Recently, I’ve been on the hunt for authentic learning experiences on the iPad. It’s a sea of flashy games, annoying sound bites and frightening cartoon creatures. This week, I narrowed my focus on apps that encourage early literacy skills. ie learning to read.
What should teachers/parents look for when searching amongst all of these apps?
- Simple & Beautiful
- Challenging & Student Directed
- Words that can be read to the child if tapped
- An emphasis on word patterns
- Sight Words
How can teachers use literacy apps in the classroom? They work well as one option during literacy centers. I would introduce one app per week and designate only one station to the iPad. This gives the children a chance to get to know how the app works and it allows the teacher to assess student progress. The other literacy stations can occur simultaneously. The apps can also be individualized for students who need an extra challenge or reinforcement in a skill they need help with. Already thinking about parent night? Reference these apps in your handouts for parents interested in helping their children at home. In fact, include IntegrateTech.wordpress.com as another excellent resource.
WARNING: iPad apps can never replace children and parents reading together at home nor is it a substitute for reading instruction and independent reading time during the school day. Duh!
Learn Sight Words: This is a simple app that uses the Dolch Word List. It allows the child to read the card and check it by pressing a button at the top in order to hear the correct pronunciation. The child can flag cards that were difficult and then go back and sort through those later.
Alpha Writer: This app is created by Montessorium. I like all of their apps. They are by far the most simple and beautiful. More importantly they are incredibly educational. Here you have two options upon entering the home screen: The first allows you to hear a word and spell it by dragging letters from the top of the screen. Think old school magnetic letters. First the child chooses from a variety of images while a voice says the name such as “car” and then he or she is able to drag c – a – r from the alphabet at the top of the screen. A second option at the home screen, allows you to use the magnetic letters to create your own story. The best part is, a voice will read your story back to you! As an added bonus, drag in images to go along with your words.
Intro to Letters: Also created by Montessorium, it reinforces upper and lower case letter writing as well as vowel combinations. A letter or vowel combination appears and an arrow traces the letter while the child also hears the sound of the letter, then it is the child’s turn to trace the letter. That is the basic function. However, the most interesting is the last option on the homepage where a letter appears, the child traces it and presses a big record button allowing her to record his or her voice saying the letter and play it back!
Word Fish: This is a spelling app. An object appears with a child saying the name of the object for example, “nest”. The word is spelled out except for the beginning sound, middle or ending- for example _ est. You can choose to focus on the beginning, middle or ending sound or press random to work on all. Simple, challenging and engaging. The best is that all the voices used are children’s voices and the children congratulate you or encourage you as you go. So sweet!
Rocket Reads: This is an adorable book about a dog that learns how to read from a bird. You can choose for the book to be read to you or to read the book yourself. If there is a word the reader does not know, he or she may simply tap on the word to hear the pronunciation. The book is interactive with a dog that wags its tail whenever he is touched, a bird that flies and an alphabet that is zoomed in on when touched. In addition to this interactive book, there are two games to play. One for early readers still identifying the alphabet where letters shoot down from the sky and the iPad must be tilted in order for the dog to catch them on his head. This seems more fun than educational, but it does emphasis letter order in the alphabet. The other game I think is perfect for a 4 or 5-year-old trying to identify site words. 5 site words pop down from the sky, one word is read aloud and the reader must tap the correct word. This seems very challenging as all the words have the same beginning letter; therefore, it forces the reader to examine middle and ending sounds. Brilliant!
Did I forget an app? Leave a comment here and tell me about it!