Monday, November 9, 2015

3 Must-Have iPad Apps for Kindergartners

Angela Gadtke 1.JPG
Angela Gadke is a kindergarten teacher in Minnesota. With 14 years of experience working with kindergartners, she’s always looking for ways to meaningfully integrate technology to help students communicate, create, and explore. 

She has presented at ISTE 2015, iPadPaloozaMN, MN iOS Summit, and many local conferences. In 2014, Angela was named a TIES Exceptional Teacher.  Angela is a Seesaw Ambassador. You can follow Angela on Twitter @MrsGadtke.

Kindergarten classrooms are bustling with movement, creating, sharing, building,and problem solving. This is a place where emerging readers, writers, scientists, and engineers are eager to share their stories. In this magical world, I am picky when it comes to the apps that my students use.

I focus on integrating apps that …

  • Encourage creativity, choice, and independence
  • Make student thinking visible
  • Remove barriers to allow students to do things that would otherwise would not be possible without technology
  • Provide ways for students to share their learning

Here are three versatile apps that work brilliantly with kindergartners. No matter your tech prowess, they are simple to implement across all content areas.

Seesaw is the one app I need in my kindergarten classroom. Teachers, students, and parents love it and here’s why. With Seesaw students create a digital learning journal or portfolio. Throughout the day, students independently capture their learning with photos, videos, voice, and drawings.  Everything is uploaded, organized, approved by the teacher, and instantly shared with that child’s parents.

Whoa, this sounds too complex for kindergarten, right?  Seesaw is intuitive even for our youngest learners.  During the fifth week of school this year, all of my kindergartners could log in, take a picture, add voice, and upload that item to their journal - all without my help! That is empowering for students and a game changer for teachers.

Many teachers also view Seesaw as a great option for student blogs and flipping instruction. Once you start playing around with this app you too will get a little giddy with the possibilities.

What does it look like in a real classroom?
My kindergartners grab an iPad, scan our class QR code, and they’re ready to create. Older students can sign in with e-mail or Google accounts.

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Once in, students have the following options within the app.


In the beginning, my students take photos of their physical creations or work, then touch a button and record a voice explanation. If students create work digitally in other apps, those creations can be saved directly into Seesaw and parents are notified when content is added. This eliminates the need to e-mail separate links and everything is saved and shared in one place. Seesaw also makes app smashing a breeze! Check out this Popplet into Seesaw app smash.

Ready to get rolling with Seesaw?

Start simple - Have students take photos of their work and add it to their Seesaw journal. Start with math. If students are building patterns have them capture their work.
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Encourage young authors - During writer’s workshop, have students take a photo of their writing and use the microphone button to tell their story. This supports oral language and captures their story so that when they return to their writing, both the student and teacher know what their story says - priceless for emergent writers!

Explain a concept or extend learning - Goodbye worksheets! After a lesson, have students take a photo, write on the photo, and explain their learning. Here’s a kindergartner showing what they know about rhyming or a third grader explaining rounding a number. You can also open a blank drawing and let your students create.

Rethink assessments - Gone are the days of sitting one on one with a kindergartener and listening to oral counting. I have five students at a time grab an iPad and count. Their skills are documented, shared with parents, and I save instructional time.  Try it with sight words, shape vocabulary, fluency checks, science concepts, and during Daily 5.

Connect with all parents - Visual updates with Seesaw cross language barriers and parents love that it comes from their child. I love that I know when parents have “seen” items. I can share field trip photos or class projects, by simply touching the “everyone” button. Inviting parents is easy!

Make sure to check out @Seesaw and #seesawchat on Twitter for more ideas from a variety of grade levels and platforms.

Shadow Puppet EDU
My second “go to” app is Shadow Puppet.  This app allows students to combine photos and video to create digital movies, books, or slideshows.  Students add voice narration, text, and background music to convey a story and share information - the sky’s the limit.  There’s also a built-in search which allows students to select filtered images or maps from the web. The possibilities with this app are endless from screencasts, to science reports, and how to videos.  

Starting off with Shadow Puppet EDU
In my classroom, kindergartners take photos using the iPad camera.  Students open the Shadow Puppet app and press the green add button to begin a new puppet. As they tap the images from the camera roll, they are put into sequence.  Students then press a button and begin recording audio, adding text, or music. Their project can be shared in multiple ways or even saved directly into their Seesaw journals for quick sharing with parents.  Easy. Powerful.

Create Class Books - We love creating class books with Shadow Puppet. Last month during writer’s workshop my students wrote about what they wanted to do when they got bigger. I took a picture of each child’s writing, we opened Shadow Puppet, selected those images, and students narrated their page.

Summarize a unit of study  After a unit on earthworms, my students worked in teams to create a digital book to teach about worms. They grabbed a paper and pencil and listed the photo shots they would need.They ventured outside with iPads to capture their photos. They put their shots in sequence and narrated their books.

Create How to Videos or Screencasts - Here’s an example from two students using Shadow Puppet to explain how to make a movie. I use Shadow Puppet to make screencasts that introduce station activities or as a way to share directions with parents about how to play a game.


Vocabulary Support for ELL - Shadow Puppet is an awesome tool to support English language learners. I have used Shadow Puppet to create visual schedules and vocabulary lessons.  Last year I collaborated with a student’s dad to create digital stories narrated in the student’s first language and English to support his English vocabulary development. Here’s a short clip of an example.

Chatterpix Kids

My final favorite app is ChatterPix Kids. This is an app that can make any photo talk.  It’s as easy as snapping a photo, drawing a line to make a mouth, and recording your voice.  Again, the possibilities are endless.

Here are some ideas to get your ideas flowing!

Science recap - A kindergartner makes a leaf talk to share what they know.

Practice math concepts - We had some fun making money talk while we learned the values of each coin.

Book Talks - Why not use Chatterpix Kid to make books come alive? Have students take a photo of a book’s cover and give a “book talk” or “retell” the story.


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