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iPods add high tech touch to reading education


Greg White, Sam Stull and Rayne Munoz had plenty of titles to choose from.

The three first-graders from Timberline Elementary School huddled over two shared iPods in Mary Sangster’s classroom, intent on finding the perfect book to fit a sunny Wednesday morning. The range was impressive, as the first-graders scrolled through titles of every imaginable subject.

“These are recommended,” White said as Munoz looked on, navigating the separate screens with ease. “These are science books.”

Eventually, the students settled on a couple of fiction books. Stull settled on a story about the three little pigs, and White and Stull gazed at a shared iPod screen to follow text about the adventures of a ninja, a bear and a cowboy. The students listened along on earphones, and both books came along with vivid illustrations and animated images that beamed on the screen along with the text.

Those high-tech touches have added another dimension to the reading program in Sangster’s classroom. Along with the school’s two other first-grade teachers, Sangster has benefited from a $1,000 grant from the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation to incorporate iPods into a carefully planned reading curriculum. The grant has allowed for iPods in all three classrooms, and it’s given the trio of teachers added options for getting all of their students on the same page.

“The students use the iPods to listen to stories and to complete other activities. Right now, they’re filling out flow maps to go over the story in detail,” Sangster said. “It’s just one more avenue for children to access books and reading.”

Sangster and her colleagues have drawn on curriculum outlined in texts by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, teachers that set out a specific set of goals and milestones for elementary reading programs. First graders at Timberline have carefully plotted schedules throughout the year that spell out goals for accuracy, fluency and other components.

The iPods have helped turn that theory into reality, as students find several access points into any given story. The grant from the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation, which is dedicated to impacting all district students, investing in innovation in the classroom and building long-term relationships in the community, has helped first-graders go deeper into plot, characters and themes.

“I can include another activity and that makes them more engaged than if I’d just been using a regular book,” Sangster said. “I’ve included a lot of apps on the iPod; when they get done with their book they can go onto one of the apps and practice sight words and complete other activities.”

The trio using the classroom’s shared iPods were taking full advantage of the tool’s capabilities earlier this week. White, Stull and Munoz were busy chatting about characters and vocabulary words after getting through the story, and they were busy filling out illustrated flow charts to complement the lessons.

The activity was a mix of old-fashioned pencil-and-paper work and high-tech innovation, and it all made Sangster’s job easier.

“We work on this reading comprehension all year long,” Sangster said, adding that the new iPods came into the classroom after winter break. “We wanted something that would be in our classroom every day that the kids would know how to access on a daily basis. It’s caught on very quickly.”

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