A.A. Gates Elementary School
Port Byron Central School District
Penny Mills is a kindergarten teacher at the A.A. Gates Elementary School, in the Port Byron Central School District. She is currently in her 19th year as a teacher.
How has Penny brought innovation into her classroom?
Penny has integrated technology into her kindergarten classroom in a variety of ways. To help get students out of their seats and moving about, Penny uses YouTube song/dance videos from channels such as Jack Hartmann and Harry Kindergarten before English Language Arts (ELA) and math lessons. Students enjoy letter and sound videos, rhyming, and blending as part of their ELA warm-ups. Likewise, as a warmup to math lessons, students start by dancing and singing while naming numbered pairs, counting both forwards and backwards, identifying shapes, or making patterns on the floor.
Penny also uses Kids A-Z and Epic! books to support her early readers, allowing them to listen to a variety of books as they read along. When students need extra practice and support in ELA and math, Penny uses an app called IXL. This program actively tracks student progress, and adjusts the questions based on their understanding of prior topics, allowing for real-time differentiation and curriculum adjustment for the learners.
Early December is the time of year in which many educators participate in “Hour of Code” events, which promote critical thinking skill and serve as an introduction to computer programming. Despite the young age of learners in Penny’s class, she has also introduced Sphero to both ELA and math lessons. Sphero is a small robotic sphere that can be programmed using block code, or driven using an application from any mobile device. During one lesson, students used the app’s driving feature to navigate their Sphero to a corresponding letter after being given the sound.
Another lesson saw students using their math skills to drive the Sphero to a value that was “one more” than the number being given. After they explained how they arrived at their number, students were then tasked with formulating a coded path for the Sphero to follow en route to said number. The path could be comprised of “straight” and “turn” arrow cards that students would have to properly lay out in order for the Sphero to reach its destination.
How have students benefited from Penny’s technology integration initiatives?
By incorporating technology into her lesson plans, Penny is helping her students gain invaluable skills that they’ll carry with them well beyond kindergarten. Programs such as Seesaw give students a way to express their knowledge, ideas, and strategies, and share them with others. They become creators - instead of consumers - through the use of technology, and are completely engaged in the curriculum being taught. Students are able to work at their own pace, and activities are easily differentiated so that they can experience success.
Throughout the school year, Penny’s students have increased their familiarity with the varied technology tools being used. Her students are invested in their learning, driven to do their best, and are proud to be able to show their families the projects they have completed. They get really excited when they know that they’re going to have the chance to learn on iPads, work on our Hour of Code activities, or use Sphero as part of problem-solving. During these events, students are communicating, collaborating, problem-solving, testing, failing, and persevering. In Penny’s classroom, students are developing crucial lifelong learning skills, and becoming future-ready at a young age.
You can find some more examples of how she integrates technology into her classroom by visiting her Twitter page.
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