Saturday, April 28, 2012

More Language Adaptable Apps

My PlayHome Lite: This app offers two pleasant scenes, a kitchen and a living room. Tap on the refrigerator or cupboards and the doors open to reveal food that can be removed and placed on the kitchen table or counters. Place a pan on the burners, food in the microwave or oven and turn them on with a tap. Cereal can be poured into a bowl and a drinking glass filled at the tap or with soda from a bottle taken from the refrigerator. Tap on the washing machine and watch the clothes clothes being washed. In the living room one can turn on the television and watch a real program (no sound) or place a CD in the CD player and listen to music. Tap on the wall clock and it ticks, close the curtains and the room darkens. Tap on the light switch or lamp to turn the lights on or off. There are five figures that can be placed in the rooms: mother, father, brother, sister and baby. This app can be used when working on following directions (open the refrigerator then fry the eggs), "wh" questions, location, prepositions, descriptive concepts and opposites such as on/off, up/down, light/dark, empty/full, hot/cold, top/middle/bottom, and in/out.
Ages: 3-5
Ratings: +++
Developer's website:
Cost: Free for the Lite app. The full version includes the kitchen, living room, backyard, bedroom and bathroom scenes for $3.99.

Zizu Cooks Up a Tune: This app is designed to be a music game. However, its colorful and happy kitchen scene and animation make this app easy to use for language therapy. Tap on the various kitchen items and hear the sounds they make. Touch the kitchen table planks, with the baguettes sitting on it, and hear the musical notes of a piano. I would use this app for following directions, location, descriptive concepts and following sound patterns.
Ages: 2-4
Rating: +++
Developer’s website:
Cost: Free

Lingua Kidz: The free version of this app offers a colorful forest scene. A boy, girl and various creatures populate the scene. This app offers two modes of play. Tap on the blue button and the narrator names the object or creature as it performs an action. Tap again and she offers a relevant short phrase. For instance, when the rain cloud is tapped, it moves in the sky as rain falls and the narrator states, “A cloud.” Tap again and she says, “Oh, it’s raining.” Tap on the green button and the narrator asks “Where is the ________?” When the child taps on the person, object or animal named stars fly out and it disappears. This app can be used to target location and descriptive concepts, sentence repetition, and “is verbing” structure.  This app is offered in American and British English, Chinese, German and Swiss German.
Ages: 2-4
Rating: +++
Developer’s website:
Cost: Free for the forest scene; the full version offers forest, beach and kitchen scenes for $.99.

Bruno the Monkey: This app has four games, two of which are videos and two that are still pictures. All games are narrated by a speaker with a British accept. Bouncing Ball and Skipping are videos that demonstrate and can be used to elicit Noun(s) + is/are + verbing. Bouncing Ball opens to Bruno and 3 different colored balls. He lifts each one and the narrator states, "Bruno is bouncing the ___________(color) ball." When he lets the balls go, they bounce. When all the balls are bouncing, the narrator states, "All the balls are bouncing." The video can be stopped at any time to elicit a repetition of the phrase from the child. Skipping works along the same lines demonstrating, "The green alligators are going to teach Bruno to skip" and "Bruno is skipping." The video also demonstrates the superlative "faster." The still games are call eBooks. Bruno's Hats shows different hats that demonstrate the prepositions high, low, big, little, right side up, and upside down and various descriptive words such as fuzzy, bubble, thin, flat, thick, round, tall, plain, fancy and more. The fourth game, Flashcards, presents drawings of airplane, boat, clock, kite, and tractor. Nothing more to this game than hearing the item named or asking the child to name it.
Ages: 2-3
Ratings: ++1/2
Developer: Sargent York
Cost: Free

iKids Lessons Lite: This apps consists of four games. Theater focuses on emotions, Playroom on opposites, Bedroom on shapes and colors, and Playground on actions. Each game consists of two scenes with some change in detail. The change in scenes is done by tapping on the rotating arrows at the top of the screen.The primary difference is the vocabulary content.  Theater is a small theater with five children as actors and five children in the audience. Each actor depicts an emotion when tapped and the narrator names it: irritated, cheerful, and cunning on one scene; serious, surprised, frightened, evil, and joyful on the other. Tap on a member of the audience and the child performs an action named by the narrator.  I felt the emotions and actions depicted were mediocre and words like “grooming,” “cunning,” “evil” and “irritated” too advanced for the type of app this is. There are five concepts presented in Playroom along with a number of toys. Tap on a toy and it is named; tap on a child and a concept is named with its opposites on the second scene. The concepts on one scene are: short, full, few, little, on, in and close; concepts on the other are: long, empty, many, under, and open. Because the opposites are on different screens, the child is unable to see a side-by-side comparison that will help her understand the two opposing words. Shapes and colors are on the blankets of sleeping children and objects are strewn around the room. Tap and colors, shapes and objects are named. Children are involved in different activities in the Playground.  Again, I question the choice of vocabulary. How many children today know what a boom box is? How many children will understand “aiming” simply because the boy is holding a basketball and looking at the basket? The narrator of the app has a slight accent. On occasion her production of a word is not clear and there is an occasional grammatical error. This free version has advertisements that move from the bottom of the screen to the top of the screen, where they obstruct the written word of the object just tapped. There is one more annoying feature. Background music is constant.
Ages: 2-4
Rating: +1/2
Developer’s website:
Cost: Free with advertisements; $1.99 with no ads

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Apps Targeting Language for Middle Schoolers

Far fewer middle school students need our services as compared to the number of preschool and elementary aged children who do. Those who still need therapy present with the unique challenges. After all, they still need our services. Finding apps for our middle school population can be challenging.  I have found a few apps that can be used with those students who have deficits in language.

Proverbidioms: After publishing this post, I downloaded this app. Rather than publish a new post, I decided to edit the post by adding my review of this app. T.E. Breitenbach produced an illustration, Proverbidioms, in 1975, that became a popular poster. It is now produced as an app. It approaches the understanding of 264 proverbs and cliches in two ways. The student is given a list of idioms. He selects one and then searches for it in a scene where a specific illustration demonstrates its literal meaning. The scene is busy but one can increase one's specific area of focus by moving two fingers outward on the screen. This enlarges a specific illustration. This also allows one to scan the screen and see more detail. Once one matches the idiom and picture, a screen appears that defines the idiom and its derivation. If the child correctly makes the match on the first attempt, he is awarded a gold star, two attempts a silver star and three attempts a bronze star. I think middle school students will enjoy the pictures and the challenge of matching idiom and picture. A word of caution: some illustrations may be more explicit than one may consider appropriate for this age group.

Ages: 13 to adult
Ratings: ++++
Developer: Greenstone Games
Cost: Free for one illustration, $1.99 to $2.99 for additional illustrations 

Word Stack Free: This app can be used to strengthen a student's vocabulary and reasoning skills. It does so by presenting a stack of words. Each word is arranged in random order on eight blue stacked strips on the left side of the screen. The task for the student is to find relationships between words. Words can be synonyms, antonyms, or be made into compound words. To start the game, the student reads the starter word that is on a green strip on the bottom right hand side of the screen. The student looks to find a word on a blue strip that is a synonym, antonym or can combine with it to make a compound word. The student places the word selected on top of the first green strip. If the selection is correct, the strip turns green. There is now a two word green stack. Next, the student must find a word on the left for the new word on the stack. Again, it must be a synonym, antonym or combine with it to make a compound word. The task continues in this fashion until all blue strips have been correctly stacked and are green. If the word the student selects is incorrect, it cannot be stacked and returns to original position. I played a few rounds and found that, at times, finding the right word can be challenging. (A word of caution: words can be randomly placed until one is found that turns green.) To extend the task further, the child can be why the words are the same or opposite in meaning. If a pair of words forms a compound word, one can ask the student to use the new word in a sentence.

Ages: 12 to adult
Ratings: ++++
Developer: MochiBits
Cost: Free for 40 game stacks (one stack per game). One can purchase additional stack packs for $.99 each or all four stacks for $1.99.

Confusing Words: This is not the first time I have downloaded an app and then months later cannot find it in the app store. But I was able to find what looks to be a similar app, called "Which Word?" Both of these apps try to help untangle similar sounding words that tend to confuse such as affect and effect, passed and past or there and their. I have not downloaded Which Word? so cannot review it. However, it looks similar to Confusing Words but in a more pleasing format. Each word is defined and then used in a sentence. The confusion of similar sounds words can be most evident when students write. This app may help students better understand which word to use.

Ages: 10 to adult
Developer: Triad Interactive Media
Cost: $.99

Feel Electric: I reviewed this app a few months ago for my post on descriptive apps.  Feel Electric is animated, interactive and offers a variety of options for learning a range of 50 emotions. The student starts with What's the Word to see faces of real people expressing each emotion. From there, the student can select her emotions at the moment, create a diary of emotions, manipulate the facial features of creature to show specific emotions and play a Mad Libs type game that, when completed, will create a zany story based on the words selected. There are three fun interactive games where the child needs to pair the facial expression with the written word. Each of these 3 games is scored. The app also allows one to add ones own pictures, music and videos. This is a great app to use with middle school students. It can be used to help tweens and teens identify and discuss a range of emotions they may be prone to feel. The app's activities can be expanded to make this a fun language learning activity.

Ages: 5+
Rating: +++++
Developer: The Electric Company by Sesame Street
Cost: Free

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Out of Africa and back in the US

I write this with mush-brain from jet lag, long hours on a plane, and readjusting to being back. I have just returned from Africa---a trip of a lifetime. I visited Cape Town, Victoria Falls, and went on a safari in the greater Kruger Park National Park area. The food, accommodations, people, places we visited and animals we saw made this trip one of the most unique and enjoyable trips I have ever done. I feel so fortunate!

Now back to the real world. Before I left I began working on a post for apps for middle school age children. I hope to finish it in the next week or so.