Those of you who read my recent review of Clicker Docs will know that I’m a big fan of Crick Software and their products, having used them years ago when working in special education settings. Today I’m looking at Clicker Sentences.
Clicker Sentences is all about helping children write sentences and stories using words and phrases. Designed for the early learner, Clicker Sentences is adaptable and will suit older learners with special needs. It operates in a similar way to a word processor, with a writing area at the top, but with the keyboard replaced a grid containing words and images (although there is a simple version of a standard keyboard available on demand.) Sentence sets, containing multiple grids with one sentence per grid, can be used to write stories. Unlike Clicker Docs, an image can be included on each sentence grid and can be inserted into the document as an illustration.
Using the App
Sentence Sets are created quickly with just a few steps:
- Enter the sentence into a grid. Each word will appear in its own cell and punctuation marks will appear to the left of the grid. If you wish more than one word to appear in a grid, use square brackets around those words.
- Model sentence – choose how the model sentence will appear. it can be included in the grid, appear as a pop-up, or can be spoken. There is also the option for no model sentence. Any of these settings can be changed at any time.
- Word Order – words can be displayed alphabetically, randomly, in the sentence order, or by Guided order. This last option dims words, only allowing one cell to be active at a time, guiding the student through the sentence.
- Picture – An image can be added to each screen using photos from the iPad photo reel, or taken with the camera. These images will be added to the text when they are typed. Pictures can be removed from the grid.
- Background – choose from 16 colours.
Clicker Sentences users have free access to the Crick Software LearningGrids collection. This searchable collection contains grids covering a range of topics and activities, and can be accessed from within the app or online. There are collections for Australia and New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Most of the sentence sets can be found in all three collections, although there will be subtle spelling differences and possible content difference. Downloaded sets can be modified or added to suit the needs of the user. A good idea is to browse through the collection, download some of the grids, and “play” with them to see the different ways you can use the app.
Text to speech feedback
Like Clicker Docs, Clicker Sentences comes with a choice of three voices, each with a different English accent: Tyler (Australian), Heather (US) and Rachel (UK), and each adjustable in speed (my children prefer the slower speeds). Use preferences to hear words and/or sentences as they are typed, with these elements highlighted as read in a colour of your choice. Hearing a sentence spoken aloud can give valuable feedback, such as listening for grammatical errors. In addition to hearing the text as it is typed, a Sound Shift feature allows users to hear the contents of a cell before selecting it, which is very supportive of emergent readers and those with reading difficulties. You can also use the Sound Shift button with the document text in the following ways:
- Tap Sound Shift and tap once on a word to hear the word.
- Tap Sound Shift and tap twice to hear the sentence.
- Tap Sound Shift and tap three times to hear the whole paragraph.
As text is read aloud, it is highlighted word by word. I love this feature because it helps children identify specific words and track text as read. You can also paste text from other sources (such as web pages) into Clicker Sentences and have them read aloud.
- Swipe Grids – allows students to swipe between grids. If this feature is turned off, navigation is by arrows in the lower left and right of each grid.
- Show Touches – this feature briefly displays a small yellow dot to show when and where the screen has been touched. It is a great feature for use with electronic whiteboards so that everyone can see where the screen is touched. Can be turned on or off.
- Low Vision – Font type and size can be changed, along with the colours of the text, highlight text and background, to suit students with low vision.
- Guided Access – Crick Software has designed Clicker Sentences to take advantage of Guided Access. For those of you unfamiliar with this built-in iPad feature (iOS 6 and above), it allows you to disable the home button and certain areas of the iPad screen, “locking” a child into an app. Clicker Sentences has control buttons placed in the same areas throughout the app, making it easy to disable functions such as printing or editing word banks.
- Bluetooth Keyboard access – alternative keyboards are supported.
Printing and Sharing documents
Documents created with Clicker Sentences can be printed to any Air Print printer. You can also email documents as attachments that can be opened in other Clicker apps, a text attachment, or you can copy the text into an email. Apart from printing directly to the air printer, the only way to keep the graphics with the text is to open the document in another Clicker such as Clicker 6. I wish there was an option to save the document as a pdf file. Charlene Cullen from Spectronics has given me a great tip to get around the problem: You can save a screenshot of the document as an image so the words will print with the images.
My 6y.o. (he was 5 when we first started playing with the app but has just had a birthday) is an emergent reader in Prep who has been bringing home sight word lists for the last couple of months. By no means an independent reader, he can read common words easily but struggles with reading a whole sentence. When I asked Mr 6 to help me test the app, he was initially reluctant, as he was sure he wouldn’t be able to read sentences, let alone write them. Once he had a go and realised he could see and hear the model sentence (set to pop-up), and he could use the sound shift button, Mr 6 approached the activities with a lot more confidence and is quite proud of his efforts. As his reading skills are improving, he is not needing the sound shift button as much. We will be going on an interstate family holiday, and I hope to use the app while we are away so that he can write his own journal. As we don’t have an air printer or another Clicker App, I am going to export any text via email and then copy it into an app that lets us add photos.
When it came to creating sentence sets, we had a lot of fun taking photos and adding the words. One feature I’d love to add is the ability to zoom/crop images as you add them to the grids, but then you can always take photos and edit them before importing them to the app. As we will be exporting only the text (at least, until a future update might add some more options), I would also like photographs taken within the app to be automatically copied and saved to the photo library on my iPad. Currently, they are only visible within the grids and Clicker Sentences document, and I have no way of accessing them along with the text.
For more ideas and support
Crick Software Webinars – Crick software occasionally offer free webinars to help you learn how to use their products better. North American Users should keep an eye on this page (http://www.cricksoft.com/us/professional-development/webinars.aspx) for information on upcoming webinars, including one in December 2013 that covers both Clicker Docs and Clicker Sentences. UK and other International users should look at this page (http://www.cricksoft.com/uk/professional-development/webinars.aspx), although currently there do not seem to be any Clicker Sentences webinars scheduled.
Spectronics has some support materials, including a Clicker Docs and Clicker Sentences webinar on their website for their online subscribers. You can trial this service for free for a short time. (http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/resource/using-clicker-sentences-and-clicker-docs-on-your-ipad-to-support-writing/)
LearningGrids collections are accessible within the app, but if you can also browse the collection online at https://www.learninggrids.com/uk/WelcomePage.aspx. Browsing, downloading and editing these Sentence Sets will give you lots of ideas about how the app can work for your students.
User Guide – The Clicker Sentences User guide can be downloaded from the Crick Software website. (http://www.cricksoft.com/support/clicker-sentences/documentation.aspx)
Clicker Sentences is a great tool for early educational settings and for older children with special needs. It might cost a bit more than the average app, but that is because it has a lot more to offer our beginner readers and writers. For emergent readers and writers, it is a wonderful tool that will help. If you are after an inclusive tool that can scaffold early learners to the next level, then this is a must.
Publisher: Crick Software
- Clicker Docs (onsarahsipad.wordpress.com)
- Clicker Sentences Review (antsict.wordpress.com)
- Clicker Sentences App (http://otswithapps.com)