August 14

Reading with technology – an update!

This post is an update to the most popular post on this site – Guided Reading on the iPad. This post has been read thousands of times, and lots of the apps and ideas there are still relevant, but times are changing and I thought it would be interesting to revisit at why using a tablet like device can be beneficial for reading. I won’t go through the activities and ideas in detail, instead I’ll look at what else has been happening with technology and reading in the classroom.

Not just the iPad

Much of the two year old post was based on my work which was specific to iPads. My experiences have now been across chrome, android and kindle devices. Much of what I wrote about in my initial post still rings true and there is now a huge increase in apps available for all platforms, and indeed all devices can be seen in the classroom.

Group work:

if you are organised into groups, tablet devices work very well. Many of the apps detailed in the previous post are now available for android, including the fab Explain Everything (which as I write this is also coming to Chrome) and there are some really great apps out there for testing word skills, spelling, sentence structure etc. Obviously it depends what your focus is, but I know that with the increased focus on spelling and grammar many great apps are appearing that would work great as a paired activity.

 

Some of the new iPad apps i've bee using

 

  • Alan Peat’s apps include grammar references, word play games and references for the national curriculum. iPad and android. Works very well on small screens.
  • Puppet Pals on the iPad has had a complete overall with Puppet Pals 2 – and is jam packed with even more features.
  • Book Creator is now also available on Android, and remains a brilliant way to get children to create something quickly, or work as a group to repsond to something
  • Google apps have a wide variety of word processing, comic creating, animating etc. The collaborative nature of these, as well as the way in which teachers can be involved make them ideal for responding to text work (interviewing, imagining endings and so on).
  • Web sites such as Oxford Owls who have online books, with partners and tasks such as reviewing orquestioning each other children can get alot from these services.
Individual work

Putting aside the individual scope for production and creation eBooks with features such as dictionaries, links to other books and read along (or aloud) features are now mich more common. Kindles have worked very well in my experience alongside the traditional classroom library, can be seen as a reward (though not always!) and borrowed by children who may benefit. Alternatively a class reader on the kindle, then used with targeted readers has also worked very well. Motivation, easier to read text (often resulting in a feeling that they are reading more) and cheaper books. Kindles are also much cheaper than some tablets, and don’t have so much distraction (though they are online now) – turning parental controls on however is a very simple process. Other than that publishers are coming round to putting books out electronically, and they can be a huge space saver in the classroom.

There has been a huge increase in story telling apps. Many I discussed already elsewhere on this site – I always enjoy reviewing these as some of them are absolutely gorgeous. There have been some great new ones as well. Mr Glue is an iPad app which supports the retelling and creation of books. Me Books is a fabulously creative book app on both android and iPad. Story telling apps should all now include recording, breat voice acting, recording of your own, and some level of control over how the narrative paces. It’s worth asking the developer for a free trial before you commit the school!

Mr Glue Stories - easy and fun

 

I hope this update proves useful for those of you using digital technologies in the classroom. Please let me know what you’ve found useful in the classroom!


Resources:

What is guided reading? A guide from Scholastic!

Top Tips for using Kindles in the Classroom

 

April 29

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?


iPad:

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!

February 1

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