Friday, October 26, 2012

iPad Apps for the Classroom

Using iPads in the classroom are the new technology trend in education.  I use the iPad in many ways in my classroom, specifically at workshop time as a station to reinforce math facts, critical thinking, and reading fluency.  I also use it to keep attendance and track behavior.  Below are some of my favorite apps.

Free apps
Classroom Management:
Teacherkit by : I love this app! You can create individual classes and track attendance, behavior, and grades. When tracking behavior, you can either hit the thumbs up or thumbs down and leave it at that or if it happened during a specific part of the day you can list that and give a description of the behavior. This can help with figuring out triggers for certain students so that you can come up with a plan to keep the behavior from happenning.

Class Dojo: This is a great app for keeping track of behavior.  You can give positive or negative points and the students get assigned little monster avatars. You can give them points for specific behaviors (ex: being on task, participation, teamwork or custom-I have added out of seat, no homework, etc.) You can really customize this to the needs of your classroom.  Students love the immediate feedback and it brings out their competitive spirits.

OperationMath: This is my go to math app! It works on fact fluency. It has a mission impossible theme that really gets the students excited. I use this sometimes if students finish their work early or if I have to do testing and one of my students doesn't need to be tested. This way they are working on a need for them that is more then just dittos that I have to grade. General educators can use this with all students, but I can definitely see it being a resource for them to use with students with IEPs. If they have a student that is supposed to get tested in a small group with limited distractions, they can have that student work on this app with some earphones while the rest of the class takes the test. Then the test can be given to them when they go with their special educator for the day and receive their accommodations. See Operation Math Code Squad under paid apps.

Base Ten Number Blocks: I just downloaded this one recently so I haven’t gotten o use it much.  However, it looks great.  It can really help students with understanding place value and representing numbers in different forms. It lets students use the base ten blocks to help them solve addition and subtraction problems.

Equivalent Fractions: This is another one I just downloaded.  Students play a game where they have to identify equivalent fractions and can use either circles or squares. It doesn’t have great directions, but I think it is worth trying out since this is a topic a lot of students struggle with.

There are a lot of free spelling and phonics apps.  Some are: Phonics Genius, Express, Phonics Vowels, Simplex Spell, Spellosaur.

Scholastic Storia: I just found out about this app so I haven’t had time to use it in my classroom.  It comes with 5 free ebooks and you can buy more (or earn more through Scholastic Bookclub points).  It says that the app has features such as “audio narration, pronunciation tools, and phonics and vocabulary activities” for emergent readers and says “older, more established readers can take notes, highlight text, and access videos that offer real-world context for book topics.”  You can set up accounts for each child to track their reading progress.

Educreations: This is a whiteboard app. You can use it in real time with students in a small group or one-on-one. You can also record a lesson on it and then put it at a center. It records your voice and will play what you draw on the whiteboard and your voice for your students. So if you have a math center on subtracting with regrouping you can record an example where you show all of the steps and talk the students through it. Then students can play the video when they get to the center and replay it if needed when they are completing the center activity.

Contraptions: This is a great app for critical thinking. Students have to create situations with shelves and books and balloons and balls and such to have specific outcomes (ie: trapping a balloon, popping a balloon, getting all the balls in a basket). You have to see this one to understand what i mean.

Futaba (K-5): This is a quiz game app that can be used by up to 4 students at a time.  It has games that include math operations, telling time, counting money, sight words, and more. You can also create your own games.  There is a free version and a classroom version ($4.99).  I think you may need the paid version to create your own games. Great for a review center.

Doodle FREE: This is another great critical thinking/problem solving app. Students have to fit a set of different shaped blocks into a set shape.  It requires visual thinking skills, trial and error, and problem solving. I usually use this as an incentive or reward. Students really like this one.

Paid apps:
Operation Math Code Squad ($1.99): This is very similar to the free Operation Math, but 4 students can play at the same time.  It is really engaging for students and helps them improve their fact fluency.  It is well worth the $1.99. 

Booksey ($9.99): This was an expensive app, but I do like it.  I would like it even more if they continued to add more books to buy, which they have been slow to do.  I bought the teacher version.  You can create student accounts then a student picks their name and picks a just right book.  The books have great pictures and really nice science content.  You can have the students record themselves reading the book so that you can listen to it later and see how they did.  Students can also touch a word and have it read to them if they can’t read it.  Each page can also be read to them for examples of fluent readers.  There are short reading comprehension quizzes at the end.  You can download a free version of this to see if it is something you could use before spending the money.  It is great for your struggling readers. **I just read about Scholastic Storia, which is a free app and comes with 5 free ebooks.  This may be a free alternative to Booksey.  I am just downloading it so I am not sure if it has all of the capabilities of Booksey or more or less.  See above for description under free apps.

Reading Skills 3A, Reading Skills 4A (based on grade level) ($2.99): I think this is available in different subjects.  I bought the science one because my students miss a lot of science due to pull-out.  This app uses informational text to teach reading comprehension skills with exposure to science or other content. The passage are grade level high interest passages and each passage is followed by three activities that work on appropriate reading skills for that grade level (comprehension, vocabulary, main idea and supporting details, drawing conclusions, making inferences, fact vs. opinion, summarizing, synonyms and antonyms, etc.)

Hidden Object games such as Mystery Manor: You can get a sample of this for free, but at some point it does require you to pay for the full app.  I like this app because it works on visual discrimination, but more importantly critical thinking and problem solving.  These types of apps have storylines that are engaging and require students to problem solve.  This is a fun app that I usually use as an incentive or reward.  It can be used by one student alone or a few students working together.

Do you use an iPad in your classroom?  How?  What are your favorite apps?

Monday, September 3, 2012

The First Day of School

It amazes me every year how fast the summer goes.  As the first day of school approaches I always find myself full of emotions-excitement, anticipation, and fear.  As a special educator in Baltimore City, I usually don't find out what I will be teaching until the week before we go back.  This adds a special type of anxiety into the mix.  This year I had set some goals for planning for over the summer even though I didn't know what grade levels I would be teaching.  However, the week before school started, I found out I would be in a much different position than I have ever been in or that I anticipated being in.  Previously, I have worked in a co-teaching situation in a full inclusion classroom and last year I was a resource teacher for grades 3, 4, and 5. This year I will be a self-contained teacher for 2 hours each morning teaching math and reading and then in the afternoons I will be co-teaching 6th grade language arts/social studies and science with the majority of the students with special needs that I teach reading and math to in the mornings.

This will be the first year where I am solely responsible for teaching my students reading and math, exposing them to grade level curriculum as well as work on their IEP goals.  My students are in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.  It is overwhelming to try to think about how all of that will be accomplished in the time that I have with them.  My administration tells me it is the "curse of the special educator" to figure out how to accomplish this. I am determined to help my students achieve and to help them advance more than a year this year.  It will be an interesting ride figuring out how to do this.  My first obstacle, after meeting them this week, is behavior. They are all over the place and constantly start arguments with themselves over really minuscule things.  There are also the regular routines and procedures that need to be put into place.

Now that you have met your students, what is the biggest obstacle you need to overcome?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hi Everyone!

My name is Kimberli and I am a dual certified elementary special educator in Baltimore, MD.   I have been married to my husband for seven years and we have a new baby girl, Isabella Hope, born April 17, 2012.  This is really my first blog and I am truly excited to get started!  This September, I will be going into my third year of teaching in an urban Title I school. This blog will focus on differentiating instruction for elementary level students and will direct you to many of the resources I have found helpful in reaching students of all ability levels.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions and check back often for plenty of Freebies!