4 Ideas for Secondary English Classes When You Have iPad 1:1

I was part of an iPad 1:1 initiative in Maryland back in 2012. I remember in our first training session they kept emphasizing one specific point with the iPads: it’s not about just replacing pen and paper, it’s about creating and learning in ways that aren’t possible with just pens and text books.

With that in mind, I’m going to focus this blog on all the extensions you can do with iPads that go beyond merely replacing traditional education resources.

Vocabulary with Visuals 

Gardner says there are all types of learners, so what are we doing in our English classes to help our visual learners? One thing you can start doing is adding visuals to your vocabulary. It sounds like a lot of work, but you actually have the students do all the heavy lifting with this activity.

Prior to class, set up a new board on Padlet.com and title it with the new vocabulary word of the day. I include the definition as well so we all have the same one. Use the Padlet feature to create a QR Code for the board and students quickly scan this printed code with their iPad on their way into class. The students are tasked with using their iPads to look online or in their photos for an appropriate visual for the new word. The visuals are posted on the Padlet board where everyone can see them. Within minutes you have a dozen creative visuals to increase comprehension of the new word.

A few tips for this activity 

  • Use words where students benefit from various visuals. This is my go-to activity to teach tone and mood.
  • Expect a slow start the first time. Students struggle with new activities like this, but once they catch on they love it.
  • Be ready with suggestions about how to find visuals. Many students just Google the word and pick the first picture they see. Asking them to explain their picture usually solves the issue.

Below is a link to a brief free video on how to use Padlet for visual vocabulary bell ringers.

Tone movies in iMovie

As we get closer to taking the state English standardized tests, I like to have my students review tone words. Unfortunately, these tests often ask for students to identify the tone of a passage, but the students are unfamiliar with the vocabulary used in the answer options. Even if the student completely understands the passage, they still get the question wrong unless they know the vocabulary. To teach tone vocabulary, I take 30 common tone words, with their definitions, and put them in a hat for students to pick one or two depending on class size and whether or not I have the students working independently or in groups. Students usually get two words they must create a movie for. I have the students make a standard video of images, not a trailer, in iMovie. If your students can navigate an iPad, they can navigate iMovie. The first visual is the word and definition. Next, the students include three visuals of the tone and use the text option to include their tone word in each shot. This is important as a reminder to the audience the word they are seeing visuals for. Finally, I have the students include a brief 10-30 second skit they create to show their tone word. Here is a sample instruction sheet with a list of tone words to use.

Some options of what you can do with your final products:

  • show one word a day on the announcements for two weeks leading up to testing
  • have a class viewing and vote on the most creative, effective, professional, etc.
  • post videos to a class website for future studying and viewing
  • publish to YouTube (if no copyrights were violated and students sign-off)
  • post videos to a district website

Create an iBook with Movies or Audio

iAuthor on the MacBook allows you to create your own textbook -complete with visuals, movies, audio, and interactive quizzes. One example that I did for my class was to create an iBook for the play A Doll’s House. I copied all of the text into iAuthor (the work is public domain and no longer copyrighted), I added my own visuals to the text, and I added quick little movies that I made myself where I would highlight important parts of the text and actually go through some whiteboard drawings on the videos. Why? Because I teach special education and memory is not a strength for most of these students. Giving them access to review my teaching as many times as they want and at their own pace saves a lot of class time and embarrassment when a student is uncomfortable admitting they don’t understand. Students can also have the text read to them using their iPads so I can meet IEP accommodations even when the students are not in class.

Create a PSA using Adobe Spark Video

Most of my examples are focused on English-related topics, but this one can work with many subjects. I’ve done PSAs for Grendel and Romeo: students had to warn people about the characters demonstrating their understanding of character motive, cause and effect, etc. Similar to iMovie, students download the free app on their iPad and insert images into a slideshow they can then narrate. Social studies students can do PSAs about policies, wars, or propaganda. In science class students can create VD PSAs which would be very helpful to post for all students to see!

I’m still creating updated versions of the iMovie and Adobe Spark Video assignments and I’ll upload them here when I’m finished. I’ll also keep posting iPad ideas as I use them in the classroom.

UPDATE: As promised, here is my Romeo PSA example I used in class when teaching Beowulf. I modeled with Romeo since most students know the story. I hate modeling with the text I’m actually using with the students because I want to see their original ideas. I also hated it in school when a teacher used the actual assignment because sometimes they used an idea I was going to use. Using Romeo helps me avoid this issue.

Romeo Sample PSA

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