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!



Poetry Notebooks with Book Creator

Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. -Plutarch

Each Friday, we take a break from our Writing Workshop activities and work in our poetry notebooks. Young children love poems and songs. Every week, we have a designated poem that goes with our unit. I have made a poster out of it and attached a plastic coat hanger to the back. The poem hangs on a hook in the classroom for the week. Each child has a black and white sewn composition book and we glue in a copy of the poem for the week. The children illustrate it and have the ability to go back and read poems from previous weeks. They love going back to some of their favorites and singing them or re-reading them.

Recently, I noticed their joy each Friday as they work in their poetry notebooks, and it saddened me that I don’t have space in the classroom to leave the poems out and let them accumulate. Then, it hit me…Book Creator! So I created a poetry book in Book Creator app that has their poems and I left a blank page beside each poem so the students could go in and illustrate them if they choose. Additionally, I recorded my voice reading each poem to help those who may not be able to read the whole thing themselves. When I finished poems up to where we are currently, I put it in Showbie and the children downloaded it to their iPad. They saved it to Book Creator and this allows me to add more poems as we go through the rest of the year. I will put the new poem in Showbie and they will download it and add it their poetry notebook.




I am undecided about next year…whether I will eliminate the hard copy and just do electronic. The kids do love using crayons and illustrating the notebook. The best part is, either way, they have poems at their fingertips to read, re-read, illustrate and enjoy!

Tell your story…do epic stuff!

Teacher Created Texts in Book Creator

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.-Benjamin Franklin

 Writer…this is not an adjective I would use to describe myself, but is something I sure am doing a lot of these days. Aside from this blog, my doctoral classes provide an endless source of writing “opportunities”. Writing and reading go hand in hand in literacy development; and as we are encouraging our students to read and to write, modeling is an appropriate strategy to use. We model reading daily for our students, but how can we model writing in such a way that our students have continued access to these writing samples?

I’ve written here about using iBooks Author to create leveled texts for my students. You can also see my story here.  I still use iBooks Author to create books for my students and I also use Book Creator to create books as well. We are studying the rainforest currently and I’ve made a few books pertaining to the rainforest for my student’s iPads. Here are a couple of sample pages:









This book on sloths is one of their favorites. I used the drawing tool to create an arrow pointing to the 3 toes.








The book on leaf cutter ants has vocabulary words underlined and the book on jaguars has my voice over if students need it. These books took 5 minutes to create. You can get many images from Creative Commons free. When I finish these books, I upload them to Showbie which allows my students to download them on their iPads. Another colleague on my team has created some rainforest books also. This way, we can share with each other and double our resources.

By creating your own books, you are able to control your own text complexity and content. I have also created some fiction books based on student interests such as dirt bikes, super heroes, baby animals, and princesses. These books are pretty simple but the kids love them. The side benefit is the children are able to see you as a writer and have your books to use as a guide as they are writing.

Teacher created texts provide you the flexibility to control text, vocabulary and content as well as provide your students anytime books, personalized content, and a model for writing. It is a small investment of your time that pays big dividends!

Today we will do exciting new things. Let’s get to it!



End of Year Wrap Up

“When the story of these times gets written, we want it to say that we did all we could, and it was more than anyone could have imagined.”-Bono


Well, as always, the end of the school year brings a great deal of things that need to be wrapped up.  My classroom is barren…void of all of the student work that has adorned the walls for the year. Classroom centers, games and manipulatives have all been stored away. My iPad cart has been rolled down the hall to it’s summer resting place.  All that’s left is last bits of paperwork, passing out report cards and saying goodbyes.

2605673301_0e757008d8_bAs I go through the end of year rituals for the 25th time, and as I prepare to say goodbye to this sweet group of children, I can’t help but flash back to some great highlights from this year.  Our focus was creating a true, student centered classroom. Students were leaders in their own learning, and exercised voice and choice.  We participated in the Hour of Code. This lead to further creativity and exploration throughout the year…well beyond the initial Hour of Code.  We explored Augmented Reality. This expanded into using Chromville app to enhanced our writing activities.  We skyped with Jen at Blokify and my students were blown away with this app.  The 3D printed samples that Jen sent us led to such enthusiasm, our school purchased a 3D printer.  Toward the end of the year, we focused heavily on reading and research.  We used our iPads to research and write about a topic of our choosing. This created a seemingly insatiable desire to read and learn more on a variety of subjects.  “Can I please look up more on ocean animals?” “Can I research more on sloths and write a book?”  Daily, I’ve been asked for permission to read and research more on a topic that is meaningful to a particular child.  Without being a requirement, these children took their findings and always turned them into a Book Creator book or a drawing with notes and information.  One of our last activities was writing about and rating our favorite apps.  This activity resulted in future conversations about how a certain movie was rated or even their own writings!

While this list is certainly not all we worked on, it is a good recap of our highlights.  Keeping my students at the center of the learning, engaging them in decision making, and providing a literacy rich environment for curiosity and exploration has paid off.  Once again, all of my students are going to first grade reading above grade level.  They are prolific readers and writers.  They think deeply, question, read and respond, experiment, fail and try again, problem solve and persist in the face of difficulty.  They are now 6 years old and ready to boldly step forth into first grade.  While this is not the ending of their story, it’s where my story with them ends.  I will watch them as they grow and succeed.  I will celebrate their future accomplishments and know, that in some small measure, I was there in the beginning.

Happy Summer!

Today we will do exciting new things!  Let’s get to it!

Cultivating a Love for Reading

My mother was my world and she brought reading into it. -Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer

I was fortunate that I came from a family of readers.  Everyone read and the love of it was instilled in me very early.  I wish the same could be said for all of my students, and because it isn’t a priority in every home, I make sure to make it is a priority for the 7 hours they are with me Monday through Friday.

We talk about books and immerse ourselves in literacy building activities all day long.  We compare books and authors.  We compare writing styles and illustrations.  We do author studies and we use mentor texts in our Writer’s Workshop time.  I create books for my students in iBooks Author and in Book Creator.  I put them on their iPads and they have “just right” books at their fingertips all the time.  So, it isn’t surprising to me that my students are eager to make their own books.

Our favorite app for student-created books is Book Creator.  I’ve written about my ongoing love affair with the Book Creator app many times,  and now, you have the ability to draw within the app itself.  After introducing my students to this versatile app, I was immediately asked if they could make a book.  Many work on them during their free choice time.  At this point, they are fairly short books.  Here are a few screen shots from one of the first books a student created.


IMG_0861Because he recorded his voice reading the book, I can’t upload the file.  This book was 5 pages, including the ever popular “The End” page.  He worked every free chance he had over a couple of days to complete it.  Because we use Showbie, I can upload his book to the shared folder and all of the other students can download his book and have it on their bookshelves.  This is a great way for students to share their work with their peers.

Another student started a Space book in Pic Collage.  It is not finished but her intention is to create several pages, save to her camera roll and upload into Book Creator.  Here is one of the first pages of her book:

IMG_0859I love the enthusiasm and creativity of these children.  I love how their excitement over creating a book is so genuine.  I love how their eyes widened and they bubbled over with excitement when they saw the Book Creator app and what it could do.

Giving children choice in how they demonstrate their learning is a mainstay in our classroom.  My students take charge of their learning through the use of these creation apps.  They think nothing of using  multiple apps to create a final product.  They create and combine on their own with confidence.  They are able to upload their final work to Showbie independently.  They are proud of their work and are eager to share.

As a parent and as a teacher, I want my children and my students to feel the joy of being a reader.  By bringing my own love of reading to the classroom, my students are discovering they are able to create their own books, make their own art, and share the joy with others as well.

Today we will do exciting new things. Let’s get to it!


Using iPads to Supplement Reading

We shouldn’t teach great books; we should teach a love of reading. -B.F. Skinner
“Seriously!  Do I have to do ALL the work around here?” This is a quote from a child in my housekeeping center recently that made me laugh.  She was definitely channeling another adult in her life…but it is a sentiment I’m sure we have all thought, expressed, or hollered at some point in both our personal and professional lives.  Wouldn’t it be great if the great Work Fairy came down and waved her magic wand?  Wait…wouldn’t it be great if there WAS a great Work Fairy???
C0010258 StudyingAs educators, our  “In-Basket” tends to overflow with things we want to do, have to do, and need to do.  It is hard to find time to do it all.  With reading and literacy as a huge focus in early childhood classrooms, it can be difficult to meet the needs of each child.  We use the Fountas and Pinnell guided reading approach but I supplement with extension activities on our iPads.  This helps me reach all of the needs of my students.
My students are homogeneously grouped for reading.  These groups are small (4-6 students) and are flexible.  They change with the particular skill we are working on.  With my struggling children, we use games, manipulatives, flash cards and apps to immerse them in phonics skills.  Some of the apps I’ve been using that have been helpful are Starfall ABC’s, Starfall Learn to Read, Word Wizard and Montessori Crosswords.  These apps provide strong emphasis on phonics skills.
My middle group and top groups are working on sight words, blending sounds to read words, and integrating strategies to read unfamiliar words.  They are reading on Level A at this time.  I have several level A readers in my room, but I’ve created some to go on their iPads in Book Creator so they have them at their fingertips when they have a few minutes to read or when they go to the Reading Center.  Here is one using sight words
This is a PDF version since not all of my readers have Book Creator.  Some of the books I’ve made include me reading the text.  Students can touch the speaker icon on the page and hear me read the story to them.  The I Can See Book does not have that feature.
By using the iPads to supplement skills in reading, I’m able to work with students on various levels and let them move on when they are ready.  This actually reduces my work load considerably and frees me up to have conferences with individual students and work with individual students in a more meaningful way.  Work Fairy or not, less teacher work and more time with students is a beautiful thing!
Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!
photo credit: Creative Commons

Show Me With Showbie

We are not cisterns made for hoarding, we are channels made for sharing. -Billy Graham

Sorry, but I just can’t get enough of Showbie.  It is our new app used school-wide for creating digital portfolios.  I recently wrote about Showbie and our using it to create digital portfolios.  Since then, I have discovered some other pretty awesome features.

First, let me say, we are not completely paperless.  We have, however, significantly reduced our paper usage and Showbie has facilitated that.  In kindergarten, there is still the need for paper/pencil skills.  School-wide, we saved over $21,000 in paper usage, copies, ink, and toner last year.  Showbie has several features that are helpful.  Here is a screen shot showing some features:


I have blurred out my students’ last names, but my class list is to the left.  The small paper icon to the right of each name shows which students have submitted an assignment.  You can also add student pictures beside their names if you want.  The shared folder allows me to upload resources, videos, voice instructions, PDF files, and ePubs to be used in that particular assignment.  Once the resources are loaded in the shared folder, it is available to all students.  It is in the shared folder that I added an ABC book that I created in Book Creator.  My students just went into the shared folder, downloaded the book in their iBooks and all students have the book on their bookshelf.

The area to the right has a drop-down box with choices for adding files. The camera option allows photographs or videos.  You can upload images from the photo library as well.  Using the Capture PDF option, you can scan in a document.  If you have a PDF file in your photo library, you can upload this also. In addition, you can add text notes to student work or voice notes.  These are all of the teacher options.  Students have the same options in their drop-down menu for putting work in the assignment folder.

Last week, I uploaded a PDF of primary lined paper for my students to demonstrate writing their numbers to 20.  They opened the assignment in Showbie and then used Good Notes (a PDF annotator) to write their numbers.  I was able to quickly email their parents this assignment.  Later in the week, I used the camera option to video tape students counting to 20.  This was a quick assessment that was also emailed to parents.

photoThe best part is that Showbie is so easy to use.  At this early point in the school year, my kindergarten students already know how to open the app and upload work on their own.  Parents also enjoy feeling like they are a part of the classroom through the email feature.

One last way we are using Showbie is to share student work with our principal.  Each grade level decided on student assignments for each nine weeks that would be used to demonstrate growth and demonstrate CCSS. My principal created a class for each grade level in Showbie.  These student provisos are uploaded for him to monitor.  We send a high, medium, and low work sample each nine weeks.  This allows him to check in on student work on a regular basis.  It also encourages meaningful use of the iPad in the learning environment.

We are very excited about the incorporation of this robust program into our classrooms.  There is a free version of Showbie if you would like to check it out. We liked it so much we purchased the school license.

Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!


Making Your Mark With iPads

Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

medium_4176075327Well, we missed it.  International Dot Day was September 15th.  Better to be late than not go at all, we celebrated making our creative mark this past week.  It came at a good time.  I’ve been hearing a lot of “I can’ts”  lately.  If you are unfamiliar with the story of The Dot by Peter Reynolds and International Dot Day, you can check it out here.  In the story, Vashti is an uninspired student who feels as if she can’t draw.  Her teacher encourages her to be brave enough to “make her mark”.

Leaving our mark is a lot easier than we think.  We make it hard.  We resist and tell ourselves we aren’t smart enough, creative enough, talented enough, rich enough…but what if we took a page from Vashti’s playbook and just tried?  As educators, we make lasting marks with every child we teach.

As we started using iPads in our classroom in 2011, there was no real path to follow.  We trail blazed our own.  There were a few bumps along the way, but we believed in what we were doing.  We started with our own “dot” and it has transformed the way we do everything. It has transformed the way we think about everything.

So back to our dot project…after reading the book, we used our iPads to create our own dots in our Drawing Pad app.  (We usually use Doodle Buddy, but they have not updated the app lately and it doesn’t work very well with the new iOS 7 update.) The kids uploaded their dots to Showbie and I then downloaded them all on my iPad and put them into Book Creator.  As you may know, my love  for Book Creator is epic.

Our finished product is here:

The Dot

The great thing about Showbie is there are “shared folders” with each assignment.  After I created the class book in Book Creator, I uploaded it back to the shared folder in Showbie.  This made the book available to each student and all they had to do was download it into their iBooks.  Now each student has a copy of our class book in their iBooks shelf.  They have loved looking at each other’s work and are definitely proud of their own.

You know, a lot has changed for me since I said, “yes” to iPads 2 1/2 years ago.  I never dreamed I would be doing the things I am.   I chose to try and make my mark by creating a student centered classroom infused with technology.

How are you making your mark?

Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

Dot photo credit 

What’s Your Story?

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.-Maya Angelou

medium_4828439402Stories…we all have them, but have you ever thought about the power of story? As educators, we want to relate to our students and connect with them. Stories bring people along on your journey.  Stories move people to action.

We are built to remember stories much more than figures and data.  When we advocate for our ideas, we often use data and figures; however, our brains are wired to resonate with story.

A story is a connected set of events with a beginning, middle and an end. Stories persuade and they move people to action. Stories shape how others see you.  Stories are tools of power.  People slow down and listen when a story is being told. Listening matters.  Stories are the one way to invite people in, to have them not only know you but to get in touch with their own story as well.  Good stories ignite emotion.

So much of what we teach students evokes the “Who cares, so what?” response.  You know…the math problem that posits someone bought 60 cantaloupes and divided them into thirds.  How many did each person receive? Who cares?  More likely the question is, “What is wrong with this person that they have 60 cantaloupes?” Our students need to get to the “why” of what they are learning.  They need to resonate with the material and care about it.

When we take our students on an engaging journey, we can persuade them. Stories need to have goals. What do you want your audience to think, feel or do at the end of the story? My kindergarten students love stories.  They lean in and tune in when a story is being told.  They not only listen more attentively to me as I tell a story, but they also listen to classmates who are telling stories.

My students love telling stories on their iPads with Book Creator and Explain Everything.  These apps provide them with a platform to share and create.  Even students who may not seem overly creative, find a voice when they are sharing stories about themselves.

My story is documented here. I encourage you all to find your own story, but more importantly, think on the importance of story in your school environment and how it may be used to connect deeply with your students. How can you get your own students to tell stories?  We live life in narrative.  Story isn’t just a good idea….it’s necessary.

So, what’s your story?

Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

images from Creative Commons

Reflection on the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute

Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to another, not words-Rumi

Words.  So plentiful and easy to use in most situations…but what about those events in life for which there are no adequate words?  Those events that color your world and leave you transformed in such a way that defy explanation…

IMG_1925As I sit on the plane returning home from Austin, Texas, I am reflecting on just such an event.  6 days ago, I arrived in Austin to attend the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute.  Over 400 select educators from the United States, Canada and Mexico came together for a week of professional development, deep conversations, reflective practice and authoring.  I know when I get home, I am going to have several people ask me about the experience and that’s where things get difficult.  The adjectives I use will be inadequate to describe the week.  Words like awesome, amazing, transformative, affirming, celebratory, and inspiring are the best I can do.

For educators, our world is filled with a lot of “Yes, but….”.  This week showed me the possibility and power of “Yes, and…”.  The simple substitution of one small word in that phrase changes everything.  We also learned to celebrate failure and not to fear it.  With failure, comes learning.

We were encouraged to take deep dives in thinking about pedagogy and not be afraid to be leaders in change.  Leaders do not spend time curating the status quo.  They dig down deep and become the change they seek.

While our individual levels of technological knowledge varied, everyone accepted and celebrated each other’s work and success.  There was no competition or jealousy.  We were all made to feel like Rock Stars and were supported no matter where we are in our journey.  Meal times revealed tables and tables of people intently listening and passionately sharing.

Staff development offerings gave us opportunities to learn new programs, apps and techniques as well as get advanced learning in programs we already use. We had brilliant speakers and we learned about the importance of story…how the story isn’t about us and we aren’t the hero.  We are more like Yoda…a mentor (only with better hair!)

We learned about the power of iTunes U for educators and we learned how to create our own courses.  We were given projects and formed PLN’s (professional learning networks) with like-minded people.

We met the developers of many of the great apps my students use daily.  It was so much fun meeting Reshan Richards (Explain Everything and a member of the ADE class of 2013) and Dan Amos (Book Creator).  Both are pure genius.

Reshan Richards

Reshan Richards

Dan Amos

Dan Amos

For 17 hours each day, I was drinking from a fire hose.  I soaked up every minute and made connections that will for sure be my life-long friends.  I was given a legacy to do more, dream more, learn more and become more than I ever thought possible.

I am forever changed…and eternally grateful!

Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!