Classroom Appstravaganza #3

This year we are taking time in the Classroom Appstravaganza series to hi-light the applications that your students are accessing during the school day here at Ben-Hem. This week the Appstravaganza is all about Book Creator.

mzl.xrehjemtWhat really stands out about Book Creator is that it represents a fun but productive way to engage kids with technology. In an age where parents struggle to find productive uses of the screen time that their children demand, Book Creator and applications like it are a welcome addition to the mobile device rotation.

Book Creator does not mince words, it does just what its title would lead you to believe. This is an application that allows children to create, publish, and share books with friends and the world if they like. Book creator is robust enough to allow for multi-media integration yet streamlined and intuitive so that kids can pick up and go with little support from adults.

There are so many ways that this app can be used to engage all children in writing and creative expression. Imaginative stories, writing about their last play date, or documenting their last field trip or vacation are all simple and easy to do. They can publish their tales to the iBooks store for others to read. Knowing that there is an audience who will read their work and listen to their ideas is a powerful motivator for young writers.

Book Creator is available for both Android and iOS devices. There is a free edition that provides all basic functionality and there is a full version that is $4.99 that provides all access to the bells and whistles of Book Creator. The developer’s website has a great blog with all kinds of creative ideas for you and your kids to play with at home.

Overview and Tutorial Video

Raz Kids: A Tool for Building Reading Fluency

Fluency is the ability to read text at an appropriate rate with accuracy and expression. We often explain to students that fluent readers read like they are talking, in a smooth and not choppy manner. We measure fluency regularly because it is an indicator of comprehension. Research tells us that fluent readers have more brain energy available for comprehension, which is the ultimate goal of reading. The less energy a student expends on decoding words, the more energy is available for higher level thinking. Follow this link for a great article on fluency from Reading Rockets, including tips on how to help students who struggle:

Reading Rockets- Fluency

Readers can build fluency by reading and rereading text at their own independent level. With all of the books to choose from, it is difficult to know which books are “just right” for your child. Ideally, your child should be reading books that are not too hard (the most recent research suggests 98% accuracy or higher!). Often students self-select too difficult books that require significant inferential understanding and contain lots of dialogue and tricky words, then become frustrated with reading because it is too hard and the story does not make sense. Reading books that are too hard also causes children to develop bad habits; when a book is too hard, children’s understanding is only at the surface level and they don’t train themselves to think deeply about text.

With that in mind, I encourage you to explore Raz Kids. Raz Kids is a website that provides your child with access to digital books at his or her own independent level. Every elementary student in Natick has a Raz Kids subscription. Students log on and select a just right book within a level chosen by the classroom teacher. Students can listen to the book, record themselves reading the book, and take a quiz on the book. They earn points toward incentives such as the “Raz Rocket” or “Robot Builder” features. The classroom teacher can assign specific books for students to record, see Raz Kids activity, hear recordings, see quiz results, and send messages to students. Raz Kids also has a free app available for iPad, Android, or Kindle Fire. Click here for a brief overview video from Schooltube:

Raz Kids Tutorial

Please feel free to contact me or your child’s classroom teacher if you have any questions about Raz Kids (including login and password) or want suggestions for other just right books.

Kristin Stoetzel
Ben-Hem Reading Specialist

Educational Apps at Ben-Hem

Many parents are asking about the apps that we are using here in school. While there is not yet a huge list, here are a few that people really seem to enjoy.

Stack the States

Stack the States is a great game for kids at the primary and elementary level (K-4). While playing students learn about United States geography. The engaging format asks kids about names of states, capitals, abbreviations, and interesting facts about states. The questions are broken up by different games and reward systems that the kids really enjoy. For more information, check out this review.




 This is a great application that has a ton of awesome content! Through this application kids can check out a number of free BrainPOP videos every day. With a subscription, families can access the entire BrainPOP library (thousands of videos).



Grammar Jammers

The name of the app really captures with one from Pearson. This app presents parts of speech and other grammatical concepts using catch tunes. Within the songs kids are provided with examples of the grammatical convention and each is followed by a short quiz practicing the skill.



Show Me

Show Me is a basic multimedia tool for students. Show Me allows kids to draw pictures, insert and modify images, and record audio over their drawings/images. The power of this tool is that it is simple and provides a creative avenue for kids to show what they know.