We grouped our students based on
“response to intervention” (RtI) levels.
RtI is a homogenous system of grouping students by ability in specific areas
based on their needs. We then set
about putting appropriate interventions in place to measurably improve
scores in sight-word recognition, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary
recognition and meaning to meet
targeted benchmarks. We used AIMS-web scores as well as other informal
assessments to compare data between
the 2009–10 group and the 2010–11
group, which had routine practice on
apps and websites with the iPad.
Our moderately at-risk learners,
Group 5, were receiving services
through Tier 2 or Title 1 support. Our
most at-risk learners, Group 6, were
students receiving services in tiers 2,
and 3 and special education. Although
there were exceptions, the data confirmed elevated average gains and/or
higher end-of-year scores for students
with routine iPad use.
Our decision to use iPads to improve student reading was a step into the unknown, but we found the benefits far outweighed the risks.
Managing iPads with first grade
students was easier than we expected.
Because of their age, we initially didn’t
even allow them to walk around the
room with the iPads. Instead, the
teacher or paraprofessional sat students down and brought the iPads
to them. From the beginning, we
discussed the privilege of using iPads
as learning tools and took them from
students who chose not to comply
immediately. This contributed to students’ attentiveness significantly. In
fact, it became a highly motivational
learning tool for some who demonstrated undesirable behavior elsewhere, and that inspired us to collect
“time on task” (TOT) statistics for one
student in each group.
We asked a special ed teacher to
gather data as we facilitated learning,
including TOT data collected with
a stopwatch. Anytime the student
was off task, the stopwatch stopped.
When the student regained focus, the
stopwatch resumed. In Group 5, we
observed each student four times and
noted a 20% average increase in TOT.
In Group 6, we also observed each
student four times, and noticed a 15%
average increase in TOT.
Our deliberate focus on digital age
skills with first grade students cre-
ated excitement. For global aware-
ness studies, for example, we used
tion with the Voice Memos app, then
swapped iPads to listen and follow
along as a peer read. This was exciting
for students, as it was a nice change
of pace with a surprise ending. We
asked students to identify themselves
verbally after completing the story.
Sometimes it was a student from our
class, while other times we swapped
We discovered some favorite apps and
websites along the way.
Sight Words. For sight-word
recognition, which was the best use of
iPad apps in our case, we loved K– 3
Sight Words, Smiley Sight Words, and
ABC Pocket Phonics.
Fluency. For fluency, we found Talking
Tom, K– 12 Timed Reading Practice,
and Voice Memos most useful.
Comprehension. For comprehension, the trickiest area to locate apps
for, we used a website called Reading A–Z (see Resources on page 27).
Their leveled readers in PDF format,
along with their comprehension tests,
helped us practice reading strategies
and led to meaningful discussions.
Vocabulary. For practicing vocabulary
recognition and word meaning, we
used Kid Whiteboard, Glow Draw,
Doodle Neon Glow HD Free, and
Doodle Buddy for iPad. Using these
productivity apps allowed us to create
our own games, such as a vocabulary
word cakewalk, word mingle, and