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Help the littlest learners share their work in 5 easy steps

By Silvia Martinez
October 7, 2014
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Anyone who has spent time with kindergarteners knows that these enthusiastic young students love to share what they've learned. This is great because reflection is an important part of discovery at any age.

Then again, capturing the reflections of 5-year-olds can be time consuming. Often it involves talking to each child individually, writing down what they said and then reading their reflections to the class. Another method is to record, transcribe, print and post the reflections, but that takes time too. And when all is said and done, only adults can enjoy the posted reflections because the students themselves usually can't read well enough to understand them.

Luckily, there is a better way.

Using a few digital tools, students can create artifacts, record their thoughts about their work and share with the class. They can also review their classmates' work and give feedback.

Meet your learning objectives
I'd like to share a lesson I created using of a set of iPads and two apps, AudioBoom and a QR code reader.

When I set out to find a way to capture and share student reflections, I started by identifying my objectives. I wanted students to:

  • Participate in cooperative activities that emphasize listening and speaking skills.
  • Use digital tools to gather and share information.
  • Use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively.
  • Create original works as a means of personal expression.
  • Use applications effectively and productively.

I also wanted the activity to address a number of the ISTE Standards for Students, including:

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts

I built this activity around QR codes. Here's how the lesson looks in five easy steps:

Step 1
I showed students the piece " "Lines of signs" " by Wassily Kandinsky and discussed how artists use symbols and colors to represent objects and create abstract picture stories.

Step 2
Students drew their own symbols to illustrate what they generally do in the morning, afternoon and evening. They used oil pastels to draw their symbols on paper that was divided into three sections. They drew their morning activities in the top section, afternoon activities in the middle section and evening activities in the bottom section. One child drew a sun, a bed, a bowl, a toothbrush and two stick-figure people walking to represent morning activities.

Step 3
Students practiced by telling a table buddy what they do in the morning, afternoon and evening. The student mentioned above, for example, pointed to the symbols in the top section and said, " "In the morning I get out of bed, eat a bowl of cereal, brush my teeth and walk to school with my mom." "

Step 4
The next day, I helped students record their stories using the AudioBoom app on the iPad. I wrote sentence-starter prompts, including: " "In the morning," " " "In the afternoon," " " "In the evening," " and placed them near the appropriate section for students who needed help.

Step 5
Using the QR code generator within the AudioBoom app, I created an image for each audio file and posted the images next to the students' drawings. Then, using a QR code reader app (there are many to choose from), students scanned the images and listened through headphones to their classmates' thoughts and stories.

If you'd like to try this activity with your young students, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • If students haven't had experience recording their voices, give them practice speaking and listening to themselves so they can adjust their volume and tempo.
  • Post QR codes low enough in the classroom so students can scan them easily.
  • Look out for long headphone cords that get tangled up or become a tripping hazard.

Building collaboration skills
I knew we had true communication and collaboration when I heard these 5-year-olds make comments to one another like, " "I really liked listening to your story! You sounded good!" " " "I think it's cool that you can walk to school!" " and " "I like to eat chicken for dinner too!" " 

The children complimented, compared and celebrated each other's work with great enthusiasm. Parents, other students and community members also enjoyed scanning the QR codes and hearing the voices of our youngest learners while looking at their work.

This activity greatly expanded each child's listening and speaking skills while strengthening our classroom community. It reminded me once more that technology can extend, engage and enrich the learning — even for our youngest students!

Lisa Gonzales, Ph.D., superintendent of Portola Valley School District, contributed to this article.

Silvia Martinez teaches kindergarten and first grade at Ormondale School in the Portola Valley School District in San Francisco.