Using Primary Aged Digital Leaders

Using Digital Leaders in school has been one of the easiest decisions I’ve made! Thanks to a really great showcase of blogs and community at the Digital Leader Network site it is really easy to get involved!

So what is the idea?
Digital leaders are, at the basic idea, pupil monitors for the tech that is used in schools. They are children who are interested, enthusiastic and thanks to training, knowledgeable! They spread good behaviour with technology, support teachers and are able to showcase what is possible. And, importantly, they develop their own skills and become a showcase for what is achievable!

Why Digital Leaders?
Giving the children, and indeed the teacher a high profile, with the title, badges and official roles will benefit all involved. Digital Leaders are trained to carry out specific jobs regularly (such as emptying the photo roll on iPads weekly…) and can support teachers when needed, (printing all of the presentations from DropBox). They will also support pupils when blogging, can have access to some passwords and get to try new technology. Promoting their role means that teachers and parents will take them seriously, and the experience they get from this will be very valuable!

What have digital leaders done?

Digital leaders can take part in staff meetings, parent meetings and can be on ‘duty’ – I use a rota to encourage the leaders to take responsibility for what they are doing each day. They can also be advocates and ‘champions’ of technology: demonstrating it’s use to the rest of the school.

Hints and Tips

– Encourage the children to ‘apply’ for their role. This will encourage a sense of ownership and excitement.
– Let parents know! Permissions for photos and things are a must anyway..
– Explain their role and the idea to staff, it’s nice to get the children to introduce themselves in an assembly as well.
– Enjoy them! Give them something fun to do…
– Do check out the great Digital Leader Network, the community is awesome – and get on twitter too!!

Guide to getting started!

Guide to getting started!

A beginning blog..

Where to start?
But don’t just take my word for it – take a look at how others are using Digital Leaders.

Connecting with Parents #SLTchat

Ideas from #sltchat

Ideas from #sltchat

eBooks in the Classroom

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!

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.
image

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!!)

Guided Reading

Guided Reading is one way that many schools teach reading skills in Key Stage 2. (Year 3 onwards).

Guided reading follows some basic principles; put the children in similar levelled groups to complete reading tasks. The groups follow a timetable, and each day one group is with the teacher, whilst the other groups complete tasks related to the reading. No longer than 30 minutes.

When working with teachers, I often get asked how best to organise Guided Reading. I’ve put some ideas together below, I hope it’s useful.

Download (PDF, 103KB)

Some simple dos and don’ts:
Do make the best of the group which has an adult, plenty of questioning, language and modelling how to work out ‘tricky’ words.

Do plan exciting follow-up tasks. Exploring character and dialogue, looking at why the author chose specific vocabulary and so on.

Don’t ask the children to do lots of written work if it won’t get marked, it just gives the wrong impression.

Do use SAT style questions and booklets to get the children familiar with the work.

Do use text extracts from novels that the children have read with you, it’s great for confidence and can allow the children to work independently.

Got an iPad?
Guided reading is an excellent opportunity to use iPads, a group can quickly and easily produce some great looking work in a session. Some ideas:
Access books and great looking texts – Bobo Explores Light is an excellent, interactive look at light. If poetry app is also highly recommended!

Bobo Explores Light

Make use of specific apps to reinforce skills needed, Sentence Builder is great for tense and verb agreement. There are plenty of phonics apps on the market as well for any children who need the reinforcement. Strip Designer will allow you create story boards or retell a story.

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.