17 Feb

eBooks in the Classroom

Binary Books

It’s a common question. Is there a place for book apps alongside traditionally printed books? How should teachers make use of this new media?

Why should we use interactive books?

Always begin with this question, why are you considering buying eBooks? Do you have devices in school already that will make use of them? Have you considered purchasing costs? Are you buying copies of treasured books or working with new authors?

I think these questions are important because they will have an impact on the kinds of books you buy. How many iPads/devices do you have? Are you looking for textbooks for a 1:1 project? When will the books be accessed?

iBooks is easy to search and most books are dowloadable as samples first!

iBooks is easy to search and most books are dowloadable as samples.

Options are plentiful:
Web based services allow books to be accessed on screen, often compatible with many operating systems, but not always downloadable.
Britannica e-books is one such service.
Scholastic also run services where books can be accessed online, often through themes or authors focus.
More and more books now will come with digital copies, which are perfect for displaying on whiteboards.
Kindle runs as an app on iPads, online and within Kindle readers – great for regular access, though not as whizzy looking as ios apps. (This is changing as Kindle readers become full colour!) Kindle can be cheaper and as the app is android as well, very accessible to parents as well as teachers.

If you are looking for textbooks, use the iBookstore but also take a look at the DK range of apps. All very high quality.

I often get asked about book apps for iPads. My advice is to choose books that link well within unit teaching and make most of their interactivity. It is also a good idea to let the children choose themselves occasionally! Perhaps a project for school council or digital leaders? Here is a quick run through of some of the best book apps I’ve seen. Make use of creative apps for activites, see my guided reading apps for ideas.

Great for inference and problem solving!
Often find the children running through books or furiously swiping the screen? Try Bartleby’s Book of Buttons This book is one of the best I have seen. Each page poses a problem, with the solution hidden within the page. For example he may have a ticket with the time to leave on it, and the reader has to change the clock to that time before they can turn the page. Great illustrations and loads of options make this one you really should try. Perfect for inference and encouraging those higher level 3 readers to pay attention to the text!

Bartleby's Book of Buttons poses a problem, and solution within each page.

Bartleby’s Book of Buttons poses a problem, and solution within each page.

Great for character and dialogue.
Two things in book apps will really support young readers with character and dialogue. Firstly the quality of the voice acting, and secondly the ability to record the narrative themselves. Using book apps as a chance for drama, speaking and listening and creating characters is the perfect enhancement. For this, I found it tricky, many publishers are now warming to the idea of a record your own narrative feature. An example would be Ocean Media Houses’ Dr Seuss series. Some are put off because of the voice acting, (though what else would Dr Suess stories sound like?!) However the chance to record your own narrative changes that. Suddenly the possibilities are endless! A very special mention should also go to the Nosy Crow series. Their gorgeous looking apps are not only brilliantly narrated but tapping the characters in the story reveal more of their thoughts. Very useful for when you want to encourage discussion about dialogue, or encouraging children to sequence stories.

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks, brilliantly narrated and excellent for whole class storytelling.

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks, brilliantly narrated and excellent for whole class storytelling.

Other stories which are great for dialogue include Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and Cosmo. These also include some great activities, such as sequencing stories which can be useful.

Reading for Pleasure.
The other great thing about eBooks, is that it can motivate some children to read where they otherwise may not do. Ofsted recently saw a guided reading session where a group was using iPads and commented that the children were incredibly engaged, especially the boys. Purchasing some key texts, whether from iBooks, or as an app, could really support reading in the classroom. Try some of the comic apps as well, Comics4Kids offers some great comics, which are very child friendly. Some iBooks, such as David Walliams’ Gangster Granny offer video from the author, and reading aloud of the text. Try searching for ‘enhanced’ books in the store.
Special mentions should also go to Atomic Antelope’s adaption of Carroll’s Alice, which comes in an abridged and full version and has amazing visuals.

Atomic Antelope's adaptation of Alice will be a hit with Yr 5/6 readers.

Atomic Antelope’s adaptation of Alice will be a hit with Yr 5/6 readers.

Meanwhile, for younger readers there are many options, Collins Big Cats have a range of apps which allow the reader to completely rebuild and then share their own story!

Searching for non-fiction and topic books will yield some gems, such as this Bobo and Light.

Searching for non-fiction and topic books will yield some gems, such as this Bobo and Light.

Finally, another great thing about eBooks is that they can make use of the whiteboard in the classroom. See the link here for linking iPads to the whiteboard. Books that the children have copies of in the class library that can also be displayed for more focussed literacy work. The Heart and a Bottle deserves a special mention here as it is an amazing story and the app is delightful, with brilliant voice acting. However do search the iBookstore for your favourite authors, many of them are adapting their stories for the big screen!!

I will continue to add great book apps as I find them. Do please add any gems you’ve found in the comments sections!

10 Feb

iPad and Guided Reading

Many teachers have been using iPads to develop reading in the classroom. This post looks at how they can be integrated into guided reading, however the apps we recommend are versatile enough to be used across many teaching reading contexts.

For grouped reading: Ideally the teacher and the iPads would be in different groups –  iPads are brilliant for encouraging independent reading, and activities which allow the children to explore books, character, plot and so on by themselves. Producing at the end of the 20min / 30min session something which can be saved either to a webdav or dropbox or which can be shared to the rest of the class.

It is important that texts chosen and activities selected are appropriate to the level of the children, and usually when reading something new the teacher should introduce an unfamiliar text to the children first. For this reason the iPads and activities are often used on a two week rotation.

So, what are the apps that work really well in these sessions?
A summary of the apps teachers have found popular during guided reading.

Guided Reading Apps

Exploring Text

Allow the pupils chance to explore some of the texts on the iPad, perhaps even comparing the differences, and forming opinions about ebooks vs books. However I would always be wary about merely replacing texts; there is so much more to do!

Great books are coming into iBooks all the time, so keep searching, especially when planning units. There are also lots of great story book apps in the app store, and I would give a very special recommendation to The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore – but there are some others on the picture above.

Non-fiction reading. There are some excellent book apps out there that link beautifully to science, and other topics. (Such as Bobo & Light) – If you want to check understanding you can always leave them some questions, but many of these apps have excellent activities built in. The Britannica Book Apps are also brilliant for this, lots of activities and well pitched for Y4 up. A quick search on either iBooks or the app store will quickly turn up some excellent non-fiction books.
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Want a group to sequence, retell or adapt a story that they have been reading?

How about letting them re work it into a comic strip? Strip Designer is perfect for it’s ease of use and myriad of features but there are others, such as  Comic Life.
The children could use a basic four box comic strip to retell the story, adding text or speech where appropriate. They can retell their favourite part of the story, or explore a larger question connected to a text.
Save to dropbox, or as a PDF on WebDav




Billionaire Boy - What friend would you buy?

Billionaire Boy – What friend would you buy?

Retelling a story can also be achieved through animation and voice acting with Puppet Pals HD – an excellent and extremely popular app for all ages (I have used it very successfully with Year 2 during Guided Reading).  Put simply – retelling a story can be achieved by children creating their own ‘puppet show’.

Other apps are available for animation work, such as Sock Puppets – which has proven popular with our teachers.

Vocabulary and Sentence level work
There are other activities which the iPad is well suited to. Focused work on vocabulary and grammar can be managed easily, even if the children don’t have 1:1 access to an iPad.

For Key Stage 1 there are many phonics and spelling apps – experiment with these to find ones which fit with your schemes (and the english you want!)
Montessori Letters and Sounds – Phonics apps seem to be everywhere, but I really enjoy working with the Montessori apps as the sounds seem the most accurate. Though Pocket Phonics works very well too. The children enjoy the quiz and games, and even the older children are content to rehearse the letter sounds. I think this has more to do with the novelty of the iPad, but it works!
Lakeshore apps have a range of phonics games such as Tic Tac Toe – which allow the children to play in pairs. These apps are free for a limited time so do check them out, they are a great way to fill in gaps with the older children.
Sentence Builder is extremely useful, children struggling with tense or verb/noun agreement can rehearse these skills using picture clues.

Sentence Builder

Sentence Builder

Spelling Apps – it can be very tricky (and dull!) to ask children to rehearse spellings without supervision, apps can do this very well. Squeebles Spelling is excellent, providing you can create lists (although children could do this themselves). It also allows 4 pupils on one iPad, you can save the profiles so that they can earn points and collect ‘Squeebles’. Simplex Spelling has levels which the children work through – giving praise along the way. There also many apps from the same developer aimed at different phonic requirements, use the ‘related’ button in the app store…
Try the iPad groups with just 5 minutes on an app such as this, prior to reading or to other work.

Book Creation
Whilst many of the apps and activities mentioned above can be adapted for all levels, Book Creation is one that is truly all year groups. Ordinary Book Creating where the children have blank paper or template to complete can be incredibly rewarding and this experience can be repeated on the iPad with the excellent app Book Creator.  Do check this out if you get the chance. This app could be a blog post all by itself. (And it may be!!)

06 Feb

Using the iPad with the writing process

The iPad can be a brilliant motivational tool for children in the classroom. The ease-of-use, coupled with the speed that you can get results means that it can be the perfect tool for integrating into your literacy planning. And, as many schools don’t have 1:1 tablet computers it can also mean that the collaborative and group aspect of the technology can be harnessed.

Popplet

I’ve been working with teachers who are developing the writing process in an attempt to motivate their boy writers. We have been looking at the writing process and working out where the enthusiasm lags, or where skills need developing. This part of the process is important, reflecting on why the children are stalling, or on what the challenges might be really helps the planning process.

Finally we looked at what apps the schools have, what apps the teachers are confident with and, most importantly, what apps would support the different ‘stumbling blocks’ the children face.

The writing process with the apps we identified.

The writing process with the apps we identified.

A first look at the planning and the use of the iPads in the classroom is encouraging. As an example, the children found using Popplet very easy to share ideas, vocabulary and to create branching plans. It could be used for a quick ten minute burst, rather than being the point of the lesson. Explain Everything can also be used to develop ideas, or rehearse their writing, photographing and then reading their work into explain everything proved the perfect way to start a discussion about punctuation! It created lots of classroom talk and allowed for plenty of short writing opportunities. Teachers were able to use the iPads during ordinary classroom planning, allowing for some really quick and professional looking work created. Enthusiasm and engagement really were the key, with the children beginning to ask if they could create their work in a certain way, or if they were able to use an app to demonstrate their learning and their work.

Some of the apps required greater lesson time, but it paid off with their writing. For example, ‘PuppetPals HD’ would be planned in a standalone lesson, developing dialogue, or looking at character. But giving the children access to the iPad for the writing session meant that they were then able to refer back to their planning, or back to their dialogue show and then use the vocabulary in their writing.

Peer asses work in Explain Everything.

Peer asses work in Explain Everything.

It’s interesting to see the iPads being used as part of a ‘workflow’ – there is no doubt that the iPads are designed as a 1:1 device.

Many schools don’t have the capacity for 1:1 but have nevertheless invested and it’s encouraging to see them being used in such a productive manner. This short trial with writing has shown the capacity for teachers and pupils to use the technology.

01 Feb

Using iBooks

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iBooks is a brilliant app for buying, organising and buying books.

For teachers this choice can make finding great books a chore, meaning we are sticking to books we already have copies of in the classroom or we are missing some of the advantages of having ebooks.

So, are there are advantages of using iBooks for classroom texts?

Storage and ease of use – you can have books stored in one space that would take up valuable room in the school.
Motivation – undoubtedly some children enjoy using the devices.
In app features which aid learning – such as dictionary, thesaurus, adding notes.
Instant purchases – very useful when you need that new topic book or you want to show an author’s work on the whiteboard.
Fonts and size options can make some books more accessible.

There are of course disadvantages, an eBook won’t always replace the physical copy, but there are still many reasons to consider putting budget money aside for the purchase of some key texts in electronic format.

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This page from the brilliantly popular ‘Traction Man’ shows how selecting the words, and holding your finger on that word can bring up more options.

What can iBooks do?

Firstly. It’s worth remembering that there are two key different types of books on the book store. Enhanced and normal. Enhanced books have features which look like they would fit well into the app- they may have video clips, or an author’s podcast and even the whole book narrated.

These books, like David Walliam’s excellent Billionaire Boy, add that extra dimension to the text, and help to think specifically of author voice, or appealing to an audience.

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The introduction page from Billionaire Boy features a video from the author, David Walliams. The entire story can be read aloud too.

Normal eBooks may not have such interactivity, but they do allow you to select text, then define that word, hear the iPad read it aloud (warning of the pronunciation here!) or even leave notes for the pupils to respond to either in the app or on paper. This means that the children can read longer texts, be prompted with teacher comments and find out the meaning of unknown words. Very useful for the more advanced readers. Most of the books also allow you to search text, change font and size and alter screen brightness. Bookmarks can also be kept, and synced across devices by an option in settings.

How to navigate the store?

The app like any other book store is searchable by title and author, so if you know what you want it is easy to find. There are also ways to stumble across books too, very often some section of children’s books is featured in the front page. At the time if writing it was a lovely section on Children’s Picture Books – some of which had enhanced features. Unfortunately for teachers, ten minutes browsing can turn into an hour before you know it!!

Like the simple, enhanced offering from Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, a promotional from the movie, some iBooks are free but aimed squarely at entertaining. Worth looking out for.

Begin by thinking what the children will be doing with the book – if it is purely for guided reading perhaps you don’t want longer novels, perhaps short story collections would be better.If you have many specific needs in class, or a large number of children with English as an Additional Language then look for enhanced books where they can hear the language and the expression in the reading. For topic work and non-fiction there are some genuinely beautiful books by DK publishing, and these can really benefit the whole class, not just reading time sessions. Considering what exactly you will be using the book for will save you some time when purchasing.

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Part of the 100 Facts.. series 100 World Facts is a great free book to get you started.

Consider the needs of the pupils in the classroom and when they will access the books. Do you want to buy them copies of a book you are reading in class?
Finally, use the ‘related to’ search option within the menu, this may lead to authors and books which you wouldn’t normally consider!

iBook tips:

Remember that the children may not get the chance to read the whole book, it depends on their access to iPads.
Using monitors or pupil digital leaders? Let them browse the book store, or get the school council to choose some.
Integrate it with topic work – there are some brilliant non-fiction books on the store.
Spend some time browsing, and remember you can usually download a free sample.
Enhanced eBooks may be better for reluctant readers

29 Jan

Using the iPad to develop Maths

Recently here has been a big improvement in the quality of apps which focus on maths. I am a huge fan of using apps such as Explain Everything – which allow children to provide detailed explanations in their own words – the iPad can also be used to target specific skills in many different areas. The apps chosen here all provide high-quality activities with progression built in, but they also allow collaboration between children, encouraging the sharing of ideas and reinforcing vocabulary.

Talk Maths – Pearson Apps
Talk Maths

Excellent app which has four activities designed to encourage collaboration and problem solving. Each activity has four levels of difficulty and as the apps come in different year groups they can get very challenging.

Designed for two players, they naturally elicit high quality talk. Highly recommended! Take a closer look here.

Squeebles
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Squeebles – Fractions and Timestables Brilliantly designed, these fun games provide excellent opportunities to rehearse skills which many children find tricky. The fractions app covers comparing, equivalent and simple calculations and the timestable allows random practice as well as specific tables. You set pupils up with usernames on each app (number the iPads!) and they earn rewards for their efforts. The app also provides useful data on completion of tasks and errors made allowing the teacher to be in control.
Have a look at the Multiplication game here. and the Fractions app here.
There are new Squeebles apps, detailed on the website.

Maths Doodles and SymShuffle These apps have a really great look, very distinctive and friendly. The ‘doodles’ app offers problems that need solving, and like the Talk Maths apps will really get the children talking. Mystery numbers, guess the number and place value are all covered here. Find out more here. The ‘symshuffle’ offers simple symbols, or pictures, that need to be reflected, translated or rotated in order to match. Look closer here.

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Both apps offer options which allow you to alter difficulty, play in different styles (such as a race against the clock) or have ‘hints’ on the screen. Great for Key Stage 2, the children will really enjoy using these apps.

Motion Maths – Wings, Zoom and Hungry Guppy Very polished apps which cover very specific parts of the Maths curriculum. Wings is an excellent game which looks at number arrays and covers the introduction of multiplication. Check it out here! Zoom looks at number lines and ordering numbers and Hungry Guppy looks at number skills, creating numbers.

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All of the apps are very intuitive and designed to be child friendly with use of the motion controls and touchscreen combined. They are also very good at providing motivation with rewards and customisation options. The apps are free to try, though that can sometimes be a bind for schools as you could struggle with the in app purchase, however it does mean you can try them first. The friendly controls and gentle introduction to maths concepts makes these great for KS1.

Invasion of the Moon Monkeys Another app perfect for targeted practice of Times Tables – this one has a very familiar feel to it and will really appeal to those children who already play games. There is a storyline, of sorts, and a competitive element as it keeps track of scores. Practice sessions, and the chance to make elements of the game and the maths harder means that it will provide a challenge for all. Really great for those children who just need that extra practice. Find out more here.

Invasion of the Moon Monkeys

Math Evolve Take a look here.

As usual, great apps are coming onto the market all the time, but i’m really beginning to think that ‘less is more’ and these apps have chosen because they are cross year group and represent areas of maths which can traditionally be tricky.

I would love to know your thoughts!