Using the iPad in Class

As a Latin teacher, my number one priority is to get students reading as much Latin as possible. We read in our textbook, we read out loud together, they listen to me, they listen to audiostories, they watch videos, they watch presentations. Variety is key.

In one of my classes today, I wanted us to read a story quickly without worrying about the grammar or new vocabulary. I figured out a new(-to-me) technique that went well. Even my most distractable students told me how much they enjoyed the lesson.

Here’s what I did:

Before class, I had already created a PDF of the story that I wanted the class to read. I transferred that file to my iPad, and opened it in an app called Notability. (Notability is a note-taking app that, among other things, lets you read and annotate PDFs.) I also used my whiteboard to write out the new Latin words with definitions. My goal today was COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT, so I wanted to make the language as accessible as possible to all of my students.

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In class, I mirrored my iPad to my projector, and opened the PDF of the story in Notability. (I use Apple TV, but I could have connected the device to the projector cables if I wanted.) I briefly set the scene for the story, and then we were off.

As we read the story, I turned on Notability’s highlighter tool, and then slowly dragged my stylus over the words we were reading. We discussed what we were reading, and paraphrased what was going on. If students looked down at their notes, they were quickly able to figure out where we were the next time they looked up at the screen because of the highlighted text. When I was ready to move on, I hit the “undo” button to erase the current highlighted section, making the page ready for the next bit of highlighting action.

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After about three sentences, something happened that I should have anticipated: one student asked if she could highlight the next sentence on my iPad. Of course I agreed. While she highlighted the Latin, I was able to call on other students to read and tell us what was going on. My students were surprisingly polite in the way they asked if they could be the next person to highlight. Everyone who wanted to participate got the opportunity to, while everyone else could enjoy the process.

Because I teach middle school, it was perhaps natural that a couple of the students quietly (and discreetly) drew happy faces or hearts with the highlighter tool after finishing a sentence. But no one was disruptive, and everything was erased when the next student hit the “undo” button. Some of the kids also figured out how to change the color of the highlighter tool, so they did that without much prompting.

We were able to quickly proceed through a fairly lengthy story, keeping up a full-class discussion that centered (over and over again) on the Latin in front of us. It wasn’t an earth-shattering story in terms of what happens in it, but there was a little bit of suspense about what a couple of the characters would do. Still, my students stayed focused and interested throughout the entire story. I’ll definitely try this technique in my other classes.

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