Ruck's Rodeo

Mrs. Ruck's Second Grade Class

Thursday, May 26, 2011

You've Got Mail!

I must confess, when I first attended my iPad workshop to learn about all of the various Apps that I would be using in workstations I wasn't too impressed with one App in specific. The App in question involved the students making a simple postcard.  As we explored the possibilities of this App I did not become immediately excited as I did with the previous Apps we reviewed.   I just didn't get it...there were no quirky sound effects, silly animation, or games to play.  However, as I thought more about this App and it's possible functions in my classroom I realized it was a perfect example of not judging a book by its cover!

Photocard eventually, and completely won me over because of two amazing teachers that opened my eyes to it's possibilities!  If you don't have any kind of system where the students experience letter writing (star student, penpal, bucket filler, etc.) then this is the perfect thing for you.  Of course this school year flew by like our last Shuttle Launch (T-Minus ten seconds is what it felt like!) so our class didn't practice letter writing as much as I had planned. 

Since the County gave our classroom four iPads I was still pretty indecisive about where and how many I wanted in each literacy workstation.  I usually only have two students per workstation because I have found that it promotes teamwork, good classroom morale, and reduces further problems that may take them off task.  Needless to say, last week I had one of those "Aha!" moments as I realized how perfect it would be to use two iPads in an "iPad Workstation," and the remaining two in the "Writing Workstation."

Photocard allows the student to choose their background, stamp, and stickers.  The App even inserts speech bubbles where the child can record an audio message!  I set each iPad up with a class Gmail account "Patterson's Partners" (of course!) specifically for their postcard mail.  This makes the process a lot less complicated when the child is ready to send off their creative letter as they simply click the send button and off it goes into technology outer space!  The App even makes a rocket sound when the letter has successfully delivered!

Debbie Diller's book about Literacy Workstations states that you should take 5-10 minutes at the end of the rotations to randomly call on a student to share what they did in their station.  This plan is absolutely genius as it holds the children accountable and relieves the teacher of grading every product.  During this share time I open up our class mailbox on the smartboard and the students gasp with excitement at opening their new mail.

The students love Photocard; I love Photocard.  Will you?!  Check it out!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Word Building With Chicktionary

2010 was my first year of teaching at Terwilliger Elementary and I can vividly remember how I practiced word building with my Second graders.  The curriculum guide suggested that each student have their own set of cut out letters to manipulate on their desk and make into words.  After running the copies of each and every letter I was painfully forced to watch the clock slowly tick away while they took FOR-EV-ER (movie clip from The Sandlot) to cut out each small letter square. After waiting for them to cut out the squares I watched in agony as some pieces were blown or brushed from their desktops, slowly drifting to the floor. I was soon to discover that the letters that actually survived the entire process of copying, organizing, cutting, and bagging would not long after, somehow disappear into thin air. After just several days I came to the grim realization that each student had been reduced from the entire alphabet to only a handful of useless letters; I thought to myself, "There has got to be another way!!!"

Thankfully there is now a fun and interactive solution! (phew!) Utilizing the iPad, word building is now completely headache free! So now you ask, "How can that be?!"... drum roll please ... Chicktionary!

Among all of our Apps, Chicktionary has definitely become one of the class favorites (mine as well, for obvious reasons!).  I love that Chicktionary has a very simple format, making it extremely easy to use and wildly entertaining for my students.  When you begin a new game there is an empty egg carton at the top and several chickens with letters on their tummies below.  To create words, all you have to do is touch a chicken and an egg (with corresponding letter) pops out, allowing you to create a word that is displayed in the carton above.

My students LOVE to (gently) shake the iPad, when this is done the chickens cluck frantically and jump to a new location leaving a mess of feathers floating through the air! When the chickens resettle, the letters on their bellies are replaced with a new set of available letters for the students to choose from.  Chicktionary also provides several other features that permit the children to get a free answer "Free Bird" or provide additional letters for a helpful hint "Beak Sneak".  Chicktionary's difficulty level can be adjusted in order to better suit the needs for spellers of any level. There you have it folks! This App will certainly be in my education toolbox for years to come!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Promoting Fluency with QuickVoice

This week we discovered how to use QuickVoice to record our fluency times and I have to say that my students loved it!  Let's face it, reading the same passage everyday each week on a piece of paper with a finger and a timer can become pretty mundane and flat out bbboorrrinnnngg (insert snoring sound here).  But, with our snazzy little iPads, we no longer face that problem. 

Here is how it works:
1.  In our iPad literacy workstation there may be two to three students at a table.  As the first student begins the others put on their headphones and quietly use another reading App as they wait.  May I suggest, that you also might want to letter or number the iPad so that there is no confusion on who gets to go first.

2. Student A will then select the QuickVoice App and turn the iPad so that the microphone (built within) is facing them.

3.  The student will then push the record button and begin reading the selected passage.  Once they are finished reading they will push the stop button.

4.  Next, Student A will save their recording AND time.  While they put on their headphones to listen Student B can begin steps 1-3 and repeat thereafter with the next.

This is where the magic happens because as the child plays back the recording their face lights up with excitement in disbelief that they are actually hearing their voice on the other end.  Some even giggle quietly and turn red (so precious).  Listening to the playback also allows the child to self analyze their reading by pin-pointing specific errors that were made throughout. 

The best part is this, in that QuickVoice stimulates a bit of their competitive nature.  Once they have saved the first recording and viewed the previous others that are kept on file, they want to do it again and beat their time (along with every other student saved on that specific iPad).  Below, you will notice two of my students congratulating themselves after beating their first fluency time by a long shot!

Voila!  A simple way to add fun to fluency practice!

The iPads are here!

My students and I have been waiting patiently for our new IPads to arrive!  With six weeks left in the school year they are finally here.  We will be using them during our daily literacy workstation time to practice various reading skills.  The ideas for use are endless, so I have two wonderful ladies from the county to introduce as many new Apps as possible to my students in the remaining weeks to come.  It is now 'crunch time' but I know that with their knowledge and our enthusiasm we can prove how wonderful and beneficial these devices can be in any classroom environment (even with elementary students)!