Using Explain Everything to Track Reading Progress

A couple of years ago I saw an idea of using Explain Everything to track reading. I have been working on getting teachers to try this since, but this year I managed to get it started in 3 grades. Each year we have 3 two week long assessment blocks. During those weeks I used my IT time to complete this project with the students. 
 

I recently finished up with the Grade Two class. It was amazing to see them whizz through putting their third reading into their Explain Everything in just one lesson. 

I have also been building these in grade one as well. Here is an example of two students. One who is in our EAL program and one who is not. I ask the EAL students to use their reading books given them by their EAL teacher since they are designed to build their English vocabulary and fluency.

I began in grade one by taking students one at a time out into the hallway with their books. We recorded the introduction slide and their reading. 

For the second round I had the students add the “March Reading” slide, take pictures of their books, insert the books into their project and record their reading through 3 guided lessons following me as I instructed them with help from a partner. 

For the third round I had the students add the “May Reading” slide, take pictures of their books and insert the books in one lesson. The following lesson I reminded them all of how to complete their recoding and send them off to record.

In grade two I had the students add the “October Reading” slide, take pictures of their books, insert the books into their project and record their reading through 3 guided lessons following me as I instructed them with help from a partner. 

The second time we recorded we were able to add the “March Reading” slide, take pictures of their books and insert the books in one lesson.

The third time I simply reminded them of what they needed to do and they completed it all in one lesson. 

I look forward to seeing one of these progress through another year as I think it will be an amazing sampling of how a student reads. 

Student reflection in the classroom

I have been thinking about practical ways for students to use their iPads for reflection on the class environment. One of the ideas that came to me is using student reflections as a way to transform homework. 

 

Using an app like Explain Everything students could take pictures of a math lesson done in class. Then at home for homework, instead of more written practice they could record themselves explaining how to solve the problems.  They could aim the video to an audience of classmates, siblings, parents, etc.  Then to get patents involved, they could try the method explained in the video, give their child feedback and then the student could fix anything that might be needed.  This could be homework that is done over 3 days, not in one session. 

Here are examples of students using Explain Everything to show how they solve a word problem in math. 
 

 
 

Students could also use this method to reflect at the end of a unit or a group of lessons on ways to approach a topic to show which method is the one that works the best for them and why.

 
In language students could use this method to pick apart a piece of text.  Looking for specific words, character traits, plot elements, etc. They could do this as follow up homework or as part of a class guided reading session.  
 
The biggest drawback to this method is that it can be time consuming to review all of the videos as a teacher.  This is when I think it will be very important to have specific time limits and rubrics for the students to follow on the tasks.  
 

The advantages is that this begins to give students a greater voice in expressing verbally their reflections, which in the PYP is a regularly occurring expectation.  It also give students another way to reflect besides written reflections.  For teachers there would be no notebooks to cart around and grade.  The grade could be done anywhere that there is internet access.  This would also allow for students to do some peer feedback in a format that they, at the moment, aren’t use to doing.

Explain Everything Explore Lesson

I thought that I would write about a lesson that I am doing with grades four and five to better introduce Explain Everything. In the past I haven’t done the best job of introducing the app and many teachers and students have thought of it as a slide show app.  They didn’t realize the importance of the audio track.
Over the summer one of the things that Explain Everything updated was adding a “Simple Interface”. I was very excited about this before school started. One of my issues with Explain Everything was that it was so full of tools that students spent a lot of time playing instead of working.

So I started with grade four. We decided that we were going to use Explain Everything to complete a Math activity. We decided first to give them an explore activity. So I planned out an explore activity where the students had to follow the directions on some slides and show “proof” of each thing that they had learned how to do with the iPad.  

One of the nice things about the fact that many of these students have had iPads for 2 or three years in school, is that they know what some of the obvious common buttons are and they aren’t afraid to click and try them before asking for help.    

Once they had some time to explore around in Explain Everything they were given their Math task with directions for what must be in their presentation. 

They were then given two class times to complete their presentation.  As expected, students were taking different amounts of time to finish.  Some finished on the first day, some thought they finished on the first day and some took all of day two to finish. 

What was nice about having the explore session first is that the questions that were asked on the day that I introduced the activity were questions like:
How do I show my thinking?
Can I use my whiteboard?
Can I use a piece of paper?

And not questions about how to insert pictures or other elements that we had explored. This was great because it meant that they had become comfortable enough during the explore lesson to concentrate on the activity they should be doing and not how the app worked.