Advanced Literacy

The following applications contain activities for more advanced readers.

Most Highly Recommended

Sentence Builder: Children see a screen with scattered words and hear a sentence spoken. They have to drag the correct words in the correct order to the space at the bottom of the screen in order to form that sentence. The settings can be adjusted so that children do or do not hear the words when they touch them. This is a good app. Its design isn’t the most attractive or engaging app, but it is full of good content. There are many sentences and the words included are well suited for developing readers. However, I have two specific criticisms. First, the sentences are always presented in the same order. You can begin anywhere in that sequence you like, but the sequence remains the same. It would be helpful to be able to present groups of sentences in random order. Second, children have to include punctuation in order to get each sentence correct. I wish there were a way to turn this feature off. My students often leave off the punctuation and then become somewhat frustrated, despite having done a great job putting the words in order.

Read on Sight: Children hear a sentence and see the words at the top of the screen. Then all of the words scramble themselves down below. Children have to put the sentence back together by dragging the words back up. There are five levels: Pre Primary, Primary, First, Second, and Third. “Advanced Mode” can be turned on. In this mode, children don’t hear the sentence. They have to figure it out based upon the words they are provided. This app doesn’t have many bells and whistles, but it provides some very good practice. It does not encourage guessing. If children put words in the wrong place, it lets them stay there. It won’t say “Try Again” until all the words are in a spot. This forces children to figure out what words goes where, instead of just guessing every word in every spot. I do have a few minor criticisms. First, there is not a lot of content. There are different difficulty levels, but within each level there are not very many sentences. Second, the sentences are read by a child’s voice. Sometimes it is hard to hear what the child is saying. For example, the words “Who was” are spoken very quickly and sound more like “Who is.” Third, one of the sentences included is “We said go away.” Granted, it’s just one sentence, but those aren’t the kindest words. I wish they would not have included that sentence. However, I think the basic design of this game provides some rich experience for early readers.


Somewhat Recommended

I Can Write 1, & I Can Write 2, & I Can Write 3: These apps have children manipulate a picture and then form a sentence below based on what they created. The words in the sentences are selected by opening up generic iPad-theme iOS menus. When a child makes a sentence that reflects the picture, he or she presses the ‘OK’ button. The first app lets children dress animals; the second app has children move things around and make sentences regarding where they are; the third app has children place items on a calendar and make sentences about when the events happen. Although I like the general idea behind this app, I think it’s too difficult for children to use. If children could drag words into place, rather than selecting from an iOS menu, I think they would be benefit much more.

Crosswords for Kids: Children complete crosswords by dragging letters into the correct spots. There are no extra letters—just the letters needed for the words in each puzzle. Pictures for each word are at the beginnings of the words and they say their names when touched. This is a simple app that provides some good practice with spelling and phonics. But it has some design flaws. The words in the different levels are all of an equal difficulty level. The game gets harder only by adding more words on each screen. So even at Level 1, children have to be able to spell words like ‘garlic’ and ‘wizard’. Also, each time the game is started, it returns to the same puzzles. So, every time a child starts to play on Level 1, he or she will once again be spelling ‘garlic’ and ‘wizard’.

Sentence Creator – Learn to Build and Write Your First Sentences: Children hear a sentence. The words in the sentence are given in mixed order on the top of the screen and must be dragged into place at the bottom of the screen. This is a very simple app, which has an abundance of content. It’s not the most exciting app for young children, but it offers some good practice with word recognition.

Sentence Maker: Children hear a sentence and see a picture. They then drag words down to create the sentence. Different settings can make the game easier or more difficult. “Word Hints” can be provided in the blanks so that children simple have to match words. “Sentence Hints” can be turned off so that children have to figure out the sentence by unscrambling the words. And to make it even harder, the pictures can be taken away by turning off the “Visual Hints.” You can also select what kinds of sentences to include. For example, you can turn on sentences that start with “I can see a…” I have two main criticisms of this app. First, children tend to guess with this app. It’s often easier to try each word in each spot that to figure out what the words are. Also, children can see how many letters have to be in each word. So if there is only one word option that has three letters, then they will guess the three-letter word without actually having to figure out what the word is. Second, I wish there was an option to include extra words on the screen, so that children would have to select from a larger group of words.

Jumbled Sentences 1: Words appear on a rotating Ferris wheel. Children must unscramble the words and drag them into place to form a sentence. When the words are touched, the app says what they are. This app is the first in a series of nine very similar apps. The other apps differ in theme—instead of a Ferris wheel, they have a spinning record, racecars on a track, etc. These apps might help children practice recognizing words, but they’re not very engaging and the design is not very intuitive for young children.

Sentence Magic: Children see a picture and two or three (as selected) words scattered on the screen. When they touch the picture, they hear a phrase. They have to move the words into place below to make the phrase. There is also a “Sentence Reading” section wherein children can touch the words and hear the phrase before touching the box above to reveal the picture. “Word Hints” can be turned on or off. If they are on, then children can touch the empty boxes for the words and hear which word goes in each spot. “Word Blending” can also be turned on and off, also. If it is on, when children touch a word, it says the sounds in that word instead of saying the whole word. This option provides a little more support for children who still need to hear someone else say the sounds in a word to be able to blend them. This a pretty good app for children who are a little further along with their phonics skills and are ready to start putting words together to form phrases. The words included are well selected. They are almost all simple words that children can sound out with basic letter sounds. However, with this app, children are inclined to guess until they figure out the answer. It is usually faster to try the two or three words in each spot that it is to sound out the words. And there are no rewards for answering correctly on the first try. Also, I wish there was an option to have extra words on the screen, so that it’s more challenging.

Reading Comprehension Grades K-1: Children read sentence(s) with an accompanying picture. Then they read and answer four multiple choice questions about what they read. The first group has simple one or two sentence groups to read. The more challenging groups have short paragraphs. This is a decent app to practice reading fluidity and reading comprehension. However, it is really not much different than a traditional workbook. The only difference is that it makes a sound and a smiling or frowning face when you choose an answer, indicating whether it was the correct answer. Also, children tend to guess with this app. They often pick random answers until they find the correct one.