One of the hurdles that a lot of primary grade teachers face when trying to incorporate more technology is ease of use. They ask themselves whether or not their students will be able to use an app.
I'll admit when I first learned about Subtext that I did not think that I would be able to use it with my first grade classroom. There were too many features and I could not find any books that would be on their level. Then...it all changed. To give you some background knowledge before I continue, I want to say that I have used Subtext with my class for roughly two months. I have three iPads in my classroom at all times with five grade level iPads that I can checkout throughout the week.
Subtext has radically changed the use of iPads for literacy in my classroom. I am able to have an additional dose of guided reading per week with each student. Since there is never enough time throughout the school day, Subtext allows for you to increase your interaction with each student even though they might not be at your kidney table. They are not only reading more, but are more engaged in their reading.
I was able to solve my initial concern of not being able to find grade-level appropriate text with the help of my district's technology bookmarks. Most school districts adopt a reading series to support literacy instruction. The reading series in my school district has online resources that includes online level readers. Once I had the leveled readers to use, I knew it was time to start using Subtext.
To use the level readers, I ended up having to download them, email them to myself, open them in Safari, and then click on "Open in Subtext." Yes, this might seem like a lot of steps, but you really get the hang of it after awhile.
You can also find articles online directly from the app. If you are searching for things on Safari from your iPad, you can click right below the tab bar and click on "Open with Subtext." There will be a future post on some of the other apps you can use with Subtext.
Login and Groups
Subtext allows you to login in multiple ways: Google email, Facebook, or Edmodo. Once you've logged in, you can join groups where you can discuss texts.
I decided to go the Edmodo route with my first graders. A suggestion would be to create your groups first so that you can have the group codes when registering students. Students were put into two groups once they had Edmodo accounts. I put them into a guided reading group and a whole class group. I wanted them to be in the two groups because I wanted the primary purpose of Subtext to be for guided reading. They were put in a class group so that when PBL (Project Based Learning) was going on in the classroom, I am able to share research articles with the whole class. I can also use the whole class group for going over different reading strategies, such as highlighting evidence, main idea, and details.
SubText gives you so many different options for how to check for understanding, as well as give students the opportunity to discuss texts with each other. Here is a rundown of the features I have used with my students. Included with each features is how you can use them with primary-aged students.
There are a lot of other features in Subtext, but these are the ones that can be used easily with primary grades.
Use in Readers Workshop
Students are given their literacy tasks each Monday morning. One of their independent literacy tasks is to read their Subtext book. Student have from Monday-Thursday to complete their book.
On Friday I meet with each of my six guided reading groups for roughly ten minutes each. This takes up 60 of my 90 minute literacy block. The reason I still meet with each group is because it gives them the opportunity to talk about the book in person, as well as clarify how they wanted to answer certain questions. This is important with primary aged kids, especially when they are using Siri to dictate their responses. The benefit to meeting with these students is that it gives them that chance to explain their answers, as well as get their feedback on the app and what changes might need to be made for the following week.
Use in PBL
One important component of PBL is research and collaboration. Students are driving the unit based off their findings in research. When students find different articles that could benefit the class, they need to be able to share them. Subtext gives you the ability to share articles with your whole class.
After articles have been shared, students can look through the new sources of information. They can highlight important facts and things to help them figure out their "Driving Question." This highlighting can be done individually or can be shared with the whole class. They can comment on sections to to discuss why their finding is important.
Why I love Subtext?
If you haven't noticed by now, I enjoy using this app. My first graders look forward to reading their Subtext book each week. The possibilities are endless and I continue to find more ways to use it with my class each and every day. There are so many other ways that you can use it throughout the day, which is why this is just the first of probably many posts on Subtext. Look out for part two where I will be covering Subtext with writing.