By Ellen Weber
The school year is winding down for most of us, and we are desperately in need of some time to RR&R (rest, relax, and recharge). And yet, don’t we always feel guilty if we spend the entire summer relaxing? While the rest and relaxation are no problem, how do we recharge and get re-motivated for the new school year? After 40 years of teaching, I’ve hit upon a strategy that works for me – spend the summer doing something creative.
We all know that if you wait until the last two weeks of summer break to start working on things, it won’t get done. Then the guilt REALLY sets in. The key is to set aside an hour a day or a day each week to do something that will benefit you in your job and make next school year a little easier while at the same time giving you the stress-busting benefits of expressing your creative urges (and we all have them). Here are six ideas for making the most of your time “off”:
Whether you are lucky enough to have a real garden space, or have to limit your experience to herb gardening in pots on your apartment’s balcony, gardening is very relaxing. You get to enjoy the outdoors, and you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor when you cook. Why not combine that with preparing some lessons and materials for your classes next year. Take photos of the stages of planting and growing your plants. Take more photos of using your harvest in your favorite recipes. Then turn them into interactive lessons with TinyTap.
The lessons you will be able to create from these pictures are endless. Science teacher? Of course this is perfect material for studying plants and maybe starting a class garden. Social Studies teacher? How about an economics lesson comparing the cost of buying vs growing your food? Supplement with photos of your grocery store receipts or sales flyers from the local stores. Math teacher? How many seeds did you plant? How many came up, and what is the percentage germination rate? Cooking projects using weights and measures would be awesome using some of your fresh produce. What student doesn’t love a good cooking project? Language Arts teacher? Use your photos to make sequencing cards for planting or cooking, do a procedural writing assignment, have the students do a creative writing piece using perspective-taking skills “If I Was a Plant in Ms.__’s Garden.” I think you get the picture now (no pun intended).
To get some ideas for using TinyTap in your gardening lessons, check out these activities made by others:
Read a Good Book
Give yourself a brain break! Instead of pouring over grad school textbooks and professional articles, read some new kids’ books and find some new favorites to use with your class. Turn it into a fun interactive TinyTap lesson. This is an excellent way to expose them to the classics like Aesop’s fables, reinforce character skills, and target curriculum standards at the same time. If you have young children at home, make it a family project! Let them help you find fun stories and create some activities in TinyTap.
Here is a sampling of narrative lessons and home projects based on stories:
Let Your Inner Artist Out
We all have students who need the added support of visuals in the classroom. TinyTap is the perfect vehicle for making interactive visual instructions for any activity, whether it is just the daily classroom routine, the steps in solving a math problem or constructing a written paragraph, or completing an art or cooking project.
Let your creative juices flow over the summer and experiment with some quick and easy classroom cooking or art projects. As you test them out, don’t forget to take photos of every step so you can easily import them into a TinyTap step-by- step activity.
To see some examples of visual instructions, check out these already posted in the TinyTap marketplace:
- Gingerbread Making
- Hooray It’s Pizza Party Day
- Or take these art projects and create visual instructions for them in TinyTap
Get a Jump on Next Year’s Homework, Reviews, and Quizzes
With the current interest in flipped classrooms, interactive TinyTap lessons can provide engaging ways to incorporate home assignments with their Insights data management service. With Insights you will receive their performance data that you can use for grades, running records of progress, or intervention data. And since most kids love doing TinyTap activities and projects, you will probably see a huge drop in the number of students not doing their homework! Want the students to review for a test? Have them create quizzes for each other!
Check out these schools doing just that:
- 2nd graders @wilkinsmcps use @tinytapit to create games #math #supercrickets #a1digitalinnovation
- Students creating and sharing games on telling time #tinytap #spiritlakecsd
- Review game made by student
Be Proactive in Saving Your Sanity
Who hasn’t had a student or two in their class that needs constant reminders of the rules/expectations the first few weeks of school? And just when you think they finally all “got it,” you get a new student and have to start all over again. It will be a huge time saver if you use TinyTap to create a quick little review that those few students can play every morning, freeing you up to do the things you need to be doing. Even better, have those students create it! Most likely they will remember the rules better if they put them into TinyTap. In fact, you could make it like a checklist, so when a student has difficulty, they can isolate the rule that they forgot, and maybe make a jump page to take them to a list of reminders/strategies/video models to help them be successful next time. For the students with special needs, a proven strategy is the use of social stories or scripts. These help to alleviate their anxieties over not knowing what to do as they provide an auditory-visual reminder. The best part – teachers and parents can reinforce the use of the social story regardless of the type of device or platform they are using by sharing the story through the TinyTap marketplace or by emailing them the link to play it online. They are also easy to customize by adding the student’s photo or an avatar they choose, making them even more effective.
- Sample social scripts – download and customize them!
- Sample interactive visual schedule with an “all done” feature
Spend That Mad Money
We all have that little stash of mad money for when something super fun comes up. Go ahead and use it this summer to really have a blast! Take your own kids camping or to the zoo, and take lots of photos to use later.
The good news is that TinyTap has started offering Pro Memberships, meaning teachers can now get PAID for people playing their apps. Just one more option besides TeachersPayTeachers to earn some money for your creativity!
Try one or all of these ideas this summer, and you will find that you are feeling much less back-to-school stress. There will be no guilt that you “got nothing done” all summer, and your school year will be much less hectic with your pre-made lessons at hand. Also, if you are new to TinyTap, you will find the summer the perfect time to get accustomed to using the app, so when you need a quick lesson during the year you can crank them out in a jiffy.
Ellen Weber is a veteran TinyTap creator and pediatric SLP. Check out her TinyTap collection.
TinyTap, an award winning DIY platform for creating interactive lessons and educational games, is seeking a talented Sr. Mobile Applications Developer.
Our team works on leading digital media products on multiple platforms. We have a strong focus on UX and love to work with smart, responsible people who have a strong sense of ownership and an exceptional engineering mindset.
- 2+ years of software development experience using Objective-C and Swift 2.0
- Deep understanding of the iOS design patterns and frameworks internals: Audio,Video,Networking, Core Data and Image processing frameworks.
- BS in CS, or equivalent experience (strong OOD skills)
- Thorough understanding of both client and web application development
- Experience developing high-quality, mass market PC or mobile applications
- Proven ability to learn and adapt to new, complex development environments
- Superb analytical skills
- Excellent communication
- Strong team ethic
- Meticulous attention to detail
- Passion for building great user interfaces
Send CV to ios (at) tinytap.it
By Ellen Weber
So often we think of puzzles as just a game to play, or something to keep the kids busy for a little while, but did you know that puzzles play an important role in a child’s development? Some of the skills they learn through puzzles include fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, visual perception, spatial orientation/directionality, language skills (such as using descriptive vocabulary and following directions), problem-solving, understanding part-whole relationships, attention/concentration, and memory, as well as character traits such as persistence and patience. These are all skills which impact a child’s ability in reading, writing, and math.
A study by University of Chicago researchers has found that “the ability to mentally transform shapes is an important predictor of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) course-taking, degrees and careers in older children. Activities such as early puzzle play may lay the groundwork for the development of this ability.” Other studies are currently being conducted regarding the role puzzles can play for adults to prevent or slow the progression of dementia. From the Mayo Clinic, “Mentally stimulating activities, such as puzzles and word games, and memory training may delay the onset of dementia and help decrease its effects.”
To start making puzzles for the people you care about, here are some quick tips for six different types of puzzles you can create with TinyTap.
Step 1: Find a free puzzle generator online, such as PuzzleMaker from Discovery Education. Enter the information requested, including your vocabulary or spelling words. Take a screen shot of the puzzle to use when you create your TinyTap page.
Step 2: Set up your TinyTap page with a background, your list of words, and the screen shot of the puzzle (cropped in your device’s photo editor, before importing it).
Step 3: Select “Ask a Question” feature in the next screen. Record each word as a separate “question,” and create the hotspots for the corresponding answers.
Step 1: Search the internet for pictures of a jigsaw of the shape you want, and import it into your TinyTap page as the background.
Step 2: Select “Cut a Shape Puzzle” feature as your activity layer. Using a stylus, trace around each piece to create your puzzle. Scramble the pieces on the screen.
Step 3: Record your introduction or directions, then select your settings. Hint … If you select “Easy Mode”, the puzzle will open showing the answer (completed picture) for a brief second before the pieces are shuffled around. If you do not want this visual clue, turn off Easy Mode. To keep the pieces from popping back into their starting place if the answer is incorrect, turn on “Free Play.”
Step 1: Decide whether you want to use pictures, letters, or numbers in your Sudoku puzzle, and do an internet search for the images you want.
Step 2: Search the web for a square grid. Make sure it is square, with the same number of spaces across as there are number of spaces down. That will be the number of images you will need to insert into your puzzle. For example, if there are 4 spaces across and 4 spaces down, you will need 4 difference pictures/letters/numbers. Make sure to leave room on your page to move your answer pieces out of the puzzle grid. Keep in mind, you are starting with the answer for your page, or how the page will look after the person finishes the puzzle.
Step 3: For the interactive layer, choose “Cut a Shape Puzzle,” trace your first image, and move it off the grid. Double tap on your first image one to create an identical shaped puzzle piece. The difficulty of the puzzle will depend on how many squares/images you remove. To make an easy puzzle, just remove piece one per row. Leave more blank spaces in your puzzle to make it more difficult.
Step 4: Record directions in the Settings of your shape puzzle.
Step 1: Search the web for an image and a transparent grid to import to your TinyTap page, as seen above. Make sure to keep the puzzle within the dotted outline on your page grid.
Step 2: Add your activity layer by selecting “Cut a Shape Puzzle.” Cut a box out the size of one of your grid squares, then duplicate that cut-out by double-tapping it. Use your new (duplicated) cut-out for your next piece. Each piece you cut out should be put in the space before it, following your diagram of the direction of flow. For example, start by cutting out #1, moving it off the puzzle grid temporarily, leaving a black space there instead. Then cut out #2, move it off the grid, and move piece #1 into space #2. Continue this way around the board. The last space will be covered by the second-to-last piece. And the last piece is never actually ever cut out of the puzzle.
Step 3: Go into Settings to record your directions, and select which features you want to turn on.
To save your time and sanity, you can quickly create your crossword puzzle in a puzzle generator such as PuzzleMaker.
Keep generating possible combinations until you find one that will fit on your TinyTap page, leaving room for your word clues. Hint … due to the size of the screen, the longest word should be 10 letters or less. Keep your puzzle boxes and word clues within the dotted outline on your page grid. Note that the text boxes are not case-sensitive; they will not discriminate between upper or lower case letters.
In the interest of brevity (I know, too late!), here is a link to the TinyTap blog post about creating crossword puzzles using the Tap n’ Type feature.
Step 1: To work on vocabulary and spelling, try using a letter scramble puzzle. Start by selecting your core word, such as “hearts.” Search online for an anagram solver such as the one from WordPlays. Enter your word and make note all words that can be made using the letters in the word “hearts.” You will probably need to more than one page to cover all the possibilities, so you can organize your game by making a page for 1- and 2-letter words, a separate page for 3-letter words, and so on. Select the words from your list that are age-appropriate for your purposes.
Step 2: When adding your interactive activity, select the Tap n’ Type feature. Although it is a bit time consuming, you will need to type in ALL of the possible choices in every text box for that page. For example, for the word “hearts” there are 12 different 5-letter words that most upper elementary students would know. You will need to type in all 12 words in each box (separated by a comma), as there is no way to predict which word the student will try to type in which box. To get your boxes to look consistent in shape and size, double-tap a box to create a duplicate.
Step 3: Don’t forget to go into Settings and record your directions.
Ellen Weber is a veteran TinyTap creator and pediatric SLP. Check out her TinyTap collection.