Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Preventing Reading Difficulties through Interactive Apps and iPads

One of the challenges in conducting high intensity literacy groups where guided reading, guided phonics, and guided writing is conducted by a teacher with a small group of learners--is the quality of engagements that the other children are doing during these 20-minute lessons. Learning centers are only as viable as how well children are able to independently or buddy learn. With a handful of iPads loaded with specific apps, robust learning centers aimed at preventing reading difficulties can be realized in primary grades.  Here's a few examples.

1. Alphabetic Center/Phonics

The goal at this center is for children to acquire knowledge of letters, letter formation, and their representative sounds.  ABC Pocket Phonics allows children to practice segmenting phonemes and representing sounds with letters.

Word Wagon is my favorite.


Montessori Letter Sound HD
iWrite Words

ABC Pocket Phonics

2. Oral Language, Writing Development and Storytelling

At this center, children work by drawing on the iPad and explaining a process or information they have learned. Using the screen casting app, Doodlecast, the children talk and explain what they are doing/understanding.  The screen cast below was made at Dan Callahan's (@dancallahan) school in Massachusetts.  When I watched it the first time I thought about all the potential oral language development that occurred as children gathered their ideas, wrote their sentences, drew and read what they had written. In the video below, first grade children from Dan's school are explaining important parts of the flower. In many ways they are composing a beginning essay.

Toontastic is an app that supports the creation of animated cartoons.  Through play, children are able to draw and animate their stories and then share those stories.  The app comes with backgrounds and characters and children can also draw their own characters. I especially like the possibility of oral language development (especially when children are working in partnership with one another) as children create their story and how story structure can be learned through play. 

StoryRobe is a storytelling app that allows you to use images, film, and audio to tell a story. It is very simple to use. I like the idea of using StoryRobe as a way for students to more authentically retell stories or to illustrate processes.  Both can be done well. 

Voice Thread: The Voice Thread app allows students to import images, record their voice, and share and allows others to respond.

3. Sight Words
Sight Words 1 - 300: Kids Learn by Teacher Created Materials allows children to hear the words, practice writing the words, record the words with playback, and use the words in activities such as sentence building.  The games are designed to build automaticity (i.e., tic-tac-toe). The first twenty-five words (typical of kindergarten) is sold for free.

4. Fluency

Echo reading:  Having students listen to an interactive text on an iPad and 'echo' read each section of text (preferably what is on one page). This technique can help children to build fluency, accuracy, and expression.

Repeated reading (Samuels, 1979) of a prepared short text can help children to build fluency by matching their voice as they read and reread. Directing children to record their reading using the Voice Memos app or any other recording app you have also is beneficial and allows you an opportunity to hear how their reading changes.  I also like to record a reading of the text for students to hear who would benefit from matching their voice to a reader's with directions to lower the volume each time they reread so that by the fourth rereading they are only hearing their own voice.  Using seen text at the learning station can help to insure that the reader knows all of the words and isn't practicing errors.

4. Comprehension

ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard App
Using the ShowMe app, a teacher can prepare a how-to lesson or directions/prompts that students can view and interact with during a center time.  As students become familiar with the ShowMe app, students can use this app to make their own explanation video.  I made this ShowMe as an example of how I might prompt students to use the 3, 2, 1 strategy while reading informational text. It took me a minute to make.


  1. Phoniics Genuis is a FABULOUS Free App for literacy! check it out:

  2. Thanks Jayne, I did check it out. Very comprehensive.


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