What’s on my iPad: featuring preschool teacher Anna Brown

Phenix Early Childhood Center Preschool teacher, Anna Brown working with students.

What are your top 3 apps used in your classroom?

Magnetic Alphabet

I use this app differently for each student, some use it to find/learn the letters in their name.  I can also make a model of their name and then they can recreate it under the model.  We also use it to “mix and fix” the letters in a students name by scrambling the letters and then having the students put them back in order.  I purchased some of the additional pieces of the app and I have a few students who now use the picture magnets to create a story and then add letters to write the words. I keep the iPads out in the room for students to choose during our hour of self selected play each day.  There is one app open and it is the only choice that day.  I move them to different locations in the room depending on what app I want students to be using.  The Magnetic Alphabet is usually on at the writing center.  I also use this app with small groups of students to work on specific skills according to need.

My Story

We just started to use this app in our classroom as the preschoolers have become more interested in writing stories.  Students draw a story and then and adult assists them in adding the words.  The story can then be added to the book shelf in iBooks and we can read it to the class or share with parents at conferences.  I can also record the student’s voice telling the story so that peers and parents can listen to it as well.  I have used this with a couple of interested students so far as their choice at the writing center.  I’m also working on a project involving the whole class, where each child will do a page of a book.

EDM Monster Squeeze 

We start by playing as a whole class using the number cards and the monsters, and then move to where they can play in partners on the iPad, which gets them more practice. By the end of the year it was an independent small group activity they could do while I worked with a different small group of students.

If we asked the students in your class – what would they say are their top 3 favorite apps they use in your classroom?

1. Anything involving memory matching (shapes, numbers, letters, animals, etc.)

2. Gingerbread Fun… make, bake, and decorate your own gingerbread man!

3. Music Sparkle- who doesn’t want to play a drum set now and then!!

How many iPads do you have in your classroom?
I have four iPads.

You have more kids in your classroom than you have iPads, how do you possibly make that work? 
My kids love to share, so I often have three playing together at the same time.   I have so many other things going on in the room every day; some don’t really ever use them unless I have them for small groups.  I usually try to put a 15 minute time limit on them, just to limit the screen time at this age.

Interesting..   You mentioned sharing and multiple students using the iPads, but I’ve heard that getting students to “share” an iPad is really hard, especially with Pre-K thru 2nd grade.  Tell us more about how and why you do this…
Preschoolers can do it!!  All of our students need to learn to share… adults too!!  Especially when playing games, iPad or otherwise, we have to teach students their roles as partners.  We play a mystery counting game where one student tips up the iPad so the partner across the table can’t see it and then  on an instrument app they play a number of notes that their partner has to count.  Then they switch jobs.  Same with the memory matching games… we expect them to take turns when playing memory with cards on a table, why wouldn’t we with an iPad too?  The iPads are like all things in our classrooms, they have to come with directions for how to use them and how to share them.  We talk extensively about how to put the iPad between two students so both can see, how working together and taking turns helps everyone in our class learn.  If sharing and everyone learning together is part of your classroom culture, your students will rise to the occasion.

What advice would you give to other teachers about managing the iPads in your classroom?
I worry most about germs!  I take them home every night and wipe them down with the cloth.  I charge on the weekends (again at home).  The kids are very careful with them and we have made rules about keeping them at a table, not on the floor.

How much money have you spent on apps so far?  Do you find that this takes a lot of time?  Any tips/suggestions on where you search for apps.
Anything I have purchased I self funded, I have not depleted a $20 iTunes gift card yet.  There are so many free apps, I usually find a free one I like and look for more from the same creator/publisher.

What has been some of the challenges with iPads….
My biggest challenge is time, finding the time to keep up with the updates, charging, and getting them read for students to use each day.  I wish I could use the videos I have taken with my iPad better.  I have better luck using a Flip, because I can get those files onto my H: drive and into my assessment portfolio program easier.  I believe this is a problem with the assessment program and not the iPad though!

Any examples you can provide for how the iPad is making a difference in your classroom?
The iPad are something my students are proud to use.  They feel like big kids when they get to use them.  After the newness wore off the first few weeks, they were saying things like, “Can I practice the ABCs on the iPad today?”  “Can we play the iPad together?  I want to be player one and she wants to be player 2.”  They were also very proud to show them off to visitors to our classroom.  “Look, we know how to use the iPads!  Can I show you?”

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