By Dr Emma Sumner, Lecturer at UCL IOE Psychology and Human Development

As we pause our work in schools during current times, we thought it would be a good opportunity to check in with some of our schools that were using the iRead project technologies to see if they have any tips to share. First up, we spoke with Clare Stephens (Head of Learning Support) from Stormont School who has been engaged in the iRead project from the very beginning. Read on to hear about how she has used the iRead project apps within her setting.

1. Can you tell us briefly about your school context? Which classes and year groups are using the iRead project technologies?

I work at a one-form entry, private girls prep school in Hertfordshire. We have used iRead technologies with pupils in Year 1 pupils through to Year 6. Typically we use the apps in small group sessions of around 3-6 pupils at a time. These small groups will contain struggling readers or children that have an additional difficulty such as dyslexia, speech and language difficulties, and processing difficulties.

We have been using both apps (Navigo and the Amigo Reader) but I’ve found the Navigo games to be more suitable for intervention work. I’ve also used the teacher tool to have the control in setting the activities and tying it in with classwork, rather than using the personalised approach within Navigo.

2. Can you give an example of how you have used the iRead project technologies?

One approach that I’ve taken, which has been working really well, is to combine the Navigo game activities with a spelling intervention that I am running. The spelling intervention takes place in small group sessions and I pair the sounds being taught in the intervention with the Navigo game. Pupils play Navigo once a week for 30-35 minutes and I select the sounds (grapheme-phoneme correspondences) to focus on. There are more than enough games in Navigo so that the pupils can practice the sounds many times in different contexts in the one session and it is a great opportunity to reinforce their learning. I’ve seen progress in the pupils’ knowledge of the sounds that we’ve focused on so far.

3. How have the children responded? Can you tell us about one child in your school and their experience?

All of the girls that are using Navigo really enjoy it. Initially they were working very much in isolation, even though in a small group. They had their headphones in and didn’t speak much but, as time has gone on, I’ve seen more interaction – they share their screens and discuss what they are doing with one another. They even seem to be a bit more competitive now that they’ve realised they are playing the same game. I started to model some of the games with my own tablet and I think this encouraged them to share what they are working on. The Year 3 girls are particularly enjoying it and can see the links to spelling. I can see they are becoming more confident readers and they seem proud to be doing well in the games.  

4. What factors have enabled this to work well in your setting?

Preparation is key. Having a teacher tablet and a dummy log-in account is the best thing that I asked the iRead project team for. It has been invaluable for demonstrating and modelling activities.

Our senior management are also extremely supportive and we have dedicated time and space to use for these activities. It would be great to have more tablets dedicated to each child so that they can use it as and when, such as in the mornings for those arriving early and part of independent study time.

5. What would your top tips be for someone starting to use the iRead project apps?

My main tips are related to setting up the technology as this can take time away from the teaching session. It took a long time to get the little ones used to logging in with a username and password. They often forgot their details, so I matched children to specific tablets and made sure that their log-in information was always accessible; or I would set them up so they were ready to use. Also, making sure all tablets are charged and the volume is turned up and ready to use saves time.

Another thing that I have found to be really helpful is to print out all of the games and sounds that can be covered in Navigo and make it into a checklist where I can mark off the dates that we covered each sound and which games. I’ve shared this with other teachers and it has been useful in planning each session to make sure the children have new content each time, or knowing when to re-cap on certain sounds.

The team would like to thank Clare, her team and the pupils at Stormont School for taking part in the iRead project. Pupils at this school helped to inform the design of the iRead project apps and it’s great to hear how they’ve been using them in school. We look forward to being back at Stormont soon!

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