the coll-APP-orative – connecting and collaborating through apps

I’m excited to announce our very first collaborative post! A few fellow bloggers and I have come together to each review an app that we are exploring or have found helpful in our programs. Each of us has posted our app review on our blog. Links to the blogs are listed at the end of this post. Please click on the links to each of the blogs to find a review of that app. I hope you find the reviews helpful and enjoy your visits to each of the blogs! Thank you to Laurel, Joanne, Heather, Tracy and Tina for your continued inspirations and for participating in this collaboration!

noteledgeLately, I have been very interested in apps that support the documentation of student learning. I was introduced to NoteLedge last year but didn’t take a close look at this app until recently. If you are using this app, you will undoubtedly be aware of its versatility and ease of use. I originally considered this as a note-taking app, but it has so much more to offer. NoteLedge allows you to create as many notebooks as you like. This allows you to create notebooks for your personal use as well as notebooks for each of your students. NoteLedge is a good app for anecdotal notes, electronic portfolios and projects.

NoteLedge allows you to:

  • Take notes
  • Handwrite
  • Type text
  • Draw
  • Insert pictures from your library
  • Take pictures within the app
  • Record audio
  • Record video
  • Insert a table

A palm rest easily slides around the screen so you can quickly access it when you need it.

One of the unique features is the Navigator and Browser window.  The Navigator Window allows you to crop, cut and paste images.  The Browser Window allows you to clip content from the internet.  Please consider copyright and only clip images that are royalty-free or for which permission has been granted.


One of the things I like most about this app is the ability to take or embed videos, voice recordings and pictures. These features can further enhance documentation and also be used as part of students’ learning stories.  The screen can tend to look busy with all the tool bars, but they can easily be hidden so that student learning takes centre stage.


There are several options for sharing your notes, documentation or student work.  These include email, Facebook and Twitter.  Pages can also be printed and saved to your photo library. In-app purchases such as stamps, brushes, covers and layouts are available. Help is a click away with PDF and video tutorials. Notebooks can be backed up to Dropbox, box, Google Drive, FTP or DAV.

For the most part, NoteLedge is user-friendly, but I found I did need to play with manipulating a few of the features. I would prefer if the handwriting was smoother, but the versatility of this app is hard to beat.

If you use NoteLedge or any of the other apps featured on our collaborative posts, we would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment to let us know how they are working for you and how you are using them with your students.

More app reviews are a click away. Please visit my fellow bloggers for their reviews on:


Vine – reviewed by Laurel Fynes            

PicCollage – reviewed by Tracy Pickard

iAnnotate – reviewed by Joanne Babalis

Book Creator – reviewed by Heather McKay

SoundBrush – reviewed by Tina Zita           

“it’s like a big seed”

gourds and cornWhat is a living thing? Pumpkins, gourds, calico corn, potted flowers, acorns, rocks and feathers are some of the items placed at the Discovery Table for the children to investigate. The obvious items such as the flowers and rocks were not given very much attention. The children were more intrigued with the gourds and the corn and they began to compare them. A fresh cob of corn was included with the flint and calico corn.

Here are a few of their observations:

P – This is fake and this is real (comparing the corn).corn

S – Pumpkins are real, but this one (the gourd) is fake, because if you throw it down it will break…I don’t think it’s real.

A – This is real corn!

“S” noticed the calico corn and said, “These are not real!”

“A” took the fresh corn and said,  “It is real. It has seeds inside and it’s real and it’s really hard.”

One of the things I found interesting as I listened to their conversations was just how intrigued they were. They kept comparing the gourd to the pumpkin and the fresh corn to the dried. The children kept referring to the “realness” of the object in determining whether it was a living thing. When they shared their investigations during our debrief, I asked, “How do you know if something is living?” Their attention once again turned to the corn and they began to talk about seeds and explained that living things grow. As a result of their uncertainty about the corn, I asked them how we could find out if the corn was living or not based on their theory that living things grow. “A” said, “If you give them plenty of sun and water, they will grow.” So, that’s what we did. Honestly, I wasn’t sure about the calico corn because it came with a “for decorative purposes only” label. After two weeks I was about to give up on it and then it happened. The dried corn began to sprout and the fresh corn began to dry out.  Their wonderings and observations continued:

corn sproutD – Why is there a red thing?

M – Maybe when it’s dying the colour was that and maybe it’s the same.

D – I see dirt on it.

M – Why is there brown stuff and black stuff on the side? “D”! Look! See?! There’s a red thing at the side!

D – There’s a seed popping up! And one over here!

Another group of students observed the fresh corn which was also sitting in water for the same amount of time.

shrinking cornR – I think it’s shrinking because it’s not getting enough water.

A – It’s shrinking because of the juices gets out (gestures shrinking with her hands).

N – The corn is not growing. It’s drinking water.

H- I think it’s living because when you touch it, it moves. This piece is getting longer.

S- It’s like a big seed because it’s growing.

sprouting corn

The sprouting corn continues to intrigue the Grade 1 students. They have been recording their research using pictures, diagrams and words.  As we continue to learn through inquiry, I’m realizing that the inquiry process itself is a “living thing” and that time, patience, and growth are to inquiry as sun, water and sprouts are to the corn.

more dots, curriculum, and inspirations from Goldsworthy

goldswrthyAround the time we were embarking on our 3-D dot project, we were also exploring creating dots using natural materials. We looked to land art and Andy Goldsworthy for inspiration. The students were quite amazed at the different ways Goldsworthy created dots and “not dots” and they took on the challenge of creating their own versions. As you can imagine, there was a lot of compromising, troubleshooting and problem-solving happening. Many of the students worked in pairs or small groups to create their own unique versions of their nature dots.

goldswrthy inspired1And so, the question arises…Why do you continue to play in Grade 1? Aside from the inspiration of watching the students engaged in this play, I began to think of the curriculum expectations. I knew we were addressing them, but I’m always surprised to see just how many are uncovered through one experience. Some of the obvious mathematics expectations around sorting were addressed in addition to the other 4 strands and the mathematical processes. Also uncovered were expectations in art, science, and language. While many of the children were interested in using these materials, some preferred to demonstrate their understanding in different ways and were given the opportunity to do so. Gr1Goldsworthy inspiredWhen I looked at our math text book, I realized that the entire unit was covered in just the first two weeks of school and we didn’t look at the textbook once. We talk about the importance of giving students experience with manipulatives and exploration, yet we often resort to, or begin with, textbook lessons where everyone is expected to do the same thing.  Reflecting on this experience is yet another reminder to me that “play” is powerful and definitely has a place in Grade 1.

dot project beginnings

dot surveyOn September 16, our school celebrated International Dot Day. Like many schools around the world, we read The Dot by Peter Reynolds and began to think of ways for us to “leave our mark.” We looked closely at the dots we could find around us. Some children explored rocks, beads and shells. Others painted and some drew. After a day or two of exploration, I presented the children with a question about which dots they liked best. Noticing the balls of yarn, the students were eager to share their connections.

A – “I know what these are! They’re 3-D!”

Mr. P. – “What is 3-D?”

A – “I see it at the video store.”

R – “It means, not flat.”

We took a survey and discovered that most students in our class liked 3-D dots best. Thinking about Dot Day, I asked the students if they would like to create some 3-D dots. They immediately agreed, but we had a problem. How do we make 3-D dots?

M – “Maybe we can wrap up paper and put it on a stick and roll it.”

O – “Wow, that’s a lot of stuff! We can use string?”

Mr. P. – “How would we use it?”

A – “Just roll it round and round.. .Maybe we can take something like a circle and wrap string over it.”

3D Dots problemsolvingThe next day, balloons, yarn, and glue were available to the students so they could test “A’s” theory of “rolling it round and round.” I have to admit, this was an optimistic project for the beginning of Grade 1. The students were very excited to get their hands in the glue and begin wrapping yarn around their balloons. They soon discovered that this was not a very easy task. Some became frustrated because it was too slippery, or they couldn’t get their yarn to stay put. Some wanted to give up. Here was a perfect opportunity for a lesson in perseverance. I asked the children to stop and come together for a group meeting. They took a break, identified some of the problems they were having and shared some possible solutions.

3D Dots

The short break and discussion was just what they needed. When they returned to their work, they were engaged and focused. With a little assistance, those who wanted to give up were determined to complete their task. And they did.

3D Dot mobile

The students learned the meaning of perseverance that day. The creative process is messy. It can be frustrating, exhilarating and inspiring. As I reflect on this I realize there is always a lesson to be learned. Our dot project continues to evolve. The students are discovering different dots, engaging with different media and materials, and are developing unique ways to “leave their mark” through their own creative processes.

rethinking calendar

calendarAt the beginning of the school year, I have very little in the classroom. The first days of school are all about getting to know each other and building community. They are also about inviting the children to take ownership of their learning environment. After celebrating the birthday of our classroom library, we began to discuss special days. Birthdays, Diwali and Christmas were the first to make the list. We also talked about other important events like the first day of school, assemblies and pizza days. “How will we know when these days are coming?” I asked. The students were quick to reply, “We need a calendar.” In groups, they represented what they knew about calendars.

As I was cleaning the room at the end of the summer, I came across an old unused calendar. I knew I wanted to involve the students in co-constructing areas of our classroom. This included the calendar, so I kept it for reference. They immediately noticed that it had boxes and numbers. Some recognized the year. Others noticed the days of the week. “S” noticed empty boxes along the top row of certain months and wondered why they were empty. We also looked at a commercially prepared blank calendar.

observing calendar
A group of students was particularly interested in creating our classroom calendar. They were given bristol board, two sizes of blank stickies and the calendars to use as a reference. It was very interesting to see how their problem-solving unfolded. They began to lay out sticky after sticky without giving it any thought. There was no consideration for how many small and large stickies they would need. Some overlapped, some didn’t. Eventually they ran out and asked for more. I asked how many they needed and they didn’t know. When I asked them how they could find out, it took them a while to decide to look at the actual calendars. They counted the boxes on the calendar and compared the total with the number of stickies they used. It turned out they actually did need more, but before I handed them over, I asked them to take a closer look at their calendar to see if they needed to make any changes. They began comparing row by row and realized they needed seven stickies in each row, so they began to re-configure their arrangement.

comparing calendars

Once everything was re-arranged they could clearly see how many stickies they needed. “O” told her classmates that they needed “five here, four here and three here.” When I asked how many that was altogether, they counted and decided they needed twelve.

calendar stickies 2

With the stickies finally in place, they used metre sticks and markers to draw lines and label the days of the week. After a few days we had our first calendar! We took a class survey to find out if we should keep the calendar blank and stick numbers to it or if we should write on it and make another calendar next month. It was unanimous. Others wanted a chance to make one too. I love when they inspire each other!

constructing calendar This whole process was yet another reminder for me to slow down. The discussion this group had around constructing the calendar was rich and the problem-solving in which they engaged was authentic and meaningful. I’m sure I’ll be frequently reminding myself of this lesson as our year progresses.

new grade, new room, new considerations

classroom beforeThe journey through play-based learning has brought us to Grade 1 which will continue to be a place where children’s wonder and curiosity is nurtured and where we will uncover curriculum through inquiry. This school year brings many changes.

New Grade: While Grade 1 does have a formal curriculum, inquiry and problem-solving will continue to be at the heart of our learning.

New Room: The steps in setting up the room have been the same. A new classroom inspired me to rethink, remove and repeat certain practices encountered on my journey as a Kindergarten teacher. Less – a lot less – is more. The teacher’s desk was removed. I didn’t use it last year in Kindergarten and really didn’t miss it all that much, so it found a new home. Another piece of furniture that was taking up far too much real estate was the “guided reading” table. Since guided reading and learning should be happening everywhere and not at a designated table, that too found a new home.

reggio-inspired classroom after

Grade 1 art studio

New Considerations: Having taught Kindergarten for a few years now, I found myself reflecting on how the children were involved in co-constructing several areas of the classroom. I realized that much of this happened or began to happen weeks, if not months, into the school year. As I prepared for Grade 1, I decided that the children would be involved in co-constructing elements of our classroom from day one. This will begin with our classroom library. In Frank Serafini’s book, Lessons in Comprehension, he suggests co-constructing the library and offers the possibility of celebrating its birthday. classroom library

I thought I would keep it simple at this stage and limit it to the small bookcase. My intent is to encourage the children to look more closely at books while giving them ownership. At a later date, I’ll revisit organizing the library and add more books and genres. I also decided to put out blank index cards with question marks in the hopes that children will want to represent their reasons for choosing certain books for our library. I’m hoping the concept of “birthday” will spark an interest in the co-construction of our calendar, which I plan to share in another post.

Another important consideration is how to further engage children as 21st century learners. This year, in addition to the blog, we will have a Grade 1 Twitter account in order to further make our learning visible and to continue to make connections with other classes. The new blog header is representative of a meaningful connection made through Twitter with Laurel Fyne’s class this past spring.

I’m looking forward to an exciting year!

the “we are” project

We Are Project 1I can’t believe how quickly another school year has come to an end. This post is bittersweet for me. It will be my last “Kindergarten” post. I’ve said it many times, but the only constant is change and that certainly has been true of my career. I’m very sad to be leaving Kindergarten.  It’s not the end of the blog though! I’m looking forward to bringing my Year 2 students with me to Grade 1. Thank you to all of you for visiting the blog and I hope you continue to drop in and join us on our Grade 1 journey.

A couple of weeks ago, our school had a talent show. When we asked the children about their talents, it didn’t take long for them to generate a list of all of the things they could do. The “We Are” project is a retrospect of all of the things the children see themselves as.

We Are Project

It wasn’t difficult to find evidence of young artists, writers, scientists, teams and friendship.  We wrapped some boxes and displayed their representations on a portable art display which was displayed in the school foyer.

We Are 2The children enjoyed looking at their representations and talking about all of the wonderful things they can do – and so did we!

Thank you to the parents and all of our friends who work in the Early Years. For those of you who are off for the summer, enjoy your time with family and friends. I hope you continue to visit us on our Reggio-inspired journey through Grade 1!

Get ready Grade 1….here we come!

Happy summer!