29 Apr

Using Comic Books in the Classroom


I have regularly used comic books in class, and have been known to buy in bulk from charity shops / ebay – then spend hours trawling them to find suitable and good-condition ones! Happily, it seems tablet computers have made that a thing of the past! The crisp and clear screens are perfect for displaying the comics and they don't suffer from wear and tear!

Comics are useful in a variety of situations – and the 'classic' universes – Batman/Superman/X-Men and so on are very popular and well known with the children.

There are others available though, classic stories in comic form, other characters and less well-known superheroes. This means that, given some ownership, children could find comics that they enjoy and that they may not normally have access to. Forming opinions, reading for pleasure and following long story arcs are all perfectly possible.

Why Comics?

Comics allow for the children to read independently as well as group focus for guided reading. The characters and narrative tend to be well suited to focused work and many of the children are familiar with the setting as they recognise them from movies or games.

  • In guided reading, the visual aspect of comics means that children can practice many skills (inferring, predicting) without worrying too much about the actual text.
  • Use as you would a usual text – the same questioning and activities can still apply.
  • Remember as well that these texts may motivate the more reluctant reader to get involved.
  • Longer stories – Graphic Novels – or adapted stories can also be found on iBooks – searching for Graphic Novels will throw up many intriguing titles.
What apps can be used?


Comics+Kids is a great app which has some brilliant free comics – including the Bone #1 – 'The Map

Comixology also contains many well known issues – but you will need to check the suitability!

Marvel's great app is here – again may not always be suitable for younger children.

The folks over at Me Books also have a great app – Me Comics! I wrote about Me Books here.

Android viewers can be found here

This is by no means an exhaustive list – but do give them a try – ask the children for their opinion! It's a great way to get them interested in their reading!

19 Jan

#BlappSnapp – My Story World

#BlappSnapp is a great idea by Julian Wood (@ideasfactory) as a way of sharing great apps,either Android or ioS, for education.

As you know, I rarely push specific apps – but I do get asked for recommendations regularly and have some here.

For my #BlappSnapp I thought I’d examine the use of story telling app My Story World.
My Story World is, at it’s most basic is a Story Telling App, the free download comes with three versions of Grimms’ Fairy Tales. It is possible to create an account for access to all stories on the iPad – and I should mention that I did work with the developers and so recieved these accounts for the schools.

Concentrate on the ‘free’ stories however, they are told delightfully, with the usual options to ‘Play and Learn’ (simple questions) or simply ‘Read to Me’. It works really well over AirServer, and is intuitive enough for Year 1 and Year 2 to work independently.

Stories have a distinctive style and the occasional modern twist!

Once the stories are finished the children get to recreate a version of their own using simple characters and a recognisable structure. The ‘Make a Story’ option allows the children to build a story using a framework supplied by the app. They set the scene, create a ‘beginning’, ‘middle’ and ‘end’.
They can place characters, move them, voice them and act out a story – similar to Puppet Pals.


It’s possible to resize and change the pose of the character.


The reason why I’m sharing this app is really simple: it seems to fit a ‘gap’ that teachers ask for. Stories that can be explored and ask simple inference questions as they go and then a creative activity!

How can it be used?
  • It can be used whole class or with groups – great for a guided reading activity.
  • It fits in really well with KS1 literacy- story telling, planning, sequencing and so on.
  • Encourage the children to plan their story first, playing with characters and dialogue.
  • Creating an account to access all the stories is great value, and they have a great choice of recogniseable stories with beautiful illustrations!
Of course there are always some improvements that could be made:
  • It would be great to be able to export the made story to the camera roll.
  • The ‘Make a Story’ section is only available once you finish the story, meaning that you need to show the children how to fast forward through the story.
  • As usual it works best if the children know which iPad they are working on… So do number the iPads.


Thanks for reading the #blappsnapp – see others here!


15 Dec

We’ve got the iPads, now what?

This is mentioned to me more than I'd like – usually by exasperated teachers who discover that the school has 30 locked away somewhere that are never used or subject coordinators who have been 'given' iPads to raise standards… But little else in the way of support.


Schools are spending more than ever on technology it seems and, according to many articles a large portion of this money is going on tablet computers. A September article from the TES claims technology spending to be around £600 million this year, whilst at the same time a blog post in Wired points to a crisis in technology education.

Investment in iPads seems to be especially controversial at the moment and the stories are not always positive. Google iPads in Primary Schools and amongst the blogs, apps and ideas you will get plenty of articles about how it has gone horribly, and publicly, wrong! So, if you have already invested, or are considering here is a quick guide to makes sure your investment impacts on standards!

Begimming to use your school iPads falls into five key areas:

  1. Be prepared and plan ahead.
  2. Measure impact in a variety of ways – through pupil voice – talking to staff – and data.
  3. Let staff explore their use.
  4. Give time to talk to your technical support!
  5. Share success and encourage experimentation.
  • Know why you are getting them…

If you already have them in school, skip this point! However it is crucial you, or your Senior Lead, are aware of why you are investing in the technology. There can be many reasons for iPads or tablet computers in school – they do open up more learning space – they do allow for access to technology for all the school, rather than just in the ICT suite. They are cost effective and the huge range of apps means that they can, arguably, be used in all areas of the curriculum. However they should be one part of provision in the school, and a clear plan should be in place to ensure that curriculum provision is being met.

  • Share the aim with the teachers..

In fact, I would argue that there is no point buying iPads for pupil use if teachers can't use them. Buy them for staff, or let staff use them over the holidays. Especially subject coordinators. Set up some modelling of lesson use by teachers from other schools if necessary. Invest some money in a days inset with a recommended trainer.

Share articles and example of iPad use (I have put some at the bottom of the article) but bring them into staff meetings too – e.g. a staff meeting about learning environments could include the staff videoing their favourite display. A quick five minutes could include how the iPad can be linked to the whiteboard as a visualiser. Share key apps and brainstorm ideas.

  • Talk to your technical support

This should probably be first!! Be clear about your vision with your technical support. iPads are easy to use, no doubt about it, but you will need to be clear about the effect they will have on your infrastructure. Get your wi-fi tested to find out how much use it can take. Discuss the use of air-server or reflections to get your iPad onto your whiteboard in the classroom. How will you set up and run the volume purchasing programme? Berealistic about limitations – continue to invest in computer suites. Your teachers won't be able to manage this side of things alone.

  • Use them…

Sounds ridiculous right? But I have been to schools where thousands of pounds worth of equipment was locked away. Think about what you have and assign them if necessary. No matter how many you have! If don't start letting staff explore them you will never see the possibilities. Key message here(and I can't repeat this enough) use staff who are enthusiastic already, don't force use. Share success! Encourage experimentation.


One class set of 15? Leave them with a teacher that will use them. The rest of the school can book them from that class – but give them to an enthusiastic teacher and you will see results. You could put 1:1 in a class, but some permanently in classrooms are more beneficial. Even put 8 in a class across the school rather than one set locked away somewhere..

Group set? Assign them a specific use for some year groups, e.g. A maths focus every morning in Y5 and have an aim. You could with engagement as an aim, but let the class teacher decide how they could be used amd give them ownership over the data and use. For example use during guided reading, or a blog project.

Signing out procedures… Always an issue for any resource. Don't keep the iPads where they can't be reached, and encouarge a signing out book, or booking out on the staffroom board. Stick to it!

  • Limit the apps…

I have mentioned this before on this blog, but there are such possibilities with a limited number of apps that I would only really start with five/six apps. If staff want more iPads let them pitch their use of the app in a 2 min of the staff meeting. I really wouldn't start sharing too many apps.

  • A project?

If iPads are languishing unused somewhere then get a project started! An after school comic creating club, or a book creating project? Make movies using iMovie (book trailers are super simple).


I hope this is helpful! I didn't want to do a 'what not to do' post as it seems to me that many headteachers/senior leads have already bought the technology but don't always have an idea of what to do next! Teachers can therefore be left to make the best use they can! Do contact me with any questions you have!


Why iPads in school?

Digital Roadtrip @digitalroadtrip has an awesome blog for those interested in more!

A look at iPad and collaboration:

Looking for a particular app? You will find it here! http://www.ipadsinprimary.co.uk

Great all round advice from @ictevangelist at his site


23 Nov

Speaking and Listening

The iPad can be used in many ways to develop and promote a wide variety of speaking and listening activites. Although having one in the classroom means the teacher can record conversations and share them – there are some great apps out there which can promote language and encourage listening.

Explain Everything

I have talked about this app extensively – it really is great for all kinds of activites. Take a photograph and ask the children to record their description. Use short videos and ask children to narrate what action is taking place. Children can create instruction video for activities such as cooking or art. The emphasis here is in not needing to get it right, they can re-record or try again on the next slide. You can then use the video within the lesson.

Casestudy : lesson objective was to develop a persuasive argument – children were asked to take part in a debate about bullying – they had to pitch their idea for an antibullying campaign. Using the app they could illustrate their idea, and explain it in detail orally. They had a model the teacher had created and created a wishlist (or success criteria) they were then able to give each other feedback on their ‘pitch’ for the campaign.

Story Building – Developing Writing

Interacting with books with My Story World.

I have discussed using the iPad for writing here – it is a great tool for collecting ideas, creating plans and collaborating on writing. However the oral sequencing of events, retelling a story and rehearsing sentences are all valubale skills that can be practised and made fun with the iPad. Especially for younger children. The app Puppet Pals can be used to act out scenes in a story. The app Story Builder is also great, especially as it encourages the formation of full and correct sentences by asking questions. There are many interactive books as well which encourage the retelling and sequencing of stories, sucb as Me Books, My Story World and the excellent Collins Big Cat series.

Puppet Pals – the fairy tale character set contains characters many children will be familiar with.

Case study : retelling stories – as a guided reading activity the children were asked to retell a fairy tale they had been reading. They had read this in class and could choose any way they wanted to do this. Using the app Puppet Pals HD they could retell the story and explore the character interaction.

Skill Building

Speaking and listening relies on children developing their confidence from an early age, developing the standard of use English so that they can make themselves understood and playing with language features such as rhetorical questions. The iPad can also be used for the children to produce their own video and to learn to give feedback to each other.

  • Use the iPad to record short video – it could be a book review or answering questions. Encourage the use of ‘correct’ language and model the standard you want.
  • The use of technical language within subjects such as science or maths can be encouraged by asking children to create video for a plenary which explains their findings or solutions to a problem


Using Garage Band


Garage Band has lots of uses! The recording function works well for podcasting and straightforward recording, however you can also change your voice, add sound effects and use percussion to tell a story. My tip? Get some headphones for the class!


Case study : using the podcast facility the children recorded a diary linked to the 2012 Olympics. This dairy, which was meant to be informal and context-specific was then developed into a written account, with each child choosing the section they wanted to develop further.

Have you had any success with a particular app or activity? Please add it to this Padlet!


22 Nov

iPad and Learning Needs

PocketPond delivers incredibly realistic sound and images.

I often get asked about apps for Special Educational Needs – and in schools where I work the iPad has overtaken other options for supporting many pupils’ learning needs. The reasons are many, but the ease of use and the range of apps seems to be key. It quickly becomes a toolkit for staff to use with children with a variety of needs.

There are tools on the iPad which you can use without purchasing apps, but there will always be apps that can support a specific need. For example you could use the iPad to take video of the lesson to support the pupil, or create a visual timetable filled with familiar friends – these sorts of activities just become easier with an integrated device.

There are however loads of specific apps – and here I bring together some that we have found the most useful. It’s worth thinking though that specific subject needs such as times tables learning can be addressed with a focus using games or apps.

Beginning with Explain Everything – this amazing app is perfect for children who struggle with concentration, sentence construction or who may need support to complete tasks.

  • You can record and annotate whole or portions of video, leaving the iPad with the pupil or adult support.
  • They could record their work, for example orally explaining their solution to a problem rather than writing.
  • They (or support) can record their own work, photograph what they have done, use the app to annotate.
  • Specific support such as recording letter formation, or oral sentences for child to use.

The key is that Explain Everything allows you to forward on and use the video so easily, so stills can be printed, video emailed, used in a different app or uploaded to the server.

Apps which allow you to draw and play, such as Sand Drawing (pictured) or Doodle Buddy can be used for motor skills and letter formation. Memory games such as Memory are also good fun

Language and Vocabulary

You can try dictation such as Dragon Dictation – but they can be unreliable. Far more milage can be had from structured language, and there are lots of apps which combine recording with video or story prompts.

Understanding Inferences

Understanding Inferences is one of my favourites, and more so because you can buy the physical cards too. The app allows you to select specific types of inferences as well as multiple players if you want to keep score.




Story Builder, one of many apps from Mobile Education which develop language, is perfect for exploring story, allowing you to record a story sequence verbally with a series of picture prompts. The recorded story could then be used for writing.

There are also plenty of opportunities to use the iPad for conversation, social stories and vocabulary through interactive books and apps such as the Toca Boca range. The Night Zookeeper Drawing Torch app is one which is great for discussion, language and conversation. Using simple instructions and a ‘mission’ style the pupils create elements to the story.

Understanding Emotion

You could create your own flashcards for emotion and behavioural support using versatile app MadPad – which will let you truly personalise the flashcards or use specific apps such as Artikpix to create a unique set of flashcards and language linked images. Other story linked apps such as Positive Penguins can be great fun and support emotion recognition.



The great thing about the iPad is how it can be used as a tool – it can be collaborative or personalised! I hope that this post can be of some inspiration to others!


Further Links


Wandsworth CLC iPad in SEN environment report

Inspiring personal story about the iPad as a communication tool.

Apps for Children With Special Needs

iPad and Personalised Learning


16 Nov

Puppet Pals

Puppet Pals is the app that seems to inspire the most fun when I show it to teachers, the creativity appears to be endless and it is incredibly easy to pick up! A quick google search will quickly show hundreds of videos that have been created with this incredibly versatile app.

To get the most from it though you do need the Director’s Pass – as whilst the basic is free – paying £1.99 means you really open up the possibilities.

Puppet Pals Mobile App from Rain on Vimeo.

To explain briefly Puppet Pals HD allows you to set up a ‘puppet show’ using a background, and populating it with characters. The app will then record your actions, allowing you to tell a story. The backdrop and characters can either be chosen in-app or created from photo’s from the photo roll. That’s one of the key changes purchasing the directors pass will give you.
It is important to stress that this app is not complicated, and will not take long for either you, or the children to pick up. I have used this app to retell a fairy tale with reception age children, and they have all produced something within the lesson. It really does create lots of opportunities for speaking and listening.
However Puppet Pals has many other uses beyond retelling a story.
In Maths Puppet Pals can be used to give drama to a real life problem, created either by yourself or during the lesson. Because Puppet Pals is so easy to use you can create great looking animations which can be used to explain how the children solved a problem.
Telling stories is very natural to Puppet Pals and because the results are so quick it can be used within other subject areas, retelling dilemmas for PHSE – creating mini e-safety video’s for Anti-Bullying Week.
History you can bring together props and actors to create stories. As the app lets you photo characters, just take a photo of the prop as a character…