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Kidspiration for Grades K-1

Module by Mary Vause

Primary grade students need extensive experience with graphic organizers and math manipulatives, but it can be difficult to provide this practice in ways that are engaging and interactive. Kidspiration software helps to meet this need with graphic organizer activities and math manipulative activities in a colorful, easy to navigate interface with extensive audio. In addition, Kidspiration can provide a creative outlet for students’ self-expression. This software can be used to teach and reinforce content across the subject areas, and it is also well-suited to interdisciplinary projects. When integrating it in a kindergarten or first-grade classroom, Kidspiration does require a significant investment of teacher time for planning and scaffolding.

Tech Module: Kidspiration for Grades K-1

Kidspiration 101
Kidspiration is a software tool from the creators of Inspiration that is targeted specifically for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Students can use Kidspiration to create graphic organizers like webs, diagrams, and concept maps. The software can be used to encourage children to solve problems, develop projects, and connect concepts. The graphical interface is colorful, easy to use, and centered around visual learning.
The “SuperGrouper” feature is particularly useful for the lower elementary grades. It allows students to sort images into different categories according to meaning or sound. Students either search the library images and pull appropriate ones onto their graphic organizers, or the teacher can pull a range of clipart into the file ahead of time so that beginning students only have to click and drag to the appropriate SuperGrouper.
An example of a SuperGrouper based on meaning:
An example of a SuperGrouper based on sound:
Another helpful feature for primary grade students is the voice that automatically reads each option that the cursor touches. The voice also automatically reads whatever words you type. This is very helpful for young students with limited reading ability. Clicking the “ear” button can turn off the sound, which children are likely to enjoy but which adults may find irritating. Teachers can also record audio instructions for students to play back before beginning an activity.
Kidspiration’s “Word Guide” includes nearly 13,000 words, and its “Library” boasts more than 3,000 symbols and clipart images arranged into categories such as food & health, geography, people, animals, math (including fraction pies, money, symbols, and shapes), and language arts (including graphics so students can create their own fairytales and stories). Students access the images by entering a keyword in “Symbol Search” and perusing a scrollable palette on the left. In addition, students can create their own symbols with the Symbol Maker feature, which functions similarly to Microsoft Paint.
After creating a graphic organizer in the “Picture View” mode, students can click over to “Writing View” in order to practice writing main ideas and supporting details to accompany their visual creation. There is visual continuity between the Picture and Writing Views, and students see the symbols from their graphic organizers beside the appropriate text boxes.
The “Math View” allows students to experiment with manipulatives in order to practice counting, place value, math operations, fractions, and recognition of colors, patterns, and shapes. Students can “drag and drop” color tiles or “snap” them together automatically for number sense activities. Pattern blocks, which can also snap together on the screen, can be used to explore patterns, similarity/congruence, symmetry, and fractions. Base ten blocks help students learn place value by composing and decomposing numbers. Fraction tiles and fraction boxes help students compare values and understand fraction equivalence.
A math activity with color tiles:
A math activity with pattern blocks:
A math activity with base ten blocks:
A math activity with fraction tiles:
A math activity with fraction boxes:
Buttons on the start-up menu direct you to more than 150 ready-made activities organized by subject matter. Following are examples of activity templates across the disciplines:
  • Literature: Parts of Speech, Character Web, Journal, Tell a Story, Real or Make-Believe, All About Me
  • Math: Factor Maker, Fraction Action, Making Change, Patterns, Tens & Ones
  • Science: Animal Classification, A Balanced Meal, Seasons, Recording Observations, This Week’s Weather
  • Social Studies: A Time in the Past, Culture Comparison, Effect of An Event, Goods & Services, Neighborhood Map
  • Interdisciplinary: KWL Chart, Fact or Opinion, Comparison, Concept Map, Venn Diagram, Writing Directions
The most recent version of Kidspiration costs $69, making it relatively expensive for an educational software program. Online reviews of the software are generally quite positive.
Kidspiration is easy to install on a MacIntosh or Windows operating system. Content created in Kidspiration can be easily printed or exported to a word processor. Teachers can hyperlink web pages into the Kidspiration document that will allow students to access relevant information from the internet with the click of a button.
According to Wikipedia, Inspiration Software was originally founded as a business software company in 1982 by Donald Helfgott and Mona Westhaver. The company introduced its signature education software Inspiration in 1996, and Kidspiration is a more visually based version of the original product that was designed for elementary children. Other versions of Inspiration include InspireData and Webspiration. (Visit www.inspiration.com for more information.)

Kidspiration How-To
* http://www.inspiration.com/Help-Center/Kidspiration#QuickStartTutorials
This page provides Quick Start Tutorials from the creators of Kidspiration on topics across Picture View, Writing View, and Math View, including “SuperGroupers,” “Using the Teacher Menu,” “Using the Free Workspace,” and “Working with Steps.”
This tutorial provides a general overview in the following areas: “Picture View,” “Writing View,” “SuperGrouper Tool,” “Creating an Activity,” and “How to Create New Symbol Libraries.”
This PDF reviews the basic features of Kidspiration and also outlines steps for creating activities such as alphabet practice and character maps (in both Picture and Writing View). It includes screen capture images and graphics to help illustrate main points.

Kidspiration Activities Databases
Inspiration.com, the corporate website for all Inspiration software, provides numerous examples of Kidspiration activities:
- http://www.inspiration.com/Examples/Kidspiration
There are long lists of specific Kidspiration examples in reading & writing, math, science, and social studies. It also provides two or more sample lesson plans in each category.
- http://www.inspiration.com/Examples/Search
You can use this search tool to find Kidspiration examples organized by academic area and grade level.

- http://www.inspiredlearningcommunity.com
This website also provides a searchable database of activities, although you may have to sift through some Inspiration lessons to get to the Kidspiration activities. There are also links to inspiration-related blogs, forums, featured videos, and teacher resources.

Kidspiration Classroom Examples
  • http://www.inspiration.com/themes/inspiration/example.php?np=1&nid=744 This lesson, entitled “Sounds and Letters,” is a reading/writing activity appropriate for kindergarten students who are working on sounding out the beginning phoneme of words. The letters “B,” “P,” “D,” and “T” each have their own SuperGrouper box, and students sort the images based on their beginning consonant sound (e.g., dragging the bear image to the “B” SuperGrouper, the pig image to the “P” SuperGrouper, and so on). This lesson takes advantage of Kidspiration’s grouping and sorting capabilities. The graphic organizer and the images on top of it are colorful and appealing to young children. The teacher may pull the objects ahead of time and have them randomly placed around the corners of the page so that all beginning students have to do is click and drag them to the correct locations. More advanced students may be able to search for images themselves and then drag them onto the page.
* http://www.inspiration.com/themes/inspiration/example.php?np=1&nid=779
This lesson, entitled “Favorite Season,” is a science activity appropriate for kindergarten students. The student chooses a favorite season and puts objects about that season into a SuperGrouper. (For example, the sample student’s favorite season is spring, so he or she included images of baby animals, a shamrock, and a blossoming tree.) Then, the student talks to a friend to learn that person’s favorite season and fills a second SuperGrouper with objects about that season. (For example, the student’s friend Alicia’s favorite season is summer, so the student put a swimming pool, Fourth of July flag, and sun into her SuperGrouper.) This activity allows students to use self expression to show their own preferences while understanding that other people may have different preferences, which is an important concept during the egocentric early years. This is another activity where the teacher may want to pull the objects ahead of time since kindergarten students may have difficulty searching for season-related images on their own. For more of a challenge, advanced students can use invented spelling to try to label some of their images.
  • http://www.inspiration.com/themes/inspiration/example.php?np=1&nid=745 This lesson, entitled “Story of My Life,” is a reading/writing activity appropriate for first-grade students. Students select pictures to represent aspects of their lives, such as when they were little, their families, their school experiences, their favorite memories, and their future plans. Students can then switch to Writing View in order to explain each picture with main points and supporting details. This activity encourages student creativity, and I can imagine many artistically-inclined students poring carefully through the pictures in the image library in order to best express themselves.
Students will need some training in Kidspiration before being able to successfully manipulate the arrows and text bubbles included in this activity. To scaffold instruction, teachers may provide students with a template but let them know that they can swap out the images for ones that better tell their stories.
* http://www.inspiration.com/themes/inspiration/example.php?np=1&nid=706
This lesson, entitled “Representing Four-Digit Numbers,” is a math activity appropriate for first-grade students. Students use the Base Ten Block manipulatives to create a four-digit number. While hand-held base ten manipulatives might be the ideal way to learn this topic, the interactive digital manipulatives are nonetheless very helpful. The graphics effectively represent the difference between a 1,000 cube, a flat 100 square, a 10 stick, and a single unit. The software also scaffolds instruction by filling in the numeric amount for students below the blocks. The teacher may assign the student a list of four-digit numbers to represent while at the computer. In addition, students can print out a few of the problem solutions and paste them into their math notebooks since they provide helpful representations to look back on when reviewing place value.

Pros and Cons of Kidspiration
Including Kidspiration in the classroom is positive in many ways but also has some drawbacks. Kidspiration has engaging and interactive features that can make learning fun for students, but if teachers do not plan productive uses for Kidspiration ahead of time, it could end up being a waste of time for the children.
When it comes to engaging, interactive graphic organizers and appealing image libraries, Kidspiration can’t be beat. It is age-appropriate and visually stimulating, and it includes numerous ready-made activities. Kidspiration helps students develop logic and thinking skills while also encouraging their creativity and self-expression. It can incorporate content from across the subject areas, and it is also well-suited to interdisciplinary learning. Kidspiration also encourages independent work and computer literacy since it is likely to be incorporated at a computer center, and its high level of interactivity makes it a constructivist learning tool.
Teachers often lead students in creating a hand-drawn graphic organizer or story map after a read aloud or shared reading. By the end of the teacher’s demonstration, a sizable percentage of students are likely to be daydreaming or staring off into space with glazed expressions on their faces. Many children have trouble concentrating when they are expected to be passive receivers of information rather than active participants in learning. Kidspiration puts students into an active role. They are no longer only watching the teacher create a story map – they get to create one themselves, and they can use the colors, images, and words that they want.
The math activities on Kidspiration are also very high quality. While actual three-dimensional manipulatives may be preferable for learning math, many classrooms do not have these resources or only have enough for a few students to use them at a time. The computer allows a close approximation of these 3-D manipulatives, and the level of scaffolding and interactivity available (such as in the previously mentioned fraction tile activity (http://www.inspiration.com/sites/default/files/images/kids_math_core_4.gif)) in some ways makes this software superior to physical manipulatives.
The downsides to Kidspiration are that it requires substantial planning time and in many classrooms it will only be convenient to implement it as a program for two or three students at a time to do during computer centers.
Significant planning time will be needed if the teacher wants to closely coordinate Kidspiration activities with current SOL topics. There are 150 pre-made activities available, but these span all six grade levels and teachers will likely need to modify the activities for grades K and 1 to either make them more specific to a particular topic or to scaffold them so that primary grade students will be capable of performing the work independently. Kindegarten and first grade represent a wide range of computer ability levels. Some kindergarten students will quickly learn how to search for images and fill in text boxes in Kidspiration, while others will rely on the teacher to pull images for them all year long. This differentiation means even more planning time. So teachers who think they can reap the benefits of Kidspiration without substantial preparation work for each activity will be mistaken. Even worse, teachers who send kids to the computer center to “fiddle around” with Kidspiration on their own will just be wasting students’ time. The software is very child-friendly, but it does not tell the child step-by-step what to do – the teacher will need to provide that instruction herself, which may be difficult if she is trying to teach guided reading groups or work one-on-one with a student during center time.
Another downside is that it may be difficult to implement Kidspiration much beyond its use as an activity for the computer center. Of course, if the teacher has technology that allows her to project her computer screen for the class to see, she can demonstrate some Kidspiration activities for the entire class. But afterwards it will be logistically challenging to get all kids to a computer to do the activity for themselves since most classrooms only have two or three student computers available. Then again, another option is for the teacher to create a story map but leave some of the text boxes and pictures blank for students to fill in by hand.

Tips for Teachers
1) Create some versions of an activity template that have the clipart already pulled into the file with the graphic organizer so that beginning students can easily click and drag the objects.
2) Spend time choosing amongst the ready-made activities and scaffolding them to your students’ ability levels.
3) Have a bank of Kidspiration activities saved up for when students finish their work early or for indoor recess on rainy days.
4) During computer center free time, allow students to choose from several Kidspiration activities to help ensure a higher level of enjoyment and motivation.
5) Don’t send a child to the computer to play with Kidspiration without a well thought-out, easily accessible activity prepared and explicit instructions available for the student.