Sunday, April 15, 2012

Students' Favorite Math App for iPad: Math Duel

As my fifth graders and I to explore using an iPad in the classroom we continue to find great apps that are both fun and help students develop their math skills. This week I'd like to share another of my Grade 5 students' favorite iPad apps.
  Math Duel is a split screen math game for two players. This app is created by Ellie's Games, LLC and you can find it in the Education category of the App Store. There are several very nice features of this game but what students really like is the ability to play with another student on the same device.

  A very nice feature of this app is that it is customizable for practice at varying levels of ability. Each player can create their own settings so that students who may be at different levels can still play against each other, each getting problems that are just right for them. Setting selections include addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Each player can choose one, two, three, or all four functions for their problems. The students can also choose the number of digits, from 2 to 7, in the equation. The app does not allow decimal so if students are select division practice they must estimate the answer to the nearest whole number. These options make this app great for students from a wide range of math abilities.

  After the settings are determined the duel begins. Each student is given a problem and the first to enter the correct answer wins the point. Students should decide the score they are player toward before the game begins as the game seems to keep going indefinitely. Students in my classroom have played as high as 50 points without the game ending. If neither player selects the correct answer the math problem stays on the screen until one of them gets the correct answer.  

  Not only do students really enjoy this game, but we have seen struggling students improve their basic computation skills after playing. This is especially true when a student plays against the teacher.
  This app does come at a cost of $0.99. The combination of fun and educational value, however,  make this app well worth it. When students are given free time with the iPad this is the activity they choose most often.

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Friday, April 6, 2012

Students' Top Pick: SparkleFish

Now that we have been using the iPad in the classroom for a few months, students have had a chance to try a variety of apps designed to reinforce Language Arts skills. One that my Fifth Graders  choose most often is the SparkleFish by Whosagoodboy Partners. This app is an audio story completion game much like the writing activities known as Mad Libs. Students fill in missing story elements or parts of speech by recording their word or phrase choices. After completing the story they can listen to what ends up a silly story. 

Educationally, this app has some value as it does ask students to identify parts of speech or story elements. Parents or teachers would be able check for the child's understanding by listening to the story. Ideally, however, it would be best if the teacher, parent, or tutor were working with the child while they are creating their story. If a child has difficulty identifying the requested part of speech there is a help screen that gives some suggestions. Parts of speech requested for the story focus on basic skills such as identifying verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs as well as word tense and plurals.
SparkleFish Originals stories are free. There are four choices in this original package, Infomercial, The Cold Remedy, Yearbook Signing, and A Fairy Tale. You can purchase other packages for more stories at a cost of $0.99. Additional story packages come with five new story choices. Additional packages include Tall Tales, A Day in the Life, Relationships, and A Dream World. This app is compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.

SparkleFish  is a fun app for kids of all ages. My students find it motivating and helps them express their creativity. The short stories created can be used as a starter to a creative writing exercise or assessment. This app could also be helpful with students who have disabilities or difficulty with writing skills. Teachers, parents, and tutors can assess their understanding of parts of speech as they work together creating original stories.

There are a lot of great educational apps available for iPad and iPod making it difficult sometimes to weed through them to find those that can be useful in the classroom. SparkleFish is one of those apps that has a balance between being having an educational value and motivational and enjoyable to students. I believe this is a great combination. My students give this app five stars.

Check back, my 5th Graders have more favorites that I will share in the weeks to come.

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Student Tools-Great iPad App for Teachers and Students

Back to school from winter break and it's also time to get back to my blog. Over the break I had a week to play with one of the new iPads our school purchased. During the month of December I had it in my classroom and my 5th grade students enjoyed trying out the Math Tappers apps and Sight Words apps I put on the iPad but I didn't have much time to play myself. Check my previous posts and you can see reviews of both of those apps. Another app that got a real workout was the Accelerated Reader app. Once downloaded onto the iPad students were able to login and take AR tests on the books they had read.

Since I had the iPad to myself over break I was able to try out a few more tools that I and my students can use. There are a couple that I found but the one I would like to share with you in this post is one titled simply Student Tools.

This app is a collection of 24 graphic organizers that can be used for Reading or Writing instruction. Included are the following graphic organizers:
2 Cause/Effect
2 Character
Drawing Conclusions
Main Idea/Detail
Making Predictions
2 Problem/Solution
Reality/Make Believe
2 Sequence
Story Elements
Time Line
2 Word Meaning

Some of these are shown in the screen shot. They are all very typical graphic organizers and most likely familiar to most students which, in my opinion, is an advantage. If your students are accustomed to using graphic organizers they will be familiar with these and you won't need to provide instruction on how to complete them. This will allow the student more independence in using this app.

The graphic organizers are easy to complete although if a student isn't used to using the keyboard on an iPad it may take them some time to complete them. I purchased a bluetooth keyboard and am really glad I did. In reality however, students are probably going to be more used to using the onscreen keyboard than I am. 

After selecting the appropriate graphic organizer the student can put their name and a title on the graphic organizer by clicking on the "Settings" icon in the bottom left corner of the screen. After filing it in the graphic organizer is automatically saved. Finished organizers can be accessed by using the "My Documents" button in the top left corner when you open the app. All graphic organizers that are created on the device are saved and can be edited or deleted by anyone. I can see this causing some potential issues as students could purposely or inadvertently make changes on another student's graphic organizer. If, however, you want students to collaborate on the project this might be a nice feature. You can toggle between My Documents and the blank organizers using the icon in the bottom left corner of the screen.

After the graphic organizer is completed there is an option to email it. The graphic organizer is sent as an attached image. My suggestion, if you are using a shared iPad in the classroom, is to have the student email it to the teacher or themselves to be printed. I couldn't see an option to print the graphic organizer from within the app but a screen shot could be taken and that image printed if needed. (Take a screen shot on the device by simultaneously pressing the Power and Home buttons on the iPad. The image is saved under Photos on the device.)

Although it has a few limitations, I really like this app and can see that it would be useful for both teachers and students. The app is easy to use and is appropriate for students at a wide range of grade levels. Graphic organizers are a great way to assess a students reading comprehension or to help them organize their thoughts during pre-writing.