Here’s the latest installment in the Five Best Apps Series: 5 Best Reading Apps. You can find our most popular post in this series here and the rest of our reviews in this series on our Reviews and Five Best Apps Page. The images and app titles will take you to the iTunes store.
One of Reading Raven’s selling points is it’s ability to register different student accounts. That’s always a plus when a teacher is looking for good classroom apps. This app also asks the user to confirm his or her identity as they begin each activity session, another plus. On other apps without this confirmation feature, I often find children unknowingly using another student’s account because preschoolers don’t often remember to check those sorts of things. Another thing we’re finding we really appreciate with apps is content that becomes progressively more challenging as students master objectives. Reading Raven has this feature too. Designed for children as young as 3, the collection of activities that are a part of this app can reach a wide variety of learners. Reading Raven addresses skills in a number of literacy areas. Children begin by learning basic letter sounds and letter formation. They progress to learning beginning word sounds and then move towards blending and segmenting words as the master the more challenging levels. Some of the more advanced activities allow children to record their own voice as they sound out individual words. Finally, the developers have created a follow up app, Reading Raven 2, for children who have mastered the content on Reading Raven. You can also find Reading Raven HD.
I’m longtime fan of Starfall’s free website dedicated to helping children learn to read. Both of my kids loved to visit this website as they were developing their early reading skills. The games and activities emphasize phonemic awareness and decoding skills. I was thrilled to see that Starfall moved their product into the tablet arena. Unfortunately, the Starfall apps for iPad aren’t free, but they are still the same high quality activities that played a large part in helping my own children learn to read. Starfall has broken up their website content into several different apps. The books and activities included in the Starfall Learn to Read app teach children how to sound out words. They also teach children how to blend sounds together to create words. Starfall ABC’s teaches letter sounds while Starfall Learn to Read 2 is for more developed readers. My children also really enjoyed the games on the website. Their favorite games, Starfall Pumpkin and Starfall Snowman are also in the app store.
Don’t be put off by the average graphics on this app. The content is engaging. I’ve seen apps with far more sophisticated graphics and music that didn’t capture my students’ attention like this app did. They were huddled around the lone iPad on which I had installed Sentence Builder, each of them eagerly awaiting their own turn to play. The app presents a collection of sentences. Each sentence is presented to the child with the words jumbled. The task of the student is to put the words in the order of the spoken sentence. The app allows student to make attempts and then to correct their errors. Surprisingly, my students weren’t at all put off my the “whomp, whomp, whommmp” sound that played when errors were made. They organized the words for sentence after sentence. Both my readers and non readers were engaged and able to complete the task because the app contained ample verbal cues to assist learners at a variety of levels. As a teacher, I appreciate all of the pre-reading skills that are included in this app. My students experienced repeated exposure to both the written a spoken version of words. They were also learning that we read from left to right and that sentences are made up of words. Had I not actually watched my students get excited about this app, I would have written it off, but they loved it. Chances are good yours will too.
Rhinomite is probably more game than teaching tool, but it’s definitely got some educational value, so I’m including it here. Besides, like most of Mrs. Judd’s games, it’s really fun! Children have an opportunity to learn to recognize directional words and to learn their meanings as they try to fly the superhero, Rhinomite, through the busy city streets. As Rhinomite flies, students have to respond to words like over, below, above, through, etc. to keep the superhero from crashing. The meanings of those directional words can be a little challenging for the early childhood set to master, so this game offers a great way solidify that vocabulary. After playing the flying game, the player has the opportunity to build a super-hero comic strip. I always love it when apps add a creation piece. Games are fun and useful for teaching, but it’s even more important to teach children how to use their iPads to create great things.
I love the animation on Gappy’s First Words. Gappy is a cute, inviting creature (bunny?) that will draw your young learner in. The developers at Spinlight have created an attractive way for kids to practice letters and letter sounds and blend those sounds into words. There are countless apps out there that teach letter sounds. This one is a little more engaging than most. Game players unlock pieces as they practice their letters, sounds and words to help Gappy build his house. There’s also a place within the app to review all of the sounds and letters.
So, that’s our list! Did we leave off one of your favorite apps for teaching reading skills? Let us know in the comments. We’re always on the lookout for great new apps for our classroom iPads!
Be sure to check out all of the other posts in our Five Best Apps Series. Visit our Five Best Apps and Reviews Page or visit the articles listed below.