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Bronx Charter School For Better Learning

Happenings, Ideas and Quick Tips

  • At P.S. 111, Ms. Farrell and Ms. Brown decided to add to the time the allot for iPad use in their 2nd grade class. They’re incorporating the use of iCountBetter, specifically, for 30 minutes after lunch every day.  By rotating their 30 students, all can have the opportunity to use the app on a regular basis.

  • For students, especially Kindergartens, who may have trouble with longer log-ins, one idea is to create a username using just first and last initials. The app will automatically assign the grade from a drop-down menu.  For example, Jen Smith in Kindergarten becomes jsk.  The password can be something simple, like “123” or “abc.”

  • To solve the following challenges,
    • students roam and jump from one app to another when they get the iPads,
    • not enough time to focus on the iCountBetter app during the day
Ms. Shah has been suggesting to teachers that they incorporate iCountBetter into their day in the form of “bite-sized” mini lessons. For instance, the Explore and Demo activities in a given room can be the basis for one lesson and Practice and Test could be another lesson. Furthermore, if there is a 30 minute time slot allotted to iPad use, then the teacher can use the first 15-20 minutes for a small group, focused lesson about an app and leave the remaining 10-15 minutes for students to roam the apps as they like.

  • If teachers have additional iPads, through donations or other means, they can download iCountBetter for free off the app store.
  • Ms. Young, a K/1 teacher at P.S. 111, has been enthusiastic about branching out from incentive-based use of the two iPads in her classroom to integration into her Math and ELA lessons. 

  • Ms. Vecchione, a 1st grade teacher at P.S. 111, shares that she began using the Epic reading app with her students after our last PD session and is now interested in exploring the Quizzes feature, since the children had taken so well to reading the books in the app. 

  • K and 1st Grade teachers were very happy to have had the time to “play with,” ask questions about, and learn more about the iPads with Ms. Shah during their small group session. 

  • Ms. Mclean, a Kindergarten teacher at P.S. 111, shares that she uses the MyOn and Montessori Numbers apps with her students during center work, and that she now feels comfortable navigating the iPads. 

  • For the Epic reading app, P.S. 111 teachers have set their reading level preferences across the grades to maximize the targeted Browse selections.  Ms. Shah introduced the “offline” feature so that teachers could avoid the slow Wi-Fi during the day.  She also shared the Epic website address and encouraged teachers to use it administratively when they don’t have access to the iPads.

  • The Montessori Numbers Tracing Activity is popular with many of the P.S. 111 teachers and students. Ms. Shah showed them how to vary the levels of difficulty in model size, line thickness, tracing accuracy and type of line, in order to challenge students further.  This feature unfortunately will not be built into the next version of iCountBetter.

  • Ms. Finnigen, a Kindergarten teacher at P.S. 111, and Ms. Shah sat with a group of five students using the Quantity Activity 11-20 in Montessori Numbers on the iPads.  One of the students was not only counting by ones to match the number lines modeled on the screen, he was also aware of the yellow-red-yellow-red pattern the items made and stacked them accordingly.  Ms. Shah showed Ms. Finnigen how to customize activities to focus questions on a specific number range. 

  • Ms. Finnigen asked about the Hundreds Board in Montessori Numbers on the iPads; how to add student profiles to the game; and whether there was a website equivalent that allowed for greater admin features.  Ms. Shah showed her how to customize the Hundred Board to give clues, change the number range, and start at a specific number.  She also showed Ms. Finnigen how to add student profiles so that their activity reports are tracked.  There is no website equivalent at this time.  Hundreds Grids are going to play an essential role in iCountBetter.

  • Ms. Shah showed Ms. Farrell the Attributes app during a small group PD session and introduced that app to the five special needs students working in centers in their classrooms.  She started by discussing what an attribute is and asked that they look for similar attributes among the group (e.g., two of us have glasses, three don’t; I am the only one wearing a red shirt; etc.).  Ms. Shah sat with the students during the entire period as they made discoveries, challenged themselves, and increased their confidence as they upped the difficulty level within the app. 

  • At P.S. 111, a struggling, classified 2nd grade student navigated the prototype and currently incomplete iCountBetter app without issue (with teacher present).  She chose her own pathway and ended up working on Cardinals, 1-99 Counting.  She went to the “10 rods,” which served as a teachable moment because a) she recognized and understood the concept from a previous lesson in class and b) she learned that inputting the numeric answer was a matter of visual-spatial knowledge that the digital screen works in reverse.  The same student then went on to Montessori Numbers (with teacher present) and also navigated that app with ease. 

  • One of the P.S. 111 teachers has created a system to log her students on easily to MyOn by taping a notecard with their student ID, organized by group on the back of the iPad cases.

  • Ms. Barrero, a teacher at P.S. 111, says that her students who have been progressing less easily than most of the others in her class, use the iPad math apps for recognizing numbers.  She has seen progress using the iPads versus the computers because the iPads are faster, easier, and bug-free.  Similarly, Ms. Vecchione notes that students now prefer the iPads to the computers because they are easy to use and ready to go at the push of a button, without the need to wait for updates to complete.