by Luz Chavez
Trying to practice fluency in a bustling hallway with kids whose ages have yet to reach double digits takes skill. And an iPad. The iPad mini is my hook, a way to keep the kids engaged and give them something to look forward to in our next session.
Choosing the iPad was easy. The kids were already intrigued with my iPhone and Macbook, two tools I used to time their read-alouds and calculate and track their CWPM. What wasn’t easy was finding the right apps worth gobbling a slice of my 16 gigs. As a fluency tutor in a dual language school, I need a variety of ebooks in Spanish and English (preferably both) for second and third graders. The App store has hundreds of them. So to guide me through the haystack, I needed to come up with some strict criteria:
3 Must-Haves for Any Interactive Ebook
1. Storytelling trumps interactivity.
If you wouldn’t read the story in print form, don’t waste time downloading the app. Students need to be engaged because they are reading a compelling story, not poking their way through a shnazzy app.
2. Interactivity has a purpose.
Interactivity either moves the story forward or plays a subtle role in piquing readers’ curiosity without distracting them. That’s a fine line to walk. Think of a good interactive reading app as a digital pop-up book. Creative pop-ups blend in with the story and enhance readers’ comprehension of the story.
3. Students can choose to read aloud or listen to the story.
Having this choice allows you to use the app with a wider range of readers. For example, while more fluent readers can jump in and answer comprehension questions, less fluent readers can hear the story several times before attempting to read it on their own. Watch out for apps that use automated voices; choppy robotic voices are exactly what we don’t want kids to model! Also, find apps with built-in read alouds that highlight the words as they’re read aloud. Having the option to record is a feature kids love!
My Favorite Interactive Ebooks
The pickier you are about sticking to these criteria, the more delighted you’ll be when you find some real gems. Check out a few of mine:
1. Who Stole the Moon? This award-winning app includes 17 languages, a must-have for any teacher with a diverse EL population. The engaging story, vibrant illustrations, and subtle intuitive interactivity make this ebook my all-time fave.
2. The Adventures of Peter Pan This ebook includes 7 languages and has a built-in movie that can be turned on and off, words that are highlighted as they’re read aloud, pop-up images that illustrate vocabulary and characters, and even a font tool that lets you select the font most comfortable for the reader. The developer Chocolapps has a variety of books in a similar format available in multiple languages.
3. The Dog and His Reflection This is another award-winning app based on a popular Aesop fable and includes interactivity that enhances the story. It’s only available in English, but this lovely app is still high on my list. Anything by developer Mindshapes is a winner.
Check out these ebooks and let me know what you think! Share some of your faves as well!
Luz Chavez is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development.