Welcome to my blog! I'm Karen Belt, a teacher and leader of digital learning, working at Lynmore Primary School in Rotorua, New Zealand. I'm teaching in a Year 2 class using iPads to engage and motivate learners and improve student achievement. This blog documents my teaching journey and my learning processes with iPads in the classroom. I've proud of having been a member of the inaugural Manaiakalani Digital Teaching Academy(MDTA) program and last year a Spark Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher (MIT) and Manaiakalani Google Class OnAir teacher.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A week is a long time in a 5 year old's learning journey

Today I realised that a week can be a long time - and not in a bad way!  Last week I blogged about using Explain Everything to help my learners with identifying the numbers 1 - 9.  I created a bingo card as a way to assist with this learning while also scaffolding the introduction of the stylus which will be an essential tool as the year progresses.

We've played the EE Bingo five times now, every day as a whole class during the early stages of the maths lesson.  Today, as part of the MDTA (Manaiakalani Digital Teacher Academy) my lesson was observed by our lecturer and she also noticed the engagement all the learners had and how motivated they were to find the numbers on their card.  Unpacking the lesson afterwards, I realised how much progress has been made in just a week - last week most of my learners were unable to identify numbers, despite being able to count to 10 in most cases.  Yet today, they were helping each other and having fun "beating Mrs Belt" to finding the number first - and in most cases they were getting them right!

This was further reinforced when we moved onto ordering the numbers 1 - 10 in a small group - many of them flew through this activity with 100% accuracy!   I now need to put my thinking cap on and find more ways to reinforce this learning and move onto the next step!  Earlier tonight I needed to give a presentation (watch this space, I will post it soon) about how I plan to extend my learners using Explain Everything - one of my messages was to constantly find different ways for learners to repeat activities so that they continue to find them engaging - this is one of those scenarios!

Friday, 20 February 2015

Introducing the stylus

As I discovered last year, the stylus is an important part of using the iPad, as the learners are able to get more precision and it definitely helps with writing on the iPad.  Again, all styluses are labelled with learners name and a corresponding label on the stylus holder.  I carefully scaffolded the importance of looking after the stylus with the learners and we had a whole class session today using it for the first time.

One of our achievement objectives in maths is numeral identification, as learners are able to count to 10 but not identify each number by sight.  I created a Bingo board using Explain Everything and learners used their stylus to cross off the numbers as they were called out.  We will continue to use this as a warm up over the coming days to reinforce number identification.

Later in the day we again used the stylus to help us with writing our name.  Using a name card prompt, learners opened a blank Explain Everything project and used their stylus to write their name.  This activity gave the learners an opportunity to again use the stylus, which reinforced the messages from earlier in the day.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The power of Explain Everything

Its hard to believe this is the third week of school and my New Entrants class has doubled from the 5 learners that started on the first day to 10 learners.  Over the past two weeks I've scaffolded the use of the iPads with all the learners and we've focused on taking photos to celebrate our learning and the 'kawa of care' that Pt England embraces around the use of digital devices.  

As with last year, Explain Everything will be the app of choice and this year I am wanting the Explain Everything activities to extend beyond a cut up sentence or practicing of high frequency words.  I would like purposeful activities and tasks which are rewindable and recordable, and encourage higher order thinking, which in turn will help with engagement.  Having said that, my learners are only five years old and I understand the need for careful scaffolding to ensure they understand the activities and how to use Explain Everything correctly to get the maximum learning benefits.

Earlier this week I used Explain Everything for the first time during our reading lessons with the learners who had been at school since the beginning of the year.  The activity follows on from the guided reading session, and each group was carefully scaffolded at teaching table.  We completed the activity first as a group and then once independently at the teaching table, before they took their iPads and books to another table and did the activity for a third time independently.  It was amazing to see the engagement and willingness to complete the activity again and again.  Even learners who are harder to behaviourally engage in the classroom were motivated and completed the project with minimal assistance from their teacher aide.

An example of an Explain Everything project from this week.
Learners use their book to help them put the sentence together.

What the completed project looks like.  Learners then record and read the
sentence so I can hear how they are doing away from the teaching table.
Additionally, one of the great things about Explain Everything, is it links to the learners individual Google Drive and using Hapara Teacher Dashboard I'm able to review their work later in the day and see how they went about completing the activity.

A screenshot of my Teacher Dashboard from last year.
This post appears as my contribution to the Auckland University's Top of the Class blog this week.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

iPads at every turn!

In just the third week of the new year I find myself naturally using the iPads to extend and develop activities and to incorporate that rewindable learning element.  Today we used them in a variety of difficult ways to meet the needs of different individual learners:

Follow-up reading activity - after careful scaffolding at the teaching table, one reading group completed the activity independently including a sentence they needed to put back together and three high frequency words which they had to listen to and copy (project created using Explain Everything).

Learning to write their name - again a scaffolded small group session where learners used a blank Explain Everything page and a name card which I created for each learner this year.  We practised copying their name from the card onto the screen.  While we have been working on copying "under" my writing with their name, this was the first try copying their name from the card onto the iPad screen - some great first up efforts!

Ordering and identifying numbers to 10 - one of the things the majority of my learners need to work on is numbers to 10.  While they are able to count to 10, they can't read the numerals.  I've created a project for them to order the numbers, with dots under each number representing how many that number is (eg seven dots under the number 7).  Today we used this at the teaching table with great success.  This video highlights how a learner was able to order all the numbers by checking using the dots under each number.  He is confident in his counting to 10 and uses this skill to help him identify the numbers.  

NB:  For those new to my blog, I don't insist on no noise in my classroom when learners are 
recording and there will always be ambient classroom chatter or the voices of others on the 
examples I use - I'm used to just focusing on the voice of the learner in any one recording.

Finally, to complete the day we focused on our inquiry topic for the term - the Pt England Way!  We talked about listening in class and used our iPad to take a photo to demonstrate this key skill.  It was great to see the creativeness of the learners in demonstrating this point!

Monday, 16 February 2015

2015 Inquiry ... the journey begins!

As part of our Professional Development at Pt England this year we are all undertaking a professional inquiry into an area of particular interest.  We are grouped with others that have a similar interest/project and meet 3 - 4 times a term to discuss ideas and report on our progress.  My inquiry title is:

"Developing independent higher order thinking activities for Year 1s, to support reading"

I will be documenting my PES inquiry journey on my blog using the "Inquiry2015" label so that posts relating to it are easy to locate.  Today is the first meeting with my Inquiry group and we have been asked to consider and report on the following questions:

What are my students doing now?
My learners started school with very little alphabet knowledge and many do not know the difference between a letter and a word.  We have begun our reading project with all learners either on Magenta 1 or 2 in the classroom.  During our reading rotations we currently have jigsaw puzzles, blocks or drawing as a rotation activity away from the teaching table.  Some of my learners have yet to start school.

What am I doing now?
I have implemented a reading rotation and grouped my learners into reading groups (maximum of three learners per group) for guided reading sessions each day.  Today we begun using Explain Everything as a follow up activity (after scaffolding at the teaching table) with the learners manipulating words to form a sentence to match their reading book.  This encourages them to notice and recognise.

What am I wanting to change?
I am wanting the Explain Everything activities to extend beyond a cut up sentence or practicing of high frequency words.  I would like purposeful activities and tasks which are rewindable and recordable, and encourage higher order thinking, which in turn will help with engagement.

What am I going to try that I think will impact my students’ learning?
The tasks and activities will need to be highly scaffolded to begin with for my learners and I expect one activity to be used for at least half a term, possibly a whole term so learners can really get to grips with it.  I'd like to encourage the activation of prior knowledge and create links between texts. Initially these activities will need to be heavily pictorial and oral while learners are getting to grips with reading and writing. The recording function within Explain Everything allows the capture of learners thoughts and ideas without them needing to write it down and I intend to focus on this heavily in the first term.

I look forward to hearing the ideas of others this afternoon and beginning this inquiry journey which allows me to investigate and unpack an area I'm extremely passionate about.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Explain Everything ... powerful learning again!

During this week I introduced Explain Everything to my learners during our maths lessons.  First we started with inserting a photo - learners had already had plenty of opportunities to practice this over the first two weeks of school, so were easily scaffolded into taking a photo and resizing it into the Explain Everything screen.  We moved onto multiple photos in the same project by creating a new slide.

A learners photo, resized on the Explain Everything screen

Similar to last year, my learners are not able to recognise the numbers 1 - 10, despite many being able to count to 10!  We therefore need to spend significant time on recognising these numbers and I introduced the number ordering to 10 project with a small group.  We completed it several times as a whole group before I had them work on it individually, while still at the teaching table.

Towards the end of the lesson I introduced the recording feature so I could capture how the learners were doing.  Again, this was highly scaffolded and they are definitely not ready to do this independently yet, but it is great to have my first recorded work example from a learner!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Top of the Class ...... again ;)

Once again I'm privileged to be blogging on the University of Auckland's Top of the Class blog.  My first post for 2015 has gone live today, and I'm scheduled to post about once a fortnight.

Similar to this blog, I like to share about my experiences using the iPads as a tool with my lovely class of five year olds.  My posts are available to view here.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Exploring the school .... with iPads

I have more confidence this year with the iPads than I think I had last year.   I'm sure this is because I made many mistakes (learning opportunities) last year and really understand the importance of routines and expectations this year.

On Friday we had our first outdoors photo session, after several inside, and I was totally impressed at the care and attention that the learners paid to both their iPads and the task at hand.  Having the safety video to use as a reference point (and the terminology - hug hold) really helped and I didn't have to remind anyone of how to care for their device during the 45 minute session.

Rather than sticking to "colours" for the learners to find and photograph, I gave them more scope to explore and think about something unusual they could use by including:

  • A tree (very specific to start with)
  • Something blue (again, pretty specific but with a little more scope for creativity)
  • Something that is moving 
  • Something that makes a noise
I was really impressed with the differences in photos that were produced and these gave us talking points for back at the classroom.  For example, photos taken of the cows in the adjoining paddock gave me an opportunity to focus on how to take a photo through the fence without seeing the fence in the photo.  Photos with fingers or other people on the side, gave me an opportunity to discuss how we can avoid this and ensure that what we want to see is in our photo.  This will all help in class when we use photographs to document, create and share our learning.

Photo by Whare (Something moving)

Photo by Hendrix (Something Blue)

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Introducing the iPads ... sharing our learning via photographs

On Day 2 with my five year olds, I introduced the iPads as a tool to assist with their learning.  Having seen last year the importance of routines and careful scaffolding we started by watching the iPad safety video we created last year - a "how to" guide for using the iPads and carrying them around the school and classroom.

As with last year, we started with just the camera this year and learnt how to take a photo - it may seem "easy" but there are important learning milestones:
  • Which icon is the camera
  • How do we hold the device to safely take a photo
  • How to take just ONE photo
  • How to make sure what you want to photograph is actually in the picture
  • How to make sure the image is crisp and not blurry
After a session yesterday photographing our friends and some plastic bugs, today during maths we were able to use the iPads to create an image to share our learning about numbers.

Using a tens frame,  our class teddy bears and a number fan, learners were encouraged to show their understanding of a number.  I carefully modelled the learning a few times and we had some tries before we got the iPads out to document it.

Here, Whare is taking a photo to represent the number 5.  He has carefully counted out 5 bears and placed them on his tens frame.  He has then found the number 5 on his number fan and placed it in a way so that he is able to photograph both the teddy bears and the number.  

Photo by Whare

Its important to note that this is the first time we did this activity, and while some photos were exactly as instructed, other learners had difficulty ensuring the photo looked exactly as they wanted it to.  These photos by another learner were not as successful - in the first photo, one of the bears is not really able to be seen, and in the second, the number fan was up the wrong way and the number displayed in the photo was of a 0 (rather than the 2 which is on the other end of the fan). 

Using the Apple TV we were able to look at a selection of photos and talk about how we can improve when we attempt the same activity tomorrow.  Importantly, through revisiting, the learners were able to see the differences and I expect this to be reflected in their photographs tomorrow - after all, this is only Day 3 and they are all very new to school.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Day 1 ...

I remember when I started "planning" for Day 1 in January having a "what did I do last year" moment?   I was lucky enough to have a mentor teacher and we discussed and talked about what we did last year, and I used this as the basis for this years plan.  Thanks to my blog, this won't be a problem for the future as I unpack what worked well today and what needed tweaking to be achievable for my learners!

Room 19 started with three learners today and I had an amazing day.  We started with a few tears with one child a little upset to farewell Mum on his first day at school, but he soon settled into the class and all three boys happily talked with me throughout the day.  Having only three learners I was able to spend time with them all as we completed our activities for the day.

  • Alphabet and alphabet activities - we went over the whole alphabet today and then specifically focused on the first letter of each learners name with some colouring.  I was careful to model the colouring, although despite discussing what colour trees were we still ended up with a blue one!  The learners took much longer on the colouring than I had anticipated.  As they were finished we turned their pages over and I wrote their name on the back and encouraged them to copy over (or under) my writing - this gave me an idea of where they were at.
  • Reading - I hadn't planned to do reading today but with only three learners it gave me an opportunity to group them together and introduce reading on day 1.  All the learners were really keen to take their books home and read to their whanau.  I was able to use my reading planning from Tuesday today and shows the importance of being planned for any eventuality.
  • Reading Activities - we unpacked two of our reading rotation activities today - jigsaws and blocks - this gave me an opportunity to have conversations with each learner and learn something of their backgrounds.
  • Maths - after morning tea we moved onto some maths activities, working on counting to 5 and then 10.  Again, an opportunity to assess where each learner is at before the more formal JAM testing shortly.  Having a workbook with numbers 1 - 10 to start working on was extremely advantageous.
  • After lunch we were all pretty tired - we made some creations using the polydron and had a story before it was time to pack up and get ready for going home.  We also took our very first class photo!

Taking time to explore the school, include frequent water and toilet stops and explaining and reinforcing routines helped the day speed by.  These things will all continue to occur as our class grows over the coming weeks.  The learners are intrigued by the computers in the room and I look forward to unpacking the iPads with them over the coming days in a carefully scaffolded way.  

As I reflect on today, having name tags for learners to hang their bags on already prepared was a huge hit with both learners and their whanau.   Being prepared for the whole week and ready to launch into learning benefited everyone and allows for the best possible start for everyone.  Maths booklets, colouring activities and a selection of books to read to the learners all helped to make my day flow and ensured I had additional activities to integrate with the curriculum learning - bring on Day 2!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Nearly Day 1: 2015

Tonight is the eve of the start of my second year of teaching and the first year with my own class!  I'm hugely excited about meeting my learners tomorrow and introducing them to school at Pt England!

I've been working behind the scenes preparing my Class Blog and Site for 2015 and these are now live!  Part of the great thing about being a Google School is most of the work can be completed from home so I could also enjoy some family time!  I wanted to personalise both my blog and site appropriately for my five year old learners and their families.  I admit to spending ages deliberating around what to call my blog for 2015.  In the end, the majority of my class are starting school for the first time, so they are effectively launching their learning journey - hence Launchpad i-19, (the i to signify the iPads we use for learning and Room 19 is our class number!)

Already its been a busy start to 2015 as I attended Summer School at Auckland University and have now submitted two assignments for this paper.  We also had Professional Development for all junior teachers as the school launches the 1:1 iPad program in the junior school.  It's been immensely satisfying to be involved in the whole process and assist in preparing the devices for the learners.  I hope to take the time to document the Apple Configurator/Meraki process over the coming weeks so others can learn from our experiences.

For now, as I finish off the last few things before the official first day of 2015, I can't wait!  I'm ready to launch into teaching for 2015 ... follow my journey!