First Graders- First iPad Encounters

The iPads are finally set up and ready to go into the classrooms! It happened to be our first graders who were the first ones to get their hands on them!

A few days ago, I tested and reviewed a great new app: Book Creator. I felt it was a great opportunity for our first graders, who had just finished a unit on butterflies, to create a book about the different stages of a butterfly and their learning reflection as a culminating activity.

Students wrote a story, as a class, about the different stages of the butterfly. We shared their words with our Art teacher who would be working with the students to create the illustrations for the book.

The first time, I brought the iPads into the class, we spent time talking about the care and handle of the devices.

When picking the iPad up from the teacher we reminding them to

  • carry the iPad with two hands to their desk
  • set them down as quietly as possible
  • don’t hold the iPad from the SmartCover
  • don’t walk around the classroom with an iPad in your hand
  • no pulling, showing or tugging on someone else’s iPad

It was important to also introduce “iPad” vocabulary to our first graders, so we would all be able to use a common language when instructing or asking questions. We introduced this first time the following lingo:

  • Home button
  • screen
  • swiping
  • sliding
  • tap
  • apps
  • icons
  • pinch in/ pinch out
  • front camera
  • back camera

The introduction was done with the whole class. We then split into groups. These groups rotated in and out of the classroom to go to Art to start working on their watercolor illustrations. The rest stayed with us in the classroom to become familiar with the iPad.

We projected the iPad to the screen at the front of the room to show them the two apps we would be “playing” with that day: iBooks,  Doodle Buddy.

As we showed them one of the student created eBook , as an example,  it was the perfect opportunity to examine some of the similarities (author, illustrator, text, images) and differences (spine, turning pages vs. swiping pages) between a traditional printed book and an eBook.

Each student then was free to read the eBooks we had pre-loaded on the iPad, and then move on to Doodle Buddy. They discovered quickly the Tic-Tac-Toe and Maze backgrounds as well as the stickers with attached sounds. All in all it was a great way for students to get comfortable with touching, swiping, sliding, drawing and overall handling of the iPad.


By the second encounter, students were ready to learn to use the built-in camera app of the iPad2. We had the entire class together for this session. We showed them the location of each little camera on he front and back of the device and helped them locate the camera app. There were lots of giggles when they learned how to switch between the front and back facing camera. They then could practice taking their own picture. Not an easy task, when keeping in mind to LOOK at the camera lens, instead of the button to shoot the picture.

We showed them WHERE to find the pictures that they took (Photo Album) and how to swipe through the images.

Since this encounter involved:

  • the entire class together
  • six year olds having to pick up the device off the table and holding on to the iPad with one hand only, so they could use their other hand to snap the picture
  • silliness when shooting and viewing their own image
  • eagerness to share and show it off to their classmates

…it was a little unnerving, I was worried for the iPad to fall to the ground by accident or get pushed over the edge of the table. We might have to look into investing into protective iPad cases to prevent these worries in the future.

The following time I came to the first classroom, it was time to introduce them to the Book Creator app. This time the iPads were part of a center that students rotated through.

We reviewed how to find and open an app. I then showed them how to insert the image that they took of themselves the previous day. They then practiced resizing and moving the image.

During journal time, first graders had written a short reflection about what they had learned about butterflies during their unit of study. They also included a sentence how they felt about it.  They brought their (paper) journal to the table and learned how to bring up the iPad keyboard and to type their text.

A hush fell over the center as all the students were busy :

  • sounding words out
  • finding the letters on the keyboard
  • inserting spaces
  • learning that the cursor will automatically advance to the next line, if they ran out of space
  • being amazed that the iPad will capitalize the first word after a period automatically, etc.

I kept a student as a “helper” from a previous center rotation when a new student rotated into the center in order to help me with pointing out the insert image or text icons or location of the space bar or delete button.

I took a screenshot of a finished page in order to be able to email it to myself. I will crop the screenshot to then be able to insert that image into the final class butterfly book.

Looking back at these three “First Encounters with the iPad” sessions with our first graders, I am excited and thrilled. I can “feel” the potential, the engagement and motivation of the students. I can see how the devices will become a tool to bring instant information, growing collaboration, and creativity to the classroom.

Alan November’s powerful words on the motivating and empowering factor of “Leaving a Legacy“, in regards  to student learning, are ringing in my ears. We will be sharing the iPads among ALL of our students (K-8). I can  see how we can develop a cross grade level and cross subject area support center, media center, and library FOR and BY our students. My hope is that students will take ownership of these iPads to contribute their best work, knowing that they will be sharing it with the rest of the school.

The work students are doing with their “Butterfly Book”, will not only be seen by their current teacher and their parents, but will be part of research and background information for upcoming students in years to come.

Let’s create a culture of “valuing and celebrating learning” and sharing among ALL of the students at the school. (I am imagining 8th graders walking up to a 1st grader and talking to them about  butterfly information.)