Tag Archives: literacy

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

Little Lamb in Amsterdam

16 Jun

littlelambiconLittle Lamb in Amsterdam, by Joshua and Donna Wilson, is two stories in one: a simple story of a little lamb on her cycling adventures, and a fact book full of historical, geographical and cultural information about the Netherlands. Little Lamb has an adventurous spirit and sets off on a cycling tour of the Netherlands, finishing in Amsterdam. Along the way she sees different things including windmills, tulips and wild flowers, canals, clogs and more.

Each page is filled with a colourful, interactive illustration and a line or two of text telling the story. Tap the bottom of the screen to show extra information. Find out about the different things windmills grind when little Lamb cycles past them. If you ever wondered why the Netherlands teams wear orange, you will find that fact on the page where Little Lamb celebrates their National day. Extra information is sometimes revealed In the animations; we are treated to some works of Dutch masters such as Vermeer, Van Gogh and Rembrandt when Little Lamb visits the Museums and Galleries, and see boats passing under bridges on the canals. Sometimes Little Lamb is hidden, and finding her becomes a fun hide and seek activity. Continue reading

Junior Storytellers: School Edition

28 May

Junior Storytellers app iconJunior Storytellers  puts your child in the director’s seat to create simple animated stories with narration, using a variety of settings, characters and props.  It is a great way for children to learn about how to build a story while engaging in creative play.  There are two versions of the app available. I am reviewing the School Edition, which includes all content with the one price.  The free version has limited content, with more story theme packs available with in-app purchase.

The main screen of the app is separated into four main sections: Create Story, My Stories, Awards and Settings.

Create Story

There are two main story sections: Sandbox and Challenge.

Sandbox Mode  – This section has two options:  a learning mode and a create mode.

  • Learn to Play guides children through making a story. It explains how to choose scenes, and to add, pose and change characters and props, and uses items from the Jungle theme only.  It is a great place to start, and might also be helpful for children who might otherwise get a bit overwhelmed with choice.
  • Create A Story gives children full access to the range of settings, characters and props.  Children create a story one page at a time and can create stories of any length they choose.

Challenge Mode –   This mode challenges children to create stories using a specific number of scenes. The first level is a single scene story and is a good place to start. Subsequent levels challenge children to create stories with several scenes. The first Level 1 has a single scene story, Level 3 has stories of 5 scenes, and Level 5  has stories with 9 scenes. The challenge mode starts with a quick video modelling the creation and recording of a story. After you have seen it a few times, it gets a bit tired, but you can tap on the big red cross in the top corner to turn it off. You can also turn the tutorial off using the app settings. Continue reading

The UnStealer

13 Mar

This review was originally published on The Appy Ladies website.

Normally I wouldn’t recommend a story where the hero was a sneaky, shadowy thief, but the UnStealer is not your ordinary villain. Yes, the UnStealer is a sneaky thief who creeps in shadows and looks a bit scary in the black hat and cape, but you can’t help love a character who turns unhappy into happy, unhelpful into helpful and uninspired to, well, you get the idea.

Story

These Uns were changed by tapping words on the page.

These Uns were changed by tapping words on the page.

The opening pages set the scene by introducing the UnStealer and his favourite “collectables.” Interactive elements allow children to alter the appearance of the Uns to match the text, e.g. Tapping on the words bold, italic or underlined will change an Un to that style.
Once we have been warned of the UnStealer and his shocking exploits, we move on to some case studies. An unfunny, unhappy clown at a sad excuse for a birthday party has his mojo retuned and saves the party after the UnStealer strikes. In similar stories we see what happens to an unconfident lass, and later an unfriendly dog. Spoiler alert: the UnStealer turns out to be a pretty decent chap after all. Continue reading

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

Clicker Sentences by Crick Software

13 Sep

clicker sentences app iconThose of you who read my recent review of Clicker Docs will know that I’m a big fan of Crick Software and their products, having used them years ago when working in special education settings. Today I’m looking at Clicker Sentences.

Clicker Sentences is all about helping children write sentences and stories using words and phrases. Designed for the early learner, Clicker Sentences is adaptable and will suit older learners with special needs. It operates in a similar way to a word processor, with a writing area at the top, but with the keyboard replaced a grid containing words and images (although there is a simple version of a standard keyboard available on demand.) Sentence sets, containing multiple grids with one sentence per grid, can be used to write stories. Unlike Clicker Docs, an image can be included on each sentence grid and can be inserted into the document as an illustration.

Using the App

Sentence Sets are created quickly with just a few steps:

  • Enter the sentence into a grid. Each word will appear in its own cell and punctuation marks will appear to the left of the grid. If you wish more than one word to appear in a grid, use square brackets around those words.
  • Model sentence – choose how the model sentence will appear. it can be included in the grid, appear as a pop-up, or can be spoken. There is also the option for no model sentence. Any of these settings can be changed at any time.
  • Word Order – words can be displayed alphabetically, randomly, in the sentence order, or by Guided order. This last option dims words, only allowing one cell to be active at a time, guiding the student through the sentence.
  • Picture – An image can be added to each screen using photos from the iPad photo reel, or taken with the camera. These images will be added to the text when they are typed. Pictures can be removed from the grid.
  • Background – choose from 16 colours.

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Learning Grids

Continue reading

Miracles of Jesus – NEST

22 May

NEST MoJMiracles of Jesus is a Christian storybook app by NEST Family Apps. It puts several stories from the Gospel together in an accessible way for children of different ages and abilities.  While I’m happy to have a Christian story app to share with my children, there are a lot of extra features in the app that I was pleased to see. It supportive of early readers, a great resource for educators, and entertaining for all ages.  The developers have put a lot of thought into the design of this app and I really enjoyed reviewing it with my family.

Features

Reading Modes – There are three reading modes available:

  • Read to Me – hear the narration and see the words highlighted
  • Read and Learn – hear each page read and interact with different elements on the screen.
  • Just a book – narration, pop-ups and interactive elements are turned off for a quiet reading experience.  This mode is great for “lap time.”

Levels of difficulty – Each of the three reading modes is available in two levels of difficulty:

  • Early Readers – suitable for early primary
  •  Advanced Readers – suitable for middle primary and above.  This mode also features pop-up information panels that give children more background information.
    Miracles of Jesus - Early Readers level

    Miracles of Jesus – Early Readers level

    Miracles of Jesus - Advanced Reader

    Miracles of Jesus – Advanced Reader

Story – I’m sure I won’t be giving any spoilers away if I mention that the book covers several of the Miracles of Jesus from the four Gospels.  These include:

  • The calming of the storm
  • Jesus heals the boy with palsy
  • Jairus’ daughter raised from the dead
  • Jesus walks on the water

If you use the Advanced mode in either the Read to Me or Read and Learn modes, you’ll find the Gospel Chapter and verse references in the pop up information panels.

Supportive Text Features – Text is highlighted as read (except in Just a Book mode) and you can tap on individual words to hear them spoken.  These features are very supportive of early readers.

 Good Narration – The narration by Dean Cooper is well paced, clear and expressive.  His US accent was easy for my children to listen to, even if some of the words are pronounced slightly differently to the way they are pronounced in Australia.

Discussion Starters – At the end of the story is the NEST family chat, which gives you a couple of questions to use as discussion starters as you reflect upon the story.

Colourful Illustrations – The illustrations are clear and colourful, and they seem to come from stills from the NEST animated cartoon of the same name.

Activities – The app comes with a number of extension activities.

  • Word Jumble – two levels of difficulty
  • Word Search – two levels of difficulty
  • Maze – two levels of difficulty
  • Trivia – multiple choice questions about the story that are great for comprehension.  There are no penalties for wrong answers, and children get to try again until they arrive at the correct answer.  Children with reading difficulties might need an adult or older sibling to help them read the questions and possible answers.
  • Trace alphabet
  • Trace words

While I love the way the tracing activities are done, I prefer my children to do writing activities that use the same font they are using in their handwriting at school.  That being said, I think the word tracing activity will be very useful for vocabulary skills.

Painting – There are more features to the painting activity than you might expect.  I was impressed with the variety of paint tools (spray, brush, crayon, chalk or paint bucket,) the number of colour choices, and how easy it was to change the size of the painting tools.  There are 6 line drawings from the story, plus a blank canvas for free-style art.  The black lines in the drawing always stay on top, and painting “outside the lines” is impossible, making it easy for the most un-coordinated artist to create a masterpiece.

We found it a little difficult to paint the lower parts of each screen as the colour options kept popping up over where we were painting.

The YouTube video below will give you an overview of the App and its features.

Other Features

There are external links to social media, the NEST website, and the iTunes Store in the Help section,  however this is not easily accessible to very young children.  You need to enter your birth year in order to access these links and other information.  While I don’t believe young children will bypass this, if you have concerns about  your children accidentally accessing the external links and social media, I suggest putting the app in Airplane mode or turning off WiFi before giving the device to your child.

Wish List

I would like to see an extra information section that lists the different miracles and their Gospel references.  Although these are accessible in the pop up information panels, it would be very handy for parents and teachers to have a summary in the Parent information section.

The trivia activity is excellent, but I’d like to see an option for reading the question and the possible answers so that it is more accessible for children with reading difficulties.

As we found the tools obscuring the screen on occasion in the painting activity, it would be handy to have a little hide/reveal button.

Verdict

This app is a great resource for Christian families and schools.  Apart from some wonderful stories from the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, the app has features that are supportive of early readers, plus some great activities to assist with comprehension.  There is a lot of attention to detail, making this app useful for children of different ages and abilities and engaging enough for them to return to it frequently.  I look forward to adding more NEST apps to our family collection.

Miracles of Jesus - NEST Family Apps
Publisher: NEST Family Apps
Price: $2.99
Universal

You can also purchase Miracles of Jesus for Android from the Amazon Online Store  for $2.99.  For links to the Google Play and Nook versions, plus other NEST Family App titles, please visit the Nest Family Apps App Page.

Write to Read – WriteReader

6 May

writereaderThere are more than 750 000 apps in the iTunes AppStore, with many doing similar things, so it is very exciting to find an app that does something really different.  WriteReader is one of those apps.  The app is based on research that strongly links success in learning to read with learning to write.   The app is aimed at children aged from 3 to 10 years, although I believe it would be suitable for older children who have special needs.  I’d like to thank Sarah Muzzammil, a member of the WriteReader marketing team, for giving me the opportunity to look at this app.

Main Features

writereaderpageApart from the title page for each book you create, each page consists of a picture that you add from your camera roll, and two text entry points: one for children and one for adults.  You can add an audio recording to each page, and you can easily add speech frames, thought bubbles and text boxes to the pictures.  Children select a picture, then write a caption, concentrating on the sounds in the words they wish to use.This might be just a couple of letters for one-word caption, or it might be several words.  Adults then type the correct “adult writing”  in the second box.  This is the way my children do their first writing at school.  I’m sure many readers are familiar with being presented with lovely artwork captioned with (what appears to be) a mishmash of letters, and a teachers’ writing underneath translating it for us.  What is actually happening is that children are trying out their letters and sounds, exploring the process of writing at its very first stages.  By seeing their writing alongside the adult’s writing, children can see their successes. [UPDATE 14/7/2014: The adult writing can be disabled by tapping the large owl.]

WriteReader is more than just a writing app, as it has been designed to be used as part of a whole language approach to help children learn to write while they are also learning to read.  There is a good deal of research behind it from its Danish development team and the Danish School of Education. The publishers write: Continue reading

Alphabet Animals – a slide-and-peek adventure

9 Apr

ABC Animals app iconI was excited to be able to review this app from Auryn Apps with my children.  I own quite a few story apps published by Auryn, and the quality of illustrations and stories is always high, so I was hoping Alphabet Animals would be of the same quality.  I’m delighted to say that it is.

abc animals - H for HorseAlphabet Animals is exactly what it sounds like:  an alphabet book with illustrations of animals. Each page has an animal in the shape of the initial letter of its name. D is a dragon, L is a lion, O is an orang-utan and so on.  I love the gorgeous illustrations by Suse MacDonald.  As you slide the tab across to see the letter, the animal moves a little.  The crocodile opens its mouth, the vulture’s wings flap, and so on.  If a few seconds pass without the screen being touched, prompts appear highlighting the interactive parts of the page.

You could go through the book page by page, in alphabetical order, or you can tap on specific letters to go straight to that letter.  My children were impatient to see “their letters” (i.e. the letters in their names) so this is how we first explored the book.  It was also fun to guess which animal would illustrate each letter.  Zebra for Z was a no-brainer, but we shouldn’t have been so surprised to see the dragon for D (it is the app’s icon!)

abc animals game 1It was nice to see an Australian animal used to illustrate the letter K, but we have a quibble.  Koalas are marsupials, not bears, and it is incorrect to refer to them as koala bears.  Koala on its own is the correct name.  Unfortunately it is a mistake we’ve seen in a lot of apps and books. My little Aussies are very picky and would like the developers to fix this in the next update.

 Game Time

abcanimals - name game The book on its own is wonderful, but there is a game in the app that adds to the fun.  Children select the letters of their name, then drag the “animal letters” over the top to spell their name with animals.  They can then select a frame and save the image or send it to an email address.  My children love this activity.  The images of their names are works of art, and I’m going to print them as photos to go in my children’s scrapbooks.  The names would also look great on the front of greeting cards.  I know the activity asks you to enter a name, but we took it further and entered spelling list words.

Music

One other feature is a musical theme that plays in the background.  While the tune is cute and happy, you can turn it off.  I chose to have it off after a bit, but not before my children had fun making the animals ” dance” by sliding the tab back and forth in time with the music.

 Verdict

I’ve seen a lot of ABC apps, and while there are some I quite like, I can honestly say there are not too many illustrated as beautifully as this one.   Alphabet Animals will hold your child’s attention and is a great one to share snuggled up on someone’s lap.  Highly recommended.

Alphabet Animals: a slide-and-peek adventure is an enchanting picture app, kids will love to learn from. This app teaches animal names, alphabets and their shapes to kids; by Suse MacDonald (iPad version, by Auryn Apps) - Auryn Inc.Publisher: Auryn Apps
Price:  $1.99
iPad only.

Katie Loves Everyone Together

6 Mar

Katie Loves Everyone Together - Page 1

Developer: PicPocket Books

Reviewed by Sarah DeBellis and originally published by The Appy Ladies

katieLETSome stories can be a great help for preparing children for life’s ups and downs, for example new babies, visits to the hospital, even a topic as sensitive as death.   This kind of life story can help to provide vocabulary for children to express their feelings, and are a great starting point for discussion.  They can also let children know that they are not alone.  Katie Loves Everybody Together by Annie Monique Chalifoux is one of those stories.  It is the story of how a family copes with separation as seen through the eyes of Katie, their little girl.

The story starts with the family together, but as the story progresses, Katie sees her parents are unhappy.  Katie is worried and blames herself, but her parents realise and talk things through.  Finally Katie’s father moves into a new home and the story looks at how Katie adjusts to living in two homes.  The message throughout the story is one of love and respect, as both parents guide their children through this major change in their lives.  The child’s fears and concerns are dealt with, and we see her happily living her life in two homes.

KatieLETpage2

Features

  • Easy navigation – swipe pages to move through the story.
  • Audio can be turned off for those who wish to read aloud themselves or to read silently.
  • Text is highlighted as spoken.  This feature is supportive of emergent readers who are reading along with the narration.
  •  Beautiful illustrations  – The story is beautifully illustrated by Jennifer Kalis.
  • “Hidden Sounds” – Sounds from the environment, such as birds chirping or a child giggling,  are “hidden” in each illustration.
  • The expressive narration by Allison Cohen is well-paced.
  • No external links to websites, social media or advertising.  This is a safe app for children.

Verdict

Normally when I review eBooks, I look at features that are supportive of emergent readers, for example I’d love to see an option to replay narration on each page, and I’d like to be able to click on individual words to hear them spoken aloud.  While I’d still like to see these features, in this case these supportive features are not as important as the message of story.

Katie Loves Everybody Together is a story that is aimed at a wide range of ages, including toddlers, and it might be a great help for young children in Katie’s position.

Katie Loves Everybody Together HD - PicPocket BooksiPad Version
Requirements:  iPad Requires iOS 6.0 or later.
Price $1.99

Katie Loves Everybody Together - PicPocket BooksiPhone Version
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later.
Price:  $0.99

Links:

Website: http://www.picpocketbooks.com
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/PicPocketBooks
Twitter:  @PicPocketBooks
You Tube:  http://www.youtube.com/user/picpocketbooks
Author’s website:  katieandmatty.com

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