The Learning Hub

Peer Coaching is Born in the 1st Grade

Kendra Limback is a 1st grade teacher in Iowa and can be found on Twitter at @KendraLimback.

When I set out to use Write About This, I wasn’t looking to set up any peer coaching. In true classroom fashion, it just happened.

To reach one student in particular, I made him the expert on the application. He is a smart, capable writer, who needed motivation to write. The very first day, a friend sat down next to him to write. Not only were they covering topics and how to use the app; one child was giving the other child a mini lesson on how to use punctuation at the end of a sentence! At this moment, peer coaching in my classroom was born.


(What else would you do but jump up and send out a tweet when things are going so well?)

The children have come together and helped each other as writers in ways that I couldn’t even imagine when they started helping each other.


Above is an example of more coaching. They are learning the ins and outs of the app, having a conversation about stamina in writing, and how you have to keep writing.

Using Write About This has not only unleashed new confidence in these young writers but also has brought about this unexpected, but very welcome, peer coaching outcome.


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Transforming Reluctant Writers

Kendra Limback is a 1st grade teacher in Iowa and can be found on Twitter at @KendraLimback.

One of my favorite parts of being an educator? The part where I get to try new techniques, tools, and collaborate with others on the art and science of teaching. As a first grade teacher, I’m asked to provide a balanced literacy approach with both whole class teaching, time for independent practice, and guided practice for the students each day. I draw my inspiration for literacy from heroes such as Marie Clay, Fountas and Pinnell, Donalyn Miller, Debbie Miller, Lucy Caulkins; my list could go on and on. My vision for my classroom? An authentic, joyful space where exploration and authenticity are encouraged.

I’ve been blessed to work in a district that is open and encouraging with technology use. I have a laptop I’m allowed to use as a resource to create and use as an educator. I also have a set of iPads for a small group, and access to a 1 to 1 laptop cart. My goal is a classroom where the technology use is authentic. Students are creating and not just consuming all the time. An authentic place where digital work is honored in the literacy block. Enter the Write About This app.

Reluctant Writers

Early in the fall, I had many writing samples that looked like this:


(Lots of interest in Pokemon this year)


These were capable writers. Writers who wanted to be done writing. Yesterday. But I so desperately want my students to see that they have important stories to tell and I don’t want them ever to want to be done.

This fall, we transitioned into using Write About This consistently, and I immediately noticed more engagement, a curiosity about using an iPad for writing, and students connecting in ways they hadn’t before.



After learning how to use the the app, the student who wrote the writing sample above is so engaged in the work he’s doing, he turns out pages of writing at a time that looks like this:


“I went to the blue berry patch with my mom. I got snacks too. I went on a tractor ride. When I got home we ate the blueberries all up.”

My heart sings as a teacher for two reasons:

1. The kids are telling their stories.

2. Immediately after using this app, I noticed students treating themselves as writers. They are engaged in the writing, and want to tell more.

A Word about Digital Writing

As students learn to create digital writing, Write About This has been there to get us started in the right direction. They are creating, returning to, editing, and revising work.


We are learning so much from Write Abouts like this. I can teach her how to use periods and consider editing on a digital platform. (She uses them in her writer’s notebook.) We can talk about if following the prompt is important. (I love the voice in this piece!)

In the end, as I strive for authenticity in my classroom, Write About This will be a part of the framework as we move forward.



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Tell About This: A Communication App for the Play-Based Classroom

One Early Years student (age 4) types her own name for the Tell About This app.

One Early Years student (age 4) types her own name for the Tell About This app.

By Jocelyn Sutherland, who works at an International IB PYP School in Switzerland, originally posted on her Tech & PYP blog.

As the technology facilitator at an international PYP school in Switzerland, I am constantly on the look out for engaging apps that enhance learning and don’t just replace what students could do with physical materials and tools. I spent a lot of time in the first few weeks learning about the play-based Reggio Emilia approach at our PYP school. To best support this model, I continue to work with the teachers and students in-class as much as possible to see first hand how tech and iPads can enhance learning for young students.

I recently encountered and share Tell About This with the Early Years and Kindergarten teams; they were thrilled at the possibilities for digitizing and enhancing documentation. The ‘Customize’ option and student ‘Profiles’ organizes documentation and enables them to personalize the prompts and tailor to specific play-based experiences.

Furthermore, storing the photos in student profiles also simplifies the organization for teachers who are sharing iPads. Currently, each classroom in EY-KG has access to 2 iPads. Using the ‘email’ option in the app or uploading the recordings to Google Drive are two efficient ways teachers could quickly store and share the students recordings.

We decided to trial it in the classrooms first so students became familiar with how to use the app.

Trialing the app in the Kindergarten classroom

I started with the 5-year old students in Kindergarten. They had been busy creating and building objects in the art studio and I took the opportunity to snap some photos and create prompts from what they made that day. This was definitely an activity that needed one teacher supervising while I pulled students 1:1. The children were eager to talk about their creations and spoke easily to the iPad as if it were a classmate. They pointed out details from their creation and elaborated on why they chose certain materials. For the most part, students were extremely comfortable talking and explaining their thinking. I immediately saved the file to the camera roll and emailed it to the teacher so she could take a look. Later on, I uploaded all the saved files to Google Drive so the teacher could access them on any device.

Using photos of student work and play-based examples in the classroom, the KG teacher and I created customized prompts for the children.

Using photos of student work and play-based examples in the classroom, the KG teacher and I created customized prompts for the children.


Then the students recorded their voice over the customized prompts.

Then the students recorded their voice over the customized prompts.

Tell About This in Early Years

After succeeding with the older students I met with Early Years team and we planned a time I could come in and set up student profiles and personalized prompts. Due to the developmental needs of this age group (3 and 4 year olds), it helped to have one teacher pulling students to trial the app while the other teacher facilitated play with the rest of the class. Even though there was just 1-2 years difference, the children reacted very differently to the app.

As soon as I started creating the profile (which has an option of snapping the child’s photo as part of the profile) the 3 and 4 year olds wanted to be the one to take their own picture. They crowded around and asked if they could type their name or press the ‘white button’ on the camera app.

After using a blocks construction as a prompt, the ‘builder’ (a 3.5 year old) sat himself in the blocks area with the iPad and prompt in front of him. He was quite confident telling me (and the iPad) about his construction, however he preferred to refer and point to the actual construction rather than refer to the screen. I noticed this happened when I worked with other 3-year-olds as well and it revealed a lot about their comfort level with the iPads and their preferred way to communicate (to the teacher rather than the device).

More to Tell About

In using Tell About This with our students, we learned a number of things about how they interact with learning devices and document their experiences and I will share several more details in a later post. Ultimately, we are pleased to have encountered an app that fits our play-based approach so nicely and are continuously surprised at the ease with which the students interact not only with Tell About This, but the iPad in general.

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Lesson Idea: Visual Diamante Poetry

Subject:  Language Arts

Grade(s):  3-8


Students respond to a photo or visual prompt using diamanté poetry.


Diamanté is a form of poetry that is based on specific rules of structure. With seven lines total, each with either a series of nouns, verbs or adjectives, diamanté poems will provide excellent practice for using critical thinking skills.

The Activity

The teacher will explain and model the structure and process of writing a diamanté poem.  Through the use of examples, students will start to understand how selecting appropriate and correct words will influence their ability to effectively answer a writing prompt or represent an image with words.

photo 1

1. Find a photo:

Have students select a photo prompt of their interest in the Write About This app gallery.
From the selected photo, students can choose a leveled prompt or they can use the image only by de-selecting “text prompt” in the settings.


Students can use their own photo from the camera roll using the Quick Write button

2.  Have students start with a noun that will help them answer the prompt or begin their topic.
3.  Give students time to write each line of their poem, referring to the structure of a basic diamanté poem.
4.  After students have completed a rough draft, give students time to revise the poem by reviewing the words they have selected.  Invite them to use a thesaurus to find the best adjectives to articulate their ideas.
5.  After students have had a chance revising, have them create a final draft to publish and share with the teacher and family members using the share options.

What’s Next

Supplementary activities include the following:

  • Have students swap prompts/photos with a peer and respond with a diamanté poem.
  • Ask students to respond to the same prompt in the form of another poetry form.  This can include chi quaint, free verse, rhyme etc.


Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.

Lani deGuia is a teacher, instructional technologist, and social media manager.  She has over 13 years of educational experience in traditional and online classroom settings for both K-12 and adult learners. She currently works in digital content and strategy for businesses and personally blogs at Rose Tinted Traveler.

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Family Memories and Connecting to Text

By Shannon Descamps, originally posted on her 1st Grade Classroom Blog

We were very lucky to be able to use the Write About This app on our classroom iPads this year. There are so many ways I can think to utilize this app, but the most recent project was connecting to text.

A few weeks ago, our souvenir bit book was Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco. I love this story and I find the students are always able to make connections to it as well. We got into many great discussions about grandparents and some of the special memories we have with them. I had the students use the app to share a memory. Here are some of the final results.







What books have you had students write about to connect with text? 

Shannon Descamps is a mom, wife & 1st grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary in Fraser, Michigan. Connect with her on Twitter at @ShannonDescamps

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