Thursday, January 26th, 2012
I had the pleasure of observing a 1st grade lesson this past week that incorporated iPads. The lesson was on “super e”, it was a Language Arts lesson that discussed what the “super e” does when you add it to the end of a word. As a high school teacher and administrator, it was interesting to watch, mainly because I never really thought about how students learned this skill. Last time I was involved in this lesson was when I was actually in 1st grade.
Anyway, the teacher began with the students on the rug, asked for a couple words that ended in e, one thing lead to another and the kids were back at their seats with a worksheet to fill out based on the activity that involved iPads.
The first app they used was Magnetic ABC, basically an electronic version of magnetic letters. Students were tasked with pulling a word out of the cup in the middle of the desks (say SHIN), dragging the letters up to the work area, then adding a “super e” to the end (giving them SHINE). After saying the word they were to write it on their worksheet.
When students completed their worksheet, they moved on to an app called Memory Game Spelling Words. Basically an electronic take on the old concentration game where students were challenged to match “super e” words hidden behind flash cards.
The lesson was very well done. While everything could have been done using traditional manipulatives, I counted at least 6 ways the iPads enhanced the lesson:
- Differentiation: Students completed the Magnetic Letter app activity at much different paces. Students knew to move on to the Memory Game app when they were finished. Furthermore, the difficulty of the Memory Game app could be manipulated by the teacher for each student based on ability.
- # of repetitions: Because the “magnetic letters” were clearly available at the bottom of the iPad, there was no digging around a tupperware container for the right letter, confusing a p for a d or q for b, or dropping, throwing or eating the letters. Thus the activity ran smoothly and all of those typical 1st grade variables were taken away, giving students much more time on task and eliminating a lot of typical discipline problems. The memory game could be played over and over again, with students playing a new game each time. Plus, the teacher can control what type of words are on the other side of the cards, so the app can be used over and over again based on the lesson.
- Personalization: Students could change the color of the letters, make them capital or lower case and change the background of the workspace. It gave each of them a unique experience based on their personal preferences. Everything else in life allows us to use our personal preferences, why shouldn’t students get the same experience in school. Some students chose to make the “e” a different color, some didn’t, that was the beauty of it.
- Seamlessness: For lack of a better word, the iPads were integrated seamlessly. Started right up, no waiting for loading. Apps were preloaded, so the kids tapped them, and they were off.
- Engaging: Brightly colored graphics, crisp, clean audio, interactive user interface, appropriately challenging, EVERY student was on task. Why wouldn’t they be?
- Time-saving: The teacher didn’t have to check each box of magnetic letters, or create her own memory game. She didn’t have to run off extra “enrichment” worksheets for the students that finished early.
I’m sure there were more ways the iPad enhanced the lesson, I probably could have thrown FUN in there too. As I think about their effectiveness, this lesson reminded me why we need to get (at least) all of our elementary classrooms outfitted with these tools. They just do too many things…