Written by Guest Writer – Matt Dalton
One of the greatest challenges in today’s classroom is student engagement. As a teacher I often ask myself: How do I motivate my students to continue to practise a skill over and over in the hope of developing competence without boring them? The answer is the app, Explain Everything.
What is it?
Explain Everything is an interactive tool that lets students annotate, animate, write, record and share their learning. It can be used across all learning domains. It is easy to use as the layout and buttons are very self explanatory. The added bonus is that all work can easily be exported to digital portfolios e.g. Seesaw. Explain Everything can be used across multiple platforms e.g. Chromebooks, iPads etc.
While I have used the app across all learning domains, the remainder of this article will focus on how I utilise it for Literacy. As a Grade 2 teacher, teaching reading is a major focus of my role. I incorporate the app as a regular part of the literacy block. Below are just a few examples of some ways that it has redefined how I teach literacy in my classroom:
Using Explain Everything – Reading Fluency
Fluency: An extract of a text is uploaded onto the pages. The students can record and playback what they have read to practise fluency, intonation and expression.
Punctuation/Grammar: Using an extract, students can use the highlighting function to find: adjectives, nouns, capital letters, full stops etc in a text.
Comprehension: Using an extract, students can use the highlight and record function to answer teacher set comprehension questions to prove that their answer is correct with evidence from the text.
Using Explain Everything – Comprehension
The selected text could be from a whole class shared reading, a guided reading text tailored to the students instructional level, student selected text or even a comprehension extract e.g NAPLAN. With a bit of imagination, almost anything can be created to reinforce reading skills. Furthermore, once created, one activity can be adjusted slightly and used multiple times, each with a different focus.
How do I use it?
One way to start is to create an initial template of a text that I would like the students to focus on. To do this, I simply take photo extracts of the text I desire. I stick to one photo per slide to ensure that the print is large enough for the student to read. Using the add text function, I can type instructions or comprehension questions.
While creating the initial template might seem time consuming at first, it can easily be exported to multiple devices through the airdrop function. For example, an entire year level could use it as an activity. As mentioned earlier, with a few quick adjustments one template could be reused for multiple sessions for a variety of purposes e.g. fluency, grammar, comprehension. Over time, a school could potentially create an entire bank of these resources.
The app is easy enough for students to use. The icons located on the interface are fairly self explanatory e.g. a camera symbol to take a photo. At the beginning of the year, I took a short amount of time to explicitly teach the students some of the basic features e.g. adding a photo/text, annotating, saving, recording, highlighting. Soon after, the students were able to use the app independently. In fact, once familiar with the app, the students can create their own text responses.
One of the best elements about the app is the way in which the students have a real purpose and audience. The students love showcasing their work! Through the recording function, the students can watch and listen to themselves and reflect on how they achieved the success criteria. Additionally, the students can work in pairs or partners to share their work and provide peer feedback. Furthermore, this work can be easily cast onto an Interactive Whiteboard/Panel for whole class display. It can even be exported onto digital portfolios (e.g. Seesaw) to enable families at home to see the work that is happening in the classroom. Another handy aspects of the app is that it also creates endless opportunities for assessment e.g. running records, comprehension.
Explain Everything is a brilliant app to engage young minds. It is not a mere substitution of learning e.g. replacing a paper copy Q&A comprehension with a digital version. It redefines and contextualised literacy skills for the digital age.
Explain Everything is available on iOS, Play Store or a web browser. Try the free version to trial for yourself but the limitations will prevent ongoing use. When you are ready to purchase, explore the best paid version for your school and devices.
Check out their official YouTube channel for free tutorials and webinars.