Teacher Authored Texts in Early Years

We want our early learners to become life long readers so promoting books and reading is what we try to do. To share a love of reading with the many different kinds of learners in our classroom can be challenging so making use of technology is one solution.

For the past few years my early years class have been writing books on our iPads using Book Creator. They’ve contributed to whole class books about their village, written fairy tales in pairs in Woodland Workshop and created their own independent maths journals. With our whole class and shared writing books I usually combine all of their content on iBooks Author on my MacBook. I then publish their project to the iBooks Store. Below is a gallery of the different book creating experiences we have had using iPad, iBooks Author and Book Creator.

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It’s not often that I use iBooks Author to create texts for them to read on their iPads but this is starting to creep in to my practise so today I’d like to share an idea with you.

iBooks Author and Teacher Authored Texts

Many of us will have used software like PowerPoint to create interactive whiteboard books for our class in shared reading time. Using iBooks Author is an extension of that. It enhances this kind of book sharing as children can read the books on their iPads independently rather than in shared reading times.

iBooks Author is free software for your Mac from Apple and it is used to create books that can be read on iPad. It’s very powerful software but with a blank template and the ‘drag and drop’ functionality, simple books can be made quickly and easily. Find out more about iBooks Author here.

What I’m Doing

After a weekend of snow in England, I know that my early years class will have lots to say about it and our learning needs to capitalise on this! Last week we read ‘Goldilocks and The Three Bears’ and ‘Beware of The Bears’. The children started to learn how to adapt familiar stories and make up their own by switching characters and events around. So this week the plan was to read ‘A Chair for Baby Bear’ but with the snow I thought we could plan ‘Goldilocks and The Polar Bears’. There’s no book out there to buy as an example for us, so using iBooks Author, I wrote my own.

Goldilocks and The Polar Bears

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First up I launched iBooks Author and chose a blank template. I typed the title on the Book Title page then I added several blank pages for my short story. I put text boxes on each page.

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On each page I started to type my story, remembering to use descriptions of Goldilocks that they were familiar with from the other texts we had read and also writing with repeated refrains.

The idea in my text is that Goldilocks is lonely and needs things to do by herself in the snow (Throwing snowballs, riding sledges and going inside igloos). When she finds something to play with she says

“A …! That’s something I can play by myself”

I also use the familiar repeated refrain from the traditional story:

“Who’s been….. my…..”

The Goldilocks that we know from our class book is one that the author describes as curious, but implies she takes advantage of that curiosity too! Her mother is also someone who warns her not to do certain things at the start of the story, and of course Goldilocks then does these things! I used both of these characteristics in my story too, just to keep it consistent.

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From the example above you can see that I have incorporated real images of Polar Bears in this book. These images are all royalty free and I searched for them via Google Images from the Creative Commons site. You can do this here. It’s useful to also reference the sources of the images at the end of your book just incase you want to share it with others later.

iBooks Author lets you drag and drop the images in from your web browser. So I had Safari open on one side of my screen showing the image of the polar bear and iBooks Author on the other side. No need to save and insert the image, I just clicked it and dragged it over to iBooks Author and dropped it in. The text I had written also wrapped around the image, keeping everything in line as I arranged my page.

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You’ll see the speech bubble icon too. This is a widget in iBooks Author called pop-over and it creates a speech bubble. When the icon is tapped on the iPad screen, the speech bubble appears.

Lastly I opened up QuickTime player and a new audio recording for each page of the book. I narrated each page and saved the recordings to my desktop. Just like the images, I dragged and dropped the audio files on to each page of the book. iBooks Author gives these audio files a little speaker button so that when they are tapped on the iPad screen the narration plays.

Here’s an example of my finished story as a gallery of images:

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What the children did

I placed 2 iPads with headphones in area with keywords from the story, speech bubble examples, polar bear small world and Goldilocks and The Polar Bear booklets with a range of writing resources. I also made use of Guided Access on the iPads to restrict access to the book only. The children had a snippet of the book from my iPad and they enjoyed hearing my voice read the story them, but I didn’t give too much away!

The gallery above shows a few snapshots of what the children did. Some of them enjoyed the story first and then started to write their story down, others listened and wrote a page at a time. Some made use of the speech bubble and key word prompts whilst others used the book and their own segmenting skills.

Getting the book on to an iPad

The easiest way to advise you to get your book on to an iPad is to plug your iPad in to your Mac using the USB cable that you charge it with. Click the ‘preview’ icon in iBooks Author and select your iPad from the list. You need to have the iBooks app open and this will copy a preview version of the book to your iPad for your class to read.

I use iTunes U to get my book on to several iPads at school. I create an iTunes U course called ‘Our Library’ and upload a copy of the book to that. Each iPad at school is enrolled to this iTunes U course and I open the book from there.

Other Teacher Authored Texts I have written

At the Apple Distinguished Educator Global Institute in San Diego I put together a text about Rancho Cuyamaca with my ADE peers and each of us took a copy home to share with our early years class. Our classes responded to this text with a book about their own place.

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I’ve also written a book about different learning behaviours using Mr. Men and Little Miss characters.

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What’s Next?

Teacher Authored Texts in early years is an idea inspired by my good friend Kristi Meeuwse. I met Kristi in San Diego two years ago at the Apple Distinguished Educator Global Institute and I had read her One Best Thing ‘Just Right Books’. Kristi writes levelled books for her class on iBooks Author and the children read them on their iPads in guided reading. These are not the usual kind of levelled books though, they are for children to read in their interest groups. So for children interested in mini-beasts for example, Kristi would put together a non-fiction book using real images and videos for the group to read but personalise the text for each reader’s next steps. It’s a wonderful way for mixed ability children to share the same text and also read independently. It allows the group to share the comprehension and access other parts of the text with narration from the author too.

I’ve tried something similar in the past with Book Creator on the iPad, but using iBooks Author would be so much easier as the drag and drop functionality gives a more streamlined workflow than saving each image and inserting it. The gallery below shows example pages from one of the levelled reading books I wrote on mini-beasts. In Book Creator this book can be duplicated and personalised for other reader’s next steps.

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You can find out more about Kristi’s ‘Just Right Books’ here and watch her story on the Apple Education website.

 

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