A few years ago I discovered Clicker 4 for PC. After using it just once with individuals who struggled with or were otherwise disengaged by reading, I soon realised that this was a very powerful tool. Clicker is essentially a word-processing program with a customisable grid of words which act like a mix of a word bank and a giant concept keyboard. The beauty of these grids is that you can personalise them and customise them to the child you are working alongside. What’s more the software can read the text back to you and you can even add your own voice.
I have trained a number of Teachers and Teaching assistants in both mainstream and special school on Clicker 5 and I both myself and my wife have made wide use of it with our autistic children. I still maintain it is one of the best pieces of assistive technology ever produced.
Here is a video of one of my other sons, Leo, he has autism and learning difficulties and struggles with pencil control and concentration. Here he is a few years ago on our SMART BOARD using some colourful semantics Clicker grids to write one of his own sentences. I have to say it is only in the last few months that he has managed to replicate something like this with a pencil.
So, with all this in mind I was thrilled to be asked to try out the new Clicker apps on our iPads. I am going to mention just one of these here, which is Clicker Sentences. An app which feels closest to the spirit of the original Clicker 4,5 and 6.
Once again you are able to customise the grids with words of your own or make use of some of the pre made learning grids. I used this last week with Leo as a supported Word Processor we wrote a fairy tale from the template and then I created some history focussed grids for him to help complete his History assignment.
I was really impressed with the preloaded Fairy Tale writing template which we used. Using a series of word bank/ grids
Leo was able to quickly compile his story and listen both to every word and every complete sentence. Not only did this sustain his attention it also helped greatly with his reading. Really this app should be an essential installation for all schools that are putting iPads into their Key Stage 1 and SEN settings. If you want to talk about progression then this would be the idea precursor to Pages with all its intricacies of formatting and features.
Aside from the pre-made templates the app also allows you to create your own templates. I have to say this was far easier than in the original PC application, though the features of the app are less than on the PC. Nevertheless in just a few seconds I had created at least three model sentences with a picture prompt for Leo to follow. Following each sentence he simply swiped onto the next.
On this occasion I let Leo construct the sentences himself from the words randomly arranged in the grid set. However the app does allow you to present the word bank in either alphabetical or sentence order, you can even have it guide you through the grammar by having it highlight one word at a time.
To augment your own grid creations and the pre-installed templates, there is also a growing number of resources and ready to run grids over on Learning Grids.com too. This feature of having a large searchable gallery of pre made templates was another very useful feature of the PC based programme. Busy teachers do not always have the time to create themed resources and so an on-line repository of these is really useful, if only to provide inspiration for your own grid making.
I would recommend you add this app to your list of literacy apps straight away. Then look at whether it is appropriate for some of your less able pupils too.
- The Top 10 Digital Learning Apps Teachers Can Actually Use (By a Teacher Who Actually Uses Them). (seanhamptoncole.wordpress.com)
- Clicker Training Share – Lanarkshire Group (smaarthorsesblog.com)
- iPads and other forms of technology in the Classroom (labbb821822.wordpress.com)