September 4, 2012

10 Ideas for Creating Literacy Centers with Technology – From Beth on Edudemic


I received this email the other day.

Hi Beth.

I am a student from the Harvard summer session on Teaching Elementary Grades with Technology.

I have been voulun-told to teach a session on Literacy Centers using tech to staff members in a week. I am hoping you have some insight or ideas for this!?



First off, I love the concept of being volun-told as that describes so much of how life evolves in a school, but I digress. Initially, I responded to Jenn by saying:

… I’d be happy to help. What type of tech will you be using for your centers?  You could even use Suzy’s SMARTCenter concept and apply it to whatever device that you are using.

Feel free to get back to me….

Image Provided By Edudemic

I’ll admit that this first response was a bit of a cop-out because I was in the midst of prepping for another workshop and on the road. However, I have been pondering the concept of centers of learning all summer. Partially in response to Suzy Brooks’ use of her SMART Board as a learning center, and partly because of the growing number of elementary schools that are adding shared devices to their classrooms.

Combine Jenn responding that she has iPads, iPods, laptops, and SMART Boards, with a 2-hour layover in the Dulles airport followed by a two hour flight, and you have a recipe for 10 ways to create literacy centers with technology.

  1. Spread around the room, place iPads next to books. Have students use Educreations to take a picture of the page in the book that they are reading, and then record themselves reading it. You could even have multiple students read multiple pages. With Educreations all logged in to the same class account, students could essentially collaborate to screencast a book for their peers. Educreations also works on a computer via the web, so students could also use laptops to complete this project as well as mobile devices. With one app or web site, and any device, you now have a way to assess students for fluency and decoding.
  2. Have students work in groups to create a set of flashcards for vocabulary words using A+Pro Flashcards on an iPad or any presentation tool such as PowerPoint or Keynote. Digital flashcards allows students to add their own audio recording as well as images in order to illustrate the words.
  3. Give students a story on paper. Have them use a screencasting tool such as Educreations, Screenchomp, Doodlecast for Kids, etc., to read the story and draw some ideas of what they “see” in the story as they go.
  4. For younger students working on sight words, ask students to work in pairs at the SMART Board. Create Notebook Lessons that allow them to drag words on top of their corresponding images.
  5. Ask students to use ScribblePress or BookCreator to create their own reading skills and strategies books. For each skill or strategy, they need to include an image as well as a writing prompt. Students could even use the iPads and iPods to take pictures of images projected on the SMART Board and then type their responses below the images. This same concept could be applied to students using laptops. They could create their own books using a presentation tool such as PowerPoint, Keynote, or Google Presentations
  6. Have students practice their fluency using Fotobabble. They could take a picture of what they are reading and then record their audio. This could all be published to a class account for easy assessment later. Because Fotobabble is an iPhone app as well as web based, this could be done on any device available.
  7. Allow students to work in pairs to read to each other. One student reads while the other videos them. Then switch. Students can watch together and then do a retake. This will let them self-assess and start to take ownership for their own fluency. This concept could work with an iPod or iPad as well as using a built in camera on a laptop.
  8. For older students, assign them to pairs and then ask them to do reading records on each other. The first student uses a screen-casting app such as ScreenChomp or ExplainEverything to take a photo of the page that the second student plans to read. As the second student reads aloud, the first records the audio while simultaneously making notes about fluency and decoding on the screencast. Then the students could switch. The teacher now has not only an assessment of fluency, but also of comprehension.
  9. Place a series of objects on a table that illustrate spelling words that the students should know. Have the students use Animoto – which works on an iPod, iPad, or laptop, to create a video where they type the word as a caption for each photo. This activity could be expanded for older students who may have to also include definitions and parts-of-speech for vocabulary terms. iMovie would be another option for this project and would work with a variety of devices as well as a Mac laptop.
  10. Think of this idea as Pictionary in reverse. Instead of giving students words and having them illustrate them, ask students to write as many words as they can associate with the image. Give each student a slide in either a SMART Notebook, ActivInspire, or other IWB note taking tool, with an image to describe. Each student would then be provided with a set amount of time to write as many words as possible to describe the image. Rotate each child through the file, and a turn at the SMART Board. Older students could correct the person ahead of them, and each image could be differentiated to allow students to succeed at their own level.

Why use this Learning Center Approach?

In many of our EdTechTeacher iPad workshops, elementary teachers ask what they can do with only a handful of devices in their classrooms. Similarly, we often discussed the role of Interactive White Boards in a class that should be more student-centric. By taking this center approach, teachers can put the technology in the hands of their students, differentiate their instruction, and create multiple opportunities for learning.