I’ll Huff and I’ll Puff and I’ll Switch Off Your Keyboard Features! – Literacy & iPads in KS1

My message to both teachers and students is generally ‘It’s not about the app, but what you do with them’. Our students are proving this in numerous ways and Book Creator is a favourite that appeals to all ages and abilities.

It’s great to see progress and thinking back to three years ago in our early iPad pilots, I introduced Book Creator as a stand-alone module for Year 5. This year, I introduced it in Year 1 & 2 and it’s been a total hit!

What surprised me is how students literally ran with the tools once they had been introduced in a very different way from KS2 learners. The option to record sound is, in my opinion, THE best ‘bring it alive’ feature for younger learners. They do so in such an honest and direct way that reflects their own love of story creating and telling.

The multi-modality option to combine text, own images and also their own voice or sound effects is a big draw. The excitement to be the storyteller is palpable here:

Book Creator although not free, is an app I thoroughly recommend as a core app for Junior Schools. In the hands of youngsters it can launch ideas into a Fairy Tale, a Science Project, a How To, Recipe Book, Victorian Newspaper and much much more. The options are endless as a story becomes what the author wants it to be.

At school, along with developing literacy skills students learn grammatical structures, context, voice and audience relevant to the book or story genre. The magical thing about using Book Creator with younger learners is that they are at varying levels of emergent writing.

In our environment, this is also influenced by a mixture of mother tongues, accents or dialects. Lots of our students speak a 3+ languages and are navigating the bumpy sea of phonics (British English). Far more complex than our own experience of learning in one language.

I still have a beautiful drawing that one of my first Year2 students gave me one Monday morning. It was at the start of Term 2 where his ability in mother tongue French and English as an additional language was consolidating. The picture: a beautiful sunny coastal scene, blue skyline, sun peaking out of a cloud. Can you visualize the location?

If like me, you speak French, then you might be able to predict what the carefully crafted, two-word note said … “The bitch”. If you don’t speak French, it’s sufficient to say that an ‘i‘ is pronounced ‘ee‘. When I complimented him on his drawing and asked him to tell me more about it, he glowed. “It’s for you, it’s ze beach”.

Cédric stood there proudly smiling. He wanted to share his weekend adventures with me and any reference to spelling at such a moment would have dashed his confidence and enthusiasm. Celebrating his ideas right there and then had a higher priority.

This leads me back to Book Creator. Allowing children to express their ideas with immediacy, using self-selected tools to suit their learning preferences that move beyond traditional pen and paper is wonderful to watch. In this project, children were learning and retelling traditional fairytales.

Children’s emergent writing, complete with a range of accents is often magical – here’s an excerpt from one version of Little Red Riding Hood.

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Just how delicious the bread was, in true storyteller gusto, is shown in the spelling. In this clip the author asked if she could show me her story. Although very shy and quietly spoken, listen out for how she pronounces it. She is also very clear in her choices.

Initial content and the experience of becoming an author is most effective when children collaborate independently, with support where needed. Once complete, the books can be shared with peers and the teacher and questions asked to expand upon the storyline or encourage personal literacy targets.

You can see further stories and endearing phonetic examples here.

We encourage in-class experts’ so that children become the 1st point ‘Go To Helpers’ for their peers.

Authors At Work

After a whole class introduction to Book Creator layout and tools, children began to record their ideas, working in pairs or 3s to create content on their pages. I watched to see how they reacted to predictor text and auto-correction. Some spotted the ‘wiggly red line’ and suggested words and tussled with them.

One student said ‘I clicked the X and typed it again, but it keeps coming back…”. When asked “Why do you think that is?”, they replied:

“But I wrote it right! It won’t let me do it my way, how do I make it stop changing it?”

Brilliant, as they had tried to resolve the issue themselves before asking a teacher.

To avoid youngsters having this distraction while writing, there are several options automatically set to On in IOS that can easily be deactivated. Here’s how:

Go to Settings > General Menu > Keyboard and you will see:

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Select options on your iPad (you will need to do this for each iPad in the class). Options can be re/deactivated at any time. I suggest the following setup for KS1 classes:

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Leaving ‘Enable Dictation’ on is useful as it allows users to dictate their text using keyboard mic icon. Below you can see how the sound level indicator responds to spoken voice, click ‘Done’ when finished and voice to text appears in the ‘Add Text’ window.

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This is a great accessibility feature and can also be used as a challenge to get students to see if what they said is what appeared on screen, e.g. 1st attempt at ‘Once Upon a Time’, came out as ‘Once phone’. Dictated text will need checking. It can also be an aid to those reluctant to type, in addition to their recording voice or sound to tell the story.

Once the books are finished, teachers can then review these together with students and see if there is any editing that they might need to work on such as capitals, commas and some spellings, etc.

If you’re sitting comfortably, and would like to read some of our stories, you can find them in I’ll Huff And I’ll Puff – Further Story Examples in Book Creator.

Link to MA Research

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