Rapping with the iPad to develop vocabulary skills


imageAutorap (a free app) is a highly motivating tool for using language with primary and secondary aged children. Essentially, the child records a short spoken phrase which then generates an automatic rap.

It could be used at school or home to consolidate vocabulary or grammatical forms, or simply to practise structuring short phrases. The free version gives you unlimited use of one tune but you need to upgrade if you want to use any others.

Using at school:  In a classroom group, present a choice of vocabulary words that you have been working on. Each child takes turns to make it into a short phrase, records the phrase and plays it back to the group.

Using at home: Give your child any two words e.g. “train” and “egg” and challenge them to make up a phrase with both words in it before turning it into a rap. Encourage them to think of two words to give you – there’s no need for your phrases to make perfect sense but enjoy playing with the words and structuring sentences together.


Developing use of Wh questions using videos


Making the most of the iPad video function deserves a few entries on this blog. It’s not a very groundbreaking idea to use videos in sessions but it’s now so easy to record and playback on an iPad that ideas which might have been too fiddly or time consuming until recently can be revamped.

I have been using short videos to work on developing understanding and use of Wh questions but it could be used to work on a range of language targets. This idea has worked well with both preschool and primary age groups and is very simple to plan:

– Find some willing members of staff to act out an everyday scenario and film it on the iPad e.g. someone pouring out some cereal in a bowl, then going to the fridge to find that there is no milk. It might only be a 5 second clip – you can do a lot with a very simple scenario.

– Play the video to the group and ask questions about it based on the question words or other targets that you might be working on, e.g. “what is he pouring into the bowl?” “why does he open the fridge?”, “where can he go to get some milk?”

I usually preferred to film two part sequences (only a few seconds each) as having a second video to play proved to be a successful way of maintaining attention during the activity for groups who had particular difficulties in this area.

The children loved watching familiar staff members act out scenarios and they sometimes chose who they wanted to see in the video the following week. (I didn’t have any problem recruiting staff to star in the videos – I think it helped when they saw how much the children enjoyed watching them!)

I got most of my inspiration from the book Language for Thinking (Stephen Parsons & Anna Branagan, 2005). It has a wide range of pictures, each of which describe an unfolding scenario. Each picture is accompanied by questions which are separated into different levels of difficulty. The pictures were easily adaptable into video scenarios which made it very easy to set up and hand over to a member of school staff for running a language group.LFT

There’s lots of ways of extending this activity – am hoping to try out a few different versions myself and will report back on what works over the next few weeks!

Group attention and listening activity


sound touch transportAn easy group attention activity this week. Sound Touch Lite is a free app which has pages of animals and transport pictures and each one makes a realistic sound when pressed. I tried this activity using the farm animals page with primary schsound touch liteool aged children who had early language skills and difficulties with attention and listening.

I hid the ipad under a box and pressed one of the animals to make the sound. The children were encouraged to listen and then make the sign or attempt to say the name of the animal. After the animal is pressed, it creates a full screen photo which can be shown to the group and the sign/word reinforced. It occurs to me I’ve spent years attempting to make animal/transport sounds during preschool activities but there’s never any harm in actually using the real thing for a change. You can upgrade to lots more vocabulary pages for £2.99.

Using Story Creator to support sequencing skills


I recently ran some sessions with my verbal primary ASD group to work on sequencing skills using motivating activities that the story creatorstudents could do themselves. The Story Creator app lets you take pictures very easily while you are doing an activity and provides a stimulus (pictures and spoken words) for discussion afterwards. Am also planning to run this session with some of my preschool caseload.

A session using Vinegar Volcano went as follows:

  1. First, I carried out the activity step by step in front of the group – using clear and simple sentences to describe each stage. (Language used can be adapted to the level of the individual/group). Another member of staff took photos of the activity with the iPad. Steps are as follows:
    1. Make a mound of soil and put a small pot in the middle. Those old camera film cases work really well but a yoghurt pot would be just as good.
    2. Pour vinegar into the pot, right up to the rim.
    3. With a bit of a fanfare, add a spoonful of bicarbonate of soda to the pot
    4. Enjoy the explosion!
  1. I set up a story of myself doing the activity using Story Creator/Add Story and inserted photos from library into the app (this can be done before the session to save time). I then prompted the students to comment on each photo.
  2. Students took turns to carry out the activity and I took photos of each stage on the ipad. (This doesn’t work if the group is too big!)
  3. We showed the story on the big screen and students took turns to comment on what was happening and say what would happen next. The app has the facility for recording sound so you can adapt by asking the students to record their own words onto the story – especially useful for recapping or telling someone else about what happened.

Step 3: adding ‘white powder’

Step 4: The explosion!








Developing narrative through Puppet Pals movies


imageIn my specialist ASD primary school, I have been looking for narrative activities for a class of fairly verbal 7-9 year olds. Puppet pals (a free app) presents a wealth of different opportunities for expressive language in an individual as well as whole class setting and could work from preschool upwards.

Here’s a plan for a narrative group that has worked well over the past half term with a group of seven students. The students were highly motivated by the idea of making their own movie and watching it at the end of each weekly session.

  1. Choose two or three characters. These can be fictional characters loaded into the app e.g. kings/queens/dragons. Or in the case of my class, they wanted the teaching assistants (TAs) to feature. It’s very easy to take pictures of the TAs on the ipad during the session and insert under “Add actor from photo”.
  2. Choose objects which can help you build up SVO sentences. For example, create a picture of a cake in a symbol programme, take a photo of the screen on the ipad and then crop and insert into the programme as an ‘actor.’ Very easy to do.
  3. Choose a scene. My class were keen to use their own classroom as a backdrop by taking a photo and inserting it into the programme.
  4. Story creation. Each student creates a sentence for a story using the characters available. Depending on their level, they can be prompted to do this with colourful semantics picture options, e.g. The King/Queen/Clare baked/threw/sang a cake/ball/song. We started out producing fairly random stories but gradually changed the vocabulary options available to helping the students think through a more logical story progression.
  5. Writing the story. Type each student’s sentence into symbol software as you go along so they can see their story building up on the whiteboard. This is also helpful for reading back.
  6. Recording the Movie. Each student then records their sentence onto the ipad. In my group, several students were very distracted by being able to move the characters around on the ipad while they were talking – a tricky one to manage while trying to record.
  7. Name the movie. A good opportunity for students to take ownership of their class movie and give it a name.
  8. Play “movie” by linking up the ipad to the big screen (see previous post).puppetpals

Connecting the ipad to the classroom whiteboard


I’ve attempted too many sessions attempting to run an activity where most of the group members cannot really see the ipad in front of them. Now I have figured out how to connect the ipad to the whiteboard, there is a lot more potential for class activities where pupils can be more engaged with what they are creating.

The programme I’ve used is Airserver, which you can access free for a 7 day trial. You can set up a few free trials using a different email address each time if it takes a while to get the new software approved (though it is relatively cheap).

Once installed, the software can be easily used during a lesson by doing the following (this is for use on PCs);

  • Connecting the iPad to the whiteboardActivate Airserver by clicking on the icon in the start menu
  • Type in the email address which is linked to the software.
  •  If using ios7 on the ipad, swipe up from the bottom of the ipad screen to access the Control Centre tab
  • Tap Airplay and you should see a link to the computer that you want to link it to. For ios6 and older, have a look at airserver.com for further instructions.

So far I’ve been using this software to show the class movies that they have created – more on this in future blogs.