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October 4, 2013

Using Skype in the Primary Classroom: An Adventure in Storytelling!

Come Skype with Heidi!Come Skype with Heidi!

Skype in the Classroom with HeidiSongs

Guess what?  I just entered the wonderful world of Skype, and I am eager to give your class a FREE virtual visit!!! If you are not familiar with Skype, using Skype is like making a FREE two way video phone call over the internet.  You can read all about how easy it is to get started with Skype below.  There are MANY authors that are happy to Skype with school children free of charge!  And I will be happy to Skype with as many classrooms as I can find the time for, up to one per day.  Contact me at to set up a time!

**UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2015** I am back in the classroom teaching this year and cannot schedule any Skype sessions for at least the remainder of the school year!

And, here’s something else that’s new:  we have been working on a brand NEW FORMAT for our DVD’s that I absolutely LOVE, and we just finished uploading a couple of the movies for you to preview on YouTube!!!


I would love it if you would check these out and tell me what you think!  We have used children’s artwork for the background, and ANIMATED it.  Yes, that’s right- we animated children’s artwork!   The patterns and directions for the artwork that you see on the screen will eventually be available for you to download on our website for a nominal charge.  So far, we have been working on re-doing the color and shape songs, just for a start.  (That’s my daughter Kimmie up there on the yellow song!!!!  And down below is Connor Smith on the Hexagon song, who is also the soloist voice of the teacher-narrator on the Sound Blending Songs for Word Familes CD and DVD!)


We also got some multiethnic, cuter, “hipper,” (and generally more attractive, LOL!) young people to be the stars of these new HeidiSongs videos, too!  (Okay, these two movie samples happen to both include our two anglo singers- sorry!  But the other three people are Asian, Hispanic, and African-American.)  So we now have two guys and three girls that are taking turns doing the movements for us.  I think that this is going to be a great thing for children to see people that look just like them in the videos, and I especially think that it will be great for the BOYS to see some great male role models enthusiastically embracing the idea of learning through music and movement.  What do you think??????  I will still be in some of the videos for a while, but I must face the facts:  I’m getting OLD!  And I don’t want HeidiSongs to die out just due to my own pride…., soooo….. I think it is about time to step aside while the getting is still good.  Just remember, I am still the creative force behind everything that is happening at HeidiSongs, and these songs and videos are still “my baby,” even though I may not be on the screen every time.  If you subscribe to our channel on YouTube, you’ll get an email notification each time we upload a new video, and you won’t miss any of these great freebies.

A New Book to Encourage Classroom Participation!

Sittles Learns to Join In; A Book About Class Participation

Sometimes, I think that children don’t realize how much control they have over their own learning!  The amount of effort that they put forth really matters and affects how much they learn.  But how can we best communicate that to a child? I think that teaching ideas like this through stories is a GREAT way to get the idea across to a young child, much like using parables and social stories.  And I stories always come alive to children when you tell them with puppets!  I got this puppet from

Heidi & Sittles Puppet
Here is my newest book! It’s called, “Little Sittles Learns to Join In.”

Given that, for a long time now, I have been thinking about a way to help children understand that classroom participation is important for their own learning.  So a few months ago, I came up with the idea of a book about a child in the classroom that is at first shy and does not participate in classroom activities, but who later overcomes her shyness to realize that joining in with classroom activities really is fun!  I wanted the book to have a repetitive pattern that children could easily pick up on and would enjoy chiming in with the teacher when she reads, too.

Sittles Puppet on Open Book
I purchased this puppet on Amazon!

When I finally wrote my little book, I decided to call my new character “Little Sittles,” because Sittles always wants to just sit rather than get up and join in with the class.  She is totally different than Wiggles the dog, who is loud and always in everybody’s face!  But we all have at least one of each in the classroom, don’t we?

Poor Sittles is sad because she is not participating in any of the fun activities at school!   Poor Sittles!  When she gets up to sing, dance, play, and learn, she will be much happier!
Sittles is sad because she is not participating in any of the fun activities at school! Poor Sittles! When she gets up to sing, dance, play, and learn, she will be much happier!

The name of the book is “Little Sittles Learns to Join In.”  We decided to make Sittles a cute little shy kitten who is in the same class as Wiggles, (although Wiggles is not in this first story about Sittles.)  I love how she turned out!  So far, I have read it to a class of students at my former elementary school, and and I also read it while I Skyped with a classroom last week.  Both classes loved it!  They caught right on to the pattern and started chiming in with the words.  I was very pleased!

This is a screen shot of me Skyping while reading the Little Sittles Learns to Join In Book by HeidiSongs.
This is a screen shot of me Skyping while reading the Little Sittles Learns to Join In Book by HeidiSongs.

I do hope that you like it, but more than that, I hope that it will help teach your students that it is more fun (and they will learn more, too) if they will simply participate in class activities by standing up and singing, dancing, counting, reading, and playing with their peers rather than sitting passively as if they were watching television at home.  That’s the real problem, isn’t it?

And now for some more information about using Skype in the classroom!

This is a screen shot of Heidi and Wiggles Skyping.
This is a screen shot of Heidi and Wiggles Skyping.

I tried Skyping several years ago (using my husband’s account) with a Kindergarten class in another state, but our internet connection at home was so slow, that it didn’t work out so very well.  But this week, I had the opportunity to Skype for the very first time from our HeidiSongs office with my sister-in-law’s second grade classroom in Oregon, and I must say that we (I!) had a blast!  However, I must confess that before this, I really didn’t know much about Skype.  In fact, I still don’t!  However, I know enough basics to be able to make it work.

Come Skype with Heidi!
Contact us for a FREE Skype session with Heidi!

**UPDATE SEPT 2015** Since I am back in the classroom, I won’t be able to schedule any Skype sessions this year.

Here’s what you need to make it happen:
-internet access at school
-a computer with a little camera inside of it (most already have them).  It’s best if it is pointed at your students, so I can see them, too, but it will still work even if I can’t see them.
-a big screen and a projector so you can show your class what is happening on your small computer screen.
-a free online account with Skype

My sister-in-law, Julie Butkus Johnson, just LOVES to try out the newest things in technology, and she has done tons of things with iPads and iPods.  I mentioned her school district before in my blog post about a One-on-One iPad Program in Kindergarten.  She emailed me and asked if I would like to be her class’ first Skype author visitor!  I must admit that I was a little bit intimidated by the technological aspect of this activity!  Would it work?  We agreed to “practice” ahead of time so that the technology would work “for sure,” since I had tried to Skype with a friend that I met at a conference last summer and help her brainstorm ideas for her classroom.  We did try, but we had never figured out what was wrong with the audio, and she couldn’t hear me at all!  So we wound up Skyping with our cell phones on the speaker phone setting at the same time so that we could hear as well as see each other!  It worked out, but it wasn’t ideal.

Wiggles looks at Skype Screen
Here’s another Skype screen shot. Wiggles is a very curious doggy!

After getting my techy husband Greg involved, we finally solved the problem, which was within the settings of Skype on my computer.  (We just had to go to the Skype preferences, and under the Audio/Video section, select the Built-In Microphone option.  Once we did that, everything went off as planned!

This is a screen shot of Sittles Skyping.  (Try saying that five times fast!)
This is a screen shot of Sittles Skyping. (Try saying that five times fast!)

Here’s one tip for future Skypers:  DON’T SIGN INTO SKYPE THROUGH FACEBOOK!  If you do, you will accidentally create a NEW Skype account, and if you already had one, you’ll wind up with TWO!  I had already created an account with Skype, and when I went to sign in later, I couldn’t remember the password.  I saw the option to sign in with Facebook, so I did.  Little did I know that this created a brand, NEW, SECOND account with Skype!  This created a ton of problems with my sister-in-law Julie, who kept sending “friend” requests via Skype to one of my Skype accounts, but it happened that I was on the other one!  I needed to accept her friend request in order for us to talk, but I didn’t see any friend request because she had sent it to the other account.  It was extremely frustrating!  It took me about an hour to figure out what I had done, and another couple of hours to figure out how to delete the second account so that I wouldn’t have that same problem with all of YOU!

So what did we do when I visited her class via Skype?
-First, I read the class Wiggles Learns the Rules at School.  I used the puppet, of course!
-Then, I sang When the Bell Rings, Freeze! with the class from the Classroom Management CD/DVD.  Check out the Song on iTunes!
-Then, I read the class Little Sittles Learns to Join In.  I used the puppet again, of course!
-Last, I emailed her a couple of coloring pages from both books.  Since it was close to the end of the day, her students did them the next day.  She said that her students absolutely LOVED it!!!!

This is one of my Sis-in-Law's students and his finished coloring page from our Sittles book.  :)
This is one of my Sis-in-Law’s students and his finished coloring page from our Sittles book.

I Join In And Learn!
Here is one coloring page from the back of the Sittles Book.
This is another coloring sheet from the back of the Sittles book.
This is another coloring sheet from the back of the Sittles book.

I hope you got some ideas you can use from this post, and that you found this helpful!  If you enjoyed this blog post, be sure to follow HeidiSongs by email feed by checking at the top of the side bar, or follow using Bloglovin’ or some other type of email reader. Don’t forget to follow Heidi on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and subscribe to our channel on YouTube, too!