Monday, January 30, 2012

Finding Free Books for the Kindle Fire for My Classroom

Now that I have purchased three Kindle Fires for my students to use in the classroom, the daunting task of trying to find books for the device has begun.

After configuring the Kindle Fires, I went directly to the "Books" tab and then clicked on "Store." I was amazed at the extensive list of categories that I could search from. Since I just spent quite a bit of money on buying the devices, the protective cases, and the invisible shield sheets (which I would recommend with all the students hands that will be touching the devices), I decided I would try looking through the FREE books that the store had to offer. Since I am a fifth grade teacher, I have a wide variety of reading levels in my classroom. I have students who are at a DRA Level of 28 all the way up to 80. If I want to make these devices accessible to all, I need to work at finding a balance of books at those levels. 

I was able to compile a list of FREE books that I found. You can click on the below pictures to access the list. There were many book titles that at one point were considered "the classics" of their time. The reading levels varied quite a bit from these books, and that is something that I will continue to work on in my classroom.
I am also exploring a program my librarian introduced to me called Overdrive. Students can actually access our school's website, link up with overdrive, and then can download up to 3 books onto their e readers at home for two weeks at a time. I am going to look into this more, and will probably start using this service as well. That will allow me to put new books out for the students every two weeks.

I would love to hear from anyone that uses the Kindles in the classroom, and how you go about selecting and purchasing books for your students to use.

Stay tuned on future blog posts about how I am using the Kindle Fire in my classroom. And as always feel free to comment on what you are doing in your classroom.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Setting Ablaze Interest in the Classroom with the Kindle Fire

As a teacher, I am always looking for new ways to engage my students in my classroom.  Technology is already a huge part of my students’ lives  as evidenced by hand-held gaming devices, cell phones, and iPods/mp3 players. I decided to take the plunge and explore a more educational approach. I invested some time in looking into the Kindle Fire and how it could be used in my classroom.

Recently I was able to check out a Kindle Fire from my school library. I was skeptical about its use and place in my classroom. After all, I had heard rumors that the new iPad3 would be out soon, and I was familiar with the iPod touch. Learning a whole new platform did not sound like fun or something that I wanted to take on.

However, after checking out a Kindle Fire, my opinions soon changed. I spent some time getting familiar with the device. The librarian had downloaded some books that would be appropriate for my 5th grade class onto the Kindle. I was able to find the interactive bookshelf, click on a title, and learn how to page through the book. I found myself opening each of the books and just familiarizing myself with how to read from a hand-held device.

I was surprised at how my lack of technological skills could easily navigate the Kindle Fire. I decided to allow my students to “test run” the device as part of our Daily 5 instruction during our English Language Arts block. I made a simple checkout sheet, and placed it on the ledge in my classroom. I then introduced the device to my students and showed them the basics of how to operate it, and how to get to the books. So many hands shot up when I asked for volunteers to sign up to use the Kindle Fire, that I had to pick sticks with names on to fill in the three 20 minutes slots for each day of the week. There were so many hands, I promised the students that did not get picked that they would have a chance next week!

As I worked with groups of students during the Daily 5, I took glances at the students that were using the Kindle Fire. To my surprise, they were engaged and on task the entire 20 minute block of time. At the end of the week we had a class discussion about the pros and cons of the device in our classroom. Here was a list of some of the pros: easy to use, fun, makes books come alive, easy to hold, I had stamina (stayed on task) for the whole time, I felt like I was in the world of the book I was reading, and I didn’t want my time to end. The only con we came up with was: not enough devices for the whole class to use in a week.

The only “con” that my class came up with really bothered me. I had seen how excited they were to use the Kindle Fire as an educational tool to practice reading,  but to not be able to provide my students with that opportunity, ate at me as I headed home from school Friday night. After talking over finances with my wife, I went to a local retail store and purchased three Kindle Fires for my classroom.

Now I will begin the process of downloading books, and eventually educational apps for my students to use. I am excited about this venture, and I look forward to engaging my students even more. I feel like a kid again and can’t wait to see their faces on Monday!

Stay tuned for future blogs as I learn more about the Kindle Fire and it’s educational benefits in the classroom.