Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Best App I've Ever Purchased (and I've Purchased a Bunch) Part 1

Every year I set a goal for how I want to improve in my teaching. This year I decided that I was going to revamp my comprehension instruction. When you teach primary special education ( or kindergarten) comprehension and decoding should be taught separately. Let's face it:  "Fat Cat and the Fish" isn't givin' us much to work with in the comprehension department.  I'm pretty pleased with the results. I try to cycle through and hit the same skill multiple times throughout the year. When I can, I use seasonal books to match the skills being taught. In January, every primary teacher in America and  I used Jan Brett's The Mitten. This one lends itself well to retelling. Come to think of it, so does my favorite app.

If you don't know Puppet Pals, you are missing out. I purchased it several years ago for around five buckaroos. There are similar apps that have more bells and whistles (and way more expensive), but I find the simplicity perfect for my students.

I purchased a "Mitten" retelling kit from Oriental Trading Company a few years ago. I had leftover that I used this year. After modeling retelling and then having the students practice with paper puppets, I decided to take this activity up a notch. Here's how it worked.

With my iPad I snapped photos of items that I wanted to use as puppets for our show. I find it works better doing this before launching the app. Then we open the app, start a new show, and click "add actors from photo." 

This gives you access to your tablet's photo steam. Click on the photo that you want to make into a puppet and trace around it.

You will need to do this for each character in your show. It doesn't take much time. For this retelling I didn't find that any of the included backdrops appropriate for our show. I searched Google images, saved a photo I liked, and then chose it as my backdrop. The setup is really.that.simple.  In small groups, students and I did a "shared retelling." I'm pretty sure I just made that term up. 

This is a video I made with a student with autism. He needed some guidance, but he was totally engaged. After the shared retellings, I add the "puppets" to our classroom iPad and encourage students to record their retelling individually during center time. They love it. Something about recording our own voices is SUPER fun.  The kids enjoy watching the retellings of other students. The best part is that you can do this with almost any story using your camera and a favorite classroom book.  Puppet Pals=the best $5 I've ever spent. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I tell you what other cool things you can do with this app.