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Using Student iPads as a Tool for Scaffolding and Differentiation

I'm certain, that in many ways, my classroom is just like yours. We're a big group of multilingual learners with various strengths and challenges. I have EAL teachers, a learning support teacher, some learning assistants, an OT and a speech therapist in and out of my room. There's a lot of needs going on (just like last year and the year before and... so on).

It seems that every lesson of every day, needs extensive differentiation, scaffolds and visual supports. Let's just say, one day I forgot to create a graphic organizer. In fact, I didn't forget - I couldn't do it. As much as a want to personalize learning for every child in my classroom, I can only do so much as a teacher. And I just have to say enough.

But some of the kids really need the scaffold, and some just really like having it and feel successful with that extra support. So here's what I do instead, on the days I "forget".

Want to learn more about how YOU as the teacher can make the most of your iPad during your instructional time? Read Teaching with an iPad: 8 Tips for Tech-y Teachers for tips on how to integrate your iPad in teaching just as much as students do in learning.

Talking Slides (scaffold)

When it comes to breaking things in parts - slides are just the easiest way to go. I particularly like Keynote and Seesaw because both apps allow students to easily use a voice recording.

This can be used in many ways, but I absolutely love it for preparing for writing. I'm currently teaching persuasive letter writing - so I can simply have students prepare their letters in parts in slides. Also excellent for a five part essay, developing the parts of a fictional story or subtopics for informational writing. The basic layout I am using for letter writing looks like this:

  1. provide a hook and state your opinion

  2. first reason + example

  3. second reason + example

  4. third reason + example

  5. closing

I don't get so set on my students using text during their planning though it can be helpful for building word banks for them to use. I am mostly focused on organization and knowing what they will write (building stamina and energy for writing though talking).

While I love using this for writing, it is just an excellent tool to break down complex tasks into parts and allow learners to talk through their ideas before starting and retrieve thier voice notes as needed.

student ipads using seesaw to scaffold writing with oral rehearsal in the planning stage.
Using Seesaw for recording and playing back oral rehearsal

Here's a planned version that you can get in the free resource library. Simply download the PDF and drop it into Seesaw for students to use the voice record tool for oral rehearsal.

Google Translate (accommodation and differentiation)
google transate, math word problems, scaffolding for english language learners
Using the camera translation feature for word problems

I use Google Translate in class almost every day. And not only do I use it, but my students are dispositioned to have a go at word heavy tasks in English first and if it isn't working or if they want to double check their understanding, they grab their iPads.

Google Translate is more than a powerful tool for teaching new vocabulary to a multilingual class.

The quick and most favorited method is the camera feature. It provides an instant translation of math word problems with growing complexity. Using the audio also allows students to listen if they are not yet fluent in reading in their other language(s). This also creates a clear picture for me about if my students are getting stumped on the math, or the language. There's a big difference and I have got to know!

Noise Reduction (accomodation)

I ordered a set of four noise-blocking headphones - we've got some sensory needs in the room. Interestingly enough however, I have one child who thrives when listening to music, specifically, instrumental hip hop. The rest of my second graders don't share the same passion.

That student who struggles to control himself... now with his hip hop music and wobble chair never practiced spelling with such focus before.

Concept Mapping (scaffold)

Popplet is the app to have!

You and your students can easily create concept maps for sequencing to topic webs using photographs, words or a combination. This app is accessible for even young learners and you can structure it as the teacher by creating a template.

Reading Fluency Practice

Read, record, listen & track; try again and make it better.

When I am teaching my class to read a text three times to build fluency and expression, there's no better way to prove it than to let them try and experience it themselves.

A voice recorder is all that is needed, but students love to do this in Seesaw so they can include a photo of themselves holding their book and add each reading on an additional slide. Check out how I model it for the learners in my classroom.

Sketchnoting (scaffold)

You didn't think this was a scaffold, did you? It is. In fact, it's a bit like 'sketch-to-stretch' but with organized creativity.

How can I differentiate for my EAL students? Sketchnote of differentiation and scaffold practices such as paraphrasing, preteaching, wait time, talking partners, check in often and using labels in the classroom.

There's endless research now illustrating the power of using quick illustrations to organize thinking and activate both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Students can use sketchnotes to practice creative ways to use vocabulary and connect them with related visuals.

When I've taught upper elementary classes, I set aside a few lessons each year to specifically teach and develop this skill. Students can sketch out their ideas in Procreate, Keynote, Notes, Goodnotes, Seesaw... anywhere, really. This can also be done on paper if you don't have styluses available, but it's not nearly as engaging or fun.


Second grade spellers come up with all the wrong searches, especially my English learners! They have all the curiosity, passion and interest to research their endless questions but it all goes haywire when they independently type into the search bar.

Just use the microphone tool! Of course, it needs to be taught but a five minute introduction to a lesson and a follow up or check in that it's being used correctly is enough.

Even better results come from a lesson or two on keyword searches.


The most important thing about these strategies and scaffolds is that they are routines in my classroom. They are taught and practiced throughout the year. They are inclusive - no one is different for using them or not using them. Everyone tries and has the option when it fits into the learning taking place.

Routines and dispositions that give students agency, confidence and independence. I'm convinced that is the most powerful part of having iPads in my classroom. Isn't this what educational technology is really about? Preparing learners to use technology responsibly in order to solve real problems with creativity? I think so.

What are your thoughts? What am I missing? Drop a comment or send me a message on what I can add to this growing list for creative and innovative teachers.

With lots of love from my classroom to yours,

💛 Sativa

Apple Learning Leader, Ed Tech Enthusiast, Teacher and Life-Long Learner

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1 comentário

Patricia Larkin
Patricia Larkin
26 de fev. de 2023

Thanks for this article! I am new to second grade this year, and the only tech kids have access to is an iPad. I am used to teaching 3rd, using only Chromebooks. After virtual school, I was able to incorporate so much more tech into my lessons and for student work (definitely allowed for choice and agency). Also, they were 1:1 on CB's. We are only 2:1 on iPads. So I am having to learn quite a bit about how to "share" the devices and what apps are appropriate (plus, kids have to log on through Clever, which adds one more layer to all of this.) I am bookmarking this blog for next year (or maybe later this year i…

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