Apps to Support Talk for Learning

Increasing opportunities for talk has been a real push at my school recently, as it has in many others. The Primary National Curriculum for Speaking and Listening, albeit brief in content, stipulates the importance of children being able to ‘give well-structured descriptions and explanations’, ‘use spoken language to develop understanding through speculating, hypothesising, imagining and exploring ideas’ and ‘consider and evaluate different viewpoints, attending to and building on the contributions of others’.

Within my own setting, one of our current priorities is to improve attainment in writing. It has become clear, especially with an increasing number of children with English as an additional language, that opportunity for talk is paramount to improving their writing. As the ‘Talk for Writing’ pioneer, Pie Corbett, says: If a child cannot think or say something, then how can they be expected to write it? As a result, planned opportunities for speaking and listening are being implemented within English lessons, and additionally, as a way to support these skills being applied across all other curriculum areas.

One way in which children orally rehearse and evaluate their spoken work is through the use of iPad apps as a tool to support learning. There are many different apps available to support speaking and listening, though two of my particular favourites are Tiny Tap and Book Creator.

We have used Book Creator in a wide range of this ways. Here I have listed just a few examples. In preparation for non-chronological report writing, pupils have made school brochures and recorded descriptions of each area of the school and its grounds. This can then be saved into iBooks and easily shared with others, including school visitors. In French, after designing a café menu, pupils recorded a conversation, role-playing the parts of the waiter and the customer. Through recording their conversation, the children are able to listen back and evaluate, as well as share with the rest of the class through a reflector app.

Pairs were able to record and evaluate their oral performance of ordering from a French menu, before presenting to the class.

I have particularly enjoyed using an app called Tiny Tap, which I only discovered this year. Not only is it a fantastic resource for creating games to support learning in all curriculum areas (which can be shared on the Tiny Tap community), but it also allows the user to import pictures and audio recording. Pre-writing activities have included an oral explanation of the life cycle of a flowering plant in science, and a hockey match report. Key vocabulary prompts the pupils as they record, and listeners are then able to evaluate the quality of the oral presentation by tapping on any text and hearing the presentation.
Children can consider questions such as: Has the key vocabulary been used correctly? Does it make sense? Does it engage the listener?


Tiny Tap allows pupils to import text, pictures, sound and links. They can create presentations in any subject to support their speaking and listening, and subsequently, their writing.

The use of these apps has been of huge benefit to pupils in allowing them to hear how something sounds before being asked to write it. For pupils, such as those with English as an additional language, or those with limited language experiences, hearing oral presentations from others, as well as being able to listen to and evaluate their own, is not only supporting progress in their spoken language, but also their subsequent writing.


Jenna Lucas is a teacher at Corpus Christi Catholic Primary School in Bournemouth. She is passionate about mobile technology and an evangelist of apps in the classroom.

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