But this is only one small component of the week.
This year we are adding to the technology component within our reading block with EPIC! (and don't worry, the kids are still spending almost ALL of their time with real books). We introduced the app this week and the excitement in the room was contagious.
EPIC! is a website and an app that offers its services FREE to educators and paid subscriptions to parents. It is filled with thousands of high-interest stories, some that are read aloud and some that are not. It is simple and easy to use, yet highly engaging and motivating to our little readers.
Here is how it works. As the teacher, you set up a profile for each student in your class by typing in their name. Then your students makes some choices on their interests and the app/website creates a personal library for them. As the students read from this library, they earn badges and little images to change their profile avatar.
There are few things that I really like about this service that sets it apart from other apps/websites that I have seen.
Some of the fiction titles include Squaredy Squirrel, Bear in Underwear, Charlie Brown, and Berenstain Bears. Some of our firsties were telling the story by reading the pictures, while others were able to listen to the story being read aloud. But all were eager to tell us what they had read!
As I mentioned earlier, Raz Kids is based on the student's reading level. EPIC! is based on the child's age and interest. And this is what gets them excited! As they log for the first time, they must tell their age. Then they pick some topics that they are interested in reading about, such as: adventure, fantasy, sports, humor, etc. The next screen breaks those choices down into even smaller categories. For example, if they pick sports as a broad topic of interest, the next screen allows them to decide if they want to read about basketball, hockey, dancing, etc. WOW! What an amazing feature. Each child gets their own personal library!
The reward system for this app/website is very simple and not time consuming. I saw the students check out the badges that they had earned and they played around with their avatar a bit, but the books were so exciting and engaging to them that they came right back to the reading...quickly! There are some sites that have such engaging reward systems that the kids don't want to get back to the real task at hand.
This is my daughter's profile page. She can scroll through all the books that she has previously read. This is also where she can check out the badges that she has earned.
This is what the teacher sees about my daughter's activity. She can see what books Ruby has completed, the amount of time she spent on the book, how many pages she flipped, and which books she opened but decided not to read. I love, love, love this last piece of information! It allows me to determine if there are students that are not finding books that interest them enough to keep reading.
As I sat down to write my post for this month, this was not the topic that I had in mind. But I just could not ignore the fact that kids were squealing with excitement when I told them that they could use EPIC again today. My daughter has been getting up at 5 am just to read books from this app before she has to go to school. The kids could not stop talking about all the cool things they were seeing in the nonfiction images. And the laughter over the Bear in Underwear stories was music to my ears.
Because of all of this buzz, I had to share. My hope is that you find the same "loudness" about books in your classroom whether it is through this app, another site, or just the good old books in hand!