Scan and Hunch:
The Primary staff at Signal Hill Elementary has been working to determine how to best serve the needs of our diverse community of early learners who demonstrate their strengths often through a very active lifestyle. We see creativity in our students during experiential learning and inquisitiveness as they play. They excel when they are moving and engaged when they are able to demonstrate learning in their own unique ways. Alongside these strengths, are stretches that are sometimes associated with this active lifestyle as well as needs related to trauma including anxiety as well as OT/PT written output needs in addition to other needs that may or may not be related to various learning disabilities. Again, this diverse learning community is strong, beautiful, and intelligent. Nonetheless, many are vulnerable in the area of literacy from the beginning. We know that the single greatest determinant of success in all areas of school is to have a strong foundation in Literacy by the end of Grade 3. If students have difficulty reading in Grade 1, the chances that they have difficulty reading by grade 4 is high. For all these reasons, we have scanned our earliest learners to determine what exactly their needs are within the classroom environment including structures and routines to ensure that we, as educators, are able to meet our students where they are and provide them with best practice to support their educational success in literacy, which will also extend to success in numeracy. We know that our students need to be able to access information in multiple ways as well as to communicate their learning in multiple ways in order to ensure success for all learners.
Our Hunch Continues with SET BC:
In order to meet the needs of our students where they are, we have worked with SET BC to determine how we can best provide for access points for all learners. We feel that if we provide technology that can allow our students to strengthen valuable skills in literacy and provide varied opportunities to demonstrate learning, we will then be able to provide for a stronger and more inclusive learning environment. To this end, we began by requesting an I-Pad to pilot various apps that we could potentially use during our daily practice in Literacy, Math as well as Inquiry based learning. We have discussed that if we find the correct combination of technology and apps, we could then demonstrate how use of a group of potentially 6 I-Pads per class would strengthen skills and provide a greater number of access points while ensuring that students are engaged. To begin, we are trialing the “Clicker App Suite”, “Reading A to Z”, as well as the “Jolly Phonics app” (Jolly Phonics is one strategy that most primary teachers within our school are using.)
Technological Supports to Enhance Learning using the SET BC I-Pad:
We have also asked to pilot a set of headphones that come with a microphone and volume settings because the earbuds that we have been asking parents to purchase with their school supply set are not working. The children find them very uncomfortable for their ears and they are not able to record their voices using these current earbuds. So far, the new microphone/headphones are a “hit”! Our students are finding them extremely comfortable and are happy to use them. They are now able to use them for a variety of communication purposes as well as access to learning needs. Due to covid restrictions, it would be worth requesting class sets of these headphones.
In addition, we are trialing two different types of stylus’. One looks like a short crayon. The other is a thick, heavier rubber pen. Very quickly, we have noted that though the small, colourful crayon looking stylus looks appealing, it has a weaker sensory tip and the children need to make more than one touch often to get an app to open or to use the app with this style of stylus. We have also tried a thick black rubber pen that is twice as long and thick. It is much more user friendly. It is helpful for those with challenges to the way they grasp or grip a pencil and it is heavy and sensitive enough that it is not causing frustration. Finally, it is durable and will not easily be lost or broken…bonus!
Technological Applications to Enhance Learning using Set BC I Pads:
After careful consideration, we determined that the “Clicker” Suite might be best suited for our later primary students who are in need of independent self expression both in literacy and in other areas of inquiry. The more that our students are able to become literate communicators, the more confidence they should have for continued learning. One I-Pad was delivered to each classroom complete with the “Clicker Suite”. In addition, we also determined that in order to build these critical literacy skills, the children might benefit from both the “Jolly Phonics” and “Reading A to Z” apps as part of their scaffolding for reading skills.
Progress with Applications with a focus on “Clicker”:
Progress with learning and implementation of the “Clicker” apps for facilitation by teachers and EAs has been slow to begin. Because these apps are specialized and are often used with a particular student in mind, we think that all of the staff and students that intend to use these apps, should likely be trained so that they can use them on an ongoing basis in any learning situation. These apps would be used as their assistive technology and support that they might use in any learning situation as needed. So, we have been able to get training on these apps for primary EAs and we will be training primary teachers on April 14th. Our next step is to determine one student per class that would most benefit from this technology and have our EAs train work with this student for 10-15 minutes each day to learn how to use this app in a variety of capacities as needed. We will determine which projects we are presently working on in class that this particular student might be able to use “clicker” for and begin training right after Spring Break. For more information on “Clicker”, you can watch the following: www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lr8hq0z0yQ
Clicker Apps EA Training
On the March 12th Signal Hill Collab afternoon, Lorena provided a virtual Clicker app training afternoon to the EA staff. Clicker’s focus is on language development and written output rather than a speech to text support. Training focussed on an overview of Clicker’s features and various written output options. Premade Learning Grids were a hit!
Although we missed the value of all being one space for the training, EAs spaced themselves in various locations to take in this valuable initial training on how Clicker can support literacy for all students.
Thanks for a great training afternoon Lorena!
Progress with “Reading A to Z”:
With regard to “Reading A to Z, these are apps that can be used with everyone quickly and easily to strengthen Reading skills with all students. The children are enjoying using them and we are seeing high student engagement and enthusiasm for these apps. We are able to use these apps to facilitate a center for literacy centers as well as for an extra activity while some students are meeting the teacher for conferencing or guided reading. A to Z also has options to provide focused lessons on skills of choice within Reading Instruction for further scaffolding of a particular reading strategy. “Reading A to Z” is a definite winner for our students and the youngest students are benefiting from the “Headsprouts” segment of this app.
Progress with “Jolly Phonics”:
Since we use Jolly Phonics and teach the songs and actions in class, this is a very applicable app. Children who are still learning letter recognition and correct letter formation have enjoyed this app so far. Our youngest students enjoy tracing the letters and listening to their favourite letter songs on this app. We would love to have the full version, however, as the children have outgrown their first 6 letter sounds.
Some other Apps to Consider:
Some other apps that have been working well because we are able to use the classroom I Pads from Set BC in an ongoing that we would also like to consider to strengthen literacy skills and communicate student learning are the full version of “See Saw” as well as the “Duck Duck Moose” Suite and “ToonTastic”.
See Saw (Full Version):
Because the full version of See Saw allows teachers to create a variety of lessons or search other people’s lessons and edit, the possibilities are endless and highly interactive. The children become very familiar and competent in checking for their lessons and showing learning within pre-created graphic organizers as well as by simply recording their voices or using the draw tool. They get added encouragement from parents who enjoy seeing their work and commenting. This is a great tool for portfolio work and it is extremely inclusive. Students can teach other students and peers can video other peers during partner activities. Students can upload photos or videos later or they can video while they are using “See Saw”. Recently, the students were able to engage in a collective speech presentation for our School District through use of See Saw and I Movie. Each child was videotaped giving their speech. We put their speeches onto I Movie, then we uploaded the movie to See Saw for their parents and after the break, we will send this video to our school district to put on during the Speech event evening for other peers of all ages as well as parents to view. This is such a great way to stay connected and to learn from others.
Recently, our class has been learning about story writing. We decided to try using ToonTastic as a strategy to scaffold presentation of Elements of a Story as well as to try our first attempt at story telling while consciously incorporating these story elements. Toontastic was great for guiding students through their choices of characters and setting. There is very little anxiety for learning about story structure because it is all oral so students need only to choose their selection for each element and then record their voice for their characters to participate in the story. Students are then thinking only about both “meaning”, “structure” and “voice” as they tell this story instead of how they are going to have to put words on paper which so often blocks their thinking or the free flow of ideas. Next, the program shows the students where they are on the story line and reinforces beginning, middle and end as they apply to story elements. After the break, our class will practice this further and then try to record our story with writing because the whole barrier of idea generation as well as concept of story elements will have been covered through this interactive app!
“Duck Duck Moose” Suite:
Students have been enjoying the use of this full suite and strengthening skills in letter and word recognition as well as letter sounds.
Efficacy of these Literacy Apps to Date:
This year, we have had many students in Grade 1 who were found to be vulnerable in a variety of areas including letter recognition, letter sounds, sight word recognition, oral language, reading and writing, as our Early Learning Profile Screening has indicated. These apps have, again, been highly interactive and helpful in strengthening these skills. They are helpful in routine and structure of the day because they can be used with a small group of students in a literacy center situation allowing for reinforcement of skills and independent learning allowing teachers to cycle through particular groups of students. We will have a clearer understanding of the extent of efficacy of the apps after the final screening of our Grade 1 student of the Early Learning Profile in Third Term, but we definitely see positive results of pre reading literacy skills that these apps focus on as indicated in ELP results in second term. We are not able to isolate which programs are making the difference but we definitely think that all of these apps are contributing to a jump in literacy skills for this group of Grade 1s.
Environmental Supports in the Classroom:
We have determined that we can work towards increased inclusiveness and thereby enhance literacy skills in the classroom through use of environmental supports. Therefore, we have created a proposal which would see two classrooms at Signal Hill be equipped with environmental supports from Set BC to allow for movement and sensory needs while still participating in literacy learning within the class. Some of the equipment that we think may be helpful is a variety of seating including rockers and balance chairs that allow for movement and concentration as well as bands for chairs that are still stationary so that every student is able to engage in some form of movement/resistance while learning. We have accounted for movement at the carpet or circle by asking for a few chairs to move on while lessening distractions. We have also included portable stationary cycles that could be used instead of students completely leaving the class. Finally, we have asked for shading for lighting as well as a weighted blanket. We will comment on the usefulness and effectiveness of each if we are able to get them and use them with a variety of students with varying needs.