Another way to practice fluency!

Students from Mrs. Adam’s class using Book Creator.

This year at Byrd all second graders have learned how to practice reading fluency using the iPads.  Each class learned this skill using a different app.  Mrs. Swift’s class learned to create recordings using iMovie.  Mrs. Nixon’s class learned to use a voice recording app, and finally Mrs. Adam’s class recently learned to use Book Creator.


iMovie allowed students to take a picture of their fluency passage, and record over top of the picture.  It took about three lessons that were forty-five minutes each until the students could use the app independently.  It was difficult for some students to match the length of the picture with the length of the recording.  Also, we could not turn off the Ken-Burns effect.


Mrs. Nixon’s class used a voice recording app.  They could easily capture their voice time and time again, however, with these types of apps they could not capture an image of their book or passage.  It took the students two lessons that were forty-five minutes each to use the software independently.  There are numerous free voice recording apps out there.  Here is a link to one example, Quick Voice Recorder.


Mrs. Adam’s class learned to use Book Creator to capture fluency practice.  The students learned how to use the app in one, hour-long lesson.  This has been my favorite method by far!  The students have created a fluency book. Using this app students can capture a picture of their reading passage.  Then they can add a recording of the passage.  Finally, we assigned the students a reading skill to illustrate with the drawing tools.  We had students illustrate the main idea of the passage, but we could have used just about any reading skill!  I love Book Creator allowed the students to have a multi-sensory experience with reading.  They were seeing the text, hearing themselves read, and drawing to deepen comprehension.


Have you used any other tools in your class to help students practice reading fluency?

World Faire!

The week before winter break GES 5th graders hosted a day-long World Faire that was the culmination of months of hard work in Jen Cosby’s class. In October students were put into research teams. Their mission was to work collaboratively with their team to research a foreign country of choice and prepare presentation materials for the World Faire.

To keep research efforts organized students used checklists in Google Docs. As they researched a topic relating to the country, they would update the team Google Doc. Students were able to view each others research thanks to sharing capabilities inherent in Google Apps.

Once research was complete, teams began work on their presentations. They used their iPads to create movies using iMovie, QR codes, and augmented reality overlays. On the non-techy side, students assembled a presentation board. The board showcased pictures, textual information, QR codes, and augmented reality projects.

The entire perimeter of the school cafeteria was decorated with presentation boards on the day of the fair! Students also prepared learning activities (differentiated for various grade-levels), food samples, crafts, games, speeches, and demonstrations to share with other students who visited the fair.

Each grade-level had a chance to come learn from our fabulous 5th grade students. When students entered the cafeteria they were given a passport. A 5th grade tour guide led a group of 2-4 students from country to country. After visiting each country the students received stamps in their passports and goodies to keep in their “suitcase”.  The passports were filled with postcards containing interesting facts on each country.  Students created the postcards using Explain Everything on their iPads.

The day was a huge success in terms of learning and student engagement. Everyone agreed they were exhausted at the conclusion of the event and after cleanup, but that it was well worth the effort!


To see more pictures of this wonderful event, please click on this link to visit our Supervisor of Instructional Technology’s blog, John Hendron.

The Flexibility of iMovie

iMovie makes a frequent appearance in our elementary school classrooms, especially those with 1:1 iPads. The reason is that the application has infinite uses, it is easy to use, and it is so much fun! Students have had their iPads for about a month, and I have seen students use iMovie to share classroom expectations, interview peers, share information about Geometry, record and evaluate fluency, make movies to explain science content, and to create documentaries.

To use iMovie in its simplest form students only need to know how to start a new project and record footage. They quickly learn more tricks as they use the application to edit footage such as adding titles, music, transitions, and cropping clips. It is a beautiful thing to watch students as they excitedly share editing strategies with one another, and as a result, all of their work improves.

Students are engaged with learning when they are tasked with the challenging of turning content into a product that others can view. When students make a movie, they recognize the potential for a greater audience. Often, they think about how they can make others laugh. I see students considering their audience as they record thoughts and add pictures.

There are numerous uses for iMovie! Students can use pictures to describe scientific processes or to explain an event from history. They can create reader response activities by summarizing what they have read in a story or by relating their thoughts on a specific section of text. Students can use iMovie to reflect on their own work or to quickly produce an “exit ticket” retelling what they learned in class.

I am wondering what other uses teachers have found for using iMovie in their classrooms? Have you seen or used iMovie to liven up a traditional (yet beneficial) teaching strategy? Has anyone employed iMovie in an innovative way to improve learning outcomes?

If your students love to use the iMovie trailers, then here is a helpful link with templates for each of the movie trailers. Students can plan out their script, as well as their images and videos.


The video below is one example of how we have used iMovie this year.  Students made videos to teach the class about digital citizenship.  In this particular trailer, the students are sharing with others that it is inappropriate to copy other’s work without permission.


Create Your Own Work from Zoe Parrish on Vimeo.

Photo Booth Green Screen

Ms. Johnson’s students will be creating videos to share their findings about artists and art. This is a tutorial I made a long time ago for elementary teachers, but I think it will work great for what this group of students is planning to do.

Ms. Johnson has had her students work on some amazing projects this year, and she shares really cool stuff on her blog. Videos are a new adventure for her, and I’m happy to be planning this with her.

 The finished products will be published to Ms. Johnson’s YouTube channel. Look for an update soon.


Landscape, Please

This morning I helped two colleagues edit video captured by students using mobile devices. I had the opportunity to share a few tips with them to help their future editing.

  1. Teach yourself and your students to always hold devices in landscape mode. Remind yourself of this by picturing television sets, computer displays, and movie screens. You never see those standing on end, so don’t make your video stand on end.

  2. Use a tripod, or brace your wrist on a stable object. All that shaking is very distracting.

  3. Get close enough to your subject to make it clear what you want your audience to see. Capturing video from across the room gives you a tiny image and poor audio when not using a microphone.

If you can only remember one of the three, please make it #1.

Fiction to Nonfiction

Yesterday I met with Ms. Thomas to come up with a good way to transition from fiction to nonfiction in her Language Arts classes. I think the resulting project will be great to see executed.

The students are reading the novel Stand Tall by Joan Bauer. In the book, the main character helps his grandfather recover after he has a leg amputated. In the process, he learns about his grandfather’s experiences during the Vietnam War. To transition from fiction to nonfiction, the students will select an event mentioned by the grandfather in the book and conduct some research. Based on the research, the students will write a newspaper article as if the event had just happened. Then they will adapt the newspaper article to film a news segment for a television show.

I really like this project because the students will explore the differences in the portrayal of a historical event in a fictional context, then in a nonfiction context meant for an audience to read, and agin in a context meant for an audience to listen and watch. There have to be stylistic differences in how information is presented and how detailed the language must be.

Look for samples of the newspaper articles and the news reports in a few weeks on Ms. Thomas’s blog.

Technology, Old and New

I walked past the Ceramics Studio this afternoon and caught Mrs. Long making a sample for her students. The process took several minutes. I’ve sped up the video in iMovie.

Watching Mrs. Long reminded me that teachers have used technology for centuries. I wonder how much tech support the ceramics guild needed to provide adequate classes to its apprentices. ;-)


Poetic Devices Adoption Agency

A few weeks ago I blogged about Ms. Talley and Ms. Thomas and their poetry project. The students were to create a pitch for a poetic device or poem to convince poets to adopt them into their work. I had a really fun time working with the students and with the teachers. It was a challenging project due to logistics, technology adoption, and the nature of the project itself.

On the logistics front, we shared a single iPad cart that was also being used for other projects. I’m really glad I did not run over anyone as I raced down the hall with the iPad cart between blocks. Even if it is a challenge, this is a good problem to have. High demand of whatever technology we have available is better than having piles of tools in closets and storage rooms.

Many of the students who worked on this project had not used iMovie on the iPads. They all know their way around iMovie on the Mac, and it took a bit of getting used the pared down iOS version. The universal complaint, which I take up wholeheartedly is the automatic, unstoppable Ken Burns effect. I love Ken Burns and his documentaries, I love Ken Burns effects on the Mac, but this is a bit much. Please, Apple, shut it off.

As far as the project went, well, many of the students were pushed out of their comfort zones. This is good. Making things just hard enough to make students think beyond what they are used to is a good exercise. If we had asked the students simply to write about their assigned poetic device, they could have just paraphrased whatever they found in their textbook or online. By asking them to illustrate and narrate, we made the students think about their writing as more than something to turn in to their teachers. They had to get creative both in the writing and the illustrations.

Of course, there was one more dimension to this project. The adoption best of the adoption pitches have been posted to YouTube. Expanding the audience beyond the teacher and the students in the room gives students the added incentive to make their work worth sharing.

Here is one of my favorites.

Mobile Movies

Today I was back at GES, reading with Ms. Cachina’s class and working on videos with Ms. Webb’s class.

Here’s the sample video the kids helped produce.

Starting tomorrow, the students will be producing their own videos discussing different types of weather.

Look out, Ken Burns. Here comes the next generation of documentary producers.

Creating and Sharing Video

Yesterday afternoon I led a class on creating and sharing videos in class. We made videos in Photobooth and edited them in iMovie. We also looked at the screen capturing feature in QuickTime. It was a fun way to end my day.

Here are some resources I wanted to share with the teachers who attended the class, and with anyone else who reads my blog.

First, we have our iMovie tutorial. It is not new, but the basics are still the basics. We hope to update this over the summer.

Second, find out how you can have some fun with Photo Booth and green screen technology. There are so many possibilities for student projects using just this one simple app…

Third, if you are unsure of how to share your videos on your blog, you can always check out our publishing guide. There is a video tutorial for every step of the way.