One Teacher’s Concern Regarding Common Core State Standards

I am writing to you from Chicago…gearing up for the Flipped Conference. I am so excited to be surrounded by so many innovative teachers. These are teachers who are asking questions, thinking outside the box and challenging the system. Perhaps the best part is getting to hang out with the Mentormob team! They are super cool on Twitter – and even more awesome in person!

I love when teachers write to EdGeeks asking really important questions! Today I want to share about a teacher who recently wrote to me with a concern regarding the Common Core State Standards. Here is what she wrote:

I got your email on EdVoices and hope you don’t mind my seeing if you can help me. I am a first grade teacher and our state (WI), along with 43 others,  is incorporating the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  One of the standards has my first graders using technology to publish their writing, beginning in the first quarter – yikes!  I am at a loss as to how that should look. 

Some background:  I have been teaching for many years, and am not afraid of technology, but really struggle with using it with my little ones.  I have a SMARTBoard, which I just love.  I piloted a keyboarding program last year with my class last quarter.  The kids were excited, however, I had some students whose little hands couldn’t reach the keys – so for them to type anything, not happening.  I have a recordable microphone that I use for fluency and could maybe have them record their writing, but I would like to have some more ideas to try.  Thank you so much for any suggestions you may have.

I was really impressed with this teacher for two reasons. Firstly, she is already planning ahead for changes that will come with the CCSS and secondly, she is reaching out to learn more about how to support her students. Finding ways to incorporate technology for early elementary schoolers can be challenging, especially if you do not have a ton of resources at your disposal. Now that it is included as a requirement in the CCSS, teachers need to get creative and think outside the box! Here is my response:

Great question! I assume you’re talking about this standard: 
W.1.6. With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital
tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.
I think the key thing to remember is “With guidance and support from adults” – so you don’t have to expect your little ones to be typing and publishing completely on their own. 

For typing with little ones I recommend a few things that will depend on budget and what kind of tech you have. I’m not sure if you have ipads, laptops, desktops but here is what I would do:

  1. Get sets of keyboard stickersThey differ for desktop, laptop etc but they are great. I started using them for students with visual impairments because they come in a variety of colors and sizes. Then I realized they’re great for all little ones beginning to type. The colored ones are fun because you can say “I’ll give you a hint…it’s in red!” There are also sticker sets that include picture icons (ie: C=Cat to remind students who are just learning.) Inline image 1
  2. Clicker 6: Depending on your school’s budget…I also really like Clicker 6 for teaching literacy to little ones. This software has a lot of capabilities – it ties pictures to words, has text to voice functions, allows you to go in and personalize a vocabulary bank for students, and has word prediction software to take the pressure of spelling off of a student during writing. You can check out Clicker 6 here. I used Clicker 5 at one school for awhile…that version may be available at a cheaper cost. Our school bought one version and all of us shared it and that worked, so at least when you’re making a case to your administration for budgeting you can say it will benefit everyone!
  3. Digital Portfolios Including Video/Audio Recordings: It can be fun to create digital portfolios with your first graders. You can include your audio recordings of fluency. You can also use video to document student growth. With typing, you can catch growth very well. I recently kept a video log of a fourth grader who was learning to type. I took footage on my iPhone once a week for 5 weeks and had her watch her own progress. Kids also love when you video tape them reading their own stories so that you can view progress at the end of the year and they can see how much more fluently they read and how many more words they have in their story.
  4. ShowMe is a really fun app. It is an interactive whiteboard where the user can create their own writing and audio to match it. This could be super engaging for younger ones.
  5. I also have found that kids LOVE Mixel, a digital collage app. Most people see it as an art tool, but I see academic qualities in it as well. I like to ask kids to create a collage that is like a mindmap for a story they’re going to write. In essence, Mixel can act like a pre-cursor to planning and outlining for younger students by allowing them to brainstorm images that help them plan out their piece of writing. 
  6. Get on EdModo if you aren’t already. Its a great way to connect with other teachers so that you don’t feel so alone. There are great forums and opportunities for community building. 

I posted this today because it is important that teachers voice their concerns about the shift to the CCSS. We need to support each other however we can as these standards make their way into our classrooms.

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