Enhancing the Creative Process in Young Children with iPad

Recently, I was chatting with a colleague who teaches first grade. She indicated some of her students are reluctant to tap into their creative sides for fear of “not doing it right”.  Too often, school can “teach” the creativity right out of our students by either consciously or unconsciously reinforcing the need to be “right”. I’m sure you’ve heard your students say, “I don’t like to draw” or even, “I can’t draw”.  Often the root of this is the fear of not doing it correctly or the lack of opportunities to explore and try new things.

In an Edutopia interview titled Mo Willems on the Lost Art of Being Silly, the idea of helping children explore their own imaginative creativity is discussed.  Mo Willems shares he intentionally designs his characters so that children can easily copy them. This gives the child a sense of accomplishment and a starting point for exploring creativity. Taking a well-known character and creating a new scenario for the character  can be a “stepping stone” for the child. I do believe in nurturing children’s creative selves and encouraging them to create original works; however, some children need guidance and support to jumpstart their imaginations. When we tell a child not to “copy” the example, we can inadvertently stimulate that “fear of being wrong” mindset.

Research from the Big Ideas, Little Learners: Early Childhood Trends report showed that “99% of kindergarteners score as creative geniuses, while only 3% of people remain in that category by age 25…Torrance Creativity Scores decrease the most among kids in kindergarten to third grade” (2019, p 20). This was an eye-opening statistic for me.

So, taking the idea from the Edutopia interview, I sat with a class and had them tell me their favorite book characters. We then talked about ways these characters could engage in something either similar or quite different from the books they were in. We created an anchor chart and then the students used the iPad to sketch out an idea. Here are a few examples. Pete the Cat had a new adventure playing soccer and when he didn’t score a goal, did Pete cry? Goodness no! Naughty David finally did something that his teacher approved of and read a book; and lastly, the Pigeon gets a taco and didn’t want to share it. Next steps could involve the children using Book Creator to create their own short story with these characters, using Flipgrid or Explain Everything to tell about their stories, creating a Clips video using their drawings, or using GarageBand to add sound effects and/or voice over. This activity can also stand alone if desired. The idea is to get children to brainstorm and extend their ideas to ignite their creativity. (Just like I got the idea to have the children use familiar characters to innovate an idea…even adults need a jumpstart once in a while.)

Early Childhood educators are masters at creativity. I would love to see how some of you are innovating content and stimulating creativity in your classroom! If you need a resource, try the Everyone Can Create Teacher Guide for Early Learners. It provides sequenced activities for young children to practice, and learn new ways to creatively demonstrate learning on the iPad. As I wrote the activities for this guide, I used actual activities from my own days in the kindergarten classroom.

I’d love to hear your ideas!

Pete the Cat is the creation of Eric Litwin
No David is the creation of David Shannon
The Pigeon books are the creation of Mo Willems

 

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).

Screen Shot 2020-01-13 at 12.06.50 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2020-01-13 at 11.32.05 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2020-01-13 at 11.31.42 AM    Book Cover                                        Screen Shot 2020-01-13 at 12.06.29 PM Learning Journal Cover

Here is a sample page from the drawing section:

Screen Shot 2020-01-13 at 11.32.37 AM

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!

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!

 

Character Analysis with Book Creator

Many of you may know I have left the classroom and am now the project manager for a school improvement grant for two priority schools in my district. Part of my work includes providing embedded professional learning for teachers integrating the iPad into instruction in meaningful ways. It’s no secret Book Creator is one of my favorite apps. I’ve written about it numerous times. The appeal is its versatility in using it across all grades and subjects.

This week, I’ve worked with teachers using Book Creator in various ways in their instructional contexts. A favorite activity was creating a character analysis book featuring a character in a recent story. Often, teachers and students need a visual to get started when trying new instructional strategies. Below are screen shots from the book I created to share with teachers. (The image with a ChatterPix video is a screenshot and won’t play, but the video is me sharing what I see as Pete’s character traits.)

This particular example is a more involved project and could take a few days to complete. The apps I used to create this were the iPad camera, Pic Collage, ChatterPix Kids, and Book Creator. Younger students, or students new to using the iPad, could simply create the whole thing in Book Creator, as it allows for multiple images, annotation with the draw tool, video and voice.

Providing students with alternative ways to demonstrate learning in creative ways engages and challenges them. Learning a specific skill set doesn’t have the value in today’s world that it once did. Learning how to be more creative, and therefore, more adaptable, prepares students for life beyond the classroom.

For a different spin on book analysis, read my post here on Book Snaps.

 


 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snap to It with BookSnaps

Who among us, both old and young, has not entertained themselves with the many filters on SnapChat? I tend to gravitate more toward the ones that lighten my face and erase the fine lines and wrinkles…I digress…but the universal interest of SnapChat, particularly in young folks, can be used to engage students in new ways across content areas without even using the SnapChat app. While some educators use the SnapChat app to create BookSnaps, others aren’t comfortable using the app or their district has blocked the use of it.

BookSnaps is quickly gaining interest in many educators’ classrooms. The concept is to encourage more interaction with content in books the students are reading. For very young students, pictures can be taken of their favorite story parts and characters. The student can use the photo markup toolbox in the photos app to highlight areas of interest or focus. In photos, tap the parallel lines (see green arrow below).

From there, tap the three dots on lower right and then tap the toolbox markup. See below. In markup, students can annotate with drawing and text.

In introducing the concept of a BookSnap, it is helpful to students if you model it. Here is mine. I love The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. I took a picture of my favorite passage in the book, used Markup in photos to make a circle around the passage and add text. Then, I uploaded it to PicCollage where I added stickers.


A kindergarten student chose Pete the Cat Rocking in my School Shoes to create a BookSnap in Pic Collage.

The student chose Pete the Cat playing on the playground because this was his favorite part of the book, and his favorite part of the day. He wrote that he liked recess and he used the doodle tool in Pic Collage to circle the words that showed Pete was playing.

A variety of creation apps can be used to create a BookSnap. Here is one done in Book Creator app:

The student took a picture of the front cover of the book and then a picture of her favorite page. She is too young to write a sentence so she dictated it in the app. I added the text for the picture since you can’t hear it. In this BookSnap, the child resonated with the character Vashti because she doesn’t think she is good at drawing, just like Vashti in The Dot. While these are very basic BookSnaps created by young children, older students can definitely create more elaborate BookSnaps.

Using BookSnaps, students can make text to world, text to text, and text to self connections.  They can identify the main idea, parts of speech, synonyms, etc…and reflect about the content they are learning. Older students can collaborate on a book study and create BookSnaps to share what they learned. In Book Creator, multiple snaps can be created to represent several passages in one book, or to create a book of BookSnaps reflecting a child’s learning across several books.

So…snap to it! BookSnaps are fun!

 

 

Using the iPad to Develop Student Agency

Through agentic action, people devise ways of adapting flexibly to remarkably diverse geographic, climatic and social environments; they figure out ways to circumvent physical and environmental constraints, redesign and construct environments to their liking… By these inventive means, people improve their odds in the fitness survival game. -Albert Bandura, 1989

Agency is the capacity to take purposeful initiative. Bandura’s quote above is a timeless reminder of the need for human beings to construct their own environments-including their learning environments. However, agency goes beyond just voice and choice. It is giving students the ability to actually own their education. It means strengthening growth mindsets in our students as well as in ourselves as educators. It means focusing on student learning and not on grades. It means creating a student-centered culture where students have choice in their learning pathways.

In our kindergarten class, we have found using the iPad is a great way to encourage student agency, particularly in literacy. By incorporating choice into our writing curriculum, students are more engaged in their writing across the curriculum. See a video on choice writing here.  When students use creation apps as a way to demonstrate concepts, they are creating new learning in deeper meaningful ways. You can read more about that here. 

Whether students are writing on paper…

Mackenzie

Or on their iPad…

IMG_0035

Or they are demonstrating math or science concepts….

 

dicepopplet

 

 

 

 

 

Student agency is encouraged as individuals choose activities and extend their learning. Agency requires collaboration between both student and teacher. This partnership depends on developing meaningful relationships with students. The iPad provides students with opportunities to create learning, expand learning, and share learning with authentic audiences beyond the classroom. This empowers students and encourages ownership.

Look at the ways you are incorporating technology into student learning and determine how much of their time is spent consuming content and how much time is spent creating it. By taking a look at our pedagogical practices, we can make minor changes to empower students and encourage agency.

 

Focus on the Learning, Not the Tool

The real power of interactive technologies is that they let us learn in ways that aren’t otherwise possible or practical. – David Lassner

Wow…where did the school year go? We have only 24 days remaining! At school, we have been busy going about the business of learning, and in the evenings, I have been busy going about the business of dissertation writing. The end for both is in sight!

I was recently asked for some lesson plan examples from someone looking for ideas to integrate the iPad into instruction. I felt badly, as I had none to send. I love sharing with others (thus, the purpose of this blog), but I don’t write lesson plans around the use of our iPad devices. My lesson plans reflect the content and the standards, but not the tools. My students have the choice to use the iPad or other tools in our classroom to demonstrate their learning, including paper and pencil. I don’t write lesson plans around the pencil, so I don’t write them around the iPad either.

That being said, the quote above concerning interactive technologies is spot on. Using and combining apps to synthesize concepts is only possible with the use of interactive technology. The best part is we don’t have to wait until children are older to utilize these technologies for learning. In my classroom, students choose apps to demonstrate their learning. Here are a few examples where students used the Drawing Pad app to illustrate and then used the Skitch app to annotate.

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 4.03.03 PM

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 4.03.13 PM

As my students use labeling like scientists, they are learning that labeling gives more information about a picture. From here, the kids went on to write about their learning.

IMG_0163

Using a variety of creation apps, students have the ability to create and express themselves in a digital way that they otherwise can’t in an analog way. By focusing on the content, the importance is placed on the learning and not the tool.

Tell your story…do epic stuff!

Using the iPad for Writing in Kindergarten

You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say. -F. Scott Fitzgerald

I’ve always believed we learn to write by writing. My students have a lot to say, but often have difficulty finding topics to write about. We have anchor charts around the room with writing ideas. See a couple below:

FullSizeRender 24 FullSizeRender 25

However, no matter how many words we have in the room, some of my students still have trouble coming up with ideas for writing. They tend to write the same things over and over…I went to the park, I play video games, etc… We continually encourage them to stretch as writers and encourage them to think of new ideas.  For those those that have difficulty finding inspiration, we utilize the camera app on the iPad.

A colleague suggested taking a picture of the child during the day and have them write about the picture. This has been an extremely helpful suggestion. Here are a couple of samples of student work using this technique:

IMG_0136

IMG_0137

With one of the children, I found him building something in the block center and on his own, he went to get his iPad to take a picture so he could write about it later. He said he would forget his “details” without the picture.

Supporting students where they are is so important in developing strong readers and writers. Student-centered classrooms provide motivation and autonomy. When we have internal motivation we are more likely to persist and attempt new things rather than when we act out of compliance.

I am so glad I have the iPad as a learning tool to extend and enhance learning…and more importantly, my students are seeing it as a tool, and not just “fun”.

Tell your story…do epic stuff!

Digital Reading Resources for Early Literacy

There is an art of reading, as well as an art of thinking, and an art of writing-Isaac D’Israeli

As a kindergarten teacher, my day is spent immersing my students in literacy activities. Regardless of the subject we are learning, literacy is a big part of it. We use Book Creator for our math journals.  I also use Book Creator app and iBooks Author for teacher-created texts for my students’ emergent reading levels. Through continuous literacy activities, we can build fluency. Having 1:1 iPads, my students have many digital books at their fingertips. Research shows digital texts engage even the most reluctant readers and increase reading achievement (see attached references: Research on Using Digital Texts to Enhance Literacy Instruction)

In addition to the items listed above, we use RAZ Kids to track student reading. With parents having access, students can also practice reading at home using leveled texts. RAZ kids allows me to set student reading levels as well as assign assessments such as running records.

My students also have a link on their iPad screens to Unite for Literacy. This website has numerous non-fiction text with audio support and are available in a variety of languages. With diverse images, children are able to relate to their world.

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 2.59.18 PM

Our iBook Shelves are filled with teacher-created texts and phonics readers from Hubbard’s Cupboard. There are free e-book downloads on word families and phonics. We have RAZ kids leveled texts and the Unite for Literacy collection. Of course we have a classroom library of a variety of paper books for students as well. The benefit of the digital books are the multi-touch and accessibility features, as well as the durability of them.

There are many online resources for early literacy, but these are some of my favorites. I encourage you to look into some of these to help build your own classroom collection. Here are a few more links to investigate:

Epic

PreKinders

Story Time For Me

Making Learning Fun

Share your story…do epic stuff!

Keep It Simple

Simplicity will stand out, while complexity will get lost in the crowd. -Kevin Barnett

American Thanksgiving has just passed and we are on the bullet train to Christmas! How are things where you are…busier than ever I am guessing? With all of the “must-do’s” that come with teaching, it is easy to let content design take a back seat to “getting it all in”. Lesson planning can become rote and robotic if we aren’t careful. Put your quarters in the machine and make your selection…

I have just returned from BarcelonaFullSizeRender 18, Spain. What an amazing experience! I went to work with the early childhood teachers at the American School in utilizing iPads in the classroom. The wonderful staff there was particularly interested in making the best use out of a few iPads per classroom. I taught math and reading lessons in their classrooms and watched the thrill of the young children interacting with their iPads. It can certainly seem challenging without a class set of the devices. My advice to them, as it has been on this blog all along, is to start small and take those baby steps. When starting something new, it is easy to get caught up and get overwhelmed. There is initial excitement but then real-life sets in and it just seems like too much work. Be realistic, but keep moving forward.

The truth is, designing good lessons is work. We are “content architects”. We must look at all of our students and provide experiences that reach each and every one of them. Whether you use the iPad or not in your classroom, content design is work. This work can be easier if we leverage the technology in such a way that students are engaged in student-centered learning. In Spain, we worked with the teacher iPad to demonstrate some new concepts to thIMG_2315e whole class and then worked on ways students could partner up to practice the new learning. We also talked about using the iPad in small group centers and small group instruction. My message to those fine teachers was you do not have to hang the moon simply because you are using technology. Short and simple lessons delivered in an engaging manner are just as effective.

Here is one brief example of an activity we did in Barcelona:

Using the Feltboard app, the 4-year-old students used the 4 Square sorting mat background. They pulled over shapes from the shape menu and sorted them by color and shape. Ideally, the teachers would give the children time to explore the app first without instructions. Then, using the teacher iPad projected up front, the teacher could demonstrate a mini lesson on sorting. The follow up would involve the students working in partners to complete the activity. Using the camera option in this app, students can take a screen shot of their work. Ultimately, this could be uploaded to a math journal created in Book Creator. When sharing iPads, my suggestion for this is to create a separate journal for each skill. This way, each child creates a page in the journal. When sorting is finished and you move on to the next skill, a new journal is created. This works for two reasons: 1. It is difficult for young students to create their own books when sharing iPads and 2: As each skill is finished and a new journal is created, it can be saved to the iBook shelf and students can look at all of their classmates’ work and continually review skills that have already been covered.

IMG_2288So, I encourage you to reflect on your own content design. Can it be refreshed and updated? How can you make small changes that might make big impact?

Share your story…do epic stuff!