Archive for May 31, 2015

Eight Great Creative Summer APPtivities for Kids – all FREE!


As summertime rolls around, parents are often concerned about how much screen time their children should be permitted. Here are some creative ways to use iPad apps which go beyond simply playing games, by letting children use their creativity while utilizing core learning skills.

(Note that while all of these apps are for the iPad, some will also work on iPods and iPhones or may be available for other devices.)


Scroll down below for information and links for all apps pictured!






Paint a Digital Picture – The beauty of using an iPad for artwork is that there are no supplies to purchase, you can do it anywhere, and there is no mess to clean up when you are done! Many iPad drawing apps offer a rich simulation of artistic tools like pencil, markers, crayon, chalk, ink, and watercolor.

Hello CrayonsScreen Shot 2015-05-31 at 3.11.37 PM  5-31-15 is the perfect app for younger students with its variety of simple textured drawing tools and easy workflow.
Drawing Box Free has a wider variety of tools and colors for older elementary students. The free version lets you save 5 pictures. (If you’d like more drawing tools, stickers, and text, I recommend the paid app called Drawing Pad for elementary students.)

PaperScreen Shot 2015-05-31 at 3.13.34 PM  5-31-15 53 has recently gone totally free and has beautiful simulations of real art tools. This app is wonderful for students who really love art, and lets them keep their sketches organized in digital notebooks. There is a learning curve to master some gestures to undo and zoom in.


IDEA: Create a collection of nature sketches from your backyard, or go on a hike or to the zoo to draw. Students will improve their powers of observation while they sketch.  Drawings can become opportunities for family discussion and exploration of science topics.

Design a Poster – Kids love to mix photos, words, and other fun elements in ways that express their personalities. Apps that let kids play experiment with photos and text help them develop skills that can transfer into making artwork that illustrates concepts for projects in school.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 3.16.04 PM  5-31-15Pic Collage for Kids creates amazing digital posters from colorful backgrounds, photos, text, and stickers. It has a feature that allows you to search for photos on the internet while in the app. This new version has removed social media features to make it friendly for kids!

IDEA: Make a digital poster to illustrate a hobby or interest like dinosaurs, pets, a sports team, or a craft. Kids can take their own photos or find them using the online search.

Narrate a Slideshow – By narrating a digital slideshow, students get a chance to work on their speaking skills and expression.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 3.16.36 PM  5-31-15Shadow Puppet Edu lets you load in photos from your camera roll as well as images that you search for online while in the app. Then simply press a button to record your narration for each picture. Additional features include adding text and background music to enhance your show.

IDEA: If you take photos using your iPad while on a trip, have your child create an audio slideshow where they tell about their adventures.

Produce a Movie – Children love to get in front of a camera and act! Give them the opportunity to work with friends or their family to record and edit the next Youtube sensation!

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 3.18.28 PM  5-31-15iMovie is available for free on newer iPads and is easy to use to edit clips together to make a movie. Try the Movie Trailer feature to make a professional looking video using a template that outlines the shots for you and lets you customize the text.

IDEA: Take a chapter from a summer reading book and create the video version!

Animate a Cartoon – Instead of watching cartoons all morning, challenge your child make their own! Students will strengthen their understanding of story plot and characters as they create.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 3.17.47 PM  5-31-15Toontastic recently made their entire app (including all the characters and backgrounds) free! This amazing app lets kids add characters and objects to a scene and then record audio dialog while using their fingers to move characters around on the iPad screen.

IDEA: Pick a real life problem or issue and record a Super Hero in their video that solves the problem. Older students can even use the drawing tools within Toontastic to design their own colorful Super Hero character to use in their video!

Record a TV Show – Let kids be the stars in their own news show. They will strengthen their public speaking skills while they have fun!

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 3.18.50 PM  5-31-15Telestory is another app (from the same folks as Toontastic) that recently went free. Pick a show genre and the app magically adds costumes and props to your face! Use tools to write a simple script, if you wish, then record!

IDEA – Create your own sportscast telling about the latest adventures of your soccer or softball team or document a trip to a professional sports game!

Design a Video Game – Why just play games when you can design your own?? Students will strengthen their problem solving and logic skills as they work – perfect for developing STEM skills.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 3.20.13 PM  5-31-15Sketch Nation is an amazing app that will convert plans sketched on paper into an actual game! You also can draw characters and levels directly on the iPad screen.

IDEA: Use a historical or fictional character as the center of a game. Incorporate a little social studies research or good literature into the design!

Write a Book – Yes, a child can actually create a real eBook while using all those writing, spelling, and grammar skills they have been learning in school!

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 3.20.49 PM  5-31-15Book Creator Free will let you create one free eBook. This surprisingly easy app lets you add text, photos, drawings, audio recording, and videos to your book. Export the final book into iBooks where is becomes a real eBook that you can read and interact with. Hint: even young students can “write” amazing stories by dictating to Siri and letting her write their story for them!

IDEA: Capitalize on your child’s areas of interest for their book topic. They may enjoy fantasies and princesses, spies and mysteries, or may prefer to make a autobiographical personal narrative. Remember that almost anything saved to the camera roll can be pulled into their book, so be creative and include pictures and videos created with some of the apps listed above!

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 3.24.50 PM  5-31-15If your child is having difficulty thinking of story ideas, try the Write About This Free app which has pictures and story prompts to help him or her get started. After writing the story, they can record themselves reading the story simply by clicking a button – great way to work on those fluency skills!


I hope these suggestions will give your family some amazing fun activities that will make summer screen time a true creative learning experience!

Chicago 2015 Video

One of our fifth graders, Jake, came up with the great idea of collecting photos that the students took during the Chicago trip using our Edmodo community, and then creating a music video out of them using Animoto. We worked together during several recesses to build the video. He did a great job! We hope you enjoy watching it!

President Wiki Work – Fifth Grade

In fifth grade, we have spent several months working on a president research project. After learning about how to evaluate websites and how to use key words to search, students worked with a partner to research and build a webpage about a U.S. President. They tricky part of this assignment is that the students collaborated on this project using virtual discussion tools and never worked face to face! Our wiki pages are almost finished and we will do final touches and edits this coming week. Here is a link where you can check them out:

President Wiki 2015





Problem Solving/Coding Apps

As a part of our Problem Solving unit in fourth grade, students worked with a partner using their choice of several problem solving or coding apps on iPads. They were given no instruction on how to use the apps. They needed to learn by reading directions, trial and error, and logic to solve the levels for each puzzle.  Here are the apps that we used:

Lightbot One Hour Coding (currently free) – a coding puzzle game with light up tiles

Cargo-Bot (currently free) – a coding puzzle game where you program a robot to move crates

Move the Turtle (currently $2.99) – simple coding using command blocks, similar to Logo or Scratch

Daisy the Dino (currently free) – easy drag and drop coding


I love watching the thought process that happens while students are using these apps and hearing the cheers when they succeed to solve a level!  These were great apps to go along with our Sphero activities!

Teacher Appreciation Emails

For Teacher Appreciation Week this week, the first and second graders used our iPads to send emails to their teachers to tell them thank you. For many of the students it was the first time that they sent an email. It was a great chance to learn a little bit about email, but also to remind students about some safety rules including that they should not send emails without their parents’ permission. Students also learned some tricks for typing on the iPads, including how to capitalize and delete.


You can tell the students were really concentrating on their messages!


A few students needed to know how to spell some words, so they asked my Apple Watch to spell the word for them.

My favorite message – “You have great nail polish.”