The ideal app for enriching my literacy lessons

Amy Kingsley

Since qualifying as a primary school teacher in 2009, I have taught across KS1 and 2 at three schools in the Manchester area. After studying English and Hispanic Studies at Sheffield University, I went on to complete a PGCE Primary in Spanish at Manchester Metropolitan University. I'm passionate about making English lessons exciting and engaging through the use of ICT. I was thrilled to join Russell Scott Primary School earlier this year and I'm loving my role developing the teaching of literacy through the use of iPads.

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Both teaching and marking can take up a huge amount of a teacher’s day; the latter, in particular, especially tends to eat into supposed ‘free time’. Here, Manchester-based primary school teacher and blogger Amy Kingsley discusses one app that’s been invaluable for her literacy lessons.

Over the last academic year, Explain Everything has fast become one of my top educational apps for applying pupils’ speaking and listening skills across the curriculum. As a busy primary school teacher, I have never been an avid fan of the daily marking marathon and would much rather spend my time planning engaging lessons and creating resources.

Undeniably, the use of a visualiser has been extremely powerful in modelling excellence and up-levelling examples of written work in class. Explain Everything takes this to the next level! Using the camera tool within the app, I take a photo of a child’s writing, use the highlighter tool to pick out positive features of the work and record myself reading their work aloud before identifying what the pupil has done well.

This has proven itself to be extremely powerful when shared with the class or a group in order to begin the subsequent lesson. The cursor tool can also be used whilst reading, enabling children to read along when the video is played on the interactive whiteboard. In the same way, I also highlight next steps and set the class/group a challenge to up level the pupil’s work.

Taking this approach at the beginning of a literacy lesson has proven to be an excellent means of engaging the class and motivating them to improve their written work. Furthermore, it solves the issue of KS1 children being unable to read the written feedback left by their teacher. Rather than spending hours marking in front of Eastenders, you could identify one area that a group needs to work on (connectives, for example), take a picture of a child’s work containing connectives and record yourself identifying where and how they have been used effectively.

Explain Everything also lends itself beautifully to self and peer assessment of writing. If you are lucky enough to have access to iPads at school, children will be instantly engaged by the idea of improving their own and others’ work using Explain Everything. Very simply, children photograph their own or a friend’s work, and use the highlighter and text tools to identify positives (or ‘stars’). They can also use the app to edit the work, adding/changing words and punctuation. Similarly, when exploring the features of a genre, children can photograph their writing (or an example of the text type from a book), highlight and label (using the shape and text tools within the app) the features of the genre evident in the text.
Explain Everything can be used as a lesson starter activity to recap; for example, specific language used in a text type. This screen shot shows a prepared paragraph within Explain Everything, which children accessed on their own iPads (via Airdrop or ownCloud) and filled in the gaps with language appropriate to the genre.

With the aid of Apple TV in the classroom, I have been able to use Explain Everything to prepare lesson hooks and resources. This screen shot is from a presentation for a lesson on the life cycles of animals living in the Amazon rainforest.

This provides a handy alternative to SMART notebook and Powerpoint. However, the real beauty of Explain Everything is that it can be used by teachers to ‘flip the classroom’. With my Year 5 pupils, I regularly created resources for children to access prior to or during the lesson. One of my favourite features of the app is the ability to add a website into the presentation, as in the screenshot below.

When accessing the same presentation from their own devices at home or at school, children can visit the website and add information to the presentation to demonstrate their learning. Allowing pupils to access the same Explain Everything presentation on their iPads during my lesson input is a much more interactive and engaging approach than simply talking at the class.

One of the main concerns surrounding the use of iPads in the classroom is how to evidence pupils’ work. Explain Everything is perfect for recording and evidencing speaking and listening skills across the curriculum and primary phase. The screen shot below is an example of a pupil’s work in Spanish. Set the task of describing a flower, this pupil has independently added a picture, text and has recorded herself reading the sentence aloud.

Being able to replay the sentence enables the pupil to assess the accuracy of their pronunciation. The completed video can then easily be exported to camera roll and uploaded to YouTube for publishing on a class blog or Twitter account.

When I had the pleasure of meeting my new Year 1 class this year, pupils used Explain Everything to create a presentation all about themselves. As you can see in the screen shot below, the pupil has drawn his favourite food and recorded himself talking about it.

I hope this has given you a taster of Explain Everything’s fantastic potential in the classroom. For my simple how-to-guide for the app, please visit my blog.

Here is a video which brings to life many of the ideas I have discussed:

Have you used Explain Everything in your work? Let us know in the comments.

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