When I initially received the iPads and was told my focus group was ELL students I thought, “PERFECT”!!!! I immediately knew in what direction I wanted to head. However, just as quickly I had a second thought: How can I get the iPads into the hands of all my students? While I sat writing my first iPad post I was already trying to work out a schedule that would accommodate my entire class. Why was this important to me? Why was this important for my students? There is a simple one word answer: TECHNOLOGY!!!! It is an integral part of the world that our students are living in and it is the world that they need will have to navigate as adults. With this in mind and with the desire to equip my students with the skills they will need in order to be successful, I moved forward with a plan. I decided to break my class up into three groups:
ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS
In addition to the Smiley Sight Words application I discussed in my last post, I found other apps for my beginning ESL students. When we first started with sight words I realized that they needed even more basic skills then I originally thought. They didn't have the letter-sound correspondence necessary to build words. So I went in search of other apps and came across Pocket Phonics and ABC Magic. Both are apps that are helping my students identify and match letters with their sounds. You may ask yourself, "Why not just use old- fashioned flash cards?". Well, just like in all matters of academics every child is at a different level. While this particular group is at the very beginning stage of english acquisition, I do have an intermediate ESL group of low level readers whose needs are very different and an advanced group that has either tested out of ESL or is well on their way to testing out. This is nothing new to any teacher, we must literally be in 30 places at one time. These apps however do one thing that regular flash cards don't.... flash cards will not "talk" back to the student and let him/her know if he/she is correct. Once my students were taught how to use the apps appropriately I was more readily available to the rest of the class. Having the iPads in my classroom allows me to meet with my beginning ESL students and two other small groups on a DAILY basis. This in turn means that over the course of one week I can meet with each child, in a small group setting for more individualized instruction, at least twice. And where is the evidence that this method is beneficial to my students? RUNNING RECORDS (reading tests that allow the teacher to assess a student's reading level based on comprehension and accuracy). On the average, students in my class have grown three reading levels since September. One beginning ESL student in particular has grown from a level B (kindergarten) to a level J (second grade). That is a two year reading growth in a matter of months because of the targeted/individualized instruction.
AFTER SCHOOL GROUP
I run an after school program on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons that started off as a Harry Potter book club. When I originally received the iPads I knew that I would eventually incorporate the iPads into that time block, but wasn't exactly sure how. When we finished the book my after school students began asking to use iPads during that time. I asked them to let me figure out something productive and we would get started, but I found myself stuck. I decided to hand over the iPads and have the students find something educational and engaging. What did they come across? Scrabble. A wonderful free app, with a dictionary and pass and play feature that allows me to pair up students at the same level to play against each other. The game itself is not what I find to be the wonderful part. The conversations around vocabulary that I'm having with my students is what is wonderful. In search for the highest scoring word we're talking about word families, higher level vocabulary, synonyms, spelling etc. The dictionary feature allows them to explore new words and then they look up the meanings in the Dictionary.com app. This has them learning even when they think they are just rushing to get the most points!
As any teacher knows, having the right materials and the right quantity, at the right time can sometimes be challenging. In addition, the books that students want to read are not always the books that come in the standard classroom library. With the iBook, Nook and Kindle apps I can purchase one book (at the the students’ reading and interest level) and download it onto four iPads. When consider putting two students on one iPad and there are four iPads circulating the room all for the price of one book, the price can't be beat!