How Kristi Meeuwse teaches with iPad.

“For the first time in 22 years of teaching, 100 per cent of my kindergarten students went to first grade reading above their grade level.”

Kristi Meeuwse, Kindergarten Teacher, Drayton Hall Elementary School, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

A game changer.

When the school district handed kindergarten teacher Kristi Meeuwse a box of 30 iPad devices for her students, she called it a ‘game changer’. She was immediately interested in the idea of creating learning materials, because there are very few nonfiction books at the kindergarten level. “There’s nothing out there, and what’s out there has to be purchased,” says Meeuwse. “And my school doesn’t have the money to purchase those books.” Yet she felt the need to incorporate informational text, since she was responsible for teaching to the Common Core State Standards. Since she couldn’t find these types of materials, she decided to create them.

Turning a new page.

Meeuwse used the free iBooks Author app for Mac to create her first book for iPad, called My City, about the class’s home town of Charleston. “My students loved it. And they thought it was cool I was writing it.” Meeuwse went on to create books on subjects like spiders, dirt bikes and baby animals. “My students are excited when they can tap a button and make a spider move across the page,” says Meeuwse. “Or when, as they count to 10, an image rotates and counts with them. None of the print books in our book centre have any of this.” Meeuwse also inserts comprehension widgets, so the kids can take short quizzes right there in the text. She is thrilled that her students not only love the books, but are gaining the information they need to meet the standards.

With 25 students in her classroom, Meeuwse used to teach toward the middle. She would struggle to pull up the lower students, and the students working ahead were left to spin their wheels. iPad, however, allows Meeuwse to personalise learning for her students by creating levelled books. Once she creates a book, it’s easy to duplicate it and create different levelled readers from it, allowing students to learn at their own pace.

Reading, creating, expressing.

Meeuwse’s students don’t just consume content on their iPad, they also create content, using a variety of apps. Meeuwse will give an assignment, such as using four vocabulary words in a sentence or showing an example of subtraction. Her students can choose which app to use and how they want to show their understanding. The creativity, expression and comprehension that come out of these assignments astound her. And, of course, her students also love writing books. They create dynamic books for iPad with their own text and images — even video and voiceover.

And the results of all this engaged learning speak for themselves. In the past, about 35 per cent of Meeuwse’s students would enter the first grade reading above their grade level. Now, for the second year in a row, 100 per cent of her students are moving on reading above their grade level.

“I mean, when you say, ’okay, it’s time for writing’, how many kids say, ‘Yes, we get to write!’ It’s exciting for me that they’re so excited. I feel like I make a difference every day.”

Tips from Kristi Meeuwse.

You can handle iBooks Author.

“If you’re on the fence about creating your own books, go for it. You can’t mess up. Once you create something, you can still edit it. It’s not like it’s permanent and forever. If you put something in and it doesn’t work, you can take it out.”

Start with something simple.

“Don’t feel like you have to create some complicated, involved book for it to be engaging and useful. My first book didn’t have any interactive widgets, just text and images. You can always add more to the book as you go along.”

Play around and explore.

“Just explore, because you never know what you’ll find. I found a way to make a spider crawl across the page by using the Magic Move transition in Keynote. I just stumbled upon that by exploring.”

Learn from each book.

“At first I thought, this is going to take too long. But I got faster and faster at making books, and now it can take as little as 10 minutes. More complex books with ‘bells and whistles’ take about an hour. Keep in mind, these are simple books. I also started saving them as templates, so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.”

Let the students teach.

“You don’t have to figure everything out yourself. My students have gotten to where they don’t even ask me how to do things anymore. They ask their classmates. They don’t need me to show them. They look at me and they’re going, ‘Yeah, we got it. Let’s move on.’”