  Inside the cart, I also number each iPad slot with sharpie and each cord that connects the iPad to the cart.  This helps the students put the iPad back in the correct slot.


One of the best posts I read on the Apple Configurator is, Oh Apple Configurator, I will Not Be Defeated!  If you have used the Apple Configurator you understand that the title of that post is extremely fitting!  In my next post I will post examples of all of the FABULOUS work our students have created with the iPads.

iPad Deployment Training–Part 1

Our teachers received their iPads this week and it was an interesting process to hand them out!  The teachers were so excited and could not wait to get their iPads.  I broke out our training into groups of those that already had i-devices and those that didn’t.  I figured that the group that already had devices would be ready to go and need minimal training and the group that didn’t have any i-device would need some extra hand-holding.  I was correct in my theory, but I was completely wrong in how much I overestimated what the i-device group would be able to do and how much the group that didn’t have any apple experience would be able to do!

The biggest stumbling block to each group was the Apple ID!  I am not sure why it has to be so confusing, but it is a huge problem.  When the IT staff and I were trying to figure out how to deploy the iPads we knew that we wanted to the teachers to be able to load their own apps and make their iPads personalized.  We knew that if we locked down the iPads then the teachers wouldn’t use their iPads and then they wouldn’t figure out why the ipad is such an amazing tool for teachers!  The problem for us was how to use the UPP (Volume Purchasing Program) and allow the teachers to still have their own apple ID.  We decided not to Pre-Load any apps on the teachers iPads, but rather give them a blank iPad and have the teachers load all the recommended (free) apps during a staff meeting.  here is our list of apps that we had the teachers load.  We are going to “gift” paid apps to our teachers.  This will cause less headache as far as multiple apple IDs on each device and the need to sync teachers devices to a cart at the school.  The cost will be about $100 per teacher over the life of their tenure at the school.  The cost will only be realized when teachers are leaving the school.  We figured this cost was worth not having the headache of dealing with apple ID’s and syncing.

We did this because with the VPP we can send the teachers a link to redeem the apps under their own apple ID and then we don’t have syncing issues.  We have told the teachers to all sync their iPads to their work computer.  We also instructed the teachers to create a new apple ID if they had a family ID where they had already purchased apps and would want to use that ID for purchasing apps.  The teachers would need a separate ID for the iCloud backups, Facetime, and Messaging that is separate from their family ID (otherwise all data would be combined with the families data and teachers wouldn’t be able to message or factime).  We showed the teachers how to put their family ID as the store Apple ID, but then add their new apple ID as their iCloud, Facetime, and Messaging id.  I hope that makes sense, but here is a graphic that may help.  It was very confusing to figure out!  If someone has a better way to handle this I would love to hear it!

iPad Deployment for Teachers

I have been working all year to convince our IT staff and our leaders that the iPad is a necessary (helpful) teaching tool.  The higher ups have listened and our teachers are getting iPads!  I am so excited for the teachers.  I have read report after report (click here for the horizon report) that states that tablet computing and iPads in particular, are important in the classroom.  Of course, we can’t say that they are THE MOST important thing in the classroom because we know the the teachers are the most important part of any successful classroom.  But, I also know that iPads and technology engage students and without engagement, students won’t learn.

So, in order to continue our schools quest of becoming a school that embraces 21st century learning, we are rolling out this new technology for our teachers.  We are also getting 3 iPad carts and our 4th and 5th graders will be bringing their own devices to school.

We have been trying to put together a roll-out plan for awhile but we have so many questions!  I have put together a deployment flow chart, using ithoughts HD on the iPad (click on the picture for the pdf).  I keep trying to add in new trainings that I have forgotten or new apps that our teachers will need.  This is definitely a working document, but I think our plan is sound.  We are still trying to work through the apple ID dilemma – do we let the teachers use their own or do we use a school ID? 


Our first phase of the deployment will consist of giving the iPads to the teachers.  I have decided to do this in three groups.  The first group to get their ipads will be the teachers that already have apple products, the next group will be teachers that have smart phones, and the third group will be teachers that do not own a personal mobile device.  By breaking down the groups, I am hoping to ease the frustration of the teachers that already know how to use these devices by giving them their devices and then letting them move on.  I will be able to spend more time with each teacher in the third group because that group will be the smallest and I can walk them through their device step-by-step.

I am also setting up a menu of training, rather than offering a one-size-fits-all training.  The teachers will be required to attend a basics course where I will go over how to use their ipad (a little more in depth than the actual deployment training) and a teacher apps training, but then I am offering student apps training, productivity training, and a coaches training.  If they would like additional training they may come to one of those courses.   Then, in July, just before school comes back, I am going to train the teachers on how to build lessons around the ipad.

I will post my training documents as I create them.  I am just now beginning to work through my deployment training.  I would love to know any tips you have learned from your training!