This semester in READ 6309 students explored components of a strong reading program. As part of their work they wrote posts for our blog.
In an interview with Dr. Schall on the importance of independent reading, she stated that the practice of independent reading provides readers with the opportunity to practice all the skills that they have learned from the read-alouds, shared reading, and guided reading. In conjunction to this, Dr. Stephan Krashen states that in order to motivate students to read, we must provide them with easy access to different forms of literature.
In previous blog posts, I have mentioned several apps that can help both the teacher and the students get free downloads of books, but in this blog post I would like to mention apps that make other forms of literature available to students who find it difficult to commit to reading literature in book form. After all, in independent reading, the student should have a choice in what he/she reads, instead of the teacher making that choice for him/her.
For young readers, apps such as Bear and Duck, or BrainPop provide reading material and the supporting audio. Of course, the audio can be muted. For middle school through high school students, the comic app Wormworld is an absolutely beautiful fit. Besides the comic storyline, the app’s developer is also the app’s graphic artist who reaches out to his audience by journaling about his ongoing creations in a very down-to-earth manner. His amazing artwork reflects 300+ hours of work per scene!
Students interested in history and ancient artifacts may enjoy HistoryMaps, which has maps spanning from the 4th century to the 20th century. Your history buffs may also enjoy the apps Timeline Eons and World’s Fair (Biblion). Timeline Eons places important worldwide events into an easy to navigate timeline, and provides readers with the option to “tap” and read up on more of the highlighted event. For example, one interesting story that appears on this timeline is that of the recent assassination attempt of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani female student who was shot by a Taliban gunman because she advocated female education. The Biblion World’s Fair app is from the New York Public Library and it has stunning black and white photos and articles from the years 1939-1941, before the United States joined the Second World War.
There are also apps that explore science topics from the stars to the ocean deep. The apps Star Walk, and NASA will thrill your stargazers. Both of these apps provide photos with corresponding text. The NASA app even tracks when certain stellar events will happen over the McAllen, Texas sky. For very young readers, the app National Geographic for Young Explorers has a couple of free magazine downloads to teach them about creepy, crawly land animals. The app Creatures of LIGHT from the American Museum of Natural Science has photos of bioluminescent organisms from both land and ocean along with short paragraphs that describe these creatures. Also worthy of mention is the app 3D Medical Images. The photos have little written about them; however, they may just spark the interest of students who are willing to explore a medical phenomenon. Teachers should preview the photos in this app to see if they are age appropriate for their grade level.
Students who are 17 years old may enjoy the app Comics Plus, which has both free and paid subscriptions available from several magazines. If your high school aged 17+ students find it more interesting to read their own creations, they may be interested in the app 99 words. In this app, the student has the choice of writing his/her own story alone or joining another writer in finishing a book. Apps that may appeal to the advanced reader are iTunes U, and JetPack by Purdue University. In these apps, the student can find a multitude of topics listed. A good companion to these apps is TED, which is not per se a reading app, but it presents talks by some of the world’s most interesting people. It is an app that can motivate readers to continue to learn and explore the world around them.