Learning about others through Coding: A Prep Unit

I started working with the Prep students from the first day of school this year. Although many of them had used an iPad before at home, their level of experience was quite varied. I wanted to create a technology unit that would challenge students without having unrealistic expectations for their achievement so early in their schooling. For their first unit I decided students would explore simple coding skills through use of the app ScratchJr, while addressing English learning outcomes based on storytelling. Throughout the term, students worked towards answering the inquiry question, ‘How can we learn about others through coding?’

In our initial coding explorations I would pose a challenge question, such as ‘Can you make a character eat some food?’ or ‘Can you make a diver collect an object from the bottom of the ocean?’ As a whole class we would discuss strategies for solving the challenge and use laminated cards of the coding buttons from the app to visualise possible solutions. Students worked in pairs on the iPads, collaborating to create simple animations to address each lesson’s challenge question. As our lessons progressed and students added to their coding skill sets, the degree of difficulty of the challenges increased.

For their final project, students were required to draw upon the skills learnt throughout the term to plan and create an animation to tell others about themselves. They worked in pairs to design the animation that introduced and shared one thing about themselves. For example, their character may have said “Hello, my name is … I have a pet dog called …” Students drew characters, added movement, backgrounds and photos of themselves into the project.

Students working in pairs to storyboard and create their final projects

Students working in pairs to storyboard and create their final projects

Screenshot of final project

Screenshot of final project

This introduction to coding unit proved to be the perfect way to start the year with the Prep students. I was pleased to see just how quickly students built on skills from previous lessons and used their intuition to make suggestions on how to complete coding challenges. Working in pairs helped students develop necessary early learning skills of sharing and turn taking, while encouraging more able students to support those who may be experiencing difficulty with the task.

TALL_Header

Virtual Excursions: The World at your Fingertips

Recently I began exploring the idea of virtual excursions to excite my students (and myself!) about our new units of work, and connect our learning to the real world in ways we hadn’t yet explored. This term we are studying living things so when I discovered Houston and San Diego Zoo’s webcams and the Smithsonian’s virtual tour, I could instantly see ways to incorporate them into our learning and make links to the curriculum.

Before jumping into our first virtual excursion it was important to establish some ground rules as a class. I explained to students that today we would be taking a virtual excursion, meaning we would travel across the globe without leaving our classroom. We discussed the expectations on excursions we had previously taken as a class, and that some of these would also apply on our virtual excursions. For example, it is important that we stick together on our excursion, so that we don’t get lost and we are able to observe and learn about what we are there to see. For our virtual excursion this means using the given QR codes to ‘travel’ to our excursion location and gather information using the prompts provided. I told students that they could have some ‘free time’ to explore after gathering the required information, just as we do on other excursions.

We traveled to the Smithsonian for our first virtual excursion, where students were given a series of QR codes linked to different areas of the mammals exhibit. They were required to collect information by searching for clues, scavenger-hunt-style. Our second excursion saw us visiting San Diego and Houston zoos to observe elephants and gather information related to the animal’s appearance, diet, habitat and life cycle. Students would later use the information collected from these observations and further research to write an information report on elephants.

JVE

Virtual Excursion to the Smithsonian

LandS

Virtual Excursion to the Houston/ San Diego Zoos

This was by no means a quiet activity. I found that the students’ reactions to virtual excursions was not unlike their reactions when we take physical excursions. The room was filled with uncontrollable excitement as students were calling out to each other, amazed about what they were witnessing. As I’ve said before, I’m learning to relinquish control of the quiet classroom from time to time, to open up the possibility for opportunities like this, where students are engaged in meaningful, collaborative and stimulating learning experiences.

TALL_Header

Using Augmented Reality to Enhance Spelling Instruction

Following the huge success of my “Snazzy Jazzy” puppet in vocabulary lessons, I bought another puppet for spelling lessons, naming her Tricky Vicki. The spelling cheerleader was an instant hit with the kids and I am excited to introduce my second Aurasma Apptivity to the class this week, featuring Tricky Vicki.  When the students hover their iPad over a Tricky Vicki card she will give them instructions on how to complete a spelling task.

Tricky Vicki Aurasma Poster

Tricky Vicki Aurasma Poster

Example card source http://cliparts101.com/free_clipart/48331/Megaphone_4

Example Tricky Vicki Card
Image Source http://cliparts101.com/free_clipart/48331/Megaphone_4

Here is an example of one of the task card overlays. 

I hope the Apptivity will be received with the same level of enthusiasm, and provide my students with a fun and engaging way of completing spelling tasks!

TALL_Header

Using Augmented Reality to Enhance Vocabulary Instruction Part Two

This week I introduced my students to the app Aurasma, with an activity that supplements our vocabulary lessons. See my previous post on Using Augmented Reality to Enhance Vocabulary Instruction for more information on the activity.

I was so excited to introduce the task to the students as I knew it would be unlike anything they’ve seen or done on the iPad so far. I modelled how to use Aurasma and scan the activity cards. The children were so shocked to see our puppet Snazzy Jazzy appear “out of nowhere”, they were actually looking in between the iPad and the card I was scanning to see where she was. They have dubbed the activity cards “magic cards” as they are so in awe of what they can do.

The students have since used the cards independently in reading groups and were so engaged with the task they were upset when it was time to pack up. I can see this activity being the new favourite for my students!

image

image

TALL_Header

Using Augmented Reality to Enhance Vocabulary Instruction Part One

Over the school holidays I have been playing around with an app called Aurasma, in the hope of creating an activity for reading groups to enhance our vocabulary studies. We already do a number of activities with iPads that enhance explicit vocabulary instruction, but this is going to be different. I think this activity is going to blow the kids away, and I’m so looking forward to seeing their faces when they use it for the first time.

I recently bought a puppet to enhance the delivery of vocabulary lessons. The students teach the puppet our “Fancy Words”, demonstrating the action associated with the word and explaining its meaning. The puppet, known as “Snazzy Jazzy”, copies the actions and “learns” from the children. They just love her. Their obsession has reached the stage that when our vocab lessons are over there is a collective “Awww!” And each child has to get a hug from Snazzy Jazzy before she can leave. So in developing this activity I knew that I had to use the puppet as the overlay that would appear when the iPad is hovered over the activity card. I knew I wanted her to speak to the children, instructing them on what to do to complete each vocabulary task.

image

Snazzy Jazzy

To begin with, I recorded ten different instructional videos on the iPad using the puppet. Next I needed to make the cards. I wanted them to look similar, but they needed to be different enough so that the app would be able to distinguish between cards and play the correct video. This required a fair amount of trial and error. Through this experimentation I can give the following advice. Do not use the same image on each card, even if other elements of the card are different. This still makes them too similar. Dashed line borders add a good amount of detail to the cards that the app likes, along with the different number and coloured background. For some reason the app doesn’t respond well to a dotted border and the video overlay jumps around a lot when hovered over it. After I figured this out, it was as simple as associating each video overlay with a different activity card in Aurasma.

Snazzy Jazzy's Fancy Word Work Activities

Snazzy Jazzy’s Fancy Word Work Activities

This week I will teach the children how to use Aurasma and then implement the activity in reading groups. I can’t wait see their reactions. That’s what makes teaching worthwhile, after all.

TALL_Header

Enhancing Explicit Teaching of Vocab with iPads

Over the term we have been part of a vocab study designed to improve students’ use of vocabulary both verbally and in their writing. The project has involved the explicit teaching of a large bank of words from texts and sources encountered over the term in various subject areas.

The project was originally introduced to the students after we had read a number of “Fancy Nancy” books together, and discussed the use of fancy words in Nancy’s stories. We created a wall of “Fancy Words” in our classroom and we add words to the wall as we encounter them in the context of our studies. Students are provided with example uses of the word and collaborate to devise an action to associate with the word. They then provide their own example sentences.

We have been consolidating learning through creating and continuously adding to a “Book of Fancy Words” on our iPads in Explain Everything. Students have a page for each fancy word which contains the word meaning, their own sentence with a matching image and a photo or video of the action associated with the word.

Along the way we have done several vocab warm-ups and played various games to further improve our understanding of the target words.

By the end of 5 weeks of explicit vocab teaching, most students were able to correctly and meaningfully incorporate fancy words into their writing, which was just astounding considering they are only six years old. I also found that as students were considering how they could incorporate our fancy words, they were adding adjectives of their own to further improve the sound of their writing, without any encouragement from me.

This week for fast finisher work I set a challenge to my students to improve a list of sentences I created using our fancy words. We discussed that even though my sentences involved one of our fancy words, they were still boring sentences. We talked about where we could possibly add adjectives and adverbs and from there I left the students to their own devices to create a book of fancy sentences on their iPads. The results just amazed me! I am so proud of what we have achieved in such a short time and I have to say, using iPads throughout the project has thoroughly engaged students and helped to enhance their understanding of this complex vocabulary.

Our "Fancy Words"

Our “Fancy Words”

The Fast Finisher Task

The Fast Finisher Task

Student Sample

Student Sample

Student Sample

Student Sample

Student Sample

Student Sample

TALL_Header

Apptivity Inspiration

I am a follower of Mrs Wideen’s Blog and find myself inspired regularly by her iPad ideas. The initial inspiration for my iPad Apptivities (and I make no claim that I coined this phrase) came from her fantastic Maths stations using the Explain Everything app.

We regularly use Explain Everything in our classroom as it is a great app that encompasses features such as drawing, photographing, recording, adding text or images  – all in an easy to use format for my littlies. Many of my initial Apptivities incorporated Explain Everything in the way that Mrs Wideen’s stations do, to encourage students to record and explain their thinking and make their learning more visible. My latest Apptivities include a variety of other apps as part of the workflow.

When creating Apptivities I usually generate more than one version of the task, allowing me to differentiate for a range of learners. You will notice the Apptivity cards are colour coded at the top, allowing a quick reference point for me when handing them out during group rotations.

I have also added QR voice codes to my latest Apptivities, to help students who experience difficulty reading the cards. This allows me to work with my focus group without being interrupted by requests to re-read the card.

Here are a couple of examples of Apptivities.

imageimageimageimage

TALL_Header