Saturday, December 17, 2011

iPad apps in Reading

My classroom is fortunate to have access to 27 iPads this year through a grant opportunity. We share them with the other two sections of fifth grade that we switch with. While it has not always been smooth sailing, the iPads are a wonderful addition to our classroom. I have many different items we could discuss regarding these devices but today I’m going to focus on the top two reading apps we use daily.

Blue FiRe (free) is a reading app that allows students to record themselves reading their independent novels. I use this for a fluency check. I’m sure there are many apps that might do the same thing, but we love this one.

At fifth grade the students know what we mean when we say “fluency”. Even so, when introducing this app we had a mini-lesson regarding fluency. I explained what the fluency tests were that the reading teacher administered for RTI, what she was looking for. We had student volunteers role play good reading fluency and then fluency that had issues (robotic, too fast, too slow, monotone, etc.). Then I recorded myself several times on the app and showed the students how to play back my reading and analyze it to see how I can grow as a reader.

As a reading teacher I don’t think that fluency is the sole factor needed to be a good reader. However, it is something my students are tested on. This app is an easy way for them to monitor their own reading. I had many students choose to download it on their own devices at home because they enjoyed it.

Brain Pop (free) is an amazing site. Each day there is a new video on a variety of topics. Often if there is a timely subject (Columbus Day for example) the video on the front page will focus on it. There are also archives you can explore to check out other videos. After viewing their selected video, the students have a ten point comprehension quiz to take. The app will score their quiz and show them their results. The first few times I had students take this they rushed through the quiz and then were surprised to see they didn’t do well. When we talked about it, they admitted they were unsure of some words in the questions so they just rushed over them. We discussed how that wouldn’t help them on state testing and what reading strategies could they have used. All students do pretty well on these quizzes now and they have the added benefit of teaching them some test taking strategies along the way.

These are just two of the apps we’ve used in reading class. As we continue to explore iPads this year I will come back to share our insights with you.