About Josh

Husband, Father, and Engineer trying to use technology for homeschooling my five children.

How to use Microsoft Immersive Reader on the iPad

Help struggling readers with Microsoft Immersive Reader and the iPad

I have several boys who struggle to learn how to read. Many teachers have discovered that Microsoft’s Immersive Reader is helpful for struggling readers, including those with dyslexia. Thankfully the Immersive reader can be used on an iPad.  This post will provide an overview of how to use Immersive Reader on an iPad.

What is the Microsoft Immersive Reader

Microsoft Immersive Reader is a digital learning tool that increases content readability. Immersive Reader makes reading on screens easier.  It is designed to support students with dyslexia but anyone who wants to make reading easier can use it. The immersive reader highlights words as they are read aloud.

How to use the Immersive Reader on the iPad

Even though Microsoft developed the immersive reader tool, you don’t have to have a Microsoft Surface tablet to use it. You can use your iPad. Currently, at least two Microsoft apps for the iPad allow you to use the immersive reader to help your child learn to read.

Use Immersive Reader with Onenote on the iPad

I love the OneNote app and I use it all the time at work.  I am hoping to use it to organize our homeschool someday.  Immersive Reader with OneNote has some of the most features and settings which makes it one of the best apps to help your kids learn to read.  The only downside is that you have to build the reading text and you must be connected to the internet.

Step 1:

Select the box with the text you want to read or create new text and select View.

Then Select Immersive Reader.

Step 2:

Select the Play button at the bottom of the screen.  For beginner readers, you will probably want to slow down the read-aloud speed.

Step 3

Customize the view and line spacing to your preference.

I like to change the screen background color and font to help kids with Dyslexia read better.

You can use the Line Focus setting to only display one line at a time or several.

How to use Immersive Reader with Microsoft Word on the iPad

Step 1:

Open a Word document you already created with the text you want to practice reading.  I like to create Word documents on my laptop and save them to iCloud. (If you do not have a subscription to Word you can create a document in Google Docs and save it as a Word document to your google drive)

Step 2: 

Click on the View tab at the top and then Immersive Reader.

Step 3:

Make sure your cursor is where you want to start reading

Select “Read Aloud” at the top

Step 4:

Adjust speed as needed with the settings at the bottom.

The other mobile app that implements Immersive Reader is the Microsoft Lens App.  The app is not as good for beginner readers since it takes a picture of text and then converts it to text that can be read out loud.

Which app do you think works best for Microsoft Immersive Reader?


Phonics Friday Part 3 – How to quickly make a copy worksheet on the iPad

Here is a quick easy way to create a copy worksheet with the iPad. For Part 3 of my Friday Phonics series, I thought I would show you how to make a simple copywork worksheet for homeschooling using the iPad.  As always with my Phonics Friday series, I will provide a free copy of the resource shown below.

If you need to quickly create a custom copywork worksheet, the easiest way I have found is on the iPad with Microsoft Excel. I decided to use one of my favorite old early reader books, Reading without tears, to show how you can quickly make a copywork worksheet.

Start with a blank worksheet.  Select several cells and merge the cells.

Next, you want to create some guide lines using the top and bottom borders.

The top cell has a border on top. The next cell has a dashed line top border. The last row has a top solid border line.

Tip: To create the dashed line with Excel on the iPad, first you need to select the line style before you apply the border. 

Once you select your line style then you can add the border where you want the line to be.

Once you have the lines how you want then you need to adjust the row height.

To find out what row height that works best, I usually print a few different row heights to see which one works best. For kids that have been writing for a while, I use a row height of 15. Excel on the iPad seems to be the easiest to set line-height. The Apple numbers app also works but I find Microsoft Excel is easier to set the row height and enter text into the cells.

Now you can add the text that you want your child to copy and adjust the font.

If you want multiple lines just select all the cells and you can copy them to another location.

I like to add a few pictures as well which is easy to do on the iPad. Just take a screenshot of what you want by pressing the power and home button at the same time.

You can crop the image with just what you want.

Tip: before you insert a picture increase the row height. If the picture is too close to a cell, then you cannot select the cell to enter in text.

The last step is to print out the sheet you want.  You can also save it as a pdf. Click here to download the free pdf copy work worksheet from Reading Without Tears.

Here is the finished Excel copywork worksheet that my son completed.

What do you use for copywork and phonics practice?

For other posts in the Phonics Friday series click the links below.

For source material to create your own copy work see my Mega list of free reading resources.

Phonics Friday Part 2 – Configurable word wall

It’s another Friday and I am continuing on my mission to teach my son to read. In Part 1 last week I showed a simple vowel phonics chart I put up in my boy’s room. This allows me to review with him most night his vowel sounds. This week I am adding to his “bedroom classroom” a configurable word wall.

I decided to create some big letter tiles that I can use to make simple words for my son to sound out. I can also have him practice by making words himself.

I used pages on the iPad to make the tiles but MS Word would work as well. I created a table on a Normal letter-size paper that was in landscape orientation. I used a font that seems better for dyslexics reading. I think Comic Sans is recommended but that wasn’t a choice with Pages for the iPad. Chalkboard font on the iPad seems similar to comic sans so I chose that one. If I set the font size at 120 points to got the letters and spacing shown below.

I made enough columns and rows so each cell would fit one letter with large font size. I printed out the page of letters. Then I finally used my laminator for the first time! I cut out each individual letter and then put a hole in the top.

I decided to use yellow card stock after reading this report about the best background colors to use for dyslexics. I think other colors could be slightly better but yellow was the closest color I have to orange and light yellow.

Once I had enough letters I worked on getting the spacing right. To do this I made the vowel letters a little narrower by cutting off some of both sides. Then I used a simple CVC word to figure out the hook spacing. I used simple teacup holder hooks so I could hang the letters up and make words.

I put up some additional hooks to store the words but I arranged them with the same spacing. Now some of the older boys try and make funny phrases.

The boys have fun coming up with new words or even silly combinations of non-words. In the future, I hope to make blends and other consonant combinations. I also hope to experiment with different background colors. So now every night I can make new words for my son to practice reading.

What do you think of my configurable word wall? If you are interested in making your own here is a free copy of the Letter Tiles I used. Do you have any suggestions for teaching phonics? I would love to hear them in the comments.

Phonics Friday Part 1 – Bedroom Phonics Chart

I am on a mission to teach my son to read. My older kids eventually learned to read but for my son who struggles with learning difficulties ranging from Dyslexia to auditory processing issues reading is hard! I thought I would share my experiences hopefully every Friday. I also hope to post a free copy of the resource I create for teaching phonics.

While I was casually talking to my wife about teaching our kids to read I asked my wife what she remembered from her school years when she learned to read. To my surprise, she responded with the fact that she didn’t remember and that she just learned. That was an ah-ha moment for me. My wife has always been able to read well. In fact from her description, it sounded like she just picked up a book and started reading.

I on the other hand had to learn to read. It wasn’t always easy. But I remember how I learned to read. I was taught using a structured phonics approach. I attended a grade school where they used A Beka. One of the vivid memories I have from learning to read I still remember it while I am reading to myself or sounding out words subconsciously. What I remember most from my school years learning to read were phonics drills. I don’t remember how often we would work on those drills but I can hear them in my mind. I looked up the charts and they are about the same. You can see a sample one here. I remember it was on a big flip chart at the front of the room. When I think back to learning to read I am convinced that drills helped me learn to read. I decided to go to that method to help reinforce phonics for my son.

So here is a picture from my son’s room of what I am doing.

Wall poster in my son’s bedroom for drilling vowel sounds.

I quickly made this phonics chart last night. I ended up using MS Word but you could do it on the iPad also. In fact, I probably would have used Keynote if I was doing it again. The picture of the Indian I got from a great site for free images here. I let my son pick out the picture so it was something that interested him. I chose vowels since my son keeps mixing up simple words with i and a as a short vowel sound. My goal is to work with him every night before bed. I make him say with me “a-a” in apple “i-i” in Indian. So far it works pretty well. The only change I think I will make to the poster is to put the letter first and then the picture. Also here is another great resource for free phonics charts.

What do you think of my phonics chart? What have you done to help your child learn to read with phonics? What do you remember from when you first started to learn to read? Was it easy for you or hard?

If you would like more information on teaching phonics and teaching boys to read I suggest you check out my post on free reading resources. Also here is a free copy of my phonics vowel poster. If you would like to see more of what I am doing to teach my son to read with phonics check out Part 2.

NatureGlo’s eScience MathArt & Science Course review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

If you favor a relaxed homeschool science approach, you’ll want to check out NatureGlo’s eScience MathArt & Science Course Bundle from NatureGlo’s eScience. 

NatureGlo’s eScience is an online E-Science curriculum that has many different unit studies. The videos can be watched on a computer or an iPad. Along with the video there are also online resources to go along with the lesson. For example the lesson my son watched on Leonardo de Vinci had a link to some of his online notebooks that my son could look at and there were also questions to go along with.

The videos are nicely done. The classes we watched were previously recorded live classes. The class video is a presentation and sometimes other videos. The teacher had some interaction with the students so it wasn’t just her. Sometimes she would have the students answer questions which was nice to hear some interactions and not just a lecture. There 31 MathArt and natural courses. Some of the courses are only a few lessons while others are more in-depth and as long as six weeks.

Since the videos and courses can be used on the iPad it is easy to watch the science lessons anywhere.

The only thing I didn’t like about the website was the login was all the way at the bottom of the page. Sometimes it was difficult to get back to the lessons but it might have just missed something.

Overall we enjoyed the courses and watching the lesson videos.  It felt like you were sitting in a laid back class.  My son really enjoyed all the classes about reptiles and bugs. The interactive content that went along with the lessons was also helpful and fun.

Click on the banner link below to see what other homeschooling families thought about NatureGlo’s eScience.

NatureGlo's eScience MathArt & Science Course Bundle { NatureGlo's eScience Reviews}

Institute for Excellence in Writing® Level C review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

My daughter who loves to write was thrilled with the opportunity to help me review Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level C from Institute for Excellence in Writing® (IEW).  Since my Highschool daughter was familiar with IEW I thought she would be perfect to help me review the online version.  Keep reading below to see what we thought of the Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level C from IEW®.

From a students perspective (my daughter)

“When I was first introduced to IEW® a few years ago, I thought the program was well done. Now, looking back on all the things that I learned and continue to learn, I think that the program is positively amazing! The skills and methods taught are practical to every aspect of writing and even other academic areas such as reading, thinking, and speaking. I found myself looking forward to each video in the Structure and Style level C. I appreciated how the videos were Insightful and structured, while still being entertaining, especially with Mr. Pudewa. Overall, I believe that users will find the Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level C program to be a powerful tool in their writing journey.”

Improvements of the latest version

  • Helpful slides that pop up clarifying page numbers, assignments, and instructions
  • Much better-detailed video and close-ups actually showing students which keep things interesting.

Highlights for Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level C

  • Fun material
  • Good source texts to write from
  • Extremely practical tools and tricks/tips for better writing.
  • The teacher, Andrew Pedwua, is funny yet informative and insightful
  • It’s helpful that the teacher reads a paper each week from students.  Better understanding and teachability to learn and see how others did it.
  • Easy to access online streaming.  It is always available to fit your schedule.
  • Very organized binder with all the handouts already printed out. Everything is laid out so you are ready to start the lesson right away.

 From a fathers perspective

As a busy father, I appreciate the minimal prep time required to use Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level C.  The lessons are all online videos and basically, all that I need to do is make sure my student watches the lesson and then check their work. Mr. Pedewa is a great teacher.  I even find myself watching some of the lessons.  It’s great that he starts out with a joke all the time! It is also nice that he reads some of the student’s assignments during the class so I know what to expect.

The teacher’s manual is color-coded with helpful gray boxes that provide extra information.  There are also yellow pages/sections covering student handouts and paper management. There are a few handouts that are not mentioned in the video but are mentioned in the Teachers manual.  You can see one of the gray boxes below from the teacher’s manual.

The videos are now online! No more DVDs to lose or get scratched.  The videos show up in your IEW® account. You choose which video you are ready to watch and you can watch them over and over again because they never expire. The videos also work on the iPad if you have internet access! Most lessons are divided into two parts so it is nice that there is a marker in the video where the second part begins. You can see what the screen layout looks like in the picture below from my IEW account page.

If you need a high school composition class I would seriously consider IEW® Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level C. You can even download and watch the first three lessons for free.  Click on the banner below to see what other families thought about IEW.

Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level A, B & C {Institute for Excellence in Writing® Reviews}