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

How Letters alive Ignited My Virtual ABC Boot Camp

virtual teaching in kindergarten

“Letters alive brings animals to life in 3D so we can use those to review and practice letters, sounds, concepts of print, science, and more! And yes, we ARE using it virtually!”


virtual teaching for kindergarten

Guest Blogger: Mr. Greg Smedley-Warren
Kindergarten Teacher, International Speaker, Curriculum Developer
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“About ten years ago I began developing a 4-6 week program for introducing letters and letter sounds. Having done tons of research, I learned the two biggest predictors of early reading success are phonemic awareness and letter recognition. I also learned about the Law of 10-20 for Memory Sets and how 4-6 weeks is considered ‘optimal time’ for remembering items in a set. So, I wanted to develop a program that considered all these best practices and also included direct instruction, multiple exposures, motor movement, and review.. all of the most effective methods for success.

When my ABC Boot Camp™ was born, I never thought I’d have to teach it to 20 kids who were each sitting in their homes. Y’all know how challenging it is to keep a 5 year old’s attention in person.. Just imagine over a computer across town! Now, my ABC Boot Camp™ is engaging, fun, interactive.. all the things a little learner would want. But, presenting it through a computer screen made me wonder if it’d work.

virtual teaching for kindergarten
5-minute sneak peek of Mr. Greg teaching virtually

Well, I found out it does! And even more so with Letters alive! Letters alive now includes a specialized “zoo keeper version” of my ABC Boot Camp™ in its learning kit as part of its supplemental curriculum. It takes letters and 26 zoo animals and springs them to life in 3D augmented reality and has added a new level of engagement to my camp!

This fall, we started the year out virtually as did many classrooms across the country. The first 26 days is… you guessed it… ABC Boot Camp™ with Letters alive! Any doubts I had about engagement went out the window when my kids saw all the animals and letters jumping off the screen! They can’t get enough! They giggle and squeal just as if they were in my class.

I’m anxious to see how my kids do compared to previous years. I’ve been collecting data for four years since I started using Letters alive in my Boot Camp. The numbers are almost hard to believe. In only 26 days, my kids already have a solid foundation for reading. This opens up so many other options for learning additional skills as we progress through the school year.

My kids always have the highest and best scores in our school, even though over 90% are English Language Learners! I owe a lot of that success to Letters alive. Based on my kids’ excitement and motivation so far this year, I think they’ll do just as well even virtually from home!”

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

3 Reasons Why I Chose Alive Studios’ Resources for Remote Learning

kindergarten teacher virtual summer camp

“As you may know, capturing kindergarteners’ attention is not easy in person,
much less over a computer. So, I had to get creative. I knew just the resource from my classroom that would do the trick…”


kindergarten teacher virtual summer camp
Guest Blogger: Amanda Lewig
Kindergarten Teacher, Masters in Curriculum Instruction,
2020 Teacher of the Year Nominee
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“As a kindergarten teacher, I like to reach out to my incoming students and offer a summer camp to get them excited and prepared for their new adventure. This year, in the wake of Covid-19, I had to conduct my camp remotely. As you may know, capturing kindergarteners’ attention is not easy in person, much less over a computer. So, I had to get creative. I knew just the resource from my classroom that would do the trick, Letters alive. I could easily bring the kit home to help with my distance learning. What I love about Letters alive is that it is research-proven, brain-based, and most of all, super-engaging.

kindergarten teacher virtual summer camp
16-minute snippet from recent webinar

1. Research-Proven: Now, I’m a nut for data. After introducing Letters alive to my class last year, I saw a solid increase of 18% when measuring recognized letters sounds. And, this is crazy, but I saw a 124% increase in recognized sight words. I think these increases will only get better as I learn more about how to best use Letters alive.

2. Brain-Based: Since Letters alive uses a multi-modal approach, I could easily differentiate for my kids’ learning styles. Best of all, Letters alive offers active screen time; It’s a very hands-on and interactive learning experience that plays on children’s natural curiosity about animals.

3. Super-Engaging: I love how the zoo theme throughout Letters alive keeps my kids engaged and eager to learn! In my summer camp, I also gave each of my kids a Letters alive Journal and free mobile app. This not only lets them explore the animals and letters at home at their own pace, but it also gave them a real-world connection with animals to literacy, it encouraged their personal creativity and provided them with opportunities to practice writing. The journals have built in writing prompts that allowed me to do early writing lessons with my incoming Kindergarteners. This laid the foundation for starting writing workshops in the fall!

In addition, an encouraging side effect is with non-English speaking parents. They are there to help their child with a remote connection, but they are also exposed themselves to the basics of reading and writing English! How exciting is that? It was heart-warming to see family interacting and laughing together.

Thanks, Alive Studios, for helping my remote summer camp to be a huge hit! And now, I’m excited to use Letters alive for back-to-school to get my kiddos back on track in a hurry!”

4 Learning Resources that Engage Preschoolers At-Home

Learning Resources for Engaging Preschoolers At-Home

Recently, we received a phenomenal success story from a mom whose preschooler is excelling at home with four of our remote learning resources (three of which are FREE!). I instantly knew we had to share her story with you! See how she uses our Zoo Crew Alphabet Show, Journals alive app, Letters alive Journals, and Interactive Alphabet Chart to get her daughter, Adaline, excited about learning:

“So my daughter, Adaline, is almost three years old, and I am always looking for creative ways to engage her with her learning, Learning Resources for Engaging Preschoolers At-Homeso she will be prepared and ready to go to school. Just watch this video of Adaline and you’ll be amazed, like myself, how self-motivated she was to learn. It was very easy and fun for me to be there just to assist.

I know our local schools are looking for ways to engage our little ones remotely that will really hold their attention span. Little kids, like my Adaline, need that one-on-one, in-person contact in order to be excited about learning and understand exactly what is being expected. One of the key skills at her age is letters and letter sounds. My educator friends have told me that a child’s ability to recognize letters and their represented sounds are a major determination of literacy success.

Learning Resources for Engaging Preschoolers At-HomeMy mom actually introduced Adaline to the Zoo Crew Alphabet Show on YouTube. It’s a free remote learning resource with 26 individual lessons. The lessons teach an animal, a letter, letter sounds, and a social emotional growth skill. Each one is about 12-18 minutes long, which is perfect for Adaline’s attention.

Adaline instantly fell in love with Chief Zoo Keeper Cynthia and her little sidekick, Gerdy Giraffe. An added surprise was that some of the shows can become interactive with the free Journals alive mobile app. We are very sensitive to how much screen time Adaline gets each day, so we are very selective on what she actually gets to watch. When I saw her glowing with excitement and interest as she followed along with the show on her iPad, I was amazed.

After watching several of the lessons, Adaline quickly picked up on the repetitive catch phrases and began imitating them as she learned about the animals and letters. She will not be three until next month, yet already knows all her upper and lowercase letters and most of the letter sounds. I can honestly attribute this to the Zoo Crew Alphabet Show, the Letters alive Journal, and the mobile app.

We purchased the Letters alive Journal so she could follow along with all 26 animals and letters Learning Resources for Engaging Preschoolers At-Homeand be even more actively engaged with each lesson. It’s the best $10 I’ve ever spent. 🙂 I don’t normally promote or brag on companies or their products, but this is one that all parents of 2 to 5 year olds need to know about. I’ve never seen such an effective resource for helping kids learn their letters and letter sounds.

Learning Resources for Engaging Preschoolers At-HomeRecently, we learned about the Interactive Alphabet Chart, another FREE resource from Alive Studios. It’s a pdf file that lets you click any letter to instantly watch that lesson from the Zoo Crew Alphabet Show. This makes it so easy to find each lesson.

Anyway, from a mom and her preschooler, ‘thank you!’”

~ Leah (mom)