I love using technology in my classroom. I have four Mac computers where students can use a variety of software, two iPod touches for math and reading apps, tape and CD players to listen to books being read, two portable DVD players where students watch Scholastic DVD’s of books on the “Read-A-Long” option, and four RCA digital voice recorders for students to practice fluency or to improve and revise their writing. When my wonderful mother-in-law got my family an iPad for Christmas this year, I knew I would be able to use it in my classroom at times, as well.
Most of the apps for my iPods work well on the iPad, but I wanted to find something that really showcased the iPad’s capabilities. When Elka Palka Productions offered to send me a preview of their interactive book, Elfishki and the Giant Cake, I was beyond excited! This company specializes in fairy tales in English and Russian, which is awesome, because I have seven Russian students in my class! Go to their website to see their Fairy Tales, Myths and the Legends of Elfishki – more coming out soon!
You can choose to either read the story yourself or have the app read it to you. The narrator in the read aloud option has a very calming voice, full of expression. Like I said above, you can also choose either English or Russian. There is a little flag in the top right of the home screen that tells you which language it is on. In either the read-it-yourself or listen-along version, you can touch any of the illustrations to make them move and make noises. On one page, a character is drying glasses in a restaurant. If you click the character, he makes a wiping noise. If you touch the glasses, they make clinking sounds. At the bottom of most pages are little question marks. When these are touched, the narrator reads aloud a comprehension question – these are great! I was expecting a knowledge based question, like “Who is the main character?” But, the questions are much higher up on Bloom’s Taxonomy: they ask the reader to make connections, to interpret what they’ve read/heard so far, and also make inferences and predictions. I was pleasantly surprised! I read this with my 6 year old son, and when he didn’t know the answer, we would just listen to the page again. It is so much better than a traditional book on tape – you can’t easily rewind those to the beginning of the page and I haven’t seen any that ask comprehension questions for the reader to answer out loud.
After I previewed the book with my son, I brought the iPad to school and let a couple responsible students try out the new app. For my iPods, I set up folders of apps and organized them based on subject (math apps, vocab apps, etc). I also disabled Safari and iTunes. I do not want students looking up anything inappropriate on accident, or trying to purchase music or other apps on my account! For the iPad, since it belongs to me, I haven’t done that yet, so I made sure to choose students who would be honest and only use the app I asked them to. No surfing Pinterest during Daily 5 time! 🙂
Here is one of my Ukrainian students using the app. She LOVED that she could read it in English or Russian!
Another feature on this app is a game. In the first picture, you see my student playing it. It’s a cake decorating game. Kids can add little pictures, decorations, and words to the cake. I asked the students to read the story and play around in the story (with the illustrations and comprehension questions) before playing the game. This way, the game was a fun treat after reading the story. The entire app got two thumbs up from all my students who got to try it!
I will definitely be buying more of Elka Palka Productions’ interactive books as they are released. I thought it was cute and once I saw all the comprehension questions and what a wide range of questions are asked, I was hooked. This is a great way for students to practice “Listen to Reading” during my Daily 5 literacy block. If only I had more iPads for my classroom!
How do you use technology in the classroom? Do you have an iPad or another type of tablet that you have used before? Any other great apps out there that we all should try?