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!

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.

anatomy-1751201__340image from Pixabay.com

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.

h-and-a-under-table

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.

IMG_5171

 

IMG_5279

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

DifwKZtV4AA8EGT

The Rich Potential of Children’s Video.

DifwKZsUEAA8Djh.jpg

The Rich Potential of Children’s Drawing.

DifwKZsU0AE-vUd.jpg

The Rich Potential of Children’s Music Making.

DifwKZ5VAAA6LPD.jpg

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!

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.

 


 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using the iPad Camera with Young Students

One of the questions I get asked most often regarding the use of iPad devices in early childhood classrooms is “How do I get started?” If you’ve not used the iPad with young children before, it can seem a bit overwhelming. There are so many things to consider…classroom management, finding the app, making sure they are doing the right thing, ensuring everyone is on the right screen…it’s a bit like… well, frankly,

And if you are a bit unsure of yourself, then it can be totally unnerving. I often suggest starting small by just introducing how to find their iPad in the cart, how to turn on and off the iPad, and how to navigate screens. One of the best apps to start with is the camera app. The camera is truly a versatile tool that can be used across the curriculum. And, with proper instruction in the use of the app, you can curb the number of nostril shots you will find in the photo roll.

The camera can be used to document learning such as demonstrated work in reading and math journals. Such as:

 

It can be used for student introductions with name cards, picture timelines, and help with vocabulary words. Really, its uses are endless. With young children it’s important to give them a brief lesson on how to take a good photo. You can see my Clips projects on that here, and here.

Once you have your basic lesson, you can move on to taking photos with a purpose. There is an excellent blog post written by fellow ADE Marc Faulder here. He has an awesome iTunes U course on using the camera to take photos in early learning classes here.

With a new school year starting here in the United States, explore how you might use the camera with your young students in creative, new ways!

 

From Sea to Shining Sea…Connecting Classes Across Continents

I don’t usually have guest bloggers, but Marc Faulder and I, along with some other early childhood teachers have engaged in regular collaboration with our classes since 2014. Marc, an early years teacher in the UK wrote this blog post sharing our experiences.

Connecting Classes Across Continents is a collaboration I began with Apple Distinguished Educators who teach in the early years. We met in San Diego in July 2014 and began planning how we could use FaceTime and social media to build a personal learning network for our young learners, In the beginning we had classes connecting between South Carolina, Maine, Ireland and my class in England. The process is simple, we looked at what we taught throughout the year and found topics which overlapped or linked so that our classes could exchange knowledge over a video call.

Over the last two years my classes have made short video calls to these classes to talk about their place in the world, ask questions about the different places and share stories or festivals from their home country. We have shared Bonfire Night, Thanksgiving, Christmas food similarities and differences and Chinese New Year. Connecting with real children celebrating these festivals made the learning so much more real as we could have genuine discussions with real people involved in these celebrations.Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 6.38.44 PM
The project has grown since then and we now have connected classes in Sweden, Australia and New York. This has added to the wealth of knowledge exchange, giving opportunities to explore languages through song and traditional tales from our different countries. With our Connected Class in Sweden we sang traditional nursery rhymes to each other in our first languages. With our Connected Class in Ireland we have shared traditional food from our countries. With our Connected Class in Maine we have shared in school rules, in a recent call we got to observe The Pledge of Allegiance and compared this to our own Respect Code of Conduct. All of these experiences over FaceTime have given my class a real insight in to life outside of England.
For some of our projects our classes have made work for each other. Between the teachers involved in Connected Classes Across Continents we have shared digital books that our classes have made on their iPads. My class have sent multi-modal books about Bonfire Night and compared this to a book about Thanksgiving from our Connected Class in South Carolina. With our Connected Class in New York, South Carolina and Maine we shared books about our local area. All of these book exchanges have resulted in follow up FaceTime calls to ask further questions about each other’s place in the world. With our Connected Class in New York it was great to compare their playground and ours, as they have a playground on the top of their building in the city!
We have even posted real story books to share in ‘What are you Reading’ FaceTime calls. This kind of connecting takes me back to the days of pen-pals and enhances these kinds of relationships through a more personal and immediate form.

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 6.34.11 PM

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 6.34.57 PM
Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 6.36.57 PM
The impact on my class this year has been huge. In a recent project we made calls to Sweden, Ireland, South Carolina and Maine in one day. We went on a global hunt for lost teeth and our connected classes gave us clues that would help our mission. The project concluded the next day with a video message from our connected class in Australia. When we reflected on the knowledge exchange between all of these places my class could talk about the movement of the sun and time zone differences. This understanding of the world exceeds my expectation of what early years children can comprehend of their place in the world. You can hear their responses here.
When interviewing my class on their time in Foundation with me and reflecting on their learning year in preparation for their transition to Year 1, I asked them who their teachers are. You can hear their responses here.
To my surprise they included teachers from our connected classes. One child even listed Mrs Meeuwse, Mr Milner and Shonette above his actual teachers in our unit! This proves to me that connecting classes across continents builds a Personal Learning Network for early years children. By explaining how they learn and what they learn from these other teachers in their life they clearly appreciate the knowledge exchange beyond our classroom walls.
This year, the second year of Connected Classes Across Continents, wraps up with a special visit from Jason Milner. Jason is travelling Europe before the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute 2016. He will visit our school and work with my class. In the days leading up to his arrival we tracked his flight online. Flying from Sydney has been an exciting two days for my class with them watching his journey take place in real time over two days. The discussions around travel, time zone and connecting places has been incredible to listen to and the children are very excited to meet their first Connected Class Teacher!
 A great place for you to start is by participating in International Dot Day. Find out more about this festival here. It takes place on September 15th every year and is a Foundation friendly text about making your mark on the world. You can connect with a local school, find a friend who you can make a call to on the day. Even if it is another school in your city, the children will make their first connection in learning beyond their classroom.
For your first call talk about your school uniform, school rules, your art work or hobbies. You can show photographs of your school and even share a song together. After the first call you could even find out what each other are working on then report back your findings in a follow up call.
It would be very easy to read this post and see these connections as difficult to achieve, but the links are simple to make. Not every class will get the opportunity to meet a Connected Class Teacher and it might not happen again for a long time at my school. However, these FaceTime calls and knowledge exchanges have proved so valuable to our understanding of the world and they will continue each year!
You can read more from Marc Faulder and see his work in the UK on his blog here.