Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Language and Literacy: The iPad in the Special Ed Classroom

I have been talking about some specifics of using the iPad and apps in the special education classroom for developing language and literacy skills.  I have done a number of workshops and seminars on the topic, predominantly in the Southern California area.  If you haven’t been to one, you can access a handout in my TPT store here.  It speaks to iPad content for language and literacy, and using iPads for aac.  Just as language and literacy are intertwined, so are augmentative communication and literacy intertwined.  I address, as I have to some extent here in this blog, adapting activities for nonverbal and minimally verbal kids, and apps to help achieve those goals.
Evidence based practice calls for 90 minutes per day of reading instruction for general education students.  You can add 30-60 minutes for struggling readers.  How many students with autism or significant disabilities receive 2 or more hours per day of reading instruction?  While the research on literacy instruction with nonverbal students is relatively young, in the words of David Yoder, “No child is too anything to learn to read.”
In the posts on guided reading, I have spoken to ways to use books and story apps to increase language skills and build on literacy development.  I hope you have found them helpful.  Check out the handout, if you’re interested in more depth.


Keep reading!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Guided Reading with Story Book Apps

So, I suppose the next logical discussion is about using iPad storybook apps in guided reading sessions.  So many of the kids I work with have iPads - mostly for aac - and almost every classroom I am in has additional iPads for the teacher, as well.
Many of these kids just don’t get “grabbed” by turning the pages of a book, especially one that doesn’t “talk” to or “read” to them when they’re alone.  The advantage of story book apps - at least the good ones - is that not only are they bright and engaging, but they are interactive, offer feedback and additional input, and make reading fun.
As with everything else on the iTunes store, there are plenty of bad story book apps - or at least mediocre ones.  There are some really great ones, too.  I love the Nosy Crow apps.  They are fun, colorful, the characters are interactive as well as the text, and I really like the commenting that the characters do.  Great modeling!


There are, of course a lot of the same stories you find in print.  The famous cat in the red and white striped hat, the Little Critter books, Berenstain Bears, and Sesame Street.  I admit to being ridiculously happy to see one of my old favorites - The Monster at the End of the Book - in an app.  Using stories that are familiar - even if not age appropriate - can help with interest and attention, as well as comprehension.
There are also multiple versions of many of the old stand-by fairy tales.
While you’re reading the story apps - or the iPad is reading them for you - have students describe the characters, describe themselves, compare and contrast the two, describe the setting, describe where they live, compare and contrast the two, tell what happens in the story, tell what they think might happen next.  Point out unfamiliar words.  I like the apps that say the word when you click on the graphic.  Can they tell you what it means, or what kind of a word it is? 
Most reading comprehension failure is due to lack of vocabulary acquisition.  Typical students understand much vocabulary through their experiences.  Many disabled students don’t have those experiences.  Use the story book apps to highlight vocabulary, talk about the words, build word knowledge.  Play vocabulary games with the words, then go back and put them in context in the story apps.  

Have fun with the great story book apps out there,  and add them to your therapy, teaching, or parenting arsenal. Keep reading.  Keep talking.