I have long promoted the use of Clicker 5 to support independence in reading and especially writing. But I have reluctantly decided to abandon advising its use. Crick Software claims that,
Clicker is the proven reading and writing tool that helps pupils of all abilities to achieve success in reading and writing. Clicker is used on over half a million school computers and in over 90% of UK primary schools.
It is a fantastic resource, although the talking word processor aspect has now been superseded by WordTalk. However, in my experience Clicker is rarely utilised very much at all in classrooms.
Why is this? Well, either teachers are uninterested in supporting their reluctant readers and writers or the software is not user friendly. I don’t think it’s hard to choose which of these options is the most likely.
I have taught many children to access Clicker 5. Sometimes this has been relatively successful. Children can produce pieces of work that are largely coherent, well presented and illustrated without having to spell. It is unusual, though, for the use of Clicker 5 to become a central component of classroom activity independently.
I have been working this term with a group of 6 P3s (7 year olds) on The Ancient Egyptians. (Don’t ask my why this topic was chosen; seems daft to me but there we are.)
I located a ‘Find Out and Write About’ disc that I thought would solve all my planning problems. And, indeed, it is a lovely resource with 3 levels of difficulty, interesting information and clear illustrations.
Unfortunately, there is only one copy. So I did what all of us do, improvised. I borrowed the information – why re-invent the wheel? – to create grids for the children to work on in pairs. I have made many grids over the years but each time I have to re-learn the process. As I, like all teachers, have little time to prepare resources the grids turned out to be less user-friendly than I’d hoped.
I spent most of the first session sorting out the blips. That is, once we had managed to open the software. Just the admin involved took most of the initial lesson: turning the laptops on once they had been located; searching for someone who knew the logins after refreshment; helping little ones type passwords.
Following sessions were a whirlwind of activity with both myself and the support for learning teacher (who gave up her precious preparation time to help me) running between 3 pairs of children helping them to produce at most 8 lines of text. Yes, you read that correctly: 2 very experienced teachers working with 6 7 year olds became frazzled and frantic in five 45 minute sessions!
This is just not practicable in a busy classroom. Differentiating work is essential of course, but when the energy required in providing support far outstrips the end result we have to question whether it’s worthwhile.
I shall still use Clicker 5. The ‘Find Out and Write About’ and Talking Books software are terrific and can be used with small groups to enable them to access stories and produce a considerable amount of writing without having the drawback of poor secretarial skills hindering the process. I will also continue to recommend accessing extant grids available on learninggrids.com. Many teachers contribute their work to this site and they can be incredibly useful.
But I shall be much charier about recommending its use as a resource for class teachers to implement alone. It’s just not possible.
I’d welcome comments on this, colleagues.