Raz-Kids by Learning AtoZ

Leveled readers at the students fingertips. This program has so much to offer for parents, teachers and students. Raz-Kids moves levels based upon two factors. The first factor is the student’s ability to read the book, listen to the book and take a comprehension quiz about the book. Once the student has done these three tasks with every book at their assigned level, they will move up. The second factor for moving up (or down) a level is the choice of the teacher.

Teachers have a dashboard to keep track of student use and learning standards in Raz-Kids. The dashboard for teachers is AWESOME, at the click of a button I can hear my kids read, see comprehension scores and grade level Common Core State Standards. I can also give the kids assignments to read certain leveled passages, or for beginning readers assessments for letter identification.

Students love Raz-Kids and that it is catered to their needs as a reader. They have a personal bookshelf that they can have read to them, they get to record themselves reading for the teacher and then they take a quiz to show their understanding of key facts and vocabulary. It is engaging, exciting and fun for them to read with this app.


Hour of Code

What is coding and why should children try it? In the simplest form coding is making things talk or move (from the mouths of 5 year olds).

When I told my students that we would be learning about coding, they smiled and cheered. You mean we get to use Scratch Jr and be part of the national hour of code, they asked. My Kindergarten students already knew about coding.

Coding uses mathematical reasoning to understand how to make things move forward, backward, left and right. The best part of coding is the kids are making the objects move by inputing the forward, backward, left and right commands. Kids have to solve and think about directionality and they way things work. Hour of code has been great for my student to work both collaboratively and independently to learn mathematical reasoning.

Check out https://code.org/learn

Small Steps to Big Changes

Changes do not always have to be BIG or drastic.

Stories, we all have them. Even children have stories tell from ht moment they start making noise, they car telling their story to the world. During the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute 2015, I began to think about my stories and how to share them with the world. Yes blogging is one way to do it, but it may not reach as many people as I would like. In order to create change and empower other teachers and children to use technology in innovative ways, I need to have my stories be heard and seen. It is not always easy for teachers to implement tech devices into their best practices or small parts of their routines. Hear is my soap box preaching: you MUST start small. Remember that the things I tell you about, I have been doing for days, months and even years.

Step One: find one single area or routine you would like to enhance with technology.

Example: making morning “work” time more efficient. We all have the time in the morning when children are at breakfast and some are already in the classroom starting their day. It can be a little crazy and unstructured.

Step Two: Figure out why and how you transform this part of the lesson or day with technology.

Example:  part of the day to fix: morning time settling in for the day. Tech to be used: iPad, video camrea.

I wanted students to be productive and have time for further practice or even get an introduction to something we would be working on later in the day. Well their is only 1 of me and 22 of the kids. I didn’t like being a record set on repeat. I liked to the iPad for support. I have an iPad and my student each have their own 1:1 device. I decided I would make the students a video welcoming them to morning activity of reading a book, using an app or even time to collaborate with classmates on a picture or book creation.

Step Three: Create the lesson incorporating the technology.

Example: I made a video telling my student what app or apps they could use to help support them during literacy.

Step Four: Explain this transformation to the students.

Example: On the first couple days of school students do not use their iPads. They have to come in and sort of be bored or figure out how to access the books and keep “busy” while I greet the other students and get kids from breakfast. We have our morning meeting and discuss how we fell with not a lot to do in the morning. I then show them how I use the camera on the iPad to make videos. Then I make a video with directions and explain to the kids that this will become part of their morning routine. We then make our morning routine Standard Operating Procedure (S.O.P.) it looks something like this:

Morning S.O.P.

1. Line up quietly in the hall

2. Take out your yellow folder

3. Make your lunch choice

4. Put yellow folders in basket

5. put coats and bags away

6. Get your iPad

7. Scan the QR (linked to the video directions)

8. start on your morning work

Now this little tweak to our day allowed the students to come in and have a quiet, structured start to their day. For me, I could take the time to greet every student and make sure we all had a successful start to our day. It made for smooth start to our day.

Before this little tweak and the way technology was able to help me duplicate myself, I was sounding like a broken record and sometimes, I could not interact with each child before the day got started.

About 2-3 days after we (the students and I) implemented this change,we all noticed a better feeling in our classroom community. Each child was greeted with a smile and handshake or a hug. What a great way to start the day, a warm welcome from your teacher. We are able to start positive everyday with the help of the iPad, the video camera, and QR codes.

One thing for people who are just starting to think about using technology in their classrooms is that is does not always have to be something BIG. Start small and BIG changes will happen in your classroom.

If you are reading this and have tech tip or trick to share please comment and get a conversation going.

Making Learning Visible

When students are asked to demonstrate what they know, how is it shared? In the teaching profession knowledge demonstration has typically been with pencil and paper in worksheet form. While at times worksheets may have their place, there are so many new ways to have students demonstrate knowledge. One of our favorite ways is to use the app Book Creator. (I also use iBooks Author to make books for the kids.) Each student has this app on their iPad. Book Creator is an easy interface for the students to create and share. They can easily add pictures, type text and even hand write or draw pictures. One of our learning goals, was to show that we knew the letters of the alphabet and the sound each letter made. Our 2014-2015 Kindergarten literacy class made an ABC book to demonstrate this learning goal. Allowing students to create their own book really makes them feel like an author. Students take pride and true ownership in their Book Creator projects. Please click on the red words ABC Book to view our student created book.

ABC book

Purposeful Writing

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Students love to share what they can do. In our kindergarten classroom, we have been using KidBlog to share our thinking and learning. We also use KidBlog to help the students become more aware of punctuation, spacing and using meaningful titles. If you asked me in September if I would have kindergarten kids blogging, I would have said NO WAY!! Here we are in May and blogging is the best writing tool for my kids. Not all students post what they write on their blog, they just send it to me and I get to see it. Most kids love to share their thinking and skills. The joy that they display when they know they can blog is priceless. Here are some simple tips to get started.

  1. Find a blog site that works for you: Here are some for you to explore.


http://kidblog.org/home (this is the one I use) (iPad app is free)


Find the platform that will work best for you and your kids.

  1. Create a teacher page
  2. Create the student accounts
  3. Try the blog out for yourself first
  4. Introduce to the students
  5. Let the students create
  6. Email co-workers or colleagues to have them respond to kids writing
  7. Promote the student work to your Professional Learning Network
  8. Give the students voice and choice for when and how they post to their blog.

KidBlog Tips:

  • When you set up your class list, you need to make sure you add passwords so that they can login.
  • If parents might be uneasy about blogging use student initials instead of names for the username.
  • Start out blogging as a class to get started.
  • Have students share about a book they have read

Blogging allows students to have voice and choice in their writing and the information they share with the world. Let their writing skills shine and their voices be heard.

This is what the dashboard looks like before I approve a post.

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Student work sample from the first day.

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Writing for the World to See

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Sometimes we get so concerned about what the students need to know by a certain date that we often feel a though there is not enough time for all the learning that needs to take place. Well the week before Christmas vacation, I was so concerned my kindergarten kids were not able to understand why we write. They were still writing, “I like Mom,” and “I love Dad.” They could also describe what they liked about each person. I still felt as though they were missing the part that writing provides information and that writing also gives other people information or is a way to have questions answered. So with four days left before our two-week vacation, the kids and I started to explore the different reasons people write. I had no expectations or expected outcomes on the first day. As day two of exploring different types of writing started to unfold and the kids and I saw that people write blogs to give information. I saw the fire in their eyes and the excitement about how “regular” people can write about things they know, learn or experience. I quickly decided that we were going to start a blog. I chose to use Kid Blog. The wonderful Kristin Ziemke had inspired me. She taught me that having kids blog is all about the thinking and writing process. I also learned from her that kids need feedback. The feedback that kids receive from blogging is so much more important, at times, then any feedback a teacher or someone in the walls of the school could give. With all of this information and seeing the kid’s eyes light up when they read other kids blog, I decided we were just going to go for it! So there we were three days before vacation and the kids and I learned how to bog. It went very nicely with our study of Christmas Celebrations around the world. The kids were learning about Christmas in England. We were reading books and swapping video messages with a Kindergarten class from England already. The kids had so many questions. So armed with the many questions we set off to blog. The students wrote the questions they had. I put out an email to staff and even Tweeted to my PLN that my students had started to blog. To our amazement the next day each child at least one response that gave them lots of information.

The kids and I were hooked. Not only were they writing to get information, they were also learning about the conventions of writing and how important a title was to hook a reader. Check out our Kid Blog site: http://kidblog.org/MrsDufourkindergarten/

Reflection For Best Practice

As I sit and decompress over the last few days, I realize that the Leveraging Learning 2014 conference was AWESOME! I met some new friends to continue learning with and I learned some new “nuggets” (credit that “nugget” term to Kristin Ziemke) of information. My friends from Sweden, “Maya” (english nickname) and Anita, thank you for the enlightening conversations about education in the primary grades from a Swedish point of view! Last week I learned so much more from others that love to share their best practices. I learned about using Kidblog (just click the red word to take you to the site) to help students write for a purpose and to an authentic audience. Here is our link if you would like to follow us on this journey! http://kidblog.org/MrsDufourkindergarten/ I will be updating our student blogging journey on my own blog as well, so please be sure to check back.

So as I continue my reflection to make student learning more engaging, I think about making a list. A list of the things I would like to blog about and would like others to know bout. So here is the list that I will work on over the course of the next few moths:

Creating student blogs

Creating independence in a kinder classroom

Digital citizenship for the young ones

Global project collaboration

Using Learning AtoZ app Raz-Kids

Using the Osmo tool in the classroom

The importance of a PLN (Personal/Prefessional Learning Network)

Teachley Came for a Visit!

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 9.34.10 PMRachel Labreque from the company Teachley came to visit the Kindergarten kids. Teachley has developed the apps Addimals and Mt. Multiplis. Addimals is the best addition skills app EVER! When using this app the students gain confidence while learning strategies to help them add basic math facts. The students get voice an choice to complete an addition problem. Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 9.36.50 PMIf the addition fact is 4+2=  the student may choose from four different skills to solve the problem. They may choose to count on,count all (break the numbers up and count single cubes 1,2,3,4,5,6 by touching each cube to see that 4+2=6) doubles and the tens option.  When choosing one of these options, not only are they solving the problem, they are learning life long math skills that will carry them through. One of my students favorites is when the number line practice is available. The problem 4+2= remains on the page and then a number line pops up on the bottom and the student has to use the number line to figure out the answer. If you have not heard of the is app please give it a try! If you register your class for individual 1:1 accounts you can track their data and get reports about their independent skill practice. Visit the website http://www.teachley.comScreen Shot 2014-10-26 at 9.34.21 PM

Start Small to Grow BIG!!!

Technology is in almost every classroom I the United States, how do you implement it, where do you start? I am asked all the time, where did you start, how do you know what to do when? The best advice I can give anyone about technology is to start small.

No on can do everything at one time and make it all work. One way to get started is research educational tech blogs, like this one or over at my friend Kristi Meeuwse’s blog iTeachwithiPads. (http://iteachwithipads.net)Then while looking at all the information pick one thing that you would like to incorporate into a single lesson or one part of your day. Find one direction you repeat over and over again. For example, in my classroom it was morning work. I was constantly trying to greet the students, get lunch count done and explain the morning assignment. Not all of the kids come in at one time and I wanted them doing meaningful work that was relevant to our learning that happened the day before or was going to place later in the day.

With one, three, four or a classroom set of iPad’s this was easy for you to do. I used the camera app on the iPad and made a video that explained to the kids what their morning task was. Then I stored that video on YouTube and I linked the URL to a QR code. All I have to do now is make a 10 to 30 second video everyday and my kids are golden in the morning.

This one little change to the way I had my students come and “figure out” how to get their morning done was the little change to my day. I was integrating the use of the iPad and making mornings less stressful for the students and myself. I can now greet each individual student and make sure every child is ready for the day. The students have a smile on their face and their morning work directions are clear and easy for them to understand.

**** If you only have one iPad you can set the iPad up with the video made on that iPad. Have the students go to the one iPad and watch the video you made. This is fewer steps for you as the video will live on that iPad and you do not need to store the video on YouTube, Vimeo or any other storage site. You will no longer need a QR Code or link for the student’s access.

Just remember everyone has to start somewhere. So find that small place and once that one thing is mastered, go find another piece to enhance your day.

Creating Independence One Activity At A Time

As we think about what best teaching practices are, we often think of how students learn. We also have parents that want to help at home.  How can technology and the iPad help with this experience? As a kindergarten teacher, I often think about making sure all students have the same common language before they start a specific skill during independent practice time. This can be a lot of work for a teacher, especially with 20-25 students with all different learning levels. One way to make this easier is to enlist parent help. When asking parents to help sometimes correct language (teacher language) is not always used. I love to have my students make simple recordings during our 1:1 time with each other. The student will record the work we do together and I will send the video link to parents. This helps the aren’t learn the common language (teacher language) we use to help students learn and grow. Here is a video that has been sent home to help with reading:

This little video that was shared with the parents and created by the student, was a way that I could ensure the student was ready for read to self during independent practice time.