Category Archives: iPads

Google Slides for Collaborative Literature Circles

unnamedScreen Shot 2016-07-15 at 11.02.30 AMMy students are participating in Literature Circles this term. This has been introduced in response to a need – it is a way for students to analyse and discuss texts with the support of others, and to encourage accountability for deep comprehension and critical thinking about literature.

The focus is not on the book, but on the reader’s response to the book, and the strategies being developed.

Read more about Literature Circles here.

In our literature circles, students meet in non-levelled groups that are formed by book choice.  The students take on a role for their group which rotates every week. They meet in their literature circles every Friday to engage in discussion about the book and set a “read up to here” goal for the following week. The roles (based on current student needs and which will be added to and changed over time) are:

  • Discussion Director – writes and facilitates discussion around questions they have come up with. We use Anthony Speranza’s complex question matrix to develop these questions. They also manage the discussion and make sure every member of the group contributes equally. IMG_6990
  • Passage Picker – notes and questions passages of text that are interesting, confusing, funny, emotive etc.
  • Word Wizard – notes and  defines interesting or unfamiliar words. They share them with the group and each person adds these to their personal dictionary/word collection.
  • Super Summariser – writes a brief and interesting summary of the key points of the text, to share and consolidate with the group.

In my class, these roles have been initially tasked to one student, but over time I intend for each student to take on all these roles (and others!) as they read, share, question and strengthen their understandings with their group.

The roles will develop where needed. For example, if I find that students are struggling with making text connections, we will introduce a new role. If they are lacking in the use of punctuation to build understanding or phrasing, we will introduce the Punctuation Pal (or something less lame that the kids will come up with!).

The use of a shared Google Slide for each group is critical in providing a collaborative space for students to note their thinking and to share their ideas with their circle. They are each in charge of their own role-related page and spend the week collecting evidence and ideas to share with their team. I can easily see their thinking and track how each student is progressing. It provides a simple way for me to ascertain which students need support in which strategy, and informs my strategy groups.

Google Slides allows team members to add ideas to other’s pages. For examples, this week’s Word Wizard would primarily focus on noticing and collecting interesting words, but might come across a mind-blowing paragraph that they just can’t forget, so they add it to the Passage Picker slide.

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A Passage Picker will use interesting passages and phrases as a discussion prompt to build understanding of the text.

The slides I use are here – I encourage you to create your own for you specific needs.

Growing Good Digital Citizens

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For anyone trying (like me) to get their head around the DigiTech curriculum, hopefully this can help get you. I plan on sharing some of the things I do in my school that address this proposed curriculum at a grade 2 level.


My school’s Digital Learning Team has identified the area of “Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility” as one of the areas for improvement after a staff survey on the ISTE standards showed that this was the areas where staff felt unconfident and had less knowledge than others.

As a result, all students have downloaded an eBook (Common Sense Media’s Digital Literacy and Citizenship curriculum and workbook) that provides a lesson-by-lesson curriculum for teachers to implement with their students. I’m finding it to have some good resources but mostly it is a little dry.

I feel a little more confident about this area than just following a text book, so I wanted to share a lesson I did with my Grade 2s about being a responsible digital citizen.


We had a discussion about the term “Good digital citizen” and what it meant. Two of my students are Digital Leaders in the school and were able to lead this discussion quite capably. Students put forward their ideas on what this might look like.

We watched this video to hear some other ideas on what good digital citizens are like. The song “Pause and think online” is catchy and the kids got a lot out of it!

The song basically associates actions and body parts with responsible use of technology. For example “listen to your gut” for things that don’t seem right, and “balance with your arms” to balance your time between using technology and giving your mind and body a break from it.


After this my students used the Thinglink app to create an interactive image that would explain their interpretation of how to pause and think online. They took pictures of themselves and inserted “nubbins” (this word is too creepy for me!) which were either text or video to explain how they would use a certain body part as a good digital citizen. Here are a couple of examples and here is the class blog on this lesson, if you want to see more.


The Thinglinks went on our class blog for others to read and learn about how they can be a good digital citizen. 

Integrating the Class Blog into Literacy

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Something I have been working on this term is making stronger and more efficient links between reading and writing, and authentically including the class blog into those sessions so we don’t need a whole session allocated to blogging each week. Here is an example of what I have done this week.


My students are learning about writing setting descriptions to use in narrative and descriptive writing.


In reading, we worked on identifying literal information about a setting. I modelled reading a setting description from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (first six paragraphs of this). Students visualised as I read and then noticed the way the Chocolate Room was described using some of the five senses.

IMG_2993In another session, we read a book called Anzac Biscuits (it describes a little girl and her mum making biscuits at home while her father is away in the war and the perspective swaps between the characters very vividly). Students noticed the various ways the setting and action was described, again through the five senses, and noted them on a sense-o-gram.

  • In writing I used the blog as the launch point for all the learning we would do for this lesson. Students read the learning intention from the blog and we used the picture prompt on the post about the five senses to refer back to what we already had noticed in the mentor texts.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 11.52.02 amWe then travelled through The Secret Door from a link on the blog post. The Secret Door is THE COOLEST EVER tool! It takes you through the door to a real place that could be anywhere in the world! It gives a 360 degree view and allows you to walk around as you would in Google Maps Street View. The students were each taken somewhere different, including a theme park, underwater in the Great Barrier Reef, the South Pole, inside a telescope, and the middle of a baseball field during a game.

    From here students brainstormed some words they could use to describe the setting they ended up in, using the five senses as a prompt.

    In reading the next day, students looked for setting descriptions whilst reading independently, and in particular for phrases rather than just single words. They either marked them with sticky notes or took photos using their iPads.


In the next writing session, students went back through the secret door to a new location,  took a screenshot of the view and wrote a descriptive paragraph about setting, using the five senses as a starting point, and reflecting on the types of descriptions we had been discovering in books and mentor texts.


Students added their setting image and a description on a Padlet (an online shared pinboard) which was embedded into the blog post we were using. Here’s our setting Padlet. This way student can go back and access the ideas collected on the Padlet anytime they want to use an idea.

The class blog post is here.

I am really happy with this series of lessons; I linked literacy lessons so that what was covered in reading spilled over into writing through the mentor texts we read and analysed. The writing flowed easily from students as they had seen authentic author examples of what they were trying to do, and the blog fitted in perfectly. Students can now access the Secret Door tool on the blog, as well as their own and their classmates’ setting descriptions to use in the future when writing narratives.

Starting a BYOD Program in a Classroom

This year my school has launched a BYO iPad program for students in all year levels. (Woohoo!) This means students bring their own iPad to school each day and take it home at the end of the day. The iPads have specific requiements, including a list of apps set by the school. We are fortunate to have a strong Digital Learning Program in place in the school and the iPad program has been well received by families, with something like 80% participation.

Parents had the option to lease an iPad or buy one and most have chosen to buy their own.  As there are still a number of students in each class who don’t have their own iPad, there are a small number of school iPads available to use in each class.

Here are some of the benefits and issues I have encountered from a classroom teacher point of view.

Some of the benefits:

  • Obviously, each student having an iPad is awesome! It allows integration of technology with so much more access for students, and they seem to be taking more ownership over their use of technology more readily.
  • Something really exciting to see is the way students are trying out new things at home using what they have learnt at school. This is might be an app they have learnt to use, but applied in a different context. Or they might try repeating a task they did at school but use technology to do it a different way.
  • To participate in the program, students had to sign an acceptable use agreement, and they are really stepping up and taking an amazing level of responsibility over their iPads. They are sensible, careful and organised.
  • Staff members know the value of the program. In any situation, there are always different levels of understanding for teachers. Now that all staff members are expected to readily take part, I feel that the conversations are opening up on digital learning, and some of the resistance has disappeared and been replaced with enthusiasm.

Some of the issues:

  • Many of the parents understandably had questions and concerns regarding liability for cost in the event that their child’s iPad was damaged by another student. The program agreement document stated that the school would not be liable, and parents are being encouraged to insure their devices. Obviously, this is
  • The above issue makes group tasks difficult. I have told students in my class that when they are working with a partner or group, the owner of the iPad is the only person allowed to touch the iPad. It is a practical way to deal with the issue, but it goes against other values that we encourage with students, such as sharing and taking turns. This is a difficult balance and requires a lot of unpacking with the students.
  • Some students don’t have their own iPads. It is difficult to manage which of these students, if any, gets to use the spare class iPads and when. On one hand, their parents have chosen (for whichever reason) not to provide an iPad, so they are not entitled to use one when the rest of the students are, and on the other hand, I want them to have the same exposure as the other students.
  • Not all students have downloaded all the required apps, despite a clear list and ample time to get them. This is difficult to manage until you can follow them all up with parents.
  • Having to get 500ish iPads individually connected to the school network is a slow process, so it can be a while before the kids have internet access.

It has been a rocky road to start this journey. There have been many difficult and stressful situations but ultimately it is the beginning of a great move towards creating a 21st Century school environment that is technology rich, with teachers and students that are digitally literate, global citizens who connect and share with the world.

Get Techy from Day One

Now comes that time of year when we all start to think about what new, exciting ways we can get to know our new students and have them get to know each other. This year I’m also focusing on how I can integrate technology into my classroom and see where students are at in terms of their skills and behaviours towards technology.

If you’re thinking ‘No way! I don’t have time to worry about iPads in the first week!’ then challenge yourself to try it out. It won’t be so bad, I promise!

I’ve come up with a few open ideas for how you could replace activities you are probably going to do anyway, with a technology rich version of that same activity that can allow you to:

  • assess your students’ tech-fluency
  • introduce some tools that you will use during the year
  • teach simple skills such as icon recognition, taking a picture, or app smashing
  • see how students work together using technology when sharing devices
  • find out more about your students’ lives.

This is my first ever infographic, so go easy on me and feel free to give me some feedback!

Let me know if you try any of these ideas or if you have any other ways you introduce technology to your new class.

Publishing Writing using Tech

I give my students choices about how to publish their writing. We have enough iPads in our class for 10 students to publish using them.  At the beginning of the year, they were reluctant to publish using the iPads as it meant they wouldn’t have time to make a ‘real book’. How far we’ve come. I am very proud that at this point in the year, my students (and myself, I guess) are more open to and aware of the myriad of ways there are to publish writing. They have come around to the idea that just because it isn’t printed doesn’t mean someone can’t read it or listen to it and enjoy it as a text. Here are some of the different ways my students have published this term.


Book Creator If you don’t have this – get it! There are SO many ways it can be used! Book Creator allows users to create an eBook that can include text, pictures, videos, drawings/annotations and voice recordings and sounds. It has a very simple interface and is easy for students to navigate without much support at all! You have the choice to turn it into an interactive eBook that allows you to push buttons to play audio, or a video that plays through the pages and recordings automatically.

Photo 255 1 from Emily Fintelman on Vimeo.




Adobe-Voice-app-for-iPad-allows-users-to-create-a-video-presentationAdobe Voice     This app allows you to make simple, animated videos. You select a theme, record your voice and choose pictures from the range of images available, or add your own. The app creates good looking videos, with not too much work by the user. Again, this app is not too difficult for students to find their way around. It requires a log in.




icon_256imovie-0624Kids Doodle and iMovie  To do this one, we learnt a bit about ‘app smashing’. Kids Doodle allowed students to draw their illustrations, and recorded it as they drew. Students then saved the video and created an iMovie to record their voice over the top of the video they had inserted. This created a very unique style and was a very effective way for my kids to present their narratives. Listen out for the sneaky sound effect in this one.


telligami-iconTellagami   Tellagami is an avatar creator which allows you to pick a character and background, and make your avatar talk and move either by recording your voice or by typing the text. You can also choose your avatar’s voice. Again, this one is really simple for kids to use and the end result looks fantastic. There is a time limit of 30 seconds with the edu version, but this can be overcome by recording a few videos, then stringing them all together in iMovie. Simple.


The downside (?) to using Adobe Voice, Tellagami and Kids Doodle is that students do not get to present their actual written work. I found this difficult to reconcile myself to at first because we had spent a lot of time and effort looking into spelling, speech marks, paragraphs and lots of other secretarial aspects of writing. But I guess telling kids that if their narrative isn’t “written” in its culminating stage that it is not done correctly, is equal to telling Woody Allen his films aren’t done because not many people have read his stories off a page. I had to remind myself (and my class) of the purpose of their writing. Have you written it to entertain someone? How can you best do that?

Do you have any different ways you encourage students to publish? Any cool apps I should know about?

CBL Solutions and What They Might Look Like

-My whole team at the beginning of CBL

-My whole team at the beginning of CBL

My students worked on Challenge-Based Learning solutions in groups for the first time this term. I want to share what their solutions were in order to give readers an idea of the range of ideas students came up with on their own, and their varying degrees of success in implementing those ideas.

When my team first started CBL, it was really difficult to get our collective head around what we might expect students to come up with as a solution, so we pestered our CBL expert teacher, Bec, for ideas on what challenge solutions might look like. She pushed back on this and told us we didn’t need to have the ideas, that the kids would get there. We kept on pestering and eventually she relented and gave us a few examples of what kind of outcome we might see, but with the stipulation that we had to let the students come up with ideas, and not try and feed them our own ideas and make them think it was their own.

Now I’m 3 terms of CBL in, and with Bec’s philosophy in mind, here are some examples of what grade 2s can come up with and do on their own. Without my own brilliant ideas. I promise.

Big Idea: Power
Challenge: Use power in a positive way.

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Green and Yellow Groups: Body Power

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Both of these groups independently decided to make a fitness/exercise club that ran at break times. Both groups came up with a plan of how their club would run; one group wanted to play a charades game that would involve participants guessing the exercise, then completing it, and the other group simply had a list of exercises and were going to show participants how to do them correctly, then have everyone complete the exercise. Both groups made poster ads to hang around the school using the Pic Collage app and spoke to grades about the clubs they were running. The clubs started off with a bang but petered out quickly for a few reasons (memory, enthusiasm, students not getting along, etc.). I think the fact that grade 2s can run a successful club for other students without any help from teachers is quite impressive!  One of the groups did a powerful reflection on what went well, what went wrong and how they could change it, and made significant improvements to their plan to help their club run better.

Purple Group: Choice Power


Purple group chose to write a persuasive letter to the Prime Minister of Australia to convince him to hire more builders to build free homes for homeless people. This was quite powerful for this group when they actually received a response from Tony Abbott, which, among other things, congratulated them on being so passionate about important issues and reminded them that as the future leaders of our country, they should continue to champion causes that are important to them. (The letter carefully evaded the issue of building people free homes, but my students are inspired to become PM nonetheless).

Blue Group: People Power

Purple group’s solution was to make an ad that told the world that we don’t want bullies. They wrote and filmed and edited a video using iMovie on an iPad and shared their solution with the world through the class blog. Blog post here.

Pink group: Body Power

Pink group’s solution was also a video. They wanted to make a short video that would encourage people to exercise every day. They wanted to share it with the world by advertising it on our class blog and Twitter. It did not get shared in the end because of the time it took to film and some techie difficulties which meant they had to remake their entire work. Their video involved them doing a range of exercises and some text about the names of exercises and what people should do to get fit.

Orange Group: Electrical Power

This group decided on a persuasive blog post about using electricity sparingly and some tips on how to use it better. Their post can be viewed here.


Where to next

As this was the first time students worked in small groups to complete a task of their own devising, the focus was on understanding the task ahead of them, and on individual roles and responsibilities of the members in each group.  Now that we have a firm grasp on that, the next round of CBL solutions will have more of a focus on the quality of the outputs, rather than just ‘getting it done’. For example, the ‘No Bullies Allowed’ video group might work on coming up with a list of helpful tips for not being a bully, and valuing friendship, and work on making sure the dialogue in their video is easy to hear. Or the exercise video group might contact teachers to see if they could show it to their class every morning for students to get warmed up before starting the day, so that their solution has a genuine audience and will make a difference.

Overall I am really happy with the variety and quality of my students’ (and my own) first attempt at group CBL solutions. I am constantly amazed at the way my students come along for the ride when I think I might be pushing them too far. It is truly amazing what a bunch of 8 year olds can do when you don’t tell them they can’t.

If you have something of your own about CBL solutions, please share. I would love to see it!


Taking Action: Students as Recording Artists

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Does anyone teach using the CBL model? At my school we are in our first year of implementing CBL school-wide and it is massively exciting and terrifying all at once. CBL stands for Challenge Based Learning. It is a type of inquiry process that puts the emphasis on students using technology as an integral part of their learning and requires students to think of and implement an authentic solution to a challenge.

Last term we worked on the big idea of ‘Systems’ and the challenge they were set was ‘Change the way our community uses natural resources.’ I want to share the solution my students came up with as a whole grade.

To decide on a challenge solution as a class we brainstormed all the different ideas they had for addressing the challenge. Some of the ideas that came up were:

  • Writing a news report and getting it put on the news
  • Making posters to stick up in the school and local community
  • Writing a song about how to save resources

Writing a song was by far the most popular choice so we set to work brainstorming anything and everything they thought might be included. I gave students the task of writing words, sentences, phrases, rhymes or anything that they thought might get the message across. Everything at this point was basically a huge discussion, idea melting-pot and decision-making process between the whole grade. I stepped back and watched in amazement as my grade 2s took over, ridiculously capable.


They decided to split up into groups that focused on saving water, trees, petrol and air (saving it from pollution… haha!). They came up with some amazing stuff, with conversations such as:
“When you take a shower, try not to take ages.”
“Yeah don’t take an hour.”
“Hour rhymes with shower.. Hahah!”
“What about ‘When you take a shower don’t take an hour?'”
“Mrs Fintelman, is that okay?”
At this point I was in raptures. After this we went through a process of discussing what they knew about how to put a song together and they brought up things such as rhyming, making a catchy chorus, making the chorus about the main idea, and using beats to make it sound good, incorporating a lot of knowledge they had learnt in Performing Arts. It took about an hour for us to collaboratively write a four-verse song… no mean feat! I won’t pretend that they did the whole thing on their own but the majority of the writing was done by the students discussing, writing, changing, deleting, altering, testing and most of all collaborating.


UntitledI suggested using GarageBand to record their voices so students had a play with the iPad version of GarageBand to see what it could do. They soon discovered that they could add instruments and change the sounds. We voted and decided that the hard rock guitar sound was the way to go. Since no one in the class knew how to play guitar or use one to put a song together, I introduced them to the concept of the 4-chord progression frequently used in songs (if you don’t know this is, watch this song to learn about it – Note 1: I didn’t show this to the kids, Note 2: Watch out for language). They were excited and were able to play the chords after we googled them. By this point our song was really coming together! All it took from there were a few lessons about persistence and practicing and the fact that our first recording probably wasn’t going to be our best one. We had one student in the grade who learns piano and he came up with a little riff to add to the chorus, which he was ecstatic about. Finally, after a million recordings, we had a finished product.

soundcloudcom.cardinalblue.piccollage.googleAfter this a couple of students worked on some cover art using the app Pic Collage. We then uploaded the song to Soundcloud (a website where you can upload your own original music for others to listen to and download) and discussed how anyone was going to find it. It was decided that to promote it we should use Twitter and our blog (post here). The song is really good and they are very proud of themselves. I think this is testament to what Grade 2s can achieve… an authentic, genuine action that can make a difference to the local and global community!

Listen to our incredible song “Don’t Waste our Natural Resources”!

iPads as tools, not toys: Teaching fact families

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My class has been working on fact families (seeing how numbers relate to each other using addition and subtraction) for about a week. I gave them a task to see how they were able to use what we have learnt so far and put it all together. 

They were asked to work with a partner (only due to not having 1:1 iPads available). They chose 3 numbers to work with as their fact family for the task. Some chose a new family they had recently learnt and memorised (e.g. 5, 7, 12), some chose two find parts and find out the whole by adding them together, and some rolled a dice to find a part and a whole  and some just got a stack of unifix and broke them into two pieces!  I was impressed to see the range of ideas they had to make and show their families, just at this stage. 

Then, I gave them a choice of out of three familiar apps to use to show their fact family and the related number sentences. The choices were Popplet, Educreations and Skitch. Each of these apps allow for adding text, inserting images and some drawing, but each with differences that allowed students to show their learning in their own way.

Every. single. group. nailed it and I was really impressed to see the way they tailored the task to suit themselves… some used materials and took a picture of them, some arranged it into a house to reflect a task we had done earlier, some labelled with the part-part-whole language we have been using.

To collect their work at the end, I had them all screenshot their work and Instashare it with me.

Let me know if you try something similar and tell me how it goes!

Here are some examples:

Beautiful popplet by some students who wanted a challenge with their numbers.

Beautiful popplet by some students who wanted a challenge with their numbers.

These students used Educreations to show a few different fact families.

These students used Educreations to show a few different fact families.

These students wanted to show what they'd done with materials and inserted a picture of their work into Educreations.

These students wanted to show what they’d done with materials and inserted a picture of their work into Educreations.

These students used the labelling function in Evernote's Skitch to show their understanding.

These students used the labelling function in Evernote’s Skitch to show their understanding.


Similes and Switchzoo


My class has been learning about poetry and ways language can be used to paint a picture in the reader’s head. One of the ways we have been doing this is by writing similes.


The-Mixed-Up-ChameleonI introduced similes for the first time with a short discussion on their prior knowledge about similes (they had none) and then read the book The Mixed-Up Chameleon by Eric Carle. I have honestly never had so much laughing in my grade as when the kids read this book today. They identified the similes in the book quickly and started coming up with their own.


Image source

Students then used the free app Switch Zoo to create their own Mixed-Up animal in the style of the Chameleon from the book. The Switch Zoo app lets users start with an animal, then change its head, tail and legs to the head, tail or legs of another animal. The results are hilarious (read: hideous)! Students wrote similes about their mixed-up animal by picking an adjective to describe their animal (e.g. fluffy) then choosing something else that could be described using that same adjective (e.g. pillow) to create their simile (e.g. My Rhicrocog is as fluffy as a pillow.) The app allows you to add a name and profile for the animal and display it as you might see on a sign at the zoo.

Here are some of our Mixed-Up Animals… enjoy!

rabbit switch



Image source – Mixed-Up Chameleon

Image source – Switch Zoo