Back in 2020, I was a special education preschool teacher when guess what? Covid shutdowns!
Now remember, I said SPECIAL EDUCATION PRESCHOOL. That means 3-4 year old children with disabilities. Yeahhhhh so that was fun, trying to engage with very young kiddos over a screen! I can go into all the ups and downs of my learning curve at a later time, but for now, here are some quick tips that I picked up and what I learned about using Boom Cards for preschoolers.
First, some background information:
What are Boom Cards and how do you use them?
Want to know what the hype is about Boom Cards and how to use them with your preschool, special education, or speech therapy students? They are amazing! Self-correcting digital task cards. Think of them like little learning games that YOU can create and customize (or use someone else’s good ideas) for your learners.
Boom Cards is an on-line platform where teachers or parents can create or purchase already-created self-grading quiz cards for a variety (and I mean VARIETY) of topics and subjects, everything from world history to counting 1-10.
Boom Cards already had a strong following of speech therapists who used them with their clients to make therapy more fun. But Boom hit the big time when the pandemic arrived. Teachers of all sorts and varieties were now thrown into a digital world.
Here came Boom Learning where anyone, with a little tech knowledge and patience, could mess around on the platform for a while and figure out how to create their own self-grading digital task cards to target whatever learning goal they had in mind.
How do Boom Cards work?
From the creator or teacher standpoint, there are two ways to use Boom Cards. You can create your own “decks,” or you can purchase already created decks. The majority of teachers will just search and find decks already made. The teacher creates an account, finds the decks they want, buys them (which then puts them into their own “library”), and then can use them with their students.
This is Boom's official wording:
Once a teacher has something they want to assign a student, they can do it through four methods:
Student account: The teacher (or parent) sets up a student account and gives their log in information. The student then logs into the Boom site with that log in to access their assigned decks. They can see all their assigned decks and choose what one they want to play. Teacher can gather and analyze the student's responses through their account.
Hyperlink: Teacher sends a hyperlink of the deck they want the student to play. Student clicks the link, logs in with their account info, and then is taken directly to that deck to play. Data is also collected (because the student is logged into their own account).
Fast Pin: Teacher sends a Fast Play link to the student (or can just use the Fast Play link when they're WITH the student), and that deck plays automatically. No data will be collected with this method.
Teacher's account. Teacher can also access their own created or purchased decks if they are logged into their own account, through their library. They can have the student play through decks that way, too (also no data collected).
Here are two vids with more info on what are Boom Cards and how to use them.
How do you use Boom Cards for Preschool
You can use Boom Cards with great success even with very young children or kids with disabilities. They can be used as reinforcement, they can be used for individual learning targets, and they can be used during group learning like circle time or small group.
Disclaimer: ***Some kids do not respond to learning or attending to a screen. That’s OK! We can address that in another topic.*** For now, let’s focus on those that DO like a screen (at least a little).
<<<quick tip>>> I found that assigning decks to classrooms and having students (or parents, rather) access their decks that way was NOT successful. My young families were simply in survival mode, and the extra steps of logging in and finding the decks was just a bridge too far. Instead, I found I most used them when interacting live with them over Zoom, in recordings sent home to them, or live, in-person when we started bringing them back into the buildings. So, for the most part, I accessed my decks through my own account or through Fast Pins or through my own library.
Tip 1: Use as a reinforcer
Many of our littles or students with support needs respond to reinforcement and breaks from learning. We can accommodate that! Heck, I like me my candy drawer in my office to dive into when I need a break!
I had one wee little one when we were still completely remote who wouldn't attend to anything I was doing over the computer for more than 2 seconds. Understandable. He was 3, non-verbal, and very busy. But I'm pretty funny! And I can incorporate pretty good learning goals if I can get a kid's attention.
What I did was create a very simple deck with his preferred characters, and I would plop that up on the screen (using screen share via Zoom), and while he sat on dad's lap, dad would tell me when he touched something on the screen, and I would click on my end to go to the next slide. I would get him engaged with the reinforcer Boom deck for a minute, then I would switch to just my face or to a different deck for a quick learning target, then I'd switch back to his preferred deck. With that back-and-forth, I was able to keep him engaged for up to 15 minutes!
Even if you're working in a group in person, using preferred or fun decks can keep your students engaged. Intersperse learning tasks with these fun-only decks, and see how much more engagement you get! In this classroom, I had a smart TV that I could plug my iPad directly into. I could either run the Boom deck from my iPad, and the students observed and interacted with me watching the big screen, or I could move the iPad around and have students interact while the rest of the students saw what they were doing on the screen.
Tip 2: Use for individual learning targets or IEP goals
Working on specific goals is easy to do, whether you are creating your own decks or find one of the bajillion out there that fits your needs. If you are savvy enough (and perhaps for another day's blog), you can even track data using Boom. Personally, with the young student, I did not find data to be reliable because the younger learners really needed too much adult assistance in recording answers to create reliable data. However, when I did need to take data on progress, I would jot down correct and incorrect responses on my own.
Here is an example of an assessment that can be done with physical materials OR as a digital version. Some students respond to one method while others like the other. Just depends!
Here's an example deck of learning to count objects out of a larger set of objects.
And here is a fun tracing letters activity. Great fine motor or OT-supported goal work!
Check us out on Teacherspayteachers
Tip 3: Use during group instruction
Early on, when we were doing ALL distance learning, I would record virtual circle times that I would send out to parents. I found that using a Boom template helped me create a consistent schedule each day, and then the familiarity each day helped the students engage (as much as possible for 3-year-olds at home!).
Once we started doing hybrid (some kids at home and some in person), I was able to keep the same schedule, AND, because I already had it planned out, it made the workload easier. I did the “live” version with kids in class, and I recorded the same version for the kids at home. It saved me from having to do twice the work (which, believe me, I was already doing twice the work! I'm sure you know what I mean!).
This is the Circle Time set up I used during remote and hybrid learning. It even helps when in-person to keep the schedule consistent and interactive.
Nowadays, it looks more like this. Whether we're in a small group at a table, circle time, or a large group, we can incorporate simple tech activities like a Boom deck. In this case, we did a group social story read, then the students were at their desks doing printable extension activities, and I went around and had them complete the digital activity one at a time.
A social story like this is perfect for a Boom Cards activity! There is a short social narrative, then interactive slides where students “practice” the skill they were just taught.
And here's a super fun activity for Weather Bear! Great for choice-making, taking turns, and communication skills.
Are Boom Cards worth the time?
All in all, there are a ton of ways to utilize Boom Cards, even with your young students. Get creative! Have fun! Don't be afraid to get a free account and experiment. That's how I started. First, I found decks to purchase that I liked, I used them, then I figured out I could make my own! You can find me on the Boom Learning platform or on TpT.
I think there is a permanent shift that has happened, and the fanciful trend of using digital resources is here to stay. And I'm OK with that. Used well and with intent, it's pretty fun.