Goodbye Centers, Hello Apps

At 3:15 pm Monday through Friday I walk into my quiet 3rd grade classroom and do a quick visual sweep of the floor looking for that stray crayon under the desk or the scrap paper in the corner so that the custodian will be able to vacuum at the end of the day and I feel as though I helped him in some small way. What I no longer find on the floor of my classroom is the small pieces to the learning centers that I lovingly and tediously put together for many of my summers.
I no longer have to hut down which center folder, box or file that the missing piece belongs to, because without it the center would be incomplete. I have found a way out of this hunt and seek game for the right center. This teacher has discovered a new non-little piece way to incorporate centers into my daily instruction, the iPad. This 2 pound electronic by Apple has done away with the traditional centers in my room. They are still on the shelves in my room but they are collecting dust and retaining all of their little pieces. This is happening because the State of Idaho has a loan program of these iPads to schools that send in a grant. My school just happened to be the first to receive the iPads and they are being put to use everyday in my room.
For 30 minutes a day my students are engrossed in the applications (app). They are in various reading apps. in the morning but in the afternoon they are exploring the math apps. These iPads are mostly used in partners just as a traditional center is but minus the cleanup time and the daily lost pieces.
Some of the reading apps that my students enjoy are:
For Reading:
1. Word Bingo: This is like traditional bingo with sight words but can be leveled and works well in partners. Better that traditional flashcards and the students can earn point towards the mini-games that are included.
2. Hangman: The digital version of this game includes taking turns and students input the word while the partner uses spelling patterns and phonic skills to beat their partner.
3. Chicktionary: This is a new take on the “hidden word” game. It gives the player 6 letters in the body of chickens that they unscramble to spell a new word. It encourages use of phonics and spelling patterns to create new words and rhyming words as well as word families. It is even fun for adults.
4. Ilivegrammar…: This one is available in various versions including: Winter, Autumn, and Botany. It features beautiful photos relating to the title topic and is a non-fiction language arts program. It gives the student a sentence and then highlights a word within the sentence. Then the student has to identify the word as a part of speech such as noun, verb, adj., etc. There are several levels within each version to build on language skills.
5. Shell Lagoon: This app. reviews homonyms, synonyms and antonyms in a colorful and fun way with a beach theme. The game can be played in partners and there is the option of a short, medium or long game. The game is equipped with sound so students can hear the differences/similarities of the words given. It is a definite plus for the ESL students who need the extra auditory practice. It also introduces children to new vocabulary and I encourage them to use their dictionaries to look up the words (sneaking in dictionary skills).
6. Iprepositions (Preposition Builder): This app is very kid friendly in use and shows great pictures to go along with the sentences it uses. The students are given three words to choose from and one fits as the preposition in the sentence. It reviews nine different categories of prepositions and each category has 21 questions. I think this a great resource for the ESL students in my class.
For Math:
1. Math Flash Cards: The free version is only addition but you can purchase the version that contains all operations. This app lets you set the number of questions that you want to answer so you can choose the length of the time for the center. It is a simple app with no distracting graphics. Mostly used single digit flashcards.
2. Math Bingo: This is the partner app to Word Bingo and is a favorite of most students. It is leveled by grades and students can store their progress to return to at a later time. It allows the student to focus on a single operation or all four in a mixed review as well as selecting the level of difficulty. As students play and they find the answers to the math equations the markers are cute monster germ looking icons that fill the game board. Points are accumulated which gives students access to the mini games within the app.
3. Pizza Fractions: Fractions are the focus in this simple yet addicting app. It shows the traditional portrayal of fractions as a pizza and gives students three answer choices at the bottom. This is a beginning fractions app because it does not last long and the difficulty level can not be adjusted. However, it is a favorite app of my students.
4. Flow Math: Double digit equations are the star in this app. It takes the flashcards to a new level of difficulty and skill practice.
5. Number Line: This number line is not the traditional one with only set of information but it is closer to the “living number line” because it is one that incorporates not only whole numbers but also percents, decimals and fractions. It is designed to create an awareness of how all these expressions fit together. I like that this app gives instant feedback. If a student places the bubble (with the number inside it) in the correct place the bubble turns green. If the bubble is in the wrong place on the number line it will turn red. This allows student to correct their mistake and figure out what was the misunderstanding in their thinking. This is best introduced in whole group but then in pairs as students understand the objective. However, this is for mixed review only and does not allow for a focus on a single skill which would be helpful. It was the winner of the Virgina Mobile Learning Apps Development Challenge ().
6. TanZen Lite: This is the digital version of the tanagrams manipulative sets. It gives a shadowed figure with colored shapes that students move over the shadow to try and over it correctly. The covered shadow then creates a picture. This is a great app during our geometry unit.
7. ClockMaster: This app allows the difficulty level to be adjusted and player information to be stored. The graphic displays a colorful clock with a time given. Students roll the wheels at the bottom to identify the time. This works great in partners.
8. Flash To Pass Free: This app has a lot of the same features as the other flashcard apps already listed here but this one has higher levels of difficulty.
9. Pop Math: This is a fun app that has students identify the answer and the problem what are floating around in large colored bubbles. The background images that the bubbled float are bright and colorful too. There are just enough bubbles to keep student attention without them feeling overwhelmed by the math. It allows you to focus on one operation or a mixed review.
10. Math Drills Lite: This math app is not only flashcards but it walks students through the given problem with a number line and explanations. It looks like a chalkboard with a number pad for the answers. The student is not timed so it allows students to work without the pressure of being times which can stress some of my students out. It allows for focused practice on a single operation, or a mixed review.
Mixed Reading & Math:
1. Murky Reef Lite: The combination of reading and math in this app sets it apart from the others. It is an undersea adventure where the student answers math and grammar question inside of a submarine while the creatures of the deep swim around. It is a great app for skill review and partners.
After our “borrowing” of these digital learning center iPads is over I will be spending my summers writing grants to obtain classroom sets with even more applications because I will not longer have to spend it coloring, cutting and laminating (and replacing pieces) new learning centers.