Friday, October 25, 2013

Exploring Early Literacy with Lexia and StoryKit

For the past few weeks, I've been helping the kindergarteners get up and running with iPads in the classroom.  At first, my job was to sit with the students and help them log into and out of an individualized literacy program called Lexia CORE 5. 

I think having an extra person to assist with the initial log in and log out procedures is a key part of any individualized tech-based program in the early grades.  This is mainly because students have plenty of questions about the keyboard.  They don't know the difference between uppercase and lowercase.  They can't find the letter they are looking for.  Finding the numbers on the iPad can be tricky.  If you don't teach them exactly how to log out, they will forget to do it and the next student will be working in another kid's account.  However, after a few times practicing the logging in and logging out procedures, kindergarteners become quite independent on the iPad.  I'd say it takes about 2 weeks of assistance and reminders before the students are truly independent in these tasks.

Kindergarten students are loving Lexia CORE 5!

So far, the kindergarteners have been pretty engaged with Lexia.  At this point, I've seen them work at their own pace and at their own level on rhyming skills, identification of letters, and syllables.  Cute animations at the end of each activity, and the concept of "moving up to the next level" keep the students on task.  However, while Lexia is a great activity to review the building blocks of literacy, I must admit that I was much more excited to start using StoryKit to actually create books with the kindergarteners.

As a first grade teacher, I just LOVED creating class books with my students and sending that book from house to house with my students.  We wrote stories about our field trips and other special events at our school.  The students took a lot of pride in creating their own book starring themselves!  And parents enjoyed having a glimpse into our classroom life.

Apps like StoryKit, Creative BookBuilder, and Scribble Press are really great for synthesizing what students already know about reading and writing to create a multi-media presentation.  Throw in a dash of Content Area knowledge and you've got yourself a cross-curricular project.  Just as with Lexia, it's really important to have an extra set of hands in the classroom to help young children create their first few StoryKits.

This week, Ms. Weigel invited me to help her create a StoryKit where students described a pumpkin that they brought to school.  Before I arrived in the classroom, Ms. Weigel and the students had already examined their pumpkins and wrote a list of words describing them.

Once I showed up, I started pulling students and their pumpkins one by one to work on the StoryKit.  First, I explained exactly what we were going to do, "We're making a book on the iPad.  Each student is adding a photo, writing a word, and recording their voice on a page of the book."

Next, I let students touch the "button" to add a photo.  I took a photo of the student with his/her pumpkin and let him/her check out how it turned out.  If the student approved, they pressed the "Use Photo" button.

Then, I showed the student how to touch the "sound button" to add their voice. I showed them how to tap the "record" button, then say a sentence that followed the book's pattern ("My pumpkin is..."), and then press "Stop."  The whole time, I made sure to point to each word on the screen as I read it; I wasn't going to miss any possible teachable moments with environmental print.  Plus, the fact that reading these words actually helps them CREATE something is further reading motivation for the students.

After students plan and practice what they're going to say, I let them record their voice by pressing the record buttons themselves.  Then, they can play back to see if they need to speak louder or more clearly and record again.

Finally, students were asked to write one word that matched their description of the pumpkin.  To save time, I chose a word from the child's spoken sentence about pumpkins and started stretching it out so the student could hear all the sounds.  Each student typed the letters that were phonetic.  I helped students with the trickier sounds (like silent "e" or the long-i "igh").  Again, I'm not passing up any chance to incorporate literacy into this multi-media project.

It took me about a half-hour to pull 16 students one-by-one for this project.  During the time I was pulling students one-by-one, the rest of the class was busy working on another assignment.

Later, I came back to the classroom and showed the students their final product.  We read the words as a class and I let students touch the "speaker" so we could hear their friends' voices on each page.  The students seemed really excited to make the project and to see their pictures and hear their voices.  I was happy to see them creating some authentic reading and writing that could be shared with a broader audience; it's pretty simple to tap the "Share" button and send the story to parents via email.

Here's the link to Ms. Weigel's Pumpkin StoryKit for your viewing (and listening) pleasure:
Our Pumpkins by Ms. Weigel's Kindergarten

My long-term goals with this group in StoryKit (with input from Ms. Weigel):

  • Help students become more independent with adding photos, sound, and text to StoryKit pages
  • Have each child create their own Fluency Portfolio to track their fluency growth in StoryKit
  • Gradually release the students until they can create their own 3-5 page StoryKits where they choose what media to include and how to present it.

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