Auditory Workout – App Review

Auditory Workout – App Review

Developer:  Virtual Speech Center

Price:             $19.99

 

 

 

 

Processing of Auditory information is a difficulty that affects so many aspects of language development and the ability to address this difficulty in an authentic learning environment is an ongoing challenge for therapists working with these children. All too often, the child performs well within the therapy context, but is unable to transfer these skills to the classroom setting.

Auditory Workout is an App that addresses this need.

Auditory Workout app includes hundreds of audio instructions and a BACKGROUND NOISE Feature that allows users to set background noise (classroom noise), so that learning is authentic.

The App allows children to follow increasingly longer and more complex directions which are divided into four categories

  • Basic Directions: 15 levels within this category ranging from “one-step directions with object” to “one-step directions with size, color, object, action, preposition, and object.
  • Quantitative and Spatial Directions: 12 levels ranging from “concepts and/or plus an object” to “the concept of first, second, third, and last combined with size, color, and object.”
  • Temporal Directions: 18 levels ranging from “the concepts of before plus an object” to “concepts of before/after combined with size and object.”
  • Conditional Directions: 15 levels ranging from “conditional directions with object” to “conditional directions combined with size, object, action, preposition, and object.”

Children accumulate basketballs as a reward for each correct response and are rewarded with a game when they accumulate enough balls.

App Review Checklist & Rating Chart: Total Score   /20

Speech/Language/Education Apps

GENERAL INFORMATION & OPERATION   

5/5
Content is appropriate 1
No in app purchases required for use 1
Help/tutorial Available 1
Students can launch and navigate in the app independently 1
App is fairly priced and/or comparable to other similarly priced apps 1

FEATURES     

4/4
App can be customized for different users 1
App can be used for single user or groups 1
Content/data can easily be exported 1
User data is saved from session to session 1

APP DESIGN      

2/2
Design graphics/sounds are appealing 1
App is interactive, engaging & motivating for user 1

SPEECH/LANGUAGE USE     

6 ½ /9
App is designed to target speech/language skills 1
App is designed to target auditory processing – phonemic awareness 1
App can be adapted to target speech/language skills 1
App encourages critical thinking and higher level language 0
App has good potential for interaction between user and therapist 1
Response to errors is specific and results in improved performance 0
Targeted skills are practiced in an authentic learning environment 1
App offers complete flexibility to alter settings to meet students needs 1/2
App can be used across a variety of age/developmental groups 1

TOTAL SCORE

17 ½ /20

 

 

Star Rating

5 stars             17 – 20 points

4 stars             13 – 16 points

3 stars             9 – 12 points

2 stars             5 – 8 points

1 star              0 – 4 points

 

I Like:
  • Instructions can be repeated as many times as necessary and if a child fails on a task then the item can be re-done. You must turn the Automatic Paging Feature to OFF in the settings menu in order to do this.
  • The app is easy to navigate and can be used by parents with their children for extra practice.
  • The Background Noise Level can be turned off or on and adjusted with differing intensity levels.
  • The App is very detailed and is well graded so that the child can progress through increasing levels of complexity.
  • Reports are specific and you can select a report based on the activity that the child completed or by the time/date that each task was done.

 

Areas for improvement:
  • It would be nice if the Background Noise Level could be adjusted without “ending the session” particularly if the child is having difficulty or there is “sensory overload.”
  • Although the incorrect answers are displayed (if this setting is selected), it would be nice if the response to errors was more specific. For example, when targeting the concept “BEFORE”, (Show me the candle before you show me the phone), and the child taps the phone first, both items are shown simultaneously and the concept of BEFORE is not highlighted.
  • A record feature would add an additional Expressive Language Dimension to this App.
  • It is quite expensive but I cannot find a comparable App and so at this stage it is good value for money.

 

Thank you to Virtual Speech Center for providing me with this App.

The views expressed are my own.

 

Syntax City – App Review

Syntax City – App Review

Developer:         Smarty Ears Apps

Price:                    $39.99

 

 

 

Syntax City targets a variety of grammatical elements in fun and engaging ways. It is suitable for children who have some knowledge of reading but with guidance and mediation it could possibly be used with a 5 year old child.

The theme sets the tone for children visiting a variety of places within the city. Each location within the city targets a different set of goals.

The following locations and skills  are addressed:

Gym: Do/Does

  • Level 1: do/does choice
  • Level 2: do/does/are(is)
  • Level 3: is/does/do

Beach: Third person singular agreement (one level)

Bakery: Was/Were

  • Level 1: Two options was/were
  • Level 2: Three options was/do/were; was/were/have
  • Level 3: Four options do/was/were/has

Ski Resort: He/ She

  • Level 1: Choice between he/she
  • Level 2: he/she/her; he/she/him

Farm: Past tense verb agreement

  • Level 1: Two options to choose from. Uses irregular verbs
  • Level 2: Three options to choose from E.g. bend, bent, bended; goed went, go

Grocery: Has/Have (one level)

Park: Is/Are (one level)

Zoo: Regular and Irregular Plurals

  • Level 1 – regular plurals
  • Level 2 – irregular plurals
  • Level 3 – Regular & Irregular Plurals

 

Each location contains 50 targets, adding up to a total of 400 targets within 8 different activities.

Each target phrase is also spoken aloud. Correct responses are rewarded with animations and collecting “treasure”  belong to the specific location.  The treasures are placed under the  child’s profile.

 

In the settings menu, the user can either choose to have incorrect responses indicated with a BEEP and the word is not inserted into the appropriate space or the incorrect word can be removed from the choices.

Data tracking:

Syntax City offers detailed  data collection. A set of graphs provides visual information on children’s skills and their progress toward mastery of specific goals. The data can be emailed, printed, or shared to other compatible applications.

When you click a student’s profile under “reports” you can access treasures or score reports.

App Review Checklist & Rating Chart: Total Score   /20

Speech/Language/Education Apps

GENERAL INFORMATION & OPERATION   

4/5
Content is appropriate 1
No in app purchases required for use 1
Help/tutorial Available 1
Students can launch and navigate in the app independently 1
App is fairly priced and/or comparable to other similarly priced apps 0

FEATURES     

4/4
App can be customized for different users 1
App can be used for single user or groups 1
Content/data can easily be exported 1
User data is saved from session to session 1

APP DESIGN      

11/2 /2
Design graphics/sounds are appealing 1
App is interactive, engaging & motivating for user 1/2

SPEECH/LANGUAGE USE     

7 /9
App is designed to target speech/language skills 1
App is designed to target auditory processing – phonemic awareness 1
App can be adapted to target speech/language skills 1
App encourages critical thinking and higher level language 1
App has good potential for interaction between user and therapist 1
Response to errors is specific and results in improved performance 0
Targeted skills are practiced in an authentic learning environment 1
App offers complete flexibility to alter settings to meet students needs 0
App can be used across a variety of age/developmental groups 1

TOTAL SCORE

16 ½ /20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                     

Star Rating

5 stars             17 – 20 points

4 stars             13 – 16 points

3 stars              9 – 12 points

2 stars              5 – 8 points

1 star                 0 – 4 points

 

 

 

 Positive   Areas for Improvement 
The target sentence is read for the child App does not read target words for the child. This would allow younger children to work independently
I like that you are able to repeat sentences as often as necessary by tapping on it.
Report is very specific for each target – allows therapist/facilitator to see exactly which structures require more work. Scores below 50% are highlighted in red. No specific feedback with incorrect responses
Is/Are and do/does are addressed in the inverted question form. Is he going down the slide? Do they think the water is cold? He/she activity – there is a full stop after the initial sentence, but the following sentence with he/she does not start with a capital letter
Therapist controls rate of game Child is able to click “NEXT” without completing the task although this is marked in the report as incorrect.
Each place in the town allows for vocabulary development related to that location.  Realistic pictures allow for discussion and extension language It’s a pity that the airport which is shown as part of the city doesn’t have an activity linked to it as it would make for excellent vocabulary development and practice
Past tense verb agreement – includes common errors made by children e.g. fight, fighted, fought Irregular plural task would be nice to include common errors as foils e.g. knifes, knives, knife

 

Syntax City is a great app that takes the tediousness out of working on common grammar difficulties.

However at $39.99, I feel it is a bit pricey and hopefully it will go on sale often.

Thank you to Smarty Ears for giving me this app to review! The opinions expressed are my own.

I did pick up a few bugs in the App, which HAVE/HAS been brought to the attention of the developers and will no doubt be remedied. 🙂

App Review: Tense Builder

App Review: Tense Builder

 

Developer: Mobile Education Store

Price: $14.99

 

Aside from acting out verbs with children, I haven’t found another activity that provides a real understanding of verb tenses (and there is a limit to the number of verbs that you can act out) over and over again.

Tense Builder is designed to help students learn how to identify and use correct tense forms (present, past, and future) using an interactive movie format. This allows the child to see the verbs in action providing an authentic learning experience.

 

Features Include:

  • 42 video animations for target verbs (with plans to expand to 58 by December 2012)
  • Ability to choose which verb tense to target (or target them all)
  • Ability to choose irregular or regular verbs (or target them together).
  • Ability to select specific verbs to work on.
  • Two different levels of play
  • Receptive and Expressive tasks during play
  • Store and track multiple students
  • Ability to record, save, and email responses
  • Data tracking through app stats.
  • Built in Video Tutorial

 

Level One: 

Level 1

–  Receptive Task: The child watches the short movie and is then presented with a         sentence and three picture choices

–       The child has to touch the picture that corresponds to that verb tense.

–       If the child makes an error, it says “that’s not quite right”. The App zooms in on the picture and explains WHY the picture is the incorrect choice. When the child selects the correct picture it reinforces by saying “that’s right” and explains the tense and what it means.

Once the child has selected the correct image, they are prompted to record the sentences, giving them practice with the targeted verb tense.

 

Level Two:

Level 2

–       The child watches the video and completes a ‘fill in the sentence’ activity for the correct verb tense.

–       After the video it will give the child a picture from the video and 3 – 7 word choices (you can set the amount of choices in the settings) and they have to drag to correct verb tense into the sentence that corresponds with the picture.

–        If the child drags the wrong word into the sentence, it will highlight their response and show a quick video reinforcer of the verb they chose. This will show the student why their choice was incorrect. If the student choose correctly it gives them verbal praise and they you can select next sentence.

Both Level 1 and level 2 offer the full video lesson tutorials. These can be a bit long, but necessary especially when first playing the app.

App Review Checklist & Rating Chart: Total Score   /20
Speech/Language/Education Apps

GENERAL INFORMATION & OPERATION   

5/5

Content is appropriate 1
No in app purchases required for use 1
Help/tutorial Available 1
Students can launch and navigate in the app independently 1
App is fairly priced and/or comparable to other similarly priced apps 1

FEATURES     

3/4
App can be customized for different users 1
App can be used for single user or groups 0
Content/data can easily be exported 1
User data is saved from session to session 1

APP DESIGN      

1 ½ /2
Design graphics/sounds are appealing 1
App is interactive, engaging & motivating for user 1/2

SPEECH/LANGUAGE USE     

9/9
App is designed to target speech/language skills 1
App is designed to target auditory processing – phonemic awareness 1
App can be adapted to target speech/language skills 1
App encourages critical thinking and higher level language 1
App has good potential for interaction between user and therapist 1
Response to errors is specific and results in improved performance 1
Targeted skills are practiced in an authentic learning environment 1
App offers complete flexibility to alter settings to meet students needs 1
App can be used across a variety of age/developmental groups 1

TOTAL SCORE


18 ½ /20

 

Star Rating

17 – 20 Points – 5 Stars

13 – 16 Points – 4 Stars

9 – 12 Points – 3 Stars

5 – 8 Points – 2 Stars

1 – 4 Points – 1 Star

 

Positives
  • The short animated videos are engaging and funny.
  • The movies can be paused at any point to allow for discussion and extension teaching.
  • Narratives, attention to details, inferencing, humour and even articulation practice can be targeted using this app.
  • The movies can be replayed if necessary
  • Well defined levels of skill and complexity
  • Level 1 does not allow the child to choose the incorrect response repeatedly and this curbs  impulsivity
  • Recording features allows additional verbal feedback and self-monitoring practice. Recorded sentences can also be saved and stored.
  • Data collection occurs and multiple students can be made users for this app although it cannot be used as a group activity. The data can be printed and emailed.

 

Areas for Improvement
  • It is quite expensive at $14.99 but in my view well worth it.
  • Some knowledge of reading/word structure needed for the child to use it independently
  • On Level 2, it would be nice if the sentence is read for the child once they have made a selection. This would allow for younger children to work more independently.
  • If  the child accidentally inserts the incorrect word, the app does not allow the child to make any corrections
  • Although the videos are really engaging and funny, this is not a game App (nor was it meant to be), so the child does lose interest after a couple of practice verbs. However, in order to reinforce verbs, then it’s a good idea to only use a few at a time
11 Tools to improve Reading Comprehension

11 Tools to improve Reading Comprehension

Good readers employ strategies before, during, and after reading that help them comprehend text. As I mentioned in my last post “Causes of reading comprehension difficulties,” struggling readers do not understand why they have difficulty comprehending.

There is however, no definitive set of strategies for remediation of reading comprehension difficulties and identification of where comprehension is breaking down will assist in employing the correct strategy to facilitate Reading Comprehension.

In addition to employing reading comprehension strategies, it is important to implement the following:

Provide the Right Kind of Books

One of the most important aspects of facilitating Reading Comprehension is reading fluency.  A child should be able to recognize at least 90 percent of the words without any help. Stopping any more often than that to try and decode a word makes it difficult to focus on the overall meaning of the story.

Reading activities can be divided into three categories, depending on when they take place:

A. Pre-reading

B. Reading

C. Post-reading.

 

 A.   Pre-Reading Strategies

i.        SIGHT WORDS:

Improve Sight Word Vocabulary and consequently, Reading Comprehension

 

ii.        ENRICHMENT & VOCABULARY:

The child is engaged in enrichment activities prior to reading the passage. In this way, students have the opportunity to activate and enhance existing knowledge before reading. Pre-teaching vocabulary words will also enhance comprehension.

 

iii.        STORY GRAMMAR TRAINING :

From a very young age, most children are exposed to story books. These fictional texts (narratives) share a common, predictable structure called story grammar. This predictable structure enhances students’ comprehension whether they listen to the narrative or read it themselves. Improve Reading Comprehension by providing a framework for learning and remembering information.

Teaching story grammar structure emphasizes the importance of metacognitive or active reading strategies to improve comprehension. It directs students’ attention on story structure by teaching them to ask five “wh” questions about the settings and episodes of the story.

 

iv.        PREVIEW COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS:

Encourage the child to preview comprehension questions. This will allow the child to focus on answering those questions as they read.

 

 B.   Reading

i.        REREAD TO  BUILD FLUENCY

By the end of Grade two a child should be able to read approximately 90 words a minute. Rereading familiar, simple books gives your child practice at decoding words quickly and facilitates fluency. The optimal number of readings has been found to be four.

 

ii.        GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS

Graphic organizers, which provide a visual map for the reader, can be placed next to the text as learners read in groups or individually, aloud or silently. They are particularly useful in helping readers to understand the structure of a narrative or of an argument.

Graphic organizers also assist in encouraging visualization of information which also assists with comprehension.

 

Links to a variety of free graphic organizers can be found here: http://www.dailyteachingtools.com/free-graphic-organizers-w.html

 

iii.    K-W-L STRATEGY

The K-W-L strategy stands for what I Know, what I Want to learn, and what I did Learn. By activating students’ background knowledge, it improves comprehension of expository text. (Expository text refers to writing where the purpose is to inform, describe, explain, or define the author’s subject to the reader)

 

iv.       QUESTION-ANSWER RELATIONSHIPS

Increase correct answers to reading comprehension questions by considering both the text and the background knowledge. The question-answer relationships strategy helps students label the type of questions that are asked and to use this information to develop their answers.

 “Right There” Label:
Words used to create the question and words used for the answer are Right There in the same sentence.

 “Think and Search” Label:
The answer is in the text, but words used to create the question and those used for an appropriate answer would not be in the same sentence. They come from different parts of the text.

 “On My Own” Label:
The answer is not found in the text. You can even answer the question without reading the text by using your own experience

Based on the questions, it is important to encourage the child to think about what they know and make predictions based on what they know and what they have read.

 

v.        GENERATING QUESTIONS:

By generating questions, students become aware of whether they can answer the questions and if they understand what they are reading. Students learn to ask themselves questions that require them to combine information from different segments of text. For example, students can be taught to ask main idea questions that relate to important information in a text.

 

C.  Post Reading

i.  STORY RETELLING

Improve Reading Comprehension by retelling a story to partners, using outlines. By retelling students relate information from the story to their own experiences. In this way, they improve their reading comprehension and memory of story information.

ii.  PARAPHRASING AND/OR SUMMARIZING

Summarizing requires students to determine what is important in what they are reading and to put it into their own words. Instruction in summarizing helps students:

  • Identify or generate main ideas
  • Connect the main or central ideas
  • Eliminate unnecessary information
  • Remember what they have read

Poor comprehenders do not necessarily have a comprehension impairment that is specific to reading. Rather, their difficulties with reading comprehension need to be seen in the context of difficulties with language comprehension more generally

                                                              

Explicit teaching of comprehension strategies can be an effective intervention for these difficulties and impact significantly on later academic success.

Causes of Reading Comprehension Difficulties

Causes of Reading Comprehension Difficulties

Struggling readers do not understand why they have difficulty comprehending. In order to assist these children we need to understand why and where their difficulties are occurring. (For the purposes of this discussion I am assuming the child’s visual perceptual skills are intact.)

A breakdown in Reading Comprehension can occur at different stages in the processing of language

 

Vocabulary and Prior Knowledge

Learning to read written texts is not the same as learning to understand written texts. Reading comprehension involves understanding the vocabulary, seeing relationships among words and concepts, organizing ideas, recognizing the author’s purpose, evaluating the context, and making judgments

Many children who successfully learn to read in grade one or two are unable to understand books they need to read by grade three or four. One of the reasons for this is lack of adequate vocabulary.

Prior knowledge is an important aspect to successful reading and studies have shown that lack of cultural familiarity with the subject matter has a greater impact on reading comprehension of a passage than the pre-teaching of vocabulary.

The child’s ability to recall information and make inferences is enhanced when they are familiar with the subject matter.

Decoding

Before children learn to read, they are dependent on oral language and pictures to understand the world around them. Once they obtain knowledge of phonemes (sounds) and graphemes (letters), they begin to use their understanding of print and sounds to read words. For children who experience decoding difficulties, word recognition is like a traffic jam on a highway. Regardless of their level of listening comprehension, they have to learn the process of word recognition, much like every car on the highway must slow down and pass through the bottleneck. Once decoding is mastered, and students become fluent readers, they are able to develop proficiency in reading comprehension.

Fluency

Fluency is not an issue in listening, as the speaker controls the pace, but is needed for reading comprehension because of working memory constraints.

For children who experience difficulties with word recognition, struggle with decoding words, or read very slowly, the information in the text is often inaccessible.

Reading quickly enough so that it sounds like “natural” language contributes to a student’s comprehension; the reading flow and focus on comprehension are not disrupted by decoding

Cognitive Speed/Working Memory

The information that we read needs to be held in working memory in order to comprehend it. If reading fluency is poor, then it becomes less and less likely that the needed information is still active in working memory, making comprehension less and less likely

Orientation/Purpose

There are many different purposes for reading. Sometimes you read a text to learn material, sometimes you read for pure pleasure, and sometimes you need to follow a set of directions. As a student, much of your reading will be to learn assigned material. You get information from everything you read and yet you don’t read everything for the same reason or in the same way or at the same rate. Each purpose or reason for reading requires a different reading approach.

Two things that influence how fast and how well you read are the characteristics of the text and the characteristics of you, the reader.

Characteristics of the text:

  • Size and style of the type (font)
  • Pictures and illustrations
  • Author’s writing style and personal perspectives
  • Difficulty of the ideas presented

Characteristics of the reader:

  • Background knowledge (how much you already know about the material or related concepts)
  • Reading ability – vocabulary and comprehension
  • Interest
  • Attitude

 

Strategies

Good readers employ strategies before, during, and after reading that help them comprehend text. The following strategies have been identified:

  • Begin reading with an understanding of the purpose for their exploration of the text,
  • Bring to the table what they already know (their schema), and associate what they read to that basis,
  • Predict before they read and then adjust as necessary their predictions as they move through the text
  • Question,
  • Self-monitor (listen to themselves when they read) and stop to reread when they recognize that they are losing meaning
  • Have a broad oral toolbox of vocabulary (words they understand the meaning of when they hear them or when they use them in speech)
  •  Pause to ponder and consider (think deeply, in other words, analyze, interpret and evaluate).

Reading comprehension is a complex process in itself, but it also depends upon other important and complex lower-level processes. It is a critical foundation skill for later academic learning, many employment skills, and life satisfaction. It is an important skill to target, but we should not forget about the skills on which it depends.

 

 

Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension is one of the pillars of the act of reading. When a person reads a text he engages in a complex array of cognitive processes. He is simultaneously using his awareness and understanding of phonemes (individual sound “pieces” in language), phonics (connection between letters and sounds and the relationship between sounds, letters and words) and ability to comprehend or construct meaning from the text.

This last component of the act of reading is reading comprehension. It cannot occur independent of the other two elements of the process. At the same time, it is the most difficult and most important of the three

Reading comprehension should not be confused with “reading ability”. Reading ability, as it is commonly understood, means the ability to read the words on a page, but does not necessarily mean that what is read is understood. Being able to “decode” or to read words on a page is an essential part of reading, but can often be misleading, as some children are able to read words with great accuracy and sound very much like “adults,” but are unaware of the meaning attached to the sounds they have produced.

Reading fluency (the ability to recognize words quickly and effortlessly) plays an important role in reading comprehension because if word recognition is difficult, the child will use too much of his processing capacity reading individual word and this in turn interferes with the ability to comprehend what is read.

 

“Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”

 

This sentence created by Noam Chomsky in 1957 is grammatically and syntactically correct. Whilst you may be able to read and understand each of the words individually, this nonsense sentence demonstrates the difference between being able to read words and comprehend text.

As practiced readers we may take this distinction for granted since the acts of reading and comprehension occur almost simultaneously for us. For developing readers this relationship is not as apparent, but is essential for them to become strong, capable readers.

Reading comprehension is defined as the level of understanding of a text message. This understanding comes from the interaction between the words that are written and how they trigger knowledge outside the text.

Reading Comprehension does not just happen; it requires effort. Readers must intentionally and purposefully work to create meaning from what they read.

There are four levels/stages of reading comprehension. These stages are not necessarily chronological or independent of the others, but do vary in degree of cognitive difficulty (or, in other words, in how much “thinking power” is needed).

 

The four stages are:

  • Understanding
  • Analyzing
  • Applying
  • Analysis & Evaluation

 

Understanding/Literal Comprehension

This refers to the ability to understand what is being read. This requires that the child understands the subject matter and the language used to convey it. As social creatures, we often engage in story-telling practices in our homes and so the ability to understand a story is usually a naturally developing skill. Remembering, organizing and expressing this understanding (i.e., re-telling a story), however, is practiced and learned

 

Analyzing/Interpretive/Inferential

–       Drawing inferences

–       Tapping into prior knowledge / experience

–       Attaching new learning to old information

–       Making logical leaps and educated guesses

–       Reading between the lines to determine what is meant by what is stated.

This forces the student to build his or her understanding of the subject matter by using the facts presented to read between the lines for the true meaning of what was meant.

Asking questions like “Why do you think…?” or “Do you remember this from earlier in the story? Tell me about it…” encourages analytical thinking.

 

 

Applying/Evaluative

This level involves

–       Understanding key themes or ideas

–       Using ones understanding to analyze, and solve other texts and problems.

The child is required to apply what he has learned from reading to real life events or situations.

You can encourage this kind of interaction with texts by either asking your child what kind of connections they see (i.e., text to text, text to world, text to self, etc.) or by encouraging them to act based on the application they see.

 

Evaluation/Creating/Appreciative

This level is based on the student’s own feelings towards the material or author. It is considered more abstract than any of the other levels because personality, likes and dislikes can affect this level. Creation need not necessarily be writing an original story, but could include activities like creating a commercial, writing a play, writing a poem from the perspective of a character, etc.

 

Without comprehension, reading is nothing more than tracking symbols on a page with your eyes and sounding them out.

As their reading materials become more diverse and challenging, children need to learn new tools for comprehending these texts.

Content area materials such as textbooks and newspaper, magazine and journal articles pose different reading comprehension challenges for young people and thus require different comprehension strategies. The development of reading comprehension is a lifelong process that changes based on the depth and breadth of texts the person is reading.