A new calendar beginning is always a good time for me to take stock of what I did in the first half of the academic year and to set new “goals/aspirations/resolutions” for amping up learning in the second half of the year. Being a 1-1 iPad classroom I often feel that I need to step-back and rationalize what I am doing with technology to make sure I am not using tech just for the sake of it. The use of tech in my classroom needs to add value to a student’s learning, otherwise we are all just pretending to learn while keeping busy with really expensive toys. So as I take stock, here are the five most used apps in my classroom and how they are used.

  1. Mathletics: used daily as part of math rotations. The Mathletics site divides activities into mathematical strands, for example geometry, operations and algebraic thinking etc. I assign two activities that re-inforce the previous days lesson before the app “unlocks” for students to play LiveMathletics which they love and is a great way for them to practice their math facts (basically a techy version of the Math Minute). For example, if Monday the lesson objective was double-digit addition with regrouping then Tuesday’s two Mathletics assignments would be linked to that objective. One of the advantages of using Mathletics is that it collects performance data so I can go back into the system through the website and “see” how students are doing with that particular concept – a quick and easy formative assessment that takes minimal time and effort on my part – meaning time better spent on planning, enrichment, and interventions.2016-01-19 09.52.42
  2. Spelling City: my answer to learning how to spell without having to cut down trees, and or spend hours figuring out which copies to make of which word sort – not to mention trying to figure out who all the loose words on the classroom floor belong to. I start by giving the class a spelling inventory, this gives me sufficient data to pick a starting word-sort group for each student. Each student is then tasked with a series of 4 consecutive assignments (meaning if my starting word sort is Letter-Name 10, then the assigned assignments would be LN 10, LN 11, LN 12, LN 13). Each assignment in turn is comprised of the following activities: the pre-test, initial sound, final sound, word/sentence matching, post-test). The students know that they have from Monday to Friday to complete one assignment (so one word-sort a week) but within that week they also know to use the word-sort they are currently on to practice their words. During the weekend I then go into the system and print their final spelling test. The students love having their results printed (which they then take home to share with parents) and it also allows them to see which word they still did not master for them to include in their personal digital dictionary (see WordWord app below).2016-01-19 09.48.00
  3. WordWord: at a loss for how to differentiate words for students and frustrated with having various notebooks that are never where they need to be when students need them? Then WordWord app is the solution you are looking for. The premise is ridiculously simple, a + sign that allows a student to enter a word and then displays entered words alphabetically. My students use this app to enter the words they spelled incorrectly from their SpellingCity test, they enter their “Mr. Alex how do I spell XYZ” so I don’t have to repeat myself a million times, and they use it during their reading time when they find “juicy words” that they might want to try and use in their writing. Put it all together and it becomes a very personalized digital dictionary that is easy to use and edit.2016-01-18 14.09.18
  4. Accelerated Reader: is the digital equivalent of a reading comprehension formative assessment. During reading the students always have their iPads in their book boxes, so they can add to their WordWord dictionary (as mentioned previously) but an added bonus of going 1-1 is that students can take their AR tests as soon as they are done reading the book. The app links to the AR program and is useful for students and teachers alike to track their progress.2016-01-18 12.37.00
  5. Google Chrome: the app equivalent of the Swiss Army knife – it knows everything – especially how to spell. If you don’t know how to spell a word it can be tedious and time consuming. With the dictation feature students now ask “how do you spell XYZ” and Chrome obliges. No more asking Mr. Alex. Want to include a cool fact in your writing such as when the pyramids were built? Ask Chrome. Not to self, Chrome is a great reminder of why it is important to focus our learning on teaching students how to be critical thinkers, knowing which questions to ask and understanding how to evaluate the responses that come back.2016-01-19 09.48.32

These apps all add value to my classroom by replacing me (teacher) with a tech tool that is able to provide more immediate feedback when the students need it (as in right away), or more simply as a way to sort, document, and extend their learning.  Next week, iPad apps for classroom creativity.