Rhiannon Sparkes, an elementary school teacher in Quebec, Canada, set out to build a lesson that would deeply engage her students in the setting and themes of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. By using books and apps on iPad, her fifth graders tap into their creativity and express their knowledge in the way that best suits their individual learning style.
“Using technology is where the students are most comfortable and most creative. So it’s really exciting to help them enjoy classic literature. The potential with iPad is limitless.”
Rhiannon Sparkes, Elementary School Teacher, Dorset Elementary School, Quebec
Introduce the topic.
iBooks plants the seed for a rewarding learning experience.
Rhiannon’s students download a free version of The Secret Garden from the iBooks Store. They start by reading the novel together as a class to get a sense of the plot. This way, each student has the foundational context to dive deeper into the complex concepts and characters at a pace that best suits their individual skill level.
Rhiannon teaches The Secret Garden in March, the time of year when the snow begins to melt and gardens reappear in Canada.
Active reading on iPad.
Using the iBooks app to read The Secret Garden allows students to highlight key passages, take notes, look up definitions of unfamiliar words, and even listen to the text. Having the book on iPad means Rhiannon is sure every student in her class is able to read at his or her own pace.Learn more about iBooks
“Now that the students have the novel on iPad, they can refer back to the story. In iBooks, they can highlight passages, take notes, and look up definitions — as they’re reading the text.”
Build student understanding.
Learning continues outdoors as students use their iPads to explore the concept of setting.
Rhiannon leads activities that take students out of the classroom to develop their understanding of setting through experimentation.
Capturing the garden’s potential.
Rhiannon’s students head outside to take photographs using iPad’s built-in camera. They focus on the potential for life in the soil and how that contrasts with the bleak gardens after winter. Exploring how their own local gardens are coming to life connects the students directly to the book’s themes and characters.Learn more about Camera
Forming a narrative through pictures.
Students choose 15 to 20 of their photos to illustrate the concept of “rebirth,” one of the book’s key themes. Selected photos must appear to be from the early 20th century — when the novel takes place. Students are careful to leave out modern elements, like cars and buildings, as they edit and assemble their collection of images.Learn more about Photos
Rhiannon asks students to think about mood within the settings they photographed. Using GarageBand, each composes a piece of music that reflects the mood of the garden as it comes to life, using a collection of instruments to create a score that accompanies their photos in the final project.Learn more about GarageBand
“Set the learning goals, and then let your students run with it. What they bring back to me surprises and astounds me, every time.”
iPad gives students the ability to go beyond a basic book report.
In their final project, students demonstrate their comprehension of the intricate relationship between setting, mood, and the novel’s themes.
Crafting a meaningful cover.
Using the Explain Everything app, students design a title page for their final project that visually conveys the novel’s themes. Each student creates a unique piece of art that expresses the feelings of growth and rebirth.View Explain Everything in the App Store
A complete presentation.
To illustrate the setting’s central role in The Secret Garden, students combine their photos, music, and title page into an iMovie montage. Emotional and evocative, the final projects show they’ve learned a complex topic through creative mediums.Learn more about iMovie
Building worlds and expressing comprehension.
With Minecraft, students draw from the novel’s details to build a three-dimensional representation of the story’s setting. Rhiannon explains, “In Minecraft, I can actually walk through their understanding of the setting of The Secret Garden. I can see the manor house, the garden, and all the elements of setting that they have picked up and put in their re-creation of the garden.”View Minecraft in the App Store
“iPad helps make learning accessible to all. The assignment is not just an essay anymore — students can use photos, art, and their creativity to tell me what they’ve learned.”
Personalize and perfect your lesson.
With the variety of apps, books, podcasts, movies, and music available through iTunes, designing a customized lesson is easier than you might think. Get started with the apps Rhiannon’s class uses or explore other ways to integrate iPad into your classroom.Download a guide to exploring educational content on iTunes View the Literature collection on iTunes
Explore more stories.