One of the biggest challenges facing teachers today, and it hasn’t changed in the 10 years that I have been a teacher, is finding high quality resources which support children’s learning in a way which is not onerous to the teacher and are easy for children to use. There is no area that this is hardest to come across than writing. Writing is, and always will be, one of the most difficult areas to teach, especially to children who have special educational needs.
Teachers, and I was no exception, spend hours creating differentiated documents, printing off reams of worksheets, and spend weeks scouring the internet for resources to help all the children in their class, regardless of ability, be able to access the learning – often to no avail. However, one resource which I discovered when I was the Head of a Junior School (which encompassed a Speech and Language Base) was Clicker. This was a real eye opener to me then, and it surprises me still that so few schools have bought what to me, is an invaluable, timesaving, child friendly resource which actively supports children’s writing!
So when I recently came across Clicker 7 (which has just won the Bett 2018 award for Special Educational Needs Solutions), and spent some time exploring what had been updated and changed, I knew that this was a programme that needs to be in every school – not just those with a Speech and Language Base!
Clicker 7 : Supporting Writing For All Children
If you’ve never come across Clicker before, in a nutshell it is a word processing programme designed specifically for children. So far, so normal. But! Clicker 7 has so much to it that a regular word processing programme doesn’t, and it is designed to support writing across all the curriculum areas – making it a no brainer choice for the classroom. After all, which teacher doesn’t want a resource at the touch of a button which will ensure that every child in their class will be able to not only access the learning, but will be able to produce a well written piece of text with only a little set up needed before hand.
There is so much to explore in Clicker 7 that it would take a very long post to document it all, so I have chosen my favourite bits based on what I know I needed in my classroom to help support writing!
Independent Writing Support
At the heart of Clicker 7 is a simple but powerful word processing programme. Children will quickly be able to get to grips with it as the layout and menus are very similar to other word processing programmes that they will have used in their learning so far. However, Clicker 7 has some genius tools which allow children to get writing quickly, fluently and to be able to make sense. After all, how many times have you set your class to do a piece of work on the computer and discovered after half an hour that only a third of them have made any progress?
The barriers to independent writing are many, but the biggest ones I discovered in the classroom are spelling and ideas. So many children struggle to get their words down either because they have no idea what to write (and a blank page is terrifying), or they spend so long trying to figure out how to spell words that the content gets lost. This is why I absolutely love Clicker 7 – it removes both of those barriers in an instant!
In the word processing mode, the children can access the very clever predictor tool, which not only predicts words but also the correct tense, making writing sentences immediately easier. Even more clever, as soon as the children hit the full stop button, the whole sentence is read back to them in a child’s voice, enabling them to hear what they have written and check it makes sense. Not only this, but for children who struggle to retain what it is they want to write, there is a built in recorder where they can record their sentence verbally and play it back as many times as they need to whilst they are writing!
There is also the option to create (or use pre-populated) word banks. Teachers can create their own word banks with topic specific vocabulary which appear below the writing screen, or they can access a wide range of pre-populated word banks on everything from Music to a huge variety of different themes via the online LearningGrids – which is such a time saver! Children can then easily write their own ideas using the word banks, thus eliminating the fear of the blank screen. They can even add their own pictures to their writing with the click of a button.
Aside from the word banks, sentence grids and predictor tool, Clicker also includes a wonderful bank of resources under the LearningGrids. The LearningGrids are essentially a large variety of different resources on almost every topic you can imagine. The best way I have used these is for research.
Too often, especially up in KS2, one of the key things I wanted the children to do was to research topics for themselves, but, as I’m sure you’ve found, it can be incredibly difficult to find age (and skill) appropriate online resources which allow all the children to do research. However, within the LearningGrids, you can access books on every topic you might need, which are written in child friendly language, and include a recording of the book to ensure that all children can access the research! This is then backed up with sentence grids for that particular topic, meaning children can do their research, and then use the same vocabulary to write up what they have found.
As many schools are beginning to move away from laptops and ICT suites, and move towards having iPads in the classroom, I was delighted to discover that some of the best features from Clicker 7 are also featured on Clicker apps. Understandably, Clicker 7 would be far too big as it is in app form, but the Clicker app encompasses four key aspects that, as a teacher, I would want to use the most.
Clicker Sentences – Help children create their first sentences – https://www.cricksoft.com/uk/clicker/ipad/clicker-sentences
Clicker Connect – the next step on from Clicker Sentences, where children choose from clusters of words and phrases – https://www.cricksoft.com/uk/clicker/ipad/clicker-connect
Clicker Docs – a primary word processor with word prediction, vocabulary banks etc – https://www.cricksoft.com/uk/clicker/ipad/clicker-docs
Clicker Books – Help children create their very own talking books, or create accessible reading books for them – https://www.cricksoft.com/uk/clicker/ipad/clicker-books
The apps for iPad are available for a one-off cost of £31.99 per app, per iPad but if your school purchases 20 or more copies of a particular app, you’ll get a 50% discount. The apps for Chromebook (please note that Clicker Books is not available for Chromebook) are available on an annual subscription basis, and are £30 for a single computer license and £300 for a Site License (per app).
The school prices for Clicker 7 are as follows (these are one-off costs, not annual subscriptions):
5 computers OneSchool License
10 computers OneSchool License
20 computers OneSchool License
40 computers OneSchool License
OneSchool Site License*
*The Site License enables you to install Clicker on all your school machines (Windows/Mac), and staff and pupils are also able to install Clicker on their home machines.
The home user price for Clicker is £125, this includes VAT and postage, and allows you to install Clicker onto up to two home machines.
It has been a long time since I have found a resource which is not only as powerful as Clicker 7, but is also incredibly affordable and will be guaranteed to be used every day in the classroom. I really love that for the price of the programme, my teachers and children will be able to use Clicker at home as well. I know that many parents (myself included) struggle with getting children to write at home, and to be able to reassure parents that the resource will encourage writing at home and make homework much less of a battle, well that’s just a win win situation!
To find out more about Clicker 7, and to purchase it, head over to http://www.cricksoft.com/uk/clicker/ where you can also find training videos and a free trial to see for yourself how useful it will be in your classroom!
Disclosure: This is a partnered post