Monday, August 1, 2011

Reading to your child with your iPad- 2 Reviews- Kindle vs iBooks

Since the iPad came out, I’ve been waiting for children’s books to show up. There are so many possibilities to have easy access to amazing literature- all right in front of you.
I recently discovered two apps that would be akin a bedtime reading experience- Children’s stories on the Kindle app and Read & Listen books downloaded from iTunes into iBooks.

Kindle app- While visiting my brother up in Alaska, we took the whole gang- kids and all- on a back-woods cabin trip. We stayed for 3 days in a cabin that had no running water or electricity. I knew that we’d need some good books, but didn’t want the weight. So I opened up my kindle reader, which is my preferred reader for my bedtime stories, and searched for some kids books. There were several books available for cheap- older books that are now out of print and some titles I wasn’t familiar with. Of course I didn’t’ plan this until a few hours before we left, so I picked about 5 titles that looked promising and moved on. When it came time to actually pick a story to read… I was pretty disappointed. All the books were very text-heavy. Some of them had a few pictures, but the pictures seemed out of place within the app. The quality of the books also seemed to match the price. I ended up not reading ANY of them to the kides. Luckily I’d brought one book of poems as a back-up!
In short-
Pros- cheap
Cons- Felt just like the chapter books I read to myself. Not engaging enough for a kiddo

iBooks- I’ve looked into this app before. I haven’t been impressed with the selection, navigation, or prices as compared to my Kindle app. I didn’t even consider it when I was looking for children’s books. In fact the only reason I found any children’s book is because I was looking for an audio book for my son. I came across the “Read and Listen” collection on iTunes. I could download a short selection on each book I was interested in. The titles were generally ones I recognized (Fancy Nancy, Dr. Seuss…). This was promising. The books actually look like the printed book! On top of that, there is an option to have the story read aloud (the words highlight as you go). They can be set to automatically turn the pages, or wait for you to “turn the page.” These literally feel the same as reading the print versions of these. The only downfall is the price- generally the books felt like they might be the same price (or close) to the print versions. Ouch! I’ll definitely be choosing my titles carefully.
Pros- Looks and feels like the “real” book, option to have the story read aloud,
Cons- Higher price

Winner- iBooks- hands down

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

3 Ways I Use My iPhone with My Kid!

In the NY Times, Hilary Stout published an article about concerns many have around their toddlers using iphones (Oct. 15th, Toddler's Favorite Toy: The iPhone). As a parent who bought her toddler an iTouch at age three I was a bit defensive... but it also got me thinking. Oftentimes we think of using technology as an end in itself. If technology is the end, then I agree that we've got some concerns. But technology is only a means to an end. It all depends what you're doing with it, and what parenting decision you're making around the activity. If you let your child sit and watch videos on your iPhone for hours on end... well then that's cause to be concerned. If your child is throwing tantrums because you aren't able to set clear limits around using your iPhone, well that's cause to be concerned. But there is so much more to this technology! Following are a couple things I've done with my kiddo using his iPod Touch or my iPhone.
1. Watch movies, TV shows, or play games during long car rides, plane rides, or shopping trips. Any parent knows the power of this. I don't let him get out of control, but long trips can be long and boring and a bored child is much more likely to start getting into trouble. Trust me, this entertains him better than the backpack full of things my mom used to pack for me (BTW- Thanks Mom!).
2. Recording Holiday Traditions- This project was inspired by NPR's National Day of Listening. Each year we spend Christmas with one side of the family, and Thanksgiving with the other. On each holiday we think of a question my son can use to interview the family. He uses my iphone's voice memo feature to record the interviews. Later I merge them all into one track and save it to a playlist on iTunes. This then becomes part of our holiday playlist- listening to family interviews!
3. Keep an audio journal- This past summer we spent the entire summer in Washington DC! My son is only 4, and so he couldn't keep a traditional journal to track the experience. Instead, I had the idea to keep an audio journal. Then I remembered how hard my mom had to get my brothers and I to actually get us to write in our journals (BTW- Thanks Mom!). I thought that giving him an audience might give his journal more of a purpose than- you'll want to remember this some day! So... I set up an extra facebook account (under a pseudonym) for him and friended his grandparents and some of our good friends with kids. Then, I downloaded TweetMic which would let him record an audio post, add a picture, and write a status update! (I tried FaceMic, but it didn't work right. I ended up having to set up a Twitter account and TweetMic would post to that, and then I set up the Twitter account to automatically post to Facebook). It was awesome! All summer long, when he was really excited about where we'd been and what we'd learned he'd post it for his grandparents & friends could listen to it! They always responded which let us keep in touch with our friends and family we missed over the summer. (Please note- this could be done with both the iPhone and the Ipod Touch with an ipod mic)

Technology isn't an end, it's a means to an end! These are my childhood experiences enhanced! Next time you consider the merits of letting a toddler use technology, take a step back... consider the core activity, not the technology.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Simple System #1- Reading Groups

I use the Guided Reading model for my reading groups. It took me several years to get organized. There are many more simple systems I have regarding guided reading, but for today, I’m just focusing on how I organize my plans. Keep an eye out for more to come! Remember, this is just what helped me. I’m not encouraging you to do it my way. I’m hoping that my way will spark your imagination to develop, if you haven’t already, your own way.

I keep all my plans in a crate right next to my reading table. Even though I move kids frequently and rearrange groups quarterly, I always have the same reading groups- red, yellow, and blue. In my crate, I have 3 red folders, 3 blue, and 3 yellow. I put them in order according to the order they come to the table (i.e. if yellow group comes 1st this quarter, I put the yellow folders first.). The first folder for a group is always the seatwork folder. I keep general seatwork that would work for that group in there, as well as seatwork that’s specific to the book we’re reading. In the next folder, I keep their current book, plans, and running record notebook (that’s another entry waiting to be written). The last folder for each group is a folder for assessment records. I also put any plans that I’ve already completed in this folder. In the back of my crate, I keep books that I frequently use and like to keep on hand. Typically they include: seatwork worksheet books that are tied to the current needs of my students, a dictionary, a rhyming dictionary, and my cumulative records for student reading scores.

Do you already have a great system for organizing your lessons? I’d love to hear about it!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Behavior Management

The picture above is of my actual classroom clip system. They start each day on green. If they’re being a model student, they get to move their clip up. Those students are my helpers (aka superstars). Students have to move their clip to the right and down for not-so-model behavior. Each color has a set amount of recess time. I’m not going into too much detail regarding my specific system, because I don’t think that it’s what helps my class run smoothly. Instead it’s the principals behind my behavior management system that make it run smoothly. Having good behavior management skills is just as important as having strong academic knowledge. Without both people will rarely be successful teachers. Following is an attempt to summarize my beliefs.

Build a strong relationship with your students. If your students don’t know you truly care for them, you’re going to struggle all year.

Make their learning experience positive, rigorous, meaningful, relevant, and attainable. Getting students to comply is 100 times easier when they understand the relevance of what you’re teaching to their lives, and believe they can succeed. Be very explicit whenever possible. Sell them on the importance of what you’re teaching. Learning, when optimized, is very gratifying. If they want to be in the activity you’re doing, they’ll be more mindful of their behavior. I know you won’t always be able to have lessons like this, but if you help your students get used to being good learners, it will carry over into the lessons that aren’t as conducive to being positive, rigorous, relevant, and meaningful.

Be consistent and spontaneously inconsistent. In the beginning, show your students that you mean what you say. Let them know that you’re not going to give 10 warnings, and then yell and lecture before you doll out consequences. One you’ve established consistency, then spontaneously be inconsistent. Occasionally, when I don’t feel like checking homework, I’ll tell me kids if they forgot their home work then they just got super lucky because I’m not checking it today. This way they have boundaries, but they also see a fun side of me.

There’s so much more I could say… I really think I could write a book! However, my NUMBER ONE principal with behavior management is to NEVER, I REPEAT, NEVER, take away their hope. In my class they know that they always have the opportunity to earn something back. I forewarn them they earning something back takes more effort than getting it in the first place, but it’s never unattainable. This helps tremendously when getting kids back on track for the day.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Simple Systems

A critical part of teaching is developing your systems. These are simple elements of your day that, if not managed correctly, can ruin your day. They include things like: how students turn in their homework, when pencils get sharpened, how students get from their seat to the door, where you keep your sub plans, how you pick who gets to be a helper… Overlooking these simple systems is like planning a wedding and forgetting to prepare for the marriage.

I’ll periodically share my systems. You’re more than welcome to use them, but that’s not my intention in posting them. My intention is to give you ideas. You’ve got to find what works for you, your students, and your building.

When you do develop a system, don’t just try it for a week. Even if you don’t love it, stick with it for a couple of months. It’s important for you and your kids to be able to develop a sense of routine. When I finally recognized that I needed some systems, it was incredibly difficult for me to stick to them. It often seemed easier just to change and do something else. It took me a long time to just commit. Now that I have systems that work for me, I teach them to my students until they become second nature. My students seem to find comfort in the regularity of my classroom.

I know what you’re thinking… what about the spontaneous teachable moments. Don’t worry about those until after you’ve got the basics down. Once your kids are strongly grounded with their behavior and classroom systems, then you can occasionally have wonderfully adventuresome moments. Until then, teachable moments are often avoidance in disguise.