Video: Glengormley teacher develops new app to help pupils master spelling and reading skills

A teacher at St Mary’s on the Hill Primary School in Glengormley is hoping to revolutionise the way children learn to read and write.

Joe Richardson, a P5 teacher at the school, has developed a new iPad app (application) to help children brush up on their phonic skills - an approach to spelling and reading based on the sounds that are represented by the alphabetical symbols of the English language.

On the app: Joe Richardson (left) and Stephen Morrison. INNT 08-523CON

On the app: Joe Richardson (left) and Stephen Morrison. INNT 08-523CON

The 30-year-old has teamed up with school friend Stephen Morrison, a software engineer, to form Box Room Labs. They have spent the past year developing the world’s first phonics app that differentiates for age and ability.

The two young professionals have combined their skills to create the Phonics Master app, which is specifically designed for children in Northern Ireland.

Phonics Master is a highly engaging interactive educational app designed to support the development of reading, writing and spelling skills.

Its creators hope that users will enjoy the progressive nature of the application and show marked improvements in their phonological and phonic skills, which help to underpin reading and writing skills.

“I have been in many schools that now use iPads to develop understanding and consolidate learning. This is an invaluable resource that is becoming more common throughout the country,” Joe explained.

“Within my own classroom I have always employed technology to assist in developing pupil skills, not just within the area of ICT but more specifically with numeracy and literacy. The children love the fun nature of this teaching approach.

“Many users don’t realise just how much they are learning using well designed apps. Every child we know needs to learn ‘phonics’, it is how that is achieved is the hard bit.”

The Phonics Master app, which features seven levels, a kung fu theme, over 60 sound stories and more than 300 images, is already proving popular in local schools.

“A lot of schools have already purchased the app for their iPads and we have received a lot of positive feedback,” Joe continued.

“It has been a gruelling 13 months of designing, drawing, recording, editing and perfecting, but the resulting product has been worth the effort and time.

“Phonics Master contains seven levels, with each approximately corresponding to a primary school year, and almost 220 different games and activities.

“Each of the activities target specific sounds to support the development of reading and writing skills. Phonics Master covers all phases of a synthetic phonic approach to reading and spelling. Not only is the app useful to educators, but parents and students alike can benefit from the careful systematic format in which the levels and games are presented.”

Joe and Stephen already have plans in the pipeline to develop other literacy apps.

The Phonics Master app is available to download now.

For more information check out ‘Phonics Master Promo’ on YouTube.