Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ipod/Ipad App Review-Sight Words App

  As educators we understand that the students in our classrooms are just as diverse as the backgrounds and homes from which they come. In education we understand more now than ever that we must differentiate our instruction to meet the needs of the varied learning styles of our students. I believe that in order for real learning to take place three things need to happen:
  1. Students must be able to connect new content to something they have already learned or know.
  2. Students must be able to connect what they are learning to the real world and their own lives.
  3. Students must be invested and engaged in the learning process.
  Integrating technology into instruction can help accomplish these and provide for the differentiation needed to meet the variety of learning styles of students in our classroom. For this reason iPods and iPads have become a teaching and learning tools in many classroom.
  My school district has decided to invest in some devices for teachers to use in the classroom so one weekend I took one home to try out some apps. It was a little overwhelming when I saw the number of apps available under the category of Education making it difficult to know where to start. Each app has a description and is rated but it's really difficult to know if it will be useful unless you actually try it out. So, I have decided to spend some time really looking closely at some education apps and give you my opinion as an educator (for what that's worth :-). My plan is to highlight at least one app a week, hopefully more.

Sight Words app
  Today I want to share with you Sight Words (a Learn To Read App) by Alligator Apps.com.  This app is a set of sight word flashcards, between 40-52 words in each set. There are seven ready made sets of cards for grades K-3. One of the nice features of this app is that there are a variety of settings you can change to tailor it more toward the student's needs. You can change the font size, style, and color. Two choices are give for using the the sight word cards, "Learn" or "Game". Let me give you some information on both.
Learn Mode
   In "Learn" an audio of the word is played as the child sees the word. There are a variety of settings for the speed at which the cards advance or you can set the to manually advance. On the screen there is a "Favorites" button that the child can click to select particular words they may want to review more. The teacher could select the favorites for the child to create a tailored list. Unfortunately, there can be only one Favorites list.
  One of the features I really liked was ability to create custom word lists. In the settings menu you select "Customize Flashcards". This gives you the opportunity to add or delete words in the ready made lists or you can create your own lists. To do this you type in the word and add your own voice recording of the word. There doesn't seem to be a limit as to how many new lists or words you can create. Here are some ways you could use this:
  • The teacher creates a list for word study groups
  • Students create their own list.
  • The teacher or student creates a new word list. Another student creates the audio for each word.
Game Mode
In "Game" between 2 and 6 words are shown (depending on your settings)  and  the child must click on the correct word. The child goes through about 20 sets of cards before stopping unless you change the settings to loop  the card set(s).  You can loop through a single category or through all categories. There is a gentle "try again" message if the wrong word is selected. There is no timing or score on the game. One thing I learned while using the app is that you will want to choose the smallest size under "Settings" if you have any words over 6 letter,s otherwise the entire word doesn't show during the Game mode.
  Ways to use this app:
  • Students practice sight word recognition independently.
  • To test word fluency the student could be timed as he/she goes through the cards. (It would be important to make sure that the app was not set for looping.)
Overall, I would rate this app as a good find and useful for a Literacy Center activity. It could be used independently or in groups. Customizing the word lists would be a little time consuming but I think it may be worth the effort since, once made, the sets could be used over many times. The card sets created are labeled for grades K-3 but this app could be used with any grade since new lists can be created. I think this would also make a great RtI tool.  Another advantage would be that since many word sets could be created the app could be shared between several classrooms. The first grade teacher could have their word lists on the same iPod/iPad as the second grade teacher. Finally, the best part, this app is free.

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