ABC Pocket Phonics

ABC Pocket Phonics

To begin with a confession: I have not used iPads with Young Learners as much as I could have or possibly should have. The idea of using them with a class of 6-7 year-old absolute beginners was not one I would have entertained until I recently started to make a more concerted effort to become ‘digitally engaged’.

ABC Pocket Phonics is an app I found that teaches YLs to identify, form, say, and blend phonics to form short words. I was attracted to this partly because teaching phonics is something that some people find challenging and partly because I wanted to try out a different kind of classroom resource.

In ABC Pocket Phonics children are taught to write each phonic by touching the screen before learning to blend by listening to prompts and choosing the right letter to form words.

You can choose between American and British voices, you can decide to focus solely on sounds or words or both together, and you can choose different writing styles

.ABC Pocket Phonics demo

How can it be used in class?

The first thing to say is that it doesn’t have to be used in class as the app seems to be designed for parents at home. When I used it with a class of fourteen YLs recently, we focused on review and blending as the students had met the sounds before. The children took turns to write and blend using the app before repeating the same activity with paper and a pencil and my own verbal prompts.

Benefits

Variety – it’s good to have another resource to choose from – especially a multi-sensory one such as this

Responsibility – the children I taught took turns to use the iPad and behaved very responsibly as they did so

Motivation – the children enjoyed forming letters on the touch-screen and interacting with the sounds and pictures

Things to consider 

Longevity – I haven’t used this app in its entirety but it seems that the phonic blends tend to be the same each time even if the order can vary 

Groupings – the order of the phonics presented may vary from the order you have taught them in which means it may be most useful for students who have already encountered most of the phonics in class. 

I won’t use ABC Pocket Phonics in every lesson but I will use it from time to time and recommend others to try it out. If anyone knows of any other useful phonics apps out there, it’d be great to hear about them.

Using iPads with 6 year olds?  Why not give it a try?

Doceri

 doceri 1

Doceri allows users to combine voice and photos in a presentation. The app is simple to use, though the layout may seem daunting at first. Click on ‘from my iPad alone’ and you will be taken to a new page. Click on the plus sign on the bottom left of the page to start a new project.

doceri 2

You will be taken to a new screen with various menu options on the top of the screen. The one that looks like a landscape will allow you to add photos from the iPad photo library.

doceri 3

              Photos can then be adjusted for size or positioning.  You can also choose from pens on the top to draw on top of the picture and focus attention on a particular part of the picture. Clicking on the right arrow at the top right hand of the screen adds a new page to your project.

doceri 4

Once you have chosen all of the photos, you can record voice and slide through the pictures in real time. Clicking ‘Stop Recording’ will take you to this page and allow you to access your project. Clicking ‘My recordings” will take you back to this page.

How to use in class:

I used this app in conjunction with Google image search. Students used lexis they learned in class to create a presentation describing a city of their choice. Students worked in pairs to choose a city and write a script. Next, students searched for photos using Google image search to add to their presentations. Students then added the pictures on the slides in Doceri and recorded their presentations.

To make this activity communicative, students evaluated their partners’ presentations on a separate worksheet. To end the activity, students decided in groups which cities they’d like to visit the most based on their evaluations.

Though I did this activity with Pre-Intermediate students, it seems like it would be useful for all levels. Besides vocabulary, using Doceri may be a creative way to exploit a grammar point or to induce deeper thoughts on a particular topic. The jigsaw nature of individual presentations lends itself to various other ways this app can be exploited in class.

Potential issues and solutions:

While students generally enjoyed the activity, some issues did occur. One issue is time. Explaining the app, having the students write scripts, search for pictures and record, then doing the subsequent communicative activities can take a long time. I’d allow at least an hour to accomplish all of this. The activity could also be split in to two classes. Another issue was the volume of the recording. Some students complained that the presentations were difficult to hear even at full volume. To ensure students are using loud voices to record, sending certain groups to another classroom or the hallway to record will help to avoid this problem.

Generally, the app and activity were very well received and the students rated it high on fun and usefulness. It’s useful as a skills based activity allowing students to practice speaking, writing, and listening as well as exploiting a teaching point.

Toontastic

In this post we look at Toontastic in an audio interview format with BC Seoul teacher Ailsa Mantelow.

Toontastic

To accompany Ailsa’s interview, we’ve provided an in-depth look at how Toontastic can be utilised

Toontastic markets itself an educational aid which allows early learners to develop linguistic and creative skills. As one might reasonably speculate from the name of the app, Toontastic allows children to create their own animated cartoons. Budding Walt Disneys get the chance to choose sets, characters, and music and bring their creations to life using animation and dialogue.

What’s in it?

Toontastic starts by providing five story scenes to animate. Each of these scenes is given a title such as background, conflict, and resolution. These will most likely go way over the heads of our students, and should probably be ignored, as should the rather annoying instructions which accompany the initial setup.

For each scene, the user needs to make a number of choices before beginning their animation.

Firstly, they need to choose a location for the scene. There are four attractive preset locations provided including a castle, a lunarscape, and a pirate ship. Children also get the option to paint their own scene on screen, though the likelihood is that, like mine, their set will appear as an unsightly blob. My criticism here is that with only four preset backgrounds, users should have the option of copying and pasting sets from another location or of accessing a bank of different sets.

Next, children get to choose what characters and objects they will place in their scene. Most of these are what might be expected to match the sets provided, such as a space alien, a shark, and a Princess. Others are a little more bizarre, such as a giant clam and a showjumping fence. Once again, children get the chance to draw their own character, but this is likely to be rather difficult for younger learners to manage. The characters are fun and children will enjoy using them, but again there is simply not enough choice.

Now we are ready to make their animation. This process is fairly straightforward. In real-time, users move the characters around the screen while speaking their dialogue or narration into the iPad’s microphone. This software automatically records the audio and visual action. Although this is a very simple way to allow young learners to make their own animation, is also rather difficult to master the technique of moving characters and speaking at the same time, especially as the microphone is at the back of the ipad.

A useful feature of the animation is that characters legs move a walking motion as you manoeuvre them around the screen. Their arms are also movable, and they can be viewed in front or side profile.  However, moving the characters around is rather awkward as they rarely seem to go the way you want them to. This is especially frustrating as you are animating in real-time, so you have to start again if you make a mistake.

The final addition to a scene is the music. Musical choices are displayed as emoticons on the screen, so for instance, the user will tap the happy, sorrowful or a angry face to access the appropriate music. This visual display makes the process of choosing music easier and more fun for young learners. However, most of the music is either classical or cinematic and may not appeal to a child’s tastes.

Students repeat this process for each scene, until they finish their movie. They then add a title and credits to the finished animation. Children can then choose to upload the video to the Toontastic online video sharing site called ToonTube. This is a very professionally laid out and engaging site where students can watch videos made by children from all over the world. Alternatively, your students can just watch it in class with their friends.  There does not appear to be a Social Media sharing option which is a pity

Uses and Misuses

To get the most out of this software, it is better to be prepared in advance.  There are so many options, that younger children may become frustrated and confused. For this reason, it would be better if you learnt to use the software before introducing it to your students. It would also be helpful if you gave them an initial 15-20 minute playtime with the software to allow them to become more familiar with it. Showing them a movie which you made yourself or one from ToonTube would also help to generate enthusiasm.

For best results, students could make the animation as a project over 3 to 4 classes. This would give them time to think of characters, draw storyboards, and write dialogue. Though, it would also be perfectly possible to make a basic 1-2 scene story with in one class.

One thing that I would not recommend, is using this app as an impulse activity to take up half an hour when you have nothing else to do. It takes at least 15 to 20 minutes for children to work out even how to use the software, so trying to create something meaningful without preparation in a short space of time is likely to produce a complete turkey.

In Short

Toontastic does have its limitations, it is probably too difficult for younger children to operate (although they might have fun trying), and perhaps too limited in its resources to maintain the interest of older children for a length of time. However, if well prepped and used sparingly, this app may well encourage the fun and creative use of language in the classroom, gives children something tangible to show their mum and dad after class.

Quick Voice Pro

What is it?

Quick Voice Pro is a voice recorder for the iPad. Unlike it’s predecessor Quick Voice, this version has the capacity to email larger files. I’ve so far managed to email recordings up to 20 minutes long, which is a vast improvement on the last version, which allowed only a few minutes.

What can I do with it?

The main difference with this and other voice recording apps, like Audioboo, is that the files are stored on the iPad and not on the internet. The files can also be removed and stored on a computer, via email.

Why record things?

Recordings could be made of speaking tasks for later correction, or as a diagnostic. Tasks can be compared in a TBL format. Or simply, students could record specific information to give them a reason to speak, e.g. talk about your experience of studying at the British Council to share with another class, or British Council centre. I’ve found in the past that this app works particularly well with IELTS candidate students who record their speaking part 2 turns and listen to review.

You, the teacher, could also use the app to make recordings for listening activities in the classroom. The quality and clarity is much better than a digital reorder, and is a lot easier to use.