Breathing New Life Into an Old Lesson Using iPads

Some rights reserved by Martin Gommel


I’ve been using iPads in a 1:1 fashion in my kindergarten classroom this year. My students and I have been finding fun, interesting, and mostly useful ways to use the iPads everyday in all areas of the curriculum. I wanted to share a brief example of how we recently used our iPads to add a little technology flavor in a science lesson. It’s nothing ground breaking, but I think it acts as a good example of how easily you can infuse technology and how helpful it can be.

Our school has chosen to use FOSS kits (Full Option Science Systems) to help implement the science curriculum. If you’re not familiar with FOSS it’s basically a prepackaged set of units that come with almost all the supplies you will need to teach a unit. Right now we are just starting the “Trees’ unit. The one problem I have with this unit is the types of examples they use for trees are not found anywhere near where we live. Not a huge deal but I wanted to try and find a way for the kids to personalize their learning a bit. In past years we have gathered around the whiteboard and searched for the types of trees found in our area but this was still teacher led and I wanted to find something a little more engaging and student focused.

We have been working with our iPads for going on 5 weeks and the students are getting pretty good at navigating the machines and understand that they must ask for help when they are stuck or unsure about what to do. I wanted to find a way that they could use their iPads to express there knowledge in a clear and basic way. I wasn’t looking to “redefine” what or how I was teaching, I just wanted to add a sprinkle of technology for flavor. I also wanted to use tech as a way to engage the students, and if possible, to as assess their learning.

I wanted to keep it simple and not let technology take too much time away from the actual content. As we were just starting the unit we were discussing the different parts of a tree; leaves, branches, trunk and roots. I spent some time drawing pictures of trees as well as using the pictures provided to help the students understand the different parts of the tree. I asked the student if they could all identify the different parts of a tree. They all nodded in agreement that the could. I said great! Show me by going outside with your iPads, take a picture of a tree and then use a program to add words to the pictures identifying each part we have discussed.

When I asked them what App they would like to use they all said they wanted to use Pages. I asked them how they were going to get the pictures of the trees and they said that they would use the iPads built in camera. I said “Super” and send them off.

On a tree part hunt!


They all went out and took some pictures and came back and got to work. A couple students couldn’t remember exactly which Apps was Pages and a couple forgot how to import photos but they helped each other out and after a couple minutes started cruising right along. They opened Pages, imported the pictures they took, and then added text boxes for the words identifying each part. Since they are just learning to read it was a great way for them to review letter sounds and they picked the words off our word list. As we progressed I noticed that some students didn’t have a picture for each part of a tree. I sat with them and we revisited the diagram we drew together and discussed which parts were missing. They went back outside and took the missing pictures, added the missing words and were good to go.

As the students worked through each step of the process, finding and opening Pages, importing pictures, adding text boxes, naming the document etc, they were able to get help from each other as well as offer help to each other. I was just hanging back and letting them teach and learn from each other. As students finished up they were able to help their classmates who were struggling a bit. It was great for the kids to be learners as well as teachers.

I have two ELL students and this ability to revisit and support them individually was huge. These particular students are really good at nodding their head and looking as though they really understand what’s being discussed, but that’s not always the case.

A student created assessment.

These students are doing double duty as they are learning the content as well as a language at the same time. This way this activity was structured it really gave me an opportunity to see clearly how I could offer support. I think this alone would have made the whole lesson worthwhile.

Once they were all finished they shared and discussed their work with a friend. Once that was complete they each took a quick screen shot of the document, opend that picture in Skitch and added it to their Evernote portfolio.(Read more about how we use Skitch to build Evernote portfolios here.)

Like I said, nothing ground breaking but I think it was a good way to sprinkle some technology into a lesson that’s already been designed and delivered multiple times. It didn’t really require any more planning on my part but it did provide me with an additional assessment as well as an opportunity to reteach when needed. I was also able to embed some extra tech and language arts standards into the lesson as well. Bonus!

The students were also creators and not just consumers of information. Instead of just of completing a worksheet on the parts of the tree they created an interactive version all their own.

Do you have an instance where you could see this working in a similar situation in your classroom?

Avatar of Benjamin J Sheridan

About Benjamin J Sheridan

MS technology coordinator at the American Embassy School in New Delhi, India.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Breathing New Life Into an Old Lesson Using iPads

  1. Hi,
    We are using the app Pic Collage for our pond walks. It’s a very simple way to organize photos and text. I find Pages can be hard for k students to use on their own. Check out Pic Collage!
    Angie

  2. Jo says:

    Thanks for sharing your ideas. I teach kinder and am looking for ways to use the iPad as more than a practice machine! I might try doing something like this next semester but I was thinking I might try the educreation. They can take the photo in the app, add text and draw on the photo. They can also add voice recordings in this app which is great for the kids who really struggle typing the words in!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>