Editor's Note: This is a guest blog post by Jeannie Warrick and Janine Ritter, first-grade teachers at St. Pius X Catholic School in Indiana.
We have been using technology to reach our first-grade learners for the past 15 years and this year will be our 8th year with Wixie! When we first got our computer lab at school, we could only find drill applications and games, but eventually discovered creative applications, like Wixie, we could use with our young learners.
Wixie makes it easy to teach our young students technology communication skills they will need in many different applications, and Wixie's auto-save feature means our young learners do not need to worry about losing their work. Wixie is so easy and kid friendly, it is our main tool for the lower grades.
Wixie works for our teachers too! While we have a lab, classroom teachers are responsible for designing the technology projects our students create there. We love how easy it is to assign and design our lessons using the pre-made templates in the Wixie curriculum library.
At the beginning of the year, we introduce our first-grade students to Wixie through a series of five projects that teach Wixie basics to develop a solid foundation they can use in later projects. Here are our ideas.
Project 1: Coloring page
We begin the year by assigning the Cartoon Boy template in the Templates>Coloring Pages folder. Then, in one session on the computers, we teach students how to use the paint bucket tool to fill areas of an image with color.
The Cartoon Boy image has a "break" in the outline between the hair and the face. This means that when students try to fill one of these areas with a color, the other fills as well. This gives us an opportunity to explain how the paint bucket fills an outlined area.
We teach the students how to use the Zoom slider in the lower right corner of the interface to enlarge an area. We show them how they can use the pencil tool to connect the hairline, creating a boundary to "fix" the problem so that they can fill both areas with different colors.
Students soon discover that they can use the Zoom slider to make it easier to fill in tiny spaces on the image, such as the stripes on the shirt. Students also learn to use the Text tool on the toolbar to add a text box and type their name.
Project 2: ABC book
The next project focuses on helping students learn how to add images from the library of built-in clipart. To connect this to our classroom learning, we do a review of initial sounds for each letter of the alphabet. We created our own ABC Bus template, using a bus from the clip art library with a text field on it with the name of our school.
In the classroom, we place each letter of the alphabet in a container and have each student choose a letter card. Once their letter is chosen, they think of objects that start with this letter. Then, we open Wixie and begin searching the library to find a picture of one of these objects.
Once they find an image they want to use, we show them how to add it to the page. They then practice using the Text tool to add text boxes where they type the letter name and their own name.
In the next session, students type their sentences about the letter and we teach them how to use the shift key to capitalize the first word in the sentence. Depending on our group, we have them work directly on the computer, or pre-write their sentences on paper.
We print each student's page and create a print book for our classroom. It is also easy to combine individual student pages in Wixie to create a single file you can export as a PDF or eBook.
Project 3: Make your mark Wanted posters
The 3rd Wixie project always takes place on International Dot Day (September 15th this year). On this day, teachers read The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds, a story where a teacher encourages a student to "make her mark," helping her grow in confidence in her abilities.
To encourage our students to begin making their mark, we ask them to create Wanted posters! Before going to computer lab, we have the students pre-write their answers for the fields that will be on the Wanted poster. This gives them confidence as they learn to type and means that we have fewer hands up during our Wixie time because we have already answered student's questions about spelling.
We first empower students by showing our first graders how to open Wixie templates on their own using the Templates tab at their Projects view.
We show them all how to use the web cam option in the Library to capture an image of themselves and begin exploring more of the paint tools as they work to design their own dot.
Project 4: Addition sentences
By the time we get to the fourth project, we are full speed ahead in math and ask our students to use the skills they have learned to create an addition sentence with sums up to 12.
Prewriting in the classroom is the key that makes this work smoothly with younger students. They pre-write their math sentence and design how it will look before they go on the computers. Then, when they are on the devices, they simply type in what they have already written and find and add appropriate clip art images. In the computer lab, the students choose a picture to illustrate their math sentence.
Because it is often difficult to fit all of the images representing the addition sentence on one page, we often take this opportunity to teach students how to change the size of their images so they can all fit on one horizontal line. Again, depending on our learners, we change this lesson a bit to ask the students to create a math story to go along with their math fact.
Project 5: Guess who?
In our final project, we explore the paint tools in more depth with a riddle project. Again, before they use the computers, students complete a guess who worksheet describing what they look like. After the students type their description, they use the paint tools to draw a picture of themselves.
Your first graders can be Wixie power users!
We often have to battle the misconception that little kids cannot do tech. Remember, first graders can do more than you think they can, so never underestimate their ability. Yes, young learners can be a challenge, but if you give them the tools, they are willing and able to take huge leaps.
Have a great year in your first-grade classroom!