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How to Use an iPad to Improve Reading Skills in Grade School

by Lori Garrett-Hatfield, studioD

Classrooms have seen technology ideas come and go for many years. The iPad, however, puts technology and learning in the hands of the students, allowing teachers become facilitators rather than instructors. Many students struggle with reading, and teachers look for anything to facilitate learning. Combining reading instruction with technology is a win-win combination for both grade school teachers and parents.

Letter And Sound Acquistion

The first step elementary students take towards reading is sound awareness, or phonemic awareness. Students must understand the correspondence between letters on a page and the sounds that they make. The iPad has several apps available for phonemic awareness. For example, "Letter Bug" allows students to practice letters and letter sounds either by themselves, as a center, or in a small group. "Tic Tac Toe Phonics" allows one or two students to work on vowel sounds, letter sounds and word parts. Also, "ABC Pocket Phonics" lets students practice listening, writing and saying letter sounds.

Word Work

Once students master letters and letter sounds, they begin to work with letter combinations and words. There are many letter combinations that are confusing, and students need to practice. Students also begin to work on words that frequently occur in English, usually called "sight words." "Build A Word Express" helps students use their letters and letter sounds to build words. This game could be used by an individual student, a pair of students or at a center. "Sight Words" helps students learn their sight words by touch, sight and sound in a small group. "Futaba" can be used with a group of four students as a game with words and pictures to increase word vocabulary.


From reading and practicing words, students move to sentence-level reading. "Read On Sight" allows the child to read the sentence, hear the sentence, then reform the sentence when it scatters. "Sentence Magic" works much the same way. These two apps can be used by one student, two students or in a small group. In addition, there is "Not the Hole Story," an app that allows students to hear part of a story while they come up with the ending -- useful for an individual student or small group.

Specifically for Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension can be very difficult for many students in elementary school, especially as the content and vocabulary increase in difficulty. App developer MiniMod has two apps that are useful for students struggling in reading: One is for distinguishing between fact and opinion, and the other is reading for important details in the upper elementary grades. "Question Builder" helps students make inferences about a text. "Sequencing With Milo" is a sequencing and storytelling application that helps to improve a student's ability to retell story events.

About the Author

Lori Garrett-Hatfield has a B.J. in Journalism from the University of Missouri. She has a Ph.D. in Adult Education from the University of Georgia. She has been working in the Education field since 1994, and has taught every grade level in the K-12 system, specializing in English education, and English as a Second Language education.

Photo Credits

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