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Junior Storytellers: School Edition

28 May

Junior Storytellers app iconJunior Storytellers  puts your child in the director’s seat to create simple animated stories with narration, using a variety of settings, characters and props.  It is a great way for children to learn about how to build a story while engaging in creative play.  There are two versions of the app available. I am reviewing the School Edition, which includes all content with the one price.  The free version has limited content, with more story theme packs available with in-app purchase.

The main screen of the app is separated into four main sections: Create Story, My Stories, Awards and Settings.

Create Story

There are two main story sections: Sandbox and Challenge.

Sandbox Mode  – This section has two options:  a learning mode and a create mode.

  • Learn to Play guides children through making a story. It explains how to choose scenes, and to add, pose and change characters and props, and uses items from the Jungle theme only.  It is a great place to start, and might also be helpful for children who might otherwise get a bit overwhelmed with choice.
  • Create A Story gives children full access to the range of settings, characters and props.  Children create a story one page at a time and can create stories of any length they choose.

Challenge Mode –   This mode challenges children to create stories using a specific number of scenes. The first level is a single scene story and is a good place to start. Subsequent levels challenge children to create stories with several scenes. The first Level 1 has a single scene story, Level 3 has stories of 5 scenes, and Level 5  has stories with 9 scenes. The challenge mode starts with a quick video modelling the creation and recording of a story. After you have seen it a few times, it gets a bit tired, but you can tap on the big red cross in the top corner to turn it off. You can also turn the tutorial off using the app settings. Continue reading

Clicker Sentences by Crick Software

13 Sep

clicker sentences app iconThose 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.

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Learning Grids

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Clicker Docs

28 Jul

Clicker Docs app iconI used to use Clicker by Crick Software many years ago when I worked with special needs students, so I was delighted to have to opportunity to look at two of their iPad apps, Clicker Docs and Clicker Sentences. Initially I was going to review them together, but each is a stand-out on its own,  so I’m going to write about each  separately.

When you first open Clicker Docs, it looks much like a standard word processor, but look a little closer and you’ll see that it s packed with features that support learners with a range of needs.

Features

Clicker Docs is a word processor that has been designed to support learners with a range of needs. It has many supportive feature including:

  • Word banks
  • Word prediction
  • Text to speech
  • Spell check
  • Accessibility features

Each of these features can be adapted to suit the needs of individual learners with a variety of needs, making it a very versatile tool for the classroom or home.

Word banks

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Are we there yet? Holiday car travel with iPads

23 Jun
Are we there yet? I want out of this car.

Are we there yet? I want out of this car. (Photo credit: Beverly & Pack)

Our mid-year school holidays are upon us here in Queensland, with other states due for holidays also.  My family hasn’t planned any big trips away, but last holidays we took our 6 children interstate on a 2-day journey each way.  One thing I love about long car trips is that it is a chance for my family to be together (albeit by force!) for chats, stories and songs, marvelling at the scenery we pass. I actually love the time, and my worst nightmare would be for my children to spend the entire journey with their noses in electronic devices.  That being said, I’m no Luddite and when we went on our trip, we took the iPod and our 2 iPads with us for the journey.  I thought I’d share some of the things that made life easier on the trip. Continue reading

Write to Read – WriteReader

6 May

writereaderThere are more than 750 000 apps in the iTunes AppStore, with many doing similar things, so it is very exciting to find an app that does something really different.  WriteReader is one of those apps.  The app is based on research that strongly links success in learning to read with learning to write.   The app is aimed at children aged from 3 to 10 years, although I believe it would be suitable for older children who have special needs.  I’d like to thank Sarah Muzzammil, a member of the WriteReader marketing team, for giving me the opportunity to look at this app.

Main Features

writereaderpageApart from the title page for each book you create, each page consists of a picture that you add from your camera roll, and two text entry points: one for children and one for adults.  You can add an audio recording to each page, and you can easily add speech frames, thought bubbles and text boxes to the pictures.  Children select a picture, then write a caption, concentrating on the sounds in the words they wish to use.This might be just a couple of letters for one-word caption, or it might be several words.  Adults then type the correct “adult writing”  in the second box.  This is the way my children do their first writing at school.  I’m sure many readers are familiar with being presented with lovely artwork captioned with (what appears to be) a mishmash of letters, and a teachers’ writing underneath translating it for us.  What is actually happening is that children are trying out their letters and sounds, exploring the process of writing at its very first stages.  By seeing their writing alongside the adult’s writing, children can see their successes. [UPDATE 14/7/2014: The adult writing can be disabled by tapping the large owl.]

WriteReader is more than just a writing app, as it has been designed to be used as part of a whole language approach to help children learn to write while they are also learning to read.  There is a good deal of research behind it from its Danish development team and the Danish School of Education. The publishers write: Continue reading

Literacy by Demografix

29 Oct literacy lesson

Literacy by Demografix app iconYou may have read my reviews of School Writing, School Fonts, and Ghost Type, three apps which I consider must-haves for teachers and parents alike. Today I’m reviewing a fourth app from Demografix, Literacy, that promises to be just as useful.  There are two main sections to the app:  Lessons – Words and Sentences, and Whiteboard activities.

Lessons – Words and Sentences

This section is similar to the lessons in the other Demografix apps. The big difference with Literacy is that you are not limited to a set number of characters (12 in School Writing and 10 in School Fonts). This makes it possible to enter a child’s full name along with sentences. You are also not limited to the length of the screen either, as text can be scrolled, either screen-by-screen or by free scroll. The first time we tried scrolling the text, it was a little awkward, but my children caught on quickly and now have no problems.   There are more than 40 activities and lessons included with the app, and these also serve as an example of what you might do with your own content.

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Using your iPad with Stylus

8 May

There are lots of accessories for the various generations of iPad, but catching my eye recently were the range of styluses available.  What is a stylus?  Basically, it is a pen for your iPad or iPhone (or finger-alternative perhaps?)  There are many models available and a quick internet search will show you more than you thought.  I simply went down to electronics and entertainment section of  my local Big W store and found a nice range there.  There was a blingy stylus for the yummy mummy or glamour iPad user, one that had a real pen inside, some attached to iPad stands, and styluses in various colours.  They all work exactly the same, so I picked two of the more basic varieties, each just under $20.  Shop around and you will find similar styluses at similar or cheaper prices.  Any of these styluses will work on any touch screen device, including other Tablets and Smart Phones. Continue reading

rED Writing – Learning to Write Aussie Style!

12 Apr

rED WritingI’ve been looking for an App to help with handwriting for some time, but unfortunately most of the handwriting apps in the iTunes App store are from the USA so naturally feature their ball-and-stick style.  Finally an Australian iPhone App, rED Writing – Learn to Write,  has arrived.  It features all Australian handwriting styles and enables the user to select the style particular to their state or territory. Continue reading

Using Painting and Drawing Apps for more than pictures.

28 Mar

In a recent post I highlighted just a few of the many  Painting and Drawing Apps available on the App Store and presented my readers with some criteria for evaluating them.  This post looks at some of the ways these apps can be used across curriculum areas.

Mathematics

You may remember I noted that stamps/stickers can make an App more versatile, and that certainly is the case when it comes to Mathematics.  In a classroom, students commonly used counters, paddle pop sticks, blocks and other manipulatives to experiment with number.  Think of stamps as onscreen or virtual manipulatives.   If you don’t have stamps, you can use different colour and painting tools to create marks or shapes. Continue reading

Making eBooks on your iPad: 10 ideas for Parents and Teachers

8 Feb

There are several Apps available that allow you to create your own books.  I’ve already posted about Keynote, Picturebook and Book Creator, but there are others.  Later on I’ll even cover a few ways of creating eBooks on your computer, but now we know these apps exist, the next question:  what to write?  Here are 10 ideas for parents and teachers to use to create eBooks with children. Continue reading

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