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Mystery Word Town by Artgig Apps

21 May The townspeople have plenty to say.

mystery wt iconMystery Word Town is the latest app by Artgig Apps and is new in the iTunes Store today.  The app is a spelling adventure where children play the detective tracking down members of the Huevos Rancheros Gang and recovering lost gold in a ghost town somewhere in the USA.  Children enter and explore buildings, using their spelling skills as keys to enter areas.

Game Play

If you have either Mystery Math Town or Mystery Math Museum, you’ll be familiar with the game play.  You collect letters in each room or area of the building you are exploring and use them to complete words.  The goal is to find the required number of gold nuggets indicated by a little pouch in the top right corner, and to find the room with a wanted poster of one of the gang. Exits from each room could be doors, windows, trap doors, ladders or even just looking up or down.  If you are unsure of where you can go, a  little ghost floats in each room and you can drag it around to highlight exits.  You can tap on the floating letters in each scene to either complete the word or add them to your tool belt.  Letters you don’t use in one room might be handy in another.  As the levels increase in difficulty you may have to look in different rooms to collect the letters you need.  Once you have completed your goals you can move on to the next building.

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Game Settings

  • Three Difficulty Levels – There are three word lists available within the app.  The level 1spelling is about the level Mr 7 is bringing home with is weekly homework.  The other two lists look to be middle-primary in level.  Bearing in mind that Australia generally uses UK spelling, there was only one word in the app that we had issues with: favorite.  In Australia and the UK, we spell this word as favourite.  I find that when I highlight these things to my children, they have no problems.
  • Audio Hint Mode –  there are two modes to choose from:
    • Spell Your Own Words – Players can use any letters to complete a partial word. There may be more than one option, and there are no audio hints.  The correct word may not be in the word list but will be validated against an extensive dictionary.
    • Listen & Spell – The incomplete word is spoken aloud as it appears on the screen.  Children can hear the word repeated by tapping the sound icon in the word bubble.
  • Individual Profiles – I love apps where you can set things up for each child in your family or class.  Once you have created a profile, children can have a bit of fun creating an avatar by choosing hair, eyes/nose, mouth and skin tone (that can be a traditional tone, or any colour of the rainbow.)  You can set the difficulty level for each child within their profile.
  • Continue reading

9 Letters

20 Nov

9 Letters App iconI am a big fan of word puzzles and usually have one or two on my iPad to do in those times where I’m doing that universal Mum thing:  waiting for my children to finish school or whatever activity they are doing.  I love word games and puzzles because they help keep my brain active, and my favourite are anagram games, particularly the 9 letter puzzles, so I was very excited to hear PKCLsoft was developing 9 Letters, and even more delighted when I was given a copy to review.  PKCLsoft is an independent Australian developer and a member of MOMs with apps.

 

How It Works

9 Letters is exactly what the name suggests: a game with 9 letters that you use to make as many words as you can.  The rules are simple:

  • Each letter can only be used once (although if the same letter appears more than once, you can use it as many times as it appears)
  • Words must be a minimum of 3 letters long.
  • Longer words score more points

In the top left of the screen is a pop out table with the total number of words you have found, plus a table indicating how many words of each length can be found.  In the example below, for instance, I have found 14 of 19 three-letter words, 3 of 9 six-letter words, and neither of the single eight or nine letter words.  You can tap on the table to hide or reveal it.  A running score is kept as you play.

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Options

There are several options to make the game easier, harder or more accessible, which can be turned on or off in settings.  These include:

  • Target mode – the central letter must be used in every word (usually a standard rule in similar games but optional here).  When target mode is on, the central letter is darkened.
  • Hint every ten words
  • Highlight valid words (a word appears green if it is valid)
  • automatic detection of ‘s’ endings (if you type a word and there is an available s to pluralise it, both words will be added to the list.)
  • apply time limit for each word
  • Sound effects and music can be turned on or off.
  • An alternative font is available
  • Display lower case letters

You can see how the game works in this YouTube video.


Apart from the free hints every 10 words, prompts occasionally appear to offer you the chance to buy a 7 letter word or a hint via your iTunes account.  I haven’t bothered with these but enthusiasts may.  Of course, your iTunes password is required to make a purchase, and you can prevent unauthorised in-App purchases (IAPs) but turning this option off in your device settings.

Things I love

The game is as fast or as slow as you want – If you turn the timer off, you can sit with a word as long as you like. Personally, I like the challenge of working against a timer, and I usually am playing during a quick break so that works better for me.

The huge variety of 9 letter words – I have several of these games and I enjoy them all, but for most I keep coming across the same letter combos all the time.   I’ve played 9 Letters for nearly a fortnight at every available opportunity (because I love to be thorough when putting apps through their paces for reviews….. and because it is addictive!) and not once have I come across a repeated word.

New vocabulary – While I recognise most of the 9 letter word solutions, some of the words are unfamiliar to me. I’m enjoying learning new words such as  empyreans and multiplet.  I’m pleased to hear that a future update will allow you to get definitions of words.  Lots of smaller words are unfamiliar, so if you put together what you think are nonsense words, sometimes you come up with a winner.

Handoff Feature – 9 Letters supports Handoff, Apple’s new continuity feature, so you can start a game on your iPhone but then transfer the same game to your iPad later.  You can see how it work’s in PKCLsoft’s demo YouTube video below.

 

Wish List

Definitions – This one is already in the pipeline, and I can’t wait to be able to link quickly to definitions of words.  I’m hoping this will not only apply to the larger words but some of the smaller words too.

Colour choices – The colour scheme is high contrast which is great, but I’d love the option to change it to my favourite colour – blue.  Not a biggie, but it would be nice.

Difficulty options – I’d love to be able to make the game harder (or not) by having an option to have a 4-letter minimum word length.  The 3-letter minimum is great, as most other games start at 4, but it would be fun.  Also, perhaps the option to reject the plural s, so that book would count, but books wouldn’t, (unless the central letter was an s).

Verdict

I love this game and it has become my “go-to” game when I’m having a break.  I’m enjoying the variety of words, the challenge level and learning new words.  Being able to turn off the target letters and time limits will make the game a little more user-friendly for some who might like to play word games but find most a bit difficult.  Scrabble and Boggle lovers will be sure to love it.

Secret Santa season is coming up and if you have a friend of family member who is in to word games, you could gift them a copy and I’m sure it would be much appreciated.  9 Letters is only in its first version and it is already wonderful, so I look forward to the future updates.
9 Letters - pkclSoft
Publisher: pkclSoft
Price:  $1.29 (Australia – 99 cents USA) until 26th November 2014, then $2.49.
iPad and iPhone (requires iOS 7.0 or later)

 

 

Spell with Pip – Oxford University Press

17 Jan

Most of the spelling apps I own have the same activity: a spelling test following the listen, write, check pattern. Spell with Pip  is a  different and is aimed at emergent spellers. Children fly Pip the Parrot around to collect the letters to spell each word. The target word is always visible at the top of the screen. On early levels, only the letters needed appear, but as children progress through levels, extra letters appear.  Note:  This review was originally published on The Appy Ladies website.  For details on how to win a copy of the app, see the note at the end of this post.  (Competition closes 27th Feb, 2014).

Pip looks for the correct letters.  At this level, there are no confusing extras.

Pip looks for the correct letters. At this level, there are no confusing extras

Continue reading

Homework Apps – Spelling

25 Feb
spelling test

spelling test (Photo credit: elginwx)

My children started their school year a month or so ago and the homework is coming home. Our teachers are flexible, so along with the traditional paper and pencil activities, they also allow students the option of online activities or computer or tablet Apps. In this post I’m going to highlight a couple of my favourite spelling and sight words apps, and how you can be sneaky and get your children to do more than they think they are doing.

Dedicated Spelling Apps

I have a lot of spelling apps, but the ones that I use for homework are ones that allow me to use the same spelling lists my children bring home. Most of these work the same way:

  1. Enter a name for your list – I usually use the child’s name, term and week, e.g. Penelope T3Wk2)
  2. Type in the word – try not to add spaces. (If you add a space at the end of a word, the apps recognise the space as a character.  If the space is not typed, the child will be marked as incorrect, even if they were correct.  Confused?  Just don’t add spaces and you’ll be fine.)
  3. Record the word – I like to record the word followed by a short phrase or sentence that shows the meaning of the word, e.g. Bed – I sleep in my bed.
  4. Save the list, then use it to complete the spelling activities.

There are a couple of ways you can get  your children to do a little extra work. The apps are really easy to use, so most children will have no problems entering their own lists, which gives them a little more spelling practice. If you get children to record the word and the sentence/phrase, it also gives them an exercise in comprehension and grammar. I find that getting the child to record the list, making up their own sentences orally, helps when it comes to writing sentences in their homework books. Tip: do the recording in a quiet room. Actually, these apps are best used in a quiet space for all the activities as children need to be able to hear the words.  You could also use headphones.

Spelling apps that I use include:

  • Spelling Star : Spelling Star - Top Class Apps, LLC(Universal, PUblisher:  Top class Apps, LLC, Price: 99 cents) – Simple controls, easy to create your own lists, and easy to share spelling lists, making it great for classrooms. Children are awarded a star for each word they spell correctly, and become a “Spelling Master” when each word in the list has three stars.
  • My Spell Test – (iPhone, Publisher Ipoxi LLC, Price: $2.99)My Spell Test - The Custom Spelling Test Creator - Ipoxi – This is the first spelling app I ever used with my children. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but is very easy to use. Children complete the test and then are shown the words they misspelled (with both their spelling and the correct spelling) and then are retested on their errors. It is simple, but very effective. Read my review here.
  • Sight Words & Spelling with Pixopop HD Sight Words & Spelling with Pixopop HD - Marcel Widarto– (iPad only, Publisher:  Marcel Widarto/Sogabee, Price: $2.99) – This is now the universal favourite in our house. As you enter words in the list, it automatically checks to see if it already has a recording or that word, which can save a lot of time. There are three activities you can do with the spelling list, and there is a reward token system that my children find very motivating. Read my review here.
Spelling activity screen

Draco helps with spelling. I think I got this one right. You can use an ABC keyboard too.

Painting and Drawing

Painting and drawing apps are great for giving children the opportunity to write using different tools, colours and effects.   I reviewed several last year in this post. There are download links for each of these apps in the post.   Essentially, any app with some basic drawing tools will work, although  tend to use Doodle Buddy, and Art Set as these have some great painting tools and effects.  Write the words using the different tools, effects and colours, and then save screen shots of each word to the photo library on your device. Try painting a word and then tracing over it with a different colour/tool each time as a great pre-test activity.

Handwriting

School Writing (iPad) or School Fonts (iPhone) are great apps for getting some sneaky extra work out of your child, get them to help you create an activity using their spelling lists, and then get them to practice their spelling at the same time they practice their handwriting. If you get them to create the activity, then typing the words into the list provides yet another practice opportunity.  Read my review of School Writing here, and my review of School Fonts here.  School Fonts now has a free version to let you evaluate the app.  I recommend downloading it if you are interested in either app. Among their many supportive features, these apps contain both beginner and cursive writing styles for all Australian States and Territories, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Word Processing

Another activity our teachers suggest is typing the words on a computer and then printing them. I prefer to do this on our desktop computer where we have some novelty fonts and it is faster to print. You can do the same activity iPad and take a screen shot or send the file to the computer to print. There are not a lot of novelty fonts available for the iPad word processing apps, but Marker Felt, Party LET, Zapfino and Chalkduster are a change from the usual more formal fonts. You can also have fun with colours. After you print the list, chop it up and have the child sort the words in alphabetical order.

I have two word processing apps on my iPad:

  • PagesPages - Apple (Universal, Publisher:  Apple Pty Ltd, Price $10.49) – This was my first app purchase. It has most of the formatting tools you need to create documents on the go, and I sync documents with my iMac via iCloud. It is also easy to send documents via email, DropBox or connecting through iTunes.
  • Textilus: Textilus Word Processor - knowtilus (iPad only, Publisher:  Kairoos Solutions S.L., Price $5.49) I found this app last year and I’m starting to use it more and more. Unlike Pages, most of the formatting tools are available from its keyboard.

If you don’t have either of these, any app that lets you input text can be used, including the NotePad app.

Any tips?

There will be other ways you can use your iOS devices to help your child with spelling, and I’d love to hear them.  If you have any tips and tricks, please leave a comment below.  You can also join in the conversation in my Facebook Group.

Sight Words with Pixopop

22 Aug pixopop1

Sight words with Pixopop by Sogabee App iconSight Words with Pixopop is the first of two sight words Apps by Sogabee that I’m reviewing. Thanks to Marcel Widarto from Sogabee for giving me the Apps to review. Pixopop art is the work of Ali Sabet, and you can see more Pixopop art and merchandise on the Pixopop website. Stitch, the cute rabbit on the App’s icon, is just one of three characters or mascots your child can choose to guide them through the app.

Activities

There are three activities in the app: Flashcards, Word Challenge, and Spelling. Each activity uses one of 24 word lists, each with 10 words, or you can create your own custom lists quickly and easily.  You can view the contents of each list via the settings control on the main screen, and this could help to match word lists to your child’s homework sight words and spelling lists. Continue reading

Word games Part 1: Word Search

12 Jun
Wordsearch

Wordsearch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Playing games with words is not only fun but can help your children (and you) to practice spelling and to develop your vocabulary. Personally, I love word games and always have some on my iPad.  This post is focussing on just one type:  Word Search, a.k.a Find-a-word, Word Seek, Word Find and others. I think we are all familiar with these puzzles: highlight words hidden in a letter grid.  Since all the puzzles work the same way, I’m going to focus on features such as word lists and various options you might find handy.    Forgive me if I don’t mention the game that has Weapons as one of its word lists, along with others that had some dodgy spelling and grammar before you even got to the puzzles.  The ones here are some of the better ones. Continue reading

Happi Papi Literacy Apps

1 Jun

Happi Reads and Happi Spells are two fun literacy Apps from Happi Papi.   Although I have the English versions, international versions are available in alternative languages, depending on which country’s iTunes store they are purchased (more information below.)

Happi Reads App iconHappi Reads

Happi Reads is a variation of a flash card activity where children read a word and then match it to one of three pictures.   Children are clapped and cheered, and receive a fruit token for correctly identifying each word.  Once six tokens have been collected, the game ends with children tapping a large picture if the fruit to “eat it.” The feedback for incorrect answers is an “uh-uh” noise.  Children don’t get a second attempt at the same word, but they move on to a different word without a penalty.  The logic behind this is that the designers thought that, if kids were to get a second chance at the same word and picture set, they would start guessing instead of really making an effort to read the word. Continue reading

Schools A to Z – the Essential Homework App

1 May

I have been remiss in not reviewing this  App earlier as it is a must for parents of school-aged children.  It has been on my iPad for some time now, and it has been in my “going to get to ” list, however I’ve dipped into it a lot lately, so I really need to share it with you.  School A to Z is a free App from the NSW Department of Education and Communities.  Their School A to Z website aims to:

create an online community with comprehensive homework and ‘school life’ support for parents that is easy to use, relevant and engaging.”

The school A to Z App gives parents access to some of the content on the site and will be a welcome resource for any family of school-aged children. Continue reading

Using Painting and Drawing Apps for more than pictures.

28 Mar

In a recent post I highlighted just a few of the many  Painting and Drawing Apps available on the App Store and presented my readers with some criteria for evaluating them.  This post looks at some of the ways these apps can be used across curriculum areas.

Mathematics

You may remember I noted that stamps/stickers can make an App more versatile, and that certainly is the case when it comes to Mathematics.  In a classroom, students commonly used counters, paddle pop sticks, blocks and other manipulatives to experiment with number.  Think of stamps as onscreen or virtual manipulatives.   If you don’t have stamps, you can use different colour and painting tools to create marks or shapes. Continue reading

My Spell Test

15 Jan

Children and their teacher at school in Chelse...

You will find many different spelling Apps on the iTunes App store and most of them have a few features to recommend them, but few will actually do what I need a good Spelling App to do, which is to recreate the exact spelling lists my children bring home.  Luckily there is one I can recommend: My Spell Test. I use this App with my children and I’m impressed with the results.  Designed for the iPhone, it looks great on the iPad. Continue reading

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