Responding to Literature Through Drawing

Dark at the Top of the StairsAs a way to demonstrate to teachers how students could use drawing on the iPad to respond to literature, I decided to read The Dark at the Top of the Stairs by Sam Bratney. It’s a fun book about three little mice who want to see what is really at the top of the cellar stairs. And, it’s the perfect book for making predictions!

I introduced the Drawing Pad app ($1.99) to the first graders and let them explore the tools for awhile, drawing anything they chose. We learned how to save to the camera roll too.

Next, I gathered everyone and discussed the title of the book. “What might it be about? What clues do you get from the title?” I told the students that they would be making a prediction when I reached a stopping point in the book. While we read, they were encouraged to draw one or more of the characters. At the point where the mice just reached the top of the stairs, I stopped and asked the children to predict and draw what might be behind the closed door. They worked furiously to create their predictions! Every once in awhile I’d ask if they were ready to find out what the author chose as the “dark at the top of the stairs.” I’d immediately hear a chorus of “No, not yet!!”

Eventually, everyone finished their wonderfully detailed illustrations. We read the rest of the story and discussed their predictions. The students were eager to show off their drawings so we took lots of group photos!

For this activity, the purpose was for students and teachers to become familiar with the app and share an example of how to use it with literature. Next time, we’ll pull the drawing into other apps such as Book Creator or Draw and Tell. Then students can record their voice telling about their prediction.


Going on a Dot Hunt!

Mrs. Crumley’s first graders celebrated International Dot Day by going on a dot hunt around campus. Before leaving the room, we discussed how they could find “dots” everywhere. The first reply to that was, “Are they paper? Can we collect them?” Of course, that led to a discussion of what might be shaped like a dot. We looked around the room and the children started naming things shaped like circles and spheres – clocks, the letter “O” and so much more!

Then off we went with instructions to let a teacher know when a “dot” was found and we’d photograph them with their discovery. Here’s a peek at what they observed . (Note that many children found the same item, but just try telling a first grader that we already have a picture of that!☺)

Dot Day Twins

Dot Day Twins

The Marshmallow Challenge

During the first week in the Digital Learning Lab, the 4th graders combined technology and a “maker” challenge to build a structure that would support a large marshmallow. Their only materials used were as follows:

  • 1 yard of string
  • 1 yard of masking tape
  • 20 sticks of spaghetti

The children could use the above materials in any combination they wished. The goal was to build the tallest, free-standing structure that they could create to support the marshmallow.

The technology part included a photographer in each group who used a stop motion app to record the process and then create a short video. Those are added to the end of the animoto video. Not all groups submitted a video – some of the photographers were so involved in the building process that they forgot to snap photos! (Apps used: myCreate or KomaKoma)

The students weren’t completely “successful” in having a free-standing structure (we had a few that needed a steady hand to stay upright!) but, listening to the thinking processes that were going on was absolutely amazing! It was definitely a success in team-building and thinking/designing!

To listen to a fascinating TED talk about the dynamics of teams working on the marshmallow challenge, click here.

Summer Technology Challenge

TVS teachers – this is just for you!

This is a summer where you can’t go up to school so, here is a challenge for you should you decide to work from home. Have some fun exploring new technologies or spend time learning even more about ones you already know. Below are ideas to help you get started.

kidblogKidblog (free app although we have the upgraded subscription) – Use our TVS Lower School blog to start posting and/or commenting on others’ posts. You are able to use Kidblog from a computer as well as an iPad. On an iPad, you’ll need to set up the class. Open the app and tap on settings. Choose Add a Class then Login to Kidblog. The Class URL is TVSLowerSchool. Once you’ve typed that, your username will show up at the bottom of the screen. Click Kidblog setup on app for directions.

This would be a great place to post what you are learning about this summer, vacations, favorite books, or anything else you would like to share! If you create anything with apps, post that to your blog! Remember, if you can save to photos, you can post it on a blog! Click What can be posted? for samples.

book creatorBook Creator ($4.99) – In addition to saving as ePub books (to read in iBooks), did you know that Book Creator now allows exporting content as videos? This is great for sharing with families who don’t have iOS devices.

Create a book about you to share with your new students. Export as a video and upload to Vimeo. (Email me if you need the log in information.) Or, create an ePub book about a topic you want your students to learn. Make the book interactive by adding hyperlinks (Hint: This is accomplished in the Add Text section. Tap and select word then choose link.)

To learn more about Book Creator’s features, click here. Follow Book Creator on Pinterest for lots of ideas!

coding appsCoding Apps – I grouped these together because they are all excellent for computational thinking. Programming teaches children to problem-solve and think creatively. For more background on the reasons to learn to program, read this article, It’s Time for Every Students to Learn to code.

  • Kodable (app and web-based; free; paid school version allows deeper exploration) – coding curriculum for elementary ages
  • Lightbot and Lightbot Jr  (average cost per app $2.99; Jr for ages 4-8; Lightbot for ages 9+) Teaches programming logic through puzzles.
  • Scratch Jr (free) ages 5-7 – drag and drop coding blocks where students can program interactive stories and games

draw and tellDraw and Tell HD ($1.99) – So much more than a drawing app, Draw & Tell allows children to illustrate something, record their voice telling about it (orally share their thinking), and then share with others. Our students typically share to their blog. The app was created for ages 5 and younger but first and second graders would enjoy the app and find it very easy to use.

How would you incorporate the Draw & Tell app? What topics could students share? Would this be something you could use for students to show their understanding of a concept?

EEExplain Everything ($2.99) – This my favorite screen casting app for ages 8+! Yes, it has a learning curve but it is extremely powerful and there is SO much you can do with it. The app developer’s web site has excellent video tutorials for you to view.

Play around with the various tools in the app. Practice recording and drawing at the same time. Since Explain Everything isn’t as intuitive as other screen casting apps, students will need some practice but I’ll be glad to help with that.

Click here to see how Mrs. Wideen uses EE in her class. How could you use this with your children?

Adobe VoiceAdobe Voice (free) – “Show Your Story” is how this app is described. The user adds photos and narration and produces a short video that can be shared. To use with children under age 13, the teacher must create either a class account or individual accounts (By law, students under age 13 can not create their own account).

This is a quick and easy way for students to “tell” their story, save to photos, and share to their blog. Create your own story and post it this summer!

Adobe slateAdobe Slate (free) – Create a story with a magazine-type layout. Add images and text. You’ll need a class account (see Adobe Voice). This app doesn’t have recording but it can be a great writing activity.

mycreate appMy Create ($4.99) – Students capture a series of photos then create a stop-motion video. Audio can also be recorded.

Think about all that you can do with this! I’ve used it for Lego building but what about keeping track of a plant’s growth? Or, chick eggs waiting to hatch? Or, take photos of trees as they go from bare to covered with full-sized leaves.poppletPopplet (lite is free; full version $4.99) – A visual mindmap for students, Popplet is easy to use. Students can add images and facts to help organize information. Work in groups and have each member add their own facts. Export as JPEG and upload to the blog. Try the free version and let me know if you would use this in your classroom.

App Smashing - combining two or more apps to create a product. Read Unleashing Creativity: Greg Kulowiec App Smashing for a wealth of information. Since he coined the phrase, he truly is the guru of this!

Try your hand at app smashing.

  • Make videos using Adobe Voice and My Create. Save to photos. Join these together in iMovie and upload to the blog. If it’s too large, upload to Vimeo (refer to my email for log in info) and either provide the link on your blog or embed the video. (Note: When embedding a video on the blog, I always find it easier to work on a desktop to that I can choose the HTML option from the New Post window. Then I just paste the embed code.)
  • Make a book in Book Creator. Export as a video. Create a screen cast using either Draw & Tell or Explain Everything related to the book. Pull all together in iMovie. You can even make an introduction in one of the screen casting apps. In iMovie, just split the Book Creator clip, delete the cover that you had previously made in that app, and insert the new introduction.
  • Create a written story in Adobe Slate. Bring that into Adobe Voice to provide narration.
  • Make a collage with the Pic Collage app (Did you know that there is a new Pic Collage Kids?) and import that into Adobe Voice for adding narration.

More Resources:

Something to Think About:

At some point you’ll need to upload student work to a cloud storage space. Check out Google Drive – 15 GB free storage. Create folders for work that is uploaded. Make the file free, get a link, share with parents.

Web-Based Programs to Explore:

  • Unite For Literacy – free storybooks for primary grades
  • Wonderopolis – view a “Wonder of the Day” each day; students can research within the web site

I gave you lots of information with enough details to make your head spin! The best way to learn is just jump in and explore. Use your experiences over the summer to create anything you want. It doesn’t have to relate to school! I’m eager to see your creations!


Have fun!!

Movin’ On to Middle School

As our fourth graders inched toward the end of their Lower School years. I asked them to reflect on two items:

  1. Think back over the many activities you’ve participated in over your years in Lower School. Whether you’ve been here since kindergarten or joined the TVS family later, what has meant the most to you?
  2. Take a look into the future. At this point in time, what do you think you’ll want to do when you graduate from college?

The end product would be an ePub book created in the Book Creator app. In addition, this would be saved as a video. I really like that Book Creator offers this option – extremely helpful to have another format available for families who don’t have iOS devices.

The students would be illustrating both items using Microsoft’s Paint program. There was much discussion as memories of past years flooded back – the Teddy Bear Picnic in Kindergarten, the plays performed in every grade, field trips, worm farms, learning coding, and so much more! And then, the hard decision of what to draw. After all, the Paint canvas is only so big! For some, there really was one event or activity that stood out as a favorite. For others, there were quite a few choices so they drew something for each grade.

Moving on to the “future” picture, we discussed how most people change their minds several times before deciding on a major in college. But, there are those who know exactly what they want to do in life at an early age. Which would they be? I challenged the students to look back at this project when they graduate from high school and see if what they are planning on studying in college is similar to what they illustrated while in fourth grade!

The next step was to write a script. I have to say that this wasn’t a favorite part of the project and there were some that rushed through this step. However, having a script to follow when recording certainly avoids stumbling over what to say!

Each child set up two books in the Book Creator app. They downloaded their illustrations (I’d uploaded them to my Picasa Web Albums site) and added them to their page. Of course, personalizing the page was extremely important – from page color to font style. When recording was completed, the individual books were emailed to me so that I could pull them together into class books.

Cover of Favorite Activity book

Cover of a Favorite Activity book

Cover of Future book

Cover of a Future book

Here are the links to the ePub books:
(Be sure that you tap on the links while on an iOS device that has the iBooks app installed. Choose Download > Open in iBooks)

The next step was to export the books as videos (done straight from Book Creator). This can be a final step before uploading to Vimeo of YouTube because you really don’t have to do anything else to the video. However, I like to do some editing (especially adjusting sound levels) using the iMovie app. I also added a different introduction to the movies.

Below is a visual of the apps used to create the video version of the ePub books.


App notes: For using the Path On app ($1.99),  I wanted a blank page for drawing the writing path for one of the books so I used Explain Everything ($2.99), chose a template, then exported image as “Photo to Camera Roll.”  Book Creator ($4.99) has a free version but you can only make one book. The paid version is well worth the money!

Since there are 2 videos per class, I won’t embed all of them in this post. You can click here to see them. Below is one of the videos.

Mrs. Malone’s Class: Future Plans from Trinity Valley School on Vimeo.

This is a fun project that does take a while to get everyone finished with drawing and recording but listening to the students talk about their life in Lower School and their plans for the future is worth every minute!

A “Peeps” Look at Texas History

Marshmallow Peeps (image from Peeps website)

Have you ever wondered what happens to all those boxes of Peeps bunnies after Easter? In Mrs. Malone’s 4th grade Social Studies classes, they became a part of Texas history!

The students were asked to use the Peeps to create dioramas that would illustrate a part of Texas history, symbols/cities of our state, famous people, etc. Mrs. Malone asked me how we could use technology to share the information with others. I suggested Book Creator because this app has the ability to save the project as an ePub book OR as a video.

The 4th graders worked in groups of 3 or 4 to research their topic and then the diorama building began! Blue, yellow, purple, white, pink, orange marshmallow bunnies quickly became soldiers at the Alamo, students, cowboys, and SO MUCH more! Of course you can’t build with Peeps unless you are allowed to nibble, so each child had their very own for that purpose. The next step was using the iPad to take a photo of the finished diorama. The image was brought into the Book Creator app and the group recorded what they had learned. Then, each group emailed their book to me so that all could be merged into one book containing all the topics.

Below is the video version of the book.

Here is a link to the ePub version. (Remember to tap on the link while on an iOS device having the iBooks app installed. Choose Download > Open in iBooks)

A “Peep” at Texas History

What a fun way to learn and share some history of our state!

A Squiggle or Two – Part 2

After presenting our 4th graders with a squiggle and seeing the amazing creations they illustrated (See What Can You Do With a Squiggle or Two), I decided to present the same opportunity to the 2nd graders. However, this time I gave them a choice of three squiggles.

Here is what they started with . . .

CreateCreate 2Create 3Some children chose to draw more than one picture. Enjoy their creations!

Mrs. Zabriskie’s Class

Mrs. Shapard’s Class

Mrs. Garcia’s Class

Next step . . . upload to their blogs and tell about their drawings. This was lots of fun and we’ll definitely be doing it again!

First Grade Caricature Collages

Toward the end of each year, I hand out mirrors, have the students open Microsoft’s Paint program, and ask the first graders to draw a self-portrait. No, they aren’t let go to do all this on their own (Have you ever tried drawing with just a mouse??) – they are guided through each feature. It does take a while to complete this. This year it was three 40-minute sessions. But, it is most definitely worth it. The students really take their time and it’s very obvious that this is important to them as well as fun.

I am absolutely amazed at what these students create! And the most impressive aspect to me is how much these self-portrait caricatures look just like the young artist!

Here are the collages for the Class of 2026.

2014-15 Hutchinson Collage version 2

2014-15 Kee Collage version 2

2014-15 Orehek Collage version 2

My, How They Change!

Once again we are nearing the time to send our fabulous fourth graders on to middle school. We know it’s time – they are ready, but it’s always sad to see them go. You see, we don’t have much turnover in our private school. Many of these students have been here since kindergarten so we get to know them well. And, it’s hard to let them go. The good thing is that we’ll still get to see them; perhaps not on a daily basis but we’re a tight-knit K-12 school so we really do get to watch them grow!

A few years ago, I started having the students draw a self-portrait using MS Paint. This became their avatar for various on-line applications – blogs, VoiceThread, etc. All second, third, and fourth graders did this. Then, one spring, I decided to try the self-portraits with first grade and make a collage.

This fourth grade class is the first group that has a self-portrait for each year as a “grader.” As a surprise for the students, I used Photoscape to create a collage of their drawings. Whether the children have been here for four years or one, each will receive a printed picture of their self-portraits. I have to admit that it did take me a while to pull this together – not because it was difficult! I just had so much fun looking at their illustrations, remembering when they created them, and observing how they had changed over time!

Here are some samples of their work over time. (Top row: 1st grade on left; 2nd on right. Bottom row: 3rd on left; 4th on right.)

Bart collageMegan collageAva D collageI hope these collages will provide special memories for the students and their families as they have done for me!