I had hoped to complete a vlog for this week’s post, but alas, one fun (sarcastic) trip to the dentist’s chair, and I’m not much for talking right now! So, it will be a typical blog post from me again this week – I digress.
I thought it would be beneficial to discuss the pros and cons to some software and things that are important to me when I am evaluating a tool.
This is where the Teacher-Librarian in me always shows up! When I’m considering software, where else can I find more use for a way to add reading to my students (and my own children’s) day?
While using Daily 5, there are various component one that involves listening to reading and as such I have worked with many different tools and applications that offer an audio book type format.
TumbleBooks, GetEpic, Storyline Online
TumbleBooks is a great resource with free access through the Regina Public Library website. It offers countless titles of picture books for young children, and there’s also Tumble Cloud Junior for middle years students. I like this service as it is easy to access, free to use, has multiple language optiolns, and it offers students audio and visual opportunities with books
GetEpic is a site that I signed up for in the beta version, and like TumbleBooks, it offers a variety of story books with a similar format -kids can read independently or have the story read to them. While you have to have an account to access the service, the added bonus is that you can have a student log in that tracks what students are reading and for how long etc.
Storyline Online offers a unique platform where actors are recorded doing read-alouds of many popular book titles. While it doesn’t offer the visual read along cues of tumble books, I have found kids to be engaged with the physical read aloud visual that is presented with it.
Starfall, Hooked on Phonics, and Endless Alphabet
Starfall is a great website that I initially started using when I was working with English as an Additional language students, and I found it to have value when teaching students to read. There are a variety of levels for learners at different levels, and it works with alphabet letters and sounds and blends to help students interact with and experience letters and sounds in a different way. On the web, there is free access to this site, and there are apps available with different devices – but some have a cost associated with them.
Hooked on Phonics is another great tool when working with kids who are learning letter sounds and blends. I purchased this as an app when my daughter was a pre-reader, and it was helpful to engage her in practicing different sounds during ‘screen time’.
Endless Alphabet is hands down my favourite learn to read app as a parent! We purchased this when my daughter was a pre-reader, and now my son is in the same stage and they both love playing it! The ‘monsters’, the animation and explanation of words, each letter repeats its ‘sound’ while the child moves the letter to the appropriate space. These things all proved to be very engaging for my children, and we can apply the things learned in the app with real life examples! This is not available on the web, it is only available as an app, and while there is a larger fee associated with it (currently $11.99) I think it is well worth the price.
Now that I have shared some of my favourite go to’s for reading, I need to include some important technology pedagogy surrounding these apps.
As far as Storyline Online goes, it really falls into the substitution category, it’s really no different than myself or someone else reading aloud to the students – they would be engaged in either sense, however, in the case of daily 5, it allows me the flexibility to have students listen to reading, while I am working one on one with another student or with a small group.
Both Tumblebooks and GetEpic would fall into the augmentation category in my opinion. I feel this augments a regular read aloud as each word can be visually highlighted when it is read, which goes beyond what I would do in a read aloud, and enhances what students brains are doing while they are watching it.
Starfall, Hooked on Phonics and Endless Alphabet would also fall into the augmentation category. These applications allow interactions with students, and gives feedback in some instances (visual and audio) if they are incorrect and as such I think it goes beyond students just consuming the information presented to them.
While I haven’t gotten into the Modification/Redefining realms with this post, I will say that while I am absolutely for higher level skills, thick questions and people building skills to problems solve – I still strongly believe that we need to lay a solid foundation for our students with skills to enable them to reach the higher levels of thinking!