January 2019 archive

iPad Apps that support learning Vocabulary and Sight Words

One of the most important things we teach is to read.  Children can discover new worlds, and teachers and parents love to see children learning from reading.

There are many iPad apps  to support the teaching of  reading; some for children with little to no reading experience, while others for slightly older children who want to advance further.

Here are just a few suggestions of apps which support the learning of vocabulary and sight words.

Bitsboard  free and has loads of word games

Starfall, Learn to Read contains mini-books free

Sight words  Eggy Words free for first 100 words


Sight Words list 0.99p 

Fun with Words flashcards  £2.99

Spell, Read and Write free


Children who struggle to get things onto paper may show how much they have learned and understood by recording their work onto MP3 devices, editing the sound file, adding a music sound track and publishing the podcast on a platform like Podcast Central on the London Grid for Learning.

What is a Podcast?

A podcast is a pre-recorded audio broadcast that can be downloaded from the Internet. They may be played directly on the computer,  or copied to a personal media player such as an iPod, or portable players, mobile phones, mp3 and other players.

Podcasting has become a significant method of communicating across the Internet.  Podcasts can be created and used effectively by users of any age, community or culture.

They have become a universal way of communicating with sound and vision freeing your audience f rom reading text.

Podcasts are (relatively) simple – the MP3 files generated by podcasters are relati vely easy to create and don’t require high-priced equipment,  allowing teachers to record without a large investment of time or money by the school.

You can use podcasting when you need a targeted audience to receive audio and video files as soon as they are published (maybe revision files for a college course)

Podcasting offers the opportunity to:

  • Show an understanding of elements of stories, main character, sequence of events & openings
  • Talk activities through, reflecting on actions.
  • Interact with others in a variety contexts negotiating plans, taking turns in conversations.
  • Use talk to organise, sequence, & clarify thinking, ideas, feelings, & events, exploring new words
  • Initiate communication with others, develop confidence in more informal contexts
  • Be confident to try new activities, initiate ideas, speak in familiar group

And why use Podcasting with children with SEN?

Podcasting encourages children and young people to improve their speaking and listening skills by raising their awareness of their own voice and of their listeners.

It supports collaborative learning and teamwork by requiring children and young people to work as a team to create a podcast.

It enables children and young people to review, modify and refine their work and share it with others.

With the technology available, podcasting has the potential for releasing the imagination of young people, their teachers and parents/carers.

The pupils’ best efforts should be celebrated and put on show, just as would be done with putting paintings or other work on display on the wall.

One of the advantages of podcasts is that they can be accessed by the pupils’ families, and can generate external feedback to add to the process of pupils reviewing their own and their peers’ work.  The pupils’ best efforts should be celebrated and put on show, just as would be done with putting paintings or other work on display on the wall.

What sort of things could we record?

I have worked with different groups of primary and secondary children with special needs.

With one group we focused mostly on speech production and vocalisation and found  how the relatively straightforward work of recording and editing voice could be combined with publishing the children’s work in a new format as a podcast.

One pair of children made a podcast about Sir Francis Drake. Both had serious difficulties getting legible work onto paper, but their podcast was informative, interesting to listen to and demonstrated their learning.

One idea was to look at CBBC Newsround  decide on a story, watch any videos, read  the story together drawing out the key words, then reconstruct the story in our own words, perhaps from a different angle, in smaller groups  talk the story through, working out individual contributions from each pupil, and practising them, supporting each other to reflect on clarity, volume, speed of talking and other considerations.

Finally, they recorded their voices onto an easispeak MP3 recorder (you can use iPod or other voice recording device)

Using software like Audacity extraneous noises and teacher’s prompts can be cut out making the recording more fluent and easier for the listener.

In another blog post I will describe the equipment that may be used and how to make podcasts with very little equipment.


Bett 2019 – What’s in it for you?

The Bett Show is back at Excel from 23rd to 26th January, as big and as daunting as ever when it comes to finding what you want. The organisers have created an app to help you get organised which you can find here  https://www.bettshow.com/download-the-official-bett-2019-mobile-app . But to help you get started I’ve had a trawl through the exhibitors and to identify  a few that might help develop inclusive practice in schools.

If you want to see where technology can take us then some of the stands have examples of how it can provide multi-sensory experiences that would be difficult to create through other means. Immersive interactive (Stand H 361 http://www.immersive.co.uk) build multi-sensory environments with all round projection, surround sound and interactive floors and walls. Whereas a more personal, all-encompassing environment is provided by Avantis with their ClassVR system (Stand C205 http://www.advantiseducation.com) . You might also want to look at iSandbox (Stand F86 http://www.isandbox.co.uk) with their promise of a system involving both real sand and virtual reality. Whilst there remain questions over how far VR suppliers have thought about the actual needs of learners with SEND, the potential should be great.

Something else which so far has showed greater promise in the potential than in the practice  is artificial-intellingence (AI). Century (Stand E192 http://www.century.tech) are offering a learning platform that, ‘uses learning science, artificial intelligence and neuroscience, to create constantly adapting pathways for students.’ Although it may be too much to hope that this extends to SEND.

Another futuristic offering comes from Connect Training (Stand A20 http://www.connecttotraining.co.uk) who provide real-time avatars to practise difficult conversations in a safe environment. These are intended to help improve performance in everyday job roles. I’m not sure whether this extends to teaching.

Avatars are also the basis for Mind Rocket’s approach (Stand 254 http://www.mindrocketsinc.com), only here they are used to teach sign language. It is a product developed in Jordan, so it may have a regional accent, but it could be helpful for children and young people, and the adults around them, to learn these skills.

We will also want to keep a record of what has been learnt in school, to provide evidence and to monitor progress. Both Bsquared (Stand C134 http://www.connectingsteps.com ) and Tapestry (Stand F62 http://www.tapestryjournal.com ) will be present, and talking about how their products support a post-Rochford approach to assessment.

You might also want resources to help them make progress in the subjects you are monitoring. In numeracy DoodleMaths (Stand E100 https://doodlemaths.com) continues to grow in popularity, particularly for use on tablets and touchscreens, whereas Numberfit (Stand G188 http://www.numberfit.com) eschews such a sedentary approach for one with lots of movement and activity. Also present will be Jellyjames (Stand A400 http://www.jellyjames.co.uk) with their Dynamo Maths, specifically targeted at pupils with dyscalculia.

In the field of literacy a couple of stalwarts will be present, including Crick (POD1 http://www.cricksoft.com) creators of the ever useful Clicker range of products, and Texthelp (Stand C141 http://www.texthelp.com) with their add on toolbar of resources to support literacy, including dictation, prediction and a screen-reader.

More specific support is on offer for both reading and spelling. For the former Yap (Stand C40 http://www.yapbooks.com) is offering voice controlled books to help develop reading skills, whilst Lexplore (Stand B303 http://www.lexplore.co.uk ) uses eye tracking to ‘to quickly and objectively determine a child’s exact reading attainment.’ Which sounds like a novel approach. It will be interesting to see how that copes with reading comprehension.

For spelling both The  Spelling Shed (Stand FS141 http://www.spellingshed.com)  and Magic Spell (Stand FS33 http://www.brainbox.games) promise fun ways to learn spellings whilst allowing adults to control the focus of the work.

And if science is what you are after then the Wellcome Trust’s Explorify Science (Stand G306 https://wellcome.ac.uk) is said to be ‘inclusive and accessible to all pupils.’

Finally, for older pupils,  there is the all encompassing offering from Your Favourite Teacher (Stand C48 http://www.yourfavouriteteacher.com) which is an online classroom  aimed at GCSE with ‘a focus on pupil premium, alternative education and targeted intervention groups.’ Which would be a welcome resource if it does what it says on the tin. The content includes videos, podcasts and animations with  interactive activities and quizzes.

Whatever your area of interest there is bound to be something at Bett that’s useful. The challenge is in tracking it down.