Sight Words by Little Speller is a free app that looks deceptively simple but its complete customization possibilities make it one of the most dynamic apps of its kind available. In its default form, Little Speller offers a simple interface: click the blue ‘play’ button and a word pops up on the screen with letter tiles that the user drags to their respective locations under the word. Voiceover narration says the word, each letter as it is dragged into the correct location and then spells the word again once a user successfully completes it. All voice narration, sounds, letter and word hints can be turned on and off via the settings menu in the top right hand corner of the home screen. The default combination of voiceovers, letter hints and spelling repeats can sometimes feel like overkill, even for young students, so I’ve found that turning letter hints (and potentially letter repeat) off makes the visual and audible clues a little more bearable. Think of this app as the ‘Mad Minute’ of spelling and sight words; there’s nothing fancy, it’s designed to commit the basics and reinforce fundamental spelling skills. The app’s real genius though is in its ability to be completely customizable. Teachers and parents can add words to any of the five levels via the ‘Customize Items’ option in the settings menu. Custom words, visual cues, and letter sounds can all be uploaded and recorded in the app. This feature allows for custom spelling or word lists from a class sheet or increased differentiation in a standard classroom, learning support or EAL environment.
Sight Words by Little Speller is suitable for Lower Primary, Upper Primary and students in EAL or Learning Support.
ICDL – Free books for Children is a free app published by the International Children’s Digital Library that makes the ICDL collection of thousands of free e-books easily accessible through the ipad. The catalogue interface is searchable via a number of different indicators including languages, length, age level, genre and the ICDL curated collections. ICDL specializes in language variety, so users will find books in dozens of different languages available for reading. A simple reading interface and summaries of every book in English make it easier to search the library’s vast offering of e-books. Most of the books are in the public domain, so be aware that they may be older editions and that the language, text, and themes in the books may reflect that. ICDL’s suitability is widely varied and depends on the book and the audience.
ICDL – Free Books for Children is suitable for EC, Lower Primary, Upper Primary, and Secondary.
Felt Board is a paid app that uses felt textured backgrounds, characters, and objects to engage students in open-ended story telling and imaginative play. The app has a variety of theme based menus from which students drag and drop objects onto a pre-selected ‘felt’ background. Intuitive features like pinching make it easy to resize, turn and scale objects in the scene. The app is also very clever about automatic resizing, for instance automatically resizing the clothes or face a student selects and drags onto an enlarged or reduced body shape. Students can also take a picture of their creation with the built in camera tool or save it to the app’s gallery window. While this app is ideal for younger students, it has a wide variety of storytelling potential, especially in combination with other apps, for older primary aged children. It may also be beneficial for EAL, Learning Support and Counselling.
Felt Board is suitable for Early Childhood, Lower Primary and Upper Primary
Phonics Tic-Tac-Toe is a fun way to practice basic English language phonics and letter blends in the game interface of Tic-Tac-Toe. In this free app, users select a team, ‘x’ or ‘o’ and earn a square on the board by answering a phonics related question. If a user chooses an incorrect answer, the square is not filled in and play resumes with the other team. Strategically answering questions correctly to get three team shapes in a row wins the game. This game is simple and effective practice, but it benefits from having two players, one of whom can confidently read the questions as there is no sound narration in this app.
Phonics Tic-Tac-Toe is suitable for Lower Primary and Upper Primary, as well as EAL learners.
Little Writer – the Tracing App for Kids is a free app published by Alligator Apps that offers a colourful and simple interface for young children to practice tracing the letters of the alphabet, numbers up to 10, as well as basic shapes and words. Both capital and lower case letters are available for practice. A unique and memorable feature of this particular app is that it allows for complete customisation via the settings menu. The accents and additional letters found in most languages using the Roman alphabet are present and users can customize all the words, letters and numbers by recording their own voices, which makes this app completely customizable to a number of languages in addition to the default English. Note that there will be some considerable time needed to completely customize the app, but it is very easy to do. There is also a companion paid Little Writer app that offers phonic sounds.
Little Writer is suitable for Early Childhood or students practising the basic fundamentals of a language.