Language development underpins almost all aspects of the Early Years Foundation Stage and learning stories is fundamental in broadening children’s vocabulary, understanding and imagination. As early years professionals, we are always looking for ways to improve reading provision and engage all learners in reading for pleasure.
The principle of Enabling Environments promises that we value all learning in our settings so for those children who are motivated by technology, this is a way in to reading for pleasure. There is an abundance of reading and phonics games on the AppStore so we need to make sure the choices we make for our devices are the most effective for our learners. What are we trying to teach in our reading provision?
The documentary ‘Secret Life of a 5 Year Old’ showed footage of a group of Reception aged children using apps whilst an adult walked in to the classroom with a tray of treats. The children using the software did not notice this until the devices were taken away. This is the usual kind of example of too much screen time, the type of device use that children engage with too much at home. We should be limiting this type of use at school too.
Reading with iPad
Without using an app 1 to 1, how might we actively engage children in reading for pleasure whilst valuing their choice to learn with technology? The answer is the same as it is for the rest of the curriculum. We plan for a cross-curricular use of the technology, where children draw on other learning skills and the device use moves them in to other areas of learning.
Teacher Authored Texts
The above image is a screenshot of a book that I wrote for my class. We had been reading lots of different ‘Goldilocks and The Three Bears’ stories, learning how they can be adapted. With the snow and ice in the UK during this week, the children were exploring this kind of weather so I used the free app Pages to write a story called ‘Goldilocks and The Polar Bears’. The best part of presenting a book electronically is that you can record your voice on each page and read the story to the child listening. You can also create interactive pop-ups like speech bubbles for characters.
Children used headphones to listen to me read each page and follow along the text during their independent learning. They moved to the next page themselves and listened to the whole story. To take the reading for pleasure off screen, and to apply other skills, the children had access to ‘Goldilocks and The Polar Bear’ writing materials. They were encouraged to try and write a paper version of the book for our library. By taking the learning off screen, the children had an outcome and a finish point. This allowed them to reach a point where they came off screen and share their finished writing which was inspired by the use of technology.
Not All Screen Time Is Equal
The Early Learning Goal for Technology states that children need to use technology ‘for a particular purpose’. This should prompt us to think about the use of the technology in the whole learning experience. How is the technology being used for a particular purpose? When the purpose is more than just using a game or app, we start making cross-curricular links to other areas of learning. By doing that, children start using technology as a creative tool and they usually make something or have an outcome. If children only use learning-style apps, videos or games then their use is very much ‘consuming’ information from the device. The learning isn’t active and that’s when children are less aware of their surroundings as they are consumed by the device. This is the type of screen time that is portrayed by the media so we need to make sure that our use of technology in school is creative and active.
Creating Your Books
To create your own books on iPad and promote reading for pleasure through the use of technology, you can download the free app from Apple called Pages. Pages now has templates for creating books. You can insert text, voice recordings, photographs and your own drawings using the pen tool on screen. When your book is finished, you export the book from Pages in to the Books app. Here is more information on creating books in Pages.