“If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”
-- Ignacio Estrada

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top Apps of 2011

I have noticed a lot of sites doing top app picks for 2011. I didn't want to feel left out so I decided to create a list, well more like LISTS. There are so many great apps that I felt I needed to choose the top apps in a few different categories. All apps have been used by myself and/or students within my classroom. These are the apps that I try to incorporate into the curriculum and daily schedule as much as I can (with the limitation of 1 iPad, 1 teacher, 3 assistants, and 7 students). 

If you would like to see a complete list of the most used apps within my classroom, visit my list at the Technology in Special Education website. I have to admit, with over 850 apps in my itunes account, narrowing these down and keeping them all organized was a little difficult!

Also, check out my special ed counterpart from northern Ohio, Miss Kolis. Here is the list of her top 20 or so apps of 2011. 

Looking for app for older students, check out Golden Communications, LLC's list of apps for older students to enhance language and learning skills. This list was created by an SLP working with students grades 7-12 and is the developer of Enchanted Dictionary (an app worth looking into for vocabulary development and language).

~ Melanie

Top AAC/Speech and Language Apps
** AAC apps are suggestions, it looking for a voice output app/device, please consult SLP or AT specialist to request a AT/AAC evaluation **
SonoFlex- LITE version FREE, voice output app, customizable
Answers: YES NO - simple, easy to program AAC app
Toontasic - FREE, create 'puppet show' videos; add characters, voice, and video is created
Verbally - FREE version, w/paid upgrade available; although I do not have a student that can use this AAC app this school year (as it is word based versus picture based), I had to include it because it made quite an impact for a student at the end of last school year

Top Fine Motor Apps
Bugs and Buttons - app that incorporates fine motor, sorting, patterns, colors, visual motor...I could go on! Great for fine motor, but also works on pre-academic skills as well.
injini - a multiple activity app that is divided into levels within each activity; this is the app I use most within my classroom; it incorporates activities that develop fine motor skills, matching skills, patterning, colors, visual motor....and another app that I could continue to list the benefits; Project Injini website has tracing printables that mirror iPad activities
iLuv Drawing Animals - simple learn how to draw app; takes user through picture step-by-step; great for fine motor development, teaching how to add detail to drawings, great feature - can email completed pictures

Top Book Apps
Cinderella by Nosy Crow - all Nosy Crow apps are amazing, but Cinderella made me feel like a kids again; a timely story, great interactivity, amazing illustrations create this superior book app
Chuck and Friends: Friends for the Long Haul - book app with the characters every little boy loves, embedded activities to reinforce letters, fine motor, and story comprehension; my review of Chuck and Friends
Penelope the Purple Pirate - an adorable story of a little girl who turns into a pirate; had to add it to this list as it is the one app a student requests frequently

Top (Pre) Academic
Alien Buddies - my review of Alien Buddies, great to reinforce letters, numbers, shapes, colors
Junior BINGO - bingo app for younger students; bingo reinforcing letters, numbers, and shapes
Kandy Fish -  great app for sorting by color, fine motor

Top Reading Apps
Word Wizard - my review of Word Wizard, great to use as an alternative to handwritten spelling tests
Word BINGO - great app to use with individual students as an assessment tool or with 2 students as a turn taking activity; my review of Word BINGO
My Word Wall - my review of My Word Wall, great to introduce letters and word families 
Photo Touch Sight Words -  great app to use as assessment tool, very customizable with built in word lists as well as ability to set word lists
Top Math Apps 
iLEAP Touch Spot Subtraction and Addition - very similar to "touch math" concept; various levels: learn, explore, apply, practice; gives more concrete meaning to subtraction/addition
Jungle Coins - customizable app with various levels from penny to all coins, including dollar; app is also customizable by other country's coins as well; my review of Jungle Coins and Jungle Time
Jungle Time - customizable app with various time levels of to the hour down to minutes
Candy Count - not a well know app and it does contain an in-app-purchase (IAP) which I am against as a selling point, but the concepts are great; sorting, counting, number order, greater/less than all in one app
iLearn With Poko: Addition - fun app focusing on the math skills of counting, grouping sets, and addition; my review of this app

Top "for fun" Apps
My Underwear - the only time it is ok to decorate and play with underwear

Top "grown up" games/apps
Words with Friends
Angry Birds  
Zite  - personalized magazine
Flipboard - personalize magazine

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas! ~updated~

I hope everyone had a great time with family and friends this holiday season!

I may have a Christmas gift for you. If you are interested in either of these apps, leave a comment on this post, tell me which app you'd like, and I will pick a "winner" by tomorrow night TUESDAY, December 27th at 10:00 EST. I will post winning names in the comments section or email you if I have your contact information after 10:00 EST. (Winners will be chosen from blog comments and email replies.) Good Luck!

Both apps are by Artgig Apps. If you are on facebook, stop by their page, become a fan, and say "Thanks" for allowing me to be a "Secret Santa" this Christmas!

Being Benny - Join Benny on an adventure into an imaginary world! Benny escapes the doldrums of a rainy day by imagining himself as a variety of different things: From rocket ships to dinosaurs, nothing is off-limits! Brightly colored, playful illustrations guide you through Benny’s adventure.

Shake-a-Phrase - a fun language app that teaches vocabulary and parts of speech for ages 8+. Perfect for learning and laughing in the classroom or on-the-go, this lightweight app features over 2,000 words and definitions in 5 colorful and engaging themes.

Good Luck!
~ Melanie

** I decided to give an extra day to enter due to the holiday today and some people not having access to the internet. ** I hope you understand! Please share with others. **

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What apps do I use most??

My daughter having a Toca Tea Party.

Curious about the apps that my students and I use most often?

Check out my app listing on Technology in (Spl) Education's website. It lists the apps, a description of the apps as well as pricing information. There are many that are FREE or discounted until the first of the year.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Run, Run as fast as you can...

you can't catch me,
I'm the Gingerbread Man!

Gingie hanging out with Frosty and the singing Christmas Tree
It’s December. It was time for me to plan the normal themes - winter holidays and families. Well, this year I decided to deviate a little from my normal. I wanted to explore a problem based learning (PBL) activity with my students. Where should I start? What would get and keep them engaged for the long term? What activities could be easily adapted in order for all students to actively participate with the activities? So, I did what all good teachers do…I borrow ideas from my fellow teachers!

AH checking out Gingie at his house
And so in walks the Gingie. Gingie is the Gingerbread Man, well, really Gingerbread Boy, who made his appearance outside the Kindergarten classroom a couple of weeks ago. Gingie is sneaky little Gingerbread Boy who left his Gingerbread house outside of the Kindergarten rooms to create a little mischief around the school. Gingie made appearances on the morning news video announcements, pictures were discovered of him hanging out in other classrooms, and items were knocked over in the classroom at night. The kindergarten teacher and I created a collaborative “Where is Gingie?” presentation that consisted of pictures of Gingie around the school as well as video clips of various adaptations of the Gingerbread Man story.  Despite all this, no one was able to catch the elusive little Gingerbread Boy. This is where the PROBLEM of the PBL activity comes into play. (** Quick disclaimer: due to students’ schedules and attendance, not all students participated in all activities, I will outline activities by Reading group at the end of this post **) 

After reading several Gingerbread themed books and experiencing Gingie’s mischievous ways for about a week. I discussed with the students that we needed to do something to help “catch” Gingie. Immediately the idea of a “trap” was thought of by 2 of the students. GREAT! Now, to discuss what kind of trap would be needed. The teacher lead discussion quickly became a classroom hunt for things to make a trap out of. One student chose a laundry basket from his workstation. Another student took an empty plastic bin off the shelf and sized it with a Frosty the Snowman stuffed animal from the classroom. With guidance from yours truly, we had a little discussion about making the traps big enough for Gingie, what the traps might look like, and where would be a good place to set out the traps. We continued with other Gingerbread activities for a couple days, then revisited the idea of building the trap. The students were given a variety of materials in which to create their trap (cereal boxes, toilet paper rolls, tape, stickers, construction paper, etc....). I had 2 students (KB/KR) working together on creating a Gingerbread house as a trap (They cut/pasted various shapes of paper to create the look of ‘candy’ on house walls.) while another student (JS) worked by himself creating a trap with a toy (aka some random legos) so that “Gingie would get the toy and fall down the hole”.

Gingie playing with the KB's/KR's trap
Traps are made…now what? Where to place the traps? The students each were able to choose the location to place the traps. KR chose to place the trap in the library for the night. (No luck!) JS chose to place his trap in the 2nd grade classroom.  (No luck, but Ginger did tie up the trap and make a little mess with some glitter.) KB decided to leave the trap in our classroom. (NO luck there either, that sneaky little Gingerbread Man!) The students LOVED the various Gingerbread stories we read. And I have to admit, I had NO idea that there were so many versions.  One activity that amazed me was a venn diagram activity I did with my second reading group. As we read each of the stories, we talked about various text to text connections. The students did a nice job of talking about the individual stories, but could they comparing using a venn diagram? ABSOLUTELY! The two students in my second reading group (KR/KB) where able to compare the characters (mostly animals) in the Gingerbread Girl and Gingerbread Baby stories with only a little guidance from me. The SLP was in my classroom during this time and she was amazed at the activity. The students “got it”. It was definitely my #eduwin of the week! (If curious about #eduwin, check out twitter and search for it! Inspiring comments by teachers.)
Gingie messing with JS's trap

Were the students upset that they didn’t catch him? Absolutely not! The students truly were immersed in the activities. They enjoyed the adventure. The language that the activities elicited was amazing! Everyone the students came in contact with had to be informed of our trap making and how we needed to catch the Gingerbread Man. All of the staff were supportive. They listen and made comments about the traps, the activities, or just have their support by saying they would look for him in their classrooms.  We are so lucky to have such a supportive school staff!

So, if your school in beginning to incorporate the use of problem based learning lessons or you just want to try something new, don’t hesitate to jump on board within your classroom! I challenge you to bring the ‘problems’ and technology into your classroom and see how your students amaze you!

** Some content is password protected. Parents, if you would like to see the additional content, comment or email me and I will give you the password. Sorry to others who may want to see, but please respect the privacy of my students in this instance. Thank you! ** 

Use of technology:
  • Powerpoint created in collaboration with the Kindergarten teacher 
  • Use of youtube videos to provide various versions of the Gingerbread Man/Boy/Girl story
  • Use of iPad with talking Gingerbread Man app
  • Students explored and engaged in their first WebQuest
  • SMART Board: venn diagram graphic to compare/contrast characters between Gingerbread Girl and Baby storie and notebook file with Gingerbread themed math activities

Use of assistive technology:
  • Use of Big Mack switch to record repetitive text in stories to allow students to participate in reading/telling story
  • Use of iPad with AAC app to choose shapes for Gingerbread person creation from Starfall website
IH creating his Gingerbread Man on Starfall
Internet resources:

Best video and favorite by staff and students:

 video by Jim Rule, posted on YouTube by pnotunamusic

Reading Group #1 Activities:
Participated in WebQuest, Startfall Gingerbread person activity, explored Gingerbread Man powerpoint with videos, created/decorated own Gingerbread person for the classroom Holiday Door display, exposed to Gingerbread Man, Gingerbread Girl, Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Pirates books.

Gingerbread Man song preformed by AH:

Untitled from Melanie Broxterman on Vimeo.

Reading Group #2:
Participated in WebQuest  completing questions and answers with guidance, Startfall Gingerbread person activity, explored Gingerbread Man powerpoint with videos, created/decorated own Gingerbread person for the classroom Holiday Door display, exposed to Gingerbread Man, Gingerbread Girl, Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Pirates books, compared/contrasted Gingerbread Girl and Gingerbread Baby stories, complete venn diagram with some guidance from teacher.

Gingerbread Man song performed by KB:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

#Appy Holidays App Sale Event!

Be sure to pick up your iTunes gift cards or be ready to gift some apps! 

My friends over at Technology in (Spl) Education are hosting a great #Appy Holidays app party this weekend! A sortable list of the FREE/discounted can be found on the website. Be sure to RSVP here.

Developers will be hosting various parts of the party from various parts of the world making this a global holiday event via the Technology in Education facebook page

Hope to see you stop by and say HI! If you do, tell them I sent you!