By DE'ANNA GREEN
I just entered my 3rd year of teaching kindergarten. I have such a wide range of energetic students in my class. When I first looked at the skill levels of my students, I thought “what could I do to differentiate my lessons and make learning fun.” Then it hit me, TECHNOLOGY!
In college, there was not a big focus on using technology in the classroom. However, when I started student teaching, in a first-grade classroom, it was incorporated in the students daily learning. The students were using the computers to practice and enhance their phonics skills as well as strengthen their math abilities.
I reflected on my student teaching and what I am currently learning in my graduate program. I started to ask myself a few questions. How can I make my classroom more student centered? How could I influence deeper learning into the classroom?
Then I thought to myself, "What do my students talk about a lot?" iPads and playing games! I begin to research games and websites that I could use to engage my students. Through my research, I found a lot of interactive websites to help engage my students.
I use EBooks in the classroom so that students can hear and read along with stories. I use a few different platforms, TumbleBooks, Epic, Storyline Online, and Vooks. My school district has a subscription to TumbleBooks. The other 3 are FREE! I like EBooks because it teaches the students basic print concepts. It also helps with lower readers, it helps them to still be able to enjoy reading. TumbleBooks and Storyline Online even have comprehension questions and other activities to go along with the stories. They even align some of their stories and activities to the Common Core Standards.
The other issue that I was having was differentiating the instructions and making learning accessible for all students.
I was able to achieve differentiating my lessons by using some apps on the iPad to make learning more accessible to some of my students. One student in particular has some fine motor problems and does not use a pencil, yet. So, what I did to make sure he was still participating in learning was differentiate his work using some apps on the iPad. The best thing about the apps is that they are still engaging!
Number and Letter Writing
One of our big focuses for math was to practice identifying and writing numbers. Knowing that this was not appropriate for one of my students, I started doing some research. 123 Numbers is an app that I use to help him learn his numbers. I was also able to find one to help with letter identification and writing, Trace Letters. What I really like about the Trace Letters app is that while using the app, students can hear a song that teaches the letter sounds. I found that my students who use this app sing the song a lot, and it is very helpful! These 2 apps are FREE!
Osmo is an interactive app on the iPad. It comes with an attachment that is added to the iPad as well as tangible pieces for the students to manipulate. The games talk to the students and gives them a great tutorial in the beginning. It also works with them throughout the game if they get stuck. When making the kids a profile, Osmo asks for their age, this will help determine what level to place the student. If you find the level too easy or too hard, you can adjust it. I like this feature because some of my students have the basic skills so I can add rigor and challenge them a little more. There are a few different games that Osmo offer, but I use the words and numbers mode. The words verse focuses on beginning, medial, and ending sounds. Numbers focuses on counting on, adding, and even multiplication for the older kids. Students have the options to work together as a team, or play against each other.
Teach Your Monster to Read
I stumbled across Teacher Your Monster to Read during my student teaching. It is an online game that focuses on phonics skills and it's FREE! There are 3 levels to this game that covers about 2 years of reading skills. It is primarily for pre-k and kindergarten students. The first level focuses on letter sounds, blending and segmenting cvc words, and a few non-decodable words. Level 2 focal point is digraphs and blends, blending and segmenting, sight words, and simple reading comprehension. Level 3 focuses on more complex letter combinations and phonic schemes, as well as more in depth comprehension. With these 3 levels, there is something for all of my students to do and learn.
My students love that they can play a game and still learn. They get to move at their own pace and enhance their knowledge and acquire new learning. I can see the new knowledge transferring over to their writing and reading skills. My students benefit from this because our phonics program move fairly fast. Teacher Your Monster to Read also expose my students to skills I may not get a chance to cover before the end of the year.
Technology integration has really shifted my classroom. My students are more engaged and learn more.
De’Anna Green is a kindergarten teacher in Howard County Public Schools. Follow her on Twitter at @msdeannagreen or Instagram at @msdeannagreen.