Powerful Collaboration

A couple Monday’s ago, we provided one of our Grade 1 teachers with the opportunity to visit another Grade 1 teacher in our school district. She was going to observe the teacher doing morning routines, Guided Reading, calendar, math and everything else that happens before lunch. As a result, my principal and I had the opportunity to teach in her Grade 1 classroom while she was gone.

Jan 27 12 ipad Carson 27/366During my 2 hours with the grade 1 class, I thought it would be a great time to introduce the students to the iPads our school just purchased. The kids were a little hesitant at first when I started explaining that we were going to do something different. This is common for students of this age. Change can be difficult for them, but, given the opportunity, they do adjust fairly quickly. Anxiously, they pointed to the daily agenda on the board and said, “But, Mrs. Henriksen, we have Math, Spelling, and Journals to do!” I reassured them that we were indeed going to do all of these things, but we were going to use the iPads to do this work instead. They looked relieved, but skeptical.

During our time together, we explored a number of different apps. These apps led to increased engagement and allowed for ease of differentiation of instruction. At times, students used the same app as their peers, while at other times, like during Math, students used different apps, depending on their level of knowledge.

The students using the story app, Into the Snow – a story which they listened to and interacted with a partner. This is an app that reads the story to the student. In addition, there are other activities that engages the student in the story throughout the reading.

Next, we moved onto Math. Knowing that some students are very good at basic math acts, while others struggle with the very basic facts, I decided to use a few different apps with different students.


As you can see from the photo to the right, the students were really engaged in their learning. It was interesting to me that they all gathered together, even though they only had to share the iPad with one other person.

Next, the kids used the app, Word Avalanche to make as many words as they could with the letters that rolled down in the “avalanche”. The kids had fun with this as well. This app was great because it allowed for all students to use the same app – making words of different lengths.

Finally, the students had the opportunity for about 10 minutes of free-time on the iPads, exploring what the apps.  Next time, I would give them more time to explore. I believe that this exploration time is so important when learning new things (or with new devices).

Overall, we had a great time together. The kids had so much fun playing and learning together. I was impressed with how engaged the students were in their learning – playing “games”. Some of these students have real challenges focusing on my “traditional” paper and pencil activities in math, however, when they were working on the iPads, ALL students were engaged in their learning.  No exceptions.  You can’t help but think how this engagement would affect their long-term learning.

To top it off, the Grade 1 teacher had a great visit with another Grade 1 teacher in our district.  She came away with many ideas and inspiration.  Thanks very much to Karen Lirenman (@LirenmanLearns) for making this a possibility! I look forward to the teacher’s next visit to Karen’s class, so I can spend some more time with her class!

What a great opportunity for collaboration: for the students AND the teachers!  Great Professional Development!

Take a look at this Ted Talks below about kids and games.  Very interesting.

How Games Make Kids Smarter

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Do games really make kids smarter?  OR are you like my husband who thinks that the costs of gaming far outweigh the benefits? (Yah, we agree to disagree on that one. Makes for interesting and lively conversations though.)

Published by Tia M. Dawson

There are many things that define who I am as a person. First of all, I am a mother of 3 wonderful children! I can not express how fortunate we are to have our children in our life! Secondly, I am an elementary educator who recently returned to the classroom after 12+ years as an elementary school administrator. Lastly, I am passionate about helping others, learning about abuse, helping others in abusive relationships, and helping others understand their worth.

4 thoughts on “Powerful Collaboration

  1. Ha! My class would have been all over those iPads like dirty shirts! They wouldn’t have even waited for you to get settled, let alone mention to you what they were supposed to be doing.

    I think games are great for learning, but as in everything there’s always a balance. My four year old is the boss when it comes to using the iPad and he is teaching me new things on it all the time. He has his own folder and it is filled with games. some are outright “educational” and some are not, but there’s a lot he is learning and practicing from all of them including skills involving fine motor, logic, and sequencing. Oh, and I am so excited that my 19 month old can tell us how how to spell her name because of a game on her leap laptop. She can’t even talk yet!

    However, I worry about his posture (head bent down, staring intently at iPad is not good) and about the unknown (how is this impacting his brain?, do I have to worry about wireless beams frying his head?). So, I limit his game playing, on any tech device to a set time everyday (depending on how much time I need for him to be out of my hair, ha ha!). He has the option of playing oh our laptop, on the wii, or on the iPad.

    Games (does it really matter that it’s on a tech device?) are known to help kids learn and master concepts, AND it makes learning fun for all of us!

    1. Hi Iram,

      I agree with the balance! Balance is so important, but I agree that it should be an opportunity we give our students and children. My husband is the opposite of me – he doesn’t want our kids on the computer or ipad or any technology ever. I don’t believe that is the answer. It is a part of their life and they should have opportunities to learn with technology.

      Yes, games, regardless of whether they are with technology or not, are very important and essential to the love of learning.

      Thanks for your comment, Iram.


  2. I have been following @KathyCassidy http://kathycassidy.com/ on twitter. She is a grade one teacher in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Recently she invited her students to bring their DS and DSi games into her classroom. They had time to share their favourite games with one another and then they had time to “game” using the shared devices (only about 1/3 had devices). After her students used the Pictochat feature which allows DS and DSi devices that are in close proximity to one another to communicate with one another. This totally has my interests peeked. I talked to my students about having a DS day in our classroom and they were all over it. Now I just need to pick the day. I’m curious to see how my students react.

    Thanks for sharing, and for mentioning me in this post. While your grade one teacher did visit my classroom she didn’t see any calendar (it was totally scrapped at that time) but she did see my students free write (which is something I’m really proud of). It was a good visit and I welcome her, or other curious grade one teachers into my room. Karen

    1. Hi Karen,

      I will have to look at Kathy’s blog. Thanks for passing it along.

      I’m sure that grade one teacher at our school would love to come back again. We’ll have to maybe try to set something up for after Spring Break maybe (or maybe before)??

      Thanks for commenting,

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