As usually seems to be the case with me and blogging, I only get around to writing when the universe conspires to remind me, with a degree of a repetitiveness that I just can't ignore, that something is important enough to blog about. Psst...People are wondering about this, Bryn - look, over here! And here! And there! Riiiiggghhhttt. Got it. Clearly, I am a little slow on the uptake. Anyways. This time, it's apps.
I When it comes to technology, I am a bit of an oxymoron; I am hugely passionate about its (informed) use in schools yet I fiercely limit my own children's access to it. In large part this is because my time with my children is limited and I want to spend that time interacting with them, not having them ignore me while they stare at a screen. I want to read them great books, draw pictures, do crafts, bake and play board games with them; I want to build connection and memories in the small amount of time I have between getting home from work and bedtime every night. Not that I needed validation for choosing this approach but I smiled when an article entitled "Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent" crossed my path; apparently the guru himself and I are on the same wave-length.
However, I freely acknowledge that there are many times when technology just makes life easier (like, you know, nightly, when I'm making dinner and answering 400 questions and helping create some fantastical beast out of toilet paper rolls and wishing that I could just.let.go. a little bit and turn the damn tv on and therefore make dinner in peace). In those times, I want to be able to turn to high-quality apps that do more than just entertain my child (once an educator, always an educator. Sorry, kiddos). But in a sea of 40,000 apps in the iTunes Education category alone, how does one even begin to choose? Well, I've been fortunate enough to stumble across some really great ones, have a few recommended to me and found a few on great sites such as Common Sense Media. I share my favourites with you here - on my page aptly titled Great Apps & Websites.
A disclaimer, of sorts, before you click that link - I am very picky about the apps that I share. As mentioned before, there are tens of thousands of apps out there; I list 14. Why? Because a) there is a huge difference between a high-quality learning app and a game that has had the education tag slapped on it for effect, b) with few exceptions, apps are generally about practice rather than learning. Or playing, with a little bit of practice sandwiched in there somewhere. I have tried to find the apps that will truly help your child learn something new, whether they know it or not, and c) if I wouldn't choose it for my own kiddos, I'm not going to recommend it to you.
I have also chosen apps that are as general as possible in their scope (if your child is obsessed with space, there are some pretty wicked space apps out there but I did not mention them here) and promote the development of broad thinking skills as much as they promote skill-specific practice.
Your time is limited. Searching through the app store only to come up with mediocre apps is frustrating and not in your child's best interests. Hopefully my list helps you find a few apps that will inspire your kids to think and wonder and learn and maybe will even connect you with some other great gems along the way. Please share them with me if you find them!
This past week Kristi and I got to sit down with the teachers we will be working with throughout first term and hash out what exactly that will look like. I love this collaborative time; I get so excited to be trying new things and love the energy and learning that goes on when we put our heads together. It is truly one of my favourite parts of the overall shift in how we "do" learning assistance at our school (more on that here, if you're curious). Inevitably, many of the teachers I work with want to focus on literacy, often based on the book Reading Power by Adrienne Gear (Adrienne, coincidentally, was just in Kelowna to talk to us about lit circles. Perfect timing!). Frequently, these teachers would also like me to model a lesson or two before we dive right in to co-teaching; twist my rubber arm, I say. So today, as I was working through my plans for these first few lessons, I pulled out a few of my favourite Reading Power books and thought I would share them here with you too!
Je Reve en Couleurs (Sophie Rondeau) - It was brought to my attention that we have not featured any books in French on #IMWAYR. If you are not a French Immersion teacher it's hard to appreciate how difficult finding resources and books can be and how imperative it is to share anything you find. So, given the nudge by our new (and fabulous!) librarian, I am going to try and feature more books in French here on the blog (I'm headed to a book fair next week so will hopefully stock up the collection!). Please, if you know any French Immersion teachers, let them know so that we can all share the wealth.
Back to the book. I stumbled upon Je Reve en Couleurs while looking for some other resources on the Scolartek website. What a find! This book has the most wonderful descriptions, using language that is at once rich and accessible (the meaning of most unfamiliar vocabulary can be easily inferred from the picture or sentence). I use this one for visualization and then generally spill it over in to some writing lessons about word choice. Last year, we had our students create their own pages for a book "in the style of...". The kids loved it and we loved it! Wish this one came in English too!
Jessie's Island (Sheryl MacFarlane) - This is a beautiful book, full of powerful imagery. I use this one in much the same way I use Je Reve en Couleurs; linking visualizing and word choice to create powerful learning in reading and writing. There are so many senses that are stimulated by this book so I like to use it to talk about how visualizing can be more than just pictures in your head; that it can be sounds and smells and feelings too. Provided you live near the ocean, this book provides countless opportunities for connection too; if your students have never seen the ocean, use it to get at that idea of how connections help us understand a book.
Of course, there are many, many more books that Kristi and I love to use to teach literacy skills. The ones I've featured here are the ones that I went back to today, that fit with the lessons that the classroom teachers and I have decided we want to do, that are some of my go-to favs. We would love to hear about some of your go-to books - we are always looking for great new ideas!
It has come to my attention that I may have failed to mention that the Lit Pit is a bilingual place. Yep, that's right, not only do we read, write and think in English around here, we do it in French too.
The Lit Pit seems to work equally well in both languages (see the post about our success so far). The only problem is one that is common to French Immersion teachers from sea to shining sea in this beautiful land of ours...
And by major, I mean French Immersion teachers spend a disproportionate amount of time creating their own resources in order to meet the needs of the students in their class. There are some fabulous people out there creating and sharing (shout out to Mme. Belle Feuille & La Classe de Karine, whose materials I have used over and over again) but not nearly as many as there are in English. While we can easily hop on TpT and find English resources galore for any given topic, they are few and far between in French.
Don't get me wrong, there are publishers who sell resources in French. But even then, the pool is small. And expensive. And often not exactly what you were hoping for. So your choices become: use something that doesn't quite work and try to make it fit as best you can or create something.
So many French Immersion teachers spend a lot of time and creative energy building worksheets and activities to suit the needs of their classes. Many other French Immersion teachers could benefit from using these resources in the classroom. Somehow we need to start bringing these two together!
Luckily, a colleague of mine is working on it...it's not my place to share her idea here (yet) but, if you are a French Immersion teacher, know that a resource sharing option is in the works. More on that when it happens, I promise.
For now, my small contribution to the world of French Immersion resource sharing is this: a worksheet for c dur et c doux. Some of our little guys have been struggling to differentiate between when they should read c as /k/ and when it should be /s/, so I created a few activities for them to do. They loved using the bingo dabbers on this one! Hope you enjoy it too...more to come as I build them!
I'm Bryn, teacher, mom, book lover, athlete. I am passionate about living life with my family, teaching and learning something new all the time. I hope you find something that speaks to you here on my blog and would love to hear from you too!