8 Indispensable iPad and iPod Apps for Elementary Education

Solar Walk: one of my 8 indispensable apps for education

Solar Walk: one of my 8 indispensable apps for education

If you’re like me, you might feel a little overwhelmed by the hundreds of apps you could be using your classroom. You might even feel guilty that you’re not up on the latest and greatest from the iTunes store. I sure felt this way, and then I realized that I already had over 150 apps on my school’s iPods and iPads… many of which I had rarely — if ever — used, and some of which just plain didn’t work.

So, in a bout of New Year’s cleaning, I culled through my collection and deleted everything that wasn’t worthy of my students’ time — or yours.

And here — drumroll, please — are all the apps that made the cut.

Not content to stop there, I whittled the list down further to just eight apps that would benefit almost all students in grades 2-4. Not passing fads, if these apps were physical books, I’d have to tape their spines to keep them from falling apart. I hope you find them as useful as I have. Continue reading

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Embracing Teachable Moments

Who wouldn't want to take a closer look at this guy?

Who wouldn’t want to take a closer look at this guy?

A few weeks ago, as my class was walking in from recess, we saw a large brownish-black bug crawling across a desk in the hallway. Of course, everyone wanted to look at it. It was so cool! But, as a hundred children began to cram through the recess door, I reluctantly urged my class along.

Once my students were back in the room, I made a quick decision. I dashed out into the hall with a bug box, hoping the little guy was still there. He was — looking dazed — so I scooped him up, and brought him back to my room.

I had planned to do a read aloud about the rainforest that afternoon, but I knew my plans could wait. The bug couldn’t, and neither could my students. So I put the bug on the document camera where everyone could see, and we began a science talk. Continue reading

Teaching the Scientific Method to 3rd Graders

The post I wrote about teaching scientific observation skills has been making me think more about the importance of going back to basics with science in our digital age.  We live in a time when kids think it’s better to take digital pictures in the forest than to draw.  They think technology has to be made of circuits and silicon and that every question can be answered with a Google search.

But none of that is true!  Drawing teaches us to see.  Technology includes the buttons on your shirt and the laces in your shoes.  And Google searches will tell us the knowledge of the day, but not the answers we need for tomorrow.

That’s why we have to teach the scientific method.  So students have the tools they need to ask questions and find answers that are factual, verifiable, and provable.  Answers that stand up against critical review and analysis and reveal larger truths about our world.

Continue reading

Getting Started with Science

Being an elementary school teacher is hard for many reasons, not the least of which is you have to be a master of every discipline (as well a psychologistcaregiver, etc.).  One discipline that seems especially tough for people is science.  I often hear from colleagues that they feel like they lack the background knowledge they need to be effective science teachers.  Many colleagues who have science kits teach only those lessons, and colleagues who have less well-defined programs aren’t sure where to start.

There are good reasons to feel this way.  First, many of us had few experiences with science (and probably none with engineering) when we were in elementary school.  I remember hatching chicks in first grade, and that’s about it.  Second, women, who make up the vast majority of elementary teachers, have historically been discouraged from pursuing the sciences.  Third, while many of us read and write as part of our daily lives, fewer people see science the same way.  And if you live in an urban area, it may feel like opportunities for experiencing the natural world are few and far between.

I want to share some very simple, but profound ways to get started with science in your elementary classroom.  Or, if you teach from a science kit (I do too — there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel), I want to share some ways to get back to fundamentals and do science with your kids outside. Continue reading