How To Make Education Come Alive… even Virtually!

AR in early education

“I’m such a big fan of augmented reality as an additional secret weapon in my arsenal of teaching tools!” ~ Adam Peterson


virtual teaching for 1st grade

Guest Blogger: Adam Peterson
Pre-K/K Educator, Author, Speaker, and Educational Consultant
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4 Benefits of Using Augmented Reality in the Classroom and Virtual

An “interactive experience of a real-world environment enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information” sounds like something you’d read as a warning label on a sign before entering a dark ride at your favorite amusement park. But, in reality (no pun intended), this definition describes something that is being used in classrooms all over the world to give students an engaging learning experience like no other. That experience happens through something called augmented reality (AR). First invented in the early 1990’s AR has made its way from being used to simulate training exercises in the Air Force, to commercial businesses in the entertainment and gaming industries, important use in the medical field, and into the hands of teachers and students in the world of education.

Cynthia B. Kaye, CEO & Chief Zoo Keeper at Alive Studios, LLC witnessed an early form of AR by chance one day and never looked back. She paired AR with an educational need her two sons had and it inspired a love of learning that has now reached classrooms around the globe!

AR in early literacyMy personal journey with AR started in a much different way than Cynthia’s, but it’s one I’ll never forget. I had heard about Alive Studios from friend and fellow educator, Greg Smedley-Warren, but had never witnessed it in person. That all changed at a national teacher conference in Las Vegas. I was roaming around the exhibit hall between my presentations and heard the trumpet of an elephant and the moo of a cow! I was instantly captivated and found myself turning the direction of the animal sounds. I was amazed at how many people had surrounded the booth for Alive Studios and more amazed by the animal sounds and actions I was hearing and seeing! I was instantly hooked and have never looked back. I introduced Letters alive to my kindergarten students that Fall and saw immediate engagement as well as academic results. Over the past five years I have continued to use Letters alive, Math alive, Journals alive, and now Classrooms alive with all the Alive Studios’ resources. I currently work with children ages 3-7 and all age groups love it every time we turn on our panel and they hear the Alive Studios theme music and animal noises.

Since the introduction of AR into education the world has changed and many teachers, administrators, and parents are looking for new and exciting ways to engage early learners after a year of learning through a pandemic that was anything but ordinary for most. The success of Alive Studios can easily be attributed to Cynthia and her amazing team, but they will all agree their success lies in the hands of the educators around the world who are embracing AR and using it to enhance lessons and engage their students. Great! So now we have an exciting new way to engage learners but how do we use that to fuel academic growth and see progress in all types of learners? Well, the key to this purpose isn’t the technology behind AR or the exciting things it can do, but rather the ways in which teachers are harnessing the power of this technology and tying it together with impactful lessons to create a winning combination. With every classroom around the globe looking for ways to continuously evolve with the ever-changing world we live in, let’s take a look at four benefits that AR can bring as a new addition to a teacher’s arsenal of activities and lessons they use throughout the year.

1. Engagement
Creating engaging lessons has been, is, and always will be something teachers are constantly trying to do to make sure they have grasped the attention of even the most reluctant learners. With augmented reality, engagement comes naturally. When a child witnesses a lion pop out of a computer screen after their teacher holds a card with the letter “L” under a document camera, they can’t help but be engaged. Now pair that lion with a roar that echoes off the walls of the classroom and engagement is taken to a whole new level. That’s just one small example of how Alive Studios uses AR technology paired with skills children are learning to increase engagement. The oohs and ahhs, screams of excitement, and wide-eyed stares as Alive Studios zoo animals appear to jump out of the screen are confirmations of your students’ engagement and eagerness to learn!

2. Academic Growth
When children are engaged in learning, they learn more. Plain and simple. We all know from personal experience that we are more focused when we are interested in what we’re learning about which in turn leads to our increased understanding of the content. With AR this can be stretched across multiple subjects from letters and sounds, to numbers and counting, and so much more. In one case study, done with early learners in Gwinnett County Schools in Georgia, Bridget Saldana recorded a growth of over 50% knowledge of Uppercase Letter Recognition with her students when using augmented reality with Alive Studios. And that’s only her results for Uppercase Letters. Take a look at this graphic to see the amazing results she saw in other areas.

This case study results chart, taken from, is just one example of the academic power AR can have. AR doesn’t just have an effect on young learners though; the use of AR can be found in higher grade levels as well with mobile apps like Photomath which helps students interpret an equation simply by scanning a worksheet. When put to use in the classroom AR can have profound impacts on the progress of all types of learners, across all grade levels, and in all subject matters. With Alive Studios and their combination of zoo animals they have been able to strategically add lessons that include reading, math, science, and more into their AR experience. Pair the technology with their ready-to-implement lesson plans and teachers can begin their AR journey to academic success with little to no preparation!

3. Multi-Sensory Experience
One of the toughest jobs educators have is being able to meet the needs of all students in the classroom. This doesn’t just mean students of varying academic abilities but, more importantly, students with varying styles of learning. At any given moment a classroom can be filled with a mix of students who are visual learners, auditory learners, etc. Trying to plan lessons that have a multi-sensory teaching approach can sometimes be a daunting task and takes time. With AR, teachers can combine visuals and sounds together with interactive lessons in an immersive way that is sure to captivate and reach all types of learners. I experienced this success first hand with one of my own students recently and have been amazed at the results I’m seeing. A student of mine who has a sensory processing disorder and is seeing me for help with basic math skills was struggling one day to do basic one-to-one counting. We worked and worked at this with different manipulatives, games, and other activities but nothing seemed to click. So, I turned on Math alive using our touch screen panel and opened the Counting and Comparing module. Within seconds, my student was touching items on screen and counting aloud along with the system’s voice as he touched each item. By the end of our lesson he was back at the table counting manipulatives in a much more successful manner. I was amazed at how quickly he picked up the skill after teaching it through a multi-sensory approach. The physical touch, the auditory counting, and the fun interactive graphics did more for him than anything I had tried previously. I credit Alive Studios for the success I’m seeing with this student, as well as others who need a multi-sensory style of learning!

AR in early literacy 4. Perfect For Virtual Learning
The pandemic shed a spotlight on virtual learning and as schools were thrust into this new style of teaching, teachers were looking for as many ways as possible to keep their students engaged. Alive Studios to the rescue! With AR already being a computer and app based program teachers found it super easy to add it to their virtual lessons to capture and hold student attention. I personally had a very rewarding experience with virtual teaching using Alive Studios AR to teach 3, 4, and 5 year olds during Zoo School: Letters and Sounds Zoo Camp! We met 4 days a week for 7 weeks for 30-minutes a day. Thanks to the 3D AR magic, real animal videos, and zoo-themed lessons from Alive Studios, I was able to easily engage, hold meaningful conversations, interact with, and check for understanding with my kids. As the future of this school year is unknown, and virtual learning still looms in the shadows, I strongly encourage teachers to take a deeper look into Alive Studios and the enhancements it can offer to your virtual lessons through augmented reality!

It’s no secret that these are just a few of the benefits AR can bring to education. Schools and teaching styles are changing year after year and approaches to teaching and learning need to adapt to changing times. While I still love classic games, activities, songs, and dances as a way to enhance my teaching, I’m such a big fan of augmented reality and Alive Studios as an additional secret weapon in my arsenal of teaching tools!

numbers and letters activity books with mobile appSo how does one get started with augmented reality in the classroom? As mentioned above, there are mobile apps available from 3rd party sources that can be a great starting point for introducing AR to your students and learning how to use it for yourself. This low-cost (and often free) approach might be a perfect place for teachers who are looking for a quick way to add a little bit of AR into different lessons. For a more immersive and well-rounded approach to teaching early literacy and math skills, look no further than Alive Studios’ mobile apps and computer software resources! Cynthia and her team have taken out all the stops in their quest to bring AR to students and teachers no matter what their level of experience with it may be. From the My Journals alive Student Journals and free mobile app that puts AR in the hands of individual learners, to Letters alive and Math alive that allow teachers to enhance their lessons with AR the opportunities are endless with Alive Studios!

Addressing Learning Loss with EdTech Using the Education Stabilization Covid Relief Funds

education stabilization

“I feel very passionate about the use of Alive Studios’ resources to ignite engagement for early learners who have experienced a disruption to instruction or learning loss.”


virtual teaching for 1st grade

Guest Blogger: Maggie Phillips
Former District Tech Integration Specialist

As we all know, with the disruption to instruction that has occurred over the last year, new and different learning gaps have developed for all learners, especially early learners. Addressing these learning gaps is not only a priority, but it is essential in preparing students to be successful in the future. With the recent approval of the second COVID-19 relief package, school districts will be provided with funds that can be used for education technology and programs to directly address the student learning gaps resulting from the disruption of instruction.

I feel incredibly passionate about closing these gaps and ensuring that all students have an opportunity to engage in high-impact and meaningful learning experiences. I recently had the opportunity to co-host a webinar with Cynthia Kaye (CEO & Chief Zoo Keeper of Alive Studios) about the effectiveness of Alive Studios’ seven EarlyEd technology resources for closing the learning gap by increasing student engagement. Alive Studios’ resources are proven to help bridge the learning gaps and to help Pre-K to 2nd grade students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in reading and writing.

The seven resources we shared in the webinar are powerful tools for addressing student learning loss and are ideal for teaching in any learning environment – in the traditional classroom, at home, or a blended/hybrid environment. Everything Cynthia and her team have developed is research-based, rooted deeply in data, systematic, and meticulously scaffolded to support learners at every level.

The resources are aligned to kindergarten state standards and are for pre-k and kindergarten instruction, but they are also phenomenally successful as an intervention tool for striving students in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade.

In the webinar, we discussed how to Close Your Covid Literacy Gap by Increasing Student Engagement.
We featured 7 resources; the first 2 are free. Here they are:

closing the student learning gap
See the 56-minute webinar replay

1. Zoo Crew Alphabet Show – FREE
Cynthia and her team at Alive Studios set some time aside during the shutdown of 2020 to create something really dynamic. They made the best of a really challenging situation and actually produced and recorded a child-focused show on YouTube. With 26 interactive and content-filled episodes teaching letters, letter sounds, and animals, these shows are ready-made instructional resources for learning in a traditional classroom or learning at home… and it’s FREE!

2. Interactive Alphabet Chart – FREE
This easy-to-use, free resource was designed to give you the ability to simply click a letter and immediately access the related episode of the Zoo Crew Alphabet Show.

I love how these first two free resources blend different modalities into an approach that’s fun and meaningful. Students don’t even realize the learning that’s happening. Both are free and include hours of remote learning fun that can be enjoyed in class or at home.

3. Journals alive
The Letters alive and Math alive printed journals are way more than just simple activity books. Learning comes alive in 3D with the Journals alive app (free download), giving kids an interactive experience that gets them excited about learning.

The journals also make the most of homework! As we all know, learning at home has tremendously increased over the past year. These journals provide a seamless piece of homework that blends three key elements of learning: meaningful content, scaffold learning, and engaging technology. These journals are perfect for bridging the home/school connection and providing additional support for kids who are at risk of falling behind.

4. Rugs alive
When I first saw these rugs, I was mind-blown! And, when kids see the rugs come to life, they have a similar experience. Seeing the animals pop off the rug and enter their classroom or learning environment truly brings the learning experience to life.

These colorful classroom rugs provide kids with an interactive experience for learning animals, habitats, positional concepts, teamwork, and other STEM-based activities! Your students will love meeting the animals and taking photos with them through the Rugs alive mobile app (free download).

supplemental early literacy engagement5. Letters alive Zoo Keeper Edition
Letters alive is a supplemental ELA curriculum kit that incorporates multiple learning modalities and a cross-curricular approach to teach letters, letter sounds, word building, sentence building, and writing.

The Alphabet Show, journals, and rugs are all tied together with Letters alive. Whether you’ve taught phonics for years or you’re new to teaching these skills, Letters alive provides you with literally everything you need to facilitate high-quality learning experiences for your students.

6. Math alive
Math alive is a supplemental mathematics curriculum kit that incorporates interactive learning games, activities, and simulations with 3D augmented reality to teach 86 essential math skills. Whether you are looking to enhance whole group math instruction, independent work, or stations/centers, the Math alive content can bring abstract math concepts to life.

7. Learning alive Zoo Keeper Edition
There are a lot of things we look at when assessing effective instruction and meaningful curriculum and content. The Learning alive bundle checks all the boxes: Reading, Writing, Math, STEM, and Social-Emotional. It couples the content students are learning to develop the fundamentals of reading and writing with a pedagogically strong instructional approach and meaningful integration of technology.

If I was in the classroom or working at the school level at this time, I would be eager to implement these Alive Studios’ resources with my students! Knowing that this solution is research-based, rooted deeply in data, systematic, and meticulously scaffolded to support learners makes me feel confident it can close the learning and instructional gaps for the youngest of students.


3 Features My 1st Graders LOVE about Letters alive… Even Virtually!

1st grade ela supplemental

“Their engagement went from 0 to 100 and I was able to actually get some real teaching done.”


virtual teaching for 1st grade

Guest Blogger: Beth Pittman
1st Grade Teacher, Early Ed Influencer, Blogger
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“Since this past March, we’ve been distance learning in our California school district. Just like everyone else, we were all scrambling to find things that worked with our students. At first, I was standing in front of my camera talking to my students over a computer. I learned quickly that I was not going to be able to hold my students’ attention. They needed some excitement, some spice, and something visually to get them engaged. I had recently implemented Letters alive in class and I knew my students loved it, so I gave it a shot virtually and WOW it was just what we all needed! Their engagement went from 0 to 100 and I was able to actually get some real teaching done.

With Letters alive, we’ve been able to review and master three key ELA skills:

virtual teaching for 1st grade
See Beth’s 12-min Presentation

1. Word Building with Phonics Patterns: Yes, even 1st graders need practice with letters and sounds; especially as letters are put together and the sounds change. The Word Builder in Letters alive is perfect for this! When I use the letter and word family cards, we are able to hear the individual sounds and the word as a whole. My students love directing me to use the different cards as we work our way through words. This has been a great review and practice for vowel teams and has given me their undivided attention as I teach them these concepts.

2. Sentence Building and Proper Punctuation: My students love putting words together and building sentences. But their biggest problem has always been capitalization and punctuation. When we build sentences in Letters alive using the sight word cards, not only do we get to see what all the 26 zoo animals can do in 3D, we also get to see the capitalization and punctuation get added on the fly! This has helped my kids so much and gives me a fun way to point it out and teach them the concept. When I build “The horse can run,” we see the “T” get capitalized, a period added at the end, AND, we see Henry Horse actually running! The sights, sounds, and actions have bridged the attention gap I was having with distance learning, and my students are actually learning and retaining the information.

3. Writing: One of the biggest problems with writing is finding things to write about. Letters alive has 26 animals in the Alive Studios Zoo. Each animal has a name, a rhyming story, a set of actions, a habitat, and other animal facts. This layer of animal science has ignited my students’ imaginations and they always have fun things to write about.

In addition to these ELA skills, I discovered a cool way to improve my students’ behavior while distance learning; I assign a “helper of the day.” My helper is able to verbally assist throughout each lesson. At the end of the lesson, I allow them to select one of the 26 animals for us to watch their habitat video so we can go on a virtual field trip. My kids LOVE this! They feel a sense of pride and accomplishment by playing an active role. Now all my students are at their best in hopes of being the helper for tomorrow!

I also have to let you know about the Zoo Crew Alphabet Show. Alive Studios took their “lockdown time” as a company and filmed 26 animal/letter lessons and shared them for FREE on YouTube. There’s over 6 hours of digital learning that you can share with your students and your parents. This also helps that disconnect created by remote learning for our little ones. I know my parents are loving it as we continue to figure out what is next for schools.”

If you’re interested in getting Letters alive® for your classroom and need help with funding, we are pleased to provide four great options here.

~ Cynthia Kaye

Volume Bonus for School Districts

school district pilot program

Below is a recent Press Release announcing our Proficient by 3rd Grade District Level Volume Bonus Program:

Alive Studios Helps School Districts Win the Reading Challenges for At Risk Students

Alive Studios is introducing a Proficient by 3rd Grade Volume Bonus program for school districts to test and prove the Letters alive early learning reading program.

Alive Studios has structured a program that allows school districts to test and prove the effectiveness of teaching with Letters alive within eight classrooms. “We encourage districts to test and compare student outcomes between classes using Letters alive and those not using Letters alive.” stated Cynthia B. Kaye, CEO and Chief Zoo Keeper of Alive Studios. The volume program comes with a full-year of free online digital assessments for measuring, tracking, and reporting the progression of students. The generated reports can be shared with teachers, principals, and even parents in English or Spanish. The Alive Studios’ team will also come on-site and trains the participating teachers how to most effectively use Letters alive with their students and how to track their outcomes. Says Kaye, “We’re convinced that once districts try the bonus program and see the results for themselves they’ll want to make this available to all their at risk students.”

“We’ve been busy spreading awareness of our game-changing supplemental reading program, Letters alive, by introducing it to teachers around the country.” added Kaye. “What we’re finding at trade shows and during demos is that teachers love our solutions, but 74% of them don’t have the purchasing authority to obtain it. We realized we needed to take our solutions to the district level.”

at risk studentsAmerica has a literacy crisis among our early learners and serious solutions are in demand. “An alarming number of children—about 67 percent nationwide and more than 80 percent of those from low-income families—are not proficient readers by the end of third grade. This has significant and long-term consequences not only for each of those children but for their communities, and for our nation as a whole,” cited Ralph Smith, Managing Director of The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

With almost 7 out of 10 students not proficient in reading by 3rd grade, early intervention with a proven solution is crucial for establishing the foundations for high school graduation and career success. Alive Studios’ difference maker is a mind-boggling technology called Augmented Reality. It creates a 3D experience without glasses and provides off-the-charts engagement that increase student outcomes. Now, over 1,500 classrooms are learning letters, letter sounds, sight words and sentence building in a revolutionary way.

The program is especially effective with At Risk students including ELL, ESL and Special Needs. Independent Research has proven a 48% increase in letter naming fluencies and 112% increase in letter sound fluencies by implementing Letters alive in the classroom. “My students love seeing a new animal each day and their reactions to the animals coming to life is priceless! Letters alive brings a whole new engagement level to our ABC BOOTCAMP!” stated Greg Smedley-Warren, Kindergarten Teacher at JE Moss Elementary, a Title I school in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Proficient by 3rd Grade Volume Bonus Program is available to any school district. Interested teachers and principals are encouraged to inform their district leaders about the program. Details about Letters alive and the bonus program can be found here.

Content is King for Classroom Technology

Content is King for Classroom Technology

So, after a long wait and a lot of pleading you finally got that new computer, or that new smartboard. Now what? Do you have the really cool content you need to engage students?

As we make the trade show tour, we have the pleasure of seeing all the latest educational technology; fast, streamlined computers and big, crystal-clear displays. Like kids in a candy store glaring at the shiniest and most colorful lollypop, we all fall into the “I have to have this” category. But when we get it into our classrooms, we realize it doesn’t solve any of the major problems we face with early learners. Are they now learning letter sounds and letter naming more effectively? Does the new tech reach both ends of the learning spectrum? Are At Risk students now achieving better results? Can ELL students grasp the English language any quicker?

One common void we discover amongst the hardware tech crowd is the lack of content. content is king for classroom technologySure they offer the ability to do “it” quicker, bigger, and with more wow.. but do what? It’s the content ON the device that makes the difference. It’s the software application that brings the device to life and solves problems in classrooms.

It reminds me of a story about a little boy who had a $5 bill and wanted to buy a wallet. After shopping several stores, he found the perfect one. It fit his pocket, it felt good in his hand, and it only costed $5. You can guess the rest of the story. Having spent his $5, the little boy had nothing to put into his new wallet. Just like the wallet with no money, a new computer or smartboard just isn’t that impressive without content.

So, if you’re given the green light for new technology, remember to save some funds for engaging content that will help make a positive difference in your classroom.