iPad Devices and Writing Instruction

The iPad devices are more than a tool to deliver answers to questions and a way to use the programs we have purchased as a school. Having one-to-one iPad devices in the classroom means that our options for offering our students an effective and customized learning experience are only as limited as our imagination.

This week, I was connecting with a student who was having a hard time and he shared with me that writing was a subject that was particularly frustrating. While I am sure that this was not the only thing going on with this student, I know that writing is a particularly hard subject for many of our learners. Writing is more than simply getting words on paper – it is spelling, reading, grammar, language, creativity and so many other underlying talents compiled into one part of our day.

As I was talking with this student, I started to wonder first what it was about writing that caused so much frustration. With many of our students, they are able to tell us verbally what they want to put down on paper or they are able to draw a picture that reminds them exactly what they want to say. Then the additional skills needed to actually get their words written hinder what they mean to say.

So many teachers are already providing great resources with their iPad devices during writing time – access to videos, shared notes, help charts, spell check, text to speech for those students who need it, shared documents for group writing projects and so many more amazing strategies. It got me thinking, how powerful would it be if a student recorded exactly what they wanted to say and then had a resource to go back and listen to when they got stuck during their writing time. This could happen right after that student identifies the topic, audience and purpose of the writing task and reads the article if one is included. They could do an additional recording after their graphic organizer is complete. For the students who need it, they would have access to CLOZE paragraphs or sentence frames to get their ideas started and to make sure they are including everything required in the rubric.

While the idea of recording your voice is not innovative, meaning that it is something that is not new or better than anything else in existence, it is a strategy that could make a huge difference for some of our students. Getting thoughts out without the added pressure of spelling, grammar and handwriting could be a relief for some of our learners. If you have a student who is really struggling in writing but who can verbally express themselves, have them give this strategy a try, see what happens!

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I was talking with another colleague earlier this week and I was thrilled to hear her reflecting on all of the different uses of the Benchmark curriculum. There are so many components to this program and I know our teachers are using them in such innovative ways. As I was reflecting on this, I realized how much we can learn when we take time to communicate, reflect and share the strategies that we are using in our classes. This is true for the components of any curriculum and any online program! I am incredibly curious to hear more about how everyone uses the different programs we have. Some questions that I have that I would love to get information about are:

  • What are your go-to small group resources?
  • What are some challenges that you have students working on when they are not part of your small group?
  • How do you hold students accountable for their work?
  • What are some of your favorite features of _____?
  • Have you found any features of Benchmark that you feel make your teaching better or more effective?
  • Is this program innovative in the sense that it makes learning different for the better?


One of the things about Benchmark that I have found most useful is the fact that students can run a remote peer conference by sharing and commenting on each other’s writing! I also love the feature where students can message the teacher and get a response back (see the image below for an example of this). I was still curious about what parts of the program I have not yet seen. So, to learn more, I took my curiosity to Google and found the following:

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While we can learn so much from Google, I also wonder how we can share our practices with each other. I know that we are lucky enough to have time to do this during our collaboration, but how powerful would it be if we also shared our thoughts across multiple grade levels?! I know that I am constantly pushing these conversations and I hope that you will all take the time to share a few thoughts and strategies about how you are using Benchmark!


Where the Scientific Method and the Engineering and Design Process Meet

At the Curriculum and Instruction Network for Public Charter Schools Mini-Conference, Sarah Mostinger, Cassie Rivaldi, and Jennifer Slabaugh had the opportunity to present on a few of our programs and practices happening at Feaster Charter!

The use of the scientific method and engineering and design process helps guide students through the Next Generation Science Standards. The hands on approach provides students with the ability demonstrate their creativity in a flexible learning environment.

Feaster Charter Science Lab

Using the scientific method to understand more about how scientists work, the students visiting our on campus science lab are immersed in each step of the process. Students work to make and use models, create explanations, discuss using evidence, collect and share information, ask questions, organize data, plan and design investigations, and use mathematical thinking.

Meaningful Lessons in Science

  • Notebooking – keep track of data and information
  • Talk – communicate about the lesson
  • Reflect – think about practices of scientists and concepts in order to help you “science” better
  • Ask – what practice should be used to reach the science goal
  • Visuals – use pictures and symbols to remind the students of each step of the process

Projects and Practices in the Lab

  • Making and using models
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
  • Asking questions
  • Planning and carrying out investigations

Feaster Charter Engineering Lab

Students in grades K-8 have the opportunity to spend one day at week, at least, in a STEAM Makerspace constructed through a partnership with Qualcomm’s Thinkabit Lab. During their time, they work to go through the engineering and design process to solve problems by creating models and prototypes. The curriculum is aligned to the NGSS and Common Core Standards. Using 1:1 Macbooks, the students experience an individually paced curriculum.

Engineering and Design Process

  • Designing models that work to solve problems
  • Develop a 3-D project out of a 2-D design
  • Explore the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Learn coding, electrical engineering, art, and design

You can find more information about the San Diego County Office of Ed Curriculum and Instruction Network for Public Charter Schools Mini-Conference by visiting SDCOE.