Alphabet Journal with Book Creator

When I was in the classroom, my students kept a math journal on their iPad. It was made in Book Creator and I’ve written about it here and here. They loved the ability to capture their thinking and learning on the iPad and it was a great way to show cumulative growth over the school year. We also enjoyed sharing the journals with parents both in person and electronically.

Another great way to use Book Creator in the Early Childhood classroom is to create an alphabet book.  With a page dedicated to each letter, students are able to curate images, create drawings, write or type text, and even dictate words on each page.  Here is a sample of a page from one of our ABC books:

This book can start at the beginning of the year and students can add to it throughout the year, or once all letters of the alphabet have been explored, students can create a culminating project. The children enjoy having the ability to be diverse in how learning is demonstrated. One page may have all drawings, another page all photos, or a combination. One student created a short video of her holding a block and describing it. She uploaded the video to her “Bb” page in one of the boxes. While I love using Book Creator for its simplicity and great accessibility features, you could also use Pages, or another book creation app.

Research conducted by the National Reading Panel (NRP) found that skills in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension are essential to literacy development (NRP, 2001). Immersing young children in a literacy rich environment is a building block of reading success.  Providing children opportunities to explore their environment and capture learning in creative ways allows for deeper and durable learning experiences.

The ePub of this book can be downloaded for free here.

Let me know what you think!

Investigating Animals with Young Children and the iPad

Children are naturally inquisitive about animals and nature. When I was teaching kindergarten, my students would always be excited to tell me about a new pet, or a recent trip to the zoo or the aquarium. In fact, the first words of many children are dog, bunny, or cat. They have an innate desire to make sense of their world, especially when it comes to other living things.

Research shows that spending time with animals builds self-esteem in young children as well as empathy. They learn to nurture and care for another living thing. Some schools have therapy animals that come to school and children read aloud to them or sit quietly with them, providing a sense of security. Often, animals provide opportunities to demonstrate care and learn responsibility. Author Patty Selly states “Love for animals tends to generalize to other living things such as plants and nature”.

With this built-in curiosity, providing opportunities for children to investigate and create around the topic of animals is an easy way to engage students in meaningful ways. In my last blog post, I wrote about a 3 book series co-authored with my friend Marc Faulder. That post focused on working with young children in creating a sustainable environment and looked primarily at plants. This week, I will share the second book in the series Animals.

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This book provides opportunities for children to explore animals with drawing, video creation, photography, and music on the iPad. These activities are appropriate for early childhood students, but can easily be scaled up through elementary grades. My students especially loved incorporating music activities. In this book, children can use GarageBand to create animal sound patterns in math, use the voice recorder to tell about an animal and its habitat, which helps with language and communication, as well as create their own soundtrack to represent an animal habitat.

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Students also get an opportunity to combine drawing and recording skills for a culminating animal project in the book. All of their work is captured in their learning journal.

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The iPad is a great tool to capture student creativity and extend learning opportunities, no matter what age. Tapping into the natural curiosity and attraction of animals and student creativity takes learning to a deeper level.

Tag us on Twitter and let us know what you think, or share some of your student work!

@KristiMeeuwse

@MarcWithersey

 

Me and My World-Teaching Sustainability to Young Children

A greater focus has been placed on our environment in recent years. We hear the terms sustainability, climate crisis, global warming, carbon footprint, hazardous waste, greenhouse effect, and more…all aimed at raising awareness. Some of these topics can seem confusing even for adults; so, how do we teach young children about these concepts in a way that they can understand?

Sustainability is an abstract concept, but it is really just a collection of good practices. It is important to involve children in activities in nature to make caring for the environment a natural part of their lives, and at the same time, bring their impact to the forefront.

Incorporating a project approach in early childhood is an appropriate way to emphasize sustainability fundamentals. This method helps young children develop a personal connection to their own actions. Early Childhood Professor and researcher Lillian Katz found it most beneficial to nurture the intellectual development in young children, rather than focusing solely on academic development. Intellectual development focuses on reasoning, hypothesizing, predicting, and analyzing ideas. A project based approach encourages young children to make the best sense of their experiences and their environment. It allows them to see the purpose of their efforts (Katz, 2001).

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With these tenets in mind, fellow Apple Distinguished Educator and Early Years teacher Marc Faulder and I co-wrote a 3 book Young Children Can Create series focused on increasing environmental awareness for young children. These are teacher guides with step-by-step directions for students.

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The first book is Plants. Using an iPad, students work through a series of creative activities involving drawing, photography, video, and music across ELA, Math, Social Studies and Science. Student work for all three books is collected in a digital learning journal.

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Here is a sample page from the drawing section:

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Students learn the importance of plants and the plant life cycle. The iPad activities allow for content creation and sharing. I will discuss the other two books in future posts. Take a look and see what you think!

Coding With Young Learners

I’m often asked about coding with young learners. Is it appropriate? Is it too difficult? When done well, it is both appropriate and fun for young children to dive into the coding world.

Coding is a basic literacy in our digital age; and just like reading and writing, it is best to start early.  Our students are surrounded by digital devices, toys, and activities. Learning how they work not only enhances computational thinking, it strengthens other skills in reading and math, including spelling and sequencing. Additionally, coding requires students to think about thinking–these metacognitive processes really hone problem solving skills.

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My kindergarten students loved working with Kodable on their iPad devices. You can read more about that here,  here, and here. I found that even students who gave up easily when confronted with a challenge, persevered when learning how to code. I saw a different kind of confidence in them and increased communication as they worked with other students to use logic to solve problems. Because there are so many variations to solving problems, creativity is also improved.

For students who can read, Apple has developed a comprehensive coding curriculum through Swift Playgrounds. Swift is easy to learn and students age 8 and up can quickly learn coding fundamentals. For younger students, ScratchJr, (ages 5-7) allows students to solve problems and design projects. Kodable has activities for ages 4-7 and another set of activities for ages 7-10. You can also check out CodeSpark Academy, (ages 5-9) and Code Monkey Jr  (ages PreK to K).

Lastly, check out the Hour of Code. It has a Pre-Reader Express activity that is great for young children to learn the basics of drag and drop and computer science. They are able to create a game or story at the end. There are also great submissions from others for the Hour of Code that are inspirational to see.

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Just about every type of business today needs computer literate people. In addition to the many skills enhanced by coding, teaching children to code provides a competitive advantage in today’s digital society.

Creation for Early Learners Using the iPad

One of the greatest misperceptions about our youngest learners and meaningful technology use, is they “are too young” to be able to do that. Since the beginning of this blog, I’ve had hundreds of visitors in my kindergarten classroom to see my “littles” in action creating and demonstrating learning with an iPad. I would present and share their work to a variety of  educators, who would often respond, “My kids can’t do that”. My nearly 30 years as an early childhood educator have proven to me that isn’t the case. Our youngest learners are alive with imagination and creativity. I’ve watched them turn a stick found on the playground into a magic wand granting fairy wishes or into a rocket ship blasting off into space. I’ve watched them play football with absolutely nothing but a pretend ball and 4 boys who were sure they were the ones who caught it. I’ve seen paintings described by the young artist in minute detail that would stump the most astute Rorschach interpreter. Yes,  my friends, our young children can create. But, how often are we allowing them to explore this creativity? When do our students stop “pretending” or “imagining”?  When we prescribe worksheets or other standardized activities with rigid learning outcomes, we rob our students of the ability to create their own learning. When we get “busy” with teaching standards and ensuring compliance, we can stifle imaginations and communicate the not-so-subtle message of my way or the highway. This also creates a crippling effect in our students of needing affirmation every step of the way for fear of doing something wrong. (Is this right? Is THIS right? What do I do next?)

Recently, I was given the very great honor by Apple to provide appropriate learning activities for young learners in the areas of drawing, photography, video,  and music. I worked with another good friend and Apple Distinguished Educator from Canada, Gillian Madeley, to create project ideas, as well as cross-curricular activities in these same areas. The project was recently published as Everyone Can Create Teacher Guide for Early Learners. You can download the book free here.

This guide is a companion to the Everyone Can Create series also found in the iBook Store for grades 4 and up. Here is a screen shot from the Early Learner’s Teacher Guide:

The guide provides easy to follow lessons for teachers of young children to engage them in the creative process. Each section builds to a culminating project. There are also ideas for cross-curricular ideas in each medium. You don’t have to be an art teacher, media teacher or music teacher to incorporate these ideas. You just have to be willing to try some new things and give your students an opportunity to explore their creativity,

Take a look and let me know what you think. I would love your feedback!

Kristi

Adapting Classic Stories with iPad

Children love classic fairy tales and many early childhood classrooms incorporate them into a unit of study. These tales have stood the test of time and when children hear these stories, they often imagine themselves playing a role in them.

One of my kindergarten students’ favorite fairy tales is The Gingerbread Man. There are many classic renditions of the story as well as more modern takes on the old tale…such as The Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett, Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst, The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup, The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone, along with many other titles. However, one of their favorites is The Stinky Cheese Man by Jon Scieszka. They love the twist of the Stinky Cheese Man that no one wants to eat, in place of the yummy gingerbread man that everyone wants to eat. This twist allows children to imagine other characters in a similar storyline. By exploring this concept, students can develop critical thinking skills, sequencing skills, as well as literary elements such as character, plot, and setting.

Adapting stories with the iPad affords the opportunity to incorporate the built-in Camera app and take the learning outside. The children would consider what “twist” they would like to use in their own story, decide on a character, and choose where the character would run. After taking a photograph of the setting, the children would use the Markup tool in Photos to draw their character in the setting. Text can also be added in Markup if the character is speaking.

Marc Faulder, an Apple Distinguished Educator friend in the UK, created this project and had his students adapt The Gingerbread Man story through an outdoor activity. You can read about this adventure here.

Here are a couple of pictures from an early childhood classroom trying the activity with their iPad devices: The first is a chocolate chip cookie running down the sidewalk and the second is a slice of pizza going down the slide on the playground.

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By integrating a child’s natural love for stories and the iPad, students have a unique ability to explore and capture their environment, as well as tell a story in a creative and fun way.

Download Your Free ‘Young Children Can Create’ Guides Now.

These 4 free guides are published on the Apple Book Store right now and written in partnership with Kristi Meeuwse, Marc FaulderJason Milner. Read more about The Young Children Can Create series here-

The Rich Potential of Children’s Photography

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The Rich Potential of Children’s Video.

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The Rich Potential of Children’s Drawing.

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The Rich Potential of Children’s Music Making.

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Collaborative Dot Day Book with Pages

Merriam Webster defines “create” as  to produce through imaginative skill.  What struck me is the word “skill”.  Creative acts are a means of self-expression, but I hadn’t really thought of it before as a skill. After reflecting on this, I’ve come to realize creativity is a skill that can be developed through experimentation, exploring, and synthesizing information. In a previous post, I’ve indicated that while everyone is naturally creative, young children especially, have a creative core that often seems to flow more easily than older students and adults. Creativity as a skill, with appropriate attention and practice, can deepen student learning and develop key problem solving skills.

With creativity in mind, Peter Reynold’s International Dot Day is fast approaching! I’ve written about Dot Day before and this year’s International Dot Day is a chance to encourage young students to “make their mark”.  My friend Marc Faulder has created a template in Pages so you can make your own collaborative Dot Day book. You can access the template here.

Once you open the document in iCloud, click “File” then “duplicate” and you will have your own copy.

Recent updates to Pages now include tools to create your own books that can be exported to EPUB files. Creating and publishing books is easy enough for students of all ages. Here is a brief Clips video, created by Marc Faulder, showing how young children can be authors in Pages.

Too often, when we hear the word “creativity” we think only of drawing. Our students are capable of so much more, especially if we work on developing the skill in meaningful ways. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the Young Children Can Create series  that Marc and I have co-written, you can access them here:

The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Photography

The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Music Making (also co-written with Jason Milner)

The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Drawing

The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Video

So get out there and “make your mark”!

 

Revive Your Creativity

When I was in elementary school, I played outside almost every day with my next door neighbor. We created elaborate play schemes, including an outdoor “kitchen”, complete with mud pies. We also had fun reenacting one of our favorite books, Harriet the Spy. It was always an adventure and we had no trouble at all tapping into our imaginations. We played outside until dark, when our mothers called us inside. Then….somewhere, in the pre-teen angst of middle school, it all stopped. I moved away, and being cool with my peers was of far greater importance than playing. Self-consciousness ruled the day and “let’s pretend” was no longer ok.

As a veteran kindergarten teacher, I have always loved how quickly my students slip into “let’s pretend”.  I loved their conversations in the housekeeping center (also quite revealing into their home lives), I loved watching them create elaborate structures with blocks or legos and hearing their rich conversations as they did so. It also saddens me how too often in education, we “teach” away their creativity. We push for conformity rather than creativity. We silence the multiple voices and ideas, seeking only the “correct” one.

But, what if we didn’t? What if, instead, we dug deep into our own memories of play, let’s pretend, and creation and experienced those feelings again? What if, we let our feelings of self-consciousness go? What if we grabbed a box of crayons and colored again…or drew our own pictures? What if we silenced the voices that say, “I can’t draw, sing, play a musical instrument, etc…” What if we did it anyway? We tell our students to say “I will try” instead of “I can’t”. Why aren’t we doing the same?

In my last post, I talked about encouraging young children to create. The truth is, they need very little encouragement. They simply need the opportunities.  This post is aimed at YOU…yes, you. When was the last time you created something? I know, I know…you don’t have time. Who does? Do it anyway. You can even create something your students can use so that you kill two birds, so to speak.  I shared the four student-creation books in my last post. In this post, I am sharing a free, multi-touch book I created in iBooks Author. It’s an emergent reader, called Spinning Spiders, in the iBook Store. It also has some teacher resources at the end of the book in case you want to create your own. (See what I did there???)

I’ve written other posts about creating “Just Right Books” for your students. You can see them here, here, and here.  Creating books for your students engages them as readers and allows you to meet them right where they are.

So, as you are gearing up for a new school year, remember, everyone can create-even YOU!

Everyone Can and Should Create

I must admit, I’ve been in a creative desert for a long time, which has been reflected in my lack of blog posts this past year. I think we can all relate to that feeling of “I got nothin’…” Recently, I was able to spend the week in Austin, Texas  with Apple Distinguished Educators from around the world and our theme for the week was “Everyone Can Create”. We were immersed in creative activities involving photography, drawing, video, and music. It was, without a doubt, a much needed kick in the creative pants!

I’ve always been a firm believer that our children should be content creators and not content consumers. I’ve seen first hand the creativity of the kindergarten students I taught and was amazed at their seemingly endless well of imagination. However, my own creation abilities had layers of dust heaped upon them and needed to be unearthed and energized. The new creation tools in Apple’s Pages and Keynote on the iPad make creation easy for even the most creativity-challenged individual. Using tracing of opaque images and shapes, and adding detail, bring ordinary pictures to life. Here are a couple of my attempts. 

I uploaded a picture of my dog Coco into Keynote, lowered the opacity, traced around her and added the detail. Then pulled the original photo out, which can be deleted. In the second photo, in Keynote, I added the barn shape and the chicken shape. I traced around them, deleted the original shape, and added detail. With Keynote, I can then animate the shapes if I choose.

By incorporating creativity in student learning, we are activating their deeper learning pathways and bringing meaning to their learning. Apple is developing a comprehensive curriculum for creating and it should be available sometime this fall.

As part of my time in Austin, we were tasked to create a project around the Everyone Can Create theme. I teamed up with my good friend and fellow kindergarten teacher, Marc Faulder from the UK.  In our discussions over the years, we found so many people interested in doing some of the more elaborate projects we were doing with our young students but they had not done a lot of the scaffolding necessary to get to that point. Their responses were, “My students can’t do that.” So, our project became the creation of four guides for the teachers of younger children in the areas of photography, drawing, video, and music. These guides serve as a road map and they are divided into activities for the beginning of the year, middle of the year, and end of the year. These activities are adaptable to all grade levels in elementary school and to the particular context of your classroom thematic units. You can access each of the four, free books in the iBook Store or click on the links below:

The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Photography

The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Drawing

The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Video

The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Music Making

You will notice there are some of the same activities across all of the books. This is intentional and is meant to show how the same activity can incorporate a variety of methods of creativity.

So if you are in a creative desert, I encourage you to find the nearest oasis and try your hand at creating. Regardless of our adult shortcomings, kids never seem to tire of creating. We need to tap that source and encourage and develop it so they don’t wander in the wilderness with the rest of us!

Let’s get creative!

Using Clips App for Small Moments and Student Reflection

Many teachers use portfolios to collect and showcase student work throughout the year. These portfolios demonstrate growth over time, provide a means for authentic assessment, promote communication and reflection, and can give some students an alternative means to demonstrate mastery of skills. Portfolios, whether analog or digital, are individualized and promote student agency and self-efficacy.

While portfolios often reflect long-term projects or activities, they don’t necessarily have to. Small moments, ideas, and “aha’s” happen daily. How can these be captured, reflected and expanded on? The Clips app is a good solution. It is an iOS app for making and sharing videos, incorporating text, voice over, music, and graphics. Using the camera on an iOS device, like iPad, students (or teachers) can capture everyday moments as students work individually or collaboratively.

After the images are collected, they are uploaded into the Clips app. The combined clips are saved to make a video. This video can then be viewed by student and teacher, then reflected on. Some questions for reflection might include: “Tell me about your work” “Why did you choose to do it this way?” “I saw you had some trouble, how did you solve the problem?”This reflection helps make thinking and learning visible for students. The final video can be shared with peers and parents as well. To extend the learning, students may blog or journal about their reflections. Here is an example of Clips demonstrating the concept. You can see the video here.

Clips is a free app in the App Store. It is easy to use and can create short videos or students can continually add to existing videos, much like a regular e-portfolio. There are many benefits to using video in education, such as increased student motivation, enhanced learning experiences, development of learner autonomy, and authentic learning opportunities.

Give Clips a try!