Billy Possum’s Interactive Comprehension is a research-based app designed to support and improve reading comprehension. The app was created by Michelle Somerton from The University of Tasmania as the intervention for a research study into reading comprehension difficulties shown in many students on the Autism Spectrum. These are commonly comprehension difficulties that are not typically related to fluency or oral language acquisition. The Adventures of Billy Possum embeds strategies that research has shown to support students in making meaning from text.
NOTE: this app is excellent to use with readers both on the autism spectrum as well as for neuro-typical children
Let’s take an in-depth look at the app that contains 25 chapters of outstanding text and graphics. Initially when the app is opened there is an option for a ‘walkthrough’, which guides the user how to use the interactive features of the app:
- Fill in the blank is indicated by the rabbit head icon with a ? – it is in this section where the user drags and drops and answer
- Picture Builder is indicated by a hammer icon – in this area the user can use the icons at the top of the page to create a visual representation of the text just read
The drag and drop answer feature allows the user to answer literal and inferential questions within the text as well as sequence events. What I love and appreciate about this feature is that Billy Possum Interactive app is just that and allows for the reader to answer questions within the specific chapter unlike other reading/book apps that have a comprehension piece then have the user answer questions at the end of the story. No worries, if a reader gets the answer incorrect because the developer has thought of that too by providing the reader with a hint that highlights with bold text in the area that will help support and scaffold the reader to get the correct answer. So often when working with students I might point out the area where they can find the correct answer. This app does a superb job of offering strategies that would be given during 1:1 or small group teaching.
The picture builder feature allows the reader to recreate a scene with drag and drop characters/objects that corresponds with the chapter. This provides excellent visual support for the reader to retell what has just happened and helps support comprehension. Recreating the scene was a favorite of the students using this app.
Each chapter is unlocked when the reader has completed the reading, answered the questions and created a picture of the scene. The key at the top of the page is dragged to unlock the next chapter.
Another wonderful built in support in the definition dictionary for highlighted text. This feature supports the reader with an immediate definition and does not disrupt the reading flow by having to access another area for word meaning.
Multiple users can use the Adventures of Billy Possum Interactive Reading Comprehension app by creating the user on “Select User” screen. This is also the area where the adult supporting the user can turn on RESULTS in order to export data for all users or the current user. An email will be sent to the ‘teacher’ with data that includes images of the pictures that have been created, an excel worksheet that include information on the users answers of the drag and drop fill in the blank questions. This is a helpful feature for analyzing where the student may need extra reading comprehension support.
NOTE: The Results setting can be turned on in the app and are stored within the app.
To read more about the research that has gone into creating this app click on the links below:
I highly recommend this app that can be read silently or read to the user. This is one of the most comprehensive and well thought out apps to hit the app store yet! If you have readers that struggle with comprehension that can benefit from the same evidence based teaching strategies that educators use, then this app is for you!
About the Author
Jackie Bryla is a school based SLPA in California. Her experience includes working with transitional kindergarten through high school age students as well as the functional skills population in the public schools. She regularly presents iPad Trainings for California State University Sacramento, American River College and San Joaquin Delta College speech and language programs. Jackie is also founder of act – Apps, Consulting and Training. She is an app beta tester for educational app developers. Jackie is a board member for the California Speech Language Hearing Association (CSHA) and is an active CSHA District 2 Advisory Committee member in the Sacramento area. Jackie received the outstanding SLPA for CSHA in 2012.