Before I started supporting teachers to use LearnPads effectively in the classroom, I was a teacher myself for nine years. For the majority of this time I taught children aged between five and seven – a genuinely fascinating, critical age, particularly when it comes to literacy skills.
Of course, I taught many children for whom reading and writing came very naturally, but I also taught a great many who found it a bit of a struggle. Supporting and challenging those pupils who might otherwise have felt discouraged or wanted to give up is a tough job, but it’s also immensely rewarding, and certainly requires a lot of creativity!
Before a child can write a quality sentence (or understand one that they’ve read), they need to be able to express one accurately. Speaking and listening provide the foundations for literacy. Here are some quick, practical ways to encourage, support and extend those skills using a tablet.
Avantis Educational Specialist (UK)
Record it before you write it
Teachers have been using this technique since time immemorial, but having a tablet on hand makes it even easier. Whether it’s to help a pupil hear the phonic sounds in a single word, or to make sure they can listen back to a full sentence they’ve spoken and write that sentence down without missing bits, recording their own voice is a great help. It’s particularly useful for students with speech and language difficulties.
On a LearnPad, just tap the Toolbox and open the Sound Recorder app (if it’s not in your Toolbox, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you out). Simply tap to record and then play back. Most of the time it’s not necessary to save the recording, particularly if its purpose is to help a child rehearse a sentence. They can listen over and over until they’re confident.
Record instructions for a friend
This is really an extension of another infant classroom favourite: the barrier game. There’s an extra barrier involved though – time! It can certainly be illuminating for children to record themselves giving instructions, then exchange with a partner.
This can be used in many ways: from simply building something with construction toys, right the way up to following an entire recipe. Regardless, your class will learn the vital importance of clear, unambiguous language when giving instructions!
Record a video of a discussion or role play
This can be a real eye-opener for older children. The next time they take part in a role play activity or a group discussion, assign one pupil to be the camera operator (it really helps if the students are used to tablets and cameras being used in class to reduce the embarrassment factor, and of course it’s crucial to have a discussion about consent and the feelings of others beforehand).
Now ask them to watch it back. They may well notice that one person is doing most of the talking (maybe desperately trying to keep the activity going, or maybe talking over others). It’s crucial to model respectful feedback to your class before you let them loose with this task; even as adults, it can be really uncomfortable to be challenged about your behaviour in a group. But, when they’re ready, it’s absolutely worth it and can be a real eye-opener. You might be surprised by how insightful your students can be when they start to come up with suggestions for how to make sure everyone is included in talk-based activities.
Script and record a news report
LearnPad’s Presenter app is really great for this – pupils can type (or copy and paste) a script into the autocue box. When they press the record button, this script scrolls up the screen like a real autocue, and the front-facing camera records the ‘news presenters’. Students can use the sliders along the bottom of the screen to change the pace of scrolling and the text size to suit their own reading speed.
Recording using Presenter works best when pupils have had a chance to really build up to their final ‘take’, and have fine-tuned their script (it’s a good idea for them to type it in Notes or Office Suite first so that it can be easily edited and saved). Finding a quiet spot to record in is also key!
Creating a news report can be a great way of summarising what pupils have learned about a topic, and having a script to read can give them the confidence to use more ambitious vocabulary.