Tuesday, September 24

A newspaper article about our family

We are always cautious about opening our family to 'media' because you never know what type of spin it will have. Recently we were approached about a "Turbo Mom" feature with the Florida Today newspaper. The idea of a light being hidden under a bush came to mind. God's given us a testimony, and we need to share it, even at the 'risk' of public scrutiny. 

I think the article was well done, and this quote is one we live by:

"Societally, being inconvenienced is something people try to avoid, however the amount of inconvenience that we experience when expanding our family through adoption is nothing compared to the ‘inconvenience’ of not having a family."

:) Something I've been saying a lot lately!

Here's the FL Today article:
http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20130920/TURBOMOM/309200011/Look-Who-s-Talking-Meredith-Cornish



Friday, September 6

25 iPad apps (set #5) for children with special needs: developmental level K-1

SET #5, apps 23-25 and Books 1-19

Here are 25 teaching apps and 19 story book apps that I've installed for my 7 yr old daughter with Down syndrome and my 4 yr old typically developing daughter.

View Set #1 (and my criteria for "keeping" an app for my kids!) HERE:
http://cornishadoptionjourney.blogspot.com/2013/09/25-ipad-apps-set-1-for-children-with.html
Set #2
http://cornishadoptionjourney.blogspot.com/2013/09/25-ipad-apps-set-2-for-children-with.html
Set #3
http://cornishadoptionjourney.blogspot.com/2013/09/25-ipad-apps-set-3-for-children-with.html
Set #4
http://cornishadoptionjourney.blogspot.com/2013/09/25-ipad-apps-set-4-for-children-with.html

23. Early Learning Academy (Early...cademy)
by Age of Learning Inc(iPhone and iPad)  
FREE (BUT requires subscription to use- includes a small trial with two activities).
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/early-learning-academy/id586328581?mt=8
This app MUST have a subscription to the site ABCmouse.com in order to access the full content.  This app is much like the online content, and the "Learning Path" can be set up to start your child at the level you'd like them to start at (from early 3-yr old through end of kindergarten!).  You can set up your own lesson plans and other fun things online, and when a child goes from the PC version of this game to the iPad version, they can pick right up where they let off.  It's a Touch-Screen alternative to the computer version!  And with just one subscription for both access points, that's even better.
I wasn't going to include this in these app reviews, however my girls have both just taken off with this and really enjoyed it (though one of them is almost finished with the older content).  So, here it is... and we have a free subscription currently through our private school umbrella for homeschooling.

Cost is about $8/month, however there is a free 1 month subscription, and ABCmouse.com is FREE for all public and private schools at the moment, so you might consider asking your school if they will register and share the information so your child (and whole family!) can have access if you have a child in public or private school (don't forget private umbrella schools are still private schools!). Information about subscribing: https://www.abcmouse.com/subscription 

Videos, books, coloring pages, songs, activities... there is a LOT to do on this app and online program!

Also, check out these two additional FREE apps, which are technically "books" but are interactive and teaching, so I am putting them in the app list instead.  

Search and Explore: Mount Rushmore (ABCmouse): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abcmouse.com-mt.-rushmore/id605640045?mt=8
Search and Explore: The Grand Canyon (ABCmouse): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abcmouse.com-grand-canyon/id409716293?mt=8

24. Fizzy's Lunch Lab Fresh pick (Fresh pick)
by PBS Kids(iPhone and iPad)  
FREE
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fizzys-lunch-lab-fresh-pick/id573537290?mt=8

What a FUN game! My "typical" 9 yr old created his own profile for this game, wanting to join in the fun as well!  Grocery mapping, buying groceries, neighborhood mapping, pantry hunt, fizzy's invention, customer change, "find Freddy", and a Food matcher are the challenges, and the funny characters, cute animation, and the 'game show feel' is a lot of fun! :)  Short videos transition between areas and explaim directions.  The language is a little above a k-1 child, but the activities are definitely do-able, especially with a parent nearby.  This works on narrowing down (like the old board game "guess who" as the image shows above.  

I think the game show feel is really what 'sells' this game, and the funny 'absent minded' professor that is the show host.  If you skip the videos, you may or may not know what's going on, but you can still play the games if you can read the directions.

This game also teaches left, right, up, down with the 'mapping' games, and my younger kids were still struggling to do those, but trying, trying, trying!

This is a fun and well made activity by PBS kids which I expect the kids will figure out and continue to enjoy more and more over time.

25. Special Words (Special Words)
by Special iApps(iPhone and iPad)  
Saving a great app for last-- and also the most expensive app I've ever spent the money on.  This app was made by an organization that I support, and based on research SPECIFICALLY for children with Down syndrome and visual learning.  This app is very easily customized- you can choose different modes- picture to picture, word to picture, picture to word, or word.  You can turn the spoken words on or off.  You can have it auto advance, and can even add your own pictures, cards, and voice recordings.  This app is the digital version of a long-used "paper based" program of a similar feel which was designed based on years of research.

From their website:  The words and pictures provided with Special Words are the same as those in the See and Learn Language and Reading resources from Down Syndrome Education International, and this app can be used to complement the use of their paper-based See and Learn activities."

This is an app worth purchasing if you have a struggling learner, a visual learner, and if your child is engaged by the "flashcard" approach to learning.  Our kids really enjoy it and have mastered many sight words through this approach!


BOOKS!!
Now for the books!  There are 19 storybooks which at the moment are "new to me" and either are interactive, teaching, and/or simple and easy to navigate.  Though there are 19 books, they will be clumped by type since when a company made one good book, they sometimes made three more just like it :)

1-3. Larry Lizard Books (Lazy Larry, Look Our Larry, Lost...Lizard)
by Wasabi Productions(iPhone and iPad)  
$2.99 each (I downloaded these during a promo and they were FREE)
Lazy Larry Lizard Bedtime Story Book:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lazy-larry-lizard-bedtime/id370137977?mt=8
Look Out Larry!  Animated Story Book:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/look-out-larry!-animated-story/id427064272?mt=8
Lost Larry Interactive Story Book:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lost-larry-interactive-story/id488014950?mt=8
I was a little disappointed to see that these are $2.99 each now, but really, I think I would consider purchasing them even for that.  These are great 'read to me' but also have interactive components.  Easily help Larry through the path by tracing a path, or to jump rocks by counting out the 7 rocks (must tap each in the right order).  Help him jump over a break in the cliff.  These stories highlight as they are read, the voice has intonation to it (not computerized), and it verbally tells the directions of what to do.  The child's "tap" is what activates the animation to 'wake up' Larry, or help him through the maze, or to jump, etc.  Wasabi has several great apps, and this set are the only ones on this specific review, but when I saw the name I knew they were one I'd enjoyed in the past as well.  

4. Ten Giggly Gorillas (Giggly Gorillas) 
by Wasabi
(iPhone and iPad)  
$2.99 (I downloaded this during a promotional when it was FREE)
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ten-giggly-gorillas-story/id487182988?mt=8
These fun monkeys are the traditional "ten little monkeys" story, with the interactive element where you're supposed to listen to the clues and tickle the monkey- then they fall down!  But only if you pick the right one!  This is a fun interactive storybook, by the same makers of the Larry Lizard (and I understand there is now a "Gorilla Band" book out, which we've not purchased).  A fun book with a  Monkey Memory game at the end with the different storybook monkeys on the game cards.  A fun little story, and great for listening to directions to see WHICH monkey you're supposed to tickle!


5-14. ABCMouse.com Books
by Age of Learning Inc.(iPhone and iPad)  
FREE
Dan and Jan (Dan and Jan): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abcmouse.com-dan-and-jan/id375408366?mt=8
The Hen in the Pen (Hen in the Pen):  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abcmouse.com-hen-in-pen/id375234320?mt=8
The Tortoise and the Hare (ABCmouse): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abcmouse.com-tortoise-hare/id375219197?mt=8
The Boy who Cried Wolf(ABCmouse): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abcmouse.com-boy-who-cried/id375417512?mt=8
Ham with Jam (Ham with Jam): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abcmouse.com-ham-with-jam/id466703548?mt=8
Big Pig Little Pig (Big Pig...le Pig): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abcmouse.com-big-pig-little/id466705687?mt=8
Big Bug Little Bug (Big Bu...le Bug): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abcmouse.com-big-bug-little/id375423515?mt=8
The Fox and the Stork (ABCmouse): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abcmouse.com-fox-stork/id586095264?mt=8
The Lion and the Mouse (ABCmouse): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abcmouse.com-lion-mouse/id592063440?mt=8
To Run is Fun (To Run is Fun): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abcmouse.com-to-run-is-fun/id466704695?mt=8
  
 
These FREE books are great!  They have some interaction, they can read in three different styles (read to me, read with pauses between pages, and child reads on their own).  There are also images at the bottom of each page.  You can 'pop' the picture out, See just the words and click to hear each word (as seen in green above), go to the 'parent tips' for each page, and change the settings.  I wish these weren't on EVERY page, but for a free book, it's not that big of a deal :).  The "brown" colored books  also have a "G" book at the bottom, which is a glossary.  It's only active for some of the pages, where it might be necessary.  These are Aesop's Fables books.  Each color book is a different 'series'.  Worth trying out, and no risk since they're FREE! *Though I've written most of these app reviews at night, I am doing the books during the day to finish off the series.  Lynae is sitting with me (almost 4 'typical' daughter) and she's asking that I please let her FINISH each book instead of flipping through them! :)

15-18. Fairy Tales by McGraw-Hill
(iPhone and iPad)  
FREE
Jack and the Beanstalk (Beanstalk): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/jack-beanstalk-from-mcgraw/id573259025?mt=8
The Little Red Hen (LittleRedHen): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/little-red-hen-interactive/id529256851?mt=8
Little Red Riding Hood (Riding Hood): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/little-red-riding-hood-from/id573260181?mt=8
Country Mouse and City Mouse (Country & City):  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/country-mouse-and-city-mouse/id573248205?mt=8

 

These are simple books, but great stories and fun images with some slight animation and sound effects.  The two choices of "read to me" or "read it myself" are simple enough, and on each page you can tap each character to hear other little 'tidbits' in the stories.  Click either arrows or 'turned up corners' (depending on the book) to change the page.  These are great FREE books with classic stories!

19. Open, Wide, Snap (Open Wide) 
by Kid e-storybooks
(iPhone and iPad)  
$0.99 (I downloaded this during a promotional when it was FREE)
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/open-wide-snap/id465246583?mt=8
This is a nice long book, which is what caught my attention.  It also has a puzzle and a "Pairs" (concentration) game that you can play.  The story is fun and simple, the drawings are well done and consistent, and when you're on an iPad with constant input and changing from one thing to the next to the next, sometimes it's nice to be able to sit down and actually STAY STILL for a few minutes to read an entire little book!  This is a cute story of an alligator with a toothache, and it highlights the words as it reads to you, or you can read it to your child (or have another child read it to them!).  


Thursday, September 5

25 iPad apps (set #4) for children with special needs: developmental level K-1

SET #4, apps 18-22

Here are 25 teaching apps and 19 story book apps that I've installed for my 7 yr old daughter with Down syndrome and my 4 yr old typically developing daughter.

View Set #1 (and my criteria for "keeping" an app for my kids!) HERE:
http://cornishadoptionjourney.blogspot.com/2013/09/25-ipad-apps-set-1-for-children-with.html
Set #2
http://cornishadoptionjourney.blogspot.com/2013/09/25-ipad-apps-set-2-for-children-with.html
Set #3
http://cornishadoptionjourney.blogspot.com/2013/09/25-ipad-apps-set-3-for-children-with.html

18. Kid Vision VPK (KidvisionVPK)
by Community Television Foundation of South Florida, Inc.
(iPhone and iPad)  
FREE
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kidvisionvpk/id450229487?mt=8
Ok, here's one most people have never heard of and wouldn't unless it was brought up by someone else... One that I've only come across once, and that was on an intentional Search!  KidVision VPK is a public school VPK program made to go on "virtual field trips" with preK classes.  This ended up being a growing database, and there are now FORTY different 'field trips' your child can go on.  Each has a "Watch" "Quiz" and "Learn" section.  Each video is between 6 and 10 minutes long and each quiz has 3 questions.  The "Learn" section is a formal lesson plan for an activity linked to that video and concept.  My girls just love watching the videos, but the questions are excellent follow-up, and the easy going "field trip" format means the kids get some of the educational side of things at the same time that they're pretty sure they've "tricked me in to" watching TV!

The lesson plans aren't anything I've used, but they are generally a simple activity like a recycling poster after "going to the recycling center."  The quizzes do NOT read the questions or answers aloud, so they are pretty pointless for non-readers without an adult nearby, but let's face it... the kids launch the app and click their desired 'trip' then click the 'tv' button.  This is an app we've had around for a while, and as they've added so many new 'trips,' I can see that the kids will continue enjoying it for some time still.


19. Dora ABCs Vol 2: Rhyming Words HD (Dora Rhyme)
by Nickelodeon
(iPhone and iPad)  
$4.99
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kidvisionvpk/id450229487?mt=8
This is a simple game with four levels that teaches rhyming words, first or last sounds, and inside sounds.  I'll explain it using rhyming words.  You play with the Troll that gives riddles to go through the game.  Dora and Boots enjoy collecting tokens by rhyming words together.  An image is in the center with others circling around it.  Only one of the circling words will rhyme.  When you touch any of the items, their name is spoken.  This is a great way to add repetition to the sounds.  If you get it wrong, the picture simply goes back in to the outside rotation rather than stopping the game.  This is fun because of the common characters, and the way it teaches rhyming is engaging.  

Though there are multiple levels, each time the child signs in to play, they choose a level.  This means that if they choose something too hard, they may not be able to actually play the game. It's unfortunate that you cannot "lock in" one or another.  One of the choices is 'inside sounds' which is a more advanced skill than first, last, or rhyming words.

In a sense, since it's easy to get in to the game and choose an adventure difficulty that the child isn't capable of, maybe it's a good thing that when you press the button it restarts at the beginning? 

This game also has 4 user names you can put in, and you can view a 'report card' for each child which reports on each of the different game play areas (rhyming, for instance).  It is helpful to see what area your child is trying to use, and how successful they are at it!

Overall, this is a great game and teaches a set of concepts that a lot of kids with special needs struggle with learning, so it's a much needed app, and with a friendly voice and face that the kids already know and love!

This is the second volume out of 3.  The first is Skywriting ABC's and the third is reviewed below.


20. Dora ABCs Vol 3: Ready to Read HD (Dora Rhyme)
by Nickelodeon
(iPhone and iPad)  
$4.99
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dora-abcs-vol-3-ready-to-read!/id466817553?mt=8
Another app with a price tag, but another that's worth it.  You're not going to find the popular characters in a full length and well researched game without a price tag to go along, but this is another that we recently found and my girls have already played their $5 worth.  This is the 3rd in the Dora ABCs series, and one working on reading phonics.  This works through levels of reading a word and putting a picture with it, and adding a different first letter to that word to make another (Cap- map).  Touching each letter or picture will make the phonetic sound, so you can 'sound out' the entire words as well.  There are little 'mini games' with frogs between the phonics, but you can skip those as well if desired.  

Another fun and engaging Dora app which solidifies one concept- beginning letter sounds! I especially like that it teaches with word families, using two at a time to teach ending and beginning sounds, introducing more rhyming at the same time.  

If you play every game that you can play between each word set, this game play could take a VERY long time!  Unfortunately, this also is disappointing because even as the third in this series of Dora ABC's, there is still the issue that every time you press the 'home' button, the game restarts at the beginning.  This is especially disturbing when the game has a definitive beginning and end, like this one does, and it takes some time to complete.

Overall, the characters are ones the kids already know and love, the game is educational and fun, and the kids have already proven that it is worth the money!


21. TeachMe: Kindergarten (Kindergarten)
by 24x7 digital LLC
This app is one we've been using for two years and it's probably time to move to TeachMe: 1st Grade, but the girls are still learning and enjoying and growing.  As the photos show, this uses a "bin" for adding and subtracting then has a number bank to choose from.  It gives audible words for the Dolch sight words lists, and has missing first letters, etc for spelling.  It is a great app that covers four basic starting points and increases in difficulty as the child learns as well as keeping separate profiles for different users.

This app doesn't have the most engaging voices, and isn't one that is animated and "fun" to just sit and play, HOWEVER, it teaches and tracks things in a GREAT way and it's not always about the bells and whistles!  I love this app for the way it teaches in concrete ways, and I frequently engage "guided access" and let the girls have the iPad in order to work through some skills in this app.  They still enjoy it, and as I said above, it's probably time to fork over another $1.99 to get the First Grade version of this app so the girls can keep on learning!

This app is easily customized.  You can turn each of the 4 main teaching areas (such as subtraction, for instance) on or off.  You can also change their levels in each section.  There is a very detailed info screen about each section including the child's current level, the total number of questions, the number of learned and unlearned as well as disabled questions.  Then the number of times a child must get a question right for it to be considered 'learned', the number of active questions and number of review questions that are included, and whether or not to allow a 'tap' to count.

This is a well made app with a lot of things to 'report back' to the parent and is fun, without the 'bells and whistles' of the known cartoon characters, but with the added bonus of a focus on great academics!

You can use this app for up to FORTY players, so it would also be great for school use.


22. Todo K-2 Math Practice (Todo Math)
by Locomotive Laps
(iPhone and iPad)  
FREE
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/todo-k-2-math-practice/id666465255?mt=8
This app was more than I expected!  Initially getting in to the activity and choosing both the activity and level was slightly difficult, and wouldn't be easily navigated by a child, however the ability to either drag and drop the number OR write it on the lines (then 'confirm' that that was the intended number by clicking on the suggested answer based on your drawing (see second image, you 'click' the 12 when finished), this is a neat way to either work on writing skills with math, or to work just on the math.  There are "quick facts" (second image above) with addition and subtraction on 7 kindergarten levels as well as 9 first and 9 second grade leveled question sets.  "Falling blocks" has 7 kindergarten, 9 first grade, and 2 second grade levels.  It creates ten-frames to help visually (can use the ten frames to count) as well as the addition problem.  All of the areas of this game use the same right-hand area where you either begin writing (and the numbers disappear, then the 'clear' and suggested number pop up) OR you begin dragging a number down to the 'writing' space, and it shows either 1 or 2 'digit boxes' for the numbers to go in to.

Again, I was surprised!  There are videos throughout to explain how to use this app before each section, and then... there is even a 6, 8, 10 minute TIMED PRACTICE for Kindergarten, 1st, or 2nd grade.  It shows the areas ahead of time that will be done (such as tracing, falling blocks, tallies, and cookies-- four of the activities included) and you press the "start" button!  Tracing shows bouncing balls and you trace the number off to the side.  You cannot 'fail' as the arrow will only follow the tracing block.  You can also click the bouncing balls and they will 'count' aloud to the tracing number.  You're rewarded on this timed trial when you finish writing to 10!  Each activity takes 2 minutes, to do the complete 8 minutes.  Some activities will continue 'creating data' to stretch it to the 2:00 mark!

This game is a lot of fun, has some calm music, gentle images with solid clean lines and is a lot of fun!  I wish it was just a little easier to navigate the levels and such, but in all, it's such a fun and educational way of working, I don't mind doing some of the leg-work to get the kids in to the right area.  Of course when they get to this program on their own, they just 'mess around' with it, but with some guidance it is a really GREAT app!


Wednesday, September 4

25 iPad apps (set #3) for children with special needs: developmental level K-1

SET #3, apps 13-17

Here are 25 teaching apps and 19 story book apps that I've installed for my 7 yr old daughter with Down syndrome and my 4 yr old typically developing daughter.

View Set #1 (and my criteria for "keeping" an app for my kids!) HERE:
http://cornishadoptionjourney.blogspot.com/2013/09/25-ipad-apps-set-1-for-children-with.html
Set #2
http://cornishadoptionjourney.blogspot.com/2013/09/25-ipad-apps-set-2-for-children-with.html


13. Counting and Addition! Math educational games (Addition!)
by Tribal Nova
(iPhone and iPad)  To find similar apps, search "iLearn with"
FREE
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/counting-addition-!-math-educational/id438688984?mt=8
This is one of the apps which bypasses some of my general 'rules', but I still like it :).  You can add up to 6 with this free app, which is a great place to start.  The two bowlers both knock down pins, then you add up all the pins that are knocked down.  You choose the number that tells how many were knocked down.  When pins are knocked down, you touch them and they 'jump' together and say the number, counting up (one, two).  Then you choose the number they represent.  This keeps the kids playing because they enjoy the bowling animation.

The intro screen has two additional games- adding up to 10 and to 15.  The "Add up to 6" is flashing to get the kids to press that one, and there are I have in-app purchases turned off on our iPad, so this opens another screen, but then can't go anywhere and has a big "X" in the corner to get back to the game.  It's not too bad, and again, the game itself is fun, so worth it there.  

There are multiple profiles, and it keeps track of how far each child has progressed through each of the 3 levels of each game (up to 6 has 3 levels).  It also reports the success rate at each level and (based on the child's age given) it shows what the average is for other kids in their age group. 


14.  Jumbled Sentences 1 (JumbledSent1)
by Innovative Net Learning Limited
(iPhone and iPad)  To find similar apps, search "jumbled sentences"
FREE
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/jumbled-sentences-1/id545928916?mt=8
This is one of SEVEN (Jumbled sentences 1-7) FREE sentence builders.  The simple make eventually times out (disappointing), but it starts with 4-word sentences, with a capital letter.  The idea is to put them together on the bottom of the screen so the sentence makes sense.  You click the 'ok' button to check it and any correct placements stay down, whereas the wrong words go back up.  Trial and error will eventually work, but this is a great way to teach full sentences especially for a child that has speech delays and may 'miss' the supporting words.

You can use the "hint" option to have part of the sentence correctly placed at the bottom, which is very helpful for beginning learners as well.  This is a well made and basic game, with a fun center graphic and easy play.  What it is teaching is valuable for many children that sentence structure may not come naturally for, and each word is spoken as you touch it.  The timer starts at 3 minutes for each game round.  Though there are 7 versions of this game, and I believe they may increase in difficulty, we've left only Jumbled Sentences 1 installed simply because we didn't want to have so many of the same or similar app installed when they really are all serving the same purpose.  Again, I believe that they do increase in difficulty but I'm not sure if that is the difference between the 7 apps or whether there is more :).


15.  Nonfiction Reading for Kindergarten and First grade (K1 NonFiction)
by Emmy Chen(iPhone and iPad)  
FREE
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nonfiction-reading-for-kindergarten/id622518293?mt=8
This app also breaks some of my rules, but for the function that it is made for, it's ok to break them!  This is NOT a self-led app for most kindergarten and first graders unless they have a high independent reading level.  There is a long paragraph (or thereabouts) of information, then a set of 8-10 questions about that topic.   You swipe to get between questions, and a smiley face with a thumbs up or down 'corrects' each question as you go.  A child could independently get all of the questions correct and then hit 'submit' without being able to read or understand any of the information given because of the direct response given by the smiley.  THIS IS NOT INDEPENDENT for this reason :).

This is a great tool for checking whether the child is understanding what is being read, and also for teaching to answer basic questions.  So many kids with learning disabilities and other various special needs have difficulty answering specific questions that are direct.  This is a great practice, and there are many different engaging topics available (20).


16.  Word Wonderland (Wd Wndrlnd P)
by McGraw-Hill(iPhone and iPad)  For more like this, search for McGraw-Hill, but be aware that this company makes a LOT of apps in MANY levels!
$1.99 (I wasn't aware until researching for this post that there is a free "Lite" version as well)
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/word-wonderland-primary-full/id611436564?mt=8
FREE Lite version:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/word-wonderland-primary-lite/id604126451?mt=8
This is another that has a bit of a learning curve, but the skills that are taught are worthwhile to work on!  There is a Practice Skills section (shown in images above) with multiple vowel sounds to choose from, and the games are trying to get from the start to the finish.  Where a vowel sound is written and the lily pad is missing, the child must find a word (below) that goes there.
When in the easy settings on practice, you can choose to specifically practice short i, or short o, for instance, and then choose the words from below that have that sound.  Using the arrows across the bottom, you can get additional words as well.  After an initial 'teaching' time to explain what's supposed to happen, our kids were able to navigate it with minimal assistance.  In general in the game modes, with their level of learning right now, this is an excellent "led practice" game, and eventually would become a game to play on their own.  It doesn't necessarily help teach the concepts without parent-led learning, but it definitely is a fun way to LEAD that learning with your child!  This is an engaging game that has several different parts to it which our  kids have been enjoying.

This has a fun treasure map style play but all the 'levels' appear to be the same layout when you get in them :).  There are other fun little surprises along the way, collecting stars in the worlds which adds a challenge if a child desires to, but doesn't take away from the game by not doing those parts.  Overall, a good teaching game with multiple difficulty levels, practice on specific sounds, and 'game' play that includes multiple sounds together.

17.  The Word Monsters (WordMonsters)
by McGraw-Hill(iPhone and iPad)  

Though I'm not a big fan of those with in-app purchases, my kids have really enjoyed the one FREE book, and it may be worth additional purchases in the future.   This is somewhere between storybook and activity, but like the Bob Books, this has so many activities that go with it that it's more of an activity than just a book.  The story is read with decodable reading, and highlights as it goes.  Then there are comprehension questions (about the story characters) at the end.  It also has a matching set, which has an AUDIBLE sound "are" and a written word that you have to find the two that match.  GREAT game for sight word teaching, and for listening to the entire word.  There are phonics activities as well. 

There are enough 'included' items in this that even though it is a 'purchase more' type of app, there is plenty of fun in this free starter version, and it may be worth it to purchase additional parts in the future if the kids really enjoy it.  Let's admit it... the cute little monsters that wiggle, and talk, and throw out weird noises, and do fun stuff while the kids are "reading" and "learning"... well, that's worth a free app even if it's just a small piece of a greater whole. :)

Tuesday, September 3

25 iPad apps (set #2) for children with special needs: developmental level K-1

SET #2, apps 6-12

Here are 25 teaching apps and 19 story book apps that I've installed for my 7 yr old daughter with Down syndrome and my 4 yr old typically developing daughter.

View Set #1 (and my criteria for "keeping" an app for my kids!) HERE:
http://cornishadoptionjourney.blogspot.com/2013/09/25-ipad-apps-set-1-for-children-with.html


6-8.  ZOO Set One, Two, and Three
(ZOO set one, ZOO set two, ZOO set three)
by ABCMouse.com

(iPhone and iPad)  look for other apps by searching "ABCmouse.com"
FREE
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abcmouse.com-zoo-set-1/id376049077?mt=8
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abcmouse.com-zoo-set-2/id536786118?mt=8
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abcmouse.com-zoo-set-3/id536787780?mt=8

This set of three FREE apps are identical in their play, focusing on different animals.  These apps introduce general map awareness from their basic layout, but that's as far as the developer goes with map-skills.  Funny sounds are played when you click on a food or restroom image too.  When you touch each animal, it brings you to their habitat and the animals are animated and moving around on the screen.  There are multiple facts that the zookeeper will tell you when you click on her or on the animal.  There are short quizzes on each animal based on the animal facts given.  Most (all?) have baby animals that come on and off of the screen as well.  

We are pretty new to the ABCMouse.com family of programs, but the more I see, the more I'm enjoying for our children!  The website is a subscription-based play, however it is free to private and public school students if your school registers (doesn't hurt to ask...!). These free apps are easy to navigate 

These apps do not retain your 'place' when the home button is pressed, but since there isn't a whole lot of sequential movement through the apps, it's not too hard to make it back to the place you were before exiting the app.

Aside from each app showing 5 different animals (a total of 15), these three app's are otherwise identical in their play and structure.  It's a good set-up, however, so they kept going with something that works, and inevitably get more 'downloads' on more apps because they spread it out a bit.  Can't blame them for good marketing strategies :).



9.  All About Letters Interactive Activities (ABC's) by Lakeshore 
(iPhone and iPad)  look for other apps by searching "Lakeshore"
$1.99
This app is engaging with multiple ways of teaching the letters.  It's not just your basic introduction to letters, but it could easily be used as that as well.  With 5 activities on each letter then a tracing and writing page, there is more to this app than just the basic alphabet.  This app features a 'chant' teaching the letter sound (and showing it phonetically written), then 4 "starts with" activities (using the sound, not the letter name)  The "starts with" activities shows three images with their corresponding word written on each picture.  Click the "more" button on the bottom of the page and you're introduced to writing, with a video tracing demonstration then an area to write on the bottom.

This app opens with an 'intro' screen saying "All About Letters Interactive Activities", then pauses briefly before going right in to the game.  On the top right is the "More Lakeshore Apps" button that I always dread seeing because I know little exploring fingers will click there, get off the game, never finding their way back (unless guided access is enabled... in which case the button does nothing but make a light sound).  The top says "All About" and has a flashing "TAP HERE", but no oral directions.  Thankfully the flashing is pretty telling.  The tap brings up a scrolling alphabet where the child chooses a letter.  

There are several areas that I think Lakeshore dropped the ball on this app, starting with the very first need to select a letter from a scrolling list rather than a full screen, meaning it's more difficult to get a child to find a specific letter if they don't know alphabetizing yet, and it only shows 4-5 letters at a time.  Also, The main center screen with the chant written is not 'clickable'.  Only the "play chant" on the top corner of that box plays the chant.  When you select one of the four boxes (which initially show up as white boxes with a large "?" in them) it reads the directions audibly once, and has written directions, however there's no option that repeats the sound.  Also, when you select an image, it speaks the name, however you have to click a small 'enter' button (similar idea to the 'play chant' above) to select that picture.  I understand that this is so you can hear each image name, but a drag and drop or something similar would be easier for a child to figure out on their own.  Last, in the "more" area with writing there are a few areas that could use improvement.  The "play trace" is again hard to initially know to touch since it's a small button on the top corner, and there is no 'right or wrong' in the "writing" below.  In fact, it's just a 3-lined blank area with a pencil, eraser, and a button that says "clear all".  Below are the words "help" (which goes to a screen with an "all about letters" very wordy set of directions that only an adult would make sense of) and "reset" (which to my understanding really only "resets" anything if you paused the trace part way through and want it to restart without finishing... but it's only a few seconds long to 'finish' anyway... and it clears the writing area, which could be done with the 'clear all' button).  

Ok, so it looks like a lot of negatives, however... once you sit down with your child and show them how to choose a letter, and show them where the buttons are throughout the screens to progress, it really is a FUN app and one with a lot of good imaging and learning value for a child.  I think the tracing and writing area could have been left off entirely, and I encourage my kids to stick to the original screen and just play with the different letters there, but with a stylus and some 1:1 time to sit and work on it together, maybe I'd like the writing section too.  Or, maybe I'd still prefer paper and a pencil for that :).

One last positive, if you exit the game then reenter, it 'saves your place' during the duration of that 'open' period (to close a game, double click the 'home' button when you're not in that game, and hit the 'minus' button on the game.  This doesn't delete the game like the "x" button does on the home screen, but rather it closes that session).  This is great if someone else presses the button and exits the game, or mom needs to borrow the iPad.

For me, it was worth the $1.99, however for being from such a "big name" I was still disappointed.


10. Beginning Sounds Interactive Game
(Sound Sorting Beginning Sounds) by Lakeshore 
(iPhone and iPad)  look for other apps by searching "Lakeshore"
$0.99

This app introduces a child to beginning sounds by using common pictures to place in the 9-grid sliding game board.  The initial pictures can be chosen by the user or you can select 'random', and the corresponding tokens are used on the side.  Tapping any image will give a verbal of the item name, as well as the three main pictures at the top.  A correctly placed token 'clicks' in to place and the other tokens roll down on the side.  An incorrectly placed token makes a "sucking in" sound and disappears in to the game, then reappears coming out of the 'tube' at the top of the game.  This is a good reinforcement game for continued learning of beginning sounds.

This app opens with an 'intro' screen saying "Interactive Sound Sorting Game", then pauses briefly before going right in to the game.  There are NO AD LINKS on the main page! **BONUS**  The top says "Choose 3 beginning sounds", but no oral directions.  Then there are two buttons on the bottom "Randomize selections" and "Enter".  There are 18 pictures in the center, and a child is supposed to know to click three then hit "enter", OR click just the "randomize selections" button.  Eventually, most kids will make it in to the game, though maybe with some trial and error if they haven't been shown previously what to do.  Each picture is named when you tap it and it is automatically selected by doing this.  A second tap 'unselects' the item.  

Lakeshore made a fun app that helps with beginning sounds, however on the second screen it says "match the beginning sounds" at the top, but again, no verbal directions.  After being shown how to play, most children would remember from the layout how the game works.  Unfortunately, this could easily turn in to a "pointless pick and choose" game if the child doesn't understand the point and it isn't explained that they need to match the beginning sounds.  It would be a lot of fun to just click around, hear the tokens continuously fall with their great sound effects, have the vacuum suck the tokens in, and eventually, maybe even win.

One last positive, if you exit the game then reenter, it 'saves your place' during the duration of that 'open' period (to close a game, double click the 'home' button when you're not in that game, and hit the 'minus' button on the game.  This doesn't delete the game like the "x" button does on the home screen, but rather it closes that session).  This is great if someone else presses the button and exits the game, or mom needs to borrow the iPad.

11-12.  Bob Books Magic #1(BB Magic #1)
and Bob Books Lite

by Scholastic
(iPhone and iPad)  look for other apps by searching "Bob Books"
$1.99
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bob-books-1-reading-magic/id403753501?mt=8
(*FREE Lite version: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bob-books-reading-magic-lite/id408873050?mt=8)
Bob Books is a well known series of word family books.  This app goes through 4 levels of learning, drag and drop, learn left-to-right order, spell without visual hints, and pick letters to spell words.   There are small hints along the way (shaking characters/letters to show what to touch,which can be turned off in options) when needed.  This is a great introduction series of leveled interactive books with the traditional "Bob Books" characters.  You can always start with the Lite (FREE) version to decide if you really like the play of it as well!

This is another app with some good R&D, so if you exit the game then reenter, it 'saves your place' during the duration of that 'open' period (to close a game, double click the 'home' button when you're not in that game, and hit the 'minus' button on the game.  This doesn't delete the game like the "x" button does on the home screen, but rather it closes that session).  This is great if someone else presses the button and exits the game, or mom needs to borrow the iPad.





Monday, September 2

25 iPad apps (set #1) for children with special needs: developmental level K-1

SET #1, apps 1-5

Here are 25 teaching apps and 19 story book apps that I've just installed for my 7 yr old daughter with Down syndrome and my 4 yr old typically developing daughter.

My criteria is pretty straight forward, but somewhat 'strict' as well.  I downloaded close to 80 apps one night, searching through "the best of the best" of the new teaching, learning, developing, reviewed, loved, etc... app lists.  I'm sure there are many more that I've not discovered, or that I overlooked for some reason or another but that would do well.  I initially look at FREE apps, but if there is a good enough 'review' of an app, then I am willing to put in a few dollars to get it when I really feel it meets my criteria.  Prices are forever changing, so some that I list as having downloaded "free" may now have an associated cost, or the cost may have changed.

Here is my criteria for downloading AND KEEPING an app:

  • Low or no cost
  • a bonus if it's made by a company that is known for education, but some great ones are 'no-names'
    • ie: McGraw-Hill, Lakeshore, Starfall, and BOB books
  • There are no written instructions that are not also verbal.
  • There are no ad pop ups to navigate through
  • There is a pretty obvious "play" button, if anything, to begin the game
  • If it is personalized per player, a bonus if it has at least 3 name slots 
  • If there is a voice, it doesn't sound digital and it is easy to understand
  • The game teaches something and is engaging (yes, this is toward the end of the list, because you have to make it through all the stuff above this to even get TO the game!)
I'm going to 'clump' a little, so these are numbered for the sake of you being able to find your way through, NOT in any "GRADED" order!  When multiple apps are made by the same developer, I'm clumping them together, and just working through my list :).


1.  Telling Time- Digital Clock by PhotoTouch 
(iPhone and iPad)  look for other apps by searching "Grasshopper Apps.com"
FREE




The idea of this game is it shows clocks, and it speaks the time.  The child then chooses the correct clock that shows that time.  The child is rewarded with a verbal rewarding voice for correct answers.  For incorrect answers, the 'automatic' response is a "wrong" 2-pitch sound. (Both the success and error sounds can be turned off in settings.)

The entire series of apps by Grasshopper Apps, and specifically the PhotoTouch series are very similar in their layout.  It begins with anywhere from 1 item up to 10.  You can set how many items show initially and how many it increases to.  This game will increase and decrease the number of images shown based on success levels.  For instance after a few successes with 3 choices, it will increase to 4, then more successes, and increase to 5.  After several at 5 that are incorrect, it will go back down to 4 choices (this occurs in future problems... none change during the question phase).  It will work all the way down to the minimum (that you can set- auto set is 3) and up to the max (you can also set this, auto set is 10).  You can also choose to show a 'hint' or not.  For the time app the 'hint' is the time being written on the top of the screen in the center, in small numbers.  Then you match it to the type of clock that you've chosen to show.  

This app is ALL DIGITAL clocks, and you can choose which 5-minute increments that you want it to show.  For beginners, you can make it only FULL HOUR ( 3:00 ).  You can choose to turn 'on' or 'off' each 5 minute increment independently, for instance you can choose 00, 15, 30, and 45, or you can choose to only do the 'less heard' times of 05, 10, 20, 25, etc.

This is a VERY customizable app, and you can RECORD YOUR OWN VOICE saying each time if you would like to.  You can even choose your own clock pictures to replace their digital clocks.  

This app opens to the "home" screen, saying "phototouch" and Telling Time, and one of the downfalls to this intro screen is the link in the bottom left corner with a plus sign and "More apps".  If we want more apps... we'll go to iTunes and download them (and I have), however I don't really like that my kids might click that instead of the large blue "Play!" button on the bottom right corner and get sidetracked instead of playing the game.  A benefit on this home screen, however, is the little "settings" square in the top right corner.  It's out of the way, but available. 

If at any time you exit the game then reenter, it 'saves your place' during the duration of that 'open' period (to close a game, double click the 'home' button when you're not in that game, and hit the 'minus' button on the game.  This doesn't delete the game like the "x" button does on the home screen, but rather it closes that session). This is great if someone else (or the child!) presses the button and exits the game, or mom needs to borrow the iPad.

*Note: there is another app with analog clocks that is currently $0.99 at this link:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/telling-time-photo-touch-game/id442399018?mt=8
There is also a "little matchups" game (see #2 below) is also available for FREE at this link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tell-time-little-matchups/id440944851?mt=8#



2.  Count Money by little matchups 
(iPhone and iPad)  look for other apps by searching "Grasshopper Apps.com"
FREE

The idea of this game is it shows images on the left and right, and you match the corresponding money with its counterpart.  It speaks the amount of money shown (9 cents) any time a picture is tapped, helping children to 'add' the money if they don't already know (this can be turned on or off and customized in settings).  There is a 'boing' error sound if incorrect, and a verbal praise when correct.  (Both the success and error sounds can be turned off in settings.)

The entire series of apps by Grasshopper Apps, and particularly within each category (such as little matchups) are very similar in their layout.  This begins with anywhere from 1 item up to 8 that will show on the screen at once.  You can set how many items show initially and how many it increases to.  This game will increase and decrease the number of images shown based on success levels.  For instance after a few successes with 3 choices, it will increase to 4, then more successes, and increase to 5.  After several at 5 that are incorrect, it will go back down to 4 choices (this occurs in future problems... none change during the question phase).  It will work all the way down to the minimum (that you can set- auto set is 2) and up to the max (you can also set this, auto set is 3).  You can also choose to show a 'hint' or not.  For the money app the 'hint' is the amount being spoken when you tap each coin set.

This is a very customizable app and you can choose what increments of coins to show, for instance $0.01-0.10 and each increasing ten cent increment up to $0.99.  In addition, you can show "price tags" instead of coin amounts (show a price tag of $0.01-0.10 to match to corresponding coins).  The price tags, in my opinion, are a first task to teach before matching that a dime and two nickels are equal, since it is adding the coin amount and matching it to that number, however it is not the 'automatic' first setting of the game.  For these price tag matches, the coins appear to always be reduced to the fewest coins (for $0.05 it will show one nickel).

This app opens to the "home" screen, saying "phototouch" and Telling Time, and one of the downfalls to this intro screen is the link in the bottom left corner with a plus sign and "More apps".  If we want more apps... we'll go to iTunes and download them (and I have), however I don't really like that my kids might click that instead of the large blue "Play!" button on the bottom right corner and get sidetracked instead of playing the game.  A benefit on this home screen, however, is the little "settings" square in the top right corner.  It's out of the way, but available.

If at any time you exit the game then reenter, it 'saves your place' during the duration of that 'open' period (to close a game, double click the 'home' button when you're not in that game, and hit the 'minus' button on the game.  This doesn't delete the game like the "x" button does on the home screen, but rather it closes that session). This is great if someone else (or the child!) presses the button and exits the game, or mom needs to borrow the iPad.



3.  Starfall Learn to Read
(iPhone and iPad)  look for other apps by searching "Starfall"
$2.99

This app does an excellent job introducing word families through 15 interactive books.  One activity starts with a quick 'tune' about the sounds, and a "sound it out" reading, using "bouncing hands" and "Starfall sparkles" to show the child what to do next.   The animated stories are simple, read aloud by touching the 'ear' image, and entertaining.  They make the kids laugh out loud with the antics of the characters.  Each page turn, then tells the 'practice sound'.  Another activity includes creating the word families used in the book by adding the correct first letter to each picture.  Once a word family is complete, the reward page shows each of the words the child knows, and uses the typical "Starfall sparkles" to show that the arrow is the next thing to touch.  Each book has a different set of activities, some with included short fun videos or a picture hunt, or other interactive games.  Some of the 'additional activities' don't have the best directions, but any activity can be exited by clicking either the 'back' arrow or the red 'x' in the top corner.  An EXCELLENT app for beginning readers, well worth the price!

There's not a whole lot left to say about this app... It's well made, easy to navigate, not much customizing or explaining needed.   One hard spot is on my iPad it takes some time to load (showing a black screen) even when nothing else is open.  I'm not sure if this is specific to my install or something in general with the game.

Like most other apps that I kept around, at any time you exit the game then reenter, it 'saves your place' during the duration of that 'open' period (to close a game, double click the 'home' button when you're not in that game, and hit the 'minus' button on the game.  This doesn't delete the game like the "x" button does on the home screen, but rather it closes that session). This is great if someone else (or the child!) presses the button and exits the game, or mom needs to borrow the iPad.  You can resume where you are.


4. Monkey WordSchool Adventure
(MonkeyWord) by THUP Games
(iPhone and iPad)  
$1.99
 

This engaging and fast-spoken game with energetic music (which can be turned off) is part of a series of games starting with Monkey LunchBox for early math, then Monkey Math for Kindergarten level math.  This app is my newest find in the series and the neat graphics, engaging voices, and encouraging phrases keep my kids coming back.  This game keeps a 'prize' box for each user, and at the entry you select the child's name (3 name places are provided).  There is so much in this game that is able to be customized in settings (which you have to hold for several seconds to access and that is written when you tap it...).  You can also select 'knack' which will automatically adjust the challenge of each game as the child plays. A variety of different games all mixed up with rewards for completing them correctly... kids like it AND learn from it!

The games include the ability to turn each type of activity on or off as you desire (and all of this is per-user).  You can also select level 1 2 or 3 for each game including "Letter Writing," Spelling Stone," "Word Wall," "Sight Birds," "Phonics Bridge," and "Rhyming Maze".  

The "Knack" (described above) I turn off for my children with special needs that need a lot of repetition, so that it doesn't increase past their ability to have some success.  For my 'typical' kids I allow it to progress.  You can adjust it per user (3 users). Like most other apps that I kept around, at any time you exit the game then reenter, it 'saves your place' during the duration of that 'open' period (to close a game, double click the 'home' button when you're not in that game, and hit the 'minus' button on the game.  This doesn't delete the game like the "x" button does on the home screen, but rather it closes that session). This is great if someone else (or the child!) presses the button and exits the game, or mom needs to borrow the iPad.  You can resume where you are.


5. Monkey Math School Sunshine
(MonkeyMath) by THUP Games
(iPhone and iPad)  
$1.99

 


Another engaging app with the friendly monkey, and one that I found before the "Monkey Word" app, but one we are on the verge of outgrowing, so I didn't even see it on my list until I was skimming looking for the next app to review.  I kept this around because even as a review, this app is a lot of fun and continues the learning process by reinforcing.  Originally, though, it taught VERY well!  This is a great app for kindergarten learners and sets up 'sets', addition, and subtraction, shapes, patterning, and a fun aquarium that you fill with fish as you 'earn' the prizes.  The energetic monkey and fun voices (and music you can opt to turn off) make this app one that the kids enjoy and keep coming back to!

This app, as I said about the previous, is able to be customized with 3 levels of play under each type of activity and you can turn each activity on or off.  Activities include "Add/Subtract," "Number Pop," "Connect the Dots," "Number Order," "Shapes," "Patterns," "Less/More," and "Number Writing."  This app also has the option of selecting to allow it to automatically adjust the challenge of each game as the child plays, called "knack."  I leave this on for the kids that have had a lot of success in the game, and turn it off for newer learners that I don't want to be advanced past their "fail point" then taken back down.  

Unfortunately, this game starts back at the home screen each time you press the button, HOWEVER, since it isn't exactly a 'building' game, and the activities are each quick and short, you can select the right player and be right back in the game without feeling like the child is having to really "start over."


More app reviews to come! :)