Category Archives: 1st Grade

iOS App Recommendations for Literacy

Many fun party conversations have started by whipping out a smartphone and sharing the latest and coolest apps.  However, in educational settings we continually need to refocus the discussion around choosing apps to meet our instructional objectives rather than the other way around.

About a year ago, I published a list of all the apps I installed on our school’s iPads.  I still like that list, however, there are a number of drill-and-kill type apps that see occasional use in  my classroom as well as those that require higher-level thinking and student creation which I use more often.  I wanted to give our teachers options so I gave them tons of apps.  However, my personal toolkit is much smaller.  Here are my recommendations based around instructional needs in the area of literacy.  The specific apps I recommend don’t matter so much as how we they are used in the classroom:

Fluency

Any voice recorder from the free and simple, Audio Memos to the pricier and more advanced, Garageband, can be used to have students record themselves reading.  Data from Escondido Unified which used iPods and Voice Recorders with English Language Learners (back before iPhones and iPads existed) consistently shows that students showed growth.  The key is having students record and then listen to themselves reading so that they hear the mistakes they don’t hear when they’re focused on decoding.

I’ve used Reader’s Theater in my own classroom (find free printable reader’s theater here or see our class reader’s theater movie, The City Mouse and the Country Mouse).  However, you can also use any passages that might target certain spelling patterns or sounds students are working on.

Writing

I like simple.  StoryKit is a free iPhone app that works on the iPad and allows students to write, record their voice, add a photo, or draw on a page resembling kindergarten writing paper.  If you want to publish a whole book from the iPad, the $5 Book Creator is a great option.  Apple’s free desktop app, iBooks Author is even better but it requires both an iPad and an updated Mac desktop or laptop.  With iBooks Author you create the book on your computer and preview it on the iPad.  You can easily import Keynote and Pages files into your final product.   When you’re ready for multimedia, iMovie is a great way to engage even the most unmotivated writers in writing something that will include audio, visuals and an audience.

Apps like Toontastic and PuppetPals are also fun.  However, be careful, Toontastic teaches story crafting via a beginning, middle, and end structure.  If you’re a fan of Lucy Caulkins writer’s workshop and the notion of expanding a single moment with details to make it something bigger rather than structuring a bare bones story sequentially, you will might not be happy with an app that would set you back to an outdated way of teaching writing even if it’s more fun.

Learning Letter Sounds

Apps like the above mentioned Storykit can be used to have students make a book of letter sounds by taking pictures of things that begin with the sound /p/ for example.  Student Tommy would end up with a page with photos of pencils, pictures, paint, and paintbrushes and then record his voice making the sound /p/ on the page.   I know that you can find apps that give students the letter sounds while students passively listen but I’m much more in favor of having students create their own books with the sound in it.  I suspect the learning is more internalized.

What other areas of student early literacy need do you notice?

 

 

 

First Day of School Activities

excerpted from Classroom Management for Teachers.com

First Day of School Activities

Lots of First Day Activities from Cape Brenton Victoria School Board

First Day of School Activities by Katie Hallum

First Days of School Script for Teachers by Katie Hallum

Back to School Preparation Checklist and Month by Month Schedule for First Grade by Terry Analore

Everybody Needs A Rock Activity by Jan Tappan

Activities for First Day by Scholastic

Interest Inventory for getting to know your students

Nine Questions to Ask Students on First Day of School by Elona Hartes

101 Things to Do on the First Day of School

Math Activities for the Beginning of the Year

Article: Reviewing the Steps to Take Before Starting the Year

Ice Breakers

Kathy Schrock’s First Day Activities/Ice Breakers

Teachnology Ice Breakers

Ice Breaker List

Ice Breakers and Warm Ups

Welcome Letters

These can be adapted for any grade level and were created using Printshop:

First Grade

Second Grade (Spanish/English)

More sample Letters from Scholastic

First Day of School Read Alouds

First Day of School Books

Also Worth Reading

Things to do before starting year of Open Court Reading

Back to School, It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Classroom Management Articles

Have a great year if you haven’t started already!

Mock Election Ballot

Have your students participate in the upcoming election using this ballot created by Francie Kugelman, frequent web site contributor….

Download Election Ballot

Open Court in the Special Education Classroom

This question comes frequently from special education classrooms who are teaching the Open Court Reading Program…

I have a classroom of fifth graders reading at a first grade level.  Can’t I just teach my fifth graders the first grade curriculum?

While fifth grade students may not be able to read, they can certainly comprehend, are curious, and need access to the content contained in the fifth grade curriculum as much as they need to know how to read.  Maybe they can’t read but they’re not babies.

If you’re teaching fifth graders the first grade curriculum (which includes things like we take a boat to travel somewhere on the water) your students are falling behind not only in reading but also in content knowledge.  You are putting your students at a severe disadvantage in school as well as life.

That said, it’s difficult teaching a program that’s rigorous to students who are far behind.  However, program components like the workbook, the reading anthology, and word knowledge are all done whole group.  You are providing exposure to concepts that students won’t master yet but they will need.   I would hope that in special education your pacing can be modified to allow a longer period of time to work on the same units.  Nevertheless, just like in the regular ed classroom, your differentiation comes from your independent work time/workshop period.  That is when you meet with small groups, pre-teach, reteach, and support students in ways that are specific to them.  During that time, if you want to bring in a first grade decoable book to reteach the /i/ sound then feel free…although you might do better to bring in some authentic literature in that time to not only reteach skills but also support students’ appreciation of literature.

For more on Special Education, read Special 2 Me, written by a special education teacher who teaches Open Court, or Teachers At Risk, written by an always inspiring Canadian educator.

NPR Article: Children's Play Co-opted

NPR reports on the commercialization of children’s play which has shifted in the second half of the twentieth century from an emphasis on activities towards and emphasis on specific toys and rules.

“(in the first half of the century) [Children] improvised their own play; they regulated their play; they made up their own rules…but in the second half of the 20th century…play changed radically.  instead of spending their time in autonomous shifting make-believe, children were supplied with ever more specific toys for play and predetermined scripts…a trend whih begins to shrink the size of children’s imaginative space.”

The damage is that researches have seen a decrease in children’s self regulation, an ability to “control their emotions, and behavior, resist impulses, and exert self-control and discipline.”

“Today’s 5-year-olds [are] acting at the level of 3-year-olds 60 years ago, and today’s 7-year-olds were barely approaching the level of a 5-year-old 60 years ago.”

I’ve written previously about allowing children to play whenever possible, even integrating that into your Independent Work Time and existing curriculum.  For teachers of the Open Court Reading Program, I beg you to please implement independent work time and to allow that to be a time when students make some of their own choices and begin to self-regulate their own behavior.  It’s a little more chaotic at first but by investing time in training you reap dividends later.  By moving students from center to center based on a rotation, you further take away from students opportunities to make decisions about their own learning.

We all want students to be responsible but do we give them chances to learn responsibilty?  Do we give them changes to exhibit creativity and problem-solving in our classrooms?